The Darkest Winter Update

Yesterday I finished my (final-ish) editing pass on the first ten chapters of my book. I got that material back from Wil just before Christmas and pulled all my notes together from all my sources to do it.

The good news is that it was pretty easy. No major changes in writing. The biggest change is about to be worked on in the next section.

Starting with Chapter 10, there’s a big plot point about the main character, Tim, planning on leaving New Jersey. I’m going to change how those plans come together. It extends through chapter 11 and if I’m recalling my notes right, chapter 12. There are some references to it further on that I’ll have to change for continuity.

This is right now, far and away the biggest chunk of writing I intend to change. There are 2 other things I have in mind to change much further in the book, but those are much simpler.

So I’ve changed things in Chapter 10 and I’m going to wait for the next batch of material from Wil to continue these edits. I think I have it mapped out well, it’s just a matter of execution. I’m confident about it though. I’ve thought a lot about this segment and I’m going to be moving larger sections around so it’s not a total rewrite. It doesn’t feel like a daunting task, more like a refinement that I think will make this part much better. So that feels good confidence-wise.

Outside of this, the one big thing Wil brought up to me is to consider changing the order of the first 7 chapters. Right now, the chapters jump around in time and location. I did that to keep interest up, show what the Event of the book is and to introduce Tim. It works, but it makes the reader wonder what Tim has to do with the story. Going from the hackers to him is a big swing and while it comes together and does click, it takes some reading to get there. By reordering these chapters it should make for a cleaner and faster on-ramp to the story. I think the set up will be much more accessible this way and could end up keeping more readers from bailing on the book early.

So I’m playing with the order now while I wait for Wil to send me the next section. That way I’ll have the beginning all squared away and can move on from there.

Feels really good to be making progress, I’m excited for you to get what’s been in my head for years into your hands.

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Shameless S08E10

Church of Gay Jesus

With Frank out of lucrative hustle, he hooks himself to Ian’s rising star. His advocacy work interrupting gay conversion meeting is gaining more and more steam. Crowds of people wait for him at work and more local pastors are asking him to do speaking engagements. What started out as talking to a dozen kids quickly turns into a hundred. Frank knows an opportunity to make cash when he sees one and starts making Gay Jesus t-shirts to sell when Ian is speaking, He agrees to give most of the money to Trevor’s organization but you better believe Frank will work around that.

All of this has gotten Ian off of Fiona’s back. It’s an overwhelming experience for him and when Fiona says he shouldn’t do it if he hates it, he replies that he doesn’t hate it. It just doesn’t know what to make of it. This is new territory for him and scores of people are coming to see him speak. He’s no longer a middle child, but a growing star. The fame is pushing Trevor to the side so Ian has some work to do to balance his life.

Fiona spends more time with Ford and it seems like they are actually in a relationship. After one of the workers who was fixing her apartment building roof fell off the building last week, she offers him and his struggling (homeless) family a helping hand. She asks Trevor if he knows a temp place for them to stay while the man heals from his busted leg and Trevor sets it up. Then, she offers them to crash at her new apartment (that she’s fixing up and moving into) for two days until they can move into the shelter. Her good graces quickly get whipped around into her face. They squat in her apartment (they invited like 8 people to stay in the apartment) and then sue Fiona for the accident. Six million dollars!

A shock to the system comes to Lip: Professor Youens had a seizure in jail from alcohol withdrawal, hit his head and died. Lip is flippantly told the news, like the guy barely existed. His next of kin was notified and the body was claimed. Lip goes to Youens’ house and he meets Tabitha, Youens’ daughter. In no big surprise, Professor wasn’t much a father. But he was a mentor. Lip hears from many people Youens helped at the memorial services and he ends up mourning with Tabitha.

Deb picks up scab welding work to make good money and while she feels conflicted about snaking work from a welding union she will soon want to join, the pay is really good. Working off books at night has its drawbacks…she gets seriously injured when a pipe she’s working on lands on her foot.

Everyone says Kassidi is crazy. They say it to each other and they say it to Carl’s face. He’s desperate to keep her around and he goes along with the engagement. When he gets cold feet and asks Kassidi to slow down, she comes up with a suicide trap to force his hand in marriage. Carl is doomed.

Seeing Svetlana so miserable, Kevin and V work to get her hooked up with an old rich dude. That’ll get her what she wants (money) and get her out of their hair. Svet might know what she wants, but she doesn’t want to debase herself to get it. It’s going to be an uphill climb for this one and I doubt a happy ending is going to result from their efforts.

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Shameless S08E09

The Fugees

Aaaaaaaand Frank’s out of a job. It looks like he only accomplished the Canada smuggling route once. With a new group of Fugees, they are discovered by the Royal Canadian police. Turns out tying flags to trees to designate your route isn’t a good way of keeping it secret. Once spotted. Frank tells the group they’re on their own and everyone makes a break for it. One of them follows Frank (much to his dismay) and they get arrested. With a dash of Gallagher luck, the trip to detainment is stopped by a moose and Frank and they man escape. A few more shenanigans with a bad run-in with a young girl sends Frank sprinting home. He manages to make it home but not only is he back where he started, he doesn’t have the medicine (or their money) for his neighbors. He might be back home but he isn’t done running.

Ian’s crusade is building steam. He’s got feelers out to notify him of when someone needs help so he and his youth posse can mobilize to help them. With each confrontation, video is taken and what Ian is doing is getting exposure. Two religious leaders come to speak with him in support, so Ian is getting more weight being his Jesus loves LGBTQ message.

Lip is still caught between Charlie and Sierra. He keeps his bro code by keeping Charlies secret. Charlie says he’s still waiting for the right time to tell her he has another kid on the way and it turns out that the birth of the child is really hard to keep secret when you sprint out of dinner with your first baby momma to the hospital of baby momma 2. Despite getting interrupted hooking up with his rough friend with benefits, this puts Lip into the scenario he’s always wanted. It pushes Sierra closer to him and Charlie closer to the dumpster. Stupid Charlie asks Lip to mend things between his dumb ass and Sierra which pushes Lip and Sierra into bed. So this puts Lip into another layer of drama. Charlie is going to be a problem. How will Sierra react when she finds out Lip knew (this might not be bad, Fiona did advise him to let it play out on its own). Eddie is clearly mad Lip ditched her. They’re in that friends with benefits zones but Eddie digs him.

Deb hustles to stay in school! Good to see her do what she can to make ends meet and dog sitting a narco dog looks to be a lucrative opportunity. But gadzooks, why is she boosting that amount of drugs? Did she learn nothing from Monica’s meth inheritance? The people who have that much weight are going to be looking for it.

I was right, Carl is in in trouble. After seeing Kassidi with Carl for 30 seconds Kermit called it too! The kid just wants a relationship but that mount of crazy can’t be contained or controlled, you have to get the hell out of there! His innocent “I like you” gesture got twisted into a marriage proposal. He better wear his military gear to keep from getting shanked when the bottom completely falls out of this one.

I don’t like Ford. Out of every guy Fiona has gotten close to, this one is the most annoying. The faster this one hits the ditch, the better. And now Fiona is going to see the worst aspect of owning and renting  property: lawsuits.

Kevin is getting a bit big headed. His focus on dominance is slipping into being an obnoxious bully. I’m surprised V didn’t stomp it out the second she recognized it. Svetlana is straight up depressed after seeing a girl who used to work for her, “make it.” With no control (power) anymore, she’s looking up from the bottom of a barrel wondering what happened to her life.

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Shameless S08E08

Frank’s Northern Shuttle Express

Frank hits the ground (and the road) running with his new business. Smuggling illegals out of the US into Canada and then picking up pharmaceuticals for his neighbors before coming back home. It takes him a good two days to do the work but he succeeds and seems to like it. Frank’s always been a people person when he needs to be so the job fits him pretty well. And it’s illegal so that fits him too. It won’t be long until he’s caught. Nothing he likes lasts long.

Carl gets a taste of crazy from his new girlfriend when she scares off one of his NotUber customers. He’s never seen Entitled Spoiled Brat Crazy before so he has no clue how to handle her. She spins from positive to negative so fast (and to such extremes) that it’s bewildering to anyone (hence her father’s attitude when we first met him). I called her a problem from the start but I don’t think Carl is too clear on it just yet.

Deb is in a panic the whole episode about possibly being pregnant. She runs around trying to get her ducks in a row (since she’s now unemployed) and it’s a huge relief for her when she finds out she dodged a bullet. The stress she went through after the bender weekend should make her more careful. She’s one of the more responsible Gallagher’s at her age so she should learn from it.

Lip goes through his own internal reflection period as he looks for a new sponsor. Professor is going to jail for a long time and Brad is in the process of climbing out of his own hole. So the new sponsor he meets tells him things he doesn’t want to hear and bails. The next two are no help what so ever. When he goes to Planned Parenthood with Deb, he sees Sierra’s baby daddy there. He got another woman pregnant. This drives Lip up a wall but manages to not tell Sierra as Charlie swears he’s going to tell her soon. So all this is swirling around Lip’s head and comes to realize the sponsor was right. He’s co-dependant. He uses the drama of others to keep himself away from his own problems. Lip goes to see his new sponsor. Hopefully, she works as well as Brad did.

Ian turns his anger for Fiona on a much more important issue: gay conversion therapy. He and Trevor find out about a local pastor doing this “work” and go to see what this guy is doing first hand. Sitting in the back of the service, Ian starts to boil which kicks any thought about Fiona to the curb. He later confronts the pastor at another meeting and leads the parade of newly found at-risk youth out of the building where he and Trevor will help them live their lives. While the space for the new center is still being cleaned up and not ready to house anyone, it looks like Ian could become an LGBTQ activist from this. This new youth center could turn out to be something great and a new found focus for Ian.

With Ian off her back, Fiona is left to her own devices. Everyone keeps driving her crazy (Carl runs off with her car all the time, Deb hogging the bathroom, Frank running herds of people in and around the house) she bitches and moans to her two favorite tenants. Mel asks her if she’s ever lived on her own and Fiona realizes she hasn’t. It’s more complicated than that of course, being forced to raise her 5 siblings. So why not move out to the space that’s open in her own building? Fiona deflects saying she needs the money the apartment will bring in and Nessa scoffs at that idea. It puts the “I’m outta here” seed in Fiona’s head for sure. She goes on a day date with newfound hunk/carpenter, Ford. She takes his signals that he wants them to get together and he stops her advances, saying “She’s complicated.” She’s offended at the call and takes off and when she goes back home to tell her siblings what happened they basically agree with Ford.  So she looks in on herself (a lot of reflection this week) and well yes, she is complicated. Her family is complicated. I think it’s safe to say that the seed of moving out is going to turn into a tree. Fiona also gets a bit of a personal boost. Ford is complicated too, he’s a surrogate father to 3, going on 5 kids. The latest being Mel and Nessa’s.

That leaves us with the thrupple. Kevin’s new found dominance in the bedroom comes out to the workplace. He puts his foot down on some os Svetlana’s decisions at the bar and that gets V all hot and bothered. While Svet mans the bar herself while Kev and V go for a quick shag in the back (that everyone can hear) it’s become obvious that Svetlana’s power is sliding away from her.

 

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Happy New Year

2-0-1-8

Since Christmas I’ve been either behind or ahead one day. The holidays landing on a Monday made for long weekends and that screwed up my internal clock.

So it’s been an “off” start to the new year. But it is 2018 and I’m excited for it. I have a lot to work on and I’m looking forward to getting things done. None of that will be done outdoors for awhile as the Antarctic has descended on the east coast.

It’s legit dangerous to be outside right now. The wind is nuts and today’s high of 24F is going to be tops for the next few days. Saturday is looking to peak at 10F and a low of 1F. That is absurd. Good reason to get writing done at least.

Cheers to the future!

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The Darkest Winter

It’s been about 3 months since I “finished” writing my first novel, The Darkest Winter. In that time I’ve looked into getting published through the traditional market and self-publishing it. I decided to go with self-publishing and found a great professional to work with. Wil Mara is now my editor and we will be bringing my book to market together.

I’ve had many alpha readers from my writers’ group and a few beta readers to whom I sent the entire manuscript to. I’ve gotten all of that back along with the first 10 chapters back from Wil.

So the past four years are coming to a head. I’m starting the final editing pass now, I’ve got a ton of reading and consideration ahead of me to make The Darkest Winter the best I can make it.

It’s a very exciting time for me and I’m looking forward to the end product. I have a lot planned and I’m going to learn a ton from this. I’m aiming for a late March release, April at the latest.

I’m going to make updates about the process here over the months. I’d like to have a record of this experience and I think it could be interesting to share my thoughts with other upcoming authors. So stay tuned, you’ll be able to get all the scuttlebutt on THE DARKEST WINTER right here.

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End of the Year Clean Up

I’ve been writing solely about Mr. Robot and Shameless so that may seem like that’s all I’ve been watching. I’ve been keeping up with more TV shows than movies as there is so much to keep track of. Time to do some quick hits for the end of the year.

Movie wise, Kong: Skull Island was pretty good. There’s something off about it though. The tone was odd to me and I can’t really place it.  The time of the movie maybe? If I remember right it’s around the time of the Vietnam war and the movie aesthetically looks like it’s trying to fit in with the likes of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket but it’s got giant monsters in it. The cast was odd too. I’m never going to be convinced that Tom Hiddleston is an action hero (even with slow-motion running with a machete in hand) and Samuel L. Jackson was a maniac for no more reason than needing a human villain. For some reason, giant monsters aren’t enough? At least Kong represented himself well. Quality SFX made Kong look like a champ.

Bright on Netflix was fun. It’s getting crushed by critics and I don’t see why. Sure it’s a half-baked story (with some heavy-handed messages) as the production clearly wants to set up a franchise. I think most of it works though and visually I think it’s rather striking, Quality SFX, great sound design, and better action than Suicide Squad. I think David Ayer had a lot of fun making this one. Will Smith gets top billing and he’s…Will Smith. He’s pretty much Mike Lowrey from Bad Boys in this which is basically his go-to character. The real star is Joel Edgerton as Nick Jakoby. He’s under a ton of prosthetic makeup to play an Orc and the guy acts his ass off. He brings to life a new and likable character and he steals pretty much every scene. I’d be down to watch a sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is great from start to finish. I think it’s better than the first in every way. More cohesive, more heart and more adventure. A real quality ensemble movie where everyone gets their time in the spotlight and the production is absolutely gorgeous.

Now to TV.

I’m liking what they’re doing on Gotham. Keeps my interest and while there are a lot of moving pieces with so many characters, I think each plot is easy to follow and moving along well. Good to see Bruce hit a dark patch that throws his mission to the side. It’s a lot for a teenager to go through and with the resources he has, I think it’d be easy for him to throw it all away with distractions of debauchery. Fun show.

Arrow. I find myself being bored watching this lately. It’s just not clicking with me. Is the cast too big? Not enough interesting characters? I think it follows a formula too closely where it all starts to blur together. The hits all the same beats As hard as they work to make new action sequences, each fight in a warehouse or on a street at night looks the same. And why does Stephen Amell whisper all the time?

SMILF comes on right after Shameless and I like it a lot. I’ve become a big fan of Frankie Shaw (first seeing her in the first season of Mr. Robot) and this show often makes me laugh.

I’m struggling to get through The Punisher. It came out more than a month ago and I think I’m on episode 4. For a show about a mercenary, it’s strangely boring. It’s gotta be the pacing and I haven’t been able to find a character I really like.

I finished season 2 of Lady Dynamite and I liked it quite a bit. I do think it gets hard and difficult to watch when it leans too far into portraying a manic mind. Most of the “future” sections get so bizarre and nonsensical, I think it would turn off a lot of people and they won’t get to the payoff that comes later. As a contrast, the flashbacks to 1980s Duluth, MN are often the best parts of the show. Maria Bamford is really funny, I’d like to see another season.

Finished up Maron and liked it a lot. You can watch Marc become a better actor with every season and the storytelling is very good. At four seasons I think it hits the perfect spot to end the show.  It probably helps to be familiar with Marc from his WTF podcast but it’s not necessary to enjoy the show.

Trollhunters Part 2 on Netflix just hit. A pleasant surprise as I didn’t know there would be more. Gorgeous animation (behind only TMNT I think) and part 2 wastes no time in getting to the goods. PIcks up right after the end of last season to button up a major plot point of the first and it’s on to a new threat. Fun characters, fun world.

The Walking Dead is a frustrating watch. The pacing is terrible. Long stretches of wheel spinning before something interesting happens. Negan is almost always a disappointment. I swear it seems like every time I say I’m done, I get a payoff that keeps me watching to find out what happens next. I think the cast is far too large. Characters can disappear for awhile to the point where I forget they exist and then they get an episode dedicated to them. I can’t remember this person’s name and I’m supposed to care about them? It’s so bad that when a character who has been on the show for a few seasons gets killed, I have no reaction to it. That’s a problem. I think a world of good would be done with a culling, there’s a lot of dead weight on this show.

Happy! on Syfy is great. Super twisted and unique, it’s about a cop (Nick Sax played by Chris Meloni) who has fallen from grace. Out of the police force, he picks up hit jobs to make money. One day after a job gone not so well, he gets an emergency visit from Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), his daughter’s small, flying, bluish purple, donkey/unicorn imaginary friend. Nick Sax is an absentee father (put mildly) and his daughter has been kidnapped by a deranged Santa Clause. It’s funny, violent and absurd, I really dig it. Happy looks amazing too, his animation is great and he’s textured to look like a plush animal. It’s easy to forget Happy is a CG creature because he’s integrated so well. I think it’s only 8 episodes so it’s all killer and no filler so far.

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Shameless S08E07

Occupy Fiona

Ian takes his anger to a new level against Fiona. Incensed in her blocking the homeless youth shelter from renting the abandoned church, he takes a revenge plan to the streets. He rallies a bunch of the homeless kids to occupy the open space directly next to her apartment building. She’s refurbished the empty apartment and is ready to show it but a mass of screaming teens in a tent city makes $1100 rent a tough sell. Ian even goes as far as to call a fire marshall for code violations which puts her out a few hundred dollars. So, she fights back. She bribes all the kids to take off and hires some guys to clean up the lot. Ian insurgency is cut off at the knees and it makes him madder. Trever is basically over losing the church space so it’s Ian all on his own. His reaction is so volatile they wonder if he’s been taking his meds. He says he is and begrudges the insinuation that if he’s ever mad, it’s because he’s manic. To Fiona’s credit, she makes multiple efforts to bury the hatchet like adults and move on. Ian’s behavior freaks out Trevor and he ends up going with Fiona to check out another place the shelter could be set up (Fiona did all the initial legwork to find the place). Trevor is optimistic about Fiona’s efforts…Ian not so much. During their last talk, he says some disturbing things. I (and Fiona) didn’t like what he implied and he’s more or less just bottling up his anger again.

Frank gets a dose of reality when he meets the other corporate downsized men in the employment line. He’s shocked out how many there are and how hard it is to get a job (granted he’s had about a month of employment success so his resume is…light. Dejected, Frank heads to his usual place of grousing about life: The Alibi. There he meets a guy who’s being deported by the new administration in a month. He’s been tried to dodge it by getting into Canada but failed. And just like Carl, he’s stumbled into a new business. Frank the northern coyote.

Speaking of Carl, his basement detox program is coming up short. He needs a few thousand more for tuition when one of his clients, Kassidi, pitches him an idea. Make a ransom video of me and my dad will pay it. Right out of the gate, anyone with two functioning eyes and ears can tell that this girl is a problem. Carl goes along with it though and the plan works despite the father catching Carl with the ransom money. This isn’t the first time this has happened, Kassidi’s been fighting “the man” for years and her father has no idea what to do with her. He warns Carl: she’s a venus fly trap, don’t let her get in your head and ruin you. Also, tell Kassidi her mother expects to see her at a family gathering in a few days and to wear the blue dress. Carl returns home and tells her that the plan worked and she can go. Kassidi freaks out saying she can never go back to that oppressive world of the wealthy and easily convinces Carl to let her stay. He’s in trouble.

Kevin is back to sexual square one with V. V and Svetlana are popping off together like there is no tomorrow and he needs a new angle to spark his love life with V. Since his own gay affair idea didn’t work, the insight that Fiona gave V, she likes to be dominated, is his new plan of attack. He has no idea how to do it with great Shameless results. He does have a breakthrough at the end though.

Deb butts heads with a Porsche driving jerk at work. He’s about as rude and condescending as you can get and while she does her best to toe the line to keep her job at the parking garage, she ends up digging in for revenge. She welds his sports car to a dumpster. Deb is now out of a job, but she can keep her head held high.

Lip does everything he can to wrangle Brad and Professor Youens to get to court. Youens has to show up and plead his case or he’s going to jail for a long time for his fifth DUI where he drove through someone’s house. Brad is going to be a character witness. Lip goes to pick up Brad first and he’s in a pit of depression. He manages to get him dress and out the door only to find Professor blacked out on the floor in his own vomit. Lip summons an extraordinary amount of effort and composure to help the man who helped him so much and it doesn’t end well. Youens has given up and Lip learns the hard lesson that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. It’s one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the show with Youen’s in handcuffs on one side of the visitor’s table and Lip on the other. I hope Lip can move on from this. Brad is still in murky water but at least Lip got him pointed in the right direction. Ian is basically bobbing around in another leaking boat in Depression Bay next to Lip. Come to think of it, the Gallagher men are not doing well. The remaining episodes of the season could be really rough.

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Mr. Robot S03E10 <> Season 3

shutdown-r

The third season of Mr. Robot has come to a satisfying and utterly gripping end.

This whole season has been one of destruction. Everyone has splinted under the pressure and everything comes to a head. It’s in desperation that Elliot turns inward. He has to confront and talk to Mr. Robot instead of fighting and isolating his two sides. He goes to the Wonder Wheel at Coney island and they begin to rebuild their burned bridges. Elliot has feared Mr. Robot so his first instinct was to lock away Mr. Robot to try and keep himself whole. But they function better as one and they each hold pieces to the puzzle they are trying to solve. They can’t move forward, and save anyone, by not talking. Mr. Robot sits across from Elliot as the wheel spins and they start with the basics, what did Mr. Robot’s message about the FBI mean? What does Mr. Robot know?

Santiago is the Dark Army’s FBI mole. They go to his apartment and look for clues until Irving shows up and asks them (Elliot actually. I’ve fallen completely into the narrative of the show that Mr. Robot and Elliot are two people) to come with him.

The cat is out of the bag for Santiago. Dom finally catches him in a lie he can’t get out of and he physically strikes to keep moving. When Dom confronts Santiago in the car with Darlene, Santiago is at his wit’s end. She condemns him for being a traitor and his panicked reply is that she has no idea what the Dark Army has put him through and now he has no choice but to bring her to them. The meeting place is the property where they hid Tyrell.

It’s basically a horrible Mr. Robot reunion with Elliot, Leon, Dom, Santiago, Irving, and Darlene in a barn. Santiago takes charge first, pissed that he seemingly has to clean everything up. He wants the Dark Army to settles this one by turning Dom into a new mole. Irving takes Santiago and Dom outside and Dom quickly sticks to her ethical guns. Stopping in front of the stump with the ax in it changes the mood considerably, though. And it turns out Irving has had enough as well. He kills Santiago with the ax and makes it very clear to Dom that she has no choice but to take over Santiago’s role. When Dom comes back shell-shocked and sprayed with blood, Mr. Robot goes on red alert. Leon calmly lays down a hint at how this organization works: “She’s been initiated.” I think it’s safe to say at some point Santiago was put through a very similar ordeal that Dom just witnessed. Mr. Robot is panicked for a way out but Elliot sees a different scenario unfolding. He notes the security camera watching them from above and he deduces that they are fine, for now anyway and that someone important is coming.

Enter Grant. Irving has cleaned himself up and meets Grant and his security detail outside of the barn. After he states that now that he’s killed Santiago in favor of Dom, he’s taking off for some much-needed R and R. With his new found power, Grant flexes on Irving to pull rank and Irving defies him. “I was once you, many years ago.” A rare glimpse into Irving’s past, we now know that Irving’s been with Whiterose for a long time and he clearly feels like he’s paid his dues. Irving takes off leaving Grant to deal with things.

And we’re plunged into another life or death ultimate situation. Leon pulls a gun on Darlene to force Elliot to make his final move. Grant, on a mission to kill Elliot, wants to know of a single reason why he should spare his life, how is he any different the legionsn of capable people in the Dark Army. Elliot says he’s better than all of them. That he’s gained access to the Dark Army infrastructure and he rattles off a list of things they have done and can be exposed for. Grant shrugs it off, they’ll be able to survive a leak. With one card left to play, Elliot says he’s come up with a way to move the Washington Township plant to the Congo. He came up with a way to do it in a day where Grant and the rest of the DA have been idling for weeks. This is exactly what Whiterose wanted to here. Elliot figured out the one thing that no one else could offer her. Grant moves in for the kill when the phone rings and Whiterose speaks to Grant from her bathtub as she watches them all on a monitor. “It’s your jealousy that blinded you from seeing the value of Mr. Alderson.” She’s bet on Elliot for a lot, this guy that everyone thinks is simply unhinged and it’s paid off again. Grant gets made to look like a fool again and Elliot isn’t even doing it on purpose. Grant has framed this kid in his mind as his arch enemy and Elliot just found out Grant exists.

Whiterose is in control of everything! Pushing the pieces around to suit her needs, using every single person as she sees fit. Suddenly, Leon shoots every Dark Army guy and leaves Grant standing. Grant will not be allowed to kill Elliot. He’s shocked. And then she says “Know that I will find you as soon as our project is complete. But for the here and now, our time has come to an end.” She then says she loves him in Chinese and Grant says something to Elliot in Chinese just before he kills himself. With her last remarks, I thought she was just giving Grant the order to stand down so I was shocked when he shot himself. Whether she wanted him dead seems unlikely to me, but his anger and resentment must have pushed him over the edge. If he pulled on Elliot, Leon would have shot him before he could have pulled the trigger and knowing he’s second banana to Elliot must have felt insufferable to Grant.

Elliot comes through with his plan and the Congo move is put back in motion.

Angela thought she was being brought to Whiterose but it’s Price who picked her up. At his mansion, we get another big reveal: Price is Angela’s biological father. A lot of pieces came together right here and a broken Angela gets no better. He initially hired Angela to drop her case against the plant and he slowly watched Whiterose get her hooks into his daughter (that he stayed away from for 32 years). Seeing her so shattered, he felt he had to finally do something. In telling Angela Whiterose’s true motives, she pleads for a reason. Why were the deaths of all the people she was complicit to, necessary? What was the goal? And as Price found out a few weeks ago: spite. Nothing more. In the first line of fatherly dialog out of his mouth, Price tries to console and advise his daughter: “Find a way to live with what you did.” Well what now, she asks? Nothing from Price as he’s given up. It looks like Angela will spend some time at the mansion but will she pack it up too?

And that’s the question for everyone. As they leave the barn, Darlene tries to apologize to Dom and Dom lets her have it. Dom is now trapped by the Dark Army, her entire family a marked for death if she doesn’t fall in line. Darlene is an awful person and she’s taken everything from her. Dom’s life is upside down and ruined.

Dom gives Elliot access to Sentinal in order to try and get the keys that Romero backed up with the keylogger. He finds the material from Romero’s computer on the server and because he knew Romero (and the FBI didn’t) he’s able to figure out the password to get in. He finds a dead end though. The keys to decrypt E Corps backups isn’t there. Someone exported them to another location and it wasn’t Romero. They keyloggers weren’t his doing.

Once back in the city, Darlene and Elliot are able to talk on the subway where we get another reveal: Elliot’s dad didn’t push him out of the window. Elliot was having some kind of manic episode and jumped out the window himself. Elliot doesn’t remember it that way at all. Darlene answers that she’s here to remember for him. To be his back up. Just like Trenton did, Darlene trusts her brother. The siblings are back as a team.

This leaves Elliot alone with Mr. Robot. After 10 episodes of destruction, the finale ends with reconciliation. They have an honest talk about how their life works together. The guilt of the hack (not just Stage 2) is eating Elliot alive and he can’t handle the guilt anymore. Mr. Robot wants to hold off to somehow wait for some way to trap Whiterose, but Elliot simply wants to undo 5/9 as a start. For his own sanity.

Pulling from their Wonder Wheel conversation earlier, Mr. Robot admits that just like a piece of Mr. Robot is in Elliot, part of Elliot makes up Mr. Robot. When Elliot asks Mr. Robot if he knew he jumped out of the window, we don’t hear the answer because a subway train goes by. As frustrating that is for us, I get some comfort in knowing that Elliot got an answer.

Now that makes you wonder when Elliot created Mr. Robot. Clearly, he wasn’t well before his father was sick. Was that his first mental break? Did jumping create Mr. Robot as a coping mechanism beyond grief? Angela went through a similar ordeal with losing her mother because of E Corp (Whiterose) and ger mind navigated it differently (which at this point looks like she just hid the emotional damage longer, only to be exploited).

What Mr. Robot can answer, is that it was he who put the keyloggers on the fsociety HQ computers and exported them off the premises. And he did that because of the Elliot directive: what if 5/9 was a mistake and they were wrong? Having a way to undo it, a way to go back in time to change a mistake would be valuable. Mr. Robot sent the keys to their server at their apartment and burned them to an unmarked CD for safe keeping. Elliot is able to start the healing process.

Mr. Robot feeds brilliantly into the modern zeitgeist of the conspiracies of who really runs the world. Forget the Illuminati, the Stone Masons, and the Lizard People, it’s Whiterose. A mortal acting like God, pulling the political and economic strings of the world. Tech and politics whipped together in the darkest and most secretive ways possible. The finale accomplishes a lot. The motif of mistakes and the desire to go back in time to fix them (Angela’s bereavement and manipulation over her mother’s death, the Back to the Future and Superman references) came to a head. We witness both sides of Elliot being revealed as a source of good even if their methods have been mired in ethical peril and personal danger. He’s becoming whole again, as much as that’s possible for Elliot. It also resets the show to the beginning.

When we first met Elliot he was a white hat hacker using his expertise the go after the bad guys that no else could see. The 5/9 hack was initially created to recenter the balance back to the people and away from evil corporations. Now with one major problem fixed by getting the recovery files back in order, Elliot has a clear target. Whiterose is THE problem that needs to be solved. He now has a physical head to hunt for, someone who without a doubt does no good for the world. While resetting the world’s finances was a shot in the dark to change the world for the better, going after the creator of many of the world’s ills is a goal that will get results. Elliot has some measure of purpose and reason again. Something Angela needs too.

The stinger at the end of the credits reveal a personal monster of Elliot returning next season and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds.

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Shameless S08E06

Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him

This episode was more or less about each storyline treading water. I think some stories hit their plateau and we’re about to see a lot transition into their next phase.

Carl took a back seat this week as his biggest role was helping Lip. He’s still hustling to make tuition and when Lip asks for his help he’s quick to join his brother. Everyone has given up on Brad, Lip’s sponsor. He’s disappeared on a bender and Lip is the only one willing to look for him. When he gets a lead he tracks Brad’s wild night and ultimately finds him. Through the whole treasure hunt, everyone tries to talk to Lip into essentially abandoning Brad. “This guy doesn’t matter” and “a drunk will always be a drunk” the go-to reasoning. But it’s not that simple for Lip. He’s tied the success of his own sobriety to the mentorship that Brad has given him and seeing his hero crash and burn makes Lip scared for his own life. He shoulders a lot of grief and comes out on the side, I’m really proud of Lip, he’s showing a lot of character. While he gets Brad to stand up and walk forward again, Brad doesn’t get a happy ending just for showing up. I like the dose of reality the show sticks with.

Fiona goes to talk to Ian about the shelter to try and reason with him. She gives good reasons for undercutting the shelter (and why it all shook out the way it did) but Ian isn’t having it. He’s furious and says “I don’t know who you are anymore.” For now, the siblings will remain at odds. Fiona’s shut in tenant springs a water leak in her apartment and that forces Fiona to enter the apartment for the first time. This woman has pushed Fiona’s patience (more than a month past due for rent) and she’s greeted by piles of stuff and…a dead body. The woman died a few days ago, leaving her tiny dog to nibble on her body for survival. While cleaning up the apartment, the idea of turning out like this woman creeps up on Fiona. She finds some pictures in the apartment and manages to piece some parts of this lost life. It looks like she was at least happy a few decades ago. A niece shows up to take over the clean up and she ends up tossing everything in there. A whole life is thrown into a dumpster. Fiona, a similar soul watches on in distress. She ends up salvaging some pictures and takes in the woman’s little dog.  He might have eaten some human flesh but everyone is forced into bad situations.

Kevin becomes jealous of V and Svetlana’s sexual chemistry. Incensed at V’s “spaz-gasms” he claims it’s now his prerogative to explore his sexuality. V and Svetlana don’t object and let him go on his mission without saying much. He first asks Ian how/when he knew he was gay and from there, Kev keeps his eyes and ears open to catching homosexual vibes. This journey leads him to an experience with a gay man and he quickly cements his true feelings: he’s straight. He goes home to a not surprised V and she welcomes her husband home.

Debbie, like Brad, comes to the end of her weekend bender. Except she had unprotected sex with her buddy and that sends her into a panic to get the morning after pill. It doesn’t go too well. Probably the funniest storyline of the episode, Deb really Gallaghers it up.

Frank is riding high, getting his first (non-fraudulent) credit card. He buys a car with it and happily takes Liam to school in it. He cruises into work and gets a nasty shock: he’s out of a job. In another first, it’s not his fault. The entire garden center chain is closing down. Frank’s streak of success has hit its first obstacle and while his initial reaction is to stay positive, this is Frank we’re talking about. Debatury isn’t far away.

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Mr. Robot E3E09

Stage 3

With the devastation of Stage 2 done, the only way to try and turn things around is to make a new plan of attack. Elliot and Mr. Robot take two different roads to the same (or maybe similar) destination.

The episode starts with Elliot regaining consciousness in his bathroom. Mr. Robot used a bar of soap to write a message to him on the mirror before he lost control. “They own the FBI.” Elliot doesn’t know what the means exactly. Who is “they” and how did Mr. Robot get the information he did? He has no idea what Mr. Robot did last night. The only clues are what’s left open on his PC: an article about Tyrell being released. So back we go.

For his part, Elliot talks to Darlene about the message Trenton left him. If it’s true, they have a shot of undoing Five Nine, expose the architects and benefactors of the hacks. But getting to that info that Romero secretly stored is a monumental challenge. Darlene has an in with the FBI, Dom, and she thinks that’s the only exploit the have to get access to the offline system that’s storing Romero’s hardware. She goes off on her mission and Elliot works on his own.

First, he tracks down Irving to set up a face to face with Whiterose. He drops a term to stoke Irving into motion: “Stage 3.” In a smart move by Elliot, he wants to spook the Dark Army into talking to him, insinuating that he’s had something planned that they don’t know about and it’s something they want to be involved with. Then he goes to see Angela.

She’s a mess. Elliot’s been our unreliable narrator since the start and now we can add Angela to the list of paranoid and delusional characters. She’s a pale image of her former self. Unkept, wide-eyed, and twitchy. She has probably 6 locks on her door. Elliot goes to see her to talk about what she knows about Whiterose and he manages to convince her to leave her place for his. She sees Whiterose as her center of the universe so it’ll take some sensitive and careful talking to keep her trust and get her to talk. Elliot doesn’t get the chance to as Leon is waiting for him at his apartment. This freaks Angela out, swears never to trust Elliot again and takes off for home. At her place, she packs her things up like a crazy cat lady and as she’s walking down the street (I think she intended to go to where ever she thought Whiterose was) a white van with well-dressed men stops to pick her up. I have no idea where she’s headed now but Angela didn’t seem concerned about this usually-how-kidnapping-happens scenario.

Leon has come to deliver Elliot to his requested meeting…he comes face to face with Whiterose’s right-hand man, Grant, instead. Elliot drops a little more nuggets about his Stage 3 plans as the Dark Army copies data off of his laptop. He’s told Whiterose has no intentions of meeting him ever again and Elliot counters that Stage 3 is something they want to be a part of. “Are you in or are you out?” E Corp’s E Coin payment system is his new target. With that, the meeting is done and sometime after this, Elliot becomes Mr. Robot.

Angela goes to work on Dom. They meet at a bar and when a tech attempt to steal the access codes off of Dom’s security clearance ID fails, Angela decides to go the old-fashioned way: seduction. Dom is self proclaimed to be terrible on the social side of things so this seems like a decent enough plan B. Dom isn’t dumb though and catches Darlene stealing her ID card. So now Darlene is brought in and up to her eyeballs in trouble. She has no choice but to tip her hand about the info Trenton left, why she was trying to steal access to get into the countries highest level security. Santiago is there in the interrogation room so this puts him on red alert. Dom is once again gung-ho on the lead as they have nothing to lose. If Darlene is lying, they lock her up, if she’s telling the truth the case is cracked wide open. Again, Santiago scuttles what Dom wants to do and Dom becomes more suspicious. I want Dom to get Santiago so bad I can barely contain myself. His reactions have become more and more off and Dom is noticing, she just needs something to push her over the edge on him being on the wrong side of this.

And now for Mr. Robot. It turns out he went to Tyrell’s home to talk some sense into him. Mr. Robot is furious about what happened to his revolution and probably just as mad that Tyrell doesn’t see that he’s been manipulated this whole time. Tyrell blames Mr. Robot for his families destruction and Mr. Robot is having none of that nonsense. As they fight, Price comes knocking. They all sit down and Price isn’t surprised to see Elliot (Mr. Robot). So as Price tells Tyrell that he’s has been named E Corp’s new CTO, Mr. Robot comes to realize that his revolution was never a secret. The people in power knew about it from that start and let it happen. After the drubbing Price got from Whiterose in the previous episode, he’s rather comatose about the entire thing. It’s acceptance of his new world order. His power has been demoted, he lost to Whiterose. He makes it clear to Tyrell that his new title is in name only, he has no power.

So this brings Tyrell back to reality. He’s gained nothing and lost everything. He’s a puppet and locked into his own apartment by himself only to be used by others in whatever way they see fit. Mr. Robot now has a talented man back on his side though.

With all the little birds in the world listening for Whiterose, he quickly finds out about what’s happening from Grant. The plans for Congo are delayed because the entire world is on edge. The US is under martial law and all the people the Dark Army has paid off can’t help them move things through the restrictions that the cyber attacks caused. Santiago has sent word about Darlene and that sends Whiterose into a rage about an exploit in her plan she never thought of. Grant’s talk with Elliot disturbed him and it’s forcing his hand. He confronts Whiterose about her actions. He’s questioned her choices before and this time he’s not backing down. The problems that have come up are because of Whiterose’s decisions. Her revenge on Price changed the plan for the worse. Sticking with Elliot has been a problem that should have and could have been stopped a long time ago. And now that Grant knows about Darlene, he thinks Elliot lied to him at their meeting. He isn’t going for E Coin, it’s going to be them. Grant proposes that it’s time to send off Elliot like they did his father. Whiterose agrees.

This brings us back to the beginning with Elliot. He’s alone in his apartment and cleans off Mr. Robot’s message from the mirror. It’s time to get to work on Stage 3. He knew that the Dark Army would copy his data so he made his own spyware to get into their system when they copied the USB stick to their computer network. So the good news is that he seemingly has access to the guts of the Dark Army. The bad news is that he doesn’t know about Darlene. His plan is compromised and when talking to Grant, it sounded like Whiterose anticipated Elliot trying to do something like this eventually. So is the Dark Army actually prepared for this infiltration? I’m not sure Elliot is going to be able to do what he wants behind the scenes. He might end up being led to believe he is as a trap.

There is a ton of set up for next week’s season finale. It should be nuts.

 

 

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Shameless S08E05

The (Mis)Education of Liam Fergus Beircheart Gallagher

I think this is the longest stretch Frank has ever had with good behavior. He takes Liam to school I think everyday and he’s still employed at the garden center. He’s been getting job promotions too which is something to be celebrated but none of the kids acknowledge his achievements. An entire lifetime of cutting and running and other wise scamming will ingrain that in those around you I guess. When Liam gets a bad grade on a standardized test, Frank is quick to defend his son on account of culturally bias (“Foyer? How he is suppose to know what a ‘foyer’ is?”) Not only does that work but it further raises his status in the liberal elite libido game. Frank is firing on all cylinders.

While Lip remains in his own rather aggressive sexual relationship his sponsor, Brad, falls off the wagon. His newborn son pushes him to the limits of stress and sleep deprivation and ends up at a bar. Lip rushes to his side but a drunk Brad fights back and Lip loses control and track of him. It’s a big blow to Lip, who at first felt uneasy when Brad gave him a list of other full time sponsors who could help Lip in any future time of need because he’d be too busy. Brad is more than a mentor to Lip and seeing him crash like this is depressing. It’s a big loss of hope as it asks the question: if someone who’s been following the steps so well and for so long (and preaches that advise to me) can succumb like this, what chance do I have?

Carl has come up with his own detox plan for the purple heart thief he caught. Cut him off from the heroine cold turkey and keep up the positive reinforcement until the guy can think clearly. In the middle of his project, he finds out this his Army grant has been cut off and he needs to come up with $12,000 by August to go back. With his vigilant determination, Carl hits the pavement and does everything (legal) he can think of to come up with the money. He needs to make a small fortune fast and it isn’t looking good after a full day in the “gig” economy. He does let the junkie go though, 4 days of detox and Carl thinks he’s good to go. Unsure of what he’s going to do for money, Carl hits a windfall. The junkie comes back with his passed out girlfriend and the guy swears that what Carl did was better than any rehab he’s ever done. He gives thousands of dollars in cash to Carl from his parents and says his girlfriend’s parents will give him $2,500 if he can do the same for her. Carl just started a business.

Deb is also hustling. She’s at a high mark at the beginning of episode, her classes are going great, she’s got a major test coming up that could solidify her future, Frannie is happy and healthy, and she’s got some great friends from going to welding school. She aces her test and when she asks Frannie’s grandmother to babysit for a few days so she can go on a celebratory weekend trip, she gets a shock to the system. Derek is home. With his girlfriend, who is holding Frannie. Deb understandably goes on the defensive. Never mind the trip! She quickly grabs Frannie and says gotta go and bolts out the door. Awkward doesn’t do the scene justice. Does this mean Derek is “grown up” now and is going to try to co-parent? Good luck cutting through the rage made by abandoning Deb and your infant daughter, dude.

The Alibi is doing terrible. Only when Svet is working does the place make a profit. This makes cutting paychecks dicey (V and Kev say it should be split in thirds, Svet says 50/50) and V remains furious that Svet stole the bar away from them. V and Kev are clearly terrible business owners and Svet also has another upper hand on them: her sexual wiles on V are overwhelming. Svet is slowly making things go back to the way they were.

If Ian isn’t working as an EMT, he’s with Trevor. The youth shelter needs to expand and the abandoned church turned crack den could be a great space if it’s fixed up. Ian works with a donor (in the dark ways of Shameless) that Trevor knows in order to shore up funding. Fiona, unknowingly, is on the other side of the equation. The church is about 2 blocks from her apartment building and doesn’t want a homeless shelter going up there. It isn’t good for property value. She works her tail of to get 2 artists re-interested in the property and when it comes out that she and Ian are competing with each other, it doesn’t go well. Fiona stands her ground in siding with the art studio in spite of the good that could be done for the kids Ian knows and Trevor works for. Lines in the sand have been drawn and while I support them both for their reasoning, I don’t know who to side with. I also don’t know how this is going to shake out.

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