The Return of Kenobi Review, Part I

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The anticipation for this series has been electric. The excitement has grown exponentially as the weekend of the premiere has finally arrived. The recent Vanity Fair article features four of the main characters from upcoming Star Wars projects to whet our appetite for all the exciting projects ahead. Leading up to the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim California, there have been numerous video clips of brief commentary on what a historic time it is for Star Wars. Star Wars Celebration was perfectly scheduled the same weekend as the Obi-Wan Kenobi series premiere. Fans have worked themselves into a frenzied fervor over Kenobi excited to see Obi-Wan once again.

The fervor is contagious. Hayden Christensen's simple line of "This is where the fun begins" awoke twelve-year-old me’s nostalgia for Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and the beginning of the Prequels. Boy, nostalgia is one heck of a drug. 

I was curious as to how they were going to approach Kenobi in terms of the story. The Prequels, the Original Trilogy, and the Sequels all have their unique tone as they tell the ongoing dramatic story of the Skywalkers. Where was Kenobi going to fit in bridging the gap in tone between the Prequels and the Original Trilogy? 

Prior to the episode, there was a four-minute recap of what had transpired in the prequels. No other live-action Star Wars series has done this. This was a unique choice because we all know why we are here. We don’t need this reminder. It left me wondering if this exposition was going to be a continuous theme throughout Kenobi’s story. 

Meet the Inquisitors. They are high-ranking members of the Empire under the command of Darth Vader tasked with hunting any remaining Jedi in the galaxy and eliminating any potential threats to the Empire. When the Inquisitors find you, you have two choices: submit or die. 

The initial scene of their introduction seemed to over-explain this. The storytellers want us to know exactly who they are without any creative interpretation from us. The scene reminded me of the exchanges between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the Prequels: over-explaining, talking too much for the audience's sake, quick quips, and scoldingly reproaching a comrade for their differing tactical approach to a situation. It ends up leaving the scene with an apparent stalemate of opinions with lingering dissent under the surface of the interpersonal dynamics.

Kenobi's storytelling tone leans heavily into Prequel territory. Now that we know where we are on the spectrum, and what kind of Star Wars fans they are pandering to, let’s settle in for the ride.

Man... It is good to see Ewan McGregor again as Obi-Wan, or his new alias, Ben. Ten years have passed since the events of Episode III, and Obi-Wan still bears the weight of the war that was lost. He is depressed and seems to be content with a stagnant quiet life in hiding. However, he suffers from nightmares from losing his friend, his brother, Anakin.

Obi-Wan is still seeking guidance from Qui-Gon Jinn from beyond the grave. Will we get to see the legendary Jedi Master in his spectral form? It seems he has not yet mastered the technique to communicate with Qui-Gon, but maybe it’s because he is lacking faith in the Force. Obi-Wan is haunted by his past mistakes.

Watchfully keeping an eye from afar on Luke growing up a farm boy in the Tatooine desert, we get to see a softer side of Obi-Wan as he purchases a T-16 Skyhopper toy from a Jawa as a present for the boy.
This is the same ship Luke plays with when he meets C-3PO and R2-D2 in Episode IV: A New Hope. He wants to subtly let Luke know there's more to life than the Lars family farm. There’s a whole galaxy out there and he wants to help the boy aspire to more.

Enter Owen Lars. Owen confronts Obi-Wan about the gift. Obi-Wan’s presence in Luke’s life is not welcomed, even from a distance. Joel Edgerton does a phenomenal job at capturing the original actor Phill Brown's presence, perfectly mimicking his speech patterns, inflections, stance, and facial expressions. Joel even nails yelling for Luke around the farm. Edgerton must have watched those scenes with Uncle Owen in A New Hope over and over to achieve this performance.

I wasn't sure where the story was going to lead us, but I was not expecting to revisit a planet we briefly got to see in Episode III. Alderaan with her majestic mountainous peaks, pristine seas, and lush greenery, she is a sleek sophisticated utopia of peace. Alderaan is beautiful and the weight of her destruction seems to take on a heavier meaning even after all of these years being immersed in the Star Wars universe.

Little Leia steals the show. Her wardrobe is perfect for a young princess, (the booties!) with her biological mother's fiery sense of justice and being wise beyond her years we see a glimpse of the woman she will grow up to be. She's not the quintessential princess yet, but she is learning. There were tender moments between her and her adoptive parents. I loved seeing Little Leia and Bail together. It's clear the Organas view Leia as their own.

Later in the episode, the princess gets kidnapped. The kidnappers, the leader being none other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, are hired by one of the Inquisitors: Reva, the Third Sister. Reva is focused on bringing Obi-Wan in.

Her personal vendetta against Kenobi has not been expounded upon or explained yet. Somehow she knows kidnapping the princess will lure Kenobi out of hiding. That's a pretty large assumption about someone whose trail has gone cold over ten years ago.

Bail Organa reached out to Obi-Wan for help. He doesn't want to trust Leia's safety to anyone else and does not want the news to go public. The Star Wars universe sure does love its secrets. Bail has to resort to paying Obi-Wan a visit in person to move him to action. 

Obi-Wan is hesitant and reluctant to take on this mission because he realizes his limitations and has started to doubt his abilities to succeed. Seeing Obi-Wan reluctant to take on a difficult mission was hard. What had happened in the Clone Wars had definitely changed him, and all these years later he is crippled by the fear of failing once again.

Obi-Wan's hesitation to get involved reminded me of Luke's reservation of jumping into the fight once again in the Sequels. Would it be so far-fetched that someone would want to live out the rest of their life quietly in hiding after so much betrayal and defeat? 

Obi-Wan journeys out to the desert to a seemingly random location and exhumes a box that contains his lightsaber and Anakin's. It's a heavy moment for him, but he takes up his saber once again.

Dressed in the brown robes similar to a Jedi, with the lightsaber on his belt, and after a significant hesitation, he boards a shuttle off-world leaving the sands of Tatooine behind.

I have a major gripe with how two significant scenes were filmed within Part I. The initial scene shows a group of younglings escaping the Jedi Temple during Order 66. The shaky-cam effect was used during this first scene and its unstable camera work rivaled Cloverfield.

Going for a documentary-style, realistic portrayal of Star Wars history felt… off. Any footage we've seen of Order 66 was not filmed in this style before. This technique can be used to help with immersion, but it took me out of the scene because I was trying to not get nauseous.

The second scene was where a Jedi tried to confront Obi-Wan in the desert. The scene was filmed in a way that was reminiscent of when R2-D2 got jumped by the Jawas in A New Hope. The slanted peering through the rocks and hiding techniques remained in effect during parts of the scene that should have been static. Not a fan of the cinematography choice of these scenes and I hope they don't resort back to it frequently. 
Kenobi does heavy fan service for those who grew up on the Prequels, yet sprinkles many Original Trilogy references to try to bridge the timelines. I am intrigued about where Obi-Wan’s story will lead us and, I will admit, I was not expecting his fate to be intertwined with Leia's during his exile. What were some of your favorite or least favorite moments from Part I?

WTF Just Happened in Outlander? S6, E8, "I Am Not Alone"

We made it! The Outlander season 6 finale has arrived! The "Committee of Safety" is stirring up trouble, the Frasers are under fire, and we have our popcorn (or whatever your favorite TV-watching snack is) at the ready! Let's dive into the happenings. 

Spoiler Alert: We are recapping the episode, so there will be spoilers past this point. You've been warned! Turn back now if you wish to stay unspoiled.

WHAT HAPPENED

The episode begins with a very quick scene of Claire and Brianna (I'm assuming, since we couldn't see her face) back in Claire's original time at a diner. I have two theories for this! First, this is reminiscent of the scenes Claire imagined when she was kidnapped by Lionel Brown, and she was envisioning herself and her family (Jamie and Co.) back in her own time, safe and at home sharing a 1970s Thanksgiving. Second, it could be a reference to Claire's love for cheeseburgers at her and Brianna's favorite diner, which she discusses later in the episode. Either way, I assume it's included for a reason, and it could be one theory, both, or neither.

Jamie's not having it.

We're quickly thrown back into the 1700s, though, and Richard Brown's "Committee of Safety" has arrived at the Ridge and is demanding Claire's arrest for Malva's murder. Claire, still inside their house, discreetly sends the nearest woman she can find to go get help. Jamie, who's walked out to meet the Browns, exchanges some "you know what's about to go down, be ready" eye contact with Lizzie across the yard. Richard, the fabulous ray of sunshine that he is, says he doesn't expect Jamie to just give Claire up. Of course, he came prepared. Like we expect anything less from this guy. Ugh. 

Mr. and Mrs. Fraser.

Claire rushes to grab the nearest gun for self-defense, but one of Richard's men snuck around the back of their house. He holds Claire at gunpoint, but she quick-draws and shoots him in the stomach with her pistol. Jamie panics, thinking she's been shot, and Brown's men take the opportunity to seize him. He takes a beating but holds his own well enough until Claire starts scaring everyone off with her rifle. This gives Jamie an opening to run toward the house, and they both make it inside before bullets start flying through their windows. I got strangely upset watching all that nice fictional furniture be destroyed. Maybe this means I'm successfully adulting? Who knows! Regardless, the Frasers barricade themselves inside their home. I was definitely getting some Mr. & Mrs. Smith vibes in the first part of this episode. They even have an armory in their basement and waste no time loading up on ammo. 

Considering that Richard arrived with wagons and a bunch of men, it's no surprise he's ready to stick around for a while. They prepare for an overnight stay by putting wagons at ideal locations around the house in order to use them for cover. Claire and Jamie station themselves next to the windows and hope for the best. Their communication is really highlighted here, and you can tell they've been through a lot of wild stuff together because of how they work together like a well-oiled machine. Whatever oily puns you're thinking of, maybe grab a glass of water, ‘cause you're just thirsty.

I gotta admit, all this gunfire had me feeling like Jack Sparrow: "Quit blowing holes in my ship!" But the Browns also just so happen to have stormtrooper aim, which is really good news for our Frasers. 

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During a break in the gunfire, Jamie gives us a quick exposition dump by mentioning Brianna and Roger have already left for the seminary so Roger can be ordained. He also tells Claire (okay, the audience) that Richard Brown found out Marsali killed his brother Lionel, so they're using Malva's death as an excuse to exact revenge. 

Speaking of that asshole, Richard approaches the house. Though he's out of range, he's close enough that Jamie can hear him promise that they won't hurt Claire. Yeah, right. He says they're going to take her to the nearest town (Salisbury) for a trial. Jamie answers by returning fire, and the Browns get ready to wait them out.

Roger and Brianna are traveling.

I'm gonna go ahead and sum all the Roger and Brianna stuff up in one place because this episode went back and forth a lot. These two are traveling and are just living their best lives venturing through woods like all manner of dangerous animals can't eat them alive at a moment's notice. They do the whole "let's forget we're in the woods and get stark naked without a lookout because that's not how horror movies start at all" thing. 

Later on in their travels, they discover their son Jeremiah has picked up some lice. When they cut his hair, they find a mark on his scalp similar to one that Roger has. When Roger states that it's a hereditary condition, he realizes that he is, in fact, Jeremiah's biological father. There had been understandable fear he may have been Stephen Bonnet's son (the pirate who raped Brianna), so I'm overjoyed they resolved this and that Brianna and Roger finally know for sure. This is a really wonderful moment, and they deserve that happiness. That pretty much sums up the Mackenzie family's screen time in this episode.  

We leave them meandering through wooded scenery and return to the Ridge where all the action is. Jamie is afraid the Browns will fire the house as soon as it gets dark in order to smoke them out in their makeshift siege, which… is a good plan for the siege-ers, but not so much for the siege-ees. The writers take this chance to remind the audience that Brianna and Roger originally came back in time to warn Claire they'd read in an obituary that she and Jamie died in a house fire. But the time that was supposed to have happened has passed, so we're left wondering if this is really it for the Frasers or if it's a fake-out.

Richard Brown holds the Frasers under siege.

Despite the assailants milling around outside, Jamie and Claire eat dinner while the Browns wait for nightfall. In a bout of morbid humor, Claire tells Jamie about the tradition of prisoners condemned to death requesting a last meal. They both share their pick for final meals, and while Claire goes for the classic cheeseburger and fries, Jamie's the more romantic of the two this time and says he'd choose the meal he and Claire are sharing at that moment. You know, just in case we forgot the show was based on the heavily romantic best-selling novels.

They eventually figure no one is coming to help them, considering Ian is out hunting and the people from the Ridge haven't shown up yet. It's time to prepare for whatever's coming, so they pray together for forgiveness just in case it's their last chance. Then they count all the times Jamie almost died. Let me tell you, he's had quite a few near misses! We learn that an old fortune-teller once told Jamie he had nine lives, so I guess they were checking to see if he'd made it to eight. I guess he hasn't, ‘cause Claire says hearing the count gives her peace. I wish I'd been counting! If I'd been keeping track, I'd have known if I should actually get nervous or not…

The fisher folk bring torches and pitchforks.

Later on that night, the "fisher folk" from Christie's camp arrive. They call Claire a witch and a murderer, and Allan is acting super shifty as always. It's time to reach some sort of decision without getting burned to death, so Jamie and Claire agree to come outside under the promise they won't be harmed. Richard says they'll take Claire to trial. If she's innocent, there's technically no reason to refuse. Jamie turns the tables, though, and accuses Richard of wanting to kill Claire to get revenge on Lionel Brown's death. Allan also wants them to try Jamie for debauching and killing Malva, which leads to them all agreeing that Jamie and Claire should go to trial together. Phew, that was a lot of back and forth.

Right before they cement the decision, Lizzie arrives with the members of the Ridge to help. I almost started cheering before I realized the Browns still greatly outnumber them. Jamie doesn't see another way to resolve the situation without him and Claire dying, so he thinks they should go. Christie decides he will travel with them to ensure no further evil is done. Richard agrees. Christie, who now apparently has decision-making power with the "Committee of Safety," tells the Frasers they can leave in the morning. They get to sleep in their own bed one more night, but there will be guards posted. 

Claire and Jamie face the Browns.

At any rate, Jamie and Claire get a last night in their lovely home, and I get time to fume. If they go to trial, there are no witnesses and no one there to testify that Claire didn't do it. How is it supposed to be fair and just considering these circumstances?

So far, "I Am Not Alone" has a bottle episode feel that I wasn't expecting when I saw the episode preview. I thought we'd get more edge-of-your-seat moments, and though we certainly saw some action (cue the eyebrow wiggle), it wasn't the kind I was expecting. 

The next morning, the Browns load the Frasers into a wagon and begin their journey to the trial. Christie is strangely nice to Claire on the way. Maybe he knows who the actual murderer is and doesn't want to say anything because it might besmirch the family name. Maybe he's actually going with so he can testify in court and not out in the open where it can be stricken from the known record or he could be killed for whatever he has to say. He'll have to keep quiet a little longer, though, because the nearest court in Salisbury is closed due to politics. They have to go on to Wilmington, which is 200 miles away (that's a hell of a walk). During the trip, Richard spreads the tale in every town they pass through that Claire is guilty of murder, muddying the waters for her trial wherever they go. He also starts to lose control of his men who aren't ready for the lengthy march ahead.

Tom Christie knows something.

The longer they're on the road, the more uncomfortable Christie looks. I sense guilt. He knows something! But he's not speaking up. While stuck in the back of the wagon, Jamie and Claire speculate on Christie's purpose in all this mess. Is he protecting them just to see her killed? I want answers, too!

Farther along their trail, Jamie leaves the wagon to relieve himself and spots Ian in the trees. Lizzie told Ian what happened when he returned from hunting, so he found help and caught up. Jamie doesn't want to escape, though, because it'd be seen as an admission of guilt. Is it too late for him and Claire to run off together and live in the woods for the next fifty years? Much to my chagrin, they decide to wait for the right timing. After exchanging a heartfelt "God go with you," Ian departs and Jamie returns to the wagon. 

Claire and Jamie are separated.

The right timing arrives soon enough. The group stops for a drink. Jamie is the only one allowed out of the wagon. They seize him. We all definitely saw it coming. They seize Claire in the wagon, too, because what else would they do after such an obvious setup? With her subdued, they drive away just as Jamie is knocked unconscious. Claire's first concern is for her husband, but Richard tells her that he isn't trying to get revenge. All this drama isn't because of his brother, it's because she committed murder. Except she didn't, so this is extra frustrating. 

After they're a short distance down the road, Christie rides up. Claire, panicking, tells him she's afraid the Browns are going to kill Jamie. Christie pulls Richard aside for a hushed conversation, and, afterward, he tells Claire that Richard gave his word he wouldn't kill Jamie. Christie must believe him for some reason because he won't go back to protect Jamie despite Claire's pleas. He wants to stay and make sure she remains safe as they travel the rest of the way to Wilmington. Why? Why, why, why?

They arrive to find Wilmington in complete disarray. I'm seriously hoping John Grey is somewhere nearby. He'd be super helpful right about now. Richard locks Claire in the prison where we saw that time traveler guy, but they don't meet. Because why would they? It's not like they set that up a couple episodes ago and haven't delivered.

Richard bribes the sheriff for something unknown, and Christie gives Claire money for her maintenance. He tells her Jamie is alive, and asks her to trust in God to deliver the righteous out of danger. Christie's also gonna stick around in town and make sure she's okay. Maybe he's staying to testify about who actually did it like I speculated earlier. Before leaving, Richard tells Claire he'll see her at the gallows. Cue the villainousness. 

Chief Bird to the rescue!

The next time we see Jamie, he's tied to a stake at low tide. I was afraid they were going to let him die as the tide rolled in, but they're plotting to put him aboard a ship that's going back to Scotland and away from Claire. They say he'll never see his "witch of a wife again." Rude! But Ian and the Cherokee show up and kill the small crew that was holding Jamie hostage. Aha! At least the good guys don't have stormtrooper aim! 

They know where Claire is, and Chief Bird (Glen Gould) tells Jamie he promised he'd fight with him. Yay! That's my favorite moment in the whole episode, right there. Ian frees Jamie from his bonds, and I'm guessing in Season 7 they're gonna go rescue Claire. No surprise there. 

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WTF

We have a special guest for the "WTF" section of this recap! Couch Soup's own Drewseph J Drewsephine weighs in on what he thought about this season (and of course, this episode): 

WTF is a pretty good summary for this entire season. I'm going on record here and saying this is by and far the worst season of Outlander so far. I'm sure Liz will point out all the reasons why this season should get a pass (COVID, the production cut short, it's true to the books). Whatever, I was bored to tears this season. 

The writers spent so much time setting up chess pieces with absolutely no payoff whatsoever. Why give us 5 episodes of Malva learning to be a healer under Claire when she ultimately doesn't use any of those skills or defend Claire in the end? Are we to believe she was just truly broken and evil? We never got an explanation for why Malva was making those love spells or whatever with finger bones. Did they work? Is that why she slept with half the Ridge? Also, did we really need an entire 7 episode story arc on Roger becoming a minister? While it makes sense from Roger's background and what he's gone through (we shan't forget the time he almost died by a hanging), it still feels random considering he knows time travel is possible and Brianna is all about science like her mom (she made matches this season…which had no damn point or pay off, either!!!). 

Let's talk about the whole episode dedicated to Ian and his Mohawk wife that he couldn't get pregnant… Which, myself and I'm sure others thought, "Okay so that's a good reason to put Ian and Malva together as a couple and to explain why she's making weird bone charms…" But no, that went nowhere as a plot point. Just more character development. While I enjoy the moments in between the action, suspense, and danger, it felt egregious this season. I won't even get into the major episode cliffhanger they pulled mid-season by not showing what was hinted at as another time traveler with no reveal in the next episode or this entire season. That's not how cliffhangers work Outlander! 

This last episode did deliver some great action, and we get to see Jamie channeling some John Wick shot accuracy. But the episode quickly slows down again and resolves what could've been an epic showdown at the Fraser house into another "let's go to trial to prove our innocence" plot. I was seriously hoping for a big shake-up on the story this season. We've been doing the Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman reboot for a while now and I, for one, miss the seasons where there was a sense of adventure and suspense for our characters. I miss Scotland and Paris and pirates and, oh yeah, fucking time travel!!! Nope, now we are stuck in the little house on the prairie and it's dull. What's the point, Outlander? I'll watch the first few episodes of next season but honestly, if this season is indicative of how the show will be moving forward, there are better shows on TV to give my time to. 

Thanks for adding your Outlander fan plot skeptic passion, Drew!

WHAT STANDS OUT

This season just felt different. More character-focused. I'm going to chalk it up to them having to film this season during the pandemic, which may have made scheduling and logistics even more complicated than usual. It's been a whole season of build-up, but I'm not giving up hope! If they're planning on giving us pay off in Season 7, there's probably a lot of action awaiting us. 

As for what stood out, it's more of what didn't stand out. We didn't get much Revolutionary War action or any payoff for several of the plotlines they started. I was really hoping for some super juicy conflicts with Jamie on one side of the war and a few friends or family on the other. Instead, we have to wait a year for the next steps. I don't want to be overly critical, though, because the pandemic shook the world, so I think losing a few episodes or events is a minor inconvenience, all things considered. Season 7 will have to have the final say, in my opinion. 

Also, Tom Christie knows something! He's been keeping his mouth shut, and I want to know why. If he knows who did this and is waiting until court to testify, he better live long enough to do so.

Season 7 is filming!

WHAT'S NEXT

Season 7 is already in production, so we should hear more soon!

What did you think of Outlander's sixth season? How do you think Season 7 will start off? I'm going to refrain from making a "the bang heard 'round the world" pun…

WTF Just Happened in Outlander? S6, E6, "The World Turned Upside Down"

Last week's episode was titled "Give Me Liberty," and this new one followed up with a whole bunch of death. Were they trying to give a nod to Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech? If so, they sure delivered. With that said, I think it's only fair to start this recap out with a warning, ‘cause I could've used one going in! This episode was death and deceit all the way through, so please proceed with caution. 

Trigger Warning: Discussion of suspected murder or suicide, and the death of a child. A few graphic images appear throughout the article. 

Spoiler Alert: We are recapping the episode, so there will be spoilers past this point. You've been warned! Turn back now if you wish to stay unspoiled.

WHAT HAPPENED

This harrowing episode starts off with a deceptively calm yet clever shot of the trees outside the Ridge's church. The camera frames them upside down for the viewer before slowly panning across the ceiling, eventually landing on Roger leading a service. After the service closes, he notes the absence of a family that never misses attending. Claire offers to stop by and check on them, and they talk for a bit about missing Fergus and his family. We miss ‘em, too, but it's a good thing they weren't around for this!

Claire and Co. check on the missing family.

Claire and Co. arrive at the family's residence and discover that all the family members are deathly ill. Being the heroine Claire and Co. arrive at the family's residence and discover that all the family members are deathly ill. Being the heroine that she is, Claire flies into action. But the illness has progressed too far… Several of the family members die before Claire is able to help them. The mother, unwilling to part with her late infant, dies shortly after her child, leaving Claire and the audience heartbroken and distraught.

Determined to find out what's going on, Claire investigates and discovers that the mysterious illness is dysentery, which is very serious and can be passed through tainted food or water. It sweeps through the Ridge's population quickly. They can't find what's polluting the water, and without being able to clean the supply, people keep getting sick. Claire falls ill as well, and her family tends to her as best they can. They all love Claire dearly, so the idea of losing her is unthinkable. But wouldn't ya know it, Malva stays close by, as well…

Malva getting too cozy with Jamie

Which brings us to the suspicious stuff. Jamie's downstairs staring at the fire (probably worried about his wife Claire) when Malva brings him tea and starts up a conversation. She says that some people on the Ridge still think Claire's a witch, which is worrisome. I suppose if magic is just science we don't understand, the same would be true in reverse. Malva shares her admiration of Claire, but it's weird because she's… flirting? Which brings us to the suspicious stuff. Jamie's downstairs staring at the fire (probably worried about his wife Claire) when Malva brings him tea and starts up a conversation. She says that some people on the Ridge still think Claire's a witch, which is worrisome. I suppose if magic is just science we don't understand, the same would be true in reverse. Malva shares her admiration of Claire, but it's weird because she's… flirting? With Jamie? Who isn't as oblivious as he once would have been. In fact, he makes a face that suggests he knows what she's up to and is none too pleased. But Malva has never lacked gall. Amidst Claire's fever dreams, we see a hazy vision of her trying to make a move on Jamie. He appears to turn around and presumably reprimand her, but that's all we see before the vision fades.

Not long after, Claire wakes up to find that Malva has cut Claire's hair, reportedly to help alleviate her fNot long after, Claire wakes up to find that Malva has cut Claire's hair, reportedly to help alleviate her fever. Mhmm. All this was done when Jamie, Roger, and Brianna weren't around to stop her, of course. I'm of the opinion that Malva cut Claire's hair out of spite. Much to Jamie's (and our) relief, though the Ridge suffered many casualties, Claire wasn't among them. She recovers slowly from the illness and learns that dysentery has stopped spreading.

Jamie by Claire's side

Now that Claire's awake, Brianna wastes no time telling her mother that she's pregnant! Claire, though exhausted, is overjoyed. Brianna cleans up Claire's haircut, and though Claire is concerned about her new look (short hair wouldn't become popular for women until the 1920s and, until then, was just short of scandalous), everyone close to her reassures her she's absolutely beautiful. Claire learns the water was corrupted due to a dead elk upriver and that it was cleared. She tells Jamie about her fever dreams but leaves out what we saw about Malva. Instead, she tells him about blurry images of a snake in their house… and if it isn't Malva then clearly I don't know how to watch television, peeps!

Claire speaks with Christie

Though still recovering, Claire visits Tom Christie, who's surprised to see her new hair. He kind-of-sort-of jokes with her for walking all the way down there to check on his health. But Claire tells him that she wasn't sick with the same illness the rest of the Ridge suffered from. She and Christie had similar symptoms that don't match up with dysentery. They haven't seen each other for a while, so it isn't likely they infected each other… I'd bet every penny that Malva somehow tried to poison both of them. She has every reason to hate her father, and she's looking mighty covetous of Claire. But alas, I have no concrete proof.

Once Claire gets home, Jamie fusses about her putting herself in danger walking to visit Christie while she's still recovering her health. They share a couple cute moments, and he tells her that if she wasn't around, it'd be as if the sun didn't come up or go down. Life wouldn't go on. Just adorable, these two!
They reminisce about events from the Season 1 episode "Rent" when he'd sleep on the floor outside her door as they traveled to collect… you guessed it, rent. Jamie tells her he's been asked to attend the Provincial Congress and work on declaring independence. They don't linger on the topic long, though, ‘cause Jamie's busy telling her all the many reasons he loves her. They banter for a while, and it's just gosh darn adorable. But then, as per usual, Jamie gets serious, and (somewhat ironically considering the rest of the episode) they tell each other they appreciate the other remaining faithful over all these years.

They reminisce about events from the Season 1 episode "Rent" when he'd sleep on the floor outside her door as they traveled to collect… you guessed it, rent. Jamie tells her he's been asked to attend the Provincial Congress and work on declaring independence. They don't linger on the topic long, though, ‘cause Jamie's busy telling her all the many reasons he loves her. They banter for a while, and it's just gosh darn adorable. But then, as per usual, Jamie gets serious, and (somewhat ironically considering the rest of the episode) they tell each other they appreciate the other remaining faithful over all these years.

Jamie and Roger prepare to go to the Provincial Congress

After that, Jamie's off to the Provincial Congress. Roger's Once Claire gets home, Jamie fusses about her putting herself in danger walking to visit Christie while she's still recovering her health. They share a couple of cute moments, and he tells her that if she wasn't around, it'd be as if the sun didn't come up or go down. Life wouldn't go on. Just adorable, these two!

It turns out Malva has spun a nasty web of lies. She's pregnant and is telling everyone it's Jamie's child. According to her, in his great sadness during Claire's illness, Jamie turned to Malva for some… ahem… personal comfort. Her older brother tries to hit Jamie, and he lands one! But then Jamie throws him off like it's nothing. He thought he was so big and bad and then boom, he got his feelings hurt real quick. I'm quite the cynical show watcher, so this cracked me up.

But seriously, how does Malva think she'll get away with this? Jamie tells his side of the story, saying that Malva made her move, he said no, and she left. But obviously, no one believes Jamie because society has issues. Claire smacks the ever-loving shit out of Malva's face, and I was here for it. (Well done to Malva's actress, Jessica Reynolds, for such a stellar performance!) But then Claire leaves, overwhelmed, and Malva attempts to prove her story by describing Jamie's scars. She no doubt peeped them when she was creeping on Jamie and Claire getting busy in the barn. Her father suggests they draw up a contract that will include maintenance for Malva and the child and acknowledgment of the child as a legitimate heir. But Jamie isn't having any of this nonsense. He sends the Christies away, furious.

Malva is quite the character.

Obviously, Claire knows Jamie didn't do it, and that Malva is to blame for her scheming. But Claire's been under a great deal of stress and is overwhelmed by the situation. Jamie does tell her he slept with Mary MacNab while Claire was back in her own time with Frank, but we all knew that. It's just a good way for them to show both Claire and the audience that Jamie would come clean about something like this if he had done it, which he didn't. It also gives Claire a chance to see he's not out here trying to sleep around on her. He takes that stuff seriously, just like she does. Claire believes Jamie's innocent, not just because of their relationship but because Jamie wouldn't abandon any child that was his.

But now they've got lies and rumors to deal with on top of everything else. Plus, Jamie's leaving soon, so Claire will be a little more alone on the Ridge. During a walk in the woods, Brianna laments that the gossip spread through the Ridge like fire. She tells Roger about a woman her non-biological father Frank (Claire's first husband) was in love with outside of her parent's marriage. She's worried Jamie may have done the same thing. Roger reminds Brianna that it was a totally different situation. Claire loved Jamie for 20 years, and Frank knew it. But Brianna still isn't 100% certain Jamie's free from blame.

Malva isn't backing down.

Claire confronts Malva at the Christie's residence, offering to listen and find a solution. Malva still tries to pin it on Jamie, but Claire comes to her husband's defense. She believes Jamie completely; nothing's coming between the Frasers! While Malva is in a difficult and complicated situation, her lies are only making it worse. When her brother comes outside, Malva extends her web of deceit and starts saying she knows Claire is a witch. The betrayal is real. Claire tells her to stay the hell away from her family, but this situation is deteriorating fast.

Ian and Malva have secrets.

Back at Fraser HQ, Claire is in her garden trying to find some peace when Ian shows up to tell Claire that Malva's child might be his. Ahh, Ian. He and Malva have been sharing more than long walks in the woods, but after things got intimate, he told her he still loved another (his wife from Episode 4). He's worried that's why she accused Jamie. Problem is, all the people Malva has slept with look pretty similar, and there's no scientific way at that time to prove exactly who the biological father is. He offers to marry Malva, but they don't follow up with his idea for the rest of the episode.

Meanwhile, the residents are treating the Frasers like pariahs. It's to the point that they wait for Claire to exit the church before they enter. When Jamie returns two months later, he says that while he got to make a bold speech, the gossip about his alleged indiscretion preceded his arrival. He wasn't picked as a delegate for the Continental Congress. Malva's damage has been done. 

Now that everyone's suspicious she's a witch, Claire has no one to treat. She's left alone in her surgery with her thoughts and flashbacks. After a particularly haunting flashback, she prepares to take some ether. (Can someone help Claire, please?!) Peeking out the window, she sees Malva coming from the stables and locks the door. By the time Malva knocks, Claire is out cold.

Claire threatens to kill Malva.

Claire then has a hazy dream (I think?) where Malva finds her way inside Claire's surgery and wakes Claire up. She goes on a very villainous tirade where she confesses she's trying to steal away everything that Claire holds dear, including Jamie. Claire grabs a scalpel and threatens to kill Malva, but the dream fades away before we see her do anything.

Was it a dream? I am certainly no doctor, but I thought in Claire's case that was the whole point–that Claire would not be able to dream when she took the ether.

Claire tries to save Malva's unborn baby.

After the ether wears off, Claire wakes up and goes about her business… and finds Malva dead near her garden! Like, very, very dead with her throat cut. By this time, she's also farther along in her pregnancy, so Claire cuts open Malva's belly to try and save the baby. In both a super sad and super traumatizing scene, Claire removes the baby from Malva's womb and attempts to perform CPR. But in the end, the baby is gone. 

Did Malva kill herself in a last-ditch effort to escape her situation and frame Claire? Is there a killer on the loose? Or did Claire actually do it? We may never know. Claire may never know.

WTF

Literally, where TF do I start?! I don't know how to unpack any of this. Maybe I should just do bullet points? It's been days and I'm still reeling from this episode.

Here's the short—but decidedly unsweet—rundown of every WTF moment in "The World Turned Upside Down": 

What in all hell will happen next?

What happened to Malva?

WHAT STANDS OUT

Outlander is a show that's not afraid to go there. And in this case, they just dove headfirst into the pool of "Oh dear shite, they actually did that…." 

I stress-watched this entire episode. There are just too many emotions. For starters, I'm happy they're bringing attention to people slandering others out of greed and malice, or to cover up their own mistakes. Second, while I'm outraged Malva caused this much trouble for the Fraser's, her situation no doubt felt suffocating. Sympathetic villains are the best kind! But while I do understand her motives, they don't excuse her behavior. 

I'm terrified of what's going to happen now that Malva has not only woven these lies, but now lies dead near Claire's garden with her stomach cut open and her baby dead as well. I highly doubt the residents of the Ridge will see the emergency C-section for what it was: a desperate attempt to save the unborn child. Claire's been on trial for witchcraft before, also under false information. But a good reputation can only protect you so long.

As for what stands out, this is the first time I can actually say the whole damn episode stands out.

WHAT'S NEXT

In the Episode 7 preview, everyone is obviously suspicious of Claire. But she can't confirm or deny her guilt, so they're on the search for the perpetrator. I have to be honest, I didn't see this coming. Here I am thinking the most drama we're going to get this season is the Revolution brewing… I suppose I should've seen it coming; every season has a main villain and Season 6 hadn't landed on one until this episode just blew my expectations out of the water.

Who do you think killed Malva? I have to know!

WTF Just Happened in Outlander? S6, E5, "Give Me Liberty"

The time has come! The revolution is picking up speed, and we actually get some action in this episode. Much like the colonists of the era, we don't have time to wait around, so let's jump right in!

Spoiler Alert: We are recapping the episode, so there will be spoilers past this point. You've been warned! Turn back now if you wish to stay unspoiled.

WHAT HAPPENED

"Give Me Liberty" starts with a flashback to Scotland in June 1746. Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) is escaping Scotland after his defeat at Culloden, aided by the real-life historical figure Flora Macdonald (played by Shauna Macdonald, who isn’t a direct relation as far as we know). Flora is a Jacobite heroine later immortalized in legends and ballads for helping the Stuart claimant to the throne. Notably, the entire opening song (the Skye Boat Song) is in Gaelic, and it's so well-timed.

In what will soon be America, Jamie stirs the pot by resigning as Indian agent. He sends a letter to the Governor, and we see Lord John Grey (David Berry) telling the Governor that Jamie's letter is merely one of resignation, not revolt. He's charged by the Governor to check up on Jamie and make sure he isn't getting into anything rebellious. Ha. But as Jamie's long-time friend, he's the man for the job.

Jamie and Claire are at a gathering in Wilmington about to meet with Flora Macdonald. She's speaking to the colonists on behalf of the Crown in hopes of keeping things peaceful. Jamie and Claire muse about how a Jacobite could now be a loyalist. Jamie reminds her that they fought for a dream once and lost, and most aren't keen to try it again so soon. Then again, the Frasers' aren't "most." Jamie admits he'd be a loyalist, too, if he didn't know what Claire and Brianna told him about the future. There's a lot of trust between these two lovebirds, and it's moments like this–where they're making literal life-or-death decisions based on nothing but each other's word–that reminds me of that level of trust.

Jamie meets with Sons of Liberty Chairman Cornelius Harnett, a key figure in North Carolina's history during the American Revolution.

Speaking of life-or-death decisions, Jamie is meeting with the Sons of Liberty (another piece of real-life history), a group of rebels and provocateurs that's partly responsible for thwarting the enforcement of the Stamp Act. After their meeting, Jamie spies a suspicious jar on a fireplace mantle. Upon further inspection, he sees that the contents of the jar are Stephen Bonnet’s balls. You might remember him as the notorious pirate and villain from two seasons ago. Justice, best served pickled! 

On the topic of balls, someone's been giving Roger the eyeballs. (Terrible segue, I know, but that's what I'm here for.) He's helping a woman named Amy McCallum (Joanne Thomson) fix her chimney. Amy is the widow with two kids that I mentioned in my last recap, and she is 1000% into Brianna's husband. She's none too discreet about trying to glue him into her family.

Brianna searches for the perfect spot.

While Roger's working on Amy's chimney (no pun intended), Brianna is out looking for a place to build a water wheel to provide water for the settlements. Marsali, Malva, and Lizzie (Brianna's friend) aren't too happy about having to trek through the woods. They come across a design on the ground that Marsali ascertains it to be a love spell. It sparks a small debate that Amy may have made it for Roger, but Lizzie nearly faints and they discover she's feverish. 

There's no Claire to go to for medical help, though, because Mr. and Mrs. Fraser are at the gathering in Wilmington where they see…dun dun dunnnn! John Grey! How long's it been? The answer: forever. John sees Jamie from across the room, because of course he would, and they greet and catch up. He's come to hear Flora and quips he has a particular fondness for reformed Jacobites. Aw. Claire asks if it's business or pleasure that brings him to Wilmington, and I might've imagined the pointed look, but thankfully they came to terms regarding John's romantic affections for Jamie in Season 4 and are all good now. They talk for a moment about supporting the loyalist cause, and Jamie is just the absolute definition of suspicious. 

As the gathering wears on, they meet with Jamie's Aunt Jocasta, who apparently bought Fergus a print shop? Fergus has since taken up work there. There are salt levels rising between Jamie and Jocasta because printing is anything but a safe profession pre-revolution. Everyone at the gathering, including Major MacDonald, is surprised about Jamie's resignation. Claire also speaks with Mary (Mercy Ojelade), a young woman who's enslaved on River Run and is accompanying Jocasta, as it's been quite a while since they last saw each other.

Flora Macdonald (Shauna Macdonald)

Flora arrives and meets our main characters. We learn she and Jamie have childhood history, and Jamie may have even had a little crush on the famed heroine. We also find out that, prior to her arrival, a thief had tried to make off with her necklace. The camera makes a marked camera shot of the necklace with a single gemstone missing. Curiously, Jocasta then appears to feel faint. Flora, Claire, and Jocasta leave for a moment to get Jocasta some air because she's experiencing pain due to her glaucoma and they… uh… enjoy some good old-fashioned medicinal Maryjane? Courtesy of Claire's ever-abundant doctor's supplies, of course….

Back on the Ridge, Brianna and Roger talk about the time he's been spending time with Amy. Roger admits he feels more needed working on Amy's house because Brianna is doing very well with her inventions. He obviously loves Brianna, and she reminds him that he doesn't need to fill Amy's "man of the house" shoes. She makes it clear that he's needed at home with his own family.

While passing around some hemp flower, Flora confesses that she wasn't aligned with Charles politically, but people thought they were in love. Based on her reaction to Charles' rumored self-destructive behavior overseas, I wonder if it was true. The conversation about affiliation with royalty triggers Claire, who flashes back to Season 2 when they were in Versailles trying to sabotage the war efforts that led to Culloden. While there, she had intercourse with King Louis XV in order to free Jamie from his imprisonment in the Bastille, but it was a horrible experience. After the other two ladies dismiss themselves, Claire, shaken, uses the ether she brought with her while the others meet to hear Flora address the crowd. Claire arrives late, citing she needed a rest when Jamie questions her absence. This is breaking my heart. Her trauma is going under the radar, and it's very dangerous being unconscious around so many strangers.

John and Jamie protect a printing shop.

After Flora's address, John Grey questions Jamie about his affiliation with the Sons of Liberty. John expresses his concerns and asks Jamie to disassociate himself from them. When Jamie declines to share more information, Mary comes to get John, telling him there's trouble in town. Protesters are rioting at a print shop that's printing a picture of Flora in the boat with Prince Charles. The material requests Flora's fellow countrymen not be led astray by schemes of rebellion. Jamie sends Mary away for her safety as the crowd continues to grow more riotous. They want to tar and feather the printer, and John is defending the shop with a broom. Jamie is struck with hot tar, and the printer is shot in the arm—the first blood spilled in the revolution (as far as the show goes, anyways). Soldiers break up the mob, and Major MacDonald gives Jamie a nod of respect. At least they still view him as allied to some degree, which should make for a good cover.

Claire tends to Jamie's wounds from the tar.

Back in their room at an inn, Claire tends to Jamie's injury from the tar. He laments having to lie to John and shares his worries that he'll have to fight friends and kin on the Ridge. He's never lived without allegiance, and it weighs on him. Claire reminds him their allegiance is to the new nation now that the tide has turned.

Viewers are either pleasantly surprised or somewhat disappointed that Tom Christie drops his "send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" line from the Season 6 trailer while moving a bell uphill to the church on the Ridge. I gotta say, I was hoping that line would be dropped at some super dramatic moment where it could have a lot of weight. As it stands, it's really more of just a bell reference… but I'm sure it's foreshadowing! We'll see. 

An uphill battle

Roger enters the church to get more materials… and catches Malva with some guy from the Ridge very nearly getting down to business. Malva blackmails Roger into not saying anything about her risque behavior to her father, leveraging the time he's spending with Amy over the time he's spending with his wife. Damn, girl. fRoger doesn't have much of a choice at that point. He covers for her while Malva sneaks out the back, but I have a feeling the damage has been done. The next time Roger works at Amy's house, she seats him at the head of her table for dinner, which is enough to shock him into a change of heart. After that, he finds someone else to look out for Amy while he returns home to support his own lovely lady. 

Meanwhile, Jamie learns Jocasta paid for Flora Macdonald's gathering to foster peace amidst the turmoil. Jamie accuses her of buying the print shop for Fergus so he can print her political views and expresses fear for Fergus' well-being. He's wise to her game, as he and Fergus printed seditious materials in Edinburgh while smuggling liquor under the table. If I'm not mistaken, Jamie issues a light threat, and Jocasta excuses herself. Mary stays, though, and tells Jamie that Jocasta is suffering from grief after losing Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), who was her lover. I'm suffering from grief, too, for different reasons. Namely, the fact that Murtagh's death was sad as all hell.

Roger and Brianna have some good news.

On happier topics, Jamie and Claire are in for a nice surprise when they get home! After Roger tells Brianna he asked someone else to look after Amy; he explains he feels compelled to look after young mothers who are struggling after losing his own mother while he was very young. He was blind to the fact he was going down the wrong path, and he wants to spend time with his family. This is when Brianna tells him she's pregnant! They're both super excited, and I can't wait until Brianna tells her parents. 

Meanwhile, Malvaaaaa is up to no good. She's in an isolated cabin on the Ridge, sawing the finger off a man who appears to be dead. I say he "appears dead" because she's watching him like she's half afraid, half excited he might wake up and catch her slicing off a digit. She must've been the one making the love spell they found earlier using the finger bones, but for who? Conflict, fear, and sick excitement gleam in her eyes while she mutilates the corpse.

John expresses concern for Jamie's safety.

In Wilmington, Jamie meets with John again and speaks to him in private. John has learned where the Sons of Liberty will be meeting, and Jamie tells him he's going to the meeting, too. Jamie (and the audience!) waits to see what John will say. John loves the hell out of Jamie, and he's always admired his conviction. But it's admiration, understanding, and sadness in his eyes as he understands the rumors about Jamie's sympathies for independence are true. Is he really a ride-or-die?

John's terrified of Jamie dying. You can see it all over his face. Jamie asserts that he may die, or he may gain freedom… not only his but the nations. John faces a choice: stay loyal to the Crown and put Jamie in danger, or look out for Jamie. He ultimately agrees to delay his men so Jamie will be safe while they meet. Ride or die! I am here for it. Who was worried? Not me!

The Sons of Liberty meet as planned, but Jamie is no longer welcome. They're suspicious that his defense of the printing shop is a defense of the loyalist material the owner was printing. Jamie then defends his actions protecting the printer and freedom of the press, holding that freedom of speech is what they're fighting for, after all. To earn their trust, he warns them that soldiers are coming. Jamie has an inside source now and is basically a spy of sorts, alerting them to the enemy's positions. In one sweep of the board, the rebels have an advantage. The soldier's approach and the Sons of Liberty pretend to be playing billiards. It's all very, "Oh, what a surprise! Nothing suspicious going on here. Go on about your business…."

Before the episode ends, Brianna looks in on Marsali and Henri-Christian. Marsali guesses Brianna is pregnant because of her behavior, and she shares her happiness. But Brianna wants to tell Claire in her own time, so Marsali agrees not to spoil the surprise. Marsali and her family are leaving to join Fergus at the print shop. She promises to visit, but you can tell she's going to miss the Ridge. I hope they're safe with all the rioting going on.

A mysterious time traveler appears.

Jamie and Claire leave the inn they've been staying at, and there's a change in the wind. Claire hears someone whistling "Colonel Bogey March," a song no one in the past should know. They cut to who's whistling, and that's when we find out why Flora's necklace was missing a gem. The thief is currently behind bars, holding a matching green gemstone. People need precious gems to travel through the standing stones that Claire traveled through to get back in time, so my first thought was that the person who stole it must be another time traveler. WHAT!!! But they're about to turn around… and the camera cuts before we see their face.

WTF

The biggest "WTF" moment for me is by far the introduction (or re-introduction?) of this time traveler. Most online think it's Wendigo Donner (Brennan Martin), the time traveler Claire met while the Browns had kidnapped her last season. How is he going to affect the story moving forward? Is he a villain? An antagonist? A protagonist? We'll have to wait and see.

WHAT STANDS OUT

John Grey is back!

John Grey is back, peeps! They took my previous favorite side character (Murtagh) away because they're heartless, so John is my only fave left outside of the main cast. David Berry's performance brings a ton of nuance and emotion to the show, and he and Jamie's relationship is so lit. Besides, Jamie needs all the backup he can get.

And we need to talk about Malva. She's over here slicing fingers off dead corpses trying to love-spell-trap people. I need to know who she's trying to steal away. If it's Jamie or Roger, she needs to go somewhere else… far, far away, 'cause she'll have no luck there. If it's Ian, she doesn't need love spells for that. He already looked pretty smitten. Now, I think he'd better watch out. This young lady has "dangerous" written all over her, and not in a good way.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Our lovely leading lady

Okay, I didn't see the next episode preview the first time I watched, and I even waited around for it. I have no idea how I missed it, but I found it online, and it shows that there's a mysterious illness striking the Ridge. Claire falls ill, and I'm thinking Malva has had something to do with this, considering she's been around a corpse and was near Lizzie when she nearly fainted. It also looks like she's getting ready to make her move.

Tiger King! Can We Feed This Shit To The Tigers Already?!

Hey, cool cats and kittens! Tiger King has a new mini-series called Joe Vs Carole, on Peacock, starring John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic and Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin! There are other spin-offs in the works too. At one point, there was even going to be a Tiger King movie starring Nicholas Cage as Joe Exotic! 

It’s clear that the show, Tiger King, has grown into a full-blown franchise over the years. If you’ve never watched it, you’ve probably heard of it! The star of the show, Joe Exotic, has almost become a household name. You can even get your hands on Tiger King merch now! Everything from Joe Exotic action figures to“Joe Exotic for President” wristbands.

 Oh God, help us…

Tiger King follows the adventures of Joe Exotic and his tiger enterprise, and his drama-filled feud with Carole Baskin. The series is full of murder plots, scandal, and is absolutely freaking wild! 

Sure, it’s entertaining on the surface…

Tiger King, focuses so much on the flamboyant lifestyle of Joe Exotic, his ridiculous singing career, failed relationships, and downright stupidity that the real troubling issues are pushed aside to make way for entertainment. The show portrays Joe Exotic as a misunderstood man growing up on the wrong side of the tracks who just can’t seem to get a break from the world against him… We almost feel sorry for him as we listen to his sad, weeping phone calls from prison. Remember everyone, he is locked up for a reason.

If you’re not aware of the awful truth, brace yourselves!

“The biggest victims in all of the Tiger King drama are the animals,” - Animal Handler at Joe’s zoo

Joe Exotic exploited endangered tigers and kept animals in terrible zoos for many years. You can read an account directly from the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and be warned, it is not pleasant. Joe Exotic is currently serving 21 years in prison after being convicted of 17 counts of serious animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire toward Carole Baskin. Other names featured in the series, such as Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, have all been punished for breaking animal rights laws and have had their animal sanctuaries shut down.

Yet another member of the Tiger King cast, Doc Antle, also has a long rap sheet of accusations against him. Thankfully, the new show, The Doc Antle Story, attempts to address his troubling behavior.  

As a worker in Animal Welfare for 10 years, my blood boils just looking at the horrific actions of these people. I am even more unsettled knowing that they have any kind of celebrity status.

Joe Vs Carole

On the other side of the coin is Carole Baskin, the perceived voice of good on the show. Carole Baskin is Joe Exotic’s nemesis….Yep! The same Carole Baskin he tried to murder! Twice. Thankfully Carole is a little better for the animals and does seem to advocate for their wellbeing.

The new Peacock series, Joe Vs Carole (yet another spin-off in the franchise), is a retelling of the Tiger King drama from the POV of Carole Baskin. I hoped that this show would be an actual documentary, finally revealing the true story. No, it's a dramatized reenactment that still feels cheap and another way to stir up hype around the series to sell the name. Also, despite being the better end of the feud, Carole Baskin still feels shady as hell to me!

Apart from her ongoing feud with Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin is still caught up in a whole rumor mill that suspects her of murdering her husband, Don Lewis, grinding him up, and feeding him to a Tiger! They have not proven this rumor to be true, but Don Lewis has been missing since 1997 and was declared legally dead in 2002 because no one knows where the hell he is! 

Carole Baskin is also facing a lawsuit from her ex-husband's family in an attempt to force information from her over his disappearance. The case is still ongoing, with the FBI frustrated over Carole Baskins's refusal to cooperate

What the cat shit is wrong with these people?! 

Did she? Didn’t she?

I understand why shows like Tiger King are a guilty pleasure. Dumpster fires are enjoyable to watch, and I guess they make us feel better about ourselves that our lives aren’t as crazy as those on screen. Shows like this can be hilarious, and I have enjoyed my fair share. Unfortunately, TV doesn’t always show us what is really going on behind the scenes. Because of this, I feel that it’s important that we take a step back and look into the people we are giving exposure to and supporting. Especially when that exposure makes celebrities out of those whose actions have had serious consequences on other living things and people.

Perhaps instead of watching the dumpsters burn, we could just turn off some of the on-screen disasters and find something more wholesome for our head jelly.

Like all the fun, wholesome content here on CouchSoup! We’re awesome, and we don’t lock things in cages…. well, except our own Drew Lewis, but he deserves it!

What are your thoughts on Tiger King and its new spin-offs? Let us know in the comments below.

WTF Just Happened in Outlander? S6, E4, "Hour of the Wolf"

Ah, the "Hour of the Wolf." What is this hour, you may wonder? It's the hour between night and dawn, a moment of deep darkness before the light breaks through. I tried to look up the actual meaning but got the absolute creeps, so suffice it to say that this is a scary hour where people die, babies are born, and all manner of stuff goes on. It also fits all the major themes of this episode, so let's start recapping, shall we? 

Spoiler Alert: We are recapping the episode, so there will be spoilers past this point. You've been warned! Turn back now if you wish to stay unspoiled.

WHAT HAPPENED

The episode opens with a flashback to the ceremony where Ian is adopted by the Mohawk. After he has been welcomed into their family and named Okwaho'rohtsi'ah, or "Wolf’s Brother," he and a young woman lock eyes, and we automatically know this is the woman from his mysterious past. 'Cause, why else would they share that level of prolonged eye contact?

Fergus receives a mission from Jamie

With the central story now set up, we cut to "present-day" at the Ridge, where Jamie sends Fergus on a journey to sell goods and check on Jamie's aunt Jocasta. Fergus sees through Jamie’s plans to give him some space from his worries as a way for him to heal, and Fergus shares his gratitude that Jamie saved his life. Jamie responds that he’s simply balanced the scales. The score was as uplifting as my super sappy smile at Fergus appearing hopeful once again. 

Meanwhile, Major MacDonald is staying with the Frasers and sneezing all over the place because of his cat allergy. The Fraser clan is outside firing the newly delivered muskets, and Roger’s aim is improving (he wasn’t the best shot last season). I was happy to see Brianna (who’s a great shot, considering she shot her rapist and much-hated villain Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) in the head at a considerable distance) out there, as well. The major tells Jamie that the guns he brought for the Cherokee are tried and true, but he calls the chief by the wrong name. Ian promptly corrects him, in true clapback style, and the now-miffed major conveys that the Governor wants the chief to swear loyalty to the Crown. 

Jamie is concerned for the Cherokee

At that point, Brianna excuses herself. Jamie finds her on their porch, where she explains that the guns won’t be enough to protect the Cherokee. They discuss the cruelty that the American government would show toward the indigenous people in about 50 years, and Jamie expresses that he knows what governments are capable of. His history as a highlander in Scotland around the time of the Highland Clearances gives him a unique, personal perspective of what's coming. When Brianna shares that the removal of indigenous tribes from their homes will be known by history as the Trail of Tears, Jamie is visibly moved.

He carries this knowledge with him when he and Ian take the guns to the Cherokee. Ian sees Kaheroton (Braeden Clarke), a member of the Mohawk tribe who was pretty much a brother to him, but Ian is not–I repeat not–happy to see him. Later, he tells Jamie the full story about the woman we saw in the opening of the episode. Her name is Wahionhaweh, though he called her “Emily" while he was still learning the language. We cut to a flashback where she gives him a small amulet she had carved in the shape of a wolf’s head. While hunting in the woods, Kaheroton flicks the wolf’s head amulet, now on Ian’s necklace, explaining Wahionhaweh (Morgan Holmstrom) has chosen him as a partner. 

As is the nature of flashbacks, things progress fast. We see some glimpses of their relationship, and boom, she’s pregnant. Sadly, there are complications, and while Wahionhaweh lives, their baby does not. Ian was not able to see his daughter’s face before he buried her. Jamie and Claire lost a child as well, so Jamie sympathizes deeply with Ian’s pain. Wahionhaweh and Ian continue to have trouble conceiving, so the Mohawk tell him to return to his family, the Frasers, believing that the reason they’re having so much trouble conceiving is because his spirit isn’t Mohawk. Angry, Ian storms back to Wahionhaweh, only to see her with Kaheroton. And yikes, the betrayal is real. She sends Ian away, but she is clearly very unhappy for having to follow this cultural tradition of moving on to another partner for the sake of producing children.

Meanwhile, on the Ridge, Claire is testing her ether. She shows Malva how to administer it, and Malva gets quite excited about the prospect of being able to operate on someone without them feeling it. She still makes me a wee bit nervous, but I’m still withholding my judgment… for now. In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit back and forth about his character. Is she cool peeps, or is she suspicious? I haven’t decided yet. Whatever my feelings maybe, she and Claire are getting along well. They’re being super sneaky and aren’t telling her father all the medical stuff she does while helping Claire. 

Ian confronts Kaheroton

Back with the Cherokee, Jamie delivers the guns, and Ian confronts his Mohawk family. He learns that Kaheroton and Wahionhaweh had a son. It’s heartbreaking for Ian; his friend has a son, but he lost his daughter. Ian stalks over to Kaheroton, draws a knife on him, and a fight ensues. Jamie and another Indian agent named Alexander Cameron (Michael Geary) break up the fight, but Alexander is clearly not the type of person we want our characters hanging around. He's like that friend someone brings home who you just know is bad news. Alexander draws a knife on Kaheroton and tells him to pack and leave, but things don't stop there. Alexander is drunk and taunts the Mohawk. Just super, super disrespectful. Kaheroton is about to club him, and I was 100% here for it, but Jamie convinces him not to. Instead, Kaheroton demands an apology, and rightfully so. But Alexander pulls a gun… because he’s horrible and unfair bringing a gun to a knife fight. When Kaheroton readily accepted Alexander's challenge to a duel, my heart sank. Jamie tries to dissuade Alexander, but he refuses to reconsider. 

While they prepare for the duel, Ian shares with Jamie his concerns for his daughter’s afterlife, fearing God brought Kaheroton to the village to punish Ian for something. Jamie reminds him that God is merciful, and tells him he lost a daughter as well. Based on Ian’s reaction, he didn’t know. For some reason, I thought Jamie had told him before now, but this was good timing. It’s a very emotional moment (there are a lot of these this season), and they pray that Jamie’s daughter will find Ian’s in Heaven. This brings Ian comfort and a sense of peace. Afterward, Ian offers Kaheroton Jamie’s pistol in a moment of forgiveness. Kaheroton takes the pistol and gives Ian his war club in return. Kaheroton then expresses concern he may die. He asks Ian to look after his wife and son if that happens, and he gives Ian a beaded bracelet like the one that Wahionhaweh had originally given Ian during their time together. Ian accepts by taking the bracelet, and it's a bit of a complicated brotherhood there, but I’m here for it. 

As far as political matters go, the chief does swear loyalty to the Crown. Jamie pulls him aside, however, and, once they're in private, tells him about the Trail of Tears. He does this in a veiled way by explaining that the women in his family see the future in dreams. Pretty clever cover if you ask me! The chief agrees to tell his children and grandchildren about this warning, so when the time comes they may hope to survive the events. This is where Jamie drops his line from the Season 6 trailer, "Whoever you fight for… fight for yourselves."

Kaheroton vs. Alexander - the duel begins

They all get ready for the duel, but Alexander, the dirtbag that he is, cheats and turns early. Ian stays ready, though, and knocks the gun out of Alexander's hand with the weapon Kaheroton had given him, effectively saving Kaheroton’s life. Cue the meaningful eye contact. Jamie, once again bringing the "well damn, bruh" to the screen, says Kaheroton can return fire at will. Alexander turns into a sniveling mess real quick, and Kaheroton lets him off easy, choosing to let him live in his cowardly shame. Ian gives Kaheroton the bracelet back, and Kaheroton departs. Before leaving for the Ridge, Ian lets go of his wife’s memory by sending the wolf’s head amulet down a calm part of a nearby creek. He decides he doesn’t have to live conflicting lives but can merge them together. This ties up a long storyline, and I'm happy to see Ian has made peace with his past.

Back on the Ridge, Malva is helping Claire with some work when Jamie returns from his time with the Cherokee. Claire excuses herself, leaving Malva to stay and clean up. In the stables, Jamie drops another line from the trailer, telling Claire he’s struggling between his life as a rebel and a loyalist, an Agent for the Crown and an enemy of the King. He says he’ll resign as an Indian agent, and Claire is her lovely supportive self. They get down to their regularly scheduled roll in the hay, which I use as a euphemism because they’re in a barn so it seemed appropriate… and, wait for it: Malva is watching through a window.

WTF

Malva... what is she thinking?

Okay, we need to talk about it. 'Cause… ewww. Malva stood all up on her tiptoes just to peek through a window and watch Mr. and Mrs. Fraser knock boots… and other things. I knew it! Something was just off about her. She's got guts like I said in my other recap, but yikes. Maybe she's got a bit too many guts. Too much guts? You know what I mean! Outlander is a sex-positive show, but watching without permission is a no-no, and Malva seemed mighty interested. Creeeepyyyyy…

WHAT STANDS OUT

It's taking me considerable effort to get away from the creep factor that is Malva right now. I really want to know what her significance will be to the greater story. For her to be this much of a focus character, it must be something important. Will she be helpful somehow? Will she stir some stuff up? I haven't read the books, and we show-only peeps have yet to see what's up.

Jamie gives Alexander a piece of his mind

All the yuck aside, this episode drives home the point of "choosing a side." Tying in with the title, "The Hour of the Wolf," Ian confronts his worst fears, and his past is resolved. Loose ends are tied up. Jamie, seeing Ian's journey and hearing what Brianna has told him, has chosen his side: enemy of the Crown. After seeing how Alexander behaved, it may have even given him even more clarity that most European colonists are just in it for themselves. Even Malva's true colors showing fit the overarching theme. There's no more time for false pretenses, and the show is going to jump right into the conflict. 

WHAT'S NEXT?

Something I've been a bit suspicious about is coming to the surface and requires a bit of explanation because I haven't really focused on this side story in my previous recaps. Remember the woman that Roger “rescued” from a supposed haunting by discovering a stowaway bullfrog in her milk pail? Welp, he's been helping her out, building her house, and such. She's a widow with some kids, and they've been spending a lot of time together. Now, we aren't jumping to conclusions, but based on the next episode preview, something is afoot. Brianna expresses concern about the time Roger and the woman spend together, and this jumps us right into the theme of loyalty. Jamie is breaking his oath to the Crown and is worried about what his family might think. We get some glimpses of his aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and his friend John Grey (David Berry) presumably reacting to the news. John Grey, who I am super happy to see returning to the screen, is a ride-or-die character. I think he'll understand where Jamie's coming from. But Jocasta… we’ll see how she reacts. In short, the tide has turned, and we're probably getting some more action in the next episode. The Frasers' allegiance is to the new nation being born, and it's a rare birth that's without blood. 

How do you think Jocasta and John Grey will react to Jamie's decision? I do like some good old-fashioned fictional family drama, but Jocasta didn't look too pleased…

Our resident Potterhead breaks down Hogwarts: Tournament of Houses and why fans love it

Well, your resident Potterhead is back! The new game show on TBS called Hogwarts: Tournament of Houses has wrapped up a 4-episode first season, and you know I have to dive into it! 

The series is here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the first movie of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (I’m sorry, did you say 20 years?) When I first saw the trailer for this, I was naturally SO PUMPED. Then I started thinking about it: "How has no one done this before?! This game show literally writes itself!" 

SPOILERS AHEAD: If you would like to watch the show without knowing who wins, go to it now, then come back to finish reading!  

Catch the first episode for free at TBS.com.

To really get into what I love about this series, let’s walk through the structure of the episodes. The magic for HP fans is in how they put everything together.

The premise of the show is that 3-person teams representing Hogwarts houses face off in each episode with Dame Helen Mirren being the magical host. The fact that Helen Mirren is the host is one of the best things about it precisely because she was not in the films. Here's what I mean: The show opens with her walking towards the camera with a briefcase, setting it down, and declaring, "Well, finally, I have arrived. Tonight, I take my rightful place in the world of Harry Potter." her tone has just the slightest hint of sarcasm. Just twist the knife in deeper, Dame Helen! This pettiness is on a level I strive for! She keeps it going through the episodes, making continuous jabs at the fact that she was not in the movies, and it makes it so fun.

Dame Helen Mirren preparing for the evening of jabs and snark!

Here's how the tournament was set up:

The studio is decked out in all things Harry Potter, including the podium Dame Helen is hosting from. There is a small studio audience that she proclaims are the "world's biggest Harry Potter fans," but I need to interrupt right there and say, of course, that since I am not in the audience, that is not possible. Moving on... 

The studio audience is only fans rooting for the houses who are playing that night. So, for Episode 1, the audience was Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. This in-person audience is significant because the show chooses the contestants from the audience. And how else would they do this but by sending an onslaught of envelopes cascading from a fireplace that Dame Helen must catch, of course! It’s a fun intro, but the best part is the child-like glee on Dame Helen’s face and giggles the entire time she is trying to catch 6 envelopes. Then, after reading out the names, beautiful show editing has the contestants step out of the fireplace as if they have traveled by Floo Powder. Naturally, the HP geek in me is LOVING THIS. I'm sold, wine poured and ready, let's get this game started!

After Dame Helen asks questions to get to know a couple of the contestants, we dive right into Round 1: The World of Harry Potter. Each team is shown a scene from one of the films. The first question based on that scene is worth 10 points, the second is 20 points, and the third is 30 points. The first question is based on observations of the scene, and the ones that follow challenge the players' knowledge about that film. 

Seriously? What is there to debate?
Of course it was a light fixture!

Here's where I found one thing that irked me about the show: in this part, when the teams get their question, they then deliberate and explain why they are coming to the conclusion they are. That's frustrating and slightly annoying from a watcher’s perspective that is also a fan, because, to me, you either know it or you don't. No deliberation is needed! However, I'm sure they were asked to make it seem a little more difficult for television's sake, and deliberations give it that impression.

After Round 1, we of course need the official scorekeeper to let us know the scores, and who better to do that than Luke Youngblood! Luke played Lee Jordan in the films, the Gryffindor student who was the announcer at Quidditch events. Luke appears out of a sliding panel in the wall and provides an update. When he first does this in Episode 1, Dame Helen proclaims she's seen him before but can’t figure out where, and is certain it's not because they have worked together. Keep it going, ma’am!

The scorekeeper is none other than Luke Youngblood (a.k.a. Quidditch scorekeeper Lee Jordan).

With the Round 1 scores read, it is time for Round 2, aptly named The Dueling Club. The questions go up to 10, 30, and 50 points. The teams also have to choose members on the opposing team to answer the questions, with the 50-point question being the hardest. 

My fellow Gryffindors went wild seeing Matthew Lewis appear on the game board.

This is where strategy comes into play, which seems a little goofy at this stage.  Each team must choose a person on the opposite team to answer each specific question based on their knowledge of the HP series. For example, the Hufflepuff team should choose the most knowledgeable Gryffindor team member to get the easiest question (worth 10 points), saving the hardest question (worth 50) to the least knowledgeable person, who's most likely to get it wrong. Because the players have seemingly known each other for all of 10 minutes, this becomes tricky. The houses (audience) also play along and help add to the total score at the end. For the 50 point difficult question, they bring in former actors or huge fans of the series, such as Matthew Lewis, (Neville Longbottom), Simon Fisher-Becker (the Fat Friar), and Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live cast member and a huge fan of the series). 

Round 3 is the Department of Magical Games in which there are several magical charms shown on the portrait wall, each representing a different style of question. The houses take turns choosing the style they want to play, with each question being worth 50 points. However, if the first house that attempts a question answers it incorrectly, the other house can steal it with a correct answer for 30 points. Each Round 3 question is inspired by a theme, and for Episode 1 that theme is Places.

Each team picks a charm and answers their question accordingly. For example, in Episode 1, Hufflepuff chooses Revelio, where they must uncover what happens next in a scene shown on the portrait wall. Gryffindor chooses Accio, where the show has summoned an actual prop from the films: they have to choose between 3 couches and determine which one was the actual couch in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 that Hermione's parents are sitting on when Hermione wipes their memory for their safety. *crying softly in the corner*

What I enjoy about Round 3 is the vast jump in the difficulty of questions compared to the other 2 rounds. Initially, with Round 1, the questions seem childishly easy. Then we get to questions where you can’t see anything, you only hear a noise from a scene in a film, and you have to identify what it is. Now this is the difficulty level where I am challenged!

The show ends with Round 4, called The Golden Snitch. In this round, teams answer 6 increasingly difficult questions at the same time, and the house members in the audience participate as well. Each question is worth 50 points, but if the houses answer all 6 questions correctly, they double the 300 points to 600! 

Gryffindor House audience members cheer on the contestants and answer questions to help their team in the final round.

After the Round 4 questions and answers, we get the final tally from Lee, er, Luke. In Episode 1, Hufflepuff beats Gryffindor (boo!), and in episode 2, Ravenclaw beats Slytherin (what!).  

Dame Helen promised that both Gryffindor and Slytherin will have a chance at redemption before the tournament is over, and they did! Episode 3 was a showdown for the ages, and Slytherin beat Gryffindor to secure a spot in the final.

This is the basic format for all of the episodes until we get to Episode 4. Starting that final episode, there are 3 teams, the winners of the first three episodes.  To whittle it down to 2, each of the 3 players from the same team must answer their own, individual questions while also being the fastest to press the button to answer against the others. This was a sly way of eliminating players. Ravenclaw jumped to an early lead with 2 players already answering correctly, leaving 1 player on their team who ended up getting answers wrong. That cost Ravenclaw, allowing Hufflepuff to secure their spot in the final! In the most unexpected twist of them all (that’s the Gryffindor in me), Hufflepuff went on to win it all, beating Slytherin!

Hufflepuff champions with Dame Helen Mirren.

Speaking of the final, the prizes! The winning team received a Harry Potter trip of a lifetime! It includes visits to the new New York City store, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, tickets to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, tickets to The Cursed Child, and an advanced screening of The Secrets of Dumbledore. They also get to hoist a trophy reminiscent of the Goblet of Fire!

While the series does seem a little campy and child-like at first, its beauty is that it appeals to both adults and children and is aimed at being family-friendly. The fact that Harry Potter is still this relevant to this day makes my inner child scream with joy! (But not audibly, I would get stared at a lot.) I am so excited to see more of this series if they decide to make more seasons!

Have you watched any of the episodes? What are your thoughts? Are you challenged by the questions? Let me know below!

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 Wrap-up and Omega Theories

It's been a crazy summer of hot days and career changes for me, but Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been a consistent part of each weekend. Since my article kicking off the season, I've looked forward to this time to reflect on the series so far. Now that Season 1 has come to a close, and knowing we have a Season 2 ahead, let's take that plunge into the spoiler-rich Kaminoan depths!

First thing's first: this show is an epic visual and audio experience in every episode. The colors and lighting are stunning, reproducing masterfully crafted live-action cinematography in an animated format. The action itself is worthy of the Star Wars brand and on par with an action-packed Marvel film. Also, the sound design is a perfect match to the visual experience, including the use of the ear ringing effect after an explosion and simulating even the most subtle position changes of characters in the frame.

Completing the show is Kevin Kiner's engaging score, bringing the power and emotion we've come to expect in a Star Wars production. As he did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Kiner finds just the right melodies and impact for each moment in The Bad Batch. One musical moment that stands out for me is his blending the unique sound of Fennec Shand's theme into the action score during her confrontation with fellow bounty hunter Cad Bane.

Omega and Hunter

The basis for this amazing experience is in its writing: the stories and characters were engaging, and I was invested in each of them from the start. Our main characters, the Bad Batch itself, evolve into more than the stereotypes I introduced in my previous article. Season 1 forced them to adapt to a new world where the Republic and the humanitarian values the clones fought for have been absorbed by a cold, oppressive Empire. Former enemies are now allies in the fight to remain free from tyranny, and former allies are now showing them the business ends of their blasters. Crosshair, Hunter, and Omega each evolved a great deal by the season finale.

That writing comes to life thanks to some great performances. I trusted that Dee Bradley Baker would be up to the enormous task he had in the recording booth, and my trust was rewarded. Dee has taken his work from The Clone Wars to the next level. Every character he voices has a wholly unique sound, personality, and emotional profile: the entire Batch, Captain Rex, Gregor, and every other clone trooper, plus a few additional characters. As I watched, I was constantly amazed at Dee's performances, and I'd love to see him get some awards for his work on Season 1. Check out this Entertainment Tonight interview with Dee talking about his work in The Bad Batch:

 

As a quick note for those going into the voice acting career field, make sure you put Dee's website on your personal list of resources to read and reference: iwanttobeavoiceactor.com

Michelle Ang (photo by Sam Nixon)

Complementing Dee was Michelle Ang's performance as Omega, which highlights the character's wide range of experiences throughout the season. Every emotional state is distinct with lots of great nuance in Michelle's delivery. The writing for Season 1 doesn't leave Omega in the passenger seat as a perspective character; she's an active part of driving the story forward. And thanks to Michelle's performance, I feel like I'm fighting with the Batch right alongside Omega!

There's another dimension to my love for this show that I call the "Filoniverse factor." Dave Filoni created both The Clone Wars and Rebels, and he's been side-by-side with Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian, too. The Filoniverse refers to Filoni's original characters and storylines that gained popularity on their own and have cross-connected the shows he's been involved with. The Bad Batch, created by Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau, is solidly anchored in the Filoniverse with cameos from characters like Cut and Suu from The Clone Wars, Hera Syndulla and Chopper from Rebels, and Captain Rex and Cham Syndulla who were in both of those series. As a big fan of the Filoniverse, I was excited to see every familiar character.

Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume (left), and Hera Syndulla (right) appeared as adolescents in Season 1 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a great tie-in with a fan-favorite Star Wars couple from Star Wars: Rebels (center).

Early in the season, though, I was afraid that we would revisit so many other Filoniverse characters that it would take away from the Batch. I had a similar reaction when Ahsoka Tano became part of Rebels: for a few episodes, it felt like her presence put a dampener on the show's standalone story. But the writers eventually balanced Ahsoka's presence in the show without compromising the show's own characters and story. By the end, it felt like I was watching one larger story of the Star Wars universe, not a standalone series.

That's the same impression I have now with The Bad Batch. Rex, the Martez sisters, Hera, and more crossed over, but in a way that looks like we were just seeing some missing chapters in their lives. Everything is still tied to the story of the Batch, which is intrinsically linked to everything going on in the galaxy during this transitional time. I hope that balance remains moving forward to Season 2.

The Bad Batch helps Cid retrieve a spice shipment in an action-adventure sequence from S1:E13, "Infested."

I'll have to do another article soon reflecting on how this show and others are developing and cross-connecting the broader Star Wars universe. There's a lot ahead with the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano series, the continuation of The Mandalorian, and the new Boba Fett story. I am loving seeing all these brilliant creators working together to tell a single epic and engaging story. (And maybe us Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order fans will eventually get the Cal Kestis cameo we had hoped to see when the Bad Batch was on Bracca.)

Now, though, I want to go back to Omega and talk a bit about this ongoing mystery and popular theory about what makes her unique as a clone. 

Omega tells the Batch about a hidden access to enter the cloning facility on Kamino.

What we know: We've learned that Omega is an "unaltered" clone, so she doesn't have the rapid aging and soldier-related enhancements of her brothers. She's also female and doesn't display Jango Fett's physical features. It certainly makes sense that using Jango's X chromosome and not his Y chromosome would have affected gene expression. That said, The Clone Wars and Rebels aren't known for a lot of subtlety when it comes to hinting about character origins and abilities, so I suspect The Bad Batch is following that model. That leaves me asking:

Is Omega really a Jango Fett clone, or is her genetic donor someone else entirely?

The Force-sensitive clone theory: My question ties in with a popular theory that Omega is a Force-sensitive clone. But I have my doubts about Omega's Force sensitivity after watching through the season twice. Omega does have heightened perception, and she's got a sharper-than-average head for tactics. However, she hasn't displayed the more obvious Force traits like telekinesis. Even in the life-or-death situations, she was in during the season finale, she didn't unlock that ability. So if she is Force-sensitive, it manifests differently than the Jedi and Sith we know, or she's going to have to unlock it in a different way.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces Sheev Palpatine (left) to a young Anakin Skywalker (right) for the first time.

Looking at the clues: As I speculate the answer to my question and follow clues from Season 1, the most obvious "who else" answer would be that she's a clone of either Anakin Skywalker or Sheev Palpatine. In the broader Star Wars narrative, Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker told us that Palpatine had been experimenting with cloning technology since before the Clone Wars in an attempt to sustain himself in his rise to rule the galaxy. Also, when we look at the timeline, Omega's "adolescence" would put her around age 13, aligning her creation to two significant events:

Putting the clues together: If we combine those clues with a creative consideration of Omega's character design, we could guess that she's a clone of then-Senator Palpatine as part of his long-term plan. But Omega's curiosity, optimism, and skills in mechanics (when fixing Gonky and Todo 360) may be some less-than-subtle references to young Anakin from Phantom Menace. I would certainly see the logic in her being a clone of either Palpatine or Anakin, or some combination of both, maybe with Jango's DNA mixed in.

Is Omega (center) truly a first-generation clone of Jango Fett like Kix (left), or does she have genetic material from a Force-sensitive like Palpatine (top-right) or Anakin (bottom-right)?

In any case, Omega being a clone of a Force-sensitive person would be one explanation for why the Kaminoans hired bounty hunters to bring her back to Kamino. As to whether she'll manifest more noticeable Force powers, though, I'm happy to remain unspoiled and speculation-free as we anticipate Season 2. For now, it's enough for me that she's a clever and fun character to follow.

Crosshair finds his true purpose in serving in the Empire and encourages his Bad Batch brothers to do the same.

Wrapping up my overall impressions, I can relate to the perspective I've read from some viewers that Season 1 felt unfinished. As I reflect, I think it's just because I hoped that Crosshair would return to the Batch by the end of the season. But I think the writers were smart to acknowledge that even without an inhibitor chip, the clones are individuals who can choose different paths and be compelled by different values and purposes. That's a much stronger message overall. Plus, given its place in the Star Wars timeline, this isn't the kind of story they could wrap up with a nice neat bow. 

Once they announced a Season 2, I knew we would see an ending that was more like being in the eye of the storm rather than in its aftermath. Fortunately, they're set up to tackle some new adventures in Season 2. 

How are you feeling about The Bad Batch as we reflect on Season 1? And where do you stand on the theories about Omega's origins? Let's discuss in the comments!

 

Getting Gritty with The Bad Batch

What do you get when cloning on Kamino goes bad in a good way? Answer: The Bad Batch. Fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars love this maverick group of clone troopers so much they earned their own series on Disney+. I'm one of those fans, so I'm excited to share my love with you all, introduce you to the group, and give you my review of the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Star Wars: The Bad Batch logoYou don't have to have seen the other animated Star Wars shows to appreciate this new series. If you have, though, you'll find yourself picking out references to both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about The Clone Wars through its original six seasons (2008-2014), and it wasn't until I fell in love with Rebels in 2015 that I finally decided to watch through The Clone Wars. To my surprise, I actually loved it! So my anticipation was high for The Bad Batch spin-off.

For a little background if you're not familiar with The Clone Wars, it's an animated series that tells the story between two Star Wars prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Disney decided to give series fans a much-desired Season 7 of The Clone Wars (Season 7) to wrap up the series. That was released in February 2020 exclusively on Disney+, and the story partially overlaps with Revenge of the Sith.

But who are The Bad Batch? The Clone Wars introduced a number of clone troopers with unique personalities brought to life by phenomenal voice performances from Dee Bradley Baker. Dee started with a basis of Temura Morrison's voice as Jango Fett and Commander Cody in the prequel films. He then extended that voice into something distinct for each clone. In the show's final season, we meet a group of four such clones that were genetic experiments by the cloners on Kamino. Cody called them "defective clones with desirable mutations," making them powerful assets if you're putting together a special operations team for a tough mission. And the Republic did just that, establishing Clone Force 99, a.k.a. "The Bad Batch," as a highly trained, highly successful team known for their unconventional methods.

The Bad Batch together in battle

The Bad Batch team up to face an army of battle droids back in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In spite of some social media backlash I've seen about them being blatant character tropes, The Bad Batch was well-received in their 4-episode story arc kicking off The Clone Wars Season 7. We wanted to see more, and Disney and Lucasfilm obliged! Star Wars: The Bad Batch debuted on "Star Wars Day" (May 4) in 2021. Dee Bradley Baker might have his work cut out for him voicing all those unique characters, but what a great way to showcase his performances!

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

The rest of this article includes details about the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Let me introduce you to the squad...

Hunter from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Hunter leads the force. He may look like Rambo with the shaggy dark hair and head band, but his heightened senses make him more like Billy, the tracker character from Predator. Hunter is a master of martial skills and moves incredibly fast in his signature knife fighting style. As a leader, Hunter brings his tactical genius, knowing what each of his team members can do, how to keep them focused, and how to best coordinate their approach in any situation.

Wrecker from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Wrecker is the stereotypical big strong guy with a heart of gold and a bundle of enthusiasm. Nothing fazes him as he faces ship crashes and enemy reinforcements as exciting challenges. He also doesn't think much before acting, assuming he can do some superhuman things in battle. And he's usually right. Wrecker is gregarious with his friends, and he's a big softie when it comes to sentimental things. It's hard not to love this guy, and he's easily my favorite.

Tech from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Tech has enhanced intelligence and a talent for breaking into computers, hijacking electronics, and translating languages. He also has stereotypical "nerd" spectacles and a penchant for correcting people or dropping in bits of trivia during conversations. Besides being a seasoned fighter with dual blasters, Tech's accurate, on-the-fly calculations in battle help the rest of the team execute the perfect attack.

Crosshair from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Crosshair is the silent type who always looks brooding and intense. His sniper skills and instincts are as superhuman as Wrecker's strength. And when he takes out his signature toothpick to speak, it's because there's something important to say. The Bad Batch fight scenes as a team show off Crosshair's brilliance and his ability to think several steps ahead.

Echo from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Echo is a recurring elite clone trooper from the Clone Wars series who joined The Bad Batch at the end of their story arc in the show's final season. Presumed dead after an explosion, Echo was captured and enslaved as a cyborg so a corporation could gather and sell intelligence secrets from his mind. The Bad Batch helped rescue Echo, and Echo earned their trust by applying his new inside knowledge and droid-like computer port to turn the tide on the Anaxes battlefront. He's also proved that he's still a top commando on the battlefield.

This team has kicked off their new show with style. Star Wars: The Bad Batch comes in with guns blazing, full of action, humor, and heart. I won't recap the whole 70-minute debut episode here, I'll just reflect on some key plot points and my reactions and encourage you to check out the show. 

The Bad Batch on Kaller in Episode 1

To start off, I have to talk about how beautiful this animation is. Though the series is a spinoff from The Clone Wars, it's building on the major upgrades the series made to its animation in its final season. The character faces seem to be the only artifacts from its highly stylized early seasons. This newer animation uses focus effects, lens distortions, and brilliant camera movement as though on a 3D set with conventional live action film technology. It's easy to forget I'm watching animation instead of live action with CGI.

Caleb Dume from The Bad Batch

The first 10 minutes of the series included a certain padawan who Star Wars: Rebels fans will be very familiar with.

Corresponding with the final events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the first episode starts with The Bad Batch witnessing the infamous Order 66 and trying to make sense of what's going on around them. I was relieved that most of The Bad Batch aren't affected by the inhibitor chips implanted in clones' brains to guarantee they would follow Order 66. As the order goes out, the "regs" turn on their Jedi leaders and kill them. But in The Bad Batch, only Crosshair seems inclined to kill the Jedi, and he's confused as to why. None of the team knows what "Order 66" was until Tech does a little digging.

After The Bad Batch returns home to Kamino and starts testing the waters, Admiral Tarkin arrives. Stephen Stanton returns to his Clone Wars and Rebels role as Tarkin, a performance that adds a unique brand of sinister to the character. Tarkin is strongly inclined to discontinue using clones for the new Empire, and he seems to have it in for this defiant Clone Force 99. That is all except for Crosshair, who is affected enough by the inhibitor chip's programming to file a report about Hunter allowing a Jedi padawan to escape.

Tarkin and Lama Su

Admiral Tarkin and Kamino Prime Minister Lama Su observe Clone Force 99 in a training simulation.

Tarkin's actions usher in the first big story arc for the show. After reading Crosshair's report, Tarkin decides that Clone Force 99 needs to prove their loyalty to the Empire. Tarkin sends the team on a mission to take out some "insurgents" on Onderon. When Hunter discovers that the reported enemy is actually a small group of civilian refugees, including children and elderly folk, he orders the team to stand down. Meanwhile, Crosshair is itching to follow orders and getting increasingly irritated with Hunter. 

In that same sequence, Saw Gerrera explains that the refugees' only offense was resisting oppression from the new Empire. Fans of The Clone Wars, Rebels, and the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should recognize Saw as the Republic-trained guerilla fighter who would eventually become a rebellion leader. Andrew Kishino reprises the role of Saw as he played it in The Clone Wars, which links perfectly with Forest Whitaker's performances in Rogue One and Rebels.

Saw Gerrera in The Bad Batch

Saw Gerrera hints at the rebellion to come.

The episode eventually leads to Tarkin isolating Crosshair and having the cloners intensify the effect of his inhibitor chip. They then send him to kill off his Bad Batch brothers before they escape punishment for treason. I have mixed feelings about this part of the story. On the one hand, it's a good setup to get the guys on the run and in opposition of the Empire while still having a reason to stay engaged: to bring Crosshair back to his senses. On the other hand, opening this way doesn't give a lot of time for new viewers to connect with who Crosshair was as a member of the team. To really get that, you'd have to go back and watch those first four episodes of The Clone Wars Season 7. This missing emotional link was my only major concern about the opening episode.

Omega from The Bad Batch

Omega introduces herself to The Bad Batch on Kamino.

Another thing I'm loving is this new character, Omega, performed by Michelle Ang. Omega is an adolescent female clone working as a medical assistant on Kamino. She follows The Bad Batch around, clearly knows a lot about them, and snoops into their things while they're away. At first, I was worried they were putting her in as the trope of an obsessed fan who's stalking is rewarded by becoming a member of the team. But we find out later that she's already one of them: an experimental clone with desirable mutations who has a strong desire to escape what's going on on Kamino. We don't know what those desirable traits are yet, but she's a crack shot with a blaster the first time she picks one up. I look forward to seeing more of Omega.

It's not a long wait to find out what's next: Episode 2 drops in its usual weekly time slot this Friday. While Episode 1 was long, I'm glad they didn't try to divide it up across three "normal" episodes (20-25 minutes each). The first big chunk of story took us from Order 66 to The Bad Batch being on the run, opposing the new Empire, and looking for a way to rescue their friend.

We know from the series trailer and other announcements that Ming-Na Wen has brought her live action role as Fennec Shand (introduced in The Mandalorian) into this animated series. She wasn't in the first episode, but I look forward to seeing where she comes in!

Fennec Shand, live action and animated

Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian (top) and The Bad Batch.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is just the newest entry in a rich Star Wars universe, with a vast range of stories across film, TV, comics, novels, games, and more. I encourage all Star Wars fans to take time and indulge in the amazing stories that so many talented story writers have brought to life. Even older fans like myself can open their hearts and minds and find something they like about these newer stories and characters.

Look for my follow-up article on The Bad Batch when the season ends!

Have you seen The Bad Batch yet? What do you think so far? Got a favorite character? Let's chat in the comments below!

 

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