PODCAST! – Streaming Originals & Around the Water Cooler: “Stranger Things” – The Season Two Recap and Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Related imageModerator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Stranger Things” is a science fiction-horror web television Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.

What: “Stranger Things,” created, written, directed and co-executive produced by the Duffer Brothers, stars (in Season Two) Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, and Paul Reiser.

SYNOPSIS

The Hawkins, Indiana, National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the US Department of Energy but secretly conducts experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects, which start to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways.  The first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy by his friends, older brother, and traumatized mother, as well as the local police chief, amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a psychokinetic girl who helps the missing boy’s friends in their own search.  The second season is set a year later, starting in October 1984.  The boy, Will (Schapp), has been rescued, but few know of the details of the events. When it is discovered that Will is still being influenced by entities from another dimension, his friends and family learn that there is a larger threat to their universe from that other dimension.

When: The second season of the series was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on October 27, 2017.

Where: The action is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the 1980s.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the links below – though it bears mentioning that Stranger Things may very well be the most popular and most requested panel/show to discuss since the inception of this humble little podcast.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

CPU!, naturally, covered the first season of this “stranger” series.  To listen to that prior podcast episode, click the embedded link below:

Season One

Stranger Things was a runaway hit with the CPU! core, just as it was with the nationwide water cooler that is America when it first premiered in summer 2016, and we have a deep bench of eager panelists ready to be called up for their chance to talk about all the Stranger Things.  Because, really, what’s not to love?  If you grew up in the 1980s, this show appeals to your sense of nostalgia.  If you are older, this show and its youngest characters remind you of your adult children when they were young.  If you are younger, the child stars and characters of the series are easy to relate to because they are timeless archetypes, amalgamations of similar characters that appear throughout the pop culture of the past thirty or forty years.  In fact, the Duffer Brothers deftly pay homage to the atmosphere of the decade; the influences of auteurs on this scifi/horror drama such as Speilberg, Lucas, Scott, Carpenter, Craven, and others; and the appeal of the vintage and the tactile to an increasingly expanding group of disaffected post-millennials, who see bits of themselves in the Dungeons and Dragons playing boys or the quiet and scared yet powerful Eleven (Brown).

Going into our Season 2 discussion around the water cooler, our panel experienced somewhat of an “upside down” changeover itself.  Panelists Hilary, Kyle, and Michael return, eager to dissect and share their thoughts and feelings on the second Stranger season.  Joining them for the first time are two panelists new to the panel, but not to the podcast, specifically Sarah – who has been on a hodgepodge of panels too many to list but including American Horror Story, Doctor Who, and our Buffy-Verse retrospective – and Jeremy, who is on our Supernatural and 13 Reasons Why panels and who Looked Back at Six Feet Under.  Former panelists Chelsea and Rob (two of our Game of Thrones panelists) departed the panel for now in favor of busy lives behind the podcast, though they join the ranks of on the wait list folks who can barely wait to discuss their supreme love for this program.

As it turns out, the panel, new in composition though it was, found itself slightly more divided when discussing Season Two, with some panelists commenting on the hasty and superficial introduction of new characters like Billy (Montgomery), though they regarded other new introductions like Bob (Astin) and Dr. Owens (Reiser) as better handled, even if intermittently short-lived.  Still, the majority of the panel spent most of the chat gushing about this series’ latest season. Again, there was little bad or negative to say because everyone universally agreed that the creators and show-runners continued to nurture a character-driven, nostalgia-rooted story that appeals to our basic fears and nightmares, though most panelists also struggled with the controversial seventh episode of the season, exploring Eleven’s quest to root out her own origins.  In any event, most of the panelists still find the story to be tightly woven with an organic and logical flow, a perfect visual presence from art direction to cinematography to visual effects, and stellar if stranger performances all around.  If you are part of the Stranger Things fan club, this discussion will only continue to serve to validate your commonly held adoration for this unlikely sleeper hit.  Have I convinced you to listen via the embedded link below?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our How to Get Away with Murder panel returns to the Water Cooler – sort of – but, I should warn you, gentle listener: the jug of water sort of broke, and a faint lilt of the Jaws theme started underscoring the drama of the spill.  That’s right, folks. Our HTGAWM panel very much tried on some water skis and scaled some predatory fish in their path.  Stay tuned for the reasons why the three HTGAWM panelists have become members of “Shark Jumpers Anonymous!”

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) What is Will’s connection to the Upside Down beyond his ability to seemingly straddle the inter-dimensional barrier – is it more than a lucky connection?  In other words, was his initial disappearance into the Upside Down truly random?  How was Will able to survive for so long there?  Is he special or immune to the Upside Down?  Is he something more than just the dimension’s first victim?  Was Joyce (Ryder) part of the drug trial that Eleven’s bio mom was part of, causing Eleven’s special abilities?

2) Will we see other psychic kids, akin to Kali/Eight and Jane/Eleven, such as some of the other numbered test subjects in the drug trials?  Did any others actually survive?

3) Is Dr. Martin Brenner still alive, as was stated in the seventh episode of the season by the man who electrically fried Eleven’s bio-mom’s brain at Brenner’s behest?

4) Will the show explore the lab/facility more where Eleven was housed, either in the past with Kali and/or the one, if the same, in Hawkins?

5) Will we see other dimensions beyond the Upside Down?  Are there others?  Does Eleven have the power to open up pockets or rifts to those other places?

6) Does Billy serve a larger purpose to the show other than being an on-the-nose homage to all of the teen bully characters of ’80s films?

7) Will the female characters intermingle more, as panelist Michael wishes?

8) Will Joyce find love again – and will it be with Hopper (Harbour), as the show seems to be seeding?

9) How much in-school experiences, with Eleven in attendance and interacting with Mike (Wolfhard), Dustin (Matarazzo), and Lucas (McLaughlin) as well as Max (Sink), will we see in the next season?

10) What does the Mind Flayer really want?  Is it trying to destroy this world?  Occupy and conquer it?  Possess psychic children?  Reveal itself to be the Man in Black?

11) What is the Upside Down, really, beyond an alternate dimension?

PARTING SHOTS

The CPU! Stranger Things podcast panel essentially recommends this show to anyone who breathes – or, at least, who watches and enjoys television.  Period.  The general consensus among the panelists is that this well crafted, well written, well directed, and well performed piece offers “something for everyone” and can appeal to young and old, man and woman, people who like science fiction and horror and people who do not, and everyone and everything in between.  The panel also generally agrees, even though one or two panelists struggled more in season two than in season one with the story while others preferred the second season overall, that the basic yarn is a riveting one, told with largely fanciful ideas and seamlessly crafted dialogue; in fact, the panel universally agrees that the story and the show will especially connect to those born before or during the Reagan era.  The only caution the panel would offer is that the program succeeds in providing some legitimate scares and moments of the disturbed or moments designed to unsettle the viewer, though, largely, without being “too scary,” even for the most squeamish of our intrepid panelists.  Those panelists also agree, though, that with proper forewarning, even the most sensitive or the most overactive imaginations among the viewing audience can find something to enjoy in this perfect nosh of creepy nostalgia.

LOOKING AHEAD

Stranger Things was (readily) renewed for a third season, which is expected to be released to the Netflix streaming library in 2019, though no official release date has yet been announced.  Our Stranger Things panel will, subsequently, reconvene some time thereafter to dissect Season Three, in or out of the Upside Down. As always, CPU! will stay abreast of and report all material Stranger Things coverage.  Until then!

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PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler and Looking Back at “Broadchurch,” the Season/Series 3 Recap and Series Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Related imageModerator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Broadchurch” is a British television crime drama, which aired for three seasons from 2013 to 2017 on iTV in the United Kingdom and on BBC America in the United States.

What: “Broadchurch” was created and written by Chris Chibnall and focuses, at least initially, on the death of an 11-year-old boy and the impact of grief, mutual suspicion, and media attention on the surrounding town.

SYNOPSIS

Series One focuses on the search for the boy, Danny Latimer’s, murderer by detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). The second series primarily focuses on two plot strands: the trial of Joe Miller and the reopening of the Sandbrook case, a case Hardy failed to properly solve, which brings him unwanted notoriety throughout the investigation of the Broadchurch murder. Series Three is set three years after the events of Series Two and follows the rape of a local woman.

When: Series Three originally aired on iTV in Great Britain from February 27 to April 17, 2017, and on BBC America in the United States from June 28 to August 16, 2017.

Where: In Broadchurch, the action takes place primarily in the fictional town of Broadchurch, in the county of Dorset, in the South of England, on the scenic Jurassic Coast and in surrounding areas, such as the county courthouse. Series Two does travel to the fictional town of Sandbrook, as David Tennant’s character, Alec Hardy, investigates a case from his past.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!  Of course, for the female members of the panel (Chief Couch Potato and moderator Kylie included), the primary reason was: David Tennant, David Tennant, David Tennant.  The male members of the panel sighed with moderate contempt and resignation at this revelation.  To them, we said, “Oh well!”  Just look at the man, for heaven’s sake:

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David Tennant: Perhaps the primary reason why the female panelists started watching Broadchurch

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

CPU! previously covered Series 1 and 2 of Broadchurch on the podcast as well as compared and contrasted the relative (de)merits of American remake Gracepoint.  To listen to that worthy analysis, from early in the CPU! annals (and out of the vault), click the embedded link below:

Broadchurch, Series 1 and 2, and Gracepoint, Season 1

Our now undoubtedly famous Broadchurch panel, with some of our most frequent panelists – namely Kristen, Nick, Krista, Hilary, and Kyle – have returned to the Water Cooler to engage in a heady, topical discussion about the mystery of Broadchurch Series 3, which could not be timelier or more relevant to current events.  We also, of course, spend ample time admiring David Tennant.  At least, the female members of the panel do.  As we did in our last episode, all of the panelists have quite a bit to say about this stirring and intense mystery, which they see as largely successful, despite the fact that the show (still) did not find American audiences quite as readily.  We also spend some time briefly looking back at the show as a whole and comparing all of the series, including how they made us feel and think as ready and willing viewers.  As always, it’s a deeply analytical discussion about the success of the show and the story, as well as the effects each had on each of the panelists.

This particular episode was recorded in April 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of all seasons of the British drama. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite)0, Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our Stranger Things panel will finally return to the Water Cooler after a one-year hiatus to discuss and to digest the spooky, mind flaying second season of the acclaimed Netflix series.  It’s a lively discussion – and it’s better late than never!  Stay tuned!

Old Questions

1)  Will Joe Miller somehow return to Broadchurch, despite his banishment by the other residents of the town?  Kylie predicts that he will try to come back and to acquit himself in the town’s eyes because he has convinced himself, on the strength of his legal defense, that he is truly innocent.

ANSWER: Joe does not return to the town itself but returns to the series, when Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) seeks him out in his new home in a nearby coastal town.  Mark continues to struggle with his grief over Danny’s murder and to nurse a vendetta, wanting “justice” for Danny by ensuring punishment of Joe.  Though he tries to convince Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and the rest of the family to consider initiating a civil trial, given the failure of the criminal trial to convict Joe, they prove reluctant.  So, he takes matters into his own hands and finds Joe himself, with the very real intent to kill him, if he will not turn himself in properly.  Listen to the episode for details.

2) Series/season three is said to be focused around a sexual assault in the town.  Will the perpetrator be one of the characters we already know?  Or, will it be someone totally different?

ANSWER: The victim and perpetrators are new characters to the show and to the viewer.  Since we spend considerable time discussing both in the episode, you should just listen to it.

RECOMMENDATION & PARTING SHOTS

Our panel continues to recommend Broadchurch to fans of British television generally, fans of mystery and crime procedural shows, and fans of David Tennant.  Though Broadchurch remains moody, tonally dark, and extremely intense, and emotionally preparing oneself to watch this show may be necessary, the panel also universally agreed that Broadchurch Series Three is one of the better seasons (better than the second, not as good as the first). In any event, the panel continues to praise the entire show highly, noting it to be well-written, well-performed, well-shot, and well-directed and encourages anyone interested in high quality television to give it a look-see.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Broadchurch has officially ended.  The entire series is currently available to stream on Netflix. Did you watch Broadchurch?  Let us know in the comments, and tell us what you thought of any or all of its three seasons – or series if you’re British!  And stay tuned! Though our Broadchurch coverage is primarily done, don’t be surprised if the show makes an appearance or two in coming discussions, from time to time, as, after all, CPU! continues to expand our panel formats in new and exciting ways.

In the meantime, from our Broadchurch panel and David Tennant sister-wife commune (and the men who scorn it) to you, thank you for listening to our ongoing Broadchurch series, which now officially comes to a close.  To discover other shows discussed by CPU!, check here.  For now, we bid you adieu!

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Production still for Broadchurch, Series 3

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The Broadchurch Panel! (top, left to right, Nick, Kyle, Hilary; bottom, left to right, Krista, Kristen)

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Game of Thrones,” the Season 7 Recap and Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Game of Thrones,” airs on premium cable TV, specifically on HBO, though it is currently on hiatus.

What: “Game of Thrones” is a fantasy drama based on the series of novels entitled A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin, which tells the tale of the land of Westeros and the various families and factions vying for the Iron Throne, i.e. rule of all of the seven kingdoms in a world of magic, dragons, swordplay, and death (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here).

When: The Season Seven finale aired on HBO on Sunday, August 27, 2017, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in the fictional land of Westeros, a world that could be Europe, could be Middle Earth, or could be most fantasy/epic realms.  Westeros is divided into Seven Kingdoms, but rule of all kingdoms hails from the Iron Throne, in King’s Landing. The show follows key characters across most realms.

Why: A friend basically said the Chief CP had to watch it and for good reason (other panelists received similar recommendations).  I, personally, gravitate toward fantasy and science fiction most frequently; fantasy is also my favorite genre to read.  I haven’t read Martin’s currently-in-progress series, as some of the panelists have, which has become something of a cultural watershed not unlike the Harry Potter novels, though I plan to do so.  Our resident book readers laud the show about as highly as they do the novels; thus, with this solid foundation, an obsession with Game of Thrones was born, for all of our (returning) panelists.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

For a recap of season 4, read here.

CPU! also previously published podcast episodes reviewing and recapping Seasons 5 and 6.  To catch up, click the embedded links below:

Season 5

Season 6

This year, with the explosive and epic and (SPOILER) zombie-dragon laden seventh season behind us, CPU!’s noble group of Game of Thrones panelists – Kristen, Amanda, Jay, Chelsea, and Rob – returns to the Water Cooler with one of our “lost” episodes to discuss what many of us find to be our favorite show, including the goings-on of the penultimate seventh season.  Plus, many of panelist Kristen’s so-called dominoes continued to fall this season in spectacular and satisfying ways, so our panel was only too excited to spend time gushing, a few times owing to equipment failures and such, about what was ultimately another thrilling Thrones season.

In this episode, then, our panel of GoT obsessed chats and theorizes all things Season Seven as well as speculates about what Season Eight – the finale season – might look like, especially since the show has, permanently, surpassed the books in terms of plot propulsion. Our scholarly bunch does not disappoint with their effusive opinions; as usual, we cover quite a bit of territory, revisiting three-headed dragon theories, the continued consequences of incest, and hopes and wishes for the ensuing war to come.  We can only salivate and speculate about possible future developments.

This podcast was (re)recorded in April 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover major plot points throughout the seventh season of GoT. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite)0, Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our Broadchurch panel will finally return to the Water Cooler after a two-year (!) hiatus to discuss and to digest the third and final series of the acclaimed British drama and to look back at the success of the program as a whole.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) REPEAT QUESTION: Is the Azor A’hai the same as the Prince of Promise?  Is the Azor A’hai one person? If so, is it Jon (Kit Harington) or Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) or someone else?  Or, is it the combination of three people who can ride Dany’s dragons?  And who are those three people…? Jon? Dany? Tyrion (Peter Dinklage)? Anyone else?

REPEAT ANSWER: The Azor A’hai and the Prince Who Was Promised are two names for the same basic concept.  As above, however, the question of who or what that is remains unanswered.  We also do not know if the Three-Headed Dragon theory and the Prince Who Was Promised theory/prophecy are linked.

2) Will we see “Clegane-bowl,” i.e. the Hound (Rory McCann) v. the Mountain in hand-to-hand combat in the war to come?

ANSWER: Much to panelist Kristen’s dismay, “Clegane-bowl” has not yet manifested on Game of Thrones. Though Sandor and Gregor experience a brief reunion near the end of the season, when various forces meet at King’s Landing in council to discuss the coming threat of the White Walkers, neither brother, living nor undead, seem feisty enough to fight, each other or anyone else.  Yet.

3) Will Dany reach Westeros and aim specifically for King’s Landing and Cersei (Lena Headey)?

ANSWER: Yes and yes.  Dany reaches Dragonstone, the Targaryen ancestral home, in the first episode of the season, and it is a magical and wonderful landing, full of awe and wistfulness on the part of the intrepid Khaleesi.  Once she collects herself from reveling in this accomplishment, she almost immediately turns her sights toward King’s Landing on the advice of her hand, Tyrion Lannister, Cersei’s much estranged younger brother.  Listen to the podcast episode for details.

4) Will Arya (Maisie Williams) or Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) find their siblings/return to Winterfell?  Or, will Bran go North, and Arya go South?

ANSWER: In a surprisingly happy season for the Starks, Arya and Bran both returned home to Winterfell.  Arya learns from some passing travelers/Lannister soldiers (one played by Maisie Williams’ favorite singer, Ed Sheeran) that Jon Snow is currently serving as King in the North, and so she turns her attention away from her revenge list and heads home.  Bran, in the meantime, in an awkwardly antisocial, if not catatonic, Three-Eyed Raven state, also returns home, anticipating a reunion with his brother (but really his cousin) Jon.  Unfortunately, when Bran arrives at his childhood home, Jon had already left Winterfell to visit Dragonstone to entreat Dany to an alliance against the White Walkers and/or to mine the palace’s dragon-glass to use against them.  Listen to the episode for details.

5) Who will Arya aim for next, now that she has the backing of the Many Faced God and the skills taught to her by the House of Black and White?

ANSWER: Her first name to check off her list: Walder Frey.  We see her master ninja superhero revenge plan in an extended sequence in the season premiere, inclusive of some pie filled with parts of Freys, ingested by Walder before Arya ruthlessly slits his throat.  She clearly intends to aim for Lannister necks next, particularly Cersei’s, but a chance encounter with her lost direwolf, Nymeria, and the aforementioned Ed Sheeran convinces her to go north instead, which is well and good for our intrepid Girl, as Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) becomes her next target through the machinations of an elaborate con orchestrated by Arya and her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner).  Listen to the podcast episode for details.

6) Will Sansa make a play to be Queen of the North?  Will she finally be seduced by Littlefinger’s romantic advances and plan for their future?

ANSWER: Sansa never finds herself in the position of having to “make a play.”  Though she rarely agrees with Jon’s direction while he wears the proverbial Winterfell crown, Jon ultimately leaves Sansa as steward of Winterfell when he departs to go talk to Dany down south.  Sansa also staves off heavy attempts at seduction by Lord Baelish, to which he devotes his best college try in an effort to manipulate Sansa to work against her suspicious ninja sister and brooding brother/secret cousin one last time.  Sansa, however, first tells Littlefinger off for leaving her in the custody of Ramsey, only to be raped and brutally tortured by the sadistic but expired so-called bastard.  Later, she executes a brilliantly mapped out scheme, in which Sansa and Arya act as if Baelish is playing each sister off one another, for the purpose of exposing the manipulator for his traitorous actions, which, among other dire results, led to an assassination attempt on Bran, the death of Ned, Sansa’s sham marriage to Ramsey, and other crimes against House Stark.  As a result, by the end of the season, Sansa orders Littlefinger’s execution, carried out by none other than her Needle-wielding sister, Arya.  RIP Littlefinger.  Your ample game is finished.

7) Will Jon Snow stay parked at Winterfell?  Will he find out about his true parentage? Will he be forced to engage the White Walkers in the next season, or will he be forced to enter a battle in the South between Lannisters and Targaryens?

ANSWER: Jon does not stay parked for long.  As a result, he also narrowly misses the opportunity to learn his true parentage from his brother/cousin Bran, who returns to Winterfell this season, or from Sam Tarly (John Bradley), who leaves Oldtown having learned the same juicy information, later confirmed for Sam by Bran when Sam and Gilly (Hannah Murray) arrive (in record time) at Winterfell.  Jon, meanwhile, picks a fight with the Walkers when he decides to lead a somewhat suicidal expedition, staffed by Thoros of the Brotherhood, Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie, out from being in hiding as a blacksmith in King’s Landing for several seasons, apparently), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), the Hound, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), and a few others, north of the Wall to capture a wight, in order that they might bring it south to King’s Landing to convince Cersei to ally with Houses Stark and Targaryen against the coming of White Walker Winter.  This expedition results in extreme casualties (we don’t even want to say but do below and in the episode).  Though the Lannisters and Targaryens, or, namely, Dany definitely do battle among themselves, Jon does not involve himself or the armies of the North in the fight.

8) Will we see more Lyanna Mormont?  The panel votes yes.

ANSWER: We see the Little Bear briefly.  She is around early in the season to question Jon’s decision to appeal to Dany, as northerners do not trust southerners, especially Targaryens, very much.  In the end, she supports him, though, and convinces the other Northern heads of houses to do the same.

9) Will we see the emergence of Lady Stoneheart?  Will she be in the form described by the books, or will one of the Stark daughters take on her story lines?

ANSWER: We suspect that the possibility of encountering Lady Stoneheart is probably a non-starter at this point.  If there was an opportunity to see a return of Catelyn Stark in partial zombie form, it is likely that said opportunity has passed.

10) How will Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) react to Cersei’s new power?  Will he be the younger brother that fulfills Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, or will it be Tyrion, now that he’s on his way back home at the side of Dany?

ANSWER: Jaime, it is apparent, is not loving Cersei’s new look.  She is as ruthless, cold, and mad as her father Tywin, certainly, or possibly even as much as the Mad King Aerys, who was slain by Jaime before the events of the series started (and who might quite possibly be the secret, illegitimate father of any or all of the Lannister children, if abounding theories are correct).  As for Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, we are still anticipating its ultimate fruition.  The panelists continue to hold strong hope that Jaime will be the younger (twin) brother in question who finally gets sane and ends his sister’s life and, therefore, their twincest relationship once and for all.  He has taken a hopeful step in that direction as of the end of the season.  Listen to the podcast episode for details.

11) How will King’s Landing react to Cersei’s rule, in the absence of the strength of the High Sparrow and the new religion?

ANSWER: Most of King’s Landing subjects react either in fear toward Cersei or in awe and allegiance because they trust the evil they know, even one as ruthless as Cersei, over the Targaryen princess who recently returned to Westeros, despite being the last (known) survivor of her line.  Yet, Cersei struggles all season with being financially indebted to the Bank of Westeros and with gathering enough might to prepare for Dany’s inevitable attacks.  Early in the season, Jaime lays siege to Highgarden and the last of House Tyrell, the richest house on the continent, in order to take their money and land at Cersei’s order.  Of course, that decision does not come without several disappointing consequences and delicious comeuppances all around and in their own right. Listen to the episode already!

12) Will we see the emergence of more dragon riders?  Will the Three-Headed Dragon prophecy/theory come true this season?

ANSWER: Other than Dany, no one’s mounting dragons yet…though Jon Snow does experience a curious connection with Drogon when he visits Dragonstone…  The panelists, your Chief CP included, still hold out hope for this theory in the end, though events of the season make us question whether the hope we have is that of the fool.

13) House Bolton is out of the Game of Thrones with the death of Ramsey.  Will Euron Greyjoy and his bid for the Iron Islands and the Iron Throne render him the new sadistic villain of the series, as panelist Rob predicts?

ANSWER: Euron turns out to be a B-villain at best.  Though his strongest gambit for the Throne is to propose marriage to Cersei, she is unimpressed and rejects his proposal.  He then attacks the Sand Snakes and their forces, thereafter bringing his queen two surviving Snakes of the original four: Ellaria (Indira Varma) and one of her daughters.  Cersei subsequently exacts ruthless revenge against Ellaria by poisoning her remaining daughter with the same substance used by Ellaria to eliminate Cersei’s daughter Myrcella.  She then leaves Ellaria alive, in chains, to watch her daughter die and decompose until she wastes away herself.  Despite this poetic but stone cold revenge, Cersei still does not acquiesce to Euron’s questionable charms, and when the madder Greyjoy learns of the approach of the White Walkers, he kind of flees back to the Iron Islands, only to encounter a feistier Theon (Alfie Allen) and sister Yara, who Theon rescues from Euron’s clutches.  The panel, though, groans when discussing this House and wonders how much we should still care.  Seriously, they are kind of tedious.

14) Where is Jon’s direwolf Ghost and Arya’s direwolf Nymeria?  Will they survive the series?

ANSWER: We have not seen Ghost this season, though we presume he is kicking it, direwolf-style, in Winterfell while Jon is off meeting and eventually romancing (secret aunt) Dany.  Arya reunites briefly with Nymeria, but her direwolf has grown wild, independent, and has taken on a new life as leader of a roaming wolf pack.  Arya, talking with her former companion, realizes that she and Nymeria are leading the same existence, as the youngest Stark daughter has also grown wild, independent, and leads her own new life, filled with super Many Faced God powers and ninja-like fighting reflexes and skills.  Arya, then, looks on as Nymeria returns to her new life, while Arya grabs hold of her own and heads toward Winterfell.

15) Will the White Walkers breech the Wall next season?

ANSWER: I almost do not want to type this answer!  YES.  Yes, they breech the Wall.  How, you ask?  Well, remember when Jon takes his small party north to go get a wight?  That does not go so well.  They capture a wight, sure, but end up surrounded by the Armies of the Dead, with the Night King looking on from a nearby cliff overhead.  Thoros is wounded and freezes to death.  Gendry is able to (somehow) run away and to (somehow) send the fastest raven in this fantastical world to Dany, who, also in record time, finds Jon and company north of the Wall on the back of her beloved Drogon.  Unfortunately, the trouble is, she also brings the other two dragons, not knowing about the Night King’s considerable javelin-throwing skills, mimicking the best ballista Qyburn can construct.  With zombie power and strength, our favorite blue eyed zombie demon tosses his weapon and pierces the neck of Viserion (the green one, I believe).  Viserion, beloved dragon child of Dany, falls through the ice of the frozen lake that nearly becomes the burial ground – or zombie-making waters – of Jon and his group.  Though Dany manages to save Jon and most of the others, and flies away narrowly unscathed, we watch as Viserion emerges from the ice, A WHITE WALKER DRAGON ZOMBIE WHO SHOOTS BLUE FIRE.  We do not know what this blue fire is.  We do know that it is ultimately capable of – you guessed it – taking out the Wall.  The last shot of the season shows the Armies of the Dead, advancing over the rubble of what was formerly the Wall into the Northern countryside below.  Winter is fricking here, man, and it’s terrifying.  And the Three-Headed Dragon theory?  Well, that fan favorite speculation, and panel favorite too, teeters precariously in the balance.  The panel’s only hope is that Jon, being sort of undead himself what with his previous resurrection and all, might be able to ride Viserion in his current state.  Or, maybe Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven, now much like a zombie himself, will warg into and take control of Viserion’s zombified brain.  WE JUST DON’T KNOW!!  This is the biggest question going into Season Eight: will Viserion be saved?  Or, will he help the Walkers decimate their opposition in their march south?  Or a little of both?  We’re hoping both, though we definitely expect the latter.

16) Is there something in the Wall other than protective magic, as panelist Kristen has theorized?

ANSWER: Unless something comes out of the rubble next season, panelist Kristen’s theory does not so much pan out.  A Wall is, sometimes, just a wall.  Like a Girl is, sometimes, just a Girl.

New Questions

1) The panelists predict 6 to 1 that Cersei will meet her maker next season: will it be Jaime (as we hope) who ultimately ends her life? Will it be Tyrion, though he is not one for getting his hands dirty and though he tries to make amends with his rotten older sister at the end of Season Seven? Or, will it be Arya, wearing the face of Jaime after offing him first and then using the power of the Many Faced God to complete her list?  Or, will it be the alleged baby that Cersei is now purportedly pregnant with, as she informs her brother that it is his, of course, what with all of their twincesting, at the end of the season?  Although, the baby would be her other children’s younger brother, and is that idea really within the purview of the prophecy?  Panelist Kristen also surmises that Cersei could die in childbirth, like her mother; could have a miscarriage; or could end her pregnancy, though the panel determined that neither of these ends really satisfy as much as the first three proposals.  What we know is that we are agreed: Cersei will die.  It’s just a question of when and how.

2) Now that Jon Snow and Dany have fallen in love, not knowing their true relationship – i.e. that Dany is Jon’s secret aunt – will Dany become pregnant with a human baby?  Will that baby be, in fact, the Prince Who Was Promised?  The Song of Ice and Fire?  The Azor Ahai?  The Savior of All?  Will the show finally answer the question of that mystical entity’s identity: Jon, Dany, or the offspring of Ice and Fire, respectively?  How much ice and how much fire does one story possibly need?! (Okay, we agree…a lot, when it’s called A Song of Ice and Fire).

3) The panel universally predicts and agrees that there are two major battles left.  One: fighting to fend off Winter, i.e. the White Walkers.  Two: the fight for the Iron Throne.  Which will come first?  Will the White Walkers be beaten back?  Will the Iron Throne remain standing after all is said and done?

4) Will both Jon and Dany survive the series?  Panelist Rob predicts that Jon will nobly sacrifice himself for the good of all.  The rest of the panel, panelist Amanda most reluctantly, feels that Dany’s tragic death, after all of her struggle to be ruler of Westeros, is the more likely scenario.  We expect her to sacrifice herself for the good of all, including her dragons, her Jon, and her country.  Of course, everyone hopes everyone will survive, but the show already took out a dragon, and after seven seasons, we know that nothing is safe, even as Jon Snow knows nothing.  Still.

5) Will Tyrion survive?  What was with his suspicious look when he saw Jon and Dany enter a room together, making googly eyes at each other, about to do some unbeknownst-to-them incest??  Panelist Kylie predicts that Tyrion will survive and will be the character who provides the end commentary about the future fates of Westeros.

6) Will Sansa end up being Queen in the North?  Will Winterfell survive?  Or, will the Walkers lay waste to the north, resulting in the Starks abandoning their ancestral home, as panelist Jay predicts?  Will Sansa be around to help rebuild?  Or, will she fall in defense of the North that she loves?

7) Will Arya survive?  Will she do something awesome in battle, like take out some White Walkers?  Will she kill Jaime?  Will she kill Cersei?  If she does survive, what will be her life’s purpose, should her vendetta list no longer apply?  Will she at least get to see Jon before too long?  They’re each other’s favorite not-quite-sibling.  It would be nice.

8) Why should we bother or care about House Greyjoy at this point?  Seriously, though, show.  Several panelists, Amanda most of all, predict that Theon and Yara might have some redemption deed to do in one or both of the upcoming battles.  Most of us just find it hard to care more about them than other characters still in the game.

9) Will anyone save Viserion the Dragon?  Will the other dragons, Rhaegal and Drogon, survive?  WILL THERE BE A THREE-HEADED DRAGON RIDING SITUATION IN THE END?  PLEASE?

10) Are the Lannisters, any of them, secretly Targaryen offspring?  Kylie’s money is still on Tyrion, but how would we even know that now?  Would it matter, except for the purpose of fulfilling the Three-Headed Dragon theory, that may or may not come to pass, on account of zombified Viserion flying around the unfriendly skies?

11) Will Bran or Sam finally tell Jon who his real parents are?  And if either of them do, what difference will that information make, other than to prove that Jon has, currently, the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne, given that Rhaegar, his biological father, legitimately but secretly married to Jon’s mother, Lyanna Stark, at the time of his death, was the true heir to the throne prior to Robert’s Rebellion?

12) What is Bran’s ultimate purpose as the Three-Eyed Raven?  Will he be the magic that keeps the White Walkers at bay in the end, as panelist Jay predicts? Will he warg into direwolves or zombie dragons to save the day, as panelist Chelsea predicts?  Where will Bran end up?  Of course, several panelists estimate that he’ll just live out his days creepily telling everyone that he is the Three-Eyed Raven, no matter what happens in this Game of Thrones.

13) Did Tormund Giantsbane, who was on the parapets of the Wall at the time that zombie Viserion blue-fired it into ash, survive this onslaught?  Many of the panel, with the somewhat strong exception of Jay, wish for Tormund and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to have gigantic babies, which necessarily requires that he stay alive.

14) Or, is Brienne finally going to get requited admiration from Jaime, who decides to ride North, away from his selfish sister, when she refuses to form an alliance with Houses Stark and Targaryen to defeat the White Walkers?

15) What will Sam and Gilly do once – and if – they share the information they learned from Oldtown with Jon Snow?

PARTING SHOTS

Game of Thrones continues to be, and is still possibly more than ever, simply one of the most exciting programs on television right now, bolstered by the fact that, when in season, it is one of the primary water cooler shows on television today.  The fact that the show has caught up with and has now surpassed the timeline of the books is admirable in and of itself.  The pacing quickened this season, which left some of the CPU! panelists struggling to adjust to the new sense of time passing, as the story revved up toward its inevitable conclusion in this penultimate season without benefit of book-based foundation.  Yet, nearly all of the episodes remained fraught with tension and grand spectacle, with excellent visual effects, stellar writing, and some of the most superb acting currently on the small screen.  The panelists, again with mostly positive regard of Season Seven, remain generally quite obsessed with the show and its current trajectory and are quivering with anticipation as we await, anxiously and for an extra long time, the show’s final six extra long episodes, slated to premiere in 2019.  As always, the panelists discuss many theories and observations in this podcast episode, but all are unequivocally excited for the final eighth season and to watch the end of this epic tale unfold!

LOOKING AHEAD

Game of Thrones was renewed for an eighth and final season, which is not slated to premiere on HBO until 2019; a premiere date has not yet, in fact, been announced. The CPU! Game of Thrones podcast panel will next reconvene following the eighth season and overall series finale of GoT with a two-part goodbye series of podcast episodes. The first of these episodes will review the show’s final season; the second will look back at the show as a whole.  As always, even for the limited amount of time remaining, CPU! will keep you informed of news and additional Thrones coverage.  Until then, Game of Thrones fans, remember: you play, or you die.

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler & Streaming Originals: “Fuller House” – Season Three, the Full/er House Panel’s Review and Recap (Full/er House Series, Episode Four; MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Kristen

THE SPECS:

Who: “Fuller House,”an American family situation comedy and sequel to Full House, airing on the Netflix streaming service as an original series, which means, for the record, that it is available to Netflix subscribers exclusively, as it is Netflix produced original content.

What:  The series centers around DJ Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure), a veterinarian and widowed mother of three sons, whose sister and best friend—the mother to a teenage daughter—provide support in her sons’ upbringings by moving in with her and into DJ and her sister’s childhood home.

SYNOPSIS

After the sudden death of DJ Tanner-Fuller’s (Bure) husband, Tommy, who was fulfilling his hazardous duties as a firefighter, DJ accepts the help of her sister, Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), and her best friend, Kimmy (Andrea Barber), as they move in to take part in raising DJ’s three sons: 13-year-old Jackson (Michael Campion), 7-year-old Max (Elias Harger), and baby Tommy Jr. (Dashiell and Fox Messitt). Kimmy’s teenage daughter, Ramona (Soni Nicole Bringas), also moves in with DJ, Stephanie, Kimmy, and DJ’s children.  Most of the Full House ensemble cast reprise their roles on Fuller House, either as regular cast members or in guest appearances, with the exception of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who alternated in the role of Michelle Tanner on Full House.

When: Season Three was released to streaming service Netflix in two parts: nine episodes on September 22, 2017, and nine episodes on December 22, 2017, with a combined grand total of eighteen episodes on the season.

Where: The show is set in San Francisco, California.

Why: Listen to the podcast series for the panelists’ individual stories on how they found Fuller House.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

So many CPU! regulars, including frequent CPU! contributor and panelist Kristen, love Full House and were particular excited, at least initially, by the Netflix revival of this long dormant sitcom, creating a brand new chapter for the series, which the streaming channel calls Fuller House. In fact, Kristen saw an opportunity for a new CPU! podcast series in which CPU! panelists look back at the program that started it all while looking forward “around the water cooler” as new seasons of the reboot are released. Thus, herein we offer the fourth episode of our series covering the various versions of this sitcom, which we at CPU! are calling our “Full/er House” series.  Listen to our previous episodes in this series, in which we Look Back at Full House and review and recap previous seasons of Fuller House, via embedded links below:

Full/er House Series, Episode One: Looking Back at “Full House”

Full/er House Series, Episode Two: “Fuller House,” Season One

Full/er House Series, Episode Three: “Fuller House,” Season Two

In addition, lacking the ability to fully appreciate Full House (and Fuller House) age-wise by a few years, the Chief CP steps aside from the moderating microphone once again, so that Kristen may serve as main moderator with the kind of enthusiasm this juggernaut of nostalgia deserves. Kristen is, in turn, rejoined by her fellow series panelists – however, sharks are beginning to circle this intrepid panel, as former panelists Amie and Jenn departed this group, deeming the series no longer watchable or a priority in their television-watching schedules – which does not bode well for our series or for Fuller House, in general.  On the other hand, panelists Andrew and Leslie proved game to return for this fourth episode of our “Full/er House” series, in which we discuss our favorite and least favorite moments from the third season of the reboot.  In sum, the panel generally felt that Season Three was a vast deterioration from previous seasons, as remaining panelists cite many more low-lights than high from this expanded, two-part, anniversary year set of episodes (the original series pilot aired on September 22, 1987; thirty years ago).  Take a listen to the podcast episode if you have watched the full season and gauge whether you agree or disagree.

This podcast was recorded in April 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover major plot points and comedic situations portrayed in the third season of Fuller House. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our Game of Thrones panel FINALLY returns to the Water Cooler after over a year’s hiatus to gush (mostly) about the penultimate Season 7 of the HBO fantasy/ratings/water cooler juggernaut.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Will Michelle, aka Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, ever return to the show? (And why are they so snooty about it…it launched their careers, and the ability they had to start alleged fashion empire?)

ANSWER: Still a question, likely with a “no” answer, even as our panelists remain twelve percent hopeful. Yet, our panelists report that, at least, the show does not continue the off-putting jokes addressed to a broken fourth wall to call out the twins’ (and Michelle’s) absence.

2) Will we see any of Michelle’s friends?

ANSWER: Still a question, but without Michelle, why would anyone care about her friends?

3) Will the show tackle any issues, like teen suicide, LGBT+ acceptance, or other contemporary hot button issues in the future?

ANSWER: The show tackles surrogacy this season, as Stephanie (Sweetin) explores options for having children.  Kimmy (Barber) volunteers to be her surrogate, and the “baby daddy” and “sperm donor” is Kimmy’s brother Jimmy (Adam Hagenbuch).  The panel generally praised this story line as the best on the season because it was the most real.

4) Why did DJ become annoying, according to the panel?

ANSWER: I am not sure the panel sees an answer or even still considers this a question.  They described the DJ character as “weird” this season, as the general campy atmosphere of the show seemed to be in a caricature-laden overdrive state in Season Three, as noted by panelist Andrew.

5) Will New Kids on the Block return every season?

ANSWER: They do not return this season.  So, no.

6) Will we see any other past characters, like Vicki, Danny’s former girlfriend?  For that matter, will we ever see the character’s actual wife again?

ANSWER: Vicki (Gayle Edwards) returns!  Apparently.  And Danny’s (Bob Saget) marriage seems to be on the rocks.  Do that math, and the answer probably lurks in algebra step 2.

7) Will DJ end up with either Matt (Josh Brotherton) or Steve (Scott Weinger)?

ANSWER: It looks like Steve is going for a third try with his on again/off again soulmate.  Maybe the third try will be the charm.

New Questions

1) Will Stephanie and Jimmy get engaged?

2) Will everyone REALLY be moving back into the house – Danny, Jesse (John Stamos), Becky (Lori Loughlin), Joey (Dave Coulier), and all of their various offspring included?  Will everyone REALLY be shuffled back into their old quarters in this San Francisco house that seems to become more like a TARDIS as time passes (it’s bigger on the inside)?

3) Will DJ and Steve finally stick?

4) Why are the Gibblers so weird?

5) Since there were three viable embryos from Stephanie’s surrogacy journey, will Kimmy be bearing multiple children for her?

6) Will the show get better?  The panel feels that it fell far this year…what do you think, listener?  And if you want to join our panel, contact us – we have three openings currently. 🙂

PARTING SHOTS

Fuller House is much more cautiously – and more reticently – recommended by the Full/er House panel; to the extent that they do recommend the show, they do so mainly for the nostalgic appeal and “turn your brain off” level of entertainment resulting from the perennially saccharine premise of this well-loved cast and the tongue-in-cheek presentation of its “aw, shucks” humor. Most of the panelists would hesitate to recommend the show to anyone who has not seen the original Full House series, though the panelists also believe that the core audience of Fuller House has been established and will likely not grow, given the show’s specific oeuvre and vastly uneven quality.  In fact, the remaining panelists were much less impressed by the longer, divided third season, and with a change in show runners coming due to the discharge of original creator (of both Full House and Fuller House) Jeff Franklin, they question the long-term viability of the sequel.  Still, our panelists estimate that a better environment on set will improve the product, which was described as “shaky,” “painful,” and “cringe-worthy” at various points during the panel’s discussion.  They also feel that this sequel series and its ham and cheese on rye quality of humor remains easily binged and easily digested, with minimal heartburn or regret, even given its less well-received moments. As such, our panelists hope for an improved season four but are hard pressed to see a potential measure of recovery after the so-called “mess” of this third season.

LOOKING AHEAD

Netflix renewed Fuller House for a fourth season of thirteen episodes, though no release date has yet been announced by the streaming service giant.  CPU!’s next Full/er House episode, which will focus on this fourth seasonwill likely record and publish some time after the fourth season drops.  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the blog, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes in the Full/er House podcast series as well as of new episodes for all of our podcast panels!  And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review (give us stars – many of them!). Thank you!🙂

PODCAST! – Streaming Originals & Around the Water Cooler: “Grace and Frankie” – Recapping Seasons 3 and 4; Part Two of CPU!’s “Catching Up on Grace and Frankie” Miniseries (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Grace and Frankie” is a comedy-drama web television and Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.

What:  “Grace and Frankie,” created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris, stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the title roles of Grace and Frankie, two unlikely friends who are brought together after their husbands announce that they are in love and plan to get married. Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, and Baron Vaughn co-star in supporting roles.

SYNOPSIS

The series follows Grace (Fonda), a retired cosmetics mogul, and Frankie (Tomlin), a hippie art teacher, whose husbands, Robert (Sheen) and Sol (Waterston), are successful divorce lawyers in San Diego.  Grace and Frankie’s lives are turned upside down when Robert and Sol announce that they are in love with each other and are leaving their wives. Now, the women, who have never particularly liked each other, are forced to live together and must learn to unite and to cope with difficulties in their new lives as 70-something divorcees.

When: The third season of the series was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on March 24, 2017, and the fourth season was released in its entirety to Netflix on January 19, 2018, each with a total of thirteen episodes.

Where: The action is set primarily in San Diego, California, and surrounding communities.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

To listen to Part One of this miniseries, covering the first two seasons of Grace and Frankie, click on the link embedded below:

Grace and Frankie, Seasons 1 and 2

By popular request, though notably by frequent CPU! panelists and viewers unlikely to be in the intended target audience for this quirky comedy-drama, Grace and Frankie has become a new show panel at the CPU! Water Cooler. Tonight’s episode is the second part of a two-part miniseries in which CPU! gets caught up on this show, which premiered on Netflix in 2015.

Ultimately, our requesting CPU! faithful continue to regard Grace and Frankie as a charming comedy about growing old gracefully – but also about growing up gracefully – in these, our modern times.  In this episode, our panelists – Kristen, Krista, Amie, and Samantha – reflect on and recap the third and fourth seasons of Grace and Frankie, reacting to the growing cadre of quirky characters and the seemingly impossible situations in which they find themselves.  From new loves to new heartaches, from death to birth, from yam lube to vibrators, our panel reacts to it all.

This episode was recorded in March 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the third and fourth seasons. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our The 100 panel returns to the Water Cooler, though, unfortunately for fans of the show, not with good news, as CPU! launches the pilot episode of its “Shark Jumpers Anonymous” series.  What does it mean if a show is featured as part of that series?  Well…we’ll leave you to guess for now, but the title reference…’tis no good, people, ’tis no good.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) Did Nick (Peter Gallagher) buy the beach house?  If he did not buy the beach house, who did?
2) Will Grace and Frankie get the beach house back?
3) What will the fallout be with the kids, since they all conspired against the women, their mothers?  What was Robert and Sol’s reaction – or what will it be – when they found/find out?
4) Where did Nick go?  Does he know that Grace checked into a retirement community?
5) Will Brianna save Say Grace and gain some of her mother’s approval, as panelist Krista predicts?

6) Will Jacob (Ernie Hudson) return to Frankie somehow, as many of the panelists hope

7) Why does Mallory continue to allow Coyote to park his tiny home in front of her house?  Will Mallory and Coyote couple up?  Will the show offer up more back story for this troubled pair other than Coyote’s drunken blackout night?

8) What will RuPaul’s new character, who panelist Kristen describes in the episode, mean to the story next season?

RECOMMENDATION

Grace and Frankie is recommended overall by our CPU! panel to fans of the actors in the cast, particularly of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston, and to people who sincerely like to laugh.  Some of the panel cautions, however, that with frank discussion about lube (and later vibrators) as well as some salty language coming from these septuagenarians, not every potential viewer might find the show funny or be copacetic with the vernacular utilized therein.   Also, the panel generally praises the comedic performances of the four main actors and the writing while agreeing that there are better episodes than others; in fact, the panel voices a variety of reactions to the supporting characters, namely the four actors playing the grown up children of the couples in question.  It’s important to note, though, that the panel almost universally believed that the show improves each season, meaning that the third and fourth seasons were considered better than the first two.  In any event, our panel universally had great fun watching this series and believes that most with an open sense of humor will have fun watching it too.

LOOKING AHEAD

Netflix released the fourth season of Grace and Frankie on January 19, 2018, and has renewed the show for a fifth season, though no tentative release date has yet been announced by the streaming giant.  Most pundits expect the show to return in 2019, in keeping with its traditional once per year release pattern, which is when our CPU! Grace and Frankie panel will also, most likely, return to the Water Cooler for the purpose of chatting about Season Five.  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the website, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes regarding Grace and Frankie as well as new episodes for all of our podcast panels!  And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review.  Thank you! 🙂

PODCAST! – Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks & Around the Water Cooler: “The Good Place,” Recapping Seasons One and Two (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Good Place” is a fantasy comedy series, which currently airs on NBC, fall/winter Thursdays at 8:30 PM.

What: “The Good Place,” created by Michael Schur, focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is introduced by Michael (Ted Danson) to “The Good Place,” a Heaven-like utopia he designed, in reward for her righteous life.  She realizes that she was sent there by mistake; as a result, she must hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto co-star as other residents of “The Good Place,” while D’Arcy Carden plays Janet, an artificial being helping the inhabitants of the place in question.

When: Season One aired from September 19, 2016, to January 19, 2017, while Season Two aired from September 20, 2017, to February 1, 2018, on NBC.

Where: The action is set in the fictional Good Place and other times in the fictional Bad Place and yet other times in the fictional Medium Place.  All Places are construed to be in the afterlife – except when the action is not in the afterlife. To explain anymore than that here, however, would invite MAJOR SPOILERS!

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!

As for CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie, I picked up this show when shopping for pilots during the 2016-2017 TV season (a yearly ritual for this viewer and this blog, no matter how far behind I am).  I said:

“On the strength of the trailer, and the fact that Veronica Mars/Ana from Frozen is playing the lead with Kristen Bell’s best comedic timing, I think anyone would be remiss to pass on this new sitcom.  The premise is unique, casting Ted Danson as the ‘Good Place’s’ resident bureaucrat is inspired, and frankly, I had to stifle laughter every few seconds as I sat awkwardly in a public waiting room watching the trailer. The substitute uses for various curse words as delivered by Bell warrant the look-see alone…”

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

The Good Place = 4.7, by average of the podcast panel.  

SYNOPSIS

After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) is welcomed into the afterlife by Michael (Danson), the facilitator and architect of Eleanor’s new neighborhood in a “perfect utopia” called the “Good Place.” When Michael tells Eleanor that she made it into The Good Place as reward for her life of selfless devotion to helping others, she realizes she must have been mistaken for someone else. She also learns that each person in The Good Place has a soulmate with whom s/he is matched and (accordingly) with whom s/he will live for eternity.

Hoping to stay in the Good Place, Eleanor confesses her plight to her assigned soulmate, Chidi Anagonye (Harper), a university ethics professor.  Despite the moral quandary doing so presents to someone specializing in ethics, he agrees to teach Eleanor to become a better person, so she might earn her apparently mistaken spot in utopia. She also interacts closely with her neighbors: Tahani Al-Jamil (Jamil), a wealthy philanthropist who raised billions through charities in life, and Tahani’s soulmate, Jianyu Li (Jacinto), seemingly a silent Buddhist monk from Taiwan, who turns out to be a dimwitted DJ from Florida named Jason Mendoza. Michael and the Good Place inhabitants are further assisted by Janet (Carden), an artificial being in charge of helping and informing them.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Do you follow our CPU! social media accounts?  Did you ever see a posting or advertisement for panelists at large to join this panel?  No, you didn’t.  That may be because The Good Place was a runaway hit with the CPU! core and a few close friends and family; apparently, many united couch potatoes consider this show to be forking fantastic.  Thus, this panel quickly filled to supersized proportions.

Why, you might ask?  Well, I might answer.  Common reactions describe the show as hilarious, original, smart, well-written, well-directed, well-performed…you get the drift.  In other words, many CPU! faithful think that The Good Place is one of the freshest comedies to hit the airwaves in years, especially and particularly on network TV and, especially and particularly, on the Peacock network, which has long been struggling to regain some of its “Must See” reign of yesteryear and yore but is giving a good go of it with this heady, philosophical comedy.  Plus, with this seemingly popular appeal, our panel grew to be comprised of a variety of voices, starting with four frequent panelists, including Kristen, the reigning panel champ; Michael, who typically delights in our Looking Back series and a few Stranger Things; Kelsey, who weathers many of our Supernatural and Unfortunate Events; and Selene, who brings her unique feminist perspective to panels for Person of Interest, The 100, and Marvel’s Agent Carter.  The panel also features two brand new voices, Joey and Gabe, who we are excited to welcome to the CPU! fold!

What’s more, this panel spent most of the chat gushing about this series’ first two seasons. In fact, there was little bad or negative to say apart from nitpicks of a typically individual and personal type among each panelist.  Everyone universally agreed that the creator and show-runner has produced something totally new, totally kick-ash awesome, at the top of its comedic game, and accessible to most everyone despite its heady premise, all while avoiding the typical tendency of pandering to a larger audience by muting or undercutting the intelligence of the premise and of the situations in which the characters find themselves.  To wit, if you are part of The Good Place fan club, this discussion will only serve to validate your adoration for this decidedly traction-gaining cult hit.  With all this said, have I convinced you (yet) to listen via the embedded link below?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, we offer the first of a new, two-part miniseries featuring a brand new panel around the CPU! Water Cooler, as we begin ongoing coverage of Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie.  In our first episode of this miniseries, we will recap Seasons 1 and 2 in an effort to catch up to the current season.  Stay tuned!

Questions Going Forward

1) Is the soulmate construct a fake representation of a concept, i.e. soulmates, that is not real or does not exist?  Or, did Michael, as architect of this purported torture chamber, merely build in the soulmate aspect incidentally, as a mere device, missing the point of soulmates entirely – in other words, “getting it wrong?”  Is the show advocating that soulmates are real and/or something worthy of considering as possible, or is the show presenting a cynical view of “soulmate” love, platonic or otherwise, by inferring that soulmates are something made up, whether by Michael, by someone or something like him, and/or by the rest of us?

2) Are the four main characters apart from Michael and Janet – Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason – really members of a “soul cluster,” i.e. four so-called soulmates who cannot exist apart from the others and hope to be better people because they, whether fatalistically or not, happen to make each other better naturally, as panelist Michael advocates?

3) Why is Chidi’s paralyzing inability to make a decision worthy of him being sent to the Bad Place?

4) Is the show advocating Eleanor as its “moral center?”  Michael comes to the conclusion that the afterlife determination system is flawed based upon the four main characters’ personal growth, especially Eleanor’s, even as Eleanor struggles to maintain that growth in the second season finale.  Where will Eleanor land in the end? Will she ever be “Real Good Place” worthy?

5) How will Eleanor and Chidi find Tahani and Jason again, if they do it all, in their brave new world?  How quickly?

6) Where will Michael and Janet end up, Good or Bad Place, particularly since Demon Michael seems to have attained some positive personal, and somewhat human, improvement, and since Good Janet, given Michael’s 802 reboots of his construct and of her stolen self, is the most advanced version of Janet ever, with her newfound capability of lying, of loving, and of experiencing some human emotions?

7) Will Michael and Judge Gen’s experiment result in the creation of other possible places – such as more Medium Places, where someone bad can improve, as panelist Selene hopes?

8) Will Michael end up becoming a Judge like Gen, as panelist Joey predicts, possibly with Janet as his assistant-friend?

9) Were Eleanor and Chidi actually brought back to life, or are they being run through some sort of test simulation, to gauge the measure of personal growth attainable without the promise of “moral dessert?”  Or, are they in a new construct similar to purgatory, where borderline bad people can try to be good people, as panelists Joey and Kristen surmise?

10) Did Michael’s “torture” plan fail because of Janet, as panelist Gabe guesses?

11) Will the four main characters continue to torture each other without Michael and Janet present, provided that they meet again in their new “near death” version of Earth?  Are Michael and Janet the reason why the characters did not attain further personal growth than they already achieved (or, at least, Janet because we know Michael was trying to torture them for at least some time)?  Is Janet actually a corrupted computer-like matrix, or is she evolved artificial intelligence?

12) If Eleanor finds Chidi, Tahini, and Jason again, how do the latter three escape death in this new version of their world?

13) Is this new version of the world a new Medium Place, as panelist Kristen posits?

14) Who is actually in the real Good Place?  Are there any actual good people, or angels, since there are demons in this universe?  Or, are the alleged good people actually morally complicated, similar to the angels on Supernatural, as panelist Gabe theorizes?

15) Why does watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert qualify for Bad Place entry?  Is it all about the socks?  Give it away, now.

16) Is Michael really a demon?  Where do demons come from on this show?  What is Michael’s back story?  What is boss Shawn’s back story?  Why is the Bad Place largely set in an office?  Is this a reference to The Office, for which Michael Schur wrote and on which he also appeared (as Dwight’s cousin Mose)?

RECOMMENDATION

The Good Place is universally, effusively, and glowingly recommended by all seven panelists, your main moderator included, because of its original, quality premise; complex, layered writing; stellar performances; and fresh take on an intellectual concept that does not meander into trope-filled, didactic territory, despite its meditation on moral and ethical principles and philosophy.  One panelist compared the humor of this show to cult favorite Better Off Ted, less the cynicism of that particular workplace satire.  The panelists note that each available season is tightly constructed, with rapid-fire pacing, superior wit, enticing and engaging cliffhangers for episode endings, and a refreshing lack of filler episodes.  Several panelists described this show as easy to recommend, easy to binge-watch, and easy to which to become addicted, even as the premise is “hard to explain.”  The panelists further praise the program’s ability to intellectually challenge the viewer while remaining both accessible and hilarious high-concept comedy; in fact, several panel members deem the show as having significant re-watch value, based upon personal experience (already!).  In fact, the entire panel basically recommends The Good Place to anyone, anywhere, with a hearty “Just watch it!” as the overall recommendation refrain.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

The Good Place was renewed for a third season by NBC and is tentatively expected to return in fall 2018.  Currently, Season One is available to stream fully on Netflix, while the five most recently aired episodes of the show are available on Hulu and on NBC’s streaming app and website.  In the meantime, the CPU! Good Place panel will return to the Water Cooler following the airing of the Season Three finale. Until then – stay tuned!

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Once Upon a Time” – The Season 7 Mid-Season Recap and Progress Report (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Image result for once upon a time season 7 title
Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Once Upon a Time” airs on network TV, specifically on ABC, fall/winter/spring Fridays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Once Upon a Time,” a fantasy drama wherein storybook and fairy tale characters are not only real but are living in this world, away from their enchanted kingdoms and worlds beyond reality, and how they all interrelate (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/once_upon_a_time/summary.html).

When: The Season 7 premiere aired on Friday, October 6, 2017, at 8:00 PM on ABC.

Where: The show, in this season, engages in a “soft reboot” of its story premise and is (currently) set in Hyperion Heights, a fictional neighborhood deep within the heart of very real Seattle, Washington, as well as in “The Enchanted Forest,” the fairy tale kingdom from where most of the main characters originate. The action takes place primarily in present day, though there are flashbacks to the characters’ past lives and events.

Why: Two primary reasons: one, Chief Couch Potato Kylie loves fantasy and fairy tales, and the Disney network green-lit a live action serial television program about fairy tale characters that they would probably own the rights to, if the characters weren’t already public domain. Two, the creators are Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, two of the head writers of Lost. Whatever else may be said about the latter program, I don’t think anyone could argue that Lost wasn’t well written. All of our panel of enthusiastic Once fans finds love for this program via one or both of those reasons themselves.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

To catch up on prior Once podcast episodes, click on the links embedded below:

Season 4A – Frozen

Season 4B – Queens of Darkness
Season 5A – Dark Swan
Season 5B – The Underworld
Season 6A
Season 6B
Our now bonded and totally cohesive and still full Once panel – namely Kristen, Eddie, Amie, Emily, and Micah – reconvene (ish) around the Water Cooler “once” again to discuss Season 7A of OUAT, in which we digest the much ballyhooed, so-called “soft reboot” of Season 7.  Unfortunately, because this also happens to be the episode that was being processed for publishing at the time of our now legendary equipment failure, this is a re-recording, using, for the first time, an all online format!  What’s more, because panelist Eddie could not make the scheduled recording but still wanted to provide his opinions (because, as regular listeners of this series know, he’s Eddie!), we recorded him separately. So, of course, CPU! and your Chief CP sprung “Newlywed” type hi-jinks on our panel. Because that’s what we do with passionate panelists otherwise separated by time, space, and lives behind the podcast.  In the meantime, the new season presents all new characters and holds over only four characters with whom we have grown acquainted and grown to love over the first six seasons.  The rest of the original cast departed but for agreed upon one-off appearances in this season’s first half.  What does it all mean for Once Upon a Time and for our panel? Is everyone still watching, despite the fact that Once seems to have become something of a whole new show, with a whole new storybook, under the umbrella of the old title?  Or, has anyone jumped the shark in lieu of all of this unprecedented change?  Listen to our newest chapter of CPU!’s ongoing Once Upon a Time podcast, during which we reflect on Season 7A and ruminate on the possibilities swirling around the #potential (#drink) of the current season.  Do you agree with us? Or, do you have your own thoughts? Comment below!

This podcast was (re)recorded in March 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the first half of the seventh season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next week, we will be publishing another re-run as we gear up for recording (and re-recording) more new episodes; the episode to be re-run will be our prior coverage of the first season of Stranger Things.  Also, we will be publishing our quarterly progress report covering new shows of the 2017-2018 season, now that February ratings sweeps have come and gone.  In the following week, a new panel will, schedule permitting, launch a new ongoing series covering existentially philosophical NBC sitcom The Good Place.  Don’t miss it!  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
Old Questions
1) REPEAT QUESTION: Is baby Neal magical like his sister? (This question will remain until answered!)
SLIGHTLY NEW ANSWER: At this time, baby Neal’s “specialness,” if it exists, is still unknown.  Also, we presume baby Neal is no longer a baby by the time we see old characters settled into various new identities in this seventh season.
2) REPEAT QUESTION: How did Will Scarlett (Michael Socha), aka the Knave from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, end up in Storybrooke and without Anastasia (Emma Rigby), the former Red Queen? And how did he and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) decide to hook up? (This question will remain until answered!)
SLIGHTLY NEW ANSWER: Will Scarlett is gone.  Where he went is anyone’s guess.  Why he was even brought to the flagship show with so little explanation for his coming and going is the bigger mystery, though panelist Micah now theorizes that, perhaps, Will Scarlett visited Storybrooke before he ended up in Wonderland.  The bigger issue is that the writers/producers failed to truly spell that out in a way that satisfies.
3) REPEAT QUESTION: Where did Maleficient (Kristen Bauer von Straten) go? Will we see more of her? Will she reconnect with her daughter Lily in a more meaningful way? (This question will remain until answered!)
SLIGHTLY NEW ANSWER: Like Will Scarlett, Maleficient and Lily have both disappeared without a trace or explanation.  Though this new coven being teased could foretell the arrival of certain witchy personalities within the Disney universe and from prior Once episodes, and, apart from Snow White’s evil queen, who is the most evil witch of all?
4) REPEAT QUESTION: Will the Once writers/producers provide a better, more detailed explanation for why Will Scarlett was on the flagship series? Will they provide a more significant flashback to explain why he and Anastasia are not together anymore? Would Emma Rigby be available to reprise her role of Anastasia? (This question will remain until answered!)
REPEAT ANSWER: Will Scarlett is gone.  Where or where has Will Scarlett gone?
5) REPEAT QUESTION: Will Maleficient, Lily, August, Will Scarlett, or any of these disappearing characters reappear?  Will their disappearances, at least, be explained? (This question will remain until answered!)
REPEAT ANSWER: Not so far, and it seems irresponsible of the writers.  Maybe they will surprise us in the end.  Where oh where have they all gone?!
6) REPEAT QUESTION: The panelists still want to know where these characters went: Merida, Mulan, Aurora, Philip, Roland (Robin’s son), and other members of the non-Wished Enchanted Forest?
REPEAT ANSWER: Unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown…
7) The producers and show-runners have been releasing various teaser details to foreshadow the “soft reboot” fueling Season 7.  For example, five new actresses were cast to fill mysterious roles, though one of the actresses cast will play Henry’s lover/potential wife and Henry’s daughter Lucy’s mother (we saw Lucy in the sixth season finale), identified to be another version of Cinderella, somehow dissimilar from the Cinderella played by Jessy Schram in earlier seasons.  We also know that one of the new actresses will play Cinderella’s stepmother.  Who are the remaining actresses playing?
ANSWER: The new actresses cast are as follows:
Dania Ramirez as Jacinda aka Cinderella aka Ella
Gabrielle Anwar as Victoria Belfrey aka Lady Tremaine, the Evil Stepmother, aka (SPOILER) Rapunzel
Mekia Cox as Sabine aka Princess/Queen Tiana
Adelaide Kane as Ivy Belfrey aka Drizella, the Evil Stepsister
Rose Reynolds as Tilly aka Alice (of Wonderland)
8) How does Adult Henry (Andrew J. West) end up in the Enchanted Forest (or something like it…and what is it if not the Enchanted Forest) and then back in our realm, beset by amnesia, like his grandparents and Storybrooke friends were when the series started?
ANSWER: Adult Henry, as child/teenager Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), leaves mama Regina (Lana Parilla) to “seek his own story.”  He leaves, on a motorcycle, to go specifically to the Enchanted Forest for that story, and he accesses the realm of his ancestors via magic bean and, presumably, a motorcycle powered by a magically-never-empty gas tank (since we presume petrol does not exist in any version of the Enchanted Forest).  As for how Adult Henry returns to this realm – how else? By the casting of an evil curse.  For the record, it’s not his fault.
9) How will the show explain away the new Cinderella, given that this character was previously introduced, played by a different actress and well acquainted to the Snow White character?
ANSWER: By not explaining at all, apparently.  This will remain a question until answered, but, for now, the show is asking us to buy that there is more than one Cinderella – as well as more than one Alice of Wonderland, Anastasia of Evil Stepsister fame, and Jack of the Beanstalk fame – out there, and that all versions of these duplicated characters originated from the Enchanted Forest.  Your guess is as good as ours as to how this would be possible, even in the impossible world of OUAT.
10) Will Emma die, given that Jennifer Morrison is slated to appear in only one episode next season?
ANSWER: Emma survives.  In fact, she is pregnant again, with hubby Hook’s (Colin O’Donaghue) baby.  Listen to the podcast for details.
11) A teaser trailer shows Captain Hook wearing a police uniform, Regina standing in a bar, and Rumpel (Robert Carlyle) in unknown climes.  How do they get where they are going?  What is the back story for this time jump?
ANSWER: The time jump is explained twofold – Henry grows up while looking for his story, while Rumpel spends some time in the Edge of Realms, where time does not move at the same pace as in other realms.  Regina becomes bartender Roni, Captain Hook becomes Detective Rogers, and Rumpel becomes Detective Weaver in the newly formed mystical neighborhood of Hyperion Heights, wrought once again by an evil, memory-affecting curse.
12) Is Henry the new Savior?  Lucy (Alison Fernandez) says in the final seconds of the Season 6 finale that he has to save his family – to whom is she specifically referring?
ANSWER: While Henry has not been officially promoted to “Savior” status, like his bio mom Emma, as of yet, Lucy is referring to the need to save Henry’s wife, Cinderella (or Ella for short); her friend and Lucy’s honorary aunt, Tiana; his mother, Regina; his grandfather, Rumpel; his stepfather (sort of), Hook; and Lucy herself.
13) Will this new season and new version of the show truly be different from what we have been watching?  Or, will there be a rehashing of story lines and/or a recycling of plot points, only applied to new generations and/or new characters?
ANSWER: More the latter than the former.  Listen to the podcast episode for extensive discussion on this question.
14) Will we see any of the departing characters (besides Emma) with any sort of regularity or frequency, or is everyone leaving and gone?  How will they explain the departures and absences of so many of the main characters?
ANSWER: Zelena (Rebecca Mader) returns, possibly for a multi-episode arc but not until near the mid-season finale.  Belle (Emilie de Ravin) returns for one episode, where we see her live her life fully with Rumpel in the Edge of Realms.  She grows old and dies of old age, while Rumpel, age eternal because of his status as Dark One, seeks to end his immortality and bequeath the Dark One essence to the “Guardian,” whomever that might be (and we do not know yet who or what it is) in order to find his love in death.  We also see the appearance of Mr. Smee, but that is because this version of Hook, the Wish Realm version, made young again through magic, transfers ownership of the Jolly Roger to him when faced with the prospect of caring for his newborn baby daughter, Alice, also daughter of Mother Gothel (Emma Booth).  Otherwise, the show has provided no other insights into the characters that have left at this time.  Listen to the podcast episode for details.
15) Will we see an older Neal, who, as Emma’s brother, would be Henry’s uncle and Lucy’s great-uncle? If so, when, where, and how?
ANSWER: So far, no Neal appears.  The panel votes for an appearance, though.  We would also like to meet Henry’s new sibling.  The show may now be forced to bring about such happy endings, though…since it was announced that Season 7 would Once’s final season.
16) Will we see an older Gideon, who, as Baelfire’s brother, would be Henry’s uncle and Lucy’s great-uncle? If so, when, where, and how?
ANSWER: Older Gideon does return to visit his parents in the Edge of Realms and to help his father following the death of his mother.  This family lives a long and happy life there, and Older Gideon seeks to be learned in books and magic like his parents, so he eventually leaves to find his story too.
17) Will Rumpel still be the Dark One?
ANSWER: So far, though he is trying to change his circumstances in light of Belle’s passing, Rumpel is still the Dark One.
18) Will we see any of the long missing characters, or get any explanations for their whereabouts, in the new season (the ones listed in questions 1-5 above)?
ANSWER: So far, we do not see any of these characters or receive any such explanations.  While there might be opportunities for reappearances later this season, based upon the story progress, we also predict that the show’s writers/producers are just going to leave us hanging, as their collective track record up until this point is not great.  Not cool, team.  Not cool.
19) Did the propitious moment of Emma’s resurrection also mean that the Evil Queen, as a separate entity, came into being again?
ANSWER: So far, it seems that the Evil Queen, the separate entity who split from Regina Prime in Season 6, remains no longer in existence, owing to her sacrifice in Season 6, at least as of the present day point in the story.  On the other hand, Wish Realm Hook is visited by an Evil Queen, who we presume to be the Evil Queen that used to be with Regina Prime, who then became the Wish Realm Evil Queen.  Believe us, it’s confusing just typing this stuff.
20) Will Emma and Hook have or be able to have other children?  Are they even interested in new children?
ANSWER: Emma is with child as we speak.  Hooray for Happy Beginnings!
21) Who will be the villain(s) of Season 7?
ANSWER: At the start of the season, viewers are led to believe that Cinderella’s Stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is the villain of all villains in this soft reboot.  Through a twist, however, we then are convinced that her daughter Ivy, bent on revenge and spurred by a seeming lack of love on the part of her mother, could be the season’s mastermind.  In the end, though, the manipulator of all is Rapunzel’s Witch, namely Mother Gothel, posing as Eloise Gardner in The Land Without Magic.  She seeks to unite a Coven of Eight mysterious witches and does so through the exploitation of family rifts seeded by Lady Tremaine, who turns out to be the famous Rapunzel herself.  Listen to the podcast for details.
22) Where did the rest of Storybrooke go?  Is the town still there?  Are Dr. Hopper and Granny and the Seven Dwarfs still around?
ANSWER: Where or where did Storybrooke go?  We presume it’s still there, but we have seen no one specifically from Storybrooke around as of late, except all characters previously mentioned or cited above.
New Questions
1)  Who or what is “the Guardian,” to which Rumpel wants to pass the Dark One dagger and essence?  What is the Guardian guarding?  Is it Lucy?  Is it Rapunzel’s eldest daughter Anastasia?  Is it someone we know?  Is it something or someone we don’t know?
2) How do Drizella and Anastasia have magic in this version?  How does Rapunzel/Tremaine manifest magic?
3) Does Drizella truly love Adult Henry?  Or, was she just using him the whole time?
4) Will Alice encounter her mother, Mother Gothel?  Does Alice have magical powers like her mother?  Why is Alice cursed?  Did Mother Gothel curse Alice?  How is it that Alice occasionally awakens from her curse?  Someone explain Alice.
5) What is the timeline surrounding Wish Realm’s Hook procurement of the white elephant protection charm from Rumpel – and was that Rumpel Wish Realm Rumpel or Rumpel Prime?
6) Who are the Eight Witches or the Coven of Eight?  Are they real?  What is their purpose?  What are they trying to do?  Is Maleficent one of the witches?  Is Regina?  Is Zelena?  Is Emma?  Is Snow White/Prince Charming?  Are the Wish Realm versions of any of these characters eligible for membership?  Is there one?  Is there a “superior?”  Is that person Mother Gothel?  Is it Anastasia?  Is it Regina?
7) Will all of the characters survive?  If not, who will die?
8) What realm is this show’s Dr. Facilier from?  Is he from the Underworld?
9) Will the season – and now the series, as it was announced by ABC and by the creators that Once Upon a Time is ending after this season – end with the breaking of the newest curse?
10) Where is Mother Gothel from? What is her back story? Is she driven by vendetta?  Against whom? What are her motivations?
11) Did Drizella actually cast the curse against Alice/Tilly?  Why?
12) To whom is Zelena engaged?  Do we know her fiance and husband to be?
13) How does Henry’s motorcycle run in the Enchanted Forest?  Where are the gas stations in the Enchanted Forest?  How does Cinderella II learn to operate it so fast – is she really Anakin Skywalker?
14) Why are there duplicate versions of various characters, including Cinderella, her step-sisters, Alice (of Wonderland fame), Jack (of beanstalk fame), and so on?  How are all of the different versions from the same Enchanted Forest?  The panel universally agrees that the writers better take some time to explain this plot point beyond “there are different versions of the same story” because we do not understand how different versions can coexist within the same story.
15) Will the curse placed upon Henry and Lucy be broken?  How?  Is Cinderella II really Henry’s true love?  How?
16) The producers have teased potential returns of original characters in possible reunions convened in advance of the series finale.  Which characters will we revisit?  Will Jennifer Morrison aka Emma Swan ordain to exceed her contractually obligated one episode appearance and give a nice second episode sendoff for the fans?
PARTING SHOTS
In this episode, the podcast panelists reached some consensus, despite another wide variety of opinions, about the current progress of Once Upon a Time.  All panelists regard the first half of season seven as a surprisingly engaging soft reboot of the show, despite healthy skepticism from all panelists in advance of said reboot, which was explored in our previous Once episode. The panel still universally agrees, however, and with no hesitation, that #potential (#drink) contentment with the sixth season finale as a series finale episode would have been achieved if the show had officially stopped at the end of that season.  Though some panelists prove utterly won over by the unprecedented soft reboot and continue to foster hope and to devote faith to Once’s seemingly endless reservoir of #potential (#drink), the wariest panelists (your Chief CP included) feel that the producers, network, and parent company have a bumpy road to hoe going forward, now that the series finale has been announced, in order to wrap up not only loose threads from the original six seasons but also nearly all of the seeded plot points of Season Seven. After all, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, and the Once writing team tend to plant seeds without fertilizing them organically, as evidence by their track record on this program thus far.  The entire panel will still be watching, but we believe that lack of network support – particularly in light of a move to a Friday night time slot never before thrust upon this program – numbered this series’ days, effectively dousing long-time strong ratings and quashing any hope of additional season renewals; most panelists, aside from Eddie and Chief CP Kylie, wanted at least one more season.  Unfortunately for them and for the remaining longevity of the once-upon-a-time CPU! favorite, Once Upon a Time, the next half season will be the show’s last and will be the subject of a final two episodes for our (currently) longest running panel.
LOOKING AHEAD
Once Upon a Time returned from its mid-season seven hiatus on Friday, March 2, 2018, at 8:00 PM. In February 2018, however, OUAT was officially canceled by ABC.  As such,  the Once Upon a Time podcast panel will next reconvene – for the final time – following the seventh season and overall series finale of OUAT, which will likely air in or around May 2018, with a two-part goodbye series of podcast episodes.  The first of these episodes will review the show’s final half season; the second will look back at the show as a whole.   As always, even for the limited amount of time remaining, CPU! will keep you informed of news and additional OUAT coverage.  Until then!  Stay tuned.