Why “Pusher” Is The Best X-Files Episode

The X-Files is filled with great episodes, and after nine seasons (and two reboot seasons), it’s hard to pick-and-choose.

However, one episode stands out above the rest as the best X-Files episode, and that’s “Pusher”, episode 17 of season 3.

Because of its intense cloak-and-dagger plot and the uniqueness of the villain, “Pusher” has to be my favorite episode of X-Files, ranking even higher than this episode.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. Let’s get into it:

The Plot of “Pusher”

The episode kicks off with Robert Patrick Modell shuffling through a grocery store, while being tailed by FBI agents. He eventually blows their cover and is arrested for a series of murders dating back to 1994.

While in the back of the squad car, Modell, known as Pusher, uses his psychic ability to make the officer driving the car pull out in front of a speeding 18-wheeler.

As the episode progresses, Modell uses his abilities to influence a federal judge into ruling in his favor, sneak into the FBI headquarters, and prompt a secretary to assault Assistant Director Skinner. Plus, he urges a SWAT officer to set himself on fire and induces a heart attack in the lead detective on the case.

The whole episode is about Modell trying to find a worthy adversary for his games, which ends up being Fox Mulder. As Mulder and Scully start to unravel Modell’s history, they find that he has a brain tumor that has likely triggered his psychic ability.

At the end of the episode, Modell forces Mulder into a game of Russian Roulette, but when Scully pulls a fire alarm to break Modell’s concentration, Mulder shoots Modell and he’s apprehended.

Reception

“Pusher” is one of the highest rated episodes of X-Files, having made multiple lists of the best episodes. IGN ranked it the third best standalone episode, and Den of Geek puts it at number seven.

When it aired, the episode received rave reviews, and raked in over 16.2 million viewers.

It’s understandable why so many people like “Pusher”, as it certainly stands as one of the best Monster-of-the-Week episodes, even after the famous Eugene Toomes episode in season 1.

But there’s more going on in “Pusher” than a lot of people realize.

What Makes “Pusher” The Best X-Files Episode?

Up to this point in X-Files, we’ve seen monsters like Eugene Toomes, who is driven purely by his physical need to feast on the human body. Other monsters are driven by similar urges, few of which exhibit the inherently sinister nature of Patrick Modell.

By the end of the show, Mulder and Scully discover that Modell’s brain tumor developed in 1994, and remained operable for two years. However, Modell refused surgery, instead using his newfound psychic powers to wreak havoc on his community.

This dynamic solidifies a theme that Chris Carter and other writers of the show played with throughout the first few seasons, and that’s the mundane nature of evil.

Modell wasn’t a bad guy before the tumor. He was ordinary in every sense, and never managed to excel past a minimum wage job. He failed to pass the psych evaluation to become an FBI agent, and was deemed to be a narcissist in the same evaluation.

The only thing that set him apart from every other lower-class worker was his haunting ability to influence other people into hurting themselves, and he decided that instead of live out the rest of his life deep in medical debt, he’d rather, as Mulder puts it, “go out in a blaze of glory”.

In many ways, Pusher felt that he rose above the societal and class restrictions that kept him as a supermarket employee with his new powers. He described himself as a ronin, a masterless samurai. A lone ranger, or more aptly, a wolf without a pack. He carves out a new life, one of shadows and blood, as a contract killer.

This is why “Pusher” is the pinnacle of X-Files‘ societal commentary.

For many people, the corporate, governmental, and medical powers that be are the prime culprits of their misfortune. Low wages, bad housing, expensive medical treatments, and lack of mental health assistance make it difficult to rise out of the lower class of American society. Even today, we still see the same problems.

And for these people struggling to get by, sometimes their only option is to turn to darker channels: drugs, theft, fraud, and for Modell, mercenary work.

In the end, Mulder and Scully claim that Modell is just a little man who wants to feel big. I feel like their conclusion is true, but far from the whole truth. I think there were multiple factors that lead Modell to his ultimate breaking point, and the eventual murder of authority figures—police officers, doctors, security guards, and detectives.

Perhaps the conclusion should not have been “he wants to feel big”, but rather, “he’s the evil we made.” Sure, Modell made his own choices, but the tumor that brought him his abilities was perhaps one of the best things to happen to him in his life, which is sad. Could Pusher have been avoided if Modell had access to mental health treatment? Affordable healthcare? Opportunities to climb the social ladder?

What Can We Expect From Russian Doll Season 2?

I just finished watching the first season of Russian Doll, and I have to say, it was a wild ride. Natasha Lyonne’s performance was spectacular, and the slow burn style of the series left me with questions all the way up to the last episode.

But we have Russian Doll season 2 coming out today, so here’s a break down of what happened in the first season and what to expect with the second season.

The Road So Far…

If you haven’t seen the first season of Russian Doll, there will be some spoilers in this article, so you can skip to the section “Russian Doll Season 2 Preview”.

In the first season of Russian doll, we ‘re thrust into a weird, mind-bending, time-altering jaunt that gives a new take on the Groundhog Day repetition sequence. Natasha Lyonne’s character, Nadia, attends a birthday party thrown for her, and at one point dies, only to wake up in the bathroom back at the party. This scene, no matter how many times it’s shown, never gets old.

For a few episodes, Nadia navigates through repeated deaths, each time getting farther from the bathroom at the party, venturing out to look for her cat, get a haircut from a homeless man, and visit the deli around the block.

There, she meets Alan, another person stuck in the death loop. The two team up and start to puzzle out what’s happening to them. Their relationship has a great dynamic, with Nadia’s brusque, offhand pessimism, and Alan’s quiet, demeanor.

Eventually, they realize that to get out of their constant loop, they have to right a series of wrongs they committed in the past. For Nadia, it’s meeting her ex-husband’s daughter, and for Alan, it’s being honest with his girlfriend about their relationship.

Despite the repetitious nature of the dying-waking up-and-dying-again sequences, the show never gets stale. Unlike some other shows that play with time, Russian Doll is hard to predict. Even moments away from the end credits, it’s hard to discern what will happen next, and that’s what I like about the show.

Nadia’s gradual descent into frustration is parallel with the overarching themes of past wrongs, both personal and global. The intense symbolism and dramatic elements highlight societal struggles while also maintaining their place as visual aspects of the series.

If I had to rate Russian Doll, I’d give it a 10, hands down, so that gives me high hopes for the second season.

Russian Doll Season 2 Preview.

A while ago there was a teaser for Russian Doll season 2, but only recently did we get to see a full trailer. And as you can see for yourself, it’s even more trippy than its predecessor.

While looking deeper into the second season of Russian Doll, I learned that Natasha Lyonne not only plays Nadia, but is also the showrunner. Working on the series has been, as Lyonne describes, “the happiest I’ve been in my life,” in an interview with Indie Wire.

In the same interview, Lyonne sheds some light on the focus of Russian Doll’s second season. She says that the show becomes about Nadia reckoning with her European heritage. In real life, like in the show, Lyonne’s grandparents were Hungarian Holocaust survivors, and she’s wrestling with questions of history and trauma.

She says, “How is historical, familial, epigenetic trauma present with us in the room even when you’re…you know, whatever, like, telling some guy you’re not ready for a relationship.” We’ve already seen some of this reflected in Nadia’s character in the first season, but Lyonne has made it a primary focus of the second season.

From the trailer, we see that the characters embark on yet another time-warping journey, this time on a train. Trains have long been a staple of mystery and time-travel fiction, and it’s another trope that Lyonne is playing on here, much like her Groundhog Day inspirations in the first series.

I’m certainly looking forward to see what Lyonne has in store for Nadia and Alan as they traverse the blowback of their traumatic first season.

The first episode of Russian Doll season 2 premieres today, April 20th on Netflix.

If you liked this article, consider checking out some of our other content on SFF TV shows, movies, and books. And if you’re a science fiction fan, consider subscribing to the Galaxy’s Edge magazine, which brings you short fiction from new and established authors alike, as well as poignant interviews and book reviews.

Understanding The Moon Knight Comics: Who Is Marc Spector?

As you’ve probably seen already, Disney and Marvel are releasing a new miniseries on Disney+ called Moon Knight. The show stars Oscar Isaac as the titular character, with a March 30th release date.

For many of us, the Super Bowl commercial for the Moon Knight show was the first time we’ve seen the Egyptian knight character, but there’s a rich history of Moon Knight comics that the show will be based on.

Here’s everything you need to know about Marc Spector, Moon Knight, and his origin story before you watch the show at the end of the month.

The Origins of Marc Spector

While the trailer for the show makes it seem like the Moon Knight has some kind of super powers, what with the glowing eyes and the suit that forms to his body, he actually is an ordinary human.

Marc Spector used to be a Marine, part of the CIA, and a mercenary for the highest bidder. When another merc brutally murders an archeologist in Sudan, Spector steps in to save the archeologist’s daughter. During the fight, the other merc, known as Bushman, kills Spector at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Khonshu.

Miraculously, Spector comes back to life, believing he’s been resurrected by Khonshu, the god of the moon, to be a protector of the innocent.

There’s been a few different iterations of the Moon Knight comics, but they are almost unanimously centered around Marc Spector’s dissociative identity disorder. Spector uses a few different identities which he created—Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, and Mr. Knight—to go about his day to day, gathering information from all levels of society.

But other comics detail the psychic connection Spector has to Khonshu, which causes Spector to shift between four different personalities of the moon god.

Generally, Moon Knight’s powers are all human in nature. Spector uses the wealth he amassed as a gun-for-hire to create a Batman-esque lair with advanced technology. The one thing that might be considered a superpower is Spector’s ability to avoid death. He’s died multiple times, but is always resurrected by Khonshu.

The First Moon Knight Comic

Moon Knight first appeared in the 1975 comic Werewolf by Night #32, and later received his first series in 1980. The series was headed up by Dough Moench, who has worked on Batman comics and is credited with the creation of the Deathlok character, and Bill Sienkiewicz, whose work appeared in New Mutants, The Mighty Thor, and Daredevil.

Since the first Moon Knight comic in 1980, there have been 9 official volumes alongside plenty of side-appearances with the Avengers and other notable heroes.

In 2021, a new Moon Knight comic was released under the name The Midnight Mission, and it was written by Jed Mackay with art by Alessandro Cappuccio and Steve McNiven. The six-issue series portrays Marc Spector as a priest of Khonshu’s congregation, as well as taking on the form of the “defender of those who travel at night”.

moon knight comic

And with the new show coming out later this month, Marvel plans to release an anthology series titled Moon Knight: Black, White, and Blood in April 2022.

Check out this resource if you’re interested in seeing all the Moon Knight comics in order.

Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight

From the looks of the two trailers for Marvel’s Moon Knight miniseries, there are some changes in store for Marc Spector. We see him as an insomniac, fighting to control his dreams and discern what’s imagined from reality.

For the show, they clearly exaggerated Spector’s D.I.D., to the point where he lives as Steven Grant almost exclusively. In one scene, he answers the phone and is confused by a woman calling him Marc.

It’s unclear how true to the Moon Knight comics the show will be, but it will be nice to see a new Marvel character prepare to join an Avengers lineup, as presumably that’s what the show is setting up.

We’ll keep you posted on the Moon Knight TV series, and we’re certainly excited to see where it goes!

In the meantime, check out some of our other comic book content:

Boba Fett Is Too Star Wars For Its Own Good

I wrote a review of The Book of Boba Fett after the first three episodes, and in that article I was hopeful that we’d get to see the growth of a character that was previously painted as a villain.

What was it I said? “what sets apart the new Star Wars media and the old Star Wars content is compassion”.

Oops. I was wrong. What sets apart The Book of Boba Fett is that the writers lost their vision. In a series named after Boba Fett, we see very little of him after the 4th episode, and his presence is almost as an aside to the Mandalorian.

And why is that? What happened in the production process that made it seem okay to sideline the titular character?

(Spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian).

Boba Fett Is a Setup

The show was originally going into untapped territory, exploring a character who we’ve only seen as a grown killer and a traumatized kid. But Boba Fett remains then same throughout most of his show, remaining stoic and honor-bound.

This is the Boba Fett we see nursed to health by the Tuskens, and it’s the Boba we see walking through the streets of Mos Espa after they defeated the Pykes.

So if there wasn’t a palpable character shift for Fett, why make the show? Sure, seeing our beloved bounty hunter mount the Rankor to destroy new and improved droidekas was pretty cool, but what was the purpose?

You’d think with such a massive budget, around $15 million per episode, that the showrunners would be keen to make the show stand up in its own right.

Instead, The Book of Boba Fett sets up the next season of The Mandalorian, and that’s about all it manages to accomplish.

As soon as Fennec Shand turns to Boba Fett in episode 4 and says that credits can buy muscle and she knows where to find it, the show gets derailed. From that point onward the show’s no longer about Boba Fett, it’s about the Mandalorian.

book of boba fet


Too Much Star Wars

The Book of Boba Fett is a prime example of the biggest pitfall Star Wars content creators face: repetition.

We’ve seen nine films dedicated to the Skywalker story, which is six too many. We’ve seen Luke Skywalker and Ashoka Tano show up in The Mandalorian because they’re familiar characters and they pull in views.

And we’ve seen The Book of Boba Fett Frankenstein together a cast of old heroes and villains for the sake of fan-pandering.

The problem Star Wars has—or we should say, Disney has—is that it’s too afraid to branch off and create new content. They know what makes money, and they’re scared to turn from that. In reality, and I think I voice an opinion many Star Wars fans have, if Disney puts out new, fresh Star Wars content we’ve never seen or imagined before, we’d be overjoyed.

The Mandalorian was one of the wholly original ideas that didn’t rely on a Skywalker to succeed, and the first season was awesome. It was a good show in its own right. But as time went on, we see it fall prey to the common Star Wars pattern, which means bringing back old characters from animated shows and shifting the focus to the same old storylines.

That being said, The Mandalorian still succeeded as being a great addition to the Star Wars universe that wasn’t completely consumed by lightsabers, Jedi, and the Force.

If The Book of Boba Fett had stood up a little straighter and stuck to its guns, it could have been a passable show with its own story.

Instead, the showrunners bring in Mando, Grogu, Ashoka, Luke, and Cad Bane (a call back to an old Clone Wars story arc that was dead on arrival).

The Other Boba Fett Problems

I mentioned earlier that Boba Fett doesn’t really change much as a character. He takes the throne of a stepped on criminal empire and tries to hold onto his authority. We don’t see Boba Fett reach any profound realizations about the strains of power, nor do we see him face off against any worthy adversaries.

Fennec Shand manages to kill off the Pyke leaders, the treasonous Mayor, and the back-stabbing crime families in a single go. And yet it takes Mando and Boba Fett fifteen minutes to take out two battle droids?

And Cad Bane.

cad bane book of boba fett

With all the backstory we see at the beginning of the series, with much of the first few episodes consisting of Fett remembering how he escaped the Sarlacc pit, there isn’t a single mention of Cad Bane. For those who don’t know, Cad Bane was an infamous bounty hunter who appeared in the animated Clone Wars show and acted as a mentor to a young Boba Fett. Yet, that storyline is largely incomplete, and not even canon, I might add.

So, to bring in a character like that as a nemesis for Fett, it’s contrived. A last-ditch effort to inject a little conflict into the series ended up as a shock-factor cash grab of recycled material.

At the end of the day, all I can say is that I expected more. After The Mandalorian, I thought we’d entered a new era of Star Wars that was fresh and inventive and didn’t fall prey to old habits.

But, I guess I was wrong, and we’ll see just how wrong I was when the Obi-Wan Kenobi show brings back all kinds of old, probably already dead, characters.

Sci Fi TV Shows: The Book of Boba Fett

Have you watched The Book of Boba Fett, one of the new sci fi TV shows on Disney+? We have, and we have to say, it brings a new life to an old character, one previously labeled as a villain.

The Book of Boba Fett aired in December 2021, and will run for seven episodes, ending on February 9th, 2022.

I didn’t really have any expectations for the show, I saw it as a cash grab for people who loved the Boba Fett character from the original Star Wars films and The Mandalorian TV show. But, having watched the first three episodes, I think it has a lot more substance than most Star Wars media.

(Spoilers ahead for the first three episodes of The Book of Boba Fett and both seasons of The Mandalorian.)

A Rich Background

When Boba Fett first appeared as a dangerous bounty hunter in the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, and later played a bigger role in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. He was the kind of character you hated to love, with very few lines, but an imposing presence.

In short, he was one of the classic villains from the original Star Wars trilogy, and later appeared in dozens of Star Wars comics, some of which were one-shot adventures, other were longer stories.

But, only when Temuera Morrison reprised his role as the infamous bounty hunter in The Mandalorian season 2 did Boba Fett become more than just a gun for hire. The show gave him depth and purpose, a vast change from the shoot-first, ask question later character many of us were familiar with.

sci fi tv shows boba fett

Writing the History

So far, The Book of Boba Fett has been filled with backstory about how the bounty hunter escaped from the Sarlacc pit and found his way back to civilization.

Personally, a lot of the backstory about the Tusken Raiders and Boba Fett’s return felt unnecessary. When the character made an appearance in The Mandalorian, we could very well have assumed most of what happened after he was presumed dead in The Return of the Jedi.

But the backstory seeks to do more than reveal how the bounty hunter survived. It takes the new Star Wars approach, where previously bad characters are seen in a better light. And not just Fett, the Tusken Raiders, too.

For most of Star Wars history, the Raiders have stood as one of the perils of Tattooine, a dangerous desert tribe who pillaged for survival. The Book of Boba Fett shows us a new side to the classic “bad guys”, showing them with more culture and heritage than they ever had before.

Boba Fett not only learns to accept the Raiders, he helps them stake their claim on their land and even becomes an honorary member of their tribe.

I think what sets apart the new Star Wars media and the old Star Wars content is compassion. In the original Star Wars, Boba Fett would have never thought twice about killing Tusken Raiders, but now, he takes the time to learn their ways, protect them, and go out of his way to give them the respect they deserve.

Not to mention, the enthusiasm and compassion Boba Fett shows to the Rankor calf gifted to him by the Hutt Twins. It’s interesting to see Fett’s character transition away from anger and violence to a more thoughtful approach.

Fennec Shand

In many ways, Fennec Shand plays the part that Boba Fett played years ago as a bounty hunter. Played by Ming Na Wen, Shand is a deadly assassin who first makes her appearance in The Mandalorian season 1, episode 5, and is later seen in the animated series, The Bad Batch.

sci fi tv shows fennec shand

She’s known as a ruthless bounty hunter, and is Boba Fett’s right-hand woman in the new sci fi TV show. Where Boba Fett in the original trilogy was cold and heartless, Shand is more pragmatic, though still prone to violence.

She’s one of the most interesting characters in the show, and I’m interested to see what story arc is in store for her. In some capacity, I feel like she’ll remain a static character, always sticking by Fett’s side because he once saved her life. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes frustrated with Boba’s newfound patience and branches out to commit criminal acts in his name.

Is The Book Of Boba Fett Worth Watching?

I’d say yes, it is. This sci fi TV shows spins the previous narrative of the infamous bounty hunter to make him a more likeable and relatable character. Plus, we get see sides of Tattooine we’ve never experienced before, like the deep criminal politics.

I do feel like the backstory is overplayed, and it really dominated the first two episodes of the space western TV show. Hopefully, moving forward, we’ve crossed over into the present, and the backstory is only interspersed throughout.

If you liked this post, check out some of our other content. We’re always talking about all things sci fi, whether it’s a deep dive into science fiction subgenres, or reviews of books, movies, games, and shows. New blogs, twice a week!

What’s Happened With The Wheel of Time Show?

For those of you that have been keeping up with The Wheel of Time show on Amazon Prime, there’s certainly a lot to unpack.

If you’re a fan of the books, you know that the last few episodes of the new fantasy TV series took a hard left from the source content.

In this article, we’ll break down the biggest departures from the story that we’ve seen in the first season of The Wheel of Time show, as well as predictions for the next installment.

(Spoilers ahead for The Eye of the World and the first season of The Wheel of Time TV show.)

Missing Characters

If you read our previous post on The Wheel of Time, we talked about how there are some characters missing from the first season of the show. And not like Tom Bombadil characters, like, really important characters.

Within the first few episodes, it becomes clear that the showrunners had to make certain choices to omit characters or alter their story arcs to fit into the 8-episode format.

To be fair, The Eye of the World is a big book, and Robert Jordan was notorious for adding plenty of new characters along the journey. Some of which aren’t as critical as others.

However, The Wheel of Time show has hopped and skipped over what should have been at least one episode’s worth of content.

the wheel of time show characters
Perrin, Egwene, Rand, and Nynaeve at Fal Dara

After the group separates at Shador Logoth, the doomed city, Rand and Mat travel to the city of Caemyln, having been saved from a Fade by Thom Merrilin.

In the city, we’re introduced to a number of important characters, including:

  • Elayne Trakand, heir to the kingdom of Andor
  • Gawyn Trakand, Elayne’s brother
  • Galad Damodred, half-brother to the Trakand, a strong warrior
  • Queen Morgase, Elayne and Gawyn’s mother, Queen of Andor
  • Elaida, an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, advisor to the throne of Andor
  • Gareth Bryne, Captain-General of the Queen’s Guard

Very early on in The Wheel of Time show, we’re introduced to the false Dragons, chief among them Logain Ablar. That storyline was altered because Rand and Mat actually meet Logain in Caemlyn, but in the show he’s gentled at about the midpoint and imprisoned in the White Tower.

The glossing over of Caemyln doesn’t bode well for the rest of the show. Elayne, Gawyn, and Galad are all crucial characters throughout the rest of the books, and Elaida is a long-standing Aes Sedai who becomes more important as revelations at the White Tower unfold.

Plus, we’re missing Elyas Machera, the wolf man who guides Perrin and Egwene to safety after Shadar Logoth. He is a vastly important catalyst for Perrin’s arc, which was woefully forgotten in the show.

What Happened at The Eye of The World?

It’s been some time since I read The Eye of the World, but one thing I never forgot was the importance of that titular element. In The Wheel of Time show, the Eye is portrayed as the Dark One’s prison, when in reality, it is a vault of sorts, as well as a well of untarnished power.

The Eye of the World contains one of the seals to the Dark One’s prison, the shiny stone Moiraine holds at the end of the last episode. It’s known as cuendillar and is extremely rare, coming from the Age of Legends, thousands of years before the show takes place.

Also in the vault are the Dragon Banner of Lews Therin Telamon, which was woefully absent in the show, and the Horn of Valere, which has mysteriously made its way into the throne room at Fal Dara.

Both of these items are of great importance later on in the series, as they call back to the ages past. Hopefully, the Horn of Valere, a major aspect of The Great Hunt, remains so in the show.

But after watching the season finale, you might be wondering, what actually happened at The Eye of the World? Is the Dark One dead? Where will Rand go? Has Moirainne actually been cut off from the One Power?

Let’s break it down:

In the book, the whole group travels to the Eye of the World, where they meet Someshta, essentially a mystic tree man guardian of the vault. The group is attacked by the servants of the Dark One, including the Forsaken Aginor, Balthamel, and Ishamael. (The Forsaken are the Dark One’s top followers, all of which are like semi-undead evil channelers).

the wheel of time show ishamael
Fares Fares as Ishamael

Rand uses the One Power to defeat Aginor, and harnesses the power of the Eye to thwart the trollocs and Ishamael, and that’s how Moirainne knows he’s the Dragon Reborn.

But, in The Wheel of Time show, that’s not what goes down.

Rand and Moirainne trek into the Blight, where Rand is confronted by who he thinks is the Dark One. And I hope you didn’t think that was the Dark One too, because you’d be wrong.

That mysterious dream man with the flaming eyes was Ba’alzamon, a disguise worn by Ishamael, the most powerful of the Forsaken. He attempts to trick Rand into freeing the Dark One from his prison, and is eventually blown away by Rand’s sheer power.

But, not before Ishamael seemingly stilled Moirainne. This is perhaps the biggest “oh-no” moment at the end of the series. Moirainne is not stilled in the books, and she continues to channel throughout the series, to critical effect. It’s unclear what the future holds for her, just as it’s unclear how the story will change now that Rand has set out on his own, presumably to travel to the Aiel Waste.

What’s Up Next for The Wheel of Time Show?

A lot of the setup needed for The Great Hunt, the next installment of the book series, was altered in The Wheel of Time show. Though, the Seanchan are revealed at the very end of the season finale, which does hint that they’ll play a part in the second season.

Is Loial dead? He certainly cannot be, because he, too, plays a big role later on. And what about Mat? Did Moirainne really set the Red Ajah on him? Will Egwene and Nynaeve return to Tar Valon to be trained as Aes Sedai?

the wheel of time show red ajah
Liandrin and other members of the Red Ajah

Only time will tell, but if the first season of The Wheel of Time show was any hint, I think fans of the books are in for a few frustrating years. The series has great production value and it’s great to see the books finally make it to the big screen, but adapting the first book in any series is always the foundation for the rest of the show.

I hope the showrunners can pull it off, because frankly, I’m a little worried. Glossing over so many important characters (like Elayne, who has a much larger role in the second book) and altering the timelines hasn’t given me confidence that the show will succeed.

But, for the time being, it’s something fun to watch, albeit sometimes infuriating, and I’m anxious to see where the series goes from here.

Cowboy Bebop on Netflix is the Classic Anime Re-Imagined

Ever since the live action Cowboy Bebop on Netflix aired November 19th, 2021, the Internet has been alight with criticism. Wired wrote an article about how the show flops, and other popular news outlets claim the 46% Rotten Tomatoes score as an indicator of the show’s worth.

But, even though the new Cowboy Bebop show on Netflix might anger and frustrated hardcore fans of the classic 1998 anime of the same name, there’s a lot to love in this new show.

Some Background

The original Cowboy Bebop aired in 1998 as a singular season with 26 episodes. It quickly gained a cult following, and its jazz-fueled space noir style brought something new and fun to the cyberpunk genre.

In a world of 900-episode long anime series, Cowboy Bebop was blissfully short, but it packed far more of a punch than most of its counterparts. The anime won countless awards, including the 1st place at the 1999 Anime Grand Prix.

In 2017, there was talk of bringing the anime to life in a live-action series, and a year later, Netflix announced the show would come to their streaming platform. In 2021, we finally got to see years’ worth of work come to fruition, but fans were relatively unimpressed.

The live-action show hasn’t stayed entirely faithful to the source material, instead opting for a rendition instead of a truthful adaption.

And for many people, this ruffled feathers. Such an acclaimed and loved anime, seemingly defiled in another live-action remake.

However, there’s a lot to love about Cowboy Bebop on Netflix, and when we look at it as an alternative version of the anime instead of a poor adaption, it stands up on its own fairly well.

cowboy bebop on netflix


What’s to Love About Cowboy Bebop on Netflix?

As someone who watched the anime, the live action show took some getting used to. At first, I was a bit confused about the timeline and the story that the show was running with, but after a few episodes I was able to overlook the inconsistencies and view the show as a honoring of the source material.

The characters in the Netflix show are deep, motivated, and fun, more fun, I might say, then the original characters.

Faye Valentine, one of the female leads, has much more depth than in the anime. Her whole story revolves around not knowing her past, having been awoken from a cryogenic sleep with amnesia. Her motivations are realistic and her attitude mirrors the frustration she feels at living half a life.

In the anime, she’s very sexualized, which was a trope of anime of it’s time (frankly, it still is a trope), but the Netflix show re-imagines Faye as a badass bounty hunter with a me-against-the-world attitude.

And the banter that made me fall in love with the anime hits really hard in the Netflix show. I found myself laughing at the grumpy nature of Jet, Spike’s smart ass remarks, and Faye’s pithy one-liners.

For Spike, his transition to the big screen was the most intriguing. In the anime, there’s this duality about him. He’s funny and grim, full of heart and a scoundrel at the same time.

In the Netflix version, he oozes emotion, and is much less of an ass than in the anime. He builds relationships with Jet and Faye, and even though he keeps secrets, he’s much more loyal to his friends than in the anime. And this change made the Netflix show stand out.

They turned surly characters into deep, troubled heroes, but in a way that still follows the main themes of the source material.

What’s Stayed the Same?

One of the most endearing elements of the anime was the bounty-of-the-week style. Yes, there are plot-heavy episodes, but largely the story follows the Bebop’s crew as they hunt down wacky, villainous bounties.

And the Netflix show incorporates that while also running with a larger, underlying conflict.

We see those weird villains, like Mad Pierrot, and we see the more serious villains like Asimov and Vicious.

Vicious’ character in particular is deplorable. In the anime, he appears off and on as a returning antagonist, but in the Netflix show, he’s so full of emotion and violence, coming to life as more than a vague villain.

He has motivations and heartbreak, more than the anime allowed him to have. Despite being much more mad in the Netflix show, Vicious settles into his role of the big baddie very nicely.

cowboy bebop on netflix, vicious and spike

Cowboy Bebop on Netflix is a Must-Watch

At the end of the day, if you are a big fan of the anime, watch Cowboy Bebop on Netflix as a loving rendition instead of an attempt to change the canon.

As a science fiction and fantasy enthusiast, it can suck to see a story you love adapted for screen. Take The Wheel of Time, for example. The first few episodes have changed a lot about the books, and while I’m irked by certain choices, I still enjoy seeing a series I love reach a wider audience.

Same goes with Cowboy Bebop. I guarantee that people who’ve never seen the anime will go back and watch it after binging the Netflix show, and will find something to love in both shows.

I hope we get to see more of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix. While the show hasn’t stayed true to its source material, it reinvents the anime, enriching the characters and making the cyberpunk noir setting really pop out.

Plus, I’m always down for some cowboy banter and Ein, the adorable Corgi sidekick.

Is The Wheel of Time Worth Watching?

You might have seen people talking online about the new Wheel of Time show on Amazon Prime. From what I’ve seen, it’s received mixed reviews.

Diehard fans of the books are prone to nitpicking inconsistencies, while the more open-minded fans are just glad to see the series come to the big screen.

So, is The Wheel of Time worth watching?

What Is The Wheel of Time?

The Wheel of Time is a 14 book series (15 if you count the prequel novel) by Robert Jordan. Unfortunately, Jordan passed away near the tail end of the series, so Brandon Sanderson, another fantasy author, was commissioned to finish the last few books using Jordan’s extensive notes.

Compared to other works of epic fantasy, like The Song of Ice and Fire or The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time is massive.

By the end of the series, Jordan and Sanderson wrote over 4.5 million words, making it the longest fantasy series of all time. (ASOIAF and Discworld are runners up.)

There’s been a lot of push for WoT to be made into a TV series, and there was even a pilot episode in 2015 from Red Eagle Entertainment as a last-ditch effort to keep the rights to the show.

However, the episode was a flop, and in 2018, Amazon got the rights and ordered a show.

The first three episodes aired on Amazon Prime on November 19th, 2021, and the Internet has been abuzz with reviews, comparisons, and criticism.

wheel of time moirainne
Moirainne in the Two Rivers

Should You Watch The Wheel of Time?

As a long-time fan of the books, I was skeptical about how Amazon would take a series of such epic proportions and adapt it for television. I knew that a lot of the elements I loved about the books—the prolonged journey sequences of The Eye of the World, the numerous poems and songs, and the rich lore—would probably be glossed over for the same of brevity.

And after watching the first three episodes, I still have my doubts. The show has already changed some things about the story that were completely unnecessary (for example, Perrin never had a wife in the books).

But the acting is fantastic, and the set design is of a grand scale. Visually, the show is excellent. The show captures the small-town vibe of the Two Rivers, and the majesty of the White Tower. And the trollocs (WoT’s equivalent of orcs) are terrifying.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Wheel of Time, the show does a lot to get viewers up to speed with the lore. Plus, Amazon produced an animated side-series that helps explain what’s going on in each episode from a lore perspective. This feature is kind of hidden, though, so I guarantee not everyone will find it.

To access the side series, you have to pause the episode and click on bonus content. From there, you can watch the animated series.

And for fans of the books, people who have been reading them since the 90s, there’s a lot to complain about, sure, but at the end of the day, I think so far the show has stayed fairly true to the story.

The Opening Scene

I’ve already decided that I can find no fault with the production design. The characters were expertly cast, the costumes echo the paintings of Darrell Sweet (the cover artist for the book series), and the music is both pulse-pounding and calming.

the wheel of time cover art
The cover art for The Eye of the World by Darrell Sweet

However, I can nit-pick a little bit with the creative liberties the team took with the opening scenes and the timeline.

The prologue of The Eye of the World focuses on Lews Therin Telamon, the previous Dragon. He’s overcome with madness from channeling the One Power, and he comes face to face with Ishamael, a servant of the Dark One. Lews Therin realizes that in his madness, he’s killed his whole family, and he weeps for his misdeeds.

Ishamael assures Lews Therin that they’ll meet again, and Lews Therin consumes so much of the One Power that he is atomized, leaving a massive volcano in his wake.

This scene is so full of emotion and foreshadowing, not only for the Dragon Reborn, but for the servants of the Dark One. I really feel like Amazon made a bad choice when they cut this scene, because it’s an iconic introduction to the series. The book series, at least.

And I’m interested to see how the show handles the timeline. We’ve already seen male channelers be gentled by the hands of the Red Ajah, and Logain’s already in chains, which happens fairly late in the book. As more episodes come out, it’ll give us a better glimpse as to what the timeline will be like.

We know that the last episode of the 8-part first season is title “The Eye of the World”, which happens at the very end of the first novel. So, I doubt the show will delve into the second book’s material at all in the first season.

Yes, Watch The Wheel of Time

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy series full of diverse characters, world-building, and magic, you should watch The Wheel of Time.

The tone of the show is a bit more serious than the books, but so far, we haven’t seen anything that’s been entirely unfaithful (with the exception of Perrin’s wife).

This is definitely a show I’ll be paying close attention to, and I’ll probably have to brush up on my WoT lore, which is always a treat!

If you liked this post, consider checking out some of our other content:

Keep Driving: The Importance of Sci Fi Cars

In 2012, George F. Will wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post about the American dream and the automobile.

While his pithy piece hits on many points, his primary thesis is that cars have a way of identifying a person, as well as establishing a ‘self-image’. He cites Paul Ingrassia’s book, Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars, which speaks at length about establishing identity through vehicular choice.

It’s certainly an interesting theory. You see a person driving a Prius and you already have this notion of who they are in your head. They’re conscious of their impact on the environment, they value efficiency over style, they’re probably a Democrat, etc. etc.

But the theory works both ways. We can assume things about people based on their choice of car, but we as individuals can also craft our identity through our cars.

For example, my first vehicle was a 2001 Mazda B4000, a small pick-up truck. I was in college, I need a way to move my stuff, and I liked the rugged look of an older truck.

But now, I drive a 2005 Subaru Outback. I still appreciate rugged, older vehicles, but I’ve replaced aesthetic with efficiency.

What I’m getting at here is that we begin to craft stories around our vehicles and identify ourselves through our relationship with vehicles.

The same goes for sci fi cars in movies, TV shows, comic books, novels, etc. Writers often use vehicles as a way to express something about a character, and they often gain a life of their own.

Writing Character With Sci Fi Cars

One of the primary examples I want to touch on here is the 1967 Chevy Impala that Dean Winchester drives in the TV show Supernatural.

It’s an iconic car, and even if you’re not a fan of Supernatural, it’s hard to ignore the fact that one of the strongest visuals of the show is the dark Impala barreling down a foggy, forested road at night. It’s an aesthetic that fits Dean’s character, but it’s so much more than that.

The History of a Character

The Impala was first introduced in 1958 as a top-of-the-line luxury car for the middle-class, and continued to be a high-end vehicle for most of its history.

Today, the Impala is far from a luxury car. Its reputation has shifted from being a sports car to a utilitarian vehicle, a daily driver for the lower to middle class.

But, the 1967 Impala was something special, and it was certainly unique for Dean. We see the history of the Impala in the last episode of season 5, but the car has more history than the show tells us.

The year 1967 was a tumultuous year for Americans. We were fighting on every front, at home and abroad.  Racial segregation, the Vietnam War, and political unrest.

But it was also a year of unprecedented scientific growth. Dr. James Bedford became the first person to be cryonically preserved, NASA was making vast strides with the Lunar Orbiter and Apollo programs, and black holes earned their name.

And the car, the 1967 black Chevy Impala, was born amid this era of intense change. And it would live to see a new era of change, carrying Dean and Sam.

sci fi cars the impala

However, it’s not all about violence and science. In 1967, McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac and The Doors released their first album. These events are reflected in Dean’s character, as someone who loves cheeseburgers and rock-n-roll.

In many ways, the idea of the Impala is reflected in Dean’s character, and vice versa. Dean’s penchant for classic American muscle and his practical sensibility convenes in the Impala. The muscle car became Dean’s work car, packed with the tools of his trade, like the modern Impala. But it was a vehicle of change (pun intended), and the prime reason Sam was able to resist Lucifer’s power.

Why Sci Fi Cars Are So Important

Dean Winchester’s Impala is only a single example among hundreds. Sci fi cars and trucks and spaceships and boats, etc. etc. are more than just modes of transport. They’re homes and characters in their own right.

Ingrassia and Will claim that Americans purchase cars to fit their self-image. I’ll go a step further to say that cars help define our self-image. It’s an expression of ourselves, kind of like clothing. We buy things to fit a certain aesthetic, but we also start to bend our aesthetic to the things we already own.

As a science fiction writer, the car must be one of the most powerful tools for building character.

sci fi cars the mystery machine

Think about it. The Mystery Machine, Scooby and the gang’s iconic 1978 Volkswagen LT 40, is an important part of each of the characters. It’s Fred’s baby, where Velma works on her science projects, where Daphne keeps her extra clothes and accessories, and it’s where Scooby and Shaggy run to hide, nap, or eat snacks. The van is an important part of each of the characters’ personalities, and is a foil for the writers to express those things.

Imagine the Scooby gang riding in anything other than the van. An F-150 perhaps, or a Volkswagen Bug. It’s not the same. Those cars say something different about the characters.

In Conclusion

This article is far from complete. There are so many more examples we could delve into. The DeLorean, K.I.T.T. and the Batmobile, to name a few.

But in just these few examples we’ve discussed, it’s clear that sci fi cars do far more than get the characters from point A to point B. They’re extensions of themselves just as much as the characters are extensions of their cars.

What sci fi cars do you think hold the same weight as the 1967 Impala? Let us know in the comments down below.

And if you liked this article, you might also enjoy our discussion of Kurt Vonnegut and science fiction.  

Honing in on Sci Fi Subgenres: Space Westerns

Space westerns are probably one of the most fun sci fi subgenres out there. They pair the aesthetics and ideals of traditional westerns with the flash and bang of science fiction.

While the genre isn’t a huge one, there are some notable TV shows and films as well as book and comic books in the genre. Maybe you know a few!

But, the misconception that without cowboy hats and gunslingers, a piece isn’t a space Western is largely flawed. Many conventions of the Western film or comic book have made their way into modern science fiction and influenced its storytelling. You may have seen a movie and not even realized it’s roots in Western cinematography.

The Origin of the Space Western

The space western is the love child of two different genres: sci fi and the western. Westerns are sometimes considered a speculative fiction, though traditional Westerns are down to earth, without aspects of science fiction, fantasy, or the paranormal.

Space westerns actually got their roots in early American comic books. C.L. Moore, one of the early female science fiction writers, created the character of Northwest Smith who popularized the planet-jumping, gunslinging, space cowboy.

In the early 1940s, superhero comic books became less popular, so to fill the void, publishers started pairing Western stories with science fiction ones, and the line between the genres was slowly erased.

However, the space western really came to the limelight with movies like Star Trek and Star Wars as well as with shows like Firefly and Cowboy Bebop.  

Types of Space Westerns

So as I’ve seen it there are a couple different ways we can break down kinds of space westerns as a sci fi subgenre.

First there are the science fiction films that employ classic Western-style story structure.

Star Trek is a good example, where the vast universe acts as the untamed West, the final frontier. It’s about adventure and chivalry, both of which are Western themes. Prospect is another good example of a space western film. It pairs the story elements of a Western with the setting and conflicts of a sci-fi world.

Second, there are Western films that integrate science fiction. Think of the film Westworld, and the later TV show as well. The characters aren’t in space, it’s not a space opera, but it pairs the aesthetics of the Western with modern science fiction.

And the final distinction I’ve made is a healthy mix of the two genres. Firefly and Serenity are my prime examples of this sci fi subgenre. The wardrobe, weaponry, slang, and storytelling tone of Firefly places it firmly in the Western genre. But, the space ships, interplanetary travel, and alien creatures root it in science fiction.

However, these two seemingly polar opposites come together as a seamless piece. When watching Firefly, I never felt like I was torn between one setting or another. There was nothing amiss, and that’s exactly how a good science fiction should operate.

space western firefly cast
The crew of Serenity, from Firefly,
image from The Verge


Characteristics of a Space Western

Thinking about this topic made me come up with a checklist of characteristics that make up a space western. There aren’t many, but they’re distinct.

  • A strong lead character, often physically adept and righteous. Much like a white-hat cowboy.
  • An animal sidekick. In many Westerns, this is the hero’s horse, but it can manifest as other things. R2-D2, for example, might be Luke’s horse equivalent. Or Ein, the Welsh corgi from the space Western anime, Cowboy Bebop.
  • Western literature has popularized the outlaw character, the rogue. Picture characters like Han Solo.
  • Wide, aesthetic shots. In space Western films and shows, wide landscape shots or panning scenes hark back to classic Western cinematography like in A Fistful of Dollars. A more modern example might be the director’s cut of Logan, which turns the film black and white.
space western sci fi subgenre
Scene from the noir cut of Logan,
image from Entertainment Weekly

Space Westerns That Are Still Riding Into The Sunset

The space western genre does for me something that traditional Westerns have failed to do, which is to bring the genre up to speed.

Watching old Western films is enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the outdated habits or cliches make them uncomfortable to watch. Let’s just say some of them haven’t aged well.

But, space Westerns, at least some of the modern ones, hand out that gunslinging hero candy like it’s Halloween, without having to worry about getting sick from too much chocolate. I love Firefly, and yes there are some things I’d change about it, but I find it more palatable than a classic Western from the days of the Silver Screen.

And I love seeing the conventions of the space Western make their way into other sci fi subgenres, like space opera. The Expanse operates a lot like Firefly, but without the brown trench coats and Colt-esque revolvers.

All in all, space Westerns bring the best parts of both Western and science fiction together into a unique mesh of styles. I’m excited to see what the next few years brings for the genre.

If you liked this post and want to see more content about sci fi subgenres, leave a suggestion in the comments down below!