Thoughts about Blizzard…

For most of us that have worked or are working in the corporate world, chances are pretty high that at some point during the year, you’ve had to take a training course on sexual harassment. 

The courses are pretty typical, but they all boil down to a couple of pretty basic principles:

  • Treat your co-workers with the same level of respect that you would expect to be treated with
  • Keep your grubby paws to yourself

You would think that in 2021, we wouldn’t need to do this annually.  We as adult human beings should be responsible and professional enough to not say or do anything in our work environment that would offend our co-workers and treat one another with respect. 

Then, this shit happens. 

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sues Activision/Blizzard over allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment following a two-year investigation.

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/activision-blizzard-sued-by-california-over-frat-boy-culture

There’s also a reddit thread that includes comments from current and former Blizzard employees. 

Part of the complaint has to do with blatant mistreatment of women and minorities, and the other part deals with patterns of sexual harassment within Blizzard going back years — as far back as 2008. 

It’s shocking. It disgusting. How the hell did Blizzard, of all companies, manage to fuck this up?  And, worse, it seems pretty clear that there was a company-wide effort to suppress any of these allegations and/or retaliate against the accusers.

I’ve loved Blizzard games for decades now. I’ve bought many of their games over the years; I’ve played World of Warcraft pretty consistently, if not casually, since 2004.  If I had gone in the direction of game development, working at Blizzard would have been on my short list of companies to work for. 

(Well, it would have up until a few years ago when the story broke that Blizzard savagely underpaid their developers, even by California standards. Their attitude was that having Blizzard on your resume was enough to offset that pay scale.)

That may have been true for a while, but over the last three years, Activision/Blizzard has burned up a LOT of that reputation and goodwill. 

One thing I want to put in here up front. As much as I would like to see Blizzard be burned to the ground, it’s not fair to the people who are still working at Blizzard who continue to be victimized by this behavior and/or simply have nothing to do with any of this behavior.  The company needs to make this right.

That said, if you feel the need to cancel your subscriptions and boycott buying Blizzard products in the future, that’s your choice. 

However, using this situation as an opportunity to spew vitriol at Blizzard employees and/or content creators who currently support Blizzard products IS NOT HELPING ANYONE. Worse case, you’re piling on people who are already victims of harassment in their workplace; they don’t need to hear your bullshit, too.

Let the wheels of justice, such as they are, do their thing. 

Many content creators that make videos about WoW: Asmongold, Preach, Bellular, and Taliesin & Evitel, among others have made their own response videos about the lawsuit and voiced their concerns about Blizzard’s behavior and the problems of simply “just quitting” supporting Blizzard. They are all worth watching.

(NOTE: I cancelled my WoW subscription a month before this happened because I was no longer invested in the game and hadn’t played in months)

How bad was it? There were instances where women were passed up for promotions and/or raises despite being the highest performers on the team. The were allegations that they would be passed up for promotions because they might become pregnant. Another woman was written up constantly for taking extra bathroom breaks even though she was eight months pregnant. Women would be assigned work so their male counterparts could play video games. Although the company provided lactation rooms, women were often kicked out of the rooms so they could be used for meetings.

On the harassment side, developers would openly joke about rape in front of female employees. They had “cubicle crawls” when male employees would wander the cubicles drinking while female employees continued to work, and the men would use the crawl as an excuse to harass their co-workers. Defendants described working at Blizzard like working in a frat house.

Some of the most egregious behavior involved a creative director for World of Warcraft, who would be so handsy with employees and/or attendees at conventions that other male employees had to pull him off of the victims. His hotel suite was nicknamed the “Cosby Suite” by co-workers after Bill Cosby. 

The absolute worst case involved a woman who was in a consensual relationship with her male supervisor at the company. She learned that he was sharing nude photos of her with their co-workers. She ultimately took her own life while on a company trip with her boss. Police learned after interviewing him that he had brought a number of sex toys on the trip. 

To make things even worse, the company actively dismissed or retaliated against anyone who complained about their mistreatment.  Retaliation included being passed over for projects, being unwillingly transferred to other groups and being selected for layoffs. The company also pushed back against some complaints by saying the accused was “too senior” to be held accountable. 

Many former employees are sharing their own stories on reddit that back up the allegations in the lawsuit.

I’m sure there are many on the internet who would love to blame all of this on the Activision/Blizzard merger, that Activision was the frat house and they “infected” hard-working “good guys” Blizzard. 

But, the allegations date as far back as 2008 — well into the “old guard” days of Blizzard. 

That means, chances are pretty high that folks like CEO Mike Morhaime and Senior VP Chris Metzen were well aware of the behavior happening within the company and did absolutely nothing to stop it. Morhaime has already issued a statement expressing his sympathy to the victims and claiming he had “no idea” any behavior was going on. Metzen also issued an apology, claiming he was completely unaware that any of this was going on.

Although both Morhaime and Metzen left the company (Metzen in 2016, Morhaime in 2018), it’s not a good look for either of them. Either they were aware of everything going on and chose to ignore it, or they were blissfully unaware of anything going on in their own company. Metzen worked directly with one of the named individuals. Metzen claims they didn’t interact outside of “story sessions”, but again, it’s a bit hard to swallow that none of these accusations didn’t reach him. In the reddit thread, one woman says she tried to reach out to Morhaime but was punished by her direct supervisor for doing so.

The lawsuit suggests that the patterns of behavior and the retaliation against the accusers was company-wide, so it feels pretty disingenuous for both of these men to claim they had “no idea” what was going on.  Regardless, it doesn’t appear that they were named in the lawsuit, so they’ll likely walk away relatively unscathed. 

J. Allen Brack, the current head of Blizzard Entertainment, also issued an internal memo (which was quickly leaked) saying the allegations were “extremely troubling” and makes assurances that the company takes these complaints seriously, even committing to personally overseeing the complaints. However, Brack has been specifically named in the lawsuit as one of the leaders who did confront one of the harassers, but downplayed the issue and only gave him a slap on the wrist. 

Activision/Blizzard has issued their own response, mostly saying that all of the allegations were “fake news” and that the California DFEH was being unprofessional in pursuing this lawsuit and basically suggesting that the lawsuit was a deliberate effort to smear the company. Instead of just saying they’ll fight the allegations in court, Blizzard strangely pushed their response further, which implies that yeah, they have never taken any of these allegations seriously.

There’s also some irony in that Blizzard is usually quick to react, and in some cases, too quick, to ANY allegations of harassment/assault when in involves people who are indirectly associated with the company and/or its games. They’ve banned a Chinese Hearthstone master player for using the spotlight in a tournament to protest the violence in his home country. They removed voiceovers for a character when accusations were made against the actor. Even though he was cleared, his content is still out of the game. A Twitch streamer was immediately banned when allegations came out against him. In that case, once the allegations were proven false, he was restored.

It’s also likely that the lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg as more former and current employees come forward with their own stories.

This news has to have made an already bad situation worse for anyone working at Blizzard, especially for the victims. It has to be troubling for anyone that works there, especially if they had no idea. The vast majority of folks there are just doing their jobs and are not directly or indirectly involved with any aspects of the lawsuit. There are rumors that work on WoW has already ground to a halt as employees are equally frustrated and outraged at the company’s behavior. 

The harassers who still work there may be worried they may eventually be publicly outed as the lawsuit continues, but seriously, fuck them. If the allegations against them are true, they should be exposed and purged from the company.

There’s also the reality that this isn’t just happening at Blizzard.  It’s been slowly but increasingly more apparent that this frat boy behavior has been pretty rampant throughout the tech industry.

The bigger question is: Will any of this fix things? 

Will Activision/Blizzard really take steps to making their workplace better? Will anyone actually responsible lose their job? Will they bring in an HR team that will take allegations seriously? Will HR ensure that any such allegations are investigated thoroughly and, if merited, the accused is punished for their behavior, including termination, regardless of how “senior” the accused is?

Will other people be willing to come forward now that the lawsuit is out? Will the state of California have enough evidence in the worst cases of harassment to pursue criminal charges? And, will they stick? 

Nobody wants to see another Cosby situation where, after finally getting caught, he eventually walks over a technicality.

Or, will Activision/Blizzard simply cover everything up? Will they wait for the courts to issue a multi-million dollar fine, and simply pay it? They might cut a couple of people as sacrificial lambs (if they haven’t already) and simply issue public statements  that they’re “taking steps” to improve things to appease the courts, while simply allowing the behavior to continue. 

In the meantime, it is my sincerest hope that the victims who have moved on have found better jobs elsewhere where they are treated with the respect they deserve. I don’t envy the choices that anyone still at Blizzard, especially anyone who is currently being victimized, may have to make.  Do you quit a job that, despite everything, you still love? Do you take a chance and report the harassment and hope that HR is finally listening?  Or, do you simply hunker down and put up with things as they are and hope things eventually change for the better?

The best thing that we can hope for is that Blizzard (at least internally) will take this lawsuit seriously, make real effort to purge proven harassers from their staff, and actually implement steps to ensure that the company never becomes this toxic for their employees again. 

It would also be great if other tech companies took this lawsuit as notice that it is way past time to take a long, hard look at their own work environments and remove any toxic elements from them. 

So, Why Bother Buying an iPad Pro in 2021?

Does Apple Really Have Something Up Its Sleeve?

I’ve ordered a new iPad Pro, and it’s currently backordered.  But, lately, I’ve been debating about canceling the order.

(Note: I’m posting this a week before WWDC 2021, so I’m hoping that Apple proves me wrong, but I doubt it.)

What’s got me thinking are the reviews of the new 2021 M1 iPad Pro. The consensus of many of them seem to be — well, sure the M1 is faster than the 2020 iPad Pro. But, the 2020 (and even 2018) iPad Pro was already a fast machine. But —


It seems like a number of reviewers feel like the iPad Pro is now being held back by the constraints of iPad OS.  That’s feeling especially true now that we’ve seen that the M1 chip is perfectly capable of running Mac OS.  Sure, developers have to optimize their programs to take advantage of the new chip, but even in emulation, applications run very well on the M1 chip on Mac OS.

Plus, Apple has started to blur the lines between iOS and Mac OS even further by allowing iOS apps to be compiled to run on Mac OS. (Kind of a dick move by Apple to its developers IMO — here, have another platform that you should make apps for with free updates forever. A rant for another time) 

So, the question is: What, if anything, does Apple have planned for the iPad Pro? What’s the point of having an iPad Pro with an M1 chip if it’s still constrained by iPad OS?

It’s like handing someone the keys to a brand new Ferrari that’s limited to driving no faster than 30 mph. 

It still has a pencil. The 12.9 has a new screen. Sure.

The original iPad Pros had better screens and the ability to support the Pencil to distinguish them from the rest of the iPad lineup. Now, though, most of the current iPad lineup supports one of the Pencils, and the screen enhancements have mostly trickled down as well.

But, as we move towards a world where ALL Apple devices are running with Apple silicon, where does that really leave the iPad Pro?

Well, there are some options: 

1) Do Nothing: Apple can keep doing what they’re doing, which isn’t much. 

They might make some folks happy by creating Final Cut for iPad OS, but I think it’ll be severely limited. I don’t think Xcode will ever happen, or if it does, the workflow will be such a pain in the ass that most developers will simply not bother. 


But, mostly, this means Apple makes a few tweaks here and there, but they leave the iPad Pro completely limited by the OS. Eventually, the iPad Pro features will likely be absorbed back into the main iPad line. 

Why just take the boring route? Why not do something more with the iPad Pros?

Like what, you might ask?

2) Start experimenting with bringing Mac OS features into iPad OS.

Give the iPad a true “desktop” and a fully functional file system. Maybe a terminal, but I don’t think Apple will ever do that.  What about bringing more interconnectivity between a Mac and an iPad Pro? Let an iPad use an external display as an extended desktop (which is rumored to be coming). Or, what about this? Allow Macs to use iPads as pen displays. Connect an iPad to a Mac, and then, as long as they’re tethered, you can run Mac OS apps on the iPad and use the iPad Pro and Pencil as an input device. Wacom won’t like it, but they still have larger/better displays. 

How about this? Bring full multi-user support to iPad OS, which a lot of people have been wanting for years.

It’d be a bit tricky because Apple may have to “split” iPad OS into two: one for Pro features and one for normal iPads. Apple will likely never allow apps to be installed without going through the App Store. Tools that would be useful for developers would also likely be not be allowed on the platform.

3) Let’s just go all out: Mac OS Touch.  Allow touch to be fully integrated into Mac OS, and allow the iPad Pros to be the first machines to run it. 

Touchscreen Macs?!? That’s crazy. Apple would never invest in a niche market like that. Or, would they?

Microsoft has already built this niche with the Surface line of products, and there seems to be a decent sized community of folks who are using or would like to use the iPad as their main computer. 

 We know the M1 can run either iPad OS or Mac OS. So, why not push the envelope? It could be a way to keep the iPad Pro line more relevant by pushing them to the Mac side.

This might take longer — and it might become a phased thing like they’ve been doing with converting iOS apps to Mac OS apps and the migration to Apple silicon.

The long term goal, though, would be to evolve the iPad Pro into a new line of Macs with touch support. They’d probably have a new name, and they’d probably come with two thunderbolt ports, but they’d be Macs. 

Imagine running a full version of Mac OS on an iPad, even in some limited form until Apple was ready to go to the next step. Maybe you can run it in emulation? Maybe you can choose to configure the iPad Pro to run in either Mac OS or iPad OS? 

iPad Pros are already at a price point where they kind of sit between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pros. The only Mac that might be cannibalized would be the 13 inch MacBook Pro. But, Apple can solve that by keeping the iPad Pro (MacBook Touch?) a generation behind the MacBook Pro M-series of chips. There are rumors abound that Apple is planning on a new M-series for the MacBook Pro line.

Unless it proves otherwise, Mac OS and the rest of the Mac line would remain without touch. Likewise, iPhones and the rest of the iPad line would stay within the bounds of iOS and iPad OS.

But, the main goal would be that Apple would have a platform where they could be free to experiment with the idea of truly integrating  iOS and Mac OS. Chances are, they’ve already have. The lessons learned from the new platform could result in new enhancements to either line. Maybe it becomes worth adding touch in some form to ALL Macs? Or, maybe features would evolve out of Mac OS Touch that could enhance iOS and iPad OS?

This is all fantasy, however. 

At the end of the day, though, I don’t think Apple will take any risks with pushing the limits of iPad OS. I would love to be wrong about this, but I seriously think that the only things that will be announced for iPad OS at WWDC this year will be some minor tweaks to the OS. Apple will put M chips in the iPad Pros, but the machines will continue to be limited by Apple’s constraints on the OS. 

And that’s a damn shame. 

We’ll see, though, what Apple announces at WWDC. 

So angsty…

 I’m apparently on a streak of watching Netflix teen-angsty shows right now. The Society is another one of these shows that asks: What if X happened, but instead of it happening to everyone, it only happened to teenagers? 

In this case, a New England small town’s entire teenage population finds themselves in an “alternate” version of their town in which they are the only people living there, and possibly the only people anywhere. So, it’s up to the teenagers to figure out how to cope with being in a world without parents, or laws, or internet. They have to try to rebuild a society (roll credits!) of their own in order to survive long enough to figure out how they got there and if or how they could get back home. 

Basically, it’s like a lite version of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, but filled with teenage angst instead of adult drama. It doesn’t go as dark as King’s version, and there are certain elements that the kids don’t have to deal with at all, but it’s very similar.

The show takes place late in the school year (likely May), and the town has a strange smell permeating the area. Apparently, it had appeared before recently, and the town leadership hired someone to “clear the air”, but, now, it’s back. 

For reasons, the town decides that they’re going to pack up all of the high school kids and ship them off to a nearby camp for 10 days, while everyone else stays behind (adults, all the little kids, pets, etc) to deal with the smell. I know. I know. 

Anyway, the kids load up on the buses in the evening, and while they’re driving around that night, there’s a big storm. Then, the buses stop, announce that there was a mudslide blocking the road to the camp, so the buses have brought them back home. 

It’s the middle of the night, and nobody is there to greet them. Parents are also not answering their cells. The kids simply shrug this off and head home for the night. When they get home, they can’t find anyone there either. 

The next morning, the kids regroup to try figure out what’s going on. Nobody can find their families, they can’t reach anyone on their cell phones besides each other, and there’s no internet!!! Someone gets smart and hops into a car, figuring they’ll just drive over to the next town and see what’s going on. They get to the town’s border to find that the road is gone and blocked by a massive forest. The check the other end of town and find the same thing. In fact, it appears there’s a forest surrounding the entire town (there’s a dramatic pan out to show a nearby bridge with train tracks crossing underneath, and we’re shown that the tracks now end in forest).

Dun…Dun…DUUNNNNNNN!!!

Oh, man, what on Earth are a bunch of teenagers alone in a town with absolutely no adult supervision going to do???

(Throw a HUGE party, of course)

After a few days of partying, one of the main characters, Cassandra, who is quasi-popular but also the student body president, decides that they should probably start thinking more about how they are going to survive long term. She starts setting up work assignments, consolidating the housing (which the rich kids hate sharing their mansions), etc.  They assign a group of kids to start investigating what happened and why they’re where they are. 

They’re worried about the food supply and kind of worry about the water and electricity. Although they do guard the local grocery store, nobody seems to follow up on how they’re getting water or electricity and what they might need to do to keep all of that running. They pick up trash, but there’s no discussion of where it goes (I figured the town landfill was likely outside the town, and they wouldn’t have access to it)

Two kids do find out that there was a deal between the town and a man who was to be paid $1.5 million to get rid of the smell. For whatever reason, once he did his job, the town leaders (some of the kids parents) decided not to pay the guy. Some other details are revealed, but the show doesn’t follow up on them at all until the last episode. 

To help the kids adjust, Cassandra and her friends, who have basically become the leadership, decide to have prom, and it’s a good night for most of the kids. Then, someone decides to murder their leader, Cassandra. What are they going to do now?

So, yeah, there are some interesting bits to the show, as the kids decide how to try to organize some type of society and a set of rules to live by. Most of the drama, though, spends a lot of time on who’s trying to hook up with whom. Sometimes, the decisions don’t make sense.

For example, for reasons, they decide to put Cassandra’s little sister, Allie, in charge. Why her? Was there not a student-body vice-president or another senior that could have taken over? Or, simply, nobody wanted the responsibility.

So anyway, on top of trying to deal with all of this responsibility dumped on her head, Allie’s also presented with a possible suspect in her sister’s murder. She now has to figure out how to arrest the suspect, detain him, set up a trial for the accused, and then, figure out what the convicted killer’s sentence should be. 

In other places, the situations fall flat. One night, a storm causes a blackout, and suddenly, some of the teenagers decide to loot the local hardware store for all of its flashlights. Other teens show up to stop them, and a major fight breaks out. Only… this is supposed to be kind of a rural small town, so blackouts from thunderstorms, and equally likely, snowstorms, would be a thing. Most homes in the area probably have plenty of flashlights, and lanterns, and a few may even have generators. The point was to illustrate what would happen if chaos took over the town, but it just felt like a really weak example. 

Although Allie has a pretty good character arc, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional, and it’s a shame that they couldn’t have at least played with creating some before and after situations. Like, for instance, one of the guys is revealed to be an actual diagnosed psychopath. Why not give him a redemption arc in this new world? Instead, he’s stays true to type. 

Daybreak, another teenagers in a impossible scenario series, at least manages that. All of the major characters in that show have a pre- and post-apocalypse life, and sometimes, it creates tension between the characters.

The series ends with the town getting ready to have elections for a new mayor and, for the first time, a town council, and looking for some land to farm because they’re realizing they’re going to run out of food. There’s a huge twist though.

There’s also a mysterious ending that will have viewers wondering what is really happening – even possibly wondering if the kids are all dead? We won’t know until season two.

It’s not a bad show. Allie is great to watch, and a few of the other characters are interesting. Campbell, the town psychopath, oozes menace in every scene he’s in, and Elle, who enters into a relationship with Campbell (and everyone forgot to mention to her that he’s crazy), is fascinating to watch as she struggles with being stuck in this situation with Campbell. But, most of the characters are pretty basic. Most of the guys are all brainless or douchebags. Harry is a rich asshole. The football players are all dumb jocks, except for one, who has a BIG secret (and I bet you can’t guess what it is!) Even Will, who is supposed to be the “poor kid with a heart of gold” – the resident “nice guy” – spends a lot of time trying to get laid. 

Most of these characters are what I would consider to be “upper middle class” who have likely never worked a day in their life. So, there’s some fun in watching them trying to figure out how to do certain things, and begin to understand that there’s a lot of stuff that happens that they simply never appreciated. A couple of the characters realize that someone needs to learn to be a doctor/nurse to all of these kids. Next season, they’re going to have to figure out how to farm, and it’s not clear if the town contained a tractor supply or anything that might have farm equipment for them to use. They’ll likely have to go “old school” on farming. 

The only other disappointment about the show is that it really loses focus on anyone looking into where they are and/or why they’re there. They tried to explore the woods in the first episode, but unfortunately, a girl is bitten by a snake and has an allergic reaction to the poison and dies. So, for that reason, they simply abandon investigating their surroundings until the last episodes, when, over five months later, a small team goes looking for farmland outside of the town limits. The mystery of how they got there in the first place doesn’t really come up again until the last couple of episodes.

But, overall, it is a pretty decent show. I think the show could have been a lot better if they had focused more on the kids actually dealing with their situation instead of just the usual teenage drama. The five month time jump between episodes six and seven is pretty jarring. The show is certainly setting up that things will be harder for the kids in season two, so maybe the show runners will find more things for the kids to do and and find some personalities for the other characters.

Daybreak Review

Have you ever wanted a Zombie apocalypse show more in the vein of comedy-horror like Zombieland instead of The Walking Dead?

Have you ever wanted to throw in a whole bunch of teenage angst into said zombie show?

If so, then Netflix’s Daybreak might be for you. 

At some point in the near future, some world leader or leaders decide it was time to start a war, possibly via Tweet, and they nuke California (and presumably, other places). The “nukes” were destructive, but somehow only killed off most of the adult population. The rest roam the streets as “Ghoulies” – basically zombies that mindlessly repeat the last sentence they said before dying. For example, the characters encounter one Ghoulie who was thinking about “10% off yoga pants.” But, basically, the only people who survived the bombs more or less intact are all of the teenagers. 

Oh, and no guns, because California, I guess? And, pets, have mutated. The only real example they show is a pug that has mutated to maybe 10 times his normal size.

Josh, an admitted “C-level” student who moved to Glendale from Canada, has found that he may have been a bit of loner and bullied and had no friends in high school, but he kicks ass in this new post-apocalyptic world. Like Zombieland, Josh and other characters constantly break the fourth wall and converse with the viewer. Like Zombieland, Josh has a list of “rules” for surviving in this new world.

It’s been six months since the attack, and instead of uniting together, the teens have carved out territories that match the same cliques they had in school. The Jocks have taken over the high school campus, and have built a “Mad Max” inspired gang lead by the school’s best football player. The 4-H’ers are off in another part of the city. The cheerleaders have declared themselves “Cheermazons” and took over the country club. One social outcast had the foresight to take over the local mall. There’s also a mysterious boogeyman called Baron Triumph that rides a Triumph, captures kids and eats them.

Josh, though, continues to run around on his own, but he has a mission. The girl he likes, Sam, apparently left him a Post-It Note at his apartment shortly after the attack, and his mission is to find her and save her. Early on, the show is pretty vague about whether or not this is a mutual relationship.

Josh eventually does make a couple of friends. One is Angelica, a 10-year-old super-genius who is a sociopath that Josh used to babysit. The other is Wesley, a black jock who previously bullied Josh, but who left the Bro Jocks and has now declared himself a Ronin on a mission of redemption for his past mistakes. Wesley was inspired by watching “kung-fu” movies, but constantly references Japanese concepts. 

The first couple of episodes mostly establish the world, and most of the other episodes flesh out the back stories of the various characters. There’s definitely plenty of teen drama, but the show doesn’t take itself that seriously. The only “new” aspect I can say about the drama is that Josh is written with the basic premise that all white teenage boys, even the “nice” ones, are jerks. Seriously, the character feels like he’s been pulled out of an 80’s John Hughes movie dropped into a modern teenage drama, like 13 Reasons Why. It really stands out when all of the other major characters feel more “modern” than Josh, especially with regards to his relationship with Sam.

For some extra meta, Matthew Broderick appears as the boring old school principal in flashbacks, which should be amusing for Ferris Bueller fans. He probably has his best moment in episode four, where, in a flashback, he deals with parents and a kid who want to buy his way into better grades in order to maintain his football eligibility. Broderick plays the character so straight it’s hard to tell if he’s enjoying the role.

Overall, though, as long as you can set aside your suspension of disbelief (and the show will stretch it — like when the nuke goes off within visible range of the homecoming game, and everyone just ducks and covers to protect themselves from the blast winds), it is overall pretty entertaining. It has more than enough funny moments to offset the cringe-worthy ones, there are a few decent twists in the overall story, and you may only find yourself yelling at the TV a few times (mostly at Josh). 

The show also leaves itself wide open for a second season, provided Netflix gives them one.

While it doesn’t break any new ground, Daybreak is an uncomplicated comedy-horror show that’s worthy of a weekend of binge-watching. To me, after watching some of the more recent and more serious teenage dramas (13 Reasons Why, Euphoria), that’s not such a bad thing. 

Backed into a corner…

A person who is painted or boxed into a corner is someone who has created difficulties for themselves by their own actions where there are no or very few favorable outcomes.

So far, it appeared like the “Teflon Don” president Trump has been able to escape anything sticking to him, from collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, multiple instances of potential obstruction of justice charges, to many, many cases in which Trump and his cronies have simply ignored the emoluments clause of the Constitution and have used the office of the President to add to their personal coffers.

And yet, it looks like El Cheeto Supremo may have really stepped in it this time. 

The situation with the Ukraine has already presented enough evidence to finally persuaded enough members of the House that Nancy Pelosi formally announced a formal impeachment inquiry on Trump.

But, why now? After everything that happened (or rather, didn’t happen) with the Mueller report, why is it this phone call the issue that’s triggering people’s response that Trump has finally crossed the line?

The biggest thing is that it’s pretty simple to explain. As opposed to the Mueller report, which was over 400 pages, the whistleblower report is only 9 pages long.

Here’s the TL;DR:

Trump (and Guiliani, and likely others) leveraged government resources ($400 million in military aid) to pressure a foreign entity (Ukraine) to do them “a favor” (in this case: find Hillary’s missing email server and investigate Hunter and Joe Biden for corruption) for Trump’s personal gain (dig up dirt on a political rival in the 2020 election).

That right there is an impeachable offense.

Then, the White House, realizing that this call could have major implications, actively worked to cover up the event by moving all documentation related to the call to a “top secret” server meant for matters of national security, which does NOT include saving Trump’s ass.

Another one.

Then, days later, Attorney General Barr received the whistleblower report, looked it over, declared that there was “nothing to see here” and tried to make it go away. 

Possibly another one, depending on whether Barr was acting “on orders” from Trump.

Trump released the transcript of the call, and now that the whistleblower report has been made public, a number of sources have verified elements of the report (including the White House, which admitted moving all documentation about the Ukraine phone call to the top secret server).

Reports have come out stating that, per the whistleblower report, phone conversations between Trump and Putin and Trump and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia are also on this server. 

The major differences between this and everything in the Mueller report are: 

1) The Ukraine call (and visits) are linked directly to Trump and Guiliani, his personal attorney. 

2) Trump and Guiliani (and the White House) have admitted they made the call, and Trump provided a document (not a transcript) of a good portion of the conversation from that call, that shows Trump repeatedly brought up investigating the Bidens.

3) The White House has admitted moving documentation to the top secret server (although they’re trying to spin/deflect who actually ordered moving the files)

4) The whistleblower suggests in his report that the Ukraine call is just one example of a disturbing pattern of behavior from the Trump White House.

Nothing in the Mueller report is as clear-cut as this. Yes, Russia actively tried to interfere with our election, and they would have colluded with the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign was simply too inept to understand what was being offered to them. Most of the obstruction of justice incidents involve Trump wanting to do something that, if his orders had been obeyed, would have clearly been obstruction. In many of the cases, though, Trump’s subordinates simply ignored his orders and waited for him to forget about the whole thing. 

But will he be impeached? 

That’s harder to say. As of today, the House has the votes it needs to pass articles of impeachment. However, Republicans in the Senate are currently steadfast in declaring their loyalty to Trump, and a few have declared they’ll never vote for impeachment. Ironically, at least a couple of those members (I’m looking at you Graham and Moscow Mitch) have videos from the Clinton impeachment contradicting everything they’re saying now.

But, public opinion has already shifted in the last week. It’s hard to predict if the House can continue to make a case for impeachment before the public and push public opinion even further into supporting impeachment.

There was a report somewhere that said most voters were against Nixon’s impeachment when the inquiry began, but public support turned against him as the House made their case. By the time Nixon resigned, more than 2/3 of the public were in favor of impeachment.

At what point will public opinion persuade Republicans in the Senate from staying on board the sinking Trump presidency and save their own hides? It may happen sooner for those facing re-election in 2020, especially if public opinion in their home states turn in favor of impeachment. 

Trump and the GOP will likely try to stonewall the inquiry, which isn’t going to be a good look for them, considering Trump offered up the initial transcript. If they start ignoring subpoenas or trying to hide behind executive privilege now, the public may wonder what they’re hiding. 

And, as we’ve seen over the last 2 1/2 years, Trump will go to any length to keep from admitting he was wrong about anything, no matter how trivial (see: Sharpiegate). He doesn’t want to lose, but, considering all of the other investigations involving the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization, Trump likely also doesn’t want to face any legal repercussions either. 

We’ll likely get to see Trump go insane as his ego fights with the mafioso part of his brain over whether to fight or flee. Maybe Putin will set him up with a place in Moscow?

Will he quit? Does Trump have some other goodies on that top secret server that would take down Pence and other GOP members with him? Does his buddy Putin have enough kompromat on leading members of the Senate to ensure they fall in line and vote against impeachment? 

Remember, all Trump needs is 34 Senators in his back pocket, and he walks. 

Or, will Trump completely lose his shit and take us to the brink of war to cover his own ass??? I’m not talking “civil war” with far-right extremists; I mean, like, actual war, like war with Iran.

Let’s hope not.

Maybe the House will be able to make their case against Trump, public opinion will continue to rise in favor of impeachment, and enough GOP members of the Senate will discover enough of the crumbling remains of their spines to finally do something that puts Country over Party.

The Folly of Impeachment (or, maybe not)?

The New York Times came out with a breaking news story today that reveals yet another accuser of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The central point is that one of his Yale classmates had come forward to say he had witnessed Kavanaugh expose himself to an unwilling female student, and that even though he gave all of this information to the FBI, the FBI never investigated the matter.

The fact that the FBI didn’t fully investigate the other allegations against Brett Kavanaugh while he was being considered for the Supreme Court shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point. The GOP made sure that the FBI’s scope was extremely limited, and gave them a short deadline to complete any type of investigation. It was clear during that time that the FBI made no effort to look into the reports made by other accusers, and that’s exactly the way the GOP wanted things.

So, naturally, the 2020 Democratic candidates now want to impeach Kavanaugh. At the same time, the House has taken it’s first baby steps into an impeachment inquiry of the Trump administration. 

The reality, though, is that nothing will come of any of it. The Democrats will crawl through the steps of some type of inquiry, but I suspect most of it is just for show for their constituents. See? We’re doing something!

The Democrats had zero chance of getting an impeachment inquiry moving while the GOP had control of both houses of Congress. Sure, they have control of the House, and now they can start proceedings and may even put together an indictment. But, it’s always been clear that it’s unlikely they’d ever get enough Republicans to flip in the Senate to actually impeach Trump.

But, now, Trump and the GOP have rigged the game even further. From other investigations in the House, we have seen that Attorney General Barr is wielding the Department of Justice as Trump’s personal law firm, and he’s done everything to obstruct any requests from the House committees.

Now, Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. We know Kavanaugh believes in two things: that the President is above the law and cannot be indicted for breaking the law while he’s in office, and beer.

So, the impeachment proceedings will try to move forward, but Barr will actively block any requests for documentation. Trump officials will simply ignore any subpoenas to testify. If anyone actually does testify, Trump and Barr will scream “executive privilege” to keep them from giving any useful testimony.

Trump and Barr are effectively daring the House to try take the Trump administration to court for their obstruction, where they’ll simply appeal to the Supreme Court. Since Trump and the GOP have stacked the Court, all they have to do is wait. If a case goes before the Court, and the Court rules in Trump’s favor (which they will almost certainly do), they’ll set a precedent. 

Once that happens, Trump will do whatever the hell he wants, and there’s little anyone can do to stop him. 

Even if things don’t go that far, if the proceedings drag into 2020, Trump will use his “bully pulpit” to scream that the Democrats are only using impeachment as a way to try discredit him. They can’t beat him “fair and square”, so they’re “cheating” to try steal the election. Trump’s cronies will eat it up.

Should Trump lose in 2020, don’t expect him to go away gracefully either. If things look bad for Trump, you can bet he and the GOP will start screaming about voter fraud again. If the election is close (and even if it’s not), I fully expect Trump not to concede. 

Trump and Barr will challenge results in a few states, and if it gets to the Supreme Court, so what? All they need is Kavanaugh to back them. 

But, I think maybe there’s another way around this. Forget about impeaching Trump. Let’s take this new information about Kavanaugh and the FBI and impeach Kavanaugh. 

Here’s my thinking on this. Yes, impeaching Kavanaugh has the same problems as impeaching Trump. Even if the House convicts, there’s no way the GOP members of the Senate will flip, especially if it means implicating themselves in a scandal. And, yes, Barr will continue to obstruct the House in every way. 

Get enough information out to condemn Kavanaugh in the court of public opinion, though, and it may just be enough. I know, Dr. Ford’s testimony wasn’t enough before, but if you bring forth other witnesses, and also paint a picture that shows that the FBI made no effort to fully investigate the other accusers (and who ordered them not to), and then we may be on to something.

There’s no executive privilege to invoke, unless the House starts following the path of who prevented the FBI from investigating. Since it’s not Trump personally, he’ll grumble about it, but not as much. 

If the court of public opinion goes against Kavanaugh bigly, Trump will run like hell. Trump will start saying he “barely knew the guy”, etc. 

Then, you make Kavanaugh an issue in GOP Senate races, especially in ones that may be tight. 

Postpone the investigation until after the elections, but keep pushing it as an issue in GOP Senate races. 

The Democrats may still not win enough seats to get a super-majority in the Senate, but it could help them flip the Senate. 

And, if the Democrats win the White House and manage to finally get Trump out of there, they’ll remove Barr as well.

Then, finally, the House can begin a real impeachment hearing into Kavanaugh, who has no business being on the Court.

Maybe they don’t even need to move forward with anything until the election. If the Democrats were smart, they’d let the spectre of impeachment hang on Kavanaugh, and keep bringing up the fact that the FBI failed to do a complete investigation of all of Kavanaugh’s accusers and the possibility that Kavanaugh lied under oath. 

Trump is already screaming that Kavanaugh should sue the media for libel and have the DOJ back him up. Trump doesn’t realize that a libel suit (especially one backed by the DOJ) will just keep the media spotlight focused on Kavanaugh and his accusers. That’s exactly what Trump doesn’t want. 

Alas, all of this is wishful thinking. So far, the Democrats have shown that they are neither savvy or smart enough to build a strategy around such an idea. With Trump creating any number of new scandals every week, it would be nearly impossible to keep the media focused on Kavanaugh. 

Voting out Trump and impeaching Kavanaugh won’t completely undo the damage that the Trump administration has done (and continues to do) while in office, but, man, it would be a great start.

Game of Thrones Recap S8:EP5 “The Bells” or “Let’s nuke the series from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure”

Ugh, Game of Thrones, for fuck’s sake…

WARNING: This is a spoiler-laden rant about Game of Thrones. If you have NOT watched the latest episode, DO NOT KEEP READING!!!

LAST CHANCE!

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!! YARRR!!!

Now, granted, there are some pretty great visuals in this episode of Game of Thrones, which you may or may not appreciate depending on how much you’re yelling at the screen over the horrid writing that came along with those visuals.

The episode opens with Daenerys locked away in Dragonstone. She’s not eating and not sleeping and refuses to see anyone. Naturally, Tyrion decides that he can cheer her up by revealing that someone has betrayed her. Daenerys, though, feels like everyone has betrayed her, including Jon. Tyrion reveals that it’s Varys. Dany already suspected as much, and quickly puts together the pieces that Varys is now on “Team Jon”. She knows the reason this is all happening is because Jon decided (for reasons) to reveal his true parentage to his sisters. Sansa told Tyrion, who then told Varys, who is now trying to tell anyone he can, which is exactly what Dany warned Jon would happen.

Jon opts to drop by to see how things are going. He’s arrived in time to watch Varys get barbecued, and he has another “chat” with Dany. By chat, I mean make out a bit before Jon pushes Dany away.

Mind you. I’m like 99% sure that NOBODY in the show has said anything about Dany being Jon’s aunt, and certainly these two HAVE NOT! Yes, I know, many fans may understand this, but I’d argue that casual viewers would not, especially since this is THE CORE OF THE FUCKING CONFLICT between them. It’s frustrating because one conversation between these two characters could lay out this conflict (Jon’s weirded out about being in love with Dany and being related to her, which is probably a big no-no in the North, where Dany is okay with it because she was raised as a Targaryen and Targaryens were fine with incest. The crux is that Dany wants Jon to embrace the incest part of his family heritage, but not his claim on the Iron Throne — should they win). Since nobody appears to love her in this kingdom, Dany decides she’s going to rule with fear.

Tyrion once again tries to convince Dany to not kill everyone in King’s Landing, and says if the bell towers are ringing, it means that the city has surrendered and they can stop the siege (of course, this is the first time we’ve heard anything about bells meaning any such thing, but whatever). Dany reluctantly agrees.

Jamie has been captured by Dany’s ground forces trying to return to King’s Landing, so Tyrion goes with Jon to perform a little treason of his own. He frees Jamie, then tells Jamie to get to Cersei, convince her to ring the bells and surrender the city, then escape through the same secret cove Tyrion did previously and be free to live out their days together. There’s a great, touching goodbye between the two brothers.

Then comes the morning of the attack. Although they capture Jamie, the Hound and Arya cruise on through Dany’s army with no problem. Jamie also slips into the city.

Euron is out in the bay with dozens of ships armed with the spiffy scorpions. The Golden Company marches outside the gates, ready to go toe-to-toe with Jon’s ground forces of Unsullied, Dothraki and Northmen.

And here’s where things go horribly wrong. Among the scenes of Lannister and Greyjoy men prepping for the coming battle, we’re shown shots of the scorpions – specifically that the magic easy-loading, rapid-firing that can easily be armed and fired by one man are gone. Each machine takes a crew of men to painstakingly load and arm the scorpions, which matches what we saw with Bronn in Season 7, but NOT what we saw in the previous episode. (You know, where they could hit a moving dragon at long range with precision and fire at will) So, something is clearly amiss.

Dany decides to attack by diving at the ships with the sun at her back, making her hard to spot until it’s too late. For this battle, the scorpions also returned to having plot-convenient stormtrooper-like accuracy, so, combined with their now slow-reload times, Dany and Drogon make short work of the Iron Fleet and fly off unscathed. She quickly moves on to the walls of King’s Landing, where she easily decimates the scorpions on the walls.

Dany’s signal to the ground troops to attack? It’s when Drogon explodes through the gate behind the Golden Company, raining fire and debris on the sellswords. (See? Cool visual!) She and Drogon roast most of the Golden Company, leaving her ground troops with an easy march into the city.

And, at that point, the battle is basically over. There’s some fighting in the streets, but it’s not long before the Lannister troops realize they’re outmatched. There are cries in the streets to “ring the bells” – because apparently everyone in the city knows about this bell ringing thing. Dany lands Drogon on a parapet while they wait for the bells.

Jamie hasn’t been able to reach Cersei, though, and as he opts to try get to her through the cove, he runs into Euron, who has a) survived and b) arrived at the exact same spot at the exact same time as Jamie has because of course he does.

Jamie and Euron duel for Cersei? And, Jamie wins, but not without getting very fatal blows from Euron, yet he can still stumbles on into the castle.

Someone eventually rings the bells. Jon sighs, thinking the job is done. Everyone stands down.

Except…

Dany, who has won the day, glares angrily at the Red Keep. After a minute or so, she decides “fuck it” and takes off with Drogon. Then, she proceeds to lay waste to the entire city of King’s Landing and everyone in it. After watching Dany fly off, Grey Worm decides to “fuck it” as well and he and the ground troops begin killing everyone on the ground.

This is the moment that is already causing huge debates online. I’m on the side that even with the hints that Daenerys could be brutal, I think they’ve taken too many shortcuts in this season. Her “descent” into becoming the “Mad Queen” isn’t shown to us, especially after spending so much time trying to turn her into someone more heroic.

Because the show’s creators are entirely focused on hitting all of the plot beats they’ve planned for the last episodes, they’ve completely ignored the characters in the story. So, much like Dany, characters are making bonkers decisions that run completely against their typical behavior, and it ruins the overall effect. Daenerys’ fall is just the most egregious example (so far).

Jon, of course, mostly stands around doing nothing, as he gawks in shock as Dany and his own troops decide it’s a killing free-for-all. He eventually kills one of his own men trying to rape an innocent woman. Eventually, he realizes that Dany may have forgotten she has men in the city and is just as likely to kill all of them, so he orders everyone to fall back.

Instead of seeing a final conflict between the two queens, Jamie and Cersei wind up trapped underneath the Red Keep. They’re trying to escape, but find that the exits are sealed, and wind up dying together as the Red Keep falls on top of them.

Oh sure, there’s a Cleganebowl, which was fine, but there’s no final confrontation between the two Queens, which was really disappointing. Qyburn dies as well, and I imagine a lot of people cheered at that (I did).

And Arya… there’s a good, what, 15 minutes of watching Arya try to escape the city? After entering the keep, the Hound convinces Arya to turn back; don’t let her quest for revenge consume her as it has for him. Go and find a way to live (and maybe murder fewer people?)

So, Arya leaves, but now, she’s on the ground scrambling with everyone else trying to escape Dany’s wrath as she continues to rain fire and destruction down on King’s Landing. After so many close calls it almost becomes laughable, Arya conveniently finds a “pale horse” in the aftermath and rides out of the city.

And. That’s it. Daenerys wins! The Game of Thrones is over! Right?

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?

No. Not really.

The most frustrating thing is that so many of the character missteps could have been fixed. The creators are so focused on just getting through their plot beats that not once did they take a step or two back and think: “Whoa, hold on. Why is character X doing Y?” A couple of scenes here, a few lines of dialog there; it might not fix everything, but it would have helped connect some of the dots.

One day, maybe, we’ll get a chance to finally read how George R. R. Martin would have ended the series, and it’ll (hopefully) be a more satisfactory conclusion. That’s assuming GRRM gets around to finishing the series.

But, so far, this season has been a pretty mixed bag. There have been some great moments, but overall, the story is simply flying through the plot beats to get to the finale.

There’s no right way to fix it either. Should HBO have stuck to their guns and kept the show running? Let Benioff and Weiss leave the show and hand it off to someone else? Pushed them into doing two full seasons? There’s no guarantee a new team would have finished the show any better, and more likely, things could have gone a lot worse. If the shows creators are burned out, forcing them to produce more episodes would have also likely created a few more “stinker” episodes just to meet the commitment.

It’s just a shame to see a really great show finish up this way.

Game of Thrones thoughts – S8-04 – Last of the Starks

This is a continuing series on the final season of Game of Thrones.

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS!!!

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED! If you keep reading past this point, you either don’t care about GoT or about being spoilers because I will be talking about things that happen in the episode.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS…

Okay, so, let’s quickly recap the Long Night (episode 3) death total. Apparently, I was completely wrong about some of the characters surviving the fight. In fact, all of the major characters, and most of the minor ones, survived the night.

I did go into this week’s episode expecting things to be kind of slow after last week’s epic episode, but it was kind of “meh” instead.

The first, say, third of the episode was pretty good. The survivors of Winterfell are given a chance to mourn the dead and celebrate living.

The Gendy lordship scene was a bit odd. Danaerys starts off by acknowledging first who his father is, then goes on about how his father tried to murder her and her brother when they were young, and finally decides oh, you’re a hero of this battle, so I should make you a lord. So, she does. She recognizes him as a Baratheon, and names him lord of Storm’s End.

This prompts some cheers amongst the crowd and begins the celebration.

To me, the Gendry/Arya scene felt forced. Sure there’s an attraction there, but I always got the vibe that Gendry (until last week) thought of Arya as more of a sister than a potential lover. Sure, Gendry was drunk and excited that he’s a lord now and could marry a lady like Arya. Alas, no, Arya shoots him down, and I think a sober Gendry would have known better.

Yep, I’m totally fine with Jamie/Brienne hooking up. I’m not so thrilled with the final scene between those two. If, after Jamie tells Brienne that he will always pick Cersei, she knocks him on his ass, then storms away with tears in her eyes, I would have been fine with that. I’m not as thrilled with her just standing there crying though; it felt completely out of character.

Then there’s Jon/Dany. It’s an interesting conflict between the two. Jon is hung up on the idea that she’s his aunt, but Dany cares more about his claim to the Iron Throne. Jon feels obligated to tell his sisters, but Dany understands that if he does, it won’t stay secret for long. She also understands that it won’t matter what he wants, once people learn who he is, especially after seeing the people cheer for him earlier that night. She begs him to keep it a secret, but Jon refuses.

And – then – the show goes sideways –

Jon tells Sansa/Arya who he is, via Bran (who apparently is only still around to relay this info). He swears them both to secrecy, but the first chance she gets, Sansa tells Tyrion, who then tells Varys.

Instead of resting their men and trying to rebuild their forces, Dany pushes to go for King’s Landing. Everyone reluctantly agrees.

Jon decides to lead the forces on land, and so says goodbye to his friends. He does not, however, say goodbye to Ghost!!! For fucks sake, man, could you not have spared a minute for your dire wolf??? The shot of a sullen Ghost watching his master leave is just as sad as watching Brienne crying after Jamie leaving.

Strangely, this seems to be the last scene for Tormund and Sam/Gilly, so why not simply have let them die during the battle, other than to give them “happy” endings, which generally don’t happen in Game of Thrones.

Arya and the Hound decide to ride off to King’s Landing. They both say they have some killing to do. Presumably, the Hound wants his shot at the Mountain, and Arya will want Cersei.

My prediction there? Jamie will probably be the one to kill Cersei, adding Queenslayer to his list of titles.

Oh, and somehow, Bronn just strolls into Winterfell and finds Jamie and Tyrion drinking together. Bronn happily threatens to kill both Tyrion and Jamie if they don’t come up with a better counter-offer to what Cersei is offering to kill the two of them. Tyrion offers him Highgarden, and Bronn goes on his merry way.

Then…

There’s a “fast travel” moment – and Dany, her dragons, and what’s left of her fleet are arriving back at Dragonstone. Dany is flying casually on Drogon with Rhaegal next to her. Suddenly, Rhaegal is slammed with a giant crossbow bolt. As he struggles to stay in the air, another pierces his neck, and he tumbles into the sea. Dany turns to find some of Euron Greyjoy’s fleet coming around a bend of a cove –

In the time since their meeting and supposed cease-fire, Cersei and her team have a) redesigned the scorpions, b) mass produced them (as we learn later), including mounting them on Euron’s ships complete with custom squid-like appendages to keep with Euron’s motif, c) the new scorpions are also magically auto-loading (unlike the version Bronn had to use in season 7) d) Cersei/Euron figured out that Dany was heading back to Dragonstone, e) so Euron sat around waiting for days for them to reappear, and f) somehow managed to get the drop on a rider on a dragon who should have seen the ships long before they saw her.

Oh, it gets better. Dany opts to charge the ships. There’s a moment of tension as she charges at them and Euron lines up his shot, but Dany finally relents and turns back. At this point, after Euron and his men hit Rhaegal with deadly accuracy at long range, now plot-conveniently suddenly have Stormtrooper accuracy while Dany, at a much closer range, turns and flees the scene.

Also, never mind the fact that Dany could have veered left, then once out of range, quickly double-backed around the same island “concealing” Euron’s ships and blasted them to shreds before they could come about. I suspect she’ll think of that in next week’s episode.

Bummed he can’t kill the last dragon, Euron turns his scorpions on Dany’s fleet, and once again, he and his men are deadly accurate and quickly destroy the last of her fleet. Somehow, Euron manages to capture Missande while ignoring all of the other survivors from the destroyed ships.

After, there’s a new discussion at Dragonstone where everyone does what they can to prevent Dany from tearing off to King’s Landing and burning it to the ground. They’re aware that Cersei is bringing all of the locals into the city, creating a human shield. They convince Dany to give Cersei a chance to surrender before destroying the city, so the people will “know” that it’s Cersei’s fault that they’re being burnt to a crisp.

Later that evening, there’s a long discussion between Tyrion and Varys about whether Danaerys is really the right person to sit on the Iron Throne, especially now that they have another option (i.e. Jon). Tyrion sticks to Team Dany, but Varys seems to be leaning towards Team Jon.

Jamie, after deciding to stay with Brienne in Winterfell, learns from Sansa about Euron’s ambush at Dragonstone, and everyone figures Dany’s going to burn King’s Landing to cinders. That night, Jamie decides to go back to Cersei. This brings an annoying scene where Brienne begs him to stay, and says that Jamie is a good man. Jamie tells Brienne a brief list of things he’s done and would have done for Cersei, and leaves Brienne in tears.

Of course, for one final, tense scene, we have Dany, Drogon, Tyrion, Grey Worm and I guess the Queen’s personal guard of Unsullied rally outside the gates of King’s Landing. Oh, and look, now every parapet of the castle has one of those new auto-loading scorpions upon it. Cersei is feeling pretty smug at this point, and has Missande in cuffs with her (and others) above the gate.

The hands of the respective queens walk out to the middle. Tyrion offers Dany’s terms of surrender, and Qyburn counters with Cersei’s offer for Dany to surrender or they’ll kill Missande right now. Tyrion tries to convince Cersei, and she has the Mountain lop off Missande’s head. Dany simply storms off.

And, for whatever reason, Cersei just lets them walk away. She’s got Dany, Tyrion and her other leaders right there, in range of her archers, and Drogon is riiiiight over there, maybe in range of the scorpions. Why she doesn’t take her shot and finish “the whole lot” right then is beyond me.

So… yeah. The episode was a mixed bag. The first half was pretty good, and the second half was a mess. Cersei has been reduced to a one-dimensional Bond villain. The writers seem to be pushing Dany to becoming the “Mad Queen.” Jon will likely try to do something honorable and get himself killed.

We only have a couple of more episodes left, regardless. I would guess that next week will be the final battle for King’s Landing, and the last episode will wrap up all of the loose ends after the battle?

Maybe it’ll end up with: Hail Queen Arya, First of Her Name, Slayer of the Night King, and Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms?

Never Tell Me the Odds (of Game of Thrones)…

Never Tell Me the Odds…

Apparently, Vegas actually has odds up on who is going to survive the final season of Game of Thrones, and even odds on various fan theories.

Variety: Vegas Odds on Game of Thrones Final Season

In light of this week’s episode (Season 8, Episode 2), I was thinking about the odds I’d give the characters surviving next week’s episode, which will be the “final” battle for Winterfell.

(WARNING: There are spoilers below for this season!!! If you’re not caught up to the latest episode, please don’t keep reading!!!)

Here are the odds I’d give for who’s going to die next week. To clarify: 100% means they’re fodder, 0% means they’ll live on for at least another episode.

Winterfell: 100%

Should be a no-brainer that Winterfell is probably going to fall, fell?, taken, destroyed, whatever. There are a lot of theories about how it will happen, like the Night King is now some sort of brilliant strategist or something. So far, he’s just been using his superior numbers to overwhelm anyone in their path, and it’s worked out pretty well.

They could throw in a twist, though, especially with all the innocents taking refuge in the crypts.

Theon Greyjoy: 100%

Theon’s arc at this point is all about him seeking redemption, and his final act will be redeeming himself in the eyes of the Starks, who’s he’s repeatedly betrayed. What better way for him to redeem himself than to sacrifice his own life to protect one of the Starks?

Grey Worm/Missandei: 100% that one will die: 80% both will die

Planning their post-conquest life just before a major life or death battle? Yeah, that’s almost a guarantee that one or both of them will die.

Samwell / Bran: 100% that one of them will die

Bran is using himself as bait to lure the Night King out, so there’s a very good chance that plan will not end well. Both Sam and Bran’s usefulness at this point really revolves around discovering a way to stop the White Walkers and their knowledge of Jon’s true parentage. Sam is long thought to be George R. R. Martin’s proxy in the books, so I’d give him the edge on sticking around a bit longer.

(Side bet: Night King dies and Bran becomes the new Night King: 10%)

Varys: 100%

Varys is basically fodder at this point.

Gendry: 100%

He’s created all of the dragon glass weapons, so he’s done. His status as Robert’s bastard probably won’t save him. At least he got to have sex with Arya, so that’s something?

Anyone I haven’t named: 100%

Podrick, Ed, Baeric, etc. Time to make some new White Walkers!

Sir Brienne of Tarth: 70%

Like Theon, she’s pretty much played out her arc at this point, and being knighted is just icing on the cake. What nobler death could she have than to die protecting the innocents at Winterfell? I’m reducing her odds just a bit for the potential fun of watching Tormund continue to try to find a way to impress/seduce her.

Dragons: 70% that one will die

My prediction here is that one will die trying to kill the Night King’s new flying mount. The remaining dragon may be in a situation where he has to roast both the NK mount and his brother in order to kill them.

Jamie/Tyrion: 50%

I’d say one or the other is worm food. I don’t see both brothers walking away from this one. One of them may be needed in the final confrontation with Cersei. Between the two of them, I’d put Tyrion as the one to die. If Jamie proves himself on the battlefield, he might be useful helping command the remainder of the forces from Winterfell.

Tormund: 30%

Things are going to be real ugly the rest of the season, and Tormund will be a breath of fresh (and funny) air. And, should Brienne survive, he can keep hitting on her.

Arya: 30%

Outside of the rumor that she’s GRRM’s favorite character, I’m not sure if she’ll make it till the end. I’ll give her a chance simply so she could have a shot at actually killing Cersei.

The Hound: 25%

Only because I think there are a huge number fo fans who want to see a final Cleganebowl between the Hound and his undead? brother, the Mountain.

Jorah Mormont: 25%

I could see him being fodder at this point, but I could also see him take over as Hand should Tyrion die. If Tyrion lives, then Jorah is likely fodder.

Jon “Snow”: 0%

He’ll try like hell to get slaughtered, but he’ll escape just in the nick of time (again).

Now that Danaerys knows about his parentage, he’ll be around until the Game is almost done. If he hadn’t told Dany, I’d put his odds at 70%

(Side bet: Odds that Dany feeds him to a dragon later: 50%)

Danaerys: 0%

Again, she and Sansa are still playing the Game, so she’ll be around until the end. She’s not super thrilled to learn about Jon’s little secret (and she’s not pissed that she’s sleeping with her nephew).

Sansa: 0%

She’s still in the game. My money is also betting she will learn about Jon’s true heritage, and there will be a tug of war between her and Dany over who has a stronger claim to the throne. If they were deciding now, Dany has two armies, so “bigger army diplomacy” would win.

But, how much of anyone’s armies will survive the battle for Winterfell is anyone’s guess.

It’s pretty clear, at least in my opinion, that the Game will end up being a battle of wills between Cersei, Dany and Sansa, or whoever’s still alive. Bigger-army-diplomacy will also play a role. (So, maybe, the Night King wins the Iron Throne?)

My personal favorite: Jon kills the Night King, only to die and become the new Night King, and he (the currently “most-legitimate” claim to the throne) beats everyone, wins the Game and takes the Iron Throne.

So, anyway, those are my odds for next week’s episode. I’ll have to post again next week to review how right (and wrong) I was.

Captain Marvel: Good, but Not Great

For the last ten years, Marvel Studios has done an amazing job creating a cinematic universe using “second-tier” heroes from their comic books. They’ve also done a pretty uncanny job of casting the right people as the heroes. Today, who could imagine someone besides Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man or Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America (and so on).

Although Captain Marvel is a good, decently paced, and entertaining latest entry in the MCU catalogue, it’s just misses the mark of being one of the great films. It’s like the Tony Romo of the MCU films: Good movie, great numbers ($900 million at the box office so far), but is just missing that extra something special to push it over the top.

The first part of the movie is a bit boring. Starforce member Vers (Danvers/Capt Marvel) suffers from amnesia and is haunted by nightmares. She has been a part of Starforce for the last six years and has no memories before that. She has issues maintaining control of her emotions, and is urged by her mentor and commander as well as the Kree leader she must learn to control them.

On a mission to recover a spy, Vers is captured by the Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters who the Kree have been at war with, and is subjected to a memory probe. Strangely, although Vers has amnesia, there’s nothing that prevents the Skrulls from scrolling through her memories with a high-tech TiVo. The Skrulls are looking for a specific Kree agent, and as luck would have it, Vers memories lead them to her. Vers escapes, but destroys the Skrulls ship, so both she and the Skrulls crash land on Earth in 1995.

Once on Earth, Vers runs into a young Nick Fury and SHIELD, and hilarity ensues as they try to track down the Kree agent on Earth before the Skrulls do.

The amnesia angle is a bit of a problem, because it seems like the writers have given little for Brie Larson to run with outside of being a stoic warrior. Once she has a chance to interact with her co-stars, she’s much better, and in some cases, her co-stars really outshine her. Larson does fine with what she’s given, though. She may be the right choice for Carol Danvers/Capt Marvel, but we’ll have to wait to see her in Avengers: Endgame to see if Larson has more to work with.

At just over two hours, the movie feels pretty well paced. As with any Marvel movie, you probably don’t want to overthink the plot too much (like a nit picky thing for me is: where is her Kree uniform? Danvers wears normal clothes during a large part of her time on Earth, but there’s no sign of her Kree outfit or some type of Kree fanny-pack that she’s wearing. Sure it’s something they could have explained in a few seconds, but they didn’t) . The 90’s references are fun, and ensures the film has a pretty great soundtrack. The movie does a decent job of introducing the Kree/Skrull conflict and throws in a few MCU connections.

The creators try to give Capt. Marvel a big “hero” moment late in the film. A lot of the elements are there, like flashbacks of Danvers struggling in moments in her past. But, there’s no real context around the flashbacks, and the stakes aren’t really established, so when she overcomes the challenge, it lacks the emotional connection they were shooting for. You can see what they were trying to do, and I think, with a few changes, they could have gotten pretty close.

Spider-Man: Homecoming borrows a scene like this directly from the comics, and they do a much better job of making the “hero” moment work.

The weakest part of the movie comes near the end. Once Capt. Marvel “unlocks” her powers, she masters complete control of her nearly apparently near-unlimited power within about 10 minutes of screen time. Up until that point, we’ve only ever seen Marvel shoot fusion blasts from her hands. The audience has no idea that she can do the other things or was even trained to do anything else with her powers.

I have no problem with Captain Marvel being ultra-powerful, but for me it’s a case of lazy writing. At least show the audience some glimpse of her doing something else with her powers beforehand.

Hopefully, by Endgame, Carol Danvers/Capt. Marvel will have her memories back and can bring more of a human element to her powers, so she doesn’t end up feeling like the Superman of the MCU. I really don’t want to see Capt. Marvel become this emotionless god-like character like DC has done with Superman in the DCCU/Snyder-verse.

The most touching moment of the film? For me, it was the opening credits. Normally, Marvel movies open with an animated logo sequence. As the 3D logo falls into place, we see animations of comic panels inside the logo related to the hero in the movie. For their 10th anniversary logo, the logo changed to splice in video clips of the heroes from the entire MCU. This year, in honor of Stan Lee (who passed away last November), the logo shows clips of all of Lee’s cameos from the MCU movies (I’m assuming only MCU, but I guess they could have clips from the older movies). At the end of the animation, the logo fades to black before displaying a single, simple message: “Thank you, Stan”.

I’ll be honest. I sorta had high hopes for this film. With this being the first major Marvel movie starring a female super hero, and Marvel knocking it out of the park in their most of their most recent films, I really hoped they would do something special with Captain Marvel.

Instead, it feels more like a standard MCU-paint-by-numbers origin story, and while the movie is good, it just misses that something extra to make it memorable.

It’ll be interesting to see if Captain Marvel becomes a part of one of the other teams (Avengers, Guardians), or if they’ll keep her solo and have a Captain Marvel sequel. Based on the box office numbers, a sequel seems like a pretty sure bet. But with the Disney/Marvel acquisition of 20th Century Fox (and the rights to Marvel’s top-tier heroes), it’s too early to guess if Marvel will re-think “phase four” of their plans for the MCU.