Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 End Of The Month Report!

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January was a big month for the blog with the return of a lot of popular television shows and Star Trek: Discovery. The DC Television Universe was a mainstay of our reviews and the shock of the month was that our top review of the month was a legacy review! Productivity was good and we were very excited by some good growth in out readership this month.

We are adapting the Amazon product links as we reference old reviews now. Most of the links have been properly converted and the reviews now have the right products associated with them. We appreciate our readers sticking with us through Amazon reconfiguring, which is likely to continue to be ongoing for a bit longer!

This month, we picked up two new followers on Twitter and two new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading on the blog, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In January, we updated the index pages every few days and remembered to upload the changes, so the index pages continue to be a useful tool to our readers! The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As tax returns begin, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of January 2018, I have reviewed the following:
591 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
960 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
3416- - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
241 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
950 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
1102 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
291 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
116 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
234 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
218 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
110 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
62 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of January is my review of: Star Trek Beyond Trading Cards!
Check them out!

The month of January was packed with new, highly-read reviews, especially for new television works, but was topped by an awesome legacy review! For January, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. "The Trial Of The Flash" - The Flash
9. "Despite Yourself" - Star Trek: Discovery
8. Grace And Frankie - Season 4
7. "Together Or Not At All" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
6. One Day At A Time - Season 2
5. "What's Past Is Prologue" - Star Trek: Discovery
4. "The Wolf Inside" - Star Trek: Discovery
3. "Vaulting Ambition" - Star Trek: Discovery
2. The End Of The F***ing World - Season 1
1. Travellers - Season 1

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 344 reviews
9s - 645 reviews
8s - 1035 reviews
7s - 1152 reviews
6s - 1076 reviews
5s - 1368 reviews
4s - 1027 reviews
3s - 804 reviews
2s - 397 reviews
1s - 260 reviews
0s - 134 reviews
No rating - 146 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new additions to the all time Top Ten Reviews! At the end of January 2018, the most popular reviews/articles are:
10. Oz The Great And Powerful
9. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
8. Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
7. Warm Bodies
6. Iron Man 3
5. Now You See Me
4. Tyler Perry's Temptation
3. The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meh, "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" Is A Dull Mash-Up Of Simple Ideas.

The Good: Moments of adequate performance, Special effects are fine
The Bad: Underwhelming character development, No impressive performances, Two dull plots, Missing pieces.
The Basics: "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" sticks together two plots that aren't enough to fill a single episode of The Flash . . . and gives D.A. Horton random powers.

The Flash is at a weird and interesting point in its storyline. Right now, the titular character is out of action and the main plotline has become murky. The season's definitive villain, DeVoe - the Thinker -, has made a body swap and set a number of metahumans on Central City. But, because The Flash is in prison, but Vibe, Killer Frost and the Elongated Man (along with the brainpower of Harrison Wells) are all on the outside, it is hard to believe that Central City is all that vulnerable. Sticking with the S.T.A.R. Labs team being unable to rely immediately upon The Flash, "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" is another Metahuman Of The Week story.

"Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" follows on "The Elongated Knight Rises" (reviewed here!), which had Barry Allen making a friend and ally in prison, while the S.T.A.R. Labs team was stuck dealing with a Metahuman causing trouble in Central City. "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" puts another Metahuman from the bus into play.

Joe West and D.A. Horton are at home, where West is building a crib. When his wife begins accusing him of saying things, Joe and Cecile realize that she has become a telepath. Dr. Snow theorizes that Horton has had dark matter in her body since the first reactor accident. Allen, in prison, is playing cards with Big Sur, the former Mayor and another inmate when he tries to help Sur win by stacking the deck in his favor. Allen becomes interested in Big Sur's case. He insists he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Allen is convinced that the forensics evidence against Big Sur was minimal.

While the new mayor unveils the latest Kord Industries building, a new metahuman shrinks the building. When West and Ramon find ATM video footage of the metahuman making a car appear almost instantly, they and Dibny go in search of Sylbert Rundin. Unfortunately, Rundin shrinks Ramon and Dibny with his abilities. Iris discovers that Rundin stole Ray Palmer's last stash of Dwarfstar Alloy. Joe West theorizes that Rundin might have been the person who committed the murder that Big Sur was convicted for and the team goes in search of a confession.

"Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" tries to expand The Flash cast by making D.A. Horton more vital and interesting. Giving her temporary powers seems like a desperate ploy to fill time. Horton suddenly having telepathic powers does not actually add anything to the story. The viewer keeps waiting for Horton to be placed in front of Rundin to find out telepathically some detail that would help her exonerate Big Sur. Much of "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" feels like two stories that were not enough to sustain a single hour-long story being mashed together.

The shrunken Cisco Ramon and Elongated Man plotline is very basic. Wells attempts to save the pair by altering the Speed Force bazooka into a "re-embiggening" gun. Unfortunately, it destabilizes Ramon and Dibny at the cellular level. This creates a ticking clock that forces Wells to try to get the two in front of Rundin. Ramon gets the obligatory pep talk of the episode, but the take away from "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" is, unfortunately, that the Earth-2 Harrison Wells has returned to The Flash lacking in his inherent genius.

Warden Wolf finally gets a substantive role in "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team." Wolf is performed by Richard Brooks, who had a memorable role in the final episode of Firefly, and he has been very much a background character since he appeared on The Flash. Brooks has the same delivery style as how he presented Jubal Early, but without the crazy, random lines. That instantly infuses Wolf with a sense of menace to him, well before that becomes explicit.

The resolution to "Honey, I Shrunk The Flash Team" is similarly basic. The metahuman is astonishingly easy to defeat and ultimately, Barry Allen just takes Big Sur's word (the episode lacks a scene where Horton sits opposite him and confirms his versions of events from his memory, which would have definitively tied the two plots together). The result is an episode that is largely unimpressive.

For other works with Derek Mears, please check out my reviews of:
"Orientation, Part 2" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Orientation, Part 1" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Part 13" - Twin Peaks
True Blood - Season Seven
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Friday The 13th


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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Generic Sweetness, Mild Chocolate: Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Beans Underwhelm

The Good: Good ingredients, Generally affordable
The Bad: Very mild flavor, Flavor fades fast.
The Basics: Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Bellys are mediocre, which is fairly accurate for the flavor they are supposed to, but they still make for an unimpressive jelly bean.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts do not impress me. So, I am actually pretty happy to be reaching the end of my consumption of the Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme jelly bean line. The final jelly bean in the line for me to try was Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles. Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles are, sadly, about as generically sweet as the other Krispy Kreme Jelly Belly jelly beans. While there is a minimal amount of flavor, that flavor fades quickly when one consumes multiple beans.

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 Chili Mango, The Snapple Assortment, Krispy Kreme Chocolate Sprinkle Doughnut or their signature flavor Buttered Popcorn.


Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles is a flavor of Jelly Belly jelly beans from the Krispy Kreme Assortment of Jelly Bellys! Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles doughnuts, but the chocolate flavor is very mild and fades very quickly to a generically sweet jelly bean.

Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles flavored Jelly Bellys are available in a wide array of quantities, but they are least expensive by the ten pound box. Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles flavored Jelly Bellys are easy to recognize. The Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Belly jelly beans are light brown with tiny green and red spots.

Ease Of Preparation

These are jelly beans, not making chocolate icing and making homemade sprinkles! 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Bellys have no real scent to them. These jelly beans do not foreshadow the flavor of the beans at all; there is no real aroma to them.

In the mouth, the Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Belly jelly beans are overwhelmingly sweet. The generically sweet flavor takes on a slightly dry flavor reminiscent of the aftertaste of hot cocoa. The mild chocolate flavor dissipates exceptionally quickly and is replaced with a sugar flavor that is simplistic and indistinct.

Unfortunately, the Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles jelly beans are one of the flavors of Jelly Bellys where, if one consumes more than 5 in a single sitting, the beans take on an entirely generic sweetness that eliminates even the hint of chocolate flavor. These beans have a very strong sweet aftertaste that does not even endure in the mouth for very long after the last bean 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles 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 a month and a half ago 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 Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles Jelly Bellys stain anything.


Jelly Belly Chocolate Iced With Sprinkles are not bad jelly beans, but they are nowhere near as distinct or interesting as most Jelly Belly flavors!

For other Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor reviews by me, please check out:
Glazed Blueberry Cake Krispy Kreme Doughnut
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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Monday, January 29, 2018

There Is Little "For Good" In Lillian's Return To Supergirl!

The Good: Lena Luthor manages to not go over to the Dark Side, Well-directed, Fine performances
The Bad: Simplistic and contradictory characterization, Simplistic plot, Not a lot of big character moments to afford interesting performances.
The Basics: Supergirl limps through "For Good" as it attempts to find a good use for Lena Luthor.

Ensemble pieces are tough to find a good balance for. Supergirl is an ensemble piece that began with two different ensembles - Kara Danvers's CatCo Worldwide Media coworkers and Supergirl's DEO coworkers - and has slowly blended the two. In the third season, Supergirl seems to be making a desperate attempt to re-establish two ensembles, with Lena Luthor taking over CatCo, which also is making James Olsen relevant again (since his Guardian character arc pretty much fizzled out). But, as the DEO is overrun with more characters (with the appearance of the Legion Of Super-Heroes from the future) and Kara's CatCo job life has been entirely minimized this season. The CatCo ensemble gets the a-plot in "For Good."

"For Good" follows on "Fort Rozz"(reviewed here!), though it diverges from the main plot of that episode. The Reign plotline, which was front and center in "Fort Rozz" is continued as a b-plot in "For Good." While the search for the Worldkillers mentioned in "Fort Rozz" starts out "For Good," the episode follows more on Lena Luthor than Reign.

Opening with Reign, Purity and Pestilence (the Kryptonian Worldkillers) descending on a burning Earth in Kara's dream, Kara returns to the DEO where Schott indicates that the Kryptonian heat signatures are not traceable, like Kara and Kal's. While the DEO searches for a correlation between Kryptonite and Kryptonian pods that crashed to Earth, Alex takes Samantha to L-Corp for an MRI. When James Olsen and Lena Luthor are out for breakfast, they run into Morgan Edge. Moments later, Edge's car drives itself into the river and explodes. Edge survives and accuses Luthor of trying to kill him at CatCo. At L-Corp, Alex is unable to find anything wrong with Samantha's brain on the MRI and she performs a blood test.

At CatCo, an attempt is made on Lena's life and Kara flies her friend to the DEO to try to save her life. When she regains consciousness, Lena listens to Olsen's description of the assassin used by the barista and she recognizes the technology used to kill that assassin as coming from Luthor Corp. Lena visits the manufacturer of the dissolving bullet and finds her mother there. While her mother encourages her to let her kill Morgan Edge, Lena leaves her mother and returns to CatCo. Lena enlists Kara to help her save Morgan Edge's life.

Morgan Edge's return to Supergirl serves to bring Lena Luthor back to the show's forefront. Luthor's main character conflict has been to avoid falling into the anti-alien villainy that has characterized her family. Luthor wants to avoid the anger that Lena and Lex were consumed by. In the second season, Lena was interesting when she was used outside the simplistic "will she go bad or won't she" type storyline. "For Good" has her irritated and egged on by Morgan Edge. Unfortunately, "For Good" reverts to the familiar conflict for Luthor, where she is irritated by Lillian and encouraged by her mother to kill Morgan Edge. Lena's assertion that she would never act on her instinct to kill Edge is easy to take at face value and boring to watch. It is impossible to suspend disbelief that Lena would take a meeting before calling the police with a tip about Lillian Luthor's return as opposed to believing that Lena is going to simply let her mother do her own thing.

"For Good" is a weird episode of Supergirl on the character front. Kara is sloppy - flying over National City as herself - and while it is mentioned within the episode, it is not satisfactorily dealt with. The amount of time it takes Kara to change into Supergirl is insignificant compared to blowing her cover in a city filled with people likely to be looking up to see Supergirl. Alex Danvers is oddly written as well in that she suddenly has incredible medical skills and no broken leg (which she had in the prior episode). Having recently been watching the first season of Supergirl, Alex Danvers's characterization never included such advanced medical training as the ability to diagnose multiple poisons on sight. And the return of Guardian rather suddenly feels more plot-convenient than organic for James Olsen . . . who acts more like Batman than an ethics-driven vigilante.

The oddities in the characters in "For Good" reach their peak with Samantha Arias. Arias has a support network of both Danvers women and Lena Luthor who refer to Samantha as "family." That definition for the relationship seems like a dramatic overstatement. Connecting Arias (Reign) to the main cast feels forced and rushed; if Maggie had been developed as Reign, the sense of character betrayal would actually work when the inevitable revelation comes.

"For Good" is unfortunately simplistic on many fronts. The drones used by Lillian Luthor miss multiple shots, Morgan Edge has the Digital Voice Recorder in his possession for well long-enough to delete the incriminating evidence and Lena Luthor is supposed to be smart enough to know that a confession gained under a literal threat of death would never be admissible - even to a grand jury! "For Good" hints at a moment of genuine complexity, but then backs horribly away from it; Lillian Luthor heavily implies in one of her lines that she is actually behind the attempt on her daughter's life, but Edge never backs away from his coerced confession. As well, Kara roughs up a bouncer at a party with the crowd-pleasing line "don't touch women" . . . when it is the guy's job to stop people from entering the party behind him. This is not a feminist issue, but it is treated (rather ridiculously and simplistically) like one.

The result is that Supergirl is hampered by its own bloated cast; Lena Luthor is a wonderful and intriguing character who is well-performed by Katie McGrath, but the writers and executive producers seem unable to figure out how to use her in a compelling way.


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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The 2017 Darth Vader's TIE Fighter Ornament Rocks!

The Good: Great rendering, Cool sound effect, Very neat light effect, Amazing detailing
The Bad: Back-heavy
The Basics: The Darth Vader's TIE Fighter ornament is an impressive Storyteller Star Wars ornament that pops on the strand!

The Star Wars Storyteller ornament series is an intriguing concept and it will be interesting to see how Hallmark pulls off the idea. The Storyteller concept is that there are seven Star Wars ship ornaments that will fit on a single Hallmark Power Cord and interact. Hallmark, wisely, chose the Death Star attack sequence as the subject of the Storyteller line and for 2017 Hallmark released the Death Star, an X-Wing Fighter and Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. Hallmark has announced the Millennium Falcon for next year and one assumes there will be a regular TIE Fighter for the strand, leaving two wild card ornaments. Tonight, I find myself considering the 2017 Darth Vader's TIE Fighter ornament.

For those unfamiliar with the Darth Vader's TIE Fighter, this is the fighter that Darth Vader used to participate in the defense of the Death Star in A New Hope (reviewed here!). Darth Vader only used his TIE Fighter in the one battle and Hallmark made an asweome ornament of it.

Hallmark has the ship alone as the subject of the 2017 Darth Vader's TIE Fighter ornament.


The "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" ornament faithfully recreates the Imperial attack ship in fine detail that is instantly recognizable! The ornament, released in 2017, is an impressive casting of the altered Imperial ship with an immaculate paint job and very cool light and sound feature. Measuring two and one-half inches tall, 4 1/8” wide and 3 8/8” deep, the Darth Vader's TIE Fighter ornament is a re-imagining of the ornament that Hallmark made many years ago.

The Hallmark "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the ship on its own, as is typical for Hallmark's starship and vehicle line of Star Wars ornaments. Darth Vader's TIE Fighter is detailed incredibly, from the basic shape, which features the standard TIE cockpit section attached to two folded wings and an extended aft section. The cockpit is molded with the primary window in black translucent plastic, but wisely the coloring makes it impossible to see inside and thus critique Hallmark for not getting the pilot or cockpit right! The wings have different colors for the engine sections and they look incredibly accurate; Darth Vader's TIE Fighter looks identical to the model used in the film.

The coloring is as impressive as the molded details. This is essentially a black and gray fighter, with finely textured panels on the wings and panels molded into the aft section. This looks like a high-definition version of Darth Vader's TIE Fighter.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" has a light and sound function. The vehicle is powered by the special Keepsake Power Cord (which is not included). At the touch of a well-concealed button on the aft section, the Darth Vader's TIE Fighter lights up on the aft section in reaction to various sound effects. The subtle red and white light effects accent the ornament in very cool ways.

The Darth Vader's TIE Fighter plays various pieces of Darth Vader's dialogue from the final Death Star scene in A New Hope. As well, there are sounds of Darth Vader's TIE Fighter shooting its weapons and the engine noises from the vehicle that play when the ornament is powered!


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, one of the "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" ornaments is a great addition and for those collecting the Storyteller line, it is indispensible. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the ornament, right behind the cockpit section. From there, the Darth Vader's TIE Fighter hangs with a slight bias to the back. The ornament is just a little backheavy.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas from properties like Star Wars, Harry Potter and Tron. The "Darth Vader's TIE Fighter" ornament seems to be appropriately produced and it sold out at all Hallmark Gold Crown stores. The Darth Vader's TIE Fighter ornament is already appreciating on the secondary market and one has to assume that as collectors try to finish the Storyteller line, it will continue to increase in value.


The Darth Vader's TIE Fighter is a perfectly molded, perfectly colored ornament with a great sound and light effect, even if it is a little off-balance.

This is an ornament I proudly sell on my website, please feel free to check out my 2017 Darth Vader's TIE Fighter current inventory!

For other Hallmark ornaments of Star Wars ships, please check out my reviews of:
2006 Imperial AT-AT
2009 Luke's Landspeeder
2010 Rebel Snowspeeder
2011 Slave I
2012 TIE Interceptor
2013 All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST)
2014 Sandcrawler
2015 Y-Wing Starfighter
2016 T-70 X-Wing Starfighter
2017 Death Star
2017 X-Wing Fighter


For other ornament reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Resolve The Interloper: "What's Past Is Prologue" Is Simple Action-Adventure

The Good: Moments of direction, Performances are good, Special effects are cool
The Bad: Annoying camera movements, Simplistic plot, Lip service to supporting cast, No real character development
The Basics: "What's Past Is Prologue" completes the Star Trek: Discovery Mirror Universe storyline in a mediocre way that moves Star Trek: Discovery further from being able to integrate with the rest of the Star Trek franchise.

So, the big secret of Star Trek Discovery's first season is out. In "Vaulting Ambition" (reviewed here!) the revelation was made that Captain Gabriel Lorca, of late of the U.S.S. Discovery, was in fac the Mirror Universe version of Lorca. Lorca's unique defining character trait - his aversion to bright lights and strangely different eyes - was revealed to be a "tell" for Mirror Universe characters that once again reveals an astonishing lack of understanding of the canon that came before. After all, if such a tell existed, "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!) would have found Spock being far less clever in his quick understanding that the four people who beamed back to the U.S.S. Enterprise were not his crewmates as much as observant as the lighting in the transporter room would have pretty much blinded the barbaric I.S.S. Enterprise crewmembers. And, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is once again neglected entirely as Smiley, at the very least, would have - as a former slave living on the run and underground - never had access to the information or medical solution to hide in our universe for any period of time under the guise of being O'Brien (when he reached Ops, he would have been virtually blinded by the lighting and could not have held Sisko effectively at gunpoint). But, continuity has not been the forte of Star Trek: Discovery and the writer's failure to understand the Mirror Universe leaves the next episode desperate for an explanation that is unlikely to be satisfying.

That next episode is "What's Past Is Prologue" and it is saddled with satisfactorily addressing how Lorca ever ended up in our universe. After all, the idea that the U.S.S. Defiant in "The Tholian Web" (reviewed here!) fell through a hole in interphasic space and ended up in a different universe and time was fairly clever, but its crew was long dead when it made the transition. In other words, any raw data aboard the Defiant collected through passive scanning or equipment left on at the time would not have been useful to explain the transition - much like if one is performing a blood test for sugar content, the results will not tell a doctor about viruses in the bloodstream. And while the Mirror Universe is sitting atop future technology, the barbaric nature of its citizens would preclude their ability to scientifically analyze it. So, that whole conceit, established in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In A Mirror Darkly, Part 2" (reviewed here!) actually manages to work. But how any person in the Mirror Universe could use the Defiant to learn about our universe . . . and then exploit that new knowledge to travel between universes is a gargantuan problem for "What's Past Is Prologue." In fact, until the I.S.S. Defiant was built and staffed by crewmembers who served aboard the U.S.S. Defiant - based upon how all of the past Mirror Universe episodes worked and established the Mirror Universe! - things like the Defiant's crew logs and records should not have been accessible to Mirror Universe characters.

So, "What's Past Is Prologue" has a built-in burden that would leave attentive viewers utterly shocked to have answered in a way that respected existing Star Trek canon, especially given that now the Mirror Universe characters are apparently running around with extreme photosensitivity and glowing flecks in their irises. There is certain irony to the title "What's Past Is Prologue" as the Star Trek Discovery writers so frequently fail to take into account what has already been written and established and make sure that the new prequel's works fit into that. And "What's Past Is Prologue" opts for the most lazy possible explanation for the Lorca crossover (that still does not exactly explain how he knew what the Mirror Universe was).

After 212 days, Lorca releases his surviving crew from the Charon's agonizers and he teams up with Landry to find the Mirror Stamets. Stamets releases a bioweapon to kill several decks worth of Georgiou's crew. On the Discovery, Stamets explains that the spore network is degrading across the entire multiverse and that when the network is depleted, the multiverse will be destroyed. Lorca goads Georgiou into a phaser fight, which leads the two to a stalemate. Burnham, having escaped execution at the Emperor's hand, attempts to contact the Discovery to warn them about the trap they are flying into.

When Burnham finds Georgiou's sanctuary, she works to convince the Emperor to help her. While Saru commits to lead the Discovery home safely, Burnham brings Georgiou before Lorca. When the Discovery arrives, Lorca tells Saru that Burnham is staying and that acts as a signal for the Discovery to attack the Charon. The Discovery has to use the Charon's massive spore hub and Burnham must make a difficult decision pertaining to Georgiou to make the attempt to return home.

Ironically, "What's Past Is Prologue" gives more of the cast lines than ever before; for a change, there are moments when Star Trek: Discovery actually feels like an ensemble piece. The irony in this is that Cadet Tilly, as opposed to any commissioned officers on the science staff, steps up with answers. But, Detmer, Airiam, Rhys and Owosekun all get lines for a change, but there is little substance to what they say; the core five characters, Georgiou and even the returning Landry have more to contribute to the episode than the supporting cast's random utterances.

The internal continuity of Star Trek: Discovery is undermined in subtle ways in "What's Past Is Prologue." Saru has not shown a real care for Burnham before, outside the professional. So, addressing her as "friend" is almost as awkward as Lorca referring to the spore network as Stamets's "creation," as opposed to "discovery." Saru notes that Lorca did not set off his threat ganglion, but the episode completely neglects why Saru could not sense the threat Lorca represented (especially considering that he could detect Ash Tyler as a threat).

The resolution to "What's Past Is Prologue" continues to undermine Star Trek: Discovery within the Star Trek canon as the last lines of the episode make it impossible to believe the credibility of the season's events in the larger context of the show. "What's Past Is Prologue" is moving the first season of Star Trek: Discovery toward the point where its events must be completely undone to even pretend to have this series be a part of the larger Star Trek franchise. While the next episode is set up to reignite the Klingon/Federation war, the scope revealed at the end of "What's Past Is Prologue" is instantly problematic for a show that is set about nine years prior to "Errand Of Mercy" (reviewed here!). This is a huge problem for Star Trek: Discovery because the show is begging the viewers to invest in a show where it either lives in complete contradiction to established canon or lead to the inevitable reboot/reset of all they have viewed.

Lorca practices tactics aboard the Charon that are incredibly limited for a man who is supposed to be so smart. Lorca and his team draw down against Georgiou's team when he has a tremendous tactical advantage. All Lorca has to do in the confrontation is turn up the lights and make sure his team has his light-dampening occular treatment (or a decent pair of sunglasses). But, Lorca thinks in a very linear fashion in "What's Past Is Prologue."

"What's Past Is Prologue" is well-directed for its first half. Olatunde Osunsanmi makes "What's Past Is Prologue" look theatrical, even when it is physically dark. Sadly, Osunsanmi is bound by a script that includes conceits that, when visualized, look ridiculous. Mirror Universe guards apparently have the marksmanship of Star Wars Stormtroopers. In the second half of "What's Past Is Prologue," though, the camerawork becomes nauseating. Seriously, what the hell is the problem with using shots that don't move the camera, like stabilizing technology like camera stands are somehow audacious?! "What's Past Is Prologue," ironically, utilizes fewer camera movements during the climactic battle scenes than it does during a simple dialogue exchange between Tilly and Stamets.

"What's Past Is Prologue" has a very generic action-adventure feel to it, in which the problems are solved by big action sequences and physical fights and special effects. The episode is overloaded with fights and with the added elements of almost constant camera movements makes "What's Past Is Prologue" difficult to watch.

Ultimately, "What's Past Is Prologue" is an inevitable and necessary episode that resolves the Mirror Universe plotline . . . in a way that leaves our universe with a giant bull's-eye on it and with it almost impossible to believe that StarFleet personnel would not have been prepared for the transporter accident that resulted in the crossover in "Mirror, Mirror."

For other works with Rekha Sharma, please check out my reviews of:
"The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry" - Star Trek: Discovery
"Context Is For Kings" - Star Trek: Discovery
V - Season 1
Love Happens
Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem


For other Star Trek episode, movie, and seasons, please check out my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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An Impressive Accent Cheese: Yancey's Fancy Chastinet!

The Good: Good flavor, Good ingredients
The Bad: Very hard - a little difficult to work with, Not incredible on its own (works better as an ingredient than its own cheese).
The Basics: Yancey's Fancy Chastinet cheese is interesting and makes other foods better, but not exceptional on its own.

I am so used to Yancey's Fancy cheeses being filled with additional (non-cheese) flavors that it seems like such a surprise when I find one that is just a cheese on its own. In the case of Yancey's Fancy Chastinet, this is my first encounter with the Asiago-like Chastinet. This is a Chastinet, unadulterated by added meats or wine flavors or onion pieces and it was a pleasant surprise. But while the Chastinet is an intriguing and good cheese, it seemed to work better as an additive to augment other dishes and foods than it was a good cheese on its own.


Yancey's Fancy is a manufacturer of Artisan Cheeses in upstate New York and they make some very creative cheeses. The intent of most Yancey's Fancy cheeses is that they will be cheeses that hold their own as snacks that may be served to consumers in fancier settings, though the Chastinet appears to be a cheese intended as an accent piece. Yancey's Fancy specializes in cheddar cheeses that have different flavors infused into them: champagne, jalapeno, various nuts, etc., as well as more exotic cheeses like gouda with bacon. Yancey's Fancy cheeses come in wheels and most stores chop the wheels into blocks.

The Chastinet cheese is a cheese that is hard, much like Asiago.

Ease Of Preparation

Yancey's Fancy Chastinet cheese is a cheese, so more often than not, it is used on its own or as an ingredient in a recipe. This is a very hard cheese, intended to be more of an accent than a cheese consumed on its own. Preparation of the cheese is pretty simple, starting with removing the plastic wrap it is sealed in. When that is done, one may simply shred the hard cheese using a decent cheese grater. I only discovered that the outer rind might be wax after more than half my block of cheese was already gone!

When the cheese is grated or shredded, it is able to melt nicely, though with its low moisture, it has a tendency to flake off things like bread when it is melted as a sandwich topper. This does not bond to other foods, it seems, but it does melt nicely.


On its own, the Yancey's Fancy Chastinet cheese smells salty and tangy. This smells like a Parmesan or Asiago and its bouquet distinctly implies something salty.

On the tongue, the Chastinet cheese is sharp and tangy, but much more moist than a Parmesan. Salty and flavorful, the Chastinet marries the sourness and saltiness of a Parmesan with the more milky qualities of a mild cheddar. The result is a flavorful cheese that is not as sharp as a sharp cheddar, but has a range of flavors akin to a blend of cheddar and Parmesan.

Melted, the flavor does not fundamentally change; this is a salty and tangy cheese that accents all it is put upon.

The Yancey's Fancy Chastinet, surprisingly, has virtually no aftertaste to it.


Yancey's Fancy New York Artisan Cheeses are not intended to be all that one lives on. But for those who try, the Chastinet cheese is not incredible. A serving size is considered a one inch block (1 oz.). In that, there are 123 calories, 99 of which are from fat. This cheese has 30% of one's daily recommended saturated fat intake and 7% of the RDA of sodium. On the plus side, it does have 15% of the RDA of calcium and has six grams of protein.

The Yancey's Fancy Chastinet cheese is a dairy product, so those who are lactose intolerant will have problems with it. This cheese is made primarily of milk, cultures, and salt. The Chastinet appears to be all natural. This Yancey's Fancy cheese is not marked as gluten free and, obviously, it is not suitable for Vegans!


As a cheese, Yancey's Fancy Chastinet cheese should be kept refrigerated. So long as that happens, it ought to stay fresh for several weeks. I am utterly unable to write about shelf-life as our 8 oz block was gone within a month of being opened! So long as it is kept in an airtight, cold environment, it ought to remain fresh and hard.

Chastinet is a cheese, so it is not going to stain or ruin anything unless it is ground into a fabric. Baring that, cleanup of nonporous surfaces is as easy as wiping them with a damp cloth. This is so light a cheese that it is hard to imagine it staining anything.


Yancey’s Fancy Chastinet cheese is a wonderful hard cheese that augments all that it is put upon!

For other Yancey's Fancy cheese reviews, please check out my takes on:
Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger Cheddar
Steakhouse Onion Cheddar
Peppadew Cheddar


For other cheese reviews, please visit my Cheese Review Index Page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, January 26, 2018

"Best Laid Plans" Effectively Moves Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The Good: Decent plot movement, Some theme moments, Good special effects
The Bad: Very light on character development, Simple plot
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. works to resolve the Kree and destroyed Earth splot with "Best Laid Plans," which gets viewers one step closer to the characters returning to our time!

It's time, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. At some point, the story has to get out of the dismal, damaged future and get back to the time period of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As "Best Laid Plans" begins, it feels like the fifth season should be there by now. Ironically, "Best Laid Plans" features an a-plot that is potentially, utterly, inconsequential. Should the Earth be saved and time altered, anything that happens on the Lighthouse is entirely without enduring consequences; the tangent timeline of the destroyed Earth will be utterly undone. And yet, the a-plot is set on the Lighthouse for a liberation storyline.

"Best Laid Plans" follows "The Last Day" (reviewed here!), which found the team split between the downed Zephyr One on the remains of Earth and leading a rebellion against the Kree on the Lighthouse. Mack, Rodriguez and Flint remained on the Lighthouse where they were set to liberate the surviving humans from Kasius's control. In "The Last Day," the Inhumans had managed to liberate many of the humans from Kasius's control mechanisms and set the human rebellion in motion.

The Kree have the human sector of the Lighthouse on emergency power and the Kree are hunting the humans there. Flint is getting cocky as the liberation continues and Mack and Rodriguez manage to take out eight soldiers. On the Zephyr One, Coulson and his team do their best to get the ship up and running so they might use an oncoming gravitational storm to get from the ruins of Earth to the Lighthouse. Rodriguez teaches Flint how to shoot a handgun, but that alarms Mack as he believes Flint is developing a taste for killing. Kasius resurrects Tess to send her back to the human-controlled level as a message to the humans there. Tess tells the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that Kasius plans to end the human race if she does not bring him all of the Inhumans over age ten on the Lighthouse.

Coulson tries to convince Daisy to remove the Kree inhibitor in her so she can access her powers and help fight the Kree. Fitz and Simmons are alarmed to discover that the Zephyr One has been reconfigured to a future upgrade that Fitz had once designed and that the gravitonium on the Zephyr indicates that they are now part of a closed loop that means they return to the past and the Earth gets destroyed, leaving Fitz and Simmons to make changes to the Zephyr after the destruction of Earth. Facing annihilation, Mack and Rodriguez make a desperate attempt to kill Kasius and save the humans on the Lighthouse, while Simmons figures out how to get the Zephyr off the ground. Tess brings Kasius a message while Sinara stows away on the Zephyr to prevent Zephyr One's launch!

"Best Laid Plans" is a decent psychological exploration of what happens when a person with some power starts to feel the effects of having power for the first time. Flint is getting cocky and he wants to fight, after a young life of caution. Convinced by Tess that Kasius can kill them all, he becomes more and more militant. As proof is found that all the humans on the Lighthouse could be incinerated at the push of a button, Flint gets more desperate and becomes an odd choice to take on the responsibility of saving the humans on the Lighthouse.

Mack is wonderful in "Best Laid Plans" as he methodically searches for how Kasius might carry out his threats against the humans on the Lighthouse. Mack and Rodriguez have a good flirtatious moment before Rodriguez advocates wiping out Kasius. Mack uses his engineering skills to come to understand just how Kasius can execute his plans and that is compellingly presented. Mack's rationality plays off Flint's anger quite well. The idea that Mack would find a way to extort Kasius is well-presented.

Kasius, for his part, is menacing again in "Best Laid Plans." After becoming disappointingly weakened the past several episodes, Kasius returns in full villain mode. Instead of simply relying upon others, he exhibits some nasty qualities of his own and cold cruelty in "Best Laid Plans." Fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have figured that he is not long for the villain role for the season (the formula for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the antagonist from the first half of the season being replaced for the latter half of the season . . . and Fitz's episode seeded the obvious adversary for the second half of season five), but in "Best Laid Plans" he pops up as a megalomaniacal villain in true Marvel form.

The character front is muddied some by Fitz and Simmons. Simmons is a medical doctor, yet it is her (not Fitz) who recognizes Fitz's upgrades to the Zephyr and how to launch Zephyr One. Simmons is a genius, but her skill set is not in physics or engineering. So, that Simmons comes to the conclusions that Fitz is somehow blind to.

George Kitson wrote "Best Laid Plans" with nods to Joss Whedon's Serenity, which are fun. Garry A. Brown directed "Best Laid Plans" and he's mostly good - the shaking camera when Kasius screams looks infantile, but the rest of the episode is pretty wonderful on the direction and special effects front.

Ultimately, "Best Laid Plans" finally makes Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. feel like it is moving toward resolving its future plot and getting the season back on track!


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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Delightfully Aromatic, B-leve B-Passionate Body Wash Works!

The Good: Good lather, Easy to open bottle, Inexpensive, Good aroma, Adequately moisturizes
The Bad: Scrubbing grit does nothing, Not antibacterial
The Basics: B-leve Antibacterial B-passionate Body Wash is a good body wash that does a decent job at moisturizing and making showers smell great!

There are so many body washes on the market these days that it is sometimes tough to cut through the hype and brand names to simply find a body wash that works. As a result, I continue to try a lot of different body washes and review them. One of the recent pleasant surprises in the body wash field for me has been B-leve B-Passionate Body Wash. I found the B-leve B-Passionate Body Wash on clearance at my local grocery store, which is clearancing the whole B-leve product line.

The B-leve B-passionate body wash is a good body wash, with a fresh, clean, fruity scent. This is ideal for those who want to clean their bodies and leave their skin moisturized and with a clean scent to it.

B-leve B-passionate body wash is nicely aromatic and cleans fairly well. In the steamy environment of a shower or bath, the floral and fruity scent effervesces well. The 17 fl. oz. bottle usually sells for $5.19 and was commonly available in Michigan, at least until my local places started to clearance it. The B-passionate Body Wash is an effective, easy-to-use product that leaves skin feeling clean and mildly aromatic. When one is especially dirty, the B-leve B-passionate Body Wash gets one clean and it deodorizes well when one scrubs.

Body washes generally seem disproportionately expensive to me, though the B-leve B-passionate Body Wash was one of the mid-range body washes by price, at least for one that is not an antibacterial body wash. B-leve's B-passionate Body Wash offers less than other body washes that actually exfoliate and this one psyches the consumer out by having tiny beads in it that are for the aroma, as opposed to scrubbing. The B-passionate Body Wash lathers up incredibly well, so it is good for a thrifty shoppers.

The B-passionate Body Wash is a translucent pale purple fluid about the consistency of most shampoos. This is a smooth body wash, despite the tiny bubbles in it which appear to be scrubbing grit but are actually just aromatic, so it does nothing to exfoliate the skin. Using the B-passionate Body Wash is simple. The bottle features a flip top that opens with the flick of the thumb. The bottle is easy enough to open and close one handed as to make it convenient in the tub or shower, especially if one is using a loofah or washcloth in the other hand. The bottle of B-passionate Body Wash is rounded and slippery when wet, so it is important to get a good grip on this body wash bottle!

Dispensing the B-passionate Body Wash is very easy. Simply squeeze the bottle and apply the very fluid body wash to your hand, loofah or cloth. In my experience, the body wash is more fluidic than creamy and, as a result, comes out of the bottle very easily when one squeezes it. As a result, about a quarter-sized dollop is all that is necessary to clean my whole body when it mixes with the water from my shower or bath. I've found it most effective to dole out the body wash in one fell swoop as it lathers very easily and completely fills a loufah when one does.

Part of the reason the product washes off so well is that it lathers exceptionally well. Used sparingly, the B-passionate Body Wash may be spread over an entire body the way it lathers up. Simply agitating it on the skin yields a foamy, clean lather that both moisturizes and cleans skin. Without a loofah or other rough applicator, it does not remove dirt or grime beyond what one expects from water running. As the water flows over it, it washes off easily leaving behind no film or residue, only generally clean skin.

The B-passionate Body Wash has a strong scent that is right on the border of fruity and floral. There are hints of citrus in the bouquet of this body wash, but it finishes with a scent like lilacs and roses. The combination of fruity and floral scents mixes nicely; I'm not certain if it is actually a scent of passion, but is smells wonderful.

B-leve B-passionate Body Wash is not antibacterial and it does not exfoliate the skin, but it is pretty wonderful despite that!

For other body washes, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Silkience Bath And Shower Shea & Cocoa Butter Body Wash
White Rain Ocean Mist Body Wash
Dial Lavender & Twilight Jasmine 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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One Day At A Time Season 2 Manages To Be Better Than The First!

The Good: Very funny (Hilarious, actually!), Socially smart and progressive, Good performances
The Bad: Sitcom contrivances and some character conceits undermine some big moments
The Basics: The second season of One Day At A Time is legitimately funny, uncommonly complicated, and entirely enjoyable to binge on!

There are few shows that I actually get excited about these days. The truth is, there are a lot of bad television shows on the air or works that have run their course, but still churn out episodes. One Day At A Time is not that. So, for the first time in months, I woke up eager to watch a new season of television as it made its debut. One Day At A Time Season Two dropped on Netflix today and I was eager to see the new thirteen-episode season.

Last year, the first season of One Day At A Time (reviewed here!) became one of the most pleasant surprises on television. The show was a reimagining of a long-running sitcom and the first season managed to defy the usual sitcom formula by having more serialized elements. The first season of One Day At A Time introduced the Alvarez family and followed the struggle Elena went through with coming out and preparing for her quinceanera. And, it is worth noting right up front: One Day At A Time did not use a laugh track. After my first season review, I was thrilled when one of the show's executive producer's contacted me directly to set me straight. She informed me that the show did not use a laugh track; the laughter was from a studio audience. Netflix might not say it, but One Day At A Time (at least Season 1) was filmed in front of a live studio audience for the authenticity of the reactions. All appearances in season two are that One Day At A Time continued the trend.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of One Day At A Time Season Two is that it manages to be even better than the first season.

Opening at one of Alex's baseball games, the Alvarez family enthusiastically cheers on Penelope's son, much to his embarassment. At the same time, Elena is mortified when Schneider - who now speaks Spanish better than she does - is mistaken for her father. After a debate on identity (Penelope, Alex, and Elena are natural born U.S. citizens, while Lydia immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba sixty years prior and Schneider is from Canada) that finds the family going out for ice cream as a catharsis, Penelope finds herself failing her nursing classes and eager to give up. After Elena explores the difficulties of her first crush, Penelope begins working at a hospital for her nursing courses where she meets up with Max. Max and Penelope begin a relationship that Penelope wants to keep from her family.

Penelope and Max are able to keep their relationship a secret - which is made difficult by a neighborhood lockdown that occurs when Max is over for a clandestine meeting. While Max makes baby steps with Penelope, Elena finds herself in a full-blown relationship with Syd. After Penelope forces her children to try work - Alex comes to work for a week at the doctor's office and Elena tries to make money off Twitch playing video games - she has the exclusivity conversation with Max. Elena and Syd try to figure out who Alex's secret girlfriend "P" is and the results leave Elena shocked and deeply hurt. When Victor comes to town, the Alvarez family is thrown into turmoil. Elena begins working for Schneider and Lydia confronts her hoarding. And, as their relationships progress, Elena and Syd go to a dance and Max and Penelope try to go away on vacation, but get roped into chaperoning.

One Day At A Time Season Two does both solid character work and presents a story that allows the characters to discuss important social issues with a forwardthinking bias. In fact, as I came to consider the entire second season of One Day At A Time, the two things that robbed the season of perfection were problems on both of those fronts. In the second season of One Day At A Time, Leslie Berkowitz spends the first six episodes making his feelings to Lydia very clear and while that gets dealt with in a satisfactory way in episode seven, the characters treat him terribly in most of the other episodes. Berkowitz is a terribly sad character and most of the others interact with him without any empathy - indeed for some of his lines, the studio audience was apparently made up of psychopaths who laugh at his pain (Stephen Tobolowsky gives the performances of his career in this season of One Day At A Time alternating between sad, loving, and quietly compassionate). But beyond that, Penelope is characterized as a kind character in a show where people talk about real issues and try to exhibit compassion, but she entirely blows off Alex's assertions that he does not want to be called "Papito" any more. By the middle of the season, Alex is calling himself by the nickname that he asserts from the beginning that he has outgrown. Alex's most compelling arc in the second season - where he stands up to his father on behalf of Elena - is not shown on screen. Even worse, Elena's first interaction with Victor in the second season starts out as a powerhouse of acting and character that is undermined for a fast resolution.

On the social activism front, One Day At A Time is unabashedly, delightfully, liberal in its second season, growing organically out of its first season making social commentary. While I was initially put on guard by the teaser to the season premiere - it seemed like the Cuban-American equivalent to Will & Grace where all the jokes are reduced to the one aspect of the character's personalities - the rest of the episode pulls it out with a substantive debate on identity. But even there, One Day At A Time Season Two overloads its arguments, which is ironic given that the show seems very willing to explore subtleties and controversy. In the season premiere, for example, a white man makes a comment about the Alvarez family being loud in a tiny ice cream parlor. Yes, he phrases his request poorly and in terms that indicate there is a possible ethnic component to it, but on the regroup he points out that - objectively - they were being very loud in a confined space and there's no acknowledgement that there is an element of personal responsibility and restraint in social situations where it can be difficult to have an interaction with the people you are with when there are others nearby speaking loudly . . . or chanting ridiculously. In a similar fashion, while One Day At A Time Season Two argues wonderfully for progressive values, it seems unwilling to call b.s. on the social justice warriors - "personal pronouns" ultimately defeat the purpose of pronouns, which is to replace nouns; personal pronouns are just another noun. While the show makes a joke about how confusing they can be, it fails to actually confront that the movements lose credibility when every little snowflake wants the world - and language - to revolve around them. One Day At A Time Season Two does manage to contradict the ridiculous notion that people who were raised in monogamous families and conditioned to that could satisfactorily have a "casual sex relationship."

But then there is what One Day At A Time does right. On the thematic front, the second season of One Day At A Time magnificently tackles mental health issues. Penelope Alvarez is one of the few characters on television who has post-traumatic stress disorder and the show does not shy away from showing how complicated it is to live with that. The ninth episode of the season is a magnificent exploration of how much of a struggle it is to live with mental health issues. That episode shows how difficult it can be for a person suffering with mental health issues to find a healthy balance - the desire to get stability often leads to a premature termination of the things that brought stability - and Justina Machado, Rita Moreno and Todd Grinnell are amazing in the episode. The irony is that after a near-miss on a perfect episode ("What Happened," which came so close!), One Day At A Time Season Two delivers a perfect episode with episode 9!

Outside PTSD, One Day At A Time generally knocks the thematic elements out of the park. Lydia continues to be a loving mother who accepts her daughter and granddaughter in complete opposition to the more conservative stereotypes about people her age who were raised in very conservative countries. When One Day At A Time discusses gun control issues, the fearlessness of the writing that observes that having a gun in the home of a young gay person and a woman with post-traumatic stress is probably a recipe for disaster is a welcome breath of honesty. That type of honesty, in conjunction with fearlessly confronting racism, romantic complications of older people (widows and divorcees), voting rights, and the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States, makes One Day At A Time Season 2 once again defies the expectations of a sitcom as a simplistic medium. Who would have guessed that a Netflix sitcom would manage to discuss ethnic diversity among Cuban-Americans in a way that even Crash did not?!

The borders of theme and character are wonderfully blurred by Syd and Elena's relationship. Syd starts the season as a social commentary character and Elena has some strong principles - like believing that school dances are archaic and patriarchal. But when Syd comes over, sings an adorable song to ask her out, Elena melts in a very human way that seems entirely organic for her character.

On the character front, the Alvarez family is fleshed out through the flashback episode "What Happened" (episode 8), which shows many of the key incidents in Penelope and Victor's life together and the season progesses without a sense of cohesion to it. While the first season was bookended by Elena's quinceanara is more amorphous, though Lydia and Schneider's attempts to become U.S. citizens pop up at the beginning and end of the season.

In the second season of One Day At A Time, the primary characters are:

Penelope - Divorced now from Victor, she is alarmed when Alex gets in trouble for punching another student. She is disappointed when she finds herself failing her nurse practitioner courses and even more shocked when she hooks up with a cute guy she knew in Afghanistan, who is working as an EMT in Echo Park and she sees at work. She is hesitant to let her family know about Max and tries to instill a good work ethic in her children by helping them get jobs. She comes to believe she no longer needs therapy and takes herself off her antidepressents, which leads her to lash out at Schneider. When she discovers the apartment has a garage that she is entitled to, she has a conflict with her mother . . . who has been using it for decades. Max tells her he is in love with her and that leads her to open up emotionally to him,

Elena - Penelope's liberal daughter, she is now sixteen, fighting for every possible cause she can think of and she has her first crush. She is shocked to learn that she is passing for caucasian when someone mistakes Schneider for her father. She discovers that it is a tough thing to be a young lesbian, who has to actually confirm a girl's sexuality instead of just anonymously sniffing her hair. She becomes furious when she learns her grandmother does not vote. She gets involved with a gender non-conformist girl who she is scared to even spend time alone talking with. The two bond over Doctor Who and social activism. When she learns that Victor is in town, she tells him off . . . to a point. She is reluctantly forced to confess to her home-schooled girlfriend that she is not popular at school,

Alex - While at the planetarium, he is verbally attacked and responds by punching a child from another school. He continues to trade upon his youthful good looks. He is mortified when he is seen by classmates see him out at the movies with his mother and how his family cheers at his baseball games. He comes to work at Dr. Berkowitz's office filing to pay for his new sneakers, where he learns to respect how hard his mother works. He goes to the school dance with a ridiculously older looking girl, but is left by her at the dance,

Schneider - The landlord at Penelope's apartment, he is a former addict, who is now obsessed with spinning. He has learned Spanish to better "be a part of the family." He decides to apply for his American citizenship, but spends more time playing video games with Elena instead. He subcontracts out to Elena for fixing things around the apartment building because he is so lazy. He dates a terrible woman who is running for PTA president, but is a consistent and solid friend to Penelope,

Dr. Leslie Berkowitz - He is so encouraging of Penelope's coursework that he leases the next building over to expand his practice. He is still romantically interested in Lydia. He is continually disappointed by how Lydia sees him as a just a friend. He wants to be more than friends with Lydia and he takes advice from Alex on how to make Lydia more interested in him. He helps Penelope out with things like getting her PTA service hours up and even takes dance lessons to impress Lydia,

and Lydia - Penelope's mother, she hurts herself on a tree root, which leads to the revelation that she has never voted! She teaches dance out of the apartment now and picks up some of the slack around the house when Penelope goes to school. Her failure to vote reveals that she is not legally a citizen. She begins studying for her citizenship exam and irks Penelope when she confesses that she has a gun in the house. She begins stalking Dr. Berkowitz at the opera when he starts to put distance between the two of them. She turns out to be a hoarder and she starts outfitting Alex with her dead husband's vintage clothes.

The acting in One Day At A Time Season 2 is pretty wonderful. While Justina Machado leads the cast and manages to prove she has extensive dramatic chops, she is also hilarious in the second season of One Day At A Time. Machado works opposite a very talented cast and seldom breaks (though when she yells "Fubar!" it is hard not to laugh at the joke, as well as her smirk) amid some very funny jokes. Machado and Rita Moreno have amazingly good on-screen chemistry that cements the realism of Penelope and Lydia's relationship.

Outside of the surprise of how much diversity Stephen Tobolowsky brings to the role of Dr. Berkowitz (though it seems he has less on-screen time this season), the real shock on the performance front is Ed Quinn. Quinn plays Max and he is added to a cast that is firing on all cylinders when he arrives. Quinn is more than just a guy who seems like he is cast when Patrick Warburton is unavailable. Quinn seems like he might have been cast initially for his impressive physical presence, but he has great deadpan deliveries and an uncommon sense of comic timing. Quinn and Machado have decent chemistry and they play off one another very well to make the Max and Penelope relationship plausible and delightful to watch. In fact, the final scene Quinn and Machado share in the second season is one of the best of the season.

And One Day At A Time Season 2 exceeds the hopes generated by those who enjoyed the first season. The episodes are funny and complicated and entertaining in a way that uses impressive writing, good direction, and an incredible cast to deliver a truly great season of television.

For other works from the 2017 - 2018 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"The Elongated Knight Rises" - The Flash
"Fort Rozz" - Supergirl
"Vaulting Ambition" - Star Trek: Discovery
Grace And Frankie - Season 4
"The Last Day" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Twice Upon A Time" - Doctor Who
The End Of The F***ing World - Season 1
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 movie and television reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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