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The Friday High Five
On Smuggler Simulators, Irrationally Angry Men, and Looking for God
Every Friday I share 5 things that brought me joy this week. Also, high fives are inherently cool, and I think we can all agree Friday is the bestest day. Hence the Friday High Five. 🙏🏻
Before we get to the 5—quick plug for my Predator article that went up this week. Long-time readers know I like to come at topics from different angles. This one was more of the same.
5 Things I Enjoyed This Week:
My Detroit Lions Beating the Defending Super Bowl Champs
Justified: City Primeval
My Detroit Lions Beating the Defending Super Bowl Champs
Look: Most of you probably don’t care about this. You probably root for an NFL team that has won meaningful games. As Ron Swanson would say: Bully for you.
We do things differently in Detroit.
I’ve been a Lions fan my entire life. In all that time, we have only won one playoff game, all the way back during the 1991 season. We’ve put together some decent teams, talent-wise, but we’ve always had a knack for choking under pressure.
I fully expected the Lions to lose last night. Even when they had a lead deep into the 4th quarter. Like if I was going to make a wager with my life as the stakes, I would’ve bet they were going to lose. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to expect. So when they actually won, I didn’t really know how to respond. Elation mixed with confusion is a strange brew. Super deep cut that probably only my brother will appreciate—it reminds me of the Eddie Murphy joke about Harold Washington.
Yeah, it’s only one game. And the Chiefs were without Travis Kelce. I don’t freaking care. I’m on top of the world.
Pop culture with an occasional Michigan slant.
Had the Lions lost last night, Starfield would’ve been the first thing I listed here. I even briefly toyed with making all 5 items in this post about Starfield. I’ve fallen deeply. When I’m not playing, I’m either thinking about the game or living vicariously through posts on Reddit.
I am so screwed.
Starfield is a game from the makers of Skyrim. It’s a space opera roleplaying game. There’s a main storyline, but right now I’m too busy running contraband, evading the feds, and making special modifications to my ship. I’m tempted to call it a Han Solo simulator because I like the sound of that—yes, that’s also a Star Wars reference—but it’s actually closer to Firefly and Malcolm Reynolds. Anyway, it’s all I’ve ever wanted.
As a form of self-exorcism, I wrote about my experience playing. It only helped a little.
Here’s a snippet from the article, in which I also lament getting old:
Whatever the reason, gaming in your 40s is an experience in diminishing returns. John Cougar Mellencamp — who apparently has been going by John Mellencamp since 1991, which I maybe would’ve known if I listened to any of his music since 1991 — famously sang about life going on long after the thrill is gone. It’s a depressing sentiment, but not too far off from my experience as a gamer. I want to be excited about gaming, but often my indulgence in pre-launch hype is as good as it gets.
I started rewatching Logan recently while running on the treadmill. Logan is one of my favorite superhero movies—it landed a spot in my top 10, which I wrote sometime last year and am too lazy to look for right now—so it’s one I’m always happy to revisit.
I’ve seen it several times, but something about the experience watching it while running made me look at it with new eyes. Running on a treadmill tends to be sort of meditative. Even if I give my eyeballs something to look at, my mind goes to strange places. Which led me to this epiphany: Is Logan a metaphor for erectile dysfunction?
Not every thought I have is good or even accurate, so I’m not gonna vouch for this take yet. I need to finish the movie. And perhaps rethink my life.
The rewatch continues.
I’m into season two but my mind remains fixed on the end of season one. My subconscious unearthed something rather interesting about the finale, and I’ve been chewing on it since.
Spoilers, obviously. Then again, Deadwood stopped airing 17 years ago, so it’s sorta crap or get off the pot time.
Episode 12 (Sold Under Sin) has some really interesting things to say about religion. Which isn’t all that surprising if you’ve ever heard series creator David Milch speak. Case in point: Here’s Milch talking about writing and religion. I bookmarked it to the relevant part, but fair warning: Milch often wanders far afield before coming back around. It’s sorta his thing. The guy’s a genius, and like all such people, there’s a touch of madness. Still, I didn’t realize he was talking about the apostle Paul for at least 5 minutes.
Not sure if Milch is a Christian, but he clearly knows the Bible. Reverend H.W. Smith (Ray McKinnon) is one of the most authentic preachers I’ve ever encountered in film or television. His ugly, premature infirmity tends to obscure that fact.
Episode 12 is where everything comes to a head. And in that collision, Deadwood offers a strangely moving critique upon belief and our role in it.
Nearly blind, addled, and surfeit of the Spirit, the Reverend clings to what he knows despite the seeming futility. He preaches circumcision to a bull—including looking under the hood to check the equipment—when he remembers scripture at all.
Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif), a man of science, knows the Reverend is a dead man walking. In a rare outburst, he calls upon whatever shred of decency is left within Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), asking Al to see to the Reverend until he passes. It is a strange request given all we know about Al, but the saloon owner agrees. Doc then retires to his chambers. Later, while good and drunk, Doc turns to God. His prayer—angry and tearful—is that of a wounded man who wants to believe, but no longer does after witnessing the horrors of the Civil War. He questions God’s purpose in all that death, and in torturing the Reverend now. He begs God to let him die.
And then there’s Al.
Al has been watching the Reverend’s declining condition for several episodes. His expression gives nothing away, but his posture is all inward. He mentioned previously that his brother suffered a similar malady. I think we can safely guess who Al sees when he looks at the Reverend.
That evening, Al enters the Reverend’s room. He cradles him and treats him gently, and then he uses a rag to suffocate him, telling him, “you can go now, brother.” Al gently strokes his face and closes his eyes. It’s easily the most tender we have ever seen Al.
Did God use Al as an instrument to fulfill Doc’s request? Was it all a coincidence of timing? Al is not a man of God. Why then all the gentleness for the preacher? Did Al mercy-kill his own brother, or was this his chance to do what he wished he’d done for him?
Al delivers the body to Doc Cochran and lets him think the Reverend expired without help. Doc mentions he intends on drinking in, but the tenor has changed. He’s relieved, almost happy.
“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh,” Al says. It’s a shock to hear Al mention God by name. How could he do the evil things he does if he believes in a higher power? And yet, it was Al—either due to pragmatism or a latent streak of mercy—who did what nobody else could and, strangely, may have strengthened Doc’s belief in God.
Maybe now you see why I keep reflecting on this episode.
Justified: City Primeval
Finished this mini-series and I gotta say: Wow. It’s different than Justified, and not as good—Boyd is frankly irreplaceable—but it’s still quite good.
I still feel inclined to write about this show and, of course, Timothy Olyphant. Here’s a peek into my “process”—I generally have 3-4 potential topics floating around in my head at any one time, based on the media I’m currently consuming and random ideas that come to me. Deciding which to write basically amounts to which one I’m most excited about. At this juncture, it’s a dead heat between Deadwood and Justified, though I expect Justified to win-out, if for no other reason than it’s a lot more timely. Not that I generally care about such things—I did just write several thousand words on Predator—but it works as a tie-breaker.
I will say one quick thing about City Primeval, and it’s a spoiler so don’t scroll any further if you care about such things. I purposefully didn’t use any footnotes in this post, which felt like a kind of death, but I thought it’d keep people from seeing something they’d rather not.
I physically geeked out over the epilogue. It was pitch perfect. When Walton appeared on screen, I let out a yelp and clapped my hands, neither of which I have ever done before. I felt a little embarrassed, to be honest. My wife, bless her soul, pretended not to notice. She has a lot of practice with that.
The scene was a perfect cap to the show, and also left the door cracked for a full-on revival of the Raylan/Boyd dynamic. Timothy is already on record as wanting to return as Raylan. And while I’m a bit undecided about the wisdom of replaying the hits, my heart is very full at the thought.