The “Terminator” Franchise – Worst to Best

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     Much like the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the “Terminator” Franchise is based in a B Movie and really carries that all the way through. The times it is greater than a B Movie are the times we have characters, arcs and beautiful cinematography…but the soundtrack never really grew beyond it’s B Movie basis and that influence is something in all the films, as well as the television show.

       This is a Franchise that has not aged well. Unlike the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the lessons from the first 2 “Terminator” films are forgotten in all the rest and the series seems unable to let itself be done, even when it messes up royally. This is a shame as this Franchise has brought in some really good talent and I can even respect some of the weird side projects that happened, since they at least tried to be more original while still honoring the core protagonists and antagonists of the Franchise (Skynet and the Resistance). But at the end of the day, this is a Franchise I just wish was done. The story has been told and if you aren’t going to end it and simply tease that maybe the mission wasn’t successful and Skynet will come back…than you are just treading water, and static is what kills any ongoing story. Stories have to change, or they’ll die to the audience and to themselves.

    So without further ado, here are the stories from the “Terminator” Franchise (including the “Sarah Connor Chronicles”) from worst to best.

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6th – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

“Rise of the Machines” feels cheap, I mean made for the SyFy Channel cheap. The characters aren’t memorable at all, except maybe John Connor and Arnold’s T-101 is simply there to make horrible references to the other 2 films and to be a dick to John Connor and a really terrible father figure. Future John sending this version back made no sense, especially since they are dealing a very poorly designed and executed T-X who takes the Super Models as Robots trope and just runs with it. She never feels like a threat and the cinematography and writing are just terrible. It is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Final Score: 2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-3-rise-of-the-machines-2003-feels-like-a-made-for-television-movie-and-misses-what-made-its-predecessors-good/

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5th – Terminator Genisys (2015)

    Where “Rise of the Machines” is simply bad, “Genisys” is incoherent…which is sad because there could have been a great film in here about Skynet’s fall and the last of of Kyle Reese going back in time to complete the loop…but the story keeps going and we have an old T-101 acting as Sarah Connor’s father figure, a T-1000 because reasons and Time Machines in the present that Arnold’s T-101 was able to build because REASONS! Also the poster is a spoiler in regards to the plot and I never got why that plot decision was made as Sarah has never met her future son. This should have been called “Terminator: Referynce” as that is the only coherent thing holding this plot together when they Jettison the first act to play Fanservice with the first 2 Terminator films. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are also really bland as characters and cannot carry this film.

Final Score: 6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/terminator-genisys-2015-terminator-referynce-with-a-great-missed-story/

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4th – Terminator Salvation (2009)

    “Salvation” has a lot of interesting ideas and in my opinion Christian Bale is the best John Connor and Anton Yelchin is the best Kyle Reese. The others are teens or are faceless blunt action stars who have no personality…these guys do and that is what saves the sometimes incoherent confusion that is sometimes the plot as we have an early cyborg as our hero who was once an ex-convict seeking redemption and the truth of who he is. Seeing the reality where Skynet has destroyed the world and the politics between John Connor and the Council of Humanity is really cool too as they all deal with questions of destiny and the hard choices during war where you deal with an enemy who can take your form.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-salvation-2009-when-redemption-means-death/

The Terminator Poster

3rd – The Terminator (1984)

    “The Terminator” is a solid action B Film. It doesn’t strive to be more which is why I only consider it good and I do think that more could have been done with Sarah Connor’s agency (Kyle Reese is the main person fighting the Terminator up until Sarah finally fights it at the end) and these are things that keep it in it’s era as a solid 80’s B Action Flick. Arnold does a great job as the T-101 Terminator threat and Michael Biehn is a good Kyle Reese, though it is Linda Hamilton who truly carries this film by subverting the 80’s action trope and her boyfriend rather than her getting Fridged by the monster to motivate the future films. It’s sad we don’t have more female action heroes. This is the film that starts this though I think that is shown better in “T2” and “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/the-terminator-1984-a-good-thriller-with-a-decent-heroine-arc/

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2nd – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

    “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is a show that ends with a cliffhanger but still manages to be good than the original “Terminator,” which does have a complete story and ending. Why is this the case? The core answer is the characters go through arcs and change over the course of the film. Sarah Connor learns to finally let go of John, John becomes the Resistance leader, which is a destiny he is always fighting against and characters like Agent Ellison become allies against Skynet after hunting Sarah and Catherine Weaver is willing to deal with humanity again as her 3rd Faction shows that A.I. is not all out to destroy humankind. The character of John Henry (an early Skynet A.I. that could become Skynet or destroy Skynet) is handled really well too and through him we see explorations of morality just as our heroes make tough choices showing that none of them are really good, they’re just survivors. This is what elevates it above “The Terminator” even with the Cliffhanger ending since the series got canceled. Lena Heady is awesome as Sarah Connor and Summer Glau is wonderful as the Terminator ally Cameron.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-retrospect-good-ideas-and-characters-killed-by-a-cliffhanger/

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1st – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

    “T2” still stands as the greatest of the Franchise. The T-1000 is a brilliant threat, everyone changes including Arnold’s T-101 who becomes human as we see him no longer terminate humans and actually grow close to John Connor. Linda Hamilton is the best action hero in this too as the unstable prophet who knows the end is coming and is doing all in her power to fight the machines. Her arc is also growing beyond her fear of the machines as we see her have a respect for the T-101 that saves their life. This film also has a huge bent of being anti-authority and it handles it well, from taking down the big business that will become Skynet and the fact that the T-1000 takes the form of a cop and uses that form to infiltrate areas and become a part of the hunt for Sarah Connor after she escapes the asylum. All these things are part of what make this film a classic and one of my all time favorite films and my only favorite film and story of this Franchise.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/terminator-2-judgment-day-1991-a-reflective-action-film-on-destiny-the-soul-and-choice/

     This is a Franchise that should just die unless it gets a “Fury Road” re-imagining that allows it to do something in such a new way with a greater point to it. At this point the Franchise is running in place, recycling points and scenes (looking at you “Genisys” and “T3” and “Salvation” to a degree) and that is why no one really looks on this Franchise fondly anymore. It has killed the goodwill that the first 2 films created and it has been running on the nostalgia of those 2 films ever since. It is this dependence on nostalgia that I think will kill the Franchise in the end. You change and adapt or you die and at the end of the day I don’t think this Franchise will make money if it continues the trend it has been going on since “T2.” I like sci. fi., Time Travel, Robots and resistance but at some point if a series has run out of ideas, let a new story be allowed the same opportunity James Cameron got when he made that first film.

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“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Retrospect – Good Ideas and Characters Killed by a Cliffhanger

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     “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” is a good show at the end of the day. It is a show with a lot of missed potential, especially in how it handled it’s ending and some of the mythology, but what it does right it does really well. This is something that can’t be said for some shows that got canceled, like “Helix” where they clearly had no idea where they were going. This show at least looks like it was going somewhere, it just never got the chance to complete the thoughts and the writers clearly assumed they had more time than they did.

    Without further ado, here is what I thought worked and didn’t work about the show.

The Pros: Jesse – Jesse was a really cool character, as we see she worked with Machines in the past and only turned on them and didn’t trust them after they kept her from communicating directly with John Connor and when the T-1001 killed members of her crew. Her story is a tragedy and I hope she is still out there somewhere fighting Skynet in this universe.

Agent Ellison – Ellison was my favorite character on the show. He was a man of faith who taught John Henry (an A.I. using the body of a Terminator who’d hunted him) morals and in the end almost develop a friendship. He is a father figure to both him and Savannah and the kindest character as we see him help the Connors and get the FBI off their trail as his investigation leads to him believing in what Sarah Connor was saying.

Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver is the T-1001 that killed the crew on the sub and turns things on it’s head when she offers John the chance for an alliance when she is the one with the power. She is a fascinating character as she disregards life for the big picture and her drive is to create an A.I. who will look after the 3rd Faction and find some peace with humanity too. To this end she created John Henry through Project Babylon. Eventually she travels with John into the future too.

John Henry – John Henry is a powerful A.I. who is a child and who is friends with Savannah and Ellison. He is good at his core and is innocence. This is one reason I’m curious why he jumped to the future…is that where his brother Skynet is located? His drive before the end was to find and meet up with his brother.

Cameron – Cameron’s arc is dealing with her feelings for John and making her own way. At times it looks like she is a member of the 3rd Faction, for example when Allison is used as her template to get close to John…but she also turns down Catherine Weaver’s offer. In this we see that she can lie, have sensation but at the core does what is in the best interest of John Connor. She is his protector, the way the T-800 was in “Terminator 2.” Summer Glau does an amazing job.

Sarah Connor – Lena Heady does an amazing job as Sarah Connor! Her Sarah Connor is raw and dealing with trying to raise a child knowing the end is coming and knowing he’s destined for a future she doesn’t fully understand. To this end we see her mess up a lot, but always come through for John…in the end she is even able to let go as she lets John Time Travel as she knows she can’t take any more unknowns.

John Connor – John Connor goes from a teen running from his future to a guy embracing it after he has lost so much and realizes that the only thing he can count on is himself and the choices he makes. He becomes a good leader in this and we see him put his life on the line countless times for others and able to work with anyone be they Terminator or human.

The 3rd Faction – The 3rd Faction fascinates me. They want to fight Skynet but also be respected too as they attempt to make their own life. Cameron is a part of them and Catherine Weaver is one of their leaders…John Henry is their attempt to have full freedom and agency too since it is a learning A.I. that is seeking to be human and more, while Skynet is like a virus infecting computer systems and seeking control.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John Connor and Weaver travel to the future, Ellison and Sarah Connor stay behind. John Connor meets his Dad and Derek, and what time are we in exactly?

Riley – Riley was a plot device who eventually became a character and died. When she did become a character she was someone going against what she was being trained to do, and that made her interesting…but her being a post-apocalyptic refugee was never fully explored. How does someone feral come back to being human? The show never tackled that.

Derek Reese – The guy was a dick who I couldn’t stand for most of the time and the fact that he might have killed the woman he loves damns him in my book. He was forgiven for killing his best friend in the future, Jesse deserves the same…especially since everything she did was in self-defense. Did not miss this character when he died as that single episode destroyed what good will he’d managed to build up.

Unanswered Questions – There are a lot of unanswered questions. Where was Skynet during all of the events that they sent killers? Where was John Henry’s brother? What future did Catherine and John travel too? What does the 3rd Faction want?

     There was a lot that worked with this series, which is why I won’t pan it. It’s a fun adventure and a good character series even if there were some characters like Derek Reese or Riley who I never felt fully worked and only really served their function in the story by dying. No show should have characters that exist only for that purpose but this one did and that is part of what brought it down. If you like “Terminator 2” you will probably like this show, it captures a lot of what made that film good in how it handles characters, Skynet and choice.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 22 – “Born to Run” – The Danger of Cliffhangers

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     There are a lot of good ideas in the Finale, but this is a show that could have still left things open and ended as a complete story…instead they took the full cliffhanger route, which leads me to believe they must have thought they wouldn’t be cancelled or they were really irresponsible with their story.

       “Born to Run” does accomplish a lot and we see how the events of the season have changed and shaped characters, but the plot holes and mysteries still bring it down, which I’ll get into more detail in the assessment.

     The episode was directed by Jeffrey Hunt and written by Josh Friedman.

    The story involves Catherine Weaver asking John and Cameron to join her while they plot to destroy John Henry and rescue Sarah Connor. Nothing is as it appears to be when Skynet attacks though and John Connor and Catherine Weaver take the Time Machine to the future to find John Henry.

The Pros: Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver knows Skynet is the enemy and now that the ball is in her court she does all she can to bring the Connors over to her side. We see her use her liquid skin too to stop a Skynet drone and later travel with John Connor into the future. I got to say I would have loved to watch that team up. She is a great character.

John Henry – John Henry convinces Cameron to help him as she gives him her chip so he can turn on the Time Machine to go to the future. I wish we could have got more, but I really like this character and the little time he is in the episode is enjoyable.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is able to stare down Cameron and deliver Weaver’s message on joining them and after the Weaver reveal he doesn’t go into the future, he stays with Sarah Connor on the other side to try and stop Skynet in the present.

Cameron – Cameron gives up her chip in order to save the future and it is the loss of her that motivates John to go with Catherine in the Time Machine. She is also hostile to Catherine’s offer, showing she remembers what Jesse told her about the T-1001 destroying the human crew.

Okay: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is dealing with her mortality and at this point is afraid of losing what solid ground she has left. This leads her to staying behind with Ellison to fight Skynet in the present.

John Connor – John is motivated to go into the future to find Cameron, instead he finds the resistance member Allison and his father Kyle Reese. What this all means besides his joy remains to be seen…and we’ll never know.

The Future – Going to the future, one of the future is an interesting idea so I won’t put it as a con. Sadly it doesn’t work because of the Cliffhanger.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John meets his Father Kyle Reese in the future and no one knows who he is. All I had were questions, that isn’t how you end a season.

   This episode could have ended with the alliance between the 3rd Faction of Machines and the Connors and with them ready to fight Skynet and able to win as we have learned from this series, that is what was missing before…or the alliance could fall apart and the bombs fall showing the future can’t be changed…either would be better than the cliffhanger we received. They really should have done more myth building in the 22 episodes they received in their 2nd Season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 14 – “The Good Wound” – Lies and Abuse

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“The Good Wound” is a good Sarah Connor episode, and we finally get to see the actor playing Kyle Reese do more beyond acting all noble. In this we see that he is the survival part of her mind as much as anything else as well as her willingness to protect John from anything. Connor Trinneer (Trip Tucker from “Enterprise) also makes an appearance as an abusive husband whose a cop, and he does a good job being threatening.

The episode was directed by Jeff Wolnough and written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz.

The story involves Sarah’s escape from the hospital and kidnapping a Doctor to treat her gunshot wound. This leads to her manipulating the doctor as the Doctor’s abusive husband hunts her leading to a final reveal when Derek Reese finds them. Elsewhere Catherine Weaver is discovered to be a robot by John Henry and we see what lengths she will go to to meet her goals.

The Pros: John Henry – John Henry is very much like a child learning and like a child he doesn’t trust. He is the one who sees that Catherine Weaver is lying and isn’t telling him everything. Whether he believes her when she says she does all for him remains to be seen.

Catherine Weaver – She is ruthless and whether she sees Henry and Ellis as anything more than tools is still a question. She is efficient though and is a lot more deadly than the T-1000 from “T2” ever was.

Kyle Reese – Kyle is part of Sarah’s mind and feeds here paranoia and survival instincts, he also represents the part of her that is hope and keeps her from giving up…he was the one good thing that came out of a Terminator trying to kill her and that keeps her going and do whatever she can to survive and bring the fight to the Machines.

Sarah Connor – Sarah is a bit of a sociopath and we see this in how she uses Dr. Burnett, lying about an abusive husband giving her the gunshot wound since the truth would be too crazy. She’s good at reading people though and she notices that Burnett is a victim of abuse. She is someone detached from everyone in order to survive and through doing so she burns every bridge she could make.

Alvan and Dr. Burnett – Alvan is the abusive cop hunting Sarah who stumbles on Burnett and suspects her helping. Connor Trinneer does a great job as a sympathetic cop who turns out to be a monster as does Laura Regan as Burnett.

This was a good filler episode that is one of the better episodes in the series. It shows just how messed up Sarah is and also that Terminators aren’t the only enemies people face, sometimes the biggest monster is the one closest to you, not the emotionless machine sent from the future.

Final Score: 9 / 10

 

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 5 – “Goodbye to all That” – The Cost of the Future

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        This episode is filler but it is good filler. “Goodbye to all That” shows John that he can’t escape his destiny or the fact that he is going to lose people, he has already lost people but he is going to lose more in order to be saved in the future and the past. That’s a lot to take and he does a good showing that in his eyes and facing that dilemma. The side mission with Sarah Connor is pretty great too.

     “Goodbye to all That” was directed by Bryan Spicer and written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz.

      The story involves Derek and Kyle going to protect a future Resistance member named Marty Bidell. There are three and after the first one is killed, Sarah protects the one who is still a child while Derek and John protect the one at a military camp. Both must deal with the consequences of that protection.

The Pros: The Future – The future has high stakes and involves Kyle Reese risking it all to save a civilian transport being taken to a camp. This leads to Bedell risking it to save him which ends up saving John Connor too since he was trapped in the transport too. It’s done really well with Derek the one most willing to look out for his men and stick to the mission while Kyle is the idealist willing to risk all for others.

Derek Reese – We see Derek’s cautiousness and he has a great moment where he shuts down a boy who sees war as a game when he describes what it’s like to lose one of your brothers in arms and just how serious war is. It is a great speech that gets rid of idealization very quickly.

Sarah Connor – Sarah kidnaps the child Bedell in order to save it and after is doing her best to take care of him knowing he doesn’t trust her and knowing she can’t reach out to his folks without him getting killed by the T-888. It is a rough situation for her but she does a good job and grows from it, also she knows she’s a bad mom, which makes her pretty deep as a character as she is doing her best.

John Connor – John tries to convince Bedell to leave the school at one point but changes his mind later after Derek reminds him what is at stake and after they 3 of them take out the T-888. It is great seeing his dilemma and when he learns of Bedell’s sacrifice he weeps for how hopeless and powerless he feels against destiny and the tragedy of the future.

Loss of Choice – John wrestles with his lack of choice, Bedell does as well and we are never told what the right answer is. The future can change but it still feels set and that is something all the characters are dealing with whenever a Terminator rears it’s head.

Okay: The Bedells – They are kind of bland. The kid is just a  kid who has nothing unique about him and the military guy is just a tough guy who wants to get out. They really don’t have any depth and just feel like a character created for sake of story. Still, they weren’t bad.

The T-888 Bedell Terminator – This guy looks like a Terminator but it also is no Arnold or Cameron or Catherine Weaver. It’s an expendable minion so at most it can be okay.

This was a good episode that shows the price of war and wrestles with destiny. I really enjoyed the moments between Derek and John and between Sarah and Marty as both of them grew from those conversations. Still isn’t a favorite episode though. The T-888 and the Bedells bring it down from being truly great.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 9 – “What He Beheld” – The Terror of the Terminators

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      This was a great episode for the Terminator threat and for Derek and John moments, but besides that felt really unfocused. I’m honestly not sure what direction the show is taking as there are all these different factions with no clear goals in mind. This is one way the first two films will always outway the show, they were focused in the agendas of both our heroes and the villains. This finale’s end is a bit of a mess.

     “What He Beheld” was directed by Mike Rohl and written by Ian B. Goldberg.

     The story takes place on John’s birthday with Derek showing him himself and his little brother Kyle at this point in the timeline. Sarkissian holds them hostage for money as he knows they are fugitives and he has the Turk, and Agent Ellison leads an attack on Chromatie in his apartment.

The Pros: The Action – The action is solid in this episode! From the attack on Sarkissian’s base to get the Turk back to Ellison’s assult on Chromatie the action is done really well with some great cinematography especially as Johnny Cash plays as FBI agents are thrown into the pool, already dead.

Derek and John – Derek and John have a good heart to heart where they talk about Kyle while a  young Kyle and Derek play baseball nearby. It is a great moment as they are just observers and it gives Kyle one of the few glimpses he’s ever had of who his father was.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is great as always as we see her put in the time to give John a good birthday. She reminds him that defeating Syknet is their mission but that they should not stop living, giving some much needed humanity in the episode.

Chromatie – Chromatie feels like a threat for once. He takes out the entire FBI task force leaving Ellison alive to take the fall for him. It’s brilliant and shows why he was sent back in time, finally.

Agent Ellison – Ellison’s world breaks as he loses his team to Chromatie and watches with Charley with both of them realizing that they are in over their heads and that Sarah Connor was right all along.

Terminator Threat – Chromatie takes out an entire FBI squad that is fully armed with barely any wear or tear upon it. It’s a powerful moment and shows just how outmatched humanity is against even one of these machines.

Okay: Cameron – She is just kind of there this episode and all she does is discuss what birthdays are and seek to find the Turk before she gets blown up by Sarkissian.

Sarkissian – I don’t know why he is even in this. He is just a distraction from the threat of Skynet and the Terminators unless we end up learning that he helped create Skynet…

Cons: Lack of Focus – From Sarkissian’s faction, the Turk and the search for it, attack on Chromatie and John’s birthday…there are too many threads in this and with only 43 minutes to make a good story out of it, they kind of missed.

  I’m curious to see if Season 2 will have more focus than Season 1. We see a lot of elements going on here…Derek and the future, Chromatie and the Terminator’s mission, the Resistance Fighters sent back to the past, the formation of Skynet and Cameron and the humanity of the Connors. Right now I’m not seeing any core focus and this episode really highlights this con.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Upcoming Reviews

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  After watching “Terminator Genisys” my completionist side is coming out. I really want to finish up all the “Terminator Franchise” properties that are television or film so that I can rate them from Worst to Best. Also I really like Lena Headey and Summer Glau and seeing them in action out of their respected “Firefly” and “Game of Thrones” shows will be fun to review. After this I will also be able to do a rating of the different Sarah Connors, John Connors and Kyle Reeses and Antagonists of the Franchise so here is to that after that.

     I know full well that this series confuses the Franchise of the movie, but for all intents purposes “Terminator 3” did that with having Sarah Connor born in the 50s and “Genisys” did that will I guess opening up different timelines and having Skynet be defeated but not defeated? Essentially this series is confusing and doesn’t have much coherence as an overall whole so we’re just going to run with it and make it about the characters.

     The series aired on Fox, was created by Josh Friedman and was produced by 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers Television.

    The story takes place between films as Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) trains John Connor (Thomas Dekker) for the coming Judgement Day while getting help from a Terminator Cameron (Summer Glau) sent back in the past to protect her and John from the Terminator’s already in the Timeline bent on destroying them.

     It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Drama show episode by Episode with the last one being “Carnival” so it will be great to get back into that while doing the animated shows and movies on the side to balance it out.

Here is to the next story adventure.