Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is One of The Walking Dead's Major Characters Actually Dead?

Talk about a gut punch. In the midst of trying to escape from the herd of thousands upon thousands of zombies, there were many casualties from tonight's episode of The Walking Dead.

But none more important than ... (SPOILER ALERT - highlight to uncover the name) Glenn.

Point blank, I will say this right now; I do not believe this character met their untimely demise. It was purposeful that his apparent death was very ambiguous and there were never any real shots that showed walkers tearing apart this character.

There was another character that decided to end his own life, but he fell on top of this other character. It's entirely possible the entrails that were being taken apart were of the former character and not the latter.

Okay, SPOILER ALERT once again. The character will be mentioned below because it's kind of difficult to keep going on like this without actually mentioning his name. Good?

There's no way that Glenn is dead. No way. At least, not right now.

Here are all the signs; first off - he didn't appear on The Talking Dead immediately afterward. Usually when a major or even somewhat minor character is killed off on TWD, they show up on The Walking Dead.

Steven Yeun didn't make an appearance on The Talking Dead, and Chris Hardwick's strange explanation was it's so "fans could grieve". Not buying it.

Secondly, Glenn's name did not appear on The Talking Dead's "In Memoriam" segment of the show. Yet another red flag that he might actually still be alive.

Then Chris Hardwick read a note from TWD's showrunner Scott Gimple saying that "Glenn may re-appear in some form or another in the future, in a flashback or something like that". A brief reminder that Hershel's character also appeared in future episodes after he was killed off as well. But this note from Gimple indicates Glenn's character could come back in flashbacks or perhaps even as a zombie?

And lastly, I referenced this earlier, but Glenn's death in itself was very ambiguous. Whenever a major character has been killed off on the show, there was absolutely no question as to whether or not they were still alive.

In six seasons of The Walking Dead, this is the very first time when a major character's death has not been 100% conclusive.

Nick saw no way out of that scenario on top of the dumpsters, but in taking his own life, Nick may have actually somehow saved Glenn's life by providing him with a walker blood-and-guts-cloak.

The odds certainly are stacked against Glenn's survival in that scenario, but if Nick's entrails got all over Glenn, maybe the walkers don't even bother with him.

The writers of the show certainly planted all the seeds to indicate that Glenn would soon be gone. That Rick called Glenn a "dumbass", a nod to the first thing Rick said to Glenn back in Season One. And Glenn's constant looks at Hershel's old pocket watch also hinted at Glenn's demise.

But I think these are all red herrings. Glenn will be back in some form or another, and my guess is he will be alive. He will be in rough shape, but Glenn will return to The Walking Dead.

If that truly was Glenn's 100% death, it didn't really feel all that satisfying. There wasn't all that much build-up towards it (aside from this episode in itself), and killing of pivotal characters is something that's typically reserved for mid-season or season finales, not three episodes into a brand new season.

Either way, so long Glenn ... it may not be long before TWD fans see him again, whether it be dead, undead or alive.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beer Review - Goose Island IPA

Welcome to my very first beer review! In this particular field, I'll defer to the experts - the Albino Rhino Beer Reviews and Ben's Beer Blog are two that I tend to frequent for expert opinions on beer reviews.

So please bear with me on this maiden voyage into beer reviews. The folks at Goose Island were kind enough to send me their new IPA to try, which incidentally now available in the Beer Store and LCBO.

Full disclosure - Goose Island was initially a craft brewery based in Chicago. Since then, Goose Island was bought up by Anheuser-Busch, but they continue to market themselves as a craft beer.

While some craft beer drinkers absolutely loathe macros that masquerade as micros, I really can't take issue with Goose Island here as they initially established their roots as a microbrewery. Goose Island wasn't purchased from Anheuser-Bush until 2011.

So with that bit of background and information in mind, on to the actual beer itself. If you're not an IPA fan, a beer like this is certainly an acquired taste. At 5.9 ABV, it's on the lower end of boozy IPA's, but I wouldn't necessarily consider Goose IPA as an entry-level IPA.

As the Albino Rhino said in his review, it's a graduated step above entry-level IPA's. If you've had something like a Muskoka Detour and want to venture a little further down the rabbit hole, Goose Island IPA would be a natural progression.

As far as IPA's go, it's really not all that bitter which leaves it on the lighter side. The typical hophead may not gravitate towards a beer like this, but this may be a good gateway for someone looking to expand their beer horizons.

At 52 IBU's, it provides a hoppy flavour but doesn't leave an overly-hoppy finish. Once it leaves your mouth, there's relatively little aftertaste and doesn't leave a lingering feel on the tongue. There are other IPA's I've had where it seems like my taste buds were shot after only one beer.

With Goose Island IPA, I feel like I could still drink a few of these and I wouldn't get what I've dubbed as the "fuzzy tongue effect" that some IPA's cause. As an IPA fan that tends to drift towards the hoppier beers, this one seemed fairly middle-of-the-road.

The colour itself on the beer was nice as it had a mild amber tone to it. In this instance, it was poured from the bottle, so I'd only be working from memory as to what it was like on tap.

If I had to compare this beer to another on the market, it would probably be Alexander Keith's Hop Series. I can't exactly place which one Goose Island tastes most like (the Cascade Hops maybe?), but it's definitely close to them.

It should also be noted that Goose Island is now one of the new offerings at the Rogers Centre for Blue Jays games. I tried it at the Home Opener and thought it was miles better than the usual selection at the dome. In my opinion, if you're going to fork out the $11.25 for a beer at a Blue Jays game, it should be for one of these.

Unlike most of the beer offerings at the Rogers Centre, Goose IPA actually has some flavour. Now that this beer is available, I'm going to find it extremely difficult to justify spending $9.75 for a Bud Light that's a mere $2.40 at the LCBO.

To the best of my knowledge, Goose Island is fairly prominent at most of the Major League ballparks in the United States, and now Goose Island is slowly infiltrating its way north of the border as well.

According to Beergraphs, Goose Island IPA ranked as the highest rated beer in three of the 30 MLB ballparks last season. It topped the charts at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and the O.Co Stadium.

I kind of wish this IPA was available in single tall cans at the LCBO, but at the moment it's only around in 6-packs at the LCBO and 12's in the Beer Store.

I don't know if I could commit to drinking a 12-pack of these myself, but at the very least ... if you frequent Blue Jays games, you should definitely give this one a try.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Review of The Walking Dead, "Coda"

Firstly, my apologies for being a little neglectful around these parts in the way of TV reviews. Evidently, the Blue Jays keep me fairly busy during the regular season (and this offseason as well), so I haven't had much of a chance to write about my favourite shows.

Anyway, please keep in mind that this brief review will of course contain spoilers, so if you haven't already watched the season five midseason finale "Coda", then please don't be mad if I spoil anything.

So I don't know if it was just me, but I feel like this was an episode that was supposed to be grand in nature, but it really didn't. A series regular may have been killed off, but the episode itself didn't come across as monumental at all.

It seemed like the past four episodes (after the conclusion of The Hunters storyline) were kind of stagnant. Not unlike the endless search for Sophia in the first half of season two.

At this point, the formula for The Walking Dead is fairly familiar; most mid-season and season finales lead up to a showdown of some point, and invariably include the death of one or several key characters.

"Coda" was not all that different, and sweet, innocent Beth was the victim this time around. Admittedly, this season was the first which allowed her character to develop and flesh out a little bit. But sometimes when that happens, it essentially means those characters are ticketed to be killed off.

The final scene in the hospital hallway with Beth felt anti-climactic and I want to say ... rushed? I mean, in reality, that would've been an extremely quick sequence of events, but if you blinked, you really might have missed what actually happened.

Beth herself symbolized a sense of hope and innocence that's very rare in a post-apocalyptic universe, and one could argue those qualities might actually be detrimental to one's survival in that world. But Beth managed to evolve, and perhaps her father Hershel's passing was the catalyst for that.

Again, going back to The Hunters arc; I think a lot of people were disappointed this storyline really only had a three-four episode run, while Dawn and the rest of the hospital had a total of five. In comparison, Gareth felt like a much more compelling antagonist, while Dawn was just a plain old tyrant.

In retrospect, it might have been better to flesh out The Hunters arc much longer, and only cram the hospital stuff in the latter part of the first half of season five.

Logically, I can understand why the producers did it that way; building the hospital set pieces had to warrant using that particular setting in more than one or two episodes.

As usual, leave it up to Daryl (Norman Reedus) to steal the show; the imagine of him carrying Beth out of the hospital was definitely one that elicited a lot of raw emotion, and it's probably one of the single strongest images from the series thus far.

Overall, the season five midseason finale "Coda" wasn't bad, but it certainly could've been better. The energy and emotion in the last 10 minutes (and the bonus scene) was palpable, while the first 50 minutes of episode kind of dragged on until the showdown in the hospital.

My issue I guess is with the progression of the first eight episodes of the season. It was a whirlwind first three episodes out of the gate, but then things slowly fizzled out after that.

And now we have to wait until February to discover where the survivors are headed to next. Is here anywhere that's a safe haven for them anymore? We shall eventually find out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

VIDEO: How HIMYM Should Have Ended

Leave it up to Mr. Ricardo Dylan for fixing the "How I Met Your Mother" series finale and giving us this rather perfect ending. It ends on the perfect note and in the perfect spot - how Ted meets the mother.

It doesn't allude to Tracey passing away, it doesn't hint at Ted ending up with Robin later, it ends exactly where it should have; under the yellow umbrella.

While many folks are still outraged at the real HIMYM finale, I think the sticking point is not that the mother dies (which has been hinted at for years), it's that Ted ends up with Robin at the very end.

Again, I think the producers wanted to try to tie everything up into a little bow by making it come full circle, but that wasn't the point of the show. It was learning how Ted met the love of his life, not how he moved on to the woman of his dreams ten years ago.

Monday, March 31, 2014

How I Met Your Mother Series Finale Thoughts

Well, that was ... something. If I had to describe the series finale of How I Met Your Mother in a word, it would probably be "ungratifying".

I'm really not quite sure what to think about the HIMYM finale. In a way, I don't think there was really any sort of ending that would have satisfied everyone, but they opted to go the fairly conservative route.

The one-hour finale itself was plagued with the same problem that affected the series as a whole; they dragged it out too long. The finale episode could just as easily have been 22 minutes long, but for whatever reason they decided to stretch it out.

In retrospect, the "weekend in a season" was not a very good idea at all, as it got old very quickly. Many of the episodes found themselves long, drawn out and pointless to the overall story.

At the very end, the writers opted to go the "full circle" route, which has been used umpteen times on television shows (the most recent example I can think of was "Lost"), but in this case it didn't really fit.

If you think about it, the series has been nine seasons of building up towards the penultimate moment of meeting the mother. And then suddenly you realize the mother has died and Ted just ends up with Robin. Not exactly the way you had hoped it would end, right? I kind of feel like the rug was just pulled out from under me.

On that same token, the entire ninth season was built leading up to Barney and Robin's wedding, only to find out they end up divorced shortly thereafter. So what was the point of that?

I thought the scene at the train station was probably one of the best of the season, and am surprised they just didn't end it right there. That would've been a great way to finish off the series; Ted and Tracey huddled under their yellow umbrella. End scene.

Ending on that theme of serendipity seemed very fitting. But again, instead they decided to let it drag on a liiiittle too long.

As an aside, I had three predictions for the finale and two of them came true. There have been hints for years that the mother might not make it, and it seems like the seed was planted long ago that Ted and Robin would eventually end up together.

I thought that the mother (Tracey) might actually end up being Lily's half-sister or something, simply because the two look and act so similarly. Alas, that didn't happen ... but the other two did.

And what was up with Barney suddenly having a kid? For a moment there, I thought the mother might be Robin, and somehow she miraculously was able to conceive ... but we learn that the mother was, nobody?

As great as the scene was in the hospital where Barney was talking to his newborn, that storyline itself just seemed unnecessary. So once again, the identity of a mother is kept a mystery. Was that done on purpose or what? Perhaps that will somehow tie into the HIMYM  spin-off.

Overall, I think the series finale of HIMYM was alright. It's not really the one I was hoping for, but I understand why the writers chose to go that route. They obviously had it in their minds from the very beginning that Ted would eventually end up back with Robin ... it was just a matter of when.

Apparently they filmed the scenes with Ted and Tracey's kids on the couch at the very beginning of the series nine years ago, so they knew that was happening from the beginning.

How I Met Your Mother was a great series, but that ending just did not reflect the overall quality of the show. It wasn't the best ending ... but it was an ending.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 4 Midseason Premiere Review

Is it possible to both love and hate a television episode all at the same time?

That's what I found myself doing with The Walking Dead's midseason premiere entitled "Don't Look Back". Ironically, that's the exact opposite advice young Carl Grimes should have heeded, but I'll get into that in a moment.

For me, this return had a lot of great things going for it, but a few old bad habits reared their ugly heads once again.

First off, the opening of the episode was fantastic. Very rarely are there quiet moments during a zombie apocalypse, but the first few minutes of this episode just focused on the eerily silent nature of what happened after the prison. In fact, I don't even know if a character spoke at all within the first five minutes of the episode.

On another good front, we finally got to see part of Michonne's back story. Her character has remained shrouded in a lot of mystery since her introduction at the beginning of Season 3, and you can tell the writers don't want quite to divulge her complete history just yet.

However, I think the producers missed a huge opportunity here to make this a Michonne-centric episode ... but I digress.

So in between, we were subjected to another "Carl goes off and gets himself into trouble to further the plot" episode arc. By this point in The Walking Dead, I really thought we've gotten past the point of characters doing truly stupid things like walking backwards into walkers, but I suppose there are only a certain number of plot vehicles the writers can use to progress the storyline.

Although I wasn't really a fan of the "Carl in the wild" moments during this episode, I thought the father/son dynamic between Rick and Carl was the best it's ever been. You get the sense that Carl is really struggling with his identity, and trying to be like the man his father was while Rick is struggling to find out the man he is.

"Shane taught me ... remember him?" was probably my favourite line of this season thus far. All too often in shows like these, the producers kill off characters and then fail to acknowledge them ever again. But in reality, these characters would have their fallen comrades on their mind nearly every single day.

Carl acknowledging Shane was a nice homage to arguably one of the most dynamic characters to appear in four plus seasons of The Walking Dead.

Although "Don't Look Back" was an okay return to Season 4, it definitely could have been better. Since the group is almost completely fragmented at this point, it will be interesting to see how the group gets back together over the course of the next seven episodes.

Just remember Carl, like in horror movies, never walk backwards ... ever. It never leads to good things.

Monday, December 23, 2013

An Overdue Review of the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake SNL Episode

"Why don't they just get their own show?"

That's what I found myself saying after watching the highly anticipated Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake appearance on Saturday Night Live. These two performers certainly know how to put on a show, and perhaps they did it better than any duo in recent SNL history.

Fallon and Timberlake brought in huge numbers for NBC on Saturday; it was the highest rated SNL episode since January of 2012, and frankly it isn't all that surprising.

The odd thing I find out Jimmy Fallon hosting SNL is he wasn't particularly revered while he was on the show, and yet now after his stint on Late Night, Fallon is one of the most beloved returnee hosts in recent memory. 

Although the Fallon/Timberlake pairing resulted in one of the strongest SNL episodes in a very long time, it wasn't without its faults.

But first, the highlights; overall, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake provided a solid episode start to finish. There weren't really any particularly weak sketches, and even the musical performances were quite entertaining.

The standout to me was the pseudo digital short "(Do It In My) Twin Bed". This was the female cast members answer to "Boy Dance Party", and it was just as good if not better.

My favourite part of Twin Bed that had me legit laughing out loud was when the ladies danced behind grade school pictures of themselves. That was absolutely brilliant, and overall it was a really well written and performed bit.

It may have been buried later in the show, but the "Baby It's Cold Outside" was also quite good and harnessed Fallon's abilities perfectly. He and Cecily Strong managed to pull off a convincing couple who isn't quite on the same page when it came to holiday sleepovers.

Even with those really strong sketches, the episode wasn't quite a perfect ten, so I'll share a few qualms I had. These might be more so to do with the way Saturday Night Live is trending overall, but they were prominently on display this past episode.

Again, SNL is relying extremely heavily on celebrity impressions. Case in point, the Celebrity Family Feud sketch which had nine, yes nine celebrity impressions (including Steve Harvey of course).

The issue I have here is the same thing that's been happening the past few seasons; the celebrity impressions may be extremely accurate, but they're not particularly all that funny.

"Hey, that guy sounds like Ashton Kutcher!" ... aaaand that's where it ends.

The audience and viewers chuckle initially because they recognize the impression, and then they just move onto the next character without any sort of set up or payoff.

These are the particular kinds of sketches that seem like ones that constructed solely for cheap laughs.

I fear that Celebrity Family Feud will eventually evolve into this cycle's version of Celebrity Jeopardy. What I mean by that is Family Feud is heading down the path as becoming a recurring sketch with a rotating cast of celebrities every 3-4 episodes.

Celebrity Jeopardy developed funny caricatures of its celebrities, while Celebrity Family Feud is just trying to mimic their celebrities as closely as possible. And if those impressions are funny in the process ... that's secondary.

It's the very same issue with the "Now That's What I Call Christmas" short. I think I liked it better last year when it was "Michael Buble's Christmas Duets".
Again, nothing really funny here, just cast members that looked, acted and sung like the musicians they were portraying.

While it was great to see Justin Timberlake reprise his role as the (blank)-Ville performer, it seemed kind of odd to have it as the cold open sketch.

Wrappinville probably would have been better suited to run directly after the monologue or the second sketch, but obviously there was a lot of content to squeeze into 90 minutes.

This is a growing problem SNL has suffered from in the last few weeks; not exactly putting the correct sketch in the cold open slot. It's usually reserved for political or current event sketches, but lately it's been a free-for-all.

The Barry Gibb Talk Show was okay; it took me a few minutes to register that it actually was Madonna in there, and not just one of SNL's often-forgotten cast members. The actual Barry Gibb cameo was great to see, although I'm sure there were lots of people who thought "who's the guy with white hair?"

Overall, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and the supporting cast provided a very strong SNL episode going into the holidays. It was by far the best of the season, perhaps the best in the past few seasons, and it certainly set the bar high for any other subsequent hosts in 2014.