Westworld: Season 2 Episode 4 (Television Review) – The Best Episode So Far

In my opinion, Season 2 of Westworld has been great so far but it is evident to me that Anthony Hopkins as Robert Ford is severely missed. He was, by far, the best thing about Season 1 and the death of Robert Ford has created a void that Season 2 has yet to fully fill. However, compelling characters still exist, especially when it comes to Bernard and the Man in Black/William. It therefore comes as no surprise that this episode, titled ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’, which heavily focuses on these two characters is the best episode of Season 2 so far.

My Thoughts On ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’

When it comes to Bernard, this episode picks up right after the events of ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ and the battle between the Confederados Hosts and the Humans. Bernard, with a little “guidance” by Clementine, ends up in a cave where he is reunited with Elsie who is chained up. We last saw Elsie in Season 1 with her fate left uncertain after being mysteriously attacked and it was Bernard who did this when he was under Ford’s control.

Suffice to say, Elsie was not ecstatic to see her captor again but Bernard had no recollection of this incident. They form a uneasy truce and eventually find a bunker full of dead scientists as well as a Host version of James Delos. The way this mystery unravelled throughout ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ was very compelling and it was cool to see how it linked to the Man in Black/William’s story in the past. Indeed, it was William who was responsible for the creation of Host James Delos.

Shannon Woodward as Elsie and Jeffrey Wright as Bernard in Westworld Season 2 Episode 4 The Riddle of the Sphinx

In the past, we see that William and Delos are attempting to recreate James Delos’ consciousness in a host. In essence, a path to immortality is trying to be established. No matter how many times this is attempted, it always fails and this venture is eventually shut down by William when he is played by Ed Harris rather than Jimmi Simpson. This shows how long this experiment has been going on for and, while a failure, it seems like achieving immortality through the Hosts is an important priority for Delos.

The Mystery Of Bernard

However, as we saw with Bernard and Elsie’s story in ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’, the Host James Delos was kept alive for years after the program was shut down and became deranged. He is found and eventually killed by Bernard and Elsie. After this, Bernard is able to recollect scattered memories from his past and remembers that, before Ford’s death, he was sent by Ford to retrieve the control unit of a second host-human hybrid. However, he cannot remember who that was for.

If I was to guess, I would assume that this second control unit would be for Ford or Arnold but we shall have to wait and see what transpires with this element of the story. We also find out through his scattered memories that the dead scientists in the bunker were killed by Bernard. Clearly, there is so much about Bernard that we do not know about and it will be interesting to see how much more we learn about his past and what it means for his future.

Jimmi Simpson as William in Westworld Season 2 Episode 4 The Riddle of the Sphinx

The Ruthlessness Of The Man in Black/William

The same can be said for the Man in Black/William who was absolutely ruthless in ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’, both in the past and the present. Certainly, he was remorseless in the past with his decision to end the program with Host James Delos and, in the present, he showed no mercy when he killed the remaining Confederados who were spared by Teddy. Indeed, he and Lawrence are captured by the Condederados at Lawrence’s home and are held hostage with its residents which include Lawrence’s family.

Further on in the episode, the Man in Black/William gives a superb monologue about death which sets up his brutal killing spree of the Confederados. He saves the town’s residents and Lawrence’s family but Ford, through Lawrence’s daughter, tells him that one good deed does not redeem him. It seems that we have more to learn about the Man in Black/William too, particularly as he is now reunited with his daughter.

Indeed, the Man in Black/William meets Grace, the woman who killed the tiger in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’, who is actually Emily, his daughter. We know that the relationship between the two is not exactly warm and amicable and I am sure that it will be developed throughout Season 2 of Westworld. Something which I really liked was how the Man in Black/William was developed in this episode as he became more than just the imposing force that he is. He was more fleshed out as a person when it came to his family.

Ed Harris as William/Man in Black Westworld Season 2 Episode 4 The Riddle of the Sphinx

My Final Thoughts On ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’

All of the things which happened in ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ were of such an amazing quality that, as well as being the best episode of Season 2 so far, it may also be one of the best episodes of Westworld in general. The dense and convoluted lore and mythology of this show has been deepened and the mystery of Season 2’s plot, while teased, is still intact and I am still committed to going on this journey.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story (Film Review) – Star Wars At Its Most Entertaining

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a space western directed by Ron Howard and written by the father-son combination of Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan. It is the second standalone Star Wars film and it is set many years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The film stars Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover and Alden Ehrenreich.

In Solo, we follow a younger and more idealistic Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) on his adventures where he makes a new friend in Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). They group together with other characters such as Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as well as Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), owner of the Millennium Falcon, on a heist.

My Expectation For Solo

For me, every Star Wars film made under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm has got progressively better. Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were great films, but I give the slight edge to Rogue One in my preference between the two. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is my second favourite Star Wars film ever made and it may well be my No. 1 as time progresses. All of this has led me to be in such a good place with Star Wars at this moment in time.

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo about to play Sabacc in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Still, I understood that the progressive streak Lucasfilm was on when it came to the quality of Star Wars films was probably going to come to an end with Solo. This did not mean that I thought the film would be bad. Instead, I went into Solo expecting it to be decent but absolutely the weakest film made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.

Alden Ehrenreich Would Be The Key

This film has had an extremely troubled production which really tempered my hopes about Solo for a long time. Still, the late marketing push for Solo made me a bit more hopeful about the film and Alden Ehrenreich looked as though he could succeed in portraying Han Solo, a character so synonymous with Harrison Ford. Clearly, the success of a film about a young Han Solo is going to largely come down to Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han. I was interested to see his take on a younger, naïve and more idealistic Han Solo than we first saw in Star Wars: A New Hope.

I also could not wait to see how the events of Solo would potentially enhance what we saw of Han in the Original and Sequel Trilogy films as well as his relationships with Chewbacca and Lando. Certainly, one thing I was pretty certain of with this film was that Donald Glover would be awesome as Lando. In the end, all I wanted Solo to be was a decent, fun adventure film. Anything more would be a bonus.

Millennium Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story

My Thoughts On Solo

Solo is Star Wars at its most entertaining. From start to finish, I was hooked and I had an absolute blast with this great film that, like The Last Jedi, exceeded all of my expectations when it came to quality. From the very beginning, the film has great pacing and momentum. I had read/watched a number of viewpoints about Solo which stated that the film had bad pacing and that the first act was rough to get through. I have to wonder what film they were watching because I never felt this way.

I think a big reason why I was so captivated by Solo was due to how quickly I attached to the characters in it. That comes down to the quality of the performances given by the cast. Let me make this clear; Alden Ehrenreich is superb as Han Solo. He nails the subtle nuances and mannerisms of Han and I completely bought into his younger, more naïve take on the character. The echoes of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo were there, but Alden made the character his own which I loved.

Donald Glover was, as I predicted, awesome as Lando and there were certain moments where he acted and sounded exactly like Billy Dee Williams which really impressed me. Yet, like Alden, he also made the character his own. I thought Paul Bettany was extremely menacing as Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson was as good as he always is and Emilia Clarke gave a much more nuanced performance as Qi’ra than I initially expected. The character who surprised me the most was Enfys Nest who was terrific. I loved her musical theme and her development as a character in the third act of Solo was really engaging.

Enfys Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Superb Character Dynamics

Every cast member gives impressive individual performances and the strength of Solo absolutely lies in its characters and the way they all interact with each other. I loved the dynamics and relationships between the characters in this film, particularly when it came to Han and Chewbacca. Chewbacca is probably as good as he has ever been in Solo and the relationship he had with Han was pitch perfect. From their awesome first meeting to their last scene in the film, watching them together was an absolute delight.

Han and Lando’s relationship was fantastic and I also loved how the relationship between Han and Beckett was developed in Solo. Beckett is the mentor to Han in this film and everything they went through as well as the lessons Beckett taught Han gave Solo some real dramatic heft. This was particularly the case in their final scene together where Beckett dies at the hands of Han after Beckett had betrayed him. It was quite a moving scene after everything we had seen these characters go through both individually and collectively.

Moreover, the scene provided some deserved, subtle fan service in the fact that Han shot first in the scene where he kills Beckett. It was a great nod to Star Wars fans, especially to those who are still annoyed that George Lucas, in his Special Editions, changed the Cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope to Greedo shooting first instead of Han. For me, that change does not improve the Original Trilogy in any way, shape or form. However, the events of Solo do improve the Original Trilogy.

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo Enhances The Original + Sequel Trilogy

Indeed, Solo enhances both the Original and Sequel Trilogy in magnificent fashion. For one, we get to see how Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando and the line “You lost her to me fair and square” in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has a much deeper meaning now. Additionally, the relationship Han has with Beckett has a lot of parallels with the relationship that Han has with Rey in The Force Awakens. Parallels also exist between Han’s experiences and Rey’s experiences in their respective films.

In Solo, Han believes he has been away from Corellia for too long and needs to get back to reunite with Qi’ra. In The Force Awakens, Rey thinks she has been away from Jakku for too long and needs to go back. In Solo, Han gets his first job and blaster from Beckett which mirrors what happens in The Force Awakens when Han gives Rey a blaster and offers her a job. The reaction Han has to Rey’s comment that she “didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy” when flying over Takodana has so much more meaning when we see the conditions Han grew up with on Corellia.

To me, Han sees a lot of his younger self in Rey in The Force Awakens. What we see in Solo gives the scenes that Rey and Han have together in The Force Awakens greater value. It all fits beautifully and Solo improves the viewing experience of the Original and Sequel Trilogy which is something I really appreciate. The arc of Han in Solo is necessary viewing to fully understand his interactions with Rey in The Force Awakens. It is almost as if Lawrence Kasdan had all of this in mind when he worked on The Force Awakens.

Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett in Solo: A Star Wars Story

More Positive Elements About Solo

I have even more positive things to say about Solo. For one, I loved the adventurous feel of the film. The set pieces, action and score by John Powell enthralled me in the adventure that the characters go on in Solo. I also dug the new twist on the opening crawl. The “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” font was used to open the film and it was a cool, subtle touch.

The cinematography in Solo was superb. Bradford Young brought a grungy feel and look to Solo which was great. A thing in Solo which completely caught me off guard but in a great way was the reveal that Maul was the mysterious leader of Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate that Dryden Vos and Qi’ra were part of. We see Maul in a scene with Qi’ra who had assumed Dryden Vos’ position of power after he was killed by Qi’ra.

It was awesome to hear Sam Witwer voice the character as he had done before in the animated shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The reveal of Maul made absolute sense to me given his roles in those shows and the fact that I knew he survived his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Still, I am uncertain about how the casual fan would have reacted to this.

Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story

I imagine the inclusion of Maul in Solo, which is essentially his return to the Star Wars franchise for a lot of people, would have been confusing for them. One must realise that the casual Star Wars fans are the overwhelming majority of the audience who see these films. They are essential to the future of this franchise and these films must cater to them above everyone else.

Solo Has Flaws

But, at the end of the day, the reveal was shockingly awesome for me. However, as much as I have praised Solo, it has a number of minor flaws and the majority of these are in the first act of the film. Indeed, there were a couple of clunky edits in the first act which were a bit jarring. Additionally, Val (Thandie Newton) died in the first act and for an actress as talented as Thandie Newton this was a bit of a waste, especially as I was liking the character before she died. I also thought that the way Han got his last name of Solo could have been handled better.

Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with Han not having a last name. But, I wish he had chosen the name of Solo instead of getting it from an Imperial officer when he signed up for the Imperial Academy to escape Corellia. I also thought that some of the scenes with L3-37 in Solo were a bit cringy and it brought the character down for me. L3 was decent overall but she was a bit hit and miss. Some of her scenes were great and others were not.

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story

My Final Thoughts On Solo

Nevertheless, while Solo has minor flaws, they did not lessen my overall love for this film. This is a great film. For me, Solo continues the superb run Lucasfilm is on with the quality of its Star Wars films. I put Solo just above The Force Awakens and around the same level as Rogue One. Those three great Star Wars films are quite close to each other in terms of quality with the amazing film that is The Last Jedi being far and away my favourite of the Star Wars films made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.

Solo leaves me with a huge desire to see more stories with these characters, especially when it comes to Donald Glover’s Lando and also Qi’ra thanks to the Maul reveal. Whether it is in films, TV shows, books, video games and/or comic books, I want to see the continuation of what we saw in Solo. It was a film that really exceeded my expectations and I never wanted it to end because it was such an enjoyable watch from the first scene to the last.

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Westworld: Season 2 Episode 3 (Television Review) – The Mythology Continues To Be Expanded

One of things which has really impressed me with Season 2 of Westworld has been the way in which it has expanded the mythology of this world. This has been done through the development of what we know about the characters as well as the history of the park and Delos. In this third episode, titled ‘Virtù e Fortuna’, the continuing expansion of the mythology is now being done through the reveals of more parks besides Westworld. This was something that was teased in the Season 1 finale and we have now seen it for real in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’.

My Thoughts On ‘Virtù e Fortuna’

This episode began in a British Raj park. We see a woman called Grace flee from a rogue host and she then ends up being chased by a tiger which is eventually killed by her. It is the same dead tiger we saw in ‘Journey Into Night’. Even this early on in Season 2, mysterious things are being explained. Although, more questions have now been raised about the importance of Grace and her role in the wider story being told in Season 2 after this episode and the wider story continues to intrigue me.

Firstly, it turns out that I was right about how the flash Bernard scenes in ‘Journey Into Night’ showed us glimpses of the past and the future. Indeed, one of those flash scenes involved Bernard and Dolores and she stated that “there is beauty in what we are”. We got to see that scene play out in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’. Yes, Bernard and Dolores are reunited in this episode after Bernard gets separated from Charlotte (In the future timeline, those two reunite at Park HQ, aka the Mesa).

Grace in the British Raj Park in Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Virtu e Fortuna

Bernard and Charlotte had Peter Abernathy, Dolores’ father, but he along with Bernard were taken by the Confederados to Dolores. I always found the scenes between Dolores and Bernard to be amongst my favourite character interactions in Season 1 and it was great to see them together again. We also got to experience an emotional scene between Dolores and her father which humanised Dolores and this moment was in stark contrast to the scenes where we continue to see Dolores’ ruthless nature.

Abernathy Has Vital Information Within Him

Certainly, there seems to be nothing which will deter Dolores from her path. She uses the Confederados as pawns in the battle that occurred in the 3rd act of this episode between the Hosts and the Humans (which was awesome by the way) and she then proceeds to wipe them all out. Well, all except those few spared by Teddy who is more and more out of his depth as Dolores’ conquest continues. Dolores sees this act of mercy by Teddy and I feel as though it will lead to Dolores making a difficult choice with Teddy later on in Season 2 of Westworld.

Dolores is also going to now have to find a way to rescue her father who was taken by the humans but not before Bernard found something within Abernathy’s code. It looks as though it is extremely important as Bernard was utterly shocked with what he found. The information within Abernathy seems to be vital when it comes to the larger story being told and this mystery about him just adds to the compelling nature of this season of Westworld.

Samurai World in Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Virtu e Fortuna

Samurai World

We also get to focus on Maeve in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ and, for me, her overall storyline is good but the weakest storyline so far in Season 2. However, in her quest to find her daughter, Maeve is reunited with Felix and Sylvester, the two lab workers from Season 1. I always enjoyed the dynamic those three had together so I look forward to seeing more of that this season. I hope it improves Maeve’s storyline and the way ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ ends certainly points to a step up in its quality.

Indeed, Maeve’s group is attacked by a samurai in an intriguing, cliff-hanger ending which sets up Samurai World and I cannot wait to this in future episodes of Season 2. If those future episodes can keep the same consistency we have got so far or even improve on what we have seen up to this point, then Season 2 of Westworld will be a worthy continuation of Season 1.

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A Quiet Place (Film Review) – A Tense, Entertaining Ride

A Quiet Place is a horror film directed by John Krasinski and he stars alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, in the film. The story focuses on Krasinski and Blunt who play parents to three children. They have to live their lives in silence in order to survive and hide from creatures who exclusively hunt by sound.

My Expectation For A Quiet Place

I have mentioned before in my review of Get Out that horror is a genre of film that is not my favourite. I find no enjoyment in being scared and I do not willingly seek out these types of films to watch. Still, whenever a horror film such as A Quiet Place has been as lauded to the extent it has been by film critics, I feel obligated to see it.

Everything I had heard about this film was positive. It reminded me of how well Get Out was received last year and I have to admit that I was intrigued by A Quiet Place, especially when it came to John Krasinski who has been praised for the way he directed this film. If nothing else, I was in for a tense experience and I hoped I would be pleasantly surprised by A Quiet Place.

John Krasinski in A Quiet Place

My Thoughts On A Quiet Place

I enjoyed A Quiet Place. By no means is it one of the best films I have seen in 2018 but I had a good time with it. For me, the biggest strength of this film is its technical quality. More specifically, it is how its use of sound, or lack of it, creates real tension throughout. Certain moments in A Quiet Place were excruciating to watch in a very good way thanks to the way sound is used. As a result of the suspension and tension created by the way sound is used, you have no idea where the story is going to go next.

This makes the film compelling and it keeps you engaged despite the pacing which is not the quickest. However, the running time of A Quiet Place is perfect for a film with this kind of pacing so this was not a big issue. The performances in this film are also something to be admired. For everyone in the film, especially the child actors, to give very good performances when you consider how A Quiet Place is not dialogue-heavy is a difficult feat to pull off but it was achieved and it was impressive to see.

These individual performances also combine to create a family dynamic which I completely bought into. The main theme of this film is family and what you would do to protect the ones you love and this gives the film real emotional weight and stakes. I also liked the creature design in A Quiet Place and I thought that the way this film ends was absolutely brilliant. It is sudden and it leaves you wanting more which I loved and I can definitely see why a sequel is in the works.

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

My Final Thoughts On A Quiet Place

Overall, from start to finish, A Quiet Place was a thrilling ride and I cannot wait to see what John Krasinski does next in his directorial career. Whether it is A Quiet Place 2 or an entirely new project, I will definitely see what he directs next thanks to how much I enjoyed this film. If you want a unique experience with a film, then I would urge you to see A Quiet Place when you have the time.

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