Top Five Favorite “REVENGE” Season One (2011-2012) Episodes

Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of ABC’s “REVENGE”. Created by Mike Kelley and loosely based upon Alexandre Dumas père’s novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, the series starred Madeline Stowe and Emily VanCamp: 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “REVENGE” SEASON ONE (2011-2012) Episodes

1. (1.15) “Chaos” – This episode features the consequences of the dead body found on the Graysons’ beach, during the engagement party for the fake Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke and Daniel Grayson.

2. (1.11) “Duress” – While Emily plans to prevent Daniel’s former friend Tyler Barrol from interfering with her relationship with Daniel, an increasingly unstable Tyler interrupts Daniel’s birthday celebration with a gun and threatens to kill Emily unless Conrad Grayson tells the truth about Emily’s late father, David Clarke.

3. (1.05) “Guilt” – Victoria Grayson’s former friend Lydia Davis returns to the Hamptons with a vendetta against the former for driving her away and against Emily for exposing her affair with Conrad. Meanwhile, the Graysons’ enforcer, Frank Stevens, investigates Lydia after she threatens to expose the family’s involvement with David Clarke.

4. (1.07) “Charade” – Conrad and Victoria’s plans to celebrate their 25th anniversary attract unwanted guests. While investigating Emily on Victoria’s behalf, Frank discovers that she is the real Amanda Clarke and had exchanged identities with the real Emily Thorne, while in juvenile detention.

5. (1.22) “Reckoning” – In the season finale, Emily sets out to rescue her closest ally, Nolan Ross, who had been kidnapped by a white-haired man who played a major role in David Clarke’s death. Meanwhile, Victoria sets out to incriminate Conrad for framing David Clarke, her former lover, after she discovers that he had signed the contract to kill the man.

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“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” (1975) Review

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“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” (1975) Review

Nearly fifty years ago, 1969 to be precise, a play written by novelist Barry England was first staged at the Theater Royal in Bristol, England. Set during the height of the British Empire, England’s play focused upon an Army regiment stationed in India. The play became a hit and was eventually adapted into a movie released to the public in 1975. 

“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” begins with two young British officers arriving in Indian to join a prestigious regiment. Lieutenant Drake comes from a middle-class background and is eager to make the right impression. Lieutenant Millington is the son of a General and does not seem enthusiastic over the idea of a military career. He plans to leave the Army at the first opportunity. While Drake manages to make a positive impression with his fellow officers, Millington antagonizes them with his cynical behavior, causing the other officers to dislike him. A military ceremony takes place, honoring the deceased members of the regiment and their widows, including Mrs. Marjorie Scarlett, whose husband won a posthumous Victoria Cross after being killed during a battle on the North-West Frontier.

Later that evening, the regiment holds a ball. The younger officers take part in a ceremonial tradition that involves the pursuit and sticking of a pig in the mess. Lieutenant Millington tries to charm Mrs. Scarlett, but is lightly dismissed. Later, the disheveled widow bursts into the mess, claiming to have been attack. She identifies Milington as her attacker. During an evening in the mess, involving the younger officers taking part in a ceremonial tradition that involves the pursuit and sticking of a pig, Mrs Scarlett runs in claiming to have been attacked, and identifies Lieutenant Millington as her attacker. Although he is innocent, Millington sees the potential disgrace as an easy way to leave the Army and return to England. He does not bother to cooperate with Drake, who has been selected to defend him at his secret trial. But when both men realize that Millington might suffer a more serious punishment other than a dishonorable discharge and Drake discovers that another widow had been similarily attacked six months earlier, the latter officer goes out of his way to clear Millington.

I have not seen “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” for a good number of years – over a decade and a half, to be exact. I recall being very impressed when I last saw it a long time ago. I still am – to a certain extent. But there were two aspects of the movie that left me feeling a little unsettled. One of them focused upon the movie’s setting. With the exception of the first ten to fifteen minutes, most of “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” was either set in the regiment’s mess, other exterior shots or on the cantoment grounds, which could have easily been shot on a sounstage. By the time the movie ended, I felt as if I had watched a filmed play. And I never could understand Lieutenant Millington’s original attitude toward the charges against him. I mean . . . this is the Victorian Age we are talking about in which women – especially white upper and middle-class women – were put on pedestals by men. I could understand Millington’s attitude if he had been accused of assaulting the other acknowledged victim in the story – an Indian soldier’s widow named Mrs. Bandanai. But surely he should have realized that he could have suffered serious repercussion for assaulting someone as cherished as Mrs. Scarlett, right off the bat.

Despite these shortcomings, I must admit that “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” is a first-rate movie. Playwright Barry England wrote a tantalizing peek into the world of British India that featured not only a psychological drama, but also a very interesting mystery and the damages causes by misogyny and racism (in the case of Mrs. Bandanai) that was rampant during the Victorian Age (as well as now). I feel that England created a murder mystery that would have done Agatha Christie proud. I also feel that Robert Enders did an excellent job in adapting England’s play.

The movie began with a great set-up of the mystery – the ceremony honoring the dead Captain Scarlett and the other men who died with him, intertwining with with the arrivals of Lieutenants Drake and Millington at the regiment’s cantonment. The movie also had a rather creepy scene that featured the younger officers engaged in the “stick-the-pig-in-the-anal” game, which foreshadowed the attack on Mrs. Scarlett later in the evening. But what I really admired about the film is that it did not make it easy for the audience to guess the identity of Mrs. Scarlett’s attacker. For that I am truly grateful. If there is one kind of mystery I cannot abide is one that gives away the culprit’s identity prematurely.

“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” also benefited from a first-rate cast. The movie featured solid performances from the likes of James Faulkner (who portrayed Millington), Michael Culver, Rafiq Anwar, Persis Khambatta and James Donald. Christopher Plummer gave an interesting performance as the intimidating Major Alastair Wimbourne. Although there were moments when I found his performance a little theatrical. I certainly cannot accuse Trevor Howard’s performance as theatrical. He gave an appropriately poignant performance as the regiment’s aging commander, who finds it difficult to accept a possible scandal within his command. Richard Attenborough proved to be equally complex as Major Lionel E. Roach, who seemed to live and breathe the regiment. I was surprised to see Stacy Keach in this cast as Captain Harper, the officer charged with prosecuting Millington. He did an excellent job in developing his character from the hard-nosed, blindingly loyal officer, to one who finds himself appalled by the possibility of a serial attacker. Susannah York gave a superb role as the enticing Mrs. Scarlett, who seemed first amused by Millington’s attempt at seduction and later, angry over what happened to her. But the film actually belonged to Michael York, who more than carried his weight as the main character. I was impressed by how he managed to dominate this film, while retaining his character’s quiet and reserved nature.

Would I consider “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” a classic? I do not know. I certainly would not consider it a candidate for a Best Picture nomination. And it certainly had its flaws. But due to its first-rate story, solid direction from Michael Anderson and an excellent cast led by Michael York, I still would consider it a very good story that is worth viewing time and again.

“The Uninvited” [PG-13] – Act IV

 

“THE UNINVITED”

ACT IV

As Olivia knelt beside Cole and the very dead Adrianne Evans, a crowd had gathered around them. Murmurs and surprised gasps filled the air. Cole said to Olivia, “Looks like she may have been poisoned. I don’t recall hearing anything about her suffering from any health problems.”

“Then no one can leave the room.”

Cole nodded. “Right.” He waved his hand in the air for a brief second. When a male voice cried out that he could not leave, Olivia realized that her fiancé had placed a ward or shield around the ballroom to prevent the guests – now murder suspects – from leaving.

Sounds of someone pushing through the crowd followed. Olivia glanced up and saw her grandmother and Lohdon appear before her. Others followed. The daemon took one glance at the corpse beside Cole and cried out, “Adrianne!” He fell to his knees and drew the dead wizard into his arms. Lohdon glanced up, his eyes expressing grief and rage. “What happened?” he growled.

“Looks like she’s dead,” Cole quietly answered. “Her face had turned pale, before she started having convulsions. And this happened . . .” He broke off, as his eyes grew wide with shock. “Oh God!” he muttered. Then he stood up and stared at Olivia. “All this happened after she had drank your champagne.”

The hairs on the back of Olivia’s neck bristled. Her grandmother looked as alarmed as she felt. The older woman demanded, “Are you saying that someone had poisoned Olivia’s drink?”

For a brief second, Lohdon regarded Olivia with suspicion. Which made her feel even more alarmed. “Wait a minute,” she protested. “I hope that you’re not going to insinuate that I had deliberately . . .”

Lohdon shook his head and took a deep breath. “No, I’m . . . I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Why would someone poison your glass, if he or she was trying to kill Adrianne?” He paused and stared at Olivia again. “Hang on. If Adrianne had died after drinking your champagne, that means that someone . . . is trying to kill you.”

Olivia stared at the dead woman and her grieving lover on the floor. The implications of Lohdon’s words finally struck. “Oh my God,” she murmured. “Someone wants me dead.” The new glass of champagne slipped from her fingers and hit the floor with a loud tinkle, just inches away from Lohdon and the very dead Adrianne Evans.

————

“This has never happened at any of our hotels before,” the light-blue skinned creature who was the resort’s manager wailed. “Never!”

Nimue rolled her eyes in sheer irritation at the manager’s anxiety. “Apparently, Mister Dairon, you have forgotten about Beleriand’s death, some two hundred years ago. Death by ‘lightning’? Remember?” Another wail left Mr. Dairon’s mouth. “Oh for goodness sake, sir! Get a hold of yourself! What do you plan to do about Miss Evans’ death?” The demoness, along with her son, his fiancée, Olivia’s parents and Lohdon, had joined Mr. Dairon inside his private office, adjacent to the ballroom.

Mister Dairon, helplessly wrung his hands. “What can I do? I’ve never encountered murder, before. This goes against everything that the Melora dimension is about. Everyone is supposed to be safe, here!”

“Well, you can start by finding out which of your employees had served that glass of champagne to my daughter, instead of carrying on!” Gweneth McNeill snapped. “Would it really be so difficult for you to summon all of your waiters, inside here?”

Dairon stared at the others with a stupefied expression. “Oh. Of course. If you insist.” With a wave of his hand, all twelve waiters – with deep-blue skin, tusk-like ears and four arms – materialized inside the office. Dairon turned to Olivia. “Now miss, do you know which waiter had served the champagne to you?”

Olivia stood in front of the waiters and examined each one. Nimue wondered how the witch would be able to tell the difference. She never could – despite the number of times she had visited this dimension.

Minutes passed before her son’s fiancée finally said, “He’s not here. The waiter who had given me the drink – he’s not here.”

“How can you tell?” Belthazor demanded.

Olivia replied, “Simple. The waiter who gave me the champagne didn’t have any markings around the area where the ears and the forehead meet.” Olivia pointed at the waiters. “They all have markings in those areas.”

Nimue regarded her future daughter-in-law with a touch of awe. The young redhead seemed to possess a talent for acute observation that she could only envy. Which would explain how Olivia became a law enforcer in the first place.

A groan escaped from Jack McNeill’s mouth. “I suppose that means that the killer had managed to get away,” he commented.

Belthazor shook his head. “Not exactly. I had cast a ward or magical shield around the ballroom. No one should be able to leave. I hope.”

“Then all we have to do is find out which guest is our killer,” Olivia declared.

The others – Nimue included – stared at the redhead. Mister Dairon expressed what was obviously on the minds of everyone else. “Are you serious?” the Melorian cried out in disbelief. “There are over a seventy guests, here! Almost a hundred!”

Nimue’s son shot her a dark look. “Looks like you should have stuck to your plans for that ‘little party’, Mother.”

Ignoring her son, Nimue turned to Olivia. “How do you propose that we find the killer? I already have one suspect. Idril. I do not recall inviting her to this party. Even if she is representing Melkora.”

A frown appeared on Olivia’s face. “That would mean that Idril is a shape shifter. How else would she be able to disguise herself as one of the waiters?”

“Idril is not a shape shifter,” Cole commented in a tart voice. “She can only morph into her demonic form. Too bad, if you want my opinion. I would have no problems with allowing her to take the rap.”

Jack added, “It’s possible that she had used a glamouring spell.” He sighed. “She’s this slinky brunette who looks like something out of a 60s beach movie or something, right?” Both Cole and Olivia nodded. “Yeah, I had noticed her talking to Nathalie Green at the time of Miss Evans’ death.”

Old Mrs. McNeill finally spoke up. “I have an idea. Perhaps this killer was an assassin hired to kill Olivia. An assassin with the ability to shape shift. He . . . or she could be anyone. A daemon or warlock . . . Who knows?” The room fell silent, as the others stared at the elderly witch. She sighed. “I gather no one had considered this. So . . . how do any of you plan to find this person?” The room remained silent. “Anyone?”

———–

Slowly, Logan eased his way toward the ballroom’s nearest exit – hoping that no one would notice his surreptious attempt to escape. When he finally reached a door, he glanced around to see if anyone was watching. Then he turned the knob, opened the door . . . and walked straight into a magical force field. Taken aback by the barrier, Logan quickly gathered his wits and closed the door.

Panic began to overwhelm the warlock. He realized that not only was he trapped without any means of escape, so was his mode of transportation – namely his demonic companion. As if matters could not get any worse, it seemed he had killed the wrong person. A sigh left his mouth. He should have never accepted this assignment.

Logan inhaled several times to steady his nerves. Realizing that he needed a drink, he made his way to one of the refreshment tables. And stumbled across his demonic colleague. “There you are!” he hissed. “Where in the hell have you been? If you hadn’t been so damn difficult to find, we could have left this place, a lot sooner!”

“Meaning?” the daemon shot back in an arch voice.

After draining a glass of champagne, the warlock exclaimed in a low voice, “Meaning, I can’t get out! Literally! Someone has cast a ward or shield around this place.”

His colleague inhaled sharply. “Belthazor! Only he is powerful enough to do this.”

“Belthazor?” Logan dumped his champagne glass on the nearby table. “That’s just great! How in the fuck are we supposed to get out of here?”

The daemon shot back, “Don’t look at me! I’m not the moron who used a fast-acting poison! Nor did I use it on the wrong person!”

“I used poison from a yew berry. It wasn’t supposed to work that fast! And how was I supposed to know that the other woman would drink from the witch’s glass?”

A derisive snort escaped the daemon’s mouth. “That ‘other’ woman happened to be no other than a wizard named Adrianne Evans. She’s Lohdon’s whore. I’m sure that you’ve heard of Lohdon, haven’t you? Of the Fornost Order?”

“Oh God!” Logan’s stomach began turning somersaults. He had definitely heard of the Fornost Order’s ruthless leader.

The daemon heaved a sigh. “Somehow, I don’t think that your god will be able to help you. Or me, for that matter.”

“What the hell are we supposed to do?” Logan demanded anxiously. “Stand around and wait for Belthazor and the others to discover us?”

The daemon glared at the warlock. “Why don’t you try remaining calm, for goodness sake? You’re supposed to be a top assassin. Try acting like one. Here,” the daemon handed Logan another glass of champagne. “Have a drink. Maybe if you’re drunk, you’ll pass out and no one will notice you.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Logan retorted with a sneer. He sighed. What the hell! It seemed a lot better than working into a state of panic. Then he guzzled down the champagne in three swallows.

———-

Cole paused before the doorway, as his eyes scanned the ballroom. Elise McNeill had suggested that she and a few other trustworthy telepaths scan the guests and discover who had poisoned Adrianne Evans. The quietly grieving Lohdon had volunteered one of his minions – also a telepath – to help. At the moment, Cole was in search of Harry.

As he continued to push through the crowd, the half-daemon came across two of his former colleagues and Lohdon’s assistant, sitting at one of the tables. “What’s going on Belthazor?” Guldur demanded. “No one has been able to leave this room for nearly an hour.”

Ascaroth added, “Many have already started complaining.”

“And no one will leave until we find out who had killed Adrianne Evans,” Cole coolly retorted.

A smirk appeared on Idril’s lovely face. “My goodness, Belthazor! You almost sound . . . noble in your little pursuit of justice. I think you’ve been around too many do-gooders in the past few years. Including your fiancée.”

Cole responded with a chilly smile. “This has nothing to do with me being noble, Idril. Someone had tried to kill my fiancée. And when I find out who is responsible, he . . . or she will suffer hell twice over.” His smile disappeared. “I promise you.” To his satisfaction, all three daemons shivered. He then continued, “Besides, both Lohdon and my mother are also anxious to find the killer.”

“I can certainly understand Lohdon’s desire,” Guldur commented. “He and Adrianne have been close for a long time. And since the killer was after Olivia. . .” He hesitated. “. . . well, I wouldn’t mind seeing him burn.”

Ascaroth added, “I certainly won’t mind.” The others stared at him. “Witch or not, I . . . rather like Olivia.”

Idril rolled her eyes. “All this over a witch! And as for Adrianne – why should Lohdon carry on over another mortal. He can find another lover.”

“Adrianne was also a powerful wizard!” Guldur snapped back.

“Apparently, she wasn’t that powerful,” Idril airily replied. “At least not enough to avoid being poisoned.”

Ascaroth gave the daemon a thoughtful stare. “How did you know that Adrianne had been poisoned?”

It was Guldur who answered, “Everyone knows. She had been guzzling down drinks, for the past several hours. And we all saw her drop dead just after she had drank that last glass of champagne.”

Cole regarded him through narrowed eyes. “You saw everything?”

“Well, I . . .” Guldur paused momentarily. He shot the half-daemon a quick, uneasy smile. “I think I should check with Lohdon. See if he needs anything from me.” He stood up and walked away.

Ascaroth also stood up. “And I had better see if Nimue needs anything. Excuse me.” He shot a nervous glance at Cole before he quickly scurried away.

Idril regarded Cole with seductive dark eyes. “Well . . . it seems we’re finally alone.”

“Hmmm, not for long.” The half-daemon turned away.

The demoness grabbed his arm. “Belthazor! Wait a minute! You’re just going to walk away like that? After we haven’t laid eyes upon one another for over four years?”

A long-suffering sigh escaped from Cole’s mouth. “What do you want, Idril? You want to recapture what we used to have? Because, as I recall, it was nothing more than lust.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Idril allowed her hand to surreptiously slide up Cole’s arm. “After all, we are daemons. And lust or not, what we had together was good.” Cole jerked her arm away. She scowled. “I guess that wasn’t good enough for you,” she added in a sharp voice. “Be careful, Belthazor. You seemed to have forgotten that you are your mother’s son. No amount of time spent with witches or any other mortals will ever change that.”

Cole shot the demoness a contemptuous glare. “Is that what you think, Idril? That I want to be regarded as a human? That may have been true over a year ago, but I’ve finally recovered from that nonsense.”

Idril jerked Cole close to her, allowing her face to hover inches away from his. The scent of gardenias overwhelmed the half-daemon, making him feel slightly nauseous. “You know what I think, Belthazor?” she murmured huskily. “I think that great darkness still resides within you. That same darkness that made you one of the Source’s most ruthless killers will never be erased by hanging around humans or marrying witches. Your former wife found that out and I’m certain that your red-haired witch will wake up to that fact, as well.”

Her last words produced a smirk on Cole’s lips, catching the demoness by surprise. “You’re right, Idril. Great darkness still resides within me. And it will always be within me. But if that’s all you know about me, then you don’t know me at all. Trust me sweetheart, I’m more than just ‘great darkness’. My first wife may or may not have understood that, but Olivia does. She accepts me for what and who I am – and not for just a part of me.”

Idril opened her mouth. “Well, I . . .”

“And one more thing,” Cole interrupted in a low voice. “Don’t ever underestimate Olivia. She can be just as ruthless or merciless as I can. And if you ever wrong her, she can be vindictive. I promise you.”

The slender hand automatically released its hold of Cole’s arm. Disbelief and anxiety whirled in Idril’s hazel eyes. Then she composed herself. “Well,” she said in a shaky voice, “love must be blind. And I’m afraid that I’m not exactly interested in those who indulge in their delusions. So, if you will excuse me.” She flashed Cole a wan smile and quickly moved away.

————-

A sigh left Paige’s mouth, as she watched Chris load his plate with food. “This is a shock,” she commented snidely to the young whiteligher. “So, you’ve finally decided to eat something. May I ask why?”

Chris plucked a red grape from a platter of fruit and popped it into his mouth. “I’m hungry,” he finally replied, after swallowing the grape. “And since the rest of you aren’t dead or sick from eating this food, I figured that I might as well eat something, myself.”

“It’s nice to know that we could be your own personal food tasters,” Paige retorted. She turned away and her eyes focused upon the guests, inside. The Charmed One noticed that many of them seemed upset, irritated or anxious to leave. The moment Harry had joined her and Chris at the refreshment table, she said, “Have you noticed? Everyone seemed to be getting a bit antsy. I guess the killer hasn’t been found, yet?”

Harry shook his head. “Not yet. Everyone wants to leave, but no one can get out.” Paige stared at him. “I think that Cole has placed some kind ward or spell around the ballroom, making it impossible for anyone to leave.”

“He did this for some wizard he hardly knew?” Chris exclaimed.

A troubled expression appeared on Harry’s face. “There’s a rumor going around that it was Olivia’s champagne that had been poisoned. And that this Adrianne Evans had drank it by mistake.”

Paige stared at her boyfriend in shock. “Oh my God! Are you saying that someone is trying to kill Olivia?”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t know. Looks like it. If so, I have one suspect.”

“Cole’s old girlfriend?” Paige suggested.

A doubtful Chris added, “Wouldn’t that be a little obvious? I mean, Piper told me that she hadn’t even been invited. If she wanted Olivia dead, wouldn’t she automatically become the first suspect?” He glanced at the dance floor and frowned. Paige followed his glance. Among the couples dancing were Piper and Scott. “Don’t you guys think those two are getting a bit too chummy?”

“They’re just dancing,” Paige said dismissively. “What’s the big deal?”

“What about Leo?”

Harry stared at the whitelighter. “You’re concerned about Piper and Leo? You? You can’t even stand him.”

A sigh left Chris’ mouth. “Look, I know how I feel about Leo, but . . .” He shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Never mind . . . what?” Paige demanded. “Why do you always do that? Cut off, when you’re about to say something?”

“As a time traveler, I have to be careful about what I say,” Chris retorted. “And when.”

Paige shot back, “Then why don’t you tell us why you’re really here in the past? And what you know.”

“Are you two going to keep us this fight?” Harry asked in a slightly amused voice. “Everyone is . . .” He paused, as a pale-looking man passed by. He frowned at the man. So did Paige, for she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise.

Chris regarded the couple with perplexed eyes. “Hey guys, something wrong?”

“There’s something odd about that guy,” Paige commented. “The tall one in the dark blue suit. I don’t know. I just can’t place my finger on it.”

Harry’s eyes remained fixed upon the stranger. “I know what’s wrong,” he added grimly. “I think we’ve just found our killer.”

“Huh?” Chris’ eyes blinked. “What makes you think that guy was the one . . .?”

“Hel-lo? Telepath here.” Harry paused. “I heard his thoughts. He’s the killer, all right.” He started toward the stranger.

Both Paige and Chris followed. The trio followed the man, until he paused and leaned against a Corinthian column. “You know, he doesn’t look that hot,” Chris commented.

“Yeah, he does look a bit peaked,” Paige added, as she observed the man’s drawn expression. “If he’s the killer, how do we take him?”

Chris replied, “Just grab him. He doesn’t look as if he can fight back.” The whitelighter deposited his plate of food on a nearby table.

Paige grabbed hold of Chris’ arm. “Hold on, my young padawan! That guy might not seem healthy at the moment, but he still might be able to tap into the Dark Side.”

“Then, how do we grab him?”

Harry straightened up. “Leave it to me.” He cleared his throat and casually sauntered over to the man in question. Adopting a concerned manner, he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Excuse me, sir.” The man nearly jumped out of his skin. “Pardon me, but are you okay? You seem unwell. Do you want me to help you to a seat?”

The man stared at Harry, before he shrugged away the witch’s hand. “No . . . uh, that’s okay. I’m . . .” He broke off with a gasp, as Harry applied quick pressure to his shoulder. He crumpled to the floor. Seconds later, his face transformed into another identity.

“What do you know? This guy is a shape shifter.” Harry said in a loud voice. He turned to Chris. “Hey, help me pick him up.”

The whitelighter ignored the stares from other guests and rushed forward to help Harry. “I didn’t realize you knew anything about the Vulcan nerve pinch,” he said. “Good idea.”

Cole appeared beside Paige and glanced down at the three men. “My compliments, exactly. What’s going on?”

While he and Chris lifted the man from the floor, Harry replied, “I believe we’ve found the guy who tried to kill Livy and who had killed that wizard. I overheard his thoughts, when he walked by.”

The half-daemon bent over to examine the unconscious man’s face. “Good God!” he exclaimed. “I haven’t laid eyes upon this guy in years.”

“Who is he?” Paige asked.

“A warlock named Eric Logan.” Cole added, “He’s been a top-notch free-lancer in the magical world for over a decade.”

Chris frowned. “Free-lancer? As what?”

Cole turned to the whitelighter. “As an assassin. Which means . . .”

Harry finished, “Which means that since it’s obvious that we’ve got our guy, you can now remove the ward or spell you have around this room. Don’t look now, but I think the folks here are getting a little antsy.”

————

Low voices buzzed in the back of Logan’s mind. He struggled to open his eyes, but his eyelids refused to budge. Just as he was about to give up, he felt a sharp pain against his cheek. “What the . . .?” His eyes snapped open, and he found hostile faces looking down at him. The warlock quickly sat up.

“Logan,” Belthazor coolly declared. “I see that you’re finally conscious.”

The warlock blinked. Why did he feel so strangely numb? “Wha . . . what happened?” he asked in a groggy voice.

“You’ve finally been caught!” growled a light-brown skinned man, who glared at Logan with murderous eyes. “Not long after you had killed Adrianne.”

Oh shit! Logan realized that he was facing Lohdon. “Look, I didn’t . . . I didn’t realize she would . . .” The warlock immediately clamped his mouth shut. What the hell was wrong with him? It seemed as if his brain had suffered a relapse. And why did his heart feel so tight?

A small, fireball materialized above the brown-skinned man’s open palm. “So, you’re admitting that you were the one who had killed Adrianne? Why? Why did you do it?”

“I didn’t mean to kill . . .” Desperate, Logan turned to the half-daemon. “Belthazor! Please! Are you going to just stand there and let him kill me?” Then Logan spotted a middle-aged couple. When he saw that the woman resembled an older version of Olivia McNeill, he realized that he was facing the witch’s parents – Jack and Gweneth McNeill “You’re witches, aren’t you?” he pleaded. “Please don’t let Lohdon ki-kill me!”

Jack McNeill coolly shrugged his shoulders. “Why not?” He then regarded Logan with cold eyes. “You were trying to kill my daughter.”

“Look, I . . .” Again, Logan stopped in mid-sentence.

Belthazor leaned forward and regarded the warlock with dangerously narrowed eyes. “You what? Who hired you to kill Olivia, Eric? I promise you that your death will be a lot less painful than what your employers might inflict upon you. Or Lohdon.”

“I . . .” Logan began. “It was the Magan Corporation! It . . .” The warlock suddenly found himself unable to talk. Not because he felt obliged to keep his employer’s identity a secret. For some odd reason, nearly every nerve in his body had slowly become numb. And this had all started after he had . . . Shit! His throat constricted and his body began to convulse. “Oh God! Oh . . .” The convulsions grew stronger.

“What the hell?” he overheard Olivia McNeill exclaimed. “What’s happening to him?”

Son-of-a-bitch! Logan realized that first or second glass of champagne he had swallowed, must have been poisoned. Goddamit! He opened his mouth in a desperate attempt to confess. “Ma . . . magan . . . Cor . . . run by . . .” he stuttered between labored breaths. Then his body violently convulsed one last time before everything went black.

END OF PART IV

Missing Character From the Recent Adaptation of “THE BEGUILED”

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MISSING CHARACTER FROM THE RECENT ADAPTATION OF “THE BEGUILED”

Recently, I found myself reading a few reviews of “THE BEGUILED”, Sofia Coppola’s 2017 adaptation of Thomas Cullinen’s 1966 novel about a wounded Union soldier who finds himself at an all-girls seminary in the South, during the Civil War.  One of those reviews was written by film critic Justin Chang for the LOS ANGELES TIMES.  In his review, Mr. Chang had this to say about the exclusion of a character named Hallie, who happened to be the slave of the seminary’s mistress, Martha Farnsworth:

“There is compromise in all this narrative subtraction, but there is also purpose. Scrupulous behavioral observer that she is, Coppola is trying to isolate her emotional and psychological variables, to capture the tricky, elusive interplay of heterosexual longing in close quarters. But her most troubling decision, to judge by the criticisms that have arisen in recent days, is the excision of a character: Hallie, a slave girl who figures significantly in both Cullinan’s novel and Siegel’s movie.”

Slave girl.  Mr. Chang’s comments merely hinted two things:

1) He has never read Cullinen’s novel or seen the 1971 adaptation directed by Don Siegel; or 

2) It is possible that he might harbor a patronizing view of African-American women.

The Hallie character in the novel was definitely a middle-aged woman.  And Mae Mercer, who portrayed the character in the 1971 film was at least 37-38 years old when the film went into production in April 1970.  I would never describe either Ms. Mercer or the character Hallie as a “girl”.

“POLDARK” Series Two (2016): Episodes Five to Ten

 

 

“POLDARK” SERIES TWO (2016): EPISODES FIVE TO TEN

Sometime ago, I had expressed my feelings about “POLDARK”, the 1975 adaptation of Winston Graham’s 1953 novel, “Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793”. Needless to say, my opinions were not overall positive. Then I focused my attention of Debbie Horsfield’s recent adaptation of the novel. Considering the writer/television producer’s boast that this new adaptation would be more faithful to Graham’s literary saga, I found myself wondering how she would handle the writer’s most contoverisal entry in his series. 

Series Two of the new “POLDARK” stretched out in ten episodes. While the first four adapted the 1950 novel, “Jeremy Poldark: A Novel in Cornwall, 1790-1791” the last six episodes adapted “Warleggan”. Episode Five focused on the last months of the life of Francis Poldark, protagonist Ross Poldark’s cousin – his emotional reconciliation with his wife, Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark; his duties as a local magistrate; and his excitement over his investment in the Poldark family’s revived Wheal Grace. In the end, it was Francis’ interest in Wheal Grace and a possible copper lode that led him down into the mine and to his death by drowning.

Despite its tragic ending, I must confess that Episode Five might possibly be my favorite one from Series Two. In a way, it represented the “calm before the storm” that eventually overwhelmed the lives of Ross, Demelza, Elizabeth and other characters. Unlike certain fans of the saga, I never had a problem with the “storm” that overwhelmed the main characters in this chapter of the saga. I never had a problem, as long as it was well-written. And I believe Episode Five was truly a fantastic one, thanks to Debbie Horsfield’s writing and Kyle Soller’s last and superb performance as Francis Poldark.  Episode Five also featured an engagement party in which Ray Penvenen held for his niece Caroline and her foppish fiance, a politician named Unwin Trevaunance. During this party, Elizabeth had quietly confessed in a misguided moment that she still harbored feelings for Ross and sometimes regret marrying Francis in the first place. It was a moment that would rear its ugly head, later in the season. As for the episode itself, it seemed to be the only one featuring the adaptation of “Warleggan” that really impressed me. Because Horsfield’s adaptation of the “storm” proved to be very disappointing to me. And I truly missed Soller’s presence in the series after this.

Following Francis’ death, Episodes Six to Ten focused on a collection of story arcs:

*Ross and Demelza’s continuing financial struggles
*Ross’ continuing attempts to wield riches from the Wheal Grace mine
*the courtship between Ross’ close friend, Dr. Dwight Enys and heiress Caroline Penvenen
*Elizabeth’s financial struggles to manage the debt-ridden Trenwith estate
*Antagonist George Warleggan’s attempts to woo the widowed Elizabeth
*Ross and Elizabeth’s close relationship and its effect upon Demelza

Despite the six hundred pounds investment he had received from his cousin Francis for Wheal Grace, Ross continued to struggle with finding a cache of copper. And because of this failure, his financial problems continued to persist for the next several episodes. At one point, Ross found himself on the brink of financial disaster when his nemesis George Warleggan had purchased the promissory note he had signed after borrowing money from his banker, Harris Peascoe. Worse, Wheal Grace proved to be an unsafe working environment and collapsed, causing the deaths of two workers. And all because Ross was desperate to find the copper he believed would alleviate his financial woes.

Many fans and critics seemed to lack the patience to watch Ross struggle financially. They seemed more interested in his personal – especially his romantic – life. In a way, I could understand. But I thought Debbie Horsfield handled his financial struggles rather well. However, I was annoyed by two things. One, his mine workers seemed very reluctant to blame him for the Wheal Grace accident. I get the feeling that Horsfield seemed reluctant as well. I admire the fact that she allowed Ross to feel remorse for the accident. But I found it unrealistic that not one Poldark miner was willing to blame Ross, let alone resent him for failing to provide a safe working environment for them. This whole scenario smacked of some management-worker fantasy in order to make Ross look good in the eyes of the fans. As icing on the cake, Horsfield made sure – in a ham-fisted scene – that series villain George Warleggan criticized Ross over the Wheal Grace disaster. If it had been someone else, chances are the audience would be more inclined to criticize Ross.

Unsure over the value of Wheal Grace, Ross made a quick trip to the Isles of Scilly to seek out the fugitive Mark Daniels, the miner who had murdered his wife near the end of Series One. I wish I could say that I found this sequence rather interesting. But to be honest, it lacked the pathos of the 1975 adaptation. Frankly, I have to blame actor Matthew Wilson. For me, he simply failed to convey Mark’s guilt and grief over his wife’s murder with any real poignancy or effectiveness. The only interesting aspect of this story arc proved to be Ross’ return to Cornwall, where he found himself in the middle of a situation between the local smugglers using his cove as a landing spot and the militia. Frankly, I found it more than satisfying and rather exciting. The sequence ended on an exciting note with the death of informer Charlie Kempthorne. Ross managed to avoid the consequences of that night and his role in the smuggling by committing perjury in court and buying witnesses to do the same on his behalf. Unfortunately, poor Dwight Enys not only angered his blue-blooded fiancée by failing to rendezvous for their elopement, the local court fined him fifty pounds for starting a bonfire – which had alerted the smugglers to the presence of the militia.

In the end, a series of events helped Ross and Demelza rise above their poverty-stricken state. One, Caroline Penvenen secretly provided Ross with two thousand pounds, enabling him to pay off the promissory note that George had purchased from Harris Peascoe and prevent the former from eventually taking possession of the Nampara estate. Ross finally struck a lode withing the Wheal Grace . . . but it proved to be tin, not copper. And a neighbor to whom Ross had lent money years ago repaid his debt and allowed Ross to become an investor in his business. By Episode Ten, I came to the conclusion that Ross was not exactly an exceptional businessman and estate manager. It seemed pretty obvious that sheer blind luck was responsible his rising fortune by Episode Ten.

I realize that I had earlier stated that Episode Five was the last time I truly enjoyed Series Two. Well . . . perhaps not. I had no troubles watching the circumstances involving Ross, Elizabeth, Demelza and George unfold. And unlike the 1970s series, this current series did not rush through a good deal of the narrative in order to reach the sequence involving Ross’ return to Cornwall on the night of the smugglers’ conflict with the militia. I suspect that is due to the fact that the 1975 adaptation of “Warleggan”had stretched through four episodes and the 2016 adaptation stretched through six.

Amidst the turmoil that seemed to engulf the Poldark family and George Warleggan, the romance between the lowly-born Dr. Dwight Enys and upper-class heiress Caroline Penvenen continued its rocky path. Although the pair finally managed to admit their love for one another and become engaged (behind the back of Caroline’s uncle, Ray Penvenen). They even managed to form a plan to elope on the night of Ross’ arrival from France. However, their plans went nowhere when Dwight ditched them in order to warn the smugglers that a local named Charlie Kempthorne had ratted them out to Captain McNeil and the militia. Do not get me wrong. I do believe that Luke Norris and Gabriella Wilde have some kind of chemistry together. The problem is that I found it difficult to really care about their relationship. The problem was . . . Wilde. She did not strike me as a charismatic actress. There were times when I found her performance rather stiff and rote-like. Even when her character had expressed disappointment and anger over Dwight’s failure to rendezvous for an elopement, Wilde did not seemed to be selling these emotions with any real conviction. Series Two ended on a happy note for Dwight and Caroline, when Ross arranged their reconciliation before Dwight was scheduled to set sail with the Royal Navy. Sometime earlier, the War of the First Coalition had started, the first of several conflicts between Great Britain and France for the next twenty years or so.

Ross and Demelza were not the only members of the Poldark family who struggled financially. With Francis dead, Elizabeth and the other inhabitants at Trenwith found themselves in a financial bind. The six hundred pounds that Francis had received from George Warleggan were invested in Wheal Grace. This left Elizabeth cash poor and unable to hire a bailiff to manage the Trenwith estate. She could not manage it, due being only trained to manage a household as mistress of the house. Thanks to Ross’ never ending infatuation with her, he seemed willing to help her manage the estate every now and again. He even provided her and Geoffrey Charles with six hundred pounds from the money he had acquired through the sale of his remaining shares of Wheal Leisure. I believe these acts were Ross’ way of attempting to rekindle the romance between himself and Elizabeth, now that Francis was gone. Ross became so focused upon Elizabeth that he failed to notice Demelza’s growing awareness and concerns over his visits to Trenwith. But Ross was not the only one interested in romance with Elizabeth. George Warleggan, who has harbored romantic feelings for her since the beginning of the series, finally decided to make his move with her. At first, he used tentative steps – the occasional friendly visit to Trenwith, offering her advice on handling the estate’s employees and tenants and presenting gifts to young Geoffrey Charles. The only fly in George’s ointment was Francis’ great-Aunt Agatha Poldark, who disliked him just as much as he disliked her.

As much as I had enjoyed parts of the adaptation of “Warleggan”, it was not perfect. And where did it all go wrong for me? Well, the first hint occurred when Demelza complained to her cousin-in-law Verity Poldark Blamey about Ross ignoring her in favor of visits to Elizabeth. And what did Verity do? Talk to Ross about Demelza, which would have been the sensible and direct thing to do? No. She visited Elizabeth at Trenwith and gently convinced her sister-in-law to spend less time with Ross. Sigh. How passive-aggressive. And sexist. Matters grew worse with Horsfield’s ridiculous portrayal of Elizabeth as some incompetent woman incapable of maintaining the Trenwith estate matters. This was utterly ridiculous. As a woman and a member of the upper-class, Elizabeth was probably trained by her mother to be the wife of a landowner – namely manage the household of an estate manor. She was never trained to manage an estate or a mine. The same could be said for Verity and Caroline. And although Demelza, who was born into the working-class, could manage a smaller house without servants; also knew nothing about managing an estate. But thanks to Horsfield, only Elizabeth’s lack of experience in this matter was emphasized.

It grew worse. Horsfield treated viewers to this ridiculous sequence involving George Warleggan hiring some local thugs to frighten Elizabeth by squatting on Trenwith land. He hoped that this would finally drive Elizabeth to being opened to the idea of becoming Mrs. George Warleggan. I found this incredibly heavy-handed and unnecessary. In the novel, Elizabeth had already begun considering George as a potential spouse, thanks to her financial situation. Apparently, Horsfield thought Elizabeth required a more direct (and heavy-handed) reason to depend more on George. And why did she not turn to Ross? Well . . . she did. She had sent a note to Ross explaining the situation. And here, matters became very silly and childish. The Poldarks’ housekeeper, Prudie Paynter, did not bother to hand over the note to Demelza. Ross was at the Isles of Scilly at the time. The entire scenario smacked of a scene from a teen romance novel. A desperate Elizabeth appeared at Nampara asked for Ross’ whereabouts. Prudie kept her mouth shut and said nothing about keeping the note. And a cold and obviously jealous Demelza merely informed Elizabeth that the note was never received and Ross was away on business. Both Demelza and Prudie were so busy regarding Elizabeth as “the enemy” that they were obviously too stupid to notice Elizabeth’s desperate air. In the end, the latter turned to George to deal with the squatters. From George hiring thugs to squat on Trenwith land to Elizabeth’s desperate visit to Nampara – this was one of the silliest and unnecessary sequences I have ever seen in this series.

Then came Episode Eight, which I now regard as the nadir of this “POLDARK” series . . . so far. Earlier in the episode, Demelza encountered Elizabeth in Truro, where the following exchange occurred:

Elizabeth: I’ve been meaning to call upon you to thank you for your kindness these past few months.

Demelza: In lending you my husband?

Elizabeth: . . . in a manner of speaking.

Demelza: Oh, you’re welcome to him, just so long as you remember where he belongs and send him back to me when you’re done with him.

While many viewers were hooting with laughter at Elizabeth’s expense or raising their fists in the air crying, “Demelza! You go girl!”, I merely rolled my eyes in disgust. One, this scene was never in “Warleggan”. Two, once again, Debbie Horsfield managed to slut shame Elizabeth in preparation for what happened later in the episode. And three, she managed to make Demelza look like a passive-aggressive bitch. Good going, Ms. Horsfield!

But what happened between Demelza and Elizabeth was nothing in compare to what was to come. Mrs. Chynoweth, Elizabeth’s mother, fell ill and the latter realized she would have to care for her mother. At long last, George proposed marriage, promising both his riches and to clear the Trenwith estate of any debts for Geoffrey Charles. A very desperate Elizabeth accepted and very reluctantly, wrote a letter to Ross, informing him of her engagement. For once, Prudie did not withhold this second letter from Elizabeth and handed it over to Ross. Well, we all know what happened. He lost his temper and ignoring Demelza’s pleas, rode over to Trenwith in the middle of the night to end Elizabeth’s engagement to George.

The one good thing I could say about this scene between Ross and Elizabeth is that it featured outstanding performances from both Aidan Turner and Heida Reed. I found it interesting that only a few people managed to notice. Otherwise, I loathed it. The novel’s version of this scene was ugly enough, considering what Ross did to Elizabeth. But Horsfield’s version of the scene was uglier. As in the novel, Ross broke into the house, ignored Elizabeth’s protests and confronted her inside her bedroom. He tried to slut shame her into ending her engagement to George.  Then he forced himself upon her with kisses and later, forced her on the bed with the intent to rape her. Before he could rape her, Elizabeth embraced Ross, signalling her consent to have sex with him. What made this scene so ugly to me? By having Elizabeth consent at the last moment, Debbie Horsfield seemed to be endorsing the concept of “Rape Fantasy”. I had never felt so disgusted in my life.

With the exception of one particular scene, Horsfield provided others following the Ross/Elizabeth scene that either annoyed or disgusted me. Upon Ross’ return to Nampara the following morning, Demelza greeted him with a punch to the face and a great deal of hostility. The only aspect of this scene that would have made me cheer was Eleanor Tomlinson’s first-rate performance. In the end, I could not because this scene was never in the novel. Worse, Horsfield used this scene to transform Demelza from a passive-aggressive bitch to an anachronistic character. Sigh! In the novel, Elizabeth was reluctant to proceed with her marriage to George, due to the trauma of being raped. At the same time, she wanted Ross to explain himself and apologize . . . which never happened. In Episode Nine, Horsfield attempted to solidify Elizabeth’s guilt by having her spend her days at Trenwith, waiting for Ross to leave Demelza for her, thanks to Agatha Poldark’s ludicrous suggestion that Ross might actually do this. Despite Caroline Blakiston’s very skillful performance, Agatha Poldark proved to be very annoying to me, throughout this entire season. In the end, Elizabeth married George.

Demelza, on the other hand, made the misguided decision to punish Ross by attending a house party given by that old lech, Sir Hugh Bodrugan and engage in revenge sex with Captain McNeil of the militia. Remember that one scene of which I had no problems? Well, it was not Sir Hugh’s party. Unlike the 1975 version, it seemed to lack any atmosphere whatsoever of a debauched late Georgian party. Instead, the party sequence seemed to consist of every man admiring Demelza’s beauty and desiring her, transforming her into television’s ultimate Mary Sue. In the end, Demelza and McNeil retired to a room, where she decided that she did not want to engage in revenge sex, after all. Unlike the 1975 version, which featured McNeil attempting to rape Demelza, this version closely followed Graham’s novel by having McNeil deciding not to force himself on her. For once, Horsfield did the right thing. Like Graham, she was willing to show that unlike Ross Poldark, here was a man capable of not forcing himself on a woman.

Unfortunately, Episode Ten returned to the revised crap that Horsfield had inflicted upon Graham’s saga. Like the producers of the 1975 series, Horsfield had Demelza contemplating leaving Ross for his infidelity and lack of remorse. Worse, she planned to return to her father’s home . . . with young Jeremy. Was this scene in Graham’s novel? I do not remember. I do know that she would have never gotten away with taking Jeremy with her to Tom Carne’s home. As a man and a member of the landed gentry in the late 18th century, Ross could have easily used the courts to stop her. And I doubt very much that he would have tolerated Jeremy being raised in his father-in-law’s household. He detested Tom Carne’s bullying and religious fanaticism too much. Once again, Horsfield transformed Demelza into an anachronistic character. And like the 1975 series, Horsfield allowed Trenwith to be threatened by a mob after George had the estate closed off from its tenant farmers. This sequence began with Demelza confronting the newly married Elizabeth in the woods and slut shaming the latter for what happened on the night of May 9, 1793. Again, this was not in Graham’s novel. I found it misogynistic and unnecessary. And I suspect that Horsfield added another ham-fisted scene to solidify Elizabeth guilty of adultery in the viewers’ eyes.

In the end, the mob led by Jud Paynter did not burn down Trenwith. Demelza arrived at the Warleggans’ home to warn them about the mob. Horsfield had Ross behave like romance novel hero and appear at Trenwith – on a white horse (ugh!) – to prevent Demelza from getting swept up by the mob and to prevent the latter from burning Trenwith and harming the Warleggan newlyweds. By the time Episode Ten ended with another scene straight from a romance novel. It featured Ross and Demelza reconciling near the edge of a cliff . . . again. Ugh.

Episodes Five to Ten, which featured the adaptation of Graham’s 1953 novel, “Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793”, had started on such a promising note. But since the novel was controversial, due to the saga’s protagonist becoming a rapist, producer Debbie Horsfield and the BBC slowly transformed the adaptation of the novel into a pile of shit. Like their 1975 predecessors, Horsfield and the BBC lacked the balls to closely adhere to Winston Graham’s ambiguous portrayal of Ross Poldark. The worst they were willing to do was simply portray him as an adulterer. Because of this, Episodes Five to Ten of Series Two for “POLDARK” seemed to be filled with heavy-handed revisions of Graham’s novel and a rape fantasy scene that left me feeling completely disgusted.

 

 

 

“THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

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”THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

In 2005, director/writer Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise with the highly successful movie, ”BATMAN BEGINS” that starred Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Both men have reunited three years later for a new story centered around Batman’s conflict with his greatest nemesis, the Joker, in this sequel called ”THE DARK KNIGHT”.

There has been a great deal of attention surrounding this movie. Many have not only praised it, claiming that it is better than the 2005 movie. But most of the word-of-mouth have centered around Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, especially after his tragic death some six months ago. When ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was finally released, many critics and fans expressed the belief that the positive word-of-mouth had been justified. Not only have many judged Ledger’s performance as the best in his career, others have claimed that the movie is probably the best Comic Book Hero movie ever made. I do not know if the Joker featured Heath Ledger’s best performance ever. As for the claim about ”THE DARK KNIGHT” being the best comic book hero movie . . . I do not agree.

I am not saying that ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was a terrible or mediocre film. Frankly, I believe that it was one of the best movies I have seen this summer. Most of the movie featured an excellent story scripted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer, in which Gotham’s organized criminal element has found itself threatened by the law ever since the end of the Falsone family in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, thanks to Batman (Bale). A former inmate of Arkham Asylum named the Joker (Ledger) approaches the crime bosses, which include Salvatore “Sal” Maroni (Eric Roberts), with an offer to kill Batman for pay. At the same time, Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) contemplate including the new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in their plan to eradicate the mob, as he could be the public hero Batman cannot be. Harvey Dent is found to be dating Wayne’s childhood friend and object of romantic desire, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). This conflict between Batman, the Joker and their allies escalates to a tragic and well-directed dénouement that leads to Rachel’s death. And it is here where I believe that the movie faltered.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” could have ended with Rachel’s death, followed by the Joker’s manipulation of a grieving Harvey Dent into madness and his eventual capture or death. Instead, the Nolan brothers and Goyer allowed the Joker to escape and continued the story with Dent’s vengeful hunt for those he considered responsible for Rachel’s death and the Joker resorting to a Green Goblin situation involving two ferryboats packed with explosives. The situation involved him telling the passengers on each that the only way to save themselves is to trigger the explosives on the other ferry; otherwise, at midnight he will destroy them both remotely. All of this occurred during the movie’s last half hour and quite frankly, it was a half hour I could have done without. I found the entire ferryboats sequence so unbelievable and contrived. It seemed as if Nolan teased us with the possibility of seeing the darker side of the average citizen . . . and wimped out, because he would rather stroke the ego of his moviegoers with some “nobility of man” bullshit by allowing the passengers refuse to blow or try to blow each other to kingdom come, instead of telling the truth about human nature. Very disappointing. It would have been more interesting or darker if Batman had prevented the passengers from blowing up the boats at the last minute. Batman would have saved the people, but the Joker would have proven a point.

A fan had pointed out that the ending of the sequence was Nolan’s message about leaving a sliver of hope for the audience that human beings do have the capacity to do good things. I realize that this was Nolan’s aim, but this is a message that has been done to death by moviegoers for eons. The problem is that screenwriters and moviemakers are always giving moviegoers this “sliver of hope”. They call themselves pointing out the dark side of humanity and then they pervert these messages by allowing them to come out of the mouths from villains like the Joker, before the latter is eventually proven wrong. It just seems like a cop out to me. Which was why I found the whole ferryboat sequence something of a joke. Sure, human beings are capable of doing some good. But in that particular situation? I rather doubt it. If there is one trait that humanity possess, it is a talent for self-preservation. It would have been more realistic to me if the boats had detonated or Batman had prevented this before anyone on one or both of those boats and activated the bombs. Granted, Batman/Bruce Wayne would have been disappointed in Gotham’s citizens, but he would have learned a valuable lesson about the very people he calls himself protecting. Even better, I would have preferred if Nolan had never added that sequence in the first place.

As for Harvey Dent’s hunt for those he deemed responsible for Rachel’s death . . . I would have been more satisfied if Nolan and his co-writers had ended the movie with Dent’s eventual slide into darkness in that hospital room and saved his transformation into a twisted vigilante and arch villain in a third Batman film. This would have prevented the movie from being unnecessarily a half hour long. And it would have saved the talented Aaron Eckhart for the third film as “Two-Faced” Harvey. It would have also spared moviegoers of that ludicrous ending in which Batman and Gordon decided to allow the former assume blame of Dent’s crimes in order to save the reputation of the D.A. I am still stunned by this little plot development. What were the Nolan brothers thinking? Why was it so necessary to save Dent’s reputation in the first place? Did Batman and Gordon harbored such a low opinion of Gotham’s citizens that they had to treat the latter like children?

The performances in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” were basically superb. Christian Bale beautifully captured the growing dilemma of Bruce Wayne’s desire for a normal life with Rachel Dawes, juxtaposed with his role as Gotham’s costumed vigilante and his growing power over the city’s criminal element, thanks to his alliance with police lieutenant James Gordon and the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. There is one aspect of Bale’s performance I did not like – namely the growling tone he used, while in the Batman persona. I did not care for it in ”BATMAN BEGINS”. I cared for it even less in this film.

I have noticed how many have expressed the view that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Rachel Dawes was better than Katie Holmes in the 2005 film. Personally, I did not see much of a difference in the quality of their performances. Both actresses gave good, solid performances. But . . . the screenwriters’ portrayal of Rachel in this film disappointed me. They had turned her characters into an object. She was Bruce Wayne’s prize for giving up the Batman persona, as soon as he could get Dent to assume the role of Gotham’s “hero”. She was Dent’s love interest, Girl Friday and a reason to go on a rampage for Dent. And for the Joker, she was a means to get at Batman, once he realized how the latter felt about her. There were times when Rachel’s character almost seemed irrelevant and a sad decline from the legal and moral dynamo that Holmes had portrayed in ”BATMAN BEGINS”.

Heath Ledger as the Joker. What can I say? The man was brilliant. He made Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like chump change. Honestly. One of the reasons why I have never care for the Joker character in the past was due to his over-the-top persona. Cesar Romero’s Joker has never impressed me, regardless of the numerous insane clown laughs he had utilized. Nicholson’s Joker was too over-the-top for my tastes. As one can see, I do not have a love for overly theatrical characters, unless they are done right. Granted, Ledger portrayed the Joker as over-the-top. But somehow . . . I really do not know how to describe it. Somehow, he managed to infuse some kind of control in the character’s insanity, not only with his behavior, but also with a talent for emotional manipulation and the views he had spouted to Batman and other characters. Do I believe that the Joker was Ledger’s best performance? No. I believe that the character was one of his two best performances, the other being Ennis DelMar from 2005’s ”BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. Do I believe that Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance, despite his death? Hmmmm . . . yes. He was that good.

The other truly superb performance came from Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. One of Eckhart’s virtues was that he formed an excellent screen chemistry with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Frankly, I found their romance more believable than her relationship with Bruce Wayne. Eckhart projected a great deal of magnetism, charm and intensity into his portrayal of Dent. But I was more impressed by the way he expressed Dent’s descent into vengeful madness, following Rachel’s death. Granted, this turn of his character occurred in the movie’s last half hour. Although I disliked the movie’s last half hour, Eckhart’s performance in it almost made it bearable.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow) all reprised their roles from the first film. All four gave solid performances, but only Oldman’s role as James Gordon seemed bigger. I found Gordon’s fake death somewhat contrived and manipulative. Aside from the creation of the Rachel Dawes character, everything about the two Batman movies directed by Nolan have adhered to the Batman canon. Which is why I found it difficult to believe that Gordon was dead. Alfred’s role seemed to have diminished from the first film. Freeman’s Lucius Fox is now quite aware that Bruce is Batman and seemed to be acting as the latter’s armourer, as well as Wayne Enterprises’ CEO. The only problem I had with the Fox character was his opposition against Wayne/Batman’s development an advanced surveillance system that can listen in and track the movement of any of the thousands of cell phones in the city. I found the whole scenario contrived. As much as I had enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Dr. Crane/the Scarecrow in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, I found his less than ten minutes appearance in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” a waste of the actor’s time . . . and mine.

Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard returned to score the sequel. I must admit that I had been impressed by their work in ”BATMAN BEGINS” and had expected another exceptional score by them. Unfortunately, I barely remembered the score. I understand that they had rehashed the original score for this movie and added a new theme or two. But it all came off as unmemorable for me.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” had the potential to be this summer’s best film. But there were some aspects – the portrayal of Rachel Dawes’ character, Zimmer and Newton Howard’s score, the portrayal of some of the minor characters and the contrived writing that dominated the movie’s last half hour – that I believe had ruined the movie’s chances of achieving this potential. Fortunately, the virtues outweighed the flaws and in the end, ”THE DARK KNIGHT” managed to remain first-rate and become – in my view – one of the best films of 2008.

 

Not Surprised

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NOT SURPRISED

While watching Season Four of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, I noticed there were three SHIELD agents, along with Elena Rodriguez, who helped Jemma Simmons and Daisy Johnson rescue Phil Coulson and the others from the Framework – Agents Piper, Davis and Prince.  Guess which one ended up dead?

That’s right . . .

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. . . Agent Prince, the black guy.  Ah Mutant Enemy, it amazes me on how you can still cling to old bad habits.

“The Uninvited” [PG-13] – Act III

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“THE UNINVITED”

ACT III

Gweneth, Jack and Elise McNeill glanced up from their meals to find Nimue approaching their table with two strangers in tow. “How is everyone?” the demoness greeted warmly. “I hope that you are enjoying yourselves.” 

The Welsh-born witch returned Nimue’s greeting with an equally warm one. “The party is just lovely,” she replied. Her eyes focused upon the couple standing behind the demoness. “Are these friends of yours?”

Nimue stepped aside to make introductions. “I would like you all to meet an old friend of mine. Lohdon, who is head of the Fornost Order. And beside him is Miss Adrianne Evans, a friend of his. And a wizard.”

“How do you do?” the other daemon greeted. Lohdon looked like a man somewhere in his early to mid forties. Gwen suspected that he might be a lot older – at least between 150 to 200 years. Despite being slightly under six feet tall, he struck a commanding figure with his broad shoulders, light-brown skin, wiry body and dark brown eyes that glowed with authority. “This is Adrianne Evans, a friend of mine.”

Lohdon’s companion turned out to be a powerful wizard – a lithe blond woman in her thirties with delicate features that any supermodel would envy. She smiled at the McNeills and said, “How do you? Nimue has told us so much about you.”

Gweneth recognized the accent, immediately. “You’re Welsh, right?”

“Yes. I’m from Holywell,” Miss Evans replied.

Nodding, Gweneth said, “Oh yes. Home of the St Winefride’s Holy Well. They have a decent football team there, as well.” She paused. “I’m from Aberystwyth. Along the coast.”

Jack gazed at Lohdon. “I understand that you’re head of the Fornost Order? Because that name sounds familiar. Have you ever heard of a daemon named Orcus?”

The smile on Lohdon’s lips faded. “Yes. He was part of my order. A witch had killed him some 23 years ago. I’m afraid that Orcus tried to interfere with the witch’s business.” Lohdon’s brows rose questioningly. “You?”

“I’m afraid so,” Jack coolly replied. “Sorry for your loss.”

A smirk twisted Lohdon’s mouth . . . and Gweneth relaxed. “Orcus knew what he was getting into. And he paid the price. It’s history.”

Nimue added, “I must confess that I had invited Lohdon to the party for a reason. To meet all of you. You see . . . Marbus has told me about your encounters with the Magan Corporation, after that little incident between your daughter, myself and Zamora.”

Elise frowned. “Olivia and Cole had told us that this Zamora was part of the Khorne Order. Is that what you wanted? Confirmation that it’s connected with the Magan Corporation?”

Both Nimue and Lohdon exchanged uneasy glances. “Possibly,” the demoness answered.

“So, you believe as we do,” Jack said. “That the corporation’s CEO might also be the Khorne Order’s leader.” He paused. “So, who is the order’s present leader?”

Lohdon answered, “As far as I know, Prax. Adrianne,” he glanced at his companion, “had confirmed it.”

The wizard continued, “At first, I thought it might Loxias. He’s an antiquity collector, who’s also pretty ruthless. But Artemus, the former leader, had never been fond of him.” She glanced around – almost with a desperate air. “Is there a waiter around? I need a drink.”

“But what does this have to do with Lohdon?” Gweneth asked. She turned to the daemon. “Why are you so interested in the Magan Corporation?”

A sigh left Nimue’s mouth, before she answered, “Surely you must have heard rumors about someone planning to become the new Source.”

Elise’s eyes grew wide with shock. “Now I understand.” She stared at Lohdon. “You’re planning to become the new Source.”

Lohdon frowned. “How did you . . .?”

“I’m a telepath,” Elise quickly explained. She frowned. “But we had also heard rumors of more than one faction competing for the Source’s throne.”

Nimue explained, “You’re right. Lohdon does hope to become the new Source. And I’m one of his main supporters. I believe that Lohdon is strong enough to lead the realm into a new era . . . and intelligent enough not to perpetrate some end-of-the-world scheme, like the one that the old Source had planned over three years ago. Or try to destroy the Whitelighters Realm.”

Gweneth inhaled sharply. “So, you had heard about that?”

“There wasn’t a daemon in existence who didn’t,” Lohdon commented. “Some were upset that the Whitelighters had been saved. Others, like myself, were relieved. The destruction of the Whitelighters Realm could have upset the balance in the magical world even further.”

Nimue added, “And from what I . . . ‘we’ know about the McNeill family, you also believe that some kind of balance should be . . .” She broke off, as her blue eyes grew wide with shock. “In Caspiel’s name!” she hissed. “What the bloody hell is she doing here?” The demoness shot the McNeills a tight smile and murmured, “Excuse me,” before she quickly marched toward one of the refreshment tables.

All three McNeills gazed after the obviously angry Nimue. Gweneth saw a dark-haired woman with pale skin and exotic features standing near the same table in the demoness’ path. The woman’s tight dress accentuated her curves in a very obvious manner. “Who is that woman?” she asked Lohdon and Miss Evans.

The female wizard smirked, as a Melorian waiter appeared before her. “Someone who obviously had not been invited.”

—————-

Cole reached the dark-haired woman first and scowled. “Idril! What the hell are you doing here?”

The young demoness graced Cole with a brilliant smile. “Belthazor!” she exclaimed in a bell-like voice. “Is that the way to greet an old beau? I must say that you look as handsome, as ever. How long has it been? Four years? Five?”

“Not long enough, as far as I’m concerned!” the half-daemon retorted. “What are you doing here? Did Mother invite you?”

A tinkling laugh escaped from Idril’s mouth. Cole had forgotten how much he hated it. Until now. “Not exactly. I . . .”

“I most certainly did not invite her!” Nimue appeared before the pair. She glared at Idril. “My dear Idril, may I ask what you are doing here?” she demanded in a soft, deadly voice.

To Cole’s surprise, Idril became slightly anxious. “Nimue, I realize that I had not been issued an invitation . . .”

“No, you were not! I had only invited ‘certain’ members of the Order. And you do not qualify as one.” Nimue’s eyes narrowed slightly. “How did you manage to gain entry to this party, without an invitation?”

Idril paled slightly. “I . . . I had used Melkora’s invitation.”

“You mean to say that you had stolen . . .?”

The younger demoness quickly corrected her superior. “No, no! You see, Melkora is ill.” She paused. “For some reason – I think it had something to do with this witch she had to deal with – she became ill. And she asked me to represent the sect for her.” The Thorn Brotherhood – now renamed the Thorn Order – happened to be organized into seven different sects. And Melkora led one of them.

“Melkora asked you?” Cole’s voice expressed doubt. “Now, why do I have trouble believing that?”

“It’s true,” Idril insisted. “If you don’t believe me, you can ask Melkora, herself.” She smiled at the half-daemon. “Besides, we’re old friends, Belthazor. Surely, there’s no harm in me showing up to congratulate you on your upcoming marriage?”

A thin smile stretched Nimue’s lips. “Then, please get it over with, so you can leave.”

Slightly taken aback by the older demoness’ hostility, Idril’s face turned pink. Then she smiled at Cole. “Well, Belthazor. Congratulations. I hope that you will be happy.”

Realizing that his mother had not arranged for Idril’s appearance, Cole smiled back. Politely. “Thank you, Idril. And I’m sorry that you won’t be able to stay . . .”

“Oh, a new guest?” a fourth voice asked. Cole’s heart beat nervously, as Olivia appeared before them.

The dark-haired demoness appraised the redheaded witch with ruthless eyes. She allowed her chest to thrust out slightly, causing great amusement for Cole. “I’m Idril. An old friend of Belthazor’s.”

Olivia smiled politely. “And a member of the Thorn Order, no doubt. I’m Olivia McNeill, the bride-to-be. You must be pretty high up in the order, to receive an invitation.”

Idril opened her mouth, but Nimue spoke first. “Actually my dear, Idril is representing the head of her sect. Who – for some reason – had fallen ill. Unfortunately, poor Idril cannot stay much longer.”

“Too bad,” Olivia commented. “Business?”

The dark-haired demoness quickly recovered. “Actually Nimue,” she said with a winsome smiled targeted at Cole, “that little business matter has actually been taken care of. So, it looks as if I might be able to stay a little longer.”

Olivia nodded. “Good. I hope that you’ll enjoy the party.”

“Oh, I will.” Idril gave a cryptic smile and sauntered away.

Cole glared at his mother. “You’re going to allow her to stay?”

“What do you want me to do, Belthazor?” Nimue snapped back. “Kill her in front of the guests? Don’t blame me for this mess. Blame Melkora for falling ill. Or better yet, why don’t you blame yourself for getting involved with Idril, in the first place? I had warned you to stay away from her, years ago. Now if you will excuse me, I have some guests to attend to.” She shook her head in disgust and left.

Olivia murmured, “Oh dear. Did I say something wrong?”

A sigh left Cole’s mouth. “No, you didn’t. None of us had any idea that Idril would crash the party. Besides . . . I hate to admit this, but Mother might be right. Especially about me getting involved with Idril, in the first place. She never did take our breakup very well.”

“I’m trying to figure out what you had seen in her . . . in the first place,” Olivia commented in a dry voice.

An amused smile curved Cole’s lips. “I hope you’re not jealous.”

“More like amazed that you would date someone who looks as if she’s straight out of a 60s B-movie.” Olivia pecked his cheek. “It’s nice to know that your taste in females has improved over the years.”

Cole linked her arm through his. “I just had a lapse of judgment when I first met her. I was young. I had an itch. She provided the scratch.”

Olivia peered at him. “When did this ‘lapse’ of judgment first occur?”

“1969.”

“At the age of 84?”

Cole shot his fiancée with a quick, dark look. “Eight-four is young for a daemon. Now, c’mon. I need a drink.” And he led her toward the refreshment table.

————-

The two Charmed Ones and Barbara McNeill observed the dark-haired demoness mingling among the guests. “So, that’s one of Cole’s old girlfriends,” Paige murmured. “It’s a good thing Phoebe never met her. She would have suffered from a massive dose of insecurity. Olivia doesn’t seem fazed by her.”

“Did you get a good look at her?” Barbara demanded. “Why on earth would Olivia or Phoebe be jealous of her? I know I wouldn’t.”

Piper added, “It’s easy to see why Olivia might not be jealous. Cole didn’t seem particularly pleased to see his old girlfriend. And neither did his mom. I wonder why she was invited.”

Another voice said, “Good question.” The three witches glanced up at a tall, elegant woman with aquiline features. She sat down in one of the table’s empty chairs.

Piper frowned at the newcomer. “Do we know you?”

“This is Cole’s aunt,” Barbara answered. “Marbus’ wife.”

The woman added, “Mauve Farrell.” Paige felt a surge of guilt, at the mention of Cole’s uncle, recalling how the Charmed Ones nearly killed him. His wife spoke with an Irish lilt. “Now, I do recall meeting . . . Barbara?” The blond witch nodded. Cole’s aunt stared thoughtfully at the Charmed Ones. “And you are . . .?”

Paige hesitated, before she answered. “Paige Matthews. And this is my sister, Piper Halliwell.”

“Oh! The Charmed Ones!” Mauve frowned. “Shouldn’t there be a third sister?”

Piper replied, “She’s out of town.”

Mauve continued, “Oh yes, Cole’s former wife. You know, it’s finally nice to meet you. Cole has told us all about you. Including your sister, Frances.”

“It’s Phoebe,” Piper murmured.

“Really? Then why does Marbus keeps calling her Frances?”

Barbara added, “Do you know anything about the dark-haired woman who was with Cole and his mother?”

The female wizard sniffed. “Oh her. Idril. One of Cole’s former lovers. Cheap. Even if she is a daemon.”

Piper murmured, “Figures. From the Thorne Order, I presume?”

“That’s right.”

Paige asked, “And you’re a member of the Gimle Order, right?”

Mauve shook her head. “Oh no, dear. Not me. I’m a wizard, not a daemon.”

“Wizard?” Paige blinked. “I thought that the Source . . .” She paused. “Oh wait a minute. That’s not true.”

Barbara stared at the younger woman. “What are you talking about?”

A sigh left the wizard’s mouth. “I suppose you had been told that the old Source had wiped out all of the wizards.”

“Yeah, by a certain wizard named Aman,” Paige added.

Mauve explained, “Aman’s order had been wiped out by the Source. Good riddance, if you ask me. Trust me, other wizards still survive.” She pointed at an elegant-looking blond woman with killer cheekbones and blue eyes. “You see that woman? She’s another wizard. Her name is Adrianne Evans. She’s also Lohdon’s mistress.” Her expression hinted slight disapproval.

“Lohdon?” Piper frowned. “Isn’t he the head of some demonic order? The Forost . . . or something like that?”

“The Fornost Order,” Mauve corrected. “Yes, Lohdon and Adrianne have been close since the 1960s.”

Paige frowned. “She looks as if she had been born after the 60s.”

“Well, of course, my dear. Some wizards have a very long life. A lot longer than other mortals. Including witches.” Mauve paused. “I had been born in the 1840s.” All three witches stared at the older woman, who looked as if she was in her late forties or early fifties.

A masculine voice added, “Wizards are masters at prolonging life. Sometimes I wonder if they want to be daemons . . . just like us.” The owner of the voice sat down in the remaining empty chair. “Mauve. It’s been a long time.” He was a tall and extremely pale man, who reminded Paige of the HARRY POTTER character, Severus Snape. Only this joker sported a haircut.

The wizard gave the newcomer a cool look. “Ascaroth. Is there a reason you had decided to join us?”

“Actually, I had meant to ask if you had seen Nimue, but I decided to join in your little conversation.” Ascaroth paused. “I assume you were talking about Belthazor and Idril.”

Barbara replied, “As a matter of fact, we were. Do you know anything about it?”

“He should,” Mauve haughtily replied, “He’s Nimue’s personal little minion.”

The demon shot the wizard a dark look. “I’m Nimue’s personal assistant,” he said to the witches. “And yes, I do know about them. Belthazor had first dated Idril, nearly forty years ago. In the late 60s. Nimue was against it, of course.”

“Why . . . ‘of course’?” Paige asked.

Ascaroth replied, “Idril was one of Raynor’s protégées. Some say that she was his mistress on-and-off. Raynor wanted them to marry for some reason I don’t know. Nimue, who resented his influence over Belthazor, was against it. I don’t think that Belthazor was really that interested in Idril. But he thought that Nimue was trying to interfere, so he got involved with Idril, anyway.” The demon snickered. “Much to his regret.”

“Meaning?” Piper demanded.

The demon sighed. “Idril is lovely and quite clever. But she is also shallow. And a bit . . . obvious. She had produced and starred in a series of bad B-movies in the mid 1960s.” Ascaroth shivered with distaste. “Quite horrible, my dear. She and Belthazor became involved again . . . just four years ago. But that relationship had lasted even shorter. Unfortunately for poor Idril, she was never really Belthazor’s style.” He smiled at the witches. “Anything else you want to know?”

Barbara replied, “Yeah. Is there someone planning to become the new Source?”

Ascaroth paled even more. “Excuse me. I believe I see Nimue.” He quickly stood up and walked away.

“Now that was interesting,” Mauve commented. She glanced at Barbara. “I think you may have stumbled upon something.”

The two Charmed Ones exchanged uneasy looks, clearly hoping otherwise. The last thing they wanted to face was a new Source. And the fact that the McNeills might play a part in this possibility made them feel even more uneasy.

—————

Logan took a deep breath and stood up. He had remained inside his hotel room, long enough. It was time to complete his assignment. The warlock reached inside his pocket and removed a small vial that contained some kind of yellow liquid. It was poison made from the seeds of a few yew berries.

Then he slipped out of his room and headed toward the hotel’s first floor. Just before he reached the Leithian Room, Logan morphed into one of the hotel’s four-armed employees. He strode into the ballroom and headed straight toward the refreshment tables, where another blue creature – one with two arms – awaited him.

“There you are!” the two-armed Melorian demanded. He shoved two trays filled with hors d’oeuvres into two of Logan’s hands. “Here! Take them and circulate the room. And next time, don’t be late!”

Slightly taken aback by the Melorian’s demeanor, Logan merely nodded and mumbled, “Yes sir.” With the trays in hand, the warlock merged into the crowd. As he passed out numerous hors d’oeuvres to the guess, Logan realized that not one daemon or witch had expressed any suspicion toward him. Or sensed that he was something other than another Melorian waiter. Not even the mighty Belthazor, to whom Logan had served a few hors d’oeuvres.

Realizing that he would be able to circulate among past colleagues and acquaintances without being detected, Logan decided to complete his mission. Just as he turned on his heels to start back, a voice stopped him. “Hold on!” A hand reached for a hors d’oeuvre.

Logan recognized the daemon that had teleported him to this dimension. He smiled. “Are you sure that you want to eat that? I might have saved it for the witch.”

The hors d’oeuvre halted less than an inch from his companion’s mouth. The daemon quickly dropped it on the tray. “Why haven’t you served it to her, yet? You’re going the wrong way.”

“Because I had planned to poison her in another way,” Logan shot back. “When will Belthazor’s mother make the announcement?”

The daemon retorted, “What are you talking about?”

“The announcement for the engagement!” Logan sighed. “Haven’t you ever attended an engagement party, before?”

“Of course not! Besides, why do you need to know?”

Another frustrated sigh escaped from Logan’s mouth. “Because a toast – with a drink – usually follows an engagement announcement. And I plan to make sure that Miss McNeill will drink more than just champagne.” Again, he sighed. “Aw, hell! I’ll find out from my . . . supervisor. Just be prepared to get me out of here, when I’m ready.” Logan walked away before his companion could reply.

————–

“Excuse me, Nimue.”

The demoness, who had been conversing with a guest, turned to face her assistant. “Yes, Ascaroth?”

Her assistant continued, “The champagne has arrived for the toast. When do you plan to make the announcement?”

Nimue graciously excused herself from the guest. She drew Ascaroth away to a private spot. “The announcement? Oh, for Belthazor’s engagement. Yes, of course.” She stared at the guests, scattered throughout the ballroom. “You can start making arrangements to pass out the champagne, now.” Ascaroth nodded and walked away. Nimue sighed and returned to her guests.

————-

“. . . of the strangest experience in my life,” Guldur was saying. “Have you ever experienced any of those moments when you honestly believe that you will die, and your life just flashes before your eyes?”

Olivia nodded. She and the daemon sat at one of the near empty tables in the Leithian Room. Guldur happened to be in the middle of a tale about his encounter with a powerful wizard who harbored information needed by the Fornost Order. “I suppose that last task must have been rather difficult,” she said, oozing sympathy. “Getting the orb, I mean.”

“Actually, it was a chalice,” Guldur corrected. “The Delphi Chalice. It had allegedly belonged to the Roman god, Apollo. The chalice – filled with water, of course – not only enabled a person to see the future and the past, but it can also serve as a mirror to alternate dimensions. I had to kill this . . . python in order to . . . eh, grab it.” The daemon sighed. “I never thought I would survive. Especially since my electrokinesis and other powers seemed had no effect . . .”

Cole appeared at the table. “Am I interrupting your conversation?” He regarded both Olivia and Guldur with curious eyes. “So Guldur, boring Olivia with another one of your tales about your exploits?”

The other daemon sneered. “Really Belthazor, I had no idea that you regarded my exploits as . . . boring. But then what can I expect from one of the Source’s top assassins.”

“Don’t worry Guldur,” Olivia said, smiling at the daemon. “I found your exploits to be very exciting.”

Guldur returned her smile. “Thank you, Olivia. It’s nice to find someone who is appreciative of my talents.” He shot a dark look at Cole and left the table.

Olivia stood up and turned to her fiancé. “By the way, did he really steal this . . . Delphi chalice for some wizard?”

“Guldur had done a lot of things in his time,” Cole replied. “That’s why he was one of the deadliest daemons before he became Lohdon’s assistant.”

As she linked arms with Cole, Olivia shot him a knowing smile. “Was that some kind of warning for me to stay away from him?”

Cole sighed. “I wouldn’t even bother. I’m sure that you’re quite aware of how dangerous he can be. In fact,” he paused and stared thoughtfully at his fiancée, “I have this deep suspicion that you wanted to speak to him. Pick his mind, so to speak. Come to think of it, you’ve been talking to a good number of my former colleagues. And members of the Fornost Order. What exactly are you up to?”

“If you must know, I was curious about what Guldur’s boss, your mother and my parents were talking about.”

Cole’s eyes narrowed. “And?”

Olivia shrugged. “And nothing. He didn’t know what they were talking about. However, I did pick up some interesting information about his background and his past. In fact, I haven’t even heard of the Delphi Chalice, until today.”

A waiter appeared before the couple and literally shoved one end of the tray in Olivia’s face. “Champagne? The hostess will be making an announcement, soon.”

Glaring at the waiter, Olivia grabbed the nearest glass. “Thanks,” she muttered. Cole grabbed another glass. “I think we better make our way toward the front.”

As they moved toward the bandstand, the half-daemon stared at the Fornost Order’s leader, conversing with Bruce and Barbara. “Perhaps Adrianne might know.”

“Who?”

A woman’s voice added, “I believe that Belthazor was referring to me.” The voice’s owner, an elegant blond woman appeared before the couple. “Belthazor, congratulations.” She offered a hand to Olivia. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss McNeill. I’m Adrianne Evans.” The woman spoke with a soft Welsh accent, similar to Olivia’s mother. “A friend of Lohdon’s.”

Cole added, “And she’s also a wizard.”

“Oh. Well, uh . . . my name is Olivia McNeill. Nice to meet you.” The witch shook the other woman’s hand. “I suppose you might know what my parents were discussing with Nimue and Lohdon?”

Adrianne sighed. “I’m afraid not.” She cleared her throat. “Damn this dry throat. I’ve been drowning myself in liquids of every kind, all day. And no, Lohdon had decided to keep me in the dark, as well.” Glancing at Olivia’s glass, she asked, “Do you mind if I drink your champagne? I’ve already drunk all of mine.” The wizard grabbed Olivia’s glass and consumed the champagne in three swallows. She sighed before remorsefully returning the glass to the witch. “I’m sorry about that, but this dry mouth has been bothering me all day. Perhaps I can find another waiter.”

“I see one,” Cole said. He summoned another Melorian waiter. Who appeared with a tray with more glasses filled with champagne. Cole handed a glass to each female and took one for him. “If I were you, Adrianne, I would wait for the toast.”

The wizard smirked at the half-daemon. “Of course. I only hope that Nimue doesn’t take long to . . .” She broke off, as her body shuddered violently.

Both Olivia and Cole stared at the female wizard. “Adrianne?” the half-daemon began in a concerned voice. “Are you okay?”

More convulsions followed, much to Olivia’s consternation. Then the wizard’s elegant face turned deadly white. She clutched her chest and shuddered a few more times, before she collapsed upon the floor.

“Good God!” Olivia exclaimed, as she stared at the fallen woman. “What happened? Is she . . .?”

Cole knelt beside the wizard and examined her for a pulse. Grim-faced, he stared up at Olivia and shook his head. “Nothing. No pulse.” He sighed. “I’m afraid that she’s dead.”

END OF ACT III