Monday, January 22, 2018

All The Women Return To "Fort Rozz!"


The Good: Good performances, Decent direction, Fun team-up plot
The Bad: Undermines all the main characters for the sake of plot convenience, Predictable
The Basics: "Fort Rozz" and Livewire return to Supergirl for a mediocre team-up storyline!


The DC Television Universe shows have one fundamental problem with their formula: all of them have a super-hero who is surrounded by an ensemble of strong supporting characters. All of the works in the DC Television Universe stand on the idea that no person is an island. The result is that all of the shows are team shows and in some ways Supergirl suffers the most. Unlike Arrow, The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow or even Black Lightning, Supergirl is bloated with powerful characters and it makes it especially difficult to make compelling adversaries who are able to realistically threaten Supergirl or National City. Between Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter, though, there are few adversaries that the pair could not - realistically, based upon their abilities - take in a fight. Indeed, outside magical adversaries, a Kryptonian and a Martian are pretty much on par with every Earth-based DC Comics villain and with the additional support team of Superman in a neighboring city, allusions to Batman, and the full DEO team, Supergirl is unfortunately hero-heavy. In fact, it is so overloaded with heroes now that the Legion Of Super Heroes has arrived from the 31st Century, it is hard to suspend one's disbelief to believe that Reign - a Kryptonian who has a much greater charge of Earth's sun than Superman or Supergirl but is backed only by religious fanatics - could actually be such an effective adversary against so many heroes.

Despite the overpower aspect of the good guys on Supergirl, "Fort Rozz" begins with the idea that Reign is such an amazing threat that Kara has to enlist others to help her on a mission. "Fort Rozz" picks up after "Legion Of Super-Heroes" (reviewed here!) and the set-up is that Reign is such an inscrutable and powerful enemy that Kara has to make a new team to simply get intelligence on the Kryptonian. With Alex out of commission, Kara turns to Psi and Livewire for a team-up infiltration mission.

With DEO intelligence on Reign sorely lacking and Alex home with a broken leg (and taking care of Ruby), Kara learns that the only people who might have information on Reign are imprisoned in Fort Rozz. Fort Rozz has taken up orbit around a Blue Giant star, which leaves Supergirl without her powers and in a position that is fatal to anyone with a Y-chromosome. Kara assembles a team of women with powers she believes she can trust - Saturn Girl, Livewire, and Psi - to journey to Fort Rozz to find Jindah Kol Rozz, a Priestess imprisoned there who knows about Reign.

On Fort Rozz, the team discovers all of the cells open and all the imprisoned men there dead. When they are attacked by an inmate, Psi puts a whammy on Irma. After putting Psi and Irma in a safe place on the Legion ship to watch over their prisoner, Livewire and Supergirl head to find Jindah. Psychically attacked by Jindah Kol Rozz, Supergirl is entirely helpless and separated from her allies when Reign arrives to stop her!

"Fort Rozz" is a pretty familiar team-up episode which puts the heroine in a place where she is forced to rely upon her enemies. The episode adds predictable adversity, like a solar flare which will destroy Fort Rozz and puts a ticking clock on the mission in space, and Reign showing up on Fort Rozz. The whole episode has a fairly formulaic execution. Indeed, as Reign and Livewire square off, it is easier for viewers to recall that Supergirl was only able to defeat he with the aid of water and The Flash when reason failed. Reign's ability to harm Livewire is problematic given the precedent from past episodes.

Livewire has a decent arc in "Fort Rozz." She has gone underground because Reign has slaughtered many of her criminal friends. That makes for a sensible motivation for Livewire and her arc is well-executed in "Fort Rozz." Leslie Willis has grown and developed over the course of Supergirl and in "Fort Rozz" it shows. The way Kara reached Willis on her last appearance led her to make real changes and she is a surprisingly compelling character in this go-around.

The episode features a b-plot involving Alex and Ruby. Alex is contacted by Maggie, who wants her passport back. This is a fairly ridiculous conceit as Alex mentions that Maggie traveled a lot; she was not in a rush when she left the apartment she shared with Alex. As such, it is entirely unrealistic that Maggie would have left behind her passport . . . or that it would have taken months for her to ask for it back (whatwith her needing it to satisfy her penchant for travel). This leads Alex and Ruby to have a conversation and allows Alex to bond with Ruby over Ruby being bullied. As the two go off to confront Ruby's bully, the viewer has the sense that the show is moving inexorably in the direction of Alex ending up with custody of Ruby (thus giving her the child - having children being the issue that broke up her and Maggie - and making losing Maggie somehow "acceptable").

Unfortunately, "Fort Rozz" gives Supergirl a good new direction while undermining all the impact of the established villains. Jindah Kol Rozz alludes to Reign's potential allies who need to be found, which offers a good new direction for Supergirl. But Psi has the information about who Reign is and the means to transmit that information to Supergirl or J'onn J'onzz . . . who could put it together. Barring that, Alex now has key information that would allow her to recognize that Samantha Arias is Reign and given how smart and efficient Alex has been in the past, it is disappointing that "Fort Rozz" does not climax with her putting it together.

On the acting front, Sarah Douglas makes an awesome return to the Superman franchise - too briefly - in the role of Jindah Kol Rozz. She makes decent use out of her time on screen, but is given shockingly little to do in the episode. It is Brit Morgan who rules over "Fort Rozz." Morgan manages to be snarky as Livewire, but exhibit an emotional side that shows more range than she was previously allowed. Livewire is hurt by the loss of her friends and scared that she might be next and Morgan plays that emotional gamut well.

Ultimately, though, "Fort Rozz" is a very average episode of Supergirl that is supposed to feel like the stakes are being raised, but instead plods along making the viewer wonder just how inefficient Supergirl and her allies truly must be.

For other Supergirl episodes with Livewire, please visit my reviews of:
"We Can Be Heroes"
"Worlds Finest"
"Livewire"

5/10

For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix Is Yummy!


The Good: Fairly easy to prepare, Good flavor, Environmentally-responsible packaging.
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Could use more caramel flavoring.
The Basics: Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is quite good, even if the salted caramel is more hinted at than a primary flavor.


I love how my local grocery store jumps the gun on any number of products it chooses to stock. Virtually ever new premium beverage that the store gets in arrives on the clearance rack long before most consumers here realize it was ever stocked on the shelf. I like this aspect of where I live because I get to try so many delicious things at severely discounted prices. Tonight, I am thrilled to review the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix.

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix makes a delightful drink, but it does not quite have enough caramel flavor to truly delight those who come to the drink for that taste.

Basics

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is part of Maxwell House Indulge Max's new premium Coffee Drink Mix line and one suspects that the company is trying to compete with the flavors from the International Delights Coffee Drink Mix line. This mix comes in a 12 oz. cardboard canister, found in the coffee or cocoa section of most grocery stores. The canister represents 12 or 13 full servings of the resulting beverage.

Ease Of Preparation

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is fairly simple to make. The single serving is two Tablespoons of the mix and eight fluid oz. of water. One must measure out the drink mix in order to use it properly; these are not individually portioned servings, which makes the canister more environmentally friendly than most instant coffee beverages!

To make the drink, pop the plastic lid off the canister of Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix. Then, measure out two Tablespoons of the powder from inside the canister and place the powder in a mug that is able to hold at least 10 oz. of liquid. Once that is done, simply pour hot water - near boiling, but not actually boiling as boiling water cooks the ingredients as opposed to simply dissolving them - over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of coffee granules visible in the water. This drink mix always seems to crackle when hot water is added to it and it was near-impossible to get all of the drink mix to dissolve when using the proper amount of water. Chunks of powder in the drink aside, this makes for a fairly potent beverage! The Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix, when mixed up, makes a dark brown liquid that is opaque, like coffee with creamer or hot cocoa.

Taste

The Mocha + Salted Caramel smells strongly of coffee and chocolate. The mocha scent is potent and inviting; this smells exactly like what one gets when they mix hot cocoa together with coffee as a beverage and anyone who likes that combination is likely to be brought right in by the scent of this drink.

In the mouth, the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix lives up to the aroma's potential. The scent of the beverage adequately foreshadows the flavor. The strong mocha flavor dominates the drink. The salted caramel flavor does manage to manifest, but it is a secondary flavor that is dry and buttery as the dry, dark chocolate flavor fades. The coffee flavor manages to remain strong all throughout.

The Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix leaves a fairly dry aftertaste that lingers in the mouth for a few minutes after the last of the drink is consumed.

Nutrition

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is a coffee mix and therefore is entirely lacking in real nutritional value. There are 100 calories, 25 of which come from the 3 grams of fat in this drink. It seems like there is an undisclosed amount of caffeine in the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix, as one of the latter ingredients is "instant coffee," not instant decaffeinated coffee. In addition to nineteen grams of carbohydrates, there is a single gram of protein and 2% of the RDA of Iron.

Made primarily of sugar, nondairy creamer and cocoa, it is unsurprising that the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is not very nutritious. Because it contains milk, this is not Vegan compliant and it is not marked as gluten free or kosher.

Storage/Cleanup

So long as one leaves the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix mix in its canister, it ought to stay usable. The canisters I purchased on clearance two months ago all had April 6, 2018 expiration dates, but it is hard to imagine what might make it go bad even after that. One assumes it will last quite a while and dissolve appropriately when one attempts to use it.

Cleanup for the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is very easy; if the product spills while dumping it into the mug, simply wipe it up or brush it up with a dry or damp cloth. If it has already been reconstituted with water into coffee, simply wipe it up. Light fabrics are likely to stain if this gets on them, in which case consult your fabric care guide to clean it up.

Overall

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix is quite good, though the salted caramel aspect of it is unable to hold its own against the rich mocha flavor that dominates the beverage.

For other instant coffee drinks, please visit my reviews of:
Taster's Choice Original Gourmet Instant Coffee
Starbucks Via Iced Coffee
Nescafe Caramel Latte Memento

6.5/10

For other food or drink reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Young Dexter? No, It's The End Of The F***ing World Season 1!


The Good: Some good moments of humor and intrigue, Decent performances, Well-directed, Consistently awkward tone and feel
The Bad: Fairly predictable plot seeding, Consistently uncomfortable tone
The Basics: The End Of The F***ing World Season One takes a premise that has very limited range and appeal and does the best it can with it.


In the last several years, there have been a number of television shows with a fairly limited concept to them. "Crabby doctor solves medical mysteries," "A team digs up bones of dead people to solve cold case crimes," "A psychopath manages his murderous tendencies by killing bad people and covering up the evidence using his day job;" they tend to be concepts that boil down to a one-line pitch, where the plots become repetitive with minor variations on the original pitch's themes. Those shows, when they endure and survive, have a tendency to do so because the characters are compelling and they grow and develop; the serialized character elements tend to allow the series to get away with the repetitive plot elements. The latest show that seems to be instantly hampered by its own concept is The End Of The F***ing World.

The first season of The End Of The F***ing World came to Netflix back in October and it's a quick binge - only eight half-hour episodes. The End Of The F***ing World is based upon a comic book series and it is worth noting up front that it is not one I have read. As a result, this is a review solely of the television season with no comparative analysis to the source material.

The End Of The F***ing World has a concept that is somewhat limited: the season follows two late teenagers - James and Alyssa - who are running away from their families. Both are asocial outcasts who have misanthropic tendencies and the big character twist is that James is a young psychopath who wants to kill Alyssa as his first-ever murder. While this seems like a pretty original concept, it does not take long for viewers to realize that the show is hampered by its own set-up: The End Of The F***ing World Season 1 is either leading to James actually killing Alyssa or moving beyond his murderous impulses toward her. Fans of Dexter might instantly recognize the potential that James might move past wanting to kill Alyssa and the two might work together to kill people who have wronged them. So, the first season of The End Of The F***ing World is hardly as surprising as the writers and executive producers might want it to seem.

Set in a small town in England, James and Alyssa attend the same high school. Alyssa is a new transfer who has become bored and furious about the way her peers hide behind their phones instead of engaging with one another. She sees James watching her, as he is stalking her with plans to make her his first murder as part of a lifelong escalation into psychopathic tendencies, and they begin awkwardly dating. Shortly after they begin their friendship, Alyssa takes the advice of her weasel stepfather and leaves home. She visits James, who punches his father and steals his car to take Alyssa away to kill her.

Unfortunately for the pair, the two get into a car accident and spend all the rest of their money on a meal and are left to hitchhike. James allows a closeted gay man to molest him, which Alyssa witnesses and extorts him for. Alyssa robs the man and the two flee into the country. They squat at the house of a college professor and there Alyssa feels rejected and picks up a local guy. After kicking out the man, Alyssa and James are alarmed when the home's owner, Professor Clive Koch, returns home. He is about to rape and kill Alyssa, but Alyssa is saved by James. James killing Koch puts Alyssa and James on the run and puts them on the radar of detectives Darego and Noon, who begin a cross-country chase to apprehend the murderers without entirely understanding the circumstances.

The "will they or won't they" aspects of the first season of The End Of The F***ing World quickly wear thin as the season is almost effectively over the moment James kills Koch to save Alyssa. Alyssa is no longer going to be his first kill and the justifiable murder of Koch upsets Alyssa and shocks James. But more than that, James is unnerved by Koch's death and he ignores several opportunities to kill Alyssa in the aftermath of that murder. As one might expect of any road trip show, James and Alyssa encounter obstacles and, as a result, begin to bond. So, even after Alyssa runs away from him, James does not experience rage that would work him up to murdering Alyssa as his original plan dictated.

The bonding aspect of the road trip storyline telegraphs much of the direction of the season. Such is one of the problems with the first season of The End Of The F***ing World; the moves are foreshadowed in ways that anyone who is awake, engaged, and watching will easily see what direction the show is going in. So, for example, the languorous shot of Koch's closet packed with bleach characterizes him instantly to anyone who has seen Dexter as a killer. Long before James finds the supporting evidence of Koch's villainy, the remote location filled with bleach makes him out to be a killer. In a similar fashion, the one guy willing to pick up a shirtless teenage boy who is hitchhiking is explicitly characterized as a pervert by Alyssa.

On the flip side of that, it is reassuring to see that Darego and Noon are good detectives. Their hunt for James and Alyssa puts them in touch with evidence early on that puts them on the right track for the murderers. Noon is an empathetic detective who quickly suspects that the murder might not be all it seems and Darego is her literal-evidence, "I don't care about the motivation" foil character. Their following the clues is one of the more engaging aspects of the first season of The End Of The F***ing World.

That said, the first season of The End Of The F***ing World truly hinges upon James and Alyssa. Their initial characterizations include:

James - A scrawny boy who lives with his father following his mother's death at a young age, he has escalated his killing of animals over the years and now has two goals: to punch his father in the face and to kill a human being. He scopes out Alyssa to kill her and has her over - much to the chagrin of his father - and at Alyssa's behest (and sensing it will lead to a better opportunity to kill her) he steals his dad's card and takes her away. While on the road, he begins to bond with Alyssa and he lets things happen to him because he is indifferent to life. He has a severely scarred hand from when, as a child, he stuck his hand in a deep fryer in an attempt to feel something. He is indifferent to human life and human touch, but soon begins to bond with Alyssa,

and Alyssa - A seventeen year-old student who is neglected by her mother and leered at by her stepfather. She idolizes her estranged father who lives in Kent; when she sees James as a way out of town, she sets her sights on finding her father. She has a volatile temper and loves to eat.

The End Of The F***ing World Season 1 might telegraph the plot and character arcs, but the acting is quite good. Jessica Barden is unsettling with the way she portrays Alyssa's violent mood swings. Barden plays an angry teenager incredibly well; which makes sense given that she is in her mid-twenties. Alex Lawther portrays James and he is consistently cold in an entirely unsettling way. Lawther and Barden have decent on-screen interplay throughout the first season of The End Of The F***ing World. Wunmi Mosaku and Gemma Whelan play Darego and Noon with ease; they are entirely credible as detectives who are following the evidence. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can think of for the performances in The End Of The F***ing World is that it was only after looking her up that I realized Whelan plays a prominent character on Game Of Thrones - she is unrecognizable in her portrayal of Noon from her other role!

Ultimately, The End Of The F***ing World is an entertaining, quick to binge first season that attempts to play itself as audacious when it is actually surprisingly mundane.

For other works from the 2017 - 2018 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"Vaulting Ambition" - Star Trek: Discovery
Grace And Frankie - Season Four
"The Last Day" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Trial Of The Flash" - The Flash
"Legion Of The Super-Heroes" - Supergirl
"Twice Upon A Time" - Doctor Who
The Orville - Season 1
The Punisher - Season 1
Inhumans - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 2
Rick And Morty - Season 3
"Beebo The God Of War" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" - Arrow
Twin Peaks - Season 3 ("The Return")
Game Of Thrones - Season 7
The Defenders - Season 1
Friends From College - Season 1

5.5/10

For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Expensive, But Interesting: Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola Cereal!


The Good: Very nutritious, Does not taste bad, Good ingredients
The Bad: Comparatively expensive
The Basics: Kellogg's Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is a flavorful granola that adds some important nutritional benefits to one's diet!


One of the nice aspects of living in the literal middle of nowhere is that premium products seldom have time in our stores to catch on. As a result, I often manage to get all sorts of premium products on clearance at my local grocery store. I was utterly unsurprised one day, then, when I walked into my grocery store and saw the little bags of Special K Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola With Quinoa cereal. The Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola is a blend of chocolate-flavored oats granola, crispy rice, chocolate chunks, and coconut flakes . . . at almost the cost of a full box of cereal for a five-serving bag.

Basics

Kellogg’s Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is a relatively new cereal with bunches of oat clusters, puffed/crispy rice and flakes of coconut and tiny blocks of chocolate.

The standard bag of Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is 10.6 oz. That represents approximately five servings and I was able to get just that amount out of the bags I bought.

Ease Of Preparation

Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is a breakfast cereal, so this is one of the low-impact breakfast options as far as preparation goes! Simply open the bag of Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal, pour out 2/3 cup (I’ve taken to using a measuring cup) and add 1/2 cup of milk to it. I have discovered, as part of getting healthy, that one of the biggest challenges one might have with breakfast cereal is actually eating the serving size recommended by the manufacturer. Given that I have been monitoring my intake for several years now, I am now able to enjoy only 2/3 cup of Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal in a sitting, though it is not as filling as some other cereals I have had.

For the purposes of my reviews, and my regular consumption, I only use skim milk (fat free) milk with cereal.

Taste

Opening the bag, Special K Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola smells powerfully of coconut. The coconut aroma is strong and overpowers any other scent from this cereal.

On its own, the Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola is very dry and surprisingly sweet. The Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola tastes strongly of dark chocolate, crispy rice (like Rice Krispies) and coconut. This is a very dry granola cereal; with its sweet bits coming from the chunks of chocolate in the cereal.

With milk, the Special K Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola remains surprisingly dry and grain-flavored. The chocolate flavor is delightfully dark, but while it infuses the cereal with a slight hit of sweetness, the coconut and oats overwhelm the other flavors. This is a very dry cereal.

This cereal has a fairly strong, dry aftertaste to it.

Nutrition

Kellogg’s Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is exceptionally nutritious on its own and with skim milk! Made primarily of whole grain oats, crisp rice and sugar, there is nothing unpronounceable in Special K Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal. Given that there is a separate listing of vitamins and minerals, Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is one of those cereals where the nutrients are then sprayed onto the cereal, making it important to drink the milk with this cereal in order to get all of the nutritional benefits out of it.

A single serving of Kellogg’s Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is 61 grams, 2/3 cup. In that serving, there are 260 calories, with 70 calories coming from fat. There are 3.5 grams saturated fat in this cereal, but there is no cholesterol. With only 95 mg of sodium and 5 grams of dietary fiber, this is a good dietary choice for those striving to improve heart. With six grams of protein and 220 mg potassium, Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola is very healthy. On its own, this cereal has significant percentages of eight vitamins and minerals.

Storage/Cleanup

Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola is a cereal, so as long as it is kept sealed in its bag, it ought to remain fresh for quite some time. The bag of Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal we purchased two weeks ago had an expiration date of February 9, 2018, so it does not have the longest shelf lift. Obviously, when you are done pouring the cereal from the bag, reseal it to help maintain the cereal’s freshness.

Cleaning up after Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola cereal is simple as well. Simply brush away crumbs left by it and you are done! It is that simple! This is a cereal that discolors the milk put in it and that will definitely stain. Consult a fabric guide for getting the chocolate and milk out of any fabric the milk gets on.

Overall

Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Crispy Granola is good, but very dry and comparatively expensive, making it a little tougher of a sell than it otherwise could be.

For other Special K products, please check out my reviews of:
Special K Southwest Ranch Cracker Chips
Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal
Special K Multigrain Oats & Honey cereal

7/10

For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the food reviews I have written!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Another Week, Another Predicted Reveal: Star Trek Discovery Hardly Has "Vaulting Ambition!"


The Good: Well-directed
The Bad: Awful character development, Unremarkable plot, Dull reveal, Huge continuity issues
The Basics: Star Trek: Discovery works to finish its Mirror Universe plot in "Vaulting Ambition," while making a reveal that was predicted by many fans a while ago and is unimpressive now that it has been revealed.


Retconning the events of "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!) so that the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery entered the same alternate universe about a decade prior has created a number of issues with Star Trek continuity. Despite that, the show has moved toward an important story point with "Vaulting Ambition." "Vaulting Ambition" opens with the sense that most of the cards are on the table for the key characters of Star Trek: Discovery.

"Vaulting Ambition" follows the events of "The Wolf Inside" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without references to where the prior episode left off. After all, "The Wolf Inside" found Burnham and Lorca right before the Empress, who was (unsurprisingly) Georgiou - if the show wanted to make a real surprise, it would have been Empress Sato from Star Trek: Enterprise and that the whole Terran Empire had grown on her watch and she had managed to stay alive and in power so long. But Emperor Georgiou visited the planet the Rebels were hiding out on to obliterate them, despite Burnham's promise to the Rebel leader Voq. Inside the Spore Network, Stamets met his doppelganger. And the insinuations fell away and Ash Tyler was revealed to be a surgically-altered Voq, who Burnham used to smuggle critical information back to the U.S.S. Discovery.

Burnham brings Lorca to the I.S.S. Charon, after giving him a hypo to help him resist the Agonizers better. Tilly treats Stamets and he is caught up within the spore network by his doppelganger from the Mirror Universe. On the Charon, Burnham and Lorca meet with the Emperor, who sends Lorca to the Agonizer chamber. Burnham learns that her Mirror Universe persona was raised by Georgiou. They dine together and Georgiou condemns Burnham to death and facing a quick death, Burnham confesses her true nature to the Emperor.

While Stamets becomes distracted with visions of his dead Dr. Culber, Georgiou works out an arrangement with Burnham for information on the spore drive in exchange for information on the U.S.S. Defiant. When Lorca is unable to provide information his doppelganger would know, he watches a man die horribly. L'Rell attempts to treat Voq in the Discovery Sick Bay, while Culber gives Stamets a pep talk and a mission. Stamets must undo the damage that the Mirror Universe Stamets did to the spore network to save it, which allows him to wake up on the Discovery. Unfortunately, it also allows the Mirror Universe Stamets to awaken on the Charon. And, in the process, Lorca's big secret is revealed.

The moment the I.S.S. Charon appears on screen, "Vaulting Ambition" loses a lot of credibility. The Charon is an amazing and impressive ship, but there is nothing even remotely like it in "our" universe during the same time period in the Star Trek universe. The Mirror Universe works have continually operated on the concept of parallel technological development, with a radically-different social development. So, missions, people, and technology are almost always in the same time and place in both universes, just with different motivations. As a result, the U.S.S. Enterprise and I.S.S. Enterprise are virtually identical; Deep Space Nine and the Mirror Universe Terok Nor were constructed by the same person . . . such that Sisko is able to operate the self-destruct system in the Mirror Universe. The I.S.S. Charon, then, is an absolutely ridiculous conceit in "Vaulting Ambition" as there would be nothing at all like it in our universe.

Michael Burnham is proven once again to be one of the worst characters in the Star Trek universe in "Vaulting Ambition." Facing her death, Burnham tells Giorgiou about her universe and provides her with proof of that universe, when she gives the Emperor her dead Captain's badge. The Empire is a bloodthirsty, aggressive organization that seeks conquest over cooperation. Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery want to return home. That's fine and it makes sense. But Burnham has just attempted to save her own life and the crew of a single ship by mortgaging an entire universe's security. To be clear; following "Vaulting Ambition," there is no sensible reason why the Star Trek Universe would not be facing a constant menace of open warfare from the Mirror Universe's Terran Empire. Between surveillance devices, untrustworthy characters and more people who have the actual technical information on our universe, the Mirror Universe is now an imminent threat to the Star Trek universe . . . and Burnham told them about it!

But then, the episode progresses to its end with one of the most asinine retcons ever to be created in the Star Trek Universe. Lorca's Big Secret is revealed, which feels lazy following Ash Tyler's big secret being revealed last week. In fact, Lorca's big secret is piggybacked on a revelation from the Emperor Georgiou that telegraphs Lorca's reveal . . . and makes no sense whatsoever in the Mirror Universe episodes. "Vaulting Ambition" creates a "tell" for the Mirror Universe characters and that sudden alteration to Mirror Universe human biology is laughably bad; it undermines both "Mirror, Mirror" (Spock would have seen a difference in how the four Mirror Universe characters responded on the Enterprise) and the two Star Trek: Enterprise episodes set there.

There is another huge issue with "Vaulting Ambition," which is much more subtle than in the previous Star Trek: Discovery Mirror Universe episodes. Burnham gives Georgiou information about our universe and that is horrible, but it plays off a conceit that has the potential to be ruinous for the entire plotline. The U.S.S. Defiant ended up in the Mirror Universe in the past - that was established on Star Trek: Enterprise. But the reason that was okay was that the Defiant's crew was long-dead and there would be no information on the ship about how the Defiant ended up in the Mirror Universe other than it fell through a hole in interphasic space. The U.S.S. Defiant has no information aboard it that would allow people in the Mirror Universe to enter our universe - that data was not aboard the dead starship. But now, characters from the U.S.S. Discovery know about how an entire starship worth of StarFleet officers will die horribly in the future. If the non-redacted information from the Defiant makes it back to our universe, the crew becomes complicit in one of the most gruesome death scenarios from Star Trek!

"Vaulting Ambition" continues the Star Trek: Discovery trend of presenting utter misery on screen. The murder in front of Lorca is grisly and his torture is known by the audience to be entirely pointless. The episode lacks the subtlety of other Mirror Universe episodes: in both universes Georgiou is a mother figure to Burnham, Stamets is virtually identical in both universes . . . the only real difference in characters seems to be the politics and the fact that Detmer actually gets lines in the Mirror Universe.

The unfortunate aspect of "Vaulting Ambition" is that it continues to play toward the most banal action-adventure type storyline as opposed to anything nearly as smart as . . . well, most of Star Trek!

For other Mirror Universe works, please check out my reviews of:
Dark Victory By William Shatner
Intendant Kira action figure
In A Mirror Darkly CCG

1.5/10

For other Star Trek episode, movie, and seasons, please check out my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Pretty Wonderful Electric Kettle: The Farberware Electric Glass Kettle!


The Good: Boils water fast, Easy to clean, Affordable
The Bad: Comparatively loud, Stiff electric cord.
The Basics: The Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle is a decent electric kettle that does exactly what it promises in terms of boiling water fast!


Not long ago, after a decent five years of fairly heavy use, my electric kettle finally gave out. The Ovente 1.5 Liter Glass Electric Kettle (reviewed here!) did an amazing job of holding up over the years, at least for my family and I. Needing a replacement fast, I had to find a new (to me) electric kettle and we decided to go with the affordable, easy-to-find locally Farberware Electric Glass Kettle.

The Farberware Electric Glass Kettle is, as its name suggests, a clear glass kettle used to boil water. The Farberware Electric Glass Kettle has a bright blue light at the bottom where the heating coils are for no practical reason. In fact, the only reason I can tell to have the light in the electric kettle is to determine when the unit is actively heating the water. The Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle is a two-piece electric device that is designed solely to boil water . . . fast. The Electric Glass Kettle is comprised of a stainless steel and black plastic base and the actual glass kettle, with a black plastic handle and lid.

The base is a simple six inch in diameter plastic disc with a cord that plugs into a two-prong wall socket. The cord is twenty-eight and one-half inches long, but for those who do not need a cord that has to stretch even that far, below the disc are tabs that allow the user to wind the cord up and contain it under the unit. Unfortunately, the cord is unusually stiff and, as a result, it truly only winds once around the base, lest the stiffness prevent the heating disc from laying flat on the counter upon which the unit is placed. There are soft-rubber feet on the underside which both protect finer surfaces from any sort of scratching from the plastic bass. Moreover, the rubber feet provide friction so the unit is remarkably stable and does not move from any flat surface I've set it upon. Considering the whole point of this gadget is to boil water, stability of the unit is essential.

Atop the disc is a knob that comes from a slightly raised, contoured inner disc. This is where the kettle itself attaches to the base. The base simply plugs into the wall and sits where one leaves it.

The actual electric kettle portion is an eight and three-quarter inch tall glass pot that is accented with matte black plastic for the handle, activation lever and flip top and stainless steel for the base ring. The kettle sets on the base and when together, they are very stable and hard to tip over. The kettle has a 1.7 Liter capacity (in practical terms, this is more than two full steeping pots worth of tea!) and it takes seven minutes, fifteen seconds to come to a very full boil.

Operating the Farberware Electric Glass Kettle is exceptionally easy: fill with water, place the kettle on the base (assuming it's plugged in), depress the lever on the bottom base of the kettle (the bottom of the base of the glass kettle up neon blue when active) and wait. The unit turns itself off when it is done. Because it has an automatic shut-off, one cannot burn down their house with the Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle!

And then all you need to do is pour your boiling water out and is it that simple. Refilling the unit is a snap because of the spring-loaded top which opens by pressing a button on the handle. Moreover, the button is positioned in such a way that makes accidentally opening the top and spilling boiling water on oneself virtually impossible.

More than any other electric kettle I have used, the Farberware Electric Glass Kettle is loud when the water in it is boiling. As it nears a boil, this kettle makes a lot of noise, which was an unfortunate surprise with the unit.

Cleanup of the Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle is impressively easy. First, I recommend only using filtered water in the unit. Whenever I fill the Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle, I use water from my Brita Oceania Pitcher Filtration System (reviewed here!) and even with very hard water in my apartment, the Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle has only required minimal cleaning. The glass sides of the pitcher make it virtually impossible for any build-up to build up on the surface of the electric kettle. A damp cloth may be used to clean the base after it is unplugged.

The Farberware 1.7 L Electric Glass Kettle is all right, but it is a bit louder and has a bigger footprint than I find ideal.

For other electric kettles, please check out my reviews of:
Hamilton Beach K1050 Electric Kettle
Chef's Choice 675 Electric Kettle
Hamilton Beach 45802B Electric Kettle

7.5/10

For other kitchen appliances, please visit my Home And Garden Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Circle Of Life, Grace And Frankie Season Four Lives Up!


The Good: Very funny with some wonderful lines, Good character development, Some good plot moments, Direction
The Bad: Repetitive plot moments
The Basics: Grace And Frankie Season Four gets in some early laughs, turns to issues of mortality and marital strife, but manages to keep the characters impressively engaging.


There are very few shows I look forward to each time they arrive like Grace And Frankie. Grace And Frankie Season Four is here and it was a big thing for me to wait a full day to sit down and watch it. But, my wife and I wanted to make an event of the fourth season, but one of our friends wanted to come watch it with us. So, we waited the day and have now binged the entire fourth season of Grace And Frankie!

Picking up after the third season of Grace And Frankie (reviewed here!), it seemed like there would be a lot for most of the characters in the show to do. The titular characters were in business together, while Robert and Sol were both retired now and Bud was facing his weird girlfriend having a child. So, with Robert and Sol arrested in the prior season's finale and Frankie facing the high potential of another stroke, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie began at an interestingly disparate point.

Grace is now working with Sheree and Frankie has moved to Santa Fe with Jacob. It has been months since they have seen one another and Frankie soon comes to visit for Bud's impending child's gender reveal party. Robert and Sol continue to be arrested for protests all around the area. Brianna and Barry are back together, with Barry now interviewing for one of Brianna's competitors. As Frankie and Brianna discover a dark truth about Sheree, the family participates in a scavenger hint to discover the gender of Bud and Allison's baby.

After admitting she is miserable in Santa Fe, Frankie leaves Jacob to move back in with Grace. Grace, Frankie, and Sheree move in together and the ladies enlist Robert and Sol to help Sheree get her house back from her spiteful stepchildren. Grace and Frankie break into Sheree's house to get a letter to help Sheree win her case. While Robert and Sol start to feel tension over Robert's acting and Sol's attempts to make new friends, Grace tries to negotiate her relationship with Nick. Frankie tries to reach out to her estranged sister after experiencing flashbacks and Robert reminds her of a past incident. As Robert and Sol's relationship leads them to greater estrangement, Grace and Robert find themselves going to a funeral together and Frankie and Sol try to get Frankie arrested to get her legally back alive! And as the season moves toward its climax, a water stain on the ceiling at Grace and Frankie's chateau leads to a series of events that has the potential to forever change their lives!

Grace And Frankie Season Four is very funny, with Brianna getting many of the season's funniest lines. The show manages to be funny and smart while exploring many serious topics, like death, aging and estrangement. The characters manage to grow and develop, for the most part, while still maintaining their core characteristics. So, Frankie and Sol are still fairly ludicrous, while Grace and Robert are generally serious. There are changes - Frankie's long-lost sister makes an appearance and Grace has to go into a knee-replacement surgery sober - and constants; Mallory is still largely defined as being a mother and Coyote remains relegated to a support character without any major arcs in the season.

On the plot front, the characters keep doing their thing - Grace and Frankie remain in business together, Brianna is running Say Grace, and the season's big events surround Allison being pregnant with Bud's child. Frankie's hallucination arc seems instantly reminiscent of Robert's hallucinations in Season Four. The season has a little inconsistency with Grace's character - she is fun and wacky with Sheree, but when Frankie reappears in her life, her personality reverts entirely to her previously-established traits. In a similar way, Mallory raises an impressive thematic point with Coyote, but the conversation is cut short and never returned to in a very unsatisfying way.

The key Grace And Frankie characters in the fourth season are:

Grace - She has allowed her nail technician of twenty years, Sheree, to move into the house she and Frankie shared. Dating Nick since Frankie left for Santa Fe, she starts getting in trouble with Frankie almost immediately. Her knee is very hurt during their breaking and entering, right after which Nick starts wanting to meet her family. Grace actually commits to Nick after a funeral where she learns Phil Millstein has died. She has to get sober for a knee-replacement surgery and outs Sol for calling Frankie his soulmate,

Robert - After getting arrested repeatedly with Sol and spending more time in a cell, with a full bladder, he decides to give up the acts of civil disobedience. He is nominated for a Tappy award for his performance in in 1776 and forgets to thank Sol in his acceptance speech. He gets Sol tickets to a folk music cruise, in an effort to spend time with him, but is offered a bigger part in the play he is assistant directing. He makes a mess out of the friendship Sol tries to build with the neighbors and ends up in counseling with Sol,

Frankie - Figuring out quickly how much her energetic disposition is bothering Jacob and instantly disappointed by how Grace has transformed into a fun person with Sheree. She goes over the top with Allison while Allison is pregnant with her first grandchild. She discovers that an offhanded remark at the Post Office has led to her being declared legally dead. She begins hallucinating when she is reminded that someone told her Sol was gay right before her wedding. When her granddaughter is born, she latches onto her, at the expense of her relationship with Jacob,

Sol - Despite being down on Robert for being politically active to the extent that he is, he protests on his own and hurts his back doing it. After being overlooked at the Tappies, he reaches out to the new neighbors for friendship, much to Robert's chagrin. After going on the cruise alone, he continues his activism with Frankie, which pulls him away from Robert,

Brianna - She tries to get along with Barry now that he has moved back in and she is weirdly suspicious of him. As Barry is left at home to take care of her dog, Spit, she spies upon him and freaks out about the nature of their relationship. She reluctantly allows Mallory to come to the office to act as an intern,

Mallory - Separated now from Mitch, she and Coyote get closer. She eagerly goes to meet Nick when Grace finally is willing to introduce him to her daughters. She is very bitter about her divorce and marriage in general. She helps Grace out after her knee surgery and stands in for Frankie when Allison goes into labor,

Coyote - Waiting for his girlfriend to be sober for one year, he starts as fairly miserable in the relationship, but otherwise happy. He finds himself unable to tell his father about his loathing of soft cheeses. He waits out his girlfriend's sobriety, but gets a lot of help from Mallory on how to treat her better,

and Bud - Still dating Allison, they are having a baby together, but have no plans for marriage. He proposes to Allison and is surprised when that leads her to reveal she won't marry him without a prenup. He finds he is exhausted as a new parent, but wants very much to work with Allison to raise their daughter together.

The character mix continues to be interesting, but the relationship between Sol and Robert ends at an unfortunate place where the characters are in danger of falling into the predictable, overdone trope of the aging gay characters who end up in a situation where they could have a threesome and don't have the character to say "this isn't us." That kind of hapless idiocy does not fit the characters and if Season Five begins there, it will be unfortunate.

The performances in Grace And Frankie Season Four are homogeneously solid. All of the main cast knows their roles and they have them mastered. June Diane Raphael continues to be one of the all-time greats at delivering sarcastic lines flawlessly and Martin Sheen gets to play exhausted in some new and interesting ways. The scenes between Lily Tomlin and Talia Shire have surprisingly strong on-screen chemistry and a sense of realism to them. Lisa Kudrow plays Sheree much like she played Phoebe on Friends, but Peter Gallagher makes a pretty poignant new character as Nick.

Ultimately, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie keeps all the important quality levels high while still being an amazing mix of humor and heart!

For other works from the 2017 - 2018 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"The Last Day" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Trial Of The Flash" - The Flash
"Legion Of The Super-Heroes" - Supergirl
"The Wolf Inside" - Star Trek: Discovery
"Twice Upon A Time" - Doctor Who
The Orville - Season 1
The Punisher - Season 1
Inhumans - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 2
Rick And Morty - Season 3
"Beebo The God Of War" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" - Arrow
Twin Peaks - Season 3 ("The Return")
Game Of Thrones - Season 7
The Defenders - Season 1
Friends From College - Season 1

8.5/10

For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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0-3 On Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Food For Cats!


The Good: Nothing that I can find
The Bad: Short shelf life, Expensive, None of my cats will eat it . . . at all!
The Basics: Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is one of the worst cat foods I've ever tried to subject my three cats to!


My cats are not what I would call especially picky eaters. My cats try all sorts of food that I bring home for them and they are very much used to having their diets changed about every six months. After the last cat food that my two boys and little girl were fairly neutral to, I was pretty excited to give them a new premium cat food. Elim, Evie and Timber were given Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats four days ago . . .

. . . and after a three day hunger strike, I ran out last night and got them a different food and all three eagerly consumed it as soon as I got home.

That makes the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats absolutely worthless.

Basics

Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a cat food formulated for all cats, but given that none of my cats would touch it, it is hard to argue how effective it is. The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food regularly comes in a three pound heavy paper bag that is not resealable.

The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food comes in hard pieces are three different shapes: tiny cylinders, hearts and chicken legs.

Ease Of Preparation

Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a hard cat food that comes in a small bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. Timber, Evie and Elim got between 1/2 and a full cup of the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food each per day. The three cats were given the proper serving size four days ago . . . none of the cats consumed any of it.

Elim, Evie And Timber’s Reactions

The Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food smells strongly of grains. It does not even smell like the chicken meal, which is the first ingredient. Instead, this is a very grainy-smelling cat food.

Perhaps that is why none of the three cats we have would touch this food. Seriously; they went on a hunger strike for three days. My wife said she caught one of the cats yesterday eating some of Benny's dog food. None of the cats would eat any of the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats and they would rather starve or seek out other food than even try this food. That's pretty bad.

Nutrition

The Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is a supposedly nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 34% crude protein and 14% crude fat. With no more than 4% crude fiber and 10% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced and nutritious for most cats . . . if they could ever be enticed into eating any of it. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area; our cats drank more while they were actively avoiding eating this food!

The main ingredients in the Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal With Delicious Brown Rice & Carrots Fine Food For Cats are: chicken meal, potatoes and corn.

Overview

Grandma's Dinner Wholesome Chicken Meal Fine Cat Food is an absolute failure as none of my wonderful cats would even try it!

For other cat foods, please visit my reviews of:
Tiki Cat Velvet Mousse Tuna & Mackerel Cat Food
Nutro Indoor Fine White Fish & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food
Friskies Classic Pate Turkey & Giblets Dinner

0/10

For other cat products, please be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Ballad Of May And Robin Plays Out On "The Last Day"


The Good: Good performances, Decent special effects and direction
The Bad: Simplistic plot, Plot-heavy, Creates even more continuity issues, Light on character development
The Basics: "The Last Day" brings Robin to a relevant place in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but muddies the story of the fifth season even more.


Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a weird television series. Almost every season, the show takes a decent portion of the season to get going. The show usually starts a season off going in one direction, takes a significant turn several episodes in, and then comes together in the last few episodes. The fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a bit longer to get going because its premise forces the viewer to live in denial of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (by believing that, in our time, the Earth could be destroyed) and because to rectify its current plotline and problems, it has to contradict its own, established, tenants - the episode "Spacetime" (reviewed here!) established that for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. time travel is not actually possible, or that it is not possible to change the future even if it is witnessed in advance. So, fans of the show, who have some sense of precedent from the prior seasons, are likely to have hung in until "The Last Day," which shows all of the telltale signs of moving the season from its initial plotline into its secondary, longer plot (i.e. what the season will truly be about).

"Together Or Not At All" (reviewed here!) led directly into "The Last Day" as the fugitive Agents in the future, encountered Robin Hinton. Hinton, ironically-enough, was introduced in "Spacetime" when the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. rules about time travel were established. After Robin's father - an actual clairvoyant Inhuman - was killed, Robin's family was provided for by Daisy and she was integral to helping Fitz determine what had happened to the other Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. "The Last Day" does a decent job of recharacterizing Robin as a vital and surprisingly well-rounded character.

In 2018, Zephyr One is flying with Robin aboard, when she predicts that they will survive a crash when it encounters a gravity storm. In the future, May interviews Robin and is thrilled when her friends crash in the traller nearby. Deke meets with Samuel Voss, another fugitive living in the wreckage of the zephyr and protecting Robin. On the Lighthouse, Kasius discovers that there are humans still living on the surface of Earth and he sends Sinara after Quake. Kasius sets the humans on the Lighthouse against one another by cutting the power after he cuts the water, to turn the humans against Flint. Robin predicts to Coulson that this is the final day.

Mack, Rodriguez, and Flint head to Level 3, despite the "roaches" to recover weapons and supplies that Fitz left there. On the Zephyr, Fitz and Simmons discover the device that allowed humans in the future to activate the portal that brought most of the Agents to the future. Robin remembers a very different future; one where the world is destroyed and May takes care of her. While Rodriguez goes to fight the Kree, May keeps care of Robin. When Voss gives the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents a fragment of the monolith that brought them to the future, Deke becomes suspicious of how he obtained it. Voss reveals that he believes that the way to save the future is to kill Daisy.

"The Last Day" is a plot-heavy episode, which is pretty much necessary to putting together the pieces of the season's prior episodes. "The Last Day" features flashbacks that are tough for fans to truly get behind. In order for the flashbacks in 2018 and 2022 to make any sense, one has to acknowledged right away that they take place in a tangent timeline. In that tangent timeline, Fitz, Simmons, and May survive Zephyr One's crash - and the end of the world - with Robin and they leave the blueprints behind for a time machine that will allow the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in the distant future to return to the past. The issue, for those watching this season, is that for one to become emotionally invested in the storyline, one has to wrestle with the fact that Fitz is being shown alive and active in the past when he would have been in cryogenic stasis.

The technical aspect of "The Last Day" is actually a pretty simple concept: in the original timeline, the Agents were not abducted in the diner and sent to the future, so time went in one direction, which led to the end of the world and the subsequent Kree enslavement. When Enoch led a team to send the Agents into the future, it created, essentially, a temporal loop. In breaking the tangent timeline, the viewer has to believe that the team makes it back to prevent the events that lead to the destruction of the Earth. Unfortunately, near the end of the episode, it is made clear that the events Robin recalls occur with versions of the Agents who had returned from the future. That makes a mess out of the whole temporal loop.

Coulson is restored in a very real way to be the leader of his S.H.I.E.L.D. team in "The Last Day," but the real character arc comes from May and Robin. In the flashbacks, it becomes clear early on that May saves Robin from the end of the world. Given that Robin's mother is not present in any of the flashbacks, it is fairly obvious that May becomes her caretaker. That is an interesting twist for May's character; she has loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. but never to any people to the extent shown in "The Last Day." Lacking any institutions or causes, it fits May's character nicely that she would actually become determined to keep one person, like Robin, alive.

Ming-Na Wen has great on-screen chemistry with both Willow Hale and Ava Kolker, who play Robin at various ages. Their on-screen chemistry helps to adequately sell the transitions in May's life as being realistic and reasonable.

Throughout "The Last Day" is a b-plot that features Rodriguez and Mack liberating the Lighthouse from the roaches and then freeing the people there. There's a poignancy to that subplot that is lost by not seeing Yo-Yo's fate on-screen in the "original" timeline. Rodriguez goes off to fight the Kree while May advocates for waiting it out on the miserable future. Presumably, Kasius and the first Kree slaughter those who fight, but Rodriguez liberating the humans in the future she tried to prevent would have played more powerfully had the viewer seen how she died trying to prevent the horrible future.

Ultimately, "The Last Day" prepares the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to return to the past to stop this tangent future and the pieces are in place for it. Unfortunately, because it appears that returning to the past will only close the loop - Voss notes that Quake went off to destroy the world, even after seeing the future that resulted and Fitz in the flashbacks asserts that trying to change time is a futile endeavor and that they may have already attempted to alter time multiple times - the viewer is put in the unenviable position from where "The Last Day" goes to sit through the remainder of the season with the characters being moved into place where they will try to stop the future, be near to destroying the Earth and then pull back from that.

The result is a necessary bridge episode that continues to, unfortunately, play to the weaknesses of the earlier episodes of the season, as opposed to moving Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. past those defects.

4/10

For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Best Of The Bunch: Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly Jelly Beans Are Good!


The Good: Wonderful initial flavor, Good ingredients, Generally affordable
The Bad: Taste fades unfortunately fast!
The Basics: Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys are easily the best component of the Krispy Kreme line . . . which makes one want to consume more, but that undermines their flavor!


I have not been, admittedly, the biggest fan of the Krispy Kreme line of Jelly Belly jelly beans. They have, much like their source material, largely been disappointing. That said, there was one that I could not get enough of. That was the Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly bean! Unfortunately, the only real problem I could find with these Jelly Belly jelly beans was that they became generically sweet if one ate more than ten in a single sitting! That's a pretty severe detraction when one actually enjoys a confection!

For those who might never have had Jelly Belly jelly beans, these are easily the best jelly beans on the planet, packing a lot of flavor into a very small size. Unlike most jelly beans which are only vaguely flavored and are more based on colors, Jelly Belly jelly beans have a wide variety of actual flavors, like the Mint Mint Chocolate Chip, The Snapple Assortment, Krispy Kreme Chocolate Sprinkle Doughnut or their signature flavor Buttered Popcorn.

Who needs up to ten pounds of Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys? Anyone who loves blueberry doughnuts, but has amazing restraint will enjoy these!

Basics

Glazed Blueberry Cake is a flavor of Jelly Belly jelly beans from the Krispy Kreme Assortment of Jelly Bellys! Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are approximately one half inch long by one quarter inch wide and they are roughly bean-shaped. These little candies are marketed to taste like Glazed Blueberry Cake doughnuts and they manage to do that surprisingly well.

Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys are available in a wide array of quantities, but they are least expensive by the ten pound box. Glazed Blueberry Cake flavored Jelly Bellys are easy to recognize. The Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly beans are a pearlescent tan with dark blue spots jelly bean that actually is reminiscent of the coloring of the actual doughnuts upon which these beans are based.

Ease Of Preparation

These are jelly beans, not cultivating a blueberry patch! Preparing them is as easy as opening the bag in the box and popping one (or a handful) into your mouth. In the case of the ten pound box, one might want to put them in a candy dish of some form as opposed to risking spilling them each time one goes into the bag.

Taste

The Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys have a mild aroma that actually manages to effectively hint at blueberries! The scent of these jelly beans is subtle, but inviting.

On the flavor front, the Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Belly jelly beans are a very pleasant surprise! The taste of these jelly beans managed to very effectively transition between a variety of flavors. The coating is sweet in a fairly nondescript way. But then, the beans transition to a very fruity, strongly berry, flavor. The taste of blueberries is distinct and different from other blueberry-flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans. But the fruit flavor is not the finishing one; the flavor transitions nicely to a doughnut-like flavor with a bready quality to it!

Unfortunately, the Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are one of the flavors of Jelly Bellys where, if one consumes more than 10 in a single sitting, the beans take on an entirely generic sweetness that eliminates all of the subtlety and complexity of the main flavor palate. These beans have a fairly strong sweet aftertaste that endures in the mouth for about five minutes after the last of the beans is consumed.

Nutrition

These are jelly beans, so one has to recall that they are based on something that is not at all nutritious. The Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are not a legitimate source of nutrition. These are a dessert and are in no way an adequate substitute for a real meal. A serving is listed at twenty-seven beans, with each Jelly Belly jelly bean having approximately four calories. This means that in a single serving, there are 110 calories.

Jelly Belly Glazed Blueberry Cake jelly beans are not as bad as they could be in the nutrition area. They have no fat and no protein, but for those who have ever dated a Vegan, these are Vegan-compliant to most Vegans because they contain no gelatin. Vegans who might take issue with these as being Vegan-compliant are the ones who have an issue with the use of bee's wax in the coating, so know your Vegan before buying! The Glazed Blueberry Cake beans have only one percent of the daily sodium with 15 mg and they are gluten free! The main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and modified food starch, so it's not like this is an all-natural food, but they could be far, far worse.

Storage/Clean-up

Jelly Belly jelly beans have a shelf life of approximately almost two years and I have yet to run across a stale Jelly Belly and Glazed Blueberry Cake are no exception. They remain freshest when they are kept in an airtight container (the bag in the box is sufficient if it is kept closed) and they ought to be kept in a lukewarm environment. Storing them in hot places is likely to make the beans stick together and be gross. Kept in a cool, dry place, the beans retain their flavor perfectly; the package I picked up last week had an April 6, 2019 expiration date.

As for cleanup, unless one allows the Jelly Belly to get hot to the point that the waxy coating on the bean melts, the dyes on these do not bleed or denature, so there is usually no cleanup necessary, not even washing one's hands after eating them (always wash your hands before eating Jelly Bellys, just as you would before eating a doughnut). I've never had Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys stain anything.

Overall

Glazed Blueberry Cake Jelly Bellys are a surprisingly good jelly bean that is almost enough to redeem the otherwise unimpressive Krispy Kreme jelly bean line. Should that line end, this is the one flavor that ought to survive from it!

For other Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor reviews by me, please check out:
Cinnamon Apple Filled
Egg Nog
Raspberry Dips

8/10

For other Jelly Belly reviews, please be sure to visit my Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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