The Midwich Cuckoos, c. 1990 ed., John Wyndham
Another book of which I own multiple editions.

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Our third and final season opens with a 30 second recap of the show premise, for the benefit of new viewers. We then cut to a provincial village in France, and either the production moved up to a more cinematic film stock or the makers of the home video version didn’t even attempt to clean up the master tapes. In any case, Jack arrives at midnight, and attempts to get a room at the local hotel, apparently having come to meet with a miraculous healing nun, Sister Adele. That usually means a cursed antique is nearby, and sure enough, at 3:33 AM, the clock tower starts ringing eerily distorted chimes, waking the entire town. In an abandoned building, a mysterious figure reads from a book of prophecy, and at the convent, an elderly nun convulses as she becomes possessed by an evil force. She tries to strangle Sister Adele with her rosary, before expiring when the priest, Father Decrux shows up to begin exorcising the room.

Back at the shop, Micki spends some time to exposition at Johnny about how Ryan is depressed because it’s the fourteenth anniversary of his brother’s death, so he’s hanging out at the cemetery. While he’s there, Ryan’s long-missing mother reappears, claiming that she’s been having visions of Ryan’s death. Back in France, Jack tries to see Sister Adele but is given the brush off by Decrux, so an old lady tells him that he must help Sister Adele by telling people of the attempt on her life, which was apparently the latest of several cases of possessed nuns going on murderous rampages, which only begs the question of why the other nuns have stuck around. Jack stakes out the convent and sees the Decrux sneak Sister Adele out and into another building in town. At 3:33 the mysterious figure begins reading again, this time setting “the beasts” on Sister Adele, which mostly consists of lots of barking dogs and one German Shepard actually attacking her. Jack saves the pair, and the dog appears to say “Nema” before dying.

This act gets Decrux to trust Jack, but it also marks the point where the people of the village have had enough, and start leaving town, to be replaced by TV Satanists (you can tell because they wear black and have weird haircuts). Jack tries to persuade Adele to let him help in the face of the most powerful supernatural manifestation he’s ever seen, but she insists that everything that is happening is according to the vision she was given ten years ago, when her healing powers manifested. Specifically, that the fallen angel Asteroth would attempt to corrupt the sacred shrine waters with the powers of the Book of Lucifer. Apparently, when the book’s six prophecies are fulfilled, Satan will walk the Earth, and two of the prophecies have already come true.

Over in Not Canada, Micki is packing, having been asked by Jack to bring over all the relevant research they have, which Ryan isn’t happy about, having just reconciled with his mother. At the airport, Ryan and his mother see a going away ceremony for a young girl in a wheelchair, Chris, who is headed to the village for healing. While boarding, Chris has a vision and tells Ryan not to get on the plane, but we’ve got an hour left on this extra-long episode, so…he boards anyway. And in the village, Asteroth starts the next prophecy, driving the psychiatric patients Adele had been treating into a frenzy, murdering nurses and orderlies. Jack, notices that the patients all seem to be calling out to a specific building. He breaks in to confront Asteroth and is given a vision of Satan’s plans for Earth, which are mostly stock footage of nuclear explosions and riots, before being tossed down the stairs.

Micki and Ryan arrive to find a comatose Jack in the hospital being watched over by Sister Adele, who explains the situation to them, while in town people seeking healing start to trickle in, along with more TV Satanists. Since everyone is caught up, Asteroth puts in a public appearance at the sacred spring, causing the waters to boil during a healing ceremony and pretty much just flat out yelling his plans at the assembled masses. Including that one of the people gathered there will become Satan’s disciple, and seeming to point at Ryan while doing so. (SPOILER: he was totally pointing at Ryan. Boy just can’t help but get possessed by Satanists, apparently.) Micki and Ryan chase after Asteroth, which doesn’t do much except give him a chance to capture Ryan and put a spell on him. And while John LeMay does some passable “I am possessed” acting, Asteroth breaks into a crypt to use as his next HQ.

As Micki researches the situation, possessed Ryan goes to the convent and kills Adele. Micki calls Johnny, busy reassuring Ryan’s mother that everything will be okay, to come over to France to help, just before the police break in to her hotel room to interrogate her. While that happens, Asteroth announces that the next phase of his plan is to have Ryan, somehow, arrange for Satan to possess Chris. Johnny arrives during Adele’s midnight funeral and gets Micki out of police custody by pointing out that they haven’t actually arrested her, and the two go to find Ryan, refusing to believe he’s responsible for the murder. And then, right under the nose of the police, Ryan kidnaps Chris from the funeral procession.

Jack wakes up while this is going on, having had visions of what Asteroth is up with Ryan and Chris, and break out of the hospital. He meets up with Micki and Johnny and the three of them piece together what Asteroth is planning. Asteroth, meanwhile, is not having an easy go of it, with Chris rejecting Satan even after he heals her legs and lets her walk again. On top of which, just as he goes to sacrifice Chris anyway, Ryan suddenly remembers his little brother, overcomes the possession, and takes the stab meant for Chris, just as the rest of the gang arrives. Only, instead of dying, Ryan is deaged fifteen years, turning into a preteen boy, because apparently the prophecy was about him after all. And then the Virgin Mary manifests as a huge flaming sphere above the village and destroys Asteroth and the Book of Lucifer. Chris has them take Ryan to the sacred waters and prays for the Virgin Mary’s intercession in chasing out the last of whatever Satanic power still controls Ryan, becoming the new holy child of the convent in the process. And Ryan’s memory has also regressed, which makes for some interesting explaining when they take him back to his mother in America.

So, my original memory of this episode was that the first half was used as a cliffhanger for season two, but I can’t find any evidence to back that up online. In any case, it’s being presented as the third season opener, as one extra-long episode here. It’s a bit of an odd episode, not surprisingly, since the point of it largely seems to be to get John LeMay written off the show. The story largely repeats a lot of the same beats from the previous installment, though, including Ryan’s possession and Satanic plots, so despite the French setting and extra length, the whole thing feels more than a little repetitive. Instead of an antique, we’ve got more hints of a larger supernatural world, and frustratingly not much is done with out after the initial infodump. That the threat is ultimately defeated not by the heroes but by a literal deus ex machine is fairly frustrating too. All told, it’s a pretty disappointing way to open the final season.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Iron Ship, 2015, K.M. McKinley
This is a well-written book with a nicely realized world, where magic is starting to be overtaken by scientific development. At just over 600 pages long, about 400 of those pages are people discussing economics.
This isn’t a complaint, exactly, but the book doesn’t have a lot of dynamic scenes and is very obviously the first part of a series. I mean, the ship of the title doesn’t even set sail until nearly the last chapter.

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Bored of the Rings, 1969, “Harvard Lampoon”
Nerds have never been funny. Nerds have always thought they were funny. Nerds have always mistaken references to things, sexism and racism for actual humor.

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