This episode ends with an odd, incomplete feeling. There’s no oomph to any of the storylines, and the resolutions are all put off until next time. There’s not even a cliffhanger, just Katja Herbers and Andrea Martin not being shitty to each other. It feels like a long episode cut up, but it also feels like the first really streaming episode of “Evil.” Whenever there’s an F-bomb, it’s a good F-bomb, onscreen, in scene, not tacked on later to flex.
The investigation plot this episode involves a newly married couple—Freddy Miyares and Freddy Miyares—having troubles in the martial bed. They’re both virgins, and whenever they try getting busy, he gets nauseous and she breaks out in hives. Initially, now priest Mike Colter thinks they just need a couples’ counselor, but nun Martin convinces him there’s a demon. Because she can see and talk to the demon. I’m not sure if it’s a new demon costume, but it’s not a good one. It’s like “Evil” knows it’s got its audience; it doesn’t need to try anymore.
Colter calls Herbers in to consult, then disappears for the episode, presumably off on secret Vatican secret service business like covering up more Indigenous Canadian child murders or something. Herbers and Martin don’t hit it off, but they agree to work together—there’s a weird “we’re being condescending to another woman” stand-off they do, but it’s well-acted weird, so it’s okay.
Will Herbers figure out how to keep the demon out of the martial bed? Will Martin get in trouble for talking during the meetings? It’s high-stakes stuff.
Aassif Mandvi’s got the other main plot. He’s suffering from depression thanks to his job; specifically, the mysteries of “Evil” leaves unresolved after the episode finishes. His sister, Sohina Sidhu, decides she’s going to help him out of his funk. It’s a good character episode for Mandvi, who gets to do more and different things than usual. His semi-breakdown starts when he can’t fix Herbers’s toilet; her husband flushed a shrunken blood sacrifice to Satan head down the toilet in the first episode of the season, and it’s been causing plumbing problems since. It gets to be too much for Mandvi.
Then there’s some stuff with Herbers and her kids being mentally abusive to one another. It’s unsuccessful except for tying into Christine Lathi’s superior workplace subplot. Michael Emerson tasks her with selling demonic crypto, only he really puts her millennial drones in charge. Lathi’s not going to take their shit and has to figure out how to succeed selling nonsense. Crypto and religion. “Evil”’s got all the nothing for sale.
Lathi’s great this episode, Mandvi’s great this episode. Martin’s only okay, which isn’t great. And Herbers is only okay, too; despite being around a bunch, she’s got nothing to herself.
It’s a peculiar episode. If it’d had some kick, it’d be one of the better this season. But, instead, makes you wonder if they know what they’re doing. Like when Monsignor Boris McGiver comes off like a total rube and draws attention to him always being a total rube, which is a problem since he’s the patriarch.
Nelson McCormick’s direction is fine; it’s the dramatically stalled script, credit to not new-to-“Evil” Aurin Squire.
3×5 – Automan (1983): Episode 5 – OnesiesJoin Emily and Andrew as they discuss another episode of AUTOMAN! But one where Desi Arnez Jr. doesn't just whine the whole time, Automan falls in love (with a guest starring, not Southern Delta Burke), the villains are all unrecognizable and acting poorly, and the car chases are inept and tedious! Recorded June 24, 2022 so special thanks to Emily for the editing!
WHERE TO LISTEN
Carnival of Souls is another film in the “way too literal ending” genre. After seventy-five minutes (of seventy-eight) recounting its protagonist’s bewildering, terrifying experiences, the finish is a big wink and shrug. Though there’s a seemingly unintentional casting gaffe to tie the disparate narratives together. Unfortunately, that low-budget coincidence doesn’t add anything to the ending.
The film opens with lead Candace Hilligoss surviving a terrible car accident. She and her gal pals are drag racing some boys, and their car goes off a bridge; Hilligoss is the sole survivor. The opening titles are moody, beautiful lighted shots of the river, so when Hilligoss emerges, it’s in a familiar location. It sets a higher expectation than the film will achieve with recurring locations.
Hilligoss can’t remember what happened in the car—the boys have already lied to the cops about what happened, so they luck out, but it goes unexplored anyway. After a very brief recovery, Hilligoss is ready to move on to her new job at a church in Utah; she’s a professional organist, which means there’s going to be so much organ music in the movie. At the beginning, especially during the titles, it seems like Gene Moore’s music will be an asset. However, once it’s clear it’s just organ music—probably the same organ music, it’s all indistinguishable, even when the music becomes a plot point—and it’s very tiresome.
In Utah, Hilligoss hallucinates some scary ghouls around her car as she passes a closed carnival pavilion in the distance. The pavilion’s Souls’s best and worst; when Hilligoss eventually tours it, the experience is perfectly dreamy (Maurice Prather’s black and white photography is remarkable for such a low-budget effort and superb in general). But when she frequently daydreams about it, those sequences don’t have any of the dreaminess. Bill de Jarnette and Dan Palmquist do the cutting, and they’re a little too blunt about it; they’ve got no rhythm. Though with Moore’s organ music going in the background, what could they really do?
Hilligoss finds herself a room; Frances Feist’s her landlady, Sidney Berger’s the creepy sexual predator neighbor who judges Hilligoss for not being religious enough even though she works at a church. She wants to be paid for playing music in church—doesn’t it give her nightmares? Souls has a peculiar relationship with religion, especially since Hilligoss’s boss, Art Ellison, is a combination dipshit and asshole. At least he’s not a creep. Lots of the old dudes in Souls exude creep, including the local doctor (Stan Levitt), who determines Hilligoss is unfit to be in public without him evaluating her (even though he’s not qualified). Her old boss, organ manufacturer Tom McGinnis, was also a little too intrusive.
All the men agree Hilligoss is a little too independent, a little too headstrong, and has too much agency, which are interesting complaints, though none of them matter in the end.
As she tries to get acclimated to her new job and surroundings, Hilligoss starts seeing one of the ghouls from her trip around town. Director Harvey plays this lead ghoul, who’s definitely creepy, but technically much less threatening than, say, Berger. No one else can see Harvey, which confuses Hilligoss, but not as much when she has fits of insubstantiality when no one else can see or hear her, and she can’t hear them either.
It’s basically a “Twilight Zone” stretched out, with less budget than the TV show and questionable performances. Hilligoss does about as well as can be expected in the lead with such thin motivation and characterization. As needed, she looks terrified, though sometimes it’s unclear why she’s not terrified by what she’s experiencing (and vice versa). Berger’s amateurish but such a creep it ends up helping. Doctor Levitt and (apparently not Mormon in Utah) preacher Ellison are just bad. Though Souls has terrible ADR from the start, the looped deliveries aren’t just poorly acted but often clearly do not match the actors’ lips. So maybe it’s not all on them. Also, the script; Levitt and Ellison are the biggest patronizing assholes in a movie full of condescending assholes.
As far as Harvey’s direction… he’s definitely got his moments. However, he can’t do a regular conversation scene, which hurts the film since it’s mostly conversation scenes. The eerie pavilion material is usually quite good, and he makes some other big swings, mainly in the first act. Once Hilligoss is settled in Utah, fending off Berger, running from ghoul Harvey, there’s basically none. Harvey instead relies on the editing, which doesn’t (no pun) cut it.
Carnival of Souls isn’t terrible. It’s got a handful of moments; John Clifford’s script doesn’t do the film (or its actors) any favors, outside—albeit pointlessly—establishing Hilligoss as a singular (for the setting) protagonist. None of it adds up, not Hilligoss, not even the eerie pavilion, but at least the cinematography maintains throughout.
Sadly, so does that organ music.
This episode’s a downer. I kept waiting for it not to be a downer, only it keeps getting worse for pretty much everyone.
But it’s also a very familiar kind of “All Rise” downer episode; it’s bittersweet and about how these people are just trying to do the good thing in impossible, structurally broken situations. Even though the episode’s very evenly distributed—there are two trials, Simone Missick and Ruthie Ann Miles’s corruption subplot, Wilson Bethel and Lindsey Gort babysitting, Bethel investigating Missick and Miles’s investigation, and Lindsay Mendez getting closer to a full arc for the first time this season. Though Miles and Missick are still having problems with a stenography replacement, so it does always seem ready for Mendez to give up the victims’ rights advocate position.
Lucy Luna gets the script credit; she’s written numerous episodes and is a story editor. Again, it feels like “All Rise.”
Jessica Camacho’s got the roughest professional arc this episode—Missick and Miles’s ends up being a lot more personal than either were expecting—while J. Alex Brinson’s trial is the lightest. Bethel and Gort’s babysitting alternates between being cute and tense; things go wrong, and Bethel and Christian Keyes (Missick’s newly recast husband) trying to figure things out behind the scenes to help Missick and Miles complicate matters.
Also, Missick and Keyes get their best episode together so far; they’re doing date night without the baby, only it gets complicated.
Kearran Giovanni is back guest-starring to make “All Rise” again feel like it’s from the “Closer” and “Major Crimes” production company (it’s not). She’s Camacho’s opposing counsel in a case about a young, single mother, Tina Ivlev, accused of assaulting a landlady. Camacho’s trying to make sure Ivlev doesn’t lose her kids, but it turns out Ivlev isn’t reliable. The show skirts around Ivlev’s guilt or culpability; she can’t get it together, she’s overwhelmed, and it’s affecting many things. It’s again a good arc for Camacho, though her resolution needed to be a little longer.
“All Rise” does seem to be closing off some subplots—there are more than a few outstanding—and hopefully, it’ll lead to the show getting more focused.
Lots of good performances this episode, particularly Bethel, Missick, Camacho, and Brinson. Keyes is getting comfortable in the part, and then it’s one of those good Gort episodes. It’s problematic that good is because she’s playing off Bethel and not doing court.
But still. Everyone’s appropriately earnest this episode, and it pays off.
Director Lionel Coleman does a good job keeping the episode moving… with the caveat, the episode did need to be longer. Forty minutes and thirty seconds or whatever doesn’t cut it.
Gently Falling Rain came out on June 23, 2022. One of its briefest plot points would play differently if it had come out on June 24, 2022. The episode compares and contrasts future cultures; there’s the Union (the Federation), inclusive, diverse, progressive, and there is the Krill. They’re a combination of Romulan and Klingon, but they’re also religious fanatics who are xenophobic fascist capitalists. Abortion comes up eventually. The scene goes hard and then harder. It’s a very brief scene—and doesn’t come back later when it seems like it might—but it’s rough. I’ve been wondering how media will adjust, and Gently Falling Rain is a jarring reminder from the immediate but significantly different past; life’s constantly getting worse, just maybe not for as many people.
The episode plays like Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek: Nemesis, sadly without any dune buggies, though there is a big future car chase. Only MacFarlane didn’t direct and doesn’t have any script credit. So instead, it’s Brannon Braga’s Star Trek: Nemesis, with co-writing credit to André Bormanis, with Jon Cassar directing. The Krill and Union are going to sign a peace treaty, which gets the brass—recurring guest stars Victor Garber, Ted Danson, and Kelly Hu—very excited. Garber’s going with the president (Bruce Boxleitner in full makeup) to the Krill home world to sign the treaty.
Only we’ve already seen the Krill home world, where populist upstart Michaela McManus is campaigning for the chancellorship on the peace treaty being weak and un-American. Oh, I mean, un-Krill.
Sure I do.
McManus is also a returning guest star; long time ago on “The Orville,” she had genetic surgery to appear human and seduce Orville captain MacFarlane in order to ruin him as payback for destroying a Krill vessel. She’s been back a few times since, with the two having an adversarial relationship with some underlying… romance might be too far, but something. This episode explores why McManus might feel a connection, also clueing MacFarlane in. I have questions about the timeline; the episode seems to have questions about the timeline; they do not get addressed, instead focusing on the character relationship and specifically how it plays out for MacFarlane.
MacFarlane’s a Captain Kirk in a Captain Picard episode of “Next Generation.” It’s a good episode for him, but it doesn’t give him anything particularly challenging to do, so he never gets to achieve (or fail). It’s intentionally constructed to get around MacFarlane maybe not having the most depth as an actor, no matter how hard he tries (though they’ve never tried bringing in a director who isn’t doing “Orville” style).
MacFarlane goes down to the planet with the away team; things go sideways; he tries to reason with the Krill. Meanwhile, up on the Orville, Adrianne Palicki is ready to nuke them from orbit if anything happens to the away team.
The finale’s not good. There’s a good car chase through the alien city, but everything preceding it is blasé. They go for a cheap resolution, entirely shifting the dramatic weight from the show to MacFarlane but then away from him again. But then the wrap-up scene’s really good.
It’s the best “Orville,” not “New Horizons,” episode of the season. It feels very much like regular “Orville,” in good ways.
McManus is a great recurring villain for the show, but since this episode’s four of ten, it seems unlikely she’ll have time to come back.
There’s some good comedy early in the episode, but the show seems to resent including it, just using it to give Anne Winters another chance to be an asshole. She gets some more later on, but her character’s been entirely one-note since the season premiere. To the point I was wondering if she was going to get Yar’d this episode.
But, otherwise, smooth sailing.
I’m getting to be such a Mike Ploog snob. Seeing him ink his own pencils, then seeing others ink his pencils… the latter always seems to come with qualifications, asterisks, and compromises. Ploog pencils this issue’s first story, written by Marv Wolfman, with Ernie Chan inking him. Chan keeps much of the detail, even much of the personality, but not the energy.
The story’s about one Louis Belski, Dracula actor. I thought Wolfman was doing a riff on Bela Lugosi: switching the initials, portraying the actor in his has-been days, ready for Ed Wood to show up with an offer, but apparently not. Belski’s instead just a hack who never achieved the greatness of Lugosi, John Carradine, or Christopher Lee—according to Dracula himself, who’s come to Hollywood to stop Belski from continuing his career.
His career’s incredibly long; Belski started at the studio when it was constructed in 1927. It’s the early seventies; the actor’s apparently in his early to mid-sixties, which kind of explains why he’s not doing well in the part. He’s also a raging drunk who starts pretending he’s really Dracula after shooting’s stopped, attacking those who wrong him, and trying to seduce an ingénue. So the actual Count doesn’t just have to contend with an obnoxious actor; he’s also got to intercede in that actor’s drunken, murderous rampage.
It’s a jam-packed story, with Wolfman sort of overwriting it but never thinking about it—Belski’s age, for instance, but then also the idea Dracula got his stake pulled in Tomb and went out to revival theaters to catch up on how he’d been portrayed in popular media. Also, Belski’s a lousy lead to follow around. It’s like a horror comic where you’re waiting for the villain’s comeuppance, but the collateral damage on the comeuppance is almost too much.
While not bad, it’s definitely disappointing. Especially for the only Ploog in Dracula Lives so far.
Then there are some text pieces; lots of text pieces this issue. And the movie stills with new text are back, though not as jokey as they’ve been before. Now they’re just interstitials. The first two text pieces are a book review about the real Dracula from Chris Claremont. The book’s called In Search of Dracula (and appears to still be in print if one’s interested), but the review’s way too overwrought with Claremont trying to be personable, then the typesetting on movie stills makes it hard to read.
Then Dwight R. Decker contributes a one-page joke vacation text about real Romania? It’s too bad the filler’s not better in Lives. Especially since they appear to be upping the text and lowering the reprint count. There are only two reprint stories.
The first is about a village where everyone thinks this lovely lady is a vampire seducing the local boys, then killing them. The truth’s more complicated and not particularly rewarding, but Joe Maneely’s art’s really good, and it’s only six pages.
The following story is another original (thank goodness they’re still doing three an issue). Gardner Fox writes, Dick Ayers does the art. It’s Dracula versus Countess Elizabeth Báthory. She’s the one who bathed in human blood to stay young. Dracula doesn’t like her getting in on his business, especially when she’s a poser. It’s a tedious twelve pages, partially because the idea’s one-note, but also because Fox’s script isn’t great, and then the Ayers art is a considerable downgrade from the rest in the issue. Not just the new features either, the reprints as well.
Then comes a couple more text pieces. One’s a jokey biography of Marv Wolfman, and the other’s a review of Horror of Dracula by Gerry Boudreau. It’s more a combination of behind-the-scenes and scene-by-scene recap with some scant critical commentary. They threaten more reviews at the end.
The second reprint is a short one, art by Tony Mortellaro, and it seems like they should’ve run it in the first issue because it’s so well-suited for Lives. A German villager only wants his daughter to marry royalty, so he kills off her poor suitors, sometimes letting vampires feed on them for cover. Despite his daughter wanting to choose her own destiny, he decides for her and makes an exceptionally bad selection.
The final story is the third original, written by Gerry Conway (easily his best Dracula in Lives or Tomb and some of his best writing from this era), with art by Vicente Alcazar. Alcazar has maybe two less than perfect panels, but otherwise, the art’s consistently breathtaking.
It’s another of the Dracula origin stories, with the former Impaler retaking his castle from the invading Turks. He’s got to deal with the newly installed regional commander but also the neighborhood Catholic priest who’s got a fairly big secret. Then, of course, there’s still the castle, which the Turks have occupied, and the local girls they’ve enslaved.
The feature’s a page shorter than the issue’s other two—eleven pages instead of twelve—, and it’s a bummer they didn’t give Conway and Alcazar more pages because it’s outstanding. Conway’s characterization of Dracula as vampire king is rather thoughtful, and—given the particulars—Drac gets to be an unproblematic protagonist. Everyone else is doing far worse things than just retaking from occupiers.
Alcazar gets a variety of action to visualize, with Dracula fighting soldiers but also finding himself in his first vampire transformation duel. It’s great.
I had been thinking I’d jump off Dracula Lives after a while, so long as Tomb doesn’t keep citing it; I don’t think I can give it up. Not just for the art either; the Conway writing on the last story is fantastic. Plus, the fifties reprints are surprisingly good. I’d always assumed fifties horror comics would be rote and stale, but nope. They’re succinct enough their initial impulse carries through.
The text material, obviously, is take or leave. Meaning leave.
Herogasm might be the best “Boys” episode. I can’t remember the previous seasons well enough, but it’s an exceptional hour of television with a phenomenal script (credit to Jessica Chou). It’s Chou’s first credit on the series, which makes the episode even more impressive as the episode concludes some long outstanding story arcs. It also gives many cast members big monologue scenes, including revealing a momentous new narrative device for Antony Starr.
Superb monologue-y, spotlighted performances from (in no particular order): Starr, Erin Moriarty, Laz Alonso (probably his best work on the show), Jessie T. Usher (his best work on the show), Colby Minifie (her best work on the show), Claudia Doumit, and Jack Quaid. Karl Urban gets a phenomenal scene, but it’s not monologuing about his soul; it’s doing a super-powered fight. It’s awesome.
Also awesome is Jensen Ackles, who hasn’t gotten a lot of lines before but gets to do his “Ultimate Captain America” in the sensitive modern era culture shock, and it’s excellent. The episode’s not about Urban, Quaid, and Ackles very often, but when it focuses on them, it does a great job exploring the character dynamics of this troubled trio. First, Ackles isn’t just a fascist murderer, he’s one who can’t control it, and then Urban and Quaid are addicted to the temporary superpower drug.
The episode opens with Chace Crawford and Starr discovering Ackles is back from the dead, which causes Starr’s most loyal teammate Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) to run out because Mitchell knows Ackles is out to get him. But Ackles is going after c-lister twin superheroes Jack Doolan and Kristin Booth first; they’ve retired from the hero game and just get stoned and screw around. The “Herogasm” of the title is an annual superhero orgy (for the c-listers), and multiple people end up there trying to intercept Ackles. Crawford’s going at Starr’s behest, Moriarty and Alonso have teamed up since Urban and Quaid abandoned them, Usher is there trying to find racist Nick Wechsler, and, obviously, Quaid, Urban, and Ackles are also headed there. The orgy’s extreme, gross, and sometimes funny, while acknowledging there’s a lot of not funny about it, and eventually there’s a lot of tragedy. The episode does a fantastic job using it as a framing device.
The one set of cast members not at the orgy is Karen Fukuhara and Tomer Capone; Capone’s ex-boss Katia Winter has kidnapped Capone for not doing her bidding, and Fukuhara doesn’t have her superpowers to save him anymore. There’s a funny recurring bit about Capone being sad he didn’t get to see Herogasm, which also ties into Urban and Alonso’s professional and personal estrangement.
Pretty much every scene is a highlight in one way or another, with Capone and Fukuhara getting some really nice moments. It’s a momentous episode, and it’s a significant success for the series, Chou, and director Nelson Cragg.
I sometimes forget “The Boys” isn’t just good for a comic book adaptation but really good; then Herogasm comes along to remind it’s exceptionally good.
It’s half an excellent issue. The first story is a big success, an And Then There Were None type mystery set at a research hospital on Mercury. It’s the done-in-one feature. The second story’s a little shorter, but with the cliffhanger. Unfortunately, it’s also kind of bad. The writing’s not terrible, but the art falls apart during the big fight scene, and the story can’t recover. The pacing’s all off.
What’s strange is both stories have half the same art team; Joe Staton pencils the feature, and he pencils the backup. Only on the feature, he’s got Dick Giordano inking, which makes the art look nearer Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino than anything else, and quite good. The expressions on Phantom Girl are terrible, but otherwise, the art’s aces. On the backup, Murphy Anderson inks Staton. While Anderson’s inks aren’t Giordano’s by any stretch, they’re better than last time. But once the action starts, Staton’s layouts start crapping out, and Anderson’s inks aren’t any help. It’s fascinating to see the two examples of different inkers consecutively, but it would’ve been much better if Giordano had inked both stories.
Paul Levitz gets a credit on both: the feature’s plot and the backup’s script. Len Wein scripts the feature. It’s a good mystery with a solid sense of humor. It opens with a mini-mystery—the Legion lost track of Karate Kid after the previous issue’s big battle, and it turns out he’s in the medical lab on Mercury. Except people only go there when they’ve got a terminal disease. It’s unclear why the lab is on Mercury—the doctors are insect people who aren’t native to the planet—so maybe part of the research involves saunas.
After the heroes discover what Karate Kid’s actually doing there, one of the doctors asks if they can investigate missing persons. Insects, actually. It becomes an engaging mix of mystery and action, with the solution not entirely unexpected but well-told. Wein’s got great pacing and does an excellent job with the investigating without feeding the reader red herring. There are actual good clues throughout.
It’s an impressive story; as I was reading it, I kept hoping it’d somehow go on for the whole issue, even though a cover blurb promised the backup. So I hoped they’d have Giordano inking on it too.
The second story is about how Legion villains The Fatal Five accidentally reformed and started shepherding a developing planet. Naturally, they want to join the Federation or the Union or whatever it’s called. Except no one trusts them because they call themselves the Fatal Five, so the Legion has to go investigate this new planet.
Superboy leads the team.
Levitz also structures it as something of a mystery, but not as well as Levitz does in the feature; the two stories contrast on multiple levels.
There’s an okay reveal (kind of out of “Star Trek”) and then a big action scene. The action’s not good. It’s also a dramatically inert action sequence and probably reductive (we won’t find out until next issue).
So half a good comic. But, wow, what a good first half.
There are two ways to read this comic. I mean, there are many other ways, but in terms of the vampire hunters—either writer Marv Wolfman and editor Roy Thomas are missing some obvious plot points, or the vampire hunters are just a little dopey. The "little dopey" fits more.
Like, when they've killed Dracula and check for a pulse—they're not establishing themselves as very knowledgable. So after the brainwashed villagers take Dracula's corpse and go for a walk, and the fearless vampire hunters do not follow the otherwise harmless brainwashed villagers… it makes sense. They're bad at their job.
Especially since the villagers are too brainwashed to remove the knife from Dracula's heart, so his body decomposes and without a brain to mind control them, they drop the coffin and run off. Somehow Dracula thought to program them to get his corpse into his coffin, but not to remove any impalements.
Days pass, during which time the vampire hunters sit around playing board games, and then Frank comes in with a handbill announcing a church tent revival centered around resurrecting… you guessed it, Dracula! See, a preacher suffering a mental breakdown found Drac's discarded coffin and decided he was a gift from God.
The vampire hunters assume the preacher is ignorant of what he will unleash if he pulls the knife, and even Dracula will be confused about the motives. It turns out the preacher is not delusional about what he's found. The plan is to resurrect and kill Dracula repeatedly for the delight of good Christians.
I mean, it tracks, right? Like. It's inhumane and evil, and it tracks.
There's also some subplot about a Doctor Sun who's interested in vampires, enough to kill for one from the morgue. No explanation why the vampire's… dead. It doesn't have a stake through its heart, right? But, whatever. The comic promises it'll be more important later.
The art's awesome this issue—Gene Colan and Tom Palmer working in glorious synchronicity–and it makes up for the rocky storyline. And Dracula seems somewhat tragic at the end when he's at the mercy of the murderous preacher. Though the scene where none of the vampire hunters want to decapitate Dracula and instead try to pass the buck to someone else should've been played as comedy.
Oh, right: Taj survived his unsurvivable fall into the rapids. Frank Drake’s condescending but not racist when they find Taj, apparently entirely uninjured.
It's incredible how much genuinely great comic art can compensate for.