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WandaVision, Episode 9 | Contagion | Dragon Age: Origins, "The Werewolves' Lair"

It's the ends of the worlds as we know it...


TV review - WandaVision, Episode 9, "The Series Finale"

Episode summary: The events of WandaVision come to a head, and the destinies of all those who took part are determined.

As it turns out, I was right to be concerned about WandaVision leaving too much to be covered properly in the final episode, leaving some characters as little more than cameos and cutting some stories short when there was clearly more that could've been done with them. That said, what works well here works really, really well and the best of everything is - to no-one's surprise - how good Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are.

Their final scenes together hit me far harder than I thought they would, which is testament to how well-served the characters have been in this episodic, non-cinematic format and how brilliantly the pair of them dealt with the material they were given. Getting to know them and see their relationship over the course of the series has definitely elevated them both as MCU characters for me and I'm sure for many others too.

And it's not just how incredible their chemistry is as the superhero couple of Wanda and Vision either, but just their all-round excellence. Olsen excels when matched up with Kathryn Hahn's Agatha Harkness and Paul Bettany is quietly brilliant when performing with... well, himself. Seeing the two Visions interact was great and they find a creative and philosophical way to end their brief rivalry.

That brevity is the episode's major failing though, as 'White Vision' leaves suddenly; Kat Dennings' Darcy appears for a single line; Randall Park gets almost nothing to do; and Teyonah Parris only gets a brief moment too. I understand that the show's name gives away who the focus should deservedly be on, but it's a minor frustration to have so many interesting characters and then give them very little to do.

But it should be stated clearly: the show is called WandaVision - not The Mephisto Show, Birth of the Multiverse, Quicksilver Returns or anything like that. I've already seen plenty of people (go on, guess the demographic, as if it wasn't obvious...) criticising the show for not fulfilling their fanwank theories and they can't seem to understand that the issue is with them and not the show.

Even if one of the many theorised special appearances had actually made an appearance, they would still have played second fiddle to Wanda and Vision, whose relationship was always going to be the clear and obvious focus for the series. It might seem like stating the obvious, but it's really weird to see some people not understand this, especially when said characters are depicted so incredibly well.

WandaVision's final episode is a perfect match for the show overall: it's very, very good, with incredible performances from Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, but never truly feels like it's matched the potential it had to offer. Also, the fact that this just another chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe means the ending doesn't feel quite as final as the show deserved.



Movie review - Contagion

Movie summary: Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a pandemic as the CDC works to find a cure.

It's difficult to review Contagion as a movie because it's more a realistic depiction (at least, as realistic as we're probably ever going to get in a big movie) of dealing with a global pandemic than trying to tell a dramatic story - it's a collection of short stories, an anthology basically. We follow various people from different walks of of life and see how they cope with everything that's going on.

While each of the stories is interesting enough to follow, putting them together in a movie like this does mean that some plots disappear or are given very little to do for long periods thanks to waiting for something to happen in one of the other stories. It does add to the sense of realism, but isn't particularly satisfying to watch - and the movie's only 108 minutes long, so it doesn't have much time to waste.

Of course, what's happening in the world right now makes Contagion eerie, if not downright unpleasant to watch - but in that fascination sense of art so accurately predicting life. So much of what we see and hear is accurate to reality and it's weird to hear so much scientific language that would've been alien to most in 2011, but commonplace today.

It isn't just the real world effect though, because the movie was already unnerving when I first watched it years ago. As a work of fiction, it's not satisfying in the slightest, which absolutely holds it back from being a genuinely great movie - but that lack of care for story and dedication to realism gives it a certain something it would've otherwise lacked. There's no grand narrative because why would a virus care about following one?

Contagion may not be the most narratively or dramatically satisfying movie you'll ever see, but it is unquestionably one of the most uneasy and unsettling watches around. It was already nightmarish before Covid-19 popped up and the current state of the world just ratchets up everything waaay higher than is comfortable. If you're a chronic worrier, maybe wait until you've had the vaccine before watching.



Game play - Dragon Age: Origins, "The Werewolves' Lair"

As mentioned in the previous part, make sure you have someone with decent lock-picking skills with you when you come here or miss out on a whole shit-ton of loot thanks to how many locked chests you'll find. Also make sure that you have as much inventory space free as you feel comfortable surviving with, because there's nowhere to sell the mountain of crap you can pick up without a long, long trek back to the elf camp.

Regarding the sprawling underground complex the werewolves have holed up in, it's packed with enemies to fight through, with quite a wide range including giant spiders, dragons, undead and, of course, plenty of werewolves. Oh, and in addition to that first paragraph requiring someone to pick locks? Make sure they can disarm traps too because there's plenty of those here as well.

Needless to say, Elissa's already built like a brick shithouse and barely suffers even scratch damage from all the fighting, leading to the discovery that it was actually the Dalish elf leader, Zathrian, who was responsible for the curse bringing about the werewolves in the first place. His wife and daughter were murdered by humans centuries earlier and he's kept humans suffering from the curse ever since.

There are a number of ways things can unfold, with you choosing to either side with the werewolves against Zathrian and the Dalish or vice versa - or you can take option three and convince Zathrian to lift the curse, although you still have to beat his face into the dirt to get him to even consider it. The reason he's so hesitant isn't just because of his desired revenge, but because he continues to live as long as the curse exists.

Still, the spirit of the forest looking after the werewolves convinces him to end his lifetime of hate even though it means she too will 'die' and return to the Fade. Once done and the leaders of the two opposing forces are gone, the curse is lifted and the werewolves become human again, somehow fully dressed despite not wearing a stitch when in werewolf form.

From there, it's back to the Dalish camp, where there is a new leader and the promise of the support of the Dalish when the time comes to take the fight to the Darkspawn. The only problem is that the Dalish are portrayed as so ineffectual throughout this part of the game that it's difficult to see how they'll be any help at all in comparison to the ferocity of the werewolves - at least (almost) everyone makes it out alive this way.



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