The Battle of Winterfell Is Upon Us

Milk

Okay, week one of this final season we got all of the players on the board.  Week two, we said our goodbyes and laid out the plan of battle.  This is flowing very much like a chapter or two of a BattleTech novel in all honestly.

This week comes the battle.

No plan survives contact with the enemy and that is the case with this battle.  We did not see the Night King on the field of battle – either eluding to a grand entrance on a dragon, or something more sinister.  So far, he has not displayed a great deal of strategy.  He uses his army like a blunt object to pummel his foe with overwhelming numbers.  He has to be a credible threat though, so I would count on strategy.  He will whip up a blizzard to obscure his armies.  Fear is his greatest weapon.  He will not necessarily fight on Jon’s terms.

I surmise the following:

  • Those crypts under Winterfell are going to be a kill zone.  Everyone keeps saying that the crypts are safe.  We are putting the innocents and weak there.  We see the crypts in the opening sequence.  Everyone keeps going down there to chat.  They built those sets for a reason! These are red flags.  As a D&D player, let me assure you, they are full of dead Starks and the Night King can raise the dead.  See where I’m going with this? Those people are locking themselves in with a potential slaughter machine.  Even if we don’t get to see headless Ned rambling about, all he has to do is get a few of his troops in there and those poor people will die.
  • We all expect people to die.  If I was one of the writers, I’d kill someone right off the bat, just to throw the audience off.
  • Jon will ride a dragon in battle.  He’s had his training, that was deliberate.  Now comes the time to fly and burn.
  • Bran has a bigger role than just bait. You would have thought someone would have asked him, “How did they defeat the Night King the last time around?”  Seems like some pretty useful information.
  • Arya is the best killing machine Jon has.  And she has had a special weapon made.  This is no small coincidence. Is it her destiny to take out the Night King, his wights, or perhaps the undead dragon?  I can’t fathom that she had the weapon made to knock apart some level one skeletons.
  • I am hoping Bronn shows up for the big dance.
  • There will be a moment when the battle will appear lost.  We saw it at the Battle of Castle Black and at the Battle of the Bastards.  You have to have that moment when the good guys are on the verge of defeat.  Otherwise victory is meaningless.
  • We have only seen a few of the Night’s Watch.  I am counting on the rest of the brothers in black to arrive at some point.

 

Who knows, we may end on a cliff-hanger this week – I can easily picture that.  No matter what, we are at the big dance and the music has started. Game on!

George R. R. Martin and the rest of the books for Game of Thrones – My Perspective

GRRMartin
His success eclipses himself.  

You see it on social all of the time now, “When will he be done with the next book for Game of Thrones?”  It is overdue on a cosmic scale from a writer’s perspective…years overdue.  I don’t miss my book deadlines as an author, so the concept of being years late staggers me.

People want the books because they are different than the series, in some less-than-subtle ways, and they have invested long hours in reading the series up to this point.  More importantly, they have watched the stunning HBO series which has gone far past Mr. Martin’s storyline in print thus far.

I’m not anxious about the next book being published.  Why?  Because George R. R. Martin has done something that I have not seen with almost any other writer – he has made his written books obsolete.  His creation has eclipsed anything he might ever write again.  The popularity of the HBO series is so big, so vast, so visually compelling, that whatever he writes it will be compared to the series, which is nearly impossible to top. Whatever he produces as an author will be held up against the TV series based on his books!  The irony here is incredible.  George R. R. Martin has actually created a situation where writing the books is not necessary.

It is hard to comprehend of an instance where an author’s success is so great because of his works, that he cannot surpass it with the written word.  Perhaps Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  As good as the book is, when the title is mentioned, we all see Gregory Peck in our mind’s eye.  When the sequel to the book two years ago, it was ridiculed and mocked. Her characters and story had eclipsed her own vision.  People were saying that she, as the author, had not been true to the characters that she had created! The readers (and viewers) had seized her work and held onto it so dearly that no matter what was published thereafter was destined to be scorned.

Similarly, Mr. Martin doesn’t have to write the rest of the series because he will be remembered for the HBO series far beyond any words he might write.  He is facing a problem that every writer dreams of, stunning success to the point where his written worlds are obsoleted by another medium – in this case, television.  In fact, producing the books is bound to draw comparisons and raise scorn with fans, because that’s what people do on the internet, they get pissed.  Having seen the series, the haters will whine that the coming novels don’t live up to what they have seen on HBO.  If the books were released now, wrapping up the series, he would draw ire for their tardiness on top of being late, everyone will expect something miraculous.  Writing the rest of the books will only serve to fragment his fan base. I have never quite seen anything like it.

The winning move for Mr. Martin is to not play the game.  As a great fan of his work, I honestly don’t know if I would encourage him to publish any more in this series. His body of work, which encompasses the TV series, is stellar and little more can be done that would improve upon what we have all experienced.

My Predictions For the Final Season of Game of Thrones

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Admit it, you want to see these two together

As we enter the final season of Game of Thrones, all of the fans have an anticipation of what is coming.  I can only come at this as an author/novelist; that is the optic I view the series from. “What would I do if I were writing this?”

As such, I am going to offer my predictions for the final season.  I can’t say these are right, but they are how I would approach this as a fiction writer.  As such, if I am totally wrong, so be it…I can live with that.  As a writer, I look to not doing the obvious for viewers, but what would make their jaws drop.

The Mountain and the Hound will fight…together.  Everyone expects these two to fight each other.  It is so predictable and obvious that I would go another direction.  Rather than battle each other, they will fight side-by-side.  Also, the Mountain has taken a vow of silence until all of the queen’s enemies have been killed.  That was said at the end of season five.  So we may yet hear the Mountain speak.  Will the Hound eventually kill him?  We shall see.  He’s basically dead now, so how will the army of the dead react to him?  Will he turn?

We will see Jaqen H’ghar again.  The writers have shown a knack for bringing back characters after a long time off-screen.  We will see the faceless man again…in fact, he may end up facing Arya in a duel to the death, you never know. The Many-Faced-god demands a price and the girl has been busy with her list.

GOT end faceless
There is only one person worthy to kill Arya

Speaking of our favorite cold-blooded killer, Arya may very well find herself on the throne at Winterfell.  GoT is about putting characters where they don’t want to be.  Jon never wanted to be the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, for example.  To be honest, no tear will be shed if Sansa dies. Arya has no interest in the northern throne, so she may very well end up there as the Lady of Winterfell.

Cersei will be the death of Jamie.  We all expect that Jamie will kill his sister at some point – it almost make sense.  I think her actions, or inactions, will result in Jamie’s death.  The Queen of Thorns predicted it and I think it will happen.  I just don’t picture it being Cersei stabbing him.  Her actions (betrayal) causing his death could be the last thing that drives her bat-shit crazy.

Daario Naharis will return with the Second Sons.  We all know that Euron Greyjoy has set off to go get the Golden Company (mercenaries) for Cersei.  But we have all forgotten about Daario back in Mereen with the Second Sons.  Don’t be shocked when he shows up at a surprising moment.

The Redemption of Theon.  I know everyone thinks Theon Greyjoy will die…but as a writer I think he will survive all of this carnage.  Theon has been part of the series from episode one.  It’s too easy to let him die heroically.  I think his arc will have him surviving at the end, proving to the world he is a good person.

The Death of the Red Witch.  Here’s the thing, you don’t want to be on Arya’s list.  When the Red Witch took Gendry, she said that she and Arya would meet again.  That can’t bode well for her.

Podrick Payne will emerge as a heroic figure.  Our favorite boy with the magic cock has been evolving through the whole series.  His character’s arc is such that we will see him become a true warrior.  Whether he lives or dies…that is up in the air.  Bronn has taught him, so as Brienne – so we can assume Pod will be a full-blown killing machine by this time.  From a writer’s perspective, it is important that he save either Bronn or Brienne’s life at one point or another.  The student becomes the master.

GOT end pod
We may never learn what Pod did in the whorehouse

Bran will fly! The Three-Eyed Raven promised us this.  Now Bran has “flown” as ravens scouting the army of the dead.  I tend to believe he will warg into a dragon at some point.  Otherwise, what purpose does he serve from a plot perspective – other than to tell Jon his true origins – and we have Sam for that.

Ellaria Sand gets her revenge.  Captured by Euron Greyjoy and forced into the dungeons under the Red Keep and made to watch her daughter die from Cersei’s poisoning – she is likely to be mad by the time our characters rescue her.  I picture her being the one to kill Cersei, closing out that longstanding demand for revenge.  It’s either going to be her, or that nun that Cersei left to the hands of the Mountain in the dungeon.  That’s right, I haven’t forgotten about her. We never saw her death, so you can assume she has some role to play, even if only a cameo. While we all expect to see Jamie be responsible for his whack-a-doodle sister’s demise, I think characters that create their own demons and bring themselves down is more powerful. Sidebar:  I think it is actually more interesting to not kill Cersei but leave her mad, locked away in the Red Keep.

Dany is pregnant.  Jon was right, she shouldn’t have taken the word of an angry witch as gospel.

The good guys will win, but…   The cost will be high – it has to be. Dany and Jon have to lose some of the folks close to them.  Victory has to hurt, it has to come at a cost.  Greyworm and Missandei seem ill-fated, and their deaths would be painful for Dany to cope with.  Sansa and Bran dying, while a moment of joy for many of us in the case of Sansa, will tear Jon apart.  The loss of Jamie will tear at Tyrion and Cersei.  Our heroes have to lose something close and dear to them to make them stronger, to give them something to overcome.

Sam the Slayer. Sam will survive this all, I swear it on the old gods and new.  Remember he is armed with Heartsbane, a Valyrian Steel sword he stole from his father.  Valyrian Steel destroys wights.  See where I’m going?  The writers put that scene of him stealing the sword for a reason.  Sam has killed white walkers before, and it will happen again.

Yara Greyjoy will see the world through Theon’s eyes.  Being taken prisoner by a crazy-pirate-uncle is bound to have been horrific for her.  She will be damaged, mentally and otherwise, just like Theon had been at the hands of the Ramsey.  His inevitable rescue of her will change both of them as characters…if it is done right.  What is dead shall never die!

A Hot Pie cameo.  I could see that being tossed in.

Beric Dondarrion (the dude with the flaming sword) has a key role to play. It’s easy to say Jon Snow kills the Night King, but I would not rule this guy out. He’s actually a pretty cool character and the fact that he has died six times already may make him some sort of ringer.

Tyrion’s hope for the future.  I want him to get what he desires. “One day, I’d like to have my own vineyard.  Make my own wine – the Imp’s Delight.  Only my close friends could drink it.”  Personally, that is how the series should end, in Tyrion’s vineyard, children of the survivors running around, him pouring his brand of wine.

Gendry’s romance.  Gendry is as classical character thrust into circumstances beyond his control.  Will he find love?  Will it be Sansa, Arya, or someone else?  Let’s face it, Robert’s bastard deserves more than a glorious death.

 

Moments We Want to See

  • The battle of the dragons.  You know it’s coming.
  • Bronn and Pod fighting side by side.
  • Gendry and Arya’s reunion.
  • Brienne and Jamie’s reunion.
  • As creepy as it is, I want Tormund and Brienne to hook-up.
  • The dragons battle.  We have to see this.
  • Jorah fighting and dying with Dany crying. We love it when Jorah saves her life and I’d like to see it one more time.
  • Lyanna Mormont.  I don’t just want to hear her talk…I want to see her fight.  I think it would be great to have a scene with Jorah and her together too, even if just for few seconds.
Got end mor
I’m mentally prepared if Tyrion dies.  I cannot be if she is killed.

While I am sure I get a lot of things wrong with these – I’m at least documenting them.  What are your predictions?

The Most Important Character in Game of Thrones – Samwell Tarly

Sam
Before you have a nerdgasm, hear me out…

By now many of you are already preparing to rebuttal this post based solely on the title.  I get it.  Sam is not the kind of character you think of as important.  He’s got that sidekick vibe to him, like Robin to Batman-Jon-Snow.  I want to challenge that.  Sam is one of the most important characters on Game of Thrones.  In fact, if Sam wasn’t around, Westros would be hip deep in undead by now.

On top of this, we are in deadzone waiting for the new season.  We haven’t forgotten GoT, but we also haven’t had a lot to get us fired up.  It was time for a blog post on Game of Thrones.

I’m not a big fan of Sam’s character personally, but the writers have masterfully cast him in a role that has a lot of far-reaching impacts.  Moreover, we tend to not realize the importance of what Sam has done thus far.

Here’s the rundown of the things Sam did to save the world well all care about more than our own:

  • Sam prevented Jon from quitting the Night’s Watch.  When Jon wanted to run off and avenge headless-Ned, it was Sam that tracked him down and convinced him to remain in the Night’s Watch.  Otherwise Jon would have been a guest at the Red Wedding and, well, you get it.
  • Sam found the Dragonglass at the First of the First Men and learned it could kill Whitewalkers.  This is kind of a big deal because up to this point, only fire was used to kill the dead.  Sam killed a freaking Whitewalker! The first of the Night’s Watch in generations to do so.  Sure he almost wet himself doing it, but he did it.
  • He helped Bran get north of the Wall so that he could become the Three-Eyed Raven.  Bran would have just been some guy tripping out every now and then in a drug-like-stupor if Sam had not helped them through a secret tunnel to the North.  And let’s face it, if Bran hadn’t become the Three-Eyed Raven, we would still be dealing with Littlefinger, so we owe Sam a lot here.
  • Sam saves Gilly and her son, depriving the Whitewalkers of another wight in their command.
  • In the Battle for Castle Black, it is Sam that releases Ghost who helps Jon turn the tide of the battle.
  • He nominated Jon as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.  Sure, the Night’s Watch would eventually kill him, but if not for Sam he never would have been made Lord Commander, which would have doomed the Free Folk in the north.  Sam’s simple nomination set a great deal in motion from that point forward.
  • Sam warned the ArchMaesters of the threat of the Whitewalkers.  The maesters didn’t seem to know what was going on north of the wall until Sam clued them in.  While they didn’t do much about it – yet, Sam did make them aware of what was coming.
  • He cured Jorah Mormont.  Sure Jorah lives in Dany’s friendzone, but he is a kick-ass character that was going to die until Sam violated the rules and saved him.  This allowed Jorah to go with Jon’s expedition north, capture one of the undead, and laid the stage for the upcoming season of wacky shennanigans.  Without Sam, Jorah would be dying a horrible death.
  • It was Sam that discovered a mountain of Dragonglass was at Dragonstone.  Not only is this a weapon against the dead, it forced Jon and Dany to form an alliance that would be key in the wars to come. If Sam had not discovered this, it is hard to say that the two would be able to find some common ground.
  • It was Sam that discovered Jon’s true heritage (with Gilly’s help).  Bran gets the credit for this, but in reality, Bran was unaware of Jon’s true heritage until Sam told him about the marriage of Jon’s true mother to the Targaryen prince.  Without Sam, we never would have known that Jon is a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.

So there you have it, Sam is critical to the plot up to this point.  More than Headless-Ned, that’s for sure.

#GoT

#GameofThrones

Review of HBO’s Paterno

True crime stuff always pulls me in and I thought it was great that HBO was going to take a run at the Jerry Sandusky debacle at Penn State.  Having seen Al Pacino play Dr. Kevorkian in a HBO show, I was hopeful to get some real insights as to what actually happened during the turmoil of the case.  I thought with the passage of time, we might get some clarity around the events that rapidly unfolded.

I was disappointed.

The HBO film, Paterno, is a bizarre collage of bits and pieces that barely hang together as a movie.  I stuck with it to the end, because I was still in search of some resolution.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Paterno comes across as entirely unsympathetic from a character perspective.  He is detached to the point of senility.  The question remains through 99% of the movie as to what he knew and when he knew it.  Only in the last few minutes do we get a glimpse of how many decades he covered for Sandusky.

The reporter character who broke the case is about the only character you can latch onto as redeemable and her parts are a jumble of disjointed segments leaving you to wonder what she actually thinks and believes.   Her character could and should have been used to guide the viewer through the allegations of misconduct.  In reality, you get the feeling she is along for the ride with the rest of us.

We never see the critical scenes where Paterno is told of Sandusky’s terrible infractions or his action.  All we see is Pacino’s character struggle to remember the event and blow it off as not important.  There are parts of this movie that either were left on the cutting room floor or never filmed in the first place.

Pacino’s acting is great but there is nothing in the character he plays that viewers can or will identify with.  The victims of Jerry Sandusky are backgrounds to a choppy plot.  What was needed here was a treatment like All The President’s Men or The Post. What we get is dull and filmed with lots of strange moving camera angles and poorly written lines about characters none of us can identify with or care about.  It fails as true crime or even as fluff-entertainment.

I was disappointed in HBO this time around, a rarity.

Mid-Series Review of Waco

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Waco is everywhere on TV…there are at least three documentary-style mini-series out there interviewing the survivors of the disastrous raid.  The 25th anniversary generates that kind of true crime nostalgia.  Just to be clear, I am reviewing the Paramount (formerly Spike) network docudrama called Waco.

It might be hard to remember the events accurately.  In 1993 the ATF and FBI raided the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas.  The Davidians were led by David Koresh and were often characterized at the time as being a cult and that Koresh was a madman.  Of course, that is the government’s side of matters.  The raid turned into a gun battle that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 76 of the Davidians.  For those of us who remember the 51 day standoff, it was horrific on many levels, and seemed brutally unnecessary.

Ironically this mini-series comes out at a time when the integrity of the FBI is being drawn into question.  This series subtly provides a backdrop for current political events and takes us back to a time when the integrity of the FBI was at deepening low.  There’s no way the producers could have foreseen some of the parallels that could be drawn, which makes the series more genuine.

Normally I am not a fan of docudramas, but this one has the same polish and excellent writing/casting as FX’s The People vs. OJ Simpson.  Yes, it is scripted, but it does a great job of keeping to the facts.  As a history and true crime author, I had a benchmark coming into this series.  I told my wife, “You can’t tell the story of what happened in Waco if you don’t tell the story in some way, about what happened with the Weaver’s at Ruby Ridge.”  That standoff set the stage for Waco.

The first episode started with Ruby Ridge and immediately I was drawn in.  I knew that the producers were going to try and tell the whole story of the tragic events that unfolded.

Koresh is not a crazed cult-leader. There are a lot of layers to this man.  The series does an excellent job of drawing in the viewers to the life he was trying to establish for his church members.  This is not Jim Jones, but a man that finds himself the target of the ATF because that agency was trying to use the Davidians as a PR event to rebuild their reputation after Ruby Ridge.

David Koresh does not come across as a cult leader, but a victim of sorts.  His followers are not mindless drones in the series, but well-crafted characters and personalities all on their own.

Waco is captivating, compelling, and has outstanding performances.  It pulls you in and holds you tight to your seat.  It doesn’t stray from the truth, but attempts to put it into context…a rarity for Hollywood these days.  If you are not watching it, I recommend you do (Paramount Networks – Wednesday’s at 10pm).  We are just two episodes in and I am truly enjoying this series.

#truecrime

#Waco

Mid-Season Review – Killing Fields – Murder Isle

Killing field3
Isle of Wight’s Best

We’re through four episodes so far of the new season of the Killing Fields and so far Discovery has not failed to deliver.

This season was a big departure for the series.  The shift went from Iberville Parish, Louisiana to Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  Some of the same elements are there.  A frigid cold case.  A grizzled and seasoned investigator determined to see it solved.  The “young buck” detective that is partnered with them.  The seasoned officer sitting in his backyard with a drink at night is still there.  It has the same gritty look and feel to the past two seasons – lots of drone shots, and plenty of twists and turns. Discovery has done a good job of keeping the elements of the series in place as it transitions to a new locale.  Personally, I miss Rhodie talking about the “raggedy-ass” killers though.

The twists and turns are plentiful.  What starts out as the investigation into the brutal murder of Carrie Singer morphs into the two murders that may be connected.  We see some of the new technologies in DNA testing, such as M-Vac systems DNA collecting system, and DNA phenotyping (getting a facial reconstruction of a killer from their DNA), being brought into play.

I know some of this is scripted, but it certainly plays out as realistic.  Often times investigators start down one trail, only to be seductively lured onto new paths as a result of their efforts.  I haven’t bonded much with the key characters just yet – but we are only four episodes in…and frankly, it feels like a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns.

For me, this series is more personal.  Two of the victims of the Colonial Parkway Murders (David Knobling and Robin Edwards) were found at the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge in Isle of Wight County. My daughter and I wrote a book on these serial killings, A Special Kind of Evil.  I have been there many times, taking that long, lonely, sometimes eerie, drive on the James River Bridge.  It was great for me to see the former Sheriff, Charlie Phelps, in one episode.  I interviewed him twice and it was great to associate a face to a voice.

Isle of Wight is a place of contradictions and contrasts.  It is isolated, yet very close to numerous cities.  Like any rural county, there is a mix of characters and backstories that are starting to emerge in the series. It has been a dumping ground for years for Newport News and other cities.  It has a bit of hometown appeal, a dash of redneckiness, and a twist of strangeness that makes it compelling to watch.

If you are not watching Killing Fields – start.  You can get caught up On-Demand.  It is worth your time if you are a true crime fan. Even if you are not, it is a great view into an active investigation – filmed “real time.”  Let’s hope that Discovery’s efforts brings about some convictions in the murders profiled.

#M-vac

#truecrime

#killingfields

Review of the HBO series Gunpowder

Gunpowder
Only HBO can make Guy Fawkes a medieval superhero

Remember, remember!

The fifth of November,

The Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes and his companions

Did the scheme contrive,

To blow the King and Parliament

All up alive.

Threescore barrels, laid below,

To prove old England’s overthrow.

But, by God’s providence, him they catch,

With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

A stick and a stake

For King James’s sake!

I have to admit a fondness for Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators. Oppressed, they sought to change the course of history. There is a bit of a rebel in all of us and in some ways Fawkes and his fellow conspirator’s appeals to those feelings on their most base level.  Of course, in reality, the suppressed Catholics became even larger targets of oppressions as a result of the infamous Gunpowder plot’s horrific failure.

I would say that this review of spoiler-free, but I can assure you, it is not. Series based on history cannot be spoiler free.

When I saw HBO was doing a series on this, starring Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones, I was pretty excited.  Americans only know Guy Fawkes from the movie “V for Vendetta” so I thought that this was going to be a great docudrama that was both entertaining and educational.

It is a dark series, both story-wise and visually.  There are a number of characters introduced that we never really get to know and invest ourselves in.  As such, their fates do not mean much to us as viewers – which is a lost opportunity.  That isn’t to say that this is a bad series – in fact is very captivating and stimulating, with a bit of a let-down at the end.

The story of English Catholics during King James reign is played out in dramatic fashion in the opening episode.  The scenes of the crushing death of a Catholic resistor was disturbing and unfortunately historically accurate.

Guy Fawkes emerges in the second episode as a bit of a bad-ass. When push came to shove, the plan is hatched to blow up Parliament and the King. The second episode does a great job of building up for a confrontation and conflagration.

The third episode is a cascade on many levels.  One, the bombing plan unravels.  The explanation of the Spanish as the exposers of the assassination is far-fetched (and likely inaccurate) but adds to the intrigue of the story.  Guy Fawkes, who was such a larger-than-life figure in the second episode is quickly subdued and the explosives diffused.  Harrington’s character Robert Catesby, digs in for a fight to the finish, a battle he does not win.  (Sidebar:  I understand that Harrington is related to Catesby, which is incredibly cool.)

I had to research this period for my book on the cannibal clan of Sawney Bean, which certainly helped my personal enjoyment.  I will say that the end of the series was disappointing.  The characters you embrace are dead (not Game of Thrones style either) and you don’t know what happened after their demise.  Even the contemporary impact of the Gunpowder plot is ignored.  The viewer is left wanting more – even some closure.  I anticipated the poem above to be read, or images of Guy Fawkes Night in modern times.  We don’t get these.

Despite the depressing ending, which mirrored real life, the series has a grittiness and realistic feel about it that is entertaining and chilling.  It is well worth the three hours of your time to watch.

A Mid Season Review of The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer on the History Channel

Zodiac Series

I came into this with a lot of apprehension.  I mean, this IS the History Channel.  How they have covered true crime in the past has been fair to good, but they also back projects like Hunting for Hitler which was a bizarre waste of viewing time.  What compelled me to watch was that fellow true crime author Ken Mains was involved.  We write for the same publisher (Wild Blue Press) and I loved his book on cold cases, Unsolved No More.  His involvement meant there might be hope for this series.

I was not disappointed.

Mains and retired LAPD homicide detective, Sal LaBarbera host the show and have come at Zodiac from a completely different angle than I expected.  They are targeting those crimes that Zodiac claimed credit for beyond the ones he was confirmed to have been involved with.  This is proving an awesome approach.  It means we are getting perspectives and names of suspects not commonly tied to the Zodiac case.  Some of these are downright creepy persons of interest that might very well have ties to the more well-known Zodiac cases.

Added to this is the use of the CARMEL supercomputer which is being used to attempt to break Zodiac’s previously unbroken codes.  As an IT guy, I was intrigued by this new angle and approach.  Yes it is geeky, but it is cool.  When the computer began to write Zodiac inspired poetry – I have to admit, the creep factor went up to 9.6.

The combination of seasoned veteran investigators, a new perspective on Zodiac, and the use of a supercomputer has forged a new true crime show that is must-watch TV.  The investigators are engaging, the pace is good, and they are going where the evidence takes them.  I have to admit, I look forward to the new episode every week.

If you haven’t been following The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, I suggest you drink in these first episodes and get up to speed.  New perspectives on cold cases are always welcome additions to what we think we know about these infamous crimes.

#truecrime

#Zodiac

Review of the Netflix Series – Mindhunter – Season One

Mindhunter1
It is all about getting into the minds of serial killers 

Being a true crime author, I’m ashamed that I haven’t gotten around to reading the book that this series is based on yet.  It is a matter of time and priority, juggling my own investigations on top of requests for reading.

I sat down to drink in Mindhunter on Netflix when I was recently sick, doing a rare binge-watch of the series.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This is the story of how the FBI got into the behavioral science of researching the patterns of serial killers. While that topic sounds potentially slow, they find ways of telling this story that grip and captivate the viewer.

This is the story of three characters on their journey into the dark, twisted minds of the murderers.  One is an arrogant and defiant young agent who is willing to break to rules in a rather Machiavellian manner.  Another is a more seasoned agent, more “by-the-book.”  The other is a psychologist that is an outsider to the FBI, who understand the full potential of this kind of research.  It is a good dynamic of characters working towards the same goal, but coming at it from very different angles and perspectives.

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Opposing them is the FBI itself, the resistance of law enforcement agencies to this new way of thinking, and the serial killers they must confront and mentally dissect. It makes for good, solid, and entertaining TV.

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Perhaps the most creepy portrayal in the series.  Just looking at him ooks me out.  

It was fun to see the origins of words and phrases that I take for granted as an author such as “organized,” and “disorganized,” in relation to serial killers.  The portrayal of the FBI as a big bureaucratic organization, fixed in its mindset and approach, seemed fairly accurate to my own limited experience.

Set in the 1970’s the sets and cars are spot on accurate.  I only found one real flaw.  In the first episode they show Agent Ford’s apartment as a tall building in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Sorry Netflix, you’d be hard pressed to find something over four stories tall there, even today.

Fair warning, the first episode was a tad slow for me, but after that it had moments that were pure mental terror to watch.  This is the kind of show you have to commit to…and it is a commitment worth making.

My only critique is the whole storyline of Holden Ford and his girlfriend.  It just feels forced to me.  The sex scenes (approximately one an episode) often feel like they are just tossed in.

I cannot speak as to whether it is accurate to the book – but it doesn’t matter – it stands on its own.

#truecrime

#mindhunter

#netflix