TV REVIEW | Star Trek: Discovery – Season 1


Star Trek: Discovery, the latest television entry in the 50 year old franchise, wrapped up its first season on Sunday night. That in itself is an accomplishment for a show that had a fairly messy road to the airwaves. Initially pitched and run by Bryan Fuller, the show’s crew experienced a significant shake-up during the production process which included Fuller ultimately leaving the project entirely. New showrunners took over and the episode order actually grew from 13 to 15. All that turnover resulted in a season that was sometimes rough, sometimes great and always messy.


Bringing Star Trek back to its television roots in 2017 was a tricky task. For one thing, Trek has historically been an optimistic look at the future of humanity where conflict-free teams of people work together to fight for justice and peace and explore new worlds in hopes of adding to their knowledge and diversity. But the era of Peak TV was built on the stories of difficult men (Mad Men) and complicated conflicts (Game of Thrones) and suffering (The Walking Dead). Then you’ve got the latest era of gritty reboots (Justice League) and distrust of established institutions like our own government and justice system (the United States of America). These ideas seem rather antithetical to those of Gene Roddenberry and yet Gene always wanted to use his stories to challenge us to be better. Watching the original Star Trek series you’ll see loads of allegory about 1960’s America, race and war. JJ Abrams rebooted the movie arm of the franchise almost a decade ago and many would say he strayed too far outside the lanes (especially with Star Trek Into Darkness) with the grittiness and distrust. Would “Disco” follow suit or try to course correct a bit by attempting to be relevant while still optimistic? The answer is complicated.

The storyline of Discovery centers on Michael Burnham, a female first officer on the USS Shenzhou. They are drawn into a conflict with the Klingons and Burnham becomes convinced that they must fire first and display their strength to these warrior aliens. Her captain, Phillipa Georgiou, disagrees. Burnham is so convinced of her position that she commits mutiny in order to fire on the Klingons. In the end, Georgiou is killed by the Klingons and Burnham is court martial-ed and sent to prison. It’s a compelling start to the story.

We finally meet the USS Discovery and Captain Lorca, a brooding captain who is hellbent on winning this new war with the Klingons. He intercepts Burnham’s shuttle on its way to prison and takes her on as a sort of consultant for some reason. And we finally have our main crew set for this season. From there, things diverge and get complicated.

The writers of Discovery have so many interesting ideas for stories and basically decide to use all of them in these 15 episodes. We’ve got the Klingon war, we’ve got dangerous new technology that comes with a human cost, we’ve got Harry Mudd, we’ve got Klingon double agents and PTSD, we’ve got secret Starfleet warmongering and we’ve even got Mirror Universe shenanigans. Some of these things work better than others, but as the season winds down it all gets tangled and rushed to conclusion. They probably would have been better off trying to stay a bit more focused than to try all these different scenarios out at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really great things in the first season. Michael Burnham is a great character. The one thing that worked really well in the season finale was closing her loop. In the end, she stands up against genocidal tactics to beat the Klingons in the war, displaying the growth she’s experienced this season. And they even wrote in some backstory about her birth-parents being murdered by Klingons while she hid in a cupboard as a child. And there was that bit about how she fell in love with a guy who turned out to be a Klingon in disguise… sort of. So her standing up to authority by advocating for a more peaceful resolution to the war with the Klingons was an on-the-nose depiction of her growth as a character.

Captain Lorca was also a very nuanced and interesting character and the reveal that he was from the Mirror Universe was pretty cool (even though a lot of people figured it out ahead of time). The Mirror stuff was definitely some of the strongest of the season and the visuals were great. I would be interested to see if we got more Lorca in Season 2, because although he perished we didn’t see his Prime Universe counterpart at all.

I also really, really liked Saru as a character. We saw lots of captains and acting-captains, but he was the best of the bunch, especially towards the end of the season. He showed firm resolve and level-headed thinking that most other characters really struggled with. Not sure why he wasn’t going to be promoted to captain in the final episode.

Of course we have to talk about Stamets, the scientist who piloted the spore drive. Much digital ink was spilled about how great it is to have a gay character and a gay couple (with Dr. Culber). And then they had Dr. Culber get killed, triggering a backlash that was swift and incredulous. I was more concerned about how Stamets basically disappeared for the final couple of episodes as his arc wrapped up early. Lots of people got killed in this season so it’s not that unfair that one of them was Dr. Culber. It’s a standard trope in TV to make the audience grow to love a character only to kill him/her off to trigger that emotional response.

Shazad Latif did a great job as Ash Tyler / Voq. His tortured character really tore up the screen a few times during the season and the way he performed the Klingon dialog was the best I’ve ever seen in the franchise. The conclusion of his arc was pretty lame though. It just doesn’t seem plausible that after everything he would go off with his Klingon torturer to attempt to unite the Klingon empire under her leadership. The writers probably weren’t quite sure what ending would make sense for him, so the threw this one against the wall. Meh.

Oh, and Tilly. Tilly was great. A sharp, funny and grounded character that was completely new to the Trek template! She had some great one-liners and her infectious smile and wide eyes were a great balance to Burnham’s constant angst.

The big theme throughout the season was “identity”. So many characters had dual identities either within themselves or thrust upon them or they came face-to-face with an inverse version of themselves.

Burnham is, like her foster brother Spock, split between her human nature and her Vulcan upbringing. She consults her Vulcan foster-father Sarek a few times throughout the season and is told to seek the logical solution to her problems. She also reckons with the fact that she’s naturally rather hot-headed and compulsive, which immediately gets her into trouble.

The Mirror Universe mini-arc gives plenty of opportunity to show us the evil twin (or good twin) versions of the characters and asks us to grapple with the idea that the propensity for evil is within everyone. Some people are able to operate very well in the hostile Terran Empire, so what does that say about them? It says that our heroes are really only a few decisions away from being villains. Captain Lorca, it’s revealed, has been living a double life ever since he and his Mirror version were swapped a few years back. He is able to function well in the Prime Universe because the Prime Universe is at war, something he’s all too familiar with. So the idea that war allows evil men to thrive when they otherwise probably wouldn’t is an interesting one.

And then there’s Tyler, who is literally inhabited by the person of Voq. When Voq finally begins to surface and torment Tyler, a real identity crisis happens. It breaks up all the relationships he had forged once he reached the Discovery from captivity – especially his romance with Burnham. In the end, he basically makes peace with the fact that he’s going to be both Tyler and Voq forever because Voq’s memories are going to be a permanent part of him.

In the end, Burnham’s speech puts a cap on the theme as she points out that “we are Starfleet” and that means something. They will not give reign to the base compulsions that rule the Klingon ideology and are latent in their own hearts and minds. They will not “drop the bomb” on Kronos. But the alternative they’re willing to allow is to install a leader who will unite the Klingon empire and potentially cause more problems for the Federation down the road. It’s a questionable decision, sure, but the alternative is catastrophic violence that that’s not an option. I wish they’d given more time to explore these wartime decisions as they are very interesting to consider and fit well with the big question of identity that faces nations today. Who are we? What are we willing to do to preserve our way of life? Is war always necessary to maintain peace? Etc. These are questions that are given some airtime in another great Trek series: Deep Space Nine.

So yes, I think the show suffered from too much story. Still, it brought Trek back to the small screen and did a pretty bang-up job of it all things considered. The show has been renewed for a 2nd season, so hopefully some stability behind the scenes goes a long way to settling things down a bit and making a good show with the remaining cast members. They kept plenty of the Trek DNA, but twisted it a bit to fit with the 21st century way of doing narrative television. Hopefully they come back with a more cohesive idea for the season.

And I know we don’t NEED so much fan service, but the final scene was really, really spectacular.



SPORTS | Stray Observations from Super Bowl 52


My hometown of Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl this year and the city was buzzing all week. Sunday was finally the big day. Here are some stray observations about the event which featured a football game between the Patriots and Eagles along with some other stuff.

The Game

My Vikings got steamrolled by the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. No one expected that to happen, especially because the Eagles were playing with their backup QB after MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL. But Nick Foles sliced and diced the Minnesota defense, proving that head coach Doug Pederson was a QB whisperer and the Eagles were a good team. But could they be expected to hang with the Dynasty Patriots? I thought so and picked them to win the game with something like a 24-21 score. I was half right.

The game turned into the biggest offensive showing the NFL has EVER had and the Eagles walked away with a victory. Foles was the game’s MVP and Brady and the Patriots never had control of the game at any point (even when they led in the 4th quarter).

The Pats tried this trick play where Brady catches a pass, but Brady couldn’t haul in Amendola’s pass.

What’s crazy is that they Pats ran this play against the Eagles back in 2015, only the 38 year old Brady held on back then.

Then, if you needed any more proof that Coach Pederson is a madman, the Eagles tried a version of the same play near the goal line and Foles converted for a TD!

If anyone told you early in the season that Nick Foles would catch a TD in the Super Bowl, you’d have them committed. But he caught 1, threw 3 and won MVP. Insane.

The Patriots pride themselves on finding the other teams strength and taking it away from them, essentially making them play left handed. But the Eagles just are left handed by nature. They were the Pats worst nightmare matchup. They fast and loose, going for it on 4th down and just always finding a way to convert. It killed the Pats defense all night. So even though Brady kept putting points on the board, the defense couldn’t stop Foles and company at all.

Which makes you really wonder about why Bill Belichick never used Malcolm Butler on defense. Butler played on special teams, but his spot on the defense was gone. No explanations were given. It seems like either he was sick earlier this week and Belichick worried he wasn’t healthy or he did something to tick off Belichick and that was that. Either way, many are pointing to that decision as part of the reason the Pats lost the game.

It could also be that the Pats were missing one of their best offensive skill players because he was concussed in the 2nd quarter on a very hard (but legal) hit:

But the Pats also had some other uncharacteristic miscues, like some special teams errors that came back to haunt them later. A missed FG here and a questionable reverse attempt on the final kickoff of the game late in the fourth quarter that set them up for a very long field on their final drive.

The Pats had a chance late to take control of the game and that’s when the Eagles line finally got to Brady and made the biggest play of their night.

Even so, when Tom Brady got the ball again while down 8 with under 2 minutes to go, we all thought this game was headed for overtime. That’s what Brady does – works miracles in the 4th quarter. But his Hail Mary pass failed to connect and the game was over.

It’s absolutely insane to think that that Patriots had 613 yards of offense (most ever by a Super Bowl team), 505 passing yards from Brady (most in playoff history), never punted … and still lost the game. To a backup QB. Brady is now 5-3 in Super Bowls.

Does this mean the Patriots Dynasty is over too? With some turnover coming on the coaching staff, Brady’s age and some reported internal organizational strife, it could be.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have some decisions to make too. Their backup QB just won the Super Bowl MVP award. Do they keep him? Probably. As the backup? Probably. Or trade him? Likely. It will be interesting to see how they work the situation.

All in all, it was a great game! And when the Vikings aren’t playing in it, that’s about all I can ask for.

The Halftime Show

I’ll lump the National Anthem in here too. I don’t like Pink (and I refuse to spell it with a !) and when she came on screen and then pulled gum out of her mouth, I was not pleased. Then she sang an okay version of the anthem with (mercifully) not much flair. Her final note was a little sour. Later I learned that she’d been struggling with the flu all week and that was a cough drop she spit out before the song. As a singer, I’ve totally been there and it stinks. I’m giving Pink some grace on this one. There’s no good time to get the flu as a singer, but before singing on the biggest stage – ouch.

Okay, Justin Timberlake. Pretty pedestrian performance. Literally, he was walking and dancing through a Family Circus map of US Bank Stadium while singing some of his forgettable songs. That’s it. No big set pieces or anything. I think the Super Bowl could have used a little more spectacle.

And something just wasn’t right about the vocal mix. It sounded muddy to the point where I couldn’t understand what he was singing. Or maybe his lyrics are so processed and fast that no one could. I know US Bank Stadium is not the best venue for music, but the P.A. feed to TV should have been nice and clear and it wasn’t.

I really liked the University of Minnesota marching band being included. They were great.

And I totally want one of those mic stands for no good reason.

It was fully expected that he would play a Prince song. Every big act who swings through Minneapolis is seemingly required to cover our hometown hero. JT swore he wouldn’t do a hologram duet, but he ended up with a projection of Prince on a sheet anyway. Technically not a hologram, sure….

And this was cool – but totally a CGI insert.

My favorite was the kid in the crowd when JT went up there to sing. He took a selfie and then immediately got bored with what was happening and started checking his notifications or something.

Yep, cell phones and selfies were pretty much the biggest stars of the halftime show, from JT telling people to put their phones up to his final line of the show “Super Bowl selfies!”


The Commercials

David Harbour in the Tide ads won the night in our house. His hilarious “No, Tide ad” was great. And the subversive nature of suggesting that all ads featuring clean clothes are secret Tide ads was brilliant. They even crossed the Proctor and Gamble streams a bit and got the Old Spice guy into one.

The Giants had a bad year and their division rival played against their recent Super Bowl opponent in the big game. That didn’t stop the team from putting out a series of very funny commercials for the NFL.

Another corporate behemoth crossed brands a bit when Doritos and Mountain Dew got into a rap battle with Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman. Picking the right spokespeople can make or break and ad and they knocked this one out of the park.

What I really liked were the movie trailers! Oh, and even TV had trailers now because it’s 2018! The coolest drop was the trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox, a new Clover-verse movie that Netflix scooped up when Paramount got gun shy. Netflix dropped the trailer and released the movie when the game ended. Amazing. This is truly the future. I will watch this movie.

The much-anticipated first look at the Han Solo movie also premiered during the game. There’s a LOT of speculation being thrown around about the quality of this movie and the trailer at least makes it look great. We’ll see if the cast lives up to the hype.

Seriously, some of that looks so, so cool.

The first trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was sort of cool I suppose. This trailer is way, way better.

I’ve always loved the Mission: Impossible franchise and it’s increasingly crazy stunts and action set pieces. Fallout seems to keep the tradition of maiming Tom Cruise going for another day. This will be a fun film.

Logic dictated that a new Avengers: Infinity War spot should be included in the Super Bowl. And yeah, they put one out, but it didn’t have quite the wow-factor that some of these other trailers did. And it probably didn’t have to have it. We’re all going to see this movie.

HBO must believe in Westworld and they probably have to since Game of Thrones is ending next year. They splurged and aired a trailer for season 2 of the messy and weird sci-phi-losophy show during the big game. I’m in.

Hulu is trying to get into the big streaming party by putting out some quality original shows. They decided to generate hype for their mysterious show that’s some kind of mash-up of Stephen King stories. No one is really sure what this show is going to be, but Stephen King is very hot right now so they’ll definitely get some eyeballs on Castle Rock.

And finally, The Rock is in a new movie. He needs to save people again. He needs to go into a building on fire to do it. Oh, and he’s got a prosthetic leg. A PROSTHETIC LEG PEOPLE!!

SPORTS | This Feels Familiar

After The Minneapolis Miracle, the Vikings seemed to have destiny on their side going into an NFC Championship matchup against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles. There was a palpable feeling that a “home” Super Bowl seemed to be there for the taking. But on Sunday night, the Vikings’ demons emerged and added yet another scar to the franchises legacy and subtracted another year from the lives of the fans. The season may have felt different, but this feels all too familiar.

When I was a camp counselor we would lead youths in team building activities to challenge and grow them. After each activity, we would sit down and help them process what happened using three basic questions called “The What, the So What and the Now What?” Today we’ll do some processing of what happened on Sunday, what it means for the team and what’s next for my beloved Vikings.


By now you know that the Vikings historically great defense got their butts kicked for 60 minutes on Sunday. The stats are astounding compared to the rest of the 2017 season.

The Vikings were uncharacteristically bad across the defensive board, getting manhandled in the run game and getting continuously torched by Nick Foles and his receivers in the passing game. Everyone from Harrison Smith to Terrance Newman played poorly. Xavier Rhodes was frustrated enough to get into shoving matches late in the game when the score was already out of hand.

It seemed like the defensive scheme from Coach Zimmer was ineffective from the jump. The Eagles spread out the defense with wide sets and picked on the nickle back a bunch in the early going. As the game went on, they didn’t need to pick on any one specific player as the entire defense got shell shocked. Instead of dialing up his signature exotic blitzes in an attempt to rattle Foles, Zimmer elected to mostly let his front 4 work on getting pressure by themselves – which didn’t yield any results. Credit the Eagles O-line for their ability to keep Foles upright long enough to find his open men downfield. Foles looked like a pro-bowler out there. Of all the things that went wrong on Sunday, the implosion of the best defense in the league was the most shocking to witness.

Then again, the Vikings seem to make a habit of letting their statistical strength disappear in the biggest games. The 1998 offense couldn’t score enough in their NFC championship game and Gary Anderson’s 100% success rate also failed. In 2000, the offense was stellar again, but scored 0 against the Giants in their NFC Championship game. And in 2009, Brett Favre’s incredible regular season and Adrian Peterson’s unstoppable running got the team to the NFC Championship game before an INT and a fumble contributed to the shocking loss.

The 2017 offense wasn’t necessarily the strength of the team, but they were able to limit turnovers and use consistent WR play and solid running to capitalize on the defense’s high level of play. On their first drive, the Vikings looked like they were picking up right where they left off – with a nice drive and a TD to Rudolph. On their next drive however, everything changed.

Keenum’s pick six was so unexpected and rough that it threw the entire team into chaos. The Eagles scored the Blount TD on their next drive and suddenly it was 14-7 Eagles and they never looked back. Foles got aggressive, Keenum got tight and the position players all got nervous. And that’s when the Philly crowd started to become a real factor, whipping themselves into a frenzy and making things even more difficult for the Vikings.

As the game continued to get out of hand, the Vikings had no answers and no adjustments could be made to stop the bleeding. It was another Minneapolis Meltdown. The Eagles will play the Patriots in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.



So what does this all mean? For one thing, it means that the Vikings played their Super Bowl game a few weeks early when they beat the Saints in Minneapolis in miracle fashion. That game took something out of the Vikings and exhausted their supply of fight, it would seem. The coaching staff said they worked very hard to banish the euphoric memories of that game from their players’ minds to get them back to task on the Eagles. Still, I think the Vikings looked past the Eagles a bit by thinking that Nick Foles wasn’t going to beat them and they were headed to the Super Bowl. When Foles got off to a good start and the offense turned it over, no one was prepared for that. That’s on the coaches and also on the player leaders. When you get punched in the mouth, you’re supposed to shake it off and hit back harder. The Vikings just didn’t do that.

It means that Case Keenum is good, but he’s not great. In spite of an almost fairy tale season for Keenum, he showed that he’s not a franchise quarterback yet. Some of his throws were ill-advised and he should have been able to feel the pressure on the strip sack play. Of course some of the blame falls on the O-line for not being able to stop the pass rush of the Eagles. And injuries to the line were also a factor. But Keenum spent his capital against the Saints and went into some debt against the Eagles, raising questions about his future role with this team.

It means that the defense finally got solved a bit, probably by Drew Brees and Sean Payton. When the defense let the Saints back in the game in the Divisional Round, we should have known that something was afoot. We all attributed the comeback to Brees and his Hall of Fame talent, but the truth was there were chinks in the armor of the defense that the Saints found and exploited. The Eagles just watched the tapes and put their own spin on the blueprint. Zimmer will need to spend the next few months figuring out how that happened and how he can prevent it from ever happening again.

And it means that lots of changes are coming…


The Vikings now set their sights a 2018 season that will look vastly different from 2017. For one thing, the offensive coordinator who used Case Keenum to get to the NFC Championship game, Pat Shurmur, is now the head coach of the New York Giants. His ability to pivot when Bradford went down before week 2 AND when Dalvin Cook when down in week 4 got all the teams interested in his acumen. So the Vikings are in the market for a new coordinator and are reportedly considering their long-time QB coach Kevin Stefanski along with outside candidates like Darrell Bevell (who coached here under Brad Childress).

Whoever the new coordinator is will also have to work with Coach Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman to decide who their QB will be in 2018. This is a big one. This year the Vikings seemed to have 3 QBs who could potentially start: Bradford, Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. All 3 of these guys are now free agents. The Vikings need to decide if any of them are worth investing in and whether they should consider attempting to sign one of the bigger veteran names like Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins or even inquiring about trading for Alex Smith (whose time in KC may be up). It’s a real conundrum and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. With a defense that was otherworldly for most of the year and young talent on offense, a good QB could be the thing that gets them to the Super Bowl.

My sense is that the Vikings will have conversations with Keenum about returning, but not at the salary hit that he probably thinks he’s earned. Bradford is likely gone – who wants to deal with his injury history at this point? I could also see them being open to bringing Teddy back as a backup with incentives if he’s pressed into the starting role at some point. The Bridgewater comeback story is just too warmhearted to throw away.

But maybe Zimmer and Spielman realize that the window for the Super Bowl isn’t going to be open very long before these defensive stars need to be payed big, big money. Maybe they let all 3 of these guys walk, make a play for Kirk Cousins, keep Kyle Sloter in the organization (the upside practice squad guy they paid good money for) and draft a QB. Those moves would signal an “all in” for next year whereas retaining 2/3 of this years QB room would tell us they believe small changes are all that are needed (which I’m not convinced of).

The rest of the open questions surround the two lines. The offensive line was much improved this year, but depth was clearly an issue. Many lineman were asked to play out of position to cover the loss of another starter and that had very diminishing returns. On the defensive side, Everson Griffin played hurt for the second half of the season and had trouble producing. On the other side, Danielle Hunter didn’t make his presence felt as much as he should have. The schemes and personnel should be evaluated afresh because they NEED to have more pressure than they were getting in these last two games. They got the opposing quarterbacks very well when they were at home and they did very poorly on the road.

Oh, and we need to get better at the nickle back position. Mackenzie Alexander is decent, but was targeted far too many times because he’s been a weak spot compared to Rhodes and Waynes. I’m assuming Terrance Newman will hang it up (along with Brian Robison), so there’s room to add some fresh legs with talent for underneath coverage. And even though Andrew Sendejo was one of the most improved players this year (per Zimmer himself), there will always be talk of finding a new safety to compliment Harrison Smith (who some call the best player in the NFL).

At its core, this team is still young. Unlike the 2009 squad which featured some “last ride” type players, this team is poised to keep winning for a few more years. In fact, this will probably be the off season that Spielman will need to offer some contract extensions to these guys to keep them in the fold for future Super Bowl shots. It’s definitely going to be an intriguing off season.

As Mike Zimmer said on the radio this week:

“We keep knockin’ on the door, at some point we’re gonna kick that son of a b*tch down.” – Coach Mike Zimmer


Thanks for a great season, Vikes. I’m mad it ended the way it did, but I’m not giving up. We didn’t make it to the top of the mountain this year, but in the end every team is back at the bottom putting a new plan together. Even the team that wins it all is back at the bottom, they’re just the team that got to walk down under their own power. One of these years, we’re gonna kick that door down and the 2017 season’s failings (joined by the myriad of historical failings) will only make that success sweeter.

I like how Brian Robison put it into perspective:

Been trying to gather my thoughts and emotions to say what I need to say….. Well this has been one great ride this year. It still hurts very much so and it’s hard to talk about or even think about how close we were. Even though we weren’t able to accomplish our final goal there are so many good things that created memories for a lifetime this season. Number 1, I want to thank God for the opportunities, the people and the gift of eternal life that I have. Number 2, I want to thank my family, friends, and everyone else who has supported me so graciously. •••2a••• thank you to the fishing world for showing such amazing support throughout this season Number 3, I want to thank the @vikings organization for putting together such an amazing Team and the opportunity to be here for it. Thank you to my teammates for putting up with me and being an extension of my family! I’d go into “battle” with you anyway! Number 4, I want to thank the Viking fans for being in full force this year and showing us so much support. I’m sorry we didn’t get it done for y’all this year as you deserve to be called champions. Last and definitely not least, I want to thank my wife and kids. You make it easy to go fight everyday for me to go out and strive for more. Y’all are my why and my everything for being who I am and doing what I do. I love y’all No one knows what the future holds, but one thing I know is I’ll cherish this season not only for the wins and losses, but for the men and women I shared it with. #nfl #minnesota #vikings #football #family #reelemin

A post shared by Brian Robison (@brianrobison96) on


SPORTS | This Feels Different

In 2014, I made a rather ill-advised prediction: that one of Minnesota’s four major men’s sports teams would win a championship within the next 4 years. Since then we’ve seen the Minnesota Lynx win some WNBA championships and become a real dynasty (appearing in the finals 6 times and winning 4 championships since 2011!), but there had been little movement for the Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins and Wild.

But ladies and gentlemen,

“I come back to you now … at the turn of the tide.”

Yes, the past year has featured some very exciting developments for the big four Minnesota teams. With time winding down for my prediction to come true, how are we looking? Let’s take a quick run around the Minnesota sports landscape for some updates.

Minnesota Wild

For a while it looked like the Wild were our best hope for a championship. The “Skate-riots” (a play on Patriots) were a budding NHL super team that would surely deliver some deep playoff runs and maybe even an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Well, the hype-train got switched to a much slower track and the buzz surrounding this team has turned into a murmur at best. They’re in the midst of a middling season again now and it would seem that our hopes for a Cup are not going to be realized this year without a significant turnaround. And that’s the extent of my attention on this team.

Minnesota Twins

Going into the 2017 season, a rebuild was underway. The Twins got some new front office voices and shopped some of their talent while betting on the futures of some great young players. It was the right thing to do after a disastrous 2016 season. Then something peculiar happened – this iteration of the Twins turned out to be good! Despite some lingering pitching trouble, the young players like Byron Buxton ascended to incredible heights and veterans bounced back from rough 2016 seasons. They even made it to the Wild Card play-in game, where they lost to the Yankees. Still, it was a completely unexpected success story of a season, giving hope that the retooled front office had a plan that would work rather quickly. Was the season a blip on the radar or an actual first step towards relevance? Next season will help answer that question. Could the Twins win it all in 2018? The odds are definitely not in their favor, but the future is a lot brighter than it was a year ago.

Minnesota Timberwolves

I wrote last year about the furious, win-now moves that Tom Thibodeau enacted in the off season. Bringing in a super star like Jimmy Butler and some grizzled veterans like Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford signaled that Thibs wasn’t ready to concede the next few years to the Warriors and Cavs. He thought his young guys just needed some more positive peer pressure to buy into his master system. So far, the season has proved that the plan can work at least in the short term. The Wolves are sitting in the 4th spot in the tough Western Conference and it seems almost assured that their long, long playoff drought will finally end this season. That in and of itself is a huge success for this franchise. But Thibs certainly won’t be satisfied with a playoff berth and a first round exit. He believes that this team can contend for a title and soon.

Based on the season so far, it’s clear that they are still a work in progress. They’ve dropped games to lowly opponents from time to time and streaky shooting and foul trouble have hampered Wiggins and Towns. Injuries have also be a bit of a problem in this young season. Still, as the team gradually begins to see Butler as their centerpiece, they will only get better. I see them reaching the playoffs (for the first time in TWELVE YEARS!) as a 4 or 5 seed and winning their first round series. From there, the rest of the West might be too tough to break through without an injury on the other side. I’m not predicting a Finals appearance this year, but it’s certainly on the table for 2-3 seasons from now.

Which brings me to the actual best hope for nailing my prediction by the end of 2018:

Minnesota Vikings

As a Vikings fan, I’m always ready for the other shoe to drop. This franchise, for whatever reason, has a way of dangling some hope out there and then knocking the wind out of you with a lead pipe to the gut when you finally decide to reach out for it. But this season feels different.

The team opened the season with a masterful win over the Saints led by Sam Bradford, the player we acquired at great cost last season after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic, non-contact knee injury in training camp. Bradford looked ready to pick up where he left off last year with pinpoint accuracy in his passes and no mistakes. Plus, rookie running back Dalvin Cook carved up the Saints and looked like a rookie of the year candidate. But it didn’t take long for the Vikings to slowly reach for the pipe in their back pocket. Bradford’s knee became a problem and he hit the IR, leaving the team in the care of technically 3rd string QB Case Keenum. Then Dalvin Cook tore his ACL on a non-contact play in a week 4 loss to the Lions at home.

But this season just feels different!

The Vikings didn’t crumble under the weight of these problems like they did last year. Case Keenum put together the best season of his career, doing his best Bradford impression with accurate passes and few mistakes, plus mobility that Bradford only dreams of. The re-tooled offensive line played extremely well and WR Adam Thielen broke out in a big way. And then there’s the defense, which is probably the best unit front-to-back that we’ve ever seen in Minnesota. The Vikings rang up a 13-3 record and earned a first round bye in the playoffs along with the Eagles (who became very vulnerable when star QB Carson Wentz tore his ACL late in the season).

And it just so happens that the Super Bowl is in Minneapolis this year.

Something about this season just feels different!

The Vikings defense is the best in the game, from the line to the safeties. The offense is coolly efficient with a thunder/lightning RB combo, smart and athletic WRs and a QB on a hot streak. The fact that the Super Bowl is in their home stadium is just another incentive to get there and make history.

So I refuse to be the Minnesota sports fan who can’t enjoy the success because he’s bracing himself for a hit to the stomach.

These are not the 1998 Vikings (Gary Anderson missed FG at home against the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game). These are not the 2001 Vikings (41-0 loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game). These are not the 2009 Vikings (Favre interception / 12 men penalty against Saints in the NFC Championship Game). These are not the 2015 Vikings (Blair Walsh missed easy FG against the Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium in the Wild Round).

In the words of Kylo Ren:

These are the 2017 Vikings!

And they just might be headed to Valhalla.


Top Albums of 2017 – Part 2

EOTY 2017 Albums

10. Elbow | Little Fictions

I wish more people listened to Elbow. Guy Garvey’s voice is so unique and their textures are always very interesting. This album is a great addition to their already great discography.

9. LCD Soundsystem | American Dream

LCD Soundsystem famously broke up back in 2014, but then James Murphy discovered he had more he wanted to say through the band. So they reunited and released a killer album with some more great LCD SS tunes. And it’s 69 minutes long. Yeah, he had more to say alright.

8. Mogwai | Every Country’s Sun

I’ve been a Mogwai fan for awhile and listened to each of their albums as they came out. This one is a great throwback to the hard guitar rock of their early 00’s albums. Plus, it gets a boost because I saw them live this year at First Ave and they were spectacular.

7. St. Vincent | MASSEDUCTION

Annie Clark is back with a bawdy, modern pop album that is clearly her most personal work yet. The songs are complex compositions of excess and simplicity. From a disjointed song about pills to a sad ballad about a burned out friend on Christmas, Clark doesn’t shy away from her demons.

6. Grandaddy | Last Place

Gone for 11 years, Grandaddy reunited this year to release this album. It’s like they never left! This album is a wonderful gem that tackles issues of love lost and moving forward.

5. The XX | I See You

I love The XX and this album might be the culmination of their sound. A crystallization of the dreams of the first two albums. Jamie XX brings his sampling acumen into play and gives the songs a dance edge that really works for them. On Hold is a highlight for me.

4. Hammock | Mysterium

Hammock’s albums always make my lists. This is another lush and beautiful entry in their catalog, inspired by the death of a family friend. This is a requiem and it’s amazing.

3. Sufjan Stevens, et al | Planetarium

A few years in the making, this album is a recorded version of a live show that Sufjan Stevens and friends performed awhile back. It’s a concept album based on the solar system and features lyrics by Sufjan. It’s a little overstuff, but has some really lovely passages. I have given it plenty of spins this year.

2. The Clientele | Music for the Age of Miracles

Yet another band returned from hiatus when The Clientele release their first album in 7 years. They picked up right where they left off with beautiful, hushed songs of wonder and an impressionistic view of the world. I’m so glad they are back.

1. Slowdive | Slowdive


The mother of all comebacks! Slowdive released their first album since 1995’s Pygmalion this year and it might just be their best album ever. The songs are perfect, the voices are amazing and the shoegaze sound is completely intact. I fell in love with this album on the very first listen and went back to it many times this year. Long live Slowdive!

Top Albums of 2017 – Part 1

EOTY 2017 Albums

25. Bjork | Utopia

Bjork is back! This is a romantic, almost giddy album of “being in love” songs. And it’s pretty great.

24. Phoenix | Ti Amo

Phoenix makes really great dancey album and this latest one doesn’t fail in that respect either. A great collection of quick hitting tunes clocking in at a brisk 36 minutes.

23. Beck | Colors

My favorite Beck albums are Sea Change and Morning Phase, the sad ones. So this album is good, not great in my mind. I love, love the song Dreams. The rest is just not my cup of tea.

22. Spoon | Hot Thoughts

It’s been three years since Spoon’s last album, so it’s pretty great to have another quality release from these guys. They just have a great style and attitude to their music.

21. Iron & Wine | Beast Epic

Sam Beam got back to what made Iron & Wine great right out of the gate: beautiful acoustic songs on a small scale. It’s a great little album.

20. The National | Sleep Well Beast

This is a great guitar album, which is becoming a rarity these days. Lots to love on the latest from Matt Berninger and company.

19. Feist | Pleasure

Feist has been on a 6 year hiatus of sorts, so when this album was announced I was really happy that she was recording again. It’s a sad album that feels very personal.

18. Wolf Alice | Visions of a Life

I loved Wolf Alice’s first album. Here they get a little more experimental, eschewing a cohesive album style in favor of trying some new sounds. Dreampop, punk and 80’s pop are all here. Not everything works, but I love Don’t Delete the Kisses so much.

17. Stars | There is No Love in Fluorescent Light

Stars is such a great band and this is probably their best album in the last 6 years. It’s danceable and happy with a ting of sadness underneath, which is pretty much the band’s calling card.

16. The New Pornographers | Whiteout Conditions

The NP are back with their best album in years! Great harmonies, prickly lyrics and fun arrangements featuring synths and hooks. Carl Newman and Neko Case are awesome.

15. Mew | Visuals

For some reason I keep expecting Mew to break up since they’ve undergone some personnel changes in the last few years. But Visuals shows that they still have some edge and some new ideas.

14. Derek Webb | Fingers Crossed

I need to write up some long-form thoughts on this release. It’s musically gorgeous and lyrically heartbreaking. Derek loves writing riddles and letting people untangle them. Here, he pulls no punches as he articulates his loss of faith and love. Beautiful art out of shocking pain.

13. Slow Meadow | Costero

It’s another beautiful release from Slow Meadow, full of ambient keys and strings that are tilted towards classical music. I have spun this many times while walking or reading.

12. Broken Social Scene | Hug of Thunder

How about a comeback from a 7 year hiatus with maybe your best album ever? That’s what BSS just did. Hug of Thunder is a wonderful group effort that is equal parts political record and friendly jam session.

11. Julien Baker | Turn Out the Lights

Julien Baker is turning into a pretty great voice in the music scene. Her Elliott Smith-style approach is so lovely and her personal, emotive lyrics are sung with such passion you can’t help but start to feel her feelings with her.

Top Films of 2017

EOTY 2017 Film

As in years past, I didn’t watch a ton of movies. I have a long list of 2017 films that I really need to see and many of those will probably end up on this list. The movies that I did go out to the theater to see were the big genre movies that I’d been anticipating: comic book and sci-fi movies. So I’m intentionally leaving this “top ten” list short so I can save room for the movies I haven’t seen that I anticipate may gain entry once I’ve seen them. I’ll add my watchlist at the bottom of the post and you can tell me which ones I should prioritize.

7. The Lego Batman Movie

Forget Ben Affleck, Will Arnett is great as the titular character in this hilarious movie. It’s a lighter take on The Dark Knight that we haven’t seen since Adam West and Burt Ward were running around in the 60’s. It pokes fun at the long history of the character and also has a warm heart under the wild action. I loved it.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

A great second entry to the series that focuses on fathers, biological and figurative.

Read my full review here.

5. Thor: Ragnarok

Taika Waititi was hired to direct a 3rd Thor movie after the 2nd one largely failed to land with audiences. Waititi’s comedic sensibilities were on full display here as the movie was almost a parody of itself while also propelling the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward. The action was goofy fun and the side characters were all great. The villain Hela was perfectly portrayed by Cate Blanchett. I hope she’s back for Infinity War! I had a great time with this movie.

4. Wonder Woman

I consider Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice to be a complete debacle. But it did introduce Wonder Woman to the film universe and she was the best part of that movie. In her solo film, things only got better. The story was great, the action was amazing and the heart was warm. Chris Pine was perfect as the hotshot pilot who quickly took a backseat to the more-powerful Diana and sacrificed himself for victory. Great, great movie. Then it was basically back to business as usual for Justice League. *sigh*

3. Spiderman: Homecoming

This may be the first Spider-Man movie to actually get Peter Parker perfectly. By making it all about a smart high-school clown who gets in way over his head, it connected with the audience in a way many of these comic book movies never do. It was warm, super funny and full of action. The plot device of making the villain also his crush’s dad made for some really great scenes. Tom Holland is so great in this and I love seeing Martin Starr getting work in Hollywood. Freaks and Geeks forever!

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I don’t have much more to say on this one. It’s great and I want to rewatch it again as soon as possible.

1. Logan

Logan was crushingly good. I wish we got more comic book movies like that, that break down the genre into it’s sparest parts and create a story for adults. The themes of failure, death, fatherhood and masculinity were very well done. In some ways, Logan was being Luke Skywalker before The Last Jedi came out. He’s a once-powerful hero who has seen so much pain and loss that he want to retreat and live out his days away from the action. But when the need is great and things get personal, he is forced decide what his place is in the conflict that he’s partly to blame for creating. Hugh Jackman is amazing here and so is Patrick Stewart. It’s a visceral, violent neo-Western packaged as an X-Men movie. I hope that Disney’s acquisition of the film rights to the X-Men won’t quash future movies like this one. In an epoch when comic book movies come out almost monthly, we need these unique deconstructions to mix up the formula and demonstrate what kind of stories can be told if you tear up the templates.

My Movie Watchlist

Here are some movies that I am looking forward to seeing that I just haven’t gotten to yet. Any suggestions for what I should put at the top of the list?

  • Baby Driver
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Coco
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Alien: Covenant
  • John Wick: Chapter 2
  • The Shape of Water
  • It Comes at Night
  • Okja
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Dunkirk (how have I not seen this yet?!)
  • IT
  • The Lost City of Z
  • The Big Sick

Top Television of 2017

EOTY 2017 TV

Television continues to be a haven for creative minds to flex their muscles and craft some very compelling narratives. It was honestly hard to rank the shows I’ve enjoyed this year and I left a few off that were quite good. But here’s my list.

10. GLOW (Netflix)

I was surprised by this show. It’s super fun, a little campy and has a lot of heart to it. It’s a great drama with some great performances from the ensemble cast. Lots of complicated characters that your really start to like and root for in the end. And Mark Maron was really, really good.

9. Game of Thrones (HBO)

Oh Game of Thrones, you vexed me this year. Last season was so, so good as the show moved beyond the storylines of the source material and capitalized on the freedom that afforded them. This year, it seemed like they might not know how to land the plane on such a short runway. There were some great visual spectacles, but some creative choices felt really contrived and implausible, like the characters forgot who they were for awhile. Don’t let us down, GoT!

8. Last Man on Earth (Fox)

This show continues to be a totally absurd joy to behold. They continue to slowly tease out some of the PTSD elements of surviving the apocalypse while also letting these insane people bounce off each other in increasingly bizarre ways. I love it.

7. Better Call Saul (AMC)

The definition of slow-burn drama, Better Call Saul paid off some of the 2-years-in-the-making stories this season in some really gripping episodes. I don’t really like courtroom dramas and this season had some scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.

6. Legion (FX)

Noah Hawley brought us the Fargo TV show on FX a few years ago and now he brought us a bonkers show about a 3rd rate X-Men character. This show had its ups and downs, but the highs were so, so good. This show can be anything: horror, action, heist, comedy, Wes-Andersonian drama, anything. Great casting and a wild villain made it a great first season. More please!

5. American Vandal (Netflix)

My wife and I watched a episode of American Vandal on a whim and we were both immediately drawn in by this crazy thing. On its face, it’s a parody of Making a Murderer, Serial and The Jinx but with phallic graffiti, yet it’s really a lot deeper than that. As the show goes on, we laugh and shake our heads at these high schoolers taking the crime so, so seriously. In the end, there’s a real heart to the show and a theme of truth and identity that is fascinating. Recommended.

4. Narcos (Netflix)

Narcos is Netflix’s not-so-secret weapon show. The fact that it’s bilingual makes it have a board appeal to audiences around the world. The fact that it’s a great show to boot is amazing. After the demise of the main character of the first two seasons, the show is forced to pivot to new foes and new heroes in season 3. As such, it turns the spotlight on some “little guys” in the drug war and makes itself really, really interesting. The drug war didn’t end with Escobar, it just transformed into something even harder to nail down.

3. Stranger Things (Netflix)

Stranger Things is back and it is still great! The characters are awesome and the new, bigger story is great. I have a few issues with the plotting (and with episode 8’s detour), but I still have so much love for this series and it’s characters. See my bigger review for more thoughts. 

2. The Good Place (NBC)

The Good Place is so, so good. If you haven’t watched season 1, I can’t recommend it enough. For a comedy with lots of visual and verbal humor, it poses a lot of philosophical questions and lets them linger. After the finale of season 1 changed everything, season 2 became a surprising examination morality and eternity. The whole cast is amazing and makes the headiness of the show extremely fun and approachable.

1. Mindhunter (Netflix)

Mindhunter was apparently made with people like me in mind. I love David Fincher’s films and Zodiac is one of my favorites. Fincher produced this series and the directors tore pages out of his directors handbook to craft it. The acting is superb and the prickly nature of the story only serves to amplify the tension as you watch. Oh, and Cameron Britton’s turn as serial killer Ed Kemper was chilling in its execution. It’s a slow, slow burn of a show that gets under your skin. And it’s a great workplace drama. There really are agents who have to live in the world of horrific murder and then go home to their families at night and try to disengage from their work. This show humanizes these people and forces us to consider the possibility that people who seek out this work may be more like their suspects and prisoners than they are willing to admit. In a way, it comes closer than any show has to filling the Mad Men shaped hole in the TV landscape. Best show of the year.

Honorable Mentions

  • Master of None (Netflix) – just missed the cut
  • Fargo (FX) – a slightly less compelling season that usual
  • Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access) – a bit messy, but interesting modern take on Trek
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Return (Netflix) – some good episodes, some forgettable ones
  • Silicon Valley and Veep (HBO) – spun their creative wheels a bit this year
  • The OA (Netflix) – weird and addictive
  • The Orville (Fox) – way more enjoyable than it should be. In a lot of ways it’s the more Roddenberry-esque Star Trek show
  • The Walking Dead (AMC) – having a tough time keeping it together, maybe Rick should die soon
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) – another good season
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) – we’re about halfway through and really enjoying this one

FILM REVIEW | Star Wars – The Last Jedi [spoilers]

You know how bands that are about 5 years into their careers often release a double album? And you know how those double albums are rarely good all the way through, featuring enough good songs to fill 1 regular album and then a bunch of stuff that is pretty unnecessary? I mean, the good songs are often very, very good; it’s just that the not-good songs are very, very forgettable or outright bad. Why do bands feel like they need to put all that on the album and expand the run time to accommodate them? Couldn’t they edit it a bit? It’s because they personally feel very good about what they’ve done on all the songs and they have a vision that they all just belong together in one big collection. We’ve seen it time and time again.

And this creative gluttony is definitely not confined to the musical world. Filmmakers are probably even more prone to this. We often see tent pole genre films ballooning up towards the 3 hour mark just to fit all the plot in. Heck, we’ve seen a trend for big series to split their final entry into two parts, creating a literal double album of content (and doubling profits for the studios in the process). And that’s kind how I felt about my 1st viewing of The Last Jedi. A lot to like, even love! The good things are very, very good, but I could have done without a few of the lesser tracks in favor of a more streamlined approach. Maybe a bit like The White Album, which features some of the best songs The Beatles ever made while also featuring a few that most people don’t mind skipping.

That’s really my only criticism of this movie and honestly it is fading the more I mull the film over in my mind. This movie is built for discussion. So with that, let’s take the deep dive.



When Disney bought Lucasfilm, hired JJ Abrams and released The Force Awakens, fans were overjoyed that a new Star Wars film existed that wasn’t the prequels! We recognized that it was a glorified remake of A New Hope, but we didn’t care all that much because it was wildly entertaining and the casting was a revelation. Still, as the movie sunk further into our brains, many realized that we really wanted the story to advance a bit more and show us some new things, not just play cool covers of the franchise’s greatest hits.

Since then, the Star Wars “brass” has hired some great directors to make new Star Wars movies, only to swoop in later and make changes. They “helped” Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) reshoot / retool Rogue One, they hired/fired Josh Trank (Chronicle) for a Boba Fett movie (and canceled it), they hired/fired Lord & Miller (The Lego Movie) for the Han Solo film (bringing in Ron Howard instead) and hired/fired Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) for Episode IX (bringing back JJ Abrams instead). It seems that the Lucasfilm brain trust (Kathleen Kennedy specifically) and Disney wanted to have it both ways: visionary and talented young directors who will stick to Lucasfilm’s established formulas and story ideas. Some guys couldn’t handle that and were summarily dismissed in favor of more known quantities (echoes of Edgar Wright’s time on Ant-Man for Marvel Studios). In the midst of swirling industry rumors surrounding these movements, the interwebs were silent about Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi, and that was probably a good thing, indicating that everyone was very happy with what he was building. Then, a month before release, Lucasfilm announced that Johnson would soon be creating an adjacent Star Wars trilogy all his own! Clearly they liked what this guy was doing, but what did that mean? It turns out it meant that they wanted someone to push the story forward in very unexpected ways and propel the uncoupling process from the original trilogy forward. Basically it’s the opposite of what people thought they were angling for.


Let’s start with the plot of the movie. We pick up right where The Force Awakens left off. After Starkiller Base was destroyed by the resistance, the First Order is in hot pursuit of the small convoy to get revenge and wipe out their forces once and for all. The opening action scene is reminiscent of Rogue One – a real space battle with Poe Dameron leading the charge from some awesome looking bomber ships. It’s great.

Rey, meanwhile, was tasked with getting Luke Skywalker back into the action. He’s a legendary, superheroic figure that everyone in the resistance believes will win the war for them. Surprise: Luke wants nothing to do with galactic conflict anymore. In fact, he’s had it up to here with the Jedi and the Force altogether! This is a fascinating turn for the character that’s hard to grapple with at first. Luke, after all, was the pinnacle hero of the original franchise! Once it becomes more clear what caused him to retreat to a hermitage, we’re a little more understanding (or at least I am). Luke starts to train Rey in the ways of the Jedi and sees the power that she already possesses.

And then Luke sees that Rey is connected with Kylo through the Force. They are communicating telepathically across space. These scenes are so well done and are truly one of the best things in the movie.

When Rey leaves to confront Kylo, Luke is livid enough to make moves to burn the Force tree and the Jedi texts. And that’s when force-ghost Yoda appears and counsels Luke just like old times. Yes, the tree still burns, but Yoda says Rey has what she needs (hint hint).

As all that’s happening, the resistance is stuck in a 20mph car chase with the First Order. They can’t jump to light speed because that would use up all their fuel and the First Order can track them somehow and follow and blast them. But maybe, just maybe, they could break the tracker on the Star Destroyer and then jump away cleanly! Finn and a new character named Rose take a small ship and jump away to a casino world to attempt to hire a code-breaker to help them get through the Star Destroyer’s defenses and…. yeah… it doesn’t matter. This whole plot point was vestigial in my mind. And the slow chase seemed like a bit of a plot contrivance. More on that later.

In the meantime, Leia is in a coma after almost getting killed and the vice-admiral Holdo takes over, but Poe doesn’t like her choices. Soon he tries to force some action through mutiny. This stuff all seemed like it could have been avoided with a closed-door conversation about the plan of action and Poe’s place in it. Clearly Holdo believes that the tracking thing could be the work of a spy rather than advanced tech, so she needs to keep the plan on a need to know basis, but Poe might be one of those people who needs to know! Anyway, Holdo is a good guy and the soundless scene of her light speeding into the First Order Dreadnaught ship was breathtakingly good.

And now the best scene in the movie: the throne room scene. Kylo brings Rey to Snoke and she’s tempted to the Dark Side. She resists and then Kylo rises up, kills Snoke and fights his guards side-by-side with Rey. The battle is a visual feast! And Kylo and Rey fighting together! But Kylo still wants Rey to join him as he’s now in charge.  Kylo has doubled down on the dark side and is now the Big Bad in the films. Woah.

It is shocking that Snoke was dispatched like this. There was a lot of digital ink spilled over Snoke’s origins! Was he Darth Plaugeis? Was he Mace Windu? Was he some animated series character?  Rian Johnson forces us to accept that those things don’t matter. Snoke was a big bad guy and now he’s dead. This was always about Kylo Ren more than it was about Snoke. Move on, fanboys. Gutsy call by Rian Johnson!


We finish with the big battle on Crait, a beautiful “salt planet” that reminds us of the battle on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. The visuals of the white salt with blood red soil underneath were gorgeous. In the end, Skywalker finally appears and Kylo is obsessed with killing him, which allows the rebels to escape out the back door with Rey’s help. The twist, of course, is that Luke isn’t really there. He’s projecting from his island, creating a diversion and saying farewell to Leia. The exertion of projecting takes its toll and Luke finally fades out, alone but content that the story and the cause doesn’t depend on him.

So the rebel forces are severely reduced in number, but Leia says they have everything they need to continue the fight.

And then the coda, where were circle back to some random slave kids from the casino planet playing with home made Luke Skywalker action figures and recounting the legends. When the boy is sent out to sweep the barn, he casually pulls the broom to his hand with the Force and gazes up at the stars, brandishing the handle like a lightsaber. I love it.


One of the best aspects of The Force Awakens was the casting. All the new core characters were extremely well cast, full of crackling gravitas on screen. They were young, diverse and compelling. While that film went to great lengths to give the old guard of Han and Leia some screen time, it was the newcomers that truly stole the show.

In The Last Jedi, Luke returns to action and is given a great arc. There were many who wondered if Mark Hamill had simply been out of the game too long. After the original trilogy, Hamill pivoted to doing a lot of voice over work and dutifully participated in the convention circuit. When he got the call to come back for some new movies, he didn’t have too much going on that would prevent him from rejoining the rebellion. But could he still act on screen? The answer is a resounding “YES”! Hamill is great in this as the wounded and reclusive Luke Skywalker.

Leia is also great in this movie. Carrie Fisher’s final performance of the character is funny, nuanced and earnest. Space Mary Poppins scene aside , she was a stabilizing and tough presence for the resistance band.

Rey and Kylo are the heart and soul of this film. Their scenes are so, so good. Their chemistry is undeniable and their characters complement each other so well. It’s revealed that Rey’s parents were nobodies, drunks who sold her for booze money. Kylo is really Ben Solo, from the most famous force-using family in the galaxy! They are opposite ends of the spectrum in every sense, which makes them a really great conflict to watch.

Finn and Rose, umm, they didn’t really have much to do. I like their characters for the most part, but it just seemed like the plot didn’t do them enough justice. I thought Finn really should have died on Crait, sacrificing himself for the rebels and finally growing up enough to no flee from his fears. Instead, he’s saved to maybe wander around in the next film too. Still, I love John Boyega, I just wish the writers gave him an interesting plotline!

Poe Dameron too just seemed a bit frustrating from time to time. I get that he’s hotheaded and impulsive (“Let’s go blow stuff up!”), but his foolish zeal wore thin after awhile. Hasn’t he been at this long enough that he knows it’s not always about blasting things from his X-wing?


So there were so many things I liked. As other have said, this is clearly the best looking Star Wars movie yet. Rian Johnson knows how to use color and style to craft a memorable canvas for his story. The deep red colors of the throne room and Crait were a welcome addition to the standard Star Wars color palette.

The characters, as I said, were great – especially Kylo, Rey and Luke.

The movie was a lot jokier that I thought it would be. Sometimes it was jarring how goofy and physical the humor was, but it helped lighten what would otherwise have been a very heavy movie.

The space action … oh man the space action. So good.

I also liked the direction they took the story. So much of the current “backlash” seems to be centered on the way they spun Star Wars in a different direction than many expected. I love that and I think it made the themes of the movie a lot deeper.


The entire Finn and Rose mission to Canto Bight was a tough detour during the movie. They went to hire a rogue codebreaker, got caught, found a second rate codebreaker instead, freed some abused animals, got betrayed by the codebreaker and none of it mattered in the end at all. Sure, they were the ones who encountered the slave kids who show up in the end. So was that whole plan just to set up that coda? Was the Force handing them failure to set up a greater victory?

Or, more likely, was it to explore another corner of the galaxy far, far away and point out that “the 1%” exist there too. These people are profiting from the Star Wars, dealing weapons and supplies to both sides and living in luxury as a result. A little heavy handed political commentary, but oblique enough to not be too annoying. Still, this plot thread made the movie 30 minutes longer than it needed to be in my opinion.

Also, I’m still not sold on Admiral Leia surviving in the vacuum of space and then flying back into the ship and surviving. I appreciate that she’s a force user and that’s great. I just thought that scene came off as very corny to me.


There were a lot of big themes in this movie that I thought were pretty profound.

The first theme is how failures can often teach us more than successes can. Yoda is the one who points this out to Luke.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” Yoda to Luke

We see failures happening all over the place and the characters having to deal with the fallout from them. Finn and Rose’s mission fails. Hux fails hilariously and all the time. Poe’s ideas are shouted down and he fails as well. And of course Luke’s failure with Ben Solo is what sent him spiraling into isolation and set the whole new trilogy in motion.

Not to mention the difficult realization that the entire original trilogy ended with a glorious victory on Endor that ultimately failed to make a lasting difference in the galaxy! Han and Leia’s marriage failed. Leia’s new Republic failed.

Failures have huge consequences that can end up negative or positive in the end. In this case, trusting the Force is what really matters, something that can be a great allegory for God.

In fact, the version of the Force that we see here is much more like the God of the Bible than other entries in the canon. The Force is a character here, not just a mysterious energy field that can be manipulated. It’s not tied to a bloodline, it chooses people regardless of their race or station – much like God in the New Testament spreads his covenant promises to all races and not just the family of Abraham! Rey is a nobody, says Kylo, who doesn’t have a place in this story. Still, the Force has called to her and gifted her with great power and strength that she didn’t earn. And in the end, the Force is doing it again with a nobody slave kid on Canto Bight. The people aren’t the story, they aren’t the ones winning these fights. Luke’s arc ends with him and his friends realizing that he isn’t actually the superhero that will win the war with his mere presence. For Luke, that’s a freeing thing and he passes on, secure in the idea that his legacy lives on because the Force lives on.

And finally the idea of the “balance of the Force” makes more sense than ever. When Anakin appears way back in The Phantom Menace, the Jedi all wonder if he’s the chosen one who will bring balance to the Force (whatever that means). In reality, his fall to the Dark Side tips the balance far away from the light. Perhaps the Jedi had been strong for so long that the balance that was needed was actually a correction to the Dark? Then Luke rises up to challenge Vader and the Emperor. Then Snoke and Kylo take power and Rey rises up as Kylo’s reciprocal. The Force itself is willing a balance into existence when it is required! It’s a complicated, uncomfortable picture of what the Force is really all about. I kind of love it.

The theme of hope has always been very important in Star Wars. There is hope when the odds are stacked against our heroes. There is hope for fallen characters to return to the light. In The Last Jedi, hope isn’t a person (Luke, Rey, Leia, etc) but an actual faith that good will survive and ultimately win over evil. Maybe not today, but eventually. When Finn’s kamikaze attempt is thwarted by Rose, she delivers a powerful line:

“That’s how we’re gonna win, not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” – Rose Tico

Masterful. The resistance is back to being a rebellion and is reduced to a force small enough to fit on the Millennium Falcon, but they have faith that they will win because they will continue to prioritize saving those they love over killing those they hate. That’s also what Vice Admiral Holdo was arguing to Poe in the 2nd act. She wanted to get the people to safety rather than risk everyone’s lives by mounting a desperate attack with little hope of victory. And that’s where Rey and Kylo differ in their philosophies as well.

“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.” – Kylo Ren

Kylo hates his past because it hurt him, so he wants desperately to kill his father, his mentor, his new master. He wants to remake the universe in his own pained image. Rey wants to seek the wisdom of her elders but isn’t afraid to point out their flaws as she strives for peace. She wants to save Kylo because she does have compassion for him, her enemy.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Jesus in Matthew 44:43-45

As the rebels say in the end, their light will become a spark that will become a fire that will burn evil to the ground.


The Last Jedi is an overly-long, complicated movie with big ideas and a beautiful subtext on the difference between light and darkness. It widens the horizons of the franchise in great ways, daring to imagine that the Force is even more mysterious than we all thought and that the story is bigger than the characters we love. The story is bigger than the characters we love. 

I’m very curious to see where the franchise goes from here and I’m very pleased that they have adjusted course away from the “play the hits” franchise reboot. I think this is a movie that will actually improve with repeated viewings, which is a very rare thing for blockbusters these days.

Thanks for the great movie, Rian.