Random Musings: Why the 1990 and current Flash series are part of the same multiverse

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The Flash of 1990.

It occurs to me that the existence of multiple Earths introduced in The Flash allows the 1990 Flash series to be part of the same multiverse as the 2014-present Flash series.

How so?

In the 1990 series, John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen (AKA The Flash). In the current series, Grant Gustin plays Barry and Shipp portrayed Barry’s father, Henry. However, we don’t know whether he’s Henry junior. In the 1990 series, Barry also had a father named Henry (played by (M. Emmet Walsh). I don’t recall any mention of Barry’s grandparents in the present Flash series, so the Earth One Barry’s grandfather could be the doppelganger of the Earth 90’s— let’s call it (for 1990)— Barry’s father.

So, in 1955 (assuming Henry Allen is the same age as John Wesley Shipp) the Allen families of both Earth One and Earth 90 welcomed a baby boy. On Earth One, they name him Henry; On Earth 90, they name him Barry. For whatever reason, Henry went into medicine while Barry followed his father into police work.

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Barry hit by lightning.

But wait, you say, there are various differences in the two shows. The 1990 series had STAR labs, but it wasn’t the source of a particle accelerator explosion that gave Barry his powers; he got them when he was doused by electrified chemicals, as in the comics. Also, the Central City of the 1990s series had a very stylized, 1950s look, considerably different from the Central City of the present series. What about those difference?

First, how a city is laid out isn’t necessarily going to affect one particular family that lives there (and who knows how many generations of the Allen family have lived in the city?) and second, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that different people on different Earths (and in different generations) could come up with the name STAR Labs. Maybe on Earth 90, it was built by someone with the last name of Star.

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Tina McGee and Barry Allen.

Another connection is Dr. Tina McGee. Amanda Pays has played a woman by that name in both series. The Earth One McGee could easily be the doppelganger of the Earth 90 one. On Earth 90, Tina McGee was employed at STAR Labs, established (let’s say) by Mr. or Ms. Star. On Earth One, Star was never born, never lived in Central City or went into a different line of work, so it wasn’t until decades later that a different incarnation of STAR Labs came along, established by Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan. By which time, the Tina McGee of Earth One would have found employment elsewhere, eventually ending up at Mercury Labs.

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Tina McGee and the Flash.

Shipp himself provides still another connection. In the current series, he also plays Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth Three. And one of his adversaries, seen in the mid-season finale this year, is the Trickster (Mark Hamill), who could very well be the doppelganger of the Trickster fought by the Flash of Earth 90.

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Barry Allen and Jay Garrick.

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Jay Garrick and the Trickster.

Hamill also plays the Trickster on Earth One in the current series, with clips from the original show showing him in his prime, suggesting the Earth One and Earth 90 Tricksters had similar careers, except the former didn’t have a Flash to fight in 1990.

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Henry Allen and the Flash.

Henry Allen of Earth One told Barry that Henry’s mother’s maiden name was Garrick, while the Barry Allen of Earth 90 had an older brother named Jay (Tim Thomerson). Maybe Mrs. Allen’s father’s name was Jay. On Earth 90, the Allens named their elder son Jay; on Earth Three, Ms. Garrick was a single mother who named her son after her father; and on Earth One, Henry Allen either has the middle name of Jay or has a brother or cousin named Jay.

It’s implied that Jay Garrick has been the Flash for years. If he’s still active, maybe the Barry Allen of Earth 90 is still racing around on his Earth.

The Barry Allen of Earth One should never meet the Barry Allen of Earth 90 on screen (having John Wesley Shipp play both Henry Allen and Jay Garrick are sufficient nods to the old show), but there’s significant, if circumstantial, evidence the 1990s Barry Allen is still running around out there.

There’s also historical precedence. The multiverse was originally established to explain why DC superheroes hadn’t aged over the decades. It’s because the “Golden Age” incarnations of The Flash, et al. lived in a separate universe from their “Silver Age” counterparts and were also a generation older.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A look back at the Vigilante

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Last night’s episode of Arrow introduced the Vigilante, a man who, unlike the Green Arrow, seems to believe the only good criminal is a dead one. He also doesn’t care about innocent people caught in the crossfire, calling them “collateral damage.”

The character of Vigilante first appeared in the pages of New Teen Titans in 1982 before spinning off into his own eponymous title, published between 1983 and 1987. This time, I’m going to talk about that DC Comics series, which painted a realistic picture of what happens when someone takes the law into their own hands.

Adrian Chase was a crusading Manhattan district attorney who frequently crossed paths with the Titans. He was frustrated by the number of criminals who went free due to legal technicalities. After a bomb blast meant for him killed his family, Chase donned a black costume, put on a mask and became the Vigilante (in New Teen Titans Annual #2, 1983).

At first, Vigilante went after those criminals who were obviously guilty, but had been freed on technicalities. From the very beginning, however, Chase had doubts about what right he had to take the law into his own hands. In the second issue, he nearly killed an innocent man. Later, when he became a judge, Chase decided he couldn’t continue to live outside the law.

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Vigilante attacks an innocent man.

Adrian Chase gave up being Vigilante, but Vigilante refused to die. Soon, another man was wearing the costume. Unlike Chase, however, this man went on a bloody rampage. That’s exactly what would happen in real life. If any of us, for whatever reason, adopted a costumed identity and took the law into our own hands, someone else would be more than wiling to carry the torch after we’d given it up. And who knows how extreme they’d be by comparison?

Although he had the best of intentions when he began his career as Vigilante, Adrian Chase was indirectly responsible for loosing a madman on the city. He hunted the man down and was forced to shoot him in self defense. Only then, to his horror, did Chase discover that “Psycho Vig”, as readers liked to call him, was his best friend, Judge Alan Welles.

Welles had suffered a nervous breakdown and had been unfortunate enough to see Chase throw away the Vigilante costume. He took his presence at that significant event as a sign that he was meant to carry on Chase’s work.

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Adrian Chase confronts Alan Welles.

Chase now had to deal with the death of his best friend, for which he’d later be brought to trial, as well as the realization that his example contributed to Welles’ madness. On top of that, Vigilante was back. This time, the man behind the mask was Dave Winston, Chase’s idealistic bailiff, who’d witnessed the confrontation between Chase and Welles. Winston revealed himself to Chase and told him he believed Chase’s original intentions were good. However, Chase tried to convince him that he’d been wrong to start the whole thing in the first place.

Winston wouldn’t listen. He felt certain he had the answers. However, he made the mistake of underestimating another man and ended up dead.

That was the last straw as far as Chase was concerned. He once again became the Vigilante, but his sanity was slipping. He felt that the only way to keep the people close to him from dying was to remain Vigilante. From that point on, his world quickly collapsed. While fighting Dave Winston’s killer, he was unmasked on live television, forcing him to give up his old life.

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Adrian Chase becomes Vigilante again.

Later, a government agency he’d unwittingly crossed paths with gave him a new identity. For a short while, it looked as if things were returning to normal. But that was just a facade. Adrian Chase, overwhelmed by guilt over the deaths of his family and friends, committed suicide.

Some of you are no doubt asking, “What kind of role model is that?” He wasn’t a role model. That’s the whole point. Adrian Chase was a man who meant well, but in the end caused more grief and suffering than he prevented. What’s more, his suicide didn’t guarantee the end of Vigilante (a woman would later assume that identity); it merely ended his awareness of the problem.

Throughout its 50-issue run, Vigilante explored several controversial issues, ranging from capital punishment to gun control to (obviously) vigilante justice. The various issues were not only explored in the stories but also in the letters from readers. Whatever your political persuasion, Vigilante gave you food for thought.

The book wasn’t without its problems, however. Some of the storylines haven’t aged very well and some of the legal arguments in various storylines had major real-world flaws, based on some articles I’ve subsequently read. But despite those shortcomings, Vigilante at least attempted to show the consequences of people taking the law into their own hands.

In Arrow, Star City District Attorney Adrian Chase was introduced earlier this season and a rhetorical comment by Chase in last night’s episode implies he is the Vigilante of the TV series. He probably is, but given that superhero-based TV shows have made changes from the source material in the past, it could be misdirection.

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Green Arrow confronts Vigilante.

If Chase is the Vigilante of Arrow, it’ll be interesting to see how the Green Arrow will react if he succeeds in actually unmasking the Vigilante, something he failed to do in last night’s episode, despite having temporarily immobilized him. Likewise, the reverse. You see, unlike the Green Arrow and the Vigilante, D.A. Chase and Mayor Oliver Queen have a good working relationship.

So far, the Vigilante of Arrow seems more like Alan Welles in temperament than either Adrian Chase or Dave Winston (neither of them viewed innocents as collateral damage). It’ll be interesting to see why the TV version of Vigilante seems more extreme than his comics counterpart.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Revisiting the Doctor Who episode “Hide.”

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On a stormy night in 1974, at Caliburn House, Major Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine), a psychic, are conducting an experiment to communicate with the spirit inhabiting the house, when there’s a knock on the door.

It’s the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman). The doctor says he’s looking for a ghost. He also lets Palmer, who specialized in espionage and reconnaissance behind enemy lines in World War II, believe he’s with military intelligence.

A reluctant Palmer tells the Doctor and Clara that while Caliburn House has been around more than 400 years, the “Caliburn Gast” has been around much longer, having been mentioned in local Saxon poetry and parish folk tales.

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The Caliburn Gast.

He shows them a board of photographs depicting a translucent figure in various locales throughout the house.

Clara asks why the figure, who screams, according to various reports over the years, is always in the same position, regardless of the angle or the framing of a particular photo.

“We don’t know,” Palmer says. “She’s an objective phenomenon, but objective recording equipment can’t detect her.”

“Without the presence of a powerful psychic,” the Doctor interjects.

“Absolutely,” Palmer confirms.

For her part, Grayling says she can feel the ghost, who knows she’s there, calling out to her, saying, “Help me.”

As they talk, a figure flits past them.

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The Doctor and Major Palmer.

When the Doctor asks if she’s coming to find the ghost, Clara replies with the very sensible, “Why would I want to do that?”

But she goes off to investigate, anyway, especially when the Doctor agrees to dare her.

Palmer recognizes the Doctor as a liar, though he doesn’t know if he’s lying about being from the ministry.

“But, you know, that’s often the way that it is when someone’s seen a thing or two,” he tells Grayling.

During their investigations, the Doctor and Clara hear a loud thudding sound, which the Doctor, not-so-helpfully, identifies as, “a very loud noise.”

In a scene reminiscent of The Haunting, when Clara tells the Doctor that while she’s a tiny bit terrified, there’s no need for him to hold her hand, he shows her that he’s not. A flash of lightning reveals something and they run.

They rejoin Palmer and Grayling, where they see both a spinning disc and a woman shouting, “Help me.” The words subsequently appear on the wall.

The Doctor borrows Palmer’s camera and uses the TARDIS to take a series of pictures from throughout the history of the Earth.

Returning to 1974, he shows the slides he’s taken, asking what if the Caliburn Gast isn’t trapped in a moment of fear and torment, but just trapped somewhere where time runs more slowly?

“What if a second to her was 100,000 years to us?” he asks.

The Doctor reveals that the Caliburn Gast isn’t a ghost, though she is a lost soul; she’s a time traveler named Hila Tacorian (Kemi-Bo Jacobs).

He also says Tacorian crash landed three minutes ago, from her perspective, in a rapidly collapsing pocket universe and tells Grayling that she’s a lantern, shining across the dimensions and guiding Tacorian back to the land of the living.

The slides also reveal that Tacorian is running from a creature of some sort.

One of the names for the Caliburn Gast is “The Witch of the Well”, though Palmer said there’s no well on the property, so far as they know. Once he knows the truth about the “ghost”, the Doctor realizes the “well” is a wormhole, “a door to the echo universe.”

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The Doctor and Emma Grayling.

With help from equipment cobbled together from the TARDIS, Emma Grayling opens a portal and the Doctor goes into the pocket universe to retrieve Hila Tacorian. She gets back safely, but the Doctor isn’t so lucky. It’s now up to Clara to convince the TARDIS, which apparently doesn’t like her, to travel into the pocket universe while an exhausted Grayling tries to open the portal again.

The Doctor, successfully retrieved, explains why the psychic link was so powerful: Hila Tacorian is Emma Grayling’s many times great granddaughter.

But if Hila Tacorian was a time traveler running for her life in a pocket universe, who or what held Clara’s hand inside the house? The penny drops as the Doctor realizes the full truth about the creature and the episode reveals its second twist.

Although “Hide” is not a Halloween story, per se (it takes place in late November), I thought it apropos for discussion today. It is a ghost story, after all.

Speaking of ghosts, I particularly liked a scene in the TARDIS, after the Doctor has taken the final picture at the end of the Earth’s life. When he confirms that he and Clara have just watched the entire life cycle of Earth, birth to death, she asks if he’s okay with that.

“Yes.”

“How can you be?” she asks, adding that one minute they’re in 1974, looking for ghosts. “But all you have to do is open your eyes and talk to whoever’s standing there. To you, I haven’t been born yet. And to you, I’ve been dead 100 billion years.”

She asks if her body’s out there somewhere, in the ground.

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“But here we are, talking. So, I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you.”

“Hide” is an enjoyable Doctor Who episode, suitable for Halloween viewing. The revelation about the Caliburn Gast probably explains every ghost story out there. Oh, those pesky time travelers, always causing mischief. :)

Seriously, though, the idea that a “ghost” seen for centuries is, in fact, a living woman who’s only experienced three minutes is pretty cool.

All things being equal, I like the truth about the ghost more than the truth about the monster, though I recognize that the latter has a thematic connection to the story of Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling.

Again, “Hide” is a good tale to revisit on Halloween.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A review of The Mystery of the Talking Skull

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After seeing an item in the paper about an auction, Jupiter Jones, leader of the Three Investigators, a junior detective firm in Rocky Beach, California, convinces his partners, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, that they should attend. “Every new experience helps broaden our background as investigators,” he says.

At the auction, Jupe decides to bid on an old theatrical trunk. His winning $1 bid ends up costing the boys plenty in terms of danger in The Mystery of the Talking Skull, the 11th book in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators Mystery Series.

The trunk belonged to a magician called The Great Gulliver and almost immediately after it becomes the boys’ property, a lot of people start to take an interest in it. Moments after the sale, an old woman tries to buy it for $25, but Jupe refuses to sell.

The mystery takes a turn toward the otherworldly when the boys discover a key component of the Great Gulliver’s act— a skull named Socrates that could supposedly talk. A skull that gets their undivided attention when it sneezes.

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The Three Investigators meet Socrates.

Later, when Jupe is alone with the skull at night, it tells him to go to a certain address. When he does, he learns from a Gypsy woman named Zelda that Gulliver “has vanished from the world of men. He is dead, yet he lives.”

She also asks Jupe to help find Gulliver and bring him back.

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Jupe and Zelda.

The boys learn that Gulliver spent time in jail for fortune telling and that his cellmate, Spike Neely, was a now-deceased bank robber who hid $50,000 somewhere. Jupe concludes that Gulliver vanished because criminals thought he knew the location of the money. He also realizes those criminals have likely reached the same conclusion about the Three Investigators, especially since the criminals had the opportunity to search the trunk and didn’t find any clue to the money’s location. For their own safety, the boys must figure out where Spike Neely hid the money and, if possible, what became of the Great Gulliver.

As I’ve said before, The Three Investigators is one of the best juvenile mystery series. The series, which ran from 1964 to 1987, was created by Robert Arthur, whose credits include co-creation of the radio program The Mysterious Traveler and editing or ghost-editing various Alfred Hitchcock short story anthologies.

The Mystery of the Talking Skull was the last Three Investigators book Arthur wrote before his death in 1969. It was also the first book in the series that I read, back in fourth grade, so I have a particular fondness for it. I reread the book recently and found that the story remains engaging. I will say the truth about one particular subplot seems obvious and I can’t help but wonder: Did I recognize that truth as a kid or accept things at face value, as the boys do?

In fairness to Jupe, once he learns he’s been tricked, he mentally kicks himself for not having noticed the obvious red flags.

Robert Arthur respected his readers’ intelligence, which is one reason I can still read and enjoy a Three Investigators book today. Bearing that in mind, maybe he expected readers to be one step ahead of the boys regarding that particular subplot.

Young readers probably also enjoyed the challenge of trying to decipher the hidden message Jupe is sure exists within the words of a short letter from Spike Neely to Gulliver. Really alert readers may have caught a clue in the frontispiece.

In addition to a well crafted mystery, The Mystery of the Talking Skull has some nice character moments. The whip smart Jupe falls for a practical joke by his uncle because he jumps to conclusions. He also misreads a key clue for the same reason. Though, his reasoning involving the clue is relatively sound.

All in all, The Mystery of the Talking Skull is an enjoyable read.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A look at 12 great episodes of Supernatural

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Tonight, Supernatural will begin its 12th season, a rare accomplishment for a TV show, especially these days. In honor of this achievement, I’m revisiting one great episode from each of the first 11 seasons, plus one “bonus” episode. After some thought, I decided the best “bonus” episode would be the pilot.

In 1983, something pins Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) to the ceiling of her infant son’s bedroom and sets the house on fire, sending her husband, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), fleeing for safety with his two boys.

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Mary Winchester’s death.

Twenty-two years later, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) receives a surprise visit at college from his brother, Dean (Jensen Ackles), who tells him their father hasn’t returned home from a hunting trip.

John Winchester raised his boys to hunt monsters, but Sam quit to go to college. Now, he’s drawn back in, one last time, as he and Dean follow their father’s trail and find themselves investigating a Woman in White (Sarah Shahi), a ghost who targets unfaithful men.

After defeating her, Sam returns home, expecting to pick up his life, only to find his girlfriend, Jessica (Adrianne Palicki), dead on the ceiling, just like his mother. He sets out with Dean to find answers.

Season one: “Scarecrow.”

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Sam meets Meg.

Sam and Dean split up when Sam refuses to follow his father’s orders to investigate the annual disappearances of couples near a small town. He’s determined to go to California to join John in his hunt for the demon who killed both Mary Winchester and Jessica.

While Dean hunts a Norse Vanir accepting sacrifices from the townspeople, Sam meets a young woman named Meg (Nicki Aycox), whose story about her home life reminds him of his own.

When Dean doesn’t answer repeated phone calls, Sam ignores Meg’s suggestions that he write him off and continue to California. Instead, he goes after Dean.

Later in the season, we learn that Meg’s a demon. The boys would later exorcise her, but she’d return in a new “meat suit.” They’d also encounter the vengeful ghost of the woman the demon possessed.

Season two: “Roadkill.”

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Greeley and Molly.

Sam and Dean try to help a woman named Molly McNamara (Tricia Helfer) escape from the ghost of a farmer named Jonah Greeley (Winston Rekert), who’d died 15 years earlier.

“Every year, Greeley finds someone to punish for what happened to him,” Sam tells her. “Tonight, that person is you.”

When Molly asks why her, Sam tells her some spirits only see what they want.

She’s also concerned about her missing husband, David, and confused why her car has disappeared.

A little more than half an hour into the episode, the twist comes: Molly is also a ghost. Every year for the past 15 years, she and Greeley have been replaying the night she accidentally hit him and crashed her car.

Sam and Dean bring Molly to see David with his new wife so she can move on.

Season 3: “Mystery Spot.”

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Dean electrocuted.

Dean is killed during an investigation of the Broward County Mystery Spot, only for Sam to wake up to find the day starting over again.

Sam relives the day hundreds of times as Dean is hit by a car; killed by a falling desk; chokes on his food; slips in the shower; gets food poisoning; is electrocuted; attacked by a dog, etc.

Behind it all is The Trickster (Richard Speight, Jr.), a creature they thought they’d killed the previous season. He reveals that he’s teaching Sam a lesson: he can’t save Dean.

At the end of season two, Sam was killed and Dean sold his soul to bring him back. He only got one year, so they’re aware of the ticking clock, even as Sam struggles to find a way to get Dean out of his contract.

Season 4: “Lazarus Rising.”

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Castiel’s debut.

Four months after Dean’s soul was dragged to Hell, he digs his way out of a grave surrounded by flattened trees. He also discovers the imprint of a hand burned into his shoulder.

Both Bobby (Jim Beaver) and Sam initially don’t believe it’s really Dean, but he proves his identity. The three wonder how Dean is back, his ripped-to-shreds body intact.

An entity named Castiel (Misha Collins) is responsible. Dean and Bobby summon Castiel, who turns out to be an angel. He dragged Dean out of Hell, “because God commanded it.”

Meanwhile, Sam hunts demons in the company of a woman (Genevieve Cortese) he initially pretended had been a one-night stand. It turns out she’s the demon Ruby, who’d allied herself with the boys in the third season, in a new meat suit.

Cortese would later marry Jared Padalecki.

With the introduction of angels, season four opened Supernatural up to new story ideas, especially given that angels weren’t much better than demons in most respects. Castiel would go on to become a major part of the series.

Season five: “Changing Channels.”

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Dean confronts the Trickster.

One of the great things about Supernatural is that the writers, producers and actors aren’t afraid to experiment and play with form. “Changing Channels” begins like an 80s sitcom. There’s even an 80s-style opening credits.

When a violent man’s widow says he was killed by the Incredible Hulk, the brothers figure the Trickster is involved. Dean wants to kill him, but Sam thinks he might be a useful ally in stopping the coming apocalypse.

Their investigations take them to an abandoned warehouse, where they suddenly find themselves having to live out lives as characters in various TV shows, including a hospital soap, the aforementioned sitcom; a procedural cop show and Knight Rider, with Sam as KITT.

The Trickster tells them if they survive “the game” (of being characters in different TV shows) for the next 24 hours, he’ll agree to talk about Sam’s idea.

He also wants them to play their roles as Michael’s and Lucifer’s vessels.

When even Castiel can’t help them, the boys realize the Trickster is an angel. He admits he’s the archangel Gabriel. He’d run away because he couldn’t stand to see his family fighting.

Dean tells Gabriel he’s too afraid to stand up to his family, leading Gabriel to come off the sidelines later in the season.

Season six: “The French Mistake.”

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Sam and Dean discover their knives are fake.

After Sam and Dean stopped the apocalypse, a civil war broke out in Heaven. To protect them from Raphael (Lanette Ware), the angel Balthazar (Sebastian Roche) sends them to another universe on Castiel’s instructions. There, Sam and Dean Winchester are just characters in a TV show, played by actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.

The brothers are surprised at what they learn about these actors who look like them. As I’ve said before, Dean’s reaction at seeing a clip of Jensen Ackles in a soap opera is worth the price of admission; and when he discovers that Jared Padalecki married Genevieve Cortese, he says to Sam, “You married fake Ruby?”

They think everything’s all right when they run into Castiel, only to find that he’s only an actor named Misha Collins.

“Misha? Jensen?” Dean asks at one point. “What’s with the names around here?”

Season seven: “Defending Your Life.”

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Osiris and Jo.

Sam and Dean discover that people killed by ghosts are being judged by the Egyptian god Osiris (Faran Tahir). What’s more, he’s got Dean on his docket. And the star witness against Dean for the deaths he’s caused over the years? The ghost of Jo Harvelle (Alona Tal), a fellow hunter. Osiris reveals that he summoned Jo because Dean feels responsible for her death (in season five).

Osiris finds Dean guilty in his heart and forces Jo to kill him. In order to stop her, Sam has to find a way to kill Osiris.

Season eight: “Goodbye, Stranger.”

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Sam and Meg vs. Crowley.

Castiel has been programmed by an angel named Naomi (Amanda Tapping) and tells the brothers he’s been killing demons in his search for the other half of the demon tablet that provides instructions on how to close the gates of Hell forever (Sam had begun to undertake a series of trials to do that). He says Crowley (Mark Sheppard), the self-proclaimed King of Hell, has sent demons out to find Lucifer’s crypts.

It turns out he’s lying; he’s really looking for an angel tablet, a fact revealed by the demon Meg (Rachel Miner), who’d been Crowley’s prisoner. Meg, who’d resurfaced in a new meat suit in season five, had long been at odds with Crowley and offers to help Sam and Dean, even after Crowley tells her their plans. She even sacrifices herself so they can escape him.

Season nine: “Slumber Party.”

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Charlie and Dorothy.

The boys seek help from their ally Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) in bringing the ancient computer equipment in the Men of Letters bunker up to date. They inadvertently release two beings preserved in suspended animation since 1935— Dorothy (Tiio Horn) and the Wicked Witch (Maya Massar).

Yes, in the Supernatural universe, Oz is real; L Frank Baum was a Man of Letters; his daughter, Dorothy, was accidentally trapped in Oz and Baum’s books were actually instructions on how to fight the evil there, a fact Charlie discovers.

After destroying the witch, Charlie, who’s looking for a quest, sets off with Dorothy to save Oz.

Earlier, Dorothy told Charlie she never wore the slippers. “Seems kind of tacky wearing a dead woman’s shoes.”

Bit of a goof with the shoes. They should have been silver , not ruby, since A) Dorothy’s adventures inspired the books, which had silver slippers; and B) she disappeared four years before the movie was made.

Season ten: “Fan Fiction.”

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The cast of “Fan Fiction.”

In season four, Sam and Dean discover a series of novels about their adventures, written by a man named Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict), whom Castiel says is a prophet. He also tells them the books will one day be known as the Winchester Gospels.

In season eleven, viewers would learn that Chuck is actually God, which had been implied in season five.

“Fan Fiction”, Supernatural’s 200th episode, finds Sam and Dean investigating a disappearance and discovering that the case is connected to a high school musical inspired by the Supernatural books.

“There is no singing in Supernatural,” Dean says, adding that any singing would be classic rock.

The brothers discover that Calliope (Hannah Levien) is responsible for the disappearances. Sam says Calliope protects an author until his or her vision is realized and then kills her or him.

To draw out and kill Calliope, Dean realizes the show must go on.

When Sam ask Marie (Katie Sarife), the writer-director, why Chuck isn’t among the characters in the cast, Marie says she “kind of hates the meta stories.”

“Me, too,” Sam and Dean reply.

“Why this story?” Sam asks Calliope. “Why Supernatural?”

Supernatural has everything,” she says. “Life, death, resurrection, redemption. But above all, family.”

Season eleven: “Just My Imagination.”

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Dean, Sam and Sully.

Sam is surprised to discover his childhood imaginary friend, Sully (Nate Torrence), is real and needs his help. Sully is a Zanna, a creature who guides and helps children. He comes to Sam because someone or something is killing his fellow Zanna.

When the boys and Sully learn the very human reason for the attacks, Sully is willing to sacrifice himself, but Dean tells the killer revenge won’t make her feel better. He points out the Zanna are Sesame Street Mother Theresas, not monsters.

“But when I wasn’t there for my little brother, Sully was,” he says “…You know there is not a monstrous bone in his body.”

Season 12 brings Supernatural back to the beginning in some ways, as God’s sister, Amara (Emily Swallow), left Dean with a parting gift. She brought back Mary Winchester. This season, Mary will be hunting with her sons.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: This election year, the choice is clear:

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Gracie Allen for President!

Whaddya mean, “She’s dead!”? What does that have to do with anything? According to the U.S. Constitution, a presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years old and a resident within the U.S. for 14 years. Nowhere in that venerable document does it say a candidate has to be alive.

Seriously, though, between Feb. 28 and May 29, 1940, Gracie Allen launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign for the presidency on the Burns and Allen Program (technically, the Hinds Honey and Almond Cream Program, since radio shows of the time were actually named for their sponsors). She declared herself the candidate of the Surprise Party Ticket.

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Gracie’s campaign, like her 1933 “search” for her “missing” brother, crossed over to other radio programs of the time, including Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly. Surviving campaign episodes are collected in the Radio Spirits collection: Burns and Allen: Gracie Allen for President.

The Gracie Allen character was a bit scatter-brained (though the real life Gracie was very smart; according to the Burns and Allen entry in John Dunning’s On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, she held her own as a guest on the quiz show Information Please); and at one point in the Feb. 28, 1940 broadcast, she said she’d make a sign with nothing on it. “For the nudist vote.”

Asked if she’s in favor of monopolies, Gracie said she doesn’t play Monopoly. She likes Mahjong better.

She also said we should be proud of our national debt. “It’s the biggest in the world.”

The Surprise Party was represented by a mother kangaroo with a baby protruding from her pouch. Gracie said her election slogan was, “It’s in the bag.”

Another Surprise Party slogan was, “Down with common sense.”

When dictating a letter, Gracie started out with, “To all other presidential candidates, semicolon, United States of America, period. Gentlemen, question mark.”

George Burns interjected, “Gentlemen, question mark?” as Gracie continued with, “Well, boys. The jig is up.”

In that same letter, she also asked the other candidates to vote for her. As she explained to Burns, “There are so many presidential candidates that if I only get half of them to vote for me, I’m bound to be elected.”

Burns tried to dissuade her from running and he wasn’t the only one to question Gracie’s candidacy. However, Gracie didn’t always recognize others’ statements of doubt. In describing a recent appearance on the Jack Benny show on the March 6, 1940 Burns and Allen show, Gracie said, “Mary Livingtone’s going to be queen of England.”

“Mary Livingtone’s going to be Queen of England?” Burns repeated.

“That’s what she said,” Gracie replied. “She said, ‘Gracie, when you’re president of the United States, I’ll be the Queen of England.’”

To put these broadcasts into historical perspective, Roosevelt was finishing his second term in 1940. Up to that point, no president had run for a third consecutive term; and, in point of fact, FDR isn’t even mentioned as a candidate in any of the various episodes in the Radio Spirits collection (ironically, neither is eventual Republican nominee Wendell Willkie). In fact, at one point in the Feb. 28, 1940 Burns and Allen episode, Gracie said that if she were the current president, she’d have to move out soon. And in the March 6, 1940 episode, she gets a call from someone asking if she can recommend a good trucking company to move some items. When Burns asks who called, Gracie replies, “President Roosevelt.”

As to the other candidates, both parties had a slew of them. Democratic candidates included Vice President John Nance Gardner and former postmaster general James Farley. Republicans included former president Herbert Hoover, Manhattan District Attorney (and later New York governor) Thomas Dewey and Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg.

Gracie’s campaign also included a whistle-stop tour to the Surprise Party’s national convention in Omaha (the May 5, 1940 Burns and Allen episode was broadcast live from that city).

She even had a campaign song, “Vote for Gracie”, which debuted on the March 6, 1940 episode of Burns and Allen. One lyric from the song: “Even big politicians don’t know what to do. Gracie doesn’t either, but neither do you.”

The song’s music and lyrics were available by mail not long after.

According to a program booklet by radio historian Elizabeth McLeod, Gracie addressed a crowd of more than 80,000 in Omaha and her “candidacy” got a write-up in the March 18, 1940 edition of Time Magazine. McLeod wrote that not even Dewey, the presumptive front runner, got coverage that favorable in Time publisher Henry Luce’s publications that spring.

She also writes that Harvard students, “voted Gracie their endorsement”, even over alumnus FDR.

According to McLeod, no records survive to say for sure whether Gracie got any actual votes in November 1940 (she did get 63 votes in Wisconsin during the primary). But she adds, “Given the American habit of seeing the humor in just about any absurd situation, and given the unmistakable appeal of the Surprise Party’s nutty-pine platform, we wouldn’t be surprised.”

These radio episodes might not be for everyone, but if you enjoy comedy and/or politics (which can sometimes be comedic in and of itself), you’ll probably like them.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.