Tag Archives: Power

“House of Cards” Season 5 – The Power Shifts

     I’ve been with “House of Cards” for a while now. This is easily one of my favorite shows out there, even though it did have a season I really hated. This is a season that plays on what made last season work and strengthens it further. This is the season where we see just how wonderfully awful the Underwoods are and how their quest for power does and doesn’t payoff.

The season picks up where last season left off with the Underwoods running against Conway in the 2016 election. The race is tight as the Underwoods prepare to go to any means to hold onto power and win the election.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Election – The election is fantastic as we see political dealings going down as Conway’s advisor Mark Usher is convinced to work for the Underwoods when they find the dirt on Conway after they successfully cause a political crisis by using one of their assets (a hacker) to cause panic across swing states. This eventually leads to a special election being called in one of those states where Frank and Claire rise to victory.

The Underwoods – The Underwoods are the main reason to watch the show. They are so corrupt and compelling as we see just how far they are willing to go to tie up loose ends and to keep in power. This season is a shining example of this and ends showing that even the Underwoods loyalty does not fully extend to one another.

Frank – Frank wins the election but the corruption of his rise to power becomes the forefront as the former president comes forward and people begin calling him out for the shady dealings and situations that surrounded him in his rise to power. In the end he decides to resign as his time in Elysian Fields (a secret society) showed him the true power lies outside the office of the President and controlling it, as Claire is left in charge as she became Vice President last season.

Claire – Claire is the better of the Underwoods as we see that she does not act out of spite and is good at building bridges between members of the party and opposition. Unlike Frank she doesn’t care about revenge, but can be just as ruthless (she kills her lover who knew all of the Underwood secrets), just holding power and this season ends with her as President holding Frank’s sins against him as she refuses to pardon him for his crimes, leaving him alone and under threat with her at the top, it finally being “her turn.”

The Rat Race and Cost of Power – Those underneath the Underwoods all pay the price in the end. Doug is alone and underground and as of the end of the season has not been pardoned for his crimes, Frank is just like him…LeAnn is dead with her former lover the hacker dead as she was loose end that was cleaned up and the government is in disarray as people seek to jump ship or find the Underwoods blackmailing them with their past actions. I really liked LeAnn’s character and her death for me was the strongest one since Frank’s murdering of Russo, who was also an actor and character I liked. This season was all about consequences and those consequences paid off with those who still hold power being isolated and those who trusted the Underwoods being just as isolated or dead.

Okay: Russia – Russia is the only one who can blackmail the Underwoods, but even he loses his asset, though we see that Claire’s adviser is working for him, so he isn’t out yet, but we don’t see what Russia’s agenda really is at this point.

This was an amazing season that gave us a major shift in power as we have seen Claire hold power but Frank’s unpredictability and secret agenda always detracted from Claire’s potential. Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey once again do an amazing job and I loved watching the power shifts take place…from Frank going to the private sector to control government and Claire using the power of the Presidential office to consolidate her power and agenda and with it shift power away from Frank. Where next season leads is anyone’s guess but this is show about their partnership which Frank left behind this season in his quest for revenge against those who had opposed him. I think he’ll realize this or he’ll fall as Claire has shown to be the better leader now on multiple occasions.

Claire Underwood 2020

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

 

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Blood In Blood Out (1993): Bonds of Blood, the Nature of Honor and Power and Agency

nBlood In Blood Out

         “Blood In Blood Out” is an amazing action film! It is a film with layers to it and has some great story arcs that it takes time (over 3 hours) to explore. This is a film that gives you time to get to know the groups, the ambitions and motivations of all the players as as well as fully exploring the different turning points leading to an ending that I honestly didn’t expect, but enjoyed.

      The film was directed by Taylor Hackford, who was also one of the producers. Written by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jeremy Iacone and Floyd Mutrux based on the story by Ross Thomas and produced by Jerry Gershwin.

       The story is that of 3 brothers. Miklo who is half-white and half-Hispanic who leaves his abusive father in Las Vegas who hates him for being half-Hispanic, he meets up with his cousins Cruz who is an up and coming artist and Paco who is rising in a gang. When Miklo joins Paco in attacking a rival gang the retaliation leads to Cruz being mortally injured and Paco and Miklo getting into a car crash when running from the cops leading to Miklo going back to prison and Paco joining the marines. Years pass before they all meet up again, changed.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is amazing! Bill Conti did a great job on this soundtrack! It is a mixture of 90’s action music mixed with traditional Mexican music which leads to some great thematic moments.

Paco’s Story – Paco is the tough guy of the three folks who become adopted brothers. He doesn’t connect to them but when it comes to risking it all he stays with Miklo after the crash rather than leaving him to the cops which leads to him becoming a marine to get out of going to prison and later becoming a cop. From here his relationship to Miklo and Cruz goes downhill and Miklo rises in the ranks of La Onda and Cruz becomes a heroin addict and leaves the drugs out leading to the death of Cruz’s young brother. Paco is hard until the end but focuses on the need to look after the Chicano community even though many don’t trust him for being a cop and the history of violence of white cops towards Chicanos. His arc comes full circle when he is able to forgive and be friends with Cruz again and Cruz reminds him that he and Miklo will always be brothers even if they are on opposite sides of the law. Benjamin Bratt does a fantastic job.

Miklo’s Story – Miklo’s story is the most compelling as we meet the greatest array of characters and see how selfishness and greed can lead to their never being peace or solidarity between the powerless. He is a man who never had power, abused by his father for being half-hispanic, manipulated by corrupt police and later used by Popeye and the corrupt members of La Onda too…it is only when he takes control and becomes a leader in La Onda that he finds the dignity and self respect he never had growing up. He loses family when his leg is shot off by Paco but he forgives him as in the end he does see brotherhood as more than blood even if he can’t see what the drug war is doing to his community and La Onda’s role in it. Damian Chapa is great and it is really cool that his story ends with him being the leader of La Onda after the Aryan Nation gang kills the past leader Montana and Miklo uses the time to bring solidarity to Londa and taking out the Black and White Gangs to take control of the drug trade outside of the prison.

La Onda – La Onda is fascinating as their is a council of 7 that falls apart when one of the 7 works with the Aryan Nation since he wants quick money and power and he’s addicted to what they are selling. This eventually leads to Montana seeking a peace conference with the Black Guerrilla Army (B.G.A.) but the Aryan  Vanguard uses Popeye’s actions outside of the prison to have one of the B.G.A.’s assassinate Montana. Montana’s death leads to the rise of La Onda and the death of peace as B.G.A. and A.V. getting killed off before the members of La Onda are separated which leads to them recruiting nationwide.

Montana – Montana is the calm leader and wants peace. He doesn’t see race but he sees power and how the white cops and gangs hold the most power so only those who don’t see it or don’t have power banding together can they have peace. He is also writing about the Chicano experience in the Prison Industrial Complex. He reminded me a lot Malcolm X with elements of Martin Luther King Jr. He was my favorite character in the film without a doubt. Enrique Castillo does a great job.

Cruz’s Story – Cruz’s story is finding himself and his people and growing beyond self hatred. After his brother dies from heroin he is isolated from his community until he gets clean and on the Day of the Dead makes up with his mother and father and when we see him he’s shaved his head and become a prophet figure reminding Paco of the fact that they are all family and that they are united by blood and love no matter how their paths may differ. It’s a really cool speech and it’s awesome seeing this character whole again helping his brothers strive towards healing when he was the one who was the most broken and powerless through most of the film, starting with Spider paralyzing him from the back down. Jesse Borrego had a lot of fun in the role and he is the glue between Paco and Miklo who are foils to one another in many ways as they switch roles within their community and within themselves.

Race in America – The movie is smart about race relations in the United States. This is especially shown in regards to African-Americans and Hispanics within the Prison Industrial Complex and lack of opportunities outside of the army in many cases leading to gangs as a form of agency. Best thing I can say is you should see it yourself. If you are poor you lose power and if you are power and are a people who have laws passed against you for the color of your skin it is even worse. Miklo is looked down upon for being half as well until he’s proven himself in La Onda and Paco also deals with that as being a cop in a mostly white force where the gangs are bigger in his community and Cruz is torn between that as well as it is retaliation against Paco’s gang that leads to him getting paralyzed and pulled in with drugs while he was always an outsider in the art community that mostly white because of the color of his skin. These are only some of the ways the complexity and story of race in the United States is expressed in the film.

Prison Industrial Complex – The Prison Industrial Complex is all about power and Miklo makes a good point that the State and those who work their profit from them being in the prison. Within the prison the only way to beat it is join together (what Montana was trying to do) or death of competitors (what Miklo does) in all of these the cycle of violence and status quo continues and nothing changes as those who own the prison stay on top and those who rise in the prison are still prisoners who are never given the chance to grow beyond what they were as even outside of prison people use them for being ex-cons so they can never have a real career.

Agency and Power – Agency and power are huge. Miklo’s story is fighting for his and what he sees as Chicano agency, just like Montana is trying the same thing by banding together against the Aryan Vanguard. Not many people have agency in this outside of the those who already have power (many of the white characters in the prison) and it is only by fighting back than any of the other characters get agency, including Paco who has to fight for himself to stay on the case for taking out La Onda and the drug trade. Those who were not born with power due to color of skin, circumstances or other have that much more to fight for in order to gain power due to their lack of agency. It is really well done.

Honor and Hate – There are a lot of twisted forms of honor in this as “Blood In Blood Out” is the philosophy of La Onda and it is self-destructive as their never room for healing, growth or compromise which is why when Montana as the leader tries to do something different the very philosophy of the gang is what leads to his end. Cruz is also first to get over his self hatred at being paralyzed and his time with drugs and he is able to help Paco begin healing past his regret for the car crash and his relationship and actions towards Miklo and Cruz. Hate is shown as something to grow past as it is the hate between the gangs that leads to nothing but death and the death of the relationship between Paco and Miklo.

Okay: Cinematography – It’s very 90’s where nothing is really shot in a unique way. You have close-ups and quick action shots with the only memorable cinematic scene being the killings in the prison interspersed with a Day of the Dead celebration.

   This was a powerful action film and one of the best I have watched. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is long as it establishes characters and communities and how the characters fit into those communities. The character arcs are stunning and no character is unchanged after the film. The themes of agency and power are also extremely well done and I found myself caring about all 3 of the main character and their struggles and choices they had to make as they sought healing and dignity in a world that denied them it. Suffice to say, I highly recommend it.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 1, 14-15 – “Rise of the Shadow Collective Arc” – The 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars

Epguide501

   Well, Darth Maul is cool again. This entire arc establishes why he became the Master in his and Savage’s relationship and we see him tactfully use others and rise to own and an entire portion of the Galaxy, all while being invisible to the Jedi as being the one behind it all. It is a really solid arc and one of my favorite so far that the show has done.

    “Revival” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Chris Collins who wrote the other two episodes in the arc. “Eminence” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and “Shades of Reason” was directed by Bosco Ng.

     The story involves Darth Maul taking control of Savage and with him plotting to build an army so that they will no longer be drive wholly by revenge but by conquest and power. To this end he attempts to recruit Hondo’s pirates which nearly ends in their death from Obi-Wan until Death Watch rescues them. From there Maul uses Viszla to recruit all the Crime Syndicates to form to the Shadow Collective and finally deals with Viszla himself so that he can own Death Watch and Mandalore as well.

The Pros: Hondo and his Pirates – Hondo is great! When Maul and Savage turn some of his men against them he tantalizes them back by saying that they’ll just take the supplies on Maul’s and Savage’s ship. To this end they turn on the brothers and with Obi-Wan nearly kill them both. Hondo has fun the entire time and respects him men for betraying him for power.

Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan appears in the first episode in the arc and after Jedi Master Gallia is killed he almost defeats the Brothers Maul but is unable to when they make their escape. We see how powerful he is in this though as he holds off them both and manages to recruit Hondo against them too.

Death Watch – Death Watch is great! From Bo-Katan and Viszla’s quest for power and conquest of Mandalore following Maul’s plan in witch the gangs cause problems and Death Watch saves the people, leading to their taking over Mandalore and arresting Satine to Death Watch coming under control of Maul when he defeats Viszla in single combat. This organization is awesome.

Pre Viszla – This man is a nationalist and had no dreams of conquest, he just wanted to bring back the warrior culture to Mandalore. It is for this reason he arrests the Brothers Maul since Maul wants to conquer the Neutral worlds. He dies with honor in the end as Maul defeats him, though his legacy lives on as Death Watch and the culture of Death Watch now rules Mandalore. Jon Favreau was great as this character.

Bo-Katan – Katee Sackhoff rocks as the Second of Viszla’s who fights on after the Brothers Maul take over. She is a Mandalore patriot and Nationalist and believes only a Mandalorian should rule Mandalore.

Rise to Power – Maul and Savage’s rise to power is really cool. They kill the leaders of the gangs with Death Watch and establish control and then use those resources to fund Death Watch. It’s really well done and Darth Maul is calm and collected the entire time throughout it.

Darth Maul and Savage Opress – Maul is the Master with Opress as the apprentice and we see together they are unstoppable after their failure to get Hondo’s pirates. Maul has learned patience and through it we see him use the greed of the Syndicates and the pride of Death Watch to make them his and make him ruler of the 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars, The Shadow Collective. In the end he places Almec in charge as the face of Mandalore as he made the deal with him in prison and he was a man, unlike Viszla and Satine, who could be used.

Okay: The Gangs – The gangs have great designs but we don’t really see what the Pykes and Black Suns are doing before they are recruited. The Hutts get the most exploration as they were already explored pretty heavily already and they put up the greatest fight before becoming part of the Shadow Collective.

This was a fantastic arc and even though I don’t like that Darth Maul was brought back, I appreciate this story and I think it was one of the best to come out of the Clone Wars. The Shadow Collective is a perfect Sith Tool and I can’t wait to see how Dooku and Sidious deal with the new threat to their end game and plans.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985): Power Plays and Safeguarding the Future

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

      “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was enjoyable but not great. I think a big reason for this is there isn’t a clear antagonist a lot of the time, way too many child actors which changes the tone and takes a lot of the dark out, which this film has. The Feral Children even don’t fully feel like Feral Children. They speak like they had an education, these are some of the things that took me out of it, even though Rossitti’s, Turner’s and Gibson’s performances are phenomenal and the story is enjoyable for what it is.

The film was directed, produced and written by George Miller and also directed by George Ogilvie and also written by Terry Hayes.

The story involves Max’s (Mel Gibson) arrival in Bartertown searching for his stolen supplies fifteen years after the defeat of Lord Humungus. From here he is pulled into the power struggle for control of the town between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto). He is asked to kill Master’s bodyguard Blaster (Paul Larsson) but after being asked to kill him in the ring and learning that Blaster is mentally handicapped he calls out Aunty Entity and is kicked out of Bartertown where he ends up with a tribe of Feral Kids looking for a Messiah and must stop their delusions and save Master and Blaster from Aunty Entity.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a power struggle in a post-apocalyptic town that an outsider is pulled into is a cool one. I also like that the antagonists aren’t wholly good or evil. They are each despots in their own way and both have a sympathetic aspect to them which helps drive the story.

The Power Struggle – I really liked the power struggle between Master and Aunty Entity. They are both compelling characters with Master being a small person who is best friends with a mentally handicapped man who is super strong who is his protector and helped him build the machines that provide energy to Bartertown, and there is Aunty Entity who controls the trade and is the law of the town and wrote the strange rules that govern the location and keep the populace sated in their blood lust. She wants Blaster taken out and Max almost fulfills it until he sees that Blaster was never evil nor Master wholly bad which leads to his exile as Aunty Entity takes over.

The Action – The action of course is fantastic! The most memorable action being the chase at the end where Aunt Entity’s forces are chasing Master, the Feral Children and Max who are on a train as they attempt to surround it and take it out and later when all except Max make it onto a plane and Max once again takes on the hoard giving the good characters time to escape and make a future.

The Characters – I liked the characters in “The Road Warrior” more, partially because they were just so much more compelling to see and there was more you could read into them. Here is is pretty concrete and depends too much on tropes, especially with the Feral Children not speaking like Children which took me out, besides the child actors, I did enjoy the characters.

The Collector – The Collector is the first we meet and he lets Max meet Aunty Entity after Max proves how dangerous he is. He is the one who measures and trades and is a slimy character. He is also connected to everyone in the town making him dangerous. We don’t truly see how dangerous though as Master and Aunty Entity take over once they are introduced. Frank Thring is great.

Blaster – Blaster is threatening and scary as long as you don’t see his face, but once his helmet is knocked off he is the most lovable character in the film and you see how deeply his friendship with Master runs as Master holds him when he is knocked out. He protects the kids too and has affection for Max for sparing his life. Paul Larsson is wonderful in this role.

Aunty Entity – Tina Turner owns this role and I wish she’d been given more to do than just lay down the law. She is in the final chase sequence but isn’t very smart as she unattaches the cart too early and Max rescues Master from her. She is honorable though and spares Max’s life as well as never actually killing him. She exiles him when he disobeys the laws of Thunderdome and she never kills Master as she wants to provide the energy so her people can live better. She is someone who was nothing before the apocalypse, but made the most of it to become the leader and ruler of Bartertown. She is the potential that exists in the new world, but also shows the ability of power to corrupt.

Master – Angelo Rossitto plays a character who is both bully and victim. We see him as a bully when he cuts the power before the attempt to kill Blaster by Max and later on we see him cradle Blaster and work with him in protecting the Feral children. He also salutes Max at the end for rescuing him. He is one of the brightest minds but he doesn’t do as much in his own escape as I would have liked. Gyro Captain used his machine a lot in the battle, while Master doesn’t use the Methane Factory much at all against Aunty Entity’s men.

Max – Mel Gibson is back and has “Braveheart” hair. When he arrives he is looking for the camels and supplies the Pilot stole from him but he is soon sidetracked when Aunty Entity hires him to take out Blaster. He succeeds but doesn’t kill Blaster and reveals her plan leading to his exile. From here he guides the kids out of their worship of the dead Boeing 747 pilot and through his fighting for them helps them bring about a better world, as Savannah the leader of the tribe mentions at the end. In this way his arc is similar to the arc “The Road Warrior” but with much less loss. Still great, but I hoped his character would change more. Maybe part of his point is his disconnect from others and sacrifice because he can’t live in any society? After watching more of the Franchise I’ll do an analysis of Max, might have to wait for the films after “Fury Road” though, no idea how that film and the future films will change him, if at all.

The Message – The message is safeguarding the future by dealing with the reality of people. The kids were the few good people left so Max risked everything to protect them, and with Master no longer being a bully they had a good person to guide them towards a new future. In this way he safeguards the future that the narrator and leader of the tribe expresses to us at the end. No matter how horrible the world may look, there are those worth saving who can make it better, and those people exist in each new generation.

Okay: The Ending – The action is great but their escape is too easy. The pilot who stole from Max has little to no reason to help them beyond survival and he changes from a selfish father to someone willing to risk everything for strangers. It struck me as too inconvienent and felt Spielbergian not like George Miller. Too whimsical and not enough crazy.

The Cons: The Feral Children – The Feral Children didn’t work. The idea of them worshipping a pilot who would return was cool and interesting but they didn’t talk like children. The Feral Child from “The Road Warrior” only barked, grunted and howled and it was only after he found civilization in the North that he could speak. This clashed with that, they felt fake and didn’t seem wild at all. The fact that none of them died also took me out, it just made Aunty Entity weak, especially after how the Humungus killed most of the cast from the last film.

The Pilot – He functions more as a plot device and is a different character from the Gyro Captain even though it is still Spence who played the Gyro Captain. He only exists so our heroes can make their escape. He is “The Eagles” of the Tolkienverse in this film and I wish they’d had a way to depend on their brains and working together to get out, especially since Master is supposed to be one of the most brilliant minds in this Universe.

The Tone – I really liked the dark tone that the movies have had, this one had moments of it but felt like a Spielberg film the moment we ran into the Feral Children Tribe as they were protected from all damage by virtue of them being kids and nothing bad happens to them. It took all the risk out of it and made it more of a family film, which clashed with the insanity, brothels and mortality of Bartertown.

This was a really fun film, though I have issues with how the Feral Children were handled and the tone though the power struggle and the main characters really carry the film for me. It is enjoyable and I would recommend this film, it was a lot of fun and though I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked “The Road Warrior” it is a fun different direction the series went in, even if I don’t like the direction (less death more child actors)…the world is still amazing. I am looking forward to “Fury Road.”

Final Score: 7 / 10

The Master (2012): A Critique of Cults and an Exploration of an Anarchistic and Tyrannical Mind

The Master 2012

      This film was a trip, but I would not expect any less from Paul Thomas Anderson. He is one of those writers and directors who have really good quality films but none of them are really favorites. I think a big reason for this is the actors do a great job but the characters they inhabit are so horrible it is hard to have sympathy for the plights they face. This is very true of this film as well where we follow a Cult Leader and Drunk as the primary characters of the narrative.

   “The Master,” was directed, written and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson with the other producers being JoAnne Seller, Daniel Lupi and Megan Ellison.

     The story follows Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who is a drunk drifter who makes special liquor with paint thinner as he alienates every environment after World War 2 ends. He starts out as a photographer, loses the job after he fights a client, a laborer until he accidentally poisons an old man and ends up hopping on the boat that the Cult Leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is on. From here is taken in by “The Cause” as he tries to be a part of it while dealing with his rebellion against any form of authority over him as the drama of the Cult unfolds through the story.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful. There are elements of 50’s Jazz and the instrumentals are great as well. It really captures the desolation of the characters too and how they all feel alone.  Jonny Greenwood did a good job.

The Cinematography – The movie was filmed in 70mm which ended up giving it some great wide shots and making the film feel large, even if most of the seasons were very personal scenes. It allowed glimpses into the characters’ minds. Mihai Malaimare jr. did great work.

The Themes – The big themes of it are that power corrupts (The Master Lancaster is always using people to his own end and ego), humans have a need for leaders and are lost without them (the drifter Freddie never changes and never finds purpose except when he was taking photos with “The Cause”), and to not believe those who claim things that cannot be proven (The most reasonable characters are those that are yelled at by Lancaster or beaten up by Freddie for questioning Lancaster Dodd).

The Message – There are few messages that the themes explored. The human need for authority and how those in authority, especially religious authority often use it to their own ends and that authority unchecked is dangerous. Within this is the theme that authority should be questioned, especially when it makes claims it cannot prove. There is also the importance of direction as Freddie has none and never finds peace which seems to be something he’s trying to find throughout the film.

The Actors – Amy Adams does a great job playing the manipulative “girl next door” type character, Hoffman was masterful as the demagogue who had a calm confidence that was lost whenever he was questioned and Phoenix played the drifter really well as he contorted his body and murmured every line like he wasn’t ever fully present in anything. These performances were great, but I couldn’t stand the characters.

The Cons: The Characters – The Master and his family are only out for themselves and believe they are saving the world and are therefore entitled to others wealth. You see this constantly in how they turn on those who question their claims and try to shout over them rather than answering the questions. They claim science without actually using it. Freddie isn’t any better as he is always picking fights, poisoning himself and others and never committing to anything. He is the drifter in a nutshell in the worst way as he never grows and has no arc. He like the Master is the same person he was when they met. Because I couldn’t like any of the characters it’s a major con for me as characters are what keep me interested in the story and caring about what happens.

     Paul Thomas Anderson is a director whose movies may grow on me with time. For now though, the unlikability of his characters is a major con that keeps his films I have watched (including this one) from being favorites. It was good, it was well made,had relevant and great themes that were shown and not told, well filmed and acted…but if I’m not invested in the characters than I’m not invested enough in the plot and what happens to the characters. This is a major problem for me and what made the film good and not great.

Final Score: 8 / 10.

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Lonnigan, Texas” – Exploration of Power

Lonnigan Texas Carnivale

Pastor Justin Crowe is my favorite character in the show at this point, after him probably Samson or Lodz as far as how complex and compelling they are. This episode really illustrated why for me in regards to Justin. He’s a character who has crossed through Hell and come out of it changed with a new discovery of his power. This episode is about his using that discovery to find out more about what his power is and means. Can’t say the same for Ben…

The episode was directed by Scott Winant and written by Daniel Knauf.

The premise starts out with after his suicide attempt Justin has been put into an Insane Asylum where after all the treatments, he begins to discover what he is capable of and his place in the world. This is contrasted by Ben who is asked to go into town to pick up someone for an act. There are also the mini-stories of Stumpy trying to hook up Jonesy with his wife and his wife trying to get Sofie into dancing because she’s seeing how it makes her daughter happy. These are the stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Asylum – The asylum scenes are some of the best. From seeing the torture they put Justin through to when he is able to correct the Doctor’s work and put words on the page as well as shaping the minds of the insane around him…from silencing a man who cannot be quite. The scenes are chilling because he’s embraced the supernatural in his nature.

Justin Crowe – God, this character is awesome! I’ve already described some of the events and now he has self awareness of the world and their looking for him and their belief in his mission of helping the poor. If that mission has changed remains to be seen but he found his belief in God and his own power making him the most compelling character on the show.

Mother and Daughter Relationships – This episode had a lot mother and daughter relationships…from Libby and her Mom for the dancers, from Sofie and her Mom for the card readers. In both we learn that Libby’s mom rebelled against her mom which is why she went into dancing and Libby has been protesting against her because she thought she was hustling Sofie. We also see Sofie do one show until someone grabs at her and we realize she’d done for the same reason Libby’s mother Rita Sue. We also see Rita was doing it to make Libby happy and to feel her own whole of her daughter’s murder. Babylon changed things.

The Knights Templar – The one noteworthy thing that happens to Ben is another Carnie owner Phineas who has a ring that is tied to it that sparks a flashback leading to Ben to still the ring. This leads to us seeing Phineas and Samson have a relationship even though their rivals and that their is a Carnie honor code. What all this means remains to be played out. Is Phineas part of the order? What does the order mean in the mythology of the being darkness and being of light? How does it tie to Scudder?

Jonesy and Rita – Jonesy has a sweet moment with Rita where she treats him with kindness and tenderness when he sleeps with her and he does too. This is contrasted by her husband who cares nothing for her. This is a big part on why she tells Sofie, “I wish I had someone who cared half as much for me, as he (Jonesy) cares for you.”

The Cons: The Drive – I get this is the depression and it’s supposed to be bleak and depressing but Ben being lied to by folks and us seeing he escaped for a chain gang and is wanted feels unneeded right now. Ben has got to start acting like Justin and finding answers or else we have no reason to care about him.

Another great episode that is worth a watch, but with problems like before. It was slightly better than the “The River” though, mostly because the side character stories are really good and having more time with Justin is gold.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 2 – “After the Ball is Over” – Hidden Demons

After the Ball is Over

“After the Ball is Over” goes into more behind the mysterious Carnival and also the growing power of Pastor Crowe as well as the demons he himself seems to be wrestling with. It’s a powerful story that reveals a lot about the surrounding and core characters.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauff and Ronald Moore and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.

The story begins with Ben being asked to clean out a mysterious carriage, which he finds out later never existed. It is there he finds a picture of his mother which leads to greater events unfolding in the Carnival. At the same time Pastor Crowe has set his eyes on making the Dancing and Prostitution house the new home for his growing parish and takes action that reveals the owner’s sins to them both. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Opening Vision/Dream – All the Shepherds are at a cafe and Crowe and Hawkins sit next to one another. The manager says something cryptic to them causing them to wake up. The dream establishes them, possibly her and the other person their as people of power which leads more to be discovered later. It was very Ronald Moore and reminded me of the Opera House Visions in “Battlestar Galactica.”

Pastor Justin Crowe – Crowe has the owner come to him and shows him how he used the front of the dancing and prostitution to molest boys. They face this truth together which leads the owner to giving the place to Crowe for his church and killing himself right after. We later see Crowe whipping himself in penance for leading to a man’s suicide…as we see his guilt at forcing the man to confront his evil did to him.

Ben Hawkins – Ben is the investigator this episode. When Samson says he doesn’t know the woman he later meets Ruthie after helping her get what she needs for her act. She tells him that the women fell in love with a crazy man named Scudder who is the man haunting his dreams. The blind seer says that Scudder is still alive and he finds out later both Scudder and his mother were involved with the Carnival.

Professor Lodz – Has a conversation with Samson about how he used to be in good graces with Management but how everything changed after Missouri. We see that he loved Apollonia but that she hates him. He sees the danger in Hawkins which Management seems to be aware of but going along with, for what purpose remains to be seen. He is a fascinating character who we see glimpse Hawkin’s dreams in the Pilot episode. Patrick Bauchau does a great job.

The Apollonia Scene – She awakens this episode and goes to Ben Hawkins. She is there to warn him but collapses and everyone awakes thinking he is the one who tried to steal her until Samson says that things are changing, and not for the better.

Samson – Samson has an idea that things are going bad, but for now is watching to see just how badly they unfold. He’s a practical guy so I wonder what action he’ll take in the end in regards to Ben Hawkins and the characters like Lodz who hate and fear him.

This was a solidly great episode and a must see. We learn more about Ben’s mysterious past, learn more about the Carnival, see Justin Crowe’s power in action again and also the demons he holds within. Demons were the theme as Scudder represents that in Ben’s dream and in how he is feared for his actions he did in the Carnival. More on what those actions were I expect to be revealed later.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10