Popular Culture

The 20 Best LEGO Star Wars Characters

This ain’t your grandmother’s list of the best Star Wars characters. We’re going real high-tech here and divvying up the best characters from LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

Just a quick heads up not all of these are deemed the most powerful characters by any stretch. When it comes to rounding up the best LEGO Star Wars characters, usually it’s the weirder, the better. You might think that a Wampa is a pretty formidable enemy, but in this version, he’s actually just a big marshmallow who’s terrified to walk down a Hoth hallway. In no specific order, these 20 are some of the best LEGO Star Wars characters to play as.

1. Salacious Crumb
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

To those who don’t know this little Kowakian monkey-lizard well, it’s Salacious B. Crumb to you. His inclusion and purpose in this game are the exact same as that in Return of the Jedi: just to look at, be confused about, and blindly love. Also, his strut in this game is one that you do not want to miss.

2. R2-D2 (Waiter)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Sure, zooming around as R2-D2 is great and all, but have you ever tried R2-D2 in waiter mode? The only difference is that a large tray is smacked on top of him, fit with drinks and glasses to serve those who wander by. Just try not to trip over Jabba’s tail and spill anything.

3. Mouse Droid
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

While there aren’t any flies (do flies even exist in Star Wars?) on the walls of the Death Star, mouse droids basically make up for that. The fastest, cutest droids in the galaxy can be found on this lovely, iconic space station, and their only purpose is to zip around and make tiny mouse droid noises.

4. Max Rebo
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

The ultimate bearer of good vibes, Max Rebo really can’t do very much in this game, but after running around as a kind, blue elephant and spreading good cheer for a while, I’m hoping that this becomes a viable occupation in real life.

5. Jabba the Hutt
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Slithering around as a massive, disgusting, hateful slug? LEGO has got you covered. And if you’re ever sick of playing as Jabba, there’s another member of the Hutt family to try out: Mamma the Hutt. Yes, I just typed that.

6. Luke Skywalker (With Yoda on His Back)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Luke is one of the most powerful Jedi around, but without his training with Yoda, where would he be? This character gives us the best of both worlds, as you get to play as Luke with a little extra bonus: Yoda is chilling on your back the entire time, offering tips and moral support, but mostly just hanging on for dear life.

7. Boba Fett
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Boba Fett has almost every gadget you could ever need, as he wields a flamethrower, jetpack, blaster, and grappling hook. My only advice? Watch out for Sarlacc pits—and temporarily-blinded Han Solos.

8. Princess Leia
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

While we’ve got quite a few different Leias to choose from in The Skywalker Saga, the only real differences between them are purely with her outfits. Obviously, we had to throw it back to one of her best fits yet: the Hoth outfit. Sure, the cinnamon buns were the OG, but this one’s the underrated icon.

9. Yarael Poof
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

You might not have heard of Yarael Poof, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen some of his long-necked, spoon-sitting friends on Kamino in Attack of the Clones. Poof has four arms, two brains, a long neck, and has served on the Jedi High Council; all I’ve done today is write an article about LEGO Star Wars characters.

10. Wicket
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Being one of the scavenger characters in The Skywalker Saga, our teddy bear buddy, Wicket, has quite a few tricks up his (little) sleeve. He can construct a breaker blaster, fly on a glider, and use a net launcher, and that’s without even mentioning the adorable crew of Ewoks that he leads.

11. Jar Jar Binks
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Meesa think that Jar Jar is the best character in all of LEGO land.

Obviously, I’m kidding. But I know, I know: not everyone is a big fan of Jar Jar Binks. However, for the sake of the silliness that’s inherent within LEGO Star Wars, he fits in pretty perfectly. He’s got a gait that’s hard to miss and at one point is flown away on a spaceship simply because his long tongue got stuck in the door. What’s not to love?

12. Darth Maul
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

He’s got a double-sided lightsaber and cool makeup. That’s all I need to say here.

13. Sy Snootles
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Is Sy Snootles the OG template for Duchess from Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends? Perhaps. If this was the 2019 Met Gala’s theme of Camp, Snootles would’ve taken home the golden trophy and wouldn’t have even needed to dress up. Her absurdity makes her one of the greatest characters in this game.

14. Wampa
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Being that it’s LEGO Star Wars, our Wampa isn’t nearly as vicious and angry this time around. Instead, he’s kind of shy (aside from when he murders a tauntaun and almost kills Luke) and likes to keep to himself. Basically, playing as him means you get to run around like an enormous fluffball, which is all I’ve ever wanted.

15. Darth Vader (No Helmet)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Darth Vader was desperate for some much-needed Vitamin D, so the helmet had to go for just a little, revealing this timid, pale murderer. It’s amazing how simply removing his helmet makes him that much more disarming. After all, he’s just a guy in a suit, right?

16. Rancor
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

You’re basically galloping around as a huge block of marble when you play as the Rancor in this game. In short, all of the LEGO citizens around you are acting like Sarah Paulson in that episode of American Horror Story.

17. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

It wouldn’t be a complete rundown of the best LEGO Star Wars characters without a mention of our old friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here we have him in his oldest form, which is arguably his best; basically, Kenobi is one of the best to play as because he is the best.

18. IG-88
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Our favorite robot-bounty-hunter king, IG-88, is one big, slab of metal who really doesn’t hold back when it comes to locating his enemies. However, don’t let him near water, because he’ll break into a million tiny Lego pieces. And it’ll be sad.

19. Grand Moff Tarkin
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Sure, Grand Moff Tarkin might not be the most inventive person to play as, but the LEGO execution was incredible—those cheekbones? I mean, come on, Tarkin has cheekbones for days.

20. General Grievous
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

When he’s not hacking up a lung, General Grievous is pretty fun to play as, given the fact that he’s a massive robot creature with four arms and lightsabers to match. Just try your best not to get shot in the heart, or you’ll burst into flames and shoot fire out of your eyes. Actually, that sounds sort of cool.

Popular Culture

‘Winning Time’ Recap: “Acceptable Loss”

Last week’s episode of Winning Time bought Jerry Buss a bit more time to come up with his official playoffs-bound head coach, but even as that episode came to a close, we still didn’t know what was going to happen. It took up quite a chunk of time in this episode, but eventually, Buss was faced with not only this tough decision, but another one that hit a bit closer to home—and dare I say was even more important than basketball.

The Coaching Situation
Warrick Page / HBO

So: the coaching situation. As soon as Jack McKinney landed himself in the hospital from that bicycle accident, the coaching state with the Lakers became one massive, tangled mess. At first, Paul Westhead really stunk as the head coach, but after bringing Pat Riley along for the ride, they were able to hit quite the stride, winning over 50 games together.

With that under their belt, McKinney has timed his return to coaching at probably the worst possible moment: right as the Lakers are rounding the corner into the playoffs. For two episodes, Buss has been trying to wrack his brain over what to do: go with McKinney, who had started the Lakers’ turnaround in the first place, or keep on the two men who have kept that momentum going this whole time.

Not wanting to be responsible for that decision, Buss has tried to dump the issue onto whoever’s lap was available, but after passing the baton over to Jerry West to make the decision, no headway was made.

“There is no right answer here,” West says. “There’s no wrong one, either. And you could be a hero or a heel; I’ll be f***ing damned if I or anyone else can fault you on that—whichever way you go. And you can quote me on that.”

Now, keep in mind that choosing McKinney would also mean choosing a man who just recently couldn’t find his way out of the Forum, getting lost and collapsing about ten feet away from the exit sign. McKinney might claim that he’s ready to coach, but I’d say being able to leave a building without assistance is a pretty low bar for coaching the Lakers.

Deciding to go with his gut, he brings a celebratory Lakers bottle of champagne over to the McKinney’s, but when Jack answers the door, he has no idea who Buss is and mistakes him for a delivery man. Buss quickly leaves and rethinks his decision, finally going with Westhead and Riley, who erupt in celebration together, bringing that same energy to the incoming playoffs.

It turns out that Buss’s (second) gut decision was definitely the right one, as our beloved Lakers are now headed off to the NBA Championships.

Jerry and Jessie
Warrick Page / HBO

Swirled into the mix of all of this was arguably the more important issue: Buss’ mother, Jessie’s, failing health. Though she tried her best to keep her cancer diagnosis concealed from her son in the last episode, the news got through to Jeanie, and from Jeanie it went to Buss, who decided to ramp everything up medically, have his mother defy the odds, and live. However, you can’t buy your way out of a poor prognosis.

After kicking his mother’s doctor out of his office for delivering the bad (real) news, he ultimately decided to take the doctor’s advice and make the most out of the little time he still has left with her. With that, Buss loads his mother and Jeanie up into the car and they carry out an old Buss ritual: breaking into the neighbor’s backyard to drink, hang out, and play some poker.

It was the first real time that we got to see Buss completely unvarnished; just being with his family, reminiscing, and shooting the breeze over some cards. There, by the pool in the neighbor’s backyard, were none of the usual distractions for Buss—nothing to pull his mind away from the actual important things in his life.

After having a sweet chat with his mother early that next morning, she rested her head on his shoulder and was effectively gone. Upon this shocking realization, Buss immediately had Jessie brought to the hospital, though the only thing that was keeping her alive was life support. Instead of going to the playoff games, Buss hauled in a television and sat next to her, watching the Lakers win and move on to the big time. Instead of celebrating, it was time for his mother to let go, and he made the tough decision to take her off life support. In a moment when everything finally was falling into place for him, Buss lost the one thing that meant the most to him.

Final Thoughts on Episode 9

Between suffering the loss of his mother and debating who would step forward as head coach of the Lakers, we were introduced to a completely new version of Jerry Buss. One that was a little lighter, a little more honest; one without as many walls up. I guess this is the real Jerry Buss, and honestly, I like him a lot more than the other one. It’s awful that it took losing his mother to get to this place, but I’m hoping that this mentality sticks with him going forward in both the series and in his career as a whole.

In general, this episode was all about emotions and honesty. Well, and some dishonesty, if we’re talking about Spencer Haywood. He started using drugs again just prior to the playoffs, falling over his own two feet, sweating bullets, and breaking out in intense anger spells against his teammates.

Though I thought the speech he gave while facing the possibility of being cut was incredibly touching, it simply wasn’t enough to save him from being booted off the team. Being a decision that came solely from his teammates and not the coaches, the cut meant that much more to him, taking it as a major cross against himself.

Listen, I don’t want to Google ahead and see what happens with the random, vagrant friend who’s being tasked with killing the Lakers by Haywood, but here’s to hoping that things don’t get too fatally out of control in the finale.

The season finale of Winning Time airs on May 8 on HBO Max.

Popular Culture

‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Review: Hold the Hoagies, Add Some Mormonism

As part of ONE37pm’s ongoing effort to review the most hyped new shows, this week I’ll be doing a review of Hulu’s ‘Under the Banner of Heaven.’

Don’t go to Wawa and don’t grab your hoagies. This is not Mare.

Based on the book of the same name by John Krakauer and the real-life 1984 murder of Brenda Lafferty and her only 15-month-old daughter, Under the Banner of Heaven aims to forge a murder mystery into a larger examination of the Mormon church by honing in on the main detective in charge of the case, portrayed by Andrew Garfield.

The only thing is that something’s missing—and I don’t even necessarily know what that “something” is. There’s nothing hooking us in right now; there are no huge cliffhangers to keep us wanting more. Maybe it’s the slow pacing, or maybe it’s simply the fact that Garfield’s Jeb Pyre just doesn’t have the same interest factor that someone like Kate Winslet’s Mare Sheehan had on Mare of Easttown.

It’s also entirely possible that I just put too high of an expectation on this show to fill that Mare-less gap in my life. But to that point, it’s a sense of relatability that we got with her—we’ve all chowed down on a good cheesesteak or two and downed a few beers like Mare would, but not all of us are engrossed in the Mormon church and pray next to our desks at work on a daily basis.

<div class =”code”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Now, I’m not saying that Garfield is bad in this role, because he’s not; it’s the character himself who just hasn’t been able to cut through to our cores—yet. Hopefully. We’ll see.

After a quick introduction into Pyre’s seemingly picture-perfect life, he’s called into work after a particularly gruesome murder is committed in his small Utah town. Living in a particularly sheltered community, the majority of the officers have never even seen a dead body until this moment, as they’re barely even able to peek into the house without having to mentally gather themselves.

Thus far, the two real standout characters have been Jeb’s partner and fellow detective, Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham), and Brenda Lafferty herself, portrayed in flashbacks by Daisy Edgar-Jones. Whereas Pyre is a fairly level-headed, neutral type of person, Taba and Lafferty bring larger personalities that seem pretty unknown to this area in Utah. At one point, Taba has to practically beg Pyre to take a few of his McDonald’s french fries; in that same way, it feels like we’ll get to the core of Pyre through Taba, as he’s able to unearth that guarded region of him.

Brenda Lafferty’s strong but kind personality obviously didn’t fare too well with the Lafferty family that she married into, as sticking out from the crowd ultimately got her killed in the end. Basically, the Laffertys are a massive, cult-like family who are very well-liked in town, having created a chiropractic mini-empire that was helmed by the patriarch of the family, Ammon (Christopher Heyerdahl). After him and his wife are called away on a Mormon mission, he gives his son, Dan (Wyatt Russell), control over things, which creates a bit of a rift in the family, as the eldest son, Ron (Sam Worthington), wasn’t chosen.

FX / Hulu

These familial changes were all occurring right when Brenda was entering into the family as Allen’s (Billy Howle’s) girlfriend, and being that she was quite a bit more outspoken than the other women who married into the family, a target was immediately put on her back. She was attending Brigham Young University to study broadcast journalism, which she was extremely passionate about; while that would’ve been seen as a noble pursuit in other families, the Lafferty’s weren’t too pleased with it. And this is just what Under the Banner of Heaven showcases extremely well: the treatment of women within the Mormon community. From tiny remarks that would’ve normally gone unnoticed to outright denigrations, Brenda sure took a beating from this family.

Some of the most engaging scenes in the series actually took place not within the present, but in these flashbacks about the Lafferty family, as it establishes and explores the micro issues that were deeply engrained inside them.

Give us more of that and a bit of oomph into Garfield’s character and this show could actually shape up to be something pretty great. We’ll check back in with ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ as the season progresses.

Under the Banner of Heaven airs on Thursdays on Hulu.

Popular Culture

‘Halo’ Series Episode 6 Recap: “Solace”

Last week’s episode of Halo finally gave us that long-awaited battle scene that we had been in such desperate need of, but if you were hoping for a similar situation this time around, you’re—of course—out of luck, because that’s what this series does to us. Just when things are starting to hit a decent stride, they rip it out from under us and give us something inferior. In this case, that inferior thing is Makee.

I don’t know what it is about this girl, but she really just gives me the creeps. Maybe it’s her overall sketchy-ghost-like demeanor or perhaps it’s just that she reminds me of Siobhan from Mare of Easttown, but basically, I’ve had enough.

Aside from her, this episode focuses on the fallout out from the battle on Eridanus II, which includes exposing Dr. Halsey and her lies, figuring out the connection between Master Chief and Makee, and pushing past the prior restraints of the keystone.

Master Chief vs. Dr. Halsey
Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

Chief is fairly out of it following the events of the last episode, with Cortana notifying him to seek medical attention as his system is completely overloaded due to this contact with the keystone.

As he’s both physically and mentally out of sorts, he casually locks Dr. Halsey in her lab, turning on a system modification that will emit a fatal level of radiation into the room. He seems unfazed by this whole situation as Cortana instructs him to stop what he’s doing and let her out, with rage building in his body as he remembers bits of his childhood and her involvement in it.

Just as the gaseous radiation is being let into the lab, Chief finally acts and lets Dr. Halsey out with practically zero time to spare. Basically, it was a test to see if Cortana had the capability of saving her, but as she’s only able to shut off Chief and not operate him, she wouldn’t have been able to step in for the save.

Later on, Chief demands a meeting with Dr. Halsey and they finally get to hash things out, as she had been putting off the meeting for quite some time. She ends up revealing that she did indeed kidnap Chief as a child, along with other children who were trained to become Spartans. Instead of telling the families that she was taking their children away, she came up with the idea to flash-clone the children beforehand, pulling a bit of a switcheroo on them.

As the clones would naturally die off as time passed, the families were left mourning as their real children were actually alive, being trained into Spartans by Dr. Halsey and the UNSC.

With this revelation, Admiral Parangosky (who had been listening in to this conversation) decides to remove Dr. Halsey from the premises, firing her effective immediately and putting her daughter, Miranda Keyes, in her place. However, this exile doesn’t stop her and her assistant, Adun, from hacking into the Cortana system and spying in on Chief and the UNSC from afar.

The Keystone’s Alignment
Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

In the last episode, our sketchy Covenant-ish friend, Makee, was left on the battlefield, with the UNSC deciding to take her in for evaluation, eventually figuring out that her and Chief have very similar genetic makeups. Because of this, they’re both able to experience the keystone at about the same levels, though it seems like Chief is even more sensitive to it than Makee.

Given this, the two have a heart-to-heart conversation about their shared experiences, with Makee revealing that the keystone used to hurt her, as well, both physically and mentally. However, when she stopped fighting it, it became one with her and everything became more clear. While Chief also seems to be skeptical of her, he decides to test something new out in his approach to the keystone.

He finds Dr. Keyes and has her agree to run a test with him and the keystone, though it’s more so a test for himself rather than of anything diagnostic-wise. Even though he hasn’t healed from the prior keystone, he goes ahead and firmly grasps it, immediately sending him into another world and his heart through the roof beat-wise.

At the same time, Makee is chilling in another room when this happens without warning, causing her to fall to the ground as her heart races uncontrollably. Their heart rates end up hitting the exact same BPM, and just when it seems like both of them are going to die, their heart rates fall and we’re brought out of the exam room and into their heads.

Chief is standing in a lovely, open meadow on Reach with Makee next to him, with both of them taking in the views and the calm. It’s clear that Chief now has control of his reaction to the keystone after following Makee’s advice. With this, there’s no telling just how far he’ll be able to go the next time he touches the larger keystone, as well as where his relationship with Makee will head.

Final Thoughts on Episode 6

Alright, so there was no action in this episode of Halo. That’s a definite negative, but on the flip side, we didn’t have to suffer through any more Kwan scenes, which completely makes up for that fact. I’m not hating on Kwan here—I want her story to be good, but it’s just not trending that way as of right now. The most important plot right now is Chief and the hunt for the larger keystone; it just seems like the whole fighting-for-Madrigal-rebel-thing just doesn’t have enough oomph to keep going.

As for what to expect from next week’s episode, I’m sure we’ll be diving into Dr. Halsey’s involvement from a distance as she now has access to Cortana. It’ll be interesting to see just how much Cortana’s relationship with Chief changes as a result of this staff switch-up; whether that ends up being a negative or a positive is basically up for grabs at this point.

Popular Culture

All of the ‘Ozark’ Seasons, Ranked

It’s a day that none of us wanted to come but one that all of us have been waiting for.

April 29 is bringing us the final batch of Ozark episodes as Season 4, Part 2 will be wrapping up the series for good. As each season’s conflicts spilled over from the previous one and added even more, we’ve got quite the messy web of events going on as we head into the new season. Sure, things weren’t good for the Byrdes in Season 1, but look at where we are now—murdering a few uncles seems like a walk in the park compared to the state things are currently in.

Now, it’s almost unfair to go on and rank each season, yet here we are doing just that. Here are all of the Ozark seasons, ranked.


<div class =”code”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>”,”hed4. Season 1</div>
4. Season 1

Okay, listen, Season 1 was incredible—that’s a given; all of these are. But the first season was a little slow in the beginning, which, of course, was absolutely necessary to set up the entire scene, but personally, I really had to force myself to keep going as things just were not living up to the hype that everyone seemed to be gushing over. However, about halfway through the season, the plot really started to kick in and I had a better hold on the characters, which allowed everything else to fall into place—and then I couldn’t stop watching.

Compared to where we’re at now in the plot, things were fairly light content-wise by comparison: we had our early days at the beloved Blue Cat Lodge and Lickety Splitz, got to celebrate on a nice Fourth of July weekend, and watched on as Ruth fatally electrocuted her uncles on a dock. Just the usual on the Lake of the Ozarks.

<div class =”code”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>”,”hed3. Season 2</div>
3. Season 2

Season 2 came around and really amped things up for the Byrdes. With Ruth’s father back in town, it was only a short amount of time before he started messing with just about everything around him and his daughter. While he solved a smaller problem by murdering Agent Petty for torturing Ruth, Wendy came back at him tenfold by having him murdered for roughing up her daughter. Ironic, right?

Wendy also got into quite the predicament of her own as Mason kidnapped her and held her hostage in his basement after his son, Zeke, was taken away by social services (I mean, he did have the kid sitting out on the street in the cold for 10 hours a day). Mason refused to let her go until Marty brought his son back (which he eventually did), though Mason sort of lost it upon his arrival and Marty ended up having to kill him, which left Marty in shambles mentally.

Not only did we have some heartbreak with our old friend Buddy dying in Wendy’s car earlier on, but there were also felt quite a few emotionally-driven moments, like Charlotte’s emancipation case and the Byrde’s fight to keep Zeke as their own. As Jonah was particularly affected by all of these events, it beginning to become clear just what a toll the money laundering mess is having on everyone in the family—and everyone around them.

<div class =”code”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>”,”hed2. Season 4, Part 1</div>
2. Season 4, Part 1

With the insane events of the Season 3 finale behind us, Part 1 of Season 4 picks up right where we left off, with Marty and Wendy literally having to wipe off Helen’s blood from them at Omar Navarro’s estate. However, before fully jumping into the present, we’re brought forward as the Byrdes get into an insanely rough-looking car crash as they talk about their upcoming meeting with the FBI.

This season just has one shock after the next, each revolving around Ruth’s leaving of the casino, her purchase of the motel, Darlene starting up her heroin business again, the ins and outs of the Byrde’s foundation, and Maya’s continued investigations into the Byrdes and Navarro.

We’re also introduced to someone new, Javi, whose job is to keep tabs on the Byrdes, as his uncle is Navarro. Most notably, he’s responsible for murdering Darlene and Wyatt as they continue to sell heroin, which sends Ruth into a tailspin, which we’ll be diving headfirst into when Part 2 of the season drops.

<div class =”code”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>”,”hed1. Season 3</div>
1. Season 3

This is where everything went down. We had all of the issues that came along with Wendy’s brother, Ben, who ended up intertwining himself with Ruth, Helen, and ultimately, the cartel, leading to a major power struggle between Helen and the Byrdes.

Our audience’s relationship with Darlene had a bit of a shift, too, along with Wyatt’s relationship with her, which randomly turned romantic about halfway through the season. She found herself on the right side of history in quite a few spots, especially in taking Ben in and putting Frank Cosgrove Jr. in his place for landing Ruth in the hospital.

The last two episodes of this season may have been some of the greatest scenes of television, as our time with Ben and Helen are wrapped up separately in two extremely awful ways. For one, it was the emotional long-time-coming sort of way with Ben, as Wendy abandoned her brother at a restaurant and sent Nelson to kill him. With Helen, it was more of an incredible shock, as she was shot by Nelson just as she stepped off the plane in Mexico, leaving the Byrdes covered in her blood and with the largest target of all on their backs, as Navarro has chosen them to run things going forward. Nelson sure was busy this season.

Season 4, Part 2 of Ozark premieres on April 29 on Netflix.

Popular Culture

‘Winning Time’ Recap: “California Dreaming”

Episode 7 of Winning Time left us off in a bit of confusion as it wasn’t totally clear if Jerry Buss would be keeping on Paul Westhead as head coach of the Lakers.

The beginning of this episode starts off with Buss making an apt comparison between him and the first runner to clock in a mile under four minutes, Roger Bannister, who wasn’t even a professional runner but was instead a doctor of neurology. Even though it had been deemed that a mile under four minutes couldn’t be done, Bannister went ahead and tried it anyway: “The only real limitation wasn’t in the body—it was in the mind,” Buss said of the accomplishment.

Westhead applauds the team for their current first-place standing and starts to ramble off on a Shakespeare quote when the team hits him with a round of shaving cream in celebration of their wins. Right as this is occurring, our old, battered friend, Jack McKinney, walks in the room, taking just a bit of the attention away from the current scene of chaos.

Afterward, the three coaches have a drink together and it’s pretty clear that McKinney feels left out of all the new traditions, especially the one that includes Westhead and Riley counting their number of game wins, excluding the ones that McKinney had made prior to his accident. McKinney starts slamming them for almost all of the decisions that they’ve been making in his absence, including making Spencer Haywood a bit of a punching bag on the court. Oh, and this all regardless of the fact that the Lakers are number one in their league.

McKinney also drops a tiny tidbit of information on them: he has decided to start traveling with the team in order to prepare for his return to coaching. In addition, he’ll be giving Riley the boot once he’s back in as head coach, which does not sit well with Westhead. Not only do Riley and him have a good repartee going, but Riley left his commentating gig to take on this job.

Warrick Page / HBO

On the family front, Buss’ mother, Jessie, divulges to Jeanie that, sure, she’s being let out of the hospital because her cancer has been cleared, but that’s just the story that’s being told. In reality, her cancer has not been cleared and she’s very close to death, though she doesn’t want Jeanie to let her father know.

At the team watch party for the All-Star Game (which Magic and Kareem are in), McKinney takes Haywood aside and instructs him to kick things up a notch once he’s back in the head coaching spot. Having been told a completely different story by Riley a few days before, this notion comes with a fair bit of confusion. Later on, Haywood confronts Riley directly and brings up some possible trade rumors, as McKinney let him quietly know that there was some talk of him being traded off the team.

Riley then brings this information to Westhead, who’s feeling like he owes everything to McKinney and that the situation was only ever going to be temporary. However, Riley makes an important point: that McKinney wouldn’t even be in the position he is now if it weren’t for them making the Lakers the best team in the league. If he doesn’t remember, just a little while ago, Buss was ready to throw the whole lot of them off the team and start over with a new staff.

After losing the All-Star Game, Magic is invited to a dinner with Larry Bird and two men from the NBA front office, including future commissioner David Stern. However, when he returns to his hotel room, he encounters Cookie packing her things, as she had been staying with him during the All-Star Game period. Apparently, she found out that Rhonda had slept with Magic when he was in Michigan in the last episode—except that’s not the only bombshell: she’s also apparently pregnant with his child.

Back on the road and on to the next match, Westhead grabs lunch at a diner with McKinney and notices that he is having a bit of a tough time remembering certain things on the spot. Westhead suggests keeping on Riley, but McKinney is just not budging. While he eats a BLT, McKinney catches a broadcast of Riley alluding to the fact that McKinney might not be able to make it to the playoffs.

Later that day, Westhead confronts Riley about the broadcast, throwing stuff around the locker room out of anger for the position that Riley has put him in. Riley urges Westhead to talk some sense into McKinney about not changing up the great thing they have going.

In the middle of their argument, Westhead ends up passing out. Throughout the episode, we’ve been watching as Westhead would run to the bathroom every time things got tense with the coaching situation, but it appears there’s actually an underlying issue, which turns out to be a kidney stone.

As this is occurring, we check back in with Buss, who’s trying to flirt with the nurse who’s looking after his mother. He ends up offering to pay for her son’s education if she keeps up the good work with his mother. Jeanie walks in and loses it on Buss, calling him out for being inappropriate with the nurse while also dropping the bombshell that his mother still has cancer and is dying. This doesn’t hit him right at the moment, but later on, he ends up crying in the nurse’s arms about it. However, that sadness doesn’t last long, as he reveals his true self by sleeping with her right there.

Warrick Page / HBO

The Lakers are playing against the 76ers in Philadelphia, where Magic is going to be facing off against Julius Erving. The only thing, however, is that Riley will be filling in as head coach, as Westhead is having his kidney stone removed at the hospital.

Sitting in his hospital bed, McKinney comes to visit him, but this time, Westhead finally gathers up the guts to ask McKinney to let them finish off the year without him. While McKinney claims that he understands, he uses this moment to denigrate Westhead, telling him that he’s not capable of being anything more than an assistant coach.

As for how the game against the 76ers went? The Lakers suffered one of their most staggering losses, losing 112-92. In the locker room, Jerry West approaches Magic and gives a long speech about the unimportance of happiness, which not only ties into Magic but also into Buss’ way of life and Westhead’s decision to speak his mind to McKinney.

“Happy’s a distraction,” West says. “Nobody will ever understand that. Not your family, not your f***ing teammates, not your woman—nobody. Matter of fact, they might even hate your f***ing guts because of it.”

Final Thoughts

Winning Time has turned out to be quite the show of lifting the rug out from under you at just about every point. There’s no resting—just when the team has hit its stride, there’s something amiss with the coaching staff, and vice-versa. I’m hoping that Buss will be able to step in and break up the fight between McKinney and Westhead, though he might actually be in no state of mind to do so given the situation with his mother.

This time around, I decided not to Google what actually happens in real life. Basically, all I want is for someone to knock a bit of sense into McKinney, as it’s clear he’s only concerned with himself and how he comes off to the public, not with how the team actually performs. Listen, I’m a huge fan of Tracy Letts, but at this point, someone needs to throw him off another bike because he seriously needs to be stopped. I’m not going to say he caused Westhead to develop a kidney stone, but I’m also not not going to say it, either.

Everyone’s minds seem to be all over the place and the team needs to refocus, but the only way that it’ll even be remotely possible is if McKinney calls it a day and moves on, which doesn’t seem likely.

Popular Culture

‘The Flight Attendant’: Catch-Up and Season 2 Thoughts

Money, deception, and slashed throats. No, this isn’t just what happened at the gas station across the street from my college during senior year—it’s also one of the main plots of The Flight Attendant on HBO Max. Ripped from the headlines? Maybe. Okay, no, but how else was I going to work in the fact that I was too scared to go back to my favorite Mobil station and get slush puppies after that happened?

If you were like me and went into The Flight Attendant knowing absolutely nothing about the plot except for the fact that Kaley Cuoco would be portraying an alcoholic flight attendant, the opening 12 minutes of the first episode were probably a pretty hefty smack in the face.

Like, there’s a man lying in bed with his throat slit open—what’s that all about?

Season 1 Catch-Up
Phil Caruso / HBO Max

As a whole, the entire first season of The Flight Attendant is centered around this moment with a flight attendant, Cassie Bowden (Cuoco), retracing her steps through unwanted flashbacks and conversations with the very man who’s now dead: Alex Sokolov (Michael Huisman).

On a flight the day before this all went down, Bowden met Sokolov, as they flirted with each other while she waited on him. Although it’s a bit frowned upon, she decided to take him up on his offer to hang out in Bangkok afterward, and they eventually ended up in bed together after a long night of drinking.

However, when she woke up the next morning in his hotel room, she found herself lying next to a dead Sokolov, who was sitting in a pool of blood. As Bowden blacked out the night before, she had no idea what was going on, but immediately (and recklessly) decided to clean up the scene, except for Sokolov’s body, which she left in bed to be found later by the hotel’s cleaning services.

As news of the murder started being picked up by news outlets, Bowden and the other flight attendants were brought into questioning by the FBI, who attempted to draw out details from each of them. They were skeptical of Bowden’s story, with one of the agents basically believing that she was fully behind Sokolov’s death.

Upon returning home to New York City, she tells the entire story to her best friend, Annie (Zosia Mamet), who also works as a slightly-sketchy lawyer. Between Bowden, Annie, and Annie’s boyfriend, Max (Deniz Akdeniz), they’re able to put some clues together and make a bit of headway in the mystery, which becomes more and more complicated as the episodes progress.

At the same time as all of this, Bowden drunkenly meets a man named Buckley (Colin Woodell) at a bar, and they start up a casual relationship. It takes quite a while for her to realize that Buckley was behind Sokolov’s murder, as he has been following Bowden around ever since she landed in Bangkok. As she has a scheduled flight to Rome, Buckley decides to follow and confront her there. He almost kills her in a hotel room, but her friend and fellow flight attendant, Enrico, ends up busting in and shooting Buckley just in time to save her. Later on, it turns out that Enrico is actually an undercover CIA agent who has been working as a flight attendant and keeping tabs on Megan (Rosie Perez), the head flight attendant, who has been fairly sketchy throughout the entire series.

While the main plot follows Bowden’s journey to figure out who’s responsible for killing Sokolov, bits of another plot are sprinkled in here and there, which revolves around Megan. Until the last one or two episodes, it’s tough to tell what she’s actually up to, though it turns out to be her casually engaging in corporate espionage, which includes her stealing documents from her husband’s company to give to the Korean government.

Ultimately, we leave things off in Season one with Cassie hinting at becoming sober as well as becoming involved with the CIA as an asset.

Season 2 Premise and Initial Thoughts
Jennifer Rose Clasen / HBO Max

Sporting bangs and a one-year-sober chip from Alcoholics Anonymous, Bowden has completely uprooted her life, moving from New York City to Los Angeles seemingly effortlessly. It feels like everything has changed in just one year, but actually, basically, nothing has.

Aside from being sober, Bowden is following her same instincts, which—as we’ve seen time and time again in Season one—have gotten her into some pretty tough binds. And while she’s still working as a flight attendant, she’s got a bit of a new side hustle going on that was hinted at in the finale of the first season: working as a civilian asset for the CIA. Basically, the CIA assigns her a person to keep an eye on for a period of time and her job is to take account of the situation and report back to her agent. In this role, she’s not supposed to interact with the asset—her only job is to observe from a distance. Emphasis on observe.

At the start of Season two, she’s given a new asset as she’s headed off to Berlin. Now, with this being the Cassie Bowden that we all know and love, she’s going to approach this new job as if she were a high-level detective with the FBI. In fact, her reporting officer has even called her out in the past, forbidding her from getting too close to her assets.

Ignoring those rules, Bowden decides to strike up a lively conversation with her asset at the bar, later following him around Berlin and taking multiple photos of him throughout the day. But the thing is—she notices something a little different on that first night. While spying on his hotel room from across the way (okay, we’re definitely breaking those civilian assets rules here), she notices him with a blonde who looks very similar to herself—including having an exact copy of the tattoo she has on her back.

Freaked out by this, she heads back down and tracks her asset, who has left his hotel room. Right as he’s getting into his car, a massive explosion goes off and he’s instantly killed.

Now that’s quite the premise to follow for the remainder of the season, as we’ve got some serious things to work with here.

While some devoted viewers of the show were concerned that Bowden’s being sober would make the series less interesting, it basically has had the opposite effect. Instead of blaming her visions and conversations with Alex on her alcohol consumption, it’s now clear that that wasn’t the issue at all; instead, it’s just herself and what triggers her.

This time around, she’s having conversations with her old self, who’s constantly donning party dresses and drinking. In one of her AA meetings, Bowden is particularly disturbed by a man who’s poking holes in her “everything is better now” way of life.

“I remember early in my recovery—that f***ing pink cloud where I was kind of just stupidly naive and thought everything was ‘pretty great,'” he said.

While it doesn’t feel like we’re going to see Bowden start drinking again as of right now, this sentiment feels more so like it will apply to her paranoid psyche moving forward. Everything did seem to be going well in her life up until the explosion in Berlin, though even unrelated to that, there were a few moments where it feels like Bowden might just be putting up a front.

My hope for this season is that we’ll go even deeper into her changing state of mind—maybe not with childhood flashbacks as we did in the previous season, but more with introspection into herself through talking to the “Old Cassie.”

And on top of what’s going on with the explosion, it looks like we’ll also be revisiting a fan favorite from last season: Megan. We were only given smaller glimpses into Megan’s covert operations in Season one, but it seems like her plot will be given a larger spotlight this time around, as she has been basically missing for a year. It’s actually unclear whether or not she’s currently hiding out or has been kidnapped—you know, the usual.

Popular Culture

‘Halo’ Series Episode 5 Recap: “Reckoning”

With episode four being a bit on the slower side, this week’s installation of Halo brought in some much-needed action on the battlefield while still working on the plot with Chief and the keystone.

On Eridanus II, we’re visiting the Reach for Life Installation, which is basically a nature-based school for children. With all of the kids in uniforms, it basically looks like a weird child cult. However, it turns out this is a bit of earlier Eridanus II, as we’re following a much younger Dr. Halsey, who seems to be touring the school (slyly scouting for kids).

They’re basically in a large, fenced-in area where they can explore gardening, climbing, and other outdoor activities. A young Master Chief is up above on some precariously raised platforms and is being teased by another boy. However, when the boy almost falls off, Chief is able to save him from a deathly fall by lifting him up, which is seen by Dr. Halsey. She’s impressed by the school and asks her husband what he thinks; though he outwardly seems interested, it’s clear that he’s not so sure about Chief. At that moment, we cut to the present, showing this man as one of the captains of the UNSC.

Dr. Miranda Keyes arrives on Eridanus, as well as Kai and the other Spartans, who are setting off to join Chief. It turns out that the man from before is her father, Captain Keyes, and they head off to a temporary UNSC camp to find Halsey and her new discovery: the second keystone. Cortana informs Chief that this keystone has an energy power much greater than the original one found on Madrigal. Upon hearing that, Halsey directs him and the others to stay away from it, as its power could be potentially dangerous.

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

At this point, we check back in with Kwan and Soren, who have made it to the Okjungdong Basin on Madrigal after having fled the situation with Vinsher’s troops. The motorcycle that they stole broke down, so Soren decides to walk around and find another vehicle, chaining Kwan to the dead motorcycle with one handcuff to keep her from leaving.

Back on Eridanus, Chief spots Kai’s new hair color and thinks something might be up with her, so he goes over and asks her to take a walk with him. He immediately asks her when she removed her emotional-suppressing pellet, to which she admits, “After I saw you remove yours.” She gets extremely honest with him, admitting to loving the new perspective she has on life, yet all Chief offers up in return is informing her that he’ll be unable to clear her for combat as she’s distracted. It’s a bit of a double standard, though, as Chief has removed his pellet, as well, and is not barring himself from combat.

We focus on Kwan, who’s now picking up the motorcycle and walking around (very slowly), though it eventually falls to the ground with her. On the ground, she attempts numerous times to remove herself from the handcuffs, and after tons of tries, she is able to free herself.

After Chief approaches Captain Keyes about the issues he’s been having with Dr. Halsey, Keyes and Halsey have a meeting with Admiral Parangosky, who’s very concerned about the emotional situation with Chief. Halsey informs her that the situation is under control, though Captain Keyes denies this, telling Parangosky that Chief remembers Halsey being in his house as a child.

“You’re willing to tell the committee anything they need to hear as long as you get what you want, and now you’ve put all of us at risk,” Parangosky tells her. “I’m cutting you off.”

After that statement, Halsey brings up a mysterious Admiral Hood, to who she basically threatens to tell all of this as a form of blackmail, which Parangosky isn’t too pleased about. Ultimately, Parangosky gets Halsey to agree to handle the situation with Chief in the way that she wants. As a result of all this conflict, Captain Keyes wants their daughter taken off the project, which they both agree on.

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

Back on Eridanus with the keystone, they’re just cutting into it when a high-pitched, sonic boom bursts out of the stone, sending a massive blast through the area and basically destroying everyone’s eardrums in the process. The sound is so loud that it messes with the electrical services and computers, and just as that continues, the Covenant is able to pick up a signal, which makes Makee fall to the floor as she’s extremely sensitive to the keystone.

Chief runs to the cave just in time to see the crystal around it break, revealing just the keystone. Dr. Keyes is able to pick up some data on it once the computers start working, confirming that the sound was putting out a signal to something else. After revealing that the keystones could be part of something entirely different than just two halves, her father takes her off the project for safety reasons.

Chief asks Cortana to fetch the files about his adoption, though there are none in the database as the plague wiped them all out. In addition, there are no archives about the Spartan program, which Chief also finds odd. Out of anger, he touches the keystone even though it could potentially kill him. He immediately has new memories, including that of him being brought to the Spartan program as a child. He sees Halsey, who injects him with something, but at that moment, his hands leave the keystone and he falls to the ground.

Halsey walks in and he immediately tells her that she kidnapped him as a child, though she wants to table this discussion for the time being, as the main objective is to bring the keystone back to Reach. Extremely angered by having to put off this conversation, Chief jumps up to attack Halsey, though Cortana shuts off his neural bridge just in time to stop him.

On Madrigal, Soren rides back to the spot where Kwan is supposed to be, though he finds nothing but the broken-down motorcycle. As he gets closer to the motorcycle, Kwan comes up behind him and shocks him with some sort of taser device, causing him to fall on top of the motorcycle. She steals his pistol to shoot him, but we cut over to Chief waking up before seeing what happens.

Cortana lets him know what happened, and while they’re arguing, she notifies him that a Slipspace rupture was detected, meaning that the Covenant is near. Ah, finally, some much-needed action.

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

The Covenant launches an all-out attack on the UNSC as they’re looking to retrieve the keystone. They immediately destroy the Pioneer ship that was meant to bring the keystone back—whoops. The new order at hand is to transport the keystone to the smaller ship that Dr. Keyes is on, which is a bit of a lengthy transport to reach via Warthog.

While it was initially just an aerial attack via Banshees and other ships, the aliens of the Covenant are now dropping down, making it much harder to transport the keystone. Also, unfortunately, it looks like there was a major explosion on Dr. Reyes’ ship, leaving her injured along with a new change of direction for the keystone, which is now headed to Halsey’s ship.

On the battlefield, it turns out that Chief was right about Kai’s state of mind, as her heart rate drastically increases, causing her to freeze in the middle of combat while being hit by gunfire. Seeing this unfolding from afar, Chief’s emotions get the better of him, which leads him to jump onto a Banshee to bring him to Kai. He’s able to crash the banshee into one of the main Covenant ships, sending a shockwave through the area and clearing it of aliens—temporarily.

Many of them stand up and start attacking Chief, who works his way through the crowd to get to Kai. Though he saves her from the Covenant, the keystone has somehow ended upright in the middle of the battlefield (?) and he has to sprint to save it from being taken by them. However, they drop down an absolutely enormous alien who takes it back up to the ship with ease. Before completely leaving, they drop down a pod with Makee, who falls to the floor pretty randomly; I honestly don’t know what they’re going to do with her.

Final Thoughts

As a whole, this probably dethrones episode three from being the best of the series, as this one had just the right balance of, well, everything. Now, I’m not saying that the Kwan story is boring, but we were focusing a little too much on it in the previous episodes for how little was actually happening with its plot. What was sprinkled in of her story in this episode was the exact, perfect amount, as Chief’s story is what we need to be focusing on at the moment.

It was definitely refreshing to see a bit more of Cortana, as her relationship with Chief is gaining more structure with each episode. On top of that, the backstory with Dr. Halsey and Chief is proving to be one of the most interesting, as the series is giving us just enough information to hold us over until the next episode. While I would’ve preferred even more action, the last 15 minutes were the most exhilarating so far, providing an even more dynamic battle scene than the one we saw in the first episode.

Popular Culture

‘Winning Time’ Recap: “Invisible Man”

Episode 7 of Winning Time leads us through a major coaching shake-up as Paul Westhead takes the helm of the Lakers ship while Jack McKinney still lies in the hospital.

Jerry Buss is comparing his current situation with the Lakers to Monopoly, highlighting how the game is different from others as it has that element of chance: “No matter how good you are at the game, the bad breaks come.” We circle through a few specific “chance” cards, including the bank being on Buss’ tail, McKinney’s bike fall, and Buss’ mother being diagnosed with metastatic cancer. After all of these negative cards, Buss feels that he’s due for a win.

We’re thrown into an extremely close Lakers game, but it seems like the Lakers are overall losing their momentum. It has been six weeks since McKinney’s bike fall, the team has hit an impasse, and Westhead isn’t always making the best decisions. Jerry West compares Westhead to a substitute teacher, as the players often have to make decisions for themselves instead of being directed. He’s pushing for them to hire Elgin Baylor instead of staying with Westhead, though Buss isn’t completely sold just yet.

Buss stops by to visit McKinney in the hospital, who’s angrily practicing how to tie a shoe in his bed. Though he can’t even do that, he tells Buss to bet on him instead of going with another coach. “I’m your guy,” McKinney says. “I’m comin’ back.” He instructs Buss to keep going along with Westhead until the doctors are able to clear him to coach in about one or two months. And after a phone call with McKinney, Westhead wants Pat Riley to take over as assistant coach, as he has been passing him notes from the announcer’s box with tips and instructions. After a bit of convincing, Riley finally agrees.

The Lakers hit the road and head off to Indiana, though they end up losing their first game against the Pacers. Afterward, Riley gives Westhead a much-needed pep talk after they overhear Spencer Haywood talking poorly of him.

Warrick Page / HBO

Magic heads back to Michigan for Christmas (and a game) and meets up with Cookie, who isn’t so sure about how she feels about him and his image. In Detroit, West is making it pretty obvious that he’s on the lookout for Westhead’s replacement, though Riley tells him to shake it off. However, he might’ve gotten into Westhead’s mind as the Lakers are beaten fairly badly by the Pistons right after.

Their last shot to prove themselves is against the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird, Magic’s rival. Westhead and Riley decide to spend Christmas together and come up with the ultimate game plan as Magic and the team head over to his house in Lansing to celebrate the holiday. Magic and his father have a bit of a fight about how he’s doing business; it’s clear that his father doesn’t approve of Mr. Day handling the business side of his son’s career.

Mr. Johnson has a good talk with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who asks him if his son was always that happy about everything. Apparently, he has always been like that, unable to be shaken up by America in the same way that Abdul-Jabbar has. They both marvel at that fact and wonder why, but neither of them really has an answer. Abdul-Jabbar then promises Magic’s father that he’ll look out for his son.

Later on in the night, Rhonda, Cookie’s friend, shows up at Magic’s Christmas party—without Cookie. When Magic asks where she is, Rhonda simply says that she probably had somewhere else to be.

Riley shaves his mustache at the hotel he’s staying at and reminds Westhead of what they need to do to win against the Celtics. Just as he’s explaining things, he gets an accidental phone call from Baylor, who’s apparently meeting with Buss and will be in Boston shortly. Riley finally understands why West had come along on the road with them—to replace Westhead. He approaches Westhead about this, who apparently knew they were looking to find a replacement but thought they had more time. Riley is rightfully angry about this, as he quit his job as an announcer to join as an assistant coach.

Right before Magic is about to leave his hotel room, Cookie comes by and confronts him about what’s going on with the two of them. She admits that she doesn’t know where she could fit into his life as everyone else treats him like, well, Magic. Though they’re able to reconnect, right after she leaves, another woman walks out of the bathroom, painting a much different picture than the one that he just conveyed to Cookie.

Warrick Page / HBO

The big game at Boston finally arrives, and Buss and the other higher-ups head over as West directs Buss to hire Baylor. In opposition to that, Buss mentions that McKinney beat him in a game of Monopoly at the hospital, which is his reasoning for not jumping on Baylor just yet.

Before the game, Magic is frustrated with how much Larry Bird is loved even though he barely says anything. Abdul-Jabbar has a serious conversation with him and instructs him to beat Bird that night; even though the crowd may go silent in those moments, it doesn’t mean he’s invisible. Instead, it gives him power.

The game starts well for the Lakers, but after a slew of uncalled fouls, the Celtics take the lead, as it’s clear the refs are pulling for Boston. Riley ends up getting himself ejected from the game after talking smack to the refs, leaving Westhead alone to finish up the game. Finally, as they’re down one point in the last seconds,

Michael Cooper gets the ball from Magic and sinks it right at the buzzer, finally bringing in a much-needed win for the team. And immediately following that shot was the very silence that Abdul-Jabbar had been talking about all along.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Buss visits McKinney, where they discuss that if the team keeps Westhead, they won’t be able to pull off a championship title; McKinney agrees. Despite that fact, Buss tells McKinney that they’re not done playing just yet.

Final Thoughts

This episode definitely picked up the pace from last week, as we dove into the changing relationships within the team as their future was up in front of the guillotine. We honed in on Buss and McKinney, Westhead and Riley, Abdul-Jabbar and Magic, as well as Magic and Bird. Aside from the relationship with the latter, each other friendship grew substantially—especially between Abdul-Jabbar and Magic. The two greatly misunderstood each other at first, but after finally learning to appreciate each other’s quirks and ways of life, they both saw a greater meaning.

Sure, this show is about the ins and outs of basketball, but as each episode moves along, it’s clear that the relationships are the things that actually make the game happen. With Abdul-Jabbar and Magic on opposing ends of things, nothing would have ever gotten done, yet now that they’ve come to understand one another, there’s a distinct flow to the game; the power of acceptance is unmatched—and it’s more powerful than any three-pointer or layup.

Popular Culture

‘Halo’ Series Episode 4 Recap: “Homecoming”

Episode 3 of Paramount+’s Halo brought back a beloved member of the Halo squad: Cortana. While it was nice to get reacquainted with her, this episode was significantly lacking in Cortana (*sigh*).

In Episode 4, we’re thrown into another flashback, but we go even further back past Master Chief’s young adult life as a Spartan. As a child, we watch as he trains with the other pre-Spartans, though he tries to run away. He’s then approached by Dr. Catherine Halsey, who reminds him of why he needs to stay.

We cut over to Madrigal, where Kwan Ha and Soren are riding around, looking for Vinsher’s ships. Soren reveals that after leaving the Spartan program, it was as if his mind was completely wiped, with small bits of information coming through as time passed. For example, it took him quite a while to remember that his father had passed—and that he was the one who killed him.

On Reach at the UNSC base, Kai—after having seen Chief remove the emotional-suppressing device from his back—is asking around if anyone has seen him (though he’s now off the base and headed to Eridanus II). However, as the camera pans to the back of her, we can see an empty spot where she has removed her device, as well. Looks like we’ve got a little trend catching on here, right?

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

Chief, Dr. Halsey, and her assistant make it to Eradinus II; apparently, the colony was led by his parents, who were widely considered heroes for keeping the colony afloat. Immediately upon arrival, Chief is able to locate the briefcase that he buried years ago. Inside, he doesn’t find the keystone but instead sees all of the drawings he made as a child about the keystone.

While John obsesses over the drawings, Dr. Halsey more wants to get to the point and find the physical object. However, the drawings send him to a quick flashback, which spurs him to head up to his old house and check things out.

Back on Madrigal, Kwan and Soren head to where Vinsher is hanging out. Just as they’re leaving the scene, Kwan and Soren pull up and get to experience his oppressive ruling up close. While walking around the crowded streets, Kwan runs into an old friend, Attu, who clearly doesn’t want to be associated with her. However, he tells her to come to her father’s memorial, which is being held later that night. Right as he’s leaving, Kwan sees a broadcast with a “Wanted” sign over an image of her, along with an offer of a reward for her finding.

Later at the memorial, Kwan isn’t too happy with the turnout, as her father fought very hard to keep control of Madrigal. She talks to one of her old friends, who reveals the violence that has been occurring since she left. Apparently, everyone is frightened of the government and just wants protection from them; basically, the revolution is over. Because of this, she ends up making quite the scene and calls her friend a traitor, which catches the attention of everyone gathered around—not the best move when you’re wanted by the government.

Right at that moment, a horde of government troops comes storming in and starts to attack the people gathered at the memorial. It’s a scene of chaos immediately, and it’s all the doing of Kwan.

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

At the UNSC base, Dr. Miranda Keyes hosts a bit of an impromptu meeting with some of the Spartans, where she interrogates them as to why Chief is so special. They don’t really have any decent answers, as one simply says it’s because “he’s the Master Chief.” Afterward, Keyes tests out each Spartan with the keystone to see if they’re able to have the same powerful interaction that Chief can. Kai comes in to do her test, and after taking off her helmet, Keyes sees that she has dyed part of her hair red with her own blood (Pinterest hack?). Though nothing happens when she touches the keystone, she gives a lengthy speech to Keyes about how she should stop treating the Spartans like machines, as they have much more to give to the world.

At Chief’s old house, the group wanders around, looking for hints of, well, anything. Chief then asks Cortana to assemble a rendering of what his old house looked like, which she shows him on his heads-up display. Though she has trouble recreating his room due to the damage, he’s able to get himself into a vision that reveals more about the house. He watches on as his young self draws something, showing a hole in the ground that leads to an underground cave that holds the keystone, which his younger self touches. However, when he flashes to his mother, he sees Dr. Halsey as if she were his mother. That quickly snaps him out of the vision, after which he promptly leaves the house.

Outside of the house, Dr. Halsey expresses her concerns to Chief about the fact that he’s having visions outside of the keystone. He then admits that he saw her in his vision, though she dismisses ever being at his home, claiming that visions get muddled over the years.

Back at the UNSC base, we finally reach the moment I’ve been waiting for: the reveal of our old buddy, The Needler, which Kai appropriately fangirls over. After she says the word for “Needler” in the Covenant language, it sparks Keyes’ imagination, prompting her to ask the other Spartans about the other words they know from the language.

On Madrigal, we cut over to Vinsher, where we get more of a close-up view of him, as he’s smoking a cigar and hanging in a remote cave pool. In speaking with Franco, an assassin, he brings up Kwan specifically, whom he believes will be trouble for them. Right as he’s saying this, Kwan and Soren are approached by men with knives who attempt to kill them for the reward, though her aunt swoops in and calls it off. Vinsher then instructs Franco to “take care” of her.

After inputting the new Covenant words into the system, Keyes has a chat with the Spartans, who tell her a bit about their past training. For example, they were all given pets and then given a task to complete. The side that won the task got to keep their pets, but the other side was then forced to eliminate them—a task that came as a major shock to Keyes.

Adrienn Szabo / Paramount+

On Madrigal, Soren’s ship was completely scrapped, leaving him without a ride back to the Rubble. Instead, he’ll have to take a transport ship later that night to go back home. The only catch? The transport ships are located 200 miles from his current location. He threatens a local man with his gun to take his motorcycle as Kwan is explaining the overall situation to her aunt. Apparently, her father spent all of the money on the revolution, leaving her aunt and family penniless.

Kwan basically cannot be talked out of wanting to pick up where her father left off, even though her aunt advises against it. Her aunt then reveals that her father fought for a lie, explaining that he joined a desert group called The Mystics. Upon returning from the desert, he was a completely different person, insisting that it was his responsibility to free Madrigal—his true purpose in life.

All of a sudden, there’s a thud at the door, and as her aunt swings it open, Franco has just taken out the guards outside and then immediately knocks out her aunt. As Franco approaches Kwan, her aunt tries to save her, though Franco kills her on the spot. Just then, Soren comes through the door and shoots her, sending her out the window—though she survives.

They flee the scene, but as they’re attempting to get on the motorcycle, shots are fired, but Soren is able to fight back. They’re then engaged in a fairly low-speed motorcycle chase.

Back at the UNSC base, we’ve got a little Halo name drop going as Keyes and Kai look back at the footage from Chief’s first touch of the keystone. The ring around the keystone resembles a ring, also known as a Halo. Aww. Keyes then asks Kai if they can keep this discovery between the two of them, and she immediately agrees.

Keyes then lets Kai in on a little secret about Dr. Halsey: when her Spartans start behaving in “unexpected ways” (like humans), it makes her uncomfortable, as their actions are controlled by emotions and passions.

We finally cut back to Chief’s home planet, where he’s able to locate the hole in the ground from his childhood drawing. He jumps in, finding just what he had seen in his visions: the keystone.

Final Thoughts

Okay, so this episode was definitely better than the first two, but the third episode is still the best of the bunch. While this one had a bit more action than the others, the action was always short-lived—there was no epic, main scene like we got in the first one.

Overall, it was a bit slow-moving, mostly with the story of Kwan and Soren, as I was more interested in Chief finding the second keystone. The scenes between Kai and Dr. Reyes were surprisingly interesting, as it felt like the two made an unlikely bond. That’ll be quite the relationship to explore, as Reyes wanted to keep information between the two of them, which is probably frowned upon in the UNSC.

Kai is actually turning into one of the most intriguing characters, as she removed the emotion-suppressing device from her back. Hopefully, we’ll see a bit more of her in the coming episodes, as the story with Kwan and Soren seems a bit forced as no one in the city really cares about going against Vinsher.