HDIM Reviews: The Invisible Guest (2016)

I’ve been hankering for some murder mysteries for a while. I mean Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman scratched the drama itch for me, at least for a while but my first love has always been crime shows and murder mysteries.

Someone once asked me: why the love for one person murdering another person stories – and I think The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo) summarises the answers quite perfectly.

With murder mysteries, there is always a victim and there is always a search for the culprit as well as the truth of what happened. Sometimes there is no victim: you can’t find the body, or you are not sure if the person was actually dead. Sometimes the culprit is the person you least expected. And sometimes the truth is convoluted while other times the true answer can only be the simplest one.

There is however a fourth factor if a case goes to court, and that is how the murder is presented to the jury (us). The Invisible Guest explores how a murder is interpreted or how a murder story unfolds through multiple angles, giving us a lot to chew on before the final solution is revealed. Heavy spoilers ahead. You don’t have to watch the movie if you continue reading, that’s how heavy things are going to get. (I get that this isn’t what a review really is but hey, it’s my blog)

The story begins with a meeting between the accused Adrian Doria and his prosecutor, Virginia Goodman. She is there to dig the truth out of him. Having retired, she took up this one last case on the request of Adrian’s solicitor Felix and wants to ensure her record goes unsullied. But to do that, she needs Adrian to tell her everything from the very beginning.

The Murder

Adrian tells him about Laura, the woman he had been having an affair with. She had been killed inside a locked room with nobody else around apart from Adrian. Police found him in the room after another guest reported a disturbance. Logically, Adrian was the only person who could have done it.

Why he insists on being framed for the murder seems like a feeble attempt to weasel his way out of a prison sentence. He is after all a rich, well established businessman with a perfect family life. That’s kinda what his character type does.

I mean, look at him. Adrian looks like a missing Jonas brother. He can get away with things.

Virginia asks if he has any enemies, to which he replied no. She questions the motive behind someone blackmailing him, murdering Laura and leaving the money behind (what was the point then) if Adrian didn’t have someone really really pissed off at him.

Story #1

After much pushing, he admits to having caused the death of a passing motorist. It was, in his defence, an accident. A deer had crossed his path and in an effort to avoid it, he rammed into another car, killing the other motorist.

In an effort to salvage the situation – they were both married and they cannot allow their spouses to find out about the affair – Adrian and Laura tried to leave the area but their car, damaged from the accident would not start. Another motorist passing through the area saw them together as well as the damaged cars.

The cunning Laura tries to pretend to be the driver of the other car and that she and Adrian were in the midst of exchanging insurance information. The motorist leaves them. Laura convinces Adrian to get rid of the body and the car while Laura waits in their own car for help to arrive. Adrian drives for an hour and dumps the car in the middle of a swampy lake then calls Laura to come pick him up so they can get back home.

Laura arrives, in tears, and tells him a freaky coincidence. She had gotten the car fixed by a third passing motorist who knows his way around cars. He offered to tow her car back to his garage to be fixed. While waiting at their lovingly warm home, Laura had discovered to her horror, that the passing motorist and his lovely wife were the parents to the passenger. #iknowright

Laura tells Adrian to report the car stolen, and she gets rid of the car at the scrapyard. They went their separate ways and promised to never see each other again. The end.

At least that’s what Adrian tells Virginia. Laura is no longer around to refute or corroborate anything he says. Virginia however, being the powerful attorney that she is starts punching holes in his story.

Story #2

So they came up with another one, where the passing motorist who saw them exchanging insurance information was the one blackmailing Laura and Adrian. Having lured them to the hotel, he had the dead motorist’s father kill Laura for having lied to and frame their son, who works in a bank, for fraud (and instead of being murdered, he ran away with the money instead).

Hold up? Are you suggesting that the dead motorist’s father is capable of committing murder, Adrian asks. Why not? Replies Virginia. If anyone has a burning desire for revenge, it would be the father who unknowingly had picked up and helped the very person who had caused the death of his son and then covered it up. He couldn’t even bury his only child.

And how would he have escaped the room? Adrian and everyone else (me!) asked. Virginia: Well, the wife works in the hotel. She could have orchestrated a feasible escape route for her husband. It all pans out. This is the strongest story you have. But in order for the jury to buy this, you need to explain to the jury why this guy has it out for you. And that means copping to causing the accidental death of his son.

Virginia gets a phone call. They have discovered who the prosecutor’s witness is. And it’s the second motorist. The one who saw them together. Virginia says here I’ve got a better story.

Story #3

Let’s pin EVERYTHING on Laura. She was there at the cabin herself. She alone hit the passing motorist. She got rid of the car. She called you to help her clear up her mistake. You were innocent, Adrian. You had nothing to do with this but the dead motorist’s father was convinced you did.

The only way to prove that Laura is the only person who was guilty of all of this – and that’s why the father killed her – is to locate the car and put something that belongs to her in it to connect her to the crime. Then, put an anonymous call in for the police to find the car. The perfect plan!

(But Adrian, how then would the father be able to have picked up Laura and her damaged car, tow it back to the house and fix it for her? Did you think of that? Because that’s the only way the father could have linked Laura to the crime and in the end killed her. Something is way off for Story #3, you need to talk it out more.)

Adrian asks, what about the passing motorist? (Yeah, Virginia, what about the passing motorist?) He could place Adrian at the scene of the crime. He will tell the prosecutor everything. Virginia says she lied about that. They haven’t located the motorist. It was all a ruse to extract the truth from Adrian.

Yeah, Virginia, you jerk.

Virginia: I had to do it. You were lying through your teeth. Adrian: Well, I need to see if you could get me out of that room. And you did.

Adrian had found out that the dead motorist’s mother worked at the hotel. The venue wasn’t picked at random. He just couldn’t figure out how the father can get himself out of the room. And Virginia did the hard work for him. Looks like he isn’t as innocent as he looks.

Virginia had earned his respect, which is when he lands her with a fourth story.

Story #4

The dead motorist was taken to the swampy lake in the trunk. Right before Adrian pushed the car into the lake, he discovered that dead motorist isn’t exactly dead. Adrian had gone too far to turn back now. So he drowned the poor guy.

This confirms that Adrian was there and he was the one who not only caused the accident but had actually killed the passing motorist. But who killed Laura? Virginia puts out Story #5. This thing is about to go sideways.

Story #5

It was Adrian all along. The parents of the dead boy had nothing to do with it. Laura, instead of being the instigator and the plan maker, had been racked with guilt since the incident.

She had contacted the parents and informed them that she is going to make this right. She sent the blackmail material to Adrian and made him bring the blackmail money so she can pay the poor parents for the loss of their son.

Adrian, having figured out he had been played, murdered Laura and staged the scene so he could frame the parents for it. He needed to figure out how someone can get out of the locked room and that’s what Virginia is here for. The only problem is getting enough evidence to put them there at the hotel. Virginia says she needs more time to work with Adrian, but after they take a break. It’s going to be a long night.

Conclusion

Adrian gets a call from Felix, his solicitor who has found passing motorist no.2 and bought him off. Looks like they can stick to Story #3 as an alternative to Story #2. Their phone call was interrupted by a static disturbance and Adrian discovers that the pen Virginia had brought with her is a voice recording device.

It slowly dawns on him that he has told the absolute truth to Virginia and that she may not really be on his side. To his horror he sees her in the building across the street, standing next to the dead motorist’s father, where she reveals herself, by tearing off cosmetics, contact lenses and a wig, to be the mother.

The real Virginia Goodman turns up at Adrian’s doorstep minutes later, as the dead guy’s father turns off the sound recorder in his room and makes a call to authorities.

*flips table* What the what? That came out of f*cking nowhere. But bar this unrealistic ending this is why I like watching murder mysteries. This is also a good show to watch a second time around so you can catch all the details you missed from the first viewing. I’d like to apologise to Laura for hating her character at the beginning. She was so unfairly treated. Like the innocent passing motorist whose name is Daniel, Laura didn’t deserve to die. To honor them, #pressplay.

The Solar System Doesn’t End At Neptune

A new day, a new obsession.

I was helping my daughter revise for her Science exams when we came across the astronomy chapter in her textbook. I realised that a lot of the material that she is learning is pretty much the same things that I was learning when I was in school, apart from the fact that we now have only eight planets in the solar system instead of nine (Sorry Pluto, you will always be a planet in my heart).

NASA

Truth of the matter is our solar system has way, way more celestial bodies in it than just the terrestrial planets, the asteroid belt, the gas giants and moons. To stop teaching about the Solar System at Neptune is a missed opportunity. #justsaying

I think that our Science syllabi in school can be more interesting and fascinating if we put in more chapters or topics to do with astronomy and the study of our Solar System. You know, make it less about which astronomer discovered which planet at which year (memory work) and make it more about how they did it, what were the consequences of their discoveries, what tools they used to explore the night skies and how far technologies have come in this modern world when it comes to finding very, very far and very, very small objects in the sky.

I’m no Science textbook author, but if I were, I would put into textbooks things I’m putting into this blog post now.

But first, let’s recap what is already in the textbooks.

Planets & Moons

We have our Sun, and orbiting it are the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Then there’s the asteroid belt between the rocky planets and their gas giant neighbours, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

Now, moons. How many moons are there in the solar system? A staggering number of them. Apart from Mercury and Venus which have no moons, the rest of the planets have natural satellites orbiting them.

Earth has one, Mars has two, while the other planets have … a lot. At the time of this writing, Jupiter has 79, Saturn has 82, Uranus has 27 and Neptune has 14. You can see a pattern here, something along the lines of the larger the planet, the more moons they can hang on to.

That’s not how it works with Pluto.

Let’s talk about Pluto

Pluto has 5 moons. Five. There’s Charon, the largest of Pluto’s moon, pretty much half the size of Pluto. As you can see in the video below, they’re locked in this dance where they face each other; there’s a binary planet thing going on there.

Then you have the two larger ones, Nix and Hydra (the one that looks like it is drunk and spinning out of control). Between them is the smaller Kerberos and lastly, you have Styx which was found by New Horizons, the probe which travelled for 9 years just to check out Pluto. It has since moved on, and is en route to a Kuiper belt object, Ultima Thule. Read more about the New Horizons mission here.

I’m sure you know that Pluto is no longer a planet. I’m sure you know that it is a dwarf planet but did you know that it is a Kuiper belt object?

What Are Kuiper Belt Objects?

If you find asteroids in the asteroid belt then you will find Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO) in the Kuiper belt. Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, the Kuiper belt where it originated from was not found until the year 1992.

This is primarily because the belt is just so darn far away, beyond the orbit of Neptune. It’s a region that is cold and dark and full of small objects made of mostly rock, water ice, ammonia and methane.

That’s a pretty crowded neighbourhood beyond Neptune

The Kuiper belt starts at the edge of the orbit of Neptune, 30 AU from the Sun, and extends to around 50-55 AU from the Sun (reminder: 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

Sometimes KBOs are also known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) although this definition covers pretty much everything that is found beyond Neptune.

Finding the Kuiper Belt

In 1943, long before we had the technology to locate the belt, astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth suggested the existence of objects beyond Neptune. Gerard Kuiper predicted a “belt of icy objects” near the edge of the solar system in 1951. This is why sometimes this region is known as the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt.

In 1992, after searching for 5 years, astronomer David Jewitt and graduate student Jane Luu, announced their discovery of the first Kuiper Belt object: 1992 QB1 also known as 15760 Albion.Since then there had been thousands more of such objects found.

Source

We know that Pluto is a dwarf planet but it’s also a Kuiper Belt Object. In fact, it is the largest KBO in the group, with a diameter of 2377 KM, and technically it’s the first KBO every discovered.

Pluto, together with Makemake (1430 KM), the second brightest KBO after Pluto, and oblong-shaped Haumea (1595 KM), are the only Kuiper Belt Objects that are also dwarf planets.

Read more about Kuiper Belt Objects here, here and here.

Eris, the Dwarf Planet from Beyond

At this point we know that the Kuiper Belt is very far away from the centre of our Solar System. And yet, beyond that we have a region called the scattered disk which extends up to 1000 AU from the Sun!

Now from this region, scientists found Eris. It was initially thought to be bigger than Pluto but eventually we discovered that it has a moon, and that in fact, it’s only about the same size as Pluto (2326 KM).

Eris and her moon Dysnomia, far beyond Pluto’s orbit

At its closest to the Sun, it’s 38 AU away; at its furthest, 96 AU! Remember that Neptune is at 30 AU – sunlight takes more than 4 hours to get to Neptune. Eris’ orbit is tilted by 45 degrees and it takes around 557 years to go once around the Sun.

Eris plays an important part in our understanding of the solar system because its discovery was one of the reasons Pluto got demoted to dwarf planet status. Had they decided to keep Pluto as a planet, Eris would have been the tenth planet in the solar system.

So based on the IAU definition of a planet released in 2006, our solar system now has 8 planets and 5 dwarf planets: Pluto, Makemake, Haumea and Eris. Wait, that’s four. What’s the fifth dwarf planet?

Ceres, King of the Asteroids

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, a region between Mars and Jupiter. It only has a diameter of 945 KM but because of its proximity to Earth, it was a lot easier to find than say, Pluto or Eris.

In fact, Ceres was discovered back in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, and like Pluto, it was declared a planet. At the time, the Solar System had only 7 planets; Neptune had not been found yet. Ceres would become the fifth planet from the Sun for about 50 years before the discovery of more objects like it force astronomers to reclassify Ceres as an asteroid instead of a planet.

Source

After Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status, Ceres was once again reclassified as a dwarf planet. Amongst the 5 dwarf planets, Ceres is the only one within the inner Solar System. It’s also the first dwarf planet to have been visited by a dedicated space probe, Dawn back in 2015.

See pictures sent back from Dawn and read more about Ceres here.

Sedna, A World of Possibilities

Reading about Sedna fills me with frustration and with a new appreciation for the work astronomers do. You see, Sedna is widely considered a dwarf planet but it isn’t officially one, mainly because it is just too far to observe.

To be a dwarf planet you need to meet two requirements: you need to orbit the Sun, and you need to be big enough for your own gravity to give yourself a round shape. Unlike the definition for a planet, a dwarf planet need not have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Sedna is big enough to see, but is it big enough to have its own self-rounding gravity? The short answer is, we don’t know. That’s because Sedna has an incredibly elongated orbit.

Pluto orbits the Sun once every 248 years; Eris, once every 557 years. Sedna takes 11,400 years for one trip around the Sun. At its farthest from the Sun, Sedna would be 937 AU away. When it was found in 2015, it was 86 AU away, still a great distance from us. While it is big enough for us to sit up and take notice, but we just can’t see enough of it to be sure that it is a dwarf planet.

What we can study however is its orbital path, which many believe alludes to the existence of another giant planet beyond the Kuiper belt. It is believed that this trans-Neptunian planet would be able to explain the eccentric orbits of Sedna and other objects like it in the Kuiper belt. But until we find it, this is just a theory. Fingers crossed, we will one day find out why Sedna travels the way it does.

So, are we done? Nope.

Trojan Asteroids

In October 2021, NASA is launching Lucy, a space probe mission that will head for Jupiter trojans. #saywhatnow?

See it in action here

Jupiter trojans are a type of trojan asteroid (depicted in green in this pic above). There are two groups of asteroids that flank Jupiter on both sides while orbiting the Sun. They are found in stable orbits, at two Lagrangian points 60 degrees ahead (L4) and behind (L5) of Jupiter. Jupiter has millions of trojans larger than 1 KM across.

These trojans are the fossils left over from failed planet formations, remnants from when the Solar System was in its planet-forming phase. Lucy will be aiming for multiple Jupiter trojans during its 12-year mission to study and send back data that can help scientists understand more about planet formation.

Apart from Jupiter, at the moment of this writing, Neptune has 22 trojans, Mars has nine, Uranus has two, Earth has one, and Venus had one temporary trojan. Two of Saturn’s moons have trojan moons also known as co-orbital moons. Just to be clear, these aren’t moons that go around moons, they are just moons that orbit in a locked pattern (60 degrees ahead and 60 degrees behind) a fellow moon. Tethys has Calypso and Telesto, while Dione has Helene and Polydeuces. #betyoudidn’tknowthat

Centaurs

So far, all the objects that we have previously discussed, dwarf planets, asteroids, trojans, Kuiper belt objects and trans-Neptunian objects, are grouped under the category “minor planets”. The only one that has not been discussed is Centaurs. And that’s because centaurs are complicated.

Centaurs are small bodies in the outer solar system region, found between Jupiter and Neptune. They behave like, and thus are sometimes categorised as, comets and asteroids on top of being centaurs. It’s believed that they are strays that have escaped the Kuiper belt object inward towards the outer Solar System area.

They have chaotic orbits that are often eccentric (like stretched out ellipses) and unstable. Let’s talk about what those two things mean:

  • Eccentric orbit: Earth has a near circular orbit, so it has an orbital eccentricity of near zero. On the other hand, Halley’s comet has an orbital eccentricity of 0.97, a highly elliptical orbit. Because of the perturbations from the gas giants, many centaurs (though not all) are found to have eccentric orbits. So far, the centaur with the most eccentric orbit is Asbolus at 0.62.
  • Unstable orbit: Centaurs have dynamical lifetimes. This means their orbits will change over time. Some centaurs may move into different orbits after a period of time. If they get flung into the inner Solar System, the end up as Jupiter family comets (short-period comets). If they get flung outward, they may leave the Solar System entirely.

Below is a great image of what is in our outer Solar System (you can check out the source here). You have Jupiter (J), Saturn (S), Uranus (U) and Neptune (N) and the yellow Sun right in the middle. The blue flecks are Kuiper Belt Objects while the yellow ones are objects in the scattered disk region. The green flecks that are inside the orbits of the gas giants are the centaurs.

By User: Eurocommuter – Plotted by a program written by the author, CC BY-SA 3.0 (link)

Yes, the Solar System isn’t as empty as we thought. It’s just really big.

Gravitational Perturbations

Why are the orbits of centaurs so unstable? Well, as the orbits of centaurs cross the orbits of the four gas giants, centaurs are subject to the gravitational pull of the much larger planets. This extra force exerted by the planets is called gravitational perturbation and in the long run, it is this force that will cause the orbits of centaurs to change.

One wonderful story that illustrates the significance of perturbation is the discovery of Neptune.

NASA

Neptune was discovered in the mid-1800s and was the only planet in our solar system that wasn’t discovered from direct observation. It was simply too far and too small to be observed. But astronomers know that mathematically, it’s there.

Neptune’s position in the sky was calculated based on the understanding that something large, possibly a planet, had been causing irregularities in the orbit of Uranus. French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier did the math then sent the calculations to the Berlin Observatory for confirmation. Based on his calculations, Neptune was subsequently discovered in under an hour, and only a degree from the predicted location. #mathisgreat

If Neptune can exert such an influence on a fellow gas giant, imagine the chaos Neptune and the other gas giants can cause when it comes to smaller bodies like 2060 Chiron, a centaur that’s only 206 KM across. Chiron’s orbit crosses between Saturn and Uranus and lasts around 50 years. It also exhibits comet-like activities, such as having a coma when its orbit is near the Sun (at its perihelion).

If you look up info about other centaurs and check out their orbits, it will probably look something like this.

And if you look further, say at Chariklo, you might find more interesting information, like how this centaur has not one, but two rings around it.

Chariklo is a centaur slash asteroid that has an orbit between Saturn and Uranus. It looks something like this. #iknowitdoesntlooklikemuch #waitforit

Chariklo via the Hubble Space Telescope in 2015

Discovered in 1997, Chariklo is the largest known centaur so far, with a diameter of around 300 KM. In 2014, a group of scientists found evidence of rings on Chariklo by observing it during an occultation. An occultation occurs when the object you want to study crosses in front of a star, thereby blocking its light from reaching you. The longer the period of the block, the larger the object.

During the stellar occultation of Chariklo, the light magnitude from the start dipped not once, but 5 times, indicating 2 distinct ring systems (and outer and an inner) around Chariklo.

Planetary.org

Read more about this process here.

I’ve gotten to this point in my post when I discovered that scientists are still at odds on how to define centaurs. I mean, if you think about it, they’re everywhere and then millions of years down the road, they’re just not where they were anymore. They’re not doing that to annoy you, that’s just how they roll. But you got to admit, centaurs are just too cool to leave out of this post.

Finally Wrapping Up

The thing with astronomy is that the objects we find inside our Solar System don’t have to fall neatly into boxes for us. Try as we might to classify this object or that, we will constantly be making new and surprising discoveries that will push the boundaries of our definitions and force us to rethink and recategorise and reboot our understanding of the cosmos for as long as we are willing.

This is precisely why No. 1, astronomy is a must-learn topic in Science class. And No. 2, we need to and should update our textbooks to give our children the opportunity to learn about all these “new” discoveries beyond Neptune.

If you want the next generation to be fascinated with Science, keep astronomy in Science class and it will do the rest.

HDIM Reviews: Netflix’s Criminal: UK, Germany, France, Spain

As a fan of police procedural shows and Line of Duty, I was not surprised that this came recommended to me based on my watchlist. Story-wise, plots are not what Criminal is about. Criminal is more about how interesting the interrogation suspects are, and when you have bigwigs like David Tennant playing the possible suspects, you’re in for a treat.

There are 12 episodes, 3 episodes to each location: UK, Germany, France and Spain. The layout of the interrogation quarters is the same but the officers, team dynamics, personalities, language and therefore techniques used are different. Also in the spotlight are the motives behind each crime, rather than just the crime itself. What the episodes are here to unearth is why people do the bad things they do.

Criminal: UK

The team dynamics is strong here. They talk about structure and by-the-textbook procedures. Kinda makes them look boring but wait til you see how it’s done in Criminal: Spain.

E01: Edgar

David Tennant, always a delight to watch, plays the role of stepfather, Dr Fallon, who is accused of raping and killing his stepdaughter. Apparently in this world, you can only hold the suspect for 24 hours and Tennant’s character has stayed absolutely silent for 23 hours. In the final hour, he sings like a canary.

E02: StaceY

Hayley Atwell, Mrs Captain America, stuns as Stacey in not one, but two confessions. She is believed to be involved in her sister’s husband’s murder, which she confesses to at about the halfway mark of the show. That seemed a little too easy, don’t it? Absolutely. She’s done when she says she’s done, pink hair and acrylic blue nails and all. Wonderful episode.

E03: Jay

Youssef Kerkour, if you haven’t seen him on Home, you should, because he is so under-utilised as Jay, a truck driver, in this episode. He’s brought in to be the gentle but not as dumb as he looks giant, who abandons a truck (possibly) full of illegal immigrants now at the risk of freezing to death overnight. Time is of the essence. Then midway through, the plot-line doesn’t twist, it entirely pivots.

Criminal: Germany

In the background, Eva Meckbach plays a heavily pregnant officer joining the cases while simultaneously reviewing Sylvester Groth’s (Dark) interrogation methods. Germany’s cases are a lot more bizarre than the UK’s. Also, Groth is incredibly hostile for a police officer and seemed ready to fly off the rails at any moment. #bringthepopcorn

E01: Jochen

Peter Kurth is Jochen, a successful businessman who was the last person to see a handyman he had hired to work on one of his apartments decades ago. This episode was carried by an interesting plot, for a change. Best to go in blind on this one. If I had to complain about anything it’s that Schulz’s dubbed voice is so not suitable for him.

E02: Yilmaz

In the second episode, we see Deniz Arora’s Yilmaz being questioned on why he pushed his wife down the stairs, landing her in hospital. It is a case of domestic abuse. The weird thing is a lawyer has been hired to defend the suspect, by the victim’s father.

E03: Claudia

Nina Hoss, exuding the Aileen Wuornos vibe in Claudia, is a sight to behold. Her role is that of Claudia, a serial killer’s accomplice. She helped her boyfriend, now dead from slitting his wrists in prison, to abduct, rape and murder six girls before the duo were caught. She has been behind bars for some time when Groth’s character pulled her out of there to find out where she had buried the first victim. Said victim’s mother needs to bury her daughter before cancer buries her. By the end of this tense episode, you’re not really sure that Hoss is the only monster in the room. Easily the best episode for Germany.

Criminal: France

France’s cases are more shall we say, contemporary. They are based on more recent events and social taboos. The lawyers take a back seat for all of the cases, although in one you can see the eyes in the lawyer changed the moment they realised their client is guilty.

E01: Emilie

The first episode involves the November 2015 Bataclan terrorist attack, an incident in which more than a hundred people died and hundreds more were injured. Sara Giraudeau plays a victim, Emilie, who had lost her boyfriend who was gunned down at the theatre, was compensated monetarily by the government, and had build an online following from blogging about the incident. So why is she in the interrogation room?

E02: Caroline

A high-powered female executive is being investigated over a death at the construction site. One of her workers had died from a fall. Already stressed out from running very late on a deadline, Nathalie Baye plays the capable, powerful and highly strung executive, Caroline, who is now being investigated on how involved she is with the worker’s murder.

E03: Jerome

Jeremie Renier plays a top salesman, Jerome, at the brink of being charged for a homophobia-fueled attack on a man beaten with extreme brutality. He was arrested trying to flee from the police but claims that he has nothing to do with the incident. Can the team catch him on his lie and unearth a secret that he is clearly trying desperately to hide?

Criminal: Spain

Things are very different in Spain. The lawyers are treated with impunity, officers can bend the rules as they please so long as they get the results everyone wanted, and at times you can’t really be sure who is on the right side of justice. You know what is also criminal? The translation. It’s a travesty.

E01: Isabel

Carmen Machi plays a dog owner, Isabel, who has some blood in the basement of her home and a brother who is now missing. They are looking for him with connection to a missing person’s case. How the investigators finally got her to tell them what they need to know is cruel and unusual punishment.

E02: Carmen

Imma Cuesta plays Carmen, tired young woman who let her autistic little sister drown while her parents are not home. She is treated like a slave (their words) in the household and suffers abuse when the chores are not done properly. During the interrogation, she alternates between periods of lucidity and uncontrollable rage which gives us an inside look into why she did it. Sidenote: the episode could be 10 minutes shorter.

E03: Carmelo

How low can you go when dealing with a weasel like Carmelo, played by Eduard Fernandez? Apparently, extremely, especially when he caused the death of a relative to one of the lead interrogators. It’s amazing how Carmelo’s lawyer just went with the flow when clearly what the interrogators are doing are just downright… criminal.

To Watch or Not To Watch?

Criminal is no Line of Duty. There isn’t enough time for us to be invested in the interrogation team despite all that drama happening on the other side of the mirror. You don’t have time to feel outraged by how the victims suffered or the crimes committed. That’s why it’s the perfect touch and go show for those who just want to burn off a few hours during the weekend.

If you have only 3 hours to burn, I recommend the following episodes: Claudia (Germany), Jochen (Germany), Jerome (France), Stacey (UK).

Netflix’s DARK Season 2 Explained (Part 2)

So in Part 1 of this guide we talked about what Team Claudia and Team Adam brought to the show. If you haven’t read that guide yet, no worries, here’s the link to Netflix’s DARK Explained (Part 1).

For Part 2 we’re going to talk about how the Sic Mundus team and how Adam likes to keep it in the family. Plus, we explore the missing branches of the Nielsen family tree and why there are two Tannhaus time machines out there (short answer: there isn’t).

Who is in Sic Mundus?

Of course Noah and young Noah is in there. Young Noah has been digging the tunnels and murdering co-workers since his teenage years. He is loyal to a fault towards Adam. In his adult years, he murders children and old white devils too.

Noah had that creepy stare thing going since a young age

Bearing in mind that young Noah is willing to kill for Adam, for whatever reason it is that he is in the bunker with Claudia, Regina, Peter and Elisabeth, it would be under Adam’s instructions.

What about the rest of the group?

Here’s a picture of Sic Mundus Elisabeth found in Charlotte’s belongings. You can’t really see their faces clearly but you can count 13 people (6 women, 7 men) including Adam sitting in the middle.

To the left of Adam, we have identified Noah, whilst to the right of Adam is Magnus and probably Bartosz. Agnes stands next to Noah, while the lady behind Adam is probably Franziska.

A Family Picture
The date this picture was taken January 8th, 1921

It would be much easier to identify who the rest are, particularly the women if the photo was not in one colour. Otherwise you could figure out who the women are (no matter what their age is) by the colour of their hair: the redhead is Franziska, Elisabeth is the blonde, Martha has black hair and Claudia has brown hair.

In any case, if that guy is Magnus, this lady is probably Franziska.

Nice to see they’re still together

Since they’re standing up front with Adam in the picture, they are probably the early founders of Sic Mundus: Bartosz, Franziska and Magnus, which coincidentally are in the group of people Adult Jonas saves during the apocalypse. #therearenocoincidences

Later on in Season 3, Adult Jonas would also save Noah and Agnes, as per young Noah’s instructions based on Martha’s letter.

Alright, that’s 6 down, what about the other 7 people? Whoever they are, they are probably family too.

Sic Mundus is a Family Business

In Season 1 we were running on four families, but if you really think about it, it’s pretty much just about two families: the Nielsens and the Tiedemanns.

When Jonas got sent back to 1921, he bunked at the house of Erna Nielsen, the same house where Agnes and Noah Nielsen grew up.

Agnes in 1921

On Agnes’s side, she has Tronte, who then has Ulrich, who then has Magnus, Martha and Mikkel, who is the father of Jonas Kahnwald. The Kahnwald’s name is a smokescreen.

Jonas is a Nielsen. Agnes is his great-great-grandmother, which makes Noah his great-great-granduncle.

On Noah’s side, he has Charlotte with Elisabeth. Charlotte then has Franziska and Elisabeth with Peter Doppler. Doppler, another smokescreen, is her husband’s family name, but she and her daughters are part of the Nielsen blood line.

Charlotte, Elisabeth and Franziska are also Nielsens.

Take a gander at what the relationship is in this picture.

Father Noah? That’s great-granduncle to you, buddy.

To recap, here are the Nielsens (by Season 2) with Erna being the first generation and those related by marriage in [ ]:

  • 1st generation: Erna
  • 2nd generation: Agnes, Noah, Elisabeth
  • 3rd generation: Tronte [& Jana], Charlotte [& Peter Doppler]
  • 4th generation: Ulrich [& Katharina], Franziska, Elisabeth
  • 5th generation: Magnus, Martha, Mikkel [& Hannah]
  • 6th generation: Jonas

And here are where the Tiedemanns and Dopplers stand in the equations using marriages as points of reference.

  • 1st generation: Erna – Bernd D [& Greta]
  • 2nd generation: Agnes, Noah, Elisabeth – Egon T [& Doris] – Helge D
  • 3rd generation: Tronte [& Jana], Charlotte [& Peter Doppler] – Claudia T
  • 4th generation: Ulrich [& Katharina], Franziska, Elisabeth – Regina T
  • 5th generation: Magnus, Martha, Mikkel [& Hannah] – Bartosz T
  • 6th generation: Jonas

Alright, I’ll address the elephant in the room. Bartosz is in Sic Mundus, but he is a Tiedemann and we still don’t know how the Tiedemann ties in to the Nielsens by way of blood but there may be a loophole to that by way of the missing partners.

Missing Partners

In Season 1, the big shocker was that Mikkel and Michael were the same person. This held major repercussions to Martha and Jonas’s relationship, turning them from just friends to aunt and nephew.

Jonas was not “supposed” to be born but as we learned in Season 2, a world without him is a terrible one. He can’t bring Mikkel back to the original timeline because his future “already exists.” Things are, because they are meant to be.

In Season 2, we have a few major shockers. We learned that Agnes is more involved than expected and that she is Noah’s sister, which means Noah is a Nielsen. That also means that Charlotte, who is Noah’s daughter is also a Nielsen. The Doppler family name was a smokescreen to keep us in the dark. #seewhatIdidthere

So, what if there are more secrets hidden behind unmentioned partners? For example:

Who was Helge’s wife and Father?

Helge’s wife was never mentioned. Peter had arrived in Winden after Helge’s accident in 1986. Why has Bernd never acknowledged Peter? Or was the age gap too big for him to do so? Or is it because he eventually found out what Greta confessed to Noah back in 1953, that Helge was not Bernd’s son. If not, then who is Helge’s father and is he connected to any of this?

Who did Claudia have Regina with?

I understand why Claudia is a Tiedemann but why does Regina carry the Tiedemann name instead of her father’s name? Why has her father never been in the picture? There’s literally no pictures or any mention of the guy in the house, ever. No deaths mourned, no wrath over a one night stand or a runaway dad. Absolutely nothing. Tronte and Claudia go way back though and they have been known to have had an affair.

Who was Agnes’s husband?

Does he have anything to do with Tronte’s cigar burns? Tronte also carries his mother’s family name, Nielsen. Is this like a thing with Winden wives? Also, she mentions that her grandmother is from Winden but so far we have only seen Erna, her mother. We don’t know who her grandmother is yet since Agnes got cut off before she could answer Egon. It’s possible that her husband and her grandmother is someone we already know.

So What’s Bartosz Real Parentage?

What if by the end of Season 3, we find out that the Tiedemanns also have Nielsen blood in them? What do you mean what if? Bartosz is in Sic Mundus, he probably is a Nielsen too. Noah actively recruited Bartosz since Season 1, giving him the book he holds, which means Bartosz has seen its contents. Noah also gave him the HGT machine in Season 2.

How does the Nielsen blood get into Bartosz then? Aleksander Tiedemann / Aleksander Kohler / Boris Niewald’s origin perhaps? Claudia having an affair with Tronte resulting in Regina perhaps? A time-travelling Hannah (aka Katharina Nielsen, here to see my husband) messing up the past as it was intended, perhaps? #lotsandlotsofperhaps

There is Only One Time Machine

Although there’s two HGT machine on the move by the end of Season 2, both time machines are probably the same machine. We’re just seeing it at different points in its use.

Let’s try to track its movements.

Tannhaus built it

So we saw Tannhaus build the time machine after receiving blueprints from Claudia back in 1953. He spends 33 years trying to make it work. Adult Jonas visits him in 1986 with a busted time machine, asking Tannhaus to help him fix it. In the process Jonas teaches Tannhaus how to use the device and asks him about how time works. Some time later, Tannhaus would teach Claudia how to use the time machine in 1987.

Tannhaus also uses the busted time machine to finally complete his unfinished time machine. He also uses Ulrich’s smartphone, a technology that is not available in his time, to make the machine work.

Jonas Tries To Close the Tunnels

Jonas takes the brand new machine and tries up to close the tunnels. He lugs it around but uses the tunnels to travel through time, showing his younger self how to travel through the tunnels and who Mikkel really is.

After all the chaos, Adult Jonas realises he didn’t change a darn thing and goes home to Hannah, unknowingly stopping her suicide just in time. He helps her and Charlotte figure a lot of things out. He eventually loses his time machine in 2020 to Hannah.

Hannah Travels to 1954

Hannah takes the time machine to go to 1954 to see Ulrich. She asks him to choose between her and Katharina. His answers were not convincing. She leaves him in jail to rot. He will stay in the asylum until 1987. Meanwhile Hannah chooses to get a fresh start but we have to wait until Season 3 to find out where and when she intends to do this. The Time Machine stays with her.

Things happen in Season 3.

Claudia Travels to 2019

While Hannah is soul searching, Senior Claudia buried her time machine in 1954 for her future self to dig up in 1987. Senior Claudia knows that she will die in 1954. There is no longer any need for her to travel.

Claudia digs it up in 1987 and uses it to travel to 2019, see Regina dying from cancer, read news articles about herself and Egon, and then go back to her original timeline to try to figure out the dark matter and to prevent Egon from dying.

Jonas ReOpens the Tunnels

When she fails to stop her father’s death, young Jonas turns up after a 12-month stint. I checked the timeline, it seems to match. This 12 months with Claudia began from his father’s suicide on June 21, 1986, right up to the day of the apocalypse, June 27, 1987. It’s possible that this is the Jonas that led Mikkel back to the caves and into 1986.

Anyways, he takes the heartbroken Claudia to the future, June 27, 2019, the day of the apocalypse with her time machine. Inside the tunnel he activates the machine to open the time passage his older self had closed in 1986. I’m not sure if this is a new feature (you don’t need a smartphone to work it anymore?) or if it only happens when you use it to open a time passageway.

Time manifests itself inside the bunker, freaking Martha out. She leaves the bunker when Peter and Elisabeth open the locked bunker door to enter.

Claudia Goes into the Bunker

Claudia leaves the cave with Jonas then splits up. She takes the time machine and goes to the bunker with Regina. They meet Peter and Elisabeth and later on, Young Noah there. The apocalypse happens. I’m thinking they use the time machine to get out of there rather than actually wait out the apocalypse inside the bunker. Because… there’s no food.

Things happen in Season 3.

Noah Gives Bartosz the Time Machine

Bartosz receives the time machine by Noah and brings it to pre-apocalypse 2020 where Magnus, Franziska, Martha and Elisabeth get a taste of how it works.

Katharina takes it off the hands of Magnus and tries to get it to work so she can go retrieve Mikkel. She leaves it with Jonas after he tells her it doesn’t “work that way” and she can’t bring Mikkel back.

Young Noah goes to see Jonas and gives him a letter by Martha.

He tells Jonas to save Bartosz, Magnus, Franziska, and then later on Agnes and himself. He says this loop must close for the next cycle to begin. Jonas uses the time machine Katharina left behind to transport Bartosz, Magnus and Franziska out of the apocalypse.

Things happen in Season 3.

Small Questions for DARK: Season 3

As it’s customary, everyone does a list of major questions for Season 3, but I’m going to flip the switch and do a “small question” list instead. I prefer to write on things we know or on clear hints but asking questions is also part of human nature so, here it goes:

  • What happens to Katharina in the tunnel while the rest of the world goes apocalyptic?
  • What happens to Elisabeth and Charlotte once they touched hands at the portal?
  • Who sent Clausen that letter to alert him about Kohler?
  • What’s up with Woller’s eye?
  • Who is Woller and Bernadette’s mother?
  • How did Ulrich survive his time in the asylum all those years? How can Egon have forgotten about him until the 1980s?
  • How has Noah never met Tannhaus if he was such a crucial person in developing the HGT machine?
  • Is Peter also a Nielsen? Who was his mother?
  • Does Ines and Greta work for Noah?
  • What’s this and why is it on Claudia’s body?
  • Who wrote the book that both Claudia (it has the schedule the missing children arrive at the bunker) and Noah (it has notes on Charlotte) had at different points in the story? Noah gives it to Bartosz at the end of season 1.
  • Who is this guy? Is he someone we have already met but don’t recognise yet? He seems to know a lot about Noah and why Adam took him in and named him Noah. His tattoo is on the front of his body. Noah would eventually get the same tattoo on the back of his body.

I’m going to wrap this up before my head hurts some more. Here’s looking forward to season 3.

Netflix’s DARK Season 2 Explained (Part 1)

My guide on understanding Netflix’s DARK (Season 1) was published three weeks ago. That’s how long I spent watching DARK (Season 2). If you thought DARK Season 1 was confusing and well beyond comprehension, Season 2 is going to make your head explode. And I don’t want that, so where do we start with Season 2? With a spoiler alert, of course.

Heavy spoilers ahead! I’m pulling no punches. It would help a lot if you know what’s happening before you attempt this guide. I promise it is fun.

Dark Season 2

Season 1 was about Jonas but the circle has since expanded in Season 2. More of the family is involved. We see Claudia, a Tiedemann, take centre stage, while Helge, Ulrich, Mikkel, Tannhaus get less screen time. We don’t even see much of Tronte and Jana anymore, except at the party.

Noah has been downgraded as a mysterious villain rather than the main antagonist but his story is no less powerful. Charlotte suddenly has a more pivotal role in the storytelling. But it’s still mostly about Jonas, and a new character, Adam.

Sup?

A lot of the questions from Season 1 has been answered but there are a lot of new questions from Season 2 as well. Let’s see what we can glean from Season 2 of one of the most insanely awesome shows on Netflix right now.

Season 2

Right. Let’s keep things as simple as possible. There are two groups fighting to wrest control of time. There’s Adam’s group and there’s Claudia’s group. At times they seem to help each other out because they both understand that they cannot change the past without it affecting who they are in the present.

However the only constant here is change. And everyone changes their motivations and their allegiance based on one crucial factor: information they get.

Before we get to that, let’s recap what both teams have been doing.

Team Claudia

Claudia’s group is okay with sacrificing the people the love in order to save everybody else: she sacrifices Egon, Jonas sacrifices Martha, Michael sacrifices himself, you get the idea.

It’s quite noble of them and all but what they do are in the realms of cruelty. Also, Claudia refers to her fight with Adam as a “game” particularly when she was mocking Noah. I don’t think sacrifice and game are two words you use together in a sentence.

Ta-da, the White Devil

Claudia’s time travel adventures started off when she was visited by her future self, Senior Claudia. Senior Claudia uses Gretchen to convince Claudia that they are both the same person, just from different timelines. Senior Claudia went to 1987 to talk to her younger self and show her how the time machine works.

She then gave her younger self a map to show where to dig up the time machine she buries at the site of her future home, back when it was just a construction site in the 1950s.

In 1987, Claudia digs up the time machine from her backyard then goes to learn how to use it from Tannhaus. She speaks to Helge and Helge tells her not to trust Noah. She uses the time machine to go to the future where she sees her daughter, Regina dying from cancer, and her power plant taken over by Aleksander. She finds news clipping of her disappearance and of her father’s death. She returns to the 1980s to prevent all this but inadvertently caused her father’s death. #plottwist

She disappeared from the 1980s just like the newspaper clippings reported when Jonas took her to 2019, the day of the apocalypse so she could retrieve Regina and end up in the bunker together with Peter and Elisabeth. They meet with young Noah there. Jonas says that those who were in the bunker would survive the apocalypse. You would think they would pack some food in with them, you know?

The Bunker Group

Noah & Elisabeth

In Season 3, we would probably see young Noah end up with young Elisabeth. They marry and have Charlotte. Yes, Charlotte is both Elisabeth’s mother and daughter. Yes, they went there.

Claudia then takes Elisabeth and Charlotte away (Noah was fuming when he reminded her of this right before he shot her). Her motive is not clear but it is possible that she was trying to save Charlotte’s life.

Remember, Noah said that Charlotte was born premature. If they were living in a period without the proper technological facilities (but with polaroid technology) – be it in the 20s, 50s or the post-apocalyptic world – Claudia must take Charlotte to a time that have the facilities which could save her life. Otherwise, there won’t be an Elisabeth. Or is that too humane for the White Devil who likes to talk about sacrifice, like, a whole lot?

At least Charlotte was left under the care of Tannhaus, who became Charlotte’s adopted grandfather. She had to be kept in Winden because WE NEED ELISABETH to complete the mother-daughter loop.

Tannhaus seems like a good choice because he is not from the 4 families or maybe because he is building the time machine for Claudia anyways. Two birds with one stone. Who knows? Maybe Adam told Claudia to do all this because they need Noah to really, really want to perfect The Chair so he can find his daughter again?

Last we saw her, Elisabeth is in the post-apocalyptic world. She is a rebel leader propagating Adam’s lies of a promised land. She recognises Jonas which is why she knows to spare his life. When the portal opens during the apocalypse, she sees her mother/daughter, Charlotte, but calls her mama.

It’s possible she doesn’t know Charlotte is her daughter like how it’s possible Charlotte doesn’t know Elisabeth is her mother. The only people who knew would be Claudia, Adam and Noah, and two of those people are already dead.

Claudia’s Death

Speak of the devil.

Senior Claudia had buried the time machine in the 1950s for her future self because she knows when and where she will die. Before that, she meets with her father to apologise, stopping short of tell him she caused his death in the 1980s. She calls him a good man because he wanted to call the authorities to check the caves since Ulrich keeps going back there.

She knows that her mother, Doris loves Agnes Nielsen very much. She also gave Agnes the news clipping of her death, allowing Noah to find her and kill her, and for Agnes to ask to rejoin Adam’s group.

On her body was this item, which has not been explained or explored yet. It could be nothing though. We shall see in Season 3.

At unspecified points in the timeline, Senior Claudia also did a number of things:

  • She elicited the help of Tannhaus to build the time machine (in the 1950s) as well as to take care of young Charlotte. She also gave her his book, A Journey Through Time before he wrote it.
  • She also got the help of Peter and Tronte to bring Mads’ body to where it would be found by the police in 2019 (Season 1).
  • She got to Michael in 1986, and was there when Jonas breaks down after realising the reason his father killed himself was because he was sacrificing himself to ensure Jonas exists.
  • She then guided Jonas for a period of 12 months, before he returned to help her 1980s self, who was in a mess, right after directly causing her father’s death.
  • She went to 2020 to see her grandson Bartosz and to give him a photo of Regina and herself from the 80s. This was so Regina would reconcile with her younger self when she went to retrieve her on the day of the apocalypse.

Claudia works alone but she had collaborated with Tannhaus, Jonas, Agnes, Noah and her younger self at different points in her crusade. Adam on the other hand has a whole team behind him.

TEAM ADAM

Adam’s group is determined to wipe out everyone and start a new world, hence his choice of a biblical name to replace his original name, Jonas. #what? #ikr His plan is not as noble, but judging by the way Time works, his plan may be the only way to beat Time in her game.

I have a theory (further down) about why his face is this way

He leads a group who call themselves Sic Mundus, aka The Travellers. When young Jonas was speaking to Adam, he asked him if Sic Mundus would lead them to the new world which was a prophecy that Adult Elisabeth has been hanging on to, and enforcing, in the post-apocalyptic world.

Instead of a religion, which was how Jonas and the rest of the world interpreted this prophecy as, it’s actually a declaration of war against time. Adam intends to create a new world where time does not exist simply by destroying time entirely mainly because time is not merciful. He calls time a physical law which we cannot negotiate with, much like our fate. In other words, if we can never have free will in choosing our next path because our future already exists, then why not get off this bus entirely? Unlike Claudia who still wants to save this world, Adam want to flip off time and start the world anew.

Jonas asks Adam why they are not on the same page. Adam merely pointed out that Jonas has not yet suffered the pain that he suffered. They merely have different motivations at different stages of their lives. Adult Jonas still tries to defy this right up to when he points a gun at young Noah.

Jonas still doesn’t get it

Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, Adam is referring to when he shoots Martha in front of Jonas thereby “closing a loop” (you keep saying that Adam, what do you mean?) and Martha 2.0 comes to save Jonas. Maybe all this work that Adam has been doing is entirely to make sure that the world Martha 2.0 comes from will exist. The only flaw in this theory is that Adult Jonas would have gone through Martha’s death and therefore should have turned to Adam from the pain but as you can see above, his bearded, older self still defies this. So the trigger-point still lies ahead. Or is Martha 2.0 proof that Adam has already succeeded in his goal of creating a new world? Naaaah, things are never that straightforward in the DARK universe.

Anyway, in the process of creating his new world, Adam has been learning from and trying to build an ever improving time machine: The Chair Noah perfected, Tannhaus’s time machine, the Black Orb that sends them anywhere in time outside the 33 year cycle. This is information Sic Mundus now has. They put them up on a wall in Adam’s chambers.

Granted there’s more information on the wall, but as always they are just never clear enough to make out at this time.

Of all the travellers, Jonas probably travelled the most and through various means of time transportation: the HGT machine, the Black Orb, Martha’s mini ball. Is it too far fetched to think that he also travelled with Noah’s deadly Chair?

The Effect of Time Travel on Jonas

Adam says that his appearance is due to travelling through time a lot. But Claudia seems comparatively okay even on the coroner’s table. At least she doesn’t look like this.

Not really a good way to reinvent yourself, Jonas

It’s possible that Jonas has been through more shit, by and large way more shit than anyone else has in the whole Dark saga, and have done this for much longer than Claudia has.

But I’d like to propose the idea that Jonas had used The Chair that Noah had spent so much time, sweat and blood (not necessarily his own) to perfect…

… in a bid to somehow retrieve or create that dark matter in the Sic Mundus stronghold because no way that thing just came to be on its own accord.

In the process, like the missing kids, Adam got burned or suffered from the effects of radioactivity like what was detected on Claudia’s body by the coroner back in 1954.

Now building all these contraptions would need a lot of resources, time and money. In other words, Adam could not have done all this on his own. So he has to have a team he can trust, mostly made up of Nielsens. This would include Magnus, Bartosz and Franziska.

If these names sound familiar, it’s because they are the people Jonas saved from the apocalypse in the finale of Season 2.

And now that this post has run too long, you’re going to have to go to Part 2 to find out how everybody in Sic Mundus so far is a Nielsen.

Next up Netflix’s DARK Season 2 Explained (Part 2)

A Guide to Understanding Netflix’s DARK (Season 1)

DARK is a sci-fi family drama with plenty of plot twists and revelations. It is a show that requires your full attention so if you are the kind to check your phone a lot while watching a show, skip this. It will leave you scratching your heads often and force you to go back to an earlier part of the episode or even an earlier episode to check and recheck your suspicions.

Netflix’s DARK

It’s also the kind of show that will make you want to draft your own guide – which I did. I have about 6, 7, 8 9 other drafts in open tabs that I had been working on for weeks. My own guide has helped me enjoy the subtleties of this show in unexpected ways.

If you have trouble getting what The OA is about, here’s my guide to understanding the OA Universe and How It Works.

The hours I’ve put into the OA and Black Spot is nothing compared to how I’ve pored over Netflix’s DARK. So no, I’m not going to hold back on the spoilers. That’s on you. If you haven’t watched Season 1, you shouldn’t continue reading beyond this full stop.

Season 1

While Season 1 is supposedly about the dynamics of the four families: Kahnwald, Nielsen, Tiedemann and Doppler; in truth, it is about how Jonas Kahnwald created the black hole through which time travel was made possible in the Winden cave tunnels.

For this to happen, the Winden cave tunnels must become the time travel pathways they are. And to do that, we need (1) Jonas Kahnwald and (2) the device he lugs around.

(1) Jonas Kahnwald

Jonas’s life is a closed loop, and as explained in the show by H.G. Tannhaus, in a closed loop, everything is mutually dependent, the future is dependent on the past and the past is dependent on the future.

Jonas himself is a product of time travel. His father is Mikkel Nielsen from 2019, a boy he actually knew growing up because he goes to school with Magnus, Mikkel’s older brother. And they do hang out together. Or is it did hung out together. (Getting the tenses right is very difficult for this post.)

Although his grandmother, Ines Kahnwald could clearly recognise Mikkel as the young Michael (I mean, it’s a small town, she was bound to have bumped into him since all the kids in Winden go to the same few schools), she did nothing to stop him from disappearing. If she had acted, things would have been very different. But no, she’s in the “things happen for a reason category”.

For this closed loop to happen, his mother Hannah, must end up being with Mikkel/Michael instead of being with Ulrich, the man she has been obsessed with since she was a kid. Otherwise, Jonas wouldn’t come to be.

On top of that, Ulrich must end up with Katharina in order to have Mikkel Nielsen who eventually has Jonas Kahnwald with Hannah. Yup, Ulrich is Jonas’s grandfather and is sleeping with Jonas’s mom, whilst his daughter Martha Nielsen is Jonas’s crush cum aunt. #yikes #ImOverIt

You don’t want to be Jonas.

Even Jonas doesn’t want to be Jonas which was why he went back in time to 1986 to retrieve Mikkel, essentially sacrificing his life to bring his father (or non-father) home.

But Noah can’t have that. He needs the black hole created by the device. So he kidnaps Jonas and puts him in the bunker where he and Helge witness a portal open.

Helge gets thrown into 1986 while Jonas gets thrown into the future, around 33 years after 2019, which makes it 2052. It’s probably there where Jonas turns into the tired-and-sad-looking Adult Jonas (i.e. Season 2) before returning as Adult Jonas to repeat the cycle with young Jonas.

To complete the cycle, Adult Jonas’s plan was to have young Jonas go through what he had gone through so that he would be committed enough to go all the way and attempt to destroy the Winden cave tunnels and break the time loop.

To do that he had to go back to Winden, wait for young Jonas to lose Mikkel, put the right markings on Michael Kahnwald’s map of the Winden Caves, give young Jonas the Geiger counter and light source via Regina, follow him to 1986 and try to convince him to not bring Mikkel back, which would erase both their existence (or is it his existence?), find young Jonas in the bunker and explain to young Jonas who he really is (ie I’m you just older and not particularly wiser). Still with me? Ok, good.

Jonas Kahnwald’s life is a closed loop.

(2) The device

The device which I originally thought was a time machine isn’t really a time machine but one that triggers the formation of a wormhole through which people could time travel. So it’s essentially a wormhole maker.

It was built by H.G. Tannhaus with help from a few characters. Claudia brought him the blueprints back in 1953.

We see that Tannhaus builds it but isn’t really sure what it does. By the end of Season 1 it is also not clear yet who drew this blueprint.

Ulrich’s phone which he found in 1953, helped him figure out the electromagnetic parts of the device. It took technology from 2019 to help him figure out the device, by the time Jonas arrives in 1986 to visit.

Jonas has his own version of this device. It’s broken, so he takes it to H.G. Tannhaus to fix. At the time that this happens, Tannhaus has not even finished building his own version of the device, you know, the one built based on the blueprints given to him by Claudia Tiedemann in 1953.

But Jonas is sure that Tannhaus was the one who built it because the device has his initials on the side.

Can you see H.G. T below the circle?

In bringing his worn-out version of the device to Tannhaus, Jonas helped Tannhaus figure out parts that were missing from the blueprint. This allowed Tannhaus to complete the construction of his brand new machine, which he then gives to Jonas. To destroy.

Despite knowing that Jonas intends to destroy the machine, Tannhaus helps him. Had he decided not to help Jonas, none of this would have happened. Like Ines, Tannhaus could have shut this whole thing down in a heartbeat. But he doesn’t.

“So… it’s my fault?”

To power the device, Jonas retrieves Caesium radioactive isotopes from 1986. He gets this from the barrels of radioactive wastes that were kept by Tiedemann in a truck at the side of the road in an attempt to evade detection.

The waste barrels were placed there because Ulrich suspects that his son is somewhere in Alexander Tiedemann’s power plant. Charlotte makes a search warrant happen.

The search warrant compels Aleksander, chairman at the power plant to remove the barrels from its usual hiding place, and to store them in an unassuming truck in an open parking lot, providing easy access of the radioactive samples inside to Jonas.

Adult Jonas puts the device altogether then activates it right in the middle of the tunnels there, thereby destroying the wormhole.

Except… he doesn’t.

What Jonas Actually Did

For the entire first season, we watch Adult Jonas and Noah do everything to lead Jonas to this point in time. For Jonas, he believes that by destroying the device H.G. Tannhaus built all the time travel that has been the bane of his existence will end.

However, as Noah has explained to Bartosz, Adult Jonas was lied to by Claudia Tiedemann. His actions would not destroy the cave tunnels but instead turn the tunnels into the time travelling pathways that they are.

Instead of ending it, he triggered its beginning.

Young Jonas and Helge were in the bunker (which was right above where Adult Jonas detonates the device inside the cave) albeit in different time periods, 1953 and 1986. A portal opens and and the two see each other across the divide. They touch hands and were sent to different timelines.

Where or when exactly is answered in Season 2.

Time Travel Via The Winden Cave Tunnels

We need to talk about the Winden Cave Tunnels, home to the most rudimentary and painfully slow way to travel through time. You basically open a steel door and crawl through to the other end.

And if that’s not bad enough, its list of destinations is scant – you can only travel between 3 timelines, 2019, 1986 and 1953, and all the timelines are moving along linearly. If you enter on November 11 in 1986 and end up in 2019, the date will still be November 11.

Like Adult Jonas puts it, this isn’t like the DeLorean where you can input a specific time you want to get to. If you get there early, you’re just going to have to wait, like what Adult Jonas and Helge did.

Jonas tries to navigate through the caves using a map he finds in his father’s shed but it wasn’t until Adult Jonas added markings on the map and gave him a light source plus a Geiger Counter that Jonas finally successfully makes his way through to 1986.

In the cave, he comes across an ouroboros handle with a red string tied to it. Its significance is still not clear yet.

A number of characters have gone through the tunnels to get between 1953, 1986 and 2019: Helge, Ulrich and Jonas. While Jonas had help from his older self, Ulrich basically just followed Helge Senior and figured things out on his own. He too stumbled upon the ouroboros ring handle.

To enter the tunnel, they must open a heavy metal door which has a trinity knot sculpted on it.

The tunnel itself is extremely windy despite being underground which is why every time a tunnel door is opened, the cave “roars”. When the door closes behind the person crawling through, there is a loud metal clang that rings through the caves.

The tunnels meet in the centre at a fork where you can go left or right, each leading to one of the three periods. Regardless of which tunnel you take, you leave via the mouth of the Winden Cave.

I’m not sure how Claudia’s dog, Gretchen, Mikkel, Claudia and Noah travelled seeing as how Gretchen can’t open the doors to the tunnel, Mikkel was unconscious and it would be difficult to drag his limp body through the tunnels, whereas Claudia and Noah don’t seem like the crawling type. Ergo it is possible that there is an alternative way to travel.

The chair

The chair is what Adult Jonas calls an early prototype to time travel. It’s housed in a locked room with a teal cartoon-filled wallpaper.

Charlotte would find a remnant of this wallpaper in Helge’s underground bunker, a clue left for us, the audience, to put 2 and 2 together: the two location is one and the same, just from different time periods.

The Chair was built and perfected by Noah, with help from a reluctant Helge who was tasked to abduct the boys to experiment on. It isn’t clear why they chose those boys.

Although we never see Yasin and Mads in the room, we do see Erik being strapped in the chair. As they all ended up with scorched eyes, like Erik did, it’s safe to assume that they all went the same way.

Helge is also seen in the locked room but by the end of Season 1 he had only arrived there via the portal. We don’t know how many lives The Chair has taken (I count 3 so far), but Helge’s isn’t one of them. In watching what happened to him, I’m not sure if Noah and adult Helge are the most evil characters in the show.

That beating was brutal but not enough to snub out his life

All the boys have a red string with a pfennig coin around their necks. Its significance is unclear.

Erik’s
Erik and Yasin’s coins in 1953
Yasin

In 2019, Ulrich would find Helge’s pfennig coin snuggled in his copy of A Journey Through Time. How he got it, and why he is still alive is something for Season 2 (or 3?) to unveil.

Helge’s coin

The boys’ bodies will travel through a time portal, and end up in the bunker, where someone on the other end will retrieve them. All the bodies would have scorched eyes and burst ear drums.

Helge, Tronte and Peter have retrieved bodies from the bunker. They do this based on a schedule provided for them. Helge is told by Noah who to abduct, and which body to move from when to when, whereas Tronte and Peter were given their schedule of when the bodies will appear by Claudia Tiedemann. Little else is known of the origin of the schedule at this point.

So… now what? Off to season 2!

5 Tips on How to Survive Your Child’s Homework

Are you having problems with your child skipping, forgetting or avoiding doing their homework? Frustrated with the constant calls from their class teacher for the umpteenth time, reminding you to keep a more watchful eye on your kid’s homework? Why can’t they do it themselves?Between managing a household or a business, a job or three other kids, where would a parent be able to FIND THE TIME to help with their child’s homework? I mean don’t they have teachers for that in school or in tuition or daycare? What MORE do they want?!

Whoa whoa whoa. Take a deep breath. Don’t worry, you’re doing fine. Things may feel overwhelming right now but by the end of this post, perhaps you may get a better sense of what to do and how to help your child and your sanity.

More Reading: Ever had your kid cheat on a test? Here’s how you can react to this news like a cool parent.

First up, we need to make some adjustments towards the way we view homework in general.

Homework Is a Necessary Evil, GRRR

Homework can make or break a child’s attitude towards education. Give a child too little and he can’t follow the lesson the teacher is trying to teach; give a child too much and she won’t be keen to look at another book (even if it is for leisure) once she has completed all her homework. That would be a crying shame.

Not only that, once your kid starts hating homework, they’ll develop a fear or hatred for school as well, and then your morning’s shot. You don’t want to wait until they get there before you step in. Because that mess follows your kid and you throughout their school life.

So Rule #1 is to never give kids a reason to hate homework.

That said, there is another more important thing you need to keep at the back of your head at all times: your child’s view of homework is a reflection of your view of homework.

#wut?

Ok, bear with me. How many times have you talked about how much homework (tonnes!) your child has, to another adult? How many times have you talked about it in front of your child (you won’t believe the amount of spelling and writing he has come home with today, and it’s only Monday)?

When you do that, you’re imprinting upon them the impression that there is a truckload of paperwork that they will have to go through = they have less time for fun and play, ergo homework = bad.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

If you, as a parent, attach a frustrated feeling towards “homework” (oh no, not more writing work!) viewing it as a burden (but we did 5 pages already yesterday, why are they giving you 5 more?) rather than a responsibility or something that is beneficial to yourself and therefore your child, then your child will adopt the same feeling towards homework (oh no, mom is not going to like it that I have more Math worksheets to do tonight).

And right there is where you would have lost half the battle. So let’s fix that.

Homework Is Good Training, Young Grasshopper

It helps to instil the view of homework as a responsibility given by a teacher to a student. Everyone has responsibilities; it is part of growing up.

The thing with giving responsibilities to kids as young as 7 years old (Primary 1) is that we have to go through it in stages. Or at least we should. The problem is schools these days just dive right in and will send your kid home with 3 to 5 pages of homework for each subject. That’s why kindergartens are doing the same. #GottaStartThemEarly

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(Which is also why you should start doing whatever you are picking up from this post with your kid as soon as they start preschool or start bringing home homework. It makes things easier as they grow older. Just don’t be too strict about it because remember Rule #1.)

As a parent, rather than adopt a sluggish view about homework (urgh, are they prepping you for a PhD with all these workbooks?), think about it as a training session that helps them improve in school.

To help kids manage, split up the work to bite-sized pieces, and mix some of the heavy-duty work (writing or colouring) with the lighter workloads (filling in the blanks, matching, multiple-choice questions).

You could also break things up in between with a snack session or a quick break with their favourite toys.

Be careful to set a tangible deadline for them or else playtime will extend all the way until bedtime. No matter what, you must finish your homework, because it is a responsibility assigned to you. Drill this into their head. Help them organise their workload but let them own their homework.

Fully Utilise Homework If yOU Are Doing It ANyways!

For all the time and effort you put into homework, you best make full use of homework. It’s also important for your kids to understand what they are learning. Don’t do homework just for the sake of finishing it.

Homework is a great tool for seeing how well your child is progressing in school, or otherwise. You don’t need to look at your child’s report card to know how they are faring if you follow their homework at least during the first three years of primary school (or until they are 10 years old).

The idea is to make sure they are learning what they are supposed to learn. The point is that they learn something new every time they are doing homework. Plus, doing it bit by bit takes away the stress from learning. And it’s best to get your child to learn how to ask questions.

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I learned probably a little too late that kids don’t know what it is that they don’t know. Sometimes you take for granted that they understand what you are talking about and that they are absorbing what you are teaching.

That’s almost never the case.

And you would not know unless they ask you questions. So encourage them to ask. Make communication two ways as often as possible.

Doing Homework Is A Habit Worth Nurturing

When doing homework, make sure finishing it becomes a habit. For example, getting homework done before play, or getting it done before going to bed. Be consistent when executing this and it will become your child’s habit, one they can do independently once they are older. #dobbyisfree

Another trick to surviving homework is to be organised. The sooner you can plow through homework, the sooner you can get back to your toys. So help them get started asap.

While they are in class, when a new homework is assigned, get them to separate the homework into a special homework file (one you will need to prepare) or into a special section in their schoolbag (like an inner pocket).

Alternatively, the kids can jot the pages down in a notebook, and earmark the page to make it easier to find. This beats having to rummage through every workbook in hopes of finding, and not missing, any assigned homework.

Mitigating Reluctance

Look, we have days when we are just too tired or down to be bothered with anything. Kids have days like these too. They may have had a row with a friend, or a teacher may have given them a tongue lashing over something that isn’t their fault in the first place.

Whatever the reason is, kids have bad days too. Parents will do well to pay heed to these moments as well as help these kids address their emotions in those situations. #anotherarticle #anotherday

If however your child has started throwing tantrums, that’s a sure sign of fatigue, which requires a power nap, or skipping swimming/football practice. When tantrums happen, homework can wait. In fact, I let my daughter skip her homework if she is too tired to follow through, ever since I found her passed out on the dinner table sprawled across a pile of her half-done homework.

We need to teach kids to put their health above getting things done. It’s something many adults our age don’t know they can do.

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You want your child to grow up and be independent as soon as possible, but it is not something that happens overnight. Be fair to them, guide them by showing them the steps but make sure they take the steps themselves, with your support on the side, of course.

School results are not the only important thing in life, but it is a good indication of their personal progress, which helps you figure out how much help they may need from you. Use grades as goals instead of your child’s reason for being, and we all are going to be alright.

HDIM Reviews: Black Spot Season 2 (2019)

I wrote briefly on Black Spot‘s first season (2017) two weeks ago which was when I first stumbled upon it on Netflix. The only reason I went into it was because Season 2 was slated for a return on June 14th (it has cometh and goneth), and anything that gets a Season 2, usually features a pretty solid Season 1.

A piano in the woods. Why not?

And I was right. Black Spot aka Zone Blanche is one of the more stranger, non-English speaking shows on Netflix right now, stranger than Osmosis and Perfume. You got a bit of the supernatural, a bit of police procedural drama, plenty of secrets and murder and whodunits. What’s not to love?

Read more: HDIM Reviews Osmosis (2019)

At the end of Season 1, we finally find out who is behind the disappearance and murder of Marion Steiner: police-officer-in-training, Camille.

Can’t even hold a gun right but she can kill ya

Camille was under the Gerald Steiners’s payroll (isn’t everyone?) and had accidentally caused the death of Marion, who had been collecting evidence to bring down her own grandfather’s schemes. Bertrand Steiner, Marion’s father who had been holding out for her return was understandably heartbroken, and an absolute total wreck for most of Season 2.

Guided by Roman, a member of the environmental protest group, Children of Arduina, Cora Weiss, daughter to Captain Laurene Weiss, had unknowingly asked for Camille’s help to retrieve a USB drive from where they had found Marion’s body. The drive contains important documents that will help Prosecutor Frank Siriani nail the Steiners. In the process, Cora was almost murdered by Camille herself.

Cora’s mother, Laurene was not so lucky. Camille shot her pointblank then left her for dead in the forest. Her death was particularly brutal. She was shot at close range, then dragged like an animal and thrown off into the woods to bleed out.

Laurene dies, or does she?

I’m not sure why Camille was particularly cold-blooded against Laurene. Laurene had never been mean to Camille nor do they have bad history of any sort. Perhaps Camille just wants to make sure she gets the job done, right?

Except she doesn’t! While Camille herself could not escape the deadly antlers of a dead deer…

I thought it would be crows who would get her tbh

… Laurene, owing to her special relationship with the forest, got to return from the realm of the dead…

… with help from the Celtic horned-god, Cernunnos himself.

*purrs*

When I wrote the review for Season 1, I did mention that the show never really fully committed to the supernatural genre. I like that angle very much. Instead of waving away logic and reason with stories about horned beings with supernatural powers prowling the forest floor, Black Spot at most only teases the possibility, but refuses to fall in.

Hence, it does a very good job explaining what actually happened to Laurene and why she had been so eager to find the sanctuary where she had been chained for 3 days. It turns out that she was not alone in those three days. No, I’m not referring to her kidnapper being nearby. I meant that she had a fellow captor who like her was chained to the rocks for three days, possibly more (he had mentioned he had been there for three days before he decided to make contact with her).

Fellow captor, Sylvain Tessier

Possibly due to the trauma she had suffered, and maybe due to the blood loss from cutting two of her fingers off, Laurene’s memory had blocked out the existence of the other boy: 18-year-old Sylvain Tessier.

In Season 2, she would only regain her memory of him during a hallucination she suffered from, having fallen off the cliff into the very place she had been held against her will two decades earlier, the place she dubbed The Sanctuary.

How terrifying is that thought? To have totally forgotten a fellow kidnapped victim once you yourself have gotten away. Any sane person would do all they can to conduct a rescue, which explains why Laurene had been searching the forests on her nightly walks for the sanctuary. She may not remember why she was doing it, but she knows it is important that she does.

And that’s not the only surprise this show has for us.

In the season finale of the second season, the people of Villefranche had organised a hunt for the culprit, who had been freaking everyone out, leaving bloody spines from deer(?) in the houses of the townsfolk…

A calling card?

… and at least one in a cradle. If you want to know the story behind that, you just have to watch the show.

The Mayor gets special treatment

The thing you need to know at this point is that the townspeople are turning the tables on the so-called horned god and they are bringing pretty big guns to get the job done. And where there are guns and men, there will be accidents, and people getting hurt. It was a total mess.

The good news is that Cernunnos himself also bleeds! He’s not a god, after all! And who got him? Good old Hermann of course.

Hermann’s a good shot but only manage to wound Cernunnos.

Laurene catches up to the wounded stag-god and figures out that there is a man behind the ghostly horned creature who had been her stalker cum saviour – and that man is none other than Sylvain himself. #whaaaaaaat?

But frankly though, who else could it be? Of course it had to be Sylvain, her fellow captor who was almost her age, and had not been seen for twenty odd years, which makes him her age. Weird things happen to people who have been isolated from society for long periods of time. I’d like to see them explain that low, deep purring sound the horned god always makes when he is nearby though. #creepyAF

But wait, there’s more!

Horned god’s blood sample not only proves that he and the wood man Laurene had been looking for for twenty years are but the same person, Sylvain. It also reveals that Sylvain actually shares a 50% match with Laurene, which means he is family, and a close family member at that, perhaps a pure sibling.

This would explain a few things, namely why he saved her at the end of Season 1 and had been protective of her whenever she is in the vicinity of the forest. Don’t forget, he had also attacked the man who had been chasing Roman and Cora, so he is at least aware of who Cora is.

This also explains why Laurene has been seeing clues that the animals have been leaving her all throughout Season 1. They may have been sent by Sylvain or there is still a special connection Laurene has with the forest that the writers have not explored enough in just two short seasons.

Oh, by the way, Sabine is totally connected to this. Definitely. She had spoken highly of the forest and its protective nature throughout Season 1, and in Season 2, Episode 4 Moonstruck, we actually got to see her face-to-face with Cernunnos over a camp fire.

I wonder if Sabine brings alcohol whenever she meets up with Cernunnos

Now, it is possible that Sylvain and Sabine are related, possibly even mother and son, because it was mentioned to Cora that Sabine had to sacrifice or had lost her son years ago. Not much was said beyond this but safe to say, Sabine knows more the stag god than she had been telling anyone.

You know what this means, right? This means that Sabine may also be related to Laurene, since both women have connections with Sylvain.

Can you see the resemblance?

And this also means one more thing. That Sabine may know who Laurene and Sylvain’s kidnapper was. Clearly Sylvain had not been the one who had taken Laurene when he was a mere teenager. He himself had been chained with Laurene for days. They had only each other for company. Who had taken them? Sabine may know. Or Sabine may have been the kidnapper.

I don’t know. I’m just speculating because this is what the show makes you do. It makes you see connections in places where there might not have been a connection at all. I guess we will have to wait for Season 3 to find out.

Oh yeah, Siriani’s got a girlfriend, Hermann misses Camille and had difficulty letting go of her to the point of being able to see her, Teddy Bear almost got killed from falling off a cliff and having a branch break his fall by protruding through his gut (I don’t know what Villefranche feeds their police crew but they are very hard to kill – well, some of them), Bernard is expecting another baby but his wife decided that she is tired of being the third wheel and has checked out of the relationship, people are still killing other people in Villefranche in very interesting and weird ways – all in all, Season 2 is still a fun watch. Here’s to hoping for more weird, dark and creepy fun in Season 3 for Black Spot (Zone Blanche).

You might also like: The OA or You.

New: A Guide to Understanding DARK: Season 1

HDIM Reviews: Dear Ex (2019)

I first watched Dear Ex two weeks ago. I had to watch it in bits and pieces in between my household chores and my mothering duties. It made me feel many things. Since then, I have watched it twice more, once with my husband, once on my own in its entirety just because I loved the film so much despite its eyebrow-raising plot.

A man dies. Instead of naming his wife or his teenage son as the beneficiary of his insurance money, he names his male lover as the receiver of the substantial payout. Chaos inevitably ensued.

It’s in Mandarin, you may need subtitles like I did

The story starts with Liu San-Lian banging at the door of Jay, her husband’s lover. Teenage son, Song Cheng-Xi watches from the sidelines then serves as one of the most unwilling film narrators on the face of the film industry, to the whole fiasco.

You would expect the third-party, home-wrecking Jay to want to get out of this mess as fast as possible. But he stays, and he tolerates the mother-son duo, even when the son shows up at his door one day, refusing to go home to his overbearing and pushy mother (to be fair, she had thrown out his keepsakes from his estranged father). Multiple times through the show, Jay reminds the boy to be respectful to his mother. On the surface, it’s a Chinese thing, but you will eventually realise why Jay does this.

Young Song Cheng Xi depicts his mother as a woman who seems to think the whole world owes her something. We see her depicted as a difficult woman who is always screaming at her son for being late for school, over bad grades in school, over missing his dead(beat) father, etc.

Liu San Lien – woman, mother, wife

From the get-go, my husband of 10+ years asked me if she reminds me of anyone. I promise him I’d break his legs if he doesn’t shut up and watch the rest of the movie. But my better half is right, I do see myself and every other Asian woman in Cheng Xi’s difficult mother – albeit a much toned down version of it.

The guilt I throw at my children at the dinner table is but a small percentage of what she throws at her son, but I recognise the familiar script.

I also recognise the heartbreak and anger of a mother when she fears her children is not trying enough, and the tears that come afterwards – something the son depicts as Hollywood-level acting skills (I’m surprised he didn’t refer to the drama queens of Taiwan TV series who can shed a tear in the blink of an eye #lostopportunity).

But Liu San Lien is a mother through and through, even when she is picking a fight with the “mistress”, she makes sure that her son has something to drink before she enters the house of a total stranger to battle him to the death. Did you notice that? It’s one of the many nuances I enjoy from this show.

Despite the betrayal she feels from her cheating husband’s choice of her alternative version, she would still clean the house of her husband’s gay lover just so her son won’t have an allergic reaction to the dust mites and overall unhygienic living conditions her son is subjecting himself to.

All it takes is a woman’s touch

And for all that she does for her son, after all the sacrifices she had made for her dead husband’s son, the naive boy tells her, “I didn’t ask you to (sacrifice for me).”

And you wonder why there are Tiger Moms all over Asia.

Some of the best scenes in the show are always when these three are on-screen at the same time. Take for instance the back alley conversation when the mother implores her son to go home with her while at the same time leaving instructions to the custodian to watch out for her son (wake him up for school at 6AM) despite said custodian’s pleas (for the love of God, take him home already, lady!).

I don’t know how they could all keep a straight face through the hilarious exchange.

The only scene more hilarious than that one is when Cheng Xi attempts to jump off Jay’s balcony. The son refuses to come down unless his mother vacates the premises. Stepmom demands the son come down and go home with his mother. The mother bickers-pleas-bickers-pleas with stepmom, because.

When he finally gets the boy down and starts roughing him up for being an ass, the mother steps in to stop him. Jay loses it and then lets it loose at Mrs Song before she pulls out the “curse on my family” card (it’s a Chinese thing).

He shouts at her to take the boy to a temple to pray (again, a Chinese thing) but she leaves without the boy because he’s a child but still too big to drag home. She passes a temple on the way, and stops to consider.

(1) The whole scene is both emotional for a mother and hilarious for everyone else.

(2) If you ever wonder why aunties look like aunties (unkempt, out-of-place, tired, dehydrated), then it’s because they put up with a lot of shit from home. Your shit.

Ok, enough about the mother-themed analysis. Let’s look at this from other angles.

You’re Breaking My Heart

This movie deals with a lot of heavy plot lines and it isn’t until the story reaches the husband’s story before we fully understand what is happening.

I have to say that if you want to watch the magic unfold on its own, it’s best to stop reading and watch the show.

Spoilers ahead. No holds barred.

Cheating husband Song Cheng-Yuan died from the big C, liver. While he was dying, he decided to embrace his true love, Jay, whom he had loved long before he had been together with Liu San Lien.

17 years ago, they broke up so he could have a “normal” marriage

A particularly poignant conversation Jay had with his dead lover’s soul dances around why he could not tell his mother about them. It is a talk that speaks of love and understanding and oddly enough, responsibility to our parents and how it is ok to lie to them so long as we do not make them sad (it’s a Chinese thing). Things are put succinctly, made simple, made pure, all coming from a place of love. It’s a conversation you should watch played out as it is.

I don’t understand why she’d be sad if I love you.

So technically, Jay wasn’t a home-wrecker. Liu San Lien and a judgemental society held Cheng-Yuan hostage for years, until cancer forced him to choose once and for all. With the little time he has left, he chooses to deal with the consequences of treatment and therapy with Jay instead of with his wife and son. I don’t know about you but I call that kindness.

Cancer is a bitch

Jay does a lot more than just take care of Cheng-Yuan during his time of need. He devotes his time, love and part of his liver to the ailing man, and even takes him to school to watch Cheng Xi walk home from school. And to get part of his liver into Cheng-Yuan, that’s going to need some money, right? Jay took care of that too, borrowing money from loan sharks and getting a leg broken in the process.

And there you have it. The insurance money is to repay Jay’s debt to the loan shark since he borrowed it for Cheng-Yuan’s surgery anyways. Looks like Jay isn’t such a bad guy after all, and Cheng-Yuan made all the wrong decisions because society would not allow him to make all the right ones.

So who is the bad guy?

I have always rolled with the idea that in real life, there are no good guys and there are no bad guys. We’re all both good and bad. It just depends on what situations we are boxed in, and perspective: who is telling the story. So from this perspective, is Liu San Lien the bad guy in Dear Ex?

After all, she incessantly harps after Jay over the insurance money, demanding that he returns it to her son. So often does she does this that it terribly irks her son.

Right after this scene, she cries at the altar saying how unfair life is, then becomes determined to tell Jay’s mother that her son is gay. And she does it, because what does she have to lose? She’s out to draw blood and draw blood, she will.

But again, let me remind you, Liu San Lien is a mother through and through. She never asked for the money for herself. She asked it for her ungrateful ingrate of a son. And you think being told your son is gay is hurtful? How about when your own husband tells you that he likes men and your whole marriage is a lie?

The moment Liu San Lien lost her husband

Her impromptu therapy session would unpack all the sense of betrayal and hurt she has been carrying around throughout the whole movie, culminating in the ultimate one-liner that would break a million hearts.

A lesser woman would have completely lost it, but not a mother, and definitely not Liu San Lien. If there is no love lost, that’s okay. She has a son, a gift from her gay husband. And even if he can’t love her and her son, the least he could do is fund his son’s studies post-death.

But you don’t take debts to your grave, and you don’t let the living pay your debts for you. And at the end of the day, Liu San Lien, with that big forgiving heart of hers, did her wifely duty and carried out her dead husband’s final wish.


At this point if you still plan to watch Dear Ex – and why wouldn’t you? – know that you can still enjoy the show even if you know how it is going to play out. There are plenty more hilarious and heartwarming surprises to look forward to. So grab a box of tissues unless your heart is made of stone, and just Press Play.

HDIM Reviews: Black Spot (2017-)

This was recently added to Netflix and because I saw that the second season is landing on June 14, that’s always an indication of a good show. Within the first minute, you will see a man fight for his life in a lone spot in the middle of nowhere. More precisely, near Villefranche, somewhere in France. Yes this is a French show. Cue the subtitles.

So welcoming

Welcome to Villefranche, a small town nestled in the midst of a dense, towering forest which cuts the small town folks off from the rest of the world via phone or satellite, i.e. Black Spot or Zone Blanche.

Major/Captain Laurene Weiss is the sheriff in town. The only two things you should know about her is she only has eight fingers and she is tough as nails.

Frank Siriani, the man who collapsed (from anaphylactic shock due to an allergy to a bee sting, what an anti-climax, right?) when the show began is a prosecutor sent to get answers from Captain Weiss on why the murder rate coming from this small town of Villefranche is six times the average murder rate of the whole country.

Over the next eight episodes, Major Weiss and her small police crew of three other officers will solve one murder per episode with Siriani in tow.

This small crew gets hurt a lot, with bullets

In the meantime, the town is looking for Mayor Bertrand Steiner’s daughter who had been missing for a few months. Many, including Major Weiss who has some history with Mayor Steiner, as well as Weiss’ daughter, Cora who is Marion’s best friend, believe that the poor teenager, Marion is lost or kept against her will in the deep, dark forest. They race against time to locate the missing girl.

Marion Steiner six months before she went missing

It has been a while since I’ve watch police procedural shows that focuses more on the crimes rather than the police’s ability and methods to solve said crimes. Most of the crimes were spontaneous, random or crimes of passion. In short, very human.

Villefranche is sold as a very small, isolated town where if you are in trouble, you can only depend on yourself, and sometimes, your neighbours, to get you out. The interesting thing about this is that the townspeople never really need outside help. You have to watch the show to find out why.

Grandma can shoot like a cowboy

At the same time, there is a lingering understand the people have with the woods that isolate and protect them from the outside world. At times the show tips towards the supernatural side but never fully commits, well, at least not until the finale itself.

I’m looking forward to June 14 when Season 2 returns with Laurene Weiss and the rest of the Villefranche villagers to wreak havoc on my TV screen.

If you prefer something with more colour and/or blood, check out Love, Death, Robots.