Saturday, January 20, 2018

Circle Of Life, Grace And Frankie Season Four Lives Up!

The Good: Very funny with some wonderful lines, Good character development, Some good plot moments, Direction
The Bad: Repetitive plot moments
The Basics: Grace And Frankie Season Four gets in some early laughs, turns to issues of mortality and marital strife, but manages to keep the characters impressively engaging.

There are very few shows I look forward to each time they arrive like Grace And Frankie. Grace And Frankie Season Four is here and it was a big thing for me to wait a full day to sit down and watch it. But, my wife and I wanted to make an event of the fourth season, but one of our friends wanted to come watch it with us. So, we waited the day and have now binged the entire fourth season of Grace And Frankie!

Picking up after the third season of Grace And Frankie (reviewed here!), it seemed like there would be a lot for most of the characters in the show to do. The titular characters were in business together, while Robert and Sol were both retired now and Bud was facing his weird girlfriend having a child. So, with Robert and Sol arrested in the prior season's finale and Frankie facing the high potential of another stroke, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie began at an interestingly disparate point.

Grace is now working with Sheree and Frankie has moved to Santa Fe with Jacob. It has been months since they have seen one another and Frankie soon comes to visit for Bud's impending child's gender reveal party. Robert and Sol continue to be arrested for protests all around the area. Brianna and Barry are back together, with Barry now interviewing for one of Brianna's competitors. As Frankie and Brianna discover a dark truth about Sheree, the family participates in a scavenger hint to discover the gender of Bud and Allison's baby.

After admitting she is miserable in Santa Fe, Frankie leaves Jacob to move back in with Grace. Grace, Frankie, and Sheree move in together and the ladies enlist Robert and Sol to help Sheree get her house back from her spiteful stepchildren. Grace and Frankie break into Sheree's house to get a letter to help Sheree win her case. While Robert and Sol start to feel tension over Robert's acting and Sol's attempts to make new friends, Grace tries to negotiate her relationship with Nick. Frankie tries to reach out to her estranged sister after experiencing flashbacks and Robert reminds her of a past incident. As Robert and Sol's relationship leads them to greater estrangement, Grace and Robert find themselves going to a funeral together and Frankie and Sol try to get Frankie arrested to get her legally back alive!

Grace And Frankie Season Four is very funny, with Brianna getting many of the season's funniest lines. The show manages to be funny and smart while exploring many serious topics, like death, aging and estrangement. The characters manage to grow and develop, for the most part, while still maintaining their core characteristics. So, Frankie and Sol are still fairly ludicrous, while Grace and Robert are generally serious. There are changes - Frankie's long-lost sister makes an appearance and Grace has to go into a knee-replacement surgery sober - and constants; Mallory is still largely defined as being a mother and Coyote remains relegated to a support character without any major arcs in the season.

On the plot front, the characters keep doing their thing - Grace and Frankie remain in business together, Brianna is running Say Grace, and the season's big events surround Allison being pregnant with Bud's child. Frankie's hallucination arc seems instantly reminiscent of Robert's hallucinations in Season Four.

The key Grace And Frankie characters in the fourth season are:

Grace - She has allowed her nail technician of twenty years, Sheree, to move into the house she and Frankie shared. Dating Nick since Frankie left for Santa Fe, she starts getting in trouble with Frankie almost immediately. Her knee is very hurt during their breaking and entering, right after which Nick starts wanting to meet her family. Grace actually commits to Nick after a funeral where she learns Phil Millstein has died. She has to get sober for a knee-replacement surgery and outs Sol for calling Frankie his soulmate,

Robert - After getting arrested repeatedly with Sol and spending more time in a cell, with a full bladder, he decides to give up the acts of civil disobedience. He is nominated for a Tappy award for his performance in in 1776 and forgets to thank Sol in his acceptance speech. He gets Sol tickets to a folk music cruise, in an effort to spend time with him, but is offered a bigger part in the play he is assistant directing. He makes a mess out of the friendship Sol tries to build with the neighbors and ends up in counseling with Sol,

Frankie - Figuring out quickly how much her energetic disposition is bothering Jacob and instantly disappointed by how Grace has transformed into a fun person with Sheree. She goes over the top with Allison while Allison is pregnant with her first grandchild. She discovers that an offhanded remark at the Post Office has led to her being declared legally dead. She begins hallucinating when she is reminded that someone told her Sol was gay right before her wedding. When her granddaughter is born, she latches onto her, at the expense of her relationship with Jacob,

Sol - Despite being down on Robert for being politically active to the extent that he is, he protests on his own and hurts his back doing it. After being overlooked at the Tappies, he reaches out to the new neighbors for friendship, much to Robert's chagrin. After going on the cruise alone, he continues his activism with Frankie, which pulls him away from Robert,

Brianna - She tries to get along with Barry now that he has moved back in and she is weirdly suspicious of him. As Barry is left at home to take care of her dog, Spit, she spies upon him and freaks out about the nature of their relationship. She reluctantly allows Mallory to come to the office to act as an intern,

Mallory - Separated now from Mitch, she and Coyote get closer. She eagerly goes to meet Nick when Grace finally is willing to introduce him to her daughters. She is very bitter about her divorce and marriage in general. She helps Grace out after her knee surgery and stands in for Frankie when Allison goes into labor,

Coyote - Waiting for his girlfriend to be sober for one year, he starts as fairly miserable in the relationship, but otherwise happy. He finds himself unable to tell his father about his loathing of soft cheeses. He waits out his girlfriend's sobriety, but gets a lot of help from Mallory on how to treat her better,

and Bud - Still dating Allison, they are having a baby together, but have no plans for marriage. He proposes to Allison and is surprised when that leads her to reveal she won't marry him without a prenup. He finds he is exhausted as a new parent, but wants very much to work with Allison to raise their daughter together.

The performances in Grace And Frankie Season Four are homogeneously solid. All of the main cast knows their roles and they have them mastered. June Diane Raphael continues to be one of the all-time greats at delivering sarcastic lines flawlessly and Martin Sheen gets to play exhausted in some new and interesting ways. The scenes between Lily Tomlin and Talia Shire have surprisingly strong on-screen chemistry and a sense of realism to them. Lisa Kudrow plays Sheree much like she played Phoebe on Friends, but Peter Gallagher makes a pretty poignant new character as Nick.

Ultimately, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie keeps all the important quality levels high while still being an amazing mix of humor and heart!

For other works from the 2017 - 2018 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"The Last Day" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Trial Of The Flash" - The Flash
"Legion Of The Super-Heroes" - Supergirl
"The Wolf Inside" - Star Trek: Discovery
"Twice Upon A Time" - Doctor Who
The Orville - Season 1
The Punisher - Season 1
Inhumans - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 2
Rick And Morty - Season 3
"Beebo The God Of War" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" - Arrow
Twin Peaks - Season 3 ("The Return")
Game Of Thrones - Season 7
The Defenders - Season 1
Friends From College - Season 1


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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0-3 On Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Food For Cats!

The Good: Nothing that I can find
The Bad: Short shelf life, Expensive, None of my cats will eat it . . . at all!
The Basics: Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is one of the worst cat foods I've ever tried to subject my three cats to!

My cats are not what I would call especially picky eaters. My cats try all sorts of food that I bring home for them and they are very much used to having their diets changed about every six months. After the last cat food that my two boys and little girl were fairly neutral to, I was pretty excited to give them a new premium cat food. Elim, Evie and Timber were given Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats four days ago . . .

. . . and after a three day hunger strike, I ran out last night and got them a different food and all three eagerly consumed it as soon as I got home.

That makes the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats absolutely worthless.


Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a cat food formulated for all cats, but given that none of my cats would touch it, it is hard to argue how effective it is. The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food regularly comes in a three pound heavy paper bag that is not resealable.

The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food comes in hard pieces are three different shapes: tiny cylinders, hearts and chicken legs.

Ease Of Preparation

Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a hard cat food that comes in a small bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. Timber, Evie and Elim got between 1/2 and a full cup of the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food each per day. The three cats were given the proper serving size four days ago . . . none of the cats consumed any of it.

Elim, Evie And Timber’s Reactions

The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food smells strongly of grains. It does not even smell like the chicken meal, which is the first ingredient. Instead, this is a very grainy-smelling cat food.

Perhaps that is why none of the three cats we have would touch this food. Seriously; they went on a hunger strike for three days. My wife said she caught one of the cats yesterday eating some of Benny's dog food. None of the cats would eat any of the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats and they would rather starve or seek out other food than even try this food. That's pretty bad.


The Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a supposedly nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 34% crude protein and 14% crude fat. With no more than 4% crude fiber and 10% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced and nutritious for most cats . . . if they could ever be enticed into eating any of it. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area; our cats drank more while they were actively avoiding eating this food!

The main ingredients in the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats are: chicken meal, potatoes and corn.


Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is an absolute failure as none of my wonderful cats would even try it!

For other cat foods, please visit my reviews of:
Tiki Cat Velvet Mousse Tuna & Mackerel Cat Food
Nutro Indoor Fine White Fish & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food
Friskies Classic Pate Turkey & Giblets Dinner


For other cat products, please be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Ballad Of May And Robin Plays Out On "The Last Day"

The Good: Good performances, Decent special effects and direction
The Bad: Simplistic plot, Plot-heavy, Creates even more continuity issues, Light on character development
The Basics: "The Last Day" brings Robin to a relevant place in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but muddies the story of the fifth season even more.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a weird television series. Almost every season, the show takes a decent portion of the season to get going. The show usually starts a season off going in one direction, takes a significant turn several episodes in, and then comes together in the last few episodes. The fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a bit longer to get going because its premise forces the viewer to live in denial of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (by believing that, in our time, the Earth could be destroyed) and because to rectify its current plotline and problems, it has to contradict its own, established, tenants - the episode "Spacetime" (reviewed here!) established that for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. time travel is not actually possible, or that it is not possible to change the future even if it is witnessed in advance. So, fans of the show, who have some sense of precedent from the prior seasons, are likely to have hung in until "The Last Day," which shows all of the telltale signs of moving the season from its initial plotline into its secondary, longer plot (i.e. what the season will truly be about).

"Together Or Not At All" (reviewed here!) led directly into "The Last Day" as the fugitive Agents in the future, encountered Robin Hinton. Hinton, ironically-enough, was introduced in "Spacetime" when the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. rules about time travel were established. After Robin's father - an actual clairvoyant Inhuman - was killed, Robin's family was provided for by Daisy and she was integral to helping Fitz determine what had happened to the other Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. "The Last Day" does a decent job of recharacterizing Robin as a vital and surprisingly well-rounded character.

In 2018, Zephyr One is flying with Robin aboard, when she predicts that they will survive a crash when it encounters a gravity storm. In the future, May interviews Robin and is thrilled when her friends crash in the traller nearby. Deke meets with Samuel Voss, another fugitive living in the wreckage of the zephyr and protecting Robin. On the Lighthouse, Kasius discovers that there are humans still living on the surface of Earth and he sends Sinara after Quake. Kasius sets the humans on the Lighthouse against one another by cutting the power after he cuts the water, to turn the humans against Flint. Robin predicts to Coulson that this is the final day.

Mack, Rodriguez, and Flint head to Level 3, despite the "roaches" to recover weapons and supplies that Fitz left there. On the Zephyr, Fitz and Simmons discover the device that allowed humans in the future to activate the portal that brought most of the Agents to the future. Robin remembers a very different future; one where the world is destroyed and May takes care of her. While Rodriguez goes to fight the Kree, May keeps care of Robin. When Voss gives the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents a fragment of the monolith that brought them to the future, Deke becomes suspicious of how he obtained it. Voss reveals that he believes that the way to save the future is to kill Daisy.

"The Last Day" is a plot-heavy episode, which is pretty much necessary to putting together the pieces of the season's prior episodes. "The Last Day" features flashbacks that are tough for fans to truly get behind. In order for the flashbacks in 2018 and 2022 to make any sense, one has to acknowledged right away that they take place in a tangent timeline. In that tangent timeline, Fitz, Simmons, and May survive Zephyr One's crash - and the end of the world - with Robin and they leave the blueprints behind for a time machine that will allow the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in the distant future to return to the past. The issue, for those watching this season, is that for one to become emotionally invested in the storyline, one has to wrestle with the fact that Fitz is being shown alive and active in the past when he would have been in cryogenic stasis.

The technical aspect of "The Last Day" is actually a pretty simple concept: in the original timeline, the Agents were not abducted in the diner and sent to the future, so time went in one direction, which led to the end of the world and the subsequent Kree enslavement. When Enoch led a team to send the Agents into the future, it created, essentially, a temporal loop. In breaking the tangent timeline, the viewer has to believe that the team makes it back to prevent the events that lead to the destruction of the Earth. Unfortunately, near the end of the episode, it is made clear that the events Robin recalls occur with versions of the Agents who had returned from the future. That makes a mess out of the whole temporal loop.

Coulson is restored in a very real way to be the leader of his S.H.I.E.L.D. team in "The Last Day," but the real character arc comes from May and Robin. In the flashbacks, it becomes clear early on that May saves Robin from the end of the world. Given that Robin's mother is not present in any of the flashbacks, it is fairly obvious that May becomes her caretaker. That is an interesting twist for May's character; she has loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. but never to any people to the extent shown in "The Last Day." Lacking any institutions or causes, it fits May's character nicely that she would actually become determined to keep one person, like Robin, alive.

Ming-Na Wen has great on-screen chemistry with both Willow Hale and Ava Kolker, who play Robin at various ages. Their on-screen chemistry helps to adequately sell the transitions in May's life as being realistic and reasonable.

Throughout "The Last Day" is a b-plot that features Rodriguez and Mack liberating the Lighthouse from the roaches and then freeing the people there. There's a poignancy to that subplot that is lost by not seeing Yo-Yo's fate on-screen in the "original" timeline. Rodriguez goes off to fight the Kree while May advocates for waiting it out on the miserable future. Presumably, Kasius and the first Kree slaughter those who fight, but Rodriguez liberating the humans in the future she tried to prevent would have played more powerfully had the viewer seen how she died trying to prevent the horrible future.

Ultimately, "The Last Day" prepares the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to return to the past to stop this tangent future and the pieces are in place for it. Unfortunately, because it appears that returning to the past will only close the loop - Voss notes that Quake went off to destroy the world, even after seeing the future that resulted and Fitz in the flashbacks asserts that trying to change time is a futile endeavor and that they may have already attempted to alter time multiple times - the viewer is put in the unenviable position from where "The Last Day" goes to sit through the remainder of the season with the characters being moved into place where they will try to stop the future, be near to destroying the Earth and then pull back from that.

The result is a necessary bridge episode that continues to, unfortunately, play to the weaknesses of the earlier episodes of the season, as opposed to moving Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. past those defects.


For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Best Of The Bunch: Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly Jelly Beans Are Good!

The Good: Wonderful initial flavor, Good ingredients, Generally affordable
The Bad: Taste fades unfortunately fast!
The Basics: Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys are easily the best component of the Krispy Kreme line . . . which makes one want to consume more, but that undermines their flavor!

I have not been, admittedly, the biggest fan of the Krispy Kreme line of Jelly Belly jelly beans. They have, much like their source material, largely been disappointing. That said, there was one that I could not get enough of. That was the Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly bean! Unfortunately, the only real problem I could find with these Jelly Belly jelly beans was that they became generically sweet if one ate more than ten in a single sitting! That's a pretty severe detraction when one actually enjoys a confection!

For those who might never have had Jelly Belly jelly beans, these are easily the best jelly beans on the planet, packing a lot of flavor into a very small size. Unlike most jelly beans which are only vaguely flavored and are more based on colors, Jelly Belly jelly beans have a wide variety of actual flavors, like the Mint Mint Chocolate Chip, The Snapple Assortment, Krispy Kreme Chocolate Sprinkle Doughnut or their signature flavor Buttered Popcorn.

Who needs up to ten pounds of Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys? Anyone who loves blueberry doughnuts, but has amazing restraint will enjoy these!


Glazed Blueberry Cake is a flavor of Jelly Belly jelly beans from the Krispy Kreme Assortment of Jelly Bellys! Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are approximately one half inch long by one quarter inch wide and they are roughly bean-shaped. These little candies are marketed to taste like Glazed Blueberry Cake doughnuts and they manage to do that surprisingly well.

Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys are available in a wide array of quantities, but they are least expensive by the ten pound box. Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys are easy to recognize. The Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly beans are a pearlescent tan with dark blue spots jelly bean that actually is reminiscent of the coloring of the actual doughnuts upon which these beans are based.

Ease Of Preparation

These are jelly beans, not cultivating a blueberry patch! Preparing them is as easy as opening the bag in the box and popping one (or a handful) into your mouth. In the case of the ten pound box, one might want to put them in a candy dish of some form as opposed to risking spilling them each time one goes into the bag.


The Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys have a mild aroma that actually manages to effectively hint at blueberries! The scent of these jelly beans is subtle, but inviting.

On the flavor front, the Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly beans are a very pleasant surprise! The taste of these jelly beans managed to very effectively transition between a variety of flavors. The coating is sweet in a fairly nondescript way. But then, the beans transition to a very fruity, strongly berry, flavor. The taste of blueberries is distinct and different from other blueberry-flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans. But the fruit flavor is not the finishing one; the flavor transitions nicely to a doughnut-like flavor with a bready quality to it!

Unfortunately, the Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are one of the flavors of Jelly Bellys where, if one consumes more than 10 in a single sitting, the beans take on an entirely generic sweetness that eliminates all of the subtlety and complexity of the main flavor palate. These beans have a fairly strong sweet aftertaste that endures in the mouth for about five minutes after the last of the beans is consumed.


These are jelly beans, so one has to recall that they are based on something that is not at all nutritious. The Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are not a legitimate source of nutrition. These are a dessert and are in no way an adequate substitute for a real meal. A serving is listed at twenty-seven beans, with each Jelly Belly jelly bean having approximately four calories. This means that in a single serving, there are 110 calories.

Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are not as bad as they could be in the nutrition area. They have no fat and no protein, but for those who have ever dated a Vegan, these are Vegan-compliant to most Vegans because they contain no gelatin. Vegans who might take issue with these as being Vegan-compliant are the ones who have an issue with the use of bee's wax in the coating, so know your Vegan before buying! The Glazed Blueberry Cake beans have only one percent of the daily sodium with 15 mg and they are gluten free! The main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and modified food starch, so it's not like this is an all-natural food, but they could be far, far worse.


Jelly Belly jelly beans have a shelf life of approximately almost two years and I have yet to run across a stale Jelly Belly and Glazed Blueberry Cake are no exception. They remain freshest when they are kept in an airtight container (the bag in the box is sufficient if it is kept closed) and they ought to be kept in a lukewarm environment. Storing them in hot places is likely to make the beans stick together and be gross. Kept in a cool, dry place, the beans retain their flavor perfectly; the package I picked up last week had an April 6, 2019 expiration date.

As for cleanup, unless one allows the Jelly Belly to get hot to the point that the waxy coating on the bean melts, the dyes on these do not bleed or denature, so there is usually no cleanup necessary, not even washing one's hands after eating them (always wash your hands before eating Jelly Bellys, just as you would before eating a doughnut). I've never had Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys stain anything.


Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys are a surprisingly good jelly bean that is almost enough to redeem the otherwise unimpressive Krispy Kreme jelly bean line. Should that line end, this is the one flavor that ought to survive from it!

For other Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor reviews by me, please check out:
Cinnamon Apple Filled
Egg Nog
Raspberry Dips


For other Jelly Belly reviews, please be sure to visit my Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fear Inside The Creepy Impossible Dollhouse On Doctor Who: "Night Terrors!"

The Good: Moments of effective creepy mood, Performances
The Bad: No real character development, Simplistic horror plot
The Basics: "Night Terrors" is an incongruent one-off horror episode that allows Doctor Who to incorporate a simple scary doll/haunted house story.

After a massive and important Doctor Who event like the one that culminated in "Let's Kill Hitler" (reviewed here!), the natural direction for a series like Doctor Who is . . . creepy doll episode?! Unlike the Star Trek franchise where massive event episodes and arcs are usually followed by at least one episode of introspection and dealing with consequences, Doctor Who has a tendency to simply leap back to a different, familiar, formula in the form of a creepy bottle episode. After "Let's Kill Hitler," that incongruous episode is "Night Terrors."

Opening in a crowded apartment in the present, a boy is told to put his fears in the cupboard before bed. George's fear is so powerful that it reached out across time and space to The Doctor, who gets a message on his psychic paper. The Doctor arrives with Amy and Rory and as they begin to interview residents of the building, the child, George, continues to get more and more afraid. While The Doctor meets with Alex, George's father, Mrs. Rossiter (a neighbor George is afraid of) is sucked into a pile of garbage. At the same time, Amy and Rory crash in an elevator and wake up in an abandoned house.

Amy and Rory discover that objects in the abandoned dwelling are not all they appear to be (like a copper pan that is actually just painted wood) and they are hunted by a mysterious shadowy creature. The Doctor interviews and hangs out with George, trying to figure out what is going on. When the landlord, Purcell, comes around for the rent, he and Alex square off. Shortly thereafter, The Doctor determines that George is an impossible child when he gets Alex to admit that his wife was unable to have children. Amy and Rory witness a creepy doll absorb Purcell into their ranks right before Alex and The Doctor end up in the dollhouse in the cupboard with them! The Doctor works to figure out exactly what George is and stop him while Amy and Rory fight to survive the creepy dolls hunting them through the dollhouse.

There is something oddly preposterous about the set-up of "Night Terrors" in that writer Mark Gatiss make's a single boy's nebulous fear so powerful that he is able to summon The Doctor. Implicit in that call is the idea that no other fear - like from a child being sexually abused by a parent or impoverished children in Africa suffering as slavers come to their village - has that intensity. That is utter b.s.

Similarly odd is the lack of references to River Song or Melody Pond. Come to think of it, why wouldn't Melody Pond's fear - being alone as a child on the streets of New York in Earth's past - have called the TARDIS?! But, immediately after Amy Pond has been pregnant and tracked down her child, The Doctor's current call has to do with children and there is no mention of the Ponds's child. That seems like a severe character problem in "Night Terrors."

Mood trumps character for the bulk of "Night Terrors" as The Doctor buys into George's fear and the haunted cupboard. Amy and Rory's plotline is all mood as they wander the abandoned house, followed by creepy childish laughter as they discover essential aspects of the house are not real - like the door knobs and clocks. But when the first living doll appears, the mood is broken by The Doctor being strangely ridiculous about whether or not to open the cupboard. The mood snaps right back, though, with Purcell getting sucked into his floor and The Doctor and Alex opening the cupboard while a horrified George looks on in terror.

The direction in "Night Terrors" is adequate for the presentation of a script that has an unfortunately erratic balance between horror and humor. Similarly, the performances are good, but they do not add up to anything more than servicing the creepy mood. In other words, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill do an adequate job of running and looking freaked out by the life-sized dolls that are assimilating people, but that does not lead to any deeper character revelations or any stretching of their performance abilities.

The net result is a horror episode of Doctor Who that does not truly add anything to the series.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!

For other works with Daniel Mays, please check out my reviews of:
Victor Frankenstein


For other movie and television reviews, please visit my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap Is Fun, But Overpriced!

The Good: Impressive lather, Amazing scent!
The Bad: Expensive, No scrubbing grit, Not antibacterial
The Basics: Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is a fun way to get clean with a partner, but beyond that, it's just an expensive bar of soap!

Who pays $8 for a bar of soap? Well, it turns out when my wife is in a good mood and enjoying being out of the house shopping with me, I do. At least, that's what happened when we went together to our favorite local Hallmark's open house a little while ago. During that shopping trip, as my wife loaded our basket up so we'd get better freebies, one of the items I consented to buy her was a bar of Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap.

The Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is a good Natural Plant Oil Soap, but it is a niche market that cares about plant oil soaps . . . and it's an $8 bar of soap. Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is exceptionally aromatic and cleans fairly well without drying out one's skin at all. In the steamy environment of a shower or bath, the environment takes on the scent of being immersed in a pina colada. This is not an unpleasant scent at all. The 7 oz. bar is available at specialty stores and, thus far, the only place I have found them in my neck of the woods is Hallmark Gold Crown stores. The Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is an easy-to-use product that leaves skin feeling clean and leaves no lasting aroma. When one is especially dirty, the Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap gets one clean and it deodorizes well when one scrubs.

Despite the expense, I was impressed by how the Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap lathers up. This bar of soap seems to last longer and give more consistent results because of its lather quality.

The Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is an opaque white bar of soap. This is a smooth Natural Plant Oil Soap, so it does nothing to exfoliate the skin. Using the Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is simple. Simply unwrap the paper wrapper from around the soap, wet, and lather. This soap is very slippery when wet, so it is important to get a good grip on this Natural Plant Oil Soap.

The Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap has a very clear aroma to it. This Natural Plant Oil Soap smells precisely like a pina colada. It makes anyone's bathing experience smell just like pineapple and coconut and for anyone who loves a pina colada - even just the aroma - is likely to enjoy this product in action.

Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap is not antibacterial, but it seems to clean very well. So, while some soaps do more with grit and antibacterial power, the Wavetree & London Australia Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Natural Plant Oil Soap seems to clean just fine without any gimmicks. Of course, there are other soaps that do more for less money, just without the amazing scent . . .

For other skin cleaners, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
White Rain Ocean Mist Body Wash
C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body vitamin Body Wash
Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash


For other health and beauty product reviews, please visit my Health And Beauty Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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"The Trial Of The Flash" Goes . . . Exactly As Fans Of The Flash Would Expect!

The Good: Moments of character, Good direction, The performances are good
The Bad: Rushes the introduction of Fallout, Light on character development (Ralph Dibny is the moral core of the episode?!)
The Basics: "The Trial Of The Flash" begins on The Flash, with a very different direction from the source material!

Fans of The Flash from the DC Comics book series have had a lot of big events in the story of Barry Allen to look forward to in the television show. In fact, it did not take die-hard fans long at all to start predicting that the newspaper seen from the future in the pilot episode was an allusion to where the series could logically end with The Flash performing the ultimate sacrifice during the Crisis On Infinite Earths. But, between the beginning and the probable end, there are a few solid storylines from The Flash comic books that fans are likely to cream themselves waiting to see on television. As The Flash returns from its midseason hiatus, one such storyline has come: "The Trial Of The Flash."

In the source material, The Trial Of The Flash (reviewed here!) is a major event that, for a while, changed the trajectory of both Barry Allen and The Flash comic book. But, given that "The Trial Of The Flash" is a follow-up to "Don't Run" (reviewed here!) and not a plotline in which The Flash appears to murder the Reverse Flash after he kills Iris, obviously the television show is just using the name, not the plotline. In "Don't Run," DeVoe managed to place his incredible mind into a new body, one that was better euipped to handle his mental bandwidth (and was not dying at an accelerated rate). In the process of disposing of his native body, DeVoe framed Barry Allen as his killer.

Barry Allen asserts that he is being framed, but he allows Ramon to alter the GPS coordinates on his ankle monitor to allow him to meet with the team at S.T.A.R. Labs. With the team assembled, Ramon and Wells realize that when Barry Allen came out of the Speed Force, one of the things he stated was that he did not kill anyone. While they look into other things Barry said when apparently speaking gibberish, Joe West tasks Ralph Dibny with finding clues that might prove Barry innocent. While Marlese DeVoe adapts to her husband's new body, the trial of Barry Allen progresses rapidly with Anton Slater prosecuting based on the mountains of evidence against Barry.

Captain Singh is called to testify against Barry, but Horton - who is representing Barry Allen - manages to turn his testimony to her advantage. While some of the S.T.A.R. Labs team works to catch the latest metahuman who appeared to attack a bank, Dibny manages to get photographs of Marlese kissing DeVoe in his new body. After advocating for Barry to reveal himself on the stand, Horton gets the evidence needed to exonerate Barry. Unfortunately, Marlese is able to turn the revelation of Dominic Lanse to her advantage. When a metahuman on the streets forces Barry Allen to leave his trial, Allen, Snow and Ramon have to drain Fallout of his lethal radiation. While they are able to save Central City, they are not able to forestall the inevitable conclusion to the trial.

"The Trial Of The Flash" is a largely straightforward episode of The Flash, with the titular trial dominating the episode. While most fans of the source material might be geeking out over the altered version of the Flash's big court case, I was actually excited by the first appearance of Fallout. In Geoff Johns's tenure writing The Flash, Fallout was one of the most pitiable and intriguing metahumans he created. Johns made a metahuman who was haplessly dangerous and who willingly confined himself in Iron Heights away from people so he could not hurt them. Indeed, when Rogues and others broke out of Iron Heights, Fallout often remained behind. In "The Trial Of The Flash," Neil is introduced as a b-plot, like pretty much every other metahuman on The Flash.

Neil, Fallout, is presented in "The Trial Of The Flash" as a metahuman with no control over his abilities and he is performed with a sadness that is instantly palpable. Fallout is used in "The Trial Of The Flash" as part of DeVoe's endgame, which allows him to force Barry Allen out of the courtroom. Instead of giving Fallout a slower arc that allowed him to develop in such a way that his tragic nature could be explored and he could be stopped in a more compelling way. Instead, Killer Frost, Vibe and The Flash do a heroic team-up, Neil gets a line or two out to indicate he is not in control and he has to be stopped. But Fallout deserved more and while it is easy to feel sympathy for him, he is hardly the empathetic character he is in the books.

Phil Chipera provides good direction for "The Trial Of The Flash." The episode feels different from many of the others, even if it is unfortunately predictable. The result is a real split decision on the return of The Flash.

For other midseason premiere episodes on The Flash, please visit my reviews of:
"Revenge Of The Rogues"
"Potential Energy"
"Borrowing Problems From The Future"


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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It Could Always Use More Candy . . . Edy's Kit Kat Ice Cream!

The Good: Good chocolate flavor, Generally good ingredients, Inexpensive
The Bad: Not enough Kit Kat pieces, Nutritionally mediocre
The Basics: Edy's Kit Kat Ice Cream is all right, but it leaves the consumer wishing for more Kit Kat pieces than the ice cream possessed . . .

I have to give a lot of credit to Edy's; the ice cream maker tries a lot of cool flavors with a lot of neat additives. Edy's makes an effort to innovate in a pretty tight market. But, as much as I appreciate the effort, Edy's does not always succeed as much as one might hope. With their Kit Kat ice cream, I found myself wishing for more, despite how I bought the ice cream the moment I could find it locally! This was an ice cream with a good idea - a chocolate base with broken up chunks of Kit Kat candy bars - that just did not contain enough candy pieces to land the concept.


Edy’s ice cream comes in a one and a half quart cylindrical container. The Kit Kat Ice Cream is a generally smooth, creamy ice cream: the basic ice cream has little bits of Kit Kat embedded throughout the ice cream. At (locally) $5.49 a half gallon, the Edy’s ice cream is an affordable, mid-range ice cream. This is a Limited Edition ice cream, available from Edy’s only for an indeterminate amount of time.

Ease Of Preparation

Edy’s Kit Kat Ice Cream is a very basic ice cream. As an ice cream, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Kit Kat Ice Cream.


The Kit Kat Ice Cream has a strong chocolate aroma to it. The smell of this ice cream gets, predictably, more potent as the dessert nears its melting point. This is a fairly aromatic ice cream and the scent that comes from it is very inviting to anyone who loves chocolate.

In the mouth, the Kit Kat ice cream is delightfully chocolatey. This is a darker-tasting chocolate ice cream. Instead of being generically sweet, the Kit Kat ice cream bears a more realistic chocolate flavor and, as such, it finishes a little drier than other chocolate ice creams. The Kit Kat ice cream has a sweetness to its chocolate flavor, but it is not the dominant element of the flavor palate; this is a more forceful, than smooth, chocolate flavor and as one who loves dark chocolate, I found that very inviting. Unfortunately, the Kit Kat pieces within the ice cream are few and far between and they manifest more as an occasionally crispy, more often soggy, additive that is less flavorful and more of a texture.

Edy's Kit Kat ice cream has a comparatively mild, sweeter, aftertaste to it that lasts in the mouth for a few minutes after the last of the ice cream is consumed.


The Edy’s Kit Kat Ice Cream is a fairly smooth ice cream with a candy additive that is harder than the ice cream and much more soggy than a traditional, dry, Kit Kat candy bar. The one and a half quart container represents twelve half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 140 calories, 45 of which are from fat. The five grams of fat represent 8% of the RDA of fat, with 15% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the three grams of saturated fat in this ice cream. One serving has less than 5 mg of cholesterol (that’s 2% of the RDA!) and 55 mg of Sodium (2% RDA). The only other real nutrient is three grams of protein, though there is also 8% of the RDA of Calcium and 2% of the RDAs of Iron and Vitamin A in the Kit Kat Ice Cream.

Edy’s Kit Kat Ice Cream has decent ingredients, despite the generally unremarkable nutritional benefits of the ice cream. Made primarily of Skim Milk, sugar and candy pieces, Kit Kat is a well-made ice cream! There is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list. Obviously, it contains milk ingredients. The Edy's Kit Kat ice cream is also marked with allergy warnings for wheat, peanut, and soy. As a result, Kit Kat ice cream is neither Kosher nor gluten free.


Edy’s ice cream is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months. The container I purchased weeks ago had an expiration date of August 20, 2018, so it seems to have a fairly god shelf life.

The Kit Kat ice cream is a very dark brown ice cream that will stain any light colored fabrics. The ice cream is enhanced by chocolate pieces that will continue to melt as the ice cream melts off it. When the ice cream melts and gets onto fabrics, it will require one to wash it right out. On nonporous surfaces, the ice cream wipes off exceptionally easily, at least with a hot cloth.


Edy’s Kit Kat ice cream is good for those who want a rich chocolate ice cream, but not all that satisfying for embodying or including a Kit Kat candy bar flavor.

For other Edy's frozen desserts, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Vermont Maple Syrup Ice Cream
Mint Brownie Ice Cream


For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

The "Legion Of Super-Heroes" Make An Unremarkable Entrance On Supergirl!

The Good: Alex's one big character moment, Brainiac-5 is well-introduced
The Bad: Plot plods along, Predictable, Light on significant character moments, No amazing performance moments
The Basics: Supergirl introduces the "Legion Of Super-Heroes" in an unfortunately dull way.

A few years ago, I was opening DC Comics trading cards and I pulled multiple sketch cards of a character I did not recognize. The character, after a little research, turned out to be Saturn Girl from the Legion Of Super-Heroes, which was not a title I was familiar with. I spoke with a comic book shop owner, who described the series as a futuristic Justice League that never really was able to support its own title, though it had a strangely loyal and rabid fan base. I was pretty shocked at the price those sketch cards of Saturn Girl sold for, but I've never had any customers ask specifically for characters from the, apparently, oft-cancelled title. So, when Supergirl teased the Legion Of Super-Heroes back in the episode "Solitude" (reviewed here!), with a ring from that group in Kal-El's Fortress Of Solitude, it seemed like only a matter of time before The CW tried to make that heroic team mainstream by inserting them into the show. Their proper introduction comes in "Legion Of Super-Heroes."

"Legion Of Super-Heroes" follows the events of the midseason finale, "Reign" (reviewed here!), and it is tough to discuss without mentioning where that episode left off. After all, "Reign" left Supergirl badly beaten and National City was at the mercy of the next big Supergirl super-villain.

Kara awakens to a knock on the door. At the door is Querl Dox, Brainiac-5 from the Legion Of Super-Heroes, who reveals that Kara is in a coma and he has been awakened by Mon-El to stabilize her neural pathways bring her out of her coma. At the Legion ship, J'onn J'onzz worries that they will be unable to save National City without Supergirl. At her house, Samantha seems disturbed seeing the picture of Reign on the newspaper and she returns to her own Fortress. She comes back to National City where she kills a thief and declares war upon crime in National City. At the DEO, Mon-El reveals that most history was lost by the 31st Century and that the Legion Of Super-Heroes can have limited involvement in thwarting Reign.

After Mon-El proves to Alex Danvers that the Legion members cannot be killed in the past, J'onn makes a detour to try to keep Kara's cover with Luthor intact. Alex lays a trap for Reign and she and J'onn are shocked when Reign is able to shrug off the last supply of Kryptonite the DEO has. In Kara's mind, Brainiac discovers that Kara might have a reason to stay in her head when Kara remembers a pet she had as a child. While waiting for Kara to regain consciousness, the Legion comes together at the National City prison where Reign is cleaning house!

"Legion Of Super-Heroes" has Reign as the rising threat in National City and the idea that the DEO has prepared for a rogue Kryptonian threat. The idea that after Kal-El had the DEO eliminate the world's Kryptonite supply a new Kryptonian would have an edge on the DEO and National City is a cool one.

Finding a balance in "Legion Of Super-Heroes" between the threats posed by Reign and the process of getting Kara out of her coma takes a little while. Peppered in between the threat and the surreal medical issue is a romantic subplot involving the budding romance between Lena Luthor and James Olsen. The two kissed in "Reign" and in "Legion Of Super-Heroes," Olsen's concern about Kara's health creeps into his relationship with Luthor. Lena manages to maintain her smart, in-control persona when dealing with "Kara" while still seeking out her friend's advice, which is a nice twist.

The surreal elements within Kara's head are a little basic. Kara has been in comas a couple of times now - the Black Mercy parasite in season 1 comes instantly to mind - so the transition from Kara wounded to the real world hardly seems original now. Moreover, it is a trope that has been done on other DC Television Universe works. The real purpose of Kara's coma storyline seems to be to introduce Brainiac-5 in a compelling way. That aspect of the scenes where Kara is unconscious are the most successful.

The acting in "Legion Of Super-Heroes" is mostly-good. Melissa Benoist gets to play unconscious, mellow and as J'onn J'onzz impersonating Kara, which gives her a lot to do. Benoist plays all the roles well, but she is more of a supporting performer in "Legion Of Super-Heroes" than she is in most episodes. Chris Wood, Jesse Rath and , by contrast, managed to play off one another to make it seem entirely plausible that the three had had extensive time interacting with one another before this episode.

The Lena Luthor/James Olsen relationship starts to show off its potential in "Legion Of Super-Heroes." Luthor has been one of the more interesting Supergirl characters and James Olsen has been a character who the show has struggled to find an interesting direction for. Olsen has drifted from "will they or won't they" love interest in the first season to Guardian in the second season and with Kara virtually eliminating crime in National City by the beginning of the third season, Olsen has been pretty generically stuck in the role of a reporter and editor at CatCo Worldwide Media. The potential of the relationship between Luthor and Olsen is that the show might find a good stride for Olsen and give Lena a chance to move beyond the "I'm a different type of Luthor" characterization.

Ultimately, "Legion Of Super-Heroes" is an episode that is somewhat hoisted on its own petard; whenever the titular character is put in a coma, she has to come out of it. Super hero shows like Supergirl usually concoct a fight sequence that allows the hero to come out of their wounded state swinging and "Legion Of Super-Heroes" does nothing to defy that paradigm, it merely embraces and embodies it. The result is a lackluster return to Supergirl as opposed to a proper demonstration of what the Legion Of Super-Heroes can actually do.

For other midseason premieres, please visit my reviews of:
"Supergirl Lives" - Supergirl
"Despite Yourself" - Star Trek: Discovery
"Bouncing Back" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Weird Pseudo-Cracker, Blue Diamond Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt Underwhelm!

The Good: Does not taste bad
The Bad: Very bland, Not incredible on the nutrition or expense front
The Basics: Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt snacks are a weird, somewhat disappointing, cracker.

My wife and I have been trying a number of new things lately and with some of them, she has been spot on with her assessment. A few crackers into the box of Blue Diamond Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers, she grumbled "why does everyone try to do everything?!" And she stopped eating the crackers. I can absolutely understand her perspective; Blue Diamond makes great nuts. If the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt are any indication, they should stick with the nut market and leave crackers alone!


Blue Diamond Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are a fairly new product. The crackers are each 1 3/16" in diameter and a hair over 1/16" thick. Each cracker is slightly textured, but mostly flat. The Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are white and spotted. The surface of the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers is glazed and contains the salt.

The standard box of Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers is 4.25 oz. That represents approximately five serving. The bag within the box does little to protect the crackers from breakage, but these crackers do not seem to be very susceptible to breakage.

Ease Of Preparation

Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are very easy to consume. These are a ready-to-eat snack food and one need only open the liner inside the box, pull out twenty-seven crackers and start eating them!


The Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers smell faintly of nuts. The faint almond scent has a slightly burnt quality to it, but it is very mild. The aroma from the Blue Diamond Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt is very mild.

In the mouth, the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are vaguely salty with a hint of buttery flavor to them. The flavor is in offensive, but they taste like a blend of almonds and flour. These lack anything potent or compelling in their flavor.

Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers have no real aftertaste to them, though they leave a slightly dry sensation in the mouth when the last of them is consumed.


Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are fairly nutritious, though the cracker market has not (apparently) caught up with breakfast cereals; there are no added nutrients sprayed onto these crackers to attempt to artificially boost their nutritional value. As a result, the health benefits of the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers stand solely on their (mostly) natural and recognizable ingredients. These crackers are made primarily of rice flour, almonds and potato starch. There is actually nothing in the ingredient list that is not natural or recognizable, which is good.

A single serving of Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers is considered twenty-seven crackers (21 grams). In a full serving, there are 90 calories, 15 of which come from fat. On the plus side, there no saturated fat, nor any cholesterol in a full serving. For those watching their carbs, the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers can be eaten while on a keytogenic diet as these crackers have 17 grams of carbohydrates, with a gram of dietary fiber (16 net carbs). There are 2 grams of Protein in the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers and trace amounts of Calcium and Iron (2% RDA, each). On the plus side, while these crackers might not contribute a lot to one's daily nutritional needs, they do not detract at all from eating healthy!

The Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are marked as gluten-free! They contain milk in the natural flavorings, so they are not Vegan-compliant! I am not certain why, but I could not find any indication that the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers were considered Kosher (there is no marking for that on the box!).


Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are easy to keep fresh, provided they are kept in a cool, dry environment. When one is not eating the crackers, it helps to close the plastic bag they are in to keep moisture out. Kept such, our bag would not have expired until June 1, 2018, so these do not have the longest shelf life in the world!

Cleaning up after the Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers is generally easy; the crumbs may be wiped up fairly easily.


Mini Nut-Thins Hint Of Sea Salt crackers are a bland disappointment.

For other crackers, please check out my reviews of:
Good Thins The Beet One Sweet Balsamic Vinegar & Sea Salt
Full Circle Ranch Soy Crisps
Triscuit Dill Sea Salt & Olive Oil Crackers


For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the food reviews I have written!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ash Tyler Is The Winter Soldier In "The Wolf Inside!"

The Good: Performances are all right, Good direction/effects
The Bad: Terrible character work for most of the episode, Continuity issues, Simplistic and somewhat ridiculous plot progression.
The Basics: "The Wolf Inside" progresses Star Trek: Discovery in the Mirror Universe as Michael Burnham tries to extract critical data and survive as Captain of the Shenzhou!

Last week's Star Trek: Discovery, massive fuck yous to franchise continuity aside, was a fairly decent episode. Sticking the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery in the Mirror Universe from "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!) allowed Star Trek: Discovery to make an episode that was marginally interesting and reveal a few aspects of the characters that had not yet been dealt with. The Mirror Universe is a fun place for Star Trek writers and directors to play around and it gives the actors a chance to try some new things. Unfortunately for Star Trek: Discovery, viewers are still in the process of getting good characterization for most of the main cast to make the novelty of the Mirror Universe truly engaging. But, "Despite Yourself" was a two-parter and its second part is "The Wolf Inside."

"The Wolf Inside" picks up right after "Despite Yourself" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references to key events in the prior one. After all, "Despite Yourself" had the death of a key character - the Chief Medical Officer - at the hands of Ash Tyler and Tyler was revealed to be a memory engram implanted atop the memories of a Klingon spy whose physiology was altered. So, while Michael Burnham, Lorca and Tyler are impersonating their alternate universe selves aboard the I.S.S. Shenzhou, the key plot events of the prior episode resonate into "The Wolf Inside."

Aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, Stamets cradles his partner's body. On the Shenzhou, Burnham meets the Mirror version of Saru, who is her personal slave. Burnham keeps Tyler close and she lies to Saru when he contacts her about her lack of contact with her doppelganger. Saru has Stamets restrained during the investigation into Culbert's murder. Tilly advocates to take over Stamet's care while Burnham tries desperately to find a way to break the Imperial firewall to be able to transmit data on the U.S.S. Defiant to the Discovery. When Burnham is tasked with hunting down the Fire Wolf, the Klingon leader of the Resistance, she decides to personally infiltrate the Klingon base.

After meeting with Lorca, Burnham beams down to meet with the Fire Wolf. On the Discovery, Tilly floods Stamets's body with spores in order to try to restore Stamets's brain. Meeting with the Fire Wolf, Tyler is shocked to recognize Voq. Burnham is equally shocked when Voq brings out Sarek to determine her honesty. While Sarek is able to determine that Burnham is telling the truth about her peaceful intentions, Tyler snaps and attacks Voq. Returning to the Shenzhou, Tyler's conditioning unravels and he reveals his true nature to Burnham. Tilly manages to treat Stamets in such a way that he encounters his Mirror Universe counterpart. And as Burnham prepares to complete her mission, The Emperor arrives!

The essential conflict within Michael Burnham in "The Wolf Inside" is a problematic one for her established character. Burnham monologues early in the episode about having to supress her emotions and adopt what is needed to survive in the Mirror Universe. The issue with this conflict coming from Burnham is that she was raised as a Vulcan and has been supressing her human emotions almost the entire series so far. If anyone could repress their natural instincts without discomfort, it seems like it would be Burnham. So, the sudden conflict with her emotions feels forced. As the episode progresses, there are key moments when Burnham's upbringing as a Vulcan would seem to allow her to compartmentalize when she is left to make difficult decisions.

The positive aspect of Burnham's character in "The Wolf Inside" comes in her advocacy for the Resistance. Burnham argues that the Resistance in the Mirror Universe represents the closest to the Federation that the Mirror Universe is likely to get. She argues to interact with the Fire Wolf because it might give her the clues on how to interact with Klingons that she might be able to take back to her native universe to make peace with the Klingons. That is an honorable goal and a clever twist from the somewhat mundane direction of the rest of the character arcs in "The Wolf Inside."

"The Wolf Inside" seems to be predicated on the idea that only the main characters are at all competent. Tilly is a cadet, yet is the only member of the science, medical and/or engineering staffs who is able to treat Stamets?! Tilly is decent at solving a scientific problem, which she tries to parlay into a role in command training with Saru?! The Resistance includes most Federation races, but has Klingons swapped in for humans, which is terrible continuity with the established Mirror Universe of Star Trek and Star Trek Deep Space Nine. And when The Emperor is revealed, the character is hardly a surprise given how the show has stuck with established characters - Sarek, Voq, etc. - for the big reveals.

Tyler is arguably the least-competent spy the Klingons have ever put in the field (presumably, had he witnessed any library footage of his Klingon self, his training would have similarly unraveled). The Mirror Voq is strangely spineless and "The Wolf Inside" misses a critical opportunity to use the Mirror Sarek to reveal - and possibly mentally stabilize - Tyler's true nature.

Ultimately, "The Wolf Inside" springs a number of narrative traps laid in the early episodes, but it does so in defiance of the established character traits or in an interesting way. Even the episode's final two reversals are unsurprising and they fall flat as the music telegraphs that they are Big Moments. The result is a middle episode in the Star Trek Discovery Mirror Universe Saga that is simplistic and surprisingly dull.

For other Mirror Universe episodes, please check out my reviews of:
"In A Mirror Darkly, Part 1" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Crossover" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"The Emperor's New Cloak" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other Star Trek episode, movie, and seasons, please check out my Star Trek Review Index Page where the works are organized from best to worst!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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