Disappointing ending to the Haunting of Hill House

I just finished watching season one and am sharing my feelings about it. There are spoilers here, and I assume if you read on, you watched the show already. So if you don’t want to read spoilers, stop. Seriously, the very next paragraph starts with a spoiler, so if you don’t want spoilers, it’s high time to fuck off. I didn’t like the last episode, for various reasons…

It ended happily for everybody concerned

Liv, the mad matriarch didn’t get her way and have the whole family “wake up” to die and spend eternity as ghosts in the “forever house”, but did get her husband to sacrifice himself to save the surviving kids. But all three sides here, the living, the dead, and the house itself, ended up happy. The living escaped, the dead are ghosts but they’re happy where they are, and the house itself… is safe because Steve agrees to take over his father’s deal and not try to destroy the house.

No real scares in the last episode

Yes, the truth about the Red Room being whatever each character wants it to be, the tree house, the dance studio, the library, the games room… that was creepy. The playing around with time was cool, and tied up nicely with the way the story was told. The converging of multiple timelines coincided with the story itself presenting time as being interconnected. But the dreams given to the characters weren’t particularly traumatizing, except for Luke’s, which did not make sense. (See next point.)

The breaking of rules between dreams and reality

Luke did not relapse. He didn’t stop and buy heroin before entering the house. He only had a needle in his arm in a dream. So how was it there when he awoke? The rules for the ghosts affecting reality were made quite clear throughout… they can trick the living into killing themselves. Lure the mother into madness. But what the characters experience in their dreams or visions are hallucinations. Having his dream drug usage bleed into reality is a major plot hole. “A little spill”, Hugh’s words to Nell when she was a child, refers to them seeing things, but not the effect we see here because what they see is not really there. (I mention this because it is a theme and I assume would be used as the explanation for the heroin from Luke’s dream affecting reality.) This would be fine if the rules were undefined, but nothing quite like this happens at any time other than the last episode.

Nell, the bent neck lady or the happy hippie ghost?

After Nell’s death, we get to see that time is not a single one-way thread in this narrative, and she becomes the “bent neck lady”. It turns out she was always the bent neck lady, and trapped in that form in death, she must suffer forever as she suffered during sleep paralysis, sent back in time as the ghost that accidentally terrorizes her younger self. It’s implied that she is trapped like that, a terrifying figure with a broken neck, to be misunderstood by all who see her, for the rest of time. And that is how she should have remained. Except she didn’t. She also gets to be cheerful, and save all her siblings in the nick of time when they dream the hallucinatory dreams that the house gives them.

Who is the antagonist?

The Red Room is the heart of the house, so it would seem that the house itself is the antagonist.

But the characters are sent off to slumber and dream the dreams that the house supplies, by Poppy. So is Poppy an agent of the house? Well, Liv gets to dismiss her from terrorizing her husband, so that she can do so herself. So again, who is the antagonist? Is it the house, Poppy, or Liv? Is Poppy an agent for the house, or is Liv? The events do not make sense, and the ghosts’ behaviour is inconsistent. Sometimes they have free will, and sometimes they are carrying out the “wishes” of the house. Sometimes they’re just there for decoration. (This sort of poor writing is commonplace in lower class horror. You get plot elements just for the effect at the time, such as jump scares involving ghosts that remain trapped inside a place showing up in the greater world, and when the various narrative threads are woven together at the end, things don’t add up. I didn’t expect such obvious plot holes in this series.)

Furthermore, the toasting man who haunts Shirley is not a ghost at all, but a memory of her infidelity and guilt, used by the house to taunt her. That’s a problem though, because it again raises the problem of who the antagonist is. A house is just a house, and this lack of a clearly defined idea of an antagonist, even a supernatural force but one properly defined, comes apart in the last episode.

Here’s the thing… If the house can haunt Shirley without needing an actual ghost, none of the ghosts need to be fully fledged characters. The threat to the living is then death. They can be seen as zombie like husks of their former selves after death, without fleshing them out or even defining if the ghosts are really former living people at all. Maybe they are, or maybe they are mere projections of the souls captured and swallowed by the house. Keep it ambiguous and it remains scary.

The tone is all wrong in the last episode

Everybody is happy, the living and the dead. Dying and being trapped as a ghost in the house is not a threat if you’ll be happy there. This is a paradox in horror, especially in ghost stories. The mere existence of an afterlife is required for ghosts to exist, but that also means that death is not the end, which casts doubt on what there is to fear.

Normally you’d miss this, because you are only presented with the threat of death, and the ghosts are never fully formed but remain mysterious. Cross that blurry line and show us tangible ghosts, and take away their suffering but make them happy, and horror is no longer horrifying.

In conclusion

For me it all went wrong in that last episode. I enjoyed the series until then, and thought it was well crafted supernatural horror up to that point. I didn’t see the Red Room twist coming, which was a pleasant surprise. I did see the Abigail twist coming, and thought that was mildly predictable, but still something I know most viewers would not have guessed. I also liked what they did with time, especially after showing Nell’s death from her point of view. They should have left her trapped in the form of the bent neck lady after death. That would have been perfect.

But that happy ending! It was too much. Plus their breaking of their own rules, the inconsistent treatment of ghosts, and the failure to decide whether the house or the ghosts were the antagonist. In my opinion, they went way too far in the wrong direction. The ghosts should have been manifestations created by the house, with the house itself an evil, intelligent entity. Thus the threat is existential, the characters face death and nothingness, their souls swallowed and devoured, their effigies then presented to living occupants as soulless husks, animated cadaverous carcasses of the former occupants taken by the house.

Instead we got happy ghosts, some of them delusional, but happy and content. That’s not how you end a horror. If the monster gives you eternal life and happiness, it isn’t much of a monster at all. Right through, my son watched it while reaching in terror for my hand, his tether to reality, but he didn’t need that for the last episode, and commented to me about how happy everyone was.

Update: I missed the ambiguity of the final scene. Luke’s two years clean cake is blood red, a hint that maybe they’re in the Red Room and in fact never left. But this just creates a bigger, more messy plot hole. The deal struck with Steve, the knowledge that the caretakers begged his father not to destroy the house (and that he now takes that role) because the ghost of their dead daughter was there, and the woman’s return there to die and be young again with her husband shows us the plot where they escape really happened. The house let him leave. So what we have is two narratives that contradict one another. This is not clever; it’s merely poor writing and shoddy directing. It also alows them to guage the viewer response to the series, and decide after the fact which story to follow for season two.


When a crime-solving TV documentary mentions ritual Satanic murders, those Satanists are not what you think they are…

In the dead of the night, monsters are real.

A couple of days ago, I played Diablo on my XBox One, as usual, and stopped earlier than usual because I was tired. On TV, a local crime solving documentary called “Solving It” played. One case rounded off as I watched, and the show didn’t look too bad so I continued watching. Lo and behold, the next segment was introduced with “scary” death metal, gothic imagery and Satanic symbols. Fade into an “expert” talking about Satanism being a religious cult that includes ritualistic murders and the usual fear mongering bullshit about Satanists. I tuned out and turned off the TV in disgust.

If you want to know what type of “Satanist” carries out such murders, there is only one question you need to ask yourself:

  1. Who believes in a literal Satan?

The answer, of course, is Christians. Only Christians believe in an evil Satan, their devil. Only Christians believe anyone would worship the antagonist in their story. And only Christians, albeit very confused Christians, ever actually worship their devil. Not convinced? Well, we have to backtrack a little to see how they get there…

An interesting thing happens to us psychologically at night. Night time is when we watch horror movies and read horror novels, especially the supernatural ones. We can’t suspend our disbelief in the day when it comes to stories featuring ghosts and haunted houses, demons, Satan, possession, exorcism, and so on. But at night, when we can’t see what lies in the dark, we revert to our childlike mental states. We fear the dark. We fear the unknown that lies in the dark. Most of us don’t even realize it happens; so little self awareness we have. But it does happen. At night, the monsters are real. We talk to our closest family and friends, about haunted houses, UFOs, and our other fears. At night we tell those stories with hushed voices as if the ghosts and ghouls might hear us, and we believe them, as do those who listen. On some level we know we cannot discuss those things with the same conviction during the day. At night, many of us believe those things, then but only then… unless we hear an authority, like an expert on Satanists, tell us that the subjects of our fears are legitimate and our fears are justified. We really haven’t moved on much from our primitive superstitious roots, and as we watch those shows with baited breath, we are mere inches from shouting, “Burn the witch!”

An even more interesting thing happens to us psychologically when we use hard drugs, such as methamphetamine. We revert to that same childlike mental state, but not only at night. It becomes more permanent. Day and night, the monsters are real. Maybe not all of us, but many… Many addicts suddenly get into the occult, but it isn’t because of “demonic influence” or anything that a lunatic believer might tell you – it’s because they’ve reverted to that same childlike mental state where all those things they fear seem real, the same state that nearly everybody goes into in the dark. It’s probably why Stephen King wrote such great horror stories on cocaine. (While he remains one of my favourite authors, he hasn’t had that edge since the eighties.) If you think about it, being high, edgy, anxious and paranoid while hearing voices and maybe also seeing things when you have some deeply ingrained religious fears… is a fine recipe for a sudden interest in the occult.

What drives the fear of Satanism and Satanic rituals among Christians? Again, those who fear it aren’t exactly honest with themselves about it. It’s not just fear. It’s exciting. They want it to be real. They want to imagine that people can really sit in a circle with a pentagram chalked on the floor, and summon demons. They want to believe that people can somehow gain personal power when committing violent acts during such rituals. And when such people (who want to believe) use drugs, ironically they are the ones who then mimic the “Satanic” rituals they saw in movies and read about in horror pulp fiction. Theirs is more a cargo cult than a religious cult, carrying out stupid pop culture rituals as if they are characters in movies like The Craft. And when they get caught, they make up their nonsensical claims about covens and groups of evil Satanists. And other Christians believe them because they want to believe them. But the bottom line is this: Those evil Satanists you are so scared of are just junkie Christians.

Actual Satanism is something completely different. It is simply a parody of religion, used as a tool to try bringing about secularism. (The separation of church and state.) For example, when militant Christians impose their religion on a state owned institution, forcing prayers before meetings, this is where an atheist jumps in, calling himself a Satanist, insisting that Satanic invocations can then happen before meetings, because due to freedom of religion, it must be given equal prayer time. It takes advantage of Christian fear – and in such cases, Christians in power will very quickly make rules barring all prayer, which is exactly what the secularist wanted in the fist place. In the same way, a Satanist who is really an atheist parodying religion, might place a Satanic statue in a state owned facility where extremist believers place their religious statues or monuments. The objective is the same.

And that is why I dislike Satanism. Even when it works to push secularism, as in the examples above, it does so dishonestly by pretending to be a religion. They might get away with it legally by displaying all the trappings of religion, but it can be argued that their beliefs are not sincere. (They’re not sincere.) But more importantly to me, it further perpetuates the nonsense that atheism is a religion and that atheists worship Satan. Ultimately it doesn’t get the point across that it should because the point should be to prevent religious extremists from imposing their religion on everyone, not to piss them off by imposing another “religion” on everyone. And Christians who are the target of such tactics will cling even harder to their faith and negative belief about Satanists; after all it is their fears that are being played on. Make no mistake though, Satanists don’t believe in or worship any deity or devil.

The Flash Season 3 is absolutely ruined by plot holes and plot elements that make no sense.

So after watching Supergirl Season 2 with my son Josh, I decided to watch The Flash Season 3. He loves it. That’s what’s important, I suppose…

Warning… Spoilers. If you haven’t watched the show, you might not want to read this.

I hate it. It’s terrible. The plot makes no damn sense and there are holes everywhere. Recently I mentioned the plot holes in Supergirl, but they really didn’t come close to this. Also the show takes predictability to a whole new level. If my nine year old son could guess that Savitar is Barry Allen in some form (a time remnant, really??), then somebody fucked up.

Just a few…

  • The entire premise of the contrived drama is that Barry can’t change the future. A future caused by him changing the past. So can he or can’t he?
  • The poorly contrived drama is all about the impending (and obviously inevitable) death of Iris. And I write this without having yet watched the last three episodes.
  • The drama is further delayed by stupid episodes of irrelevant nonsense that do not further the main plot. Some villains are not properly fleshed out but feel like they were thrown in just to increase the episode count. Actually not some… all of them this season.
  • They could save Iris simply by having her go off somewhere on her own for a few months, without telling Barry about it. Maybe to visit her aunt Dorothy in Kansas. Or whatever… There are an endless possible ways to save her that they don’t think of.
  • In one especially stupid episode, Barry’s friends subject him to an experimental way of not getting any new long term memories. Because, you know, Savitar being a future time remnant duplicate of Barry won’t have those memories and thus they can defeat him. Of course it all goes awry and he gets amnesia instead, but even if that didn’t happen, there is no way this course of action could ever make any sense. And he’s totally OK with jumping in to a device that will fry his brain?
  • In that same stupid episode, when he has amnesia, Savitar forgets who he is too. Except he’s still there, in his armoured suit, but Wally West, who got his powers via Savitar, doesn’t have his powers any more. This is not a paradox. It’s just a mind-numbingly stupid contradiction. (If Wally lost his powers, why didn’t Savitar just vanish?)
  • Caitlyn turns evil for no apparent reason. There are plenty of good metahumans, but just because there was a version of her with those powers in another universe who happened to be a villain, does not explain why she’s evil here too. Cisco was evil too over there. And her backstory was slightly different in order to set up a different persona because maybe the writers thought things through a little back then.
  • Knowing that his future self will create Savitar by making a time remnant, all he has to do is… Not create a time remnant! Tada!
  • Edit: I nearly forgot this one… The way Savitar gets out of his speed force prison doesn’t make sense. Firstly, the characters decided they had to get rid of the magic stone that could free him, knowing that he had been trapped “somewhere” by future Barry. Predictably, that place could only be the speed force. Of course I guessed that but somehow they did not? So they throw the stone that can free him directly to him? Then, Caitlyn keeps a part of it, which prevents him from being freed. And Wally goes off all by himself and throws it into the speed force without realizing the consequences, without anybody being able to tell him why that will lead to disaster. Then Caitlyn is still criticized for keeping that piece of the stone. None of this makes any sense.
  • As in the example above, there were many cases where the characters could have helped each other, but they didn’t talk, don’t communicate basic facts to one another, and yet the main story is dragged out over way too many episodes.
  • Barry keeps on diving in front of other people to save them from metahuman attacks, especially those by Killer Frost. He could use his speed and move them out of harm’s way instead, but that would make sense. On the other hand, when people are shot at, he’s fast enough to run and pluck the individual bullets out of the air, presumably because it would be a problem if all his friends were shot dead. This is another contradiction, one where using his powers in two very similar examples is inconsistent, to advance the horrendously (not) thought out plot.
  • In season one, they were concerned enough about physics to explain that running up walls would be difficult, as enough speed would be required to keep from falling. Now Barry zig zags all over buildings as if gravity is not a thing, and Wally does too. (Wally, whose training involved running around in circles and then running around outside with the help of a man who knows nothing about his powers.) Yet when facing a villain, he stands around talking to them and waiting for them to use their powers.
  • And lastly, the question asked by my nine year old son: If Savitar is so fast, why doesn’t he just run over and kill everybody who can stop him? Maybe that’s a simplistic way of putting it, but it’s a good question… For example, in the episode where he sends Killer Frost to stop the scientist who will be able to build a device to stop him in the future, why not just do it himself? He’s so fast, he can literally be all over the city at the same time. He could kill her before any of the other characters exhale.

I still have three episodes left, and since Josh loves the show, I must watch it with him. For once, I’m dreading finishing a series.

If you think I’m being overly negative, here’s an article that I found via a quick Google search highlighting the plot holes. I didn’t read the whole thing because I haven’t watched the whole series, so technically I don’t know that Iris dies… except I do know because I’m not an idiot and predictable plots are predictable.

I repeat, if a child can see your plot holes, you fucked up big time. Thanks for reading.

Supergirl Season 2 home DVD review

After slogging through the entirety of Game of Thrones, I figured it was time for a child friendly series to watch with Josh, so I bought the second season of Supergirl which is available on DVD. Of course a review will be quite unnecessary to most people, apart from those like me who never watch TV, but buy or download series instead… Here’s my two cents anyway…

Overall, I enjoyed it. It has some not so subtle political views, and it is basically set in an alternate universe where Hillary Clinton became president of the US, and she is an alien, one where refugees are aliens rather than Muslims. And yet it is still somehow more sane than the real universe.


I’ll list some pros and cons.


  1. Calista Flockhart is still in it. Despite that woman’s popularity, she can’t act. I don’t like her skeletal face or the tone of her voice. Thankfully she’s only in the first two and last two episodes, but I’m not gonna lie – her presence was a huge con for me.
  2. Plot holes. Plot holes everywhere. I won’t list them all, but here’s one example: project Medusa, featured in one of the earlier episodes, has the bad guys using a Kryptonian device that targets and kills aliens… that somehow doesn’t target humans. Because, you know, we’re on Earth, so we are not aliens, and apparently we’re too thick to notice plot holes that make no sense.
  3. Tropes. Too many of them. Again, I’ll give one example (that includes three tropes): Her friend Winn is conned by a beautiful alien, and nobody notices their meeting is a setup. She did it because she needed to con him into helping her rob a museum, but only because the bad guys have her brother… And lastly she falls in love with him anyway.
  4. The episodes are a little too formulaic, with the exception of the penultimate one. They’re all exactly 40 minutes. 20 minutes in, things are looking bad for the protagonist and her friends and some sort of predicament is set up, but it all gets resolved quite swiftly with two minutes to spare for some cheesy dialog or a set up of perils coming in the next episodes…
  5. The script, though better than that of the first season, is still not good.
  6. Aliens. Aliens everywhere. Just like The Flash has metahumans everywhere, and that dreadful old Highlander series (There can be only one.) had immortals everywhere, this gets a bit much. OK, it’s not so bad as Highlander was, which had a new immortal in every episode. Also the aliens are integral to the main theme.


  1. It’s Supergirl! The stories are uplifting. In this universe, there’s a clear distinction between good and evil, and the good guys always win. That makes it child-friendly and fun; a pleasant escape from reality.
  2. The acting is mostly good, in spite of the sucky script.
  3. Although it is formulaic, what with her friends and other supporting cast making this less of a super hero show and more a “super hero with friends and little helpers” show, the main theme and subthemes fit together nicely. It all flows rather well from start to end and they tie up loose ends. I could suspend my disbelief and pretend the plot holes weren’t there.
  4. The biggest pro for me was the same sex relationship between the protagonist’s sister and a new cop character. (Although I had to ignore that this cop was everywhere, even in story arcs where she didn’t belong.) My son is at an age where he exclaims “Disgusting!” whenever he sees characters kissing romantically; it doesn’t matter if they’re the same sex or not. But it is good to see a homosexual relationship treated respectfully and as a normal, acceptable relationship. My son’s mother is currently in a same sex relationship (she was always bi) and even though she is far away, we speak to her regularly. This was a great help for me to help him understand that there is nothing wrong with being gay – he has picked up some homophobic ideas somewhere and I need to squash them quickly. (That relationship did feel a little forced at first. I mean, who figures out they are gay in their thirties? But after that, it was handled well.)

Neither a pro nor a con, but in the comics I used to own, Monel was Superman’s grandfather, and sometimes a time traveller. Now he’s from a planet that was a twin to Krypton and a love interest to Supergirl. But this was also part of one of the subthemes involved – prejudice and war, which did fit into the alien refugees main theme.

They’ve taken some liberties with the Supes cousins in this show. They’re a lot less powerful than one might expect. Not necessarily a problem since the limits of their powers in the comics have fluctuated over the years, and they do arguably need to be weaker for a TV show, but this does mean that they’re quite different to the movie version of Superman. And try explaining to a nine year old why Henry Cavill can’t be Superman in this. Marvel got this right after all, and in shows he’s seen like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, while the movie actors are not present, references are occasionally made to the cinematic heroes’ antics.

OK, so I’ve listed more cons than pros. Oops… But I did like the show, and so did my son. If they make a third season, I’ll watch it too. But they really need to kill off Cat Grant and her annoying pep talks.

Westworld is the best series I’ve seen for a while

This is not a review… Just some of my thoughts on the show. Also, I’ve only watched the first four episodes.

For those who don’t know, the show is a based on a 1973 movie by the same name. As far as I know, I didn’t watch it, because I was two years old when it was released, yet I have some vague memories of seeing Yul Brunner in it, so maybe I watched it as a child but don’t remember clearly. Anyway, it clearly isn’t that similar to the original.

The basic story is that there is a park, set in the style of the old west. The people who pay to visit it, the Guests, interact with the population of androids, called Hosts, who are there to please the Guests. So the visitors get to act out every fantasy, whether it is to have their way with the prostitutes, shoot some old style outlaws, or any number of other complex narratives that the androids are programmed to play out.

Of course the androids are not meant to harm the humans, but they can be killed, and are just brought back by the people who run the park. And of course things will go wrong, and they will become sentient, which makes this more a story about slavery and imprisonment, and their quest for freedom. I write that things “will go wrong” because I’ve only watched the first four episodes.

So it’s a story that’s been done many times before, but I am enjoying the way it’s playing out. It isn’t predictable, apart from the obvious things that need to happen, which I’ve already mentioned. There are a number of simultaneous narratives going on, and they have to converge, but unlike the case with many other movies and series I’ve seen, I can’t predict exactly how they will converge. The story moves along at a good pace… I don’t get the feeling that any episodes do not progress the plots involved.

What I dislike about many other series is when they become too predictable, or reveal their secrets too early. The best example I can give here is American Horror Story… In the Hotel season, for example, they revealed the details too soon, just like they did with their very first season. So once I knew that everybody who died in the hotel became ghosts in the hotel, the rest of the episodes lost my interest. It was two episodes of interest, followed by nothing but filler because there were no more secrets to tell, and a final episode of sentimental shit. But I digress…

Westworld is great. if you haven’t already seen it, I recommend doing so.

Now for my criticism… There was one part that I really disliked. I do not appreciate when they create rules in their fictional universe, and then break their own rules. For the most part, the androids do not know they are androids. They “think” their world is real, and unless they are removed from the park for diagnostics and follow voice commands, they get confused if anyone tells them that their world isn’t real, or mentions the difference between Guests and Hosts. But they fucked that up by breaking those rules in one scene… When one of the main human characters arrives, he gets ready to enter the park, by meeting what first seems to be a human woman, who introduces him to the clothes, guns and so on that he can choose to wear in the park. But she reveals that she isn’t a real person and that like all the Hosts, she is there to please him. This is an inconsistency in the rules that have been established about the Hosts. She isn’t sentient, but knows she is an android? This is an awful mistake, because an important part of the plots involved is about the Hosts figuring out that their world isn’t real. I wish they hadn’t done this.

Other than that, there are some interesting things going on that I’ve seen so far. The plots are already starting to converge in a way that’s well done, and there are other inconsistencies that are clearly deliberate, that hint at a rather significant twist in the tale. I won’t speculate on that, or on what that twist will be, because my speculation is normally correct, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone else who hasn’t yet seen it…

Just a silly observation about those TV murder documentaries

Every day when I get home from work, my mother and sometimes my son are watching one of those TV programs about cops finding killers. This one is called “Unusual Suspects” I think, is especially badly produced, and often features the same stories already seen on “Medical Detectives” last year.

This particular program follows a rather tiresome formula: (Disclosure – I’ve never seen it from the beginning.)

  1. Tell us the sad story of somebody who was murdered, and then hark back to it constantly, via interviews with family members.
  2. Go through every suspect they had, in copious detail, no matter how irrelevant.
  3. Tell us how hopeless the case was, and how it almost remained unsolved.
  4. Remind us again that this was a sweet, innocent person whom everybody loved.
  5. And then, years later, there’s an anonymous phone call, leading to the police finding the culprit.

Last night I got told to “Shut up!” when I blurted out, “And then there was a phone call” right before the overly dramatized tringalingaling…

Anyway, it occurred to me that those types of programs would be a heck of a lot less popular with people like my mother, if last night’s episode had been entitled “Pretty girl with three lovers and a cocaine habit stabbed to death”.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a girl having three lovers. Even those who buy into the sanctity of marriage bullshit seem to miss that in Biblical times, marriage involved men with dozens of wives, and concubines (sex slaves).

Also, not every victim in these shows is female, and sometimes (though rarely) they are innocent. The point is, almost every victim in these shows has connections to hard drugs. Thanks to the poorly produced formula of this particular show, where they go into detail of every failed lead, they do mention investigating drug or gang connections with people such as partners and family members of the victims.

They downplay the victims’ connections to drugs, but if you know anything about drugs and drug users, you should know that if a husband and wife live together and the husband sells (and uses) drugs, his wife is probably a user too. And so on. The more people in the victim’s life are associated with drugs, the more likely that the victim is also associated with drugs.

Nobody deserves to be murdered, of course, but if you associate with crime and criminals, the probability of it happening is going to increase. Those sorts of TV programs look for interesting stories, but they are dishonest in the way they present their victims… I doubt my mother would still find such tripe so interesting if nearly every episode was called some variation of “Another junkie killed”.

About an “unpopular opinion” and negative review of Stranger Things

Disclosure: I loved Stranger Things. I binge-watched it last weekend. So imagine my surprise when I read a badly written, rambling, negative opinion piece about it.


Don’t read that unless you have already watched the show. It’s rife with spoilers. I won’t include too many myself, and will not refute the whole verbose mess of it, but will rather only address two or three of its complaints. I just want to point out that it (the negative review) is not as thorough or even as good as it might appear.

It starts with that good old narrative device… “I really do like horror but…” Rather than just say it in a few simple words, even that claim is drawn out, as the writer tries too hard to prove both his eighties and horror “credentials”. It’s a narrative device, not dissimilar to one used by peddlers of pseudoscience and religion, with their “I used to be a skeptic but…” or “I used to be an atheist but…”. And as with them, if you recognize the technique, you know you’re being set up, so the device no longer works.

The entire piece is written almost like one would expect the writing of a hard drug user to be… It complains about the superficial, and never goes any deeper, as if the writer was too coked up to see beyond the surface. There isn’t much going on beyond the surface in Stranger Things, but there are a few subthemes, which might easily be missed by someone who looks only at the superficial, playing a game of spot the cliché… Note that all of the clichés the writer complains about are often called tropes, and are present everywhere, in most movies and TV shows. Why call them out here? I’ve lost count of the number of movies and books that featured bullies… Heck, when I was a kid (in the eighties), I’d fantasize about the day some moron would try to bully me, just so I could get the chance to dish out some rightful vengeance. And likewise I’ve lost count of the number of movies that featured a teen girl who gets manipulated into sex by the popular boyfriend who only wants to get into her panties. At least in this case, that bad guy turned out not to be so bad after all, and redeemed himself.

Somewhere buried in the piece is a complaint about the chief of police… I don’t dare try to find it now in that mess, so I’ll have to go by memory. He complains that the man, who is an incompetent alcoholic, turns into a monster hunter by the end. Way to miss the point… In the scene that introduces the chief, he looks like an alcoholic. But as the show progresses, we learn that he is a flawed figure, who lost his daughter to a terminal illness. He’s a good man and a good investigator, who came to this small town from the city. Alcohol is the coping mechanism for his loss, and one of the (obvious) subthemes that the writer missed is the character’s redemption. The finding and saving of Will, another child, represents the chief’s redemption, and it both removed the need for his coping mechanism, as well as brought closure to him and helped him finally deal with the loss of his daughter.

(Redemption itself is a recurring subtheme in the show, and doesn’t only apply to the chief. I won’t mention how it applies to other characters because spoilers…)

Then there’s complaints about the missing girl, Barb… The character Nancy, does not report her missing when she should! This sets up her guilt and her drive to find the monster and try to save her friend. By the time the girl is reported missing, the shady government guys have covered it up and made it look like she ran away. In the last episode, they reveal to Will’s parents that six people have been taken that week. Six! Why does the writer not blather on about the other four that we don’t know of? Maybe he missed that reveal? Maybe it was the inopportune moment to lean over and do another line of coke?

There are other complaints… Loads of them. But all suffer the same issue. The writer seems so caught up in the superficial, he can’t see anything beyond it. The subthemes are not that complicated, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why the show is so popular. You don’t have to be a genius to get them. But if you totally miss them all, well then… What the fuck?

There is one major plot hole that the writer totally misses. The monster, which is limited to a small area, travels between this and a shadow world (the Upside Down in the show), being attracted to blood. But what about menstrual blood? Every woman or teenage girl in that area should have been taken. Yah, they fucked that one up… But Mr Pastiche (not his name, but one of his most annoyingly repeated complaints) totally missed it.

Another valid criticism of the show would be that it was predictable (just like everything else). The writer of that poor review complained about the pace, but I had no problem with that. Where I did have a problem was, I knew which characters were “safe”… Spoiler alert… (Skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid spoilers.) Will was safe. The whole point of the show was about rescuing him. So despite some hints in some episodes that he might not be, it was obvious he’d always be fine. Nancy was safe. Despite accidentally entering the “Upside Down” at one point, I knew she would be safe because too much plot had been devoted to the narrative of her relationship with her boyfriend, and that plot had to be tied up by her either getting together with Jonathan or by Steve redeeming himself. (Thus Jonathan was also safe, especially because he was Will’s brother, and Steve might not be.) I knew that another character would sacrifice herself at the end because that was how she could redeem herself… And so on. I knew much of what was going to happen because it could only go that way. But that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the show. As with most shows and movies that I’ve watched, I knew what would happen, and that’s OK because I was entertained and captivated, and watched to find out how it would happen, how this story would be played out. The predictability didn’t prevent me from binge-watching it. In fact, the only reason I watched four episodes each day over two days was that my eight-year-old son watched with me, and he had to go to sleep on Saturday night. Otherwise I’d have watched all eight episodes in one sitting.

Anyway, I won’t write a full review, or full rebuttal of that badly written opinion piece… If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, I suggest you do so. It is worth the time. Yes, there is a lot of hype all over the internet about the show, but don’t go into it looking for faults. All movies and all series have plenty of faults. Much of the hype is about the overwhelming positive reaction to the show. Consider that a positive reaction might be because the series is good.

My disappointment with the Supergirl Season 1 Finale

This will be brief, and I’ll only mention one thing I’m disappointed with, from the last episode, even though there were some other issues throughout. I like the series, but the plot-hole at the end was too big to ignore.

Obviously this contains a spoiler, so don’t read on if you haven’t watched it.

At the end of the episode, a device is about to explode everybody’s brains, all humans, and end the world. So Supergirl has no choice but to fly it out into space where it will be harmless. The problem posed in this TV universe though, is that she will not be able to return from space once she gets there as there is no atmosphere and she will have no thrust. Also she can’t breathe. So she had to be rescued by her adoptive sister, using her Kryptonanian pod. (How? But never mind. That’s not my complaint.)

Now even though Superman and Supergirl of the comics could always fly in space, and didn’t need to breathe, this could be a valid plotline. Sure, they are free to decide on their own rules and limitations of the characters for their TV Supergirl universe, so like her blue heat vision, her being unable to fly in space falls perfectly within what the creators of this show can do… But there’s a problem.

Near the start of the previous episode, the reason that her cousin, Superman, could not help her, was explained as he was “off-world”. It would not make sense to assume that he used the pod that brought him to Earth as a baby. It would make sense, when stating that such a character was off-world, to assume that he, you know… flew out into space.

And that’s a massive plot-hole. Unless you’re a child, and I gather this series is not especially for children, that’s enough of a plot-hole to ruin an otherwise good story. I can understand their reasons for not being able to show Superman, but the story that he was off-world and the plot where it is unsafe, and almost certain suicide, for Supergirl to fly out into space, directly contradicts itself. I looked past all the cheesy dialogue earlier in the series (her aunt referring to her as “my niece” and so on) and I looked past the casting of the annoying as hell living scarecrow, Calista Flockhart, but this… this is terrible writing. Now I wonder if the show will be renewed for a second season after all. If it is, I hope the writers do a better job and write stories that make some sense. At least stick to your own rules, for fuck’s sake.

More thoughts on my JVC LT-55n935 TV, which is really a “rebranded” Kogan TV

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve had plenty of issues with my “JVC” 55” smart TV, purchased directly from NuWorld.

After a few short minutes searching on the model number last night, I found many people who had similar issues to mine. And via two separate forum posts on totally different forums, it became clear that my JVC TV is not a JVC at all, but a rebranded Kogan TV.

Yes, I’d never heard of Kogan either. And the original Kogan formware has sorted out the issues with the TV, at least for now. You’ll have to read yesterday’s post for details, but the issues with the TV got worse over time, and it was basically unusable before I flashed it with the original Kogan firmware.

But here’s the real problems:

  1. I bought that particular TV because the brand name of JVC was pushed in my face. Actually I was at work and I sent Megan (my ex) and my mother to get it, simply trusting their choice. But that’s not the point. They were assured it was a good TV, a known brand with a good reputation.
  2. They would never have bought the TV if they knew it was a make that none of us had ever heard of.
  3. The salesperson at NuWorld, the sales manager here in Johannesburg by the name of Andre, arranged the sale personally. He must have been aware of both the rebrand and the known issues with this TV.
  4. When the issues came up with the TV months later (actually the slowing down of menu items and occasional errors started almost immediately) and Nuworld was called, this Andre jerk was unhelpful and rude over the phone. (“Who do you think you’re speaking to? I am the sales manager. We don’t sell directly to the public.”) That even though he arranged the sale himself, through my ex neighbour who used to own a restaurant in their business area. My neighbour was named Clive Govender.
  5. I have a copy of the letter from their repair agents, who suggested that the TV be replaced when I first complained about it. That never happened.

But what I really wonder is, is this kind of rebranding even legal? An unknown brand, at least in this country, was misrepresented as a known and popular brand. I can’t find any information about the rebranding online, apart from the forum posts, so it isn’t clear to me how others with the same problem even found out that their TVs were rebranded.

From my research online, Kogan only sells TVs via the internet, in Australia. Here is a scathing review of Kogan TVs published in Australia.

Update: Today I spoke to an acquaintance whose husband does the imports for one of the large retailers here, and it turns out that this rebranding is quite normal. So when you buy a TV here, if it isn’t one of the better-known brand names like Sony, Samsung or LG, it’s probably rebranded. So in a way I was lucky… I got an Australian TV and not something from China.

Never make the mistake of buying a JVC smart TV, model number JVC LT-55n935

Update: Flashing the TV with the Kogan firmware as per the instructions on the linked page worked perfectly. Now when it starts up, the Kogan logo is displayed instead of the JVC logo, but otherwise it is identical (minus the errors).

Of course, if I’d known that this was a rebranded Kogan TV, and not a JVC, I’d never have purchased it in the first place. But at least now it works properly.

About a year and a half ago, I bought my TV through Nuworld, organised by a neighbour who said he could get me a good price. (It was around R9000.) It was a huge mistake. I’ve had endless problems with the TV, that neighbour is long gone, and Nuworld are not helpful. I assume they know this TV has issues, as it isn’t difficult to find others online with identical problems.

It started with the TV freezing occasionally. Then it progressed to Android error messages being displayed modally on top of the screen, with helpful text such as “Unfortunately YouTube has stopped working” or “Unfortunately android.core.process has stopped working”. Hundreds of fucking error messages. But that isn’t even important anymore because now, most of the time the TV stops responding completely and I can’t even dismiss a single error message. Before it got to this point, it would restart all by itself, sometimes in a loop, and sometimes freeze on the startup screen.

It turns out that this is a rebranded Kogan TV. Tomorrow I’ll try flashing the TV with the firmware I found on this page. I need to buy a smaller USB drive first, one that I can format with FAT32, but I’m hoping it will work.

Nuworld “repaired” the TV twice while it was still under guarantee, so I’m assuming that all they did was flash it. This TV is junk. Don’t buy this model under any circumstances. But at least if flashing it works temporarily, I’ll keep the small drive with the TV firmware on it (and I can leave it in USB port 1 since I don’t normally use that port) and reflash the piece of shit every now and then.

I’ll update this post with the result, but I do have a strong feeling this will work. Otherwise I have one hell of a paperweight.