“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.94) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

Unless I am mistaken, Season Two of “LOST” is not very popular with the show’s fans. This season expanded on the Hatch (DHARMA Swan Station) subplot that was touched upon in the second half of Season One. This season introduced a tiresome running joke surrounding the Michael Dawson character. And it also featured the introduction of the survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section, which included the unpopular character, Ana-Lucia Cortez. In some way, the fourth episode – (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo” – seemed to be some kind of manifestation of Season Two.

Aside from the joke regarding Michael Dawson, “Everybody Hates Hugo” touched upon most of the topics I brought up in the previous paragraph. In the previous episode, (2.03) “Orientation”, the survivors of Michael’s raft (Michael, James “Sawyer” Ford and Jin Kwon) were captured by a mysterious group of people upon their return to the Island. “Everybody Hates Hugo” focused on their incarceration inside a deep pit. Before Sawyer could finish plotting their escape, the mysterious group revealed to be survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section. Despite some hostile conflict between Sawyer and the Tailies’ leader, Ana-Lucia Cortez, all agree it would be best to head for the Fuselage passengers’ beach camp. Claire Littleton stumble across the bottle of messages from Michael’s raft on the beach. She and several survivors worry over the fate of Michael, his son Walt Lloyd, Jin and Sawyer. Following the tiresome three-episode introduction of the Swan Station’s interiors, Jack and Sayid explore the hatch. They also order a very reluctant Hugo “Hurley” Reyes to ration the food found inside the station. The episode’s flashbacks reveal the consequences of Hurley winning the lottery . . . and his reasons for wanting to be in charge of food distribution on the Island.

I have to be frank. The episode’s main subplot involving Hurley’s job in the Hatch and his flashback did nothing for me. I found it boring. Well . . . I almost found it boring. Hurley’s reasons behind his reluctance to win the lottery and be in charge of the Losties’ food distribution clarified an aspect of his personality that I have always suspected. Despite some flashes of wisdom and common sense, Hurley is at heart a man-child who is reluctant to grow up. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of Hurley’s character I have never admired. In fact, I found it tiresome . . . over and over again. And I never could understand why fans have never noticed in past viewings. One could point out that Hurley became more mature as the series progressed. I find that hard to believe, considering the circumstances behind Hurley’s eventual fate. Hurley’s minor quarrel with Charlie over the secrecy of the Swan Station struck me as infantile. It did not help that Charlie’s constant rants about betrayal really irritated me. But I must admit that both Jorge Garcia and Dominic Monaghan gave first-rate performances. The only thing about this subplot that I found entertaining was Hurley’s interaction with Rose Nadler, portrayed by the very talented L. Scott Caldwell.

The second subplot regarding Jack and Sayid’s exploration of the Swan Station only seemed a step above the main subplot. The only reason I found it slightly more interesting was due to the mystery surrounding the Hatch. It seemed like a more mature subplot than one about Hurley’s man-child issues. That even includes Jack’s accidental encounter with a nearly nude Kate Austen, after she had finished taking a shower. What interested me was Sayid’s discovery of an electromagnetic energy within the Hatch’s walls. This discovery will end up being fully revealed by mid-to-late Season Five. The third subplot involved Claire’s discovery of the bottle of messages from the raft. This subplot struck me as irrelevant . . . period. Aside from giving Shannon Rutherford a moment to see a wet manifestation of Walt – an event that will have greater impact in a future episode – this subplot did nothing to drive the series’ main narrative forward. Instead, it involved some of the female survivors speculating on the fates of the raft’s passengers. And nothing more.

It was the final subplot regarding Michael, Jin and Sawyer’s experiences with the Tailies that really injected energy into the episode. It was not so much the mystery surrounding the raft survivors’ captors that made “Everybody Hates Hugo” so interesting to me. The three men discovered they had been captured by survivors from the Tail Section before halfway into the episode. But the psychological conflict between the more familiar characters and the newcomers crackled with a lot of energy that made me take notice. I especially found the conflict between Sawyer and Ana-Lucia, thanks to Josh Holloway and Michelle Rodriguez’s intense performances very entertaining. I realized that a good number of “LOST” fans disliked the Ana-Lucia Cortez character ever since this episode aired during the fall of 2005. I must admit that I had a different reaction. The powerhouse punch that Ana-Lucia delivered to Sawyer in “Orientation” had already thrilled me. Her continuing abuse of the always annoying Sawyer filled me with even more glee. I realize that most fans would probably be put off by my comments. But I do not care. I like Sawyer, but he was a real pain in the ass in this particular episode. At least to me.

“Everybody Hates Hugo” ended both on a mysterious and uplifting note. The Tailies led the raft survivors to another hatch that had been originally constructed by the DHARMA Initiative. Apparently, they had been using it as refuge from the jungle and the Others inside the nearly abandoned Arrow Station. So much for the mystery. What did I find uplifting about the episode? Certainly not the cheesy monologue featuring Hurley’s generous distribution of the food from the Swan Station. It was that moment when one of the Tail Section survivors approached the raft survivors and asked if they knew Rose. Thanks to a poignant performance by Sam Anderson, I nearly cried when he revealed himself to be Rose’s missing husband, Bernard. Great way to end an otherwise mediocre episode, “LOST”.

Five Favorite Episodes of “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season Two (2012-2013)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of “ONCE UPON A TIME”. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season Two (2012-2013)

1 - 2.16 The Millers Daughter

1. (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter” – While Regina Mills and her mother Cora hunt for Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger in Storybrooke in this spine-tingling episode, Cora’s back story as a poor miller’s daughter who becomes the wife of a prince is revealed in flashbacks.

 

2 - 2.10 The Cricket Game

2. (2.10) “The Cricket Game” – Following Cora and Captain Hook’s arrival in Storybrooke, the former set about framing Regina for Archie Hooper’s “murder” in an effort to emotionally break the former mayor. Snow White and Charming disagree over how to handle the captured Evil Queen in the Fairy Tale Land flashbacks.

 

3 - 2.05 The Doctor

3. (2.05) “The Doctor” – The true identity of Dr. Victor Whale is revealed to be Dr. Frankenstein, when he attempts to resurrect Regina’s long dead fiancé in an effort to make a bargain with her. Flashbacks reveal Rumpelstiltskin’s manipulations of a young Regina that prove to have major consequences.

 

4 - 2.22 And Straight Until Morning

4. (2.22) “And Straight Until Morning” – Regina and the Charmings join forces to prevent Storybrooke from being destroyed by the former mayor’s magical trigger, stolen by anti-magic vigilantes Greg and Tamara in this surprisingly interesting season finale.

 

5 - 2.14 Manhattan

5. (2.14) “Manhattan” – Emma Swan, Henry Mills and Rumpelstiltskin’s search for the latter’s son in Manhattan results in a major surprise for all three. Flashbacks reveal Rumpelstiltskin’s encounters with a blind seer, whose predictions will harbor consequences for the former.

“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” (1975) Review

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“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” (1975) Review

Over four decades ago, 1969 to be precise, a play written by novelist Barry England was first staged at the Theater Royal in Bristol, England. Set during the height of the British Empire, England’s play focused upon an Army regiment stationed in India. The play became a hit and was eventually adapted into a movie released to the public in 1975.

“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” begins with two young British officers arriving in Indian to join a prestigious regiment. Lieutenant Drake comes from a middle-class background and is eager to make the right impression. Lieutenant Millington is the son of a General and does not seem enthusiastic over the idea of a military career. He plans to leave the Army at the first opportunity. While Drake manages to make a positive impression with his fellow officers, Millington antagonizes them with his cynical behavior, causing the other officers to dislike him. A military ceremony takes place, honoring the deceased members of the regiment and their widows, including Mrs. Marjorie Scarlett, whose husband won a posthumous Victoria Cross after being killed during a battle on the North-West Frontier.

Later that evening, the regiment holds a ball. The younger officers take part in a ceremonial tradition that involves the pursuit and sticking of a pig in the mess. Lieutenant Millington tries to charm Mrs. Scarlett, but is lightly dismissed. Later, the disheveled widow bursts into the mess, claiming to have been attack. She identifies Milington as her attacker. During an evening in the mess, involving the younger officers taking part in a ceremonial tradition that involves the pursuit and sticking of a pig, Mrs Scarlett runs in claiming to have been attacked, and identifies Lieutenant Millington as her attacker. Although he is innocent, Millington sees the potential disgrace as an easy way to leave the Army and return to England. He does not bother to cooperate with Drake, who has been selected to defend him at his secret trial. But when both men realize that Millington might suffer a more serious punishment other than a dishonorable discharge and Drake discovers that another widow had been similarily attacked six months earlier, the latter officer goes out of his way to clear Millington.

I have not seen “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” for a good number of years – over a decade and a half, to be exact. I recall being very impressed when I last saw it a long time ago. I still am – to a certain extent. But there were two aspects of the movie that left me feeling a little unsettled. One of them focused upon the movie’s setting. With the exception of the first ten to fifteen minutes, most of“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” was either set in the regiment’s mess, other exterior shots or on the cantoment grounds, which could have easily been shot on a sounstage. By the time the movie ended, I felt as if I had watched a filmed play. And I never could understand Lieutenant Millington’s original attitude toward the charges against him. I mean . . . this is the Victorian Age we are talking about in which women – especially white upper and middle-class women – were put on pedestals by men. I could understand Millington’s attitude if he had been accused of assaulting the other acknowledged victim in the story – an Indian soldier’s widow named Mrs. Bandanai. But surely he should have realized that he could have suffered serious repercussion for assaulting someone as cherished as Mrs. Scarlett, right off the bat.

Despite these shortcomings, I must admit that “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” is a first-rate movie. Playwright Barry England wrote a tantalizing peek into the world of British India that featured not only a psychological drama, but also a very interesting mystery and the damages causes by misogyny and racism (in the case of Mrs. Bandanai) that was rampant during the Victorian Age (as well as now). I feel that England created a murder mystery that would have done Agatha Christie proud. I also feel that Robert Enders did an excellent job in adapting England’s play.

The movie began with a great set-up of the mystery – the ceremony honoring the dead Captain Scarlett and the other men who died with him, intertwining with with the arrivals of Lieutenants Drake and Millington at the regiment’s cantonment. The movie also had a rather creepy scene that featured the younger officers engaged in the “stick-the-pig-in-the-anal” game, which foreshadowed the attack on Mrs. Scarlett later in the evening. But what I really admired about the film is that it did not make it easy for the audience to guess the identity of Mrs. Scarlett’s attacker. For that I am truly grateful. If there is one kind of mystery I cannot abide is one that gives away the culprit’s identity prematurely.

“CONDUCT UNBECOMING” also benefited from a first-rate cast. The movie featured solid performances from the likes of James Faulkner (who portrayed Millington), Michael Culver, Rafiq Anwar, Persis Khambatta and James Donald. Christopher Plummer gave an interesting performance as the intimidating Major Alastair Wimbourne. Although there were moments when I found his performance a little theatrical. I certainly cannot accuse Trevor Howard’s performance as theatrical. He gave an appropriately poignant performance as the regiment’s aging commander, who finds it difficult to accept a possible scandal within his command. Richard Attenborough proved to be equally complex as Major Lionel E. Roach, who seemed to live and breathe the regiment. I was surprised to see Stacy Keach in this cast as Captain Harper, the officer charged with prosecuting Millington. He did an excellent job in developing his character from the hard-nosed, blindingly loyal officer, to one who finds himself appalled by the possibility of a serial attacker. Susannah York gave a superb role as the enticing Mrs. Scarlett, who seemed first amused by Millington’s attempt at seduction and later, angry over what happened to her. But the film actually belonged to Michael York, who more than carried his weight as the main character. I was impressed by how he managed to dominate this film, while retaining his character’s quiet and reserved nature.

Would I consider “CONDUCT UNBECOMING” a classic? I do not know. I certainly would not consider it a candidate for a Best Picture nomination. And it certainly had its flaws. But due to its first-rate story, solid direction from Michael Anderson and an excellent cast led by Michael York, I still would consider it a very good story that is worth viewing time and again.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

It just occurred to me that this second episode of the CBS television series, “JERICHO” was aptly named. In a way (1.02) “Fallout” perfectly described the situation from the series’ first episode, (1.01) “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”.

The previous episode ended with the western Kansas community shaken by the sight of an atomic mushroom and news that two U.S. cities had been devastated by nuclear explosions . . . and their sheriff and one of the deputies murdered by two escaped convicts on their way to prison. “Fallout” picks up the following morning with Jericho schoolteacher Emily Sullivan trying to hitchhike her way back to Jericho, when her stalled SUV prevents her from reaching the airport to pick up her fiance. She finally receives a ride from a police cruiser being driven by two deputy sheriffs. With the car low on gas, Emily suggests they seek gasoline at the farm of Stanley and Bonnie Richmond. By the time they reach their destination, she realizes that her two saviors are not lawmen, but possibly dangerous criminals.

Back in Jericho, the town’s new resident, Robert Hawkins, hints of the possibility of radioactive fallout from the Denver bombing, in the incoming rainstorm threatening Jericho. He suggests that the citizens might have to either seek shelter in their homes or the town’s two fallout shelters. While the Greens, Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson struggle to help the citizens seek shelter; Emily tries to alert the deaf Bonnie that the new visitors are criminals. She also manages to sneak outside the Richmond house in order to send a message to Jericho, via the cruiser’s radio.

After watching this episode, it occurred to me that the first three episodes of “JERICHO” might have been a three-part story depicting Jericho’s initial reactions to the Denver bombing and its aftermath. I came to this conclusion after noticing that “Fallout” ended the story arc about the escaped prisoners, but failed to do the same for the “radioactive rain” story arc. The episode ended with the prisoners dead, but the citizens of Jericho inside shelters, basements and in the case for many, a salt mine. Not only did the rain continue to fall, but one of the community’s citizens, Stanley Richardson, was no where to be found. Also, a new story arc regarding Mayor Johnston Green’s illness began in this episode. And this story arc will have far reaching impact on the series that will last into Season Two. I now have the deepest suspicion that the series’ creators must have planned their story with greater detail than I had originally imagined.

Another aspect of “Fallout” that I found particularly curious was that it seemed like a mixture of a television crime drama and a disaster movie. In fact, I was hard put to see the connection between the escaped convicts story arc and the plot regarding the nuclear fallout rain. The episode ended before the two story arcs could really mesh together. Not even Jake Green’s rush from the salt mine shelter to the Richmond farm, following Emily’s radio message, could really bridge the two stories. I think the reason is that none of the characters involved in the plot regarding the escaped convicts – especially Emily Sullivan and Bonnie Richmond – had no real knowledge of the approaching rain storm possibly containing a nuclear fallout. In fact, the two women will learn of the fallout in the next episode, thanks to Jake. Perhaps this is why it is best to view “Fallout” as a second chapter in the story arc about the initial response to the bombings, instead of a stand alone episode. However, despite my acceptance that “Fallout” might not be a stand alone episode, I do have one major complaint about it. In one scene, Emily found two Jericho deputy sheriffs – Jimmy Taylor and Bill Kohler – gagged, bound and in their underwear inside the police cruiser’s trunk. If these same two convicts were willing to murder the sheriff and one of the deputies, why did they refrain from killing Jimmy and Bill? I never understood this, especially after they forced the two deputies to hand over their uniforms.

Although I could not seriously consider “Fallout” as a stand alone episode, I must admit that I still found it fascinating to watch. I have to credit Stephen Chbosky for writing a very taut episode. Between the danger surrounding the two escaped convicts and Jericho’s citizens to seek shelter from a potentially dangerous rain storm, the episode was filled with tension, action and drama. I would not consider it particularly memorable or original if it had not been for that last scene. This episode marked the first episode that featured Robert Hawkins’ new home and family – wife Darcy and young son Samuel. His daughter Allison appeared in the following episode. More importantly, the episode also featured the first hint that he knew the real truth behind the bombings. One scene featured him inside the sheriff’s station, using a ham radio to receive information unknown to the audience. By the end of the episode, the audience learned what Robert knew – namely some of other U.S. locations that suffered a nuclear blast.

I certainly have no complaints about the performances in “Fallout”. Skeet Ulrich continued his exuberant performance as lead character Jake Green. And Lennie James proved to be just as unfathomable as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. The episode also featured excellent work from Bob Stephenson, Richard Speight Jr., Gerald McRaney, Beth Grant, Pamela Reed, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Shoshannah Stern, Clare Carey and the two actors that portrayed the convicts – Jonno Roberts and Aaron Hendry. The episode also featured the first appearances of April D. Parker as Darcy Hawkins and Darby Stanchfield as April Green, Jake’s sister-in-law. Like the others, they gave solid performances. But there were four performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from Erik Knudsen and Candace Bailey as teenage outcast Dale Turner and rich girl Skylar Stevens. The two actors did an excellent job in setting up the emotional and complex relationship between the superficially mismatched pair. Kenneth Mitchell, who portrayed Jake’s younger brother Eric Green, shined in one particular scene in which the mayor’s younger son resorted to scare tactics to convince a group of stubborn beer guzzlers at the local tavern to seek shelter from the radioactive rain. But the woman of the hour proved to be Ashley Scott, who did a marvelous job in conveying the ordeal that Emily Sullivan endured in this episode. I was impressed at how she managed to dominate the episode without resorting to any theatrical acting.

If I must be honest, I found this episode’s handling of the two deputy sheriffs’ fates rather illogical. And it is obvious that “Fallout” cannot really hold up as a stand alone episode. But thanks to Stephen Chbosky’s transcript, Jon Turteltaub’ taut direction and a standout performance by Ashley Scott, “Fallout” proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, solid action and good drama.

“GODZILLA” (2014) Review

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“GODZILLA” (2014) Review

“Godzilla again?” That was my reaction when I learned about a new Godzilla movie to be released for the summer of 2014. The last movie about the iconic Japanese monster had been released some 16 years ago and was met with a good deal of derision. Mind you, I rather liked the 1998 film, but I did not love it. But . . . I was willing to give this new film a chance.

“GODZILLA” 2014 begins with a montage of atomic test bombings in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy. In the last montage, a large creature emerges from the ocean depths. The story immediately shifts to the Philippines Islands in 1999, when a pair of scientists named Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a large skeleton discovered inside a collapsed mine. They also discover two egg-shaped pods. The broken one leaves a trail leading to the sea. The Janjira nuclear plant in Japan experiences unusual seismic activity. The plant’s American-born supervisor, Joe Brody, sends his wife Sandra and a team of technicians into the reactor to check the sensors. When the team is inside, an explosion occurs, threatening to release radiation to the outside. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin. The disaster is attributed to an earthquake. But Brody suspects otherwise and spends a good number of years investigating the disaster.

Fifteen years later, Brody’s son, Ford, has become a U.S. Navy bomb disposal officer, living in San Francisco with his wife and son. When Brody is arrested for trespassing at the Janjira exclusion zone, Ford is forced to travel to Japan. Convinced of a cover-up of the true cause of the disaster, Brody convinces Ford to accompany him to their old home to retrieve vital seismic data he had recorded before the plant disaster. Father and son discover that Janjira is not contaminated with radiation, unlike the official report. After recovering the data, they are arrested and taken to a facility containing a massive chrysalis within the plant’s ruins. As they watch, a colossal winged creature emerges and escapes. After Brody is wounded by the creature, he dies from his wounds. Ford, Serizawa and Graham join a U.S. Navy strike force led by Admiral William Stenz on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga to track the creature, which has been labeled as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal that only one creature can stop MUTO, an ancient alpha predator known as Godzilla. When the MUTO causes the wreck of a Russian submarine, Godzilla emerges to feed off the sub’s radiation and pursue MUTO. More bad news arrives when Stenz, Serizawa and Graham learn about the emergence of a female MUTO in Las Vegas. The two scientists suspect that the MUTO from Japan is on his way to breed with his female counterpart.

Well, this was a first . . . at least for me. Godzilla as the main protagonist? That is exactly how writers Max Borenstein and David Callaham portrayed the monster. I suspect this has been done before in previous Godzilla films. Since I have never seen one, aside from the 1998 flick in which he was clearly the antagonist, this was news to me. Did I like the movie? Hmmmm . . . yes and no.

Let me explain. There are aspects of “GODZILLA” that I liked. The cast is pretty decent. Bryan Cranston chewed the scenery during his appearances in the movie’s first half hour. Usually, this would bother me, but for once I welcomed his over-the-top acting for I thought it gave the movie a lot of energy. One would think I dislike the rest of the cast. Honestly, I do not. I enjoyed Aaron Johnson-Taylor’s subtle portrayal of Brody’s more reserved and equally intense son, Ford. Actually, I thought Cranston and Johnson-Taylor balanced each other very well and it seemed a pity that the elder Brody was killed off after a half hour. Elizabeth Olsen, who portrayed Ford’s more ellubient wife. Like Cranston, she also balanced very well with Johnson-Taylor. Unfortunately, the two younger stars spent most of the movie away from each other. Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn gave solid performances as Admiral Stenz, who is willing to resort to anything to get rid of MUTO (and perhaps Godzilla) and Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, who believes that the only way to solve the situation regarding MUTO and Godzilla is to let them fight it off.

“GODZILLA” also benefited from some first-class photography, thanks to cinematographer Seamus McGarvey’s stunning work. I was especially impressed by one sequence featuring the HALO jump of Ford and a team of Army soldiers into San Francisco in order to prevent a missing warhead from detonating, as shown in this image:

There were some sequences in the movie that I enjoyed, including the original accident at the Janjira plant, the first MUTO’s emergence in Japan and especially the arrival of Godzilla and the first MUTO in Honolulu. Unfortunately, “GODZILLA” is not perfect.

I feel that “GODZILLA” lacked two qualities that made the 1998 movie so likable for me – a more centralized story and more colorful characters. I hate to say this, but Borenstein and Callaham’s story could have been a little more tighter. Actually, it could have been a lot more tighter. It seemed to be all over the map. Although the movie more or less ended in San Francisco, it took a long time for the story to arrive at that location. Gareth Edwards’ lackluster direction did not help. Also, I was not that impressed by the writers’ use of Godzilla as the main protagonist. It just did not work for me . At least not now. Perhaps one day, I might learn to embrace the concept. My problem is I found myself wondering why Godzilla went after the MUTOs in the first place. I doubt it he went after them for the sake of the human race.

And this movie lacked some serious characterization. Characters like Admiral Stenz, Doctors Serizawa and Graham were tight-lipped and professional, while struggling to keep their emotions in check. But I did not find them particularly interesting or found myself caring about their fates. I also feel that Juliette Binoche (who portrayed Cranston’s doomed wife) and Sally Hawkins (Dr. Vivienne Graham) were simply wasted in this movie. I realize that many critics do not seem to care for Aaron Johnson-Taylor. I simply feel otherwise. I like him a lot as an actor. But he has a rather subtle screen presence and he needed someone more colorful to balance his more quiet persona. He had the explosive Bryan Cranston and an emotional Elizabeth Olsen. But Cranston’s character was killed off after the first half hour. And Olson had very few scenes with him. In the end, the writers failed to provide Johnson-Taylor with more colorful characters to balance his style . . . something that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich managed to do for Matthew Broderick in the 1998 film.

Will I bother to purchase a copy of “GODZILLA” when it is released on DVD? Probably. It is far from perfect, but I cannot deny that I liked it. As long as the movie is offered at a discount price, I would be more than willing to buy it for a rainy afternoon.

“The Corellian Connection” [PG-13] – Chapter Five

 

“THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION”

CHAPTER FIVE

OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN

The evacuation of the villa near Aldera Palace continued in an orderly fashion. With the Imperial presence focused upon the palace, Padme and her companions managed to clear the villa of her belongings with great speed. They carted the items to Captain Antilles’ shuttle, parked underneath a nearby grove of trees.

The twins’ nursemaid, Madga finally walked out of the villa for the last time, carrying Luke and her belongings. Padme, who held a sleeping Leia in a baby sling, spotted her mini holoprojector and some data pads on a table. She fetched the objects and thrust them into her traveling bag. After checking on the sleeping Leia, Padme examined her bedroom of eight months for the last time and walked out. Just as she reached the villa’s front door, she saw Madga scuttle hurriedly toward the grove’s edge. Padme frowned. Why would Madga rush . . .?

Captain Antilles’ voice crackled on her comlink. She removed it from her cloak’s left pocket and answered. “Captain, is there a problem?”

“Clone troopers coming from the palace,” Antilles answered. “Just three kilometers from the east.”

Padme inhaled sharply. She glanced to her right and spotted three clone troopers marching toward the villa. Making a run for the grove and Captain Antilles’ shuttle seemed out of the question. Then she heard the clone troopers’ voices. Hoping and praying that Leia would not wake up, Padme quickly rushed into one of the villa’s small rooms.

Minutes passed. Then she heard the troopers enter the villa. She held her breath, as they conducted their search by opening and closing doors. As footsteps approached the small room Padme had chosen as her sanctuary, she desperately searched for a closet where she could hide. She glanced around. Apparently the room lacked a closet. But it did lead to the villa’s second-floor veranda.

Footsteps grew closer to the room. Clutching the baby sling that held Leia and her traveling bag, Padme quickly dashed out onto the verana. And just in time. She overheard voices inside the room.

“No one’s here,” a trooper announced.

Another one asked, “What about a holoprojector?”

“No sign of one.” The first trooper paused. “I’ll check the veranda.”

Panic filled Padme. Now, she really had no place to hide. She quickly rushed along the veranda, searching for an opened door. Fortunately, one appeared just short of the veranda’s south end. Padme ducked inside, just as she heard voices from the outside. The former senator allowed herself a quick sigh of relief. Then she glanced at her daughter. Leia’s eyes fluttered briefly before they snapped wide open. Padme hoped and prayed to nearly every deity she could think of – along with the Force – that Leia would not cry for food. Several seconds passed, as her infant daughter blinked several times and yawned. Then to Padme’s relief, Leia closed her eyes and fell back asleep. Again, Padme sighed.

Then an idea came to her. With the clone troopers searching the veranda, she saw an opportunity to escape from the villa. Padme rushed out of what used to be her dining room. Without a moment’s hesitation, Padme continued to rush toward the villa’s front door. She spotted Antilles, Madga and Threepio silently urging her to head toward the grove. Which she did as fast as her feet would allow. Once she reached the safety of her companions, Captain Antilles ordered, “Into the shuttle, everyone! We’re leaving now.”

“No!” Padme insisted. “Not yet.” Everyone stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. “The Imperial troopers are still searching the villa. If we leave now, we’ll be spotted.” And so . . . they waited.

Another fifteen minutes passed before the three clone troopers emerged from the villa. Padme overheard one of them said, “We might as well return. There’s no inside. Or a holoprojector.” He and the other two troopers proceeded along the path that led back to the palace.

Once the clone troopers disappeared, Padme, Captain Antilles and Madga all heaved sighs of relief. Threepio exclaimed, “Thank the Maker! They’re gone. When can we leave, Miss Padme?”

“I think it would be best to leave now,” Padme replied. “While we can.”

Magda frowned. “But why should we leave, Milady? The troopers are gone. They won’t be coming back.”

A sigh left Padme’s mouth. “I’m afraid that I’ve outstayed my welcome, Magda,” she gently replied. “It’s time for me to leave Alderaan.” She hesitated, dreading the response to her next words. “I’ll understand if you want to remain. After all, Alderaan is your home.”

To Padme’s surprise, the nursemaid said, “No, I’ll leave. I’ve become . . .” A sweet smile formed on her lips. “. . . very fond of you and the children. And Alderaan has nothing for me. Not anymore.”

The Nabooan woman planted a light kiss on the nursemaid’s cheek. “Thank you, Magda.”

“I believe that we should leave now, Milady.” Captain Antilles led Padme and the others to the shuttle. Once everyone was seated inside, it rose several feet from the ground and sped away. As it zoomed above the picturesque landscape, Padme realized with a pang that she would miss the months spent here on Alderaan.

———-

CORONET, CORELLIA

Solipo Yeb packed the last of his belongings into his traveling valise. Then he glanced over his shoulder and saw his sister staring out of the window. “I’m ready, Thalia. Now, all we have to do is wait to hear from Captain Horus.” When his sister failed to answer, he joined her at the window. “Thalia?”

“I think we’re in trouble, Solipo,” Thalia declared ominously. “Look.”

Solipo glanced out of the window. The usual crowd of sentient beings filled the street below. But Solipo noticed something more disturbing – four human males heading toward the hotel. Two of them wore the uniforms of Corellia’s security force, the third wore civilian clothes and the last man turned out to be an Imperial officer. “Oh no!” he murmured. “I think we’ve been sold out.”

Thalia frowned. “By someone here at the hotel?”

Another candidate loomed in Solipo’s mind. “How about our intrepid Captain Horus? After all, he had recognized me.”

“I doubt it very much,” Thalia replied. She turned away from the window. “Let’s get out of here. Now.”

Grabbing his valise, Solipo retorted, “And go where? We can’t leave Corellia without Horus’ help. And our only alternative is to take a shuttle to another city.”

Brother and sister slipped out of their room. After making sure that the corridor was empty, they made their way to the nearest staircase and rushed downstairs. The pair spotted one of the hotel’s employees near the back door. Once he left, the Andalians slipped outside and quickly rushed down an alley.

“I can’t believe that we’re doing this,” Solipo bemoaned. “We didn’t even pay our bill. And as for Captain Horus . . .”

An annoyed sigh from his flamboyant sister, interrupted him. “For goodness sake, Solipo! He didn’t inform on us! Not Captain Horus.”

“And how do you know?”

The pair merged into a busy street. “Because Captain Horus has a very good reason to avoid the Imperials. Trust me.” Brother and sister continued on toward Coronet’s spaceport.

———–

ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN

“Nothing or no one was found at the villa, my Lord,” the clone trooper reported to Darth Rasche. “It is empty.”

Breha heaved an inward sigh of relief. Padme and the children had evaded detection.

Darth Rasche nodded. “Wait for me near the shuttle.” He turned to the queen. “Well, Your Majesty, it seems you had spoken the truth.”

“Of course I had!” Breha retorted. “We do not understand why you would doubt our word.” She paused and added with less asperity, “By the way, when are you leaving?”

“You wish to be rid of our presence so soon?” Breha shot a dark look at the Sith Lord. Who quickly sobered. “If you must know, we’ll be leaving as soon as our search is completed.”

A frowning Breha demanded, “What do you mean? You’ve searched the entire palace and the villa near the lagoon.”

“But not Aldera or Crevasse City,” Rasche added. “The signal from Corellia had been received in this sector of the planet. We intend to learn who had received it.”

Breha heaved a frustrated sigh. So much for getting rid of the Imperials. “Has it ever occurred to you, my Lord, that the Corellian signal had been sent by someone other than Solipo Yeb?”

A long silence followed. Confusion whirled in the Sith Lord’s eyes momentarily, before Rasche glared at the monarch. Then he turned away. Four other clone troopers appeared in the foyer. “No sign of the holoprojector, my Lord,” one trooper announced.

Rasche’s jaw twitched, as he barked, “Fine! Return to the shuttle. I’ll . . .” The Sith Lord’s face turned pale, as he halted in mid-sentence. His dark eyes glazed over for a second, before a frown appeared on his face. He faced Breha. “Excuse me, Your Majesty. I have an emergency message to send.” Breha opened her mouth to respond, but Darth Rasche strode away before she could.

———-

Darth Rasche strode out of the royal palace and halted before the wide staircase. He made his way toward the Imperial shuttle and entered. “Leave,” he barked at the pilot, inside the cockpit.

Once alone, the young Sith Lord sent a signal to Coruscant. Two minutes passed before the shuttle’s holoprojector lit up with his mentor’s image. “Lord Rasche,” Darth Sidious pronounced. “You have news for me?”

“No one within the royal palace had received the message from Corellia, Master,” Rasche reported. “Including Senator Organa. The holoprojector that had received the signal had not been inside Aldera Palace.” Rasche hesitated. “However, I have more important news. I have sensed a presence in the Force.”

Lord Sidious replied, “We both have, my young apprentice. On Kashyyyk.”

“Jedi on the Wookie homeworld?” Rasche paused. “It is possible that Skywalker might be . . .?”

The Sith Master continued, “Whether Skywalker is on Kashyyk or not, there is a Jedi presence on that planet. You will rendezvous with Grand Moff Tarkin in the Kashyyyk System and stamp out any Wookie resistance and hunt down the Jedi. As for the signal from Corellia, ignore it. This is a more urgent matter.”

“Hunt down the Jedi? Including Skywalker, if he is there?”

Lord Sidious’ already hideous face formed a grim mask. “Yes, Lord Rasche. Including him. Hunt them all down and kill them. Kill them all.”

——-

CORONET, CORELLIA

“Good afternoon,” Coronet’s port master greeted Anakin. “Here to schedule a departure?”

Anakin smiled, at the other man. “Yes. I’m Captain Horus of the Javian Hawk.” He spotted the departure schedule on the port master’s desk. Using the Force, he knocked an object off the desk and the port master bent down to retrieve the object. At that moment, Anakin used the opportunity to check the schedule. He saw that two other Corellian freighters were scheduled to depart within the next hour. Perfect.

The port master sat up and shot an embarrassed smile at the former Jedi Knight. “Sorry about that. Um . . . about your departure?”

“I hope to leave between now and an hour from now,” Anakin replied. “If it’s possible.”

The other man glanced at the departure schedule. “Yes, well there is no problem there.” He entered the information in the data pad that contained the schedule. “The Javian Hawk. Okay. I’ve managed to fit you in between the Eureka and the Tawhid. Will that do?

Anakin nodded politely. “Yes, it will. Thank you.”

Smiling, the port master replied, “Glad to be of service. Have a safe journey, Captain.”

After leaving the port master’s office, Anakin headed back to the Javian Hawk’s hangar. He hoped that his Andalian passengers were ready to depart. The pilot contacted the pair through his comlink and ordered them to meet him inside the Hawk’s hangar within twenty minutes. “We should be there within ten minutes, Captain,” Thalia Yeb’s voice replied. “We had to leave a lot sooner than we had planned.”

In other words, brother and sister had encountered trouble. Great.

——-

Captain Hardy and his three companions entered the Selonia Hotel’s modest lobby. They approached a neatly dressed desk clerk. “May I help you?” she asked in a prim voice.

The senior CorSec officer, a dark-haired human named Gil Bastra switched on a small holoprojector. It contained images of the Andalian senator and his sister. “Are these two guests at this hotel?” he asked.

The desk clerk shrugged her thin shoulders. “The man does not look familiar,” she began.

“How can he not look familiar?” Captain Hardy demanded. “He’s Senator Solipo Yeb of Andalia. He’s wanted for treason by the Empire. And his image has been posted on the Imperial Holovision for the past several days.”

“Imperial Holovision?” The clerk frowned. “I’ve never . . .”

Hardy sighed. “It used to be the old HoloNet News Service. It’s now called Imperial Holovision. This man’s face has been plastered all over the news recently. And you don’t recognize him?”

A supercilious smile touched the clerk’s lips. “I do not pay attention to politics.”

“Really?” A pale, dark-haired man with a thin, aristocratic face glared at the clerk. Kirtan Loor happened to be the Imperial liaison to CorSec and an agent for Imperial Intelligence. “I suppose you know nothing about the recent death of one of your senators, Garm Bel Iblis, at the hands of Separatist fugitives?”

The desk clerk stiffened slightly. “He was Corellian. Of course, I knew about him.”

“What about the woman?” Hardy asked, feeling slightly impatient. “Have you seen her?”

“Yes,” the clerk replied. “Her name is Thalia Kor and she’s a guest in Room Eleven. Second Floor.”

Bastra frowned. “She’s alone?”

The clerk checked the hotel’s records. “Not anymore. Her husband became an additional guest, three days ago. I was not on duty when he had arrived.”

Hardy felt a surge of triumph. The Emperor would be quite pleased upon learning of the capture of his new prize. “Take us to Room Eleven,” he barked at the clerk. He and his three companions followed the desk clerk toward the wide staircase.

——-

The moment the Andalians arrived at the hangar, Anakin rounded on them. “Why did you leave before I could signal you?”

Solipo Yeb regarded the former Jedi with suspicious eyes. “Why did you want us to wait for your signal? So that the Imperials would take us by surprise at the hotel?”

Anakin frowned at the senator. “What?”

“The Imperials are here,” Thalia Yeb explained. “My brother and I had spotted an Imperial officer, along with two CorSec officers, approaching the hotel. And we’ve spotted Imperial clone troopers on the streets. We need to get out of here, fast.”

But Solipo Yeb refused to budge. “Wait a minute! Four hours after we met Captain Horus, we nearly encounter the Imperials. I want to know how . . .”

“Are you suggesting that I had turned you in to the Empire?” Anakin demanded, glaring at the Andalian male.

Miss Yeb sarcastically retorted, “My brother has no idea of what he is talking about, Captain. Meanwhile, may we please leave? Now?”

Senator Yeb protested, “But Thalia . . .” His sister marched toward the Javian Hawk’s ramp. He glanced uneasily at Anakin. “Never mind.”

Anakin made final checks on the Javian Hawk’s systems. He noticed that his hypodrive system needed repairs and reminded himself to see to it when they arrive on Averam. Then he boarded the starship and made his way to the cockpit. The Andalians stood behind him. “I suggest that you two strap yourselves in for the takeoff.”

“Why aren’t we leaving now?” Senator Yeb demanded.

Miss Yeb pleaded with her brother. “Solipo, please!”

Anakin retorted, “We’re not scheduled to depart until another ten minutes, Senator. This is not Tatooine, where I can simply take off anytime I want. Despite Corellia’s questionable reputation, the spaceport is operated in a tight and orderly manner. And I refuse to take off at a moment’s whim and attract unwanted attention. Now please . . . take your seat and strap in!”

Thankfully, the senator’s sister managed to convince the annoying man to sit down in one of the passengers’ seats. Anakin turned on the ship’s engines after receiving a signal to depart. He guided the Hawk toward one of the landing pads. Within three minutes, the freighter was airborne and zooming away from Corellia’s atmosphere.

END OF CHAPTER FIVE

Top Ten Favorite HISTORY Documentaries

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Below is a list of my favorite history documentaries:

TOP TEN FAVORITE HISTORY DOCUMENTARIES

1 - Ken Burns The Civil War

1. “The Civil War” (1990) – Ken Burns produced this award-winning documentary about the U.S. Civil War. Narrated by David McCullough, the documentary was shown in eleven episodes.

2 - Supersizers Go-Eat

2. “The Supersizers Go/Eat” (2008-2009) – Food critic Giles Coren and comedian-broadcaster Sue Perkins co-hosted two entertaining series about the culinary history of Britain (with side trips to late 18th century France and Imperial Rome).

3 - MGM - When the Lion Roared

3. “MGM: When the Lion Roared” (1992) – Patrick Stewart narrated and hosted this three-part look into the history of one of the most famous Hollywood studios – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

4 - Africans in America

4. “Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery” (1998) – Angela Bassett narrated this four-part documentary on the history of slavery in the United States, from the Colonial era to Reconstruction.

5 - Queen Victoria Empire

5. “Queen Victoria’s Empire” (2001) – This PBS documentary is a two-part look at the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria. Donald Sutherland narrated.

6 - Motown 40 - The Music Is Forever

6. “Motown 40: The Music Is Forever” (1998) – Diana Ross hosted and narrated this look into the history of Motown, from its inception in 1958 to the 1990s.

7 - Ken Burns The War

7. “The War” (2007) – Ken Burns created another critically acclaimed documentary for PBS. Narrated by Keith David, this seven-part documentary focused upon the United States’ participation in World War II.

8 - Manor House

8. “The Edwardian Manor House” (2002) – This five-episode documentary is also a reality television series in which a British family assume the identity of Edwardian aristocrats and live in an opulent Scottish manor with fifteen (15) people from all walks of life participating as their servants.

9 - Elegance and Decadence - The Age of Regency

9. “Elegance and Decadence: The Age of Regency” (2011) – Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley presented and hosted this three-part documentary about Britain’s Regency era between 1810 and 1820.

10 - Ken Burns The West

10. “The West” (1996) – Directed by Steven Ives and produced by Ken Burns, this eight-part documentary chronicled the history of the trans-Appalachian West in the United States. Peter Coyote narrated.

HM - Fahrenheit 9-11

Honorable Mention: “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004) – Michael Moore co-produced and directed this Oscar winning documentary that took a critical look at the presidency of George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and its coverage in the news media.

TIME MACHINE: Battle of Cold Harbor

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TIME MACHINE: BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR

May 31 to June 12 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War conflict known as the Battle of Cold Harbor. This conflict, which lasted over a period of 13 days, proved to be one of the last battles of the Virginia Overland Campaign, which occurred between May and June of 1864.

The Battle of Cold Harbor is known as one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles fought during the Civil War. On May 31, 1864; the Army of the Potomoc, under the command of Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant and Major-General George G. Meade, swung around the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Robert E. Lee.

The Union cavalry seized the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor, situated 10 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederacy’s capital. The cavalry managed to hold that spot against Confederate attacks, until the arrival of the Union infantry. Following reinforcements for both armies, they clashed again on the evening of June 1. During that evening, the Union’s VI Corps under Major-General Horatio G. Wright and the XVIII Corps under Major-General William Farrar Smith assaulted the Confederate Army to the west of the crossroads with some success. The following day, the remaining troops of both armies built a series of fortifications seven miles long. Then on June 3, three Union corps attacked the Confederate works on the line’s southern end at dawn. They were easily repulsed with heavy casualties.

Further Union attempts to assault the northern end of the line and resume assaults on the southern end between June 4 and June 12 were also futile. Grant sent a telegram to the Defense Department in Washington, warning that he had not “gained no decisive advantage” after four days. He and Lee communicated with each other between June 5 and 7 via notes without coming to an agreement. When Grant formally requested a two-hour cessation of hostilities, it proved to be too late for most of the wounded, who had become bloated corpses. When Grant realized his army was in a stalemate with the Army of Virginia and that frontal assaults were not the answer, he tried the following:

*He sent Major-General David Hunter to cause a commotion with Lee’s supplies in the Shenandoah Valley so that the latter would be forced to dispatch reinforcements in that area.

*He dispatched two divisions from the Union cavalry under “Philip Sheridan to to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad near Charlottesville.

*And he planned a stealthy operation to withdraw from Lee’s front and move across the James River.

As Grant had hoped, Lee reacted by pulling John C. Breckinridge‘s division from Cold Harbor and sent to Lynchburg to deal with Major-General David Hunter. And by June 12, he assigned Jubal Early permanent command of the Confederates’ Second Corp and send the latter to the Shenandoah Valley. Lee also sent two of his three cavalry divisions in pursuit of Sheridan. This pursuit led to the Battle of Trevilian Station. Despite anticipating the Union Army’s shift across the James River, Lee was taken by surprise when it actually happened. And On June 12, the Army of the Potomac finally disengaged to march southeast to cross the James and threaten Petersburg, a crucial rail junction south of Richmond.

The Battle of Cold Harbor proved to be one of the final victories won by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. The Army of the Potomoc under Ulysses Grant lost 10,000 to 13,000 in attempting the futile assaults over a period of twelve days. Between early May and early-to-mid June 1864, the Union had a total of 52,000 casualties. Lee’s army had a casualty rate of at least 33,000. Unfortunately, the casualty rate affected the Army of Northern Virginia a lot more. The beginning of theSiege of Petersburg more or less signified the beginning of the end for Lee’s army.

If you want to read more detailed information about the Battle of Cold Harbor, please read the following:

*“Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 26 – June 5, 1864” (2014) by Daniel Davis

*“Not War But Murder” (2001) by Ernest B. Furgurson

*“The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Battle of Cold Harbor (2013) by Charles River

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two – At Mid Point

 
“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” SEASON TWO – AT MID-POINT

Ever since the second season of Marvel’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, many television viewers and critics have waxed lyrical over their belief over the series’ improvement from Season One. And yet … the ratings for the show seemed to reflect differently from this view. Regardless of the opinions of others or the ratings, I have my own views about the show’s Season Two.

I am going to be blunt. I do not like Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. In fact, it has turned out to be a major disappointment for me. Last season, many fans and critics complained about the show’s pacing and slow revelation of the season’s main story arc. For them, Mutant Enemy’s handling of Season Two’s story arc has improved a great deal. I disagree. I had no problems with the development of Season One’s story arc. For me, it was no different from the formats for previous Sci-Fi/Fantasy serial television shows like “BABYLON 5”, along with Mutant Enemy’s “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”. All three shows began their story arcs for each season slowly and eventually build up the story arc to a mind boggling conclusion.“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” did the same. Many fans, critics and even Marvel claimed that Season One’s slow build up and occasional breaks had more to do with allowing the season’s story arc to build up to the plot for “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”. I say bullshit to that.

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, like many other television shows with twenty-two (22) episodes per season, usually took occasional breaks in order to stretch out 22 episodes within a time period of seven to eight months. This is nothing new. These breaks have been going on for many television shows for a long time. In their impatience and occasional stupidity, many forgot that. Many also seemed to have forgotten that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” was a serial drama about government agents that work for an intelligence organization … not about superheroes and superheroines. For some reason, many fans ignored the show’s title and honestly expected the constant appearances of costumed Marvel superheroes and superheroines. Why? I have no idea. But Disney (who owns the ABC Network), Marvel and Mutant Enemy decided to heed the complaints for the sake of ratings and change the series’ style.

What did they do? Well, they introduced new characters – especially new agents – in the wake of the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the spring of 2014. How did Mutant Enemy introduce these new characters? Actually, they did not. Instead, new characters such as Alphonse “Mack” McKenzie, Lance Hunter and Isabelle Hartley had already been recruited as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when the first episode, (2.01) “Shadows”. The episode also quickly introduced a new villain, a HYDRA official known as Daniel Whitehall, with a flashback to the past. The new characters, along with familiar characters such as Phil Coulson, Melinda May, Skye and Antoine Triplett, were quickly thrust into a new mission, which quickly morphed into part of the season’s new story arc – the recovery of an alien object known as the Obelisk. Everything about this episode seemed to hint “speed”. Missing from “Shadows” was Agent In fact,“speed” seemed to be the essence of the plotting and pacing for the first half of Season Two.

I find it ironic that many fans complained about how certain characters like Akela Amador, Chan Ho Yin and the Asgardian refugee Dr. Elliot Randolph seemed to have come and gone with the wind. Yet, they failed to realize that similar characters in Season Two did the same … or appeared in at least two to three episodes before disappearing. I refer to characters like Isabelle Hartley, Carl Creel, and Senator Christian Ward. But this did not bother me … except for their handling of Agent Amador and Senator Ward. What really bothered me was the handling of certain recurring or main characters.

There have been complaints about Mutant Enemy’s handling of its minority characters … well, its African-American characters. I never understood why it was so important for the Mike Peterson character to disappear after the Season One episode, (1.22) “Beginning of the End”. What the hell happened to him? Ten Season Two episodes have aired since and not once has the series revealed his whereabouts. Come to think of it … what happened to Akela Amador? She was imprisoned by Coulson’s team … even after they had learned that HYDRA had coerced her into pulling off several robberies on their behalf. HYDRA had released prisoners such as Raina and Ian Quinn, after the S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War. What about Agent Amador? What happened to her? Off all the new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents introduced during Season Two, only two got the shot end of the stick. One of them was Isabelle Hartley, who was killed off in “Shadows”. The other character was Alphonso “Mack” MacKenzie, who was more or less used as some kind of therapy tool for the Leo Fitz character, before being transformed into some kind of zombie in the episode, (2.09) “…Ye Who Enter Here”. As of the season’s mid-season finale, (2.10) “What They Become”, Mack is no longer a “zombie”. But no one knows if he has fully recovered. I fear that Mack’s fate will become similar to that of the Elam Ferguson character from AMC’s “HELL ON WHEELS”.

Ruth Negga continued her role as Raina, the mysterious woman who had aligned herself with HYDRA and later, a man named Calvin Zabo who might be an Inhuman. As it turned out, Raina is also an Inhuman … like Skye. However, she underwent a physical transformation:

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And Skye … did not:
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Why? Why Raina and not Skye? Why did a character portrayed by an actress of Irish and African ancestry transformed into a non-Human form?

Finally, I come to Antoine “Trip” Triplett. The show’s “Legacy” agent, who had played a major role in the defeat of John Garrett, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-turned-HYDRA mole at the end of Season One, seemed to have been shoved to the background by the writers under showrunners Joss and Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and producer Jeffrey Bell. Why? Mutant Enemy and Marvel claimed that Britt was under contract to the BET series, “BEING MARY JANE”, which meant in their eyes, they could not use him as much as they “wanted”. Hmmm … more bullshit. They were able to use a great deal of Britt in the second half of Season One. And the actor appeared in less than half of the latest season for “BEING MARY JANE”. In fact, the latter has been scheduled by BET to end in 2015. What was the point in sidelining Britt in that manner? And why did they killed off Britt’s character with some of the most contrived writing I have seen on this show in “What They Become”, without allowing him to have a major appearance in said episode? It was just disgusting to watch.Speaking of contrived writing, I encountered a good deal of it in Season Two. The writers for “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” went through of minor story arcs with the speed of a ballistic missile. I realize that Season One had its share of one-shot episodes – especially in its first half. Again, I have no problems with this. One-shot episodes were pretty common in televised serial dramas like“BUFFY” and “BABYLON 5”. But in Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, the writers would set up a story arc with a great deal of build up and end the story arc within two to five episodes. The series ended up wasting potential characters and story arcs like Carl Creel, Jemma Simmons’ role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. mole within HYDRA, the introduction of Senator Christian Ward and the Daniel Whitehall character. Mind you, Whitehall lasted for ten episodes. Only, I had not expected him to be introduced so fast … and killed off so soon. Speaking of speed, I had no idea that the Skye character would be exposed as an Inhuman – part of a race of superhumans who had been engineered by aliens such as the Kree – so soon. Halfway into Season Two? I found this rather quick, considering that Marvel has plans to release a movie about the Inhumans in 2018, four years from now. Do they really expect“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, with its sketchy ratings, to last that long? If so, they could have waited a little longer.One last example of the show’s fast-paced narration was its tendency to shove two or three subplots into one episode. Other television shows have done this as well. But in a serial drama format, most writers would include the main story arc and a minor subplot that had little to do with the former. Mutant Enemy’s writers did not utilize this style. In order to keep the story arc going at neck break speed, they would shove two plotlines that had a great deal to do with the main story arc into one episode. This resulted in several episodes coming off as convoluted and very confusing. Several critics have complained about this, but most viewers and critics are pretending that this is a sign of improved writing from last season. Apparently rushed storytelling is now Mutant Enemy/Marvel’s idea of writing for sci-fi serial drama. Really? Speed writing for viewers or critics with the attention span of lice?Another problem I had with Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” is the character of Grant Ward – former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and HYDRA mole. Why is he still alive? Why? I suppose Marvel and especially Mutant Enemy still want actor Brett Dalton around. Just recently, producer Jeffery Bell said the following about the character and the actor:“What we love is that Brett Dalton is this actor that brings this complexity to this guy, a lot of the way that James Marsters brought it to Spike on Buffy and Angel.”

Okay, it is official. Mutant Enemy has a hard-on for Brett Dalton. But when I read the above quote, I did not know whether to laugh or upchuck. Look … Dalton is a tolerable actor. He is pretty solid. But I CANNOT believe that Bell had the nerve to compare Dalton with the likes of James Marsters. To this day, I consider Marsters to be one of the best actors or actresses I have ever seen in a Mutant Enemy production hands down. One of the best … ever. Dalton is nowhere that good. Now, I will admit that although Spike proved to be one of my favorite television characters, I have no love for Grant Ward. I disliked Ward when he was one of the “good guys” during most of Season One. When he proved to be a HYDRA mole, my feelings for him did not change on whit. I realize that Mutant Enemy was trying to make him complex. But thanks to Dalton’s performance, I simply failed to be impressed. But my dislike of the Ward character has nothing to do with my opinion of Dalton as an actor. I also disliked the vampire character Angel, also featured in“BUFFY” and “ANGEL”. But despite my dislike, I cannot deny that actor David Boreanaz’s portrayal of the character was superb. Another actor that made a name for himself portraying a morally questionable fantasy character was Julian McMahon, who portrayed the human-demon hybrid for three seasons in “CHARMED”. Like Marsters and Boreanaz, McMahon was superb in the role, despite producer Brad Kern’s shabby handling of the character during his last year on the show. Hell, he proved to be the best actor during the show’s eight season run. I noticed something else. Ever since the premiere of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two, Brett Dalton seems hellbent upon impersonating McMahon. Why, I do not know. Brett Dalton is no Julian McMahon. He should simply give up the effort.

Also, Mutant Enemy’s efforts to retain the Grant Ward character has resulted in some seriously contrived writing. After Ward’s capture in “Beginning of the End”, new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson decided to keep the former agent at the new hidden base. Why? So that he can provide the new S.H.I.E.L.D. with information on HYDRA? What could Ward possibly know? He was a low-level HYDRA mole. I doubt that John Garrett knew everything. Hell, I doubt that Garrett, who can be very manipulative, told Ward everything. Anyone with brains or common sense should have realized this. Why keep Ward around? So that Dalton can do his Julian McMahon impersonation every now and then? Then Mutant Enemy decided to hire actor Tim DeKay to portray Ward’s older brother, Senator Christian Ward. DeKay appeared in two episodes – (2.06) “A Fractured House” and (2.08) “The Things We Bury” – before his character was killed off camera by Ward. Aside from giving the writers an opportunity for Ward to escape imprisonment, what was the purpose of DeKay’s presence on the show? I cannot decide what was more wasted – the Jemma Simmons w/HYDRA mini arc, Antoine Triplett’s Season Two presence, or the use of the Senator Christian Ward character. Even when the writers finally had a chance to rid the show of Ward in the mid-season finale, “What They Become”, they kept him alive with some ridiculously contrived writing. I suspect this is Mutant Enemy and Marvel’s way of giving Ward some kind of redemption by the end of the season. If so, this will proved to be the fastest redemption arc in television history. And right now, I found myself feeling disgusted over the whole matter.

I really do not know what else to say about “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Other than I have washed my hands of this show? I cannot believe this is the same television series that I had fallen in love with, last year. I have to end this article before I find myself in danger of upchucking again. Dear Mutant Enemy. You have become such a disappointment to me.

“The Corellian Connection” [PG-13] – Chapter Four

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“THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION”

CHAPTER FOUR

OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN

Padme stepped out onto the villa’s terrace and found Raymus Antilles pacing back and forth near the balustrade. “Captain Antilles,” she greeted politely. “How kind of you to visit.”

The captain ceased his pacing and faced Padme with a grim expression. “I’m afraid this isn’t a social visit, Milady. Alderaan’s intelligence has just received news that that an Imperial emissary will be arriving here, pretty soon. It seems that someone had traced Solipo Yeb’s message to this planet.”

A sense of alarm filled Padme. “Oh no! Bail! Has His Highness been arrested?”

“Thankfully no,” Antilles replied. “He managed to leave Alderaan before the Empire’s arrival.”

Padme frowned. “You mean that this emissary is here?”

“He will be. Soon.” With a sigh, Antilles continued, “Her Majesty and I believe that this emissary might search for the holoprojector that had received Senator Yeb’s message.” Unease crept into his eyes.

Padme asked, “Is there something else?”

Antilles inhaled sharply. “We’ve also learned that the emissary is someone with the title of ‘Darth’. Possibly a Sith Lord.”

A gasp left Padme’s mouth. She stared at Antilles with anxious eyes. “But that’s not possible! According to Bail and Master Kenobi, Anakin had turned away . . .”

“Yes, Milady, but we don’t know if Skywalker had returned to the emperor or not.” The captain paused. “Right now, we need to get you and children away from here. I have a shuttle waiting nearby to take you away from the palace grounds. I suggest that you pack your belongings quickly.”

Padme replied, “I already have. Bail had suggested that I pack. In case of an emergency.”

At that moment, a shadow appeared in the sky above. Both Padme and Antilles glanced and noticed a rectangular-shaped space vehicle. An Imperial shuttle. Padme murmured, “He’s here.”

———-

CORONET, CORELLIA

“Room Eleven,” Anakin murmured to himself, as he walked along the second floor corridor of the Selonia Hotel. The hotel was named after another planet that made up the Corellian Sector. The clean and stark interior reminded Anakin of a modest home for a respectable family. Large jars filled with flowers and other plants dotted the length of the corridor. He finally came upon his destination – Room Eleven. The pilot rang the announciator.

Seconds later, a female voice crackled from the small audio box next to the door. “Yes? Who is it?”

“Captain Set Horus,” Anakin replied. “We met last night.”

The door slid open, revealing Thalia Kor. Her shoulders sagged with relief. “Oh, thank goodness! Captain Horus, I’m glad that you could finally make it. Come in, please.”

Once Anakin had stepped inside the modest room, he was surprised to find a human male with skin tone similar to his new client’s. He knew that Miss Kor had a brother. But he had no idea that this sibling would turn out to be the missing senator from Andalia. “Senator Yeb?” he exclaimed, before he could stop himself.

The senator and his sister exchanged uneasy glances. “You know who I am?” the former demanded.

Anakin shrugged his shoulders. “Of course. Your face has been plastered consistently on the HoloNet News Service, since your escape from Andalia.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Yeb murmured, wearing an anxious expression.

An impatient Thalia Kor (or Yeb) quickly dismissed the matter. “Never mind that. Captain Horus, can you get us both to Averam? No questions asked?”

Nodding, Anakin replied, “Sure. I only hope that the Empire hasn’t traced you to here on Corellia.” He saw the troubled expression on Senator Yeb’s face. “Is there something wrong, Senator?”

Solipo Yeb hesitated. “Well . . . upon my arrival here, I had contacted . . . a friend to send me some much needed funds. We had also made arrangements to meet on Averam.”

“And you think there might be a chance that your message had been detected by the Empire,” Anakin concluded. He sighed. “I understand. I don’t mean to sound mercenary, Senator, but how much are you willing to pay for passage?”

The Andalian senator immediately replied, “Three thousand Imperial credits.” Anakin’s eyes widened in shock. Apparently, the senator’s friend had provided him with ample funds.

With an amicable smile on his face, Anakin replied, “Well then . . . you have a deal. Meet me inside the Javian Hawk’s hangar.” He glanced at the Andalian woman. “Your sister should know where to find it. I’ll be ready to leave within two hours. Senator . . . Milady.” He bowed politely and left the hotel room.

——–

ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN

Darth Rasche and his entourage stood inside Aldera Palace’s vast and impressive foyer. Just beyond, a large staircase curved upward to the floor above. Although Rasche was familiar with the plans for the new Imperial Palace, he could not help but be impressed by this palace’s elegant style and sense of history. Not that he really cared. After all, he had a job to perform.

An royal aide dressed in a long blue robe approached the Sith Lord. “May I help you, sir?”

“I am Darth Rasche,” Rasche announced. “I am here to see Her Majesty Queen Breha and His Highness Prince Bail Organa, on behalf of His Imperial Highness, the Emperor Palpatine.”

The aide nervously replied, “Her Majest is . . .”

“Her Majesty is here,” a female’s husky voice finished. The voice’s owner descended the staircase’s remaining steps and approached the newcomers. Dressed in a simple, elegant tangerine gown with bell-shaped sleeves, Breha Antilles-Organa looked every inch an Alderaanian queen. Even her hair, styled in two round buns pinned on each side of her head, added to the regal presence. The aide immediately bowed. To prove that he was not a rude vulgarian, Darth Rasche did the same. “We are Queen Breha of Alderaan,” she continued. “May we ask who you are, sir? And what are you doing here with Imperial troops?”

Again, the Sith Lord bowed. “I am Darth Rasche, Your Majesty. I am the personal emissary of the Emperor. He believes that someone here on Alderaan had received a holographic message from Solipo Yeb on Corellia. And since your husband happened to be one of Senator Yeb’s former colleagues, naturally our search will start here.”

The queen’s countenance formed a stony mask. “We must protest this intrusion, Lord Rasche. His Highness has been a loyal supporter of the Emperor since the latter was the Supreme Chancellor. Despite his initial misgivings, he also supported the war against the Separatists . . . even against the wishes of some of our more pacifist citizens. This is outrageous!”

“Nevertheless, Your Majesty, I must perform my duty and search the palace. You may file an official protest to the Imperial Senate, if you wish.” Rasche paused, as he glanced around the foyer. When the Queen had first appeared, something seemed amiss. Now, he knew why. “Pardon me, Your Majesty, but where is your husband? Where is His Highness, Prince Bail?”

The Queen’s dark eyes flickered momentarily before she assumed a haughty air. “His Highness is not here. He has left . . . on a business trip.”

Allowing his eyes to penetrate the monarch’s Rasche said in a silky voice, “A business trip? To Corellia, by any chance?”

Contempt poured out of Queen Breha’s eyes. “Of course not! He went to Duro with a member of Alderaan’s Trade Association to discuss our import contract regarding Alderaanian wine.”

“Do you expect me to believe you?” Rasche coolly shot back.

“I beg your pardon?” The queen’s voice radiated ice. “Do you doubt our word?”

A retort hung on Rasche’s lips. But a growing sense that the Queen had no suspicions of any connection between her husband and Solipo Yeb, other than the Senate, gnawed in his mind. He also suspected that insulting Alderaan’s queen might backfire against the Empire. Especially since he has yet to find any proof linking Bail Organa with Yeb. Rasche took a deep breath and bowed to the Queen. “Pardon me, Your Majesty. I would never doubt anything you say.”

Queen Breha lifted her chin in a haughty manner. “You are forgiven.”

Rasche felt a slight surge of anger at what he viewed as royal arrogance. Then he turned to the clone squad and barked, “Search every room for a holoprojector, and make sure that each one has been checked for any recent transmissions!” The troopers then split into smaller groups and commenced upon the search.

Meanwhile, Rasche became aware of Queen Breha’s intense scrutiny. “Pardon me, Lord . . . Rasche,” she began, “but your face looks familiar to us.” She paused. “Were you a veteran of the recent war against the Separatists?”

The young Sith Lord’s eyes flicked. “Yes . . . Your Majesty.”

The Queen frowned. “Were you a former Jedi Knight, by any chance? Aside from the clone troopers, the only other humans engaged in combat were . . .”

Longing to avoid memories of his previous life, Rasche curtly interrupted. “There were other humans that fought against Dooku and Grievious.” Queen Breha’s eyes bored into his. He added quietly, “Your Majesty.”

“I see.”

Rasche decided to change the subject. “By the way, I had noticed a charming villa near the palace’s lagoon. Who lives there, if I may ask?”

A touch of fear flicked in the Queen’s eyes. Much to Rasche’s surprise. Interesting.

“My husband’s cousin lives there,” Queen Breha finally replied. “Cousin Yane Organa-Rivaaj. Well . . . she and her children used to live there. Until recently. She is a war widow.”

Rasche asked, “Why did she leave?”

A pause followed before Queen Breha answered, “Painful memories. It was not the same fol . . . following her husband’s death. He was killed during the Separatists’ assault upon our homeworld.”

Rasche nodded politely, already bored by the tragic story. Several minutes later, three clone troopers appeared from the palace’s east wing. One of them reported, “We found a holoprojector each in both the Queen and Prince Organa’s private offices. Neither had recently received a message from Corellia.”

“You searched our private rooms?” Queen Breha demanded angrily.

Ignoring the furious monarch, Rasche ordered the two troopers to search the villa near the palace’s lagoon. “If you find the holoprojector, inform me as soon as possible.” Once the troopers left, Rasche turned to face Queen Breha. To his satisfaction, the fear he had earlier spotted in her eyes, had returned.

———-

CORONET, CORELLIA

“I had killed more than one person. Hundreds of them, as a matter of fact. Including children.”

Captain Horus’ words replayed over and over, inside Han’s mind. Nor could he forget the pilot’s eyes when those words spilled of his mouth. Hard. Intense. Scary and yet, a little sad. Recalling the blond-haired pilot, Han felt relieved that the man had rejected him. On the other hand, a swell of pity touched Han whenever he thought about Captain Horus’ underlying sadness. What exactly had Horus done to make him so frightening and yet, sad at the same time?

Han shivered. Then he returned his attention to his drink. After leaving the Torvian Blue Hotel, the eleven year-old had made his way toward the city’s spaceport in the hopes of finding passage off Corellia. Unfortunately, most ships seemed to be arriving in Coronet, instead of leaving. An old Republic cruiser had departed for Mos Espa on Tatooine. Han would have been a passenger, if the pilot had not demanded more credits than he possessed. Now, he found himself sitting in a open-air café, drinking Java Juice and waiting for the next starship to depart.

A familiar figure appeared at the spaceport’s entrance. It was Set Horus. Han watched the young pilot stride into one of the hangars. Then a woman dressed in dark blue pants, a white blouse and a tan short jacket appeared at the spaceport’s entrance. Han immediately recognized her aqualine features and long, dark-brown braid. It was Yenohla Jen, one of Corellia’s top pilots. He had learned from the portmaster that she would be departing for Coruscant within an hour or two. And unlike the Republic cruiser’s pilot, Captain Jen would not overcharge him.

After finishing his drink, Han paid two credits and slid out of his chair. He grabbed his burlap sack and started across the street. The eleven year-old had not taken five steps when a strong hand grabbed him by the back of his collar. Han screamed for help, as he struggled to escape his captor. Typically, no one bothered to rescue him. Not even a CorSec officer.

“Calm down, kid,” his captor growled. “Shrike wants to speak to you.” In other words – he was deep in bantha fodder.

Shrike’s thug, a blond-haired human male with narrow blue eyes, shoved him into an enclosed speeder, where he found another waiting for them. Within minutes, both men delivered him to Shrike’s villa, near the edge of town. One of the thugs dragged the eleven year-old inside the villa and delivered him to the courtyard, where the gangster awaited them. The latter’s grim expression did not seem to bode well for Han. “Well, well,” Shrike said in a low, menacing voice. “Hanging around the spaceport like some local scum, Solo? Weren’t you supposed to be doing something else? Like collecting the credits that you owe me?”

Han stared at his boss in angry silence. Only he felt anger at himself, for being stupid enough to be caught off guard by Shrike’s thugs.

“Well? Aren’t you going to say something?” Shrike demanded. His eyes fell upon Han’s burlap sack. “Where did you get that?” He snatched the sack from Han’s grip. At that moment, the Wookie cook appeared in the courtyard. She took one look at Han and gasped. “That’s right, Dewlanna,” Shrike continued with a sneer. “Solo is back. I can only assume that you helped him escape by giving him this.” He held up the burlap sack. Then he peered inside. “Let’s see. Food and and a credit chip. Interesting.”

Dewlanna growled, “He would have starved if I had not given him something.”

“Really?” Shrike glared at her. “You should have told me that he had left, in the first place.”

For Dewlanna’s sake, Han spoke up. “You leave Dewlanna out of this!” he cried angrily. “It’s not her fault!”

“No, it’s not,” Shrike coolly replied. “It’s yours. You made the choice to run away. But Dewlanna . . . well, she did make the choice to help you. And now, both of you must be punished.”

At that moment, an adolescent, green-skinned Twi’lek entered the courtyard. It was Alema Passik, one of Shrike’s slaves and hispersonal companion. She called out the gangster’s name. “Shrike! You have an incoming message on your holoprojector! The one you are waiting for.”

A sigh left Shrike’s mouth. He seemed to have forgotten about Han, as he diverted his attention to Alema. “I’m waiting for a lot of messages. Who is it?” he demanded, as he started toward the archway that led to the villa’s interiors.

Shrike was not the only one who became distracted by Alema’s appearance. The gangster’s two thugs had released their grip on Han’s arms. The eleven year-old decided to take advantage of a fortuitous opportunity. Using great force, Han stomped on the blond-haired thug’s foot. The man cried out in pain. Then the eleven year-old Corellian kicked the other thug’s shin and made a run for the courtyard’s gate.

A loud roar filled Han’s ears, when he reached the gate. She glanced over his shoulder and saw Dewlanna knock the second thug to the ground. The blond thug pulled out a blaster, but Dewlanna knocked him out before he could fire. Then she roared, “Run Han! Get out of here! Get out . . .”

Blaster fire from Shrike’s side weapon interrupted the Wookie’s cries. Struck directly into the chest, Dewlanna slowly sank to the ground. Han cried out, “Nooo!” Then he saw an armed Shrike rush toward him. Before Han could open the gate, the fallen Wookie grabbed one of Shrike’s ankles and jerked him to the ground. Han needed no further argument. He opened the gate and finally made good his escape.

———-

CORELLIAN SECTOR

Commander Jaffe approached the Agamemnon’s senior officer. “We’re now approaching Corellia, Captain Hardy. We should be in orbit above the planet within fifteen minutes.”

“Good,” Captain Hardy replied. “Contact the head of the Corellian Security Force. Inform him that I will meet him at the CorSec office on Coronet. And Have Lieutenant Rhue and his platoon meet me in the shuttle bay. I am going to the surface. I’m leaving you in command of the Agamemnon.”

The executive officer nodded. “As you wish, Captain.” He turned to a subordinate. “Contact Lieutenant Rhue and tell him to form his platoon, inside the hangar bay.”

Satisfied that his orders would be carried out, Captain Hardy left the bridge in order to prepare for his trip to Corellia’s surface.

END OF CHAPTER FOUR