Geek Syndicate Mon, 18 Sep 2017 13:46:52 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 56958805 COMIC REVIEW: The Dark Knight – Master Race Mon, 18 Sep 2017 13:46:52 +0000 A sociopathic cult of Kryptonians proclaim the Earth theirs - can Batman & an aging Justice League in their twilight years stop them?

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Summary: Ray Palmer / The Atom unwittingly releases religious cult of Kryptonians trapped in the miniaturised city of Kandor, who proclaim themselves the new rulers of Earth intent on cleansing the world of all those who won’t kneel before them… all that’s left to stop them are the remnants of a very much broken Justice League.

Following on from Frank Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns” (1986), and it’s sequel, “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” (aka DK2 / DKII – 2001), “The Dark Knight – Master Race” (or DK3 / DKIII as it’s also known) follows many years on in a world where Bruce Wayne is very much presumed dead, and The Batman & Carrie Kelley (his last Robin) have all but disappeared.

The story kicks off with three key storylines forming the central arc: the appearance of the The Batman on the streets of Gotham, but this time fighting the GCPD, the journey of Wonder Woman back to Amazonia with her new-born son (fathered by Superman – who is also missing in self-exile), and the request by Lara (daughter of Wonder Woman / Superman) to Ray Palmer / The Atom, to release the inhabitants of Kandor – the last city of Krypton, miniaturised in a glass capsule – which she finds in a desolate and decrepit Fortress of Solitude.

These three paths intersect with the inhabitants being released, but then being revealed as a cult, bent on ruling their newly found planet, and cleansing the human population of all those who will not yield and proclaim them as their new gods. It’s left to the Batman to re-assemble the Justice League and craft a plan to re-take the world…

I have to confess, I was rather looking forward to this, and devoured it one sitting. The story is a good one, and is littered with the sign of our times, namely religious / cultish indoctrination, the changes in society from generation to generation (I did struggle with some panels that clearly were using Text Speech… guess I am getting old!) – hell, even Trump in all his two-faced glory managed to make an appearance. The plotline is well written – as each member of the JL is brough in (and there are many of them), and they find themselves compromised by the new Kryptonian arrivals, and you are left wondering how they will be overcome, and if anyone will pay the ultimate price (bearing in mind that Miller is not afraid to kill key characters off).

I didn’t “go a bundle” on all of the artwork – some of the contributing artists were not necessarily to my taste. But what is delivered is a very satisfying installment in the Miller DK universe, and I look forward to a DK4 when the time and story are just right…

The Dark Knight – Master Race is available to buy now.

GS Blogger: SilverFox

GS Rating: 4/5


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Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 6 Sat, 16 Sep 2017 11:00:06 +0000 Now we reach our most action oriented episode to date (in spite of not seeing a single Dalek gun fire). However, that also makes it one of the hardest ones to write about.

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The Daleks: The Ordeal

Daleks Ordeal

Now we reach our most action oriented episode to date (in spite of not seeing a single Dalek gun fire)1. However, that also makes it one of the hardest ones to write about, for example there is very little to discuss on the ravine crossing apart from that it is a good looking set piece. Compounded on this is that it seems to be clearly doing some serious blocking for the showdown next week, so it is hard to judge how well much of the action turns out.

The real exception to this, I would say, is The Doctor and Susan. In spite of their relationship seeming to be so central to the ongoing story, we have not been able to really see them in a “normal” situation for long. On Iwa Susan was captured, in London they were largely following their own paths and, since leaving, the Doctor’s combativeness with Ian and Barbara has largely overshadowed Susan. Here we are able to see the two of them working together again as they must surely have done so many times before but we had been unable to see. And it is a delight.

For in the face of danger The Doctor is gleeful that he gets to show off his cleverness, and whilst Susan is indeed protective of him, she also seems to be happier than at any time I can recall that we have seen or read. In spite of her protestations that 1963 was the happiest time of her life, there seems to be at least some part of her that is just as happy as The Doctor in travelling around through time and space and trying to devise solutions to fiendish problems.

Now, of course, it does need to be noted that this cleverness is mixed with too much pride that causes his downfall to some extent. Whilst it may only be a short while the Doctor is insisting on showing Susan how immensely clever he has been, it does not seem inconceivable that some of the reason for his capture was the result of this. And when we get to the Daleks’ capture of them, the story takes a significant tonal shift. The Doctor is angry and Susan horrified:

That’s murder.

No, extermination.

Whilst the meaning is similar just the change to the Daleks dehumanising2 the Thals totally demonstrates their hatred for the unlike. Whilst in the previous episode we saw things from a Dalek perspective that they want to survive and need the radiation to do so. Here we see it go a step further, that other lives are merely pests. Genocide is no different than getting rid of insects.

In fact here we get them moving into very explicit Nazi parallels. Not just the dehumanisation but we even have them raising their left arms and chanting they are the Masters of Skaro. Not subtle but often when dealing with fascism being out in the open is the best course of action. Interestingly The Doctor, Susan and the Thals’ tactic is one of distraction to keep all their rangerscopes pointed in one direction until the attack can take place from behind3. Does keeping them focussed on the wrong goal so they can be destroyed from within mean they don’t realise the real danger? We will soon discover.

There is not as much to say about the other team as so much of it is merely preparing them for the next episode (including setting up a literal cliffhanger to resolve). The two most significant scenes seem to have an interesting setup but the pay-off is poor due to the need for drama.

Firstly, we have Barbara lowering Ganatus, specifically distancing herself from Ian’s instruction. Now in doing so she does actually help them find the way but by accident. The script seems to indicate that she failed as a result of not wanting to listen to Ian.4 Secondly, we get Antodus being forced to go on, in spite of being terrified, not only by his brother but also by the mountain collapsing on top of them. I can’t help but feel that these really should have gone somewhere further.

However, as I said, this episode is predominantly about setup. What happens in the next part will allow us to see where this is all going and if these threads, themes and questions really come together.

1I am not 100% sure of the reason why the Daleks capture Susan and The Doctor rather than just kill them apart from plot convenience. I guess they might be useful as hostages or something but then why not capture some of the Thals in the ambush and use them to ensure the rest of the group enter the city? Perhaps it will be revealed more clearly in the final episode

2 I am using the term fully aware it is probably not the correct term for all sentient life. Whilst I assume someone has invented one it has not been instituted into the canon of the show as of these episodes so far. As I am sure it will likely come up again I will endeavour to use it once this becomes the case

3 Once again, I cannot help but feel The Lord of the Rings parallels are here. To quote the movie version of Return of the King “Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron’s Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.” What to make of this apart from that it is interesting, however, I do not know.

4 As an aside it appears the Thals now know about the custom of “ladies first”. This logically seems to only have come from Ian but they have only been staying with the Thals for one night. Rather than attack plans or knowledge of their history he seemed to think it was a priority to teach them mid 20th century conventions.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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BOOK REVIEW: Infinity Wars Fri, 15 Sep 2017 09:48:11 +0000 A very strong collection with something in it for everyone. This does indeed showcase some of the best writers in the business looking at an old trope in a new way, as such proving once again the great value of this series.

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Infinity Wars

Title: Infinity Wars

Editor: Jonathan Strahan

Publisher: Solaris

Published: 07/09/17

RRP: £11.99

Award-winning editor, anthologist, and podcaster Jonathan Strahan explores the furthest extremes of military science in this highly anticipated new anthology.

The infinity series is one I have a great admiration for. I love how Strahan gets some of the best writers around to really produce interesting work. These have included some great breakout works like The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi or Laika’s Ghost, as well as the overall quality involved being very high throughout.

I was, however, still wondering if this collection would be for me. I am not as big a fan of military science fiction as I am of other key subgenres. I should not have been concerned as the authors have taken such a range of different looks it has created something rather special:

The Evenings of Their Span of Days by Carrie Vaughn – 4/5

Vaughn’s story being first act is an interesting statement of intent. For this does not delve into the combat (or even the aftermath of conflict as in her recent Hugo shortlisted work), rather more the gritty engineering side. It is highly character focussed with Opal making a great protagonist and it explores a number of important themes.

The Last Broadcasts by An Owomoyela – 4/5

I came across much of Owomoyela’s work last year and she immediately became one of my favourite short fiction writers. This also takes an interesting look at this topic by looking at the nature of information, something cleverly folded into the story’s style. Whilst I wouldn’t put this as my favourite of Owomoyela’s work it’s another impressive outing.

Faceless Soldiers, Patch Work Ship by Caroline M. Yoachim – 3.5/5

This a story I struggle to get my head around as it is quite dense and filled with arresting imagery. Whilst I believe this may have benefitted from being longer it is still a fascinatingly different look at a more morally questionable kind of warfare.

Dear Sarah by Nancy Kress – 3/5

Taking us to the battlefield of domestic terrorism and further asking us the question of who is in the right in these kind of conflicts. Well written although it lacked the emotional punch I thought it could have done with.

The Moon Is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das – 4.5/5

Das is a writer I much admire for mixing beautiful language with interesting philosophical concepts and this is definitely on display here.

Perfect Gun by Elizabeth Bear – 4/5

An ironic look at the mercs with big guns stories, crafted cleverly enough to call out the problems whilst still producing a story well worth reading.

The Oracle by Dominica Phettplace – 4/5

What would happen if we tried to use the same kind of algorithms we use for digital adverting in order to try to achieve world peace? Whilst some of the beats in this will be quite familiar the perspective it brings is new enough for me.

In Everlasting Wisdom by Aliette de Bodard – 5/5

This is possibly the best story in the collection. It looks carefully at the human consequences of warfare, creates a subtle creeping horror and examines the dangers of the faith that is enforced into the populace during these times. The whole tale builds like an emotional pressure pot, before exploding at the end.

Command and Control by David D. Levine – 2.5/5

As I mentioned at the start I am not the biggest fan of traditional military science fiction, so if you are you may well enjoy this tale more than me. It is certainly well written and action filled, it feels out of place to have such a traditional take in a collection where so much of the rest is taking a sideways look.

Conversations With An Armory by Garth Nix – 3/5

This does exactly what it says on the tin. We get people conversing with the Armory and its perspective on the battle situation. Although what is taking place externally is quite desperate, the Armory seems to have a sense of almost oblivious contentment to it all, which adds a nice touch of dark humour.

Heavies by Rich Larson – 4/5

What would we do to ensure peace? What price are we willing to pay? What at first seems to be a simple murder mystery turns into something much deeper and more complex. Very meaty.

Overburden by Genevieve Valentine – 3/5

This is a much stranger story to unwrap than many of the others, and as such is harder to discuss. Whilst it is centrally about warfare but, like many of these stories, from a distance and looking at the way people are affected by it.

Weather Girl by E. J. Swift – 4.5/5

A very prescient tale looking at how warfare may be waged in the post-climate change era where we are simply trying to survive catastrophic weather conditions and the planet produces weapons of mass destruction much more powerful than humans ever could. Given the recent news this is very chilling.

Mines by Eleanor Arnason – 4/5

It is an interesting choice to put both the (explicitly) post-climate change stories next to each other. This however goes in such a different direction it does not create a feeling of sameness. Instead it is about genetically engineered humans and rats clearing mines on another planet. This could either have come out as ridiculous or twee but Arnason’s deftness and lightness of prose makes this very touching.

ZeroS by Peter Watts – 3/5

This could also be called Welcome To The Zombie Squad, which for me sums up the strengths and weaknesses of this piece. It is strong conceptually, frightening and tense with some interesting moral questions lying just under the surface. I wish it had engaged with these elements more but it is still a very satisfying piece.

Overall, a very strong collection with something in it for everyone. This does indeed showcase some of the best writers in the business looking at an old trope in a new way, as such proving once again the great value of this series.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Kris Vyas-Myall

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Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 2.1.8: Original Sin Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:20:06 +0000 Kirk meets a Biblical figure at the centre of the galaxy and has to deal with him not being entirely truthful. It's Star Trek V! WAIT COME BACK IT'S NOT ACTUALLY STAR TREK V SORRY I SHOULDN'T JOKE ABOUT THAT!

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The Magicks Of Megas-Tu

Star Trek Magicks Of Megas-Tu

“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pink moonlight?”


“The Magicks Of Megas-Tu” an onion story. Every time you peel a layer off, you find another one beneath it. Let’s respect that, then, and dig our way down. The most immediate thing to strike me about this episode is how its central reveal is both beautifully structured and rather brave.

“Hope You Guess My Name”

It is of course entirely obvious who Lucien is from the very beginning. Even if he didn’t look just like the most cliche image of the Devil possible, the first recognisable place to which he brings Kirk, McCoy and Spock is a idyllic, blooming garden, where he offers up apples.

Star Trek Magicks Of Megas-Tu 2


Then, as if unsatisfied with how thickly this is being laid on, the episode reaches for a soup-ladle by naming another Megan “Asmodeus”, AKA this lovely chap from book of Tobit:

Star Trek Magicks Of Megas-Tu 3

I hope that snake is his arm.

In other words, the arrow that this episode has pointed towards Lucien is the size of the Enterprise’s yearly service bill, and has the word “LUCIFER” emblazoned across it in neon lights. “Sympathy for the Devil” squawks from a speaker suspended beneath. It’s so unmissable you begin to wonder how Kirk and co. have somehow managed to, you know, miss it. You start fearing this is going to be one of those frustrating episodes where you have to wait for the characters to catch up with what has been clear to you since the beginning.

And then we hit the big reveal, and it’s brilliant. It turns out the secret the episode has been keeping isn’t that Lucien is Lucifer, it’s that Kirk doesn’t care that Lucien is Lucifer. It’s not even that it never occurred to our captain to make the link (which in itself would be a positive comment on the 23rd century mindset), it’s that even when that link is confirmed, he simply doesn’t care. “We’re not interested in legend,” he tells Asmodeus. This was never about who Lucien is, but who Kirk is.

There is real power in Kirk’s pronouncement. This, let’s remember, is a sequel to a series that regularly presented Christian metaphors to its audience in packaging closer to cellophane than wrapping paper, even when they had nothing to do with the story in question (I’m looking at you, “Bread and Circuses”). The idea that the actual literal Devil could be found rollicking at galactic center and Kirk simply not care would have been almost unimaginable as a story development just four years earlier.

It’s also a brave choice for American television. It’s one thing to be deliberately fuzzy on the status of your country’s dominant religion in your imagined perfect future. It’s quite another to state that your hero considers the story of Lucifer to be a “legend” even once he knows the entity himself exists. It’s worth noting at this point that the American Family Association found a hundred thousand people to sign a petition to stop Fox airing the “Lucifer” TV show in 2015. Showing Kirk risk his life (or believe he’s risking it) in order to save Lucifer from being exiled – literally the fate God is said to have handed down to him – because he doesn’t care what people say he’s done is flatly extraordinary. The episode is entirely behind him, too, offering no push-back to Asmodeus’ claim his people got their reputation as demons and warlocks purely because powerful men were furious the Megans wouldn’t work magic on their behalf. In this version of the Lucifer myth, the problem lies not with the Lightbringer himself, but with us. Basically, Lucifer got himself exiled by a bunch of bitter, jealous racists who didn’t want anyone who was different living on their land. Not unless they could be exploited, anyway.

(This link between Lucifer and racism has been the focus of a great deal of scholarship, by the way. Tabish Khair, for instance, writes in The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness: Ghosts from Elsewhere that one of the most common descriptions of the devil and his demons during the Middle Ages was that they looked like Ethiopian men.)

You Can’t Spell “Salem” Without “Males”

It’s this revelation that grants the “demons” of Megas-Tu the right to judge us, rather than the other way round. This is an absolutely lovely reversal – frankly I like this approach to interrogating mankind even more than Q’s courtroom in “Encounter at Farpoint”. Which rather makes it a shame this judgement is framed as re-staging of the Salem Witch Trials. I mean, quite obviously the victims of that appalling stampede to rid a town of its undesirables under a cloak of religious virtue deserve some payback. An actual trial where they got to sentence the authorities who condemned them would be the most delicious form of cosmic justice. Even something like this, where the victims are putting humanity in general in the dock doesn’t bother me. Theories regarding hallucinogenic wheat notwithstanding, the prejudices and pressures that exploded into hysterical violence in New England were hardly unique to that time and place.

My problem stems from the fact that by making those persecuted in the witch trials actual magic users, the stinking winds of religious, political, and class-based bigotry that blew through Salem are entirely ignored. Framed this way, the witch trials stop being a case study in how lives can be ruined when the authorities allow prejudice to count as evidence. Instead you get a significantly less interesting tale about how that evidence was, like, totally there, but maybe the witches were nice and should have been left alone. The story becomes about how anti-witchcraft laws weren’t fair on witches, rather than about how a law banning something impossible somehow still provided an excuse for the settling of scores, the purging of undesirables, and the violent repression of women. Don’t get me wrong; there’s quite clearly a need for stories that criticise laws written to legalise bigotry. Basing one around Salem strikes me as a mistake, though. If we erase the identities of the women, and the black people, and the poor people, and those with lifestyles outside the appallingly narrow boundaries of what Puritan society deemed acceptable by imagining that what got them accused was the fact they were actual witches, we do them a gross disservice. We fail in our responsibility to understand and learn from what happened at the end of the 17th century. And honestly? It’s also just kind of a boring cliche which we might be better off putting to bed for a while.

As much as I’d rather the trial was set somewhere else, though, the basic idea of it very much stands up. I particularly love how Asmodeus fakes the desire to exile Lucien to see how Kirk reacts. He states this is to check the historical records aboard the Enterprise are not a “ruse”, but I suspect this goes a little deeper, into the next strata of the onion.  Asmodeus wants to check that humanity has truly learned from its mistakes, rather than simply having recognised them. Because they’re not the same thing. It’s one thing to realise a witch-hunt centuries in the past should never have happened. It’s quite another to recognise a similar situation whilst it’s actually going on, and to do something about it. How many people who cried when they saw Schindler’s List also think they’d be safer if we emptied the country of Muslims? Kirk here isn’t just being tested to see if he realises Salem was a horror-show. He’s being asked to actively risk his own life to defend someone being threatened with a grotesquely harsh punishment right now, despite that person being linked to his culture’s traditional definition of evil.

And Kirk goes for it completely. Where so many might sympathise with Lucian but not dare act, and so many more be happy to see him exiled and get angry when anyone suggested they’d failed to learn the lessons of Salem (like those people who got furious every time someone suggests The Crucible satirises McCarthyism, for instance), Kirk takes action. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he kicks off a magical duel against an entire damn planet of angry immortal warlocks because it’s the right thing to do. As a result, reconciliation between Earth and Megas-Tu becomes a possibility after millennia of suspicion and myth. Say… isn’t that just what Lucien was after to begin with? Doesn’t it seem like he got exactly what he wanted out of all this?

“The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled…”

Here we reach the onion’s most interesting layer. On first inspection, there’s plenty in this episode that simply makes no sense. The entire opening is totally devoid of reason. Whether or not matter is still being created at the centre of the universe isn’t something I’m qualified to comment upon, but since the Enterprise is heading for galactic centre, it doesn’t matter either way. Once there, they find their theory is somehow correct despite them being in entirely the wrong place, and then Kirk manages to fling the ship into a ship-killer reality storm – no safety protocols or space probes here – before announcing they need to head to the midpoint of the turbulence. As far as I can tell this too is ridiculous, since a) the most violent storms in a cyclone are immediately around the eye, and Enterprise would have had to push through them to get to “safety”, b) the eye of a storm is actually more dangerous for ships than most other areas of a cyclone because of cross currents, and c) eyes are what the convection currents begin to swirl around in a weather pattern, not the central point of a flow of matter out into space. Kirk’s plan is akin to being splashed as you turn on your shower and deciding the only way to dry off is to stand directly under the shower head. Then we learn that when life support fails on a starship, everyone starts gasping for breath immediately, and somehow everything becomes stupider still.

All of this is so relentlessly, obviously ridiculous that it’s hard to believe anyone could have got it all so wrong accidentally. And of course we don’t have to believe that. Not where Lucien is concerned. Our Megan ambassador is quite explicit here; he and his people have a concept and grasp of science which to humanity can only be described as magic. Put another way, he can bend what we consider to be the rules of physics to suit himself. If he needs a starship to reach the centre of the galaxy, head into an entirely unknown realm for the most spurious of reasons, and suddenly find themselves in immediate need of rescue, there is no reason to doubt his ability to make that happen. The woefully inaccurate science here isn’t evidence of ignorance, it’s a clue to what’s really going on.

Why does Lucien want the Enterprise to visit, then? I don’t think he’s lying about being lonely and wanting to hang out with humans again, actually. That’s only part of what’s going on here, though. Or rather, it is actually a fairly complete summary of Lucien’s motives. It’s just that those motives have led to him committing to a much more grandiose plan than he lets anyone in on. Lucien has summoned the Enterprise to bring his people’s isolationism to an end. He can’t come out and say that, obviously. The Megans need to believe they’ve come to the conclusion themselves. They have to believe humanity has wandered into their space of their own accord, and they have to decide this is something that, ultimately, they will permit. What this means in practice is that the Megans have to discover the humans, they cannot be revealed by Lucien himself.

Not explicitly, at least. It seems clear that in fact Lucien does reveal the humans, it’s just he covers his tracks by quietly maneuvering them into revealing themselves. After all, if Lucien really had wanted the humans to remain undetected, surely he would have warned them of the dangers of trying their own hands at magic before his fellow Megans took note of what was going on. Instead, he says nothing of the kind. Instead, he puts three ideas into our heroes’ heads as he shows them the wonders of Megas-Tu: 1) the importance of play, 2) the use of sorcery to create whatever one needs, and 3) the Megan surfeit of implausibly attractive women. Recreation plus replication plus sex.  And so it takes all of about two minutes back on Enterprise before Sulu decides to try and create a gorgeous woman of his own to enjoy, and thereby alerts the Megans. This is what Lucien pretends he wanted to avoid, but by tempting humanity with infinite power (immediately after his Garden of Eden routine, of course; because he can’t help but show off) and not bothering to warn them of the consequences of using it, the result is inevitable.

So Lucien gets what he wants, a trial of humanity he has bet on leading to our exoneration. Doubtless he’s been keeping tabs on us for centuries, waiting until we reach a level of enlightenment in which we can pass muster from Asmodeus’ perspective. He knew the right time to warp reality to the point a starship could appear in orbit around Megas-Tu. Lucien probably also has some idea of the form Asmodeus’ trial will take, too – they’ve known each other for millennia after all, and tricks are Lucien’s forte. That means he can stack the deck ahead of time, maximising his chances of getting his desired result. First he saves the lives of everyone on the Enterprise (having endangered them in the first place, but he keeps everyone too off-balance to notice that) to place Kirk in his debt. Next, he discombobulates the captain upon first arriving on Megas-Tu, thereby reminding him of the importance of his fundamental being – which of course is of an honest and principled man.

It’s actually a brilliant scheme, and one that’s great fun to pull apart and figure out. If there’s a downside here, it’s that it risks reducing our heroes into pawns in someone else’s game. That said, doing something like this over the occasional twenty-two minute stretch probably isn’t too much of a problem. It’s also nice that the episode lampshades what it’s doing, with the very first thing Spock (previously described by NBC executives as looking too “Satanic”, of course) tries in order to test his magic powers is to move a chess piece without obvious contact.

Besides, while our heroes might be being manipulated here, Lucien’s entire plan still rests on the strength of character of James Kirk, and Kirk proves that this faith is not misplaced. The Federation has reached a level of enlightenment where even the literal Devil gets himself a second chance. As a result, a wrong millennia old is finally addressed, and those on the receiving end of that wrong allow that one day, they might be able to forgive. Humanity here takes one more step on the long, long road to redemption.

In other words, our resident Science Officer has it backwards, just as the Trickster intended. Spock believes that it was Kirk that saved Lucien. Far more likely, though, is that it is Lucien who has helped to save us.

GS Blogger: Ric Crossman


1. The Magicks Of Megas-Tu
2. Miri

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TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E5 ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ (Contains Spoilers) Thu, 14 Sep 2017 13:30:44 +0000 Jerry gets to go on an adventure as Beth learns a huge parenting lesson in the latest Rick and Morty instalment.

The post TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E5 ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ (Contains Spoilers) appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

To say I was excited at the prospect of a Jerry-centric episode is a bit of an understatement; I am a huge fan of Jerry and have been positively chomping at the bit for more of him since his split from Beth in ‘The Rickshank Rickdemption’. I was a little trepidacious after last weeks’ minor misstep, but I am thoroughly chuffed to report that ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ is a triumphant return to form.

The pre-credits opener almost had me in tears; Jerry meandering around his tiny, rubbish apartment, microwaving sad looking pies and seeing family portraits in the peeling paint in his gross bathroom made me feel so badly for him. This series so far has delved quite deeply into how the divorce has been affecting the rest of the family, but this is the first time we’ve really seen just how empty Jerry’s life is now. It’s rather pathetic, but in an all-too-relatable way; whilst we as an audience are very unlikely to travel through space, meet aliens or battle other versions of ourselves, divorce is a real thing that could absolutely happen to us. This opening is devastating for this reason: we can see ourselves in Jerry’s shoes (if he were wearing any, that is). We find out later, after an excitable Rick bursts into the apartment and drags a naked Jerry into his ship, that Morty tricked Rick into taking Jerry on an adventure in a bid to have a bit of a break from all the sci-fi shenanigans, by convincing Rick that he’s concerned his father might commit suicide. This is a darker, more calculated side to Morty than we’ve seen before, which sets an exciting precedent for where the writers could go with him.

Rick takes Jerry to a fancy resort with an immortality field. Basically they can do anything they want here with no fear of dying (or at least, dying with any permanency), and plan to make up an adventure to tell Morty about later whilst sipping on fancy looking alien cocktails. It’s very telling about their characters that Rick’s first death within the field is a spear through the heart (which is especially dramatic given we don’t know about the field yet) and Jerry’s is getting his hands sucked into a slighty-too-powerful hand-dryer… Oh, Jerry… At this point, we’re introduced to Risotto Groupon (superbly played by Clancy Brown, and whose name had me laughing so hard we had to rewind the episode because I hadn’t heard anything he’d said for minutes after that) who wants Jerry’s help to kill Rick. There’s a roller coaster at the resort called the Whirly Dirly that a) is so completely insane that it could only exist within an immortality field and b) apparently passes outside of the field briefly “between the first whirly and the third dirly”, and that’s where Risotto wants to assassinate Rick, if Jerry can get him on the ride.

Jerry is, at first, totally against this plan, but after spending just a few minutes with an on-the-road-to-drunk Rick discussing the divorce, he apparently thinks offing Rick is the way to go and suggests they go on the ride. Jerry is the King of Flip-Flopping in this scene as, after Rick admits that he certainly exacerbated things between Beth and Jerry and sort of apologies for his role in their divorce, Jerry changes his mind again, even taking a bullet to the brain for his trouble. I love how writer Ryan Ridley uses high-concept sci-fi shenanigans to shine a light on the dynamic between Rick and Jerry. Whilst neither appreciates the effect the other has had on their life, they’re also, in very loose terms, family, and so they look out for one another, however reluctantly. Of course, this starts off a very real adventure for the pair as they bring down the immortality field, crash the Whirly Dirly, Jerry gets eaten by a…something, Rick is shot with a synaptic dampener that suppresses controversial thoughts and violent tendencies and taking public transport through a wormhole.

You might not think a Jerry and Rick pairing would work but, for one episode, it’s actually a surprisingly welcome change from the shows usual dynamic. There’s a wonderful scene in which Rick really nails Jerry to the wall:

“Who do you think had more taken from them when you shot 20cc’s of liquid dreamkiller into my daughter? She was Rick’s daughter, Jerry, she had options… You act like prey but you’re a predator, you use pity to lure in your victims, it’s how you survive. I survive because I know everything, that snake survives because children wander off and you survive because people think “Oh, this poor piece of s**t, he never gets a break, I can’t stand the deafening wails of his wilting soul, I guess I’ll hire him or marry him.”

It seems unnecessarily harsh at the time, not least because a snake is slowly chowing down on a Jerry lunch the whole time, but it obviously sparks a feeling of wanting to change in Jerry. Later in the episode he makes an (albeit feeble) attempt at being “triumphantly brave” that the Jerry we saw crawling home whimpering in episode one of this season would most likely not have done. Whether Rick purposefully planted this seed in Jerry in a bid to spur him to improve his character is something we can only speculate on (maybe he’s trying to make Jerry a better prospect for Beth?), but it’s nice to see him show Jerry even a modicum of respect by the end of the episode.

I’ve waffled on a lot and not even mentioned the B-plot to this episode, in which Summer uses a sci-fi device to enlarge her breasts in a bid to win back the heart of her boyfriend, Ethan, after her left her for the more ample-bosomed Tricia. This is all triggered by Beth not being a particularly great mother when responding to Summer’s question of whether she’s hot or not (though I’ll admit that Beth’s response was entirely sound, just not entirely comforting…) and the situation gets worse and worse as Beth attempts to use the machine to fix things. She’s stubborn, just like her father, and wants to prove that she can exist and hold her own in the zany, sci-fi adventures that he has, and puts her own need to be involved in that side of Rick’s life ahead of her need to be a good mother. Morty’s reactions throughout this story are fantastic; I really like the over-protective brother side to him (even if we find out in the post-credits sequence that he maybe took that to a pretty dark place), and he’s clearly learning from his experiences with Rick as he questions the machine and the possible options ahead of them. His exasperation with his mother is palpable and entirely understandable – she’s exhibiting the same traits that make him cross with Rick, only she’s not as science-smart and is just making things worse.

The resolution to the B story is sweet. Beth comes to her senses and allows Morty to figure out how to use the machine to mutate her in the same fashion as Summer so that they can bond (I really wish we could’ve heard what was said), and it’s always nice to see Morty interact with other members of the family. We don’t get many Morty and Beth moments, and the conversation in the car about how difficult parenting can be was so nice (and also contained one of Beth’s greatest lines ever “Mama’s coming, baby. Mama’s coming and she cares about your titties!”)

I’ve not even begun to mention the myriad of things that made me laugh out loud during this episode (including, but not limited to Beth dealing with her emotions by creating a hoof collage and Morty’s suitably concerned reaction to this, Jerry getting hit in the face repeatedly by the testicles of an alien they’re riding in, Beth calling the customer service line for the manufacturer of the Morphizer-XE and getting tricked into releasing the three tiny customer service guys from their apparent prison within the machine, “boobyah” and the Jeff Goldblum alien)… But the highly coveted Stacey Taylor Award For Best Joke In This Particular Episode has to go to Rick’s ridiculously complicated looking gun which, when fired, shoots out a suction cup on a string, which he uses to steal Risotto’s actual gun. Not only is it a fabulous joke in and of itself, but Rick’s brief fumbling over the new gun is just perfectly timed and animated. I actually almost cried laughing at this, and am tittering to myself as I type..!

Cor, this episode was good though.

Rating: 4.8/5
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StaceysParlour)

The post TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E5 ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ (Contains Spoilers) appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

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TV REVIEW: Game Of Thrones 7.7 “The Dragon And The Wolf” Thu, 14 Sep 2017 04:55:06 +0000 The penultimate season of television's biggest show finally comes to an end with a bumper episode of theatricality, betrayal, and revelation. But is the old formula still working? And how faithfully is it being mixed together these days, anyway?

The post TV REVIEW: Game Of Thrones 7.7 “The Dragon And The Wolf” appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

The Dragon And The Wolf

All the spoilers delivered directly to your face below, dear reader. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.





Well. That was a hell of a time to slam on the brakes.

As I’ve argued before, this has been a season reliant on speed. The positive result of this is that the show has in just seven episodes charted the progression of an entire war, groundbreaking action scenes and all. On the other hand, this year’s installments have shown an unfortunate tendency to try using that velocity to leap over the cracks in their own story logic. It’s like the writers are rushing over cracking ice on a frozen lake, so it breaks behind them where they hope it’s someone else’s problem.

(I can’t imagine where I got that image from.)

“The Dragon And The Wolf” bucks this trend completely.  With a run time of seventy-seven minutes it’s the longest episode the show has ever produced, and yet in terms of plot beats it’s actually a little on the light side. Certainly less seems to actually happen here than did in recent finales. You’d probably have to go back to the show’s third season to find so sparse a closer, and that was a deliberate choice to allow the audience a post-Red Wedding breather. There are essentially just four plot strands here, (plus the final scene) and two of them – Bran and Sam’s revelation party and Theon’s latest redemption arc at the expense of a much more interesting female character – take up fairly little time. The fact we reach the halfway point of this bumper episode without having left the capital adds to the sense of slowness. Probably the last time we spent this long entirely within King’s Landing was “Blackwater” five years ago, and that was a battle rather than a peace conference.

So what gives? What could explain the amount of time spent in a single location in which no-one dies, or even has sex? The decision to linger for so long in King’s Landing must have been a deliberate one – there’s self-evidently no need to pad out an episode that’s more than half as long again as “The Spoils Of War”. So what explains the sudden reduction in pace?

I think the answer to that is both surprising and oddly pleasant. This is about our protagonists putting on a play.

The Play’s The Thing

This won’t be the first time the show gives us a theatrical production set in King’s Landing. It was just last season that we were gifted with Izembarro’s fascinatingly inaccurate retelling of the deaths of Robert and Joffrey Baratheon and Tywin Lannister. I really enjoyed that story-line, not least because I did some am-dram myself a ways back. My misspent youth aside, it was an interesting comment on how fiction often mangles historical truths in a way that does genuine damage. Plus, it’s always fun seeing works of fiction being represented inside works of fiction. I need my meta-itch meta-scratched from time to time, and this kind of thing does the job nicely.

What we see here is the next level down the rabbit warren; actors pretending to be people who are putting on a play they are pretending is real. That’s got so many layers my brain wants to turn itself inside out.

To be clear, this is a theory that relies on more than the banal observation that statecraft is fundamentally an act of performance, though that’s part of it. I’m also not claiming any significance in Kevin Eldon playing an actor in Braavos last season and a goldcloak loyal to Cersei in this one, though it’s a nice coincidence. The first piece of evidence for my theory is the Targaryen Dragonpit itself. Clearly, it isn’t actually anything like a pit. With its central circle and ascending rings of seating, it looks more like an amphitheatre, the ruined Westerosi equivalent of the arena in Meereen where Dany’s second husband was murdered.  A place of battle for the approval of an audience. In short, the perfect location for representatives of the opposing sides in a brutal war to come together and hack more pieces off each other.

Except they don’t. They sit down and talk. There’s no violence at all here aside from the Hound’s performative autopsy, and even that is in the pursuit of peace. This isn’t a battle for the approval of an audience (which with the seats in the scene itself all empty would of course be us). It’s theatre in the round. We’re not in the Colosseum, we’re at the Globe.

Next, there’s the walk-and-talk sequence at the start of the episode, as characters on both sides of the war meet and exchange witticisms, which reminds me of nothing so much as cast members bonding before a show. Come the performance they may have to project hatred and disgust at each other, but before the curtain rises, they can forget about all that and just chat – except the Hound, who I guess is too method for this kind of cast banter. And yes, this opening is slow, but that underlines the theatrical nature of the episode’s first half. Plays, after all, tend to feel slower than television shows. Doubtless there are plenty of counterexamples, but as a generalisation it strikes me as sound, if for no other reason than editing being a thing. It’s about more than just that, however – though I note the episode conspicuously refrains from intercutting the negotiations with some other scene that might increase the episode’s pace.  Even such basic theatrical necessities as the actors needing to take up time walking on stage is honoured here (I loved the game our queens were playing with regarding which would arrive latest, by the way).  Further, with so much of a negotiation dependent on your side being heard and understood, you could argue the dialogue itself is skewed toward the theatrical here. A set-up where the listener can’t make out every word you’re saying will result in failure for a play and a parley both.

So yes, this is a play on television. Actually, it’s arguably plays on television, since since both sides in this drama are putting on their own performance. The most convincing play will win; a battle of the bards, if you will. This is about persuading people through performance, which is why everyone is so annoyed when it turns out Jon hasn’t bothered to learn his lines. It’s harder to sell the lies a play relies on when the cast forget which ones they’re supposed to be telling.

In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter. Cersei proves to be as false an audience member as she is clever a director. Dany and her people put on a good show overall, but they’re ice-skating uphill, as the saying goes. After almost twenty-five years in King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister was always going to write and direct the more convincing production.


Let’s analyse Cersei’s gambit in detail, then. Because I think it’s quite expertly put together. It’s probably her best scheme to date, actually, at least in terms of tactics. Strategically, sure, it’s a total disaster. Jaime points out she’s just guaranteed that whomever wins in the north will murder her next, and even that doesn’t go far enough. You can’t promise to move your entire army across two thirds of a continent and then not do it without everyone noticing.

But then this show has already pretty much given up on the idea that rulers and commanders ever bother with intelligence gathering operations (or maybe there’s only one raven left in Westeros, and she’s knackered after saving Jon last episode). By current Game of Thrones logic, then, this plan will probably take a while to prove disastrous. And anyway, Cersei’s plans are always strategic disasters. Given both that, and Cersei’s conviction that peace was impossible anyway, she may well have managed the best result her neuroses and limitations would allow.

There’s a lot to be impressed with regarding how she did it, too. First of all, Cersei is smart enough to realise that while her production has an audience of dozens, the only person she actually needs play to is Tyrion. This was a distinct possibility even before negotiations began, but Cersei confirms it during the initial conversation. Jon reveals himself fairly quickly as being no more cunning than the man who raised him, and Dany’s reliance on her Hand to make the case for an armistice – despite knowing her enemy blames him for murdering her father and eldest child – makes it clear Cersei will get further persuading Tyrion than she will working on Dany herself.

The question then becomes how to do that. How do you persuade a man you once tried to have executed and then put a bounty on that you’re willing to work alongside him for the common good?  Cersei’s answer to this is brilliantly simple.

You do it by making him think he’s persuaded you.

The first step is to play directly into Dany’s strategy. The Dragonqueen needs Cersei to believe there’s no realistic option but to agree to a ceasefire, so she comes to King’s Landing projecting power. Again, Cersei could easily have predicted this approach, but the thick formations of Unsullied soldiers and thick total lack of formations of Dothraki just outside the walls make this conclusion inescapable. All that was in question was how thickly Daenerys would lay on the dragons [1].  Dany is throwing every asset she has left into and onto the land, sea and skies around King’s Landing in order to persuade Cersei to stand down.

Since appearing to seem persuaded is Cersei’s goal, then, she increases the apparent effectiveness of Dany’s approach. She intentionally makes her position appear weaker than it is. First, she has Bronn lead the modest contingent of Lannister men sent to to escort her enemies.  In doing so, she gives the impression that her remaining force is small, and so lacking in experienced commanders Cersei has to rely not only on mercenaries, but a former employee and friend of her hated brother. Next comes the main stage of the deception, which centres around Euron. By contrasting the might of the Iron Fleet with a handful of Lannister guardsmen led by a man of uncertain loyalty, Cersei makes it clear that whatever clout she has left is being provided by the King of the Iron Islands. Then she has him publicly abandon her cause, apparently leaving her all but helpless against Daenerys’ twin armies.  [2]

(Props to Euron for selling his departure so totally, by the way, though if I’m brutally honest it probably worked so well at least partly because it still makes no sense that he’s on Cersei’s side in the first place. I’m hopeful next season we learn he’s simply kept Highgarden’s gold for himself and headed back home to build more ships to conquer the continent himself. In fact, given how few episodes the show has to wrap everything up – including Theon rescuing Yara, which probably requires Euron to not be on the move [3] – that might well be what ends up happening.)

Once that’s done, all that’s left is to find an excuse to abandon the negotiations. I’ve no idea what this would have been if Jon hadn’t told the truth, but I have total faith in Cersei’s ability to feign finding something offensive and then swishing away. It’s actually fairly likely she’d simply have accused Jon of lying – if he’s unaffiliated why did he arrive with Dany, why does he look at her when Cersei asks him questions, etc. – but the specifics don’t matter. What’s relevant is that with Cersei abandoning the negotiating table, Tyrion’s assessment of the situation is spot-on.

Unless. Unless he’s brave enough to enter the Red Keep, and smart enough to keep his head while trying one last time to persuade his bloodthirsty sister to stop all them murderings, preferably starting with him. It’s a ploy that’s both desperate – because they absolutely cannot lose this one and yet they’re still about to – and one that rests entirely on Tyrion’s intelligence, verbosity and political abilities. Which is to say, the three things his self-respect rests upon. Cersei maneuvers him into a position where he must risk everything to prove himself – not just for his own self-image, but to appease a queen whose fortunes have been decidedly mixed since she took him on as Hand. It’s absolutely critical he persuades his sister to accept a ceasefire. So, when she lets him think he’s succeeded, the relief and pride flood the areas of his brain that are normally cynical and suspicious. Simply put, he needs the win too much to question it when he gets it.

All of which is absolutely brilliant. Absolutely heartbreaking, too, because even after everything Cersei has found a new way to hurt Tyrion. It’s not perfect, admittedly. As others have said, it’s pretty disappointing that we don’t actually get to hear Tyrion’s pitch which allows Cersei to plausibly fake agreement. Immunity for her child seems logical, but also rather dull, and watching the two siblings talk about the world as it is and might be would’ve been much more interesting than them just rehashing the events of season four. This to me is a minor objection, though. We might not have got to see everything we should have, but the King’s Landing Peace Conference and the lie underlining it all still delivers.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a problem here regarding scenes we should have seen, and information we should have been given. It’s just that this problem lies not in King’s Landing, but in Winterfell.

Let’s start talking about the north with some unquestionable positives, though. Major plus: Littlefinger is finally dead. Even better, it’s Sansa who engineers his downfall, paying back at last his years of manipulation and reckless endangerment by destroying him using his own tactics (the fact the great hall is lined with men he mistakenly thinks are loyal to him is a particularly nice touch). Very broadly speaking, the show did what it needed to with this plot. By returning Baelish to his sinister schemes after several episodes of simpering usefulness, our satisfaction with his death feels like something this season has earned, rather than simply being a present delivered a year late. Finally, as I’ve mentioned before, I really like the fact that Baelish seals his own fate by mistakenly believing the Stark siblings will turn out to be as easy to turn against each other as were the Tullys, Lannisters and Baratheons. It’s a reminder that as much as he claims to love Sansa, he’s never put the slightest effort into understanding who she actually is. He’s obsessed with a beautiful, wealthy woman with royal blood, and he’s decided that it must be love because of how desperately he wants to see her naked. He’s also apparently convinced himself that if he does enough favours for Sansa (for a very twisted definition of “favour”) she’ll fall for him too, making him Westeros’ preeminent example of that modern scourge, the “nice guy”.

Seriously, it’s genuinely creepy how well Petyr Baelish echoes those men who complain that women always go for jerks instead of nice guys (even though they admit they themselves aren’t all that nice), but who simultaneously attempt to “win” women by doing favours for them, in the belief each act of apparent kindness earns them coupons that can eventually be traded in for sex. If Littlefinger ever did get the Iron Throne he’d demand at least one of the seven kingdoms be renamed The Friend Zone. Rejecting this approach totally is therefore a feminist act, in a show that has far too few of them.

So all of that is fine, good stuff. The problem lies in how totally risible and idiotic Littlefinger’s last plot actually is. I can’t make the slightest sense out of it at all. What exactly was he hoping to achieve by forcing Sansa to banish or kill Arya? Maybe he wants Sansa isolated? Maybe he hopes having her as Queen of the North will get him closer to the Iron Throne somehow, as oppose to starting a second civil war in the north, at the start of winter, with an army of the dead approaching – i.e. what would inevitably have happened had Sansa declared herself queen? I have no idea, and that’s the show’s fault. Trying to fuel a feud between the sisters makes thematic sense, and ultimately allows them to bond over murdering a sexist scumbag – something all sisters should be allowed to do, obviously – but it still needed to actually have some point to it.

This is all particularly frustrating because the actual Stark who was dangerous to Littlefinger was Bran, and yet he totally ignores the Three-Eyed Raven after giving him the dagger. I argued at the time that this was a deliberate attempt to gauge what Bran knew, but having learned from that that he potentially knows everything, Littlefinger seems to forget about him entirely. That’s why I assumed Littlefinger’s rendezvous with the serving girl in the Winterfell stables two episodes ago was about arranging an attempt on Bran’s life, only for that meeting to apparently have no relevance to anything at all.

Bran causes all sorts of problems here, in fact, and I’m not even talking about how terribly framed his reveal of Jon’s father is (at least, I’m not talking about it yet). His testimony shows he could tell all along that Littlefinger betrayed their father, and either didn’t bother mentioning it or even thinking to check until now. Bran’s sudden announcement of the truth is about as clear an example of deus ex machina as you can find in modern television. It also weakens the sisters’ triumph, since they’re forced to rely on their wizard brother to get the job done. You could argue it’s nice that it takes all three of Ned Stark’s surviving children to finish off Littlefinger, but the whole point about Bran this season is he’s no longer Bran. For sure if we’re supposed to believe he’s still the little boy who used to love climbing and faked bravery at an execution to make his father proud, his failure to promptly avenge Ned becomes all the more ridiculous. He’s either a Stark or he’s a plot device, and whichever of those we settle on, it makes what we see here read as pretty poorly constructed.

We’re also not sure of the sequence of events here either, whether Sansa worked out Littlefinger’s scheme and went to Bran for more evidence, or if Bran finally got around to revealing the truth and Sansa took it from there. The first seems more likely, but my point is we don’t know. We’re not given the information we need to figure out Littlefinger’s fall after it happens, let alone be able to predict it.  There was apparently a scene filmed in which Sansa asks Bran for help, but it was cut, presumably to avoid signposting what was coming. Which makes some sense – it really would have made it all too obvious – but highlights the larger problem: the writers were so determined to generate surprising they actually hit nonsensical.

Still, though. Littlefinger deserved to die, and the Starks deserved to kill him. That much can’t be denied. And the scene of Sansa and Arya trying to repair their relationship over their shared memories of their father and the sense of loss they invoke is a fine ending to the Winterfell arc for the year. Peace has once again returned to their home, and the last enemy of their family in the north is finally dead.

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Until the Wall is breached a few minutes later, of course. I doubt anyone was surprised by the Night King finally getting through into the Seven Kingdoms this episode. It was an obvious thing to happen in the show’s penultimate finale even before Viserion’s body was dragged from the frozen lake. Even the fact it would be the final scene was fairly safe bet; essentially this was simply the season two cliffhanger dialed up to the maximum possible extent.

Still, I’ll admit it. It absolutely did its job. After a frankly mediocre season, those final moments left me fully stoked for the final battle, Cersei’s inevitable betrayal and all. It also managed to briefly make me forget just how terrible the scene immediately before it was. SMOOTH SEGUE. As subtle as a zombie dragon blowing up a seven hundred foot wall of ice.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the reveal of Jon Snow’s true parentage, then, which managed to fail on just about every level possible. Seriously, whole new levels were being built mid-scene by exhausted, caffeine-fueled Doozers just so there would be more of them for that scene to fail on. First of all, as with Littlefinger’s death, this development is an entire season too late. We’ve known since the season six finale that Jon Snow’s mother was Lyanna Stark. That would be the woman who Rhaegar Targaryen allegedly kidnapped and raped, making him the only plausible candidate for being Jon’s actual dad. Waiting a year to confirm the most likely option as the correct one is ridiculous.

Second, there’s the fact that this revelation of Jon’s true identity as a Targaryen is interspersed with him having sex with his aunt whilst Tyrion hangs around outside the door.  What possible reaction is this supposed to generate in the viewer, other than discomfort to the point of nausea? Even if we pretend learning who Jon’s father really is somehow constitutes a revelation at this point, it’s smashed to pieces as a big reveal by all the icky jiggling, which in turn fails to work as the cumulation of Dany and Jon’s arcs for the season because you’re too busy thinking about how his dad was her brother. Presumably the two moments are supposed to work together, but they just explode into nothingness like matter and anti-matter, obliterated by their mutual incompatibility.

Thirdly, there’s the idea that Rhaegar and Lyanna loved each other and were married in secret, meaning “Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie”. Well, to start with, no it wasn’t – it kicked off because the Mad King burned alive the brother and father of Robert’s best mate. Rickard and Brandon Stark have not magically returned from the dead because we’ve found out Lyanna was in love with the heir to the throne. Further, anyone paying attention already knew this for weeks, given Gilly had already found out Rhaegar secretly married someone, and again Lyanna is the only sensible candidate (note that Sam takes the credit for this like a huge jerk, by the way).  This is a scene confirming that the most likely scenario possible generated by clues weeks or even months old is in fact the correct one, and it’s not even confirmed to either of the two people who might actually be personally invested in it.

Which brings me to my fourth objection, which is that the dialogue here insists Jon needs to learn the truth about his parentage, but doesn’t bother to give us any compelling reason to believe that. Jon has spent his entire life thinking Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped, raped and ultimately caused the death of his aunt, as well as having taken to the field to fight against his father who sought justice for both that abduction and the agonising deaths of his own father and brother. How is he possibly supposed to process learning that this villain of his childhood didn’t fight against his father, because he was his father, and that his paternal grandfather is actually his maternal grandfather, and that his paternal grandfather killed his maternal grandfather, and that his true father didn’t actually kidnap the woman he thought was his aunt, and the woman he thought was his aunt was actually his mother, and and his actual aunt is the woman he is currently sleeping with? Yes, Jon has always wanted to know who gave birth to him, but it’s never occurred to him that gaining a mother would mean losing a father, and there’s absolutely no reason I can see to believe that he’d count himself lucky for the exchange, especially since it might cost him his first romantic relationship since he betrayed Ygritte four years earlier. All of which is to say nothing of the risk this revelation would destabilise the alliance between Jon and Dany in the early stages of the most important war in ten thousand years.

And for what? So Dany knows her lover is her nephew, and therefore can take the throne after she dies? If she wants Jon as her heir she doesn’t need the Targaryen link, and if she doesn’t, that link would just be an inconvenience; the kind of inconvenience that starts wars. Or is this really all about getting Jon on to the dragon named after his dad? Because that would make this one more poorly-conceived slice of set-up in pursuit of an obvious conclusion.

Finally – and I freely admit this is my most nitpicky complaint – it’s been established in both books and show that Aegon Targaryen was the name of Rhaegar’s first son, who didn’t die until after Rhaegar himself did. I suppose Lyanna might have heard that Aegon had been killed during the sack of King’s Landing and done a little recycling, but naming both of Rhaegar’s sons “Aegon” is still clumsy for no good reason.

Which I guess is a pretty good way to sum up this entire season. It’s not been by any measure a disaster, and I’d be surprised if anyone’s personal list of their three least favourite Game of Thrones episodes included one from this year. That said, I’d be far more surprised if anyone had anything from season seven in their top three, either, or even their top ten. With the show now almost totally working without support from Martin’s books, or even his future plans, what was once among the most complex, surprising and challenging shows on television has become content to offer up obvious conclusions brought about through wobbly means. Two years ago Ian McShane’s dismissal of Game of Thrones as “just tits and dragons” felt like a serious disservice to a exceptional albeit flawed show. After season seven, for all that the Game of Thrones has – finally! – reduced the amount of gratuitous female flesh it parades on screen, his assessment, unfortunately, seems far more accurate.

Score: 3/5

GS Reviewer: Ric Crossman

[1] Not to be smug (heaven forbid!), but the instant I saw Dany had brought Rhaegal I knew she’d made a mistake. To bring one dragon may be regarded as prudence. To bring two looks like you’ve lost one.

[2] I wonder what Cersei would have done had the wight proved to be fake. One option would be throw Ser Gregor, the Queensguard and Euron at her enemies, perhaps hoping Theon will turn against his allies either because of the threats against his sister or from simple muscle memory. Cersei could then escape while the Lannister guardsmen line up to jump down Drogon’s gullet. Another option would be simply to have Euron defect as before – he’s an infamous pirate and Theon’s uncle; no-one will look askance at him abandoning Cersei even without an undead army bearing down on the realm. In any case, all this is only relevant if Cersei doubts the army of the dead is real to begin with. Given she knows Qyburn resurrected Gregor Clegane, there’s probably no noble in the south who’d find the idea of wights easier to credit.

[3] Holy crap though, did that story start on a bum note. Sexual mutilation can be tactically advantageous lol! Because literally everyone knows that old injuries don’t trouble you when someone is smashing their leg into them, obviously. 

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BOOK REVIEW: Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles Sun, 10 Sep 2017 09:57:26 +0000 Warlock Holmes is an idiot. A font of arcane power, certainly, but he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles is the new book from G.S. Denning

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Warlock Holms

Title: Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles

Author: G.S. Denning

Publisher: Titan Books

Published: May 2017

RRP: £7.99

“Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius. Warlock Holmes is an idiot. A font of arcane power, certainly, but he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again. The game’s afoot once more in Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles, as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes”

Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles, G.S. Denning

Having not read the first novel in the Warlock Holmes series (A Study in Brimstone) I wasn’t all too sure I was going to enjoy Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles, written by G.S. Denning and published by Titan Books.

Warlock Holmes

From what I gather about A Study in Brimstone (and without giving away spoilers for either book) Warlock Holmes, a not particularly bright detective, had been left in a state of dead-but-not-all-the-way-dead by his arch enemy. This has left Dr. Watson in Hellhound of the Baskervilles with the conundrum of how to conceal the not-actually death of Warlock AND mask the increasingly bad smell of his decomposing friend.

Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles is not a novel of one story, but instead a series of shorter mysteries inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works. These include tricycle racing to Farnham, an argument with a flower seller who doesn’t sell flowers (but something else entirely) and a talking horse (not of the Mr. Ed variety) These stories all culminate in the title tale Hellhound of the Baskervilles which, in typical intersecting but separate plots style of storytelling, pulls together everything that has happened in the series so far.

The stories are filled with some wonderful, in your face, wacky humour and cleaver one-liners, but also some pretty dark and grotesque details. This is a lot darker than your average Sherlock Holmes parody, with the biggest twist coming with the titular Hellhound story. It does work with giving the book complexity and depth, but don’t go into reading this book expecting “Without a Clue” joviality.

At times, I found the supernatural elements of the story rather heavy handed and distracting from the stories, I don’t know if this issue would have been avoided if I’d read the first in the series before embarking on Hellhound. The confusion from the fantasy and magic elements is worse towards the end but overall won’t stop you from engaging with the characters.

Warlock Holmes and the Hellhound of the Baskervilles consists of the following stories:

– The Adventure of the Blackened Beryls
– Silver Blaze: Murder Horse
– The Reigateway to Another World
– The Adventure of the Solitary Tricyclist
– The Hell-hound of the Baskervilles


Rating: 4/5 – but I warn you that this may be like Marmite for Holmes fans – you’ll either love it or hate it.

Reviewer: Fia

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Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 5 Sat, 09 Sep 2017 11:00:40 +0000 One of the earliest scenes in this episode is seen through the eye of the Dalek. This clearly sets up for the theme of this part, the moral ambiguity that can exist even here.

The post Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Daleks – Part 5 appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

The Daleks: The Expedition

Daleks The Expedition

One of the earliest scenes in this episode is seen through the eye of the Dalek. This clearly sets up the theme of this part, the moral ambiguity that can exist even here. For this is possibly the first story in which there has been a clear divide between good and evil. This doesn’t significantly change after this, rather it calls on us to understand some of the twisted logic of the Daleks’ and to question the actions of our travellers.

On the latter group first, we saw that only moments before they were happy to leave the Thals to their fate when it did not affect their journey. Now they need the Thals as an army they are determined to change their minds. It is a particularly interesting choice that Barbara, the chief humanitarian is the one determined the Thals must fight, even going to the extent of guilting Ian with the prospect of her own death in order to spur him into action. Ian is originally much more concerned about the fact that they cannot be made to fight if they do not wish to:

What victory are you going to show these people when most of them have been killed? A fluid link? Thank you very much, this is what you fought and died for?

And it is not to see the Thals’ side of the argument, it was a war between them and the Dals that destroyed everything before. Why would they want to start that up again?

But when Ian is finally spurred to make that action by Barbara he is really cruel in his method. He could have tried to make a more logical argument but he goes for kidnapping Dyoni and promising to give her to the Daleks for experimentation. Even though Alydon does not believe Ian would do that, the actual contemplation of Dyoni being tortured and forcing Alydon into a crisis of conscience is a hard action to 100% defend.

On The Doctor’s front this really represents a shift from his non-meddling stance. Yes, he has become involved but here he is actually determined to lead them himself. More than just brokering a compromise or stopping something he may have caused, he is now actively leading events in Skaro’s history. Whether this will have any consequences for the future remains to be seen but we have to assume there are reasons why they did not wish for interference other than just being old fashioned.1

I do not think this is a flaw in the writing. For whilst our travellers are once again becoming more ambiguous the Daleks themselves are also getting more depth. Whilst the Thals before were willing to accept their fate if required, the Daleks are determined to survive and reclaim the planet at any cost. How will they do that? Well they need radiation to survive, this is dropping, and anti-radiation drugs will kill them. So simply releasing another neutron bomb seems the most sensible solution.

Whilst this could seem like overkill, they believe that it will not be long before the Thals attack them. Now without the travellers arriving this might not be the case and the Thals would have died earlier or simply left. But we have now seen how Ian has convinced them to fight and The Doctor is determined to lead them. Whilst they may be off in their reasoning slightly their conclusion on this point is not incorrect. The solution, though may well be. They are continuing to refuse to change “We do not have to adapt to the environment. We will change the environment to suit us.”

Now they could of course have reached out to the Thals and the travellers and the three groups work together to create a mutual solution. But that of course requires mutual trust, not mutual enmity. But this is not trying to tell us the Daleks are justified, nor that our travellers are wrong, rather that the situation is not simply black and white, it is one which likes to fade into the greys.

The final part of the story which I have not touched on is the titular expedition. This opens up interesting questions about the Thals. Alydon has stated that their pacifism is purely idealistic and not motivated by any fear. Yet we have Antodus and Ganatus who have lived only due to them running away from the lake, leaving their friends. This is not something to look down on, rather it adds to the idea that they are complex as well, not the perfect gods Susan sees.

And so the battle lines are drawn now thanks to all of their hates and fears and personal desires; It does not look like many people will die. Whilst Ian and Barbara and the Thals are on an expedition which feels like it is once again out of a fantasy story,2 The Doctor is leading his troops to the city and the Daleks are preparing a bomb. Whilst it would be great if they would all just talk it seems that it is too late for that and the real war is beginning once again.

1 I haven’t mentioned much of Susan but after her great roles in the last few episodes, she is rather diminished here. Her main purpose seems to be to show how much faith she has in all the adults around her. Whilst it is nice to have the cohesion of the travellers it is also a shame to see her not really have a role again

2 I am sure I cannot be the only person who watches this and is reminded of the Mines of Moria and The Watcher in the Water. Although as the rest of the story does not bare as many similarities it is hard to tell if Nation would have made the same connections.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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GAMING NEWS: XCom 2: War of the Chosen is Out Now for Windows PC Sat, 09 Sep 2017 09:30:06 +0000 XCom 2: War of the Chosen is now available for Windows, a game in which things have gone very wrong for Earth.

The post GAMING NEWS: XCom 2: War of the Chosen is Out Now for Windows PC appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

XCom 2: War of the Chosen is now available for Windows, 2K Games is announcing. War of the Chosen is the expansion to 2016’s XCom sequel.


I’ve only played the first XCom, which was an extraordinary rebirth for the classic sci-fi strategy game, and I still have high interest in checking out XCom 2. Without saying too much, In XCom 2, things have gone very wrong for Earth. What the War of the Chosen expansion does for XCom 2 is introduce new enemies and allies. The Chosen are the new alien force, and there are new factions for the alien resistance. We have the Reapers, Skirmishers, and Templars.

  • Reapers keep their distance. They use rifles for long range damage and place claymores to keep enemies from coming in close
  • Skirmishers are traitors, which is good for your resistance. They are ADVENT soldiers, an enemy unit introduced in XCom 2. Skirmishers are up close and personal. They use a grappling hook to get in close, and also use a wrist-mounted weapon called a Ripjack to pierce targets and pull them in. You see this action in the trailer.
  • Our Templars are basically alien fighting monks. They have decided to focus on psionic abilities to fight. If you have not played XCom yet, psionic abilities have to deal with the mind. You have defensive and offensive abilities to support your team.

The Chosen break down into a few classes

  • The Hunter is the ranged class.
  • The Warlock are the psionic class.
  • The Assassin are the stealth class.
  • The Lost are humans that have been zombified. They are, as their name implies, people who were lost during the initial invasion, which activated XCom.

New alien types include the Purifier, Priest, and Spectre. Three new humanoid threats from ADVENT.

The Spectre seems like the nastiest of the bunch. I can hear the screams of frustration from gamers already!

There are new gameplay features and improvements within War of the Chosen. Your squad gets bonus abilities and perks if the members are compatible with each other. There’s a photo booth mode, where you can remember your past squads. You don’t just take screenshots. You can customize posters of your game experience. For replayability, there’s a challenge mode, new missions available to players in need of fights the main campaign couldn’t provide. Offline side missions include Covert Actions, Resistance Orders, faction management, and Avenger, which sounds very mysterious. From playing the first XCom, I know that the side missions provide bonuses to your base of operations and are helpful to level up your squad members. There aren’t any details about what these side missions are about, but I can guess that it deals mostly with destabilizing the enemy and doing favors for your allies. In XCom, what you choose may tip the balance, causing you to lose precious headway in XCom’s conflict.

XCom2: War of the Chosen released at the end of August, for Windows PCs. The Xbox and PlayStation release will be this month (the 12th), and the Mac/Linux release date is yet to be determined. XCom 2 retails for (£ 34.99, € 49.99) and the War of the Chosen expansion is £ 34.99 ($ 39.99, € 39.99).


Source: 2K Games

GS Writer: Vichus Smith


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Nick Cave: Mercy On Me Graphic Novel Out Now Sat, 09 Sep 2017 07:50:38 +0000 You can now purchase a graphic-novel biography that touches on the life and work of one Mr Nick Cave.

The post Nick Cave: Mercy On Me Graphic Novel Out Now appeared first on Geek Syndicate.

SelfMadeHero, as part of its tenth anniversary, has just released Nick Cave: Mercy On Me. Graphic novelist Reinhard Kleist (Johnny Cash: I See A DarknessThe Boxer, Castro) worked his magic on the life and times of Nick Cave, creating a book that seems like it will be every bit as intriguing as its subject. The book features characters drawn from Cave’s music and writing, and depicts various moments in Cave’s life, such as his childhood in Australia , his time with The Bad Seeds, and also his struggles with heroin.

“Reinhard Kleist, master graphic novelist and myth-maker”, adding that he “has – yet again – blown apart the conventions of the graphic novel by concocting a terrifying conflation of Cave songs, biographical half-truths and complete fabulations and creating a complex, chilling and completely bizarre journey into Cave World. Closer to the truth than any biography, that’s for sure! But for the record, I never killed Elisa Day”. – Nick Cave

Alongside the release of the book itself, you can watch an animation created by Australian filmmaker and animator Shahriar Shadab:

Nick Cave: Mercy On Me released on 7th September, and is available to buy for £14.99.

Source: SelfMadeHero
GS Blogger: Casey Douglass

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