The Walking Dead and It’s Annoying Trend

Man, there are things I need to post about, but this one just can’t wait.

First, it should be said that I greatly enjoy the Walking Dead. One of my favorite shows, one that has so many flaws yet still delivers in a way that outpaces them. And I still think that, even though this post is going to be largely negative.

Am I upset Glenn’s dead? Sure. Am I upset Abe is dead? I mean, I guess, but he’s been living on borrowed time for at least two seasons so that just kinda fit. Overall, the scene was well done. It was brutal, gory, gave the characters a strong death, and was probably the best raw display of emotion any of these actors have displayed before. Something that, in watching the Talking Dead, really seems genuine. And once again, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is just fan-friggin’-tastic as Negan. I neither know nor care whether he is true to the comic iteration, this is a damn good villain.

So what’s my problem? Not sure if I commented on this last time, but their ending the finale where they did was, yet again, a trend of trying to nail its watchers with a cliff hanger. Off the top of my head, they also did this with the Governor and the assault on the prison (delaying the actual assault by three, needless episodes), they did it with the episode right before Carl got his eye shot out (when they walk right out the door with that kind whining to his mom), and they have done it with several episodes where they spend 40 minutes stretching out a conflict, the “suspense”, only to wait until next week to resolve it in 30 seconds.

This is a multilayered problem.

First, the Walking Dead stretches its content a lot. Sometimes it’s almost reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z (you know, like when it took Goku and Frieza like ten, thirty-minute-long episodes to have a five minute battle). I am all for a slow burn to build suspense, but the Walking Dead is filled with filler episodes or filler scenes, where you can watch half the episode and realize the plot has not progressed an inch, only for it to leap ahead in a minute or two.

Second, let’s be real folks, we’re all coming back. AMC can chill. The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television, you don’t need to hit us with these cliffhangers every episode, every finale. You could make the argument that the reason the WD is so popular is because of these cliffhangers, but I would have to disagree. We return in spite of them, not because. The scenes I talked about above, including things like Glenn’s “death” under the dumpster and dozens of other scenes, are rightly criticized for being clumsy red herrings. Except for the end, last year’s finale was probably one of the single best episodes of the WD. It was terrifying and would have been perfect had it culminated in what transpired last night.

Lastly, and this is deeply connected with the second, it creates a disjointed experience. Instead of ending with a climax last season, we started with one this season. It disrupts the story rhythm, and with so, so much speculation and analysis occurring, I was literally surprised by nothing that occurred. Abe died, like many said. Then Glenn, like many other had said (with many even speculating that it would be a 1 + 1 because of Darryl’s involvement and Negan’s subsequent retaliation). Carl’s moment was a nice touch, but as soon as Negan started counting, I knew he wasn’t going to make him go through with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I had no problem with any of the content last night. It was pretty much everything I would have desired and feared. And the analysis that I am talking about, most of it actually occurred within that season itself, building up to that finale. More occurred afterward, sure, but it had its origins as the season built up toward Negan’s entrance. But that’s just it, it was a build up. I was ready. But for this, I came into it cold, having not watched the Walking Dead for a year. Had I gone into that juiced from the agonizingly suspenseful journey that got them there, I would have been floored.

As it was, I am just ready for the next season to start, having finally seen the finale from the last one.

Destiny: Rise of Iron – First Impressions (and review I guess…)

I really, really want to be fair in this. We will see how that goes.

After about an eight month hiatus from Destiny, I logged in and played for the first time last night. I’ve logged in two or three times since January, but they were only to see what was up with the new patches. In those cases, I didn’t even go on a patrol let alone actually take a run at any missions. The main reason for that hiatus has been blasted across the internet, you don’t need me to really add anything. Either way, Rise of Iron was released last night and I was ready to get my game on.

Two and a half hours later, I beat it.

I am not even kidding. The story stretches maybe four or five missions. I sat down at 8:00. Between my daughter waking back up and having to get her to sleep, and the uncharacteristic OCD fervor that made me reorganize and throw out everything in my inventory and vaults (due to the awesome revamp to infusion), I started playing at 8:30. By 11:00, I had beaten the story missions. There is still the big strike with Sepiks and the raid left, I don’t think those are the same anyway, and there is a ton of stuff to find, but that’s it from a narrative point of view.

By now, you may realize I have a negative tone. The reason for this, and I think this is my main takeaway, is everything I anticipated Destiny would do well, they delivered upon. It looks good, it plays well, it’s fun, and there are guns all over the place. But everything I had hoped they would improved upon, and everything I was afraid they would fall short of, was exactly as feared.

I have an issue with the length of time, but my core problem is around the execution of the narrative itself. The story centers around Saladin, the last remaining Iron Lord (the dude who runs the Iron Banner), as he recruits the Guardian to destroy the technology that killed all the rest of the Lords of Iron. I say that it centers around that, but that’s actually pretty much a synopsis and that’s the problem. Saladin loses his shit because next “worst thing ever” (SIVA) has broken out and he thinks it will destroy everything if not contained. The Fallen, who were touted as such a big enemy, hare just fodder. This space herpes, broadcast as a plague for some reason, hasn’t so much modified them as much as it is being used by the Fallen to build new body parts. Other than a few mini bosses (and I still have to see how the strike and raid play out), there are no unique enemies delivered from this. It is anticlimactic from a story perspective and falls flat from a gameplay point of view.

This is emphasized by how quickly it is resolved. Within a few missions you go from “The End is Nigh!” to “S’Cool, I go this”. I singlehandedly in my case, take down the entity that killed over a hundred Lords of Iron. Granted, for some reason Rasputin was involved in that massacre (because, you know, when is he not?), but even in the storytelling no one seemed all that concerned by this plague. I’m not even really all that sure why it’s referred to as a plague. It doesn’t do anything that the Hive’s gunk doesn’t already, just with a color and texture pallet change. There was some affliction of the Iron Lords, but nothing is given to build that up or emphasize the way it infects a host other than one scene toward the end (when you get the axe).

I have not yet read through the Grimoire cards and am looking forward to doing so, but the narrative of the story is so disjointed that even if the plot and lore is filled in offline, I can’t help but hold Bungie accountable. Yet again, they have ignored the most fascinating and intriguing parts of the game by either omitting them entirely or burying them in the damn grimoire. I am very interested in what SIVA actually is (I think it’s a self replicating nano machine meant to alter and build stuff for colonization), Clovis Bray’s role in its development, why Rasputin was involved, as well as the Lords of Iron. Why are they immortal? Are all the Guardians? If this was truly a moment where the Guardians, as a whole, discovered that immortality did not equal invincibility and that the light of the Traveler did not protect them from all harm…shouldn’t that have been a bit more of an emphasis?

I would have loved to have seen the Fallen’s role in this expanded. They are the more boring enemies other than their grimoire references to having been a race the Traveler visited and possibly uplifted in the past. The idea that they would “splice” their bodies isn’t terribly original but would have expanded their lore a bit. I would have liked to have seen a decent boss from them as well, something a bit different (think Draksis).

Why in the hell haven’t the Vex gotten involved in this? Seems right up their alley.

It may have come from Mars, why isn’t the Cabal (probably the most ignored of the enemy races) not involved in some way?

There was also a lot of speculation that Charlemagne, the supposed Martian Warmind, would have been involved. Nada.

I am hearing some people applaud the story. A lot of those people seem to be comparing it to Destiny’s original content and its earlier expansions.


The Taken King set a new bar for this. It had fascinating lore, a seriously threatening villain, and galactic stakes. It still had problems with burying a lot of that in the grimoire and failing to really convey all of that in the story, and overall the threat was again too easily vanquished, but it was the new standard.

This is not that.

And the real reason this matters, The Taken King was the achievement of what Bungie had originally set people up for. I was not an early Destiny player. I played the beta, took one look at this, and said to myself, “this is all it’s going to be”. And largely, I was right. It never truly reached the scale, the story, the breadth that people expected and were promised. The Taken King, as good as it was, still wasn’t the achievement of that promise. It was a wonderful step in the right direction.

Destiny wants to be an FPS and an MMO but doesn’t really hold itself to the standards of either. The gameplay, the actual mechanics of shooting and combat, continue to be probably the best executed I have ever played. I would say the PvP probably holds itself up pretty well too. If it were just an FPS, that would probably be fine.

But it’s not.

There was a lot of frustration from people who wanted constant content. Who wanted big content. There has been griping and complaining about the story, the missions, and what you actually do in the game to even out the grind. This needs to be addressed. At the moment, Destiny executes well as an FPS, but I look at the top FPS game out there, and Destiny falls short. It doesn’t have the epic campaign of Halo (which has faltered most when the story is its weakest) nor the mass multiplayer engine (or release schedule) of games like Call of Duty of Battlefield. As an MMO, specifically one that developed this concept of a loot shooter, it has made progress but I think we are right back where we were the end of last year. People have new guns and armor, it’ll be great for a month while they mess around with the Raid. Content such as new guns, puzzles, challenges, etc. will be time released and it will create a storm or interest for a week or so each time, but it will die down and in the end people will be looking for more. What will they get? Crickets. Promises of a Halloween event. Destiny 2. Next time.

I love Destiny. I am trying to be fair to this. I am disappointed by this release because it is a reaffirmation that Bungie is just going to throw scraps to its fan base. This is one of the most anticipated titles of the year for one of the most successful new franchises in recent memory developed by one of the most lauded studios of the past three generations.

That is the standard I apply.


Sorcerer Rising Second Edition Changes

Holy crap. I wrote this post in May of last year. Please do not confuse my awe with pride, as I am ashamed it has taken me this long to thaw myself out.

The first sentence for the original post initially read, “In my most recent update for FayTown Calling, I made mention of the second edition I released for Sorcerer Rising.” I have no idea what post I am actually referring to, so sorry. But I did revise Sorcerer Rising early last year. The main purpose of that was editing, making sure that I didn’t just leave the quality of the book where I thought it needed to be.

The rest of this post is from May of last year.

Content changes were minor. Off the top of my head, there were a few scenes that I elaborated on, fleshed out. None were added, thought I did think hard about changing something around the ending. I have entertained that off and on for the past year, and maybe one day I’ll throw the idea out there, but for now I chose to keep it the same.

The BIGGEST content change I made was around two words, hardly even used in the book. One didn’t play into Sorcerer Rising’s plot at all, but will kinda be a big deal in FayTown Calling. The other played into Virgil’s past in a big way.

So, first I will start with Annwyn, formerly known as Pan. Mentioned a total of maybe five times in Sorcerer Rising, Annwn/Pan is the homeland of the Fay. Originally, Pan was a fill in name. I had a concept of the Fairy Continent, but no idea what I wanted to call it. Not until years into FayTown Calling (where I was still calling it Pan), while I was driving home from work, did I think of to call it what I am calling it now.

The second word, and the one I am more excited about, is Hyperborea. In Sorcerer Rising, you know this as Ander. I was never happy with this, must have changed it half a dozen times. At one point, I was calling it…alright, I just looked it up and couldn’t find it. No idea what I was calling it, but that’s how forgettable or terrible it was. Ander was a nonsense word to replace whatever that was.

Hyperborea came about after thinking more and more about the history of this country. As a recap, Hyperborea is small city-state somewhere in Europe (left purposely vague), known as the land of Sorcery. When almost all the rest of the world falls under the sway of the Guild, Hyperborea alone took its magics into its own hands. Through decades, some say centuries, of eugenics and breeding, they developed a population of mages. Their entire culture was built around magic, many called it a land of plenty. It was isolated from the world for much of its development, a utopia that many other nations had legends about. They were largely ignored, right up until they declared war on the world.

There was one last change, and that falls right in the beginning of a flashback chapter. I don’t want to give away anything, but the people from Virgil’s life before have had some name changes. I recently developed out those characters, who they were to Virgil and, more importantly, who they were as people.

Just wanted to recap those changes.

Late Review – Boardwalk Empire

I have been in the midst of watching Boardwalk Empire. As is my normal custom, I didn’t start until well after everyone else has consumed it. Spoilers are obviously ahead and in full disclosuure, I must also say (and this probably gives you an idea of what I think ahead of time) I did not finish the series and have no intention of doing so. I got through season four but couldn’t make it any further.

I love history, always have. Gangster history is no exception. It’s such an odd and interesting era in America’s culture. It is possibly one of the best examples of how to build a black market, was a time of lawlessness rarely seen, as well as a moment when law was so blatantly disregarded that the line between common sense and corruption became blurred.

And the legends, oh the legends. Our country is so young, there are just certain events that seem to take on this mythical status. A lot of people point to the Wild West for our demigods and myths, but the Roaring Twenties was another time when certain figures rose to legendary status. Seeing figures like Meier Lansky, Lucky Luciaono, and Al Capone was quite a joy.

In fact, if I’m being honest, that’s what the show should have been about. I understand that Nucky Johnson (Thompson in the show) was a real life gangster and a big deal, even though he’s not as well known as many of the other figures. In fact, the only reason I know this is because I had to look it up. I didn’t actually realize the show was going to include such historical figures. Until Luciano showed up, I thought Nucky Thompson was completely fictional and the world that was being set up was a reflection of that. I do owe the show that and more, I am remiss to say that, while I knew many of the figures, I had no idea who Arnold Rothstein was or the foundational role he played in the American Mob.

But the execution in the show leaves much to be desired. I love Steve Buscemi as Nucky, and there are moments when a lot of his other surrounding characters are interesting, but the show always seemed to shine brightest when involving his foils, Lansky, Luciano, Rothstein, Capone, even Torrio. You really get a sense for what is coming, what is being built. You are watching as crime becomes organized, watching legends be born as men become godfathers and kingpins.

The issue the show continues to repeat is that, in this world of legends, those characters who are nonexistent in history find very little role to play. It often times seems to get bored with key characters and no long has anything for them to do. But because they are key, the show seeks to keep them in the loop. Margaret seems to be one of the bigger issues, but even Chalky, Eli, Gillian, Harrow, and Jimmy seem often time rudderless. Their arcs are uneven, sometimes repetitive, and often times uninteresting. Many time, they even seem to act against their own nature to drive the story in a certain direction. I did not care when Jimmy died, only disappointed that the show expected me to care. The show jumps around to such disconnected story arcs that it oftentimes fails to flesh people out, at least until they are about to die when they will almost always get a tender moment or episode at the last moment to try and make it feel impactful when their face gets removed.

For example, Nelson. Why in the hell is he even in this show? He bungles through everything, starting out as a ridiculously religious, flagellating Prohibition Officer who kills his corrupt partner, then to a man on the run who stumbles into organized crime, before becoming an enforcer for the Capones? Really? As far as I can tell, his ends his run by getting his face blown off while trying to kill Al Capone. Watching that clip sort of nailed down for me that I didn’t need to take this further.

One of the very last scenes in the fourth season (which I hated) was Harrow dying under the dock. He hallucinates approaching his sister’s farm, seeing his new wife, father in law, and adopted son. His face is complete and unscarred for the first time and he dies with a smile on it. That is heartbreaking, and fitting for Harrow’s story arc, but comes after one of the most horrible scenes in the entire show. Harrow is dying because he was shot in Chalky’s club, after accidentally killing Chalky’s daughter in an attempt to kill Narcisse. There are two, horrible things here. First, the last thing Harrow does in the entire show is kill an innocent person. I hated that as a sendoff. But also, why the fuck did we kill Mabel??? Don’t get me wrong, Chalky’s reaction was perhaps the one of the best pieces of acting he does in the show, but shit, Mabel? It just wreaked of HBO’s desire to shock the audience.

A few things I will call out as excellent. I have already said I love the big, major historical figures, but there are some fictional ones that are very well done. Valentin Narcisse was based upon Casper Holstein, who was a Harlem gangster and politician in the same era. I have only seen Jeffery Wright in a few things, but I loved his role here. Boardwalk made race a big focal point of its storytelling, so to have black man who was so condescending and hateful of anyone not black (or not black enough), while talking about the decay of his people (while also selling them heroin) was fascinating. And his writing, the use of words, and his voice, just all sum him up into a complex, lethal character.

But my favorite absolute character I think I have seen in this show, and many others, is Gyp Rosetti. I think Bobby Canavale is mostly a character actor, usually playing these types of tough guys, but man did he nail it in this. Part of what I hated to see throughout the series was how it lost a lot of its fun. Nucky gets more and more dour, and most of the other characters just plain start that way (Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy…). But Gyp is just the right combination of vicious insanity, sexual depravity, horrible insecurity, and humor that he is one of the singular reasons the third season is my favorite. Canavale owns the role and delivers the best Sicilian sociopath since Joe Pesci made it a thing. From his opening murder to colorfully insulting the most dangerous people in the world, either arguing with God or choking himself with a belt while…you know, this was a character that was vibrant and interesting in any and every scene he made an appearance and truly drove the storytelling that occurred in this arc.

I ended the fourth season exasperated. I wanted this to be good, and it has so many great moments that it always felt on the verge of becoming what I wanted. Yet, and this was what made me finally give up, it never dives deeply into the quality I would expect from such a show. It was ambitious, but fails to hit the mark often enough to enjoy thoroughly. Its greatest sin is in its inconsistency. With its writing, its characters, its conflict, just about everything. It’s possibly worth diving into, but only if you’ve already knocked out some of the heavy hitters like The American, House of Cards, or Justified.


FayTown Calling Update

Had a thought on the way to pick up dinner last night. That thought cascaded into a multitude of others and I think I have figured out a major flaw in the current story, as well as a way to correct it.

Funny how this works. I have played a few different puzzle games throughout the years, one of my favorites being Unblock Me. It’s a game you can play forever without really doing anything. Often times I would get stuck on a level, so tightly that I intimately knew all the moves I could make. I’d have to set it down. I’d pick it up later and without even trying, knock out the level and the next dozen after it.

It is perhaps the Procrastinator’s Faith, but I am a big believer that I am never not working on something.

I’m letting it stew.

Anyway, I’ll be working on the opening to FayTown Calling while continuing to stew on the end. None of the opening changes where I want to go, just helps set it up. The last third of the book is something that I’m still puzzling it through. I have written two incomplete versions of it. Both are similar and I am starting to think that’s the problem. I had an initial way I thought this would end and I kept to it. Then I realized that wasn’t working, so I made modifications. They weren’t small, but they weren’t all that different either. I’m thinking I need to go in a different direction.

This is one of those times when I wish I was one person in a two person team. I could talk through the specifics of this, bounce ideas off them, and have someone tell me what they think is smart or stupid. Instead, I’m going to talk to myself on the way to work tomorrow. Luckily Memphis doesn’t really have a public transportation system, otherwise that’d just be weird.