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.

A Guide to the OA Universe and How It Works

If you haven’t read my review on the OA, this post is not for you. If you have read it, and watched the show and are trying to understand what the heck is going on, let’s jump right in. There won’t be OA theories or Easter eggs or guessing of any sort. This guide will contain only what you can see from the show and some questions that we need to KIV for future seasons.

At the time of this writing, the OA has only reached Season 2. Season 3 has not been confirmed. There is word that the writers have plans for the storyline to play out in five seasons. Let’s hope the love for it won’t fizzle out before they get all five seasons.

How to Watch the OA

Watching the show can be frustrating, particularly if you weren’t paying attention. I had a hard time following what is happening where and how until I rewatched several of the episodes multiple times, looking for different things every single time. You’d be surprised with what you find.

To watch the OA is to watch magic happen. To be precise, it is to watch sleight of hand happen, like that moonwalking bear awareness test. While your primary concern is for one thing, something else of significance is being revealed to you at the same time.

You’d have to rewatch a scene multiple times to realise its importance. And because that is time-consuming, I did it for you in this guide to the OA Universe and how it works.

The Movements

Part 1 (Season 1) recounts OA’s 7 years in captivity where she meets Homer, Scott, Renata and Rachel, five other beings who have survived Near-Death Experiences or NDEs enough times to not be human. Apparently they are angels on Earth, and OA is the original, hence Original Angel, OA. One of the things they learn from their NDEs are the movements.

Practising movements in their cage

There are five movements, each would come from an NDE. OA obtained the first movement from consuming a bird in her NDE with Khatun. Khatun says that OA will never escape her captivity without that bird. In return, she takes OA’s father and any chance of reconciliation.

Homer would get the second movement after swallowing a sea anemone from his NDE. Together with OA’s movement, the movements could heal and bring dead people back to life.

Scott gives them the third when he actually dies accidentally but was brought back to life by OA and Homer. He doesn’t mention consuming anything alive in his NDE. Instead, he was taught his movements by an “older, heavyset” woman in his NDE.

Renata gives them the fourth movement (Part 1, Ep 6, 3 minutes in) and her guardian tells her that one of the side effects of inter-dimensional travel is amnesia. OA and Homer carve the movements onto their backs to prevent themselves forgetting the movements.

This is one example of where the sleight of hand I mentioned above occurs. Using scars to remember the movements in order to counter amnesia would serve pointless because only their consciousness travels, not their bodies. This note on amnesia however explains why Homer could not remember OA for most of Part 2. OA will probably suffer from this again in Part 3 (in Dimension #3).

Evelyn, the Sheriff’s wife with ALS gives them the fifth movement, ironically given to her when she suffered an NDE as a young girl.

This means she has held on to the last movement the longest. The first four movements were only made known to the group in the seven years they were in captivity. In her NDE, Evelyn swallowed a moth and was told by her guardian to help two captive angels. OA and Homer would cure her ALS long enough for them to give her the fifth movement. She mentions that travelling is a matter of will.

How Inter-Dimensional Travel Works

In Part 2, we get a look at how inter-dimensional travel actually works.

OA tells BBA and the group that the alternate worlds or dimensions are right on top of each other, created from the different decisions you make hence the term “forking paths” (Part 1, Ep 6).

NDEs are how you travel between the dimensions, temporarily. The movements are what allow you to travel there permanently. You get to choose the type of life you want to live, basically a life where you made all the “right” choices (but what if the people who travel want to travel to different dimensions like how Hap wants to travel to a dimension where OA loves him back? There lies the issue.)

Homer actually showed us how this could occur in Part 1, Ep4 (55 minutes in). In his NDE, he was on all fours, moving through a crawlspace in the ceiling. An arm reached for him but couldn’t get a hold of him. He falls through the ceiling into a place where two urinals are out of order. He grabs a coat and runs down a white corridor.

And in his underwear

He arrives at the place where there is a fish tank and takes out a sea anemone which he promptly swallowed. OA tells him to eat anything alive in his NDE. He then comes out of his NDE.

Right before his induced NDE, he was almost caught listening into one of Hap’s audio recording of one of his earlier NDEs (51 minutes in). Homer listens into a ruckus where someone asks him what his name is, then later tells him, “your name is not Homer”, then asks him whether he knows Dr Roberts.

This would line up with Part 2, Episode 2 (31 minutes in) when OA’s session with Dr Roberts is interrupted by the receptionist saying a “pretty fast” patient is running around in his underwear and a “pink coat”. They’re also experiencing a “plumbing issue”. Earlier, OA convinced Dr Robert to check through a hole in the ceiling to see if anyone’s crawling through, hence the arm Homer had to avoid back in Part 1 during his NDE.

Homer #2 checking for Homer #1 in the crawlspace

Based on this, it’s safe to say that Old Night’s rendering of OA’s NDE in the plane is so coming true in Dimension 3. In Part 2, Ep 4 Old Night says that in the “future”, OA would forget who she is as she will forget her true nature. He will send her there (by killing her for 37 seconds) so she can reawaken her future self to her mission (Oh, so she is on a mission of some kind).

She asks Old Night if she would survive, and it says it is up to her brother. Apparently, in every dimension, her brother is sent by someone (a she) to protect OA. In Dimension 1, Elias the FBI psychiatrist says that he has been sent to help her. In Dimension 2, Karim saves her by cutting Old Night’s tentacle off her neck. Those are your options for OA’s brother. (Question: if OA is the original, does that make her brother also an OA?)

In OA’s octopus-induced NDE, she is in a turbulent flight. She climbs out from a space under the toilet. The pilot has a British accent announcing their venturing into turbulence. She approaches someone with short blonde hair, in a jacket with white floral patterns on a dark green jacket.

Before the lady turns around to see OA, OA is revived by Karim. Old Night is implied to be no more with a chopped off tentacle on the floor (the tree Internet would somewhat confirm this loss).

For Part 3 and beyond, we would probably be visiting Scott’s NDE. In Part 2, Ep 7 he describes his NDE as a place with blinding lights, in a warehouse, there are cameras, and Hap and OA are being all chummy-like, and that Hap spoke with a British accent. Scott says that he is given the third movement by an older, heavyset woman while he was there. Because this is his NDE, this version of Scott is probably there temporarily.

In the Season 2 finale, we see OA suffer a fall and Hap takes her wig off to reveal a pixie cut. Could floral jacket lady be herself? Pfffft, absolutely.

Brit suffers a lot of head injuries for this show

But hold up, if OA’s NDE is the one scnee on the plane, what happened to the ones Hap induced in her under lab conditions. You know, the Rings of Saturns? Remember that? Could an angel have more than one NDE?

Who Can Travel This Way?

By the end of Season 2, you can travel this way no matter if you are an angel (Homer, OA, Scott, Renata, Rachel) or not one (Hap, Steve). Unless of course, Hap and Steve are angels too, or they could be a whole other category that has yet to be revealed.

OA’s tribe?

It is possible that Elias, the FBI psychiatrist who had been helping OA in Season 1 is a fellow traveller. He tells BBA and crew that he had been “sent” to help “her”. We can only assume the her here refers to OA at this point. But clearly, he isn’t from this dimension if he had to be “sent over”.

He tells the group that all the dimensions share the same space, which is why BBA can sense the presence of people through space. Apparently making different choices may change who you are, but it won’t change where buildings are or will be built across dimensions. #shrug

Let’s not forget Elodie, even though I’m sure Elodie is in another class altogether, one who knows what is happening but for some reason would not intervene nor tell OA and Hap what is happening. She’s so interesting, she deserves her own section.

Elodie the Traveler

Elodie strives to be “fair” to both Hap and OA as she explains how inter-dimensional travel works to them, like a messenger or a impartial referee or mentor would. Elodie tells Hap travellers like them will suffer from tinnitus. She knows many things like who Dr Percy really is (she senses fellow travellers), and that he loves OA.

Doesn’t stop her from sleeping with Hap though

She doesn’t know where he came from, she asked him this much when they first meet in the sauna in Part 2: Ep 4 (14 minutes in). She tells him that there are many ways to travel, and while the method is not important, the “fuel” is. For some reason, the fuel is related to them having sex.

One important idea that she gave him though was the dancing robots. (It totally makes sense! This way you can travel whenever, wherever you are. How does she get an endless supply of this though, now that’s a good question I’d like answered.)

She planned her checkout so well that she had called emergency services about a woman who is in a coma. They arrive right when she travels out of her current body. Note the tinnitus right before she collapses.

Elodie checks out once the five small robots do the movements

While we’re on the subject, here’s a problem that has been nibbling at me. Elodie checks out of her body in Part 2, Ep 5 right, but she reappears to speak to OA in Part 2, Ep 7 … in the same body.

How does this work? Isn’t she supposed to be in a coma two episodes before, around the time Karim and OA attempts the house for the first time? If you were in a coma, you probably won’t be released from the hospital fast enough.

Or are we seeing Elodie the way OA and Hap is seeing her? She said that she found herself in a young actress’s body once. Does this mean that she might enter a body who is not hers when she travels across dimension? And if that is the case, are we seeing Elodie the way she looks now because she appeared to Hap and OA in this form, whilst everybody else sees her in the form of the shell, the body she currently inhabits in whichever dimension she is in? Hopefully Season 3 and beyond will have answers to this.

Elodie has high hopes for OA

Back to Elodie’s meeting with OA, she tells OA to basically integrate herself with Nina. And she explains that OA cannot escape Hap because the bonds between some people are too powerful. OA, Hap and Homer are all “travelling together”. When OA protests by saying she doesn’t want to have anything to do with Hap, Elodie says some part of OA wants to travel with Hap. Why this is so is probably fodder for future episodes.

She adds that what happens in one dimension affects and influences the other dimensions, like echoes. To leave an echo, is therefore very dangerous. OA may lose sight of herself, or of Homer, and therefore she needs Hap who Elodie describes as a shadow. “Who has no shadow, has no will to live.” So far this isn’t helping, so I’m just gonna let it go.

But I’d like to note that Hap, due to his obsession with NDEs, was the one who made this whole thing happen. Sure, he killed a colleague, Audrey, the sheriff and his wife, and the angels multiple times in a controlled setting (creepy AF), but he did bring the five of them together in this dimension and probably in all other alternative dimensions as well due to their strong bonds.

Perhaps that’s what Elodie meant when she says Hap is connected to OA and she could not (should not?) escape him. Once that bond between OA and Hap has been broken, the whole inter-dimensional travel thingie would probably cease. Either that or as Elodie puts it, events conspired to bring them all together. We’ll have to wait and see.

The House Is a Portal

If you can’t travel like OA, Homer, Hap or Elodie however, you’re just gonna have to be content with using the house as a portal. That’s how Michelle went “invisible” in the first place, she stepped out of the window. When the “Buck” version of her in Dimension #3 returns through the window, Michelle awakens in Dimension #2. She experienced travel through the house.

As explained by Karim in Part 2, Ep 4, the House on Nob Hill was built by a rich engineer in 1910 for his wife who is a medium. Pierre Ruskin and Nina Azarova would buy it two years before the events of Part 2.

In Part 2, Ep 5 (17 minutes in), we learn more about the house through a recording by Pierre Ruskin. The current house had been built in 1910 after an earthquake and fire tore down the mansion that was there. When trying to lay the foundation, the engineer and his wife discovered a spring.

The spring was a holy site to the Ohlone tribe; the water gave the shamans a “God’s eye view”. The engineer decided to protect the spring by building a house that serves as a puzzle (because why do something the easy way when you could do it the hard way?). The puzzles inside the house is said to be based on the wife’s dreams. Once the puzzles were completed, the husband wanted to attempt the puzzles himself but the wife protested. He did it anyway, as husbands are wont to do, and the wife found him collapsed near the rose glass window in the attic. He fell into a coma then died in his sleep.

In Ruskin’s recording he mentioned that that reason the house was a puzzle was to weed out the unworthy who would be trapped and destroyed or something like that. Solve the puzzle and you receive some sort of revelation behind the rose glass window. When the mention of the “revelation behind the glass window” became an option, I’m not really clear since the first person to have come across this revelation was the engineer himself and he couldn’t tell anyone since he collapsed and remained in a coma until his death. #whatgives?

Anyways, Karim makes his way through the fake bed room and came across a miniature version of the house, which is the exact replica of the real-life version of the house they are inside of. Outside the miniature house is a large, er… miniature tree. Could the tree be a puzzle as well?

At this point in time, OA actually reaches the large tree portion of the house, climbs out of the house through an open window, down the branches of said tree outside the window and falls through the ground. She is caught by the roots of the tree, and a conversation of the arboreal kind commences.

Turns out Nina Azarova is a medium who can speak to giant octopuses and trees (yay, coincidences) – just go with it. The tree, like Old Night the Octopus tells OA that she is running out of time and needs to form a tribe to survive what is coming.

In the meantime, Karim observes the miniature house and opens the rose glass window. Water pours out. What could this mean? (The attic is somewhere where there is water) Eventually, Karim gets to the attic in his second attempt, after being spurred on by writings at the back of a door, by going through the locked gate submerged in water, at the bottom of the well.

He escapes with Fola, and returns with the FBI in tow, but not only does he not find the miniature house, he also couldn’t locate the hall of mirrors where he found Fola. We also see OA sprawled under a not very large tree and like Karim, she awakens out of her trance when she splashes her face with water.

What have they awakened from? Apparently, the hospital discovered that Fola and Karim were poisoned with mercury sulphide which would explained the hallucinations Karim saw in the house: the miniature house which disappeared, the ridiculously large spaces they thought they were in, the people hiding in underground holes, the hall of mirrors where he found Fola, old and withered, etc.

The mercury sulphide had come from the spring, and it triggered trances in native Americans who were exposed to the gases, which was why no one would build there, except the engineer and his medium wife. It’s possible that the engineer lapsed into a coma because of the excessive mercury sulphide levels he had been exposed to as he underwent the puzzles in the house. His wife was spared the vapours because she found him in the attic without going through the puzzle areas of the house.

This might explain why when Karim found Liam, Liam jumped off the second floor of the house onto the concrete below.

He must have pretty high dosages of mercury sulphide poisoning in his system that caused him to go cuckoo. You know what else he has? A seed inside his brain accessible through his ear. I’m not sure why Michelle, Karim and Fola doesn’t. Or maybe they do.

The Map of the Multiverse

We learn how the movements work – two times to heal a body, five times to travel, a minimum of 5 participants is required – in Part 1. In Part 2, Ep 8 (17 minutes in) Hap tells us that, “every human mind contains the multiverse, an actual garden of forking paths within us all, just waiting to be fertilised”. He adds that he didn’t do all this and that the house did. So… the house put seedlings inside people? How does it choose who gets a seedling and who gets to walk away?

Essentially, the map of the multiverse is formed by the seedlings inside Liam, Scott, French, Jesse and Steve. The seed grows vast and far-reaching, like a tree map would, filled with its own forking branches, growing flowers at the tip of each branch.

By consuming the petals from these flowers, Hap says that they never need to jump into the darkness again. He can clearly see where he is going next. But can he choose where to go? Or are the choices just togo or don’t go?

Look at me, a professor who puts glowing petals picked off corpses into my mouth

Hap then lures OA out into the garden where he has his own versions of mega dancing robots (this sounds like an anime now) do the movements to send them to the third dimension. How Hap, who is not an engineer, can build robots like this so quickly and perfectly is not addressed.

In BBA’s dimension, she, Angie, French, Buck and Steve do the same movements manually.

OA is raised high up into the air, right when Karim arrives at the rose stained glass window to see her float in the air. Her body mimics her safety harness breaking, she falls down to the ground, and completes her transition to the third dimension.

Or… has OA already transitioned before Karim saw her float in mid-air? I mean she could be “floating” not because she is an angel but because she is being pulled up with a harness on a movie set. This would explain her body flipping over when that dove dove right into her, as well as her fall and ensuing head injury in the movie set she was in.

Karim is only there as a spectator and to bring home the realisation that he and everybody else in his world are but characters inside a film, living life as dictated by writers and a film crew. I’m not sure why that revelation would make people go insane though. Real life isn’t really that much better.

Steve collapses in his dimension. Hap crosses safely, his ears ringing because of his travelling. They all meet back at the ambulance. Karim sees Buck in Buck attire, calls out to her as Michelle. She responds and crawls back into the round window and returns to her comatose body. Wait, does this mean that we won’t see Buck or Michelle in Dimension 3?

What to Expect in Season 3

Let’s see: British Hap as OA’s husband, Scott’s NDE where he receives the third movement, OA doesn’t believe that she is OA, remembers her mission when OA as Nina Azarova visits her in an NDE on a flight, Homer’s turn to try to find her and convince of what’s happening, Steve as a wild card, another brother to protect her in Dimension 3, a reveal of Renata’s (or someone’s) NDE as fodder for Season 4 because we don’t have the luxury of hiding tree-map-ridden bodies in pools, Elodie may return with more cryptic clues, Elias might resurface with his creepy look one more time, and preferably some answers to the following questions:

1) If NDEs are an insight into where they can travel to, how do they decide which of the five people’s NDE will they all arrive at? How does OA arrive at the same place as the rest of the group when she leaves much later than they do?

2) How do they arrive at Scott’s NDE when Scott isn’t part of the group who is doing the movement? Are the destinations pre-planned? By whom?

3) Where do I get one of those dancing robots?

4) Will OA’s lab-induced NDE in Part 1 at the “rings of Saturn” be addressed?

5) Do all of the bodies die when they make the jump or do they get stuck in a coma like what Elodie suggests? Who is Elodie really?

6) Why are Homer and Prairie’s movements obtained from the animals they eat but Scott’s was taught to him by someone?

7) What’s up with old-timey Homer selling sticks and the old lady who sells fresh skin (they look too fresh to be from corpses)? The actress portraying the old lady is also the sheriff’s wife. Does her dual role have significance? Or are they just rehashing a darn good actress?

8) Why did Scott collapse inside the house? Why does he have a seedling out his ear like the others in the multiverse garden? How does the house select who gets a seedling?

9) Old Night and the trees speak of something of urgency and that time is not on OA’s side. What is this thing they speak of? Khatun tells OA something similar back in Part 1, Ep 4, that all “five of them” must work together as one to avert a great evil.

Until the next season!

HDIM Reviews: The OA

The OA is one of the most polarising shows out there. This means you either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between. For me, I both love and hate it. Can you blame me? It’s a show that’s easy to hate. Most of the time you do not understand what is happening until much, much later. It’s both annoying, and rewarding if you stick it out to the end, of course. The issue now is can it survive long enough to complete the rest of the run.

If you are new to the OA, you need to understand that this is a show that will test your patience and your faith multiple times. After Season 1 was released in 2016, it took them until 2019 to release Season 2. I just want to put this out here to let you know the sort of waiting time you might have to endure. So far Season 1 and 2 have eight 45-minute long episodes each.

If doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you might want to check out Line of Duty.

Has to be said: Spoilers abound!

Brit Marling stars as OA, which stands for… nope, too early. Let’s start at the beginning. This lady who is stuck in a hospital bed is Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling). She went missing 7 years ago and her parents, Abel and Nancy Johnson, had been looking for her ever since.

Prairie Johnson, missing for the past 7 years comes home.

When they met her in hospital, she couldn’t recognise them, mostly because when she was growing up with them, she was blind. And now, she could see. The rest of this otherwise mostly uneventful pilot episode would be about her adjusting to life at home again whilst fending off attempts by her parents or the authorities to figure out where she had been all those years.

Prairie is visited by her parents

Things pick up in episode 2 when she started to tell the story about her life before she came to live with Abel and Nancy, her adoptive parents, as well as her kidnapping. She would tell it to a group of five other people who she hopes will help her with an important task later.

This storytelling exercise would take place across several nights, in an abandoned house. The other five participants must leave the front door of their house open. Why this is so, has never been mentioned, much like many of the other loose threads sprinkled all over this show.

As for her backstory: her mother died at childbirth, leaving only her father and her. They came into a lot of money which made life for them in Russia rather dangerous. She almost died in a bus accident which took away her eyesight, a bargain she struck with a Khatun, a representation of Death(?). She returns to her life as a blind girl.

I wonder how they did this scene.

Fearing a reprisal, her father sent her to the US to stay with her aunt, for her safety. Despite promises to join her later, he dies in the background and the money stops coming. Her aunt takes her out of school.

To make money, her aunt runs a baby-selling syndicate, which is where Abel and Nancy comes in. When they meet up for the exchange, instead of the boy they were going to buy, Nancy asked for the little blind girl instead. They made the adoption legal and named the little Russian girl, Prairie.

OA as a little girl.

On certain nights, Prairie would suffer from nose bleeds after having night terrors and cryptic nightmares. She would spew Russian and walk around with a knife in her hand. Her adoptive parents took her to a psychiatrist who advised them to keep her under medication, all the way to her 21st birthday. She resents her parents for this, like any teenager would.

She eventually runs away to meet up with her father, whom she believes have been sending her messages in her dreams as to where and when to meet up.

Instead of meeting her father, she is abducted by a charming professor who has an obsession with near-death experiences (NDE). The rest of the series would recount the horrifying things that happen to her in the 7 or so years she spent in captivity. She was not alone however. She was kept with four other people who had one thing in common with her: they all have had and survived near-death experiences.

This is why you shouldn’t follow handsome professors home.

Unlike her, they all can see and were tracked down and captured by their captor. Prairie’s abduction was in her captor’s own admission: pure accident. The problem is, in the OA, nothing is accidental – everything happens for a reason, including Prairie’s terrible years in captivity, which was what made Season 1 interesting, but only if you are willing to suspend your disbelief just that much. For instance, have I mentioned that OA regains her eyesight while in captivity? How? She got hit on the head. Yeah. Just gotta go with it.

For Season 1, I went with it, letting it lead me to wherever it wants me to go. Halfway through Season 2 however, I was going ffs, what the heck is going on? more often than I’m comfortable with.

Season 2 opens with OA in a sort of parallel universe setting. She is now in a universe where she was never in that bus accident, never lost her eyesight, never got separated from her father and where she remained a Russian. She was never adopted and thus she is not Prairie, but Nina Azarova, a pure Russian through and through. Prairie Johnson no longer exists.

Nina Azarova has everything.

OA, on the other hand, is here. I think that’s the only reason the OA identity is relevant here. Because Prairie Johnson does not exist in this timeline. But OA does, and she is inhabiting Nina’s body. As a result, she is always confused, and she no longer speaks with a Russian accent. And Barack Obama is no longer president. Because OA wasn’t on that bus that day? I don’t know how this timeline thing works.

ANYWAY, in this universe, her captor still has a hold of her, as he does on her fellow prisoners, this time in a cushy asylum. How convenient.

She breaks out of the institution with the help of a private investigator, Karim Washington, who was asked by a Vietnamese grandmother to help look for her missing granddaughter. Let’s backtrack a bit. This is Karim. He’s a new character in Season 2. Starts out strong, fizzles out in the end. He leads you to a house and a few other weird stuff.

Karim doesn’t like kids. Just so you know.

Karim is trying to crack a smartphone game in an effort to find Michelle, the missing Vietnamese grand daughter who got sucked into the game big time. Michelle was playing said smartphone game and went missing. Her grandma, not really big on English, says Michelle is now “invisible”.

The startup animation for the deadly game looks like a door, don’t it?

His investigation led him to a house of puzzles which “coincidentally” is owned by Nina Azarova, which was what led him to OA. How convenient, again. That I can deal with. It’s the world of OA, coincidences are there for a reason. And I’m a fan (I guess). I’ll play along.

But then they started pulling out wild cards like a giant sentient octopus that can transfer thoughts via its tentacles…

Old Night, they call it.

… and trees that can talk to OA via its roots telling her about some tree Internet and that they have been trying to talk to her via the wind…

The Tree Internet. Would have gone better with a biblical type name. #idk

… and seedlings from inside corpses that can grow into multiverses.

It even flowers.

Of course, you don’t understand what that means. I don’t understand what that means either, and I watched the show. I had so many, many questions. I had them listed down in an initial draft of this post, and then I went back and rewatch some of the scenes to phrase my questions properly.

And what do you know? In the process, I slowly realised how the OA universe (OA stands for Original Angel, by the way) works, which will be my next post: A Guide to the OA Universe and How it works

HDIM Reviews: Osmosis (2019) & The Questions It Makes Us Ask About Love

Love is complex and most of the time complicated. But what if you could control it, turn emotions into tangible data, know 100% if someone is your one true love, your soulmate? That’s what Osmosis is running with to lure you in. What you get in return is an intriguing study of what happens when you try to control love.

osmosis title card

You can expect some partial nudity and floating sex art #itiswhatitis, some arguments about love and our expectations of it, plot twists that don’t really contribute to the story but are fun nonetheless, a strong start but a weak finish and a lot of really insecure adults who do not have the maturity to handle love much alone to deserve it.

What is Osmosis?

Spoilers Ahead!

Osmosis is the name of a company run by two siblings, Paul and Esther, the former, the CEO and alpha tester of the technology, the latter, the engineer behind the technology. Their mother is in a coma. Esther is trying to find a way to revive her. In the meantime, it’s Paul and Esther against the world.

paul and esther
Paul and Esther (Osmosis)

However, Osmosis is in the line of matchmaking, more precisely in helping you find your soulmate, your one true love. In a nutshell, you take an implant (essentially a pill you can swallow) which releases nanobots into your brain.

There, the bots retrieve signals from your subconscious, then feed it to the company’s A.I., Martin who will then scour the social networks in the world to find your soulmate for you. Tough luck if your soulmate isn’t tech savvy, I guess. Once you have found your soulmate, the system then guides you towards meeting your soulmate.

finding your soulmate
What would you do for love?

In the name of research, they get feedback from inside your body in return: your hormone levels, your heart rate, whether you are stressed or happy or relaxed – sounds intrusive, what could go wrong?

The Beta Testers Find “True Love”

In the first few episodes, we follow the beta testers throughout the process. There are 12 testers, but the storyline follows only the processes of Lucas, Ana and Neils, a last minute beta tester who was added in by Esther. Via the testers, the show makes you question the various aspects of the seeking out of your soulmate.

What if your soulmate is bad for you?

Lucas is in a healthy relationship with a restaurant owner, Antoine, who is a rising star in the culinary world. Lucas has everything going for him but wonders if there is more to life and joined Osmosis to prevent himself from one day waking up in bed and thinking “what if I’m not with my soulmate?”

lucas beta tester
Lucas thinks too much

Osmosis tells him that his soulmate is his ex, a philanderer who not only sleeps around but had left him in a wreck before Antoine helped him pull it together again. And what does Lucas do? He goes with his ex, of course, because we all make stupid mistakes all the time for the benefit of storylines.

What if your soulmate is out of your league?

Ana is a sweet, soft-spoken but insecure young woman who has body issues that she hasn’t actively dealt with. Osmosis to her is her final chance at love. If she can’t find a soulmate, then she won’t embrace love anymore, and that will be it. At least then, she knows to stop looking.

ana beta tester
Ana wants to find love too

Ana’s soulmate turns out to be a personal trainer. That probably explains why she had a hard time finding him. She signs up for his training program and they meet. Simon is sweet on her, and encouraging instead of disparaging, basically a ray of sunshine in her otherwise uneventful life.

simon soulmate
Simon, ultimate boyfriend material

Here’s where the logic breaks down for me. She is pessimistic, he is the opposite. She has no self control or self discipline, he has both. She has little to offer the relationship, he could have any girl he wanted (just being honest). There is little logic to explain how the two of them could be soulmates, so the show doesn’t really try to explain it. Enjoy the irony, guys. Let’s move on.

What if you are not good for your soulmate?

Neils is a teenage, self-declared sex addict who failed to get into the program at first but got in via Esther, with the help of his very supportive mother. He wants to find a soulmate so that he could find someone that can motivate him enough to change. Because if your supportive mother who had not kicked you out of the house upon finding out you have some troubling issues with sex could not motivate you enough to change, a soulmate probably will. #flipstable

neils beta tester
Neils has a problem

Anyhoo, he gets into the program when one of the beta testers chickened out and of course his soulmate, Claire was unexpected. She’s pretty, loves art, is fun to be around and simply adorable.

claire soulmate
Claire is definitely soulmate material, but for Neils?

HOLD YOUR HORSES, buster.

Why would a minor need to find a soulmate? Who lets minors find soulmates? Who lets minors with a sex problem find soulmates? Weird parents, that’s who. Weird parents and irresponsible companies that subscribe to the idea that you are never too young to find a soulmate. What the what?

And what happens? Neils attacks Claire albeit in a fugue state and then his parents activated Parenting Mode and came to talk some sense into Osmosis with a threat to sue.

What if Your Soulmate Wants Out?

Major spoilers!

For this one, we need to go back to Paul. He also has an implant put inside him by Esther but he isn’t a beta tester. He’s actually the alpha tester to the technology, which awoke him from a comatose state and found him his soulmate, Josephine.

Josephine soulmate
The Alpha Soulmate

Josephine goes missing in the first episode. Paul tries to find her with his implant, which is connected to her own implant. It fails to tell her where she is. He lodges a police report and is led on a wild goose chase before Josephine returns to his side with a bombshell revelation: she had her implant removed. And she went to great lengths to get it done, almost flatlining in the process.

Josephine at the brink of death

Understandably, Paul freaks out. For one thing, he had been scared for her life for the past few days. Secondly, this spells disaster for the company. Paul and Josephine were the ultimate couple that would sell the idea of Osmosis: the first pair of soulmates that started it all (it’s their bodies on the title card, for heaven’s sake!).

But then we get an explanation from Josephine as to why she could no longer live with the implant. With it, she had lost control of her own thoughts, privacy and freedom and Paul, who is essentially a narcissistic prick, refuses to entertain the idea of giving them back to her in exchange for her promise of love.

For him, it is not enough that she tells him she loves him; he needs the nanobots inside her body to prove it to him with figures and charts and such. Whilst she did not leave him, for him, removing the implant is the equivalent (insecure much?). The relationship is as good as over without the implants.

I find the idea of using the implant as a metaphor for the trust between a couple profound and clearcut. How do you prove your love for your better half? Facts and figures would probably do the trick. “I love you this much out of 100%” but then you would need some sort of input to compute that final amount.

How receptive are you of the idea that in order for you to prove how much you love someone, you need to open up your deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings to them?

But then, beyond this point, the writers do little to resolve this thing between Josephine and Paul beyond putting a pregnancy into the picture. And that’s that.

Oh, wait! We haven’t talked about Esther.

Finding Love In All The Wrong Places

It is entirely impossible to talk about Esther’s storyline without releasing a lot of major spoilers. If you have plans to watch Osmosis, please stop here.

First off, Esther is not a likeable character. In fact, she is extremely hard to love. The only part that is human about her is that she devotes her entire existence towards recreating her miracle work on her brother; this time, on their mother.

esther and louise
Esther and Louise, her mother

It wasn’t specified how long Louise, the mother, had been comatose. But in all that time, Esther was the only one sitting by her bedside at the hospital. Paul, on the other hand, couldn’t care less for their mother. For all he cares, she could just die and he’d wash his hands clean of her. And yet, when she finally awakens from her coma, she asks for Paul and does not recognise Esther.

In Episode 6, desperate Esther takes Louise to their old home where Martin shows Louise a piece of her own memory.

esther goes home

Esther finally finds out why Louise could not recognise her. Esther isn’t really her daughter. She’s a replacement girl brought in to replace the real Esther who had died in a swimming pool accident. Louise had not been able to cope with the loss of her daughter that she took a poor girl into her home, brainwashed the girl into believing that she had been Louise’s daughter all her life, and hits Paul when he refuses to play along with this insanity. Esther fuelled by her rage euthanises her mother since Paul refuses to.

And that’s… still not the end of it all.

It’s not true that Esther is hard to love. Although her whole life is falling apart, she has one entity that will do anything for her, Martin. Yup, the A.I. that she created and the key component of Osmosis. And he looks like this.

martin the AI
That insect lamp is Martin. Yup.

In an attempt to make Esther take an implant, Martin puts all the beta testers into a coma. Esther enters Osmosis to save them and Martin professes his love to her and asks her to stay. Which she did because otherwise the beta testers may stay in a coma forever, and Osmosis could not launch. #priorities

With Esther, the question they are making you ask is Would it be so bad if your soulmate is not human? That one is up to you guys to think about. Just kidding. Esther escapes Martin in a last minute plot twist. Because even the writers don’t think Esther should be confined in a virtual world for the sake of love. Sounds like love isn’t really the be all, end all thing it is put out to be.

Like I said, it started out strong but finished weak. Still, it was a fun exercise into understanding people’s expectations of love and what they are willing to give up in order to find it.

HDIM Reviews: Line of Duty (2012 – 2019)

I chanced upon Line of Duty while looking for my next binge run. All I knew before I started on this series is that it’s British and, at a glance, has a police procedural storyline. What I found was a new appreciation for the genius of Jed Mercurio, who is also the name behind Bodyguard, featuring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes.

There are four seasons completed at the time of this writing – and a fifth one is rolling out its episodes (it’s at S05-E02 now). The great thing about this show is that the stories don’t completely conclude once we reach the end of a season.

Old characters from Season 1 may pop up in Season 2, 3 and 4. Characters that have died can still add to a new storyline. Thus, if you are going to dive into this show, you should start at the beginning.

AC-12 Officers

In season 1, we follow DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) in his misadventure in Counter Terror which resulted in a transfer into Anti-Corruption. The gist of it was that the team he was a part of messed up and word came from above to band together and cover up their mistake. Arnott refuses to comply and as a result became a pariah of sorts.

Steve Arnott transfers from Counter-Terror to Anti-Corruption

Pending investigations, he is assigned to AC-12, the anti-corruption branch led by Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar). Hastings comes across as a dogged investigator who pushes his team hard to cross t’s, dot i’s, and catch “bent cops”. He has some of the best lines in the whole show be it when introducing himself on the phone (he refers to himself as Hastings – like the battle) or when he is giving an officer who had been caught red-handed a dressing down.

Ted Hastings, the voice of integrity in AC-12

Also part of the team is DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure). Brave, focused, extremely intelligent, she is usually the one who goes undercover in the department where the subject of their investigation operates in. As we follow her throughout four seasons, we see her rise from Detective Constable to Detective Sergeant.

The way this works is that Arnott pushes from the outside with the intelligence she feeds them, while she pushes from the inside. While she is never in any physical danger (what are they going to do to her? They are police officers) but no one likes a snitch.

Kate Fleming, anti-corruption officer in AC-12

Over the course of four seasons, you can clearly see that officers who work Anti-Corruption treat every target of their investigation like they were already guilty. Hence, AC-12 not exactly a likeable bunch. According to Fleming, the worst possible thing to happen to AC-12 is that they are no longer feared. Apparently, she can take being spat on at the back of her hair, but she can’t take not being treated with reverence and dread.

One of my favourite things about Line of Duty is their intense(!), stressful, aneurysm-inducing interrogation scenes – that’s when shit goes down. The scenarios are akin to a showdown in the courtroom, minus the judges, witnesses and jury. It speeds things up a whole lot.

AC-12 just needs to present the fact and try to make the connection based on feedback or answers given by the interview subjects. It almost feels like sanctioned entrapment of the officers being investigated but mind you, AC-12 doesn’t always have the upper hand at the interview table. And that’s because of who sits on the other side of the table.

The Antagonists

What good is an investigative team without worthy adversaries to investigate. Line of Duty features some of the most powerful and bold, sharp and cunning, extremely ruthless and formidable antagonists.

You mustn’t forget that the point of AC-12 is to find misconduct amongst police officers and so the antagonists are themselves fellow detectives, some ranked higher than Arnott and Fleming, trained on how to track criminals, cover their tracks forensically, and familiar with interrogation tactics, protocols and procedures.

Season 1: Tony Gates

In Season 1, the team is up against DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James) from the Serious Crime Unit, a prominent and highly ambitious officer with plenty of commendations to his name including Officer of the Year due to “best crime figures” on the force for a few years running.

Season 1’s target: Tony Gates

Despite his popularity amongst fellow officers, Hastings is certain that Gates is guilty of laddering, which is some sort of technical manipulation that allows him to add trumped up charges to seemingly straightforward crimes. This results in higher clearance rates and thus better crime figures for the department and for himself.

Eventually bodies start dropping and we find Gates having to go on the run from the right side and wrong side of the law.

Season 1 being the first season had to devote a lot to introducing the characters in AC-12 and how things work in an anti-corruption investigation. A lot of the push for truth we eventually see in Arnott are merely showing their roots at this season. Then again, perhaps they needed a more formidable rival.

SEASON 2: Lindsay Denton

Season 2 begins with an ambush and an explosion, leaving a police officer and someone in Witness Protection dead. DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) from the Missing Persons Unit was the sole survivor of the ambush, and became the suspect of AC-12’s next line of investigation. Whether she is innocent or guilty will nag you throughout the whole season.

Denton is a force to be reckoned with. She reported the misconduct of officers in her station and is ostracised in general by everyone at the station. Unlike Gates, practically no one stood up for Denton when AC-12 came a-knocking but that doesn’t mean she is one to take it lying down.

Time and time again, we get a peek at her non-existing personal life: no family, apart from a mother in a nursing home, no spouse or children, no drinking buddies or friendly neighbours. But then, she doesn’t have what you’d call a friendly face. The only thing she has going for her is being a police officer and she isn’t going to just sit there and watch her career go down in flames, without putting up a huge fight.

Season 2’s target: Lindsay Denton

At times it may seem like she is just at the wrong place at the wrong time but when pushed, like a cornered dog, Denton turns around and bites back. She’d turned the tables at AC-12 so many times that you aren’t sure whether she is really unlucky or guilty AF. But one thing is for sure, she doesn’t miss anything, which makes her your strongest foe or your best ally.

Season 2 is far more superior than Season 1 mainly because the stakes became much higher, the background has been set in Season 1 and because of Keeley Hawes.

I did not recognise her until a couple of episodes in and even then it was only because I had to know who is this incredible actress is. I mean, could you blame me for not recognising this as Home Secretary Julia Montague in Bodyguard? Keeley Hawes received a BAFTA nomination for all the horrible things she had to endure in her role as Lindsay Denton.

Season 3: Danny Waldron

In Season 3 we are treated with an unstable but highly effective officer from the Strategic Firearms Command Unit, Sergeant Danny Waldron (Danny Mays). He scares the life out of me.

Season 3’s target: Sergeant Danny Waldron

Unlike the antagonists from the first two seasons, we know that Waldron is bent. We see him shoot a suspect point-blank, then blackmail the rest of his firearms team to help him cover it up. While Waldron is easy to hate, he is difficult to charge since he has an answer for everything due to him being a seasoned field agent.

Running parallel with the Waldron investigation, Season 3 is also involved in investigating the wrong-doings of retired high-ranking officers who may be involved in the cover up of a systematic child-molestation ring from decades back.

Perhaps I’ve begun to tire of keeping up with the conspiracies after bingeing through the two earlier seasons, but this particular season was far too messy for me. What kept me going was Denton returning from Season 2, and a newfound admiration for Hastings’ character.

In his first AC-12 interrogation, a defensive Danny Waldron retaliated to questions by Hastings in a patronising manner, and got a reminder of the important role of AC-12:

[Danny] I cite under Common law, my lawful right to use lethal force for preservation of life or in self-defence where this threat is immediate.
[Hastings] Yes, and in response I cite Section 117 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act: the use of reasonable force. And for the tape, the emphasis is mine and not contained in the act.
[Danny] That’s an easy argument from behind a desk, sir.
[Hastings] BEHIND this desk, Sergeant, we uphold standards! Standards you are expected to meet as a serving police officer.

Hastings would later on struggle with the maintaining of such standards while he deals with threats to his own career for investigating a retired chief superintendent, and dealing with a mole inside his department. The conclusion to Season 3 was the most highly charged finale of all the seasons.

Season 4: Roz Huntley

In Season 4, Thandie Newton joins Line of Duty as DCI Roz Huntley, serving as Senior Investigating Officer in Operation Trapdoor. She was running a large-scale police operation to hunt down a serial killer, dubbed Balaclava Man. The culprit is believed to be behind the kidnapping and murder of one woman and the disappearance of a second. By the time we enter the story, the public is tired of being scared and there was pressure to make an arrest – the sooner the better.

Season 4’s target: DCI Roz Huntley

When a third potential victim who had just narrowly escaped Balaclava Man, handed Huntley a possible suspect on a silver platter. Huntley buckled under pressure and was quick to pin a man with learning and mental difficulties as the culprit. Case closed. That is, until Timothy Ifield, her forensic coordinator tried to air his concerns that the arrest may have been premature

Huntley shuts him down not eager to reopen this life-draining case. In a move that is just downright icky, Ifield takes the case to AC-12.

Timothy Ifield, forensic investigator to Huntley

He presents his findings to Arnott and suggests that Huntley may have ulterior motives to pin this crime on the wrong man. Although initially hesitant, AC-12 eventually begins investigations into Huntley. Then Ifield goes dark.

For Season 4, AC-12 have met their match with a highly seasoned investigator in Roz Huntley. Like Denton, Huntley is cunning, careful and isn’t shy about fighting back. Unlike Denton, Huntley has friends in high places and gave AC-12 a good run for their money.

She absolutely decimated Hastings at the interview table, a scene that clocks in at 22 minutes long. Now that was a great showdown. I have never seen Hastings more defeated than when he went up against Huntley.

I have also never come across a character more ruthless than Maeve Roz Huntley which was why I blazed through Season 4 in a single seating. All prior targets from earlier seasons were police officers through and through. Yet they still followed a code of conduct to serve and protect.

But not Roz Huntley. Huntley threw all that out the window, possibly out of spite or ambition, or just to save her own skin, I don’t actually know for sure. But if you had hoped, at any point, that AC-12 would let go of Gates, Denton or Waldron, you wouldn’t spare the same thought for Huntley. No matter what she did to redeem herself. Thandie Newton received a BAFTA nomination for her stunning portrayal of Roz Huntley.

Conclusion

I enjoyed Line of Duty for various reasons. The show grows. It expands and evolves. It becomes more sophisticated the longer you stick with it, particularly when it comes to the subjects of their investigations.

Mistakes become more costly. You do not get a reset button at the beginning of a new season. More often than not, these mistakes are later used in an attempt to discredit AC-12 and the work they do. That’s something the show-runners have to deal with the longer this show goes. On top of that, they also have to deal with the elaborate cover-ups and how one case ties to another case and to a third case etc.

Relationships also get more tested. We see Arnott and Fleming starting out cold, warming up to a strong partnership, compete for a promotion, judge each other, support each other through hard times, pull each other out of mess after mess after mess but never diminishing their relationship below that of treating each other as peers.

You also get to see Hastings groom the two for leadership roles from the beginning, back in Season 1, and then reaping what he sowed by the end of Season 4, showing pride in the work delivered by his two successors.

Season 1 aired back in June 2012 while Season 4 aired in March 2017. Here’s what they looked like after a harrowing event near the end of Season 4.

Feels like they’ve aged 30 years between the three of them, doesn’t it? That’s realism for you. At least Arnott fixed his eyebrows (Look, I have to comment on it, alright? It bugged the heck out of me for the whole of Season 1 and a bit in Season 2).

Note: At the time of this writing, Season 5 has just released their second episode. I can’t wait for the whole season to be made available on Netflix. A sixth season has also been commissioned.

HDIM Reviews: Love, Death + Robots (2019)

Love, Death + Robots is an anthology of 18 stories, ranging from 6 minutes to 16 minutes long. There’s sex, nudity, profanity, violence and gore sprinkled all over them. Each episode is made with digital animation, each in turn with its own signature, theme and flair. The animation is as nice to enjoy as the storylines themselves. That said, not every episode is for everyone.

Love, Death, Robot

This series is sooooooo not for kids. There’s no two ways about it. So many of them could have worked fine with a PG-rating but for some reason, they just want to throw some genitalia in, some nudity in, some cussing or a gunshot to the head, just for the heck of it.

Netflix just wants to get it out of the way that this is a purely NSFW watch. Doesn’t mean you cannot work around it. If you’re pressed for time, I suggest you check out the following 9 episodes first:

Suits – 17 Min (Monster Warfare)

Easily my favourite in the whole series, this episode features in stunning graphics a community of farmers that have to fight off swarming alien pests with mech robots, missiles and cannons like it’s just one of their everyday farming chores. There’s slight cussing and a ton of alien-killing. Fun watch you can enjoy with older kids.

Lucky 13 – 14 Min (Warfare)

Pilots are a superstitious bunch, says Colby the protagonist in the show. But as she was the rookie, she had no choice but to fly the “coffin with wings”. This is a good one. One of my favourites. I forget that this is purely digital animation when I watch Colby and the soldiers in action. At least until she is out of the plane. The storyline is simple but it takes the cake. Nice one.

Zima Blue – 10 Min (Safe)

A young reporter heads to an exclusive interview with art extraordinaire Zima as she breaks down Zima’s artform. Upon meeting him, he asks her to tell the world his story: why most of his work features a special type of blue and what he found at the end of his search for truth and his origin. This is based on a short story by Alastair Reynolds who is also the author for Beyond the Aquila Rift.

Fish Night – 10 Min (1 Quick Strip)

A father-and-son salesman team suffers a car breakdown on a deserted stretch of road. The father ponders upon the concept of ghosts from an older world. That night, they get visitors, but not the kind you’d expect. One of the more visually stunning episode in the whole anthology and great storytelling.

Three Robots – 11 Mins (language)

Three tourist robots visit a post-apocalyptic Earth planet. It’s a funny, intelligent episode that pokes fun at the apocalypse, not something you see every day. This episode is based on a short story by John Scalzi who also wrote the Yogurt story and Alternate Histories.

Helping Hand – 10 Min

A lone astronaut works at a space station with no backup. After a mishap she found herself set adrift, running low on oxygen, with no way to get back to the station. Because the title of the story is Helping Hand, of course she got back safe and sound. The how though, is what makes this a great story that will haunt you long after you’re done with them. I can’t label the genre without giving the spoiler away.

Alternate Histories – 7 Min (Nudity)

Ask anyone what would they do if they could go back in time, and some might say something about Hitler. Well, there’s an app for that now. What would happen if Hitler had died? The demo version of Multiversity, the app shows you six alternate timelines. Hitler is depicted in a cute way in this app but don’t let that fool you, he dies quite horribly in every single one of them.

When The Yogurt Took Over – 6 mins (safe?)

This is a real short one. It’s only around 6 mins long. The design reminded me of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the narrator’s voice made me feel a bit of nostalgia. Turns out, the episode was narrated by Maurice LaMarche (the latter in Pinky and the Brain). This could be one you can watch with the kids if you don’t mind that one scene where there is a naked lady protesting, and a guy shooting himself in the head, point-blank.

*I read the short story this episode is based on. This is a story better savoured as a read than an animated episode.

The President speaks to Yogurt

Ice Age – 10 Min (Safe)

A couple who just moved in found a miniature lost civilisation in their old fridge. Tobey Maguire and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the only two real life characters in the whole anthology star in this episode. It would have worked with just either one of them, really. You can watch this with the kids unless you have a problem with them seeing how a T-Rex feeds.

Let’s see what we got in the fridge

What about the Rest?

When you got time for the rest of the anthology, here’s what to expect. These will take you out of your comfort zone. For the general population anyways.

The Witness – 12 Min (Lots of Nudity)

A prostitute and nude cam dancer in a Hong-Kong’esque city witnesses a murder across the building. She is chased across town by the murderer. Due to the nature of her work, she is naked more than 60% of the episode, even as she runs in public trying to escape her pursuer. The graphics are extremely fluid and life-like, and the conclusion will blow your mind.

Shape-Shifter – 16 Min (Monster Warefare)

Two soldiers with unnatural powers sign up for a tour in Afghanistan. They face discrimination on camp but continues to serve out of the love for their country. For me, the discrimination is harder to watch than the gore. They have captured warfare wonderfully well. Not so much with the eyes and mouths.

Beyond the Aquila Rift – 16 Min (Sex)

Based on a short story by Alastair Reynolds, a space crew got lost while travelling through space. Waking up from cryogenic sleep, Thom is greeted by a friendly face who tells him they are thousands of light years off course from home. The truth however is far far worse. Greta is extremely lifelike compared to the rest of the cast. That’s all I have to say about this one.

This is Greta. Greta is animated.

Sonnie’s Edge – 17 Mins (So Not Safe)

If you are a fan of MMA, imagine that with two monsters battling it to the end in the ring. Expect extreme violence best savoured in HD. Oh and there’s a side story about why Sonnie would not throw the fight and where she got her edge. The graphics are better than the storyline. Take the wins.

Welcome to MMMA

The Secret War (Monster Warfare)

We follow a small Russian army in their deadly fight against an ancient evil. Unless you like battles with ugly, vicious monsters, you can give this one a skip. I wish I did. It wasn’t a pretty sight. This guy (below) looks incredible lifelike and natural compared to his peers. I applaud the team that made this possible.

Incredibly lifelike

Blindspot – 8 Min (Violence)

A group of 5 cybernetic robbers ambush a heavily guarded train to steal a microchip. Unbeknownst to them, something deadly awaits them on board. The animation feels like an upgrade of your 80s Saturday morning action cartoon. You know what else? This could work as a spinoff series.

Good Hunting – 17 Mins (Not Safe)

The huli jing is a spirit fox, a mythological creature in Chinese folklore. In this story a huli jing forges a friendship with the son of a spirit hunter who decapitated her mother. As ancient China evolves, the huli jing struggles to return to her true form and seeks the help of her old friend. A lot of nudity in this one, and the cruelty of mankind will make you sick to your stomach.

The Dump – 10 Min (Just downright urgh)

A City Inspector tries to evict a stubborn, dirty, old man who lives a home he built in the city dump. The old man tells the inspector the tale of Otto, which he had found in the same dump. I needed to wash my eyes after watching this one. It’s amazing how ugly and displeasing they can make everything look in this one. That in itself is an artform.

Sucker of Souls – 13 MINS (Lots of Blood)

An extremely violent and bloody episode, Sucker of Souls features a mercenary-aided academician stumbling upon Dracula in its purest form. Expect a lot of blood, gun power, bombs, running and did I mention blood?

Before the chaos

This anthology idea is nice. You can come in, watch an episode 5-10 minutes long, ruminate on it, then come back for more. More short stories, please!

FAQ: How to Make A Jiggly Japanese Cheesecake with a Pressure Cooker

This is a follow-up post about my earlier write-up on how to bake a Japanese Cheesecake that jiggles with a pressure cooker. I wanted to keep that post complete instructional. This post, on the other hand, is to help with troubleshooting or for any questions that come from attempting the recipe.

I have baked this cotton cheesecake so, so many times, my body goes into auto mode while making it. But to get to this degree of comfort, I’ve had to fail so, so many times. So if you do not get it the first try and you have not figured out why, don’t give up, just drop me a comment and we’ll figure it out together.

I’m splitting this into several sections: to do with ingredients, to do with method and to do with diversification of flavours.

(A) About Ingredients

1) Must I use full cream milk?
Full cream milk provides a fuller texture. I don’t know what that means either but the taste is different from when you use fresh milk. If you want to have chocolate cheesecake, use full cream chocolate milk + two tablespoons of cocoa powder.

2) Can I use cake flour instead?
I have tried using cake flour instead of all-purpose (AP) flour and plain flour. The cheesecake came out unbelievable soft but does not jiggle. It also doesn’t look nice for pictures. At times I would use 50% cake flour and 50% AP flour. You can experiment with this if you like but for your first time, go with 100% AP flour.

3) I don’t have corn flour, can I use corn starch?
Many recipes out there say that the two are the same. So far, all my cheesecake attempts use corn starch. They have not failed me yet.

4) Do I need to use that much fine sugar?
Unfortunately yes, because this is used together with the egg whites to produce the meringue. The cake itself is not sweet in particular. I have tried it with 80 g of fine sugar instead of the full 100 g. The difference is not pronounced but the cake with 100 g finishes faster for some reason.

5) I do not have cream of tartar, what can I use instead?
You can use lemon juice. Just squeeze one lemon juice worth of it. Many cheesecake recipes include lemon as flavour but for the meringue, the acidity ensures that the whipping of the egg whites produces a stable foam. During my first try, my egg whites broke apart, because I kept stopping since I had no idea how long to whip, and I did not add lemon juice or cream of tartar to stabilize it. Trust me, it’s not worth losing 5 eggs’ worth of egg whites. Just add the cream of tartar/lemon juice.

6) I do not have large eggs, can I substitute it with other sized eggs?
Of course you can, as long as the weight of the egg yolks and egg whites tally with what is mentioned in the recipe, there is no reason why this recipe can’t work. It is of course, easier, to just get the same sized eggs. But in any case, get fresh eggs. This is very important.

If you do not have enough, you need to google how to scale down your ingredients based on the number of eggs you do have. Your problem isn’t unique. Someone else probably faced the same problem and so there is probably an answer or two addressing that issue out there.

7) Do I need to use vanilla extract?
Yes, otherwise the cake will taste of egg whites and egg whites only. No matter what other flavourings you put in, add the vanilla extract.

8) Your recipe requires a lot of sifting. Are you sure it is necessary?
Truthfully, it isn’t but the taste is different if you sift diligently. And the ingredients also mix more easily if you sift.

(B) ABOUT Method

1) Does the parchment paper have to be 1 cm taller than the rim?

Well, this is what happens when you make it too tall. Here’s one of my earlier attempts.

This is a good 2.5 inches taller than the rim.

This is the outcome.

What a sorry sight. Still tastes awesome.

And this is what happens when the parchment paper just covers the exact size of the baking tin. The cake rises above the parchment’s edges and them when it shrinks back down, it becomes a delicious mess.

2) What’s with the shrinking when it is time to take the cake out of the pressure cooker?

Cotton cheesecakes shrink.

To be fair, it isn’t the pressure cooker’s fault. When baked in the oven, the cotton cheesecake is baked with a water bath (or bain-marie) so that the temperature is not as high and is more conducive to the cake developing its structure. The waterbath also ensures a beautiful golden colour and that signature dome shape you see in those cotton-cheesecake-making videos.

Hence, you will find many oven recipes that ask you to tweak the baking temperature and the timing a number of times throughout the process.

One does not have this luxury when baking with a pressure cooker. It’s either Bake or no Bake. You can’t choose the temperature you want to bake with.

So the next best thing to do is to ensure a gradual decrease in temperature before taking it out of the cooker.

Once the baking is complete, opening the lid releases the hot air inside the cooker but once you close it back up and as it is still in Keep Warm mode, there is still residual warmth inside the cooker.

The temperature difference isn’t as great if you do it this way, as compared to if you had immediately taken the cheesecake out of the cooker once baking is complete.

A shrinking cheesecake is not pretty.

3) Folding is terrifying. Can I just whip it all in?

I can’t really stop you from doing that but do get back to us and share your outcome so we know if this is possible.

Any recipe that calls for whipping egg whites require you to fold your batter in slowly but firmly. You do not want to break up the mixture and if the volume is still there, then you are in the right direction.

Don’t be too gentle and under-whip though. Then it becomes a different type of mess. You will see white streaks which is just the egg whites that aren’t folded in enough. And because the volume isn’t there, well, this is what you get.

Early days, ok? Let it go.

(A) Diversifying the Flavours

There are many other flavours that you can try with with a few tweaks to the recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

  • 80 g Full Cream Milk (Good Day)
  • 140 g Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)
  • 40 g Butter (Emborg)
  • 60 g Plain Flour / All Purpose Flour (storebrand)
  • 20 g Corn Flour / Corn Starch (storebrand)
  • 5 large fresh eggs (weighs 58-60 gr. each with shell)
  • 100 g Fine Sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Chocolate Cheesecake

For Chocolate Cheesecake, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to the flour and corn starch mix. Mix well and sift. Also, switch the full cream milk to chocolate milk, same amount.

If you do not have chocolate milk, you can melt 100g of chocolate chips or baking chocolate and add that to the cream cheese and butter then follow the recipe as normal.

Marble CHEESECAKE

For Marble Cheesecake, once you have completed the folding stage, separate the outcome into two bowls. Sift 1.5 tbsp of cocoa powder into one bowl, and fold it in.

Next, using two ladles or spoons put one spoonful of each of the batter into the middle of the pot/pan, alternating between the two, so you get concentric circles of white and chocolate rings. Repeat this until you have used up both batters.

Alternatively you can put the batters into two separate piping bags, then pipe them in, in an alternating manner. This will give you better control of the circles.

Or if you aren’t into circles, just google “marbling technique” to find out how others do it.

Orange CHEESECAKE

Add 3 tsp orange flavouring together with the vanilla extract. Follow the recipe as normal. For this one you need to keep the cheesecake in the fridge for 24 hours for the flavour to develop. Trust me on this one. The longer you keep it in the fridge, the more flavourful it gets.

coffee CHEESECAKE

Sift 1-2 tbsp coffee powder together with the flour. That’s it. Follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Adjust the coffee powder you put in according to your taste and the strength of your coffee.

Decorations

Yeah, this is not my area of expertise but I have seen cotton cheesecakes with icing on top, icing done with special stencil designs, a logo burned into the top of the cheesecake, glazed at the top with apricot jam, topped with strawberries, blueberries or raspberries on top with a layer of scattered icing, topped with mango slices etc. It is up to you to decide what you want on top of your cheesecake.

And thats it. I will be updating this post with new materials as they come. I hope you will give this Japanese Cheesecake recipe a try or share the recipe with someone who might like to give it a go. Good luck!

Got Straight A’s? Claim Your Excellence Rewards From These Banks

Congratulations to all SPM students for your results. You are all superstars in my book. But on another note, if you are one of the few who worked your butts off for SPM and got straight A’s to show for it, you have got to claim your academic excellence rewards from your favourite banks.

Banks offer rewards in varying degrees to good exam results in UPSR, PT3, SPM, STPM and even university degrees. These range from as low as RM50 to as high as RM500.

Credit: jcomp

There are two things to observe though: how you can be eligible and how to apply for the rewards (yes, it’s not automatically given to you, you have to apply and within the deadline given). I’ve gone through the terms and conditions for the relevant bank rewards for academic excellence offered by the following banks.

Maybank

Maybank offers academic cash rewards for straight A students for PT3, SPM, STPM/A-levels and even university degrees, ranging from RM100 for PT3 up to RM500 for bachelor’s degree.

You will need excellent grades of course, as shown in the image below: PT3 (7A), SPM (8A, 8A+), STPM (4A, 5A, Muet Band 6) and if you graduate with 1st class honours in your degree from a recognised university.

So far, Maybank is the only bank that offers rewards to straight A students at pre-university and university level but it offers no rewards for UPSR.

Eligibility

To be eligible for this, you will need to maintain RM1000 in your Yippie Savings or imteen account for the year you are taking the examination, right up to the date of submission for the reward.

Based on the form, you can also apply for this reward if you have a Maybank Premier 1 account, a Premier Mudharabah account or have an FD Premier account (bring the receipt as proof).

If you have only opened a new bank account, you must open the account before the 1st day of exams and maintain it at or above RM1000. (Seems a little unfair for current users, but rules are rules, I guess.)

To claim the RM500 for 1st Class Honours, the account must be opened before you turn 18, so essentially before you have even gone to university. You have to maintain at least RM1000 (the golden rule so far) in the account.

How to Apply

Just fill in this form and bring your result slip or degree certificate, as well as your IC, your child’s IC and passbook to apply over the counter. You need to do this at your home branch within 1 month of the official results announcement. Only one claim can be done per accountholder, no matter how many accounts you have with Maybank.

For more info, click on this link which takes you to the Maybank website. If you have any questions, please call Maybank.

Public Bank

Public Bank has a Star Achiever Programme that rewards UPSR, PT3 and SPM excellence. For UPSR students, you will need 5 A’s, PT3 students will need 7 A’s and SPM students will need 8 A’s.

The rewards are for RM50 for UPSR, RM100 for PT3 and RM200 for SPM. It is limited to only 200 recipients per year. Successful applicants will be announced on the website.

The reward will then be credited into the PB Bright Star Savings account so that’s the account you need to be eligible for this.

ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible for this, you will need to maintain a minimum daily average balance of RM500 in your PB Bright Star Savings account for the year you are taking the examination (the programme period for this programme is defined as January to December).

The account must also remain active until the cash reward has been distributed.

HOW TO APPLY

To apply, you can fill in the online form and submit, or you can do it in person at the account holding branch. Bring along your original examination result slip AND a photocopy which the bank will want to keep.

Successful applications will receive a serial number. (It doesn’t specify what the serial number will be used for in the TnC.)

The submission dates for this is 31 January the following year for UPSR and PT3 students, and 30 April for the current year for SPM students.

For more info, click on the following links which takes you to the Public Bank Terms and Conditions page in English, and this one in BM.

Alliance Bank

Alliance Bank has a Straight A’s Achievement Award which recognises achievements in UPSR, PT3 and SPM. The awards are RM100 for straight A’s in UPSR, RM200 for straight A’s in PT3 and RM300 for straight A’s (A+, A- counts as A) in SPM.

Eligibility

A balance of RM500 must be maintained in your Alliance Buddy Account for 6 consecutive months before the official date for the announcement of results.

How to Apply

You need to submit a certified true copy of the examination result slip within 14 days of the release of results. The reward money will be credited straight into the account.

For more info, check out this link that takes you to the Alliance Bank Deposits TnC document.

OCBC Bank

OCBC also offers rewards to students who obtain 5 A’s and above for UPSR (RM50), 7 A’s and above for PT3 (RM100) and 8A’s and above for SPM (RM150).

A finance information website not affiliated with the bank mentions a RM200 reward for 4 A’s and above in STPM but as this was not mentioned in OCBC’s official page, you will need to enquire with the bank if this is legitimate. #doesnthurttoask

Eligibility & How to Apply

Your Young Savers Account must be opened more than 1 year before the announcement of the exam results (note that you need a minimum initial deposit for RM500 to open this Young Savers account). The results must be submitted within 2 weeks from the official announcement date.

For more info, check out this link which takes you to the OCBC bank page for Young Savers account or this link which takes you to an Product Information Sheet.

Hong Leong Islamic Bank

Now this one, you wouldn’t be able to find on their website (frankly that place needs a revamp) but me, I prefer to look up their TnC documents. Here’s the link to the Hong Leong Islamic Bank TnC. You can go through it or check out my summary below.

This one is a special promotion that applies for the period of July 1 2018 until June 30 3019. They reward straight A’s as such: RM100 for UPSR, RM250 for PT3 and RM350 for SPM.

The monetary reward from this bank is higher than most so if you are eligible (check to see if you are below), do give it a go. A maximum total of RM60,000 will be dispensed during this campaign period.

It’s first come, first served but the TnC does not mention if there is a cap for the number of rewards per type of examination.

Eligibility

For this one, you need to main an average minimum balance of RM1000 in your Junior Savings Account-i at least one month prior to the date of application. If you have the conventional savings account (without the i at the back), you’re not eligible. #itpaystopayattention

How to Apply

You need to send in your application for the reward within 14 days from the official announcement date. You can receive only one reward per public examination type.

Go to a branch (it doesn’t mention if it needs to be your account holding branch) with a certified true copy of the examination result slip (certified by a school official), together with your IC, JSA-i passbook and you will need to fill in an application form. It doesn’t say how the money will be rewarded to you. Do enquire at the bank.

If you need the link to the TnC again, here it is.

Just For Fun

Based on what is shared above, if a student got straight A’s for SPM, and they were eligible for all the above rewards, they would have got RM1050 extra spending money for all their effort.

For PT3 students, they would get around RM750, and for UPSR, they would have received RM300 (which is a lot of money for a 12 year old)!

If you or your child were not eligible for some of them, at least now you know what you need to do for the next public examination. Better yet, SHARE this post with someone you know who is taking a public examination next year. Good luck with your submission!