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Stranger Things Season Three Episode 7: “The Bite” Is A Blur of Exciting and Disappointment Moments

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Stranger Things The Bite

With a Russian assassin and an enormous monster running amok around Hawkins, “The Bite” smartly posits itself as a Stranger Things episode about movement, confidentially stating its presence when Mayor Kline yells “are you ready for some fireworks?” To its credit, “The Bite” largely delivers on that promise – but in a surprising twist, it is the quietest scenes of the hour that leave the greatest impact.

On a minute by minute basis, “The Bite” is a pretty thrilling endeavor; examined as a component of a larger whole, it sells the promise of Stranger Things 3 a bit short.

Though Robin and Steve’s extended drug trip becomes a bit cumbersome during the early scenes of “The Bite,” their scene in the mall’s bathroom is the best scene of the season, hands down. While many of Stranger Things 3‘s more outlandish plot notes have drowned out characters like Will and Nancy, the Russian subplot’s provided an avenue to build out a powerful friendship between Steve (once the show’s thinnest character) and Robin (a complete wild card), in easily the most well-crafted arc of the season.

Stranger Things The Bite

It’s rather impressive how much weight “The Bite” is able to give their conversation: though they spent “E Pluribus Unum” being beaten and drugged by Russians, this scene feels like the true climactic moment of their arc, Steve confessing his love for Robin, and her confiding in Steve that she’s a lesbian. Robin’s vulnerability in that moment is so powerfully captured, in a welcome reversal in tone from Mike’s “You don’t even like girls!” comment earlier this season.

Unlike Mike dismissively chiding his younger brother, Robin confiding her truth in Steve serves a powerful moment of character for both her and Steve. For Robin, it is a blossoming of her true self, something she’s finally able to express around someone she truly trusts: how much care is put into her dialogue in this scene is commendable, completely re-engineering what I previously considered one of the season’s more disappointing elements.

Robin wasn’t staring at Steve in class: she was staring past him to a girl in their class, an expression of desire and lust she’s never been able to express, much less even talk about. Her realizing she can confide this information in Steve – right after he confesses his feelings for her, no less – builds a powerful bond between them, supplementing Steve’s moral transformation, while still using the moment to serve her character first.

Stranger Things The Bite

That scene stands in stark contrast to the other relationship scenes of the hour: both Mike’s stammering apology and Murray’s wink, wink monologue (repeating his creepy speech to Nancy and Jonathan from last season – lest we forget, he encouraged them to fuck in his house) lean too much into the awkwardness of their moments, without considering that the underlying stories behind these moments are underdeveloped.

I can believe Hopper’s desperately in love with Joyce, just as I can believe Mike truly loves Eleven: but the legwork needed to establish these relationships as meaningful, dynamic components of Stranger Things 3 hasn’t been done. Mike and El’s conflict immediately dissipates when Mike realizes he loves El (which… he probably already knew?), and there’s never been any inclination Joyce has any interest in Hopper; Stranger Things is asking us to invest in these romances, but they’re built on much flimsier foundations than the Steve/Robin friendship in the very same episode – to say it is emotionally dissonant is an understatement.

When “The Bite” turns its attention away from these less-engaging subplots, and focuses on the dual terrors of Flayer Monster 2.0 and Grigoli, it finally feels like the stakes are being raised, for perhaps the first time in the season. At least, it feels a lot more concrete than in previous hours: Eleven gets infected by a Flayer bite (whatever the hell that means), and poor Alexei’s American dream dies when he realizes the game was rigged against him after all.

Stranger Things The Bite

El’s latest fight with the Flayer is a moment of unification for Stranger Things 3, reforming her relationship as protector of her friends, when they instead have to save her from the monster and tend to her injuries. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot to cling onto: Mike’s not-decleration of love falls flat, and as often is the case, El’s character gets a bit lost amongst the exposition dumps and sci-fi flavor text she’s so closely entwined with.

Does El feel she’s in mortal danger? How does this threat inform her character? These fundamental questions – questions earlier seasons painstakingly depicted through flashbacks and emotional swellings of music – are all but ignored here, instead her dilemmas giving voice to the other characters of the show (except Nancy and Jonathan; Stranger Things 3‘s completely lost the thread on those two at this point), rather than continuing to inform her journey of growth. Sure, she’s learned a sense of fashion and the word “bitchin'”, but it feels somewhere in the last few episodes Stranger Things 3 ditched the arc of maturation and self-discovery it hinted towards.

Ultimately, that renders the more exciting moments of her story, eventually leading them to the mall where Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Suzie seemingly haven’t left all season, less effective than say, poor Alexei’s brief Americana experience, which stands alongside the bathroom scene as the season’s highlights. While the foreshadowing is obvious (Murray explaining the rigged economics of fairs is a neon sign of danger for our communist friend), it’s still heartbreaking to see Alexei murdered at Griogli’s hands, reducing the character to a Russian version of Bob, a character sketched out just long enough to serve their plot purpose, then ripped out from under the audience as an emotional device.

Stranger Things The Bite

It’s effective, but oddly familiar to the broader strokes of Bob Newby last season: once again engaging the theory Stranger Things 3 is remixing the first two seasons to lesser effect. We’ve got a final showdown with the monster looming, Joyce and Hopper dealing with shady government shit, and all meaningful human conflict erased from the narrative just in time for the finale: on a minute by minute basis, “The Bite” is a pretty thrilling endeavor. Examined as a component of a larger whole, “The Bite” sells the promise of Stranger Things 3 a bit short as it neatly arranges its pieces on the board for the (apparently extended-length) finale.

It’s a tale of yin and yang: where Stranger Things 3 has soared with characters like Robin and Alexei, it’s completely failed with Jonathan, Will – and even Eleven at times, whose character development’s been completely forgotten in recent episodes, as Hopper went off on her own adventures and she became a delivery device for the show’s more showy, supernatural moments. I’m sure the finale has a few tricks up its sleeve, but I left “The Bite” feeling underwhelmed Stranger Things will achieve any of the emotional resonance found in its first two season finales.

Other thoughts/observations:

  • RIP Alexei – we’ll pour out a Slushee for you.
  • The Hall of Mirrors scene with Grigoli and Hopper is like so much of Stranger Things: evocative of films that have done the very same thing, just better. plus: how do you not shoot him in the head?
  • It is 37 and a half minutes into episode 7 before Joyce finally wonders what her kids are up to.
  • Poor Mr. Wheeler – poor guy is a good father, and this show chastises him for being a nerd, a wimp, and apparently a big sexual nothing.
  • Remember New Coke? Because Curtis has a long fucking monologue explaining the product placement for you.

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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