Criminal Minds 821: Nanny Dearest

Still no updates on the whole copycat situation, so with just two episodes left in the season, I guess they're making us wait until the finale, right? Or maybe there'll be a scene next week setting up the finale?

Either way, the episode opens with a screw-up, titling the first scene as '1 YEAR AGO', when really this is the present, and the rest of the episode is one year later. Who taught these people about context?

Anyhow, in a bathroom lit only by candles, a guy in rubber gloves is preparing a scalding-hot tub! Or perhaps it's full of chemicals. I suppose we'll find out when he finishes dragging the gagged and screaming woman into it. No, even after we see the dunking, there's no clear answer as to whether it's actually dangerous, or this was some kind of sick baptism ritual.

There's a solid transition from the murder tub to the one where JJ is bathing her son! The kid asks why she has to go to work, since he'd rather she be around all of the time. She starts to offer the whole 'people need my help' thing, which is crazy, since she hasn't had a clear role or value to the team since Garcia took over picking the cases, but there's no time for her justification to continue, since Josh Stewart walks in, making me immediately happy!

Seriously, that guy is one of my ten favorite actors, and he's not on the show enough. Maybe someone could give him his own show? Wait, maybe someone has!

(one trip to IMDB later)

Apparently he's currently on season two of the show 'Shooter' (presumably playing an evil sniper, although that's based on nothing but his appearance in Dark Knight Rises), as well as a miniseries about Lewis and Clark!

Good for you, Josh!

Where was I? Oh, right Criminal Minds.

JJ heads off to work after handing off parenting duties to Josh, which makes me wonder if he's a full-time dad now. I certainly hope so. Seriously, after you've had a bomb vest strapped to you and survived, it's time to call the whole police thing quits and take early retirement. I'm sure you can get some kind of a stress pension for that, can't you?

At the office we get a breakdown of their new case! Every year a nanny taking care of a child is kidnapped, raped, burned with a circular object, then drowned in a tub. The children are dropped off at a hospital, church, or other safe space, completely unharmed. The killer makes sure that her body his found on a specific day, which is now just two weeks away, so the team is on the case!

Seriously? You waited until it was just two weeks away? Were you so busy with something else that you couldn't be working the case out of California and getting off to your occasional 2-day solves?

The killer murders people up and down California, so there's no way of knowing where he'll strike next! But one of his would-be victims escaped and moved to Seattle, so while most of the team will be heading to LA because it's an easy place to film (also that's where the killer dumps the bodies, and maybe holds the still-living victims, but come on), JJ and Derek will try to get more info out of the escaped victim.

There's also a Prentiss-Award winning line, as Reid, condescending dick that he is, seriously assumes that the rest of the team doesn't know what day of the month it is.
Big help there, Reid.

Over at the Griffith Observatory, the killer has decided to get super-lazy, abducting a nanny who was already in LA! Will the team be able to save her in time (they have at least twelve days, unless he refrigerates bodies), or will the killer start spree killing?

Let's find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 820: Alchemy

The episode opens as a man in a vest has a staring contest with an owl. This looks as strange as it sounds. Then he hears the yelling of a child from the hallway, and sees a wall bulge outwards as if Jake Busey were hiding behind it. So I guess he's got a mental disorder? Or perhaps this is a dream?

He tears down the wallpaper and finds that behind it is a wall of meat, which promptly swallows his arm-
Well, this is certainly unusual for an episode of Criminal Minds. Are we sure I didn't accidentally turn on an episode of Supernatural? Or did Matthew Gubler just direct two episodes this year?

It turns out to have just been a bad dream, as the man, looking quite different with a flannel shirt and messy hair, wakes up coated in sweat. He rushes to a nearby phone to call for a doctor, and the voice on the phone announces that there's a doctor in room 209. Which seems like a weird thing for an operator to do. Is she just another figment of his imagination?

Then things get still stranger, as the show cuts immediately from him walking through the suspiciously ajar door 209 to a bunch of police officers running through the woods at night with pistols and flashlights. Their dogs lead them to an arm, which proves to have no body attached to it! It does, however have the same ring that its middle finger that the confused man was wearing in the last scene!

There's another hard cut, this one to Reid, who's presenting Joe with his theory of the case - people are being abducted in small towns around Rapid City, South Dakota, and then being cut up and having their body parts strewn about the woods! Apparently local police didn't know about the connection because one of the bodies was dumped inside a reservation, which is a completely different jurisdiction.

Since the brutal reservation murder is and FBI matter it should have been investigated already, but the characters note that the FBI doesn't really care what happens on reservations ever since two FBI agents were murdered in one back in the 70s. Which is true, and kind of super-unprofessional of them.

When listing the things that they 'know', Garcia mentions that there was no evidence of robbery or sexual assault. Um... the two bodies were stripped of their clothes, dismembered, and the pieces dropped in the woods. Did the killer also leave their full-of-cash wallets next to the bodies? It seems like you're basing the 'no robbery' on the fact that one of them was still wearing a single ring, but there's any number of reasons a killer could have left that on. Not the least of which being how singularly weird it looks to see a hand with just one ring on the middle finger.

The team notices that it was strange that the bodies weren't stripped by animals. It seems that they were full of poison, which explain the rough night the guy was having at the start of the episode! There's also strange welts all over the most recent victim's back, which resemble something called 'cupping' from holistic medicine. I'll just take their word for it, since it sounds like something I don't want to look up.

Meanwhile, over in Rapid city, a guy is about to leave a bar when a woman in a creepy old-timey dress asks him to walk her to her car, so as to avoid her abusive ex-boyfriend. Is he the next to be abducted by her evil cult? I don't have any proof that she's a strange cultist of course, but she did go into a bar in this dress-
Wearing minimal makeup and no jewelry but a picture locket. It's weird. Also, considering this episode is set in April in South Dakota, they seem badly underdressed.

She flirts with the guy a little, and notices that he's driving a rental car. She invites him to stay at her motel rather than the dump he's currently at, since that's where all of her murder supplies are. Naturally she doesn't say that part, but we know it's true, since she clearly has the same voice as the woman from the phone.

Over at the lodge she comes on to him while her partner watches through a hole in the wall! Is this going to be an adaptation of that true-life story of the motel owner who built an entire motel just so he could spy on people? Only now he's also a serial killer?

I guess we'll find out after the credits!


Criminal Minds 819: Pay It Forward

Another week, another lack of 'previously on' copycat clips, suggesting a lack of progress on the copycat case. At least with Frank and the fake Zodiac killer you could believe the team would stop chasing them, since they stopped killing once they disappeared. At least until they reappeared. They know for a fact that the copycat is out there scheming for another kill. Erin said he's gone 'dormant', but in serial killer terms that means years without a kill, not weeks.

Although everything is a little skewed in a world where every serial killer is a spree killer, of course.

The episode begins with a Mayor in 'Bronson Springs Colorado' giving a speech about how it's the best town in America, past, present, or future! This scene is set in 1988, 25 years before the episode airs, so presumably we would have heard about Bronson Springs at some point if that were true.

Hey, are they going to seal up a time capsule with a person in it? That would be great.

Literally the next shot was them installing a time capsule. I watch too much television. It's too small to have a body in it, though, so that's a relief. Maybe the killer wrote a confession detailing his plan to kill one person a year over the next twenty-five years?

The workman drag the capsule out in the present day, and it's in pristine condition, as if it's only been underground for three hours! Wink.

They pop it open and find a mummified head inside! This is a lesson - go with your first instincts, people. As the fuss begins, this man-
Walks off into the crowd! Could he be the killer? Why is he so familiar to me?

Then it's over to Quantico, where Garcia is explaining the details of the crime! A young blonde guy had been decapitated years ago, it seems - although it's unclear from her description whether people knew that he'd had his head cut off back when he was first killed, or if he simply disappeared. Seems like that would be important.

Then, just a day after the head was discovered, a retired sheriff's deputy (who - possibly importantly - was already on the job 25 years ago) had his head cut off at the side of the road just outside of town. That's right, there's a Highlander on the loose!

Jeanne points out that it was an unusually long time between kills. Reid suggests that such a long dormancy period isn't unheard of, mentioning that BTK, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Keystone Killer, Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer.

Okay, so let's address those one at a time.

BTK didn't have a long gap between kills - he stopped killing, but then wanted attention again, and got caught when he asked for it. Maybe he was going to kill that next woman, maybe not, there's no real way to know.

Jeffrey Dahmer stopped killing for a couple of years.

The Keystone Killer was the show's version of BTK, so it isn't worth mentioning.

Jack the Ripper should never be brought up, since nothing about the case is useful in the study of modern criminology.

The Zodiac Killer did stop. So Reid is 1/5 for this information dump. Although it's questionable how relevant a guy who stopped killing is in a discussion about a guy who didn't.

They raise the possibility that it could be a copycat, since over a million people saw the video of the severed head rolling out when it was posted to - well, probably not YouTube, given the subject matter, but somewhere online. True, but that wouldn't make much of an episode, would it?

We then drop by the guy from the crowd's garage, and watch him put the cop's severed head in his freezer! Also, I'm pretty sure that he's the evil prison guard from Prison Break, although the fact that we've just seen him in profile twice isn't helping me identify him.



Criminal Minds 818: Restoration

The episode begins with a complete lack of 'previously on Criminal Minds', which means no copycat this week! Seems like an oversight for the team. I mean, don't they understand that every time the team goes out and works another crime they're just giving the copycat an excuse to kill another person? And it's not like they're contributing much to solving these new crimes. Considering that it's Garcia doing all the actual work, couldn't Forrest Whitaker's team go out and work these cases?

Anyhoo, the episode actually starts with a guy closing up his corner store! Before he can close the door two adorable kids ride up on their bikes asking to buy some candy, and this soft-hearted guy lets them into the store. This, naturally, gives the killer a chance to rush up and tackle him when the kids ride off on their bikes and he's turned to lock the door. He drags the owner inside, shuts the security fence, and that's the end of the scene!

One thing, though - his plan revolved around clubbing the owner while the door was still unlocked, then getting him inside before anyone noticed them. So why didn't he attack the first the time the guy was closing the door? He was just as close to locking it when the kids drove up on their bikes, so shouldn't the killer have been attacking then? If the guy had succeeded in locking the door, then the attack turns into a mess. He has to club the guy, grab his keys, unlock the door, and drag him inside - this takes much longer, and gives the victim a huge amount of time to call for help, fight back, and attract attention.

It's not like the killer saw that the kids were coming - they rode in on bikes around the corner just as the door was about to be locked. Seems awfully convenient that he didn't attack that first time, even though it made him considerably more likely to get caught.

Then we cut to one of Derek's properties, which he's busy renovating! Did you remember that Derek owns a large number of rental units? I did, and am a little worried about that, since it never comes up on the show. It's possible I know too much about Criminal Minds.

Joe drops by with some booze, which should prove helpful for a safe work environment. Then agian, Derek is tearing out plaster walls and removing old windows without wearing a mask or safety goggles, so maybe safety isn't a priority of his?

Before they can get drunk Garcia calls with a case - one that's so important they presumably have to run in on a weekend! It's worth noting here, I think, that other than holes in his jeans and work gloves, there is literally zero difference between the way Derek dresses to renovate a house:

  And how he dresses to go to work at the FBI.
Food for thought. Thoroughly unprofessional food.

It seems that the convenience store owner was the second man beaten to death with someone's bare fists! Also the men had their pants and underwear pulled down, but were not sexually assaulted. Not a lot of info there, and considering the ten-day gap between the murders, I'm not sure why the team had to come in on a weekend for this.

I'm kidding, of course, the killer will definitely start killing one person a day from here on out.

JJ mentions that Derek should check in with his family while he's in Chicago, but he announces that he's not going to let them know he's in town until the case is over. Which is kind of a dick move. How often do you get a chance to see your mother or your sisters? Including, you know, the one who was a sex slave for five years until you rescued her? Even when on the road you don't work the cases 24 hours a day, Derek, you can get dinner with your family.

In Chicago, a man shows a woman and her kid out of a store, and the killer notices him placing his hand on the kid's shoulder. It troubles him quite a bit. Is this guy getting revenge on child molesters, or at least people he thinks are child molesters? This could get quite personal for Derek!



Criminal Minds 817: The Gathering

So, this episode probably isn't going to be about profiling Highlanders, despite the title, so I'll put my disappointment aside and get to the show!

We start with another 'previously on', which I guess means they're finally taking this copycat business seriously. Then it's an office scene where the team is wondering where the killer is getting all of his information from, since the press didn't know about key elements to many of the crimes that were recreated by the copycat. Plenty of people in the various police departments did, of course, but who could get to all of them without drawing suspicion on themselves? The FBI or Homeland security, probably.

Joe then wins one of the earliest Prentiss Awards ever, during this exchange:
"Why didn't he help his career out?"

I know that you're a money-grubbing creep who salivates at the idea of turning human tragedy into fat stacks, but there are other motivations, Joe. You're dealing with a guy with a monomaniacal obsession with mocking your efforts and ruining your lives, and you think that he'd try to get ahead in his hypothetical journalism career while also serial killing people? This says more about your priorities than it does the people you're chasing, and the fact that you're bringing them into your profile suggests that you're even worse at your job than I'd thought you were.

The guy probably isn't a real journalist, but Jeanne is half-right. As we learned from Se7en, and, you know, reality, there are plenty of people looking to bribe cops for juicy details about crimes, and plenty of cops happy to take that money. So while the law enforcement connection is more likely, you'd be smart to have each of those jurisdiction's cops check who might have been talking to reporters about the crimes.

Reid then offers a truly stupid observation, that if the killer was learning just by watching them he'd have to be in two places at once, since he was dropping a Ray Wise-copycat corpse in Pheonix while they were investigating the Matthew Lilliard crimes in Miami. Except you have no reason to think that, since the copycat hasn't tried to recreate those crimes. I don't think he's just following them around, of course, but they have no evidence to disprove that yet, despite Reid's assumption.

Update! It was pointed out to me that the dead woman at the end of the last episode was supposed to be a recreation of the Lilliard crimes, and I missed it because the show gave so little care to personalizing that victim. After all, the Lilliard crimes were about soliciting prostitutes, taking them into alleys, and smashing their heads in with hammers. This was a woman - whose identity is still a mystery to us - was brought to a warehouse and used as the centerpiece of a giant stalker evidence orgy. So I think it's understandable that I missed the connection.

Special thanks go to the commenter who pointed this out, because it made me rethink this entire scene, which made me notice something even more preposterous about the scene. This whole debate they're having is focused around 'who could possibly have the inside information about these crimes, when details weren't released to the public?'

The problem is that those details absolutely would have been released to the public, and the team (also the show's writers) should definitely know that. Here's the thing about 'withholding information'. It's done so that during an active investigation the police are able to gauge the veracity of confessions and tips they receive. If a woman is stabbed to death with scissors and a guy comes in and says he slit her throat with a straight razor, then there's a good chance he's not the killer. Details are likewise held back to prevent people from copycatting crimes.

Here's the thing, though - that's only during active investigations. Once the perpetrator has been caught or killed, the case is closed, and the information starts coming out in a great rush. The only reason to keep it secret at that point is to prevent a potential jury pool from being contaminated by the details of the crime. Which is precisely why all of the crime's gruesome details will definitely come out - Prosecutor's offices have an obvious incentive to ensure that potential jurors walk into a courtroom already disgusted with the defendant.

And if the killer is dead, there's flat-out no reason not to start talking about all of the disgusting details immediately.

So really, this entire scene is a giant waste of the team's (and our!) time, and if the show later has them determine who the copycat is based on their access to this 'restricted' information, it will be hilarious.

Conversely, if this whole line of inquiry gets dropped, and the show never again mentions how the copycat found out the details of the crime, I pledge to not criticize them for doing so. Also, if they have the copycat be like 'I just read about all the details on a true crime blog' I will compliment the hell out of them.

Then things get just so dumb, as Garcia offers up a photo from their softball championship game:
 Yes, the show doesn't know how reflections work. Unless, of course, the copycat was taking that shot from about ten feet away. Which would have been hard to miss. Also, if I was the killer and I'd wound up with a photo where my subjects were out of focus but a reflection of me was sharply visible, I probably wouldn't have printed it out. Unless it's all part of leading them into a trap?

Then their boss comes in and tells them to stop working on the copycat case, because he's 'dormant' and there are more important cases to work on. Which is, you know, crazy. A guy is stalking FBI agents, actively recruiting other serial killers, and slaughtering people all over the country, and the FBI's reaction is 'well, he's not a spree killer, so it's not worth our time'? What is wrong with the world of Criminal Minds?

This leads to some amazing looping by Joe, as the producers attempt to justify the team failing to do their job.
Yeah, Joe. That'll cover it.

Then it's over to the land of fake snow, as we see people running out of a bar in Minnesota! A drunken boyfriend tries to accost his girlfriend in a parking lot, when a stranger walks up and punches him, then runs him off. The woman isn't particularly concerned that the stranger knows the boyfriend's name, but gets creeped out when he proves to know her name as well!

Proving that bystanders and security cameras don't exist in this world, the stranger is able to club her into submission and then throw her into her own car. Wow, lucky for him that she's completely alone in a well-lit, highly-trafficked parking lot, huh?

Time for Garcia relationship drama! In a coffee shop in downtown Washington DC (which is like 40 miles from where she works) Penelope runs into a guy she's casually dating! Amazing that the guy turned up at this random coffee shop she goes to during her 90 minute commute to work? You know, half an hour downtown during rush hour for coffee, then an hour to the FBI headquarters, which apparently doesn't have coffee?

I know she calls the coffee shop her 'hood', but isn't the idea of her living in downtown Washington DC even though she works an hour outside of town a little crazy? It's not like she's from there, after all, she was recruited into the FBI for her hacking skills, and she what, decided that two hours of commuting time and a much higher rent to live in a crime-riddled city was a fantastic idea?

Anyhow, Xander is miraculously also there (did they go together? I'm so confused!) and is freaked out to discover that Penelope is dating some guy!

Then it's time for their case briefing! In the past two days two women have been brutally stabbed to death and had their tongues ripped out! The team discusses the possible symbolic importance of the act - were they liars? Did the killer want to silence them? And then it's off to the plane.

Where this briefing could have taken place. Seriously, why not just meet at the airport? It's a half-hour drive from their offices, so aren't they wasting time driving all the way in just to get two minutes of exposition before getting back in their cars?

Then it's over to the killer, who apparently writes books about his murders? Many of which feature hilarious pun titles?
Why is the Nicole one in a different font, and underlined? Does he do a new edition when he's actually killed someone?

Maybe, because he then reads from a book about a woman whose house he broke into through an open window. He killed a guy there, then dragged her off so she could be his forever! I guess this happened a while ago? Because the cops haven't connected it to the two current murders, and, more importantly, no a lot of people are leaving open windows in Minnesota from November through April.



Criminal Minds 816: Carbon Copy

Alright, between the title of this episode and the fact that it's starting with a 'previously on' means that it's time to finally get to the copycat killer episode that they've been promising for months! The clips reminded me that the copycat killer went back to the cities that the original murder took place to kill in. I feel like that's going to make them a little easier to catch if they have to criss-cross the country looking for victims.

Also, kidnapping a woman to marionette should have been pretty hard in that tiny town where the Brad Dourif episode took place. You'd think the people would be on edge and observant.

Then we get a flashback to the Reid's Girlfriend's Stalker episodes, which is weird. Are they saying the two stalkers were working together, or did they just want to get the Zugzwang line in there? Fun fact: Despite what the show says, 'Zugzwang' isn't the moment that a player knows that they're going to lose. It's actually a term roughly meaning 'forced move'. It's the moment in chess when it's your turn, and whatever move you make will put you at a disadvantage, but you have to make a move anyway, because there's no 'pass' in chess. It's not a situation that you necessarily can't fight your way back from, but it is dire.

But I'm getting way, way off track. Let's get into the actual episode!

The copycat (I'm assuming) has a woman tied up in a basement and he's planning to fillet her with some knives. She doesn't want to be killed, obviously, and begs for her life, but he's having none of that, and tapes her mouth shut so he can murder in peace.

Over at the office, the boss comes by to apologize to Jeanne for damaging her career some years earlier, and offers to make amends. Jeanne doesn't seem too psyched about it. I look forward to hearing more of this backstory soon!

Or immediately! The very next set of lines involves JJ explaining that a bust went bad and the wrong guy was arrested, and the boss made sure Jeanne took the fall! Is that why the copycat is after her now?

Then JJ gets some flowers with a "ZugZwang" card, and I guess that means he's copycatting something that wasn't really one of their cases now? Was the girl in the basement supposed to be a stand-in for Reid's lady friend? Okay, she can't be, because then the copycat would be committing suicide and killing her at the same time, which wouldn't be much of an ending to this storyline.

Although it would be hilarious.

They address the possibility that the ZugZwang call had been the copycat all along, which makes a lot of sense, while raising a huge number of questions! Also they're calling him 'The Replicator', but I won't, both because 'the copycat' has three fewer keystrokes in it, and because the FBI isn't supposed to be naming serial killers, dummies. Or is it just female agents who aren't allowed to do that, Joe?

We finally get some details on the Dourif copycat killing. It's a woman who was murdered and turned into a 'human marionette'. Except no, her limps were just dislocated and she was stuffed in a dumpster:
Do you think that's the same contortionist/dancer who played the victim in the previous episode? Maybe they just slapped a wig on her and figured that was good enough. I think we can see the edge of her hairnet there in the dumpster shot...

Anyhoo, the boss gives them the go-ahead to fully devote themselves to the copycat case now that he's in contact with them. They immediately find out about a new case! The basement lady has been drained of blood and had her eyelids cut off - but they effectively answer the 'same city' question by letting us know that this death was in Philly, far from San Francisco where those crimes took place. Not for nothing, it's also where the flowers were sent from!

Then it's over to the killer, who's printing more photos of the team! Hopefully we'll find out why after the opening credits!


Criminal Minds 815: Broken

Thankfully the episode opens with a location title, saving me all the research I had to do last week! It seems there's a murderer in Austin, Texas! But who, and why? One thing's for sure - if I want to find out, I'll have to watch more than the first three seconds of the episode.

A bachelorette outing is having a great time! If by 'party' you mean a bride and just one friend. Also, the bride is annoyed that her friend is taking salacious pictures. What if her fiancee finds out that they were drinking before the wedding? Scandalous!

While the bride-to-be heads back into the bar to find the 'friends' who the producers didn't bother finding extras to play, a sinister man in a cowboy hat watches the drunk friend from across the street. She goes over to get a light, and moments later is making out with him in the back seat of his truck. But then he can't get an erection, and she starts getting bored, so he attacks her!

Then it's over to Virginia, where Jeanne is teaching a class on language adaptation! You know, I complete forgot that her specialty was language. I was going to make a point each episode of pointing out that they never bothered to use her specialty, but then the show didn't even pretend that language was useful in solving crimes, so there wasn't even anything to make fun of.

She's teaching her class about how the same language can mean different things in different places, and a good example is raised - French is completely different in Paris than it is in Montreal. Although the student also says that French is 'spoken all over the world', which it absolutely is not. It's basically just France and Quebec. Maybe Senegal. I'd have to look it up.

Then Jeanne gets a call from Penelope telling her that they've got a case! So why bother with this scene? Is this the episode where they finally work her language skills into solving the crime?

On the plane, we get the details of the case, and I'm not entirely clear on how these murders were linked. A guy wandered off from a frat party and had his head smashed in. A day or two later, a woman left a speed-dating event, and was found the next day, naked in an alley, stabbed to death.

Why would the police have connected these two crimes? Different parts of town, different victim genders, different weapons, different MOs... also, they call it a series of 'abductions', when we don't know that the victims didn't go willing with the killer until they were attacked. That's what happened to prologue lady, after all.

They try to get away with some truly absurd logic leaps, as in the Prentiss-award winning line of the night:

Um... how? Wouldn't being able to spirit someone away almost instantaneously suggest more than one person? A person to drug/drag the victim into the car and a second to drive off? How is it not easier for two people to put the bag on someone than one? If he'd said that sexually motivated murders are statistically likely to be lone killers, I'd have signed off on that leap immediately, but the idea that being able to quickly abduct someone means you're working alone is just crazy.

Meanwhile, the lady's body is lying naked in a ditch by the side of the road. Thanks for that, show.



Criminal Minds 814: All That Remains

The episode opens with home video footage, as a teen is getting ready to go out in the least flattering dress I've ever seen. It's a formless mess of layers and frills, all in a red that makes her skin look sickly white in comparison. Maybe the character is hiding a pregnancy? I can't imagine any other reason to wear such a terrible outfit.

This has been the fashion criticism portion of the review, which I will retire, right up until Derek shows up in a T-shirt.

It seems the a guy is coming to pick up the elder daughter for homecoming! A tradition I still don't quite understand. Who is coming home? From where? Why?

Okay, yes, I understand the why - to watch the football game. But I don't get the rest of it.

The video ends and it's two years later - suddenly things get stylistically weird, as text of a 911 call shows up on the screen as the characters read lines. It's weird - the lines actually disappear from the screen once the actors finish speaking, for reasons I don't quite understand. Aren't we watching a preservation of a record, or something like it?
Apparently something like it was right, since the action moves into the assignment room, where the full text of the call is up on a monitor. According to the call, the two daughters disappeared, and the father called the police. And the team are just now getting around to working on the case two years later. Or is the disappearance happening now? This opening is confusing me to no end.

Just want to pause and give the show a compliment here for understanding how to structure these things - in previous episodes we've seen titles like 'six months ago' opening an episode. This is, of course, nonsense, since the first scene sets a timeline and the rest of the episode has to relate back to that first scene. This time they got it right, and I'm happy to see that they're learning.

Okay, then things get even weirder, when the show reveals that the 911 call just came in an hour earlier, and the father was confused, not knowing what day of the week it was. Has he had one of those 'Memento' brain injuries, and he keeps reliving the day his daughters went missing over and over again? That would be depressing!

What I want to know right now, though, is why the team is working on the case. All we've heard so far is that two teen girls are missing, and their dad was confused on a 911 call one hour earlier. Why is this FBI business at this stage?

Ah, the big reveal comes moments later - the mother disappeared the year before, and the father also waited two days before calling the police about that one!

Um... why wouldn't you start with that? It's context that helps you understand the significance of the new call, and makes it clear why you're working this bizarre serial abduction case. You know that you're not trying to surprise the people you work with, don't you, Greg?

Also, who called you to let you know about it? It's been a single hour since the 911 call. Assume 10 minutes for a patrol car to get there, and another 15 for a uniformed officer to assess the situation and call in detectives. Charitably let's assume 15 more minutes for the detectives to arrive, and let's assume they already knew about the wife and immediately understood that this was a super-serious situation. That's still 50 minutes after the 911 call for the detectives to be on the scene, realizing that they need help.

When Greg says the 911 call happened an hour earlier, he's already got the whole team assembled in the briefing room, and Garcia has assembled an audio-visual presentation of the case evidence, including a transcript of the 911 call, and photographs of all the relevant parties.
And we're being asked to believe that all of this happened - a detective calls the FBI, the call goes through to Greg, Greg gets all the details and agrees to take the case, Greg tells Garcia to put a presentation together, Greg tells everyone to assemble in the meeting room, and Greg gets clearance from his superiors to travel to "Salisbury" - all within around ten minutes.

That's just ludicrous, even by Criminal Minds standards.

BTW - I put the town name in quotes, because I don't know where this episode is set - there was no location title over that first scene. I'm just going on what Greg said in the briefing. It's either Salisbury Maryland or North Carolina. When it comes time to make this episode's map listing, maybe I'll just flip a coin?

Anyhoo, I'm sure this will all be explained after the credits!


Criminal Minds 813: Magnum Opus

The episode begins with a recap of the Reid/Maeve saga, ending with her death. It makes me wonder what the funeral was like. Did her parents blame him for her death? Surprisingly the stalker had nothing to do with his work at the FBI, as I'd originally assumed, but his idiotic rescue plan got her killed, so...

It was probably awkward, is what I'm saying.

Now to the episode's plot, in which a woman leaves a dance club, and can't get back inside. She's menaced by a smoking man in a hoodie! Except he was just waiting for his girlfriend, and this is all a misdirect! Club lady just finds a corpse in the garbage!

Over in Virginia, JJ and Garcia swing by Reid's apartment, where people have been leaving gift baskets, but he's not bringing them in. And his neighbours have been weirdly respectful enough to leave them alone. At least now we know why we finally got a good look at Reid's apartment last week - so the significance of it being trashed this week will make sense to us!

 At work everyone is worried about Reid. Especially Jeanne, who really pushed them to meet. Derek says it would have eventually happened anyways, although it's not clear whether he's talking about the date or the murder. Although they're really the same thing, since Dawn followed Maeve from the date back to her apartment, which is how she was able to murder her.

You know what, Jeanne? You should feel bad about Maeve's death. Really bad. It's mostly on you.

Garcia has a new case! The dead guy wrapped in plastic and dumped in the garbage is just like a woman disposed of the same way! Although she doesn't mention how much time elapsed between the two murders, for no discernable reason.

It turns out that the killer drained them of all their blood, mostly while alive, so the heart would do the work for them. The team mentions how hard it is to get the last bits of blood out, but then they just talk about pushing needles into their femoral arteries, rather than going into a speech about working the legs like pump handles to get the last little bit out, lest they make their influences a little too obvious.

Then they head for the plane, because, as usual, they get the first part of the briefing in Quantico, then drive to an airport, then get in a plane, then sit silently for like an hour before starting the second half of the briefing.

In San Francisco the killer is already working on their next victim, leeching blood out into a Mason jar! Which... ick. The only question left is - will he drink it? He brings it to a fridge, so I'm going to say maybe...

Let's find out together, after the credits!


Criminal Minds 812: Zugzwang

The episode begins with a reminder about the whole 'person is stalking Reid's girl' subplot, although they don't mention that the abortive dinner was foiled not by said stalker, but rather Reid's own paranoia. More importantly, though, there's no opening recap about the person recreating the crimes of the people they've caught this year, which, again, should be their absolute top priority.

When the episode proper begins, we find ourselves in a chapel, at least a dream version thereof, wherein Reid is imagining his wedding day. The team is there to support him, Garcia is running the ceremony, but he's unable to imagine what his fiancee's face looks like, because they've only ever talked on the phone!

Then Reid wakes up, and we get what's likely our first-ever look at his apartment!

Which, for some reason, has five lamps that we can see, and four of them are on. If nothing else, you can say Reid's not a guy who worried about wasting power. He also seems to have fallen asleep on the couch in his clothes, which seems weird, because if he was going to do that, I'd expect there to be a book on his chest or the floor next to him, since he's absolutely the kind of guy to fall asleep reading all the time. That can't be the case, though, since, despite the armada of dim lamps, there's no light source anywhere near the couch, so I can't imagine he'd be able to read very well.

Maybe he simply drank himself into a stupor and passed out?

Probably not.

Then it's over to a payphone to talk to his ladylove once more! This might be the last year that this particular plot point would word. Also, why not call her on her cell phone? You had no trouble doing that the other night, did you?

But no, he uses an elaborate keycode to make it so you can call the cellphone back (nice touch!) and then she dials him back. Or does she?!?! There's a computer-altered voice on the line which says 'Zug Zwang' twice, and then hangs up on him. Has the stalker attacker her? Is it her doing a creepy voice because she's crazy? I can't wait to find out!

Reid rushes to Greg and explains the backstory about his relationship. They started corresponding in letters, and only used codenames because she was afraid of her stalker. Also, she's apparently a geneticist! Is the stalker an evil clone she built? Obviously not.

Apparently they share a Sherlock Holmes fascination, and now the stalker has decided to brand himself a cut-rate Moriarty! Also, Zug Zwang is apparently the point in chess where a loss becomes inevitable, and smart people surrender, so it's actually a pretty good thing to try to intimidate someone with.

Greg brings in the rest of the team, who are all dressed-down, because it's a Saturday, I guess, and the FBI building doesn't have a dress code on Saturdays? They all agree to help Reid out... after the credits!


Adventures in Fake Journalism: Criminal Minds 807

Fake Journalism - Criminal Minds 807

So we finally saw a bit of one of Joe's books on the show! And here it is!

-blow to the head. During the most recent round of killings, Mullens and his son would force the victim to read from a script in order to recreate the past killings as accurately as possible.

In 1994, Mullens - aware of the media attention surrounding his crimes - went dormant. He settled into his life as an electrician before retiring. Colby idolized his father and eventually became an electrician as well. But as the years drifted on, Mullens became more forgetful and agitated. He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's Syndrome. Afraid of losing his father as well, Colby began aiding the older Mullens in a new string of murders. This was a contained effort to help Mullens remember his past murders and the victims.

Chapter 5: The Piano Man Sings

Hamilton Bartholomew - The Piano Man - is an anger-excitation rapist who wants to traumatize his victims and make them suffer. After a brief period of-

Okay, that wasn't great. Especially because chapter four apparently ends just as the story of the copycat father/son serial killing team was just getting started. Is that all the book is? Brief outlines of the crimes written in super-dry prose? Or is that just a function of the prop having been written up in a rush before the insert was shot?

Still, I'm really happy they went to the trouble of doing this, rather than just inserting generic text, but this doesn't read like a true crime book. The first section, about the father/son serial killing team, is disjointed and feels like a bad recap of the episode. Kind of horning in on my territory there, guys. Also, what did you mean by the word contained? I feel like you were using the wrong word there.

In any event, I restate my belief that there would absolutely be a market for a book of Joe's reminiscences about the show's cases written in the style of one of John Douglas' books.


Criminal Minds 811: Perennials

The show opens in a forest, where a woman in a white robe is worshiping nature! Can a human sacrifice be far behind? She gathers some plants and brings them to the altar, which is now covered in maggots! So she's just crazy, I guess?

Then a man shows up, calls her 'Patty', makes her bite down on a stick and clubs her into unconsciousness. What?

Over at Quantico, Jeanne interviews Reid about his date with the mystery lady, and is disappointed to hear that it never actually happened. She tries for more details, but Reid is, as ever, super-private about his personal life.

Okay, turns out the maggots weren't the sign of craziness after all! The killer murdered Patty by hammering a chisel into the back of her neck, and spread maggots all around the crime scene. Just as he had with another victim two days earlier!

That's how Penelope presents the case, by the way. Starts with the pretty white woman who got killed in the opening seconds of the episode, then mentions the black guy who got killed two days earlier. Why would you organize a presentation like this? Shouldn't you start with the earliest crime and move forward? It's almost as if Penelope is framing this all for the benefit of the audience, rather than the people in the room with her!

The team talks about the oddness of making victims lie down before killing them, and suggests that he may know them, and not want to look at their faces during the murder. Which is one hell of a leap. The super-strange method of execution - chisel to the brain stem - it seems like the more relevant reason for them lying down is to make that death possible.

Hey, the team finally realizes that spree killers are a thing, with Jeanne suggesting that the killer is one! JJ shoots down the idea, since the killer is mostly likely targeting specific people and murdering them in an elaborate way, leaving no clear evidence behind. Other than, you know, the identical chisels that he had to have bought somewhere. I'm guessing he also purchased the maggots, since those can be hard to farm in the quantities he needed for his tableaus.

Still, it's nice to see them acknowledging the existence of spree killers, since basically everyone they chase fits that category.

Then it's off to Florida for a check-in with the killer! It seems I was wrong about buying the maggots - the guy travels with a box full of flies and a pot full of rotting meat so that he can have a consistent supply of maggots! I still think his facility is a little small for the absurd volume of maggots he was deploying, but it's nice to see the producers worried about logistics for once.



Criminal Minds 810: The Lesson

The episode kicks off 'Three Months Ago', which is a kind of a dumb thing to happen in literally the first second of the episode. This is the first scene - 'ago' is therefore a meaningless concept, since you haven't established a 'now' from which we are flashing back. Just put 'three months later' over the next scene, dummies.

Yes, you can make the argument that, as an episodic TV show, each individual episode is meant to be taking place on or around the day it airs (which is why they botched a perfectly good killer Santa episode back in season 3), but I would argue that particular fiction is one that no viewer cares about, or would complain if it were done away with.

Okay, back to the show. A creepy old man is abusing his nurse with insults until the nurse ups his morphine to knock him out (or perhaps kill him? Probably not.), but their drama is interrupted when the coma patient in the next bed suddenly wakes up and starts flailing around. Which he has the strength to do, despite having been in a coma. Maybe he was only there for a couple of days?

Anyhoo, we cut to the present (three months later), and discover that the coma man Brad MFing Dourif! Officially the best actor to have ever appeared on this show! Sorry Tony Todd, but it's true. They took eight years to replace you, though, so that's something.

Hey has Gregg Henry ever been on Criminal Minds? Okay, that's one tangent too far.

A little person runs into the backroom, worried that someone is going to hear the woman that he and Brad have kidnapped. Brad's not concerned, though, because he's super-crazy! Then there's a looped line where Brad asks 'Mr. Conrad' if he agrees, which was presumably dropped in there because they noticed that after the final cut the scene where the little person's name was introduced has been removed.

Okay, Brad Dourif, a little person, a weird flashback opening the episode... did Matthew Grey Gubler direct this one? If so, it's going to be awesome!

Speaking of Reid, he's back on a payphone talking to mystery woman! She announces that she's not being stalked any more! No calls or emails or anything like that, and now she thinks it's finally going to be safe for them to meet! More importantly, though, Reid mentions that stalkers generally stop stalking when they've moved onto another target. Which, to its credit, the episode kind of blows past, since they don't want to shine too bright a light on what's going on. Which is that her stalker is now the team's stalker. Or she's crazy and also the villain.

Now it's time for the briefing! A guy was hanged, had his hair dyed black, then stuffed into a tiny box and left on the side of the road. The box was so tiny that the killers had to break his legs and double him over! Then it happened again, only this time the killers kidnapped a couple, killing the man and keeping the woman, who, naturally, is in the backroom with Brad and Conrad.

Wait a minute, Conrad has black hair, and he would fit neatly into the boxes... are they trying to turn the men they're killing into versions of one of the killers? If so... why?

Also, every single one of the characters says the dead guys had been 'hung', because the writers of this show don't know how the English language works. Which is especially embarrassing considering that they've just added a character who is a DOCTOR OF LANGUAGE.

Back to Brad, who's tormenting his kidnappee by putting a bow in her hair and taking old-timey photos of her as she weeps! Yikes!

Time for the opening credits, meaning we'll get to find out who directed this one soon! Although it may not be Gubler, since there hasn't been any notable music yet, sadly.


Criminal Minds 809: Magnificent Light

We open on a flame flickering in a brazier, as a voice talks about the inevitability of death and how it can motivate people to do exceptional things. Like join a serial killing cult, presumably? I found the voice distractingly familiar, and wonder if it's Chuck's law partner from Better Call Saul. I can't wait to find out!

Turns out that the 'cult speech' was the opening of a motivational seminar, and it absolutely was Hamlin from Better Call Saul.

Hamlin goes into his patter about how everyone has something inside of them that they can share with the world in order to fully actualize themselves. So, is he a serial killer, or is he just to inspire a serial killer to go out and become his best self? By, you know, serial killing. I don't feel like there's any other options for this story.

After the show, Hamlin glad-hands a fan from the audience, then avoids autograph seekers in hopes of having some private time. We follow the fan home to her humble abode, where she's immediately murdered! That was quick. Was Hamlin the killer, since he left the building right after her, or did he simply inspire the killer to start living in the now?

I kind of hope it's the second, because then this would be essentially the exact same episode as the Vampire Rock episode, in which people think that a celebrity committed a crime but it was really just a deranged fan.

At Quantico, Derek gets an invitation to some sort of ceremony at the British Consulate, but he doesn't want to go - Penelope wants to find out why, so it's presumably snooping time! Penelope then announces the case - two people dead in Seattle, with the same message plastered on the wall: Hear Your Evil, See Your Evil.

Its obvious similarity to another famous saying gives Jeanne a chance to show off her complete useless linguistic profiling skills, suggesting that the 'mistake' could be the result of someone being a non-native speaker of English. Sadly, the form that the mistake took offers no clues as to what the person's first language might be. Jeanne essentially used two sentences to say that she has no information to offer. So... I guess that was a useful ten seconds for all involved?

The team tries to figure out what the message might mean - I wonder if anyone bothered Googling it... Then use some of the widely-discredited 'organized/disorganized' jargon to talk about how weird it is that the killer was able to break into the apartments so expertly, but then seemingly went nuts, stabbing his victims dozens of times. I don't see any real contradiction there - vicious overkill stabbing is what the guy is into, and he broke into the house carefully because he didn't want to get caught. It's not like you found evidence of random, mindless carnage - destroyed rooms, fingerprints everywhere, defiled bodies. There was a lot of stabbing, but then careful drawing on the wall in blood, and a general lack of evidence. What seems disorganized about this to them?

We then get a look at the killer's hidey-hole, where he's writing notes about his latest murder!

So apparently the victim said 'oh god, it's you!' which suggests that she recognized her killer. That might seem like it's pointing to Hamlin, she obviously extensively talked with someone else working at the show in a pre-interview, because Hamlin was able to single her out from the stage and talk about her most profound dreams. He's not pretending to be a psychic, so there's at least one person who's more likely to know where she lives than Hamlin is.

I'm weirdly invested in him not being the killer. Huh.

Also, in a possibly related note, when we see the flashback to her attack, she said 'oh my god, what are you-', as opposed to what's written on the note. Will that be significant? Let's find out after the Credits!


Criminal Minds 808: The Wheels on the Bus

The episode opens on a schoolbus, in which a bunch of teenagers are preoccupied with teenage things. Flirting, video games, plans for the upcoming winter formal, because in America I guess there's like two proms a year?

The school bus is waved down by a red-haired gent next to a range rover, and I immediately have to stop and question this whole setup.

That a limited-access, six lane divided highway. The fact that there's a schoolbus full of kids on it means that this is either 7:45AM or 3:45PM. How on earth could there be a road that huge anywhere in America at those times of day so empty that a guy can literally stop in the middle of the road (he's not pulled over to the shoulder or anything) and no one has stopped or called the authorities? Did he get there and pull out just five seconds earlier? Wouldn't that mean he had to blast passed the bus at something like twice the speed limit? And if he did, how could he know that another car wouldn't pass the bus and spot him?

What I'm saying is, whatever he's planning to do, this is the worst possible way to start it off.

Because everyone's awful at their job, the bus driver and teacher (maybe it's a middle-of-the-day field trip? In any case, there's still no excuse for the empty road.) decide not to call roadside assistance, or find it suspicious that a guy who possibly ran out of gas stopped in the middle of the road. The bus driver thinks it might be a flat tire, and says they shouldn't call the cops, but that's insane, because a car in the middle of the road is a huge safety hazard that has to be dealt with immediately. Also, you can tell if a car has a flat tire by looking at it.

Once the bus driver opens the door - are they not told that they should never do this? You can just have the guy come around to the window if you want to talk to him - a second guy runs out of the woods and shoots the driver in the leg, then threatens the passengers to not use their cell phones. Ominously, both men are now wearing gas masks! Although the shooter has long, unkempt hair that suggests that he's pretty young.

Of to Quantico, where Penelope runs into Xander, then avoids some kind of an awkward conversation with him by dragging him into the war room! They need all the help they can get to deal with this abduction!

The team is running down the facts for a couple of featured extras-

And before I get to the actual briefing, can we just comment on how weirdly lazy the costuming has gotten on the show? Why does that guy have a badge and gun on his hip? The badge type suggests that he's a DC cop, so it's odd that he's here for a briefing, and why on earth does he have his gun on him? They don't let you keep those in federal buildings. If he works there it would be locked away with his stuff, if he's a visitor it would be downstairs in the gun lockers. Were they that afraid we wouldn't know he was law enforcement just based on context?

So, the abduction happened in the DC area at 1PM, so yeah, the lack of traffic is completely insane/inexcusable. The bus has disappeared completely, with helicopters and patrol cars being completely unable to find it! Also, they've apparently called every phone on the bus and nobody answered... shouldn't they have found out that all of the phones had their batteries removed? Because unless the villains took that step, wouldn't they have been found already?

They also mention that the kids dropped off at the first two stops got home just fine, so I guess this was the regular bus home? At 1PM? I mean, I know I've been out of high school for a long time, but do teens normally go home at 1PM?



A new video project about Narcos!

Watching the first two seasons of Narcos, I was amazed by just how many ways you can translate the curse 'Hijo Di Puta'. This video is the logical outgrowth of that fascination!

Sorry about all the swearing, but this really did make me curious!


New Video - It's a Quiz this time!

That's right, Count Vardulon has created a Quiz to test how well you know Last Week Tonight - take it, if you dare!


2000AD Annual 1978 (?-?-78)


So that’s not a great cover, is it? I’m not sure exactly where I’m supposed to put this review – it’s the ‘1978 Annual’, but the publication date is in 1977. In addition to this a glance at the table of contents reveals that it contains a ‘Harlem Heroes’ story, as opposed to an ‘Inferno’ one. Still, I’m going to slot it here, at the beginning of 1978, and hope that next time we hit a ‘special’ or ‘annual’ there’s a more acurate date somewhere on the thing.


There's a new Theory Video! This one is about Blair Witch!

If you enjoyed the Blair Witch review on TheAvod, you may like this video, now fully realized as it was promised last October!



Programme 47 (14-January-78)

Look, it’s another story page put on the cover? You know, this kind of defeats the purpose of having a cover to draw people’s attention. “Look!” It screams, “You have no idea what’s going on here!” It’s nice that they try to explain what’s going on and get people up to speed, but it almost seems like it would have been a better move to just come up with a visually dynamic cover, and eat the missing page.
Especially since nothing of note happens here.
Thrill 1 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons)
The Dark Lord’s plan to space-crucify Dan’s crew is thrown for a loop by Dan’s clever ‘dress up like a Starslayer and hope no one notices’ plan. Dan fiddles with the airlock in the execution room, so that all the guards are killed by sudden decompression, while the crew is safe because they’ve got helmets on. Part of the space crucifixion, it seems, is to allow the victims to slowly suffocate while hanging on a metal cross in orbit of the planet StarSlay.
The Dark Lord doesn’t keep close contact with his execution squads, it seems, because minutes after Dan has freed most of his crew the DL is touring the captured space fortress. This provides Dan with a chance to do some capturing of his own, after gunning down the DL’s guards! Then, with the Dark Lord under his power, Dan is able to quickly retake the ship and turn its cannons on the StarSlayer pursuit craft.
Things are looking good for Dan, almost suspiciously good… which means it’s time for the twist, which, according to a thought bubble in the final panel, will involve a backup plan the Dark Lord is working on!
Thrill 2 – The Visible Man (Mills/Trigo/Potter)
What is a ‘visible man’, you ask? We’ll find out in four short pages, after seeing the setup involving Frank Hart, an ex-soldier involved in a high-speed chase with the police. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to be a criminal of any kind, just one of those guys who cranks his car up to a hundred and thirty miles an hour for the hell of it on Sunday afternoons. Sadly, on this particular Sunday someone else is out on the road:
Frank is carted away from the accident site by radioactive containment technicians, who lock him up in the power plant’s medical wing, while being suspiciously coy about why he can’t leave, and is being kept in a completely dark room.
So coy, in fact, that you’d almost think that they didn’t realize that the readers already knew that the strip shared a title with a perennially popular model kit-
So it’s not exactly a shocker when, on the last page of the story, they flip the lights on in Frank’s room, and-
Click to bigify. If you enjoy disgust.
So that’s it for the first installment of the visible man. Which is kind of a disappointment, I mean – doesn’t it seem like they could have gotten this reveal out of the way on page two, and get started on the plot right away? Because the promise of action next week just isn’t the same.
Thrill 3 – Future Shock
This week’s future shock starts off on an oddly ill-informed note. Check this out:
So I’ll give them ‘Whitehall’ – 10 Downing Street isn’t actually on Whitehall, hence the name, but it’s a popular term to use for the seat of British government. Likewise the Kremlin is perfectly accurate. I’m not sure where someone would get the idea that the President’s Oval Office is in the Pentagon, though, so it’s weird how that managed to get through writing, editing, and lettering without anyone noticing. Sure, it’s being written by British people, but haven’t they heard of the White House?
Anyhow, the plot of the story is that the UK government has caught a spy in the ‘Secret Sector’, but before he can be questioned his handler (a mysterious alien) presses a button which causes him to melt! The government dismisses this as one of those one-time flukes. You know, how people just melt sometimes. It’s a thing.
Rogue spy Mike Walsh isn’t letting it go, however, and flies to Australia so that he can look into the spy’s background. There he finds an army of identical clones, all working for an Alien who crashed in the Outback years ago – he claims that he’s used his superior technology to infiltrate human society, and he’s just months away from completely taking over!
Of course, all of his planning and future tech apparently can’t keep Mike from just lunging across the alien’s desk and pressing the ‘destroy entire plan’ button. Because it’s completely logical to have a button on your desk that melts all of your clones and causes all your technology to malfunction. That’s a thing it makes sense to build into your lair.
No it’s time for twist ending: get ready, because it’s a picture, so you’ll have to lock in your guesses now!

Yeah, I saw that one coming too.
Well, now that the Supercovers are over with I suppose there’s precious little reason to keep addressing this section of the comic – there’s a ‘Kevin O’Neill’s Bonjo’ comic about him eating ‘MACH Aardvark’, and a contest where you can win a copy of the Star Wars album if you spot the correct number of X-Wings that have been hidden throughout the issue. Not sure what a ‘Star Wars Album’ is, but if it’s anything like the Empire Strikes Back album I had where the story of the movie was told with sound clips and narration, then it would be an entirely worthwhile that any entrant would be proud to win.
Thrill 4 – Judge Dredd (Howard/Bolland/Jacob)
Ah, thank god. Brian Bolland’s back. Fans of ‘The Killing Joke’ will recognize him as the world’s greatest living comic book artist. In addition to covering his stories here, I’ll also be posting the original covers he drew for the Eagle comics collections of colourized Judge Dredd stories, because they tend to be even more detailed and beautiful versions of his already fantastic art. Eventually we’re even going to get to my all-time favorite cover, my copy of which I was lucky enough to have Bolland sign for me a few years back.
For now let’s just concentrate on the story at hand, which centres around a ‘land race’, where people race to reach plots of newly-developed land that they claim by placing their hands on a pole. You may remember this premise from the film ‘Far and Away’ – I’d never heard of it myself, but now that I’ve seen the idea in two separate pieces of fiction, I guess that counts as confirmation that it actually existed, right?
Amazingly the whole ‘land race’ is resolved in two pages and three panels, with the rest of the story concerning an old lady (The Widow Spock) who an evil corporation (called IPC which, not-coincidentally shares initials with the publisher of this comic…) wants to force into giving up her plot of land. Dredd discovers the scheme when Spock’s robot ‘Rowena’ comes to report the crime. He dismisses her out of hand, though, explaining that since robots don’t have legal standing as anything but property they can’t instigate judicial investigations either.
Walter comforts the robot, who, confirming my suspicion from the Robot Rebellion storyline, is not called ‘Call-Me-Rowena’ at all, while Dredd looks pointedly. No, Dredd isn’t the closed-minded bigot he pretends to be, and he just wanted the IPC goons to think there wasn’t an investigation on so that he could catch them in the act, then shoot them with a confusing cloud of hot energy.
Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on in that picture. Beautifully rendered though it may be. Anyhow, with all the crooks arrested all that’s left is to wrap up the robots’ section of the storyline. Rowena drops by Dredd’s tent bringing cookies that she claims the Widow Spock made to thank him. I’d expect Dredd to reject any form of remuneration for his services (and possibly arrest the cookie maker), but once again I find this early Dredd to be a much nicer character than the one I grew up with.
He’s immediately suspicious of Rowena’s story, however, when he tastes a cookie and realizes that it couldn’t have been made by anything but a robot. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I love the idea of robot-produced goods having a certain flavour.
Yup, the robots have fallen in love. And while I’m relatively sure that Rowena isn’t going to be a recurring presence in the strip, I absolutely love Dredd’s reaction to the prospect of robots dating. He, like all the other characters in the strip, totally acknowledge that the robots they’ve built are sentient, feeling creatures, but still have no hesitation about buy and selling them, treating them as things, and reacting to their feelings with barely-hidden contempt.
You know, maybe Call-Me-Kenneth had a point. If only he’d run for mayor instead of brutalizing the fleshy ones…
Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+ 0 = 42
At this point I’m starting to suspect that someone told the writers that this was supposed to be a children’s comic, and asked them to tone the violence down in Dredd. Just a few weeks back CMK was bathing in the blood of the innocent, and now Dredd’s shooting people in the hands. Bizarre.
Thrill 5 – INVASION! (Finley-Day/Pino/Knight)
The continuing story here in Invasion seems to be coming to a head, as the Mad Dogs arrive in Liverpool looking for a Neutral ship that they can use to smuggle Prince John to Canada. This entire plan serves only to reinforce just how poorly-established the world of this entire Volgan invasion has been. There are Neutral ships bringing goods to Liverpool? Really? Why would the paranoid and security conscious Nazis allow this to happen? Are there any needs that can’t be met by Volgan-friendly nations, or goods that can’t be shipped there?
Of course we’re not here to talk about the relative realism of the invasion story, we’re here, as always, to take a violent tour of British landmarks. So what’s there to see in Liverpool? The Cavern club, naturally! And who happens to be running this historical landmark/resistance hideout?
Yup. It’s three of the Beatles. Sadly Ringo was executed for crimes against the Reich.
Also strange? The idea that the Volgs stole their ‘Royalties’ and not their ‘property’. That kind of gives the impression that the Volgs have continued marketing Beatles music around the world, and are now collecting cash every time one is used in an ad for cell phone providers or insurance brokers.
Naturally Volgan troops quickly show up to search the place, but Silk has a plan for dealing with them:
A gun that would be impossible to reload! Brilliant, right?
Joining them in their fight against the Volgs is a suspiciously helpful huge blond man in a buzz-cut.
Who might this portrait of Aryan superiority be, you ask? Why he’s Colonel Rosa’s secret weapon – a Volg spy pretending to be a sympathetic Southern sailor, who’ll no doubt lure Savage, Silk and the Prince onto a Volgan ship disguised as a neutral freighter!
How will the Mad Dogs get out of this one? I guess we’ll find out next week!
Other things we’ll hopefully find out next week? If anyone recognizes the Volg’s awful southern accent. Just check out the interchangable ‘Ah’ and ‘I’, the strange ‘You All’ instead of ‘Y’all’. Luckily for the Volg Savage has never met an actual American, so he’s able to get by with this dinner-theatre grade accent.
Thrill 6 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)
The Hellcats have found a lead on the gambling syndicate that seems more interested in mass murder than fixing sporting events. But before they can talk to Nat Cullen, owner of the Crystal Maze amusement park, he releases his army of deathbots on them!
I’m still not entirely clear why someone would build Skateboard-Knight or Frankenstein Scissorhands, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and see out this all plays out.
Oh, they’re easily defeated, largely because one of the Hellcats brought his giant cave-man club to the casino. Lucky chance, that. They’re almost too successful, in fact – when giant uses electricity to short-circuit a pair of robot gunslingers it starts a fire that burns down the whole casino, cooking Cullen alive in his office!
With their one remaining lead dead, it seems the Hellcats have reached the end of their trail. Oh, except for one thing:
Okay, so the Hellcats have nowhere else to go – they have no clues, no leads, the investigation’s over. So the syndicate could just let it drop, and no one would ever expose their identity. Yet they decide to attack the Hellcats anyhow, even though that necessarily means exposing themselves further.
I’ve said it before, but heroes are really lucky to have such stupid villains to battle.
Final Thoughts
Best Story: Judge Dredd – Brian Bolland. ‘Nuff said.
Worst Story: The Visible Man – Yes, Invasion’s been bad lately, but the surprise Beatle Cameo kept it form occupying the bottom slot. I was just flat-out unimpressed by VM’s debut.