Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Seasonal Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 3

Spoilers for the following: The Blacklist, and fucking Hannibal.

The Blacklist:

Okay, so, I just don't know how I feel about this show right now. I was pretty disappointed in the finale. The season has had bigger, more interesting story arcs. I felt like the episode that started the season 1 hiatus was much better and had a more interesting plot line than the actual finale. The Blacklist also has a habit of killing off prominent female characters while only injuring the prominent male characters. (Here's a good link outlining that a little bit better.) One of the things I originally liked was that the show wasn't super white and male (I mean, it was, but not for tv), but that has been slowly whittled down over the length of season 1. I dunno, I'm going to end up watching Season 2 because my roommate is and I'm still vaguely interested, but I'm not really pumped for it. My feelings are a solid 'meh'.


Okay, lemme just get this out of the way: HOLY FUCKBALLS


This season of Hannibal has had some rough moments. I'm still upset over what happened to Beverly, I'm still unhappy that Fuller had Margot have sex with Will. I understand his reasons, I really do, but even with that context, I wish he hadn't gone about it the way that he had. I would say that the season had 'growing pains', and hopefully it's something that Fuller learned from and will endeavor to do better with, in the future. Since Fuller has been good about listening to fans and their reactions in the past, I feel confident about that.

That being said, the build up to reveal Abigail was amazing. I was, honestly, not surprised that she was still alive. They foreshadowed that with revealing that A: Miriam Lass was still alive, and B: by all the talk of fatherhood leading up to the final episode. One of the reasons that Hannibal tipped Mason Verger off to Margot's pregnancy was because of Abigail. He spoke of the teacup shattering, coming back together, and not only did we see the teacup come back together during that airing, but then Margot's pregnancy was terminated- Hannibal was literally making room in the world/Will's life for Abigail.

Also, I know people are mad that Abigail shoved Alana out of the window (I didn't realize it was her, at first, I thought Hannibal had done it, I had to review the footage) but it's possible she did it to keep Hannibal from doing something worse. I mean, if she shoves Dr. Bloom out of the window she might die, but her apparent injuries (at the end of the episode) are possibly the least serious. And it's better than watching Hannibal kill Dr. Bloom with his bare fucking hands.

In all honesty, I expected the season to end on this kind of note. I mean, at some point, Hannibal was going to gut Will Graham and flee, and Fuller seems to live by 'go big or go home', so this was a real emotional gutpunch of a finale. Though it ends with everything being awful (and betrayal from our queen Bedelia, how could you?) it's still a satisfying end to the Season 2 arc, and I look forward to season 3.

Though I will remind you guys to not believe anything Bryan Fuller says about who lives or dies next season because we all know that he fucking lies. He lied about Abigail being for real dead. He will lie about who will live going into next season. Do not trust the man.

Things of note about Season 2:

Early in the season, Dr. Bloom transforms into a flowing, liquid blackness. In the last episode, she is (symbolically) drowned in very similar black liquid. I don't know what it means, but man it looks cool. (Well, in the last episode it's symbolic of the taint she feels, but I don't know exactly how it's related to the earlier symbolism.)

Red Fred: Part of the reason the show ends the way it ends is that Hannibal smells Freddie Lounds on Will, and (therefore) knows that she is alive. In his mind, she appears with a red face- clay red. It could be a number of things, of course, the red could be related to her hair, or the scent she was wearing that triggered Hannibal's memory response, but my roommate Lirenth suggested that it might be in reference to a Roman Triumph, because the red face paint reminds her of that. As soon as I badger her into writing a blog post about it, I'll link it here. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Seasonal Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

Spoilers for the following:

Agents of SHIELD


Okay I just wanna touch on this really quickly because I didn't even think I was going to talk about Castle in one of these and then the season finale happened and now I'm grumpy about it. (And no, it's not the cliffhanger, it's not EVEN the worse cliffhanger Castle has done.)

So, let's start with the single most irritating thing to me: there is no way that Beckett was secretly married and didn't find out during the background check that got her a job with the police department, much less the Attorney Fucking General. Having a husband but not disclosing it would have come up because it would have looked like she was trying to hide something from them.

The 'oh I didn't know I was married!' trope is a tired and artificial way of creating conflict, especially since Castle and Beckett's lives have plenty of fucking conflict goddamn.

Of course, this season also featured an episode that implied there was a time traveler so fuckin' whatever, I guess.

Agents of SHIELD:

Okay, so, this show was pretty rocky when it started out. I don't think anybody disagrees. I think everyone who stuck with it through the length of the show mostly did it because they wanted to know what the fuck happened to Coulson. (I mean, that's why I stuck it out through the bad bits.)

The big problem was that the key event that really turned the show around happened in a movie that didn't come out until the season was almost over. Shit didn't get really interesting until SHIELD blew up in their faces, basically.

I really enjoyed the season finale, not because it answered a lot of questions, but because it was incredibly cathartic and satisfying. The Fury ex Machina cranks pretty hard but I honestly have a hard time giving any shits.

The Destroyer weapon came back around to Coulson, Ward got only about half the ass-whupping he deserved (fingers crossed that the next person to get her hands on him is the Black Widow, because she heard he was talking shit) but I did clap and squeal with delight when May NAILGUNNED HIS FOOT TO THE DAMN FLOOR. The team's dynamics have shifted, they've been betrayed, they've been through hell, and I just want Coulson to pack the Destroyer gun forever more.

I do wonder, though, if this is one of those shows where you're going to tell people, "You know what? Just start watching at Season 2. Trust me."


What interests me about this season of Elementary is what we've seen Sherlock going through. He's faced some speed bumps in the road, and they're all about him losing people. He lost Irene/Moriarty at the end of season 1, of course, but he'd already lost her in the first place. This season has been about distancing (accidentally, mostly) Sherlock from the friends he's made. He's grown closer to his brother, only to have him ripped away at the end of the season. Joan is going to move out. One of Sherlock's only other friends died this season. We've heard of Miss Hudson, but we haven't seen her. We haven't seen Sherlock's sponsor, nor the young man he began to sponsor, except for that one episode (maybe another I'm not remembering, but they've been thin on the ground). Sherlock was built up in season 1, and season 2 has been about tearing all of that away again.

Joan isn't moving out to tear foundations away from Sherlock, she's moving out because she needs to separate her life from his. She doesn't quite realize how important Sherlock believes that she was to his process (if she had, she would have been working on getting him less dependent on her, I have no doubt). Mycroft twigs to it: Sherlock's afraid that he can't do the work without either Joan or drugs, and when he becomes certain she's going to move out his response is WELP I GUESS IT'S DRUGS THEN. It was carefully set up to show Sherlock's true downfall, playing off the false one at the end of season 1.

So here's what I suspect is going to happen next (this is based off what I know of the canon, and feel free to click away if you don't want to read guesses about next season):

Sherlock is going to fuck off to England, back to Baker Street. I mean, undoubtedly, he'll do some traveling and he may be in New York from time to time, but I suspect he's going to end up there, at least part of the time. Joan is going to either go back to being a sober companion or, and I find this a little more likely, get her medical license back. It's possible that one or the other (or both) will occasionally consult with the NYPD.

And either Joan will run into him while he's in New York and realize he is doing, like, all of the heroin, or Daddy Holmes will call her from England and be like "Pack a bag and grab your passport, you're going to fix my son again." Hijinks, naturally, ensue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bethany's Big-Damn Season Post-Mortem Spectacular: Part 1

I wanted to say a few things about a lot of things that have ended seasons (and, in some cases, series) recently, and so I thought I would do a big post gathering all of my thoughts in one place. Spoilers follow for all of the shows listed.

How I Met Your Mother:

Yeah, yeah, I know everybody's put their two cents in on this one, and I've certainly bitched about it on Twitter, but I wanted to put my thoughts into longer form.

While I was completely enraged by the series finale, I was also not all that surprised. While it's frustrating, the show really has been leading up to this, and the sad fact is that the show always has centered around Ted, who I find to be an insufferable douchenozzle of the highest order. I always enjoyed the other characters MUCH more than Ted, so an ending that gives Ted everything he wants is going to not be satisfactory to those of us who wish to see him get slapped with a fish until he starts crying.

Still, I wish the last season had been handled differently. It's cruel to spend a whole season surrounding Robin and Barney's eventual wedding when their relationship ends in tatters three years later. Robin then, presumably, doesn't date again and completely ceases to hang out with her friends of 9 goddamn years, period. As a character, she is put on a shelf until Ted is ready for her, and that's completely fucking annoying. Both Robin and Barney lose years worth of character development in a few moments in the last season, and it's really upsetting for those of us who loved those characters and what they went through to get to where they started the final season.

But the show was so absolutely married to the concept of Ted only meeting Tracy at the very, very end of the series that they refused to introduce the two of them any earlier at all, and it really tied their hands with what they felt they could do with it. I don't think I would have felt quite so cheated if they had explored everyone's lives after Barney and Robin's marriage much more thoroughly, but it was not meant to be.

And Ted remains an asshat.

The Crazy Ones

I don't think I watched every single episode of this cancelled show, but I saw most of it. And I thought that it had it's moments, the whole cast was very funny and I felt that they all had good chemistry with each other.

Though I enjoyed it, the show was certainly uneven, at best. There were several episodes that I, personally, found cringe-worthy. The uneven tone is, undoubtedly, due to the unscriptable nature of Robin Williams' style of comedy. It seems like they were getting better towards the end of the season, but earlier on there were times when it all kinda fell flat.

Still, there were episodes that had me and my tv-watching roommate laughing so hard we had to pause and get our shit together.

My favorite line from the season was when Sydney asks her guy of the episode "Do you even like David Boreanaz?" in tones of scandalized betrayal. (It got even funnier when I read about how Sarah Michelle Gellar used to go eat on the Bones set with Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel because their craft service had better food, since the line was in reference to the characters watching Bones together. That joke had, like, three layers and I still laugh thinking about it.)

I can't say that I'm surprised the show got cancelled, but I do think that the show had legs and could have gone further. Still, it ended on a note that is satisfactory enough to leave be, and there are bound to be plenty of really funny cut scenes on the Blu Ray, should they release one.

Almost Human

I am still kinda sad about this show being cancelled, even though I had the feeling that was going to happen. It's a shame, because it is a show that I have always fucking wanted.

  • Police detective procedural in the future guys. 
  • Karl Urban being grouchy about everything (which is, honestly, the main reason to watch the Star Trek movies). 
  • Once, Karl Urban in guyliner.
  • And Michael Ealy as Dorian, who honestly replaced Data as my favorite fictional android. (Sorry, Data, I still <3 you.)
Also, props to the show for making a universe in which androids are not all white dudes (though the show was kinda shockingly white and dudely otherwise, which is disappointing).

One of the themes of the show was exploring the difference between straight up non-person robots (the MX) and Dorian, who clearly was a fully realized person with his own thoughts and feelings. After Kennex kicked his MX partner out of the car in the first episode, my roommate bet me that one MX model would die an episode, and though it didn't go quite that far it was pretty close. Partially because it was a good way to introduce violence without having a lot of human characters die, and partially to demonstrate the emotional difference between an MX getting completely destroyed and Dorian getting damaged.

It also showed a world where tech is both the enemy and the aid. Advanced forensic technology is met with advanced criminal tech in a bitter war. Class issues are touched upon (I have the feeling that they would have been worked in more in later seasons), like the 'chromes' who are genetically 'uplifted' kids, all of them the children of the rich. Or the final episode, where homeless victims are targeted by a serial killer.

It's a show that I think had a lot more to say, but with the kind of expense that went into it, I can see why they didn't want to keep doing it. I think it cries out for an eventual comic continuation, though, and I would eagerly read a graphic novel continuing in this universe. (Especially if we finally get Dorian rooming with Kennex, because I was teased about it and then it never happened you bastards.)

Also, I hope that Michael Ealy gets more work on anything, ever, because he is fantastic.

(Coming up in Part 2, whenever I get around to it: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hannibal, Elementary, The Blacklist.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Things I Like: Chef!

With the introduction of shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, British television has really begun to reach mainstream America in a way that it really hasn't, before. But PBS has been showing British TV for a long time, and there are some of us who've been interested in it since we were little. I watched Doctor Who when I was little, but we also watched other stuff. There was Monty Python (naturally), Are You Being Served, Black Adder, Mr. Bean, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Fawlty Towers, Waiting for God- a really huge variety of shows. I didn't really watch a lot of 'normal' television before I turned 12 or 13 (my brother and I watched the Simpsons for a few episodes, but Mom banned it), it was mostly these shows that I watched.

One of my all-time favorites, and one I don't hear a lot of people talk about, is Chef! (The name of the show is Chef!, I'm not being over-excited about it.)

The show revolves around Gareth Blackstock (played by Lenny Henry), Chef de Cuisine at La Chateau Anglais, and is either the best chef in England or the best chef in the world (depends on who you ask).

Gareth is very good at what he does, and gets furious when his kitchen doesn't meet his exceedingly high standards. He has no true people skills (when it comes to comforting someone going through a rough time or talking with customers about their meal, he's terrible) and is even worse at maintaining an even keel with his wife, relying on large romantic gestures to close the gap when he's fucked things up again.

I have heard that Gareth's character is based partially on Gordon Ramsay, but I haven't been able to find that substantiated anywhere, and so I can't say for certain. I can certainly see why people might say that, though, and there are definitely similarities. 

The true humor of the show comes from the contrast of Gareth, who reigns his kitchen with an iron whisk, being thrust into incredibly awkward situations. It's about seeing the fish both in and out of water.

There are only three characters that are consistent for the run of all three series (as it's a British show, series = seasons), Gareth Blackstock, his wife Janice, and Everton (a kitchen aid who grows into a talented chef under Blackstock's tutelage).

Series One:

Series One is mostly about Janice and Gareth selling their house and car so they can buy La Chateau, which was being terribly mismanaged, and their adventures in keeping La Chateau afloat. Everton, who went to school with Gareth long ago, wants to work under him because Everton wants to be a chef, but he knows nothing about cooking, so he is started as a kitchen menial. It is, without a doubt, the best series of the three, which is a little unfortunate. It culminates in the only Christmas episode in all three series.

Series Two:

Let's be clear: I really like the second series, too. It's not quite as good as series one, but it's still really good, and it ends in one of the best episodes in all three series. La Chateau is doing well, as a restaurant, though they are critically understaffed. They take on a new chef, who (it turns out) is an amazing chef, but also is an alcoholic who must be watched around the wine. He's also a sexist jackass. Everton, it becomes clear, has learned a lot under Gareth and really can cook. Much to Gareth's annoyance.

Series Three:

The problem with series three is that it, largely, takes place outside of the kitchen. People watch Chef! to see Gareth deal with his kitchen, but for the most part, it runs without him. Or he's far too depressed to do much more than show up and cook.

Janice leaves him (which is only surprising, honestly, in that it has taken so long). This series deals with the fallout from that. Everton's growth as a chef is pushed aside by a new character, an incredibly annoying American woman. Everton's relationship with Gareth also seems to have been retconned a bit- they act a lot more like old school chums than they ever did. In previous series, Everton and Gareth had attended school together, but only really kinda knew of each other. It's also possible that this wasn't retconned, but had just never been explored in previous seasons.

However, series three also resolves a lot of plot threads that have been laid down since series one, so if you're really involved with the characters, it's worth watching. (Honestly, meeting Everton's Auntie Clarice is worth the price of admission, in my opinion).

**Important Edit: just discovered that Chef! is available on Hulu Plus, for those of you that have it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Okay, so it's been a while.

I left my husband, moved to a different state, and pretty much... fell into a hole. Part of this was because my computer's motherboard took a dive, and it took a while to replace it and get my computer back up and running again because we also had to replace the chipset, re-install windows, and then it took me a while to find my windows 7 activation code.

Part of this was, naturally, because I've been fucking depressed. Greg and I started dating in high school, and he really has been my only romantic relationship. With him, I knew where my life was going and how it would be for the next few years, at least. Even though it wasn't going well and I was pretty miserable, I knew what was going to happen. I was right to leave, but leaving suddenly tore that knowledge up. It left this huge, gaping hole in my life and in my future, and that was enough to trigger a depressive episode.

I've always struggled with depression, and was diagnosed when I was 17 (or so) after another huge, life-changing event. I was on medication at the time, but it caused me some other problems (it triggered migraines and didn't really help) so I dropped the medication, and have gone unmedicated ever since. Most of the time, it's something I can deal with. This has been my longest episode of depression since high school (I think) and it wasn't exactly unexpected.

I'm feeling... better. Not really on top of it, yet, but better. Much better.

I am hoping that this is not a brief glimpse of the light, but a true end to this depressive episode.

I miss blogging about stuff, talking to you guys and getting feedback. I miss chatting with people, I miss participating in stuff, and I've missed a lot of other things.

I plan on trying to blog regularly. I have a few ideas, so I'm going to start work on them as soon as I finish this and put it up, but I don't want to promise anything if I'm not up to it, long-term. I hope I am, I feel like I am, and I'd certainly like to be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on the Deep Blue Sea

So I watched this movie the other day.  Gonna go ahead and put a spoiler warning here, it's on Amazon Prime and Netflix (I think) if you wanna watch it. I don't get in depth but I do reveal the ending, so if that bothers you... anyway.

I didn't actually know what it was about, but Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz were in it, and that was good enough for me. (Please note: I often make movie watching decisions like this. "Welp, it's got [insert name in it] so why the fuck not?" Results are decidedly mixed.)


So, it's about relationships ending. I just moved to California and am planning on divorcing my husband of nearly 11 years, so let's just say it is very fucking relevant to my life.

True story: I've never broken up with anybody before. I didn't really have any boyfriends in school (my teenage years were a goddamn mess and I didn't have the time or energy for friends of any variety) and so Greg was literally my first romantic relationship. I've never even broken up with anybody before.

A lot of the time, I don't know how to feel about it. I miss my friends and family, I miss Greg (in the same way I miss all my other friends, dude is literally one of three people I went to high school with that I still talk to, the other is my brother and the third is the person I moved in with), but I don't miss us in any significant way. I feel kind of numb when I think about it.

It's curious, how well the movie captured the end of two very different relationships, and how both of those really resonated with me in different ways.

Hester (Rachel Weisz) leaves a passionless marriage behind. It becomes clear, through the movie, that she's still fond of her husband, and he says he still loves her. He wants her back. This relationship serves more as a backdrop to the story between Hester and Freddie (Tom Hiddleston).

Freddie and Hester have passion, but Hester knows that Freddie doesn't truly love her- not in the way that she loves him.

I think of my separation from Greg as a quiet thing- when I told him I thought I should go, he agreed, and we were quiet and sad for awhile. But I forget all the fighting that had led up to it, all the little fights and the big fights.

The end of the movie was probably what cut the deepest, for me. Freddie says something to Hester very like "We're lethal to each other," and he means it literally. Hester started the film with a suicide attempt. Freddie is a drunk, and his fights with Hester are driving him more and more into drinking. But it really resonated with me, and I think I can say this with real certainty- a relationship, any relationship, that has gone sour is a slow poison.

I have watched my parents split up and get back together at least three separate times at this point (I would be fucking furious if they got back together again.) Countless friends have gone through dramatic divorces, quiet divorces, breakups of all varieties. I've had to frienddump people.

When a relationship has gone bad, persisting in it is like a thousand tiny little cuts. You scrape along each other and leave the other raw and bleeding, and you don't mean to. It just happens.

The end of that movie, man. Hester's husband wants her backs, offers to take her home, and she has to turn him down. It's hard for her- it'd be easy to go back. Like picking up an old habit. (I'm not gonna lie, that played a huge part in my decision to leave Norman- it'd be way too easy to go back to Greg.)

The moment he tells her it's over, and you can tell it's wrecking him as much as it's wrecking her. For all her insistence that he doesn't love her (possibly true), he truly does care about her, and that's clear.

That quiet conversation between Freddie and Hester the morning he leaves. Full of long, long silences. She shines his shoes one final time. He tells her that she should sell his golf clubs, to help cover bills. Asks her what she'll do with herself.

It's all so practical, in so many ways, and it was exactly like the last four days or so I spent with Greg. Which movies and books I would take, what to do about the animals, what I'll do for work when I get here, splitting the money.

The movie actually ends on a cheerful note, somewhat. You think Hester is about to try to kill herself again, but she's actually just turned on the gas fire and throws open the curtains, facing the day. I read a review about how it was supposed to signal the rebirth of England after WW2, and maybe it is. I don't know. (I think that sounds a little too cheesy pie, but I'd accept 'rebuilding your life after you think it's collapsed' and how that's applicable to all sorts of different shit.)

The cheerful note didn't register with me. I'm still stuck in the silence that came between his "goodbye" and hers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts about False Memory by Dean Koontz

I think, though I am not entirely certain, that False Memory was the first Dean Koontz book I ever read. This would have been when I was between 16 and 18 years old. I enjoyed the book at the time, though there were some elements that made me uncomfortable, even then.

Upon re-reading it, it was... it didn't hold up. (If you're planning on reading this novel for... some reason, spoilers ahoy, I guess.)

The book is, largely, about Martie and Dusty Rhodes evading and 'beating' Dr. Mark Ahriman, who is a master of the kind of deep hypnotic controls you only hear about in conspiracy theories and cold-war era novels. (Funnily enough, the Manchurian Candidate is a central plot point in this novel.)

Martie and Dusty Rhodes are some of Koontz's very familiar archetypes. I've read enough to know that he has a few: there is the Nicest Person the Fucking World, there is the Grumpy Jerk (Who is Actually the Nicest Person in the Fucking World), and then there is the Bad Guy (who tends to have an obsession with sweets). There's no real need to expand on these archetypes, to be honest.

Martie and Dusty both fall under the Nicest People in the Fucking World character-type. Martie had a father who was, if possible, even more inhumanly good and nice, a firefighter who saved countless lives and later died of cancer, constantly referred to (even by Martie) as Smilin' Bob.

We get no true sense of Martie's father as an actual father figure, only as this distant hero. Not in a way that Martie resents or anything- that would have made it a bit interesting, exploring a heroic father who was so good at his job he destroyed his health and wasn't around to be close to his daughter- but every conversation was about what a hero he was, not about what kind of father he was. 

Martie is also described as a video game designer, but I get the feeling that she's described as such by someone who only has the vaguest ideas of what a video game even is. Like, he understand that video games are a Thing which Exist, and that naturally someone must be involved in the creation thereof, so let's just make Martie one and give vague references to it! Honestly, if he picked her career by spinning a wheel or rolling dice and consulting a chart, I would be the opposite of shocked.

Dusty is a house painter, and we know significantly more about that (presumably because Koontz has either known someone who was a house painter or hired a house painter). Dusty's career is treated as something 'real' while Martie ends up leaving her job to become a vet. This is treated as some kind of character development, though I don't know why, exactly. I guess it's because Martie wanted to be a vet when she was younger, but at one point in my youth I wanted to be a vacuum cleaner when I grew up (true story), so...


A very, very rough summary of the plot follows:

Dr. Ahriman is capable of 'programming' people to retreat into a completely docile and obedient state, and he often does so to his own amusement. He is a psychiatrist by trade, and often treats people he's programmed with terrible phobias. Susan Jagger, Martie's best friend, has been programmed to have a crippling fear of open spaces, and has been suffering for quite a period of time when the novel starts. Martie has just started down the road to a crippling fear of herself, again at the behest of Ahriman's programming.

Ahriman has also been using the programming to rape Susan on a regular basis.

While we're spared some of the gory details, it's definitely still really gross. Susan is later programmed to kill herself, because she knew something was up (though she had been instructed to believe her estranged husband was responsible) and she wanted hard evidence of it, so she set up a video camera and caught him in action.

Dusty later figures out something is wrong due to him noticing his missing time, and then later when he begins to tell Martie about reading the novel, he accidentally triggers the beginning state of her programming with one of the names. Strangely, it seems that Ahriman gave Martie the novel, but instructed her to never read it.(Susan's death occurs and then doesn't really impact the plot, sigh.)

It doesn't take Dusty and Martie very long at all to break their programming, largely due to Ahriman's (it must be said) extreme incompetence, which he claims is in the interest of a fair game. But mostly, every time Ahriman screws up, it's Because the Plot Needs Him To.

We get a hint of this early on, when Ahriman doesn't realize that Susan has videotaped him until he is long gone, and must return and take care of it. This is largely to A: create a second or two of false tension and B: give Martie and Dusty a reason to believe that Ahriman is responsible for their programming without Ahriman knowing. This is only accomplished due to a wording quirk- Ahriman asks if Susan had spoken to anybody about the contents of the tape. (She hadn't, technically, she'd left a message on their answering machine because Martie was in the middle of a panic attack.)

Later, Martie and Dusty go to New Mexico (they get some information from Martie's doctor who somehow happens to have also had a run-in with Ahriman and has a handy file on him, that's what leads them to New Mexico). Ahriman doesn't try to call their cell phone and access their programming even when he knows they know something because... um, well, he thinks that they're probably being really careful about calls and so there's no sense in even trying. (Because.)

There's a subplot about Dusty's younger half-brother Skeet, but I don't care. He's just there to work as a plot point.

The plot is mostly formulaic and has a happy ending very typical of Koontz books. Oh, related: though threatened at one point, the dog lives. Koontz rarely kills of dogs, the only time I can remember a dog having an 'on screen death' (as it were) the dogs were highly trained, violent and deadly guard dogs.

In this case the resolution could have posed a tricky problem. Going to the police and claiming your psychiatrist has been programming you in order to rape you and use you to kill other people is just not going to gain you much ground. If Martie or Dusty just march in and shoot him, they'll get arrested and go to jail (or be put in a psychiatric institute when they start talking about the programming). If Skeet does the job, he'll be put in an institute most likely, having recently left a rehab clinic against medical advice.With those pieces in play, the only real way to resolve everything relatively happily is for Our Heroes to kill Ahriman in cold blood. Like, to plan his murder and get away with it. The novel was so close to being super interesting, man.

Koontz solves that problem by having a character come in at the last minute, introduced in the last 1/3 or so of the book, who shoots Skeet (*rimshot*) and then the doctor because she believes they're machines in the Matrix.

No, really. Literally. She was seeing Ahriman because she had cultivated an obsession with Keanu Reeves that had turned into a paranoia of him, and during the course of her therapy she began to suspect something was not on the up and up with Ahriman, so she followed him while he was following Skeet and another character and saw him 'kill them' (they were wearing Kevlar, Because) and Ahriman called her and convinced her that the Matrix was real and that The One had special interest in her.

So, in truth, had Martie and Dusty taken Skeet and just hauled ass for Mexico or Nova Scotia or Iceland, Ahriman would still have been defeated. The whole thing seems kinda pointless, at that point. Like, in most of his novels, at least the protagonists of the story solve their own problems, but in this case not even that much happens. The whole book is like this.

They wouldn't know Ahriman was responsible for their situation without Susan. They wouldn't have any info on Ahriman without Martie's doctor (who just happened to have a run in with Ahriman before and just happened to have a full file on the doctor). They wouldn't have been freed from their programming if Ahriman hadn't handed them the key. Their 'activating' triggers were all from the same book, the Manchurian candidate. The haiku poems that accessed their subconscious or what-the-fuck-ever, were all drawn from the same collection of 'classic' haiku poems, by the same poet. They take no actions that significantly impact the plot. The events of the plot don't really significantly impact them. (Martie changes careers. Whoop-de-fucking-do.) So, what is the point?

I think the point was Ahriman. Ahriman could almost have been interesting enough to make the novel work, but Koontz doesn't really work in subtle strokes, and doesn't know how to take something so over the top that it comes around again. (Too much is too much but way too much is just enough, you know?) So Ahriman is neither truly gleeful and evil enough to seem a true obstacle, nor subtle or layered enough to be truly interesting.

He's suppose to be smart, but he makes some astoundingly foolish decisions during the course of the novel. 

When he is following Skeet around, he has his housekeeper drop off his most subtle car, which is fucking purple. (He actually says it's the least attention-getting of his cars. I don't even. Are the rest neon colored?) He also completely misses being followed by the woman who eventually kills him, even though she's driving an equally noticeable car (a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud- google it real quick).

He also is a character that the book so badly wants to be on par with Doctor Lecter (at some point Goldberg Variations is supposed to be playing during a scene between Martie and Susan, which I think is a direct reference). He's built up to be this very intelligent and dangerous opponent, who thinks of everything and can adapt to any outcome. He's supposed to be incredibly disarming and has pioneered a secret field of psychologically handling people for a secret organization.

He's also an atrocious psychiatrist. In practice, he has less charm than smarm, and he's about as subtle and nuanced as a brick to the face. His decisions from beginning to end are often questionable at best. His motivation is, supposedly, a game. Life is a game, and all the men and women in his command are just for his amusement- except it doesn't really feel like that at all. It's just an excuse to have these things happen, I think. The book smacks heavily of Plot Because Plot, without any real reason, and it seems like everyone is just doing what they're doing Because. Nothing happens for any reason other than Because.

Normally Koontz books are fast reads for me. Though they're formulaic, I do enjoy them (really!) but this book was difficult for me to slog through, especially towards the end as more and more of the padding dripped in. I would say that if you enjoy Koontz books (or like fast reading, formulaic books with happy endings where the sweet dog prolly won't die) you still should give this a miss in favor of his other works.