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    Stephanie Watches Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 4×01 “The Ghost”

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    Our beloved SHIELD team is back, but very fragmented. Daisy is on the run (with Yoyo giving her intel behind SHIELD’s back), Coulson and Mack were trying to find Daisy but kicked off the mission so they’re flying around in their quinjet, FitzSimmons are adorable and being sciencey at the base, and May is training new agents at the base.

    Dealing with the new director (who we will meet next episode) isn’t SHIELD’s only trouble. A new vigilante/possible serial killer is on the loose with a scary, fiery car leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Not only that, but a certain Quakey lady was also spotted on his trail. This gets the team riled up. May (secretly) sends Coulson and Mack to track Daisy since they have a new lead, while Daisy tries to track down this murderey dude.

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    “There’s only one thing I want: Nothing left to lose.”

    That was the most telling line for why Daisy is doing what she’s doing. Why she’s far away from everyone she cares about and who care about her. She feels responsible for Lincoln’s death and likely for the countless others they’ve lost along the way (especially Tripp). If she separates herself from them, she won’t be a danger to them, and she won’t put them in danger anymore. And it also makes me super sad for her.

    But she’s trying to right these wrongs by serving up her own justice. If she can find this guy who’s killing people and stop him, she’s evening out the balance again. Maybe she’ll never even it out for herself, but she can at least do the world a favor. I think she should move to Hell’s Kitchen and help Jessica, Luke, and Matt. They seem to all be on a similar path, with their internalized pain leading their efforts.

    The only problem is the guy she’s chasing is doing the same thing. He’s trying to right wrongs by killing people who deserve it: murderers, pedophiles, etc. This doesn’t jibe with Daisy’s plan to stop him (especially after she sees him helping his brother into a wheelchair and being a nice, normal guy), so they fight it out and he reveals his fiery skull visage to her. Marvel fans will obviously know him as the classic character Ghost Rider.

    Turns out GR was chasing after some people who wanted some thing in a box, likely to unleash upon the world. SHIELD was targeting the sale of the box (and hoped they’d run into Daisy along the way but Yoyo warned her that was the plan), so Coulson, Mack, and May + team show up after these guys open it. Some sort of ghostly smoke comes out and soon all the crime businessmen are trying to kill each other because their faces are all droopy, decaying messes. After some are killed and others are iced, May comes into the room, but the ghostly smoke lady brushes past her. She gets a chill but shakes it off. Later on the quinjet, however, as she’s playing a game with Coulson, she looks up and sees his face all creepy and decaying. Ruh-roh!

    Meanwhile, Fitz is bonding with Holden Radcliffe — the ‘mad’ scientist from the tail end of season 3 — with some brews, some football, and, oh yeah, a naked robot chick! Holden’s robot, who he spoke to but had not developed a body for in season 3’s epilogue, is named AIDA. He is very excited about her, but Fitz is wigging out. After the Ultron incident, he thinks people should know better than to mess with artificial intelligence. But Holden promises she’s not an AI, she simply mimics humans. But we know she’s a life model decoy, like Patton’s character. When Fitz officially meets AIDA and she explains her purpose as a literal “shield” to keep SHIELD team members from dying, he seems intrigued. But he tells Holden to keep it a secret, especially from Simmons. She answers to the new Director and if she found out about Ada, she would have to tell the Director and much shit would hit the fan.

    Robots are generally a sign of not-so-great things, so we’ll see where this takes off. Ultimately, I think Holden has good intentions, but like Tony Stark found out, science can easily take on a life of its own and get out of control. And, of course, all I can think of it Ex Machina.

    Bonus: Joss Whedon came back to Twitter today and released this hilarious, but important video featuring many Avengers and other Whedon alums. Check it out.

    Stephanie Recommends 6 Spoopy Podcasts

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    This is kind of a combination of spoopy (a.k.a. spooky) podcasts and true crime in honor of Halloween approaching — my favorite season (Halloween is an entire season, dammit!) and holiday. I like to mix the fact with the fiction to give myself a good balance. I’ve been a fan of the increasingly spookier Black Tapes & TANIS since their inception, but thanks to a coworker’s recommendation, I gave My Favorite Murder a try — and immediately loved it. But it sent me spiraling into an obsession with true crime that I’d buried deep down. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but The X-Files has been my favorite show since I was 5, so that makes me a pretty weird kid already. I also used to watch Forensic Files, Unsolved Mysteries, Rescue 911 all throughout childhood. I remember children started disappearing in St. Louis in the early 90s and every evening the TV would ask: “It’s 5 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” The JonBenet Ramsey murder and OJ Simpson madness was on in the background of my early childhood, as well. I could go on and on. Anyway, I flippin’ love true crime, horror, and devouring as much creepy/horrifying media I can get my hands on — from documentaries to TV series to movies, and of course, podcasts.

    So, fall down the spoopy/true crime hole with me this fall. Here are 6 podcasts to get you started on your journey: Continue reading

    Stephanie Sees A Princess of Mars by Otherworld Theatre

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    Travel with Otherworld Theatre Company this month in its latest production, A Princess of Mars, to another world: the world of Barsoom. But us Earth natives know it better as Mars.

    Once again, Director Tiffany Keane Schaefer, together with her co-adapter Nick Izzo, has managed to put science fiction on a stage. Many think it can’t be done, but with the right visual storytelling, staging, and costumes, viewers can be instantly transported to another world, just like our hero John Carter.

    In the adaption of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, a Confederate deserter named John Carter (Elliott Sowards) finds himself transported to Mars, where a war is brewing between the planet’s alien races. He finds himself smack dab in the middle of everything. As an honorable man, John Carter cannot sit idly by while injustice is done to those he grows closest to. He throws himself into fight after fight, and must choose between saving an entire planet or going home.

    From the intricately detailed costumes — the alien masks, especially! — to the lighting and projection screen that changed depending on the scene, I had no trouble believing we were on Mars. The most delightfully surprising thing about the show was how much humor there was. I laughed out loud several times, either from the silly lines during battle scenes or hilarious one-liners from Tal Haljus (Bennett Bottero) or John, delivering his lines in a southern drawl, which was such a contrast to all the other characters. Speaking of battle scenes, the choreography for Otherworld’s fights are always so fun to watch.

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    And while John Carter may be the hero of the tale, there was no shortage of strong ladies. We first meet Sola (Julia Rigby) when she’s crying over the loss of her hatchling, but she and John develop such a strong bond, and her character grows tremendously just over the course of the show. At first glance, Dejah Thoris (Mary-Kate Arnold), the princess of Mars, appears to be just another damsel in distress, but quickly proves she is far from needing saving. Additionally, her costume towards the end of the show looks a lot like Jasmine when she’s about to marry Jafar in Aladdin– and she looks amazing is in it!

    Lastly, we cannot forget the antagonists that are trying to thwart our heroes at every turn. Sarkoja (Elizabeth MacDougald) was vicious but protective of her people, not willing to let the interlopers take anything away from her. Also, she had the coolest weapons on her belt. And Sab Thaan (Michael Jay Bullaro) was extremely fun to watch. He delivered his villainous lines with amazing comedic timing — and he had some pretty sweet light-up sleeves.

    I don’t want to say anymore because you should all just go enjoy this experience for yourself. Head on over to Barsoom (or, you know, Berger Park) ASAP! And if this doesn’t convince you, take it from Director Tiffany Kean Schaefer: “Barsoom truly came to life. It is my privilege and honor to work with such a fine cast, dedicated ensemble, amazing production team – to bring you the tale of how John Carter of Virginia met and fell in love with an alien Princess of Mars.”

    A Princess of Mars runs September 9 to 24 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at Berger Park in Chicago.

    Get your tickets quickly because the show has been selling out!

    *Photos by Grace Gimpel