“Altered Lives” [PG-13] – Prologue

This is the first in a series of five stories set between ROTS and ANH. Also, this particular story is more or less an Alternate Universe version of the last half-hour of “Revenge of the Sith”.

 

“ALTERED LIVES”

RATING: PG-13 – Violence
SUMMARY: The lives of Anakin, Padme and many others take an alternate course during Anakin’s duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: All characters and things STAR WARS belong to Lucasfilm. All non-original dialogue in this story is credited to “Revenge of the Sith”, which is based upon the story and screenplay by George Lucas. The characters, Romulus Wort and Wo-Chen Puri, are my creation.

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PROLOGUE

27BBY – Coruscant

Inside the Jedi Temple’s great training hall, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, his padawan and other members of the Order watched two padawans engage in a practice lightsaber duel. Although the two combatants happened to be adolescents, both moved with the skill and speed of an experienced adult swordsman.

Obi-Wan felt impressed by one particular combatant – a tall and muscular fifteen year-old named Romulus Wort. The Jedi Knight could not help but admire how the young, dark-haired Wort managed to utilize his footwork and speed to keep his opponent on the defense. He turned to the padawan’s Jedi mentor and said, “Master Puri, I cannot help but feel that the Force is truly strong with your padawan.”

A hint of a smile touched the lips of the stocky, bronze-skinned Belascan who stood next to Obi-Wan. “Yes, Romulus has become quite skilled with the lightsaber.” The smile disappeared, as he sighed. “Unfortunately, being strong with the Force does not automatically make one the perfect Jedi. I am afraid that my young padawan needs work in other areas – like his impatience and temper.”

Obi-Wan shot a quick glance at his apprentice. The lanky, fourteen year-old regarded the fighters through narrowed eyes. “Yes,” Obi-Wan said, “those are traits that many of us needed to be mindful of when we were of Romulus’ age. But I am surprised that you would say such a thing about your own padawan. He has always struck me being nearly ideal. Along with Ferus Olin.” There had been times when Obi-Wan had longed for the less troublesome Romulus Wort or the near perfect Ferus Olin as his padawan.

“Oh come, Master Kenobi.” Puri regarded the younger Knight with slight amusement. “I have yet to meet the ideal Jedi Knight. Although, I do believe there are many within the Order who might consider themselves . . . ideal.”

The younger Knight felt his face turn hot with embarrassment. Somehow, Puri’s words had cut Obi-Wan to the quick. He did not view himself ideal or perfect, but he liked to believe that the Jedi Order did consider him loyal and dependable. Would anyone consider such a viewpoint as arrogant?

A lightsaber’s hum broke Obi-Wan out of his thoughts. He looked up in time to see Romulus aggressively attack the other padawan before knocking the latter’s lightsaber to the floor. Many of the onlookers clapped or cheered. Including Obi-Wan. “Good job!” he declared enthusiastically. “Good job!”

Puri nodded approvingly at his padawan. “I agree. But I wonder how he will do against young Skywalker, here.” He smiled reassuringly at Anakin. “Whom I am certain is just as skilled.”

Anakin Skywalker’s blue eyes lit up with gratitude, before he smiled at the older Jedi Knight. Obi-Wan felt a brief flash of jealousy. He could not recall his padawan ever regarding him with such open gratitude during their five years together.

The time finally arrived for the last practice duel for the day. Both Anakin and Romulus warily approached each other in the center of the hall. All of the onlookers fell silent. Obi-Wan understood why. The two padawans – along with Ferus Olin – were considered amongst the finest swordsmen of their generation. Yet, neither Anakin or Romulus had ever fought each other until today. The combatants lit up their lightsabers and the duel commenced.

Both padawans seemed to be evenly matched. As blue and green lightsabers clashed, Anakin and Romulus exhibited speed, excellent footwork and aggressive maneuvers. Despite Obi-Wan’s efforts to indoctrinate Anakin into the more defensive Sonsei fighting style, his apprentice had adopted the more aggressive and bolder Djem So style. Apparently, so had Romulus Wort. And this surprised Obi-Wan. Puri’s padawan had never struck him as the type who would adopt such an unorthodox fighting style.

The duel seemed to go on forever. Obi-Wan began to wonder if Anakin had finally met his match. But Wo-Chen viewed the duel with different eyes. “Master Kenobi, your padawan is very skilled. And very clever.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “I’m sorry?”

“Haven’t you noticed? Young Skywalker is wearing down my padawan,” Puri continued. “Although both are using the Djem So style, your Anakin is not being as aggressive as he could be. Instead, he is merely deflecting Romulus’ attacks, causing the latter to exert more effort.”

“And wearing down your padawan in the process,” Obi-Wan declared in astonished tones. He noticed how Romulus Wort’s strikes have become more desperate and forced. Strange – he had never noticed that his apprentice was exploiting Romulus’ impatience. Nor did he realize that Anakin was capable of such strategy.

Puri added in a whisper, “And now I’m afraid that poor Romulus will make a final, desperate move . . . and fail to reach his target. This will probably give Anakin the opportunity he needs.” Sure enough, the dark-haired padawan’s blade made a wide, sweeping arc in an attempt to knock Anakin’s lightsaber from the latter’s hands. And failed. His failure left him open to Anakin’s attack. In several swift moves, the younger padawan tapped both of Romulus’ hands, forcing the latter to cry out in pain and drop his lightsaber.

A hushed tone filled the wide hall before Jedi Master Plo Koon began to clap. Other onlookers did the same. Anakin seemed uplifted by the adulation.

“Good job,” Wo-Chen declared the moment Anakin and Romulus rejoined their masters. “Both of you. Excellent match.”

Romulus looked slightly embarrassed. “I’m sorry that I lost, Master. I should have concentrated more.”

Puri sighed. “Or perhaps you should have been more patient and mindful of your surroundings, my young padawan.” Romulus’ pale face turned red. “However, I am still pleased by the skills you have displayed. You’re improving faster than I had imagined.” The padawan managed a wan smile, but Obi-Wan could see that the minor criticism had stung. Then Wo-Chen faced Anakin with an approving smile. “As for you, young Skywalker, well done. Well done! I cannot recall any member of the Order utilizing such strategy in a long time.”

Anakin bowed. “Thank you, Master Puri. I . . .” For a brief second, he became speechless. Then, “Thank you.”

Again, Wo-Chen smiled. Then he led his padawan toward the hall’s exit. As Anakin turned to face Obi-Wan, the latter saw Romulus shoot a resentful glare at the younger padawan. Very disturbing.

“How well do you know Wo-Chen Puri, Master?” Anakin asked. “There is something about him that seems very familiar. He almost reminds me of Master Qui-Gon.”

Obi-Wan’s heart briefly lurched at the mention of his former master’s name. “Yes, well that is not surprising. Qui-Gon and Wo-Chen were old friends,” Obi-Wan explained. “And both . . . well, they both placed great emphasis on the Living Force. Especially Qui-Gon.”

“Oh.”

A deafening silence fell between master and apprentice. Realizing that he had not commented about the lightsaber match, Obi-Wan added, “By the way Anakin, good job with your match against Romulus.”

“Thank you, Master.”

Again, more silence followed. Obi-Wan felt perplexed. He could not understand why he seemed to be having so much trouble communicating with his padawan, right now. Could it be that he felt envious of Wo-Chen Puri’s easy interactions with Anakin? He hoped not. “Well,” he continued, “shall we get something to eat? It is time for supper and I’m starving.”

“Yes, Master.”

With a nod, Obi-Wan led his padawan toward the hall’s double doors. As they passed into the wide corridor, he recalled the resentful expression on Romulus Wort’s face. And the fact that it seemed to be directed toward Anakin. He wondered if today’s match had initiated a rivalry between the two padawans. Anakin already seemed to be in the middle of one with Ferus Olin. He did not require another. Even worse, a rivalry of any kind could lead a path to the Dark Side.

End of Prologue

TV Tropes on Grant Ward and Bobbi Morse

 

TV TROPES ON GRANT WARD AND BOBBI MORSE

I have been aware that a good number of Marvel fans have been in a tizzy over the Grant Ward character from “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. But I had no idea that this “celebration of masculinity” would lead to some misleading views or “facts” about him. 

What brought about this article in the first place? It all started with the website known as TV TROPES. While reading the website’s page for “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, it had this to say about Ward and his encounter with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird in the series’ Season Two episode called (2.22/2.23) “S.O.S.”:

“(Ward) Has killed the most named protagonists on the show, including Victoria Hand, Eric Koenig, and Rosalind Price. Furthermore, he successfully tortures and comes very close to killing Bobbi, likely the team’s biggest badass (and Hunter as well, for that matter). While he ultimately fails in killing her, he succeeds in heavily injuring her to the point of breaking her morale in her job. It’s unlikely Bobbi has ever faced anything else like that in her career.”

Wow! Talk abut a worship of uber masculinity! Apparently, the writer of this passage failed to remember that Ward had great difficulty with torturing Bobbi, let alone handling her. At least on his own. TV TROPES also failed to recall that despite being a beaten prisoner, Bobbi managed to take Ward by surprise and attempt escape from her imprisonment. Ward had great difficulty in putting her down and she nearly kicked his ass. He needed the help of his brainwashed girlfriend, former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Kara Palamas/Agent 13 to finally defeat the wounded Bobbi during their fight. Aside from Melinda May, Ward probably never met anyone like Bobbi Morse. And TV TROPES failed to realize this.

I do not know if the TV TROPES passage had been written by a man or a woman. Whoever wrote it, was obviously impressed by Ward’s testosterone level . . . to the point that it led to memory loss.

“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Red in the Face”

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“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Red in the Face”

Due to some sense of nostalgia, I decided to break out my “MAD MEN” Season One DVD set and watch an episode. The episode in question turned out to be the seventh one, (1.07) “Red in the Face”

After watching “Red in the Face”, it occurred to me that its main theme centered around some of the main characters’ childish behavior. I say “some of the characters”, because only a few managed to refrain from such behavior – Sterling Cooper’s co-owner Bert Cooper; Office Manager Joan Holloway; and Helen Bishop, a divorcée that happens to be a neighbor of the Drapers. I do not recall Cooper behaving childishly during the series’ last four seasons. Helen Bishop merely reacted as any neighbor would when faced with a situation regarding her nine year-old son and a neighbor. As for Joan, she had displayed her own brand of childishness (of the vindictive nature) in episodes before and after “Red in the Face”. But in this episode, she managed to refrain herself.

I cannot deny that I found this episode entertaining. And I believe it was mainly due John Slattery’s performance as Roger Sterling, Sterling-Cooper’s other owner. In scene after scene, Slattery conveyed Roger’s penchant for childishness – proposing an illicit weekend to Joan, resentment toward the female attention that Don Draper managed to attract at a Manhattan bar, making snipes at the younger man’s background during an impromptu dinner with the Drapers, making sexual advances at Betty Draper, and gorging on a very unhealthy lunch. That is a lot for one episode. Roger’s behavior served to convey a middle-aged man stuck in personal stagnation. Even worse, he has remained in this situation up to the latest season. And Slattery managed to convey these tragic aspects of Roger’s character with his usual fine skills.

Jon Hamm fared just as well with another first-rate performance as the series’ protagonist, Don Draper. In “Red in the Face”, Hamm revealed Don’s immature and bullying nature behind his usual smooth, charismatic and secretive personality. This was especially apparent in a scene that Hamm shared with January Jones, in which Don accused his wife Betty of flirting with Roger. And Don’s less admirable nature was also apparent in the joke that he pulled on Roger in the episode’s final scenes. Speaking of Betty, January Jones also did a top-notch job in those scenes with Hamm. She also gave an excellent performance in Betty’s confrontation with Don, following the dinner with Roger; and her conversation with neighbor Francine about her desire to attract attention. I have noticed that most of the series’ fans seemed to regard Betty as a child in a woman’s body. Granted, Betty had her childish moments in the episode – especially during her confrontation with neighbor Helen Bishop at a local grocery store. But I have always harbored the opinion that she is no more or less childish than the other main characters. This episode seemed to prove it. One last performance that stood out came from Vincent Kartheiser as the young Accounts executive Pete Campbell. To this day, I do not understand why he is the only major cast member who has never received an acting nomination for an Emmy or Golden Globe. Because Kartheiser does such a terrific job as the ambiguous Pete. His complexity seemed apparent in “Red in the Face”. In one scene, he tried to exchange a rather ugly wedding gift for something more dear to his heart – a rifle. His attempt to exchange the gift seemed to feature Pete as his most childish. Yet, he also seemed to be the only Sterling Cooper executive who understood the advertising value of John F. Kennedy’s youthful persona during the 1960 Presidential election.

Earlier, I had commented on how screenwriter Bridget Bedard’s use of childish behavior by some of the main characters as a major theme for “Red in the Face”. I have noticed that once this behavior is apparent; Roger, Don, Betty and Pete are left humiliated or “red in the face” after being exposed. Betty’s decision to give a lock of hair to Helen Bishop’s nine year-old son in (1.04) “New Amsterdam” led to a confrontation between the two women at a grocery store and a slap delivered by Betty after being humiliated by Helen. If I had been Betty, I would have admitted that giving young Glen a lock of her hair was a mistake, before pointing out Glen’s habit of entering a private bathroom already in use. And Pete’s decision to trade the ugly-looking chip-and-dip for a rifle led to being berated over the telephone by his new wife, Trudy. Only a conversation with Peggy Olson, Don’s secretary, about his fantasies as a hunter could alleviate his humiliation. During the Drapers’ dinner party with Roger, the latter noted that Don’s habit of slipping his “Gs” indicated a rural upbringing – a revelation that left Don feeling slightly humiliated. And after accusing Betty of flirting with Roger, she retaliated with a snide comment about his masculinity. Don tried to retaliate by calling her a child, but Betty’s stoic lack of response only fed his humiliation even more. However, he did get even with Roger by setting up the latter with a cruel practical joke that involved a falsely inoperative elevator and a heavy lunch that included oysters and cheesecake. Although the joke left Don feeling smug and vindicated, I was left more convinced than ever of his penchant for childish behavior. Aside from feeling humiliated by a pair of young females’ attention toward Don, Roger managed to coast through most of the episode without paying a price for his behavior. In the end, he suffered the biggest humiliation via his reaction to Don’s joke – by vomiting in front of prospective clients.

“Red in the Face” featured many scenes that I found entertaining – especially the impromptu dinner party given by the Drapers for Roger Sterling. But if I must be honest, I did not find it particularly impressive. Although “Red in the Face”offered viewers a negative aspects of four of the main characters, I do not believe it did nothing to advance any of the stories that began at the beginning of the season. I must also add that Betty’s confrontation with Helen Bishop seemed out of place in this episode. While watching it, I had the distinct impression that this scene, along with Betty and Francine’s conversation, should have been added near the end of “New Amsterdam”. By including it in “Red in the Face”, it almost seemed out of place.

I could never regard “Red in the Face” as one of the best episodes of Season One or the series. But I cannot deny that thanks to performances by John Slattery, Jon Hamm, January Jones and Vincent Kartheiser, I found it entertaining.

 

“THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” (1992) Review

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“THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” (1992) Review

Many critics tend to look upon Agatha Christie’s later novels with less favor. Among those novels viewed with less than any real enthusiasm was her 1962 novel, “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side”. I find this interesting, despite the fact that one movie and two television adaptations have been made from this story. 

“THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” delved into the world of Hollywood movies through the new tenants of Gossington Hall, the former home of Colonel Arthur and Dolly Bantry. After the death of Colonel Bantry, Mrs. Bantry sold the manor to Hollywood movie star Marina Gregg and her husband, director Jason Rudd. Marina and Jason host a fête for the citizens of St. Mary Mead. Miss Jane Marple is one of the guests. Another is Heather Badcock, an annoying housewife and St. John Ambulance helper with a penchant for being self involved. During the reception inside the manor, Heather dies after drinking a poisoned cocktail. When the local police and Scotland Yard investigate Heather’s death, they realize that the cocktail had been meant for Marina Gregg. And they have plenty of suspects:

*Jason Rudd

*Dr. Gilchrist – Marina’s personal doctor

*Ella Zeilinsky – Jason’s lovesick secretary

*Lola Brewster – Hollywood starlet and Marina’s rival

*Ardwyck Fenn – Hollywood producer and Lola’s husband

*Margot Bence – Professional photographer and Marina’s former adopted daughter

*Arthur Badcock – Heather’s milequoast husband, who might had a reason to kill her

It is quite obvious that T.R. Bowen’s screenplay for “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FRO SIDE TO SIDE” remained faithful to Christie’s 1962 novel. However, I did notice a few differences. The main police investigator, Dermot Craddock, turned out to be Miss Marple’s nephew, as he was in the 1980 adaptation with Angela Landsbury. And Marina and Jason’s Italian butler, Giuseppe Murano, had been murdered in the novel. In this movie, he was regulated to a minor supporting character and survived. Most fans would view the movie’s close similarity to Christie’s novel as a sign of its superiority as an adaptation. Faithfulness to the source material is not a sign of superior adaptation for me. I will admit that “THE MIRROR CRACK’D” is a pretty damn good adaptation. But I feel it had a few problems.

One of my problems with “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” is the casting of Judy Cornwell as Heather Badcock. Upon reading Christie’s novel, I had the impression that Heather must have been at least in her mid-30s or early 40s when she was killed, and in her 20s when she first met Marina Gregg during World War II. However, Judy Cornwell was in her early 50s when this movie was made and looked it. And since “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” took place in the 1950s – at least a little over a decade before Heather and Marina’s first meeting – I found it hard to accept Cornwell as the clueless Heather. I was also not that enamored of the scene featuring the revelation of the murderer very unsatisfying. But if I must be honest, the killer revelation scenes have never impressed me in most of the Miss Marple movies that starred Joan Hickson. They tend to be rather badly written. And what made revelation in this movie unsatisfying was T.R. Bowen and director Norman Stone’s decision to have Miss Marple reveal the killer’s identity to a cab driver, who was driving her to Gossington Hall. What on earth were they thinking? Talk about ruining a pretty good movie with a bad ending.

My biggest problem with “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” turned out to be Detective Inspector Dermot Craddock’s character background. As I had stated earlier, Bowen’s screenplay revealed Craddock as one of Miss Marple’s nephew, repeating the 1980 film’s characterization of him. If this had been John Castle’s first appearance as Detective-Inspector Craddock, I would not be making this complaint. But the actor first portrayed the character in 1985’s “A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED”, which also starred Joan Hickson as the elderly sleuth. And in that movie, Miss Marple and Craddock were strangers who had met for the first time, not blood relations. This was truly sloppy writing on Bowen’s part.

Fortunately, I still managed to enjoy “THE MIRROR CRACK’D” very much. I have to attribute this to Norman Stone’s lively direction. Most of the Jane Marple adaptations that starred Hickson had a tendency to drag in many parts. Aside from a few productions, I usually have difficulty staying alert, while watching them. I can thankfully say that I had no such problems with “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE”. Not only did the movie benefited from Stone’s pacing, but also Bowen’s screenplay, and the cast. But I suspect that the movie’s subject matter – Hollywood in Britain – really helped to make “THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” a lively affair. Not only did the story delved into the world of small town life in mid-20th century Britain, but also the Hollywood movie system during the same era. The movie featured some humorous interactions between the citizens of St. Mary Mead and its Hollywood visitors, along with a tension-filled dinner party featuring Marina, Jason, the latter’s secretary Ella Zeilinsky, producer Ardwyck Fenn and rival starlet Lola Brewster. Mind you, the movie lacked the entertaining bitch fest from the 1980 film, the script still managed to provide a few moments of bitchery from Marina, Ella and Lola. “THE MIRROR CRACK’D” also featured an amusing subplot featuring a companion hired by Miss Marple’s other nephew to take care of her. It seems the companion Miss Knight possessed a condescending manner that irritates the elderly woman.

I have to say that I found the movie’s production values very impressive. Merle Downie and Alan Spalding did an excellent job of re-creating 1950s Britain through their production designs. I suspect they had to add a bit of glamour to the movie, due to the story’s subject matter. The costumes for Hickson’s Miss Marple movies have always been first-rate. And Judy Pepperdine did a marvelous job in not only creating costumes for the St. Mary Mead citizens, but also the Hollywood characters. Cinematographer John Walker contributed to the movie’s sleek look with his colorful, yet sharp photography.

“THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” featured Joan Hickson’s last performance as Jane Marple. Needless to say, she proved to provide her usual above-average performance. I was especially impressed by her comedic skills in the scenes featuring Miss Marple’s exasperation with the condescending Miss Knight. Claire Bloom gave a complicated and very skillful performance as the talented, yet high-strung Marina Gregg. I did not find this surprising. Only a first-rate actress like Bloom could portray a high-maintenance character like Marina, without resorting to hamminess. I was equally impressed by Barry Newman, who was marvelous as Marina’s husband, Jason Rudd. He did an excellent job of portraying an emotional and passionate character with great subtlety. Despite my annoyance at Dermot Craddock being written as one of Miss Marple’s nephews, I must admit that I was happy to see John Castle back in the role. I really enjoyed his performance as the intelligent and cool Craddock in “A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED”. When he failed to appear in 1987’s “4.50 TO PADDINGTON”, I must admit that I felt very disappointed. Thankfully, my disappointment was eradicated by his appearance and performance in this film.

Aside from the 1980 miniseries, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” and one or two other films, I have rarely seen Elizabeth Garvie in other film or movie productions. I certainly enjoyed her portrayal of Ella Zeilinsky, Jason Rudd’s sarcastic, yet love struck secretary. I may have had issues with Judy Cornwell being cast as Heather Badcock, but I have to admit that she did a pretty damn good job in portraying the self-involved woman. David Horovitch returned as Superintendent Slack. I found his appearance in the movie unnecessary, since he was not in the novel, but I must admit that Horovitch gave a rather funny performance. Margaret Courtenay was even funnier as the condescending companion, Miss Knight, who treated Miss Marple like a brainless child. The movie also featured solid performances from the likes of Glynis Barber, Ian Brimble, Norman Rodway and Gwen Watford. However, I found Constantine Gregory’s portrayal of Hollywood producer Ardwyck Fenn to be ridiculously over-the-top. One, he seemed to think that all Hollywood producers sounded and acted like gangsters from an old Warner Brothers film. And two, his American accent sucked. It is a pity that he did not study the American-born Newman, when he had the chance.

“THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE” had its flaws. But they were only a few. Overall, I found it entertaining and well-paced, thanks to Norman Stone’s direction and the movie’s production values. In the end, it proved to be a well made epilogue to Joan Hickson’s tenure as the cinematic Jane Marple.

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“BOARDWALK EMPIRE”: Echoing John Webster

“BOARDWALK EMPIRE: ECHOING JOHN WEBSTER

One of the flashbacks in a late Season Two episode of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” featured a scene with future Atlantic City crime lord, Jimmy Darmody, discussing “The White Devil”, the 1612 play of English dramatist John Webster with his class at Princeton University. After watching the entire episode, it occurred to me that another one of Webster’s plays could have served as a reference. 

I have never posted an article about an episode of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”, with the exception of at least two episodes from the second season. I have posted a gallery featuring images and a list of favorite episodes from each of the series’ five seasons. But after a re-watch of Season Two’s (2.11) “Under God’s Power She Flourishes”, I realized that I could not keep my mouth shut. Or at least refrain from writing something about it. What can I say? It blew my mind. Again. Even more so than the previous episode, (2.10) “Georgia Peaches”.

“Under God’s Power She Flourishes” featured the deterioration of the relationship between former Atlantic City political boss Nucky Thompson and the Irish-born Margaret Schroeder, then his mistress at the time. Margaret has been sagging under the belief that her sins – both past and recent – led to divine retribution in the form of her daughter Emily being struck down by polio. Margaret had hoped that a financial contribution to the Catholic Church would lead God to alleviate her daughter’s pain. When that failed, she decided that the only way to satisfy God would be to consider testifying against Nucky, regarding the murder of her late husband, Hans Schroeder. Naturally, Nucky is both disturbed and greatly peeved by Margaret’s suggestion. He thought he had finally nipped in the bud the possibility of being convicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for Schroeder’s murder. Nucky and his attorney had learned from the former’s servant about Treasury Agent Nelson Van Alden’s murder of fellow colleague Agent Sebso back in Season One.

Like Margaret, Van Alden had hoped that his recent actions – turning over his files on Nucky to Federal prosecutor Esther Randolph, granting his wife a divorce and resisting Mickey Doyle’s suggestion that he raid a bootlegging operation ran by Charlie Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone in exchange for a bribe – would lead God to prevent him from any further suffering or encountering further retribution for his crimes and sins. Instead, Esther Randolph reminded him of Agent Sebso’s murder and Van Alden found himself a fugitive from Federal justice. Looking at Margaret and Van Alden’s hopes and disappointments, I cannot help but wonder if their idea of embracing God called for some kind of business deal for their safety or the safety of loved ones.

But the meat of “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” picked up several hours after “Georgia Peaches” ended. Angela Darmody, who had been murdered by Philadelphia mobster/butcher Manny Horvitz in retaliation for a murder attempt, was being carried away by a coroner’s truck. A sheriff deputy questioned mother-in-law Gillian Darmody and Richard Harrow on the whereabouts of Angela’s missing husband, Jimmy. Jimmy had traveled to Princeton to unload a supply of bootleg whiskey he was unable to sell in Atlantic City. The news of Angela’s death, some booze and Luciano’s sample of heroin led to Jimmy recalling his last days at Princeton, before he joined the U.S. Army to fight World War I.

I tried to recall other “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” episodes that had relied on flashbacks, but none came to mind. I have no opinion on the use of flashbacks one way or the other, as long as they manage to serve the episode or movie in question. The Princeton flashbacks certainly served this latest “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” episode, as far as I am concerned. The flashbacks explained a great deal about Jimmy’s character and especially his relationships with both his mother Gillian and Angela, who had been a waitress at a local cafe when she and Jimmy first became involved. Jimmy and Angela’s pre-marital affair led to son Tommy’s conception. The flashbacks also featured Gillian’s visit to Princeton, where she met Angela for the first time. It seemed pretty obvious that Gillian did not care for her son’s new lady love. I can only wonder if Gillian’s feelings toward Jimmy’s romance with Angela led her to do what she did that evening. It was bad enough that she had briefly become involved with Jimmy’s professor – the one with whom he discussed John Webster. But what she did later – seduce Jimmy into having sex with her – left my head spinning and the Internet buzzing over the incident. The night of incest between mother and son also led the latter to join the Army to escape facing their deed.

But Jimmy could not avoid facing Gillian forever. He eventually returned home to Atlantic City in order to work for Nucky and raise Tommy with Angela by his side. Jimmy also renewed his relationship with Gillian – without any sex being involved, thank goodness. Unfortunately, I suspect that incestuous night at Princeton had left its mark on Jimmy. It may have damaged his psyche considerably. And it may have also led him to make major mistakes such as joining Gillian and his father, former political boss Louis “the Commodore” Kaestner, to betray Nucky, his mentor. It led him to join forces with Luciano, Lansky and Capone, to form their own criminal organization. It, along with pressure from both Eli Thompson and Gillian, led him to organize an unsuccessful hit on Nucky. And it may have led him to commit his two biggest mistakes – welch on a $5,000 payment to Manny Horvitz and suggest that another gangster named Waxy Gordon kill the Philadelphia mobster/butcher. In the end, Angela ended up dead, Tommy motherless and Jimmy finally unable to hold back the memories of the Darmodys’ Princeton sexcapade.

But it got worse. Upon his return to Atlantic City in the present, Jimmy found Gillian crowing over Angela’s death. With her “rival” gone, I can only assume Gillian saw no need to hide her true feelings about the former “underweight waitress”. But her crowing only ignited rage within Jimmy and led him to strangle her. The timely and rather surprising intervention by the recovering Commodore saved Gillian’s life. But after stabbing Jimmy’s shoulder with an antique spear, Jimmy stabbed his father with a trench knife. Another surprise appeared out of the blue when Gillian, with flashing eyes and a sharp tone, barked at Jimmy to finish the job and kill his father. Which he did. Many fans have compared Jimmy to the mythical Greek tragic hero, Oedipus. But the latter never knew that the man he had killed and woman he married were his parents. Jimmy, probably to his everlasting regret, did not possess such a luxury. But the sight of Gillian carrying Tommy upstairs, while stating that the latter will grow someday, and reminding him of the location of her bedroom, seemed to have left Jimmy wondering if his life had made an even uglier turn.

As for poor Angela . . . did anyone mourn her? Gillian certainly did not. I believe Jimmy did. But his grief seemed to be entwined with guilt over the suspicion that he became involved with Angela for the wrong reasons. Tommy is not even aware that his mother is dead, thanks to Gillian’s lie about Angela departing for Paris for a bit of fun. The only one left is hitman Richard Harrow, whose brief and silent regard of Angela’s blood made it obviously clear – at least to me – that he will miss her friendship very much. She was the only one who was able to face his disfigurement and situation with an open mind that not even Jimmy completely possessed. But Richard proved that he still had Jimmy’s back, when he got rid of the Commodore’s body on behalf of his friend.

Jimmy and Gillian’s night of incest was shocking, but not really surprising. The series has hinted an incestuous vibe between them since the series’ second episode, (1.02) “The Ivory Tower”. In this episode, Jimmy finally revealed his return from the Army to Gillian, when he greeted her with a present, backstage at the at the Cafe Beaux-Arts nightclub. I still recall that moment when the two first laid eyes upon each other. A scantily-clad Gillian jumped into his arms and rained kisses on his face before admonishing him for not writing. Jimmy eventually asked her to put some clothes on and handed her a present – a necklace. At first, I thought Gillian was another girlfriend that he kept a secret from Angela. But when he called her “Mom”, I found myself in complete shock. What mother would greet her grown son in a scantily-clad costume, by jumping into his arms before wrapping her legs around him? That was the first of many weird moments between Jimmy and Gillian that eventually escalated into that mind-blowing flashback. Some viewers and critics are complaining that the incest came unexpectedly and out of right field. Frankly, I believe they were not paying close attention to the relationship between mother and son.

One of the ironies about the episode is that “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” is the motto of Princeton University, the site of Jimmy and Gillian’s night of infamy. However, the biggest irony for me turned out to be the Commodore’s death. I found it interesting that his death came from his attempt to act as an aging knight-in-armor for Gillian, the very woman he had raped when she was 12 or 13 years-old. In a twisted way, the Commodore’s necrophiliac tendencies ended up costing him his life, a quarter of a century later. I did find myself wondering why the Commodore had attempted to save Gillian’s life in the first place. Had he grown fond of her during those last months with her and Jimmy in his home? Or did Gillian’s bitter recollection of the rape finally brought forth some form of guilt on his mind? I guess we will never know.

And how did John Webster fit into all of this? Jimmy’s discussion with his professor about the dramatist’s “The White Devil” and the latter’s drunken entanglements with the visiting Gillian led to a declaration that Jimmy’s life was one Jacobean saga. Webster’s tales involved a great deal of tragedy, corruption, murder . . . well, you get the picture. Even the topic of incest had made its way into Webster’s works – especially in his 1612-13 play, “The Duchess of Malfi”. In that story, the female lead, the Duchess of Malfi, was murdered by her two brothers – in which one of them harbored incestuous feelings for her – after she married beneath her class. Well, the only person Jimmy murdered was the Commodore. But I find it rather interesting that Jimmy and Gillian’s incestuous tryst inadvertently led to the Commodore’s death.

Some people have expressed fears that the Season Two finale will never be able to top this episode. Frankly, I also rather doubt it will. “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” struck me as one of those episodes that many will remember for years to come. I really do not see how (2.12) “To the Lost” will be able even better. I do not see how any episode could top “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” so soon. Then again, I had no idea that Terence Winter and his writers would top a first-rate episode like “Georgia Peaches” with the next one. In the end, I can only hope that the Season Two finale would end up being entertaining and interesting in the long run.

 

“The Uninvited” [PG-13] – Epilogue

“THE UNINVITED”

EPILOGUE

The occupants inside Mister Dairon’s office looked upon the dead warlock with shock and horror. Nearly a minute had passed before Olivia broke the silence. “Well,” she commented, “that was disappointing. Now, we’ll never know who had hired him.”

“We know that the Magan Corporation had hired him,” Cole grimly stated. “I should have known.”

Gweneth shook her head, “Yes, but who’s behind the Magan Corporation? We still don’t know. Unless it’s this daemon named Prax.” She turned to Nimue. “Is this Logan fellow associated with any particular demonic group? Like the Khorne Order? Or how about a warlock coven?”

“I really don’t know,” Nimue replied. “I’ve never heard of him, until today. As for Prax being the head of the Magan Corporation . . .” She shook her head. “He does not have the ambition or imagination to attempt something like the destruction of the Whitelighter Realm.”

Cole spoke up. “I recognized Eric Logan. And no, he didn’t have any close association with a demonic order or a coven. In fact, the only person he was associated with was another warlock named Doris Meade. Only some witch had killed her fifteen or twenty years ago.”

An angry roar erupted from Lohdon’s mouth. Before anyone could do or say anything, the daemon released a stream of fire and incinerated the warlock’s corpse. “I want revenge!” he cried out loud. “I swear in Caim’s name that I’ll find the bastard who hired this Logan and kill him! Slowly!”

“Patience Lohdon,” Nimue coolly replied. “You’ll have your chance for revenge.”

Jack added, “She’s right. It’s clear that the Magan Corporation’s CEO is after the Source’s throne. And since you’re after it as well . . . sooner or later, the two of you will meet.”

Both Olivia and Cole stared at her father. “Say that again, Dad?” the young witch demanded.

The McNeill patriarch opened his mouth . . . and closed it. He had obviously revealed some kind of secret.

Cole frowned at Lohdon. “You plan to become the new Source?” When the other daemon failed to answer, Cole turned to his mother. “So, that’s why you had this party. You wanted an opportunity to introduce Lohdon to Olivia’s parents. The question is – why?”

“This party was for you and Olivia,” Nimue replied tartly. “When Lohdon had found out about it, he asked me to invite him. He wanted to meet Jack and Gweneth, in order to obtain information on the Magan Corporation.”

Gweneth added, “She’s telling the truth, Cole. And you know that Jack, Elise and I never really had a problem with the idea of a new Source. One is needed to bring some kind of balance in the magical world.”

“And someone like Lohdon would fit the bill. Someone who won’t be inclined to do something extreme like . . . destroy the Whitelighter realm.” Cole nodded. “I understand. But what I don’t understand is why Edward Winslow – or whatever his name is – would want Olivia dead? And who told him and Logan about this party? And who killed Logan?”

Nimue demanded, “What are you saying?”

“Isn’t it obvious, Mother?” Cole replied. “Either you or Lohdon . . . have a spy in your midst.”

————

The two Charmed Ones and their whitelighter found Leo and Wyatt inside the Solarium, upon their return to the manor. The young Elder sat in a wicker chair, rocking his sleeping son, in his arms. Leo glanced up at the trio and frowned. “Back so soon?”

“Soon?” Piper shot back. “We’ve been gone for at least eight hours or so. It must be . . .” she glanced at her watch and gasped. “It’s only six thirty-three!”

Paige added, “Hey, that’s only two-and-a-half hours, since we left.”

“Time must move pretty fast in the Melora Dimension,” Chris commented. “Which is odd, considering that it moves a lot slower in the Whitelighter Realm.”

Leo stood up. “You know, I had forgotten about the Melora Dimension. I’ve visited the place, a few times, myself. It was great.” He handed Wyatt over to Piper. Who sat down on the sofa. “So, how was the party?”

Paige quickly replied, “Great! The food was great. So was the food. Unfortunately . . .”

Chris added, “Unfortunately, the party became ruined when some unknown person or being killed a wizard with poison.”

“What?” Leo stared at his young colleague. “There was a murder in the Melora Dimension? That hasn’t happened in nearly two hundred years. What happened?”

A sigh left Piper’s mouth. “It’s like what Chris had said. Some female wizard had been poisoned.” She paused dramatically. “After she had drank from Olivia’s glass of champagne. It seemed some warlock in disguise tried to kill Olivia.”

“An assassin,” Paige added. “Harry caught him. But . . .”

Chris finished, “. . . someone had poisoned the warlock. And he died before he could reveal anything – other than the Magan Corporation was behind the whole thing.”

Leo frowned. “The Magan Corporation? Them again. I don’t understand. Why would they be after Olivia?” He stared at Chris. “You’re from the future. You must know something.”

“Sorry, but I don’t!” Chris retorted. “In fact, I’ve never even heard of the Magan Corporation, until I came here to the past.” Then he murmured under his breath, “I wonder if they’re the ones . . .”

Paige demanded sharply, “The ones who what?”

Chris glanced up, as if he realized that he had not spoken softly enough. “Uh, nothing.”

“Oh c’mon!” Paige exclaimed with a long-suffering sigh. “Not again!”

Piper stared pointedly at the whitelighter. “Chris? The ones who what?”

Chris’ face turned red. He quickly mumbled, “The ones who . . . uh . . . will try to re-organize the Underworld.”

“Try? You mean we had stopped them?”

Instead of answering Piper’s question, Chris glanced at his watch. “Oh, I better get going. See you guys.”

Piper cried out, “Chris!” But the young whitelighter had made his escape before anyone could stop him.

————

Several hours later found Cole and Olivia inside the penthouse’s master bedroom. While Cole changed into his sleeping clothes, Olivia laid on the bed, scribbling in her notebook. “What are you doing?” Cole asked, as he donned a light-blue T-shirt.

Olivia continued to write in the notebook. “Writing down a few notes for my Book of Shadows.”

“Book of . . .?” Cole shook his head and smiled wryly. “I should have known. No wonder you were being so friendly to many of the daemons at the party. Trying to worm a few secrets on the demonic world? You could have just asked me.” He slid into the bed.

Olivia pecked her fiancé’s cheek. “No offense honey, but I’m afraid that you don’t know everything.”

“Oh really?”

Green eyes settled upon Cole’s face. “Well, did you know about Guldur grabbing a special chalice from the Delphi Temple for some wizard?”

Cole sighed. “Okay, you got me there. It’s too bad that we still don’t know who’s the CEO of the Magan Corporation.” He paused. “Or why he wants you dead.”

“I wish I knew. I mean . . . why me?”

After Olivia had tossed her notebook on the nightstand, Cole drew her into his arms. “Well, you are the Aingeal Staff Bearer. Which makes you very dangerous to him. Even if he does become the Source.”

“You’re just as dangerous to him,” Olivia reminded the half-daemon. “And the Halliwells. So, why send an assassin after me?”

All Cole could do was give his fiancée a tight hug. Especially since he had no answer for her question.

————

Artemus examined his Atropa Belladonna plant and spotted a small brown insect crawling along one wide, green leaf. He immediately picked up the bug with his thumb and forefinger and squashed it. At that moment, Prax entered the greenhouse. “Pardon me, sir. You have a visitor. In the Magneta Room.”

A sigh left Artemus’ mouth. “Thank you, Prax. Send Ameddo in there, as well for a few drinks. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Yes sir.” Prax paused at the door. “By the way, Artemus. I haven’t heard from Mr. Logan. I can only assume that the visit is about him.”

“Thank you, Prax.” After his assistant had left, Artemus removed his smock and washed his hands. Then he teleported out of the greenhouse and into one of the manor’s elegant drawing-room. The vivid coloring of the room’s draperies and wallpaper had led the daemon to name it the Magneta Room. Inside, he found his guest sitting on the sofa with a glass of martini and looking very anxious. “Judging from your expression and Prax’s announcement that Mr. Logan is missing, I can only assume that everything did not go as planned.”

Idril placed her glass on the table before her, and regarded her benefactor with fearful eyes. “I’m afraid not, Artemus. Mr. Logan had . . . fed the poison to the witch’s drink, as planned. Only . . .”

“Yes?” Artemus headed for the liquor cabinet, where he found a glass of bourbon that had been prepared for him by his manservant. He picked up the drink and headed for his favorite leather chair. “Only what?” He regarded the young demoness with an intense stare.

Squirming slightly, Idril continued, “Someone else had ended up drinking the poison. Adrianne Evans.”

Mention of the well-known wizard caught Artemus by surprise. “Adrianne? What was she doing at Belthazor’s engagement party?” An unpleasant thought came to the daemon. “Was Lohdon there, by any chance?”

Idril nodded unhappily. “Along with several members of the Fornost Order. I saw Lohdon and Adrianne talking with Nimue and the witch’s parents. They seemed very chummy.”

“I see.” Artemus’ stomach began turning flips. He had long harbored a deep suspicion that Nimue might try to assume the Source’s throne. He had no idea that she had managed to recruit support from Lohdon, of all people. Both daemons, along with Artemus, were heads of at least three of the five most powerful demonic orders within the old Source’s realm. If Nimue had managed to recruit Lohdon’s support, all she needed was support from the remaining two top demonic orders. Unfortunately for Artemus, he had only managed to recruit support from minor demonic factions, but no one from the Big Five. And to make matters worse, Olivia McNeill remains alive and her family, involved with both Nimue and Lohdon. Artemus asked his guest, “And what happened to Mr. Logan?”

Idril sipped her drink. “He’s dead. Belthazor had cast a magical shield around the ballroom at the Berisa Resort, preventing anyone from leaving. I’m afraid that this made Mr. Logan . . . rather anxious. So, I felt it was necessary to make sure that he would never reveal anything. It’s a good thing I had poisoned his drink. Ms. McNeill’s brother had caught on to Mr. Logan and turned him over to Belthazor.”

“Are you sure that Mr. Logan is dead?”

A smug smile curved Idril’s lips. “Oh yes. I had peeked into the hotel manager’s office. He died just before he had the chance to reveal anything. Although I do believe that Belthazor and the others are suspicious of your company.”

Artemus dismissed Idril’s last sentence with a shrug. “They’ve been suspicious of the Magan Corporation since last summer.” He gave the demoness an appraising stare. “Perhaps I should have allowed you to take care of Ms. McNeill.”

“I don’t think that would have been a good idea,” Idril commented. “I had already taken a chance at appearing at the party with Melkora’s invitation, in the first place. And I suspect that both Belthazor and Nimue were suspicious of me.” She paused. “Do you, uh . . . still plan to get rid of Belthazor’s witch?”

“I have no choice. Now that I know that she and her parents are involved with both Nimue and Lohdon, the prospects of Tiresias’ prophecy about the Source’s throne seem more certain than ever.”

Idril added, “And Belthazor?”

Artemus stared at the demoness. There seemed to be a catch in her voice. “Well, he has to die, of course. He’s the main threat. I wish I could kill him first, but . . .” He sighed. “Belthazor might prove to be a bit more difficult. I have asked an alchemist to find out how the Crozats came so close to killing Belthazor, last year.” He gave Idril a thoughtful stare. “Does the idea of Belthazor’s death upset you?”

“Why should it?” Idril turned her attention to her drink.

The older daemon continued, “Because you seem slightly upset, my dear. And I do recall you being quite fond of him. I would hate for your feelings to interfere in this opportunity.”

Idril snorted with derision. “I’m a daemon, Artemus. We don’t fall in love.”

Artemus regarded the younger daemon with pitying eyes. “You still view that nonsense about our inability to love as fact? My dear Idril, that was nothing more than propaganda perpetrated by the former Source in an attempt to hide the fact that he had fallen in love, centuries ago.” Idril’s eyes widen in shock. “Oh yes? You didn’t know? My former mentor had told me. Before he had become the Source, he had fallen in love with this female sorceress. A human. She spurned him and he ended up developing a deep hatred for all humans. Personally, I believe he had drummed up that silly nonsense about daemons being unable to love in order to hide the fact that he had once experienced love. And I believe that he had considered himself immune to the emotion . . . until Belthazor’s feelings for one of the Charmed Ones had affected him.”

“But Raynor had . . .”

“My dear, if there are daemons who are definitely not evil – like those of the Gimle Order – then we are most definitely capable of love.” Artemus paused. “I’ve been in love. Once. It did not work out. But I survived. I have no problem with you falling in love . . . as long as you don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment or get in the way of business.”

Again, Idril took another sip. “I see.”

Artemus stared at her. “You’re not in love with Belthazor, are you?”

Mirthless laughter rose from Idril’s throat. “Of course not. Granted, I still find him very attractive. I can’t deny that. But the closest I’ve ever been in . . . love, as you say, was probably with Raynor.” She added before taking another sip, “And not that much. Business always comes first with me.”

Again, Artemus stared at the demoness. A small worm of doubt wiggled within him – despite her air of sincerity. He only hoped that he had not made a mistake by including her in his plans to assume control of the Source’s Realm. Perhaps he should keep a close eye on her. Satisfied with his decision, Artemus took a deep breath and finished his drink.

THE END

“The Essence of the First Slayer’s Power”

“THE ESSENCE OF THE FIRST SLAYER’S POWER”

One of the more controversial characters that has appeared on ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” happened to be the character known as the First Slayer. First introduced in the Season Four finale, (4.22) ”Restless”, the First Slayer’s presence stirred a great deal of controversy amongst the series’ fans and critics. However, I am not really interested in the controversies that have surrounded the character. I am more interested with her role as a demon slayer and how this role related to Buffy and other Slayers throughout history. 

To clarify myself, I would have to start with the origins of the First Slayer. Thousands of years ago, three East African shamans became wary of the increasing demonic activity plaguing their community. To deal with the matter, the trio came up with the idea to create a supernaturally enhanced demon slayer. They kidnapped an adolescent girl named Sineya, staked her to one spot and implanted her with the essence of a demon. The possession entailed supernatural strength, stamina, a predatorial instinct, fast reflexes, rapid healing, intuition and prophetic dreams . . . enough abilities for a Slayer to face vampires and other supernatural bad guys. In other words, the three shamans committed supernatural rape upon an innocent girl in order to create a weapon they could utilize and control. But this article is not about the moral ramifications of the shamans’ act. It is about how the essence of the First Slayer related to the series’ leading character, Buffy Anne Summers.

Buffy and the other Scoobies – Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris and Watcher Rupert Giles – had spent most of Season Four dealing with the U.S. Army sponsored task force called the Initiative and the mess the latter had created in capturing and experimenting on demons. The organization’s biggest mistake turned out to be a human/demon Frankenstein-style hybrid created by the Initiative’s leading scientist, Dr. Maggie Walsh. After killing Dr. Walsh, this monster – named Adam – created more havoc throughout Sunnydale by killing innocents and recruiting other human/demon hybrids (read: vampires) to his cause for a new order. In the second-to-last episode, (4.21) “Primeval”, Buffy and the Scoobies finally managed to defeat the near invincible Adam. They did so by using a spell to invoke the powers of the First Slayer to be put into Buffy’s body. Each Scooby represented the main attributes of the First Slayer’s powers – the Spirit, the Heart, the Mind and the Hands – in the spell. Willow acted as symbol of the First Slayer’s Spirit, Xander as the Heart, Giles as the Mind and Buffy as the Hands. By invoking the First Slayer’s power through Buffy, the Scoobies created a formidable foe that led to Adam’s defeat and death.

Many Buffyverse fans saw the spell invoked in ”Primeval” as an argument why Buffy should never separate from her friends and Watcher. They saw the spell as an argument for the old saying – ”no man is an island”. But the spell led me to wonder about Buffy’s role as a Slayer and her connection to the other Scoobies. If those African shamans had created a Slayer that possessed enough strength to defeat someone like Adam, did that same strength ever get passed on to the Slayers that followed her? Slayers that included Faith . . . or Buffy? Or did Buffy and the other Slayers that followed only inherited one particular attribute of the First Slayer – namely the Hands, which all Slayers use to kill their prey?

If the First Slayer did pass on all of the abilities of her power to her successors, why did Buffy need the Scoobies to represent the Heart, the Spirit and the Mind of Sineya? Surely, she could have summoned all of those attributes within her to defeat Adam. Or perhaps Buffy’s problems in dealing with Adam had originated with her two Watchers – Rupert Giles and Merrick.

One of the aspects from Season Seven that I found interesting was Buffy’s transformation into a leader of adolescent girls with the ’the Potential’ to become the Slayer. Unfortunately, Buffy’s introduction as a leader nearly ended in disaster, when the Potentials, the Scoobies, Dawn and everyone else rejected her leadership and tossed her out of the Summers house in (7.19) “Empty Places”. Spike and Andrew were in Gilroy on a mission for Giles and missed the big event. Their rejection seemed understandable, considering that Buffy was on the road to becoming an ineffectual leader. And who is to blame? Buffy’s Watchers – Merrick and Giles. I found it ironic that Giles literally dumped the Potentials onto Buffy’s lap and told her that she needed to become a general. The problem was that neither Giles or Merrick ever taught Buffy how to lead. Instead, they taught her how to stalk and kill demons. They taught her how to utilize ’the Hands’ of the First Slayer . . . and nothing more. To Giles, Merrick and the other Watchers, being a Slayer only meant being a killer of demons. I can only wonder if other Slayers between Sineya and Buffy were given the same limited lessons.

But what does this say about the other Scoobies’ roles in the battle against Adam? More specifically, what does this say about their roles in Buffy’s life? I am not advocating the idea that Buffy should have ended her friendship with the other three. But was it really necessary to invoke the First Slayer’s other three traits – the Spirit, the Heart, and the Mind – through the Scoobies? Personally, I believe that Buffy could have found a way to use all four traits on her own . . . if she had bothered to try. If she had inherited the power of Sineya like all of the other Slayers before her, I see no reason why she or any other Slayer throughout history could not learn to embrace all four of the First Slayer’s attributes as their own.

Or perhaps Buffy had already began to embrace the full power of the First Slayer by late Season Seven. She managed to prove that the old saying – ’no man is an island’ – is not always true. After being booted by the others in ”Empty Places” and comforted by a returning Spike in (7.20) “Touched”, Buffy set out on her own to retrieve a magical scythe from another formidable foe, namely a misogynist priest named Caleb, endowed with the strength of the First Evil. And she succeeded. On her own. After retrieving the scythe, Buffy went on to rescue a wounded Faith and a group of Potentials who had wandered into a trap set by Caleb and the First Evil. Again, she achieved this on her own, using her Spirit, Heart, Mind and Hands.

Does this mean that Buffy should seriously consider that she might not always need the Scoobies by her side? Frankly . . . yes. Perhaps no one man or woman is an island, but each and every one of us is always alone, no matter how many people we surround ourselves with. With the Buffy saga continuing in comic books, perhaps Joss Whedon considered a new lesson for his main character and the fans – there are times when we need our friends, family or some kind of help with us; and there are times when we have to face the fact that each of us is alone. And sometimes, we have to set about on a task . . . by ourselves. If Buffy ever truly learn that lesson, she will truly learn to utilize the full power of the First Slayer’s essence on a regular basis.

“RED” (2010) Review

red_morgan_freeman_malcovich

“RED” (2010) Review

Loosely inspired by the three-part DC Comics comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, “RED” told the story about a former black-ops C.I.A. agent named Frank Moses, who reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive a series of assassination attempts on him. Thanks to one member of his team, Marvin Boggs, Frank learns that a mysterious figure is sending both assassins and a C.I.A. black-ops agent named William Cooper to wipe out all members of a secret mission in Guatemala that Frank participated in back in 1981.

“RED” turned out to be a pretty solid action-comedy film that greatly benefitted from veteran cast members that included Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss. The cast also included the likes of Mary Louise Parker, Julian McMahon and Karl Urban. Surprisingly, the only members of the cast that seemed to have a persistent presence throughout the movie were Willis (the main star), Parker, Malkovich and Urban. Everyone else seemed to be making cameo or guest appearances in the movie. Regardless of the amount of time spent in the movie, each cast member gave a first-class performance in the movie. I was especially impressed by Willis as the weary ex-agent who is stimulated back into life at the prospect of learning the identity of the person behind the assassination attempts upon him. Malkovich gave my favorite performance as the paranoid Marvin Boggs, who seemingly ridiculous theories about any potential danger end up being correct. And I also enjoyed Helen Mirren as a former MI-6 assassin Victoria, who seemed just as thrilled as Frank to be back in action.

German-born Robert Schwentke displayed a quirky sense of humor in his direction of “RED”. I had expected some humor in the movie, but Schwentke stylized the violence in a way that reminded me of movies like “PAYBACK” or “SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD”. Scribes Jon and Erich Hoeber did a solid job in adapting Ellis and Hammer’s comic tale. Some fans of the comic novel may have taken umbrage at their loose adaptation. But since I have never read the three comic books . . . . it did not bother me that much. However, I found the showdown inside the Chicago hotel parking garage rather confusing. The overall action did not confuse me, but the main villain’s reasoning and personal actions did. This did not ruin the movie for me, but it came damn close. Overall, “RED” was a pretty solid movie, but I have seen better comic films.