School Spirits Review: Season Finale 1×08 “Madison’s Body”

By Sara Ashton


As finales go, this one is packed. Packed with emotion, truth and revelations. The cast do a great job in encompassing all of this to create a great closing episode. 

Let’s start at the beginning of the episode…

Simon is in Sandra’s house, says he wanted Maddie’s notebook – but we know this is Simon being deceitful to learn more.  He discovers that Sandra has Maddie’s necklace: immediate warning signs. Maddie wants to figure out if her mom murdered her, bad enough for anyone to deal with.

 Peyton List does a great job in showcasing this unwarranted urgency. Because.. who would truthfully want to discover if their own mother killed them off? But it’s understandable she wanted her closure so she might move on.

During this time, there are emotional exchanges between the two teens. Maddie and Simon’s connection has been one of the greatest parts of this series. Kristian Flores and Peyton List’s chemistry is something that is very believable and it pours through the screen in such a great way.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin seems very anxious when the dead club discusses the differences between when Janet left and Dawn left. The spirits appear to be agitated as Mr Martin is very clearly hiding something. Josh Zuckerman does a great job with this character, the mystery and sense of danger he emits is something to be wary of. Zuckerman’s portrayal of this character who is very obviously hiding something is raw.

Mr Martin’s covering of the truth ushers an urgent demand from Charley, a character who has for the most part been very pleasant seems to emerge from his shell as he snaps at the teacher with the line – “After all these years, how can you still be so clueless?”

Looking back is the key to getting out of here, Charley says. Mr Martin is angry as he doesn’t want to relive his past citing it as ‘painful’ and then we learn what happened to him. A ‘fatal error’ as he put it. Shrouded in guilt as a failed teacher because of a fire. A convincing performance from Mr Martin. Zuckerman plays it so coolly it is evident he is concealing more just by expressionism. 

Maddie and Wally share an emotional moment about Dawn’s final moments before she passed over. The chemistry between this pair is undeniable. Emotional performances from Manheim and List. These two have definitely been a standout throughout the entire show. Manheim and List possess this chemistry and paired with List’s talent and Manheim’s charisma the characters of Wally and Maddie could not be played more wonderfully. 

“I’m scared of the truth,” Maddie admits. But Wally is there for her. A heartwarming scene for fans who have longed for them to be a couple. 

Simon acts suspicious but has a plan for Maddie’s mom to turn up and accept an award on her behalf.

There is a confrontation between Xavier and his dad in the office when he wants to help Mr South and photographs some evidence to help him on his way out of the sheriff’s department. It is evident he is playing a risky game, but that’s just what Xavier is like.

Back to what happened to Dawn… a constant reminder of the spirits that are stuck as dead club seems to reign over them. 

Rhonda and Charley discuss Dawn’s crossing over – a prominent discussion topic in this episode. Charley offers to listen to Rhonda but she closes him out in a sad moment. Charley is such a likeable character and as a viewer it’s sad to see him treated the way he is. Rhonda definitely has battles of her own. Nick Pugliese and Sarah Yarkin play these contrasting roles with such great talent. You can’t help but want for the characters to get on with thanks to their performances. 

Xavier, Nicole and Claire go to the address he has gotten from his father and the tension mounts as the three teens are clearly piled together in a car when they don’t want to be.

By Ken Kwok | Paramount

In the meantime, Wally and Charley team up in an attempt to find more information about Dawn’s past to try and crack what happened to her. They discuss the fear of just disappearing into nothing in an emotional exchange. Manheim and Pugliese channel their emotion in this unnerving scene as they discover the truth. The fallout shelter was the location of fire – Janet and Mr Martin both died in fire.

Simon snaps and confronts Maddie’s mom and asks why she has her necklace. Maddie’s mom admits she spent her college fund. List gives an emotive performance in the flashback scenes as her mom leaves her in the fallout shelter. This results in her mom being ticked off the suspect list.

Maria Dizzia and Kristian Flores | By Ken Kwok

A stand out deliverance from List with the line: “she killed my spirit, but she didn’t murder me.” 

Wally and Charley continue to investigate in the fallout shelter. Their obituaries are stashed on a shelf (Not weird at all…)

 Mr Martin documents deaths.. but in a creepy way. It makes us wonder, why is he doing what he’s doing. He clearly has some twisted motive, right?

There is a ceremony for Maddie’s award. Maddie’s mom gives a speech to tug at the heartstrings as Maddie unknowingly watches on. After this, Maddie tells Mr Martin she is ready to write her obituary… if only she knew what was going on with the other members of dead club, maybe she wouldn’t have done so.  

By Ken Kwok | Paramount

Maddie then reads her obituary for Simon in a teary eyed scene. Simon refuses to believe she is real – he convinces himself she is a figment of his imagination, though his expression and physical reaction tells us he’d rather believe otherwise.

 Meanwhile, Nicole captures footage of someone who hit Xavier with a vehicle… the person looks exactly like Maddie. Then it clicked, her body has very clearly been inhabited by someone else – you guessed it, Janet. 

Maddie seems to be stuck in limbo. This is why Simon can see her? Because her body isn’t technically dead so she still has ties to the living. 

A great final episode, but so many unanswered questions. The dead club appear to be in jeopardy at the hands of obituary-stealing Mr Martin, Xavier is on his way to hospital, Maddie’s body is seemingly inhabited by a dead woman. 

The cast have done a great job in these episodes with drama, mystery, emotion and laughs. A great combination for any show. School Spirits has it all. Ending on a sombre note leaves us with so many questions, it is frustrating but leaves us wanting more, and that is the point!

Will Maddie Nears get the closure she deserves? Will the dead club be saved from the clutches of Mr Martin? There is so much going on, we can only hope for a second season for more answers!

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Blue Beetle (2023) Trailer Review and Breakdown

By Jose Bermudez

The first trailer for Blue Beetle, the newest entry in the DC Cinematic Universe, has dropped and delivers on all the fun, chaos and excitement I would expect from a character not living in the dark, “blue filtered” world of previous films from that universe.

The Blue Beetle is the story of Jaime Reyes, a young Mexican American boy from Palmera City (originally El Paso) who is transformed into a battle armor clad superhero via a mystical/technological Blue Scarab artifact that attaches itself to his spine. 

As the trailer begins, we see Jaime surveying the ocean from a beach resort deck looking like an important man contemplating the world. He is quickly brought back to reality by his sister Milagros, who reminds them they’re there for their menial jobs as resort housekeepers. Jaime is a dreamer with doubts of ever succeeding, but as Milagros reminds him in her mocking and loving way: “You always land on your feet, bro. You’re Jaime”.  Cut to an embarrassed Jaime who shows up to a job interview, at Kord Industries, with his family in tow chanting his name.

Jaime! Jaime! Jaime!

Later, at Kord Industries, Jaime looks toward a descending elevator with a young lady he knows as Jenny riding down. She exits the elevator with a package in both hands, distressed as alarms go off and building security is running along an upper floor.

What’s in the box?

In the middle of all the pandemonium, Jenny hands Jaime a box and tells him to guard it with his life but not open it.  He brings the box home and it’s a BIG BELLY BURGER! This is clearly the first sign we’re in the same DC universe as the other heroes: Batman, The Flash, Superman, etc. Seeing that John Byrne caricature on the box always makes me smile.

You went in to get us jobs, but all you brought back was a hamburger?

The box is opened and, instead of a hamburger, a blue trinket in the shape of a beetle is inside.  Jaime is wowed as the scarab begins to walk on his hand and he finds himself amused as he thinks it is showing he likes him.

I think it likes me.

But the fascination and wonder over this charming little scarab turns quickly into a little horror show as it goes all Ridley Scott on Jaime and makes like a ”facehugger” from Alien clamping down on Jaime’s face. Uncle Rudy, played by George Lopez, tries to fight it off of Jaime but is soon zapped by an electrical charge that releases energy all around the neighborhood. Then it attaches itself to Jaime’s spine where it makes a series of transformations that are reminiscent of everything from TheExorcist, Venom and even Iron Man. At the end of the transformation, it becomes a self-contained suit of alien metal armor which rockets Jaime through the roof and out into space.

Oh! I’m in space.

Panicky at first, Reyes finds a quiet calmness as he is in the mesosphere and takes in the fact he is out in space. The calmness is, however, short lived as the suit announces its descent with re-entry systems ready and it starts a rapid dive towards earth. It stops within inches of crashing into the ocean as gossamer wings flutter out and he hovers over the surface like a hummingbird.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a beetle.

One brief logo teaser later and Jenny is shown leading the Reyes family through sliding doors in what appears to be a Kord Industries lab. She begins to explain the nature of the scarab and the suit as alien technology used to destroy worlds and protect its host. The scarab will protect but mostly acts on its own independent of its host

Jenny leads the way

The next clip shows how it protects its host by creating a cocoon like force shield with a razor front as a bus comes toward Jaime on the street.

I think I cut a bus in half.

The next group of clips show what appears to be an entire array of mini scarabs followed by a clip of Vicki Kord, played by Susan Sarandon, explaining to Jaime that the scarab chose him, but it still belongs to her. 

The scarab chose you, but it belongs to me

And in a fashion befitting an evil industrialist with all the power money can buy, we see her try to regain the scarab as her minions tear through the Reyes household. And we are introduced to the suit’s first real menace in the form of Carapax , played by Raoul Max Trujillo. Carapax concern trolls Jaime by proclaiming that his biggest weakness is his love for family.

The love you feel for your family makes you weak!

Jaime is clearly in beast mode with his family in danger and tears through baddies while they are hiding out in what may be Ted Kord’s laboratory. Ted Kord was the non-scarabed Blue Beetle before Jaime and is/was Vicki Kord’s brother. His family shows that they’re no slouches as we see Uncle Rudy firing up Ted Kord’s ”Bug” as if he were taking his carrucha out for a Sunday drive on the boulevard.

Fighting for family

Love for a family that is not weak is not a weakness. I mean checkout out Nana’s
big gat!

There is a reason this will remind you of The Watchmen. Long story.

At the end of a fairly busy action montage we get one of the only welcomed cliches in comic books and comic book movies: The “Uncle Ben” validation. Just as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker about great power and responsibility, Uncle Rudy says to young Jaime: “The universe has sent you a gift, and you have to figure out what you’re going to do with it”. 

After all that we finally get Jaime learning the scope of the suit’s powers as it explains how much he can do with the power of his own imagination. This is how we find out Jaime has some crazy love for Final Fantasy VII as he conjures up a sick Buster Sword.

We cut to one more logo screen

And then we get a trailer’s equivalent of an end credit scene with  Jaime’s family/Team Blue Beetle sifting through all the tech and gadgets from Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle days. 

On the left, in the background, we see the original golden age Blue Beetle costume worn by Dan Garret.
On the right is the Ted Kord costume. It’s a perfect comic book match. 

It ends with Uncle Rudy giving the funniest line in the trailer: ”Batman is a fascist!”

This trailer surprised me in a very good way.  The casting couldn’t have been more perfect. They actually cast actors from Mexico to play Jaime’s parents and Nana. The Spanish will be spoken with the correct Mexican accents and none of that awkward ”Spanglish” that is used more for flavor than any attempt to get the culture correct.

The tone is spot on. Keith Giffen, who created Jaime Reyes, always wrote with a consciousness that made room for humor and it’s very evident in this trailer that the writers were keeping that same vibe. 

One of my favorite new elements is the strength of a family that knows the secrets and how they are a cohesive and supporting unit. Jaime doesn’t have to be a lonely unreluctant hero. He has a family team.

Saving the best for last. Xolo Maridueña shows us why he was pursued for this role. His natural charisma, acting and ability to do action was never in doubt. I have been this guy’s biggest fan since the first episode of Cobra Kai.  To say I’m proud of Xolo and how he represents the latino community would be an understatement. I’ll be first in line to see this in August.

School Spirits Review: Episode 1×06 “Grave The Last Dance”

By Sara Ashton

Contains spoilers for episode 6.

Episode 6 begins with ‘Operation Claire’ still in swing. Claire accepts Xavier’s homecoming invitation – it seems very tense as Claire replies to his message. But it’s a good job, for the plan to be in full swing and setting the episode up on its legs in anticipation of an obvious homecoming episode.

There is a scene between Rhonda and Maddie, the characters talk to one another and Peyton List and Sarah Yarkin play these characters well, where underneath their exteriors there seems to be some softness and they almost seem to be bonding as the show progresses. Good thing, right? 

Charley and Maddie converse about the letter he’s been working on for Emilio, but as this has been continuing for a few episodes it is evidently a challenge for the spirit. Nick Pugliese plays the tormented, lovelorn spirit with enthusiasm and regret as he is very clearly still torn up on the past though there is nothing he can do about it. 

Forgiveness is a key theme, as that is what he seeks. 

Simon and Nicole discuss Claire as a suspect, but in an urgent moment Nicole tells Simon “it doesn’t matter who took the video” of Claire arguing with Anderson. This itself is seemingly suspicious, as she is so desperate to emphasise the fact that it doesn’t matter who recorded them in the parking lot that day. 

It is a painful watch when Simon has to act as though Maddie is still alive in front of her mom. This is a heart wrenching watch as everyone is full of hope, though Simon is subject to the truth.

Wally and Maddie attend homecoming together (we spotted that a mile away!) and the ghostly couple exchange creative gifts – and lets not forget to mention how they travel in style with a golf cart.

As the episode continues, Claire questions Xavier’s dad, the sheriff as she picks Xavier up for homecoming. She is quick to make her way back onto the suspect list as she’s seemingly so interested in the events going on related to Maddie’s case. 

Meanwhile, Simon has a bright idea for some ‘psychological torture’ whilst attending the dance. He takes a photo of Maddie to display at the dance in hopes of making a guilty individual come forward and admit their crimes.

Claire and Xavier travel to homecoming, and she warns him about her cheerleader friends and how they might ‘act shady’ towards him. The way she pulls over to talk to him about this is shady in itself, he is clearly worried when she does so. 

Back at the dance – Maddie and Wally share a few sweet moments. The chemistry between the characters is undeniable, but she cannot help being distracted by her very much alive ex boyfriend and suspected killer.

Maddie’s mom, Sandra is home alone and hears some activity in her yard. It begs the question, what exactly is going on around here? 

Good news finally! 

Emilio finally receives the letter Charley wrote with help from Maddie and Simon. It is a sweet moment as Simon tells Emilio he found it in a library book, no doubt adding to the nostalgia as he reads it in an emotional scene where Charley watches his reaction. It is an emotional scene especially when you realise poor Charley can do nothing to comfort Emilio – but at least the truth is out and feelings are being laid bare.

Claire finally leaves the suspect list in a tense scene where Xavier takes Claire down to the fallout shelter in hopes to get the truth out of here. She reveals that she figured out Anderson was dealing and bribed him, wanting to get good grades. She admits she tries to manipulate him for her own gain – but it all got caught on video. Anderson got rid of Maddie’s phone for that reason. 

But there is no telling for certain that no one is no longer a suspect, especially in this show with so much suspense.

Finally – a breakthrough as a possible murder weapon is found and the school janitor Mr South is now a main suspect…. Seems odd.

The episode concludes with a cliffhanger as always. Nicole is digging, which is definitely not suspicious at all. It is almost too obvious that she could be hiding some sort of evidence which is emotional as she was with Maddie’s mom when the sheriff told her about a murder weapon, and not long after this we see her digging? Shady behaviour from Nicole. She was on the suspect list last week, and now she’s at the top for sure.

However, with this show you never really know what to expect as it is full of twists and turns. Another great episode and things are finally progressing, we can only anticipate the next episode and what it might bring!

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

School Spirits Review: Episode 1×05 “The Twilight End Zone”

By Sara Ashton

Contains spoilers for episode 5.

These characters are coming into their own in this episode as more backstories are revealed, even the dead ones.

This episode follows directly on from the cliffhanger with Claire, and the same question is on everybody’s lips… what was she doing having her teacher’s phone number? Rainbow Wedell plays this character with a gripping intensity that keeps the audience wondering whether Claire is guilty of having something to do with what happened to Maddie, or was it something else?

It is a treat to revisit the dead club as they have a groupchat, all while decorating for some event which seemed unfamiliar to begin with. But the banter between these dead friends.. Or acquaintances are a great addition to the show which mostly engages in heavy storylines, so it is good to have their banter, even in death which breaks it up a bit.

We then learn that Claire and Maddie were neighbours growing up, and not is all that it seems. They appear to share similar backstories, however Maddie appears to have pushed Claire away and clearly regrets it.

Maddie’s backpack also gets found, which adds more mystery to this tale. Who has her backpack? The killer? Was it found somewhere and ended up in this house which Xavier knows? 

Simon and Nicole do clash heads in this episode over their differences, but ultimately they want the same thing – to discover what happened to Maddie – despite Xavier. These teens should put all that behind them in her name, in my opinion. 

We then learn that the reason the dead friend group – who I once likened to The Breakfast Club – are celebrating, or honouring the anniversary of Wally’s death. It seems tradition for these dead souls, but I suppose they have nothing better to do!

Maddie’s mom shows up again in this episode, and is sober. This is a rare sighting for the teen which results in some contemplating moments for her. Peyton List plays into the emotional vulnerability with poignance. She wishes to put her investigation on hold for her mom, if it means she gets to remain sober.

Claire and Anderson also buttheads in this episode. Yes – there’s a lot going on. Prior to this, Simon discovered Claire was receiving straight As on her essay in class but kept turning in exactly the same paper supposedly for different books. Everything between these two keeps getting more and more shady, even as the seconds go by at this point.

Claire seems hung up on asking Anderson whether he mentioned her when he spoke to the police – why? It almost seems too obvious that Claire would be the one who sent Maddie to an early grave. I have a small suspicion there is more going on between these two characters than we realise, especially when a video surfaces of Anderson and Claire arguing in what appears to be the school parking lot. The video had to be recorded by someone, right? Perhaps it was Maddie? Who knows.

This episode also proved that even ghosts have their demons… 

Maddie and Wally open up to one another in an emotional exchange where they discuss their moms. Even in death, Wally seems to be stuck in a rut regarding what his mom wanted for him. This results in emotional exchanges and truthful moments between these characters as List and Manheim channel this emotional, charged energy.

Rainbow Wendell | Photo by Ken Kwok/Paramount

Simon hatches a plan to attempt to uncover the truth about Claire – his idea being Xavier asking Claire to the homecoming dance, even when Xavier is in her bad books… Good idea? We shall see. Will the cheerleader crack? Time will tell. 

Maddie revisits the place where she woke up, down in the basement of the school. She and Simon discover a fallout shelter – being able to converse down there meaning someone had to die in that specific place for this to have occurred…

On the surface, Nicole is exchanging words with Maddie’s mom. Nicole seems to be very on edge as she opens her car to put something into the trunk. Maybe I’m just on edge and am reading too much into things? But she has officially made it onto my suspect list. Kiara Pichardo does a great job at projecting some kind of urgency from this character, it appears uncomfortable – perhaps she is hiding a secret? 

Another standout from this episode is Rhonda’s desperation to crossover from the dead club to find peace. And who can blame her? I’m sure as the episodes progress, she will either get what she wants or we shall see her tough exterior soften as a result of Maddie. These ghosts are sure to work together at some point or other! Maybe we will see them at homecoming if we’re lucky?

As far as episodes go, this was a slower one but things did pick up midway through.

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Cobra Kai Season 5 is the Best Karate Kid Sequel!

By Peter Veunnasack

Where do I begin? How about starting with April 8, 2022 when I asked Ralph Macchio and William Zabka if they could describe Season 5 in one word? Ralph says “Awesome!” followed by William’s “Mind-blowing!” in the same cadence Johnny saying “..smartphone” in episode 2×08 “Glory of Love”. He goes on to continue giving me more words! One comment he makes that completely agree with is that every season of Cobra Kai has been “it’s own thing”. Back in June I was a guest on “Kicking It With The Koves”, a podcast hosted by Martin Kove and his twins Jesse and Rachel Kove. The one-word description came up again and Martin describes Season 5 as “Mayhem!”. Kudos to the three of them for being able to give an answer while being put on the spot. I couldn’t think of just one!  I thought of a plethora of words! “Intense!” “Chaos!” and the phrase “I need a cigarette!” all come to mind. And I don’t even smoke cigarettes! But after my initial watch, I processed as much as I could while on a family vacation and I thought about all of the moments that made me smile, or that made me happy. I would describe Season 5 as “Maturation”.

Season 5 starts off by showing a different side of Chozen we’ve never seen before. And I think it sets a tone. Immediately I thought to myself that they have my full attention. Some of our characters matured, and some start to learn things from one another. This is definitely me piggy-backing on my one-word description of Season 4, “Growth”. One of the things I often do when I watch an episode of Cobra Kai, I try to see who wrote the teleplay and who directed the episode. To my surprise, creators Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg, took a backseat in both departments! Based off of memory, all of the directors have worked on previous seasons, with the addition of a new name on the writing team! But make no mistake, “The Guys” as other writers refer to them as, have their fingerprints all over this. The comedy continues with many “Peak Johnny” moments, a term as my friend Sensei Pi’ilani coined, but also some heaviness. What the show also continues to do is give us these moments of levity when it’s really needed. And within those moments of levity, we also see the maturation of our characters where you’d expect some dialogue action to go one way, but it goes another. They continue to use our expectations against us.

By the fifth season, you would think you’ve pegged what’s become a Karate Kid or a Cobra Kai staple. Wondering what episode a fan favorite background character might show up in, how a certain home electronic breaks, which, if any, of the legacy characters return? Some people watched the two trailers and saw the first look photos and thought too much was revealed. You guys have no idea! “The Guys” have a good pulse on our fandom. You know the epression “fan service”? ‘That’ is not a bad thing in our fandom. Jon, Josh and Hayden are the hugest fans of the Miyagiverse! Hayden once said Season 5 is the “What if Cobra Kai won in The Karate Kid Part III?”. Jon Hurwitz had this to say about the second trailer:

Season 5 also takes our characters and puts some of them in a different settings, and the blocking and framing of other scenes makes you feel like this is their two part movie sequel to that third film! And it wouldn’t be Cobra Kai without fighting. The kicks, punches and action all deliver as usual. There is a few instances that come to mind where the tension was so thick that I found myself on the edge of my seat. If you are somewhat active on social media, you’d know how we all love our memes and screengrabs. I think content creators will have a field day with the dialogue! So many great quotes, quips and badass one-liners, that it takes you back to the days of the cheesy 80’s and 90’s action films we enjoyed watching! I mean, come on. The Fist has a sensei with hair like Goku and an eye patch. An eye patch! The season is filled with heart, comedy, action but also with sadness, heartaches and pain. You can expect some set ups from previous seasons to be paid off, some great call backs from some of your favorite moments on the show ‘and’ the films. My advice is to go in and expect awesome fights, great dialogue, intricate story telling, and most of all, character integrity.