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Pantheon is AMC+’s new animated science fiction series. Created by Craig Silverstein and starring voice actors Katie Chang, Paul Dano, Rosemarie DeWitt and Aaron Eckhart, the show centralizes on the frightening idea of uploaded intelligence (UI). Set in a dystopian world not too distant from our own, Pantheon is a technological thriller that tackles one of life’s most unanswerable questions : what if you could live forever?

The Plot

Maddie Kim (Chang) is a teenager who grieves her late father, David (Daniel Dae Kim), and is the target of high school cyberbullying. After a rough day at school, she logs onto her computer and an instant message from an unknown source pops up. The emoji-filled conversation drags Maddie down a rabbit hole she can’t crawl out. And it doesn’t take long for Maddy’s overprotective mother, Ellen (DeWitt), to discover the chat and jump to her own suspicions.

Ellen gives Maddie's bully a piece of her mind.

Ellen’s worries are not ones a typical mother may have; she believes the anonymous source in the chat is David. She calls Logorhythms – the tech company David worked at – demanding to know where her husband is and what they’ve done to him. Unbeknownst to Ellen, Maddie hears the entire conversation and takes to public web forums to find answers.

Enter Caspian (Dano), a friendly, goth recluse who lives and breathes the internet. Caspian has his own struggles at home; his parents (Eckhart and Taylor Schilling) play the roles of “abusive father/abused mother” as a cover for their work as secret agents for Logorhythms.

Caspian in a tense dinner with his parents

While his parents are up to their own games, Caspian is clearly lonely and depressed. He retreats to his computer whenever possible to escape the traumas of daily life. One night, while scrolling through the internet on multiple monitors and listening to electro-pop music, he finds Maddie’s post on a forum. She claims Logorhythm faked her father’s death and is hiding something. His interested is piqued; he private messages her and the two begin a strange, digital partnership.

The Style

The first thing that sticks out about Pantheon is it’s gorgeous appearance. The illustrations have white highlights mixed with primary colors, creating an aura of otherworldliness. The artwork feels like a living comic book dream. The animation style share similar components to those in a traditional anime; slow pan-over shots during dramatic scenes, protagonistic narration, angled shots. All of this combined with the music, talented voice acting and immersive storytelling creates a one-of-a-kind viewing experience few.

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David, Maddie's dad, receiving chemotherapy

The Verdict

Pantheon‘s first episode is absolutely gripping. Uploaded intelligence has been a reoccurring theme in science fiction for as long as digital media has existed. (E.g. “The Infinite Brain” by John C. Campbell, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and even modern television series like Westworld and Made for Love).

However, technology is so volatile, especially in the 21st century, that there is a smorgasbord of ways to depict digital consciousness in both the living and the dead. The show is complex and well written. It demonstrates faith in the audience. Episode 1 has left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and I can’t wait to watch more and see how Pantheon answers them. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Check out the other shows we’re watching here at Haunted MTL.

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CourtCourt is a writer, horror enthusiast, and may or may not be your favorite human-eating houseplant.

Movies n TV

The Boys, The Insider

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We’ve reached the second to last episode of The Boys, season four. And, as is appropriate for the penultimate episode of any show, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Christmas is coming, and the whole world is getting ready. Ryan, despite being very clear that he didn’t want to appear on any TV shows or movies, has been strong-armed into participating in a Vought puppet Christmas special. He draws the line, though, when asked to sing about turning one’s parents in if they start talking about woke things.

Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

Meanwhile, The Boys are trying to keep each other together. Butcher decides to take Sameer to the rest of the team. He also gets Frenchie out of prison, hoping they can make the Sup virus necessary to finally take down Homelander. Instead, this decision means disaster for one member of the team.

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What worked

I first want to talk about Ryan’s speech near the end of the episode. Because it was exactly the moral of this whole story.

Ryan’s dad is a monster. His stepdad is also kind of a monster. But Ryan is a good kid. He cares about people, about family. And while he loves Homelander and Butcher, he doesn’t want to be like them.

Even better, this speech sounded like something a kid would say. Ryan didn’t open his mouth and start sounding like a college student all of a sudden. He sounds like a kid who misses his mom and wants to live up to the good standards she set for him. And I think that’s terrific.

Speaking of Homelander, he shot himself in the foot in this episode. I said earlier in the season that his hubris was going to be his downfall, and I was right. Without Sage, he just has the same weaknesses he’s always had. He’s going to fail because he just isn’t clever enough or patient enough to succeed.

Without Sage, I think a win is in the bag for The Boys. This isn’t to say that Homelander by himself isn’t dangerous. It’s just that he’s more like a wildfire than a controlled burn. He’s going to cause a lot of damage, but not get anything he wants out of it.

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More’s the pity for him and everyone else who has to share his world.

Finally, I am thrilled with A-Train’s redemption story. I love that he wants to be a good person not to save himself, but to be a good person. His honest, pure and warm reaction to that little kid smiling at him in the last episode was heartwarming. It changed him in a moment, bringing to light a goodness that he’s been keeping under wraps for a long time.

Jessie T. Usher in The Boys.

This, along with Ryan’s courageous speech, proves once again what The Boys does so well. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yes, there’s blood and balls and batshit events. Yes, someone occasionally gets ripped in half. But there is a true human goodness in the story. One that we catch glimpses of. There are good people among the monsters. There is hope for redemption.

What didn’t work

Of course, so few things in this life are perfect, and this episode was no exception. For instance, I was irritated by the insinuation that Butcher cheated on his wife.

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That just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve seen flashbacks of Billy and Becca. They were happy. He was happy. He was head over heels for her. And I don’t think it’s realistic or necessary for the character to throw in that he cheated. It does nothing to add to the story, it’s just a weird and offputting moment.

Doesn’t Butcher have enough to hate about himself? Can’t we just give him that at least he was a good husband?

Finally, I kind of hate that we ended up with Annie being caught. It’s just cliche, which is something I don’t normally say about this show. It feels lazy unless they do something very clever with it in the last episode. Which, I suppose, they might.

Next up is the season finale. And with this season being as insane as it has been, I’m expecting nothing short of bloody fireworks. And I mean literal fireworks of blood. At this point, would it surprise anyone?

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Boys, Dirty Business

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Episode six of The Boys was one of the most surprising episodes of the series so far. And that is certainly saying something. Because this season has so far been bonkers.

The story

Our episode today revolves around a party at Tek Knight’s lovely mansion. Yes, it does look just like Wayne Manor.

The Boys know that Tek Knight is working with Homelander on something, but they don’t know the details. So they decide to send Hughie in to bug the mansion.

Because that’s worked so well the other two times he’s tried to hide a bug!

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It should surprise no one that this time goes no better. Hughie finds himself in Tek Knight’s basement. And by that I mean his BDSM dungeon.

Meanwhile, the party upstairs is no less disturbing. Homelander and Sage are trying to convince some well-off political donors to support a cue after the election. When pressed for details on his plan, Homelander freezes. He looks to Sage for help, but she wasn’t recently shot in the head and still in the junk food stage of her healing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Neuman jumps in and saves the day.

Claudia Doumit in The Boys.

What works

If I’m going to say one thing about this episode, it didn’t hold back at all. I didn’t expect them to show a character masturbating, sitting their bare behind on a cake, or spraying breastmilk into someone’s face. But every time I thought they’d cut the scene and let something be left to our imagination, they did not do that.

Derek Wilson in The Boys.

This is a dangerous move. Whenever you show the monster, you run the risk of them not being scary enough, or gross enough. As Stephen King says in Danse Macabre, to leave this sort of thing to the imagination if the reader makes things so much worse. So when they finally experience the monster, they might say that this isn’t so bad. It could have been so much worse.

But in this case, they managed to avoid that by making the scenes, especially the ones in Tek Knight’s dungeon, so much worse than I imagined it would be.

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What doesn’t work

While this was a deeply disturbing episode in many ways, there was one really innocent and sweet moment.

And yes, I did have a problem with it.

Confronted by Firecracker, Annie decides to apologize for spreading rumors about her when they were kids. She tells her that she is genuinely sorry.

And I believe her. I don’t think Firecracker did, but I did.

So why is this an issue? Because I’m starting to think that Annie is maybe too nice. She is too good.

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I know that Annie is our good guy. But every one of the other good guys has flaws. Hughie let his pride get in the way and took Temp V. MM hid himself from his daughter instead of teaching her to work through her emotions. Kimiko is far too closed off and has a hard time trusting others. Frenchie numbs himself with drugs. And well, what hasn’t Butcher done?

It is unrealistic that Annie is just so kind and so flawless. We all have shadows in our personalities. We all have weaknesses, we all mess up. We all do things we wish we could take back. The fact that Annie doesn’t seem to have anything like that is not just unrealistic. It’s infantilizing.

Give her some deep dark secrets. Give her something real to regret.

This was a shocking episode, even for someone fairly jaded like me. I wasn’t expecting the sort of weird sexual depravity, though I guess maybe I should have seen it coming. It was dark, upsetting, tense, and funny as hell. And with just two episodes left in the season, I can imagine the stakes are only going to get higher.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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Movies n TV

House of he Dragon: S2E4 – The Return of Trogdor!

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Instead of recapping this episode, I will link you to Strongbad, so you can see something with a dragon that doesn’t suck.

See you for Episode 5!

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