Friday, November 27, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games 3 Part 2, also known as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, was written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, and directed by Francis Lawrence.

Craig and Strong wrote the previous film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Peter Craig previously wrote The Town. Danny Strong is primarily an actor, having starred as Jonathan in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, among many other roles. He also wrote the screenplay for Lee Daniels' The Butler, which of course makes him the perfect choice to write a post-apocalyptic scifi epic.

Francis Lawrence previously directed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Long before shooting began on Part 1, Lionsgate Studio said they were splitting the Mockingjay book into two films "because the story was just too big to fit it all into one." To that I respectfully reply, "Bullsh*t."  Lionsgate made two films so they could rake in a cool two billion dollars instead of one billion, pure and simple. There's nothing anyone could ever possibly say to make me believe otherwise.

It was a good business decision, but artistically, not so much. Part 1 was slow, talky and short on action, as the characters seemingly stood around waiting for the second film to commence. Part 2 is chock full of action, but short on actual substance and story. They really did a disservice to the material by splitting it up. With a bit of trimming and editing, these two halves would make a really great three hour film.

So what exactly is the message of these movies anyway? Apparently it's "If you don't like your government, then by all means violently overthrow it!" Got it.

OK, I'm being a wiseacre here, but that's basically what it's saying. And it's a message worth hearing. We forget that our government is meant to serve the people, not the other way around. Our government should never forget that, and do its best to do right by us all, lest we revolt and throw the bums out.

It's too bad the vast majority of American citizens are too busy lying on their couches eating fist-fulls of Cheetos while watching the latest antics of the Kardashians to remember they have the power-- make that the responsibility-- to induct a competent government and replace it if it fails.

Whether you agree with this or not, at least The Hunger Games have a message worth discussing. Unlike a certain other Young Adult book and film series whose message appears to be, "Your life's meaningless unless you have a hot, undead boyfriend."

There was a bit of controversy when poster seen above was rejected in Isreal, and replaced by one with a fiery Mockingjay symbol. Apparently in Jerusalem, public posters featuring women are seen as offensive and often torn down. Progressive!

I've only read the first book in the series, so some of the questions I have below may have been addressed in the subsequent volumes. Doesn't matter! This is the movie we're talking about. If I have to do homework and read the books to understand what's happening in the films, then the director has failed.

The Hunger Games franchise has been a huge financial boon for Lionsgate Studios, grossing over $2.5 BILLION dollars worldwide. So you know what that means! Yep, Lionsgate is reluctant to put their cash cow out to pasture, so there's been ominous talk of either a prequel or sequel to the series. 

Whether author Suzanne Collins would be involved, and where the story could possibly go after the events of this movie, I have no idea.


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off (an entire year ago!), Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering after nearly being throttled by a brainwashed Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson). Once she recovers, Katniss visits Rebellion President Coin (played by Julianne Moore) and volunteers to kill President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland), the leader of the Capitol. Coin denies her request, saying Katniss is more valuable as an inspirational symbol of the Rebellion (which was thoroughly covered in the previous film and didn't need rehashed here).

Katniss then sneaks aboard a supply plane bound for District 2, where Commander Paylor is planning a massive assault on the Capitol. Katniss is assigned to Squad 451, which will trail the real invasion force and serve as propaganda for the Rebellion. Peeta is assigned to the squad, in an effort to show the Capitol that he's siding with the rebels. Katniss' pal Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth) isn't happy about Peeta's presence, as he sees him as a rival for Katniss' affections.

Snow has lined the streets of the Capitol with deadly booby traps, designed by the Gamemakers of the Hunger Games. After triggering a couple of traps, Boggs, the leader of the squad, is mortally wounded. Before he dies, he tells Katniss to watch out for Coin, who sees her as a threat to her power. He then transfers his command to Katniss.

Since they can't make it through the Capitol to President Snow's mansion, they decide to go under it, and travel through the sewers. Amazingly, Snow didn't think of that, and hastily orders a group of "mutts" (genetically engineered creatures) into the sewers. Katniss loses several members of her squad before they escape to the surface.

Snow announces that the rebels are now inside the Capitol and orders citizens into his mansion, promising them food and shelter, not to mention forming a human shield around himself.

Katniss and Gale sneak into the Captiol in disguise. Just then the rebels arrive and attack, as the Capitol's Peacekeepers return fire. A Capitol airship flies overhead, dropping silver parachutes (similar to the ones dropped to help participants in the Hunger Games a few movies back) onto the crowd. The parachutes explode, killing hundreds in the crowd. A team of rebel medics, including Katniss' sister Prim, rush in to help the injured. A second round of explosions kills Prim and knocks Katniss unconscious.

When she wakes up, Katniss is informed that the Capitol has been defeated and Snow captured. She confronts Snow, who's being held in his rose garden. He tells Katniss that the bombings were Coin's idea, not his, and were designed to turn the Capitol citizens against him. She realizes that the second round of bombs, which were designed to kill the medics, was Gale's idea. When she asks Gale about this, he doesn't deny his involvement. She tells him to beat it, neatly eliminating their tired little love triangle.

Coin has now appointed herself Interim President of the Capitol. She comes up with the bright idea to have one final edition of the Hunger Games, this time consisting of children of Capitol leaders as revenge. Katniss realizes Coin is just taking Snow's place, and has no plans to change the system of government. She votes in favor ot the Hunger Games idea, on the condition that she get to execute Snow in the opening ceremony. Coin agrees.

At the ceremony, Coin stands upon a high platform, with Snow tied to a post far below. Katniss draws her bow and shoots Coin in the chest, killing her instantly. Snow laughs as an angry mob tears him apart.

Katniss is imprisoned, but later pardoned for her crime by Commander Paylor, who's elected the new President of Panem. Katniss is sent back to District 12 to live. There she reunites with the recovered Peeta.

Years later, in one of the film's many butt-numbing endings, we see Katniss and Peeta playing with their two children, enjoying the new-found peace.

• Unless you're a rabid fan of this series, you might want to re-watch Part 1 before seeing this installment. It picks up right where the last one left off, with no recap, prologue or anything. If you've not seen the previous film (or forgot what the hell happened after an entire year, like me), you're probably going to be lost for the first few minutes.

• I said this last year about Part 1, but it still applies-- a
t the end of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the Rebellion really had its work cut out for it. The various Districts had what appeared to be 1930s Dustbowl-era technology, while the Capitol was filled with slick, futuristic vehicles and weaponry. The odds were incredibly uneven and the Rebels didn't stand a chance against such a foe.

Author Suzanne Collins obviously realized this as well, which is why she pulled the amazingly advanced District 13 right out of her ass. 

Despite the fact that we were told the Capitol wiped out District 13 long ago, it still somehow exists as a super secret underground military base packed to the rafters with highly trained soldiers, high tech weapons and tons of ammo. It's a match for the Capitol's forces in every measurable sense. 

It's a good thing the Rebels have District 13, or they'd be going up against the Capitol with clubs and pitchforks. Funny how that just happened to work out, eh?

 Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne Of Tarth on Game Of Thrones, has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as Commander Lyme. Her entire appearance lasts under a minute.

I'm sure she was cast because she's popular and in demand right now, but why go to the trouble of casting a prominent actress just so she could say three or four lines? Was her part originally larger and then drastically cut down?

• President Coin's turn to the dark side seemed to come out of nowhere. The only slight bit or warning we ever get is when Commander Boggs lays dying and tells Katniss that Coin sees her as a threat to her power.

Then the next time we see Coin she pulls a Senator Palpatine and installs herself as permanent President, as bad or even worse than Snow!

That's got to be the quickest turn to evil in the history of cinema. It made her rapid about-face less of a shocking twist and more of a "what the hell?" moment.

Some additional buildup and foreshadowing was definitely needed here.

• Why do some of the characters have surnames and others don't? Everyone from Katniss Everdeen's District 12 seems to have two names, but others-- like Cressida, Castor and Pollux-- are stuck with just one. It doesn't seem to be just a choice on the part of these single-named characters, because even their wanted posters only list their given names.

Is this something that's addressed in the books? Do some Districts use two names and some don't?

• Once inside the Capitol, Katniss and her crew take refuge inside a dress shop run by a woman named Tigress, who's covered in feline tattoos, piercings and implants. I wondered if her tigerish look was prosthetic makeup, or if she was one of those people who do this kind of thing to themselves for real. For the record, it's all makeup.

When Katniss first sees Tigris, she stares intently for a few seconds, then says, "Say, I recognize you. You were on my style team when I was first in the Hunger Games!"

The way Katniss says all this strikes me as funny. It's like she's met quite a few tiger-faced women in her time, and wasn't sure at first which one this was.

• When Katniss and her crew realize they'll never make it through the booby-trapped streets of the Capitol, they come up with the brilliant idea of going under them.

Apparently President Snow-- who always seems to be several steps ahead of everyone else-- never thought of this possibility. This is a grievous tactical error on his part, and quite honestly makes him look like an idiot. 

Of course if he did think to booby trap the sewers as well, it would have been a very short movie and the Rebellion would have been over before it started.

• Once Snow figures out that Katniss and her team are sneaking around in the sewers, he has his Gamemakers flood the underground tunnels with hundreds of mutts-- some sort of blind, deadly mutated humanoids.

I'm a bit fuzzy as to what the mutts are actually supposed to be. Are they mutated humans? Are they some sort of artificially created life form that can be cooked up in minutes? Are they robots? Solid holograms? Apparently it's none of the audience's concern, as their nature is never addressed.

If they are some sort of artificial beings, that's pretty impressive. That means the Capitol has the technology to create life itself!

This vagueness about the nature of the traps and how they're created has plagued all the movies. During the Hunger Games in the previous films, the Gamemakers were able to whip up all kinds of threats to the participants seemingly on the fly. Katniss is hiding in the bushes? Fine, we'll somehow create a giant firestorm to force her out into the open. Another Tribute is getting too close to the wall? We'll instantly create a pack of ravenous wolf-like things to tear 'em apart.

This issue has bugged me for three movies now, and they finally had a chance to address it in this fourth and final one, but nope.

 The defeat of the Capitol reminded me more than a little bit of the ending of The Hobbit. In the book, the Battle Of Five Armies starts up, and Bilbo's almost immediately knocked unconscious. When he finally wakes up, the battle's over and the good guys won.

The exact same thing thing happens here. Katniss is fighting her way to Snow's mansion when a massive explosion knocks her out. 
When she comes to, Snow's been captured, the Capitol's been defeated and the Rebels have won.

I didn't like plot conceit in The Hobbit, and I liked it even less here. It feels like a cheat, like the filmmakers couldn't be bothered to show us the one event we've sat through four movies to see. Annoying, to say the least.

• Speaking of Tolkien, this film had almost as many endings as The Return Of The King. Sometime around the third or fourth ending my butt's "Excessive Movie Runtime" alarm went off, and I was hoping they'd hurry and wrap things up soon.

• In one of the film's many endings, Katniss goes back to live in District 12, her former home. Um... didn't Snow bomb the living hell out of District 12 in the previous film? Luckily for her, her winner's mansion appears untouched. But what's she going to do about food, water and heat? In one brief scene we see her hunt and kill a duck or goose. Are she and Peeta going to live on ducks until they can get some crops to grow again?

• As everyone knows by now, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman killed himself prior to the completion of the film. At the time of his death he'd finished all his scenes for Part 1, and had a week to go on Part 2.

Rather than try and cobble together a CGI abomination of Hoffman, the director wisely rewrote the remaining scenes to work around his absence.

Nowhere is that more evident than at the end of the film, in which Haymich visits Katniss and reads her a letter written by Plutarch. It was a bit awkward having another actor read lines obviously meant for Hoffman, but all things considered I think it was the best way to go. A CGI version of Hoffman would have no doubt looked terrible and done a disservice to everyone involved.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a reasonably competent finale to a mostly decent franchise. It's just too bad Lionsgate got greedy and split the final film in half, as it would have made a much better single movie. I give it a B.

Star Trek Into The Clearance Bin

I lost my mind today and braved the savage Black Friday crowds, battling my way into my local Best Buy store. As I dodged uppercuts and reined blows upon my fellow shoppers, I noticed this.

Yep, that's a DVD of the JJ Abrams-directed film Star Trek Into Darkness, selling for an unbelievably low one dollar and ninety nine cents.

Meh, it's still overpriced. ZING!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 7: Heads Up

This week's Walking Dead was yet another "pause before the storm" episode. That makes four in a row now. Thank Christ next week is the fall finale so we can finally get the main plot (you remember, the horde of zombies heading toward unprepared Alexandria?) back on track.

Of course the big news this week is the fact that Glenn's still alive. Told you so! His fate came as no surprise to most viewers, who figured out the twist several weeks ago in the episode Thank You. The way he survived played out exactly as we all predicted, and was frankly a bit anticlimactic. I'm glad Glenn's not dead, but the whole thing seems like a huge cheat. This series already has more than enough real deaths— teasing us with fake ones feels cheap and unnecessary.

Plus one of these days Glenn's going to die for real, and the event will be lessened by this little stunt.

This episode set up all the various pieces for next week's bloodbath. I have a feeling the cast is going to be significantly smaller as we go into the winter hiatus. I predict most of the Alexandrians won't survive the hour, including Deanna and Spencer. And I have a feeling the Ron/Carl showdown will end badly, with Carl marked for life, just as he was in the comic.


The Plot:
This week we rewind yet again to the early hours of the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. We pick up with Glenn and Nicholas trapped on top of the dumpster, as seen in Thank You. Nicholas shoots himself, and his dead body knocks Glenn off the dumpster into a sea of hungry walkers.

But wait! It seems Glenn's not quite dead yet! As the walkers snack on Nicholas' entrails, Glenn slides underneath the dumpster (good thing he's skinny!). He kills a few walkers that grab for him, which forms an undead shield around him. After a few hours the walkers get bored and wander off. He cautiously crawls out from under the dumpster and encounters Enid, who tosses him some water. Enid wants to go off on her own, but Glenn convinces her to come back with him.

Back at Alexandria, Rick criticizes Morgan for letting the Wolves go during their attack (mostly because after they escaped they almost killed Rick). Morgan defends his actions, saying he's convinced not killing is the right thing to do. The writers finally remember Rosita's on the show, and have her teach the Alexandrians how to use machetes.

Rick teaches Ron how to shoot a gun (bad), but refuses to give him any bullets (good). Ron breaks into the armory and steals some (bad again). Deanna gives Rick and Michonne her fanciful and unrealistic expansion plans for Alexandria. Morgan talks Dr. Cloyd into treating the Wolf leader he's secretly holding in the jail. Carol sees this and confronts Morgan. Spencer tries to sneak out of Alexandria to draw the walkers away, but is almost eaten.

Meanwhile, Glenn and Enid find the signal balloons Rick was using for the walker parade. They reach Alexandria and see its surrounded by zombies. Glenn releases the balloons to signal he's still alive. Ron begins stalking Carl with his newly-loaded gun.

Just then the church tower, which was damaged in the Wolf attack a few weeks back, collapses and tears a hole in Alexandria's wall. Uh-oh!

• I was sure this week's episode would be another flashback, showing us how Rick escaped the RV and how Michonne managed to get Scott and Heath back home. Apparently not, and those events are being left to our imaginations.

• Now that we know Glenn's alive, Steven Yeun's name has reappeared in its rightful place in the opening credits. I told you they were trolling us the past few weeks by showing the watch but leaving his name off.

• Once the walkers got bored with trying to eat Glenn, they wandered away and cleared out. Boy did they! In Thank You there were several hundred of them crammed into Glenn's dead end alley, but in this episode the entire town is mysteriously void of even a single walker. Where the hell did they all go?

• Glenn happens upon the zombified David, the guy who couldn't wait to get back to his wife in Thank You. If you'll remember, he was with Michonne's group and couldn't make it over the fence before being swarmed by walkers.

The way that scene played out, one would think David would have been torn limb from limb. And yet here he was sitting in front of the fence, pretty much intact. How the heck did that happen? Did the walkers just take a few polite bites from him and then move on? His horrific screams in Thank You would indicate not.

• I assumed Enid was a Wolf spy, who fed intel about Alexandria to her group. Apparently not! This episode implies she's just a sullen loner who left the town to be on her own.

It's possible she was a Wolf, but fears reprisal if she goes back after telling them the Alexandrians would be easy pickings. Or maybe the Wolves were all wiped out in their attack, and there's no group to go back to.

Another possibility— maybe she's not with the Wolves, but the even more dangerous Saviors?

• Speaking of Enid, Glenn forces her to come back to Alexandria with him. If she doesn't want to go, I honestly don't see how it's any of Glenn's business. And his reason for forcing her— because Maggie would want him to save her— is pretty weak. It felt like these two characters were paired up just because the writers needed to eat up twenty minutes of runtime.

• Hey, we finally see Carol this week! I was beginning to wonder if she'd barricaded herself in her house, furiously baking casseroles.

• Rick holds an impromptu little tribunal to judge Morgan for letting the group of Wolves go free instead of killing them.

Um... Rick does know that there were five Wolves surrounding Morgan, right? And at least one of them was armed? Did he really expect Morgan to kill all five with a damned stick?

• Father Gabriel made a rare appearance in this episode, putting up ads for a prayer service. Rick then appears, tearing down the signs as he walks by.

What the heck was up with that? I get that Rick has no love for Gabriel after all he's done, but tearing down a preacher's signs just made him look like an asshole.

• What happened to Heath? He's a major character in the comics, so I was glad to see him finally show up on the series. Then after appearing in what, two episodes, he's suddenly become MIA. Surely they didn't kill him already, and offscreen yet?

• As I suspected, Rick teaching Ron how to shoot is a very bad idea. After just one shooting lesson he's already got a bullet with Carl's name on it.

As for Carl, he was quite the smug little douche this week. During Ron's shooting lesson, every word out of Carl's self-satisfied, priggish little mouth seemed designed to irritate. Was that on purpose? Do the writers want us to side with Ron?

Also, Carl still needs a haircut. He looks ridiculous with his Mary Tyler Moore flip. Don't worry, if things happen like I think they will, he'll get a haircut next week, and more.

• Ron distracts Olivia (in the oldest and most obvious way possible) so he can sneak into the armory and steal a handful of bullets. Um... why the hell isn't this room locked? Other than to give Ron easy access to it, of course.

I can see the dimwitted and ill-prepared Alexandrians not thinking to lock up their guns, but there's no way in hell Rick would allow such an idiotic system to stand.

• Deanna presents Rick and Michonne with her wildly fanciful expansion plans, that look like they were drawn by a ten year old. 

This scene had the feel of character development about it, so you know what that means on this show. Yep, Deanna's a goner.

• I'm still flabbergasted by Dr. Cloyd's lack of basic medical knowledge. Does she really need a mnemonic device to recognize signs of infection?

I realize she's a psychiatrist and only had a year of medical training, but infections seem pretty basic.

• Sometimes cold hard reality intrudes into the world of TV production. Like when an actress becomes pregnant, but her character isn't supposed to be. When this happens, producers have to scramble to hide the actress' rapidly expanding belly. They usually do this by shooting them from the chest up, dressing them in layers of bulky clothing, or filming them standing behind couches and such.

Or it you're The Walking Dead, you have your actress straddle a bar stool and hold the backrest in front of her gut. Yep, that's Tara, played by Alana Masterson, who was pregnant during the filming of this season.

You can also place a hastily erected and ridiculously obvious plank of wood in front of your "expecting" actress.

I have to admit Tara's "salute" to Rick was one of the few times I've ever laughed while watching The Walking Dead.

• Spencer tries to crawl above a mosh pit of walkers with what appears to be a Batarang. It goes about as well as you'd expect. This seemed like an idiotic stunt even for Spencer, and seemed like it was wedged into the episode just to give it a few much-needed seconds of walker action.

• Last week actor Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl) said that the mysterious cry for help we heard on the radio was not Glenn. I assumed he was lying in order to prevent spoilers, but it looks like he was telling the truth!

So just who was it that we heard? I have no idea. There've been so many flashbacks and episodes airing seemingly out of order that it's impossible to sort out the timeline. For all we know, Daryl might have been hearing the last survivor of Alexandria after next week's attack!

Hover, Schmover!

An Open Letter To The Manufacturers Of So-Called "Hoverboards:"

Dear Manufacturers:

Please stop calling the above devices "hoverboards."

Besides looking goofy and traveling only slightly faster than walking, at no time do they perform any action even remotely close to hovering. 

Look at that thing! It's got wheels, for corn's sake! A hoverboard would have no need for wheels. It would hover.

How is this not false advertising? Please refrain from marketing your devices this way and change the name immediately.

Everyone Who Ever Watched Back To The Future Part II

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Doctor Who Season 9, Episode 10: Face The Raven

Last week's episode of Doctor Who was seemingly written by the proverbial room full of monkeys with typewriters. Untalented monkeys, with defective typewriters, mind you. Fortunately this week's episode was much better. It wasn't perfect by any means though, as it was marred by some odd narrative choices, sloppy writing and some of the most blatant plagiarism I've ever seen outside of The Asylum film studio.

It was also the swan song of actress Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, Clara's the longest-serving companion of the modern era, appearing in thirty five episodes. She managed to just squeak by Rose Tyler, who clocked in with thirty four (I'm aware that some characters weren't actually considered companions in certain episodes. For the sake of simplicity, I'm listing the number of episodes in which they appeared, companion or not).

As character deaths go, this has to be one of the most bizarre and convoluted to date. Clara gets a magical tattoo on her neck that counts down, and when it reaches zero she'll be killed by the Smoke Monster from LOST, which takes the form of a raven. Oh, and nothing can be done to save her due to ill-conceived and vaguely-explained rules. Oy.

Clara's final episode was originally going to be last year's Christmas Special, but she changed her mind at the eleventh hour and decided to stay on. Supposedly this necessitated hurried rewrites of the ending of the Special, and I have a sneaking suspicion that's also why she hasn't had much to do this year. 


The Plot:
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor and Clara discuss their most recent (unseen) adventure. Why do their offscreen adventures always sound so much better (and with a bigger budget) than the ones we actually get to see? Anyway, suddenly the TARDIS phone rings. Clara answers it, and it's Rigsy, the graffiti "artist" from Flatline (one of the few bright spots of Season 8), who absolutely wasn't named after Banksy. He tells Clara he woke up with no memory of the previous day, and a strange tattoo on the back of his neck that seems to be... counting down.

The Doctor and Clara rush to Rigsy's apartment. The Doctor scans him and discovers evidence of Retcon, an alien mind-erasing drug in Rigsy's system. They begin looking for a "trap street" in London, an area where aliens are concealed by a perception-altering field.

They manage to find Diagon Alley, er, I mean the trap street, and enter. Inside they find a secret area of London populated by a variety of aliens, all coexisting peacefully. To the Doctor's surprise, Ashildr/Me ( the Viking girl made immortal back in The Girl Who Died).appears. She's now the Mayor of this city within a city, and is determined to keep the peace. 

She tells the Doctor that Rigsy murdered a female Janus (a race of two faced aliens-- literally) and was sentenced to death. She placed a chronolock tattoo on Rigsy, as one does. At the appropriate time will summon a Quantum Shade, in the form of a raven, that will kill him. The Doctor believes Rigsy was set up, and Mayor Me (oy) allows him to investigate, but warms him he'll have to convince the populace of the city, not her.

While the Doctor's off investigating, Clara talks Rigsy, who's now a husband and father, into transferring the chronolock to her. Clara's confident she'll be safe because she has Mayor Me's personal guarantee of protection. Rigsy reluctantly agrees and transfers the chronolock. 

Meanwhile the Doctor questions Anahson, the daughter of the Janus who was murdered. She says her mother is alive but trapped in a stasis unit, and the whole thing was an elaborate setup to bring the Doctor to Mayor Me. The Doctor unlocks the stasis unit with his TARDIS key, but in the process an unremovable teleportation band is placed on his arm.

Mayor Me appears and says the teleporter is meant to send the Doctor away to keep the peace. She asks him for his Confession Dial (first seen in The Magician's Apprentice) before she teleports him. He gives it to her. Mayor Me says she'll now deactivate Rigsy's chronolock, but is horrified when she discovers it's been passed on to Clara. 

Me says she arranged the chronolock with the Quantum Shade, offering it a soul while assuring no one would die. Clara's transfer broke the terms of that contract, and now she's doomed to die. This makes absolutely no sense, but the episode's almost over, so we're stuck with it. 

The Doctor begins threatening Me, but Clara calms him down. She says her own recklessness got her into this mess, and to let her die on her own terms. She makes him promise to not seek revenge against Me or anyone else involved. She then steps out into Diagon Alley, where the Quantum Shade raven flies through her chest, killing her.

The Doctor tells Me that the universe isn't big enough for the two of them, and she activates his teleportation band, sending him... somewhere.

 A lot's happened to Rigsy in the past year. Not only did he get married and father a child, but he also apparently moved from Bristol to London. Last season's Flatline took place in Bristol. Didn't think we'd catch that one, did you Moffat?

 Funny line: Clara (to Rigsy): Look, no matter how bad it is, we can NOT take you back down your timeline just to fix a tattoo."

 When the Doctor and Clara arrive at Rigsy's flat, he's apparently there alone with his baby. The Doctor says to come along with him, and the three leave. Um,.. did Rigsy just leave his newborn daughter alone in his apartment? At no time do we ever see or hear any sign of his wife.

 I liked the Doctor's fascination with Rigsy's infant daughter. And it was hilarious when Clara and Rigsy both sternly shushed the Doctor when he started cluelessly yelling, afraid he'd make the baby cry. 

Wonder why the Doctor didn't try and speak "baby" to her?

 Finally, at long last, the Doctor ditched the idiotic hoodie he's been wearing all season, replacing it with a purple jacket much like the one worn by the Third Doctor. He's still got the sonic sunglasses though. I'm going to complain about them every week until they finally disappear.

 When the Doctor scans Rigsy, he says his body's full of Retcon, an amnesia drug. Retcon was first mentioned several years ago in the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood.

I'm very surprised to hear a Torchwood reference on the show. Ever since Steven Moffat took over the series, he's seemingly done his best to ignore or erase everything previous showrunner Russell T Davies created.

 We see the return of the Doctor's "empathy cards" as he tries to figure out the best way to tell Rigsy he's doomed. The cards made their first appearance in Under The Lake.

We catch a brief glimpse of one of the cards in this episode, which reads, "I could be wrong. Let's try it your way."

 Rigsy and the Doctor discuss the fact that Clara seems to enjoy risking her life way too much. I'm assuming the point of this episode was to show that her recklessness finally caught up with her, but... when has all this prior risk-taking supposedly taken place? Clara spent the majority of this season separated from the Doctor, chilling inside a Zygon pod, or absent from episodes altogether. 

You can't just tell us stuff like this, guys. It's a TV series. You've got to show us.

 The Doctor says they'll find answers inside a secret alien "city within a city" in London. They find the entrance to this city in a narrow alley between two buildings.

Apparently the entrance to this alley wasn't a set, but an actual location in Cardiff, where Doctor Who is filmed. You can see a glimpse of the alley in the image above (sorry about the stupid light pole in the way-- this is the best image Google Maps had).

 Once they pass through the alley, the Doctor, Clara and Rigsy find themselves in a secret city, complete with twisting, angled streets and Dickensian-looking buildings. Holy plagiarism! I defy anyone to watch this and not think of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films.

One of the aliens even taps on a particular brick to activate a forcefield that traps the Doctor & Co.! And then there are the Janus aliens, beings with a second face on the back of their heads. This is of course nothing like when Voldemort's face was sticking out of the back of Professor Quirrell's noggin.

All these elements go way past "homage" and firmly into "outright theft" territory. About the only thing missing from this episode was a hairy giant growling, "You're a wizard, Doctor!"

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is known for being overly litigious. She's definitely got a case here, and would easily win if she decided to sue.

 Mayor Me sentenced Rigsy to death, but to show she's not heartless, she gave him the countdown tattoo so he could go home and say goodbye to his wife and child. But before he could do so, she erased his memory, because no human can ever leave Diagon Alley with knowledge of its existence.

Um... what the hell? So he's dying, but his mind was wiped so he doesn't know he's doomed. Got it.

Also, if you gave someone a tattoo that counts down to their death, don't you think you might want to put it someplace where they could actually see it, so they'd know how much time they had left? Like maybe on their forearm or hand, instead of the back of their neck? But no, out of sight is good too.

Lucky break that Rigsy apparently likes using two mirrors to gaze at the back of his own neck, or he'd have been really surprised when a raven flew through his chest a few hours later.

Did anyone proofread this script before they filmed it?

 Diagon Alley is populated by dozens of alien refugees, secretly living in London. I get that there's a fragile truce between all the various extraterrestrials there and they'll be punished if they violate the treaty. That said, I find it very hard to believe that a Cyberman would be able to peacefully coexist with all these other species. You know, the Cybermen, whose sole purpose is to "upgrade" all other life forms into Cyberkind?

 Once again the BBC cleans out its storage unit when it needs a crowd of aliens Diagon Alley was populated with many familiar faces. 

There was the aforementioned Cyberman, along with an Ood.

An uncharacteristically tall Sontaran.

A Silurian.

A helmet-less Ice Warrior (don't they need to stay inside their armor to survive?).

And of course a couple of ever popular Judoon security guards.

There were a couple of new alien designs, but for the most part they were all recycled.

 I didn't understand why there was a chameleon circuit (or whatever they called it) in DIagon Alley that disguised all the aliens as humans. It's supposed to be a refugee camp, right? A refuge for displaced aliens? So wouldn't it follow they'd all be in their normal forms? Why the disguises? Was it so they weren't reminded they're all from enemy races? Or do the disguises only kick in when intruders are present?

 I really, really don't understand why the chronolock curse couldn't be stopped after being transferred to Clara. It seemed like a totally arbitrary rule, and no one ever explained it satisfactorily. Every time there was an opportunity to adequately spell it out, Mayor Me would just say, "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do."

According to the vague explanation we got, Me arranged a contract with the Quantum Shade, promising it a soul but reserving the right to break the agreement (I think). When Clara took the chronolock from RIgsy, that violated the contract, and Me couldn't stop the Shade from claiming her soul.

I've gone over it twenty times and it still doesn't make any sense. If there's any logic to that explanation, it's very subtle or I'm just too dense to understand it. How hard would it have been to write some clear, logical rules and spell them out precisely for the audience?

 Clara's death might have been more shocking and had more emotional weight if it hadn't been telegraphed all over ever corner of the bloody internet for the past three or four months. 

I remember way back in Season 2, how gobsmacked I was when Rose was sucked into a vortex and into another, unreachable dimension, forever (heh). Back then everyone and their dog wasn't reporting every tiny morsel of Doctor Who news, so Rose's fate came as a complete and total surprise to me. Sometimes I miss those days.

And before someone says, "Well, if you don't like spoilers, why do you read spoiler sites," I don't. But it's hard to avoid them when a headline screaming "JENNA COLEMAN LEAVING DOCTOR WHO!" pops up on Yahoo or Google News, before I have a chance to avert my eyes.

 After Clara's death, the Doctor is teleported to an unknown destination. This is another one of those times when it would come in really handy for the Doctor to have a way to remotely summon the TARDIS.

 In the after credits scene, we see Rigsy painting flowers and a portrait of Clara on the now-abandoned TARDIS. He stands back to admire his work, a can of spray paint in his hand. It's strongly implied that he spray painted all this, which is patently ridiculous. I don't care how good an artist he is, there's no way in hell he painted all those fiddly little details with a can of spray paint.

His memorial also implies that his mind wasn't wiped after leaving Diagon Alley this time. A parting gift from Mayor Me?
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