It is suggested in the Book of John (the gospel where The Righteous Gemstones‘ seventh episode draws its title from), that Judas, the great betrayer of Christianity, was possibly possessed by the devil during his deception. But his betrayal of the most name-dropped human in recorded history came from a much more human place; it was his jealousy and greed that was his ultimate downfall, his snitching on Jesus eventually driving him to suicide once he realized what he’d done. While I don’t think this season is going to end with Gideon hanging himself, his botched attempt to rip off his family contains echoes of ol’ Judas, attempting to crucify his father in order to make off with the Easter family fortune, forming the foundation of “And Yet One of You is a Devil,” another terrific episode of HBO’s blossoming young comedy.
What ‘And Yet One of You is a Devil” does so well is find the Judas in all of its characters; Judy’s selfish streak, Billy’s jealousy, Jesse’s desperate attempts to feel powerful and relevant.
Admittedly, “And Yet One of You is a Devil” is a bit messier than other episodes; if there’s one-half hour feeling the weight of the season’s many running plot lines, it’s this one. Though some attention is given to Kelvin being pidgeon holed into “Youth Pastor” role once again, and a bit more attention is paid to the familial conflict she’s ingrained herself into the middle of – but the majority of the half-hour is spent observing Gideon’s mental state and floundering on him and Scotty’s plan, which does dull the impact of the episode’s other two stories.
Gideon’s slowly become the most fascinating case study on The Righteous Gemstones, the catalyst for the show’s observations on paternal relationships. Opening on the infamous Atlanta hotel room when Gideon decided he’d had enough of his father’s shit, “And Yet One of You is a Devil” spends most of its running time hyper-focused on Gideon’s internal conflict; specifically, how easy it is for the relationship between father and son to become toxic. We’ve already seen it with Kelvin and Eli; it’s a lot more potent with Gideon and Jesse, as the former admonishes Jesse for his self aggrandizing behavior, and the latter dismisses the son as petulant and ungrateful, challenging him to leave the family and go to California, where he’s bound to be rejected for his Christian beliefs (though this is something I disagree with… plenty of Hollywood is religious, and not in the borderline psychotic Kevin Sorbo sense).
The intergenerational conflict between the two is rich, and only adds layers as the episode continues: as Jesse makes a space in his home for Scotty (who unceremoniously shows up to dinner at the Gemstone home) and admits “he’s not a perfect man” while celebrating on the family yacht (“Easter fucking Sunday,” Amber says at one point, helping explain how they can afford all this shit); which is just enough self-recognition that Gideon begins to get cold feet. It’s always interesting to see the low expectations of children with their parents; as long as they show up and give half a shit, most children are going to stay loyal to the people that raised them, no matter what kind of terrible person they may be.
Smartly, this development is contrasted by the episode’s opening scene, where we see how Gideon and Jesse’s relationship fractured; Gideon viewed his father as a phony, and Jesse viewed his son as ungrateful, since he was reluctant to join the church (and by proxy, the family) and had his own dreams of fame and success, dreams he wanted to achieve away from his family. Throw on a layer of toxic masculinity on both sides, and you’ve got the recipe for the sociopathic nightmare the Gemstone family’s become, in a nutshell.
But the real highlight, as it often is, is Judy Gemstone, and her decision to forego her dreams of performing the Easter collection song, and instead participate in Baby Billy’s much-smaller holiday sermon – even if it doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves through the second half of the episode (BJ’s departure, while rich in comedy, in particular, feels a bit sudden, given how much shit he’s already put up with this season).
Judy, in her attempts to appease her father, saw her gamble pay off when Billy and Eli alike recognized her talent; but the inability of men to honestly express themselves haunts Judy’s story as well, as Billy’s condemnation of everything and anything Eli, rips away her chances at creative expression – and more importantly, making her daddy proud, perhaps for the first time in her life (at least knowingly).
It all builds to the final, climactic sequence, where Gideon foils Scotty’s attempts to rip off the Gemstones, only for him to return with a gun, pistol whip Eli, and steal everything out of the family’s vault. And with the money gone, the fractures between Gemstone family members is only going to grow more potent; after all, there’s not going to be any money for Jesse to buy his wife’s attention with lavish gifts and impromptu, poorly-conceived family photoshoots. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but once Scotty the Devil reveals himself to the family, there’s no telling how quickly the kingdom could unravel; with the Gemstone children already at each other’s throats, it’s only a matter of time before factions within the family form, and everything collapses in on itself, like a Jenga tower going through a black hole.
What ‘And Yet One of You is a Devil” does so well is find the Judas in all of its characters; Judy’s selfish streak, Billy’s jealousy, Jesse’s desperate attempts to feel powerful and relevant. All it takes is a little push and a little gold, and these deeply flawed people are already poised to rip each other to shreds; The Righteous Gemstones‘ captures the dichotomy of that dynamic with aplomb, in another half hour of what’s shaping up to be one of 2019’s best freshman comedies.
Boy, Gideon’s attempts to …. *resurrect* his image within the family were going so well! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
Love how the Gemstone Easter service featured 150% too many lasers.
Adult things Judy does: wears regular panties, and does sex.
“A foe can plan your destruction, but only a loved one can break your heart.” On the nose, sure, but still evocative.
Kobe Bryant and Greatness
Remembering the Legend, Kobe Bryant
As an obsessive list-maker, much of my free time involves me interviewing myself in my head: “So, Sean, what are your top 10 albums of all time?” “Well, Sean, I’m glad you asked…” Thinking about the things – works of art, people, places – that have impacted me most powerfully and for the longest time is, all at once, an exercise in remembering, appreciating and evaluating. Other list-makers can undoubtedly relate; we are many, as I’ve often found in conversation and to my relief. These lists can be incredibly specific (“Top 10 Italian Neorealist Films” or “Top 10 Poets Born in July”) or much more general. They make up the majority of the files in the Documents folder of my laptop. I research, compile and write these without the intent of publishing them anywhere, though I occasionally send some to my family or partner if I feel like they’ll find them interesting or entertaining. This kind of list is, of course, known all too well in our age of the digital and is appropriately criticized for being what we call “clickbait”, a word so integrated into our culture that Microsoft Word recognizes it as a correct word in correct spelling as I write it (I can guarantee that I never added it to Word’s dictionary). These lists appear in waves at the end of every year (more so this past year, hailing the best-of-the-decade lists) and for anniversaries of things – works of art, people, places – that writers feel like remembering, appreciating and evaluating. I read way too many of these lists every year, and nearly all of them upset me because of how much I disagree with another person’s taste that they try to dress up in objective authority. The best lists are the most personal ones that make no claim to be “definitive” (a word that you’ll find in many titles; this is how you know it’s a bad list and that you shouldn’t bother reading it). When an author really pours their heart into a list, it’s obvious and can be as beautiful as any lyric essay by Zadie Smith or Jonathan Franzen if the author is a strong prose writer.
When I published my first pamphlet (or chapbook in the US) of poetry towards the end of 2018, I found myself struggling to do this list-making – a process that had become so enjoyable and natural to me that I must have been making lists in my dreams – when it came to the acknowledgments section at the end of the pamphlet. How could I possibly have enough room to pay tribute to the list of people who have helped me be a better writer (or even a better person who was simply trying to write)? It was impossible. So, I did the easy thing by name-dropping the people in my life who were physically there for me along the way – family, friends, teachers. A more accurate acknowledgments section would have included the writers who have moved me – who have given me solace in difficult times, who have pushed me to challenge myself by their examples, who are always there with me in spirit when I sit down with my notebook and pencil. I could have written a pamphlet-length thanks just to John Keats.
But when I think about my “Top 10 Influences as a Poet”, few poets actually make that list. That list is populated by people who have taught me something about living that has made my relationship to poetry stronger and more amicable than frustrating (most practicing writers have a turbulent relationship with their craft). A few months ago, #3 on that list died. Harold Bloom had been in ill health for a long time and lived to 89, so his passing was not at all shocking. I mourned for him. He was a notoriously difficult man in the world of literary criticism whom many people disliked for his supposed racism and sexism (both nonsense within the context of his criticism but understandable by the unfortunate and common issue of someone not meeting someone else on their own terms and, instead, choosing to do battle with them in the same way that Twitter uses yell over each other with no interest in thinking of the other person as a human being) and for his elitism (no argument there). Reading and listening to Bloom, though, made me fall madly in love with literature and take it on not as an interest but as a way of life, which inspired the subtitle for his The Anatomy of Influence. Bloom, by his own account, was a freak. You would need to listen to several of the podcasts that are out there in which friends of his are interviewed if you are to be persuaded that the myths about his capacity to read and remember works of literature – he could recite Milton’s Paradise Lost by memory, including someone picking a passage at random for him to continue from – were all true. Bloom could only understand life through the lens of literature and especially the writers he loved most: Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Samuel Johnson. To hear him talk about these writers or to see and get a sense of his feelings for them in his own written work was awesome in the true sense of that word. While I find it harder and harder to make more meaningful connections with people in my life who don’t read as I get older, I can always be taken into a sort of ecstasy by any kind of passion. I know nothing about cars. I have no desire to learn anything about cars. I purposefully live somewhere I don’t need to own a car. But if your deepest passion in life is cars and you sit me down at the pub to talk about cars with the same fervor that Bloom could talk about a Faulkner novel or a Dickinson poem, I will listen to and love you as much as I would listen to and love anyone else. There is nothing more attractive and intoxicating than passion, because it speaks to a quality in someone that refuses to be idle or passive in life. What greater crime to our nature than to live on a sort of mental autopilot? Bloom was a major representation of this to me. It’s because of him that I’ve been diligent in either cutting down or eliminating the distractions – mostly technological – that lull me into a mode of simply passing the time. His words and recommendations for reading have saved me from many a depressive episode, and I continuously try to honor his influence on me by reading often and widely, which is – by far – the best thing that any poet can do to become a better poet.
Yesterday, #2 on that list died. And if Bloom’s death was anything but shocking, only the exact opposite could be said of the death of Kobe Bryant. I exchanged some messages with Bloom while he was still alive, but I never spoke to Kobe Bryant in any literal way except for cheers of adoration through a television set in my formative years. The ongoing, unspoken conversation that he and I had from ages 8 (when I started playing basketball, when he came into the NBA) to 31 is something I find too challenging to accurately explain, much like that acknowledgments section. In those early years, my experience is one that probably millions of people worldwide share. Unless you were from a city or area that was fortunate enough to have a competitive NBA team, you were probably following the Los Angeles Lakers if you were a fan of basketball. Some individual players from the late 90s and early 2000s might have been as exciting (Allen Iverson and Vince Carter, especially), but no team commanded the media attention as much as the Lakers. We lived in Ventura County, immediately north of Los Angeles County, so the Lakers became the family team by default, but it’s hard to imagine that things would have been any different if we had lived somewhere else (except, maybe, for Boston, whose hatred of the Lakers is the stuff of legends). So electric and audacious was the Kobe-Shaq duo that the Lakers seasons might as well have been one of the early reality shows to come out of the neighboring Hollywood. They were appointment-viewing, as many of us TV critics used to call things like The Wire or Mad Men back when people actually watched TV live.
I’m sure those millions of people could tell you all about what it was like to grow up watching the Lakers. For me, it was one of two things that brought the family together in the evenings (the other was The X-Files when it was in-season). Dad got the fire going in the fireplace during halftime (some nights in southern California are cold, I promise), Mom made us all some cups of non-caffeinated tea (usually echinacea or chamomile; most of these were school nights) and my brother and I stretched out on the sofas or else tried to convince one of the cats to stay put so that we could pet them. To say that Kobe – and it was always Kobe first and ahead of Shaq, who was incredible but prone to bouts of lack of motivation – was part of the family would be literally incorrect but completely genuine in every other way. Lakers flags went up on the cars. Mom threatened to dye her hair purple if they three-peated (they did; she did). It’s said that Lakers fans bleed purple and gold. In retrospect and after following the path of figurative language, I’m inclined to believe it was true.
All the Kobe-specific Lakers memories – the 81-point game, which we watched at home live together; all the championship battles, with and without Shaq; all the fighting through illnesses and injuries to the detriment of his body but for the sake of his team and the game – are things that sportswriters are better equipped to cover. I spent all of last night reading those articles and reliving some of those memories in-between weeping and moments of disbelief, wondering if the date was April 1st and not January 26th. What only I can write about, though, is why he was #2 on my list of people who have influenced me most as a poet.
I could look at it purely aesthetically. David Foster Wallace, one of the greatest American writers of the last few decades and a former tennis prodigy, gave us a look at Roger Federer in a way that elevates the mechanical act of the body in movement into art. This is that capacity for passion: I don’t really care for tennis, but I could happily read and reread Wallace writing about tennis. We never really got the same treatment of Kobe’s artistry on paper. We did, however, get Spike Lee’s permanent documentary, Kobe Doin’ Work, which does the job just as admirably as Wallace. The impossibility of some of Kobe’s shots, his understanding of and connection to the flow of the game that was so frighteningly comprehensive and seamless (if a basketball game could function like a reading of Paradise Lost, I venture you could drop Kobe in at any point and he would pick up and play in a way that, like Bloom, you would just understand that it’s second nature to him in ways that most humans will never experience with anything in their lives). Some of this you can see and feel in Lee’s film. The rest you can catch in analysis and clips widely available, luckily, online. As a poet, I could just sit back and look at Kobe – one of the greatest artists working in his medium of all time – and be vaulted into purpose by inspiration from seeing what the best looks like. Writers learn best from reading the best that has been written (a long-time axiom of Bloom’s). I think that works between disciplines, too. Why might a composer not learn something about their relationship with music by seeing and understanding one of the greatest of chefs at work in the kitchen? A dish is a composition itself, after all; variable components need to be put together to create something transcendent. And watching Kobe play basketball is absolutely that transcendent experience. We marvel at what Steph Curry has done to the game of basketball by seemingly taking proximity to the basket out of the equation; seeing Curry put up three-pointers is, without a doubt, beautiful. But Kobe’s work happened everywhere on the court and for every second he was out there, finding any possible margin of error in the defense. Like great writing, it looks so natural and easy; it is not natural or easy.
My biggest takeaway from Kobe, though, is his approach to the game of basketball, which was also, of course, his approach to life. If you’re going to bother doing something, why give it anything other than your all? Like with Bloom, there were a lot of people who didn’t like Kobe. The opposition had their obvious reasons, but teammates of Kobe’s who showed any signs of laziness or passivity wouldn’t last very long in that state. If you were going to play alongside Kobe Bryant, you damn well better be in the gym first thing in the morning and doing everything you can to achieve the goal: greatness. Basketball players talk about championships as the promised lands, but greatness doesn’t stop in June after the winners have been decided. Not for Kobe, at least. We didn’t really understand just how seriously Kobe took that to heart until after he retired and we started seeing him smile and look happy, no longer burdened by the need to put the pursuit of greatness in basketball above all else. What mattered then was the pursuit of greatness as a father and husband. What better reasons to smile and look happy?
If you talk to other writers about their processes and struggles, you’ll encounter all sorts of challenges to greatness they face; Kobe probably would have called them “excuses”. Writer’s block is a common one. If you take the Kobe approach – the Mamba Mentality – writer’s block doesn’t exist. Imagine Kobe the poet (easy to do, because the man actually wrote poetry and won an Academy Award for the film adaptation of it). These writers – and I have been guilty of this in the past – who could tell you about times when they just couldn’t write or write well or make the time to write alongside everything else going on in their lives would have been those teammates of Kobe’s who would get an earful. Kobe the poet would have been someone who woke up, recited a few of the poems most important to him from memory and went straight to the notebook or document, toiling away for hours until something like the best of Yeats or Ashbery came out, day after day. I’d like to say something like “Kobe’s process with basketball is not easily translatable to a writer trying to write”, but I honestly don’t believe that anymore. I think if a poet genuinely has greatness in mind as their goal, then there are only excuses that get in the way of that. And, recently, I’ve become tired of making excuses for myself and my own writing (or lack of writing), and I’ve certainly become tired of listening to poet friends of mine make their own excuses. The Mamba Mentality has been something that I’ve tried to adapt to my own life. It has caused a lot of arguments, especially having to do with simply not having enough time to write (usually claimed by people who spend hours of their days scrolling through social media, sometimes without even knowing that they’ve done it). I think it has also probably caused diminished friendships. But reading and writing mean so much to me – more than anything else I’ve ever done in life – and I am at my happiest when I can see and hear Kobe as I sit down to do either activity. It can be painful trying to hold yourself to that standard, mentally more than physically. But that is the legacy Kobe Bryant has left to me – to not settle for anything less than greatness, which requires intensive study and practice, and to hold myself accountable for my shortcomings and not fall back on excuses. Kobe played through broken bones; I can write through colds. Kobe could have left the Lakers and got more championships by joining other great players, but he stayed in Los Angeles and played the game the right way; I can keep trying to find my voice by being authentic to myself and not changing my style so that it fits certain molds that might be more publishable or populist. Kobe ruptured his Achilles (an appropriate injury for one of the greatest warriors that ever stepped foot on the basketball court) and came back to the game because he wasn’t done yet; I was one or two more days away from a complete nervous breakdown and needing to be sectioned last year before my family came to my aid, and I am now more ready than I’ve ever been to get back to that obsessive love of literature. Kobe gave me all of that.
These are only the first things that come to mind when I think about Kobe Bryant’s impact on my life. I still have much mourning and contemplation to do, as do so many others. And there are some aspects of the news from yesterday that are just unfathomable. Kobe was a part of the public sphere and, because of that, we feel the right to express our thoughts and feelings towards him because of how deeply he touched so many of us. But to try to consider what it must be like for a mother-wife and a daughter-sister old enough to understand the severity of losing 13-year-old Gianna along with Kobe (and to have to think ahead to when the other two daughter-sisters will be processing these losses later in life) – this is beyond anything else. It is not my place, even as someone who has spent the last eight years trying to manage my own grief. To begin thinking about that is to willingly run into madness. The only solace for us is knowing that the family has so many people around them who knew Kobe and Gianna well as people, because the family is truly beloved. My heart goes out to anyone else who was positively affected by Kobe Bryant in their lifetime, and I encourage those people to tell their own stories – to remember, to appreciate, to evaluate – as privately or as publicly as they are able. It will be some time before things start feeling anything close to normal again for us. That is okay. That speaks to the greatness of Kobe Bryant.
Royal Rumble 2020: The Good, The Bad, and The Tolerable
Saying the Royal Rumble is the hottest of the big four pay-per-views in WWE is not a hot take. Sure, it the first stage of setting the card for WrestleMania. Fans love the actual Royal Rumble match because truly anything can happen in it.
Some of the biggest returns and debuts have happened in that match. Winning it has made wrestlers into superstars. Anyone could win the Royal Rumble and go on to headline WrestleMania. Usually, the person you expect to win does. Sometimes, it’s the person you least expect.
The 2020 edition of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view was the third one to feature two Royal Rumble matches; one for the women and one for the men. Both matches were solid with the right amount of surprises.
Royal Rumble Pre-Show
The two-hour Royal Rumble Pre-Show is filled with video packages and analysis that are somewhat tedious to watch. If it was half an hour, that would be okay. But two hours is a lot to sit through. Fortunately, they usually manage to sneak a couple of matches in.
The returning Sheamus took on Shorty G in an attempt to prove that the SmackDown locker room is weak and lazy. Picking on a guy half your size is always a great way to show people how tough you are. It was a surprisingly competitive and engaging match, with both men getting some good spots in.
Ultimately, Sheamus won but Shorty G still looked good.
The second match was Humberto Carrillo taking on Andrade for the United States Championship. Both men are incredible talents who play very well off each other in the ring. Andrade won but Carrillo is a future champion.
Falls Count Anywhere Match
The feud between King Corbin and Roman Reigns feels like it’s been going on for far too long. It jumped the shark when Corbin and friends broke out the dog food. Hopefully, their match at the Royal Rumble is the wrap-up and the Big Dog can move onto something else.
Reigns and Corbin took a trip around the arena, making use of the Astro’s home field. Naturally, Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler showed up to interfere. The Usos had their cousin’s back, though.
It came down to Roman beating the King down and pinning him for the victory. The match definitely was solid but nothing special. The audience isn’t super into Corbin so the energy in the arena seemed a little low.
The biggest spot of the match came from one of the Usos, and not the actual competitors.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
For the third year in a row, the Women’s Royal Rumble match did not disappoint.
NXT was well represented this year. Bianca Belair came in at number two and was a one-woman wrecking crew for a significant portion of the match. She ended up eliminating eight people, as did Shaya Baszler. Combined, they took out 16 of the 30 competitors.
Among the surprise entrants were “Mighty” Molly Holly, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, and Santina Marella. For those who were confused by that one, Santina Marella is the alter ego of former superstar Santino Marella. She eliminated herself, a funny moment that was lost on a lot of the audience.
That being said, it was a shame that one of the many great current competitors in the division didn’t get Santina’s spot.
It’s worth mentioning how good Molly Holly looked in the ring. She was underrated when she was an active member of the roster so it’s always nice to see her get some respect. There has to be a place for her in the modern era of wrestling.
One of the headlines was the return of Naomi, who has been away for some time. She looked like she didn’t have an ounce of ring rust on her. It remains to be seen if this was a one-night deal or if she’s back for good.
Ultimately, Charlotte Flair won and will go on to headline WrestleMania against one of the women’s champions, probably Becky. Charlotte is a great wrestler, but she was the safest bet for the WWE in the match. It would have been nice to see someone unexpected, but deserving get the shot.
Bayley vs Lacey Evans
The heat on this Royal Rumble bout has been building for weeks. Bayley’s heel turn has made her more relevant than ever. It’s also nice that she has been given a respectably long reign as the SmackDown Women’s Champion. On the other hand, Lacey Evans sudden face turn was a bit surprising, but she wears it well.
A year ago, Bayley would have been the face and Lacey would have been the heel in this match.
Overall, this was a solid women’s title match. Lacey looked good for the most part as did Bayley. The end came at a rather surprising moment with Bayley grabbing a handful of Lacey’s tights for the pinfall to retain the belt.
Daniel Bryan vs “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Daniel Bryan’s return to the Yes Movement, plus his new, clean look, has put him back in the title picture. Unfortunately, that title picture features the current Universal Champion, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt.
After already losing to Wyatt and being repeatedly attacked by him, Bryan felt the smart move was to attach himself to “The Fiend” with a leather strap. Nope.
“The Fiend” made his traditional creepy entrance and proceeded to destroy Bryan. Eventually, Bryan came around and took it to “The Fiend.” The match was as brutal as expected with Wyatt coming out on top and Bryan left the Royal Rumble with some ugly wounds.
But the big story of the match is that it did not happen under only red lights, which was really nice. You could actually see what was happening. With any luck, this is how “The Fiend” will wrestle from now on. That red light thing made it difficult to enjoy his matches.
Becky Lynch vs Asuka
The rivalry between Becky Lynch and Asuka has taken a backseat to other storylines, but it has always been there. Lynch asked for the match so she could settle the score between them and finally move on.
This match was as good as you’d expect from two such accomplished and talented in-ring performers in the company. It was highly competitive with a lot of incredible spots for both competitors. When Lynch and Asuka get in a ring together, they make pure magic.
In the end, Lynch retained her championship, but it was a hard-fought victory. This was arguably the best singles match Asuka has wrestled in the past year. Even though she didn’t win, she looked like the Asuka of old, and on the verge of total domination again.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Fans were justifiably concerned when Paul Heyman announced that Brock Lesnar would enter at number one in the Royal Rumble this year. WWE has a bad habit of putting him over in spite of themselves. What does WrestleMania look like if the WWE Champion wins the Royal Rumble?
As luck would have it, no one has to know the answer thanks to Ricochet and Drew McIntyre.
Lesnar tore through the first 13 superstars who came out after him. Number 15 was Ricochet, who was dominated. McIntyre was the next competitor out. Ricochet hit Lesnar with the low blow, then McIntyre hit him with the Claymore Kick straight out of the ring.
Lesnar’s elimination was one of the biggest pops of the night. Drew stared holes through Lesnar until he left the arena. It was a clear indication of who he is going to challenge.
NXT was not as well represented in the Men’s match as it was the Women’s. Only Keith Lee and Matt Riddle made it into the Royal Rumble. Riddle was quickly eliminated, and apparently got into it backstage with Lesnar, but Lee continued his string of great showings.
Lesnar might have eliminated Lee but Lee stepped to him. Brock even looked a little impressed and that doesn’t happen often.
Men’s Royal Rumble Surprises
The Men’s match only had two surprise entrants, but they were great ones. MVP made his return after a long absence. He was quickly eliminated by Lesnar, but still looked great. The second surprise entrant caught everyone off guard when Edge’s music hit.
One of the best in the business was retired by injuries in 2011 and has not wrestled since. He looked amazing, entering at 21, eliminating three people, and making it to the final three. The pop he got when his music started rivaled the one The Hardy Boyz got at WrestleMania 33.
Unfortunately, an odd moment happened with AJ Styles. At one point, the ringside medical staff seemed to be attending to him near the ring apron. He was quickly eliminated by Edge and helped to the back. Hopefully, he is okay.
Excluding the return of MVP, the most valuable player of the evening was Beth Phoenix. She left the announcer’s desk behind to compete in the Royal Rumble again and went on one hell of a run. Beth entered at 21 and hung around until she was taken out by Baszler.
But at some point during the match, Phoenix got a bad laceration on the back of her head. Her hair was soaked in her own blood, yet she continued the match. The injury actually seemed to make her more aggressive. This was the best she has wrestled in years.
Apparently, the angrier Beth Phoenix gets, the stronger she gets.
Royal Rumble Snubs
There were a lot of current superstars who weren’t included from any roster. The only NXT UK star that appeared was Toni Storm, a surprise since Worlds Collide was the night before. Noticeable by her absence was Sasha Banks, whose presence has been minimal over the last few weeks.
Many people were also hoping for returns from the likes of Nia Jax and Ruby Riott. They also did not appear. People were also looking for CM Punk but that is still a long shot at best. It would have been cool if his music hit, though.
It’s also hard to imagine that John Morrison returned to WWE only to get sacrificed to Brock Lesnar in the Royal Rumble. His time in the ring was only a few seconds, a disappointment since he usually puts on a heck of a show.
Fans also might have been surprised to see that Braun Strowman didn’t face Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship. That match was thought to be a lock but it didn’t even appear on the Pre-Show. Strowman cannot catch a break in his hunt for a singles title.
Star Trek: Picard: “Remembrance” Introduces a Different Picard
The question ‘which Star Trek captain is your favorite?’ is perhaps one of the easier questions to answer when discussing Star Trek. For all the charm of Captain Kirk and the intimidation that Captain Sisko imposes, none have been quite so complete has Captain Jean-Luc Picard; a role made much easier when the character is portrayed by one of the greatest living actors, Sir Patrick Stewart. So when Star Trek: Picard was announced, expectations were always going to be high, and when the first episode, “Remembrance” aired, expectations were delivered.
In Star Trek: Next Generation, there are some sublime performances by Sir Patrick Stewart that leave Captain Picard as one of the most emotionally distressing characters in the franchise as a whole. From his breakdown in Season 4, Episode 2, when he visits his brother after being detached from the Borg, to Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11, where Picard is interrogated by the Cardassians, resulting in his torture, there have been moments that have changed Picard resulting in the man we see in Star Trek: Picard.
Indeed, “Remembrance” was entirely emotional from start to finish. This isn’t a Star Trek of the past but a drama for the future. From the ongoing suspense to the incredible orchestra to help define each moment, this is a different Star Trek to other modern adaptions such as Star Trek: Discovery, with a cliff hanger so intense that I’m not sure whether it’s the Romulans or the Borg to be worrying about.
“Remembrance” starts with Picard dreaming about playing poker with Data, only for the planet Mars to ignite in a series of flames and Picard waking up in the panic. Later on, it is shown that synthetic lifeforms attacked Mars previously, which led to a ban on artificial lifeforms in the Federation. This hindered the rescue efforts to save refugees after the Romulan star went supernova, resulting in Picard resigning from Starfleet.
It’s a lot of detail in a relatively short period of time, and Sir Patrick Stewart does a wonderful job of ensuring the mood remains mellow. In fact, it’s a testament to the writers themselves, who have managed to show the viewers the background story in remarkable detail without it feeling too heavy or forced. This sets up perfectly for Picard to meet Dahj, a synthetic lifeform whose life is in danger.
Isa Briones does a fantastic job of portraying the emotional distress that Dahj is in, particularly when her boyfriend is murdered right in front of her eyes. Her strengths are shown in great detail, with numerous small fight scenes with Vulcan assassins, right until her premature death. The problem is sometimes these fight scenes seem like they’ve been taken out of a Marvel film. While it’s great Star Trek continues to adapt to a modern audience, not every feature on TV needs to emulate Marvel; the less of Marvel we have the better.
On that note, it will be interesting to see which direction the series decides to take. Is it going to be more of Picard leading the way in space, or will the series divulge into a Marvel-esque series of action-packed fight scenes? The box has been opened and there are a lot of toys to choose from, let’s hope the writers chose wisely! Or if not, at least we already know Picard can guide the starship, no matter what peril might await us.
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