We open up this time in the middle of a Satanic cult ritual, where a nifty little blood ritual causes a lump of clay to sculpt itself into a human figure, before cutting to the gang hanging out at a seance where a Wiccan priest is explaining about good magic and bad magic, with at least one good witch who looks a lot like that clay figurine. Micki and Jack are being given custody of a Warlock’s Ladder, which looks a lot like a beaded necklace a kid would make, which the Good Witches had been using, but are giving away because it was made by Lewis Vendredei. So this is probably the one and only time that going up to someone and saying “you have a cursed antique” is going to work for our heroes. The head of the Wiccans, Gareth, also tells Jack how Lewis’ coven has been trying to wipe out their group, so off-screen mage wars are another thing this show just assumes is happening. In any case, while Gareth hits on Micki by implying she has strong occult powers that were never hinted at before, the Evil Witches kidnap the man who was guarding the Ladder previously, and sacrifice him after he tells them that the gang has gotten it back.

At the shop, Ryan is hit on by the head of the Evil Witches, Lyssa, who gives him a story about Lewis killing her sister and how she’s tracking down and destroying Lewis’ artifacts, which Ryan knows can’t be destroyed but he falls for it anyway. Lyssa runs off and makes a voodoo doll of Ryan, to try and compel him to return the Ladder to her coven. This plan works, until Micki touches Ryan and the feedback from her own, previously undisclosed occult powers, injures Lyssa. Ryan rushes off after a phone call from Lyssa, even though Jack’s research indicates that the pendant she was wearing when she came into the shop is the mark of an Evil Witch, and that Lyssa herself was Lewis’ second-in-command, so good job going undercover, Lyssa. Oh, and the Evil Witches go to Gareth’s house, leave a dead body and burn some crosses, as well, so they’re really good at this low-profile, keep hidden thing. Oh, and the reason Lyssa just now turned up is because she was just released from a stint in prison for grave-robbing, so again, good at keeping what she’s up to secret.

Ryan is hiding out at his mechanic pal’s place, when a bunch of Evil Witches that were hiding in the trunk of a car get out and stab the mechanic to death, as part of a convoluted effort to convince Ryan he’s possessed. Micki and Gareth are preparing a ceremony to stop Lyssa when Jack finds out that Lewis sold her a sculpting tool, which she has been using to make her voodoo dolls, so that’s a loose end no one was worried about tied up. Lyssa has Ryan break into the Vault and still the Ladder, and she kills Gareth while Ryan watches, which still, somehow, doesn’t break the spell or make Ryan question her. Jack’s plan to fight Lyssa is to have Micki think good thoughts about Ryan and burn some candles, tapping into her never before mentioned occult powers, which works, since we have less than ten minutes left to this episode. Micki casts a counter-curse on Lyssa while Ryan grabs the Ladder, which…makes the Evil Witches die, essentially. And Micki burns out all her magical powers.

This is a mess. As season finale’s go, it’s not quite as bad as, say, doing a clip show, but it is a story that hinges on the revelation of the characters having skills they never had before, and which will never be mentioned again, and on the characters ignoring information they should know by heart by now to justify a villain’s plot. Neither the Good Witches or the Evil Witches are developed enough to make us really care about either side, and the main antique is so vaguely defined it’s really hard to get any sense of urgency in getting it back.

A Very Robey 80s

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You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown, 1979, Charles M. Schulz
It’s credited to him, but it seems very doubtful this is really by Schulz. It’s a faux-fumetti, presented as stills from the animated special, but with original hand-drawn art.

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This time out we flashback to 1979, and a robbery gone wrong. The gang gets away with seventeen million in marked bills, but leaves Dayton Railsback behind to take the rap for the entire operation. But don’t worry, the gang tells him, “there’s honor among thieves” and the money will still be there for him when he’s released in twenty years. Ten years on, Railsback is a jailhouse lawyer, still apparently convinced his ex-partners haven’t ripped him off, when another inmate trades him an old leather jacket in exchange for the paperwork to get him transferred to minimum security. And almost immediately after trying the jacket on, another inmate gets shanked, smearing blood on the jacket, which causes Railsback to become invisible. Taking advantage, Railsback sneaks out of prison and goes to the storage unit he was told the money was in, which just happens to be the same one Johnny’s father, Vince, is the night watchman at. This inevitably leads to Railsback killing Vince and framing Johnny for it.

Back at the shop, Micki, Ryan and Jack are at a loss trying to figure out how to prove Johnny’s innocence to a world that doesn’t believe in the occult, and Johnny is sent to the same prison as Railsback while he waits for his trial. Railsback is having his lawyer track down his accomplices, having learned that the three of them jointly own a safety deposit box, and Johnny has recognized the smell of Railsback’s cigars from the break-in, and just barely misses catching Railsback turning invisible after killing an inmate, breaking out, and killing one of his accomplices. While the prison goes into lockdown over all these killings, Ryan tells Micki that he planned on buying a kamikazee jacket from one of the prisoners, which turns people invisible because sure, why not. Railsback also finds Johnny searching his cell, so whatever cover Johnny might have had is completely blown, but he does get the names of Railsback’s accomplices to Micki and Ryan. They find the accomplice Railsback killed, and get shot at by Jane, another accomplice, who gets away. And that night, Railsback kills yet another inmate, and Johnny gets beaten by a guard for trying to stop him. And Railsback kills Jane before Micki and Ryan can get there, because they really aren’t terribly good at this.

Johnny’s cellmate, the stock “grizzled old prisoner to old for the outside world” character, finds out what Johnny is up to and realizes that Railsback must have discovered the disused old ventilation system to make his escapes. Which…isn’t remotely how we saw him escaping at the start of the episode, but sure, we’ll go with that, there’s only ten minutes left. Railsback is also pressuring his lawyer to give up the location of the last accomplice, and subtly hinting that he’s going to kill his lawyer too once this is all over. As Micki and Ryan track down the last accomplice by pressuring the lawyer, Johnny tries to steal the jacket, and gets himself stabbed by Railsback. Jack calls the warden to warn him about Railsback’s attempted escape as we discover that Johnny tricked Railsback in order to get him out of his cell before the guards came, but gets his cell mate killed in the process, so it sort of backfires. Johnny chases Railsback through the prison, guards chasing him, and eventually ends up setting Railsback on fire, which somehow manages to convince the authorities that Johnny is innocent. Despite just killing a guy.

This somewhat feels like a late season, “running out of money” type of story. The invisible man effects are on the cheap side, there’s a lot of the same sets being reused with slightly different dressing to obscure the fact that the prison consists of essentially one room, and the antique is another one of the “just go with it” types we see from time to time. It’s not a bad episode, and Steve Monarque does a good job with being asked to carry the bulk of it, but in the end it’s pretty forgettable.

A Very Robey 80s

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Knight of Shadows, 2013, Toby Venables
A revisionist approach to Robin Hood legends, featuring Guy of Gisburne as a secret agent working for Prince John, desperately trying to hold England together while King Richard bankrupts the country for the sake of his ego. It’s a brisk story, with lots of Templar intrigue and a Robin Hood figure closer to what a 12th Century brigand would have been like.

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In a hospital in Not Canada, aging, barely competent Dr. Lamar nearly kills a patient during surgery, possibly because he is too busy making cracks about Dr. White Cloud’s Native American ancestry, with the following altercation leading to Dr. White Cloud losing his hospital privileges because apparently you can have single-payer or medical ethics but not both. White Cloud visits his grand-father Spotted Owl, a traditional healer, and we find there’s tension in the family because White Cloud went to medical school instead of becoming a very Hollywood Central Casting Medicine Man. His cousin, possibly, Sasheena, has become the apprentice, and takes White Cloud to a, well, Native American burial site, where he finds a rattle while she performs a ceremony. When he picks it up, he receives a vision of an earlier shaman using the rattle to heal someone after killing another person, so hey, standard tit-for-tat cursed object. Back at the hospital, White Cloud finds one of Lamar’s cronies fiddling with the patient that nearly died, so he shakes the rattle at him which…flies into the air and emits a bright light, causing the other doctor to bleed to death. Then, White Cloud is able to heal the patient.

At the shop, Micki is off to the hospital to see her friend Blair, who has just been diagnosed with a very rare form of lung cancer. Dr. Lamar, who has brushed off the death of his underling, orders one of White Cloud’s patients to be drugged up, rather than attempt surgery on her condition, so White Cloud comes back that night and kills Lamar’s nurse-crony and heals his patient, with Blair witnessing the healing and getting ideas about her own terminal condition. Blair tells Micki about the healing rattle, and sure enough, in the Manifest Jack finds a listing for a traditional shaman’s rattle that Lewis sold to Spotted Owl four years ago. Spotted Owl, meanwhile, refuses to help Jack recover the rattle because he’s not going to just hand over a sacred artifact he spent years trying to recover to a white guy. Which, okay, he’s got a point. White Cloud, meanwhile, has run out of Lamar’s cronies to kill and has moved onto the man’s patients, so apparently he’s not supposed to be the sympathetic villain of circumstance the first half of the episode suggested he might be. Especially once Ryan finds out that he is making a deal with a wealthy man dying of cancer to save him in exchange for funding for his own clinic.

Spotted Owl has finally had enough visions of the rattle being used, and agrees to give it to Jack after he takes it from White Cloud. Despite blasting it with some Force Lightning, the rattle kills Spotted Owl, and now White Cloud is starting to feel bad about using an evil cursed antique. Though not so much that he doesn’t use it to heal the rich man or blame Lamar for the death. Blair goes to White Cloud for healing, which gives him the excuse he needs to kidnap Lamar, and Sasheena enlists Jack and the gang to help her “awaken the spirits of the ancestors” to defeat the rattle. When the ghosts do appear, they disintegrate White Cloud, saving the horrible racist in the process and condemning the innocent girl to a lingering death.

You can really see what they were trying with this episode. It’s a standard curse, but an effort was made to make the villain sympathetic, and show him mostly using the rattle for the right reasons. That all falls apart along the way, but it’s a valiant effort. It’s also a fairly cringe-inducing portrayal of Native American religious practice, where it’s fairly clear that no one gave much thought to issues of cultural accuracy. Which is a little surprising, since the show did relatively well when it covered voodoo. Some attempts at sensitivity are on display, especially with the ultimate fate of the rattle being that it is left with the tribe, and maybe I’m wrong, and maybe the costumes and chants are accurate, but on screen they don’t read that way.

A Very Robey 80s

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