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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e13 – The Passion of Sabrina Spellman

Big development this episode… Satan, Lucifer, the Dark Lord, et cetera, is an active character. He appears as a goat-headed demon and whoever does the voice isn’t credited (whoever’s doing it isn’t the right casting) and He wants to get Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) to do his bidding. Not because He needs her to do His bidding for any particular reason, but because Michelle Gomez bets Him Shipka’s not really a bad girl and the Devil needs Shipka to be a bad girl for His future plans for her. She’s going to be His herald when the gates of Hell open, which is either in continuity with the Sabrina comic or the Afterlife with Archie comic. Or both. But I think the former.

So while the Devil is trying to tempt Shipka to misbehave and she’s trying to resist, He starts messing with the people around her, just like she worried… last episode. Things happen pretty fast between last episode and this one, with Ross Lynch and Jaz Sinclair basically ready to get busy if only Lynch would break it off with Shipka, which does seem to end up happening this episode, but more to get Shipka ready to pursue things with warlock Gavin Leatherwood. Sinclair fairly ingloriously disappears this episode, which also has Shipka returning to Baxter High as a student. Just in time to watch Sinclair and Lynch practice Romeo and Juliet while she’s stuck with bully jock Ty Wood. Wood should be sympathetic as the show has previously suggested he was raped in summer camp years earlier by other boys and his parents beat him to shut up about it but… well, somehow the show manages to make him still unsympathetic.

Like, he’s unsympathetic to the point when he gets his graphic, gory comeuppance… they could’ve held the shot a little longer. Would’ve been fine.

Meanwhile, Shipka’s still doing evening classes at witch academy, where Richard Coyle has tasked Miranda Otto to direct the annual performance of The Passion of Lucifer Morningstar, which turns out to be a terribly written play and the scenes with everyone congratulating the kids over a shitty school play is some real talk. Leatherwood’s the lead, Shipka’s the understudy for the female part—Lilith, you know, Michelle Gomez only back in biblical times—and the Devil thinks Shipka should have the main female part.

Also Miranda Otto has to deal with the other teachers at the academy being catty to her, which gives Otto some great material but it eventually turns out to be Gomez’s episode. Especially given Coyle’s adaptation of the Satanic Bible story has been updated to be misogynist and reduce Lilith to a subservient position because Coyle’s a shitty guy. Gomez gets to watch the play and her silent performance is phenomenal stuff. So good.

“Sabrina” is basically Gomez’s show at this point.

It’s a fairly good episode, with Lynch’s teenage cruelties to Shipka a little weird all things (like Coyle’s misogyny, not to mention him slut-shaming when she decides it’s not the right time for them to have sex for the first time) considered. Lynch has been a sympathetic character to this point, but he’s quickly—and effectively—doing a one eighty on it.

I’m very curious what happens next episode as pretty much everything outstanding has been tied up here; “Sabrina”’s got no patience for its B and C plots. Kind of like how Shipka can’t make it though an episode without magicking something better without thinking about the repercussions of her magicking.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e07 – Dethroned

Based on his interviews this episode, it appears Jeff Lowe spent years getting Joe Exotic more and more enraged over Carole Baskin so at some point Lowe would be able to convince Exotic to hire someone to kill her. Possibly even just Allen Glover. Both “Doc” Antle and Joshua Dial think Joe was set up. Lowe attests he did mean to encourage Joe to do it, which isn’t a crime apparently.

A number of people find it highly suspicious the government let Lowe and Glover go, including reporter Sylvia Corkill. Meanwhile federal prosecutor Amanda Green cooperates with the filmmakers so much she performs some of her closing arguments at Joe’s trial for them?

Except they didn’t just get Joe on trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, they got him on violating the endangered species act because it turns out Joe killed five tigers at some point. It really pissed off the zoo employees at the time, which means directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin maybe knew about it and decided to just keep it quiet for best effect later.

The jury finds Joe guilty and he’s sentence to twenty-two years. Once instead he decides to sell all the big cat owners he knows out to PETA, which is good. There’s a card at the end about how “Doc” Antle got raided; Joe says Antle has a gas chamber to get rid of the aging tiger cubs, so, you know, fuck him.

Despite “investigating” her for murder, “Tiger King” gives Carole Baskin a positive send-off. Her husband comes off like a tool but whatever.

And things don’t go well for Jeff Lowe. He screws over major creep Tim Stark leaving him without a zoo partner, which really just screws over the tigers. No one really gives a shit about the 200 tigers Joe Exotic had in his zoo. Given one of the interviewees even brings it up, you’d think it’d get some attention but no.

Rick Kirkham plays victim again, says how bad he felt showcasing an abusive-to-animals Joe Exotic and making him appear loving, which doesn’t track with his previous interviews or the other footage of him….

As for Exotic, there’s at least some footage showing he’s aware of the damage he’s done to the animals.

Oh, and James Garretson playing himself as the hero in the whole thing is ick.

“Tiger King” is extremely compelling and ultimately distressing.

I don’t think I want to see a movie of it, even with a dream cast. It’s too much, too sad.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e06 – The Noble Thing to Do

So now we’ve got the downfall of Joe Exotic, promised in the first episode, the pieces not aligned until now.

Businesses undefined businessman Jeff Lowe has returned to Oklahoma after basically getting run out of Las Vegas to discover Joe has been forging his name on multiple documents in addition to using zoo money on his presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Like, campaign manager Joshua Dial is obviously on the premises all the time, clearly Joe wasn’t hiding it too much.

So after hearing the Feds are investigating Joe Exotic and now the embezzling, it’s time for Joe to go. Somehow he has enough time to burn all the documents showing his fraud and all the computers, plus sell a bunch of the animals for cash, and run off with new husband Dillon Passage and at least one cub. Joe’s on the lamb. From what, no one knows yet.

Except James Garretson, strip club owner, who’s helping the Feds investigate Joe Exotic. See, James knows how Jeff Lowe and Joe Exotic planned to have Carole Baskin killed. Or something. Jeff Lowe talks about it a lot, so he’s clearly not worried about being prosecuted—he was the only one who could use Google Maps—but then again, maybe it’s just the deal Jeff made because after James turns CI and sells out Allen Glover (prison Nazi maybe Allen Glover so he’s completely unsympathetic), Jeff Lowe wants to rat out Joe Exotic too. Everyone wants to drop the dime on Joe Exotic.

A lot of it is low-key homophobic. Something about the way Glover and James talk about Joe and the husbands… plus last episode established Lowe’s a bigot too.

But, wait, given the show plays so fast and loose with its interview timelines and whether or not interviewees are alive or dead… did Glover kill Carole Baskin? Nope, he took Joe Exotic’s money and got high and didn’t do it and can’t remember anything, which sounds like absolute nonsense but then… what’s Glover going to admit on camera.

The episode ends with Joe in prison, whining, and one hoping local news reporter Sylvia Corkill, who covered a lot of Joe Exotic news, gets to write a book about it at least.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e12 – The Epiphany

It’s a new year for “Chilling Adventures,” literally, with the episode picking up after winter break as Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has decided she’ll no longer be attending Baxter High and going to witch academy full-time. New Baxter High principal and actual Biblical figure (albeit unbeknownst to Shipka) Michelle Gomez approves the move, Zelda (Miranda Otto) is indifferent but supportive of the move because she’s high on being a new faculty member at the academy (not to mention her naughty time with newly and indifferently widowed high priest Richard Coyle), but Hilda (Lucy Davis) really thinks Shipka should be hanging out with her mortal friends to get some grounding.

Only Shipka’s intentionally avoiding them because she’s terrified the Dark Lord is going to call on her to do his bidding and it’ll somehow hurt the mortals if she’s around them. Great scene for Shipka and Davis; it’s the first time in what seems like forever we’re getting back to Shipka’s perspective.

The main plot is Shipka competing against kind of too good to be true warlock slash love interest Gavin Leatherwood to be the academy’s “top boy,” which is only gendered because Coyle is misogynist trash. They have to compete in three challenges and Shipka’s got a lot of studying to do for them, but that studying always gets interrupted by one of the Plague Kings trying to kill her.

The Plague Kings are a big misfire, both in terms of foes—Shipka just needs to use regular magic on them to get rid of them, which doesn’t make them seem tough, just inconvenient given circumstances—the costume and make-up design is terrible (they’re all in pseudo-trenchcoats, looking like something from a mid-nineties action movie), and the acting is… not good. Nelson Leis has the most to do as Beelzebub and he’s terrible.

Someone on “Sabrina” must’ve read Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben… there’s good ideas out there for visualizing these guys… just saying.

The other big plot is Lachlan Watson’s character, assigned at birth as female, identified as enby (and ok with AFAB given designation) transitioning to male. It’s a great moment for Watson, though Sinclair immediately misgendering him is a bit of jaw-dropper. Like, I get it, show how people are human and are going to make mistakes because their brains misfire or whatever, but it’s pretty harsh.

Later, when explaining it all to Ross Lynch, Sinclair’s got it down. But then that explanation just turns out to be prelude to her accidentally using the Shining on Lynch and discovering they’re going to get hot and heavy in the future.

Watson also tries out for the basketball team—with Madame Satan Gomez telling the sexist basketball coach what’s up in a way you hope she eventually eats him—and Shipka magicks Watson’s abilities so she shows up the other boys, which maybe isn’t going to go well in the future but Shipka doesn’t seem to be thinking about it.

It’s a good episode, Plague Kings aside, with one hell of a cliffhanger.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e05 – Make America Exotic Again

So, luckily, businessman Jeff Lowe beating tigers at the end of last episode was just a horrifying teaser not the actual content of this episode. In fact, Lowe doesn’t hit a single animal in this episode. They don’t even use the footage again. And the ominous “Jeff Lowe takeover” of the zoo… it wasn’t as immediate as last episode implied. I’d be very curious to see how Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode would have presented this story in a three hour piece; there’s so much information they withhold for effect; master manipulation.

For example, the reason we don’t see anything of Joe’s newest husband, Travis Maldonado? Because he’s dead. He killed himself. Possibly accidentally, possibly not, in front of Joe Exotic’s campaign manager, Joshua Dial. Campaign manager for what? President.

See, back when Lowe took over the park and did things like open the “watch the cats” pizza parlor (with the pizza made from spoiled Walmart ingredients), Joe Exotic also got the idea to run for President. His wacky campaign ads made it national on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and got Joe enough attention he was able to get a campaign manager, Dial. Also from Walmart. Dial ran the ammo counter.

Around the same time husband John Finlay knocks up the desk clerk at the zoo and they run off together because, turns out, Finlay wasn’t gay all those years—no one on the show seems familiar with the concept of bisexuality; anyway, the reason Finlay stuck with Joe Exotic was because of meth. Joe kept him high all those years. Once the presidential campaign goes bust, then the subsequent governor one, Joe Exotic starts getting really nasty with everyone. He can’t stand Jeff Lowe’s point-man in the zoo, Allen Glover, for instance. There’s also a sequence where Joe shoots at the tigers (because they’re annoying him). It’s very uncool and disturbingly presented.

So after Travis dies, Joe’s even more upset, leading to him marrying another nineteen year-old two months later—Dillon Passage. Dillon doesn’t get the same kind of interviews as everyone else because we’re getting close to the present and Chaiklin and Goode are sort of done manipulating the viewer with clips from different time periods. See, this episode is where everything catches up to Joe Exotic and he’s arrested. Why? We don’t know, just the Feds are after him, which Jeff Lowe finds out because the bank tells him.

It’s a really interesting episode, but it’s also a cheaply played one. There’s actual footage of Travis killing himself—or at least of Dial witnessing it—and they cut it for exploitative effect. It’s actually surprising they don’t put music over it.

The Irishman (2019, Martin Scorsese)

The disconcerting part of The Irishman’s actually never-ending CGI isn’t the aging and de-aging, it’s star Robert De Niro’s creepy blue eyes. For the first half hour of the (three and a half hour runtime), I was trying to get used to De Niro’s CGI… makeup, but kept having problems with it, which didn’t make sense because Joe Pesci’s didn’t cause any similar consternation. Then I realized it wasn’t the aging or de-aging, it’s the eyes. De Niro’s got these piercing blue eyes and they just don’t look right on him and you can’t look away from them, which is kind of the point.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul… well, with The Irishman, Scorsese and De Niro have figured out how to do a character study without ever letting anyone into the character. De Niro’s character, real-life teamster and confessed mob hitman Frank Sheeran, starts the film as an aimless, aging truck driver. He breaks down and happens to meet local mobster Joe Pesci, which pays off after De Niro’s gotten busted for stealing from his company—selling beef on the side to a fantastic Bobby Cannavale, apparently mid-level Philadelphia mob guy. De Niro keeps his mouth shut in court, impressing lawyer Ray Romano (also fantastic, clearly a lot of people wanted their chance to shine in the ultimate Scorsese mob picture), so Romano re-introduces him to Pesci and Pesci starts giving him work. Pesci’s playing older than De Niro (the real-life age difference was seventeen years), but the actors are the same age and so they’re in differing intensities of CGI de-aging. There is an onboarding period with The Irishman, when you’re wondering what it must have looked like on the set, with actors like Romano and Cannavale, seemingly just in some make-up, are acting opposite much older guys De Niro and Pesci, who don’t end up looking much older. Like, once it’s clear De Niro’s supposed to look like a tough Irish guy, explaining his stocky shoulders, it all just fits. All just works. It ceases being a concern and actually ends up being one of the film’s unintended pluses. The Irishman is all about aging. It’s all about the passage of time. Just not for the first act and then there’s this intentional avoiding of it for a lot of the second. It’s a long movie; Scorsese can take his time shifting the film’s tone.

But it’s also a multilevel narrative—De Niro, in a rest home, is telling his story, a very old man. Second level is De Niro telling the story of this time he and Pesci and their wives drove from Philadelphia to Detroit for a wedding. Along the way, sometimes because of visual cues, sometimes not, De Niro thinks about his story getting him to that point. We don’t find out the point of that point until much later in the film, after it’s transitioned from the middle-aged schlub (the main action starts when De Niro’s character is in his thirties but he looks much older) gets involved with the mob and tosses out wife Aleksa Palladino for cocktail waitress Stephanie Kurtzuba, which literally has no narrative impact because De Niro’s already estranged daughters immediately bond with the new wife. It ought not to work, but does because the film’s still establishing its narrative distance from De Niro. It’s not until about halfway through the movie you realize he’s not a protagonist. He’s an unreliable, willing but unenthusiastic narrator—it’s clear real quick these trips down memory lane aren’t pleasing to De Niro, at any level he’s narrating. Because once the film introduces Jimmy Hoffa everything changes. Al Pacino plays Hoffa; doing it like a comedy caricature, then making that real—the yelling finally pays off, thanks to Scorsese. The film’s already been this old mob men buddy picture between De Niro and Pesci moves on to be this De Niro and Pacino buddy flick. They hang out with their families, they have heart to heart talks, De Niro even sleeps in Pacino’s hotel suites so he’s not on the register because De Niro’s not just a teamster, he’s Pacino’s bodyguard.

The family thing is important because The Irishman’s only subplot is De Niro’s daughter, Lucy Gallina as a kid, Anna Paquin as an adult. Gallina figures out pretty quick once her dad goes from being a meat delivery truck driver to a mob hitman. It isn’t until he starts hanging out with Pacino does Gallina start liking anything about her dad’s life. She and Pacino are pals. He’s a dotting grandpa figure who buys her ice cream sundaes. Pacino and the ice cream sundaes becomes a nice detail fast.

The family thing gets important again in the third act, after the disappearance. Because at the end of all three levels of story are the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The third level, the main narrative, tracks De Niro basically babysitting Pacino through historical events, through the Kennedy administration’s persecution—causing a rift between the mob and the unions (the film does need some kind of a historical accuracy section in the credits just so people know how much of the completely whacked out corruption details are true), which eventually leads to Pacino’s feud with dipshit mobster and rival teamster boss Stephen Graham. Graham’s going to be Pacino’s downfall, no matter what Pesci, De Niro, or anyone else do about it. And it’s a long, drawn out, unpleasant downfall.

Because the closest thing The Irishman has to a hero is Pacino’s Hoffa. He’s far from perfect, but he does help people. If the sixties union speeches about the soulless corporations are accurate, well, would you believe things haven’t really improved in sixty years? Oh, right, we already know that.

Of course, he’s not a hero because there aren’t such a thing. There can’t be. If heroes were such a thing, guys like Pesci and De Niro wouldn’t know how to function. It would mean their world views were abjectly broken and, even if Pesci and De Niro aren’t great fans of the world… broken’s a lot.

That thread plays out later on when The Irishman ends on a starkly atheistic note, which makes perfect sense but is a little surprising. At one point, once it’s clear where they’re going, I actually thought, “we’re a long way from Last Temptation, aren’t we.” The Irishman is a perfectly aged film; it’s cumulative for its creators in all the right ways. Having Pacino do a character actor part is just the crowning achievement. For two hours and forty five minutes of the film, it’s very clearly not De Niro’s, which is weird. It seems like it’s De Niro’s. It’s literally got a Little Big Man bookend; The Irishman has got to be this great culmination. Then isn’t.

And it’s not De Niro’s movie for a long time either. It’s Pesci’s or Pacino’s or even Romano’s; De Niro costars in every one of his scenes, even the ones with Gallina and Paquin, which is something since neither of them talk for most of their scenes. De Niro’s the right hand man, even in his own story.

The last thirty minutes changes it all around and is where Irishman sort of ascends the stairs it wasn’t clear anyone was building. Once it’s clear how The Irishman’s going to go… it’s an ultimate trip.

The film goes from being a success to an achievement, with Scorsese’s direction this perfect mix of confident and enthusiastic. He takes his time establishing the filmmaking ground situation—how he, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (and whoever CGIed locations back in time), editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and composer Robbie Robertson (doing some damn fine work, which turns out to be minimalist Morricone) are going to visualize this narrative—then starts branching out, using slow motion for sequences, using a direct exposition dump or two; it’s all very carefully executed and results in every shot being something of a surprise.

There’s a badass 2001 homage. The aforementioned “ultimate trip” is a reference to it but it deserves a callout. It’s really cool. The Irishman still manages to be really cool filmmaking, even after a 130 minutes. Scorsese’s got the juice.

Strong script from Steven Zaillian. He’s got a habit of dragging things out, which Scorsese and the actors are then able to cut lean and nimble, but it’s a questionable habit. Essential expository character development scenes are essential because of Pacino or Pesci or whatever. Not because of Zaillian.

Best performance is either Pesci or Pacino. It’s a toss-up. Pacino for turning a leading man biopic performance into a supporting part or Pesci for getting so much mileage out of a mundane bad guy. But it’s De Niro’s movie in the end. He gets that amazing finale and makes magic. With those creepy CGI blue eyes.

Supporting tier… Romano and Cannavale are the standouts; once Pacino comes in, they all become a lot less important. Sebastian Maniscalco has a great small part. Graham’s a perfect dipshit, which is good, I guess; don’t get typecast (or do). Domenick Lombardozzi’s got a significant supporting part and is unrecognizable to the point you wonder if there’s some CGI involved. He’s excellent in what’s basically the villain part. Harvey Keitel’s got an extended cameo, presumably just to bring a bunch of the gang back together.

Is The Irishman, which Scorsese would’ve preferred to title, I Heard You Paint Houses, but really should just be called Jimmy and Me (or Relating to a Sociopath), a culmination of all Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci’s mob pictures? Yes and no. It doesn’t make an informal trilogy or quartet, because it’s a do-over. It’s Scorsese figuring out what he wants to say about that thing of theirs, made with properly aged thoughtfulness.

The most striking part of the film is the buddy flick aspect, when it’s just old men De Niro and Pacino pretending to younger old men finding an unexpected friendship. It’s really comfortable work from all involved, even though it seems like where they’d have the most problem. Cracking Pacino and De Niro’s relationship is the film’s (first) big success; basically the first and second act can get away with anything thanks to it. And the second big success, the aforementioned achievement, that one’s the third act.

The Irishman is supplanting work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Scorsese; screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on a book by Charles Brandt; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Robbie Robertson; production designer, Bob Shaw; costume designers, Christopher Peterson and Sandy Powell; produced by Gerald Chamales, Robert De Niro, Randall Emmett, Gabriele Israilovici, Gastón Pavlovich, Jane Rosenthal, Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Irwin Winkler; released by Netflix.

Starring Robert De Niro (Frank Sheeran), Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino), Ray Romano (Bill Bufalino), Bobby Cannavale (Skinny Razor), Stephen Graham (Anthony ‘Tony Pro’ Provenzano), Domenick Lombardozzi (Fat Tony Salerno), Jesse Plemons (Chuckie O’Brien), Gary Basaraba (Frank ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons), Marin Ireland (Older Dolores Sheeran), Anna Paquin (Older Peggy Sheeran), Lucy Gallina (Young Peggy Sheeran), Louis Cancelmi (Sally Bugs), Sebastian Maniscalco (Crazy Joe Gallo), Jake Hoffman (Allen Dorfman), Stephanie Kurtzuba (Irene Sheeran), Welker White (Josephine ‘Jo’ Hoffa), Kathrine Narducci (Carrie Bufalino), Aleksa Palladino (Mary Sheeran), and Harvey Keitel (Angelo Bruno).


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e11 – A Midwinter’s Tale

It’s a Christmas special—or a Winter Solstice special—set before winter break for the teens, which adds to the weirdness because even though Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) said farewell to beau Ross Lynch last episode… turns out they’re still going to the same school. Yes, even though she’s all in on the witch stuff now, Sabrina’s still going to the human high school.

Even though back at the beginning of the series it was assumed if she went all in on the witch stuff she’d just go to witch school. So when she went all in and said her farewells to the humans, you’d think that meant she was changing schools.

But no.

She’s still doing human school during the day and witch school at night. I guess being a witch means you don’t have to sleep? It’s about the only way anything in the show makes sense, twenty-four hours in a day.

The episode’s interesting because it does appear to have been filmed after the first season—so a real holiday special—because Tati Gabrielle’s all of a sudden got a new haircut, which you think Shipka’s going to mention then doesn’t, and the show seems to have realized it didn’t have any phones. There are two ostentatious phone calls this episode.

The initial main plot is Shipka deciding to hold a seance for her mom (a frankly eh Annette Reilly; they really should have stunt-casted the part). Even though everyone tells her not to do it and even though everything Sabrina’s done in the last, say, five episodes has resulted in emotional turmoil and worse for her, her friends, her family, she goes ahead and does it anyway.

And because of the seance, the house gets infected with “Yule lads,” basically invisible gremlins led by witch of some sort maybe Heather Doerksen. Doerksen’s real good.

But the Reilly stuff and Doerksen stuff is all just prologue to Lachlan Watson getting kidnapped by a child-killing demon. Sabrina’s got to save her, with the help of aunts Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, which is pretty cool because seeing Otto kick ass is fun.

There’s some more with Lynch—Shipka uses their temporary holiday reprieve to… poison his father. For a good cause but still… poison his father.

The show really doesn’t seem to know how to do Shipka “out” as a witch to her human friends. All of a sudden Jaz Sinclair and Lynch are just at the house, even though they never went there earlier in the season and Watson didn’t even know Davis by sight. Even though the episode opens with a flashback to she and Shipka as kids going to see Santa.

Did they not have a show bible or did they not share it with all the writers….

There’s also a resolution to Otto’s adoption arc, which might be the biggest red herring of the show so far.

It’s an effective episode—Watson’s the most sympathetic character on the show—but… with some major qualifications.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e04 – Playing with Fire

This episode’s about how awful both Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin turn out to be when it comes to money. Baskin’s won a lawsuit against Joe Exotic and he owes her a cool million. Carole and Howard aren’t doing it to prove a point or to stop Joe from doing his cub petting roadshow, they’re doing it to bleed him dry.

The problem with bleeding Joe Exotic dry is he’s pretty smart about putting everything in other people’s names so it doesn’t seem like he owns anything. And when they do start trying to squeeze that stone… well, it’s just going to hurt Joe’s sweet old mom, who had the zoo in her name or something, which leads to Joe’s mom on the streaming channel talking about how Baskin’s been hounding her.

Again, really want to know how many people watched these streams.

Meanwhile, Rick Kirkham is making his reality show and trying to get Joe Exotic to amp it up. Kirkham doesn’t need to push hard because give Joe the chance, he’ll play mean private zoo boss all on his own.

But all suing Joe Exotic’s going to do is starve the animals and it never seems like Baskin—Howard speaks the most this episode—has any concern for the tigers. When we hear about the settlement Joe Exotic turns down, there’s nothing about what to do with the 200 tigers. You’d think it’d be a story thread to pick up on but the history intervenes. Joe’s new pal, “businessman” Jeff Lowe—you get the feeling people are going to investigate him after this series and he’s going to sue them all—is going to step in and save the zoo. So Joe puts it in Jeff Lowe’s name and Lowe steals it. The cliffhanger is Lowe beating the tigers. It’s swell.

Because the episode’s already upbeat after someone sets fire to Joe’s studio, which is the same building as the alligators and they all die. Kirkham’s footage gets destroyed too. Basically Joe Exotic and company think Kirkham did it, Kirkham thinks Joe Exotic did it.

Kirkham sort of has a better reason for not doing it—without his footage, the reality show is just… but, seriously, he didn’t make backups? In like, 2015 or something. He could have pretty easily made back-ups. It’s a weird screw-up.

But then Kirkham had screwed Joe out of his own Internet streaming show so motive for Joe. The show doesn’t look too hard into it before Lowe shows up to ruin the day.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e10 – The Witching Hour

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Ross Maxwell co-write, sending off of “Sabrina”’s first season, with a deus ex machine of an episode where Michelle Gomez decides she’s been waiting too long for Kiernan Shipka to embrace the Dark Lord and it’s time to get drastic about things. If Gomez can’t sabotage Shipka’s friendships with mortals—in addition to the big action, Shipka also reconciles (enough) with boyfriend Ross Lynch and other friends Jaz Sinclair and Lachlan Watson embrace her immediately upon the big “I’m a Witch” conversation in the high school bathroom.

Incidentally, I don’t think the show’s writers know how to deal with telephones in general. Sinclair and Watson tell Shipka they’ve been calling her all weekend and apparently Shipka just hasn’t been answering… but they’d have to answer the phone at the house because it’s a mortuary and a business. Sure, they eat the bodies in the closed caskets, but it’s still a business.

Anyway, it’s a telling oversight. Same goes for astral projection, which was a huge no no in the first or second episode but now is literally how the witches check in with one another because they don’t have cellphones. Astral projection is the texting of “Sabrina” world.

Gomez brings back thirteen witches to destroy the town; the sequence where she brings them back is the only good use of the digital Vaseline filter in iMovie the series has done (and, sadly, not in all the shots), but it works because Gomez is flipping amazing in the scene. Just awesome.

So the witches are going to protect themselves and let the ghost witches eat the townsfolk and Shipka, along with Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, and Chance Perdomo all decide they’re not going to let the mortals die, causing a rift between various parties. But the scene where Otto decides to play hero is pretty great. And Davis has some very nice stuff this episode, particularly with boss slash love interest Alessandro Juliani, who has been around for a while on the show but hasn’t made much impression apparently because I thought he was Taika Waititi.

Doesn’t matter. Nice stuff this episode.

Lynch and romantic rival Gavin Leatherwood team up to protect Lynch’s drunk-ass dad, while Sinclair and Watson protect Sinclair’s grandmother, L. Scott Caldwell, from the ghost witch attack. Throw in Shipka’s turn to the Dark Side of the Force—relatively speaking—Zelda kidnapping one of Richard Coyle’s newborns, Perdomo joining Coyle’s Jordan Peterson-esque like cult of male students, not to mention Gomez’s big reveal where she lays it all out to her captive audience.

Literally captive audience; she narratives the episode, from the beginning, like every episode is some tale she’s telling to her listener. As the episode progresses, we find out more and more about the listener, but we’re all in it together. Fantastic finish, fully delivering on all the promises of Gomez’s character throughout the season, including expectations from the comic. It’s very good.

In fact, everything’s so good it makes up for Shipka’s wanting arc. Once she gets the proverbial Force Lightning, she stops being the protagonist and becomes the subject of the show. Not a great place for the next season setup, though maybe it’d work better if they hadn’t wasted a couple minutes flashing back through the entire season when Shipka’s got to make her big choice. Instead of let her act the season, they let the clips do it for her. Not a good move.

But otherwise a successful end to a very successful season. Though I do hope they get Shipka back as show lead next season. They didn’t take it away from her—turning it into an ensemble—until the very end of the episode, but they’ve been moving in that direction for a while now. Fingers crossed for next season.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e03 – The Secret

Has Michelle Pfeiffer ever played a femme fatale? I almost want to say no, which will make Tim Burton’s Tigers even better. Because Carole Baskin sure does seem like she killed her second husband, rich guy Don Lewis (it’s unclear how he got rich but they’re in Florida so it doesn’t seem like it was legit), chopped him up in a meat grinder, and fed him to her tigers. Joe Exotic, for one of his country music albums (because of course), made a music video with a Baskin look alike feeding tigers chopped up husband.

Frankly, it’s awesome.

Because nothing Baskin says in the episode ever makes her seem any less guilty. When she says something about achieving her “highest possible self,” you’re not wondering if she chopped him up, you’re wondering if she fed him to the tigers whole. Neat tiger trivia? Their stomach acid is so intense it’ll break down the bones. They don’t shit bone. They wouldn’t have shit any of Don Lewis out.

There’s a lot with Lewis’s first family and ex-assistant. See, Lewis was out cruising one night in the eighties, saw twenty year-old Baskin walking down the street, picked her up, married her immediately following. Because of course. They started getting into the animals, but apparently he didn’t like how much she was spending on the tigers and she was sick of his complaining. There’s some weird stuff with the will, like Baskin had something added to make it easier to declare him dead if he disappeared.

I mean, at least Baskin is using the money for something good… she’s not breeding the tigers, she is rescuing them… at least so far as “Tiger King” has told us so far.

There’s a bunch of stuff with Joe Exotic’s crusade to bring Baskin to justice for the husband’s murder, all from his website. It’s unclear if he was on YouTube or just self-hosted. The show really hasn’t engaged with how popular Exotic is online, though it’s established Baskin’s got clout.

It’s a good true crime episode. The cops look like they really want to say they think Baskin did it but know they shouldn’t.

Making already skeezy reality show producer Rick Kirkham even more skeezy is his enthusiasm recounting how dangerously obsessed Exotic was becoming with Baskin.

It’s a lot. “Tiger King” is a lot and in the most compelling ways.

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