Two very different family-friendly games: Dixit and Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

It’s vacation week here, and we’re playing some games! We have two new (to us) games in the house, and they’re both good family games (i.e., designed to be played by people of different ages together), and they’re both easy to learn. Very different in every other way, though. 

First game: 

First Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

This is just a deck of cards that comes in a little box, and it costs about $10. You can play with two more more people, and it’s plenty of fun with just two. 

Each card has on it, as you might expect, a picture of either a taco, a cat, a goat, a piece of cheese, or a pizza, and also the word. You divide the deck evenly and then each players takes turns laying cards down for everyone to see; and as they do it, everyone chants, “Taco, cat, goat, cheese, pizza” in rhythm with the cards being laid down. The idea is to slap the card if the word everyone is saying matches up with the card that has been laid down.

If you say, for instance, “taco” and the card someone lays down is a taco, then you all try to slap it first.

The last one to slap it has to take all the cards. If you slap an incorrect card (for instance, you say “cheese,” but what you slapped was actually a goat),  you have to take all the cards. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

But then there are a few other cards sprinkled in — gorilla, groundhog, and narwhal — and when those turn up, you have to do a special gesture (for instance, if a narwhal turns up, you make a horn on your head) and then slap it.

It is a fast-paced and silly game. It’s mostly about having good reflexes, but it’s surprisingly easy to get into a groove and have your mind play tricks on you while you try to sort out saying “cheese” while seeing a cat, of while you get used to not seeing the card and word match up, and then suddenly they do. I also find it difficult to do the gorilla gesture quickly but without whamming the hell out of my chest, for some reason.

A round takes about ten or fifteen minutes, and who’s winning can shift very quickly. 

It says it’s for ages 8 and up, but I think younger kids could play it together, and younger kids can definitely play with an older person who’s willing to hold back and bit and make it more equitable. Age (at least my age, which is 49) is not necessarily an advantage in this game, because you need focus and quick reflexes.

There is also an expansion pack, which can be played with the original game,  or as a standalone. We haven’t tried it yet, but it gets good reviews. 
It’s also available in Spanish, which would be a good way to learn how to say “taco,” “cat,” “goat,” “cheese,” and “pizza” in Spanish. 

If you like Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza you will probably also like Happy Salmon, which is also a fast paced, noisy, silly card game that you can learn in a matter of minutes. This one needs three or more players. 

A round of Happy Salmon can be very quick, like just a few minutes, and it would make a great party ice breaker, and can be played with younger kids (ages 6+). More detailed review here. You do have to get out of your seat for Happy Salmon, but you can stay sitting down for Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza.

The second game, Dixit, is played at a much different pace. It’s about $30.

The basic idea: Each player has an assortment of cards with dreamlike, evocative pictures on it. There is also a game board with little rabbit pawns, and each player gets a voting device.

Players take turns being the storyteller. The storyteller choses one card (keeping it secret), and announces a word or phrase that’s clue (or riddle, or story, or theme) about it — as specific or vague as they like. The rest of the players ponder this clue and then each turn in one of their cards that they think could serve as the solution to the clue (keeping it hidden from each other).

For instance, the storyteller might choose this card

and announce the clue as “calm.”

The other players look through their cards and decide which is best possible match for “calm.” They turn them into the storyteller, who shuffles them and then arranges them around the board, along with the original card. 


Everyone votes, (spinning their device to the number that corresponds to the number where the card has been laid down), and then the storyteller reveals which one was the original card.

You get three points if you guess the correct card (and the storyteller also gets three points), and you get one point if you’re not the storyteller and someone guessed your card. Your score is how many spots you can move ahead on the board. 

The interesting part of this game is that there’s not exactly one right, highest-scoring answer, because the scoring takes the psychology of it into account. If no one guesses your card, you get no points because you didn’t describe it well, and everyone else gets two points; but if everyone guesses, you get no points (and everyone else gets two points) because you made it too easy! So it’s sorrrrt of collaborative, because the real goal is to convey and understand something, but while still preserving the mysterious element. 

It’s fascinating how well the cards are designed to be interesting but ambiguous. 

That first card, described as “calm,”

could also have been something like “enormous” or “mismatch” or “wish come true” or “cat and mouse” or “gaze” or any number of things. 

This game is probably not the best for a small group of people who already irritate each other (ask me how I know), because personalities are very much at play in the choices all the players make. You can take into account what you know, or think you know, about the other person’s thinking patterns when guessing or while inventing clues, but it’s very possible to overthink or underthink it!

You can begin to play the game immediately even if you just learned it, but it’s easier to play with at least one person who’s already familiar with the scoring system, which is printed right on the board, but which I still found confusing. 


I did find myself wishing there were more cards in the deck, because it was a little taxing to the imagination when the same ones turned up several times, requiring a different take each time. They do have expansion packs, though; and I was told repeatedly that the game was more fun with lots of people, which I can easily imagine. I do think I prefer games where it’s more clear how to win! (I also don’t like Apples to Apples, which people say Dixit resembles.)

The kids all like this game, and I hope to try it again with a larger group and see if I like it more. 


That’s it! My other goals for this week, besides playing games (and working, boo) are: Spring yard clean-up (already mostly done), more planting (yay!), sort shoes and put away boots and winter jackets (done!), go on a hike (doing that today), going on a trip to a colonial recreation village (probably Thursday), and cleaning Corrie’s room (I’d rather eat an earwig, but it’s going to rain on Wednesday, so there it is). The kids’ goals are: Use every single pan in the kitchen, watch TV, and hang around in the kitchen and shout while I am trying to get work done. I really do like my kids, but dang, they are loud. 

And we’ll probably end up playing one of these ridiculous family games that need no equipment.

Speaking of games with confusing rules, this post has been my #1 most-read post almost every day for years and years. I think it got noticed by Reddit or something. Anyway, the kid in orange is now taller than my husband. Which is fine! Everything is fine. 

An unexpected movie watchlist for Lent

It’s the first Friday in Lent, and you know what that means: Mandatory Lent Film Party! At least, that’s what it means at our house. As much as we can manage, every other evening in Lent is screen-free at our house. But on Fridays, we assemble the family and watch a movie together. But unlike most other movie nights, the adults get to pick it.

The parameters: Each movie should have a religious or spiritual theme or setting (not necessarily Christian), and it should be well-made enough that there’s a reason to watch it besides the spiritual aspect. We lean toward movies we probably wouldn’t get around to watching otherwise.

Some of the movies are new to us, and sometimes they turn out to be terrible! This is not a problem, as long as we talk about why we didn’t like it. Talking about the movie afterward is also mandatory.

We’ve done this for a few years, and I’ve reviewed these movies as we watch them. (Click the title of the films below for my full review.) I tried to include age recommendations—my kids range from age 8 to 25—but it’s a good idea to check out a site like for specific elements that may make it inappropriate for your household’s audience.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the lesser-known or unexpected films on our Lenten watchlist to date… Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine


Meilin Lee Watching TV Template by MaksKochanowicz123
and GaryStockbridge617 (Creative Commons)

Quick game review: Happy Salmon

Last week, we lost power. The last time we lost power, it didn’t come back on for three days, so I ran out for sandwich supplies, jugs of water, and a game. Knowing nothing about it besides what it said on the box, I grabbed Happy Salmon, which is made by the same people who made Exploding Kittens. 

Great pick. It cost about $12 and it’s just a deck of cards. You can play with as few as three people, but it’s more fun with more (as many as eight); and you can play with people who are as young as six or even younger, and they don’t have to be literate. 

The deck gets divided up so everyone has a small stack of cards. The object of the game is to be the first one to get rid of your cards. You do this by flipping over one, announcing what’s on it, finding someone else who has the same card, and both doing the action that’s on the card. Then you can both discard your cards.

Everyone is flipping cards and announcing their cards loudly and simultaneously, so it’s silly and chaotic, like a fun version of the trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange.

The actions are “high five” (self-explanatory), “fish bump” (do a fist bump), “happy salmon” (smack together your forearms twice), and “switch it up (which you signal by swirling your finger high in the air, and act out by switching places).

So yes, you do have to get up to play this game. I was a little sad to learn this, hoping I could sit on my bum while I played; but the other thing about this game is that a round takes about two minutes or less to play. So you can go back to sitting down pretty soon. 

There is the tiniest bit of potential strategy, in that, if you don’t find a match right away, you can either hang on to your card and keep trying, or discard it for a new one, which means you may miss your chance to match with someone else. But it’s super fast-paced, so if you chose wrong, you quickly get swept past your mistake.

The whole thing is very jolly and ridiculous, and it’s also very easy for adults to even things up by making sure they don’t keep matching with the same kid. I’m not saying it’s impossible for a kid to lose badly and get their feelings hurt, but if that does happen, you can just play another quick round, and someone else will probably win. Damien and I played it with the little girls and genuinely had fun doing it. 

It is more fun with more than three people, but you can adapt it so it makes sense for three people to play; and you can also play a silent version, which we haven’t tried yet, but which sounds entertaining. 

Enthusiastically endorsed. A truly family-friendly game designed to be played by people of all ages and/or a people of assorted ages, that just about anyone can learn instantly, and that doesn’t have a lot of pieces to lose. It would make a great cheerer-upper if people are gloomy, or an ice breaker at a party of shy folks. The actions are silly but not humiliating. It really strikes the perfect balance of simplicity and entertainment value. 

The cards come in a box the size of a small, thick book. The cards are smaller than standard playing cards and are laminated and seem reasonably durable. 

Other game reviews:
Forbidden Island
Ransom Notes
The Catholic Card Game (NFP Expansion pack)
Snake Oil 

and an evergreen post: 10 Ridiculous Family Games That Need No Equipment

Opera nite: TOSCA (1976) review

Every year, we try to watch an opera with the family. Kids and opera are actually a great match, as long as they can read subtitles. There’s drama, there’s action, there’s blood and running around and torches and whatnot, and I think this year we found the absolute perfect opera: Tosca

Yes! I couldn’t find it streaming anywhere (well, it is on YouTube with ads), so I bought a DVD of this 1976 production, (here it is on Amazon, but I found a copy on Ebay for much cheaper) which is filmed like a movie in Rome, in the actual locations where the story is set.

We have a sad history of watching the first few hours of an opera and then losing steam and never getting around to finishing it; but this one is just under two hours long, so it was perfect. It is in three acts.

The basic plot: This painter, Mario Cavaradossi, is in love with the beautiful but tempestuous singer Floria Tosca. Cavaradossi helps a friend escape the evil and corrupt chief of police, Scarpia, who realizes if he takes Carvaradossi prisoner, he can find out where the prisoner is hiding and force Tosca to yield her body to him. OR CAN HE? The whole thing takes place in 24 hours, and there is a lot of running around in and out of churches and city streets and up and down stone staircases with cloaks flapping and gorgeous silken trains trailing. It is set in the year 1800 during the Napoleonic wars, but you don’t really have to know that. 

Cavaradossi is a youngish Placido Domingo, absolutely gorgeous.

Tosca is Raina Kabaivanska, who I was not familiar with, and I took a while to warm up to. At first she seemed too highly strung and not quite convincing as an irresistible love interest, but it started making sense, and I think this is built into the story.

Sherrill Milnes is Scarpia, and dang, he’s just so writhingly evil.

(He actually reminded me of The Generalissimo in 30 Rock, which just shows that I have brain worms, and you can ignore.)

I will admit that I’m just not very familiar with this opera, and have never listened to the whole thing all the way through up until now.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! (Go ahead and laugh at the idea of spoilers for an opera that’s a hundred years old, but I was the only one in the room who knew how it ended!)

One theme of the opera is the clash between what is real and what is art. People are kind of obsessed with Tosca, because they have seen her on stage as a diva, and they find her compelling and fascinating because of her voice and her beauty and her presence. But she herself seems to have a little bit of trouble telling the difference between art and reality. When her lover paints Mary Magdalene and uses an amalgamation of another woman and herself to create the perfectly beautiful women, she assumes he’s having an affair, and she cannot let go the idea that he should at least change the eye color.

I think this maybe is her undoing: She puts too much faith in the strength of the stage, of art and artifice. When Scarpia begins to torment her, she is shocked to her core that such a thing is happening to her, because, as she says, she has always lived for her art and has never harmed anyone. And this has always worked for her. 

When she is assured, at the end, that Cavaradossi’s execution will just be a mock one with the firing line shooting blanks, she believes it without hesitation, even though there’s no particular reason to trust this bargain. She thinks it will be just one more show, and even laughs affectionately at her lover because he’s not as good or practiced an actor as she is.

There is that savage moment when she smiles to see him shot, and cries out, “Ecco un artista!” But of course the bullets are real, and he is dead. So of course she leaps off the roof, not so much because she’s afraid of being arrested (she’s clearly not a coward), but because she is going to exit that world that does not work

I don’t know, these are all just unformed thoughts from one viewing of one production of the opera, though, and I haven’t read a single word of analysis by anyone else on the work; so I’d be very interested to know what other people have thought! 

Anyway, gosh, I loved it. I loved the combination of insanely operatic over-the-top melodrama, and then little human touches, like Tosca stabbing Scarpia in the gut and sending him to hell, and then fluttering around and laying a crucifix on his chest, because she’s not sure what else to do. The costumes were wonderful. The setting is of course ravishing.

The camera is not too flashy, but ramps up the drama when it matters most. 


This is not a style of opera where they have an aria and introduce the main idea, like, “I want you very much!”;”Yes, but what if my husband catches us?” and then repeat it forty six times. It moves right the heck along and keeps you on your toes. The kids vastly preferred this. The plot was also very simple, and everyone grasped it without help. 

The music is irresistible. I don’t know how to say “Puccini is very good” without sounding dumb, so I’ll just leave it at that. 

The subtitles were easy to read (not always the case with subtitles).

Everyone was cast perfectly. The whole thing was just splendid. It was also kind of fun to see Catholic references sprinkled casually in throughout the story (people genuflecting in the church, people pausing to pray the Angelus). 

So, snacks are a big part of Fisher Opera Nite. We hit up Aldi for cheese and crackers, fruit, and various cookies and chocolates and things, and then I got some sparkling grape juice.

We watched the first act, then paused the movie and had our snacks and then watched the rest. If I remember correctly, this film doesn’t stop for a formal intermission like some operas; but as I said, it’s only two hours, so you could easily watch it straight through without a break. 

As far as content: It’s extremely dramatic, but not graphic, so you see stabbing, but there’s not gobs and gobs of blood, for instance. There is a torture scene that’s upsetting but, again, not very graphic. You can see there is sexual coercion, but it’s mostly tense and dramatic, not violent. The painting in the beginning shows Mary Magdalen topless, but that’s it. Can’t think of anything else parents need to know. Definitely make sure you understand what the story is before you decide if your kids (or others) are up for it! 

I’m now really curious to see other productions of Tosca, because the plot is so simple that it must be open to some very wide interpretations. Any suggestions? I don’t know if the kids would want to watch a whole second showing, but I would be up for it. 

Game review: Forbidden Island

You know those memes where people’s heads are melting, turning into horrible, bloated balloons, or otherwise undergoing some kind of excruciating suffering because they have to listen to someone read the rules of a new board game?

This is me. I’m too old and dumb and my neurons are all completely busy trying to remember where I put my pants. I don’t want to learn a new game!

So I was very skeptical about Forbidden Island. There seemed to be a LOT of rules and exceptions and actions and sub-actions and choices for each turn, and I could feel my head start to puff up by page two. But a promise is a promise, so I forged ahead. 

Glad I did! It’s a neat little game, and once you go a few rounds, it really does make sense. I would have made a few small stylistic changes to make it feel a little more coherent, but the structure is solid and all action and variety fall into place quickly. I played with kids aged 11 and 8 who had played once before, and it was well within their grasp. The game took about half an hour. It combines chance and strategy, but you’re supposed to confer and collaborate with your team members, and the tension comes from trying to escape in time, rather than beat each other.

You’re a team trying to rescue all four elemental treasures off a mysterious island and flee before it sinks into the sea. At each turn, you move around to different spots, or sometimes move others around, trying to collect treasure or achieve various goals. You also have to turn over cards that make sections of the island fall into the sea; but you also have the chance to shore them up, sometimes (but if they sink too often, they’re gone for good). Each player has a slightly different set of skills, which encourages you to work together and forge a plan that uses everyone’s skills and the fruits of everyone’s luck. You also occasionally draw a card that makes you ratchet up the speed at which the water rises. You can control how hard the game is by starting out at various levels, but it will get harder as it goes. I can imagine lots of variety in different games, depending on luck and on who’s playing. 

It is a beautiful game. The island is made up of an array of little cardboard cards printed with brightly-colored vignettes, each with a dramatic name, and when the different locations fall into the sea, you flip the cards over to see the same scene depicted in an eerie blue.

The treasures are little figurines made of heavy plastic, and are appealing and will seem worth collecting to kids.

The whole thing fits nicely into a medium-sized tin box that will fit on a bookshelf. 

I would have come up with some term a little more evocative than “actions” for the three things you can do on each turn; and I would have chosen something more romantic than a helicopter pad for the only possible escape route. But these aren’t deal breakers; they just disrupt the mood a bit. 

But I definitely recommend this game for kids who are ready to play something a little more complicated than the same old games that take you around and around the board, or require you to act viciously toward each other. It requires strategy, but only a little bit, and stronger players who have better ideas can guide the more confused players whose head blew up like balloons when the rules were being read (so it would work well for people of different ages to play together, as long as they don’t hate each other). It’s compelling but not nail-biting, and it will capture the imagination of visually creative players. You do need to be able to read, but not a lot. It says it’s for ages ten and up; but as I said, my smart eight-year-old did fine with it.

It’s also reasonably priced! Some games are insanely expensive, but this one is listed at about $20 right now. This game apparently has some expansion packs, and also a follow-up game called Forbidden Desert

Other game reviews:
Ransom Notes
The Catholic Card Game (NFP Expansion pack)
Snake Oil 

Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2022: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and THE SCARLET AND THE BLACK

I forgot to write up this year’s Mandatory Lent Film Party plans! Thanks to a few readers for reminding me.

On Fridays in Lent,  our family watches some edifying, well-made films, with at least a loosely spiritual theme, preferably one that we probably wouldn’t otherwise get around to seeing.

In past years, I’ve done short reviews for the movies we watched. My past lists are here (2021) and here (2020), and you can find the individual movie reviews under the tag Lent Film Party. I will also link them separately at the end of this post. 

Here’s our list of possibilities for this year:















We’ve already watched three movies this Lent: Fiddler on the Roof, The Scarlet and the Black, and The Secret of Kells. I’ll do quickie reviews for the first two here, but I want to write up The Secret of Kells separately. 


100% stands up. I’ve seen this movie countless times, and it just gets better. We ended up watching it over two nights, because it’s three hours long (it has an intermission, so you can split it up easily). 

This show is a masterclass in how to sustain a metaphor without wielding it like a club.  Tevye openly tells the audience right from the beginning that “every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking our necks” — and then he proceeds to work out what that means himself, throughout the rest of the movie. At the end, he invites the fiddler (sans roof), with a nod of his head, to come along with them to whatever’s next, and as he trudges forward with his load, he follows the music. So you see that his story is not over. Oh, it’s so good. Every element is perfect, the songs, the casting, the choreography, the dialogue, the cinematography, the pacing. 

It’s the story of a Jewish family in a tiny shtetl in Russia at the turn of the century, trying to maintain their identity despite cultural pressure from a swiftly changing world, and also from overt attacks in the form of pogroms. This movie shows more or less the story of my family, on both my parents’ sides. But it will feel personal to other viewers, as well, to see the Russians suddenly and senselessly descending on their neighbors. Different era, similar pointless horror and betrayal. 

Early in the movie, when Tevye has agreed to marry his oldest daughter to the butcher, they go to a tavern together and drink “to life,” and their jubilant toast is joined by a crowd of Russian soldiers. Normally the two groups keep to themselves, but not tonight. The choreography here illustrates so much tension and menace and emotion. Is it an invitation, or a threat? (Which, by the way, is the question Tevye has to ask himself throughout the whole story.)

Tevye is cautious but doesn’t want to be cowardly or cold, so he accepts the challenging invitation to dance in the Russian style, and as he’s caught up in it he shouts, “I like it!” But he almost immediately learns that good will is not enough. The next scene that shows dancing, at his daughter’s wedding, starts out with such jubilation, and ends in ruin, shattering devastation. And there is nothing to do but, as Tevye roars out into the darkness, “Clean up.”

I don’t really know how it hit the kids, although I definitely heard some weeping from the couch. I was glad they saw how Tevye speaks so naturally and constantly to God, and I was glad they saw how parents struggle and suffer while trying to figure out the balance between accepting changes they don’t like or understand because they love their kids and can’t really control them anyway, and holding the line for what’s really important. It’s not as easy as it looks! When Tevye is trying to work out whether or not he can see his way to making sense of his third daughter’s relationship, he says with a crack in his voice, “If I try to bend that far, I’ll break,” and I think even a teenage daughter who thinks her overbearing parents are unreasonable ogres will see that this man is really trying, and really suffering. (I definitely did, as a teenage daughter of a sometimes ogreish father.)

The kids were resistant to watching this movie because they remember it as a huge downer, but it truly isn’t. It doesn’t shy away from tragedy, but it’s also extremely funny, and tender, and sweet, and it ends, improbably, with hope. My Lenten wish for you is that you watch this movie.

We rented it for $3.99 on Amazon prime. It’s available to rent or buy on many platforms. Worth owning and rewatching. 

The second movie we watched for Lent was: 


Currently available to stream free on a few platforms and for rent on several more.

Synopsis: The true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who uses clever ruses, trickery, and brazen courage to organize an effort that hid and saved the lives of thousands of Jews and escaped POWs in Nazi-occupied Rome. 

Here’s a trailer:

Terrible trailer that kind of does justice to the movie, which we all found underwhelming. At 2 hours and 23 minutes, it was made for TV, and it does not translate well into a single night of viewing. There are many extraneous scenes of people talking vehemently to each other across a desk or on the phone. The repetition may have been necessary to keep the TV viewer up to speed across several episodes, but it turns the movie into a bit of a slog. 

For a movie that takes place partially inside the Vatican with a monsignor for a hero, I found it weirdly secularized. The priests who are martyred die explicitly for the people, which sounds good, but I dunno, you’d think they’d mention something vaguely spiritual while facing a death squad! I have only seen the movie once, but no portrayal or prayer or faith in God stands out, and they all seem to be relying on sweaty masculine vigor and cunning, rather than ever on grace. I understand making a religious story accessible to a general audience, but this was a pretty egregious case of Jesusectomy, except for literally the last five minutes and the little written epilogue that appears on the screen.

Tell me if I’m being unfair. It’s not that I expected it to be one kind of movie, and was disappointed that it was a different kind. It was that the final scene was extremely powerful … and completely unearned by the previous two hours. I’d pay good money for a remake that starts with what happens at the end, and then spends the movie explaining what led up to that. Instead, it was a dated, somewhat plodding adventure movie with priests, with a tacked-on religious finale that appears out of nowhere. Tell me if I’m being unfair. 

It was a pretty good historical antidote to the myth that the Church just sat on its hands and made nice with the Nazis (or even that the pope was an antisemite — a view which even the author of Hitler’s Pope has recanted); but it still soft balled what actually happened. It portrayed Pius XII as an overly cautious political player who was mainly concerned with staying safely neutral and not making things worse, but had a thing or two to learn from this bold monsignor, who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, the Vatican saved tens of thousands of Jews or more through numerous secret means. Could and should they have done more, or done things differently? I don’t know. The facts are still being sorted through and analyzed. One thing I tell my kids often is that, if someone tells you history is simple and straightforward, they’re either stupid or lying. 

I guess I give the movie a B- overall. It wasn’t exciting enough to be a wartime adventure movie (there was only one attempted stabbing in a shadowy Vatican hallway, followed by a punching and a shooting! There should have been one every twenty minutes!), but it didn’t have enough spiritual or even interior content to justify the ending. 

So the next week, I chose something completely different: The Secret of Kells, which I hadn’t seen before. And I’ll review that next! 

Here’s the direct links to previous Lent Film Party Reviews from last year:


The Song of Bernadette


Calvary (This one is a podcast and it’s currently only open to Patreon patrons)

And I guess that’s all we got to last year, although I feel like I’m forgetting something. 

From the year before:

I Confess

The Robe

The Trouble With Angels

Babette’s Feast

Lilies of the Field

Bonus review:

The Passion of the Christ




Just how much of a menace is TURNING RED?

In my innocence, I sat down to watch Turning Red with my kids this weekend. I had no idea that, while we watched, my fellow moms were tapping out warnings about the lurid, perverse, and downright SEXIFIED themes and images Disney Pixar would foist on an unsuspecting audience. 

I read the reviews after the movie, and I regret to inform you that everyone is nuts.

So even though I thought Turning Red was a fairly flawed movie, I’m going to review it because some of the reviews out there are unusually whackadoo. (Caveat: I only watched the movie once, so maybe I got some details wrong.) This review will include spoilers. I watched it with girls ages 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, and 20 and my son, 18, and my husband, and we all liked it, but had a lot to talk about afterwards. And I had one big complaint.

It’s a coming of age movie. It’s about a group of girls hitting puberty, noticing boys, starting to realize their parents don’t know everything, and figuring out what it means to grow up; and it’s about her mother dealing with all of these things. The target audience is not little kids. It won’t hurt them to watch it, but it wasn’t made for them. 

Here’s the trailer:


The plot (again, spoilers): Mei and her loving but overbearing mother are caretakers for an ancestral temple. Suddenly, Mei suffers an abrupt transformation: Strong emotions turns her into a giant red panda. It turns out the gods bestowed the power to become a savage animal on one of her ancestors so she could defend her family, but subsequent women in her family have gone through a ritual where they fight down the inner animal and contain it in a talisman. Mei discovers she can control it by thinking calm thoughts about the love of her friends, but she agrees to do the ritual. Her mother calls the family but oh no! The ritual is on the same day as the concert she and her friends want to go to. Mei defies her parents and decides to trust her own powers to not turn into a red panda. Mei’s mom is so upset that she re-pandafies herself humongously and goes on a destructive but hilarious rampage, and can only be stopped when all the aunts also become pandas. They all then undergo the ritual again, but Mei decides not to go through with it, choosing instead to remain a person who is sometimes a panda. At the end, she uses this power to promote the temple where she works with her mom. 

It was entertaining throughout, and the characters were appealing and had a little more depth and melancholy than you often see in children’s animated movies. The girls’ silliness and sorrows were presented with a good combination of comedy and compassion, so you could laugh with recognition at how ridiculous their problems are, but also feel deeply how deeply they felt them. The funny parts were really funny, and Mei and her friends came across as actual middle school weirdos, not with slick, pre-packaged quirks, but the kind of weirdness that makes them a little obnoxious and stupid sometimes, as well as endearing and unpredictable. Toward the end, Mei meets her mother as a girl, and realizes that she had the same doomed yearning to please her own mother, so, yeah, I cried. 

I liked that it was really, truly about girls. Not an adventure story that they plugged a girl into; not a girl showing what she’s made of by cutting off her hair and kicking ass. Just girls acting like girls, and being good friends to each other. I liked that her friends loved and supported her when they thought she was being awesome and when they thought she was being a goody-goody. I didn’t like that they encouraged her to sneak around her parents, but it was realistic. The vibe was more Derry Girls than Girls Gone Wild.

I liked the dad. At first they played him as the goofy, ineffectual lesser partner, but then he sits down with his daughter and kindly teaches her that strong emotions are part of her, and that stuffing them into an amulet is not necessarily the best way to deal with them. This is pretty good advice, and it was good to see a quiet but wise dad with emotional intelligence, who had a good relationship with his daughter, and respects his wife but is maybe a little sad about the past. The parents clearly have interior lives, which you don’t often see in kid’s movies.

The reviewers complaining about hypersexualized scenes were disturbingly off the mark. The scene where Mei is taunting her mother and shaking her butt happens because her mother is literally a raging monster and has to be lured into the magic circle. The scenes where the girls say things like “now we’re women” or where they say they’re going to go in girls and come out women are played with a wink. This is clearly what the girls think, and it’s clearly untrue. The scene where Mei is under the bed sweating, and one reviewer said it showed her having her first orgasm? To those who are defiled, nothing is pure. These are just kids hitting puberty and noticing sexy thoughts in a very typical, slightly ridiculous way. My teen girls totally realized they were being teased, and they thought it was funny.

You moms who think it’s sick and perverse and an emergency and heartbreaking that Disney would put puberty in a cartoon, YOU ARE GOING TO TURN UP IN SOMEONE’S CARTOON SOMEDAY. And you’re not going to like how they draw you. 

It mentions Mei’s period, several times. It’s not gross or explicit; it just talks about it, because she’s 13. It deals with it in a way that is extremely familiar to girls and women; i.e.; it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but it happens anyway, and nobody asked for it, and mom tries to help and makes it worse, and ugh, but oh well, period. This is really not hair-on-fire stuff. It’s actually a gift for you, if you’ve had a hard time trying to get yourself to introduce the topic to your kids. This movie may make it a bit easier. (For the people who think boys shouldn’t know about periods: You’re making the world worse.)

It has some weird ritualistic magicalistic scenes. It’s not terribly scary except for some glowing eyes and bared teeth. If you were planning to show your kids a movie about a girl turning into a red panda and then you’re shocked that there’s magic, I don’t know what to tell you. 

So, there was a lot to like about the movie. It’s very much about the things we do because of anxiety, and how to do better, and about not trying to be someone you’re not, but learning to work with who you are, and it’s about (or at least wants to be about) whether we just love each other, or if we have to earn each other’s love.  It does show pretty egregious defiance without a lot of comeuppance, but a lot of shit went down over the course of the movie, and these are clearly people who are invested in having a good relationship with each other, so I feel pretty confident this family will work it out. This isn’t a “mommy knows best” movie, but it’s not a “kids know best” movie, either; it’s a “kids are their own people, and that’s how they learn” movie. 

And it was yet another therapy movie. Which are fine as far as they go, but which I hope we can start getting past as a society soon, because writers are learning that, if you lean heavily enough on themes of working through family trauma, people will not notice giant gaping plot holes. 

But I noticed. 

Look, I’m sorry this is so long, but this is driving me crazy. And it’s something Old Good Pixar never would have put up with. 

The entire plot hinges on Mei’s choice: Is she going to suppress her panda, or is she going to “keep it?”  Is she going to go through the ritual to contain her explosive emotional power in a piece of jewelry like most of her ancestors, or will she be her own person? 

But they never supply a real reason why it’s a dilemma. It takes Mei a few days to get used to occasionally poofing into a red panda, but apparently all she has to do is imagine being with her friends, and that calms her down enough so she can control it almost entirely. She thinks people in school will shun her, but in fact the other girls think she’s adorable (in a funny scene where their eyes become huge and sparkly). It not only makes her popular, she uses her power to quickly raise almost $800. So not only is there no real peril in this alleged dilemma, but she gets immediately rewarded in several ways for choosing one side, and that turns out to be the right choice for her, and her ancestor smiles at her. It’s like the opposite of Russian roulette: none of the chambers are loaded.

This is the very same shortcut they took in the movie Luca, which was another charming, beguiling movie that set up a conflict and then didn’t quite take the trouble to work through its implications. In Luca, sea monsters are hated and feared and reviled; and humans are viewed the same way by sea monsters. But when Luca transforms, it takes him about eleven seconds to realize that nobody is actually bad or evil or dangerous, and everyone is actually fine and cool and neat. And there is never any explanation for why Luca is able to reconcile himself to this idea so quickly, and no one else, in the history of ever, has been able to see the truth, but has always clung to their prejudices for no reason at all.

Both movies take for granted that the viewer is already thinking: People in the past didn’t understand things; but people nowadays do understand things. Okay? Okay. So now we do the plot. 

This is lazy, lazy, lazy. The broad themes of both movies were that people (in Luca, it was some people; in Turning Red, it was all people, or all women, or maybe all women in this family? This, too, is sloppy) have some kind of weird, untamed, messy side to them, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But they skip over explaining to the audience why anyone would think it is a bad thing. It’s like going to a bakery where they offer two kinds of donuts, and there’s a big struggle, and in the end . . . you get donuts. Nothing wrong with donuts, but it’s not exactly a good story. 

You may say that, in Turning Red, this is deliberate, because both choices (to keep the panda, or not) are valid. Mei’s father clearly kinda liked his wife’s wild side; and Mei told her mom it was okay to contain her panda again, because that’s what she wanted to do. Both choices are presented as okay, so that’s why there’s no clear right or wrong choice, and that’s why they didn’t present it as a perilous decision.

But this theory doesn’t hold up, because Mei’s grandmother makes a point of telling Mei that the more she lets her panda out, the harder it will be to contain during the ritual. I may be remembering wrong, but I think she even said that it can only be done once, and must be done perfectly. But as it turns out, if there is an emergency, you can just go ahead and smash your talisman and let your panda out to fight for a while, and then draw another circle and do another ritual and calmly step back through the mystical mirror and – schloop! – your panda just goes back where she belongs, no harm, no foul. So in fact, the choice that all the women made was meaningless, because you can apparently go back on it at any time. 

And in fact, you cannot even argue that both choices are valid, because Mei’s mom, as a red panda, completely demolished the Sky Dome. It’s never explained whether she will be sent a bill, or what. I know this is a commonly excused plot hole in superhero movies, but the movie explicitly asked us to consider whether or not Mei ought to allow herself to become a giant monstrous creature. I feel like “will she sometimes wreck half the city?” should be part of the conversation. (Insert “now who’s turning red, communism/captitalism” joke here; I’m too tired.)
EDIT: A few folks have pointed out that, in fact, Mei and her mom are shown raising money to rebuild the Sky Dome at the end, so I just whiffed this part. Sorry! 

I have one other complaint, and that is how it looked.  I believe they were going for a style that would appeal to the kids who were 13 in the year 2002, and that makes sense. But in practice, it came across as Dreamworks-trashy.

Bottom line: Not a must-see, by any means, but watchable, and will probably be important to some people for emotional reasons. It’s an interesting movie, and no doubt will influence others. I reviewed it mainly to counteract all the bananas reviews that were out there. For my money, The Little Mermaid has a far more insidious message for little girls than this movie, so everyone needs to be cool. 

Hadestown review: Original Broadway cast vs. touring cast!

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to see Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown for the second time — the first time for my husband and my oldest daughter and son (for whom the trip was a birthday present), and the second time for me and my third oldest daughter. We saw it in the summer of 2019 on Broadway and I gave it a short review here. (If you’re not familiar with the show, you might want to click through there first, which actually discusses the plot and themes.)

This review will contain spoilers, but the whole thing of Hadestown is that we already know how the story turns out. It’s many thousands of years old, for one thing; and also, this is what humans do: We enter into stories that we know are tragedies, thinking maybe it will turn out different this time. So there really aren’t any spoilers. 

Well, I had such a magnificent experience with the original cast that, when I was waiting for this show with the touring cast to begin, I was telling myself very sternly that it’s normal and right for a different cast to put their own mark on their roles. It’s also true that Hadestown, while a profoundly emotional work, is not emotionally manipulative, and doesn’t deliver the same experience every time anyway. So it wasn’t going to be exactly the same.

That said, I couldn’t help comparing the two casts and productions in my head as we watched, so here is what I thought.

First, we saw the original Broadway production at the Walter Kerr Theater, which is much smaller and more intimate. Here was our view of the stage in NYC in 2019:

and here was the view from our seats in Boston last weekend:

So you can see, it was going to be a different experience anyway. 

There were some minor changes to the set and the way it moved around and lit, although it was hard to put my finger on what. The main thing I noticed was that, after Orpheus turns and Eurydice disappears away into the underworld, in this production she is swallowed up by a mouth-like aperture in the back (which also served as a train platform and other set pieces), rather than sinking down via a round platform built into the center of the stage (which is how they did it in NY). This arrangement, the aperture in the back, was surprisingly much more effective, and possibly done because it was bigger theater and, if they used the floor trick, the audience might see Eurydice scooting out a trap door (as I did from the balcony when they staged it this way at Walter Kerr!). It was very clear that Orpheus was within inches of reaching fresh air and sunshine when he stopped and turned, and Eurydice was gobbled up by the dark underworld, so it worked well (which didn’t stop the teenage girl in front of me from whisper-shouting, “Wait, wha happened?” right at that shattering moment when everyone in the theater momentarily died of grief. oh well!).

So: Original Broadway cast vs. touring cast! 

The original Hermes was André De Shields; the touring Hermes was Levi Kreis. Ahem. Partly due to my very poor eyesight, my face blindness, and just my general confusion as I encounter life, I was fairly sure they had switched actors halfway through the production, and I couldn’t wait to talk about how weird it was that they did it without saying anything about it. When nobody wanted to talk about it, I gradually surmised that it was actually Levi Kreis all the way through; he had simply taken his hat off. It’s a trial, being me. But still, that will tell you something about this actor. He was fine, but not especially memorable, and did not do much to convey that he had been around for millennia and had seen some stuff (but could still be moved). He was just sort of a ringmaster. 

Orpheus: Reeve Carney is the original. I preferred the new guy, Nicholas Barasch, but I could go either way with this role. Barasch’s voice was bigger and more sturdy and he came across as a little less weird, but still sufficiently lost and earnest, and sufficiently otherworldly. I think Carney did more with his body to convey who he was, and Barasch did more with his voice. Both very affecting. He made me cry (not that I’m made of stone).

Hades is Patrick Page in the original cast,  Kevyn Morrow for touring. This is the only one that I felt really just couldn’t possibly be a fair comparison. Patrick Page was just preternaturally . . . Hadeslike. His voice penetrates in a way that most human voices don’t. Morrow had a thundering voice and a commanding, sinister, predatory presence, and when he heard Orpheus’ song and it reached him, and when he reconciled with Persephone, you believed it. The lyrics were a little indistinct sometimes, which is a shame. But in any other universe, without the comparison, he would have brought the house down. Really, no complaints. 

The original Persephone Amber Gray; the touring, Kimberly Marable. This is the only touring performance I thought was lacking. Marable just didn’t make much of an impression on me, and she really must! She’s Our Lady of the Underground! It is a very difficult, strange role, no mistake. But Marable’s Persephone came across mainly as frustrated and vulgar, without much depth. Again, maybe it’s just unfair to have to follow Amber Gray, whose Persephone is so many-layered and delicately demented. Amber Gray defied gravity when she danced; Marable was merely very energetic. However, the critic in my head mostly shut up about halfway through, and by the time the story shifted to the relationship between Hades and Persephone, I was totally with them. It’s a good story. 

The original Eurydice was Eva Noblezada, and the touring one is Morgan Siobhan Green. This was a clear improvement. Noblezada’s voice and acting struck me as understudy quality, and not on the same par with the rest of that cast. Green, though, was stellar. Her voice was piercing, and it and her body language added an awkward and frantic tone that helped round out her character a bit, making her more than just a drama girl. 

The Fates were scary and great. I’m afraid I didn’t notice much difference between the two casts here. They’re malevolent and otherworldly and funny and mean, and their harmonies were just impeccable. Maybe the original cast were slightly more skilled dancers, but I don’t know. 

Let’s talk about Eurydice! Orpheus is . . . poetry, basically, right? He’s the thing that makes you weep, rather than the thing that brings you bread and a roof over your head. But people need him desperately, because when they go without him and his songs, they end up, you know, dead, and/or stomping around in a circle wearing dirty overalls and building a wall for no reason. (My kids thought they pushed the “let’s unionize, everybody!” aspect of this production a little too hard, and said that “If It’s True” was basically a scene from Newsies, but I thought it was easy enough to take or leave, and you could certainly read it as being just about humanity, and not necessarily political).  

Anyway, I was struck this time around by how strange it is that Orpheus is the one who’s put to the test at the end, rather than Eurydice. She is, after all, the reason they’re in this pickle. She signs away her soul just for a mouthful of food; so why isn’t she the one being tested at the end, to win their escape? But of course the reason she was lost was that she called and called on Orpheus, and he didn’t hear her, because he was too busy writing his dang song that would save the world. Pff, poets. Players. (But . . . he wasn’t just imagining it! He really could write such a song! And it really did change the world, and change the course of the story, maybe, or it might, next time, come winter . . . )

Anyway, as I understand it, the original score, which got taken out of the stage version, included more about Orpheus majorly overpromising things to Eurydice and then spectacularly failing to deliver, which explains their dynamic a little better. As it is, I think there’s a bit of a hole in the plot, or a bit of a hole in the character of Eurydice as written. This is my one and only quibble with the way the story is put together: That Eurydice’s actions make the least sense, and yet she’s the one whose actions get explicitly explained the most.

But, as the fates remind us, it’s easy to criticize when you have a full belly. Maybe next time, in a different frame of mind, I’ll come back to this show and her choice will make perfect sense to me. That’s the kind of show it is. 

Overall, I adored it. Damien and the kids who hadn’t seen it yet were blown away. It’s a revolutionary piece of musical theater, and I believe people will be performing it for hundreds of years. If you can possibly see it performed by either cast, do so!

A final note on the Boston Opera House, for what it’s worth: Everyone was required to wear masks, and they were requiring proof of vaccination to get in, but they were pretty lenient about what counted as proof. I somehow lost my vaccination card, so they let me show ID and let Damien vouch that I had been vaccinated along with him. (We kind of felt like anyone paying money to see an Anaïs Mitchell show is probably vaccinated.)

The Boston Opera House is just a few blocks away from Chinatown, so we grabbed a quick dinner at The Dumpling Cafe and YOU GUYS. I may drive back to Boston just to get more duck buns. DUCK BUNS. I was so sad we didn’t have time to sit there for three hours ordering everything on the menu, because it was spectacular. Definitely go there, too. 

The day Tony Soprano will not open his eyes

It’s one big memento mori, “The Sopranos.” You don’t realize it while you’re watching the series at first, because the show is so drenched in sex and food, gore and comedy, violence and pathos and banality. But death is there from the very beginning, and it’s telling you something: Just wait. It will happen to you.

The series has recently gained a whole new audience, almost 15 years after its finale on HBO. This is obviously in large part because of the recent release of “The Many Saints of Newark,” a feature film purporting to fill in some of the backstory of the lives of Tony Soprano and his kin. But the comeback is also due to something else: As the New York Times’s Willy Staley posited, younger audiences see themselves in Tony Soprano’s “combination of privilege and self-loathing,” or they see today’s America in the show’s portrayal of the ’90s era of decline and fall.

Staley says the show was prescient in a way that sheds light on our specific timeline. But I think it deals with a theme that never stopped being relevant, namely, salvation. And did I mention death?

In the very first episode, Carmela Soprano, Tony’s wife, steps into the room where Tony is getting an MRI, hoping to find the source of his inexplicable collapses. In eight lines of dialogue that provide a primer to their marriage, Tony mawkishly offers a nostalgic olive branch, and Carmela quickly escalates: “What’s different between you and me is you’re going to hell when you die!” Then Tony’s body, covered only by a hospital gown, is fed into the machine.

Carmela later retracts her furious words. But where Tony is going from Episode One on—and Carmela, too—really is the central question of the show.

It is not explicitly a religious question. The church appears mainly as a cultural and aesthetic force in the lives of the show’s characters. Sin and virtue are treated as a curiosity, and even the priests are willing to help that world view limp along unchallenged, as long as they get their manigot.

In a sense, the most Catholic parts of the show are not the explicitly Catholic parts. Whether it’s the Holy Spirit (in the guise of that numinous wind that moves throughout the series) or something more amorphous, a moral force does press on the lives of the various characters, demanding their attention.

They are all constantly presented with choices: What matters more, business and efficiency or loyalty and family? When we identify what was wrong with the past, do we reject everything about it? If we see what was good about the past, may we hope to retain any of it? Once we understand why we do things, how culpable are we, and how capable are we of change? Once we realize we are wrong, how much must we give up to make things right? Anything?

Carmela is given perhaps the starkest moral choice of any of the characters (except for maybe Paulie Walnuts, with his cataclysmic vision of the Virgin Mary at the stripper’s pole): The almost prophetic psychiatrist Dr. Krakower tells Carmela, plainly and without pity, that she must leave Tony, must take no more blood money, must be an accomplice no longer.

“One thing you can never say: that you haven’t been told,” he intones.

You could see this scene as the show leaving a small marker, bobbing on the surface of the water, reminding the viewer: Don’t forget, wrong is still wrong. We may be humanizing murderers in every episode, showing them eating their sloppy pepper sandwiches and struggling with their teenagers just like anyone else, but murder is still murder. Death is still death.

Carmela leaves Dr. Krakower’s office stricken. She huddles on the couch at home, pondering these things in her heart. And then she finds a priest, a good priest, who gives her a softer message. He tells her that she should find a way to live off only the legitimate parts of her husband’s income, and that is how she will find her way. But soon enough, despite some dramatic side journeys, she makes her way back into the same old patterns.

Carmela is almost an inverse of the Lady of Sorrows, who endures so many awful indignities: Carmela takes away no good from her anguish; she only suffers. She feeds everyone and cares for everyone, and everyone comes to her for comfort. She listens to everyone, and with her deep, hollow eyes she sees through everyone, and she always tells people the truth about themselves. But when it comes down to it, she has her price, and can be had for presents and jewelry.

Carmela’s insight also goes dim when there is something she doesn’t want to know. It has been her life’s work not to see that Tony was capable of killing people—including his own loved ones and relatives. Carmela’s brittle manicure and spraddle-legged gait betray the terrible tension of keeping so much horror in check within her.

Her dalliance with real estate is more than just a way to build a nest egg. It is her answer to Tony’s impending, inevitable death: to pile up money for herself and her children. She knows that throughout her whole life, she has been building with rotten materials. But she also knows she can make the sale if she keeps pushing hard enough. It’s not just the house she’s building as her own project to sell, it’s everything.

And this is how the show draws us in. It gives us the same choice: How will you hold all this knowledge in check? We’re going to show you so many things about what people are like. What will you do with the knowledge? How will you accommodate it?

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine. 

Image: Tony on the Subway by Alan Turkus via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ is a feminist disaster. But it (almost) redeems itself.

If this review is a mess, I blame “Bridgerton,” the raunchy, Regency(ish)-era soap opera produced by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. I believe I have sustained a “Bridgerton”-related brain injury while trying to mentally accommodate a world where soft porn meets Lisa Frank meets… not Jane Austen, but someone who has definitely heard of Jane Austen. Someone who doesn’t realize that Austen was already skewering the shallowness of society and has decided to skewer Austen by pointing out that society is mean to women. But with very wacky hair and clothes!

It is not just that “Bridgerton” is full of deliberate anachronisms. Anachronisms can work if the show understands the rules and knows how and why to break them, or else if the show is just so much fun you will forgive anything. But “Bridgerton” knows nothing, understands nothing and provides zero fun. It somehow turns graphic sex scenes into a slog. Its putative, clever outrageousness is just a multicolored explosion of clichés. Whether or not it’s faithful to the series of romance novels on which it’s based, I do not know; but the show we got is a mess and nothing else. At least at first. 

In the first few minutes of the show, Prudence Featherington (the daughter of one of two prominent families vying to make brilliant marriages while a mysterious, omniscient voyeur distributes brochures gossiping about high society) is mercilessly laced into a tight corset while her mother looks on approvingly.

This is the beginning of a nearly nonstop jeremiad on the callous mistreatment of women during this era. Every episode has at least one woman delivering lamentations on the subject of How Society Is Unfair To Women. I thought often of the scene in “Blazing Saddles” where several vicious cowboys beat up an old woman. In between punches to the gut, she looks straight into the camera and cries, “Have you ever seen such cruelty?” The feminism of “Bridgerton” is that subtle. 

And they are not wrong. It’s a hard world out there in “Bridgerton.” Lots of sexism, plenty of objectification. The problem is, much of that sexism and objectification comes from the writing itself. Two of the sisters complain that, in this society, artists see women purely as decorative objects, mere “human vases” to gawk at. Within minutes, we transition to their older brother, who is also trying to liberate himself from this same artificially constrictive society. He achieves his liberation by visiting an artist’s studio, where he is delighted to find not only a casual orgy, but naked models standing around in candlelight, for you to gawk at. Why the first scene is sexist and the second one is awesome, don’t ask me. 

There are too many examples of this double standard to list. The show self-righteously excoriates society for its shallow focus on outward appearances, but in the same breath indicates to the audience that certain characters are evil or foolish by making them fat, or slightly buck-toothed, or by giving them puffy hair. Ugly dudes are evil when they attack girls, but sexy dudes are just impetuous, and true love means trying to save them. 

Remember the first scene, with the tight corset? Once the girl is crushed into a tiny hourglass shape, she steps into an empire-waisted dress, which is gathered under the bust and then flows freely past the waist. And there it is. “Bridgerton” puts a merciless squeeze on the audience in all the wrong places, for no reason at all. Have you ever seen such cruelty?

The viewer shall also endure the laziest, most moronic attempt at fancy, old-timey speech you shall ever hear, shalln’t you? I barely made it through the first four episodes. I only continued because I wanted to be fair and thorough.

And darn it, that’s when the show turned a corner.

Read the rest of my review for America Magazine.

Image is a still from the trailer below: