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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x5 - "Kissed By Fire"

Forget the "Game of Thrones" (Joffrey's the winner), the hottest game show in King's Landing is "Who Wants to Marry Sansa Stark?" (Except Joffrey wouldn't watch that show.) Sansa is the most eligible recently-flowered-and-discussed-it-at-length-with-Cercei young lady in all of Westeros. She's the key to the North. She has no less than three suitors plotting to wed her, and she doesn't even know most of this. Sansa is fairly happy these days; it's been weeks since she's even seen Joffrey, much less taken a punch to the gut from one of the King's Guard. She's hanging out exclusively with Tyrells now, and she's excited at Margaery's confident promises that she'll marry her to Loras Tyrell just as soon as she's sealed the deal with Joffrey. The Knight of Flowers himself seems okay with this match; it won't interfere with him bedding his naked squires. One of whom was secretly whoring for Littlefinger, who now knows of the Tyrell plot to gain control of Sansa and the North, and is planning accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Lannisters are also well-aware of the Tyrells plotting for Sansa and Tywin has his own counter-plot to make sure none of this happens. Tyrion was so proud of himself for enduring Olenna Tyrell's razor-tongued barbs and getting her to pay for half the Royal Wedding. He had no idea that Tywin had wedding plans of his own for Tyrion. And Cercei. Tywin commanded Tyrion to be the one to marry Sansa Stark, put a Lannister child in her womb, and secure the North. "It's more than you deserve," Cercei taunted. Well, fucking A, it's a pretty good reward for Tyrion's efforts in saving King's Landing. Tyrion objected on the grounds of Sansa's happiness, as if Tywin gives a flying fuck about that. Honestly, this is a huge score for Tyrion. Sansa is a great prize. It's a hell of a lot better deal than what Tywin commanded for Cercei: She gets to marry Loras Tyrell, and thus secure the Reach, giving the Lannisters control of most of Westeros. That was amazing. Cercei is fucked, except not by Loras.

Speaking of fucked, Jon Snow broke his vows as a Man of the Night's Watch and had the first and therefore best sex of his life with Ygritte. Ygritte had to even reevaluate her catchphrase "You know nothing, Jon Snow" when he went down below. If you have to be an Oathbreaker, this is the way to do it, I guess. There aren't a lot of things in Westeros that are better than in our world, but the nickname for redheads is one of them. In Westeros, redheads are "kissed by fire". Here, they're "gingers". Things are going pretty well for Jon Snow since he went Wildling.

Now, there seems to be underground grottos and hot tubs underneath Westeros. It's almost like Westeros is the Playboy Mansion. Jaime Lannister and Brienne also got in some quality steamy hot tub time. Locke and his men finally delivered Brienne and the Kingslayer to Harrenhaal where Roose Bolton saw to it Jaime got some medical attention to his rotting, gangrene arm. In the hot tub, poor, long-suffering Jaime gave Brienne his personal history lesson on how he got (unfairly in his mind) the Kingslayer nickname he'll be stuck with forever. He told her about the Mad King's love of burning people with Wildfire, his father Tywin sacking King's Landing, being ordered to kill his own father, and how and why Jaime made the choice to slay the Mad King, plus Ned Stark witnessing and condemning him for it. Jaime will always hate Ned Stark and he can't stop shitting on Renly, even when apologizing to Brienne. Jaime is far and away one of the most interesting, psychologically complex people in Westeros, but hardly anyone ever gets beyond seeing him as the Kingslayer. It really gets his goat. But I was happiest to see Jaime finally getting to bathe. He's been caked in filth since season one.

The trial by combat between the Hound and Beric Dondarrion didn't go so well for Beric or the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Hound was judged to be innocent for killing that butcher's boy back in season one when he bested and killed Beric in a cool-looking flaming sword battle under the laws of the Lord of Light. The Brotherhood had no choice but to set the Hound free, which didn't sit well with Arya. Meanwhile, Beric didn't take dying lying down, and we learn Thoros of Myr has used Lord of Light magic to resurrect Thoros six times, two of those deaths were at the hands of Cleganes. You know, if Beric has died six times, doesn't that mean he's a terrible knight? Beric does have an excuse, I suppose, that each time he's brought back, he's a little lesser for it. So as it stands, the Brotherhood are going to ransom Arya to Riverrun so she can be reunited with her family. Gendry has decided to stay and smith for the Brotherhood. Arya telling Gendry, "I can be your family" was heartwarming, but then Gendry responding "You're my lady" kind of made it weird.

You know who's a really nice kid? Stannis Baratheon's daughter Shireen. Plagued by a horrible skin disease that turns flesh into stone, she's isolated in a tower in Dragonstone, but she's upbeat and singsong-y. She really likes the Onion Knight and even sneaked down to the dungeons when she heard her father imprisoned him as a traitor. Which doesn't bother her at all. She even decided to teach Davos how to read. It was sweet. How does a nice kid like that come from the loins of weirdos like Stannis and Selyse? Selyse is another grim piece of work, a Lord of Light zealot who was totally gung ho for Stannis and Melissandre having sex to create a son, even if it was a freaky black smoke demon son who murdered Renly and was never seen again. All of Selyse's stillborn sons she keeps in jars to stare at and talk to. Grim, man. Is that worse than the Governor in The Walking Dead with all the zombie heads in fish tanks? I'm gonna say it's all gross.

The Karstarks have had enough and they're not going to take it anymore. The Greatjon Rickard Karstark, long disgruntled at how the Starks have been waging (see: losing) the war, took it upon himself to murder those two Lannister boys they had prisoner as vengeance for Catelyn releasing the Kingslayer, who killed his son. The Greatjon has had it up to here with Robb, "the King Who Lost The North" (heh), and despite Catelyn, the Tullys, and even Talisa trying to talk him out of it, Robb cannot forgive the Greatjon coming up with that nickname. Or betraying him. Robb executed the Greatjon and as a result, the Karstarks abandoned the Starks, taking half the Northern Army home. (You know, if they ever got in a room together to hash things out, Joffrey would actually like to hear the story of how Robb personally beheaded Rickard Karstark. Joffrey loves that shit. And then he'd probably mention how he ordered Ned beheaded and then they'd draw swords, so it's best for Joffrey that he and Robb never meet in private.) So what's Robb going to do to now that he's lost half his army and things look bleak? That's when Robb came up with a doozy of an idea: he's going to take Casterly Rock. And to do it, he'll ask Walder Frey, the guy who he broke his oath to about marrying one of his daughters, for his army. Freeze frame Robb's shit-eating grin because it'll be funny later when all this turns out how it's gonna turn out.

Game of Thrones this week considered the issue of what makes a ruler fit to rule. Robb showed some serious weaknesses of judgment a folly of his youth and inexperience. Tywin showed his domineering mastery of strategy; frankly his plan to sell of his kids to own the whole realm was pretty brilliant. Over in Essos, Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy also debated for themselves whether Daenerys is best suited for ruling Westeros. But if you asked the Unsullied whether Daenerys Targaryen should be Queen, you'll get a unanimous stamping of their spears into the ground, i.e. yes. Daenerys assembled the Unsullied's captains and told them they were now to choose their own names. The leader of the Unsullied, Grey Worm, told her he'd keep his name because it was the lucky name he had when Daenerys Stormborn set him free. She was touched. We were all touched. (No negro ever said that to Lincoln.) Gods, the Unsullied love Daenerys. By the way, it has to be pretty clear at this point that Game of Thrones has now set the record for the most eunuchs ever on television. 8,000 Unsullied plus Varys. I don't think any other show will ever touch that record, but hey, let's see someone try!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pain and Gain



Michael Bay's "low budget ($25-million) character piece" Pain and Gain is a steroid movie on steroids, about guys on steroids who think they're master criminals. They are not, they're just huge assholes on steroids. "Based on a true story",  a pretty harrowing and grotesque true story to tell the truth, Pain and Gain takes place in Miami in the colorful go-go mid-1990's. A massive, muscled out to the max Mark Wahlberg (seriously, he's always been jacked but he's absolutely gigantic here) plays a truly detestable, lying, scheming real life scumbag, Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer with delusions of grandeur fueled by steroids and delusions of grandeur. Wahlberg is obsessed with his interpretation of the American Dream, which is to get rich and quick, no matter what it takes or who he takes it from. Wahlberg decides to take it from Tony Shalhoub, a slimy, detestable multi-millionaire who nevertheless did not deserve to be kidnapped for 30 days and tortured in a porno warehouse until he signed over all of his assets to Wahlberg and his cronies. The body image-obsessed Anthony Mackie and the good-hearted but hopelessly cocaine-addicted Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are Wahlberg's partners in crime, along with Israeli supermodel Bar Paly as a stripper who thinks they are all CIA agents. Ed Harris joins the workout late as a private eye onto Walhberg and his muscle heads, who come to be known as "the Sun Gym Gang".  Performances are outstanding all around; Wahlberg has probably never been this frightening. The Rock all but steals the movie in his bonding scenes with Shaloub, then later when he goes on cocaine-fueled crime sprees to feed his habit. Pain and Gain is entertainingly gory in a way that will shock anyone not familiar with Breaking Bad, but ultimately, time spent with this gang of roided-out losers feels like diminishing returns. At the very least, Pain and Gain makes you wonder and doubt what your personal trainer is really up to when he's spotting you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Arrow 1x20 - "Home Invasion"

This week, Oliver committed the cardinal sin: Hos before bros. Oliver was torn between two targets. Floyd Lawton remained on the loose in Starling City and Diggle wanted Oliver's help in putting Deadshot in a bodybag once and for all. I mean, it's all Diggle thinks or talks about anymore. Deadshot, Deadshot, Deadshot. Kill, killy, me kill killy Deadshot. Meanwhile, Laurel found herself in mortal peril, targeted by a new assassin named Mr. Blank. Oliver's heart and loins demanded he protect Laurel from this new killer. That makes two world class assassins on the loose in Starling City in one week. How's tourism in Starling doing?

The cool, cruel Mr. Blank is played by this week's more-than-welcome guest star, J. August Richards. Mr. Blank is basically Angel season 5 Charles Gunn in a suit (and often posing as a lawyer), but also shooting people with a gun. Don't look Mr. Blank in the face, or he'll shoot you. He hates when people see his face. Mr. Blank was hired by another of Starling City's odious business tycoons, Edward Rasmus. (Who may or may not be on Oliver's List, it was never clear.) Rasmus paid Blank to kill a family who witnessed something or other, shady dealings by Rasmus. The family had come to Laurel as their legal representation. It doesn't take long for Blank to take out the parents, leaving their little son an orphan, whom Laurel takes into her custody. Mr. Blank, under the guise of Lieutenant Castle (a tip of the hat to The Punisher? Or maybe to his fellow Whedonite Nathan Fillion), tries to kill the boy at Laurel's apartment but is foiled by the Hood.Tommy has the great idea to hide Laurel and the boy at Stately Queen Manor, which has the best protection Diggle could arrange and vouch for. Tommy's more than a little disturbed when the actual best protection, Diggle and Oliver themselves, quickly bail to handle their other pressing business. (It turns out neither Oliver nor Diggle are on the same page, nor on the same book.)

Diggle is totally jonesing for Deadshot dead. Felicity hacked into A.R.G.U.S.' database, despite her own fears about being sent to Guantanamo as a cyber terrorist (Big Scoop: Felicity isn't a natural blonde!), and learned of A.R.G.U.S.' schemes to trap Deadshot. Diggle wants in on this, but got shut down by his friend and contact Lila, who calls him "Johnny", and threatened to have Johnny arrested if he interferes with A.R.G.U.S.' operations to carry out his own blood vendetta. And Diggle's like, "Why is Oliver the only one allowed to have blood vendettas around here?" (Dig has a point.) So to nab Deadshot, A.R.G.U.S. sets up The Most Blatantly Obvious Sting Operation Ever. I mean, it was so contrived, even if Deadshot were Helen Keller, he'd know it was bullshit. A.R.G.U.S. agents hanging around a hotel lobby all clearly undercover, no one acting remotely natural, plus Diggle lurking behind a pillar in black clothes wearing a baseball cap? Deadshot must have felt insulted. So he shot the target anyway, nearly killed Lila were it not for Diggle, and then beat the crap out of Diggle in a stairwell, thoroughly embarrassing him. Oliver, who was supposed to be there, was nowhere to be found.

This is because Oliver chose to follow up on the menace to Laurel. Diggle and Felicity teased Oliver mercilessly about being pussy whipped by his ex-girlfriend who is now his ex-best friend's current girlfriend, but Oliver jumps when that invisible whip is cracked. Instead of having his boy's back, Oliver and Felicity track down Edward Rasmus and the Hood put the fear of arrows in him. So much so that Rasmus ran to the cops and made a full "I Am A Starling City Criminal, Here Are My Dirty Deeds" confession. Rasmus even asked Mr. Blank to call off the hit on the little boy, but Mr. Blank doesn't call off hits on little boys who have seen his face. That is not how Mr. Blank operates. Mr. Blank murderizes Rasmus at police headquarters then heads off to Stately Queen Manor to murderize this little boy. This time, Oliver is home, and goes Hood-less, battling and killing Mr. Blank with all the parkour and fireplace pokers in his arsenal. It's a pretty great fight.

In the backdrop of all this murder and mayhem is the ongoing soap opera between Oliver and Tommy. Tommy is one insecure motherfucker. He's already dating and practically living with Laurel (something Detective Lance didn't want to know ever) but because Oliver's hanging around, Tommy's 100% positive she's just biding his time until she decides she wants Oliver after all. Mind you, if either Oliver or Tommy actually watched what Laurel says and does, or even showed the slightest concern about what Laurel says, does, or thinks, there's no actual evidence of this. Laurel seems totally into Tommy and into her work, maybe not in that order. Yet, this doesn't stop Tommy from having private raspy accusatory conversations with Oliver around the corner from Laurel's earshot. Tommy is still a stand up guy for going out of his way to protect Oliver's secret, and he even rose to the occasion as a substitute father figure for the little orphan boy, but when Oliver killed Mr. Blank to protect Laurel, that was it for Tommy. Tommy broke up with Laurel and walked out on her. Somewhere, Malcolm Merlyn is slow clapping.

By the way, that orphan kid. Watched his parents brutally gunned down. Spent the night in a billionaire's mansion. If that kid had Oliver Queen's money, he'd probably grow up to become... nah. That's silly.

Because Oliver chose to take out Rasmus, thereby choosing Laurel over Diggle, Diggle also broke up with Oliver. Hos before bros. Diggle walked out on the Hood operation, leaving just Oliver and Felicity in the Arrow Cave. How long until Felicity quits? I mean, her condition for joining was originally to find Walter Steele, which they've made zero traction on. She was also steadfastly against murder, and just this week, she sat there while Oliver and Diggle gleefully plotted to murder Deadshot. Felicity really should join Diggle out the door. Seems like she's gotten nothing out of being Oliver's Girl Friday thus far (except for when Oliver saved her life from the Dodger, which was danger he put her in.)

Five years ago on The Island, Shado tries to teach Oliver archery. Slade thinks it's a waste of time and he probably didn't want to hang around to watch how Shado obviously wants to kissy face young Mr. Queen. But see, those two have some chemistry. Oliver is not a quick study with the archery but doesn't dive into the Shado because he's still got the hots for Laurel (cue Tommy from the future: "See! I knew it!"). Returning to their crashed airplane hangout, our three rebels are shocked when Yao Fei strolls in. And he's not alone, he brought Fyers' men with him. 

Meanwhile, there is the romantic tale of the Speedys. Thea is off in her own little world with Roy Harper, who decided this week to stroll into SCPD HQ and steal Detective Lance's radio. And he would have gotten away with it too, if Detective Lance were a dummy. But he didn't get to become Detective by being a dummy. Lance quickly apprehends that dummy Roy by baiting him with news of the Hood, who is Roy's new obsession, much, much moreso than Thea. I mean, at the drop of the Hood's name, Roy will bail on his date with Thea at Big Belly Burger. Thea still goes to the SCPD to bail Roy out, and Detective Lance decides to take the two kids to the morgue to meet the Hood's 26th victim on a slab to scare them straight. Instead, it made Roy want to meet the Hood even more. "It's like my destiny is tied to his," he tells Thea, as every comic book nerd at home watching suffers from involuntary eye-rolling. Thea then pledges to find the Hood with Roy. Oh, these two kids. So unaware the Hood is closer than they think.

You know what? I'll just say it: There is zero chemistry between Thea and Roy. Obviously, they're supposed to be romantically bonded and they're clearly both attractive young people, but together, they're as sparky as a mud patch. Who else totally gets a Renly-Margaery vibe from Thea and Roy? Roy barely even looks in her direction. This would totally be the opposite of, say, me. I'd love to take Thea on a date and giddily explain to her how every Targaryen died. I bet she'd be into it too. Plus archery.

Monday, April 22, 2013




Oblivion has a lot of explaining to do and handles it this way: explain a lot up front, then nothing but questions and confusion for the long middle, then a fast track of rapid exposition at the end. Tom Cruise fills us in on the wild sci-fi concept on the outset: It's the year 2077 and Earth is a devastated but visually spectacular wasteland. It was invaded by alien scavengers called "Scavs" that arrived in a giant pyramid space station called the Tet. The Tet destroyed the moon, wiping out much of humanity. The Scavs invaded, the remaining humans used nuclear weapons, and that was that. Humanity "won". Now, what's left of the human race has relocated to Saturn's moon Titan and is doing just fine, we imagine.

Cruise and his cool, lovely British wife Andrea Riseborough are "an effective team", i.e. glorified "maintenance" (kind of like Wall-E). They were left behind to oversee the giant machines converting the Earth's oceans into energy and repair the battle drones that keep the remaining Scavs on Earth at bay. Two people to watch over a whole planet? That seems strange, but the couple never question this. Cruise and Riseborough live like The Jetsons on a futuristic platform in the sky complete with a sexy glass bottom swimming pool. (We know the Scavs monitor them with binoculars from the ground so no doubt they peep on Cruise and Riseborough having dazzlingly-lit skinny dipping sex up in the sky.) Cruise is the hands-on guy who flies around in his bubble ship and fixes the drones when they're damaged while Riseborough stays behind as mission control, interfacing with their Southern lady overseer on the Tet. They have two weeks to go until retirement (of course), then they can board the Tet and join the rest of the human race on Titan. Wouldn't you know it? Things go horribly wrong.

Despite his space craft having seemingly unlimited range and having a whole planet to patrol as far as he knows, Cruise mainly seems to hang around the ruined remains of New York City. He wanders  the improbably still-standing structures of football stadiums and the Empire State Building, explaining what happened in football games that were played over 60 years ago to his wife who couldn't give a shit. Suddenly, a space craft launched by NASA decades ago crash lands with the crew still in cryogenic sleep, including a beautiful woman Cruise dreams about every night. So Cruise does what any man would do: he brings the much hotter woman whom he secretly dreams of home to meet his wife, who, mind you, is also hot but not as hot. Predictably, Riseborough is not thrilled and wants her gone. Who is this Russian woman, played by Olga Kurylenko? Don't bother asking Kurylenko herself, she has no answers; she barely has anything to say the whole movie. In the words of Leslie Knope, "the female part's a little underwritten."

It pleases Riseborough even less when Cruise and Kurylenko take off together in his bubble ship and have sexy, dangerous adventures. Cruise takes Kurylenko to his secret lake shore cabin in the improbably verdant valley that survived the apocalypse, complete with all the trinkets and classic rock vinyl albums he's been collecting for years. Hey, a guy's gotta have a place of his own. Riseborough is as un-pleased as a wife can possibly be when Cruise has sex with Kurylenko, who tells him up front she's his wife. This is correct: Tom Cruise had a Russian mail order bride arrive special delivery from outer space. Tom Cruise can be the last man on post-apocalyptic Earth and can have two impossibly attractive wives. Cruise and Kurylenko are also captured by the Scavs, whom we are shocked to learn (if we never saw the trailer) are actually humans lead by Morgan Freeman playing Laurence Fishburne playing Morpheus from The Matrix. Freeman is flanked by his trigger happy lieutenant Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is most famous for playing Jamie Lannister, the Kingslayer, in Game of Thrones. From their scenes together we learn Jamie Lannister is so much taller than Tom Cruise, Cruise for all intents and purposes might as well be Tyrion Lannister.

The third act of Oblivion ramps up the pace with copious amounts of action to make up for its stately middle section of Cruise flying around pondering how he's going to make having two hot wives work. (Maybe if one stays in the Jetsons platform and one stays in the lake cabin, they never have to meet again?) The reveals of all the mysteries the plot set up come quickly and semi-coherently, as we learn there's much more to Tom Cruise, and much, much more of Tom Cruise (Tom Cruise clones!), than we ever thought possible. (Leaving us pondering questions like, if the Tet had already won and wiped out humanity, why do they still have so many millions of Tom Cruises and in their Tom Cruise factory? Who needs that many Tom Cruises?) Finally, Cruise and Freeman pull a Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith in Independence Day - they manage to get on board the Tet and blow it to kingdom come. All's well that ends well, especially for Tom Cruise, who can die heroically in a nuclear explosion and still pop up at the end since there are plenty of Tom Cruises where he came from. Luckily for Tom Cruise, Kurylenko doesn't care at all which Tom Cruise she ends up with. A Tom Cruise is a Tom Cruise and any Tom Cruise will do.

Game of Thrones 3x4 - "And Now His Watch Is Ended"

"And Now His Watch Is Ended" is a Game of Thrones hall of famer episode. The best episode since "Blackwater" and one of the best of the series thus far. It's also the high stakes game changer, signaling what everyone who has read book 3 "A Storm of Swords" already knows and hotly anticipates: this is the season where all the very best, completely batshit crazy stuff happens. The first two episodes reshuffled the game board of Westeros and Essos. From here on in, Game of Thrones is going to bring it.

Last thing and best thing first: Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen is one of the greatest female characters currently on television. Arguably, the greatest. When you look at who she was when the series began, what had been done to her, what she's endured, and what she has become, who else has had an arc like hers? Last week, she made a bargain with an outcome everyone except maybe her old man consiglieres Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy saw coming: she said she'd trade her dragon Drogon for 8,000 Unsullied, but we all suspected she'd renege on that promise. She did just that, but not in a way that dishonors her; rather, she proved with authority she was more clever than anyone ever gave her credit for. In fact, she finally used the naivete everyone expects her to have, and she in fact did once have, to her full advantage.

Go back now and watch all the scenes with Missandei delicately translating Kraznys mo Nakloz's insults to Daenerys (I did) and those moments take on a whole new dimension. Daenerys makes the trade, then reveals that she is fluent in Old Valyrian and has understood every insult Kraznys mo Nakloz ever uttered. Then she makes two huge gambles: the first was calling upon her Unsullied to slaughter their former slavers. (She takes a little extra delight in commanding Drogon to roast Kraznys mo Nakloz.) The second was more dicey: Daenerys, herself no stranger to being sold as she was once sold to Khal Drogo, freed the Unsullied, asking them instead to choose to fight for her. Who in their right mind wouldn't at that point? Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen > Abraham Lincoln. That's right. Why? Dragons. Also, hotness.

Daenerys is a ruthless, clever, but compassionate Queen without her rightful kingdom. But if anyone deserves to rule Westeros, it's her. In fact, with the often brilliant ways Game of Thrones has found to deviate from the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels, I'd get down on my knees for the Khaleesi's sake and beg the producers to not follow the events of Book 5 "A Dance With Dragons" and instead let Daenerys do what everyone is absolutely dying to see her do on the show.

In King's Landing, Varys is a busy little spider. I always enjoy Varys, a clever man indeed, and one who serves his own agenda yet seems to have, more or less, the best interests of the realm at heart. Tyrion visits Varys asking for help in his revenge against Cercei for trying to have him assassinated at Blackwater, and Varys insisted on telling him and us the secret origin of how he became a eunuch. A sorcerer cut him for a macabre spell, and we learn Varys has both seen dark magic and despises all sorcerers. And now he even has the sorcerer who maimed him prisoner, a virtue of patience and the means to use it to apply influence. For a guy with nothing in his pants (as everyone is happy to mock) Varys always plays the long game.

Varys' long game includes stratagems for Littlefinger's machinations to eventually marry Sansa Stark and lay claim to lordship over Harrenhaal, the Eyrie, and the North (amazing how deftly Littlefinger positioned himself to claim all of this, and how no one sees it but Varys). Also, Ros and Varys discuss the greatest current mystery in King's Landing: what exactly Podrick Payne did to those whores that they felt compelled to give back Tyrion's money? I still want this more thoroughly investigated. What happened with Pod and the whores?! I need answers!

But more important, I suppose, is Varys coming to the delightfully cheeky Lady Olenna with his little schemes. After both agreeing that Sansa Stark is not a particularly interesting girl but has had an interesting life, they set Margaery off to present a potential future that poor, long-suffering Sansa has longed to hear: when Margaery marries Joffrey and becomes Queen, she can have her brother Loras marry Sansa so she can become Lady of Highgarden, freeing her from the grip of Cercei. Sansa was so happy, no one has the heart to break it to her that Ser Loras might not be quite the shining knight and husband Sansa has dreamed of marrying her whole life. But why ruin her little bout of happiness with details at the moment?

Lady Olenna The Queen of Thorns is the single most fantastic new character introduced this season. She dominates every scene she's in, has all the best dialogue, and says what she (and the audience) thinks to the characters who can't and won't. Whether it's insulting her son the Lord of Highgarden, mocking the less-than-inspiring House sigil of the Tyrells, or pointing out to Cercei that women are often times more clever and more fit to rule than the men of Westeros, Lady Olenna is crunches the scenery of King's Landing in her teeth. (Olenna would love to meet Daenerys, I bet.) Cercei was so motivated by the truth of which Olenna spoke that she went right to her father and pleaded her case that she should be heard more for her opinions on tactics and strategy. Tywin told her right to her face:

And he's 100% correct. Cercei let Joffrey cut off Ned Stark's head, sparking the war that has torn Westeros apart. Cercei can't control Joffrey. And Cercei is hated by just about everyone she meets.

Margaery is everything Cercei is not; young, cunning, and wildly influential when it comes to Joffrey. All Joffrey ever wanted, it seems, is to have someone take an interest in his hobbies, which are sadism and hilarious stories of how the Targaryens died. My favorite bit of the episode not Daenerys-related was Joffrey running around the sept with Margaery showing her all the dead Targaryens. He was giggling like a kid in a candy store. Margaery then got Joffrey to come out and be seen with her in front of the people. Lo and behold, because the people love Margaery, they also decided they like Joffrey. That was the greatest day of King Joffrey's life. They like him! They really like him! (Not really, but no needs to tell him that.)

You know doesn't like Theon Greyjoy? Everyone, including Theon, that poor sap. These brand new Theon sequences invented for the show had Theon confess to his new friend that everything he's ever done has been wrong, that he didn't kill Bran and Rickon Stark, that he did have the farmer's boys put to death so he could keep Winterfell, and that he's a worthless disappointment to everyone, including Ned Stark, who was more his father than his real father. And it turns out his mysterious new friend freeing him was all a sick, cruel ruse to have Theon strapped right back to his wooden X for more torture. No doubt now this man is Ramsay Snow, one of the worst people in Westeros, and that's saying something.

Bran Stark dreamed his mom yelled at him for climbing and pushed him out of a tree. Meanwhile, the man who did push him off a tower is suffering as badly as Theon. Poor Kingslayer, wearing his severed hand around his neck and being pummeled and tortured by those Bolton men. Boltons are horrible. When Jaime tried to escape and was being beaten, Brienne tried to do him the favor he did her and save him from being further tortured or killed. She also wants to know why Jaime saved her from being raped, the act of which directly cost him his sword hand. There are no easy answers, except that no good deed goes unpunished in Westeros.

The Brotherhood without Banners brought Arya, Gendry and the Hound to their cave headquarters and it turns out their leader is Beric Dondarrion, whom Ned Stark once sent to kill the Hound's brother the Mountain. For once, the Hound was making a lot of sense, refuting being charged with crimes committed by the Lannisters he actually had no part in. Except for killing that Arya's friend in season one. That he did do. But even then, you can lay that one on Joffrey. Turns out the Brotherhood are all converted to follow the Lord of Light, and charged the Hound with trial by combat against Beric himself. Hey, didn't Melissandre leave Dragonstone to find someone who shared Stannis' blood? And these Lord of Lighters have Gendry right there...

North of the Wall, the Night's Watch are not doing well. It was funny when they were complaining that most of being a Night's Watchman involved shoveling, but what happened next wasn't funny. Half the Night's Watch completely went apeshit. They killed Craster, which is cool because that fat old piece of garbage deserved that and more. But they also killed Lord Commander Mormont and started raping and killing Craster's daughters. Sam Tarly absconded with Gilly and her infant, but it looks like all of their Watches have ended. Badly.

Fantastic episode top to bottom.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x3 - "Walk of Punishment"

Some enjoyable references to The Godfather this week. North of the Wall, Jon Snow, Mance Rayder, Ygritte and the Wildlings came upon what was left of the Night's Watch the White Walkers fell upon. Mance cracked "Always the artists" but it's true, for a bunch of ice zombies the White Walkers have a keen eye for design. They arranged the decapitated horses in a pattern similar to the Targaryen's Fire and Blood sigil. Probably a coincidence. Mance sent his guys, including Jon, to scale the Wall and prepare to attack Castle Black. Besides the horse heads, the other Godfather reference happened in Astapor. Any joy Daenerys may have had at Ser Barristan Selmy joining her Queensguard dissipated when Selmy and Jorah turned into the Bickersons. Worse, they publicly contradicted her during her negotiation to buy the Unsullied, something neither Don Corleone nor Michael Corleone would have tolerated. Especially not Michael. "Don't ever take sides against Khaleesi again." (Ask her handmaiden sealed in Xaro Xhoan Daxos' vault about that.)

Daenerys bargained hard for the Unsullied. Despite the chattering of the two old codgers behind her, she needs that army of unquestioning killer slaves badly enough that she traded one of her dragons for them. (The big one.) Also, probably because of Ser Statler and Waldorf arguing over whose false teeth is shinier and realizing she's been fresh out of handmaidens to talk to since she left Qarth, she asked for and received the translator Missandei as a gift. This is a good deal for both ladies. Daenerys is a savvy consumer. Missandei doesn't seem like she knows any fancy new sexual positions to teach the Khaleesi like her last handmaiden, but maybe she'll surprise all of us.

The other double-event that went on was the ever-present threat of rape. Captured by Roose Bolton's men, Jaime made sure Brienne knew what to expect when they made camp and try to rape her. In his own way, he was looking out for her with his instructions. Meanwhile, Theon was freed by the mysterious stranger who said he was working for his sister and set off on horseback, only to be chased and nearly killed. Well, before killed, raped, because they pulled down Theon's pants and promised to fuck him into the ground. Then arrows slayed the rapers and Theon's savior emerged again. They called him a little bastard, so he has to be Ramsay Bolton at last, because in Westeros, no one calls you 'bastard' unless you actually are someone's illegitimate child. Theon was reeking of gratitude (couldn't resist) but this are going to get worse for him before they get better, which is probably never.

Lord Hoster Tully, we hardly knew ye. A somber funeral for the Lord of Riverrun and Catelyn's father had some tiresome Tully family intrigue. Catelyn's broher Edmure (played by the guy who played Brutus in Rome) is kind of a dope, bragging to Robb about how he and his men took an old mill. Never mind they let the Mountain escape to Casterly Rock, but they have an old mill now. They can make some cider! Robb doesn't need cider (these are old Simpsons jokes - no one was talking about cider) and he's losing the war, even though they have a couple of young Lannister cousins hostage that Talisa is scaring with stories of Robb actually turning into a wolf. The only Tully who seems to have his wits about him is Catelyn's uncle the Blackfish, who jokes he's been called "Blackfish" so long, no one remembers his name. It's been a while since I read the books and I sure don't.

I'm happy to report that everything seems to have worked out for Hot Pie. No, really, I mean that. As Arya, Gendry, and the Brotherhood Without Banners march onwards to where ever they're going, Hot Pie found himself a place in the inn they were staying at as a baker. It's nice to see someone innocent of the game of thrones in Westeros seems to have made out okay, as opposed to raped or killed or worse. I hope Hot Pie has a long, happy life baking brown bread in that inn, and no one calls him fat and makes jokes about eating him like Craster did to Sam Tarley when what was left of the Night's Watch came crawling back to Caster's Keep. Sam did get to witness the miracle of childbirth and it right freaked him out. And he was telling Jon Snow he could act as a midwife himself last season.

Meanwhile, in King's Landing, political intrigue abounds. Tywin has moved the Small Council meetings to the Hand of the King's chambers, and after a hilarious game of musical chairs, they got down to business: Littlefinger, Lord of Harrenhaal in name if not in practice, was given instructions to go to the Vale, marry Lysa Arryn, bring her into the fold, and become the new Lord of the Vale. Tyrion gets to be the new Master of Coin, which required him visiting Littlefinger's whore house with Bronn and Podrick to collect the books with all of the Seven Kingdom's finances. Tyrion is alarmed to learn Littlefinger's been borrowing money left and right, and King's Landing owes tens of millions to the Iron Bank of Braavos. May I also say, Tyrion is a fantastic boss, rewarding Pod for saving his life by paying for three whores, one an incredibly acrobatic whore, and giving Pod the time of his young life. Then Pod comes back with all the gold, which the whores suspiciously wouldn't accept. What's this? Whores who don't want to be paid? Tell me more!

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Over in Dragonstone, Stannis is forced to say goodbye to Melissandre, who is mysteriously departing to find someone of Stannis' royal blood for some sort of sacrifice to the Lord of Light. (Gendry? Gendry, probably. All of Robert's other bastards are dead.) Stannis is much more obviously sexually dependent on Melissandre on the show than he is in the books, but when a Red Priestess has gotta go, she's gotta go. Meanwhile, a captive Jaime smooth talks his way into saving Brienne from being gang raped with Lannister Strategy Number One: offering huge sums of money. It seems like it worked too, until they cut Jaime's hand off! That's Westeros for you: doing a good deed and being punished for it go hand in hand. Poor Kingslayer.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Maria Menounos's Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Mr. Bob Backlund

The following is the statement and speech by Maria Menounos when she inducted the extraordinary WWE legend Mr. Bob Backlund into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Dear fellow WWE fans and members of the wrestling press,

As you know, I had the honor of inducting my friend, Bob Backlund, into the WWE Hall of Fame. The fans were a little rough as another inductee and friend, Donald Trump, would likewise experience. It’s understandable as we are not pro wrestlers and the honesty of the WWE fans is what makes it fun. However, I did the speech mainly to tell the world all the amazing things about Bob and I fear some of those things were not heard.

Below is my speech. I’m hoping you’ll print it for a good friend, a great champion and one of the most incredible human beings I know.

Thanks and God Bless,

Maria Menounos

The speech:

To induct anyone into the WWE Hall of Fame puts you in the company of the greatest artists, athletes and performers in the entire world. I CHALLENGE ANYONE who disagrees to show me another kind of entertainer who can recite monologues, in character, without the use of teleprompters and before world audiences, performing improv drama and comedy while flying through the air and taking bumps, 300 nights a year.

But for me tonight is even more special for I am not just inducting anyone into the WWE Hall of Fame. I’m inducting someone who encapsulates the word champion. Someone whom I’m a great fan of…Someone whom is my friend.

Growing up Greek and not speaking English, wrestling was one of the few things on TV I’d watch and be able to understand. I was five when Bob Backlund lost his title to the Sheik. I was fourteen when “Mr. Backlund” returned. I was eighteen when I met Bob in person and I remember being in awe. It was on the set of my first movie and Bob was literally the most positive and striking force I have ever encountered. He was funny when we needed laughter – the man has an incredible and underrated sense of comedic timing – strong when we needed support and sensitive when we needed a friend.

While Working on Bob’s congressional campaign, a story came up about the Iron Shiek and his Persian Clubs. the Iron Shiek apparently had an exercise where he would swing these heavy wooden “Persian Clubs”behind his back. He had toured the nation’s gyms with the clubs and, apparently, no other strong man in the country could perform the exercise, nor could anyone on the WWF roster – except Bob, who did it….on his FIRST TRY. When I asked Bob how, he told me ‘when you believe you can do something…you can.’ The very next day, bob said he was going to perform an exercise of his own-the harvard step test in front of city hall on his election day. Twenty years earlier bob set a personal record doing the step test for two straight hours. The goal was to match that. we all thought he was crazy as he was well into his 50s by that time. Bob was not able to match that record. He made a new one. It wasn’t 3 hours. It wasn’t four hours. He did his harvard step test for 8 hours straight!!! Once again reminding us all, if you believe you can do something, you can.

Speaking of Hollywood, one of the first days I was hosting the Today Show, John Cena and Vince McMahon happened to be guests. Of course, I’m huge fans of theirs, too, but I couldn’t help but threaten John that Bob would one day come back to put him in the chicken wing! They both had great things to say about Bob but I’m sure they thought I was a little nuts, as people have thought Bob was a little nuts. But along with everything else Bob taught me, its okay to be a little nuts.

I’m sure people thought Bob was more than a little nuts, when after an unprecedented 5 year run with the title, he refused to turn heel. He believed it would let down his fans which included many troubled youth who had looked up to him and in those days, it would have. In so doing he surrendered millions of dollars from the new age of rock and wrestling as well as the career he loved most.

Not only did Bob Backlund hold the title for almost 6 consecutive years – he did something perhaps even greater when he came back a decade later. He completely reinvented himself and his character. When you think of performers who’ve been able to successfully reinvent their characters , even in Hollywood, few names come to mind. Bob not only created an entire new persona he also went on to become wrestling’s number one heel and regained his title in one of the most successful comebacks in sports entertainment history.

But most people know that. Like the greatest champions Bob Backlund carries himself with humility – which is why many of the facts I’m about to reveal are not known.

In a Pennsylvania match against Hulk Hogan, whom he pinned on several occasions, Bob Backlund picked Hulk up over his head with one arm. It’s a feat Hulk, and his own late father, often reflected on in astonishment.

Bob Backlund has only been to the doctor twice since 1973.

Bob Backlund has never done a drug. As he says and I quote “I wouldn’t know what to do with them.”

Bob Backlund, within a three-month span, won the NCAA wrestling championship and the National college football championship. He is perhaps the only man in history to hold that distinction.

In that championship football game, Bob Backlund recorded 22 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries. To give perspective, a team averages about 65 plays in an entire game.

Bob Backlund was a top shoot fighter if not THE top shoot fighter in the world of professional wrestling.

Bob Backlund intentionally NEVER squashed his opponents, as he believed it would harm their future earnings.

Bob Backlund is in better condition than 99% of men…a third his age.

Bob Backlund has a diverse portfolio of stocks and real estate and has NEVER IN HIS LIFE PAID A DIME OF INTEREST!

Bob Backlund has a beautiful wife and daughter.

And at the end of the day, Bob Backlund justs want to help others in need.

Bob Backlund is simply one of, if not, THE greatest personal success stories for wrestlers, fans and people in general.

I know it wasn’t always easy in your career, Bob. But, in the face of shortcomings and disappointments, you never gave up or succumbed like so many of us understandably would. Instead, you continued working out, educating yourself and, always, helping others and donating your time to charity. Through it all you kept your faith and your resolve and here you are on the greatest stage being honored by your greatest peers. I’m excited for tonight, your book being published and all the amazing things you remain to accomplish in your journey. And, I believe there’s one more WWE run in that journey for you Bob, because ‘When u believe you can do something, you can.’

Some know you as Bob Backlund. Others as Mr. Backlund. I just know you as my champion, my hero and my friend. Thank you to the WWE Universe for allowing me to welcome to the stage, Mr. Bob Backlund!”

Monday, April 8, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x2 - "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

I've had just enough of your Renly bashing, Game of Thrones. No, that's a lie. I really haven't. Poor dead "King" Renly and his reputation, such as it was ("He was very clean" was the best compliment paid to him), were shat upon by a number of people in Westeros this week. As such, it was perhaps the funniest episode of Game of Thrones, if you like Renly bashing. (There's no Westerosi equivalent for "political correctness".) King Joffrey called Renly a degenerate and threatened to make his behavior punishable by death. (So no one in Westeros is changing their profile pics and avatars to the red and pink equal sign, then?) The guy who had the best jokes about Renly was Jaime Lannister, teasing Brienne the Beauty about having a crush on Renly. ("The only thing he was fit to rule over was a twelve course meal.") There's something particularly amusing about the Kingslayer, the guy who fucks his sister, ripping on Renly's "proclivities". ("If the throne were made of cocks, they'd never get him off it.")

Kingslayer sez: Incest > Gay

Finally caught up with Bran Stark and my, has Bran grown. Sansa noticeably grew to about seven feet tall last season, and Arya's, er, blossoming, and now Bran is the latest Stark scion to have a startling growth spurt, making the viewer question how much time has passed since Winterfell was burned to the ground. Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor meet Jojen and Meera Reed, and Bran finally has his dreams explained to him, and us. Bran is a warg, someone who can see through the eyes of animals. Eventually, he'll be able to see into the past and the future, represented by the three-eyed raven he dreams of, which is actually Bran himself. In one of Bran's dreams, we also briefly hear the voice of dear, departed Ned Stark, who was referenced a few times in the episode as well.

Hot Pie and Gendry have been laying it on to Arya about the poor choices in names she gave to Jaqen last season. They're right; she could have named Joffrey, Cercei, and Tywin and ended the war in one fell swoop. Instead she named the Tickler, that guy who was gonna tell on her to Tywin, and the guards at Harrenhaal. Also, Arya has foolishly abandoned her old ruse of traveling as a boy for safety's sake because the Brotherhood Without Banners clearly identified her as a girl. What's more, Arya seems to have forgotten everything Syrio taught her about sword dancing from how quickly she was disarmed. After a nice meal of brown bread and stew that I was kind of envious of, they were free to go until the Hound showed up captured by the Brotherhood and outed Arya as the "Stark bitch".

Meanwhile, Sansa had probably her best scene in the entire series. Invited by Ser Loras to meet his grandmother "the Queen of Thorns" Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg!), the Tyrells cajoled Sansa to tell the truth about Margaery's husband-to-be. Sansa got to finally unload her feelings towards Joffrey and everything she's been through since she left Winterfell. The Tyrells are a breath of fresh air to King's Landing and this show. Armed with this new information, Margaery brilliantly played Joffrey in their private meeting, telling him everything he wanted to hear about Renly's degenerate ways and flattering him in all the right ways. (She basically told Joffrey Renly asked her for anal.) Margaery cooing about how much fun it must be to kill things to Joffrey's ear and the two of them hefting his new crossbow is the closest we'll probably ever come to a love or sex scene from Joffrey. Joffrey also really doesn't give two shits about Cercei anymore.

Word about what happened in Winterfell finally reached Robb, along with news of the death of Catelyn's father Lord Edmund Tully. There's a great deal of unrest in the camp of the King of the North. They're now on the defensive and losing end of the war after Stannis' defeat and the Lannister-Tyrell alliance. Lord Karstark is still pissed about Catelyn freeing the Kingslayer, and no one's happy Robb married that succubus from Volantis. Now they're delaying the war so Robb and Catelyn can take half the army to Riverrun for Edmund Tully's funeral. And to hear Catelyn tell it to Talisa, all the horror that has happened to her family is her fault for going back on her promise to the gods that she'd love and be a mother to Jon Snow when he came down with pox as an infant. This is new information that wasn't in the books, as I recall, and if Catelyn is blaming herself, then so will I, because Catelyn sucks. Speaking of what's not in the book: Theon! (Theon disappears after book 2 and doesn't reappear until book 5.) It was a surprise to see Theon, but if you read the books, it was not a surprise to see him tortured.

North of the Wall, Jon Snow marches with the Wildlings south to the Wall and also learns what a warg is. It's not been abundantly spelled out, but the Wildlings, a bunch of different people from different tribes who don't always like each other but choose to function as one people under a ruler they elected, is the stand in for America in Westeros. Meanwhile, at the Fist of the First Men, the Night's Watch are also trying to get back to the Wall, slowed down by crybaby Sam Tarly. The crows need a Tom Hanks to yell at Tarly: "There's no crying in the Night's Watch!" But they all do agree Sam is weak and fat. (A lot of fat boy bashing in this episode too.)

During Jaime's Renly bashing, Brienne made a crucial tactical error not killing a farmer who happened upon them and recognized the Kingslayer. She made another tactical error in falling of a Jamie feint and letting him steal one of her swords. Thus we get Jaime dueling with Brienne, and Brienne soundly defeating the Kingslayer in battle. Although in Jaime's defense, he was hardly at one hundred percent. Next thing they know, they're felled upon by Roose Bolton's men and Brienne has failed in her sacred quest to bring the Kingslayer to King's Landing to exchange him for the Stark girls. Here's another fine mess they've gotten into...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Arrow 1x19 - "Unfinished Business"

Hello, hello. I used up all my U2 jokes the last time there was an episode about Vertigo. However, some senses numbing hallucinogens might have been useful in tolerating Oliver's lock-jawed self-righteousness this week. A girl high on Vertigo clubbing at Verdant who got run over by a car is the flashpoint for Detective Lance launching a full on police investigation into Oliver Queen's club. Even Lance spends the episode doubting whether his true motives are uncovering what ties, if any, Verdant has to the return of Vertigo to the streets of Starling City or whether he's just looking for a reason to doubt and maybe arrest Tommy because he just doesn't like that guy dating his daughter.

Upon learning that everyone's least favorite green and purple party drug is once more available to anyone looking for a little pick me up, Oliver naturally goes right to the old source. He busts into Starling Arkham Asylum and confronts the Count, whom he left stark-raving looney after he injected the Count with pure Vertigo. Oliver wishes he just killed him, then none of this would be happening. After all, he kills everyone else, and people like Felicity and Tommy shake their heads at him, but hey, they're dead. Did showing mercy to the Count kill that girl and who knows who else? The Hood learned nothing useful from interrogating Count Cuckoo Bananas, but then later that night, the news reports the Count somehow escaped the asylum. Oliver gets a real bee in his bonnet about finding the Count for the whole episode, and he gets on the wrong side of his two male best bros.

Diggle has other business on his mind. He can't relax with his nephew or his dead brother's ex-wife who's now his girl until Floyd "Deadshot" Lawton is dead. Diggle goes off grid and ignores Oliver's calls for back up while he meets up with an old army buddy, Lila, who is now under the employ of A.R.G.U.S. A.R.G.U.S. is the current New 52 DC Universe's version of Marvel's SHIELD run by Wonder Woman's ex-beau Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller, and I believe it's the first of the post-reboot concepts Arrow has incorporated. A.R.G.U.S. didn't know who Deadshot was but Diggle provides Lila with all of his intel in exchange for helping track Lawton down. Not answering his calls or texts or Tweets or Vines or Touts or whatever got Diggle in hot water with Oliver, who's really into yelling at all his helpers about how "the city is on fire!" or some sort of melodrama because he thinks he caused it.

Meanwhile, the guy really taking the heat for Oliver is Tommy. With McKenna Hall off in Coast City, Roger Cross has returned as Detective Lance's partner/cop to talk to for necessary purposes of exposition, and they dig into Verdant's finances to find that $10,000 is missing from their books. Tommy, and Oliver for that matter, have drug raps from their wild party boy pasts, and even though both claim to be fine, upstanding citizens now, Lance suspects their dealin' to keep their club hoppin'. At the risk of alienating Laurel again, Lance outright accuses Tommy of shady dealings (Tommy did bribe a city official to not conduct a thorough inspection of Verdant) and gets extra suspicious when Tommy refuses to allow him to search Verdant without a warrant. Lance comes back with a warrant and goes right for the level beneath the club. Oliver has no choice but to let the cops in (the code to the secret door to the Arrow Cave is 141. The significance, if any, escapes me) and they enter the sub-level to find... storage. Crates of booze, extra chairs, and a whole lot of nothing suspicious looking.

It wasn't made explicitly clear but when Lance threatened to return with the warrant, somehow Tommy alone went down to the Arrow Cave, disconnected all the computer stuff and hid all of the Hood's arrows and weaponry... somewhere. Felicity didn't help him do it because she had no idea what happened. Tommy and Oliver have an argument about Oliver's trust issues and Oliver never thanked Tommy for going the extra mile to protect his secret as the Vigilante. Nor did he ask, "Where did you put all my stuff?" Tommy and Oliver have a final row about everything and Tommy quits the club. As a ex-billionaire playboy who only has a couple of months as general manager of a nightclub on his resume, he went to the only place where he could rely on nepotism to give him steady employment: his father Malcolm Merlyn. Malcolm welcomes his prodigal son with open arms and it's heartwarming. Oh, if only Malcolm knows what Tommy knows. And he probably will eventually.

Oliver's still hunting the Count, however, and autopsy reports from the dead girl and a homeless guy jumped up on Vertigo whom Oliver stopped and seemingly killed from shooting up the Starling City Aquarium determined that there's an extra compound in this new version of Vertigo. A psychotic. What if the Count never escaped? What if the Count was actually still in the asylum. The Hood investigates to find the Count crazy and drooling, tried up to a chair Clockwork Orange-style. Then the Hood takes a floggin' to the noggin from a fire extinguisher and he's knocked out. The real guy distributing the new Vertigo is the doctor, who peels back the hood of the Hood to learn the Hood is Oliver Queen. (He didn't even need to say "Check his wallet" like Bob the Goon in Batman 1989.) Rather than shoot him or anything, Evil Doctor and his Igor strap Oliver to a table and plan to make him drink all the Vertigo he can drink. "No one will question Oliver Queen dying of a drug overdose! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Thank Diggle that Diggle arrived to save day. He busts up Igor and ends his beatdown with a dry, cool quip while a hallucinating Oliver stumbles after the Evil Doctor in the tunnels and responds to his taunt that he couldn't even shoot an arrow straight by shooting three arrows at the Evil Doctor. One connected and the Doctor made like a tree and fell to the ground, dead. See, it's a good thing Oliver's not Batman. Killing solved the problem of the Evil Doctor knowing who he was, and he didn't have to engineer a circumstance like the doctor falling to his death like Harvey Two-Face in Batman Forever. Killing solves everything. Back in the lab, there's still the matter of Count Cuckoo Bananas. Oliver draws an arrow right in the Count's forehead - seriously, this is an easy shot. But he can't do it. Oliver has learned a lesson about killing. What that is exactly, I'm not sure because killing the bad guy just solved a big problem like 30 seconds ago. But the Count is in no position to threaten anyone. He's a vegetable. Ergo, he lives. Diggle is okay with this because, really, no one wants to watch a man get arrowed in the forehead from 3 inches away.

Finally, Oliver pledges to help Diggle go after Deadshot. This is the "unfinished business" that needs finishing next.

Five years ago on the Island, Slade and Oliver have taken Shado in to their little Anti-Fyers Squad. Oliver feels like the odd weakling out watching Slade and Shado train and they make fun of him for being too weak to draw a bow. With the help of some parables from Lao Tsu, Shado starts training Oliver in the Miyagi style by giving him a bowl of water to slap a thousand times. (Because there's no fence to paint or floor to sand.) We also learn that Yao Fei was a Chinese general framed and condemned to the Island and Fyers kidnapped Shado and brought her here as leverage against her father. Finally, Oliver learns the lesson that slapping the water gave him the strength to draw the bow of an arrow without taking out his eye. Shado just might make an archer out of Oliver Queen yet. And if she teaches Oliver to fight, isn't that technically Shado boxing?