‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 6 Review

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 6 Cover

Alright, well, this is the first season I think I’ve disliked, or at least that vehemently. What an un-cohesive mess this thing turned out to be. Unlike how last season was kind of formless and free in a good way, this one was much the same, but was never a pleasant or enjoyable ride in any of the storylines.

By far one of the most interesting aspects of this season, and beginning more with season 5 in a nice slow burn was Willow’s increasing obsession with magic and how she would use it for expounding nefarious and reckless ways, and a lot of the time would just use it because HELL YEAH MAGIC. So, it made sense on one end how they culminated her addiction to it with it turning her into the big bad, but it felt so rushed at the end of the season, where there wasn’t much overall demon tension, and held such little teeth.

I guess the main villains throughout the season were The Trio, literally just a bunch of nerds, who always became an after thought because they didn’t seem to pose any tangible threat. Playing off this, I guess, though, Warren, the leader of the group, attempts to kill Buffy by shooting, only wounding her, but a couple of his stray shots hit Tara and she dies, and cue the Willow big bad turn. I know that scene is supposed to play serious, and it does to an extent, having a regular dude just use a regular ol’ human gun to try and kill Buffy and company seems a whole lot scarier in one sense than just demons trying to kill the Scooby gang each season. But, damn, the execution of the scene played like a made-for-TV movie where the stray bullet hits Tara mid-conversation with Willow, and only just recently after they rekindled their love.

Spurned on by her girlfriend’s death, Willow turns evil and wreaks havoc, eventually killing and brutally flaying Warren, which was pretty crazy to see. And actually an interesting side note to the story, Willow having to live with killing an actual human, a theme running rampant throughout the series, harming actual humans and the consequences of that. Writing this out, I guess it’s not as bad and out of the blue with Willow as I recalled, you had the Trio kind of bubbling under all season and then the one rash move from them sets Willow into overdrive for the last few episodes as the baddie, it doesn’t entirely work, but pacing looks a bit better looking at the overall picture. And of course Willow comes back to normal when Xander convinces her to not destroy the world through FRIENDSHIP LOVE. And, damn, if Xander, along with Anya is my favourite character nowadays, coming along way since me hating him in the first couple seasons. His friendship and attitude towards Willow is a lot less dickish, mostly since Anya’s been in the picture, so it actually works pretty well with him being the one to bring Willow back.

Speaking of Xander and Anya, their wedding goes bust after Xander gets cold feet after some demon tricks Xander into thinking their future together will be super awful, so he calls it off due to that. Alright. So, then Anya turns back all demon like and wants to kill Xander because she’s an irrational demon at heart, and subsequently bangs Spike. And then like two episodes later or something, I can’t remember, but it was short, Xander realizes he’s a big, dumb idiot and regrets dumping Anya and now has to get her back. I mean, I guess they wanted some conflict between them, but this is definitely not how you do it, and pretty lazy to begin with. And of course near the end of the season Anya gets the ‘ol positive Xander vibes, so who knows where this is going…

Oh, yeah, Buffy’s totally not dead, if you’re wondering. She got resurrected by Willow, of course, and is back to contend with Spike’s love and other stuff. Buffy’s been long one of my least favourite characters, and especially again that her storyline is again just about her relationship with a dude and doubly with Spike who has become all boring and neutered. And then, damn, they do something that I never thought the show would do and seemed a little to mature of a topic that they would want to contend with, but alright. Spike literally attacks and attempts to rape Buffy, like, at first I wasn’t sure if that’s what they were doing, but yup, Spike legit tries to rape Buffy. I mean, Spike was always the kind of fun-loving asshole character that was the supposed bad-ass guy, but was secretly good at heart especially when Buffy was around, but now they spin this on us, and it’s really hard to come back from that. At the end of the season Spike pulls a Dave Chappelle and heads to Africa to regain his soul, and I dunno. I had such hopes for Spike in these last seasons, but I can’t help but think they’ve wasted him so much, especially as literally just this dude pining after Buffy for the past two seasons. Hopefully, the last season will put a deserved bow on things, that puts Buffy on top to make things worth it.

I can’t say I’m entirely enamored with where the show is going. I thought that the show would improve on and lay out its direction into a more concise and defined story that would string through the latter seasons and culminate at the end, but these last few seasons have been very directionless and aimless, minus the last third or so of the season. I thought there might have been more digging into the back story of the whole idea of a slayer, or have an overarching bad guy or series of events that the gang would have to make their way through. The procedural elements of a new demon to kill each week seems largely out the window at times, and you’d think that would translate to a more cohesive overall story to tell, but it never manifests to one that I think the show has the potential to tell. I’m a little apprehensive going into the last season, because of this track record, but I’m also looking forward to it because it is indeed the last season (TV wise at least), so I’m hoping that will force and push them to write to an end with a fulfilling story. At the very least, I do love hanging out with these characters and like any show like this, especially in the later seasons, it’s so fun to see their characters, relationships and history together grow and you feel like you know them so well. The writing and Whedon-esque dialogue are all obviously the lynch-pins to that and thus I’m looking forward to seeing how their story wraps up.

Hell In A Cell: Review/Recap

Hell In A Cell Banner

Alberto Del Rio Defeats John Cena to win the United States Championship:

So, if you’ve been reading the dirt sheets for the past couple weeks you’ll know that John Cena is set to take some time off, supposedly until close to the end of the year, so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that whoever was Cena’s mystery opponent they would take the belt from him, and that he did. And, also, if you’ve been reading the dirt sheets over the past couple months you’ll know that Del Rio was heavily rumoured to be coming back to the WWE, seemingly sooner rather than later, and that he did. Realistically, he was probably the best person they could’ve got to do this, outside of Daniel Bryan, but nobody truly knows his condition anymore it seems and I’m sure WWE would want to promote the hell out of D-Bry returning and not just have him randomly appear. I really don’t like the idea of having Del Rio returning with Zeb Colter as his manager, it doesn’t seem needed at all, besides the fact that I can’t stand Colter, and Del Rio can more than work by himself. I just hope they don’t give him the short stick, even with his probably stipulation heavy contract, Del Rio can still fill a top role in the company, especially with Cena out. As for the match itself, it was anti-climatic the whole way through, it was some, like, barely over seven minutes and Del Rio just did a couple random kicks to Cena’s head and pinned him, because of course Cena isn’t tapping to Del Rio with his regular finish. It was like Cena wanted to start his vacation extra early and, hence the quick match and that it was the first match on the card. Anyways, it was pretty dumb that Cena is built up as never losing and when he does cleanly like this it’s so pointless and doesn’t make much sense continuity wise, but eh, that’s just par for the course really.

Roman Reigns Defeats Bray Wyatt in a Hell In A Cell match:

This was probably low-key the match I was most looking forward to of the night, and unlike the other Cell match actually had some current build-up to it. Plus, Bray and Roman are great young talents who have some nice chemistry together. The match was a good brawl fest, with some nice use of kendo sticks and tables and positioned both men quite strongly, even if it was constantly clear that Roman would come out on top. I just really hope this is the end to the Reigns/Wyatt family feud that seems to have stretched for a year basically when you throw Ambrose’s feuding with Bray from late last year. I like Bray Wyatt and think he has sooo much potential, but it’d be nice to see him come out of a feud on top for once, I know he never was going to against Reigns, but it seems like Vince and co. like him and the Wyatts, yet they’re always stepping stones for others. We shall see.

The New Day Defeats The Dudley Boyz to retain the Tag Team Championship:

Man, I’m so sick of this feud already, and with the thought that they’d culminate it at TLC in December with a tables match, I don’t know if I can last that long. This thing is dead in the water, especially when they gotta keep up dumb finishes so that The Dudleyz don’t win and so that there’s a limp thread of a reason for them to keep feuding with The New Day continually retaining. They did some fun stuff with a framed DQ job from Kofi, but everything else largely falling flat, especially when The Dudleyz look so sloppy with their wrestling, missing out on simple moves, that take away from the supposed fidelity of the match. I prey they inject some new blood into this thing, or just cut bait early and have The Dudleyz work somebody else and The New Day do something else as they’re consistently part of the main event picture on RAW’s, so who knows.

Charlotte Defeats Nikki Bella to retain the Divas Championship:

This match was pretty uneventful and seemingly just Nikki’s rematch that she loses to get her out of the picture so probably Paige comes in and feuds for the belt next. Nikki looked really good in the match, and even though people were rightfully sick of her, she’s underratedly one of the best female wrestler on the roster, even with all the new NXT influence. I like Charlotte, too, and she might actually be my favourite overall, but I’m curious to see how long they keep the belt on her, even with the Flair pedigree and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her getting screwed out of it or something sooner than later.

Seth Rollins Defeats Kane to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

This was a pretty meh match and really exactly what was expected. It’s pretty telling when the World Championship match is a distant afterthought behind the two Cell matches. Hell, this thing probably could’ve been spiced up by putting it in the Cell, but here we are. I’ve never really like Rollins and Kane’s chemistry in the ring, they’re different styles obviously, but everything often seems so clunky and hemmed down with the two, and Seth’s been pulling out great matches with everybody, but this was a down moment for sure. At least this limited to a one PPV feud, we hope.

Kevin Owens Defeats Ryback to retain the Intercontinental Championship:

Damn, and I thought the Cena match was short just to get the belt off him, this one was the semi-reverse where Owens retained in, like, five minutes because I can only assume that’s how quickly they wanted this Owens/Ryback feud to be over so they can move Owens on to bigger and better things. I’m glad they didn’t stretch the feud out because Owens just murders Ryback in the ring and on the mic that Ryback never even seemed close to being a formidable opponent of Owens, even though they tried to make the story of how Owens cheated to win each time. There’s really not much of Ryback I can stand, he’s terrible on the mic and a poorer wrestler than he thinks he is and as much as he thinks otherwise, he just doesn’t have a good look. I’m looking forward to an actual feud with Owens and someone who can hang with him believably.

Brock Lesnar Defeats The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match:

Now I was pretty sure that this was going to be a good match, seeing as how their SummerSlam match was pretty fantastic (minus the finish) and that it’s supposedly the last time they’ll ever fight (this is the WWE, though, so you know to never fully believe anything they promise.), but damn if this thing exceeded expectations. Now, of course, this Cell match was going to be in the shadow of their classic blood-fueled duel inside the Cell at No Mercy in 2002, and this one being in the PG-era how could it compete, but oh, man, was their blood. Now, who knows if we’ll ever know if Lesnar and /or Taker purposely bladed (I’m going to guess no), but this match was as bloody as I’ve ever seen in a long time. I really think Brock’s just a bleeder and has some thin skin, because he’s constantly getting busted open, and pretty early in the match. It looked like they were working pretty stiff, too, so the unplanned blood seems pretty likely that way. But, otherwise this was a great match with a ton of brawling and and a kick-ass ending that most importantly saw Lesnar going over cleanly and getting the win as he should have. This is definitely a match I’m looking forward to going back and watching and if this is indeed the end to their decade-plus of feuding, it was a pretty worth conclusion. Generally, that would be it, but it’s no secret that Undertaker’s 25th Anniversary is coming at Survivor Series, the next PPV, so the Wyatt family (also in need of a new feud to start) come out and beat the hair extensions out of Taker and abduct him. Which was actually kind of badass for the Wyatt family to do, especially with their history. Obviously, this will lead into some kind of match, probably a Survior Series elimination match somehow at the PPV. Unfortunately it’s hard to see the Wyatt’s coming out on top again this time, but maybe Undertaker’s fully in his “putting others over” phase, but we’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic.

‘Steve Jobs’: Review

Steve Jobs Banner

Steve Jobs is framed with an inventive idea to have the film only focus on three specific events in Steve Jobs and Apple’s life, the launches of the original Macintosh, NeXT and the iMac jumping from 1984 to 1988 to 1998. Each year and event contains Jobs behind-the-scenes dealing with the final hours and minutes before each launch, featuring conversations with the same cast of characters of Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, marketing manager, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple co-founder, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), CEO of Apple/Jobs father figure/confidant, and Jobs’ daughter played by a variety of actress throughout the year. Each year Jobs gets in a variation of the same argument/conversation with each person, with shading filled in between as to what has changed throughout the years we haven’t seen, but Jobs being the standoffish guy he always is, it’s always the same thing.

Normally, I’m all for bucking the classic bio-pic trend of literally following the person from their childhood, to their big break and then eventual downfall and then eventual rise again and blah, blah, blah, it’s a tired story and one that would probably be even more repetitive with Jobs if we followed everything and just went from new invention to new invention to new invention. Sure, this is basically that, but it’s really only that, simplifying the action to one place in a set of surroundings for 40 minutes or so. It works in and of itself, but in doing so, skipping large amounts of time, it glosses over much of what makes the rise and fall of Jobs interesting. We see him ousted from the company in 1988 trying to get NeXT off the ground, and then the transition a decade into the future is a one-minute montage that is basically “oh, yeah, Jobs got back with Apple and is now on top of the computer industry,” yet minutes ago he was toiling on the edge of relevancy and couldn’t launch a successful project to save his life. Because we don’t see any of this, and it’s only mentioned in passing, it’s hard to fully comprehend and really feel for any of Jobs failing and subsequent rise to the top, it’s all just skipped over in montage form, which unsurprisingly Danny Boyle loves to do. I realize Sorkin wanted to make everything minimalist and targeted, but in doing so lost a lot of what made Jobs’ story interesting and what made his ride in the industry so tumultuous. Instead, we get a couple interesting pieces of the puzzle, that work as a character piece in a vacuum, but leave a lot up to the audience to fill in the blanks on the rest.

Having the read the book the film was loosely based on I was able to fill in the blanks on characters and knew what happened in between the time periods. But, I’d imagine it would be harder for an outsider unfamiliar with the particulars of Steve Jobs’ life to fully follow why so-and-so was happening and how he magically goes from A-to-B, and in an especially weird moment where he describes finding out who his biological father is and how he’s actually randomly bumped into him many times in life, plays as a random aside that doesn’t make much context within the film itself, yet was a pretty integral part of driving who he was as a person in real life, it’s like they just plugged a random scene in or much was cut from a storyline about it.

Another part that rarely ever works is these people in Jobs’ life who rail on Jobs and are supposed to be this foil to him being a major asshole, trying to cut Jobs down a peg where people like Wozniak and Jobs’ daughter Lisa would outline how all Jobs’ computers up to that point were a failure and how others would tell truthly how Jobs was never really a designer or engineer, but took parts from others and took credit for it all, but it never amounted for such. These people in theory are supposed to be putting Jobs in check by saying “why are you such an asshole and why do you act this way when your computers have and never will be as great as you think they are, and you’re not this mythical computer god who knows all.” Except that we’re viewing this film from 2015, or later, and we know full well that after 1998 Jobs’ stock and presence around the world as a computer god and legend of innovation only grows larger and more defined. Jobs gets the last laugh, and not that he’s wholly some evil and diabolical person, but we’re lead to be on the side of these people who are trying to keep Jobs honest, and temper his asshole side, but in the end he wins out in his normal way and still treats these people the same way. Sure, that was Jobs, an asshole who often treated those around him and employees like garbage, but also got incredible work and design out of them to create these revolutionary projects. It’s the most interesting things about Jobs, but because of how the film is laid out, and these relationships are only seen in three finite times, we only see this one side where Jobs is always right and always winning no matter what, when in actuality that wasn’t always the case.

It’s clear within literally the first five minutes of the movie, that there’s no one else who could’ve played this role like Michale Fassbender does. He completely embodies Jobs’ look and nails the smugness perfectly, if not always looking as geeky as Jobs did, where Fassbender still can’t not look like an attractive movie star, most notably in the 1984 and 1988 scenes. It’s very much Fassbender’s film, and I really don’t recall a scene without him, he’s obviously the driving force and makes everything work, even when Sorkin’s script gets too overly dramatic, which unfortunately happens to comical effect. I was looking forward to seeing how Seth Rogen would handle playing Steve Wozniak, as of course Rogen isn’t known for his dramatic roles, even though the sweet and goofy Wozniak isn’t any stone-cold dramatist by any means, but unfortunately there’s not much there. Seth Rogen just literally plays Seth Rogen like you’ve seen him many times before. Not once do you think you’re watching Steve Wozniak, but rather Seth Rogen saying lines supposed to be from Steve Wozniak.

In the end, a lot of the film is good in and of itself, the script, Boyle’s directing (even if he wouldn’t of been my first choice), much of the acting is well done and the pacing moves at a nice clip (the film never feels like its dragging), but it doesn’t really mesh together. Sorkin’s walk-and-talk script that seems to function as a play doesn’t really play with Boyle’s style of directing who likes to illuminate flashy editing and play with montage and super-impositions that take what Sorkin intends to ground and create something that seems at odds with the script, and Boyle can never seem to hold it down. As many have noted, one can’t help but wonder what the original David Fincher version would have looked like, and I’m sat here wondering the same thing.

‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 5 Review

Buffy Season 5 Cast

“Buffy” is at that point now that most show’s with a core group of friends usually does where above anything else that the show does it’s really just fun to hang out with these characters, ones that you know so much by now and seem like just another extension of friends of yours. By this point the show isn’t really tied to having a baddie each episode for Buffy and company to dispatch all the while slowly moving along the overarching story. It’s still in effect, yeah, but it seems more freer, less concerned with sticking to a formula each episode, and just goes with the flow with whatever the writers feel like following that week, whether it be taking down a demon, focusing more on the characters relationships, hitting largely on the overarching story, or just menial things like people in their early twenties buying a house or getting a job or whatever. For at least the first 2/3 thirds of the season, it has a very laid back feel, and one that is a nice change of pace and works well as a foil as things eventually unravel in the back portion of the season.

Perhaps the biggest thing of the season is the literal random introduction of Buffy’s sister Dawn, where the show just literally drops her into the proceedings all like “What? Over four seasons you hadn’t noticed Buffy has a sister? She’s totally been here the whole time.” It’s hilarious how they introduce her like that, and at first I thought they just really wanted to introduce a new character, especially a sister to Buffy, and were just like “Screw it, this is the easiest way to put her in, nobody will notice after awhile.” But, thankfully, it wasn’t that dumb, and played into the series where she was placed there as a key between dimensions and memories of her were implanted into people who know her, which was slowly discovered by Buffy until they realized who she was and how she plays into things.

Oh, yeah, this whole “key” situation. So, sweet ‘ol young as hell Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn is a sort of “key” that the big bad of the season a goddess from hell needs to return to her realm of hell and subsequently wreck havoc on Earth. Glory, as she so affectionately is called, was kind of a letdown for me, where she was supposed to be built up as this all-ruling GOD, which the show was always quick to remind you was totally way worse than any other villain Buffy has faced, yet she never seemed all that formative in and of herself. I really liked the idea of Buffy having a sister, even if she just continually treated her awful time and time again. It provided a nice dynamic, and eventually would wring some much-needed humility from Buffy.

The rest of the cast honestly wasn’t really up to much this season, honestly. Giving credence to the whole laid back vibe of much of the season. Xander and Anya continue to develop their relationship, they get a place together and just generally try to juggle a relationship of human and emotionless demon. Anya also gets a job at Giles new magic shop, which basically just provides another location for the gang to hang out and scheme in. Nothing happens with Willow, until near the end of the season, but that can be said with all these characters I’m mentioning, really, and same with Tara, besides them delving a bit into her past with her family, but it’s never fully explored besides an episode or two, but it eventually pays dividends with her opening up to Buffy and helping her change her mind in regards to her sister’s role in everything.

And Spike, I guess I kinda shoulda figured that he wasn’t just going to go back to being a straight up villain who hated and tried to kill Buffy and co. He’s basically a good guy now, especially with his whole thing this season was just how much he’s in love with Buffy. I mean, I love him as a comedy outlet, but I still thought they’d utilize him in a more central and serious role, but he’s good with whatever he’s given, so it’s largely hard to complain. Speaking of Buffy and her love interests, Riley leaves halfway through the season because he pretty rightfully discovers that he’s not really a priority in Buffy’s life (que the Buffy complaining how it’s so hard to juggle her love life with demon slaying. Sigh.). I honestly just thought he’d be back the next episode, but it was literally until the last few episodes where I just realized that Riley was no longer regularly on the show, that’s how much I missed him. It was definitely a breath of fresh air, though, not having Buffy pine over someone each episode.

As most of my other reviews/recaps/whatever you’d call these things would suggest I’ve been counting down the episode until Giles dies, but damn, it’s the end of season five and he’s still alive, colour me surprised. But, I guess, the old, authoritative figure to die wasn’t going to be him now, or yet… but that role shifted to somebody else. Buffy’s mother was in the hospital early in the season with a brain tumor that was eventually cleared as nothing and just really seemed to serve as a minor storyline to further the Buffy, Dawn, mom relationship. But, then, to kick off the last third of episodes that ratchets up the dramatic core and drive of the season, Buffy walks into her house and see her mom’s cold dead body lying on the couch. The following episode “The Body” is one of the best of the series, following how the very real impact of Joyce’s death affects each of the gang in its own different way. Buffy imagines her mom alive in a fleeting hope of reality, but it’s all for naught, and no matter what spell attempts to be concocted Joyce is dead and gone. In the most real and grounded part of things, it’s not as if a demon or something in Buffy’s line of work caused where she brought a vampire too close to home and it costed her mom. Nope, Joyce died of that honest to goodness brain tumour, nothing fancy, just a sad reality of stuff that randomly affects humans, because we’re just that, human.

And so in the wake of all that, Glory’s forces close in on the Scooby gang, with Glory zeroing in on Dawn to fulfill her mass destiny and kill her and score one for the bad guys. But, Buffy decides to be nice to her sister for once and sacrifices herself in place of Dawn as they share the same blood. And that’s how the show ends, with Buffy dead and everybody just going on their merry ways. No, of course not, we still got two more season of this thing! At least. So, now I sit here wondering what I have the last few seasons, what will next season look like, especially since the last two have been vastly different from each other in style, scope, emotion and form. Buffy’s gotta come back and she’s gotta have another love interest, that’s like death and taxes! Season six, let’s see what you got.

‘Bridge Of Spies’: Review

Bridge Of Spies Banner

Maybe the best and highest compliment I can give to Bridge Of Spies is how confident it looks and feels at all times. Having the best of the best with Steven Spielberg directing, Tom Hanks in the lead role and fantastic visual cinematographer in Janusz Kaminski, the film is such a tight and straightforward thriller that never seems to waste a scene and everything that you’re seeing on screen or every camera movement means something.

The story, as such, is relatively straightforward Tom Hanks is James B. Donovan, tasked with defending Rudolf Abel, played my stage actor Mark Rylance, a suspected soviet spy. On the other side of the world, an American spy gets captured by the Russians, uh, spying on them, and thus Donovan is tasked with traveling to Russia and facilitating a trade amongst countries of the two spies.

The role is exactly in Hanks’ wheelhouse, and he’s perfect in it as he’s been doing for years, playing Donovan as this hearty American who fights for the good of the common man and sticks up for his beliefs, all the while providing for his perfect 1950’s family back home. Not that this is a knock against him or anything, but it just plays into the ease of the film, that you totally feel Hanks as this character, like you’ve been seeing it and him for years. It’s an instant bond and connection that indebts the character immediately to the audience.

Rylance is great in a subdued performance and one that plays off Hanks well in the opportunities they get and actually manages to form this strong bond between the two with little much even spoken to each other, but rather their actions and mutual respect which develop it more than such words probably could.

The script is maybe somewhat surprisingly penned by the Coen brothers, but maybe not so in that it’s really good. It’s sharp and pushes the action along nicely and never seems as long as its two hour and fifteen minute running time. It has small doses of humour, nothing really Coen-esque, but that style really wouldn’t fly for this type of film, and they’re obviously more than up to the task.

It’s really hard to find much fault in the film, as I mentioned before, all the elements from in front and behind the camera come together in a pretty perfect marriage. It’s really reminiscent of an old school Hollywood picture and Hanks seems totally in tune with his whole “modern Jimmy Stewart” thing. The thins is, too, it would almost seem like Oscar bait on the outset, but it never plays like that at all, or seems heavy handed in the least to try and hit on those things that Oscar voters love. Now, I’m sure it’ll get some love at the Awards, at least nominations wise, but I don’t foresee it being a heavy favourite at all or something to dominate all categories. It’s just a well-done, grown-up film that executes everything within it exceedingly, but never coming close to being overwrought.

NXT TakeOver: Respect: Review/Recap

NXT TakeOver: Respect

Finn Balor And Samoa Joe Defeats Scott Dawson And Dash Wilder:

Now I don’t think it was much of a surprise to anybody that Balor and Joe would make it to the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Classic, whether they won it or not, but with Balor having the title and Joe making no bones that he wanted it, this thing had some seeds that were obviously going to play out throughout the whole tournament, which I’ll get into a bit later.

The match itself was fine, nothing amazing, nothing great, they booked it with Balor getting the leg injury and eventually would tag out Joe, seemingly none to happy with this, and Balor would hit the coup de grace for some reason, because he wanted all the glory of the win? Or something? I don’t know, surely this would set up things for later in the night…

Baron Corbin And Rhyno Defeats Jason Jordan and Chad Gable:

Now, damn, this was a match I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was, and arguably the match of the might. You know what you’re going to get with Rhyno, the brawler who uses his power game to dismantle opponents, and Corbin is basically the same, except he’s on his way up while Rhyno is at the tail end of his career. Corbin has done nothing to excite me, although, his match with Joe at Brooklyn was some underrated stuff, but damn if he didn’t impress in this match. He worked well with the varying styles of Jordan and Gable and was paramount in a few nice strings of moves and reversals that showed off some of his technical side over the “let me just hit and slam you real hard.”

On the other side of the coin, Jordan and Gable were more than up to the task and showed why they should be one of the tag teams to build around in the division. I though for sure they would make it to the finals and actually win this thing, giving a rub to them and catapulting them in the division, but nope, Corbin and Rhyno for the win. Great match, nonetheless.

Asuka Defeated Dana Brooke:

I seem to be alone in this, but I’m a big Dana Brooke fan and see a ton of potential in her. Where she isn’t a woman who’s parading all on looks like a bunch of the main roster divas, and nor is she a technical wrestling wonder like Bayley or Sasha Banks, but rather she’s really just a bare bones wrestler who definitely uses a more power move set than normal in the women’s division. She’s not amazing by any stretch, but she’s definitely been making strides and can be very good on the mic in her heel persona.

But, the real story here is Asuka, a women’s star unlike any other in the division so far in NXT. She’s got the foreign Japanese aesthetic, which as a wrestler is always money, she’s weird and creepy with her masks and deadpan reactions to everything that just give the hint of a tactical killer underneath. So, Asuka gets her win in her first match, of course, in a glorified squash.

I’d imagine they’ll continue this feud for a little bit with Asuka facing off against Emma at the very least, which should be fun. I don’t see Asuka in the title picture right away, they’ll probably want to assert her a little more and get her some wins and steam before the eventual Bayley showdown I’d imagine.

Apollo Crews Defeats Tyler Breeze:

And just like Asuka, Crews is on his way up and Breeze has been around NXT forever it seems now, while everyone has passed him, so Crews pads his resume with a win over the vet. Crews, no doubt, has that major champion look, he’s a beast with all the power moves that his physique would suggest, but also is mobile with the best of any cruiserweight. It’s obvious they’re gonna push him to the moon and really I think it’s only the booking that tells how viable he will be as a champion, as his look and move set are very confident in their own right. I don’t think he’s ready for the title picture now, as there are much more interesting match-ups for Balor right now, but we’ll see.

And poor Tyler Breeze, dude has been in NXT for so long just to see the likes of Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and so on not only surpass him to the title, but see time on the main roster. I really don’t know what their plan for him is nowadays. He does work wonderfully in the spot under the main event against a special attraction like Jushin “Thunder” Liger, which was a perfect match for him, in the sense of opponent and story. But, he just always seems to be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to the title picture and never seems to get the chance to be THE guy, even when fans love him. I don’t know what’s next, Balor seems set with the title for awhile, and I don’t know what Breeze losing in the title picture again really does, and he doesn’t really seem prime for a call-up, and his gimmick complicates things, too. So, I guess we’ll just see him trucking along like he has been, I’d imagine. The biggest fantasy booking that always pops up is him facing William Regal at the Takeover event in the United Kingdom and that would be amazing on so many levels, but I don’t see it reasonably happening then.

Finn Balor And Samoa Joe Defeats Baron Corbin And Rhyno:

So, yeah, basically since this whole thing started I was 100% certain that Balor/Joe would team to the finals, with planted seeds of dissension (which did take place) until the last match where Joe would turn on Balor and cost them the match, setting up their title picture, and putting over a young tag team (*ahem* Jordan and Gable *ahem*) and things would go on their way. Balor had that leg injury story from the first match that continued on into this one, and I thought for sure that story would then be used by having Balor cost him and Joe the match and Joe lashing out in anger. But, nope, none of that happened at all. As we know, Corbin and Rhyno moved on and then Balor and Joe defeated them without much fanfare in nothing match, really.

They didn’t even do anything with Balor’s injury, it hampered him a bit, but eventually he just hit the coup de grace again at the end, with no ill effects and won the match. Like the Charlotte leg injury to win at Night Of Champions I have no clue why they booked that injury storyline when it added nothing and did not affect the outcome one bit. I mean, sure it was an easy story to book the Joe turn, but it doesn’t make it any less of a draw. And I mean, neither of them really don’t have to turn heel, and maybe they do it that way where it’s not face against heel just wrestler giving another worthy wrestler a shot, who knows. But, now is the time for Joe to get that title shot, where he came in guns a-blazing Unstoppable, which seemed to be setting up Owens/Joe for the title, but with Owens ascension to the main roster that never happened, and since Joe has just been wallowing around outside the main picture. We shall see.

Bayley Defeats Sasha Banks 3-2 in a 30-minute Iron Man match:

Many cried foul when the first Bayley/Sasha match didn’t main event Brooklyn, but with that the stature of that event and given that Balor/Owens was the bigger long-standing feud it was never going to main event. But, coming out of that with the men’s title having just had its feud finished and no real direction, the Bayley/Sash rematch aka Sasha’s last NXT match was the clear-cut and well-deserved choice to main event the next Takeover.

I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to a match this much, especially when it was 99% certain who was going to win. The build-up was great, mainly due to how much each competitor embodies their own side. With Bayley the baby-iest of babyfaces, with her bright colours, exuberant attitude and literally hugging people as part of her gimmick. Compared to Sasha the arrogant, cock and brash heel who will showboat and flaunt to prove her point and might even just ridicule the a little girl in the crowd. A rivalry of character-types that goes back to the beginning of time, and doesn’t get old when it’s treated as well as this and held up by such strong and defined characters.

I don’t got to tell you the match was great, that’s like asking if Michael Jordan still has his hoop earring in (thank you, Drake), it’s just an assumed fact. After all the continued five-minute and less matches that populate the women’s division on the main roster, it’s refreshing to see that, yes, that you can give two excellent female wrestlers the same amount, and more, as the men and they’ll put on an equally, if not better match. Because Bayley and Sasha aren’t just two of the best women’s wrestlers in the whole company, they are just plain and simply two of the best wrestler in the company.

So, Baylely wins as she was going to do and firmly entrenches herself in unknown territory, she is the IT woman in NXT, everything now rides on her shoulders. Long gone are Charlotte and Becky who would balance great matches from her, they’ve moved on to the main roster. Sasha has, too, but having been champion she clung on just a bit longer to face her real life friend and kayfabe enemy. Bayley stands and celebrates in the ring alone with her title, Sasha the last of second-last horsewoman collapses in tears in front of the NXT roster on the entrance ramp. It’s the end of the beginning for Sasha, stepping stones past with the majority of the river still in front of her, leaving her mark on the past. Bayley gets the mantle and title now, hoping to build and inspire the next set of great women wrestlers who seek the title that she so desperately covets.

‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 4 Review

This is such an amazing promo cast picture that perfectly encapsulates 1999/2000.

This is such an amazing promo cast picture that perfectly encapsulates 1999/2000.

One of my favourite TV show things is when high school based shows reach the point, usually indeed around season 4, where they realize they can’t really just keep them in high school forever. High school shows are perfect fodder for shows because they’re easy situatio-wise in a place where all these people congregate for the majority of the day, there’s endless stories to mine and it’s really just a simple framework all the way around. But, enter college where someone can go theoretically wherever the hell they want, as opposed to be the junior/high school of the city they were born into. So, thus begins the TV show’s job of pushing characters into college, but somehow making them not separate into the furthest reaches of the world, because, you know, we still got a show to run here and character dynamics and all that. And this all leads to the anti-climactic thing that always happens where they just go “ehhh, screw it let’s just pretend their dream has always been to go to the closest school from where they are now.”

So, thus Buffy and Willow are now college students! And Xander, well, he supposedly goes off to travel and is unsuccessful in mining anything from that as Xander of course was, just prolonging his classic “I have no clue what I want to do with my life/have no clue what to do for college, so let’s just pretend I’ve always wanted to travel and that’ll fulfill me with meaning!” Anyways, Xander comes back and literally just hangs out the whole season with no explanation given to what he’s does with his day-to-day life. Well, I guess, he does begin to date a demon, because that’s literally all he seems to care about, and good for him I guess!

Anyways, this season! I was looking forward to Buffy and Willow tackling the new and exciting and cliche challenges of college, but that didn’t really happen. It was basically just like the seasons before, with a new backdrop that they didn’t really utilize all that often or separate from their high school experience. I love when these shows make the move to college, because it usually frees up the characters, makes things a bit looser and allows just a general freedom that usually cuts out the extraneous bits from the earlier season. I know this show’s about slaying vampires and such, but I kinda expected some “damn, keeping up with college-level school work while killing vampires is so hard” or “man, isn’t all these new things like partying, alcohol, drugs, sex free from the shadow of parents so cool!” storylines, but instead it never really was a major referential part of the season. There is some early stuff in the beginning, like Willow’s weird roommate, and stuff with a professor between Buffy that didn’t really go anywhere and was wrapped up pretty early.

The main crux of the season flows through Buffy’s newest dude crush, because of course Buffy can’t go a few feet without falling for some guy, even though she always claims it’s not really the life for her hence her occupation. But, anyway, the prototypical college dude Riley, a somehow worse name than Angel, enters the mix who is eventually discovered to be part of a secret group called The Initiative, a group with a hidden base under the college campus who kills and studies demons. Yes, it’s an amazing revelation when they reveal this big government organization operating under the college run by this normal looking professor who looks like everybody’s mom with her Abercrombie model doing these military-esque demon hits for her. Amazing. Of course, stuff goes up in smoke, and their big test subject demon/cyborg thing turns on everybody and destroys everything until Buffy and crew are there to make the save.

One of the organizations doings is taking in Spike, implementing him with a microchip preventing him from killing humans, and essentially neutering him. Now I was psyched to get to see more Spike at first, he’s a great villain who is a nice foil for Buffy and the gang, has a great look, and is genuinely funny and has a well-developed character. But, nope, he just hangs out on the fringe of the season and lounges around like a college kid and cracks jokes about whatever and wallows in his inability to harm Buffy and co. He gets to do a bit more as the season progresses with helping out Buffy’s side, but he seemed grossly misused and I realize he wasn’t the focal point of the season, but I hope he gets some more meatier stuff to do in the future seasons.

Also, Willow’s not going to end up with Xander! Thank god for her. I had read accidentally somewhere that Willow would become/realize she was a lesbian, and I wasn’t sure if I misread things, but I’m glad I didn’t, as this seems something perfectly in-line with her and her character. Also, yeah, her ending up with Xander would be horrible in retrospective given how awful he treats her/shuns her when you really break things down. Anyways, Willow meets Tara, another witch, and they bond adorably over their spell-castings and slowly realize what their feelings toward each other means and it’s a really organic and mature way things just unfold. I also can’t imagine these types of storyline were all that prominent or done around 2000, where nowadays there’s gay relationships and storylines on every show it seems. I just hope they don’t exploit it or anything, but I highly doubt they would given how they treated it here.

Ultimately this season was pretty fine all the way around, definitely a step down from the last few seasons, but not by any huge margin. This season just seemed kind of fruitless and didn’t really advance, change or develop things all that much in any overall sense. Almost like it was a stop gap of things, rerooting the tenants of the show with Angel leaving and moving to a new location, even if it was treated like any other season, really. Riley basically just becomes the Angel of the season, Buffy’s new addiction and dude who always drives her into deeper troubles in both her emotional sense and killing demon sense. I’ve always loved Buffy’s internal conflict of having to be a vampire killer contesting with her own personal life as an eigtheen-year-old girl having to deal with what normally life throws at a maturing woman at that age, and add in the multiplier of college, I thought it’d be ripe for that examination, but nothing happened on that end, to its detriment, I think. I’m hoping this was just a treading of the water of a season, and things pick up with an overall driving force that doesn’t feel so contained as this season did as the show pushes on to the latter half of its run.

As you can probably tell I decided to not alternate back-and-forth with Angel and what a glorious decision that was. I don’t think I could’ve kept up with that, as it’s taking me longer and longer to get through these seasons (not the show’s fault, just me) and I really don’t care about the minuscule crossovers, although I do hear Cordelia is on Angel and damn I miss her so much.