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Joe Bob Briggs and Shudder deliver a Valentine to the MutantFam with the release of a Valentine’s Day special, “Joe Bob Put a Spell on You.” It was a night of love, sex, magic, and dinosaurs and the sort of shocking wedding you’d expect from the trashiest of soap operas. Plus, all the sheer, unadulterated Yuki lust was just too hot to handle.

It’s the sticky, oozy love that you need to take a shower to get off of you in this special. Our two films? 1994’s Tammy and the T-Rex and the recent, retro-throwback The Love Witch.

Let me whisper some sweet nothings into your ear about it…

Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)

Opening: Wild Man Weekends

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Haunted MTL is no stranger to the unique joys of 1994’s Tammy and the T-Rex. This cult classic pretty much tells you everything to expect from the movie in style and substance from it’s IMDB synopsis:

An evil scientist implants the brain of Michael, a murdered high school student, into a Tyrannosaurus. He escapes, wreaks vengeance on his high school tormentors, and is reunited with his sweetheart Tammy.

If that does not scream B-movie fun and drive-in fodder I worry about how you define those things.

So, Tammy and the T-Rex is the stuff of legend, or at least as legendary as 1994 dinosaur high school films can be. The film, directed by Stuart Raffill, was written by Raffill with Gary Brockette, and had its script turned around in about a week subject to the revelation that Raffill had access to an animatronic T-Rex. The film stars relative newbies Denise Richards and the titular Tammy, Paul Walker as the hunky-boyfriend-cum-robot-dinosaur, and the film is basically stolen by Theo Forsett as Byron. Oh, and the biggest star is, of course, the life-sized animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. I could also go on about all the other great character actors in the film, a hallmark of any great drive-in movie. The movie has a solid cast of characters of all stars, stripes, and claws.

The film is the good kind of cheap. Not at expense of the overall quality, but because of the ingenuity involved in production because most of the money went toward a T-Rex that had to spend a lot of time stationary, barring shots involving a moving head. The film is also a great example of the sort of controlled-chaos of the best drive-in movies. A pivotal scene of Tammy riding Walkersaurus-Rex off into the distance was short amidst a photogenic orange sky, but the orange was due to wildfires raging at the time. Sometimes smoke from the fires even show up in frame. How could the film even be filmed in such conditions? A $250 bribe to the right people.

It’s just that sort of movie.

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The writing will not generally “wow” most people. There are jokes that simply don’t really land today, and probably never really did. The plot is insane and a lot of logic flies out the window when you deal with brain transplants into robot dinosaur bodies. The film also rewards the actors who are best able to commit to the absurdity of it all, with Paul Walker and Denise Richards proving surprisingly adept at walking the line between sincere and silly. Theo Forsett, playing Tammy’s gay bestie, however, absolutely steals the show. But everyone from the mad science party to the police to the dopey-ass teens deliver some fun, campy performances.

The film, originally released as a PG-13 family film, which makes absolutely no sense, is in many ways saved by it’s “gore cut” which is what The Last Drive-In opted to show. The camp of the film is elevated to incredible levels and the gore is absolutely hilarious, and arguably necessary to the film.

A lot of Joe Bob’s factoids of the film sort of worked their way into my review, which happens when so much great information is given. Among the highlights is the reveal that we were absolutely robbed of more Theo Forsett, who made Tammy and the T-Rex his final film. He is probably happily retired somewhere. The other strange reveal, Stuart Raffell would work again with J. Jay Saunders (sheriff and Byron’s father) for the film Lost in Africa (1994). The curiosity here? It was financed by the Duke of Northumberland to promote wildlife conservation.

Huh.

The principal gag of the night, dealing with the topics of love and witchcraft, were shenanigans involving potions. Throughout the night love, or something like it, was sought through the creation of potions, all revolving around witchcraft, as befits the second movie of the night. As far as the setting, we are still in the cabin in New Jersey, a lingering reminder of the coronavirus on production. The cabin is starting to grow on me, however. The last Halloween special was a bit rough and felt a bit isolated in a way that stripped the fun out of the experience, but things are becoming a little more homey with each new special set in the cabin.

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That being said, I really want to get back to the trailer. It’s an iconic set design.

For a Valentine’s Day special, Tammy and the T-Rex is a surprisingly perfect choice that illustrates undying love that comes in surprising forms, and that the right person will move Heaven and Earth to be there for you. It also features a robot-dinosaur that murders several people in cartoonish gory ways. Joe Bob Briggs gave the film four stars, which I’d say is a fair assessment and well deserved. It is impossible to find something to dislike in this movie, for me. On that note, I give Tammy and the T-Rex the five Cthulhu treatment. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “He’s a brother. Soulfood. Rythym.” – Byron handling a corpse for a potential brain transplant.

“HELLO THIS IS DINOSAUR”

The Love Witch (2016)

Opening: Word choice matters, an etymology lesson.

I came into the Valentine’s Day special already very, very excited because I had guessed that 2016’s The Love Witch was going to be one of the films for the night. It is in many ways the perfect film for The Last Drive-In‘s approach to Valentine’s Day. The Love Witch is a horror comedy written, directed, edited, scored, and produced by all-around badass Anna Biller. It is an absolutely gorgeous 1960s-throwback in visuals but with modern feminist themes and explorations into contemporary gender roles, sex, and love.

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The IMDB synopsis doesn’t give away the story, but doesn’t exactly really sell just how good the film is.

A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, with deadly consequences.

The movie was a limited release but caught the attention of horror fans, witchcraft enthusiasts, and cinephiles around the US. It had quite the impact as far as cult projects go. Anna Biller gathered a talented group of naturalistic actors, including Samantha Robinson as the titular Love Witch, Gian Keys as the detective who she falls for, and Laura Waddell as the real-estate agent whose life Elaine selfishly ruins. My only real criticism of the film, a minor one, is that the performances could have been a touch more camp. Not overwhelmingly so, of course. I understand Biller’s choices when it comes to how she wanted scenes played… but I do want to see the more tongue-in-cheek version of The Love Witch.

There is a lot going on with this movie, and a lot to say, more so than I can do in this article. As far as why the film is so good, though, there are a couple of reasons: the style, the exploration of gender, and the usage of witchcraft.

Stylistically, this movie is astounding, taking some of the aesthetics of the 1960s and transplanting them to the modern-day. The effect is so good, that moments where cell-phones and modern cars pop up feel positively anachronistic because you’ve been so pulled into the technicolor stylings of the camera and design. So much of that is at the hand of Anna Biller who led virtually every choice seen on-screen, down to costumes and set design, collecting and crafting items for the film herself. The colors, as well, stand out. The film uses the technicolor aesthetic well, with bright colors emphasizing moods, traits, and on-screen magic. At times you wonder if you’ve maybe watched a lost Alfred Hitchcock film, or perhaps something from Hammer Horror.

The other two reasons for the film’s success, the exploration of gender and the film’s usage of witchcraft is also of note and deserve to be explored in a much more thorough essay. At heart, though, during her discussion with Joe Bob Briggs, Anna Biller mentions the female gaze and how that gaze is reflected in the witchcraft done in the film, which I think makes up the heart of the movie. The movie is all about the selfish desires of the narcissistic Elaine and the tragedy that transpires all derives from her inability to come to terms with her desires and how she wishes to see love written in the way she mistakenly believes it must be for her to be fulfilled. The problem is that Elaine can never be fulfilled and magic becomes a sort of addiction to fill that missing something in her life.

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As far as the episodic festivities with Joe Bob, Darcy, Yuki, and the behind-the-scenes crew, we still have everyone held hostage at the cabin with Joe Bob doing the best he can. Darcy has also grown to be a snarkier and more assertive presence in the show, which I welcome entirely. I’ve followed JBB for a long time, since I was a kid, really, and Darcy is the most-involved and most fun Mail Girl of the bunch.

As for the potion shenanigans, all the strange brews begin to have some delirious and fun effects on the show, with Joe Bob and Darcy both feeling a little something about the resident Kyoto Cowboy, Yuki, and culminates in trippin’ Joe Bob hallucinating (or was he?) a Ren-Faire wedding between Darcy and a cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins. It’s one of the most deliriously funny, and out-there skits in the show, and I was reminded of the host segments from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The real highlight of the host segments, however, was the interview with Anna Biller. Socially distanced through a screen on the body of a mannequin, the interview proved to be a fascinating discussion and love letter to film in general, perhaps the real Valentine of the night. Joe Bob’s understanding of film is that of a master, but even the master himself can learn something new, and Anna Biller brings in some great moments with our host. Of note was her discussion of the female gaze. There is a moment where you see something on Joe Bob Briggs’ face… a genuine moment of surprise and delight – all in raised eyebrows and wide eyes.

This was perhaps my favorite guest spot on the show. I love getting actors and such on the set, do not get me wrong, but something about the behind-the-scenes directorial talent just adds something special to The Last Drive-In. Anna Biller might be the best guest since ol’ Uncle Lloydie. I was absolutely thrilled to just hear Briggs and Biller talk, and I think Shudder is sitting on a potential podcast of Joe Bob talking horror with the people who make it. It feels appropriate to their brand, gives Joe Bob more money, and makes the fans happy. I hope it happens one day.

I have to quibble with Job Bob giving The Love Witch the mere three-and-a-half stars he opted for. Generally, I feel his judgment is pretty strong, but there really is no reason not to give The Love Witch perfect marks. Hell, it has 25 breasts, blood, and it has the beast with two backs. It’s a triple-B feature with the aesthetic and indie credit of “real” film. As far as I could tell, he didn’t really deliver much in the way of a major critique of the film either, leaving me a bit lost in his reasoning. As for me, The Love Witch is a perfect film, and it’s pretty hot too, in a number of ways. See it with your partner while having a glass of wine. Trust me. I give it the full five Cthulhu treatment.

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Best Line: “I’m the love witch! I’m your ultimate fantasy!” – Elaine, not being wrong…

Gee, I wonder which one is the innocent in this?

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

We start, of course, with the official totals. Thanks, Shudder.

As for our own quirky count, we have:

  • 1 Darcy Jailing
  • 2 JBB “Thee-ate-ers”
  • 2 Weeks to Film Tammy and the T-Rex
  • 3 Punches to Paul Walker by Strong Germanic Woman
  • 3 Love Potions
  • 4 Punished Testicles
  • 6 Day Script
  • 7 Yuki Sightings
  • 7 Years to make The Love Witch
  • 35mm Film
  • $250 Bribe
  • Gratuitous 90s Fashion
  • Gratuitous “Tootsie-Wootise”
  • Gratuitous Pillow Sulking
  • Surprise Bard Brennan
  • Braingasms
  • Tamponade
  • Graverobbings
  • Goon Flattening
  • Dinosaur Towing
  • Awkward Stripteasing
  • LA Joking
  • Brooms in Love Joking
  • Wig Fu
  • Surprise Wedding Fu
  • Nude Ritual Fu
  • Silver Bolo Award goes to The Real Queen of Horror
  • Darcy Cosplay: 3, an inflatable T-Rex suit, the striptease outfit, and the Ren-Faire wedding dress
Expected, but welcome

Episode Score

Over 2000 words so far on this special so far. I had a lot to say on it because it was that good, frankly. It is always a treat to discover that my favorite episode or film pairing can always update and I applaud The Last Drive-In for delivering new surprises. I do worry we may be running out of holidays, however. Maybe they can do some of the Leprechaun films for St. Patrick’s Day. Shudder can get the rights to those, right?

Maybe they can do something for Arbor Day. There is a killer tree movie out there, right? 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

And, with that, we reach the end. Please let us know what you think about these recaps, and please consider commenting and sharing them to spread the word. I am not so secretly gunning for a Silver Bolo for myself one day. Why not help us out, huh?

We’ll see you at the next special or season, whichever comes first.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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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)

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

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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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