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We’re going to Joe Bob’s Heartbreak Trailer Park for a celebration of love… of a kind! Welcome to Haunted MTL’s “Notes from the Last Drive-in,” where we cover the fun of Shudder’s best series featuring the venerable Joe Bob Briggs. In a special Valentine’s Day event, we feel the love as Joe Bob welcomes special guests to the trailer, including The Boulet Brothers from Shudder’s Dragula, as well as Drive-In legends Frank Henenlotter and James Lorinz.

So, the question is, did viewers feel the love during Joe Bob’s Heartbreak Trailer Park? Did the night’s films, Black Roses (1988) and Frankenhooker (1990), leave the fans fulfilled?

Let’s find out.

Black Roses (1988)

Black Roses is a 1988 metalsploitation horror film directed by John Fasano. The movie stars John Martin, Ken Swafford, Julie Adams, and Carla Ferrigno. It also features an impressive soundtrack of metal, including Tempest, Lizzy Borden, and King Kobra. The members of King Kobra would make up the Black Roses in the film.

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The film follows a teacher at a high school (Martin) who grows concerned about the effect a band, Black Roses, is having on normally straight-laced students in the town of Mill Basin. The town’s parents express concern, but the demonic frontman of the band tricks them as he pulls more of the local children under his thrall.

Poster for 'Black Roses' (1988) one of the movies on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs Heartbreak Trailer Park on Shudder
The poster is pretty dang cool.

The story isn’t great. This Satanic Panic metal film plays on the anxieties of the censorship crowd by presenting a movie that makes the case that maybe metal does push kids to bad behavior. The film is a satire, but the film doesn’t quite hit the satirical note to be very effective. Broadly, I found myself wishing the film were a little more extreme in its depictions of chaos. The town under Satanic influence seems localized to a block or two, and most of the bad behavior is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. The film would have been stronger if it had given into excess as the titular band urges.

The performances are nothing to write home about either. John Martin as Matthew Moorhouse, the teacher, is good given what he has to work with. But really, the most memorable thing about the cast I recall is a brief appearance by Vincent Pastore, “Big Pussy” himself, screaming as he gets eaten by a monster spawned from a record. Not even screen-horror-legend Julie Adams does much here, playing a social crusader who doesn’t get a lot to work within the film’s scope.

Visually, this film doesn’t offer much beyond a handful of fun creature effects. The framing is primarily flat and budget-friendly, much like the Canadian tax shelter used by the production. I wasn’t overly impressed with how the film looked. With that said, the creature effects were a lot of fun, as practical effects usually are. It just feels so small-scale and feels like a direct-to-video affair, which it was.

The real appeal of the film comes from the music. Bang Tango, Lizzy Bordon, Hallow’s Eve, and Tempest are among the bands who contributed to the soundtrack. As for the fictional Black Roses, the band comprises actual metal performers, most notably Carmine Appice of Cactus, King Kobra, and Blue Murder.

Though, from the director of the MST3K staple Zombie Nightmare, I expected a bit more of this movie. Especially given it is a favorite of the Boulet Brothers, the first guests of the evening.

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Joe Bob-servations on Black Roses

Our venerable host Joe Bob Briggs was joined at the “Heartbreak Trailer Park” by the Boulet Brothers of Dragula fame. Overall, the guests and the host were affable and played well off one another, with Joe Bob asking about the world of horror drag and the Boulets’ party scene between dispensing information about the film. It is an example of shrewd calculation of Shudder’s part to take two popular shows and generate some crossover viewership. Still, it is ultimately fun, and there is no shame in that at all, especially with how fantastic the Boulet Brothers are as guests.

The Boulets offer a fun way to introduce a little glamour and filth onto The Last Drive-In, and as a whole, the Valentine’s Day angle worked well enough. It helps that Swanthula and Dracmorda Boulet are generally game and quick on their feet. Their story about the “teacup incident” is one of the grosser things presented on the show in the first half of the evening.

It wasn’t just Dragula getting a nod in the show during the night, either. Another Shudder original Creepshow has a connection to Black Roses in that one of the Creepshow writers, Frank Dietz, played the evil frontman of the band in the movie. Probably one of the most interesting Joe Bob factoids in the first half of the evening.

Final Thoughts on Black Roses

Black Roses is generally fun as a direct-to-video oddity, but it is ultimately too toothless to be satire and too tame to be a drive-in masterpiece. Joe Bob Briggs gave Black Roses 3 stars, but I think it was given a bump given it was a guest selection.

I can’t see myself giving Black Roses anything greater than 2-and-a-half Cthulhus. I had fun, but I think it was more because it was on The Last Drive-In rather than the merits of the movie itself. The real appeal of the film comes from the metal soundtrack.

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2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Best Line: “I’m going home… Or maybe to a bar, yeah, whichever I pass first.” – Matt, speaking for all teachers, everywhere.

Still from 'Black Roses' (1988) depicting a student turned into a demon, one of the movies on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs Heartbreak Trailer Park on Shudder
What, don’t you find her desirable anymore?

Frankenhooker (1990)

Now 1990’s Frankenhooker is what I expect from The Last Drive-In and is a perfect Valentine’s Day movie for the “Heartbreak Trailer Park.” Frankenhooker is a black comedy horror film directed by Drive-In legend Frank Henenlotter. The movie stars James Lorinz and Patty Mullen, a former Penthouse Pet.

The film follows the ambitious experiments of a power plant worker and medical school drop-out, Jeffrey Franken, who seeks to revive his fiance, who died in a tragically avoidable accident. Only he also plans on making a few upgrades, pulling him into the shady world of sex workers on the streets of New York to build his bride.

Poster for 'Frankenhooker' (1990) one of the movies on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs Heartbreak Trailer Park on Shudder
A true classic.

The film is a hilarious play on the classic Frankenstein story and offers incredibly dark comedy. Exploding bodies, piles of human limbs and breasts, self-regulating through a power drill in the head. The film is like a pitch-black cartoon and carries the same ridiculously fun energy of Frank Henenlotter’s other Drive-In classics like Brain Damage and Basket Case. Frankenhooker is, ironically enough, Henenlotter’s most mainstream film of his 80s and 90s output, but even then, it still revels in excess in the best way possible.

A lot of this film boils down to the performances of Lorinz and Mullen, and they each absolutely sell the hell out of this movie in their wildly different purposes. Lorinz carries the film as Jeffrey, a slightly amoral scientist who jump-starts his thought process via a power-tool lobotomy. Lorinz plays Jeffrey as sympathetic and worthy of scorn within the same scenes. While I am sure another actor could have delivered on Jeffrey, I can’t think of any. Lorinz owns the role.

Mullen, however, has a much smaller part in the film. Her character dies nearly immediately, and she does not get revived until the third act, where Mullen shines in this brief time as the undead streetwalker with a heart of gold who shouts “Wanna date?” and “Got any money?” to confused onlookers. Mullen plays this up wonderfully, and it’s no wonder that her delivery has become an iconic part of why this film is beloved among drive-in mutants.

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The film looks pretty great, shooting on location for New York’s scenes, while the suburban setting of Jeffrey’s neighborhood and garage evoke a strange sense of whimsy I feel is akin to Edward Scissorhands. That being said, Frankenhooker is nowhere near as wholesome as that film – it is funnier, though. Regardless, cinematographer Robert M. Baldwin did well in shooting these two worlds. After all, there is a world of difference between New Jersey and New York.

Frankenhooker is one of those films that works as a thesis statement for The Last Drive-In. If it were in that inaugural marathon back when we thought this would be Joe Bob’s last rodeo nearly four years ago, this film would have been the highlight. It has blood, breasts, and beasts, features a drive-in legend is Joe Bob’s friend, Henenlotter, and is funny as hell.

Joe Bob-servations on Frankenhooker

Frankenhooker is dearly a beloved film by both Joe Bob and Darcy, and there was a much more enthusiastic feeling around it than Black Roses. Drive-In Mutants, in general, love the film. The only way to make a showing of Frankenhooker better is to bring on the man himself, Frank Henenlotter, to talk about it. He not only brought his memories but a prop breast for the show and even managed to bring James Lorinz with him.

Hearing Joe Bob and Frank talk as friends and movie fans proved incredibly compelling. Mainly because they took the time to find their little indulgences, such as a discussion of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Hearing all three of the men discuss various interpretations and trivia about the movie was also entertaining as Frank can sometimes be a bit cantankerous in a funny way. Really though, Frank Henenlotter knows how to control the room.

Maybe one of the best bits of the night was the discussion of Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, co-writer of Frankenhooker, who first met Henenlotter while working on a novelization of Brain Damage. Martin would be an essential figure to horror, as he was the original editor of Fangoria. Horror is often the domain of outsiders who find one another, and hearing these stories shows how tightly knit this community can be.

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Final Thoughts on Frankenhooker

Every once in a while, The Last Drive-In plays a movie that can easily be declared the ultimate Drive-In movie. This time it is Frankenhooker. The film delivers on the promise of The Last Drive-In as a concept and evokes so many fun associations in drive-in movie history.

Frankenhooker makes the Heartbreak Trailer Park. Joe Bob gave Frankenhooker 4 well-deserved stars, a grade he would have given even if his friend Frank wasn’t on set. I am in agreement with our host on this one. Frankenhooker is a 5 Cthulhu film. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “Yeah – Well so am I, Ma. Something’s happening to me that I just don’t understand. I can’t think straight anymore. It’s like my reasoning is all, uh, twisted and distorted, you know? I seem to be disassociating myself from reality more and more each day. I’m anti-social. I’m becoming dangerously amoral. I – I’ve lost the ability to distinguish between right from wrong, good from bad. I’m scared, Ma. I mean, I feel like I’m – I’m plunging headfirst into some kind of black void of sheer and utter madness or something.” – Jeffrey, knowing himself.

Still from 'Frankenhooker' (1990) depicting the titular undead escort working a John in NYC, one of the movies on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs Heartbreak Trailer Park on Shudder
“WANNA DATE?”

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As usual, we have the totals direct from the show. Thanks, Shudder!

As for the Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals, we have…

  • 2 Darcy Cosplay
  • 4 Guests
  • 40 years of praise for Frankenhooker
  • 97 million women buying potpourri
  • 196 Million Roses on Valentine’s Day
  • Gratuitious Big Pussy
  • Grautitous Drag, Filth, Horror, and Glamor
  • Gratuitous Musical Performances
  • Topless Monster
  • Bodyless Tops
  • Brain Drilling
  • Sex Club Joking
  • United Way Joking
  • Teacup Storytelling Fu
  • Karaoke Fu
  • Poetry Fu
  • Overly Involved Teacher Fu
Still from The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs Heartbreak Trailer Park showing Joe Bob laughing with the Boulet Brothers from Dragula.
The Boulet Brothers are fabulous as ever.

Joe Bob’s Heartbreak Trailer Park Episode Score

Overall, this was a solid special for Valentine’s Day. Both sets of guests were very entertaining. Each group of guests provided a different kind of compliment to their respective movie. The Boulet Brothers were able to share a film they loved that maybe wasn’t my favorite of the evening, still had a level of camp, and made for a fun evening. Likewise, Frank Henenlotter and Frank Lorinz gave us the Valentine’s Day gift of a love letter to drive-in movie culture.

Throw in a couple of Darcy cosplays, karaoke interludes, prop limbs, and one shocking story about a teacup you have for a pretty memorable Valentine’s Day.

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Don’t you just feel the love? I give “Joe Bob’s Heartbreak Trailer Park” 4 Cthulhus. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

And with that, Notes from The Last Drive-In takes a break until the next special or seasons of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs – whichever comes first. We’ll keep an eye out for the return of Joe Bob and Darcy on Shudder this year. We will continue to cover the show as it continues to air new episodes and specials.

Please let us know what you think of the review and recap. We would love to read your comments about the films as well. Please let us know what you think.

Until next time, Mutants.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps, Cuckoo Clock of Doom

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Named for the 28th installment of the original book series, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom has the least in common so far with its source material.

Thankfully, the story isn’t negatively impacted by this. I can honestly say so far that these episodes just keep getting better.

The story

After the last episode’s explosive ending, I’m sure we were all more than a little worried about James. I for one was worried we were going to have an example of the Bury Your Gays trope on a kid’s show.

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Cover of R.L. Stine Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Thankfully, that’s not the case.

We go back in time again to Halloween night, and this time we see what James was up to.

Mostly he was up to trying to flirt with his crush. Everything seems to be going well until James lies about being interested in football.

He tries to leave the house, but instead finds himself back at the basement door when Isaiah is trapped and the cuckoo clock is going off. James then shows a remarkable amount of genre savvy and tries his best to escape the house. Each time he does, we see another version of him walking away.

Eventually, he devises a plan to break the clock at just the right moment, but not before he gets some intel on his crush’s favorite team so he can score a date.

Back in the real world free of the time loop though, James finds that he has far more worries. Every time he tried to escape the house, a duplicate version of him was created. And all of those duplicates are waiting for him.

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Back at the Biddle house, though, there’s a surprise waiting. One of the James duplicates has brought Harold Biddle a box. A ventriloquist dummy-sized box.

An empty box.

What worked

The effects of this show so far have been wonderful. When the other characters hit a James duplicate, it doesn’t just die. It explodes in a Nickelodeon-style wave of slime. This is just fun, and I’m kind of sad there doesn’t appear to be more of the duplicates around.

I mean, I wouldn’t rule it out.

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Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

Did I mention that these duplicates appeared to smell like watermelon Jolly Ranchers when they exploded? That was a visceral detail that was both alarming and terrific. They could have smelled bad. They could have smelled like rotting plants or people. But no, they smell like candy.

Of course, the characters continue to steal the show. Margot and Isaiah could be said to be the main characters, but everyone comes into this with main character energy. They are all funny, all capable, all smart. And they all seem to care about each other.

I loved that James and Isaiah talked about how they were feeling. I think it’s important that we’re modeling that for young men. They talked about what was bothering them, and they made up.

Finally, though, we have to talk about Justin Long again. His acting in this just keeps stealing the show. He dances like a cartoon and jumps from joyful to violently furious at a moment’s notice. The character doesn’t know how to act, and watching him fail to act right in front of people never fails to make me laugh.

What didn’t work

I honestly can’t say that anything didn’t work in this episode. But there is something about the show that I, at least, don’t like.

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There’s no real blood or gore. There’s more blood when I eat an actual jolly rancher because I always cut my tongue on them.

Now, this show is pretty clearly not for kids and young adults so there’s probably not a lot of need for too much gore and violence. But if the bloody stuff is more your style, like me, the lack of it might disappoint you.

Fans of the Goosebumps books will know that everyone ended with a twist. And the show so far has been no different. And the ending of this episode has been the best so far. The tension of Margot’s mom’s impassioned reaction, blended with the revelation that Slappy is somewhere in town is just too much. I can’t believe we’re only three episodes in and I am this invested. I hope you are too.

Viewer beware, I suspect things are going to get a lot worse for our characters before they get better.

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4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask

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Episode two of Goosebumps was honestly more fun than the first. It was dark, funny, infuriating and wonderful. Best of all, it has a killer twist ending.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.

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Cover of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask.

We’re introduced to a character we haven’t seen much of so far, named Isabella.

Isabella’s life doesn’t seem great. She’s all but invisible at school. She is responsible for taking care of her little brother. It seems like her only real joy is bullying people online. She was the person who tried to get Allison’s party canceled by sending the invite to her parents. Why? Because she is a very unhappy person.

Despite trying to get the party canceled, she decides to go anyway. At the Biddle house, a voice calls her down to the basement. There, she finds a mask.

The mask inspires her to do wild things. She wanders around the party, flirting with everyone. And she has a great time.

Several days later, after Isaiah breaks his arm, Isabella brings an expensive drone to school to get shots of the football team’s practice. Unfortunately, Lucas breaks it fooling around. And Isabella, tired of being ignored, says some awful things to him.

When her mother grounds her because she took the drone without asking, the mask compels her to do some awful things.

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What worked

I would first like to talk about the storytelling structure in this season. It appears that we’re going to be getting the events of Halloween night multiple times, from multiple points of view.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

I love this structure. It’s unique, and it allows for more mystery in a shorter period. It’s also more complex, showing just how much madness was happening, while just showing one part of the story at a time.

Another thing I appreciated was the evolution of the character Lucas.

On one hand, it’s easy to be angry at Lucas. Even if he thought the drone belonged to the school, it’s still kind of a selfish move to break it.

But Lucas just lost his father. We don’t know how yet, but we know from Nora that his death caused Lucas to start doing things like jumping on drones and skateboarding off the roof from his bedroom window.

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We all mourn differently. Losing a parent as a teen is awful. So while we can all agree that he’s being a problem, he’s also being a sad kid working through something hard.

And the same can be said for Isabella.

Look, we still don’t know what the adults of this town did to make Harold Biddle haunt them. But we do know that these parents are messing up in all sorts of other ways. And Isabella is suffering from parentification. She’s being forced to play mom at home while being ignored by her classmates at school. Even without the mask, I could see her lashing out and trashing the house.

Finally, I love Justin Long in this series. His visual comedy was fantastic here, as he falls through the hallways. But he also manages to be scary as hell. His creepy smile and jerky movements are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. I honestly can’t think of a living actor who could have played this better.

What didn’t work

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If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Every song seems like it’s just screaming what the characters are thinking. Which isn’t really what I’d consider the point of a soundtrack.

Maybe it’s just a curse on RL Stine. None of his projects can ever have good soundtracks aside from the theme song.

Unlike the original Goosebumps series, there were moments in this episode that did startle me and unnerve me. Which is wonderful. And while it’s still clearly for kids, it’s something anyone can sit down and enjoy. I’m very excited for the rest of the season. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

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Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

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We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

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All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

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More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

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It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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