Well, not really... but maybe.
First, let me start with a bit of background. Here's a little something you may not know about me: I'm a pretty rabid Boston Celtics fan. My wife will attest to this, as she has had to cover the dogs' ears many a time to protect their innocence from the colorful language that spouts from my mouth while watching Celtics' games.
My fandom began when I was a child, and notable Celtics player, Dee Brown, came to my local mall to put on a dunk show. After the show I got his autograph which I have since lost, because, well...kids suck at keeping stuff. But my fandom was solidified at that point, and I spent the next few years of my childhood dreaming of becoming the next great NBA player. High school appropriately beat that dream out of me, but the love of basketball never died, and I've followed the Boston Celtics ever since.
This brings us to my current clairvoyance.
Back in May, the Celtics were in the act of evaluating draft prospects, as they fortuitously held the rights to draft number one overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. There were a handful of young players who were talented enough to be considered as the number one overall draft pick, so prior to the draft the Celtics organization held workouts for each of the top prospects in order to gauge who to choose. However, one young player, Lonzo Ball, decided he would not be working out for the Celtics. (You may have heard of this young man, or at least of his father, LaVar, who has been known to spout nonsense like a volcano spouts ash. In fact, it was the general consensus in the sporting world that LaVar cared more about television appearances than he cared about his son… but I digress).
Celtics fans were somewhat miffed at the snub, but there was also a fair amount of expressed relief that the fanbase would not have to deal with the hijinks of LaVar. I frequent a highly regarded Celtics fan blog called Celticsblog, and in May they aptly posted an article detailing the aforementioned snub.
Along with many other fans, I took to the comments section of the blog to voice my own opinion of the situation, and of the Balls in general.
I give it 6 months before “Ball in the Family” is the next reality TV hit for E!
Well, it looks like I had the media outlet wrong, but here we are about to enter September and what should pop up on facebook? A reality show titled “Ball in the Family,” starring none other than the aforementioned volcano of nonsense.
I think I might play the lottery tonight.
In The Hands of Ruin series, masters of the mystical substance zulis can bond with a jawhar. A jawhar is a spirit-like companion who bonds with a zul master through meditative use of zulis. To the unknowing, a jawhar can easily be mistaken for a common animal. Here’s an excerpt as example:
“It’s not a dog,” Mitt said, straightening up and stepping away from his work at repairing a busted ale keg. “We’ve been over this.”
“I don’t care what it is, Mitt.” Dell raised her thin eyebrows and pointed back out toward the dining room. “Jailhair, junehoard—whatever you called it, I want it gone. It’s ruining business.”
Mitt sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s called a jawhar, Dell, and if you think I can get rid of it, you’ve lost your mind. I’ve got about as much control over that thing as I have over the sun. As I told you last time, send for Master Ah’Rhea. She’s the only one who can make it leave.”
Few zul masters are skilled enough to have bonded with a jawhar. In fact, only four zul masters in all of Ferren have Jawhars. In the following excerpt, zul master Ah’Rhea Eneoh interacts with her Jawhar, Reego.
The jawhar spun around and barked, obviously delighted with himself. He dipped his head back into the feffer fruit, and Ah’Rhea smiled. She popped a few ripe yellow berries into her mouth and shook her head. She would always have a soft spot for Reego. He was, after all, bonded to her for life. She sipped her wine and leaned back in her chair. There were only four zul masters in Ferren who had jawhars, and Reego was the only one who had manifested to look like a wild dog. Obviously, Ah’Rhea loved the form her jawhar had chosen. Reego knew her desires and preferences better than anyone ever had, or possibly ever would. The two shared a bond that transcended both mind and body in a way that was not easily defined.
She watched as Reego enjoyed his fruit, wagging his bushy white-and-brown tail. His tall tufted ears brushed the edges of the bowl in a way that made Ah’Rhea smile. She leaned forward and petted the motley little fool while he ate. His fur was soft and light as it brushed against Ah’Rhea’s fingers, and the exercise of petting him added to her feeling of tranquility.
Reego wasn’t a dog, but Ah’Rhea often treated him like one, and Reego didn’t seem to mind. If a stranger were to watch them now, he or she would see merely a thirty-pound wild dog with brown-and-white coloring, a flared, bushy tail, tufted ears, and shaggy paws. The only element of Reego’s appearance that set him apart from a normal wild dog was that he had allowed Ah’Rhea to braid the long hair under each of his tall ears and cinch a gold ringlet at the end of each braid. They slapped now against the bowl as he made for the berries at its bottom. Ah’Rhea drank from her cup and enjoyed the company of her best friend.
The story of how she had bonded with Reego wasn’t especially exciting. It wasn’t a feat of dangerous adventure that allowed a zul master to bond with a jawhar but a feat of time, persistence, and self-discovery. Obviously, zulis was needed for the task, but a jawhar bonded to a zul master only in a moment of deep introspection and understanding.
And here’s another excerpt further describing the bonding of a Jawhar to a zul master.
Ah’Rhea remembered the moment Reego had finally come forward, the rain pounding her tiny little hut tucked into the humid mountains. She had recited the incantation over and over, whispering it so softly she could barely hear her own words. She had finally discovered the catalyst that had led her to the idea of becoming a zul master, that spark that had lit her mind when she first learned of the jawhars. It had been knowledge, the pursuit of knowing all things, that had brightened Ah’Rhea’s soul. But it was more than that. It was also the desire to have her knowledge carried forward through time so it may shape the future world and all within it. Her knowledge would be like a metaphysical entity rolling infinitely through time and space, gathering and increasing as it traveled, becoming capable of all possibility, capable of stimulating genesis.
“Come now, my jawhar,” she had said.
Her eyes had opened to the sound of something faintly sniffing the air. She had sat motionless as he stood before her, evaluating her, cautiously surveying all she was, with his back straight and his head low. In that moment, Ah’Rhea knew so much about him. She could feel it within like the beating of her very heart. His name was Reego, and he was the manifestation of Ah’Rhea’s soul. He was the piece of her that would live forever.
Reego had moved forward, keeping his bright gaze fixed on her as she sat motionless, kneeling on the floor of the green hut. When he was so close that she could feel the gentle draft of his breath, she nodded at him slowly, and then he placed his head on her shoulder. Her jawhar had accepted her. Ah’Rhea Eneoh, zul master of Ferrenglyn, had bonded with her jawhar, and he would carry her soul forward into eternity.
I’ve selected a few excerpts from The Hands of Ruin: Book One to introduce one of the series’ prominent characters, Ah’Rhea Eneoh. Ah’Rhea is a zul master who lives in the cliffside caves that overlook the great chasm in the valley floor of Ferrenglyn.
• • •
Ah’Rhea sat high above the valley floor, amid the stillness of the land. The warm breeze moved gently against the thick black curls of hair that fell down across her chest, and it carried the sweet vanilla scent that came from the chasm in the valley floor. She set her dirty hands in her lap, closed her bright-green eyes, and enjoyed the moment of tranquility. Aside from the touch of the breeze and the warmth of the sun, she was alone.
It was evening in the valley of Ferrenglyn, and the sunset made the red-brown rock walls of the cliffs below Ah’Rhea look as bright as the embers of a dying fire. She was as still as a statue, and her skin—colored so similarly to the rock walls below—was glad for the warmth of the setting sun. An evening like this always brought memories of him, and she needed these last moments of sun to get her through the chill of a lonely night.
• • •
Ah’Rhea had trained with zulis for years to hone her skills. Countless hours of work and introspection had shaped her life until she was worthy of the title “zul master.” It was a goal she had pursued ever since early childhood. It was a singular focus, a yearning in her heart, and she had almost completely ignored the temptations of life in order to achieve that goal. Now, she lived a life of honor but also a life of seclusion. The zul masters could live with one another if they should choose. Yet most lived a life dominated by solitude.
Truly, solitude was something Ah’Rhea liked, something she had always preferred. She felt silence had its own sound, and she regarded it as sweet. Even as a small child, she would sit alone, playing quietly with no one to watch her. She could play that way for hours, to both the relief and dismay of her parents. A child that required so little attention was both a blessing and an oddity. However, there was never any reason for Ah’Rhea’s parents to be concerned. Their child was merely content to be alone. The absence of other people never made Ah’Rhea feel lonely. In fact, only the absence of one particular soul had ever made her feel loneliness, and if it were not for him, loneliness might be an alien concept to her completely.
• • •
The Melakka brothers saw Ah’Rhea coming as they swept sand from the entryway at the Temple of Origin. They stopped sweeping immediately upon seeing her; they knew why she approached, and knew there was no escaping now. Gund dropped his broom, closed his eyes, and prayed. His fat knuckles intertwined with such force they turned white. Varn fell to his knees and begged the woman for forgiveness; he tore at his yellow shirt, shouting for mercy even as Ah’Rhea was still thirty yards away. A woman leaned out of a window three floors up to dispose of wastewater, but after seeing the zul master coming, she shrieked and ducked back inside. Ah’Rhea had always wondered whether it was respect the villagers had for the zul masters of Ferrenglyn or whether they were merely poor creatures living at the foot of a volcano, in constant fear of its eruption. Ah’Rhea had her answer now as she bore down on the temple workers like ash falling from the sky.
I’ve selected a few excerpts from The Hands of Ruin: Book One to introduce one of the series’ prominent characters, Rainart Eil Dragaredd. Rainart is the uncle of fourteen-year-old twins, Zerah and Zigmund Aschburner. After their parents’ deaths, the twins are forced to go live with the uncle they have never met.
• • •
When they finally reached the top of the staircase, Zerah pounded the metal door in front of her. She and her brother were soaked through. Zerah only hoped their luggage had resisted the water better than their clothing. Zigmund looked out over the ocean and then down the side of the cliff. He immediately regretted his decision as the dizziness of vertigo threatened to topple him. He dropped his bags and reached back for his sister, hoping to grab her shoulder for stability. In his wobbly state, he fell back against her harder than he had intended to. The door Zerah had been knocking on opened suddenly, and Zigmund knocked his sister over, both teens stumbling and falling through the door and onto a red rug inside the house.
They wiped the water out of their eyes and looked up to see their uncle’s dark eyes and coal-black moustache towering over them. The man sniffled and walked outside to grab the dropped luggage. He threw it inside the house and then walked back in, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Down the hall and to the left are two guest rooms that will now be your bedrooms,” he said, wiping the rain from his hardened face. “I don’t care which of you takes which one. After you’ve found your rooms and changed your clothes, I’ll expect you downstairs in the dining room for dinner. I’ve already started without you.”
The twins watched the tall man walk away from them and descend a staircase to the right. He moved with a noticeable limp in his right leg but didn’t seem to let it impede his pace.
• • •
“You thought I would have servants,” Rainart finished for her. The girl shrugged sheepishly. “I don’t believe in them,” Rainart said. “People don’t deserve the things they don’t procure for themselves. We obviously can’t be totally self-sufficient creatures, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can.” Rainart put his glass down and placed his large hands on the table, pushing down as he rose out of his seat. He turned to a large cabinet behind his chair and quickly turned back with a bottle of wine. “Would either of you care for a glass? Cabernet, full bodied, with notes of cherry. It’s quite good.”
The teens noticed they each had two glasses in front of them; one was filled with water, the other empty, obviously prepared for this moment. Zerah stared at her uncle with a twinkle in her eye and her mouth hanging open in surprise. Zigmund was not as awestruck or impressed.
“We’re fourteen,” Zigmund said, as if his uncle were a complete idiot.
Rainart placed the bottle down on the table and sat back down. “Well, if that means the answer is no, you’re missing out.”
• • •
Rainart glared at Zigmund and pursed his lips. It would have been a lie for Zigmund to say the man didn’t intimidate him. Everything about Rainart was intimidating. He was large, possibly larger than the twins’ father had been, and he was dark in almost every aspect. He wore a dark goatee and had eyes to match. His shoulder-length black hair had some gray in it and was tied back, revealing a scar along the right side of his neck that looked like a crack in glass. He wore all-black clothing as if he were a smuggler or a thief. Even the fact that Rainart was in his midforties and had a noticeable limp only seemed to add to his mystique.
Rainart surveyed the boy like a predator and then returned to his wine glass. “Your father was a prick,” he said. “I’m not sorry he’s dead. I’m only sorry he was your father and sorry he married my sister.” Rainart gulped the last of his wine, proceeded to pour himself a fresh glass, and huffed.
• • •
Rainart reached under the table and wrenched the girl up by her arm. He quickly ushered her out into the hall and slammed her upright against the wall. He looked into her eyes as if searching for a ghost in the darkness, his own face just inches from Zerah’s.
“What the hell is going on?” Zigmund said as he came down the staircase.
“Shut up,” Rainart barked at the boy, but Zigmund saw his uncle with his hand on his sister’s throat, and he rushed forward.
“Get off her!” Zigmund yelled.
As the boy came forward, Rainart threw his arm out and knocked Zigmund to the ground, keeping Zerah pinned to the wall. He looked back at the girl with a ferocious growl.
“What did the bottle look like?” he snarled. “The one you drank from. What did it look like?”
“I…I…” Zerah stuttered. “It didn’t h-have a label.”
Rainart looked hard into the girl’s eyes, and there he saw what he was searching for, as fleeting as it was. Like a faint shimmer, like smoke being blown by a fan, the emerald gleam was in her eyes. He caught just a glimpse of it before it disappeared.
Stepping back, Rainart released the girl, and she slid to the floor next to her brother. She was sobbing, her cheeks wet with tears. Zigmund regained his faculties and came to his sister’s side, hugging her close to see she was all right. The teens looked up at their uncle like beaten dogs, confused, hurt, and scared beyond reason. Rainart’s eyes darted from side to side, and he scratched his beard feverishly. Suddenly, he dashed back into the wine room. The twins could hear boxes being flung about wildly, bottles clinking against one another. The world was chaos.
Rainart came back into the hallway moments later with the half-empty bottle of wine in his hands. He stomped forward and stopped in front of the teens, heaped on the floor in a pile. Rainart was breathing heavily as he looked down at them, and his eyes were manic.
“Get up, now,” Rainart’s gravelly voice commanded, “and follow me quickly. If you don’t move now, you will die.”
• • •
“As I said earlier,” Rainart began, “there is a great deal about my life and me you will find impossible to take at face value. My only aid in convincing you will be time. Events will occur, you will meet new people, and eventually I will go from the way you see me now—which I’d bet is as a lunatic alcoholic—to the way you will come to know me.
“What you have to understand, without the aid of time, is I am in a very difficult situation. Assume you had to give someone a truth he or she would find unbelievable. Assume that because of this truth, certain measures had to be taken. The question set before you is, Do you inform those who will disbelieve you, and hope their inability to believe doesn’t harm what needs to be done, or do you simply execute the necessary actions without giving any explanation? I’ll be honest: the latter option would be easier for me, but I’m trying to be the good guy here. So I’m giving you the choice. Do you want to hear the truth, knowing you won’t believe it, or do you want me to just do what I have to?”
It was a little over a year ago I teased that the Everflame series and The Dean Machine were actually set in the same universe. That blogpost can be seen here. In that post I mentioned I would be writing a new book series that was also set in that universe, and would involve characters from both stories.
As it stands, I have the rough draft written for the first two books in that series, and I hope to have them both available later this year. The book series is titled The Hands of Ruin, and the story begins five years after the events that take place in The Dean Machine.
Here are the covers... now it's back to work.
I didn't come up with this theory, and in no way take credit for it. It’s just something I stumbled upon in bits and pieces as I traversed the inter-webs, and thought I should share. If you are a Game of Thrones fan who is not up to date on the television episodes, or someone who doesn’t want potential spoilers, do not read on. For everyone else, here is a fan theory about GOT that is too perfect not to be true.
Firstly, let’s follow the family tree of House Targaryen, starting with Aerys II, the Mad King. (This is the guy Jamie Lannister kills to earn the nickname "Kingslayer"). The Mad King had three children with his wife, Rhaelle. These children are Daenerys “Mother of Dragons,” Viserys (the d-bag from season one last seen wearing a scalding pot of gold, care of Khal Drogo), and Rhaegar (Died; never on the show).
So, the Mad King has three kids. However, as we have learned time and time again, Westeros is filled with illegitimate children. It’s likely a dude nicknamed the Mad King wasn't the most faithful guy in the world to his wife, and probably wasn't afraid to take whomever and whatever he wanted whenever he felt like it. In a world where you’re seemingly not a cool kid unless you have a bastard of your own, it seems pretty safe to assume the Mad King had at least one illegitimate child.
So that brings us to Tyrion Lannister. You know, the Tyrion whose father, Tywin Lannister, treated him like he wasn't actually his son, the Tyrion who recently displayed an amazing ability to calm caged dragons long enough to pet their necks and take the shackles off of them, the Tyrion who is described in George R. R. Martin’s books as having hair so blonde it almost seemed white. Doesn’t Tyrion almost seem like he isn’t really a Lannister? Maybe he isn’t a Lannister…
Maybe the Mad King had a thing for Tyrion's mother, Joanna Lannister, and maybe the Mad King had a secret affair with her, or maybe he just took what he wanted in the way a tyrant king might. If you believe this possibility, then it means Tyrion is yet another bastard in Westeros, and the half-brother of Daenerys. Does that make Tyrion the “Uncle of Dragons?”
Now let's go back to one of the Mad King's legitimate kids, Rhaegar Targaryen. We never met him, but we do know something about him. Namely, that he kidnapped Ned Stark's sister, Lyanna, and kept her prisoner until Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon started a war over it. Rhaegar dies at the hands of Robert Baratheon during the war, alas Lyanna Stark dies anyway. Oddly, we aren’t told exactly how Lyanna died.
This raises the obvious question: why would Rhaegar kidnap Lyanna? And it is surely to be followed by the obvious answer: to make more bastards. Because, as we have already learned, time and time again, the goal of every man in Westeros is seemingly to make more bastards. It’s as if they think it’s a game. Whoever has the most bastards when winter comes is the winner. (I digress).
It's not a huge logical leap to think that maybe Ned Stark wasn't unfaithful to his wife, Catelyn. He never really seemed like the kind of guy who would cheat. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of Ned Stark’s character to tell the world nice guy’s finish not only last, but also without their heads in the Game of Thrones? Maybe it’s not so hard to believe that Ned Stark didn’t raise his own bastard within the walls of Winterfell, but instead was doing something far nobler. Maybe he decided to raise his sister's orphaned son as his own. Maybe Jon Snow's mother is Lyanna Stark. It would explain why her character is brought up so often, as evidenced by Bran Stark's memory/dream in the most recent GOT episode. Also, this would obviously mean Jon Snow’s father is Rhaegar Targaryen.
This would also make Jon Snow (Targaryen) the nephew of Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister (Targaryen).
Hmm, aren’t there three dragons?
That is why I say this theory is too perfect not to be true, because let’s be honest, if you’re telling me this show could have Tyrion, Daenerys, and Jon Snow riding a trinity of dragons into battle against an army of White Walkers, yet someone said, “nah, I think we can come up with something better,” that person would be wrong. That person would be utterly, tragically, mind-bogglingly incorrect.
Don’t crush our dreams, HBO. Tyrion Lannister needs to ride a fire-breathing dragon.
• • •
Dylan Lee Peters
Author of The Dean Machine and The Everflame Series
Sometimes, when I read a book, or become immersed in a particular kind of film, I begin searching. Searching for what—I’m not sure I even know. Maybe truth. Maybe revelation. Maybe I’m searching for that magic analogy that will help me to understand the human condition in a way I couldn’t have understood it before. Maybe I’m searching for a copy of myself. I don’t know. None of that seems perfectly correct, but none of it seems perfectly incorrect either. I suppose that’s why I begin searching in the first place.
Maybe you do this too, and if you do, then you know how often that search can end in disappointment. Truly, you end up having projected importance onto a story that was nothing more than smoke and mirrors from the outset. Most often, the story is a mechanism created to hold your attention, and nothing more. You are left searching for a greater meaning that was never there. Sometimes, when a storyteller is actually trying to convey greater meaning, they only capture a glimmer, just for a moment, but ultimately lose grasp of it, and something promising falls apart. Your search leaves you feeling unfulfilled.
So, if you have been on that ambiguous search that I’m talking about, then you also know that disappointment. If you know that search, then you also know there’s a trap to fall into. You know what your weaknesses are. You know the smoke and mirrors that get you every time. It’s the hook you will always take, no matter how many times it leaves you strung up on someone’s line.
The first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s trilogy, Annihilation, is the hook that I had to take, knowing that I was setting myself up for likely disappointment. Its smoke created the perfect screen to pique my curiosity, and its mirrors reflected the silhouettes that I had to chase down. That first book devoured me so completely that I was ashamed of how much I succumbed to it. After finishing, I moved on to the second book like a junkie injecting their fix, cursing the poison that had gained mastery over me. I had begun that ambiguous search again.
If the first book had set the hook, the second book, Authority, was reeling me in at a ferocious rate. I read and re-read passages as if they were incantations, sure to produce a revelatory vision. I regarded the book as if I had stumbled upon some ancient scroll that could unbind the universe. Damn it, I was caught up in it. When I tried to tear my head away from it, it still had me pondering its greater meaning. It was a pressure buried in my thought, it was a brightness embedded in my chest, its shadows were at the corners of my eyes, I could feel it on my fingertips, and I couldn’t wash it off.
The book had me ready to receive that message that I’m always searching for. I wanted it so damn bad. I was ready to peer down into the winding darkness, I was ready to walk across the swirling light of the void, I was ready to jump into the abyss, and the whole time I would be praying that this time would not end in disappointment. This time there had to be something worthy of the search. This time there had to be something that should be found, that needed to be found.
I burst through the surface of the third book, Acceptance, knowing that I had left myself vulnerable to another let down. Yet, as I read along, I realized that I would not be let down. This time, unlike so many expeditions that had come before it, I did find something worth the search. There it was, shining upon the surface of the grass, moving below the water like a great gray shadow, flitting through the air like an alien dust, exactly what I was looking for, exactly what I am always looking for.
• • •
I don’t know how to begin to review a work such as The Southern Reach Trilogy. I don’t know how to evaluate it, quantify it, or qualify it. I sure as shit don’t know how to parse it into a few paragraphs that will convince you that it is worthy of your attention. All I can communicate to you is that it is worthy of your attention because it holds within its pages something true. It’s something we just couldn’t find the right analogy for.
A little embarrassed, he said, “That fish down there sure is frightened of you.”
“Huh? It just doesn’t know me. If it knew me, that fish would shake my hand.”
“I don’t think there’s anything you could say to convince it of that. And there are all kinds of ways you could hurt it without meaning to.” Watching those unblinking eyes with the gold streaks—the dark vertical pupil—that seemed like a fundamental truth
• • •
Dylan Lee Peters
Author of The Dean Machine and The Everflame Series
1. I will, with almost 100% certainty, never write another novel under the title of Everflame. In that respect, the Everflame Series is completed.
2. Everflame and The Dean Machine are parts of a larger story that will be told in my next series of novels. They are connected in that they each take place in the same universe. The Everflame Series is a story of this universe’s ancient past, and The Dean Machine a story of its future.
3. Characters from both The Everflame Series and The Dean Machine will have major roles in this new series I will be writing.
Stay tuned for more information about this new project, and clues as to which characters will be along for the next adventure. In the meantime, make sure you are caught up with the story in the Everflame Series, and The Dean Machine.
I came to this party late. Very late. I abstained from watching The Walking Dead until last year. I’ve never been into the zombie genre. It always seemed so one-dimensional. Zombies attack, everyone runs, and ultimately no one escapes. The story ends in the inevitable pig pile of death. So, for a very long time, I assumed The Walking Dead would follow the same arc. I had even watched Season One: Episode One a few years ago, and concluded that the show would be exactly what I thought it was going to be. So I judged it unworthy of my time, and forgot about it.
It turned out that I was wrong. After years of hearing others call the show “the best on TV,” my wife and I reluctantly gave the show another chance. Our reasoning, if for nothing else, was that we needed to find out why everyone was hooked on The Walking Dead. We needed the mania to at least make sense. Season one of the show is still utterly boring in my opinion, but about halfway through season two, we were hooked. The story was certainly not one-dimensional; in fact, it was going places I didn’t think a television show ever would. We were binge watching on Netflix, night after night, loving the character building, the shocking deaths, and finding ourselves admitting we were wrong about The Walking Dead. It wasn’t just a show about zombies. It was a show about people, survival, and finding hope against seemingly insurmountable odds.
We caught up to the show just after Rick Grimes and his group found themselves behind the walls of Alexandria. At this point we were hooked. At this point we were Walking Dead fans.
But that’s where everything changed for me. In my opinion, the show has devolved into something lesser since that point. The characters had been sufficiently built, but in Alexandria we are forced to watch them stagnate. Carol is no longer bad-ass, and Daryl’s crossbow never seems to get enough of the spotlight. The plotline has fits and starts, and the show has lost the ability to make me believe they just might kill off anyone. The Walking Dead had never been boring, but now it felt like it was becoming so. It all came to a head with last night’s season finale, as I watched Rick and his group held hostage, on their knees, waiting for the next blow to come, and it never came. Not for the audience anyway. As the screen went black, the credits rolled, and the realization that I had just wasted another 90 minutes of my life washed over me. A much more sobering epiphany struck.
This is when I realized that as an audience, we were just like the characters of the show. We were hostages, on our knees, waiting for something to happen so we can stand back up… but nothing really happened.
Ask yourself this: what are the enduring images of last night’s episode? You will certainly see Negan with his baseball bat, Lucille, but think past that, what else do you remember? What stands prominently in your mind? For me it’s the repeated ads pushing us to watch Better Call Saul, or Fear The Walking Dead. Ask yourself why last might needed 90 minutes to tell a story that went nowhere instead of 60. Ask yourself why, when you hear the echoes of last night in your mind, you hear “AMC’s The Walking Dead.” I’ve never felt like I was watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, or USA’s Mr. Robot, but it’s definitely AMC’s The Walking Dead.
And this is why, when after 90 minutes of watching filler and commercials just to see who Negan was going to kill–because let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s all last night was–and then not be told who got that baseball bat to the head, I’m absolutely done watching this show. Last night was my series finale.
I will endure advertising for a good story, but I refuse to be strung along like some mindless fool, hooked up to the advertising machine, allowing myself to be shown ad, after ad, after ad, and be given nothing in return. We received no quality entertainment, no story, no resolution, and this has been happening since the walls of Alexandria appeared on the horizon. We’re all just kneeling in the mud, and watching commercials.
AMC’s Negan was exactly right, and it felt like he was speaking to AMC’s audience.
“Give me your shit or I will kill you. Today was career day. We invested a lot, and you know who I am, and what I can do. You work for me now. You have shit; you give it to me. That’s your job. Now I know that is a mighty big, nasty pill to swallow, but swallow it you most certainly will.”
Nah. I’m good. I’m not giving AMC half my shit anymore.
You really want to know who AMC’s The Walking Dead killed off last night?
There is a perceived problem afflicting a portion of today’s America, and a great deal of people would argue that the problem is very real. They live their daily lives frustrated with the direction of their country/society, fed up with the people that surround them, and afraid there is little hope that things will get better. Many people in America feel like Adam and Barbara Maitland from the movie Beetlejuice.
Try to see the parallels for a moment. You just came to the realization that you are no longer in the world that you thought you were in. You don’t feel dead, but it seems like you are. No one notices you or what you care about. You don’t understand what is going on or how you got to this point. You have questions and no one has answers. You try to get help, but no one is there to give you that help. The world is so strange to you when you walk out your front door, that you’re better off staying inside forever. And now, to top it all off, these weird people you don’t like are moving in, and there’s seemingly nothing you can do to get rid of them or their weird art. You just want things to go back to the way they were. You’d do anything to have life go back to the way it was before.
To a lot of Americans (seemingly) this is exactly how they feel in today’s America. They are scared, they want help, they are fed up, and they are ready to do whatever they have to in order to get what they want…
…and then their television lights up.
There’s a man, telling them everything they want to hear. He seems to understand exactly what their problems are, and seems to know exactly what to do to fix them. Sure, his hair is very odd, he’s wearing an obscene amount of makeup, and he seems a little abrasive, but he makes them wonder if that’s not exactly what they need: It’s time to shake things up. He’s telling them that he can make all of their problems go away, and all they have to do is empower him.
If you’ve seen the movie Beetlejuice, you know what happens after this point. The Maitland’s give Beetlejuice the go ahead, and all hell breaks loose. It turns out Beetlejuice is a shyster, a charlatan, a fraud. There were some who tried to warn them not to get involved with this man, but they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t do enough digging into who Beetlejuice really was. The Maitland’s let themselves make a poor decision out of fear and anger, and they ended up in much worse trouble then they were in before… Everyone ends up in much worse trouble.
In the end, the Maitland’s realize what a mistake Beetlejuice is just before it’s too late. They realize they will never be able to get back to the way things used to be, but that’s okay. While the Deetz’ who moved into their home are strange to them, and flawed (as we all are), they are not bad people. The Maitland’s learn to live with the Deetz’ so that everyone has a better life. Most importantly, the Maitland’s learn that they are the ones who are responsible for the quality of their own lives, and that as long as they live out of fear and anger, nothing good will come of that.
So BEWARE. You may be living the plot of Beetlejuice.