Quickie Reviews #20

 

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
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One of the tricky things about fiction dealing with Jedi and Sith is that they tend to feel too powerful when put up against “regular” people. This is a narrow line that Star Wars has walked for decades now, and the old expanded universe novels always handled it well. But now, those books are only considered “legends,” and there’s a whole new set of canon novels. Enter Lords of the Sith, a side story concerning Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine taking place shortly after episode three.

The book deals with the days before the rebels existed, when no one was brave enough to stand up to the Galactic Empire. That is, except the soldiers of the Free Ryloth movement. They’re led by Cham Sundulla, making a comeback after his appearance on the Clone Wars tv show. He hatches a plan to take down a star destroyer orbiting his planet, hoping to also take down Vader and Palpatine in the process. Things obviously don’t go completely to plan, and about half of the book is spent with Cham and his supporters chasing the fleeing Sith on the planet of Ryloth.

Unlike Heir to the Jedi, where we saw everything from Luke’s perspective, Lords of the Sith tells its story through several sets of eyes. We’re given some nice character stuff with Cham as he turns what started as a small militia trying to free their planet into something that could be much more than that. There’s also a good chunk of the book spent dealing with Vader and his newfound apprenticeship with Darth Sidious. The Sith Lord has always been a fairly mysterious character, so it’s cool to see a little more of him in action. No one in the galaxy knows his true powers except Vader and his royal guards, so it’s an interesting dynamic with him constantly testing Vader’s abilities and loyalty.

Where the book falls apart a bit is in establishing the danger of the situation. Obviously, we know that Vader and Palpatine survive the book, so it’s a tricky thing to make us actually believe that something might happen. The problem is, everything Vader does in the book seems easy for him. I never really felt like he was truly challenged, which takes away some of the fun. He takes down starfighters, groups of enemies, and hordes of alien predators all while barely breaking a sweat. This definitely made me feel like the rebels were in over their heads, which I’m sure was part of the point, but it also makes the action feel less interesting. It’s not a bad book, but it also felt a little drawn out considering the story that it was telling.

7.3/10

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 11
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It’s Always Sunny’s most recent season eleven continues season ten’s trend of experimenting with different kinds of episode concepts. There are more than a few episodes that take place completely outside of the bar, and the season ends with an existential two-parter. Unfortunately, it also continues season ten’s trend of just not being as funny as the early seasons. It’s still a great show, and actually gives us one of my new favorite episodes in “Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs,” but some of the jokes are starting to feel a bit stale in general.

I thoroughly applaud the writers taking the show in some new directions and trying new concepts out, it’s just a bit of a mixed bag. There’s an entire episode shot from the first person perspective of Frank, which is a great idea. It just didn’t turn out to be all that funny. I did like “The Gang Hits the Slopes,” which is an obvious homage to 80’s ski movies. Honestly, this makes me yearn for a few more straightforward episodes of the gang getting themselves into trouble and then arguing amongst themselves about the best way to get out. I’m glad the show is still going after all these years, but I’ve resigned myself to knowing that it’ll never again reach the heights of those first several seasons.

7.7/10

Parks and Recreation: Season 7
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When I first watched through Parks and Recreation, the first six seasons were on Netflix, but not the seventh. I didn’t even know there was a seventh. The way season six ended, with Leslie making a big career change and the short flash forward to 2017 as the button, it felt like a perfect ending to this fantastic series. There was a sense of finality to it, but also plenty of things were left unanswered, in a good way. Well, I found out months later that there was, in fact, a season seven of the show, taking place completely in the future. My wife and I sat down recently and watched the entire series again, finally watching through the real final season. All told, It definitely wasn’t the strongest, but the actual finale felt like an even more perfect ending that what I had already seen.

The jump forward in time allowed the show plenty of room for comedy in the early episodes as they established the new status quo for the characters. Unfortunately, after that died down, there wasn’t a ton of room for new storylines other than just wrapping up character relationships in preparation for the series finale. It definitely served the show to have season seven only run at thirteen episodes, as anything longer would have felt even more padded out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved a lot of those character moments, but some of them seemed to happen too early in the season, only to be repeated in the finale. But speaking of the finale, I honestly can’t think of another series finale that felt as satisfying as this one. It was certainly cheesy and heavy-handed at times, and things seemed to wrap up too perfectly for everyone, but given the love everyone has for these characters (and the fact that it’s still a tv show), it felt right.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up more than once, and I really couldn’t think of a better way to send off these wonderful characters I’ve known for the past few years. I may have been late to the party with Parks and Rec, but I’m definitely glad that I showed up.

8.2/10

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