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Friday, February 23, 2018

A Comic Book Spotlight on 'Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet'.

Okay, guys. I have to be honest. This was an article that I didn’t really want to do for a number of reasons. The first should be fairly obvious to anyone who knows me. I’m a second generation Scottish American who has lived in Richmond, Virginia for 20 years of his life and quite frankly, I have no right to lecture people about the importance of an African superhero to our world. But beyond that, Black Panther isn’t really a character that I’ve ever had all that much exposure to and what little I previously had was rarely pleasant. He was one of the main characters in the New Avengers book which bored me to tears, was a major player in the Secret Wars reboot event, which I hated, and was a figure in Civil War II, which underwhelmed me. In other words, I kind of went into this book with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. But luckily for me, A Nation Under Our Feet turned out to be a really good read and one that I would highly recommend. Even if it isn’t perfect.
The setup for the A Nation Under Our Feet story arc is surprisingly dense. After the events of the Secret Wars reboot, Black Panther once again finds himself on the throne of Wakanda despite abdicating in favor of his sister some time ago. Unfortunately for her, a battle with Thanos’ forces left her in a state stuck in between life and death, forcing him to reclaim the title. However, all is not well in Wakanda. The constant invasions of men like Doctor Doom, Namor, and Thanos have left the country weakened and the people disillusioned with the monarchy. Forces gather to take advantage of this growing uneasiness and T’Challa must quickly decide if he will become one of the very tyrants he fought against to preserve his monarchy or bend to the will of his people.
As you can tell this set up alone is something that immediately differentiates itself from just about every other superhero story out there. If there is one complaint that one could justly lob at the entire superhero genera it’s that it can be incredibly repetitive. The bad guy shows up, causes some problems, forces the hero to rethink his way of doing things for about five minutes before he pulls a victory out of his butt, usually ending with some kind of lead-in to the next story arc. And to be fair, Black Panther is by no means immune to this formula. The story does have its share of superpowered enemies and utterly evil people causing trouble for their own profit. For the most part, however, it doesn’t just focus on what these conflicts mean to Black Panther personally. Instead, the book focuses on what these conflicts mean to the entire nation as opposed to the usual small-scale hero versus career criminal villain that tend to flood the market.  In fact, the vast majority of the story revolves around T’Challa running his country and trying to figure out how best to do that with multiple revolutions on his hands. Ultimately, it’s this small change that makes all the difference and not everything is as black and white as one might think.
Despite the fact that the book does contain some truly horrific antagonists, not all of them are as clear-cut. When it comes right down to it the antagonists of the story are democratic revolutionaries fighting against what is heavily implied to be an absolute monarchy and it’s difficult not to see things from their side. At least two of the antagonists genuinely want to see Wakanda change for the better and take steps to secure this. Heck, even the genuinely evil characters bring up some very good points in their fight against Black Panther. In fact, there are points where the book becomes more than a little uncomfortable to read because of this.
At times the book can’t help but portray the revolutionaries as narrowminded terrorists who want nothing but power for themselves and portray the patriarchal, absolute monarch as the hero and it’s just…creepy. It doesn’t seem to be aware of how problematic this portrayal is and that it comes off as a borderline endorsement of those values. It does address some of these problems towards the end of the story and everyone seems to agree that the country needs to change. However, it’s not made clear as to just how much of the promised change will actually happen in Wakanda and what kind of change will it be and is the one area where the book falls short. Maybe this is better followed up in future story arcs that I haven’t read but this story is very wishy-washy about the whole thing. It can’t really seem to make up its mind as to whether or not the rebels were in the right as it keeps going back and forth, sometimes portraying them as saints and at other times as people who started out well enough but then let the power get to their heads and others as power hungry mustache twirlers who were bad from the get-go. But then again, that might have been the point
People tend to forget that revolutions against governments very rarely have clear-cut good guys and bad guys. More often than not they’re made up of various factions with very different goals, only united in their cause to defeat a common foe and often turn on one another after said foe is defeated. Post-WWII Africa has been littered with such revolutions and it’s more likely that this is what the creative team was going for. It’s just a little bit odd that they would tell this kind of story through the lens of one of Marvel's most popular heroes. But one cannot argue with the results.
Despite Marvel’s Post-Civil War II slump, the actual quality of the books hasn’t really changed as much as some people like to think. The majority of them are still very well written with likable characters, satisfying arcs and good professional artwork to tie it all together and this book is no exception to that. The plot takes several twists and turns. The main characters are all complicated and three dimensional and the actual ways that the conflicting factions do battle with one another is a lot more cleaver then you might expect. And much like the films, the storytelling is so tight and fine-tuned that is hard to imagine that anyone would have a problem with it. At times it might come off as a bit synthetic but you cannot deny that it does its job and does it well.
In the end, Black Panther: A Nation Under our Feet has a really good plot that manages to differentiate itself by being about ruling a nation as opposed to fighting a run of the mill supervillain and does a great job of portraying all the complexities of it. There are some cringe-worthy elements to it and some of its themes are ideas probably should have been handled a bit better but if you’re like me and Black Panther has never really been on your radar before now, I say that that this is a good place to start. Overall, I say give it a read.
           So until next time, please Like the Nerd Hub Facebook Page, check out The Nerd Hub Facebook groupSubscribe to us on YouTube and be sure to check out my own personal blog, Trey’s Take On…as well as giving my Facebook Page a Like, contribute a dollar or so to my new Patreon Page and checking me out on Twitter.  Until then, let's hope that Marvel Comics can get out of its current slump while still keeping its dignity.

A First Impressions Review of Marvel's 'Black Panther' - Spoiler Free

Marvel Studios
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone into to a movie that was extremely hyped up and walked away completely satisfied with what I saw. Black Panther not only met but also exceeded every bit of that hype. I went in expecting to watch one of the best Marvel movies to date, and that was exactly what I got. This movie was done extremely well and I don’t think I could have asked for much more than what we got.

        One of the most interesting parts of the movie was all of the culture and traditions they brought into the movie. It wasn’t like they just decided to choose Wakanda as a setting and everything that happened had nothing to do with where they were at. Every creative decision was built around the Wakandan culture, traditions, and values. It repeatedly plays a huge factor in everything that happens. The creators managed to develop an entire civilization with their own language, rituals, ideologies, fashion, etc. It was just so amazing seeing it all come together with the way that it did and a lot of it had nothing to do with the advanced technology; it was all about them staying true to the core values and traditions they had. Regardless of how advanced they were and have been for a long time, they've always chosen to continue doing things the way their country has always done it.
          How they went about doing all of that also played a role in how far it stood apart from the rest of the Marvel universe. I totally felt like I was watching a Marvel movie, but it reminded me of how I felt when I was watching Captain America: The First Avenger. It was set way before any of the current events of the MCU, so it was really set apart from everything else that was going on. Black Panther managed to do that as well because of how cut-off from the rest of the world Wakanda is and how the entire story was based around what was going on with them and not much to do with what the Avengers were doing, or where Thanos was at. If someone had never seen any of the other Marvel movies, they could easily watch this without feeling like something is missing.
          As a writer myself, I also thoroughly enjoyed how well done each character was. T’Challa was written very well as being a character that lived his entire life as a prince with the utmost respect for his father, but suddenly became a king that wasn’t entirely ready. It wasn't done in a stereotypical way either, he’s not running around trying to figure out how his country works because he’s spent his whole life playing “son of the king” that gets away with everything. He’s trained, disciplined, and knows a lot of what he needs to know about running his country. It ends up being more so about him taking on the weight of being king and actually being the one making decisions on where to lead his country without his father to guide him anymore. Add to it, the writers made sure to put just as much work into everyone else.
          They made T’Challa’s royal guard some of the strongest female characters I’ve ever seen and managed to do it in their own way so that it didn’t completely mimic Wonder Woman and the Amazonians. Every time they were on screen they just gave off the most badass vibe, especially during their fight scenes, and I can’t help but be impressed by how well they were done. T'Challa and his guards worked together like several distinct pieces to a puzzle. I didn’t really care much for Klaue, his character was done well, but I didn’t really like the way his prosthetic arm looked. Thinking about some of the technology that the world is supposed to have, along with bucky having a badass robot arm himself, made Klaue’s prosthetic seem poorly done. But ultimately, it was a really small detail that didn’t have any effect on how I felt about the movie as a whole.
          What did have a huge effect on how I felt about the movie was Michael B. Jordan's character, Killmonger. I won’t spoil anything, but his character might have been my favorite just because of how well it showed what kind of effect the world can have on a young kid. He goes through this tragedy that really sets a course for his entire life. He dedicates everything he does to this single goal, and he just seemed like a very different kind of antagonist than what we're used to seeing. He reminds me of the way Magneto has always seemed. A bad guy that’s loyal to a specific group of people, and it almost makes him seem like he’s not actually the bad guy. When you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

          If there's anything else you wanna know, you’ll just have to go and see the movie yourself. All I can say at this point is that again, it was an amazing movie and I'm really excited to see Black Panther again in Infinity War. I’m also really hoping to see them give Black Panther his own series like they have for everyone else and don't see any reason why they wouldn't but, only time will tell with that.

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Written By, Tristan Dillon 
Edited By, Jack Flowers

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Nerds of the Roundtable: A Discussion of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'.

As we do with other films, The Nerd Hub sits down to discuss our thoughts on the latest hit, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What did they do right and what did they do wrong? Where have they been, and where could they be going? So, take a look at what we had to say and look for our review from other upcoming releases, as well as, take to the comments section below and let us know what you thought about the movie.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

May 25th, 1977 marked the start of a franchise that would take the world by storm over the next 40 years.  Fast forward those 40 years, we now have an original trilogy, as well as, a prequel trilogy, and while most not only accept the prequels but enjoy them, some remain in disdain for several, albeit true reasons.  So when Disney purchased Lucas Films, Star Wars was sure to make a return after over a decade.  They kicked it off with a promise to return to form, in what would turn out to be an overall solid film, but perhaps too much of a return to form.  With The Last Jedi, we had hoped to see an original story that would take these characters in new directions.  We had hoped that the abundance of questions left open in The Force Awakens would be answered here.  We had hoped that the next installment would give us a story worth hanging on to as opposed to the debatably disposable The Force Awakens.  In this installment of Nerds of the Roundtable, we look to discuss these and other issues, as well as, determine whether this film delivered on these hopes or fell flat like the Jedi Order.

Was the Casino aspect ultimately superfluous or did it serve an unseen purpose?  For that matter, was the Finn and Rose arc as a whole, or was there an unseen purpose there?

Jack - It's obvious that the whole point of the Casino was to show the dark side of the rebellion as well as give a huge revelation as to what may come of the next film.  The Finn Rose arc beyond this, however, was total garbage and just a plot filler. they didn't even succeed at their plan so it's obvious it was only meant to stall the death of the admiral.

Fred - I believe that the Casino scene was vital to viewers.  Firstly, it instills the rebellion against the elite that we are dealing with here on earth, which brings a grounding and relatability that the series has yet to experience and could really drive an expanded narrative on the rebellion in future projects much like 'Rogue One', as opposed to making it a backseat arc to the Jedi.  Secondly, I feel that Rose played a crucial role in identifying the past and ongoing oppression by the super rich and reidentifying what the rebellion really means and why it is that they fight.  They took the lead by example approach here with Rose as opposed to just telling us things from Jedi who clearly could never truly be on the same level as the rebels.

Tristan - To me it didn't seem to serve any purpose other than to have a "cantina" scene, as well as an interesting chase scene.  But overall, it just didn't make sense, to begin with.  They leave in the middle of a fight somehow completely undetected to pick up some master hacker, only to lose him and then somehow get lucky enough to finder another hacker capable of the job as their cell-mate. It all seemed cheesy, out of place, forced, and unnecessary.

Jonny - I think that they tried to show us that even though there was turmoil throughout the galaxy, people still indulged and lived their lives.  It for sure told us that there was a greasy side to the story and that society as a whole was corrupt, and that there are many who went unpunished for their war crimes.

Kevin P. - I found it to be mostly superfluous.  It did add some moral ambiguity to the galaxy for Finn by showing him that merchants profited from both sides of the war, but other than that, it did very little.

Kevin B. - I think it was superfluous, the Rose character was new, but she seemed forced into the story and immediately created this awkward love story for Finn that after one success, conveyed that they love each other.  I don't think it has an unseen purpose, it pretty much fulfilled whatever intention by the direct admittance of the high school romance/awkward first kiss.  It'll be a change-up of them pulling on the arm of the other, saying "No, it's too dangerous, I'll do it" in episode IX.

Brian - I think that it showed the continued support for the resistance throughout the galaxy, but nothing much beyond that and pretty much the rest of the Finn and Rose arc was just outright lame and boring.

Did Rey's actual origin work or should they have gone another direction?  How would you have gone about it if it didn't, and if it did, what did it do for the story?

Jack - If true, the entire trilogy is a waste because even if she's not a Kenobi or a Skywalker, she must have some sort of Jedi related past.  She cannot just be this uber-powerful Jedi that picks things up based on what seems to be only instinct, yet not have a reason for such instinct to exist.  If they are lying then chances are they are doing so to reveal in the final film before taking these characters on their own journey using this entire trilogy as a bridge from old to new.

Fred - Okay, call me a believer or call me crazy, but based on what I saw with the black mirror scene and perhaps Kylo Ren's deception, I think it's possible that Rey willed herself alive or could be a reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker.

Tristan - At first, I felt let down.  It was one of the most important questions I had after seeing The Force Awakens, and I was pretty upset about the answer.  But now, after some thought and a few discussions, I realize that it kind of showed that anyone is capable of being a great force user.  That even those who come from nothing, can still one day become someone.

Jonny - I think we have yet to see all of her origin story, that the one provided here was false and one that Kylo made up to turn her to the dark side.  I think they will explore it more in the next film, or at least that's my hope.

Kevin P. - I'm not 100% convinced that wasn't just Kylo tearing Rey down so that she felt she had to join him (nice negging, Douchelo Ren.)  If it is true, then I am ambivalent.  I don't think she needed a grand genealogy to be important.  It fit with the theme that not everything was as black and white as it seemed, and with the young boy at Canto Bight (nobody force user, who uses it in the very end).  That is how the Jedi order will be rebuilt, not through the vaunted Skywalker bloodline like we all expected.

Kevin B. - I don't think the origin worked and I feel they should have gone in a different direction.  It was a "fart in the wind" explanation.  ("Rey, your parents were nothing". Queue next scene.)  I can only think of two possible situations, one is that it's revealed to be a lie in IX, the other is that they wanted to be as definitive as possible in denouncing any skywalker theories and fulfill the true junker-to-Jedi criteria that every Jedi Master has to fulfill I suppose.  Maybe Yoda and Qui-Gonn were junkers too.

Brian - If it proves true, it will be a complete letdown.  People waited a long time just to find out that there is no story? 

With all of the mystery surrounding Snoke, do you feel that he may have been disposed of too quickly or did he serve his purpose properly?  How did you feel about the move Kylo made?

Jack - I definitely think he was disposed of too quickly.  I feel that perhaps we should have gotten more of a painted picture of just why it is he was so powerful.  This level of power makes this seized opportunity a wise move on behalf of Kylo and one never done before, but its hard to believe.  It seems like a staged boxing match.  Regardless, the story that follows can be incredible. following the rise to power of a sith is something we have yet to see.

Fred - There was a definite lackluster in Snoke's death, but Ren dispatched him wisely, knowing his thoughts were being read.  This is true in real life, I believe people can feel your intentions and therefore even hear or influence your thoughts.  This idea is scary enough that one can manipulate another to conform by simply projecting our own intention over theirs, take into account that Snoke is one with the force and has a much more capable control over this trait compared to us lowly earthlings, as well as the power those the real world have garnished from this trait, I would have made the same move and I think this sense of fear was poorly translated and was a direct result of the lackluster death.

Tristan - Snoke dying without any background has hands down been the most disappointing thing to come from this movie.  He hardly did anything at all, and we are left knowing virtually nothing about him.  I did, however, enjoy the rest of the scene in general.

Jonny - I did like how it all went down, though I kind of saw it coming. Regardless, while I do think his death came a little early and could have been drawn out a bit more, I still like where it's going so far.  We finally get to see the apprentice overthrow the master and live to continue that reign, which is something we have yet to see in the films.  I still wanted more backstory to Snoke, but I'm willing to believe his minions will revive him for a showdown; after all, Darth Maul survived being cut in half and making a splash down a hole.

Kevin P. - Again, it fits with the general theme of blowing up our expectations.  Everyone theorized and gossiped about his identity and it was all for naught.  His true purpose seemed to be for Kylo to kill and take his spot, so in that sense, he served his purpose.  As far as the move to do so went, it was smart for Kylo, dumb for Snoke, and entirely predictable from the moment Snoke put the lightsaber down beside him.

Kevin B. - He was definitely disposed of too quickly.  There was a rumor going around that Rian Johnson didn't like the concept of Snoke and that he had intended to do a reset?  After seeing this, I now believe that rumor to have been true.  The move that Kylo made was an "oldest trick in the book" type of concept and great execution on his behalf.  However, while it was theoretically executed well, the events leading up to it were just the opposite.  It made it a corny scene when Snoke turned Rey into a pinball machine with the lightsaber and boasted of his supremacy and his ability to sense anything and everything.  Everything except two feet from your body apparently. I don't know what purpose he had, other than being a beacon of Kylo turning back to the light, or turning into a Grey Jedi?

Brian - They should have given us some insight as to who he was. Palpatine's story proved to be very fascinating once explored, so with that, Snoke's origin, or lack thereof, was a letdown.

One of the few questions from The Force Awakens that seems to have been answered in The Last Jedi was the history of Kylo and Luke.  What are your takeaways from this reveal?

Jack - You know, I've been thinking about this and it seems that perhaps the reason he chose to kill Ben at first was that despite his father being redeemed, he only did so in death and none the less brought infinite destruction upon the galaxy that has never been restored even long after his passing. Perhaps, he thought maybe Obi-Wan failed by having too much faith in Anakin and that perhaps he should have stemmed the problem immediately and save billions of lives.  Once he does this his guilt takes over and he loses it and he buries himself in the teachings to find an answer but realizes that as with any religious scripture, its contradictory to one's self as it's meant to be a guide more than it is a plan.  Perhaps with time to reflect he realizes that maybe where Obi-Wan failed Anakin is not with giving him too much faith, but his lack thereof.  Now he blames himself for not taking the time to reflect deeper and seems he has failed the galaxy and that he is the true enemy.  This creates the dweller we see in The Last Jedi.

Tristan - In some ways, it didn't feel like something Luke would do.  He managed to pull his father, who he barely knew, away from the dark side after he'd spent years being Darth Vader and having caused so much destruction and pain throughout the galaxy, but he isn't able or willing to do the same for a boy who he helped raise?  It may have been a way to show how afraid he had become of what the dark side is capable of, but I would think that he should have done the same when he saw Rey do the same thing.  It seemed like he was just picking favorites at that point, even if he had learned from his mistake with Ben, the whole thing seems unnatural and more like a strategic ploy to put Rey over and give Luke an exit.

Jonny - It shows that Luke continued to fight his dark side and that even he had times of weakness and that it was that weakness that led to the fall of the New Jedi Order, as well as, that the old way of training and traditions were flawed and has to rebuilt entirely.

Kevin P. - Well, it does seem to contradict the vision we had from The Force Awakens, although that could be contributed to an unreliable narrator.  It was also one of the major issues I had with Luke's character int he film. The paragon of fear in the galaxy, Darth Vader, has a shred of good in him and can be redeemed.  My young nephew newly turned to the dark side, well, let's consider killing him first and asking questions later.  Doesn't make sense.

Kevin B. - The first cutscene of Luke turning on a dark road and trying to barbeque Ren in his sleep seemed too dark, but on the other hand, we haven't seen Luke in what, 30-40 Star Wars years?  I was at angst with myself saying, no they couldn't make Luke this dark character like that, did they?  Then, they did the second scene where Luke was fighting with himself.  He saw Ren, probably what he saw in Vader, and it put him at ends with it.  Maybe he was going to kill Ren and then kill himself.  I'm glad they gave him redemption, and it was a good reveal from what could've happened.  It was realistic.

Brian - The idea that Luke was going to assassinate a young Jedi because he might turn to the dark side was not even remotely believable.  There's a huge contrast between what he did and what Obi-wan did at the end of ep.3.  No Jedi would make that move. 

A year into the death of the world's princess, how did Carrie Fisher's final role fair for the film?  With our love and respect aside, how did it help or hurt the film?

Jack - I loved seeing her in action one last time, she was amazing as always, but the use of force shown her threw me for a loop I really thought that a great way to end her here would be to have Kylo finish his path to the dark side and kill her.  Knowing that Kathleen Kennedy has claimed that this would have been Carrie Fisher's final role regardless of her passing, this makes me wonder because she lived in the end and I don't think the princess death could be done off screen, and I don't think the princess would finish her story any other way than dying for the rebellion.  As for her use of the force, I'm super glad they showed that she has it.  I would have personally rathered a lightsaber than a power so useful its a mystery as to why no other Jedi has used it, but one way or another we got our wish.

Tristan - I think she played the character well, almost like she had never stopped being Leia.  I'm still indifferent to the scene of her using the force though.  It was nice to see her actually using the force, but the scene itself seemed kind of silly for some reason.

Jonny - I think it was a good performance, but the role itself didn't have much to do with the story beyond serving as a hat tilt from the old to bring in the new.  I feel they could have done so much more, but they didn't, or if they did, it didn't make the final cut.

Kevin P. - This was why I went to watch the film in the first place.  I thought she was fairly well done, but I am surprised they didn't kill the character.  They didn't even want to put her in Episode IX according to Kathleen Kennedy, and that isn't something that I feel can be handled off screen (Chewie in the EU was different as they weren't expecting to make any more post Return of the Jedi movies at the time.)

Kevin B. - With the Mary Poppins scene, and the realization that she can actually use the force, it makes you wonder what else she could really do, it was a life-or-death moment, did it activate her abilities?  Has she had these powers all along and mind-forced her way to become general?  I think it helped the film, but it questions everything that was said about "immortalizing" her character in the Star Wars universe.  We'll have to see in IX.

There has been a lot of talk about Rey being a Mary Sue; after seeing the film, do you feel she fell into that category?

Jack - As much as I enjoy watching Rey's progression, she is most definitely at this point a Mary Sue and that needs to change with this next film.  She needs training, actual training.  She needs a strong backstory.  She needs to fail.

Jonny - I feel that she was yes, she is overpowered with little to no training, everything she knows she pretty much learned herself, I feel like next, she is going to shoot force lightning out of her hands never having seen it done nor experiencing the pain of it.  Her character seems forced into the story to me like she doesn't belong in the arc right now.

Kevin P. - Absolutely.  She really received very little training and suddenly she is an even better swordsman?  It's laughable.  She picks up every new skill effortlessly.  I'm not averse to talented characters, both Anakin and Luke were talented to the point of being savants at things, but they also had established time invested into those things (like piloting.)  Rey just does these things after a matter of days or weeks.

Kevin B. - I don't think she is a Mary Sue.  The force hole, black pit, dark side of the depths.  Luke was flabbergasted when she just wanted to stick her head in there and not fight the dark side.  She was dangerously playing with new powers, without thinking of the consequence.  Daisy Ridley has announced that she may not be coming back to Star War after IX, with a burnt/disappointed "I didn't know what I was getting myself into" comment, which left a sour taste with me. If she isn't into the role, then neither am I. 

After seeing The Last Jedi, do you feel confident in Rian Johnson being able to direct his own trilogy?

Jack - I feel that with his own parameters, Rian Johnson deserves a shot at least a standalone film, but I'm not all too sure about an entire trilogy yet, I wish he would have accepted being Trevorrow's replacement for IX so that I may see more of his intent here, but I guess his decline shows that he doesn't want to work within set parameters, he wants to set the parameters which is always a good thing.  I would also like to see James Wan get a shot at a Star Wars film, whether be trilogy or standalone.  I feel like Wan is becoming a versatile blockbuster director which is something Disney seeks, and I feel like he understands Star Wars.  When giving an interview on Aquaman, he described Atlantis as Star Wars underwater, which is just entirely accurate and shows that he not only understands Aquaman but Star Wars as well.  I'd also like to see George Lucas brought back into the fold, yer George Lucas.  Let's not forget that he brought us Star Wars and that he brought us Vader, Luke, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Solo, etc.  Personally, I liked the prequels, even Jar Jar Binks.  I'd like to see him in at the very least an advisory role.

Tristan - Well, I can tell you that I would be more confident with him and his original ideas than I would be with J.J. Abrams.

Jonny - No, not at all.  While the film was good, it just wasn't up to Star Wars standards.  It had its moments, but I would prefer someone else to direct a trilogy.  I'm not too familiar with directors and writers so I don't have a replacement in mind, but I would like to see someone who can bring us a story beyond a select few.

Kevin P. - I don't blame Rian for the failings of the movie. I felt he was shackled to a horrible plot from The Force Awakens (rehashed Empire vs Rebellion & hermit Luke) and had to do something with it.  So he blew it up. Tore down all the things we expected from TFA and went haring off in another direction.  This may have been planned, but it didn't feel like it.  There were a few issues that were his fault though.  The pacing was off, which is entirely his fault, but I think he did several things well.  Based on that and his previous resume, I think he could do very well with another trilogy if he had control over the process.

Kevin B. - I feel confident, given that he could be given a trilogy to start from the beginning and not work with half a start and whatever he walked into with design.  He brought back animatronics and Star Wars creatures and concepts.  It was good to see it again.  I want more lightsaber battles.

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With each trilogy we've seen a famed love, first with Han and Leia and second with Anakin and Padme; Who do you foresee being so in this trilogy?  Would you go with Finn and Rose or someone else?

Jack - If Rey's origin is true or still turns out to have no relation to Kylo, I feel like there is something there between them that could make for an epic move that's never been done before and could even spawn a new order of Grey Jedi as well as balance to the universe.

Tristan - Finn clearly has some sort of affection towards Rey and I don't think anything with Rose is going to overtake that.

Jonny - For sure Finn and Rose.  Out of all the romances, I liked this one the best.  She knew she was into him the second they met and wasn't afraid to go for it.  I liked her line in the wrecked ship too, it brought light to the idea that the rebellion had forgotten what it was fighting for.

Kevin P. - I'm fairly ambivalent to that.  I think Reylo is dashed since Kylo has done a full embracing of the Dark Side.  I'm not really interested in most of the other candidates.

Kevin B. - It's probably going to be Reylo.  Kylo Ren and Rey, they shared this weird orgasmic connection with the force in The Force Awakens, and then Ren keeps trying to convince her to just leave it, like a 1980's "Run away with me", from boyfriend to girlfriend.  He is going to turn into a grey Jedi, and she's going to see his transformation and that the dark side isn't an entity, but this psychological mindset, as perceived when she fell in the dark hole rectum and saw the reflections of herself.  It's a moral thing, I think that the grey Jedi could do things with the dark side and bad things with the light side, and Reylo will be the first to crack that walnut on screen.

Luke's death; How did you feel about how that all went down and the events that directly led up to it?  Did they do it justice or did they fall short?  What made it work?  How would you have changed it if it didn't work?

Jack - Wow okay, the nod to Obi-Wan was great and it honestly made sense from start to finish if taking into account everything around it, but it still came off as stale an emotionless.  This was by far the most conflicting moment of the movie for me.  But, I guess its better than being struck down.

Tristan - The scene as a whole was great, but I really would have liked seeing Luke have an actual fight.  He is much older now, so it makes sense that he can only do so much and the way they did do it showed just how powerful he is as a force user now, but I would have had at least another scene beforehand where he really went at it in a fight, and then followed it up with the death scene that they did.

Jonny - It showed how powerful Luke really was, able to project himself across the stars so perfectly that his enemy was completely fooled.  His death itself seemed a little lackluster to me, but it made sense; he was old and had cut himself off from the force for so long that the strain of it all was just too much.  The fact that they didn't have him cut down in a fight is something I liked a lot, though I wish he would have made it into the next film.

Kevin P. - I hated it.  Nothing about it worked.  They took two of the heroes of the original trilogy and did a full character assassination on them.  Han and Luke each get one movie before they die?  That's crap.  I understand that they want to establish the new generation, but they didn't have to tear down the old to do so.  I would have had the first movie be about 90% focused on the old generation, the second, 50/50 between the old and the new, and the third be 90% focused on the new generation.  That way it's a gradual transition from the heroes of the old (I'm not saying that for the sake of nostalgia either; they could have done new stories like that too.)

Kevin B. - I didn't expect it, and he was at peace, so did he just die just to immortalize the character in the universe, or did Mark Hamill say, "enough, I cant keep doing this".  They fell short because it was a scene that was fading out.  It worked because they led up to it with the hologram, and they left a teaser of the common Han Solo line, "I'll see you later, Kid", a potential indicator that he would be coming back.  He could create a hologram across a universe. What else did he learn in those old Jedi texts?

Where can they take Poe Dameron from here, and what about his arc worked and didn't?

Jack - Perhaps this is why she didn't pass away on screen, perhaps she will act from behind the scenes as Poe Dameron confidant and mentor still as he rises to flagship the rebuild of the Resistance.  Perhaps he becomes the general and perhaps he does learn what it means to be a leader.  Perhaps they will try to make us see the princess in him.  If so, I doubt it will work.  Either way, Poe Dameron is destined for the head of the Resistance.

Tristan - Poe should continue being the great fighter pilot he is and contribute in all of the same ways he has been.  I don't see him becoming any more important of a character, but definitely no less important.  I feel this character was never able to surpass this void in progression, that perhaps the intent for this character is greater than he could ever turn out.

Jonny - His story was great, it showed his hot-headed personality that makes him a great pilot also makes him quick to act which makes him reckless.  Him missing the admiral's plan and going a little crazy believing her to have failed them show his passion for the rebellion and serves as a great learning curve to becoming a general or another rank much higher than before.  I believe that with the command structure in runs after this film, he will become the banner boy of the rebellion.

Kevin P. - He will obviously be a focus for the Resistance now that there are like 30 of them.  I picture him taking more of a leadership role and learning that you can't go off half-cocked like he does.  Leaders have to be both thoughtful and decisive, which isn't a balance he has yet.

Kevin B. - He challenged authority too unrealistically.  Whatever rank he was at, he wouldn't be stepping up to generals and admirals like that, just for them to turn the other cheek and let it happen.  The military ranks wouldn't allow that.  That worked in the favor to push the story along though, so he was a likable character.

So what was with the dark hole on the island and the black mirror?  Any theories, or was this something that went too far unexplained?

Jack - I feel like this is something that was left open for interpretation on purpose, but much like Luke's death, this too falls short of the impact it should have and could still have. There's such thing as too little bait.  If it doesn't reveal enough people don't care, and at this point, I personally don't care what that could possibly mean and as a director it's your job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Tristan - It was definitely strange, and if I were to watch it again I feel like I could explain it just as well as I had understood it when seeing it.  It was mostly meant to show how consuming falling into the dark side can be.

Jonny - I think that the black mirror showed Rey that there are countless versions of herself and that each one has its own path that cannot be ignored no matter what she does; that they all lead to a destiny.  The black hole represents the darkness in everyone and that it calls to us, and even though we may fall to it from time to time, there is light even in the dark.

Kevin P. - This was somewhat explained.  Where there is light, there will be dark and visa versa.  There was a point of light on the island, so there had to be a point of darkness.  It fit with how Rey is the counterpart to Kylo.

Kevin B. - As I touched on this earlier, I think it's a force cave, that it might be a Jedi lesson that padawans had to go through, like maybe a trial, for the Masters to show them what the dark side really is.  That it's themselves, not the force that becomes dark.  I think old Jedi had a different aspect of what the darks ide was, and it was closer to that of the grey Jedi, who doesn't deal in absolutes but doesn't get involved with only serving/protecting.  I remember seeing a story about Yoda having to go into the dark side cave on Dagobah, and I think Luke went to that island, not intending for the cave to suck up his force signature, but rather to feel reminiscent of Dagobah and his own experience there and the cave doing it anyway, cutting off his Jedi signal to the world.  I think it went unexplained, but folk-lore of the force, dark side caves, people who have been around and the potential in the future leaves it open for endings.  Maybe a Jedi went through and started calling the dark side evil because he/she was scared of what they saw in themselves, like what Yoda saw when he went into the cave.  Yoda saw the little evil imp version of himself, had he turned to the dark side, and he had to fight it.

What was one thing that you felt needed to be changed or removed, one thing you felt needed to happen that didn't, as well as, one thing that happened and you felt had to be there?

Jack - One thing needed to be changed was the dark mirror sequence.  I truly felt like this could have been a have revelation, but was nothing more than an obscure scene that leaves fans theorizing for something that may never find any more depth than it already has. One thing I felt needed to be in here that wasn't, would be more lightsaber fights.  Star Wars with one saber fight is ridiculous and something that was supposed to change from what we got in The Force Awakens. As for had to be there, I almost want to say the throne room battle that finally gave moviegoers a look at what the Crimson Guard is capable of, but I would have to Holdo's sacrifice was a move nobody knew they needed to see and the topper to one of my favorite elements of the film.

Tristan - Snoke definitely should not have died without an explanation of his past and how he came to power.  There should have been at least one more lightsaber dual including Luke.  The light speed suicide scene was so perfect, it was something I never knew I needed to see and a huge part of why I liked this movie.

Jonny - The side plot with the codebreaker was unnecessary filler that the film could have gone without and there should have been even more backstory surrounding the Jedi academy.  Nothing felt as if it was a must keep except for the fact that if Luke had to die in this film, cutting him down would have discredited him, so having him die due to his own power and his own choices was the only way to go about it.

Kevin P. - I guess removing Hermit Luke is too much to ask since that was established in TFA?  I can't say one particular moment that needed fixing, but the pacing as a whole needed to be fixed.  I really like Holdo's sacrifice, and although I didn't really feel for the character, it was a beautifully shot moment.

Kevin B. - Things that needed to be changed: The Casino scene, much of it was wasted effort and could be entirely changed for the same outcome and done far better.  Things that happened, but didn't: Rey and Ren starting their conversion to a neutral force user.  Things that happened and should've: Lukes large presence in the film and how it all played out is as close to done right as I feel Rian could have gotten.

Was the overall writing better here or with The Force Awakens, and what aspects attributed to that?

Jack - Despite it lacking as much depth as TLJ, TFA was more fluid and captivating.  The Last Jedi did so much more with their screentime, yet somehow fell short in emotion for almost all of it.  Both did okay and stack about the same in my book.

Tristan - I felt like they were about equal.  Both contained a well-balanced level of humor and serious moments. Felt just like the old Star Wars movies.

Jonny - The writing in this one was far better than the last, I mean come on, a shotgun Deathstar that could shoot across the galaxy with pinpoint accuracy?!  This time around they showcased some really good space battle that made both sides use real tactics.

Kevin P. - This was way better.  TFA didn't have the cringy dialogue of The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Cones, but it wasn't the greatest either.

Kevin B. - Better here, the bringing back of Luke correctly, and Yoda's force ghost as he was in old episodes, witty and kind of insulting-ish.  It had a lot of the old episode vibes, where The Force Awakens felt like it was trying to completely recreate Star Wars.  I put guesses on Yoda and a force ghost being in it, and I'm glad I was right.

In Conclusion,
while The Last Jedi is by no means a film without its flaws and one that didn't exactly fulfill expectations, but it was a film that clearly looked to break these expectations and set itself apart.  Whether they succeeded or not remains a conflict, but one thing is for certain; with this direction and some more work, there may yet be a new hope for the franchise after all.

Stay Tuned for our upcoming Nerds of the Roundtables where we will discuss our thoughts on Crisis On Earth X, and More.

Be sure to Follow us on our Twitter and our Facebook Page, Join us in our Facebook Group and Subscribe to us on YouTube so you can be there for our upcoming projects.

Writing Contributions by, Jack FlowersTrey Griffeth, Fred Herbst, Tristan Dillon,  Jonny Crash, Kevin Pilch, Kevin Billings and Brian Stewart.
Editing by, Jack Flowers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Everything We Know About 'Spawn' Remake Going Into 2018.

          With a new year, comes a new wave of comic book adaptations thrust upon us, and often things must be set aside, but that doesn't mean that they need to be forgotten. While preparing for our upcoming podcast on Marvel and DC 2017/2018, we realized that we really wanted to discuss the upcoming 'Spawn' reboot being given to us by Todd McFarlane and Blumhouse Productions.  Due to the fact that Spawn being under Image and not exactly applying to the theme, we join you here today with a recount of everything we know about the upcoming 'Spawn' movie so far.  While the public knowledge that exists at this time isn't particularly dense, we do have a few details given by McFarlane himself regarding the creative decisions, facts about the productions state, as well as, our own take on what it all means for the film itself, and the industry as a whole.

          Although this movie is being advertised as Spawn, who is technically in the movie, it's still a little misleading.  From what we have been told so far it will mimic a style similar to the horror genre.  The closest example given to us, by Todd himself, has been 'Jaws'. This gives the impression that we will be getting a drastically different picture than what we got back in 1997.
          According to Todd Mcfarlane, Spawn will not even be the main character.  While he will still be the main subject, it will be more in the sense that in relation to 'Jaws', he is the "shark" lurking in the water, that the main character is dealing with and seeking out.  In actuality, we will be venturing the world of spawn through the eyes of Maximilian Steven Percival Williams III, or better known as Twitch; A dedicated detective that has appeared throughout Spawn comics since issue #1.  Using both his intelligence and dual-wielded pistols, Twitch would eventually aid spawn in any way that he can whether it be garnishing intel or using trigonometry to shoot a bullet through the ear canal of an adversary.  That ACTUALLY happened by the way.

          Another aspect Todd is taking from the horror genre is the complete lack of vocal communication Spawn will have with any other character.  The idea is that spawn needs to be portrayed as a force of nature, rather than a superhero or even a human being with his own thoughts and emotions, adding to the perception that Spawn is no longer Al Simmons, but instead the physical embodiment of revenge, raining down literal hell-fire on those most deserving of his punishment.
            Now, this may not be what we were expecting to get all these years we've been gathering like a think tank in our basement or at a local shop, but if given a chance and done right, I personally feel like this can go over really well; especially if it continues on for several movies.  A first movie done this way can be good.  With twitch as our guide, we can really get a feel of what its like to live in the corrupted and supernatural world of 'Spawn', as well as the alternative perspective of how the rest of the world sees Spawn.  Standing in the shoes of an observer like Twitch allows us to experience the curiosity and fear that grows inside of a person when Spawn is around; it would really help set the mood for a movie franchise.  However, I do think that if it were to continue past this installment, we would eventually need to step back into spawn's shoes and experience his new life through his own perception and get a sense of just how much humanity is still deep within himself and how it's driving him to do what he does.

           There are also some larger things at play that we feel should be taken into consideration, among them is that Blumhouse picked up 'Spawn' creator, Todd McFarlane as the director of the R-rated film, and gave him only a budget of 12 million.  That is an extremely low budget compared to the vast majority of comic book adaptations, but the industry has produced better from less before.  This appears to explain some of the creative decisions that seem intended to allow Todd to keep to this budget while still remaining true that character, which shows that he is utilizing the elegance behind film craft in a way that could prove fruitful. Whether practical effects or dialogue maneuvers, the real question will it all work out the way he McFarlane hope, but three more major factors play into this.  For starters, the low budget means that mark for box office profit is just as low, and in an ideal outcome, the box office success that will allow for a larger budgeted sequel should be fairly easy to accomplish riding off of the 'Spawn' brand as well as Todd McFarlane's name.  Now his name really only holds weight as for his understanding of the character and how he could hold true to it while having to make these budget oriented creative decisions.  But beyond being the creator of Spawn, and having some past writing credits to 'Spawn' adaptations, this will be his directional debut.  To his benefit, directorial debuts go off without a hitch all the time, for example, Blumhouse's 'Get Out' with debuting director, Jordan Peele, which was not only a well made and unique film that has been considered among the best for this years Oscars, but a massive box office success for Blumhouse, and likely a large reason why this new 'Spawn' production even exists.

          Many questions still remain about this film, and we will be sure to bring any major updates to you via our Facebook Page as they are made known; but one thing is for certain, this is something that can go over very well with the audience and set a bar for future comic book adaptations, as well as, the film industry and how it handles upcoming talent and obscure ideas.  Or, it could become something that makes just as large of a stride in the opposite direction.  The weight of the world is on McFarlane's shoulders right now.  So with that, I say bring forth Spawn and whatever else Todd and Blumhouse may have in store for us so that we may bring the verdict.

Check out a Sneak Peek of the script from Todd McFarlane HERE.

Be sure to Follow us on our Twitter and our Facebook Page, Join us in our Facebook Group and Subscribe to us on YouTube so you can be there for our upcoming projects.

Written by, Tristan Dillon, with Contributions by, Jack Flowers.
Editing by, Jack Flowers.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Nerds of the Roundtable: A Discussion of 'Stranger Things' S2.

As we do with other shows, The Nerd Hub sits down to discuss our thoughts on this latest season of Stranger Things. What did they do right and what did they do wrong? Where have they been, and where could they be going? So, take a look at what we had to say and look for our reviews from the upcoming season, as well as, take to the comments section below and let us know what you thought about this series.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things came out of nowhere with virtually no promotion other than word of mouth. With the ultimate blend of Sci-fi and Horror added to a nostalgic overload and a heartfelt story that put the nerds on the forefront, a recipe for greatness was created and a new fandom exploded around the globe.  The only question was whether it was hype or just the beginning.  This latest season they set out to prove to the world the latter.  But, as Dan Harmon once said about Rick and Morty, a show that faced similar hurdles, "I don't care how hard I worked on an episode. If the fans hate it, it's bad, and I hate it too."  So; us fans at The Nerd Hub sat down to discuss the second season of this phenomenon of a show, and ultimately decide whether or not they achieved their goal of making this series a staple to stay.

We saw a new character addition with Mad Max.  What were the positive and negative impacts the character placed on the show in your opinion?

Trey - I actually thought that she worked very well here.  Putting another female character into what amounts to a boy's club always runs the risk of causing the story to devolve into a frustrating love triangle with the girl in question turning her into an object of desire as opposed to an actual character.  This can be especially true when dealing with stories revolving around kids this age.  In this case,  it sort of happened, but it remembered to actually give max a distinguished personality, an arc and whenever the love triangle stuff did pop up, it didn't really get in the way of anyone's friendship.  It was more, "Oh she likes you? I'm disappointed, but it's cool.  We have bigger things to worry about."  And that was something that I found immensely refreshing.  It was nice to see a fresh face in the group and she gave Dustin and Lucas something to do, whereas in the last season they felt like supporting characters in what was clearly meant to be an ensemble.

Jack - Every group has a girl they immediately gawk over and with Eleven out of the group this season Mad Max filled that role.  The thing that separated her, however, was her personality and personalized arc that both gave the group members a subplot to mix with the Demogorgon subplot, as well as, a potentially explosive arc for the next season.  With Eleven returning to the fold and her limitless protection of friends, this may just be quite literal, but this may provide a growing point for Eleven and Max.  I'm definitely interested in seeing her return next season.

Jennifer - I don't really feel like she added anything to the show other than adding a little conflict between the boys.  Her family's story was fairly common and still is in real life, so showing that side of a family like that is really the only positive impact from introducing Max.  I won't be disappointed if she is not in the next season.

Jonny - I thought the addition of Max to the show was perfect.  It gave us a nice story arc to follow.  I think she represents rivalry in the show having beaten the group at their favorite games and bringing out the mean side of "El".  It was enough to get me excited to see where her story goes next.  Her brother seems like a danger to the group even more so than what we got to see, and with the look he gave her afterward, I have a slight fear for them.

Marlon - I loved Mad Max; she is your typical "One of the guys" type girl and I believe that's what the group needed to expand their adventures, dialogue, and character development.

Nancy struggled a bit this season with her grief over Barb's death.  What worked about this and if something didn't, what would it be, and how would you go about it differently?

Trey - Honestly whenever her stuff came on I kind of tuned the show out and played on my phone or something.  The thing about the storylines of the older teenagers in the first season is that it was significantly less interesting than what was going on with the kids and this is just as true in season 2.  Most of what seemed to be going on with her was tied to a very stupid subplot to expose the government agents who started all of this but seemed to forget that everyone involved was killed in the last season and that the new spooks actually seemed like they had everyone's best interests at heart.  Everything else about her just kind of faded into the background which is where the high school plots belong in my opinion.

Jack - I honestly felt like the whole thing was a ploy to move her from Steve to Jonathon.  Fortunately, they did so by also giving them both a subplot until they were needed.  A mission.  A personal struggle.  On top of it all, they did so in an adequate manner that worked about as well as it could have.

Jennifer - Nancy seems like she was struggling with quite a bit, maybe using Barb's death as an excuse to be "confused" about what she wants.  I do think it is less relevant to season two, but the story needed a reason for to be conflicted enough to turn to Jonathan.  I really felt bad for Steve once they've shown us another side to him and made us like him, and in turn, I dislike Nancy now.  I would have left Steve and Nancy alone and just made Jon and Steve friends, they've both seen some stuff and everyone needs a friend closer to their own age at least.

Jonny - I think it worked out good, but I thought it wasn't as deep as it should or could have been.  I would have shown a little more grief and guilt, but they had a limited time to convey it as her journey was larger than the single plot point and they did a decent job at getting the misery across in the time they had.

Marlon - I don't get why she felt bad or anything, it wasn't her fault what happened.  To top it off, I had actually had forgotten about Barb until they brought her up in conversation.  So, ultimately this was not something I felt was not a strong suit of either season.  They need to leave it behind for the next season.

We saw quite a few love interests this season with Lucas, Dustin, and Max, Nancy, John and Steve, Bob, Joyce and Hopper, and even Will and Eleven.  Compared to other shows, how was the execution and how well we're they tied into the overall development?  Should other shows take note, or should Stranger Things look to others?

Trey - I'm not the biggest fan of romances taking over large chunks of the character development in shows or films, but I have to say that it worked quite well here.  It all felt appropriate given their ages and actually did seem to tie into a lot of their larger arcs.  I'm not sure every show should go this route, but if they do it's a good one to take notes from.

Jack - I think one thing this show does so well is it makes us like the characters we should like and hate the characters we should hate.  This makes it just as hard for us as it is for them to decide who we think these characters should be with.  That right there is why this all works so well and where other shows fail.  The dialogue is superb.  It's accurate to how these things would really be going down.  Lastly, it's all back burner stuff; rather than trying to cram it down our throat, they tie it well and allow the plot take us for the ride along with the characters who are all on their own mission but not forgetting about life after the fact.

Jennifer - I couldn't compare the show to others because Stranger Things has a unique mix that works so well because of cast chemistry.  I don't think other show could put as many relationships in and tie it together so well. 

Marlon - Bobs character was pretty cool, I love Sean Astin, great casting choice, and he is an original goonie which helped the nostalgia overload, but I feel Joyce and Hopper should have been a couple after all they went through.  I think it's cool that the kids are actually moving through that "girls are yucky" phase.  Nancy is good with either Steve or John, they have all been through a lot together.  I fell that they should continue how they are with the relationships, because other than the Sci-Fi stuff, that's how like pretty much is; complicated.

One of the biggest subplots this season was the father and daughter relationship between Hopper and Eleven.  One with a void in a daughter and the other with a void in a parent.  Did the Sheriff do the right thing by hiding Eleven?  Did he do the right thing by hiding the truth about her mother?  What advice would you give each of them going forward?

Trey - Yes, because despite the fact that the spooks were significantly nicer this time around, they were still out to get her and do God only knows what to her.  Yes, because what can you say to a young girl on that matter?  That your mom is a brain-dead vegetable?  That the guy you called Papa fried her brain because she was a problem?  Just saying that she was gone really should have been enough because in reality she kind of was.  And none.  I don't have kids and these are very specific circumstances that you really can't give advice on.

Jack - As for the house, it was the right thing, but I think he should have trusted her at some point to go outside and stay within her perimeter.  The issue however that most people don't understand is that when you are a cop, you don't have a lot of time at home and so he couldn't progress her to that stage.  As with every cop's parenting, this caught up with him.  As for the truth about her mother, could you really say that the truth wouldn't have expedited the situation and sent her off in a search for her mother?  At least this way she did so after some training.  I think he did everything he could and that's all you can ask for from a parent.  Good intentions.  It's especially hard for Hopper going from a toddler to a teenager with powers.  Quite the learning curve on an unpredictable curve that never ends as is.  Trust.  Faith.  Patience.  Remember those three things going forward.

Jennifer - Well I would still consider that kidnapping and all, though you feel for Hopper and once you imagine losing a child and you find a child that needs parents, I don't blame him.  He did what he thought was right while trying to fill that void.  He's trying to be there for her even knowing she could think about it hard enough and kill him.  He also knows that if the people looking for her find her they will torture and kill her.  Despite all of these dangers and struggles, it only drives him more to protect her, even when it comes to the truth; which isn't right or wrong, but he has good intentions.  I would tell them both to remember that he needs her and she needs him, so be grateful for each other and get over things that upset you.

Jonny - I think he did the right thing in keeping "L" safe from the outside world, with the bad people still out there hunting her, she needed a safe place to expand her power and knowledge without too much fear of being caught and tested on again.  As for telling her about her mother, I think he was wrong, when she asked, he should have told her the truth.  But in the end, it worked out and led to a nice story arc we have for future episodes.

Marlon - It was a great subplot that allowed two lost characters to balance each other out and redefine their purpose.  Hiding 11 was a good idea on Hopper, it was needed for her safety, but I feel like he should have told the kids so they wouldn't worry about her.  As a parent, we do what we can to protect our kids and I feel that's exactly what Hopper was doing by hiding the truth about 11's mom.  My advice is to take it one day at a time.

Was it fair to kill Samwise, I mean Bob, the way that they did?

Trey - His death was rough.  More than any other character's to be sure.  You saw every slash, stab and bite.  So, it was an effectively tragic death, especially given how much time they spent making him so likable.  But was it fair?  You know when it comes to killing off major characters in any form of fiction, I don't even know what that word means anymore.  Shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have desensitized me to "unfair" shock deaths and I'm not sure if that word is necessarily the right one to describe it.  I didn't want Bob to die for sure, but given the kind of show this is, I don't think that unfair is the right word.

Jack - The thing about a character like that is that they provide too much stability.  That would lead to the end of the show, or the character growing stale.  They did the right thing by killing him and breaking your heart.  Doing this allowed the character to go out at a high point, despite being so obvious and painful I think they succeeded there.  The one part I would have changed was Bob not bringing his gun.  That's not a move "Bob the Brain" would make and the guns clearly did no effect on the Demogorgon's anyway, so let's not make unnecessary moves that degrade him.

Jennifer - No! Absolutely not, that was the most disappointing part of the whole series.  A great character was introduced just to kill him, hey used him and then he died.  Bob deserved better.

Jonny - No, it wasn't fair at all, I liked that character.  He was so chipper and nice, kinda wanted to hate him while at the same time love him.  I saw it coming too and it was still painful to watch, he deserved so much more.  I liked how in the aftermath, it show a hint to him in a drawing where he is illustrated s the superhero to the group.  Not sure if everyone saw that or not.

Marlon - He was the comic relief and he had to die.  He did it as a rescue attempt, a true heroes exit.  Was it fair, maybe not, but they did give him a fair way of leave.

Eleven found her mother and the truth about what she was brought up in.  This led her to one of her sisters and we saw some different powers, would you like to see more powers and more backstory behind these kids?  Do you think Eleven made the right decision or do you think Eight should have had her own choice?

Trey - In future seasons I would like to see more of these guys and have their backstories fleshed out.  as for if eleven made the right decision, it seems that the showrunners clearly think so.  It was her entire arc.  Whereas Eight was stuck in the past, fueled by a constant need for revenge, Eleven realized that such things were kind of pointless and chose to move forward with her life by going back to save her new surrogate family.

Jack - I would love to see these kids and their powers and stories, but to do so would require a complete rework of what this show is about.  The only option would be to do a spinoff or to keep them in the background serving Eleven's progression.  I think while yes she did what she needed to do for herself and for her progression, I agree with eight; she may be stuck in the past, but she suffered as much as any and more so than some, so she should have the right to make her own choice just as she gave Eleven.  Taking that away from here is like take that free will that the government took.  It's a toss-up in this particular case, however, as Eleven led them to him and it would still be on her conscience if he died under her assistance.  Add to it that with the kids complicating things, it was probably best that she uncomplicated them.  Better luck next time Eight.

Jennifer - That's exactly what I thought when they let us know there were more.  It only makes sense if she's Eleven then there are other numbers that came first.  She made a decision based off of what she thought was right.  Eights choice shouldn't have had to force Eleven to do something she did not want to do.

Jonny - The whole numbered children with powers is interesting, I would sure like to see more episodes about them and how they tie in together and if any grew up to work for the bad people.  "L" totally made the right decision in finding her mother and sister and then leaving them to help the group, had she not taken that trip the group might have very well been done for.

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What benefits and downside did the move from a Demogorgon to a Mind Flayer as the antagonist bring to the writing this season?

Trey - I think that the change from a more physical monster like the "Demogorgon" to the "Mind Flayer" was a fantastic choice.  The thing about the first season was that the "Demogorgon" was when you get right down to it, a monster on the loose.  It was more or less an extremely aggressive animal that was hunting seemingly out of instinct.  This time around we actually got to see a monster with actual objectives and intelligence threaten our protagonists, making the situations far more dangerous.  Overall it was a vast improvement although I'm not really sure how you top it beyond having them fight Cthulhu or something for season three.

Jack - The best thing about this season was that there were several antagonists on different levels. At the lowest level you still had the government, as well as, Max's bother and even Eight to an extent; while at the highest end, you had the "Demodogs" and the Mind Flayer.  Another thing that normally wouldn't work for other shows.  This allowed them to give everyone their own threat and path that was unique to each's own while not overextending either one of the protagonists.  As for the main antagonist, the "Mind Flayer" I think it worked wonderfully giving this seemingly unstoppable sentient being was a fantastic move that left the solution less obvious making for some wonderful concepts such as "the spy" and the army of "Demodogs".  Two problems arose out of this season going forward, however.  One being that yet again the solution was Eleven, and while that may not necessarily be a bad thing, add to it that we now have this omnipotent antagonist that is going to be hard to top.  The biggest risk here is making every other character pointless.

What was the most shocking moment this season?  Did you see it coming?  What put it over other moments?

Trey - It was where it turned out that Will was completely possessed by the "Mind Flayer" and had lured everyone into a trap.  That was horrifying and was not something I saw coming.  Up until that point, we only had one hint that maybe something was up with him, but had otherwise been straight and apparently helpful to the other characters.  So, when it turned out that it was a trap, that blew me away.  Not to mention that it resulted in all major problems that hounded the characters throughout the rest of the season.

Jack - There were quite a few shocking moments this season from the trap set by the "Mind Flayer" to Dart eating the cat and so much more, but personally the most shocking moment was the moment it all changed.  I really didn't expect the Mind Flayer to actually be able to infect will the way that he did.  Just as I began to think these visions may be less of a danger than he thought, they shocked me by engulfing him with the Mind Flayer in a moment that made me physically cringe.

Jennifer - Bob dying, hands down.  After he figured out the tunnel map, I really thought he'd become a regular character.  He was very emotionally invested in the whole family and I did not see him getting killed off so soon in the series.

Jonny - My pick is more subjective, but I thought that Max sticking the needle in Billy's neck was the most shocking for me.  I hate needles and when I saw it coming I cringed in terror and had to look away.  Also, the fact that she had the willingness to do it and to do it so swiftly make her an even bigger beast.

What was one thing you personally felt was a must keep scene or aspect of the show?  Something that would totally change it for you if removed.  Why did this moment or aspect stand out?  What about it would be a crucial mistake to remove?

Trey - Honestly it would again be the big shocking moment where all the soldiers were lured into a trap, resulting in a large number of deaths.  It raised the stakes immensely, put all of the characters in a dangerous situation that lasted the rest of the season and saw the death of some major ones.  Taking that out would have resulted in an entirely different final act for the show.

Jennifer - Introducing "8" was something I came into the season not only hoping for but expecting.  It was just a necessary element that needed to be explored and they did so while making it weigh heavily on Eleven's character development.  It definitely wouldn't have been the same if they took off in a different direction with the story.

Jonny - I liked when "L" saves the group and Max is all "Hi, I'm Max" and "L" completely blows her off. That shows us a new side to "L" that we had not seen before and allows us to better understand the character.  I believe that it was a must to show that even her, the good guy, could be spiteful and jealous.

Marlon - Every scene with Hopper and "11" were needed and crucial to both characters developments.  Hopper learning to be a dad again and "11" getting used to having people around her that care about her.  This was the backbone of the show.

Jack - Aside from everyone else's picks, I would say that Bob's death was crucial to the third act as well as several character developments.  The impact it left for better or worse was one that nobody will forget and will leave us a reminder that those we love most can and will die when they go up against creatures from the "Upside Down".

Was the overall writing better this season or last, and what aspects attributed to that?

Trey - Yes, absolutely.  The season was condensed to eight episodes so there was no fille or fluff.  They found the proper balance between the kids, teenagers, and adults, all of the actors came in with improved performances and was overall faster paced.

Jack - I felt it was better, mostly in part due to the ability t write characters arcs into one another and make sense as to why they are where they are at any given time.  One thing I always hate is wondering why the hell somebody is where they are or doing what they are doing.  That's when it feels forced and rapidly loses its value.  Keeping everything with intent keeps us engaged and looking for more as opposed to being detached and wondering why while other more crucial elements move past us without notice.

Jennifer - The writing was equal to season one with more going on than the first time around, which is not necessarily a bad thing because the show has been consistently good and keeps us on the edge of our seats and wanting to binge watch.

Jonny - I thought this season was better, but not by much.  Both seasons really had great stories, but this season expanded on the "Upside Down" world more and boy was that fun.  The ending makes me worry that there is far more yet to come.  I think that the show will continue to gradually get better and better over time naturally as more things expand, until one day the plot catches up with the quality and it doesn't, heaven forbid.  Hopefully, it's ended all together properly before that day has a chance to arrive.

Many were shocked with the odd episode count decision with the premiere season.  This season they shocked people again by not only using another odd episode count only this time dialing it back even more so than last season despite massive success.  Compared to other shows on Netflix that stick to the thirteen episode format, how does this show hold up structurally?

Trey - As I said in the last question, it did.  It made sure, for the most part, that there was no filler and kept things moving at a much brisker pace.  And as I said in the Punisher Roundtable, forcing them to draw this stuff out over 13 episodes just strains the budget of the show and forces plot points to go on for far longer than they should.  Overall, I think it resulted in a better show.

Jennifer - The writers did their thing and made a great story with great characters and backstories, but the odd amount of episodes did make the story feel as if it were a bit cramped towards the end.

Jonny - To me a full season is 20 episodes minimum, so with the newer shows only being around 13, I call those half seasons.  That being said, I didn't keep track of the episodes so this came as a shock to me that they would break from the norm' and bring it even lower, but I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing seeing as I didn't even notice until it was all said and done.

Marlon - 7, 13 or 22 episodes, I'll still watch it as long as its well written and I've seen it happen in all formats so that shouldn't be something to affect them, but it also shouldn't be a stipulation that they form their writing around.  I'm glad they go with however many episodes they feel are necessary if that's what's helping them make the quality as good as it is.

Where do you think the show can go from here?

Trey - I honestly don't know.  As I said earlier, the first season was basically a monster on the loose show and this time they escalated it to them battling an Eldritch Abomination.  Where can you go from them?  Have them fight the actual devil?  I really don't know and the showrunners are going to have a hell of a time trying to top it.

Jack - Between exploring the "Upside Down", the other experimental children, revisiting the "Mind Flayer" or really anything they can concoct; there really are just far too many paths to see which make more sense.  Each possible path in my eyes looks to take the show further off path leaving other options and possibly characters behind.  This is the biggest problem with omnipotence and the writers would do well to remember that before they bite off more than they can chew.  At this rate, each season can be mind-blowingly good or disgustingly bad.

Jennifer - I would like to say about 9 more seasons!  realistically we may only get 2-3 more, but there are so many possibilities.  I think any route that brings the other experimental children in the fold would be a sound option.

Jonny - Oh, the sky is the limit with this show.  The writers really have so much to work with so far and they've only just scratched the surface of what's to come.  I don't think we've seen the last of the "Mind Flayer" or his connection to Will.

Marlon - That really is a tough question, but I think that shows just how crazy this writers room can get and ultimately what comes next can't be predicted.

In Conclusion, not only did the show ensure it is a staple to stay, they also broke open Pandora's Box of possibilities of where to go to next, as well as, put every film craft stigma to rest for all to see.  This show has besmirched those who have failed routinely at implementing aspects that Stranger Things has not only implemented well but implemented much of.  It's hard to put a thumb on what makes this show truly special still, but we are starting to get the idea that they may just care about the story more than most.  This is a show all must see, if not solely for the dissection of its craft.  Stick with it until the end as there are no more than just over a couple dozen episodes in total, and let us know your thoughts on the matter here when you do.

Stay Tuned for our upcoming Nerds of the Roundtables where we will discuss our thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Crisis On Earth X, and More.

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Writing Contributions by, Jack FlowersTrey GriffethJennifer GrittenJonny Crash and Marlon Ortega.
Editing by, Jack Flowers.