Ghost in the Shell (2017): True to the World and Ideas of the Anime but a bit Jumbled in Execution

  The new film “Ghost in the Shell” is complicated. I enjoyed it but there were certain things about it that annoyed me, largely tied to how the Major’s story is told and presented. This was film that was on the edge of being really good and possibly even great, but it tried to tie into many things and how they handle and present Major Kusanagi. To give my non-spoiler thoughts as what I mean with the problem of the Major will be spoilerific, is that the world works and feels like the world from the show but combining too many stories from the films and show and failing to give us the Major kept it from being great.

   The film was directed by Rupert Sanders, written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler an Ehren Kruger and produced by Avi and Ari Arad, Steven Paul and Michael Costigan.

   The story involves Major Killian (Scarlett Johansson) and the government organization she is with known as Section 9 hunting down a hacker who is killing people tied to Hanka Robotics. As the Conspiracy unfolds the Major learns the secrets of her past and who she once was.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world if Neo-Tokyo is a really beautiful and diverse cyberpunk world. While in the films and movies the city is largely homogenized with the exception of immigration zones, this one the diversity is one display everywhere. I loved this version of Tokyo and felt it lended power to the film, as it felt like the future. This cyberpunk world has androids, human brains in robotic bodies, spider tanks and the hacking of human minds. It is very much the world of the show in all of it’s glory.

The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer did the soundtrack with Lorne Balfe and it is absolutely stunning. It pulls inspiration from the tv show and films and gives it the epic movie level quality that was needed.

The Special Effects – The special effects are absolutely stunning. This is a beautiful film and it captures the future in a stunning way. Giant holographic adds hang on buildings, the Major going invisible is handled well, the spider tank looks and feels like it is actually present and the Major’s android body feels artificial.

Section 9 – Section 9 is the government organization that deals with threats to Japan both internal and external. They are a diverse organization in this with people from all over the place (like in the show). You don’t really get to know anyone besides this version of the Major, Batou and Chief Arakami but they get some good exploration.

Batou – Batou is the Major’s best friend and second in command. He’s the kind to her hard and we see he will do anything for her (just like in the show). Pilou Asbaek gives a lot of empathy and strength to the role as we see him supporting the Major through her journey and in unraveling the conspiracy.

Chief Arakami – Arakami is amazing! In this film we get to see why he’s the leader of Section 9 and that he is a combat veteran (something you never see in any of the films or shows that I’ve watched so far). He’s protective of the Major and has her back too. Even when Hanka tries to blackmail him he doesn’t budge and throws it right back at them as well as taking out a few of their goons when they ambush him. Takeshi Kitano make not look like how he looks on the show (he’s usually presented as small, in this he’s a little tall and big) but he captures the core of the character beautifully.

Okay: The Major – I don’t consider this character Major Kusanagi. Kusanagi is a character who is always striving to be more and pushing her limits…and that means more than just injuring her robotic body. In this that is the only way she pushes the limits. There isn’t that search and desire for knowledge and truth (outside of her past), which was a shame. Johannson is fine in the role but this isn’t the Major.

The Cons: Lack of Focus on a Past “Ghost in the Shell” Story – At first it looks like they are going to be having the Puppet Master story be key with a rogue A.I. that develops intelligence, than we find out it is a childhood friend and we get the Individual 11 storyline from Season 2 of “Ghost in the Shell,” and we get echoes of early Major…so maybe trying to do own story? I would have preferred they just pick one and focus on it.

Missing the Point of the Major –  I can’t express this enough because this is what bothered me the most…the Major is the philosopher warrior, she is always seeking more and will dive into another’s mind to become more if given the chance. She is willing to risk all to not just learn the truth but to become a higher and better overall. The show had none of that and just made her a superhero who wants to know about her past. She is simplified and in turn I don’t know how anyone can see her as the Major.

Representation and the Major’s Character – They made this Major’s past important they even reveal that she has her Japanese name like in the manga, film and shows…so why not give her a Japanese body or have her choose to have one at the end since she knows who she is now and that her Killian persona is a lie and that the Hanka corporation stole her childhood before making her a weapon. This show rightfully gets criticism for white-washing when this was so easy to avoid, even within what they setup within the story. There is zero reason for her to keep the same body at the end or to have even had it in the first place given Hanka is always a Japanese name. The corporation seems to be run by Mr. Cutter who is European…but he is defeated in the end, so what is preventing her from choosing another shell since her past and present as Kusanagi (She even has a friendship with her Mom Mrs. Kusanagi after she finds her, who is obviously Japanese) so why not follow through?

   This was a film that rightfully got called out for white-washing. The Major learns about her past as Kusanagi and even finds her mother, and though she rejected becoming more we never see her choose another shell rather she keeps the one the corporation used when they turned her into a weapon. Given that her past was so important to her (in the films and show I don’t remember it being as important, it was her desire to be more and transcend, her shell wasn’t important…in this her past makes her shell important) it felt like a major missed opportunity. Fans of the show I’ve talked to still enjoyed the film and actually had less to nitpick than me but for me, besides the jumbling together of a few different stories and missing the core desire of the Major to become more kept it from being good. If you like the show I’m curious to hear your thoughts if you saw the film.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

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Odd Thomas (2013): Great Characters and World But Dialogue Doesn’t Always Work

Odd Thomas

     What sparked my viewing of this film is that i wanted to do a review where Anton Yelchin’s acting was on display, especially with his recent tragic death…I wanted a way to honor him. This was a great film in which to do so. He is amazing as the main character in a series of books from one of my favorite authors (though I have yet to read the “Odd Thomas” Series by Dean Koontz). The film doesn’t quite reach favorite, but that is due more to the writing than anything else, which at time feels unnatural and almost too clever.

     The film was directed by Stephen Sommers who was also the writer and one of the producers. The other producers were John Baldecchi and Howard Kaplan and the film is based off the book series of the same name by Dean Koontz.

This review does contain SPOILERS

   The story involves Odd (Anton Yelchin) who helps the police chief Wyatt (Willem Dafoe) capture murders after her communicates with their ghosts.  When a rise in bodachs occurs around a mysterious figure Odd fears for his town and the horrific event that their rising means and works with his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin)  to stop it.

 The Pros: The World – The world is fascinating and I can’t wait to read more about in Koontz’s books. This a world full of spirits, the dead and maybe even demons. This element of the supernatural makes the town fascinating and Odd’s genuine good nature and tragic story gives power to the events that take place.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is wonderful as it portrays both anything around the dead as different than around the living. Mitchell Amundsen did a good job. It is easily one of Stephen Sommers’s best looking films.

The Characters – The three main characters are fantastic…the members of the conspiracy are forgettable…but Wyatt, Stormy and Odd really drive the plot and it is their interactions in this fascinating world that elevate the story to great.

Stormy – Stormy like Odd is odd and is a fun character. She is witty and smart and as much a fighter as Odd who just wants to get out of town. Seeing their relationship is sweet as she keeps Odd grounded and doesn’t let anyone push her around. Addison Timlin really does a great job in the role.

Wyatt – It’s Willem Dafoe, you can’t go wrong. In this we see a guy who trusts Odd to the point that he is nearly an outsider on his own police force. He trusts anyway and it is thanks to his trust that Odd is able to figure out the conspiracy to murder the mall. Wyatt is shot but survives and has some great comedic moments with Odd as he has an awareness around people Odd and Stormy don’t.

Odd – Anton Yelchin is amazing in this role! This is a character who is oblivious to others flirting with him outside of Stormy and has a major idealistic streak as he sees Stormy and him being together forever because of what happened at a fair and what a robotic gypsy gave them, yet is realistic enough to hide his powers after his mom was thrown into an asylum for how her powers drove her crazy and his dad’s reaction. This is a character imbued with empathy, sorrow and compassion and I can’t wait to read his story in the books. This is a character who is genuinely good.

You Can’t Save Everyone – Stormy dies and there are a few other deaths…not being able to save everyone is a major theme of the film. The fact that Odd finds the killers by being helped by the victim’s ghosts really plays into that too. He can save more people but he can’t save everyone.

The Ending – The ending is good, I liked that Odd saves the people in the Mall but can’t save Stormy and that in the end he is the one who lets go after we have it established he’s the one helping spirits let go. It is a touching end and I get why he leaves the town after.

Okay: The Dialogue – The dialogue is at times almost too clever for it’s own good. You know when characters speak only in witty one-liners? This film has that problem sometimes…largely between Stormy and Odd but other characters too. It’d have been more annoying if it wasn’t smart but it felt unnatural which kept it from being a pro.

The Conspiracy – The reveal of the conspiracy is pretty cool but the reason behind them being Satanists and what they get out of being Satanists is never explained. For a world full of the Supernatural a group of Satanists was at the end of the day just a bunch of killers and would-be killers. This was a shame as there was so much that could have been done in regards to their motivation, which I felt we never got to know.

The Cons: The Power of the Bodachs – The Bodachs power is never explained. They can possess people and kill them if they notice someone notices them, but they never did fully against Odd except with the leader of the Conspiracy. Where they came from and their purpose beyond feeding off misery was all we got too, I guess they come from Hell but what is the purpose of Hell in this world where Odd is putting spirits to rest?

   This is a film that was great but never reached favorite largely due to the elements that were never fully explained or defined. The purpose behind the conspiracy of Satanists didn’t seem to be anything beyond causing mass panic and murder but to what end…the Bodachs seemed at times all powerful and other times completely powerless so them being the things triggering the event or that would bring Hell to the town just didn’t make sense. Just like the Bodach’s origin was never explained or how they fit into the world of the living dead, same with Hell…it exists I guess, but to what end? These questions are what kept it from being a favorite though it is still a film I’d highly recommend. Anton Yelchin is amazing as Odd and truly showed why he was the younger greats. R. I. P. Anton Yelchin.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

The Ring (2002): A Horror Film That Subverts Resolution

The Ring

        “The Ring” is easily one of my favorite horror films and I’m grateful to my friends for introducing me to it and “The Grudge.” I will review the original Japanese Horror films at some point, and if I can find an English translation of the book “Ring,” will be reading that as well. This was a horror film that follows a lot of horror tropes but does them so well and manages to subvert expectations during the film, which is part of what makes a monster or concept scary.

       The film was directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Ehren Kruger and produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and based off the book “Ring” by Koji Suzuki and the Japanese film “Ringu” by Hiroshi Takahashi.

      The story surrounds an urban legend about a video tape that killers the person who views it in seven days. When  Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is researching the mysterious death of her niece she finds the videotape and watches it, leaving her only seven days to solve the mystery behind it.

This Review does contain SPOILERS

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer is responsible for this amazing soundtrack and truly is a master of his craft. The sense of tension and mystery is largely thanks to the score which keeps the tension going even when there is nothing to fear. It also is great at manipulation of the resolution before upping the threat level again.

The Mystery – The mystery surrounding the tape is the driving drama of the film and it is beautifully presented as Rachel is the journalist who is putting the pieces together and it is through her eyes we get each reveal. This is in part from the great writing.

The Tape – The tape is haunting as we see a tree, a burning a tree, a ladder, a horse, a landscape and a woman jumping with Samara eventually entering the frame and the reveal of the well.

Rachel – Rachel is played by Naomi Watts and for our horror movie heroine…she actually is pretty smart. We see her seeking to solve the problem the moment she knows something is wrong and in the end she manages to save her son even if Samara can’t be stopped.

Anna Morgan – Shannon Cochran is good as the haunting woman we see who seems cursed and not all there. This is from her being insane which we are left wondering if it was happening because of what she did to get Samara or if Samara is the one responsible. Regardless, all is not right with the Morgans.

Richard Morgan – Richard didn’t want a child so he kept Samara locked away in the barn with the horses and ignore the violence she was doing. Brian Cox plays a great morally grey character as we see a man who deeply loved his wife but was controlling about Samara and clearly abusive to her, whether to protect himself and his wife or simply because he didn’t want a child is unknown. In the end Samara drives him to kill himself though.

Samara – Daveigh Chase is awesome as the creepy monster child who just wants to kill people. Her interviews at the asylum and the haunting tape she created with her mind make her an otherworldly being that doesn’t care about anything beyond being heard. Whether she was always this way or became this way is left up in the air, but she makes a great antagonist as she kills most of the people in this film.

Subverting Resolution – At one point Rachel finds the well and Samara’s corpse and believes she is free now after her mother had tried drowning her in the well. Aidan soon tells her that she was wrong and the well was the one thing holding her back and now she is out in the world. It’s a great subversion as we see Noah no longer getting his happy ending with his son Aidan and ex Rachel as Samara kills him. Subverting the way the movie was going with a happy ever after and a child freed from abuse.

A Story of Abuse – Whether Samara is the abuser or the messed up Morgans are responsible the story of abuse is part of the story. All the Morgans are twisted and messed up in different ways as they seek to hold onto what was or what they want, to the point that they either kill themselves, go insane or begin targeting others. Samara is abuse incarnate as her disregard for all shows her as the sociopath driving the action and the tape.

Okay: Noah – Noah is the boyfriend and ex of Rachel and is okay. He didn’t stand out in any way and was more of a cocky guy who begins to rise to the occasion to be a father for Aidan. I never fully trusted the character though and I don’t know if that was due to the performance or the writing.

Aidan – Aidan is the overly intelligent kid which I put as okay here as I know finding good child actors is hard…but kids talking like adults (which usually is a horror trope) is super annoying as I always saw it as lazy writing. The kids are never allowed to be kids and have to always end up being psychics or spirits.

  This was a great horror movie and one is one of my favorites. I am looking forward to watching the original and can’t wait to do a compare and contrast between them and the ways they are similar and differ. This is a film that manages to captures the horror of the unknown (Samara and her unknown origin) and subverts the spirit just wanting to be released as we learn Samara is a monster who just enjoys killing people. I wish she’d had more to her backstory than that but more can be read into it, which is part of what makes this story so rich.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 One of the best horror films I have ever watched.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Great World But Story Doesn’t Quite Deliver

The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Before I get into my thoughts, this is going to be one of a few Holiday themed film reviews leading up to Christmas. This review is probably going to be one of my more controversial ones as I know I am most likely in the minority here, but I don’t think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is great. I think it’s alright but when it came to characters and story it didn’t quite deliver, even though the world it takes place in is fascinating and I see why “Kingdom Hearts” keeps returning to it. Tim Burton is a director and artist who creates wonderful worlds, sadly what I’ve noticed is he doesn’t always fully flesh out the events or characters of said world and this movie truly is a good example of that.

       The film was directed by Henry Selick, written by Caroline Thompson with story by Michael McDowell and produced by Tim Burton and Denise De Novi.

     The story involves Jack Skellington the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town having a crisis of want and identity that changes him when falls into Christmas Town. From here he brings Christmas back to Halloween Town and takes up the identity of Santa Claus which causes dire consequences around the world.

The Pros: The World – Tim Burton created an amazing world. The basic theory is each holiday has a town where the denzines of the holiday live…whether it Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. They can crossover to one another as well, as seen by Jack’s discovery of the place.

The Animation – The stop motion animation is really beautiful. Each place whether it is Halloween Town, Christmas Town or our world has a distinct flavor and tone to it, which lend strength to the events that go down.

Halloween Town – Halloween Town is the best town and is based all around scaring people. The monsters in this town have great designs and everyone in the town is either mad or demented. Sally and Jack are the most normal members of the population.

The Mayor of Halloween Town – The Mayor is literally two faced and has a happy and unhappy face that turns on his head. He can’t do anything himself and is all about Jack the celebrity. He’s a funny character and has some great lines.

Oogie Boogie – Oogie Boogie is a fun villain as he loves to gamble with lives and is a sentient living mass of bugs. He is threatening and is very much the bully of the town who lives to stick to himself unless his boys bring him lives to play with. Ken Page was great.

Okay: The Soundtrack – This isn’t Elfman’s best work, mostly because the songs aren’t all that good. They are okay but “Darkman” had a much stronger soundtrack, as did “Batman.” This one is a very weak Disney soundtrack and I can’t think of any song that really stood out beyond the main theme.

Jack Skellington – Jack is okay, if he wasn’t a major celebrity he would have been more sympathetic but from the beginning he is the man who has everything. All the people of Halloween Town love him, he always wins the Halloween events and the only thing not going for him is he’s bored and feels lonely. I didn’t get the loneliness given everyone wanted to be with him and he just had to open up. He was okay, Chris Sarandon was a good voice acting choice though.

Sally – Sally is the woman trapped in the castle by her evil creator Dr. Finklestein. She keeps poisoning him and escaping, so she is an active character…but I didn’t know why she liked Jack beyond the fact that everyone liked Jack because he was popular. She could have done a lot more and I wish she’d gone from quiet to active. She tries to stop the Nightmare Before Christmas with Fog with Jack’s ghost dog Zero had a glowing nose. I really liked the idea of her character, but like Jack she didn’t feel fully formed.

Message – The message is largely to be comfortable in yourself and don’t try to be other people. This is good but I felt the execution would have been better if Santa had been more explicit to Jack or if Sally had.

The Cons: Santa Claus – The character is pretty useless. All he does is fix the Nightmare Christmas Jack causes on the populace, but for a Magic guy he was useless against Oogie Boogie.

    This is a film that even given my criticisms of it, and the fact that it is a bit overrated is still worth seeing at least once. Tim Burton’s creativity is on full display and Halloween Town is a lot of fun. This is a also chance to see some beautiful Stop Motion animation and even though this world isn’t fully formed on screen, it is still a lot of fun to visit.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

The Shining (1980): Kubrick’s Masterpiece About a Haunting and Escape From Abuse

The Shining

   Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors so seeing “The Shining” again was well worth it and I was reminded once more of all the reasons why he is a favorite director. I haven’t read the book that the film is based on but Stephen King hated this version of the film even though it is so far the best adaptation of his work…most of the other adaptations of his books are simply terrible. But who knows, Kubrick was never a likable guy so maybe that’s part of it. This is a film that captures so many elements of horror and makes me really want to read the book. I’ll go into the aspects of terror it captures later on in the review.

    The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick who also produced the film and wrote the screenplay with Diane Johnson. It is of course based on the book of the same name by Stephen King.

      The story is about a struggling writer named Jack (Jack Nicholson) who takes his family up to the Overlook Hotel so that he can be caretaker of it. He soon learns about the haunting history behind and as things begin to unravel it is up to his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to cope with the consequences of Jack and the Hotel.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack is wonderfully tense and keeps you on your feet the entire it. It turns mundane things into things that are off, whether it is writing a story or entering a maze. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind did a fantastic job.

The Cinematography – Kubrick knows how to shoot a scene and the use of the hotel’s size is used to create feelings of isolation. Kubrick also uses shadows and light in the maze for that same bit of terror and using stark contrasts throughout the film to accent loss of control or entering moments of the supernatural.

Film Structure – The structure of the film is great as we are shown Jack’s descent into madness as winter comes on the Overlook Hotel with the time period or time passed flashed after character moments.

The Writing – The writing is mostly show and not tell and that lends it power. We also see character moments revealed in this way too, Jack’s making excuses about hurting Danny only being one time reveal that no doubt had happened more…and the silence of characters reveal intent and action. Kubrick’s script is phenomenal.

The Characters – The main characters are all compelling in different ways and their relationships inform one another as many of them change over the course of the film.

Dick – Dick is the cook and also can communicate and sense things like Danny. He is Danny’s mentor and Danny reaches out for help. He is killed by Jack in the end but is able to deliver Danny and Wendy an escape vehicle to get away.

Danny – Danny is a kid who has a spirit named Tony inside who takes control sometimes and is the one who goes from a passive figure to one fighting for survival as he tricks his father in the maze and reaches out to Dick to save himself and his mom.

Wendy – Wendy’s arc is standing up to her abusive husband and escaping the relationship. In this we see that even though she seems passive that she will fight back and does so when she knocks Jack out and locks him up and later we see her stand up against the spirits even though she’s terrified as she makes the escape with her son. She’s an awesome character.

Jack – Jack is abusive and we soon realize how abusive as the story progresses. He is an antagonist who is complex in that he obviously is not a fully terrible human being, but at the end of the day he is the monster who lets his ego and selfishness control him and whatever ways he was horrible before become compounded as he becomes a force that the ghosts use to kill his family.

Escape From Abuse – Wendy and Danny are in an abusive relationship with Jack. It’s never stated outright but the moment of anger at Danny was shown to be a pattern based off his behavior in the hotel…as well as Wendy’s making excuses for him…it takes seeing Danny hurt again for her to finally stand up and after that she fights. She is no longer a victim but over the course of the film becomes a survivor of Jack’s abuse. She survived while the other family was not able to escape their abusive spouse/father.

The Mystery – The mystery is wonderful as we are left wondering if Jack crossed back in time when he was interacting with the ghosts and if he’d been at Overlook before that day. The nature of the Hotel and Jack are left open which gives power to future hauntings of the place.

What Makes a Good Ghost Story – Part of what makes a good ghost story is how it puts those living on edge and connects them to their mortality (Wendy and Danny’s escape) or their ego and selfishness (Jack). It is less about the ghosts in the end and more about what they make people do. This is a prime example of this as the point of evil spirits in horror stories is to reveal the darker side of the living.

   This is a film that has very little wrong with it. My only issue I could see with it is sometimes it lags, though I valued that time because it helped build suspense, but I’m also aware that not everyone is into the slow build. Besides that, this is one of Kubrick’s masterpieces for a reason and is well worth viewing for anyone who loves suspense, horror and cinema.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

Sinister (2012): A Great Horror Film Capturing Innocence Lost and the Boogie Man

Sinister

      “Sinister” is a favorite horror film for me now. This is a film that does a good job at building the tension and having a lot of beautifully crafted haunting scenes as well as having a good antagonist who has a unique design. This is the film that kicks off the October Film watching which is going to be largely horror in themed as later I plan on reviewing “Crimson Peak” as well as some old Classic Horror Films.

    “Sinister” was written and directed by Scott Derrickson with the other writer being C. Robert Cargill and produced by Jason Blum and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones.

   The story involves Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moving his family into a house where a grisly hanging took place. After he discovers film of different families slaughtered in different ways while being followed by a character called “Mr. Boogie” as he tries to solve the mystery of the murders and protect his family.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and does a good job at establishing tone and tension so that we are given great rising action over the course of the film. Christopher Norr did a great job.

Mr. Boogie’s Videos – The videos are haunting and each of them has a theme and a missing child who films and kills their family for Mr. Boogie. They are all haunting, especially the initial one that has the family hung from a tree all together.

The Ghosts – The children who Mr. Boogie has already consumed are haunting. They look undead and you see them harass Oswalt at one point as they are running around his house and it than we learn that Mr. Boogie has chosen his daughter to be the next creator of his will. The kids are really creepy and haunting.

Mr. Boogie/Bughuul – Mr. Boogie is an obscure Babylonian God who took blood sacrafices and consumed children. That is the reason that there is a kid missing and why the family ends up dead as the blood sacrifice is for him and after he consumes the soul of the Child making another ghost to do his will. He’s super creepy and looks like an Insane Clown Posse member in a suit.

Okay: The Oswalts – The Oswalts are expendable though for what it’s worth I cared about what happened to them a little bit, even though it was Ellison’s stupidity of trying to make another great true crime novel and him not getting help until it was too late that lead to his end. He was doing all the horror film stupidity, this is why I can’t put the family as a pro.

  This is a film that I’d recommend if you like horror films. There is great tone and tension building and Mr. Boogie and his ghosts are some pretty amazing antagonists as what they do is horrifying and I did not see the ending coming, so it was a great surprise. I don’t know if the sequel is any good but the trailer makes it looks like it missed the tone and slow building of tension that made the horrific events payoff.

Final Score: 8,8 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 4 – “Before the Flood” – A Great Villain, Bootstrap Paradox and Loss

Doctor Who Before the Flood

     “Before the Flood” has a lot of great things going for it, but the ending in regards to our minor characters don’t quite work all the way…at least I didn’t believe the setup and found it contrived…everything else mostly works though making for a great ending to the story and showing us how Clara is changing.

    The episode was directed by Daniel O’Hara and written by Toby Whithouse.

SPOILERS ahead.

      The story picks up where we left off where Clara is with Clara, Cass and Lunn facing the Doctor’s ghost while the Doctor goes back in time to stop the ghosts and find their source as he soon does in the Alien Warlord known as The Fisher King.

The Pros: The Opening – The opening of this episode is great where the Doctor expains the Bootstrap Paradox as someone who goes back in time, finds the person they loved before doesn’t exist so they create the history of that person before returning to the present which than leaves the question of how did the thing they created(Beethoven as the person missing and Beethoven’s 5th as the created piece as an example)  come about in the first place? He then opens playing Beethoven on his electric guitar before it does the “Doctor Who” theme from it in the style of rock.

The Format – I like that it jumps between 1980 and the small town the Fisher King kills in and the future with the underwater base plagued by the threat of ghosts under the Fisher King’s control.

Clara – Clara is great in this! We see her willingness to use others to solve problems that she can’t solve herself as well as her growing detachment from others and her love of adventure and the rush of it all being the core part of her personality. She’s becoming a lot like the Doctor and the side characters point out how that can end up being bad since she is starting to think in a way that doesn’t consider the lives fully of those around her.

The Doctor – The Doctor is wonderful in this and he isn’t able to save everyone! (those who died are dead and his ghost was just a hologram). We also see that not wanting to lose Clara has become a primary motivation, she’s his only real human connection who somewhat gets him and he is a sadder Doctor than before. We see this when he morns the former UNIT person who the Fisher King killed and the fact that the Ghosts are forever unable to die.

Okay: The Crew – The crew is alright. Cassie got some development when she called out Clara and the UNIT individual gave us backstory, they still weren’t super memorable though, they just weren’t bad.

The Cons: Couples – Apparently every male character liked every female character (and it was who they were trapped with too) leading to a contrive loved lost moment (I never believed that the folks who went with the Doctor had feelings for each other or the ones who stayed with Clara). It was stupid and brought down the story. Losing friends is hard enough, you don’t need to add having a contrived crush or love to it as well.

 This was a really good episode overall and a solid arc, though not a favorite. I thought the last 2 episodes were better even with the Doctor playing a long game. The Fisher King was an awesome villain and I hope we see his people again (his people against the Ice Warriors would be awesome) and the episode taking place in two time periods lead to a greater sense of mystery.

Final Score: 8.4

Final Score for Arc: 8.2 / 10