WWE Hell in a Cell 2020: Every Match Ranked

We’re out the other side of hell and…it was alright, wasn’t it? The three cell matches were all very enjoyable, but the undercard lacked any real spice or intrigue. It’s the kind of show where people will remember key moments, but the majority of it will be lost to time.

I really don’t have anything else to say here, so let’s rank the matches!

7 – Elias def. Jeff Hardy via Disqualification

If the reports are accurate that Vince sees Elias as a future top star on Raw, he’s got a funny way of showing it.

There was very little substance to this match. It was 7 minutes long, but it may as well have been 30 seconds for all the noteworthy things that happened during it. The action the two men produced was fine, but you could tell neither of them was trying very hard, and I can’t say I blame them given the crap finish they were working towards. As for the DQ finish, what can I say? It’s your standard WWE non-finish to needlessly extend the feud to pay off on Raw in a few weeks because Pay-Per-Views just build to TV rematches these days.

It also makes Hardy look like a jerk. I know Elias got the guitar out and was going to use it, but for Hardy to use it as a foreign object in plain view of the referee is just a heelish thing to do. The commentators loosely tried to justify it, but I couldn’t help but agree with the heels in that scenario.

6 – R-Truth(c) def. Drew Gulak
(24/7 Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

There was a 24/7 championship match on this show, but not a Raw women’s championship one…think about that.

Sure, this was a throwaway 5-minute match, but at least we got some fun character stuff at the start. The inconsistency with which R-Truth remembers Lil’ Jimmy is a thing is quite startling these days, but it gave us a fun opening to this match. Bless Drew Gulak for always giving angles like this his all, I honestly think he could be a fantastic comedy wrestler if he was given the time to flourish. Sadly, I can’t help but sit here and remember the start of the year where it looked like he was going to big places with Daniel Bryan.

Now he’s taking rollup losses for the joke belt on the preshow, and then making a joke about how John Cena sucks. Which is fine, I guess, but he should have better.

5 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Slapjack
(United States Championship)

Well, it was nice thinking Retribution might be going somewhere while it lasted.

Seriously, did Ali spit in Vince McMahon’s face or something? Every storyline with any big potential he’s had immediately goes to shit and gets tossed to the side. I’m not ready to write Retribution off just yet, there’s still time to turn this around, but I’m already starting to give far less of a shit than I did a month ago. I don’t understand why they’re losing and being put on the run so often this early into their time. To protect the Hurt Business? Why? What plans do you have for them? It’s not like you’re going to push anyone other than Lashley as a top star from that group and he can recover from a few quick losses.

Better yet, if you’re so desperate to have Lashley protected, just don’t put Retribution in a match with him. That is an option, there are so many other people they could fight, hell, even within the Hurt Business there are three other guys that you’re always keen to hand losses too. There were just so many other ways out of this situation that it makes the whole thing like a deliberate effort to make Retribution look like chumps.

4 – The Miz def. Otis
(Otis’ Money in the Bank contract is on the line)

Small note, why did commentary keep saying the match was “for the Mr Money in the Bank”? That’s got to be the worst possible way you could’ve phrased that.

This may have been ranked as the fourth-best match of the show, but don’t let that fool you into thinking I liked it. As I said in my predictions, there was no chemistry here. These two have particular wrestling styles, and they didn’t work when pushed together in the ring. The only reason this match ranked this high is that it’s the first one that felt like an actual match, and we got two significant status-quo changes out of it.

First of all, Tucker’s betrayal, it’s ok, I guess. I like that they clarified that he didn’t do it for Miz’s benefit, he just did it cos he’s sick of Otis’ shit, which, yeah…I’d probably get tired of him after a while too. It’s something interesting for both guys to do, but I’m not optimistic that it’ll go anywhere interesting. As for Miz with Money in the Bank, it’s hard to see where he’ll slot in. Unless he’s going to lose it to someone of higher status, I highly doubt he’s winning a world title anytime soon.

The only scenario I can see it happening, is if Edge wins the title from Orton at Mania, and Miz comes in to ruin the moment the next night on Raw, but that’s a stretch. Ultimately, I think it’s just going to go down as another waste of the briefcase, as there hasn’t been a fair use of it since 2016.

3 – Randy Orton def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

It was a slow-paced, Randy Orton Hell in a Cell match that relied on slow builds to big spots, and I didn’t hate it. This is a miracle.

Now, it wasn’t incredible, and it was definitely my least favourite of the matches these two have had, but I was never really bored during the half an hour runtime of the thing. Maybe the build of this feud has just been good enough to keep me interested, or maybe my tastes have changed over the past year, who can say? All I know is I was engaged the whole time.

The match definitely had the aura of brutality I think it needed. It can be hard in the modern era to make a Hell in a Cell match feel truly horrible without blood, but heaviness with which these two men attacked each other did the job for me. The stuff on top of the cell made the whole thing quite tense, and there was definitely a tremendous sense of intrigue thanks to the fact that I genuinely had no idea who was going to win.

While I would’ve preferred Drew to keep the title, I don’t think he’s in any way been damaged by losing Orton here. For one thing, it was a violent match where he looked like a badass and took one hell of a beating. However, he’s beaten Orton twice already, he’s still got plenty of legitimate claims to come back into the world title scene eventually. As for the immediate future, I’m not sure, I think another Pay-Per-View match would be a bad idea, but I could potentially see a rematch on Raw that gets interrupted by Drew’s next big feud. Hell, if they’re basing Survivor Series around The Undertaker, it could even be the deadman himself.

The problem is that I don’t see who else on Raw could challenge Orton. The Fiend seems like the obvious choice, but given that Orton is definitely holding that title until Mania, I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. Kevin Owens wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I’m sure he’s been built up enough for that kind of feud right now, especially not for a big 4 show. That pretty much just leaves Keith Lee, unless AJ Styles is planning on turning face, which he isn’t.

2 – Sasha Banks def. Bayley(c)
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

As expected, this match was incredible. Honestly, if you said to me that this was your number 1, I wouldn’t argue with you in the slightest, it’s mostly just down to personal preference as to why this is number 2.

When it comes to action, this match is the highlight of the night. There were some concerns that the match hadn’t been built quite as well as it could’ve, but you wouldn’t know that from the final product. These two women were able to perfectly capture the sense of betrayal and hatred that exists between the two of them in just a few choice moments. The way Sasha punted Bayley’s chair out of the ring as the cell lowered was all that was needed to establish the tone, and they ran with it from there as far as they possibly could.

The action was great, Sasha carried that chip on her shoulder to give every move she made a little extra sting, and it felt a lot heavier because of it. Bayley meanwhile balanced her cowardly heel side, and vindictive predator side well, responding to Sasha’s offence with pathetic whimpering, but relishing the times where she took control. It made sure the flow of the match was near-perfect and made the most of all the factors they had in play.

I didn’t think Sasha would win the title straight away like this, but I’m very glad it did, it made the match feel like a complete story, rather than chapter 1. They’re definitely going to be having a rematch sometime soon, but I’m not sure if that will involve some more trading of the belt. It’s one of those feuds that’s hard to speculate on, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

This was a masterpiece of storytelling.

I loved the match at Clash of Champions, and I wasn’t sure telling the same story again would be as effective, but man, they blew my expectations out of the water, this was beautiful.

It was a little light on action. There was some fun back-and-forth stuff in the first half, but the headline here is the second half of the match, where the action took a backseat to this fantastic story. We’ve seen the bond The Usos have with Roman over the years, they’ve worked together plenty of times before, and this story really impressed the importance of family in their culture. I felt the bond between these three men, even though they were beating the piss out of each other, the whole story felt real because we know that the familial bond is real.

Reigns’ acting was world-class. The way in which he ran through disappointment, frustration and remorse as he tried harder and harder to put Jey away. What was brilliant about it is that you could tell it wasn’t remorse over beating Jey senseless, it was remorse over the fact he knew he wasn’t going to stop beating Jey. Heyman’s small contributions were perfect too, the expressions on his face as things got more and more heartbreaking, the way he told Adam Pierce “He won’t listen to me!” as the violence reached its peak sold that moment so entirely.

Then there was the climax of the match. The way Roman broke down into tears as Jimmy laid over the unconscious body of his brother, what an image that was. Then there was the touch of Jimmy using his real name to try and get through to Roman, just that line of him saying “It’s Josh” is so powerful, and made the whole thing hit an emotional peak. Then, Roman put the final nail in the coffin, proving once and for all that he’s gone past the point of no return and has no intension of looking back, as he reveals his tears were all a ruse to drop Jimmy’s guard and get the result he wants.

The image of Roman flanked by Afa and Sika, holding the title aloft is the most powerful image of them all. Knowing all the hurt and heartbreak that Roman caused, and the dirty way in which he pulled it off, this is the best Roman Reigns has ever been (even better than his time in The Shield), and I can’t wait to see more of it.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simspsons!

WWE Hell in a Cell 2020: Predictions & Analysis

It’s October, so you know what that means…It means it’s time for everyone to get hardcore for no apparent reason, to varying degrees of success.

This is WWE’s one show a year where they either don’t bother or forget to announce more than a few matches, and we’re all left wondering what the hell’s going on. Currently, we’ve only got 5 matches announced, and I can only assume that they’ll hastily add 3 more Sunday morning.

Let’s do some predicting, shall we?

Jeff Hardy vs Elias

On the surface, this seems like a logical feud given past events, but when you take the time to think about it, you realise the whole thing’s bollocks.

I can see the logic behind Elias wanting to get revenge on Hardy for hitting him with a car…except for the fact that everyone knows it wasn’t Hardy who did it. There’s even footage of Sheamus admitting it and saying he framed Hardy. This means either Elias didn’t watch any WWE programming while he was out injured or he’s just a moron; your pick. On top of that, if Hardy’s trying to prove he didn’t hit Elias, ambushing him from behind isn’t exactly the best way to go about that, is it? Even if Elias is mistaken, he’s still technically just trying to get revenge on someone who wronged him, and Jeff’s being a bit of a prick about it.

I really don’t know if this match will be any good. Both men are definitely capable of putting on a great match, it’s just a matter of whether their styles will mesh adequately, and whether they’ll get a decent amount of time. I’m not sure who will win either. WWE hasn’t ever shown a great deal of interest in building Elias up, combine that with the fact that this just feels like a short feud to tie up some loose ends and I think Jeff Hardy is going to come out of this one with a quick and easy win.

Otis vs The Miz
(Otis’ Money in the Bank Briefcase is on the line)

When Otis won the Money in the Bank briefcase, I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t believe he was ever going to actually win a world title, but the potential was there for him to do something fun/memorable. Then he disappeared from TV for ages. Since he’s come back, he’s been far less interesting than before he left and it made me realise that maybe it was actually just the Mandy Rose storyline that was making me like him. He’s still had sparks of good comedy here and there, but for the most part, I’ve not been interested in the man’s work at all.

If I’m being honest here, I feel the same way about The Miz too. A couple of years ago I was begging for Miz to be given another shot with a world title, but now I don’t really care. Rejoining with John Morrison was a highlight at first, but they lost their steam almost immediately, and now this vague bullying angle he’s taken with Otis isn’t holding my interest. On top of that, these are two men who’s styles don’t mesh well at all. I can’t see this match being any kind of great, the whole thing just doesn’t feel like it works.

Now, on the face of it, it seems like moving the briefcase from Otis to Miz would be a good idea, but the problem is, if Miz wins, what on Earth is he going to do with it? Roman Reigns isn’t losing that title until at least Wrestlemania, and it’s damn sure not going to be to The Miz of all people. I guess there’s a possibility that he could cash-in on whoever beats Reigns (fingers crossed that’s Big E), but that’s a very small window, and I doubt he’ll win. Even if Miz isn’t a great candidate, I don’t think anyone on the decision-making level of WWE care, they’ve just decided they don’t want it on Otis anymore and are taking it off of him. So The Miz is going to win, and probably spectacularly lose his cash-in whenever it happens.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

After Clash of Champions, I really thought we were done with this. Not only has Drew beaten Randy twice now, but the Clash of Champions match pulled in all the elements of Randy’s story over 2020 and tied them all up in a neat little bow. I even said at the time that it felt like the finale in this series. Yet, here we are a month later, and the match is happening again.

I’m still enjoying the story, although it’s become a little bit stale by this point. Drew & Randy are still great at going at each other on the mic, and both men continue to feel like massive stars. While none of their matches blew me away, I’ve still enjoyed all of them, and I wouldn’t mind seeing what they make of a more brutal match like Hell in a Cell. There’s some potential for some suitably nasty stuff to go down, and it might be a nice way to end things.

However, I still have to pick a winner. For both their Summerslam and Clash of Champions match, I picked Drew despite my gut telling me Randy was going to win, and both times I was right. However, this time around, from pretty much the second the match was announced, I’ve been sure Randy’s winning. It’s the only possible reason I can think of as to why they’re still continuing this feud. Maybe they were initially hoping Drew could keep the title until crowds were back in arenas, but it’s become painfully clear that day isn’t even in sight yet. Plus, if the rumours true that WWE still want Randy vs Edge as the Wrestlemania main event next year, I can’t see any other outcome.

As much as I would prefer to see Drew keep the title, he’s definitely had a remarkable reign, and he’ll still be able to say he beat Randy twice, which isn’t nothing. I hate to do it, but I’m going against my heart here and picking Randy Orton to finally hold the title once more.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

If all of the dirt sheets are to be believed, there were never plans for a rematch between these two, but I’m delighted we’re getting one. I adored the Clash of Champions match, and it definitely left room for the story to continue, and continue it has. The weekly TV for this feud hasn’t been as strong as it was last month, but I’ve still really enjoyed it. Now Uso feels a little more desperate to prove himself after getting his arse kicked at Clash, and the tensions between Uso & Roman are far closer to the surface than they were before.

The choice of an I Quit match is a brilliant one that plays perfectly of off the finish to their previous match, putting the decision to quit in Jey’s hands, not his brother’s. The addition of the Hell in a Cell is fine, I guess. It’s perhaps the most transparent case on the show of the cell being added purely because it’s the gimmick of the PPV, not because the feud actually needs it. That said, it definitely doesn’t detract from the match, so I can’t complain too much.

Once again, though, Roman Reigns is retaining, there’s no question. Nevermind how there’s no way Jey Uso could possibly win a world title right now, but there’s just no chance in hell that this new badass version of Roman Reigns could possibly say “I Quit”. It’s a case where the predictability of the outcome doesn’t really matter, though, because the match and story told within it is what makes this match an exciting prospect.

Bayley(c) vs Sasha Banks
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

Finally!

It took a hell of a long time to get here, but Bayley vs Sasha is finally happening on the main roster, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve sung the praises of both women’s work over this past year, and that hasn’t changed now they’re fighting each other. The heat, the intensity and the excitement are all still there in spades, and I’m more than ready for the first landmark match in their feud.

I don’t think this will quite live up to their NXT matches, but that’s only because those matches are so untouchably amazing. In my opinion, Bayley vs Sasha from Takeover: Brooklyn is the single best women’s match of all time, and maybe even the best NXT Takeover match of all time, which is perhaps the highest bar there is to clear. Either way, I still think we’re in for a match of the year contender, these women have incredible chemistry in the ring, and the story is so hot that I’ll pop for just about anything.

There’s this little matter of picking the winner though, which is a tricky task. This feud is going to end with Sasha holding the title, that’s the only possible outcome of this whole endeavour, but I really don’t think they’d pull the trigger on it this quickly. Unless they’re planning on replicating the Sasha vs Charlotte feud from 2016, where they trade the belt about 8 times, it just doesn’t make sense for Sasha to get the big win so soon. It’ll probably be by dirty means (although, that might be a bit difficult given the stipulation) but I think Bayley is going to walk out with the title.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here on Monday where I’ll be reviewing the show, and this time on Saturday where I’ll be running down the best Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) Ranked

Series 8! A new Doctor takes the reigns of the show, which means that the whole dynamic of the show tends to get thrown on its head. This goes doubly so this time as Capaldi gives us a departure from the young men of Tennant and Smith. Gone are the days of bouncing around like a goofball, instead giving us a grumpy, cynical and sarcastic style of comedy.

Personally, this was the series I was most dreading because it’s the only one that I haven’t actually rewatched since it originally aired. My memories of a lot of these episodes have faded in the years since 2014. There’s even one episode in here I’m relatively sure I’d never actually seen before.

Still, there’s no time like the present, so let’s get reviewing.

11 – In the Forst of the Night

In the Forest of the Night is the worst episode of modern Doctor Who. It’s really that simple.

Children actors are bad and annoying at the best of times, so it doesn’t help that A) They’re one of the most critical factors of this episode, and B) They were explicitly written to be the most insufferable, stereotypical arses I’ve ever seen. On top of that, all of the adult characters seem to act like children too. There are attempts at comedy, but they are DIRE. Jokes that are so unfunny they’d even be too bad for an episode of The Big Band Theory.

The ‘drama’ in Clara & Danny’s relationship about how much she’s been seeing The Doctor is laughable, and wholly forced into scenes where they have no place being. Speaking of Danny, I have no idea why the writer decided he should be completely inept in this episode, but it turns him into the most unlikable character in the whole thing. I can get behind his motivation of protecting the kids, but he isn’t even good at it, for one thing, he steps up to tiger, with a torch, after which, we NEVER see that tiger again. THAT’S NOT HOW TIGERS WORK. Not to mention that not nearly enough attention is paid to the fact that Danny manages to lose a child at a sleepover. It’s not like she just wandered off either, she’s fully dressed and out in the forest, which means she’s been missing all night, and neither he nor Clara, nor any of the kids noticed.

All of that, all of it pales in comparison to this episodes biggest sin. The one time while watching an episode of Doctor Who that has made me physically angry that it was ever allowed to be broadcast. That is the moment where Clara tells The Doctor not to bother saving all of the children, and The Doctor just agrees. Clara makes this decision, not just to let the human race become extinct, but to let all these innocent children die, without consulting anyone, she simply tells it to The Doctor as a statement as fact. The fact that The Doctor doesn’t spend the remaining 10 minutes of the episode verbally eviscerating her for even suggesting it is a disgrace and a complete failure to understand anything about any of these characters.

Oh, and what’s Clara’s reasoning for letting the children die? Because, if they lived…they’d miss their parents…which is the dumbest justification for anything I’ve ever heard. It spits in the face of anyone who’s ever lost a parent too because Clara’s essentially just said that there’s no point in living without your parents. She says this, by the way, in front of Danny Pink, who is an orphan. Even putting all that to one side, if I was the parent to one of those kids, and you told me that you could’ve saved their lives, but chose not to, I would never stop being furious about it.

And before you say it, I don’t care that it turns out to all be fine in the end, because Clara still made that decision, believing all of the kids were going to die, and THAT’S what matters. Even during their most unlikable periods, I could never possibly believe that Clara or The Doctor would even consider such unbelievable bullshit for a second. It quite simply goes against the entire ethos of the show.

Oh also, making a joke about how they just call the kids ‘gifted & talented’ so they feel special, and it’s actually meaningless? Congratulations on completely shattering the self-esteem of any school kid who gets put in a ‘gifted & talented’ class. I don’t care if it’s a stupid joke on a TV show, kids pick up on this stuff, they will remember it, and it will hurt them.

10 – The Caretaker

Whenever I’ve seen people criticise Moffat’s writing, I’ve never understood where the ‘misogyny’ point comes from, then I rewatched this episode, and I get it now.

This episode treats Clara like an object rather than a character as all the men have a big fight over her. Danny & Clara’s relationship is the focal point of this episode, and it’s absolutely terrible. I know they couldn’t dedicate tonnes of time to establishing their relationship before this, but skimming over it in a montage doesn’t help us feel the connection the show keeps telling us they have. When Clara proclaims that she loves Danny, all I could do was wonder why? We’ve shown them being vaguely flirty and the show keeps telling us that they’re in love, but I’ve never actually seen them make a real emotional connection.

I think the problem comes from perspective. The entire episode is written from Clara’s perspective. On paper, this seems like the smart decision as she’s the bridge between these two worlds. However, the episode never actually focuses on her thoughts and feelings on the conflict between The Doctor & Danny. We get the sense that she wants them to get along, because of course she does, but we never get a real sense of the stress of her worlds colliding. Personally, I think the episode could’ve been a lot better if written entirely from Danny’s perspective, then you could’ve had a proper look at the emotional trauma he goes through when discovering all of this. Not only would it make Clara seem more like a real person, but it would’ve helped up connect to Danny because as it is, I have no reason to like him.

The conflict between The Doctor & Danny shows hints of being good, but more or less just devolves into them being petty little school children to each other. Maybe that idea was the point, but it just comes across as annoying. Danny flips out in the TARDIS for no reason and seems like an arsehole because of it, and The Doctor just seems bitter that Clara didn’t like the guy who looked like him. The Doctor comes across as unbelievably childish for discarding Danny because of his past as a soldier. I know they’ve never liked military organisations or those in them, but The Doctor is always the kind of person to reach out and try to show them the better way, not just bat them away like they’re the scum of the Earth. Neither Danny nor The Doctor comes out of it looking sympathetic or likeable, and Clara is just treated like a little damsel who needs the men to protect her. I know I’ve criticised Clara for never struggling before, but this is too far in the other direction.

At its core, this is an episode that fails to understand its characters,.fails to understand interpersonal relationships, and fails to have any kind of exciting plot. It just wanted to be a drama-based episode, but still had to throw in a monster of the week because it’s Doctor Who. As a result, both suffered.

9 – Listen

Listen is two different types of episode pressed together into one. One half of it is a slow and tense mystery surrounding a very interesting concept. It knows what it’s doing had carries a solid plot. The other half is a character study between The Doctor and Clara, focusing on how it’s shifting with the inclusion of Danny Pink. This fails to understand the established dynamic between these characters, has no idea how romance actually works and tries to wrap it all up with a completely meaningless speech about fear.

I’ll start with the good stuff. First of all, the hook is great. The concept of something under your bed is immediately understandable by absolutely everyone, and I’m surprised it took this long for the show to use it. I loved the idea of how you talk to yourself sometimes to reason that there might be something there. I, for one talk to myself ALL. THE. TIME. And I’d be thrilled to know that all of my genius thoughts didn’t go to waste when I verbalised them.

The scenes where we get teased as if we’re going to see the creature are great. They build so perfectly to their climax. The bedroom scene is the best example of this. It starts with Clara calming Rupert, seeming to diffuse the situation. It’s a sweet scene, but the atmosphere remains tense because we know that something’s really there. The tension then takes a huge spike when something sits on top of the bed. There’s then the whole build with The Doctor, talking things out to Rupert, but simultaneously trying to work things out for himself. The Doctor’s slightly panicky tone as he hopes the creature will go away makes the thing feel genuinely quite scary. The same goes for the scene in the space base later on.

Where things fall apart, though, is the character stuff between Clara & Danny. The dating scene is fine, although I didn’t really buy into their connection. I’m not saying I wanted to see the whole scene where they found common ground and started getting along – I’m totally cool with the episode yada-yadaing over that stuff – but it felt like we so quickly went from them awkwardly trying to find common ground, to them falling out that I didn’t have any time to digest their connection. In fact, it didn’t feel like they had any at all. I understand what they were trying to say about Danny’s mental state by having him flip out with the idea of killing, but the argument makes him seem so unreasonable. A perspective that isn’t helped by the fact that we only follow Clara.

I like that the situation flips a couple of times – they both get a chance to be wrong – but again, not nearly enough time was dedicated to it to be worthwhile. I know they tried to establish a connection between the adventure & the date, but it fell relatively flat for me. The Doctor’s investigation played into the date very little, and I’m sorry, but I just didn’t care about someone who we assume is Danny’s descendant connecting with Clara. Danny is such a focal point around Clara’s internal conflict here, and yet I don’t feel like I know who he is. I grasp the idea of being a soldier that hasn’t quite gotten over his days in the war, but that story has been told so many times that, unless you have something interesting to say about it, you just shouldn’t bother. What we get here from Danny is the most basic version of that archetype.

I didn’t enjoy the stuff between Clara & The Doctor either. I know that it was sowing the seeds for later in the series, but it escalates so quickly that I just don’t buy it. I understand that when The Doctor snaps at Clara, it’s because he’s desperate to solve a mystery from his childhood, but there was no build to it. The Doctor doesn’t seem any different than normal until he suddenly starts forcefully ordering Clara around. Sure, he disregards Clara’s date, but from what we’d seen from this Doctor so far, that’s nothing out of the ordinary for him. It meant that all of the character-based drama (both in this episode and the series at large) feel extremely unearned because no-one bothered to give it any proper build.

It’s such a shame that I’ve had to rank this so low because there’s some great stuff in here, but the character drama that is supposed to carry the episode utterly fails.

8 – Time Heist

If you were wondering which episode it was that I hadn’t seen before, it was this one. I feel it’s important to clarify that, because this is an episode with a lot of twists to it, so I need to impress upon you that I didn’t already know what was going to happen going into this episode. The reason this is so important for me to clarify is because all of the twists were really obvious.

Seriously, there was only one twist that I didn’t see coming, and it was the only one that wasn’t foreshadowed until about 30 seconds before it was revealed. Usually, I wouldn’t think much of a secondary character dying in one of these episodes, but it happened so quickly after they were introduced that I knew there was no way they were dead. Their deaths were given no fanfare and no time to breathe, with exposition about their character crammed into the 10 minutes each of them had before vanishing briefly.

Secondly, I cannot stress how painstakingly obvious it was that The Doctor was the architect the whole time. As soon as they had their memories wiped I knew there was going to be some kind of ‘gotcha’ moment when it came to the identity of the architect, and as soon as The Doctor realised it was a time travel heist, it more or less confirmed my theory. Sometimes, solving a mystery before it’s revealed is a fun experience that makes me feel smart, but in this instance, it felt so obvious to me that I couldn’t help but feel bored as The Doctor ran around trying to slowly figure it all out.

There was a nice variety of stuff to enjoy here, though. The first 30 minutes or so was very tense and enjoyable. The episode didn’t spend too much time introducing us to the world, but it didn’t really need to. Bank, heist, mysterious person behind it all; that’s all we need to know. This meant the heist action got to shine, which was where this episode was at it’s strongest. I still wouldn’t call it anything extraordinary, but I had fun watching the team break into the vault while evading the monster that could sense their guilt. Speaking of, what a brilliant concept for a monster, bravo to the Thompson & Moffat for putting that concept together.

The last 15 minutes leave all the excitement behind, though, which felt like a bit too much of a change of pace. They reach the private vault ridiculously easily when I was honestly hoping we’d get at least one more scene of tense heist shenanigans. It left me wanting more, but not in a good way, I just felt like it had short-changed me on the action and totally killed the pace. The sequence where The Doctor works everything out and confronts the monster is good, but the fact that I’d already worked out the solution took something away from it. The fact that the thing in the vault was another one of the monsters though was a brilliant way to end it and, as I said, I didn’t see that coming.

This is one of those episodes that I can’t really conjure up any strong feelings for. It didn’t do anything terribly, but it didn’t do anything spectacular either. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll remember much about it in a few weeks.

7 – Into the Dalek

This is an episode that I keep going back and forth on. I think it succeeds in telling its self-contained story, but when it comes to the long-term, series-length plots, it leaves a lot to be desired.

This was the episode that kicked off the “Am I a good man?” storyline and, in theory, I can see that this would be a very good episode to help that story along. I’ll touch on it in a bit, but there are plenty of moments throughout the episode where the Doctor’s morality is questioned in a meaningful and effective way. The problem with it was that the scene where The Doctor posed the question, was at the start of the episode, not at the end. The Doctor hasn’t done anything in the previous episode(s) that caused this doubt in the mind of the audience, so it just feels like we’re being told what to think.

If instead, The Doctor had asked Clara that question at the end of the episode, it would’ve felt like a natural culmination of the story that was being told. It’s a minor change, but I think it makes a huge difference. One way tells the audience what they should be thinking, while the other allows the audience to come to these doubtful thoughts themselves before the show starts to press on the issue.

Next up, we had the introduction of Danny Pink. Now, I’ve already touched on what I think of him and his story, but, for an introduction, I thought this was quite effective. It felt totally out of place with the episode, but in a bubble, this was an excellent way to give us a bit of a taste of Danny and his budding relationship with Clara. I did find it a bit weird that they seemed to be hot for each other the moment they made eye contact, but whatever.

Looking at the plot, it definitely landed for me. The whole dilemma of a ‘good Dalek’ was an interesting plot thread that I don’t think has been done before. It didn’t feel like a gimmick either, it actually felt like there was a point to this story, that was trying to evolve the Daleks as villains. I think the fact that there was actually a reasonable explanation as to why the Dalek had shifted its perspective went a long way to bringing me into the story too. If the Dalek had just randomly changed its mind, then I wouldn’t have bought it, but the explanation of the damage it had sustained, allowing it to open up its mind was a great touch.

The progression of the characters in this story works well. I genuinely got the sense that Clara was someone who knew and understood The Doctor’s mind when she called him out on his bullshit this time, rather than just her usual ‘generic strong woman sass’. Why we couldn’t have seen this side of Clara in Series 7, I will never know, but I’m thrilled that we’ve got it now.

The finale was near-perfect in its execution. The tension of Clara restoring the memories was a nice segment to have running through everything, but the best moment was when The Doctor went inside the Dalek’s mind. The fact that the main thing the Dalek took on board from The Doctor’s mind was his hatred for the Daleks was a brilliant twist; because we’d seen it bubbling throughout the episode. It adds so much to the “Am I a good man?” discussion too, because we’ve been shown how hate-filled The Doctor’s mind can be, but also, Daleks are born and raised to embrace hatred, so maybe it’s not The Doctor’s fault. That’s why I think the question should’ve come up after the fact, not before.

Fortunately for this episode, the stuff I didn’t like takes up minimal time at the beginning and end, while the stuff that’s in between it is an exciting adventure. It knows exactly the story it wants to tell and tells it in a compelling manner, which is all I ask for from this show.

6 – Robot of Sherwood

I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. I’d managed to convince myself it was a terrible episode. I think all I really remembered is the general goofiness of the thing, which isn’t entirely representative of the episode. Not to mention, it was written by Mark Gatiss, who doesn’t have an exceptionally high hit-rate when it comes to writing good Doctor Who.

The tone of this one is played relatively light, but I don’t mind that. The whole concept of meeting Robin Hood and having him fight robots is an inherently ridiculous one, so there’s no way trying to play it off as serious would’ve worked. The first half of the episode is filled with a lot of genuinely funny stuff. The scene where The Doctor and Robin first meet is hilarious. Capaldi wouldn’t get nearly enough opportunities to show off his comedic side in this series, but here is a gleaming bastion of funny. I’ll admit, the bickering between The Doctor and Robin does become tiresome pretty quick – the scene in the prison cell should’ve been way shorter – but there were still a fair few lines that got a laugh out of me.

Looking to the plot, I think it was about as good as it could’ve been given the concept. A light-hearted romp with Robin Hood and his merry men was never going to be a revolutionary story, but I struggled to find any major complaints with it. We spend enough time with The Doctor questioning how this could all be real that it builds suspense, but it doesn’t go on and on too much. Then, a large chunk of the episode is spent unravelling the mystery, arguably more so than usual.

The guest stars did a fantastic job here too. Tom Riley was able to capture the over-the-top atmosphere that Robin Hood gives off in his stories (much better than Jonas Armstrong’s portrayal of the role, I must say). The way he gave every line this kind of casual, yet slightly posh touch was very endearing. Ben Miller does a beautiful job as the Sherriff too. If you’ve ever watched Armstrong & Miller, you’ll know that he’s able to pull off ‘posh & manacing’ like few others, which made him great for a cartoonish villain like the Sherriff. He carries the serious stuff too though. The scene with him and Clara could easily have been a bore, but I’d argue that his performance makes it interesting to watch.

The climax wasn’t the greatest. A middle of the road sword fight over a pit of lava isn’t a very ‘Doctor Who’ way to solve things, but sod it, this episode was just an excuse to bring back memories of the old BBC Robin Hood series, which had sword fights way stupider than this.

I really didn’t expect to enjoy this episode, but I was proven so very wrong. It’s absolutely not to everyone’s tastes, but I think that as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

5 – Deep Breath

Following The Eleventh Hour, Moffat was going to be hard-pressed to top himself when it came to writing another brilliant ‘first story’ for another new Doctor. Did he nail it? For the most part, I’d say it did.

The thing that stood out to me most in this episode was the humour, which was a bit of a mixed bag. At the start of the episode, most of the jokes landed, and the tone worked for the jokes. The line “Don’t look in that mirror, it’s furious!” got a huge laugh out of me. The problem I had with the humour was that it persisted throughout the episode even once the tone had drastically shifted. Scattering in jokes during serious moments can be good, but they still need to be consistent with the tone of the scene and most of the jokes here were much too goofy to fit in the more serious scenes.

For example, the scene following the interrogation where Clara calls in the Paternoster gang to help them. This was the point in the episode where the action burst into the forefront of the scene and having Strax comically crash into the floor with a thud only for Jenny to make a quip about it didn’t fit at all. Speaking of Jenny, the jokes between her & Vastra were clearly written by someone who has only ever seen lesbians in porn films. All of the jokes between the two of them were had some form of sexual connotation or innuendo behind them, and while that is funny in small doses, it really got tiresome by the end.

That said, I thought the dramatic and serious side of the episode was fantastic. The scenes underneath the restaurant where Clara is forced to hold her breath to escape is incredibly tense, and I loved it. The following scene where she confronts the villain was also a standout moment for the character. The performance was excellent, and I really bought into the feeling of Clara being absolutely terrified but using everything she’s learnt from The Doctor in her travels to keep herself safe.

The way the inner conflict of Clara adjusting to this new Doctor was well told and I liked how it shifted throughout. She starts off with a very clear denial of the situation, and I enjoyed the scene where Vastra confronted her about it. It was the first time since her introduction that I actually felt Clara’s integrity as a character was challenged by other characters in the show. After being a void of personality in Series 7, some attention is finally being paid to Clara’s flaws and facades to make her more of a person. This conflict remains, where she takes a leap of faith on the fact that The Doctor didn’t actually abandon her in her most dire moments. It culminates beautifully in the final scene where she receives a phone call from Matt Smith’s Doctor to guide her towards acceptance. It’s a bittersweet scene and all three actors involved did a fantastic job of performing it.

That’s the perfect segway to talk about the whole point of this episode: Introducing us to the new Doctor. On that front, it was really good – not Eleventh Hour good, but still good. The shifting in tone from comedic, to dramatic, to heartfelt at the end gave Capaldi the chance to show off his full range for the role in just one episode. All of his comedic lines were great, and he was even able to bring the subtlety to the performance in the form of how he slowly grew out of his post-regeneration daze throughout. It seemed like every scene he was just a little bit less crazy, culminating in the final scenes where he confronted the villain and spoke plainly with Clara.

This episode did an excellent job at what it was supposed to do, and regardless of how well the rest of the series capitalised on what it did, the things it set in motion were great. We saw a wide range of what the new Doctor can do, along with getting a good sense of his personality; Clara got challenged and developed as a character for the first time since she was introduced, and it told a compelling story with a satisfying conclusion.

4 – Dark Water/Death in Heaven

So, this finale was a lot better than I remember it being, but I’m still not entirely sure I like it.

Starting with Dark Water, this is a really good episode. It’s not the most amazing depiction of grief (that happens next series), but I definitely think that the numbness that transitions into anger as Clara processes it is good. I definitely felt it hit a genuine place, it doesn’t feel the need to rush through it either, it gives over about a third of the episode to Clara processing her grief, and that’s good. I especially like how The Doctor responds to it, the line “Do you think I care about you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” is pure brilliance.

The tension builds ok, but it definitely reveals the Cybermen a little too early. I know that you won’t get the door & musical sting thing if you didn’t watch Series 2, but for those of us who did, it just spoiled the reveal that happened 5 minutes later. Speaking of Series 2, why does no-one remember the Cybermen? The whole ‘Army of Ghosts’ thing only happened 8 years prior to this, and don’t give that “everyone just forgot” bullshit, because that’s just not how the real world works. We don’t just forget cataclysmic events like that. As it stands though, there was really no reason for these to be Cybermen, especially when they’re just going to play second fiddle to The Master. The only thing the Cybermen actually add over some random monster (other than marketability) is the whole ’emotions’ thing at the very end. Still, surely it wouldn’t have taken much effort to find another way to do it. All it did was serve to continue the decline in threat or interest in the Cybermen.

Those gripes aside though, I still liked the episode. We don’t get a lot of Missy’s antics here, but I think that’s a good thing, just gives us a taste of what we want to see in part 2.

Then we move onto Death in Heaven, which…is ok. There’s definitely some stuff to like in there, but there’s a lot that I really didn’t enjoy.

Missy is a bit from both groups. Her being crazy was fun, and if you enjoyed that side of John Simm’s performance like I did, then you’ll definitely get a lot out of it. The problem is that the craziness is all she has. There’s no menace, no threat. Yes, she’s doing evil things, but she doesn’t actually feel evil or scary. I think what makes The Master so brilliant is how they mix the crazy & sinister sides to create someone who makes you uncomfortable because of how truly wrong they feel. Missy would eventually become a very different (but much better) character, and this feels like we’re just getting to grips with her.

The plot is definitely the weakest part of the episode, mostly because it never feels like it gets going. I’m glad that the character elements were the main focus of the episode, but the plot really suffers because of it. The scenes on the plane don’t feel anywhere as tense or exciting as they were probably meant to, and the rest of it just gets explained to us at various points.

The character stuff though, that’s where this episode (mostly) gets it right. Even though Clara has a minimal role in this episode, I’d say she’s the character that Moffat got the most right with here. She’s playing a much more reactionary role, but her reactions finally feel reasonable and realistic. I keep feeling her pain. Danny’s story has its problems, but on the whole, I still liked it. The revelation that he accidentally killed a kid was good in theory, but in reality, it plays basically no part in the story and doesn’t feel like it affects his story all that much. It gives him a chance to redeem himself, but honestly, sacrificing himself to save the day felt like it was enough. Maybe if it had been built up to a little more, then I’d have been more invested, but outside of a few hints, it wasn’t ever referenced. It was just backstory, not a character trait.

The Doctor is where the episode lives and dies though, and in classic Doctor Who fashion, it does a bit of both. The “am I a good man?” plot thread is not a good one, and while I see what they were going for, it didn’t end well. Missy giving The Doctor an army is all well and good, but she doesn’t actually give him any reason to use it. Sure, there’s the promise of being able to generally bring justice to the universe, but the man’s already got an infinitely powerful time machine and a basically infinite lifespan, what would he need an army of his weakest villains for? There should’ve been some immediate pressing threat that was forcing The Doctor to use the army.

What I thought was this episode’s strongest scene though, is when Clara & The Doctor are sitting in the cafe at the end. Lying to each other. Just 10 minutes (screentime) that Clara declared he was the one man she would never lie to. They’re so bare with each other, and yet we know how it’s dripping in lies and feelings they’re hiding from each other. Genuinely, if that had been the last time we saw Clara (which apparently, it was meant to be until Jenna Coleman signed on to do another series at the last minute), I think it might’ve been one of the best companion exits we’ve seen. This series showed us how the relationship between the two of them is fundamentally flawed. Some reasons are their fault, others are just the nature of their lives, and I think that would’ve been the perfect end. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and next series we’d get the real end and…oh boy…it’s….sure something.

3 – Flatline

Flatline is an odd episode, and I’m surprised I ended up ranking it this high, and how much you like it will depend on what aspects you chose to focus on. When I look at the writing of the characters in this episode, I see clear examples of some of the biggest flaws there are in this series. However, when you look at it from a plot-based standpoint, it’s an absolutely thrilling episode.

I’m going to talk about the negatives first because I want to leave a positive lasting impression about this one. First up is Clara. After progressing very well as a character up until this point, here she regresses back into the ‘smoother’ version of her character. She becomes the flawless, more perfect version of the character we saw in Series 7, the character with no real substance. Despite having to handle basically the entire situation alone, she never feels like she’s being challenged. She goes in with a head of steam and fixes every problem almost immediately, with only a little assistance from The Doctor. She literally figures out how to bring the TARDIS back to life in about 20 seconds. I’ll accept that of a two-millennium old super-being, but not of a human who’s been consistently shown to not be on The Doctor’s level this series.

The side characters are pretty paper-thin. Rigsy gets a couple of glimmers of hope, but the episode doesn’t invest in him anywhere near as much as it should’ve. I get the impression he was supposed to be a make-shift companion to Clara, but outside of the beginning & end of the story, he just fades into the background. The old guy is just a lazy stereotype. He’s not even close to a real person and exists purely, so there’s a vague sense of conflict in the group.

Now, onto what I love. Most importantly, we get a proper breakdown of The Doctor’s mind. Through his explanations to Clara, we get to fully understand how The Doctor thinks, and how he’s able to solve mysteries like this so quickly. When you look back at older episodes, you can clearly see them going through the steps outlined in this one. It shows a strong understanding of what makes the show great, and exactly why The Doctor is a hero, an understanding that feels lost throughout many episodes in the series.

The whole thing is exceptionally well-paced. I wish they hadn’t shown us what the monsters were doing right in the cold-open, but the mystery still worked regardless. I liked how the episode gave its audience enough credit to connect some of the dots themselves. Things like the weird texture on the wall in the flat is what I’m talking about. Sure, it gets explained eventually, but for that whole scene, it’s just sitting there in shot, with very little attention being drawn to it. It gives us the breadcrumbs we need to make those kinds of connections and feel more like The Doctor.

The ending put a smile on my face too. Yes, The Doctor’s speech is a bit cheesy, and the way he points out the sonic to blast them all away is quite over-the-top, but it feels earned. This was such an incredibly dark and tense episode that to have a big heroic moment like that felt like a huge sigh of relief. It was a bit much, but it wrapped the episode up nicely and left me with positive feelings.

2 – Kill the Moon

Kill the Moon is the example of how brilliant this series could’ve been if it was done properly. Everything that all the other episodes get wrong, this episode hits the mark perfectly. The conflict between Clara & The Doctor, The Doctor’s faults, even Clara & Danny’s relationship is done exactly how I wanted it to be done in this episode.

The plot is very well-paced. There isn’t a lot of action in this episode, but the one or two scenes we do get are well-placed. The mystery unfolds satisfyingly, and every scene gives you just a little clue as to what’s going on. The scene where The Doctor explains it is a little long-winded, but that’s more or less the only problem I have with how the story was told. One thing I do have to have a go at though is how stupid ‘turn your lights on or off’ is as a way to get the Earth to vote. Apparently, Clara only cared what Europe & the east coast of America wanted to do, because they’re the only places she could actually see.

Courtney Woods was an element of this episode that I didn’t particularly care for. She wasn’t bad, or even that annoying, she just felt kind of unnecessary. Her input into the big debate at the end didn’t affect much, it would’ve been nice to get more of an opportunity to see the situations through her eyes. I wouldn’t say her presence made the episode worse though, so it’s not a huge issue.

Ok, now onto the things that actually make this episode the brilliance that it is. Firstly, this is the best showcase of The Doctor’s arrogance and failures we get all series. He steps to one side and ‘allows the humans to make their choice’ in a way that felt incredibly condescending, especially when you know that he’s already got a plan to save the day. When it all finally comes out, and The Doctor explains it, I couldn’t help but feel like he manipulated Clara in a significant way. If that fact had just been allowed to skate by, I would’ve been furious about it, but instead, Clara calls him out on his shit.

This brings me to my other point, which is that this is the best version of Clara I’ve ever seen. She’s not a plot device, or a perfect caricature, or some damsel in distress, she’s a real person with real emotions. It’s incredible how rare it is for Clara to actually be written like this because it’s utterly brilliant. The performance from Coleman was top-notch, not just in her outburst, but the panic and confusion that she goes through the decision she’s making. The Doctor gets his arse kicked because he deserves it, and the fact that he can’t understand why she’s so upset about is the perfect way to make us doubt whether or not he really is a good man.

It ends on a great note too. Danny’s response to Clara’s outburst is perfect. He doesn’t say a word while she vents, he doesn’t go on about how ‘I knew this would happen’ or anything like that, he just listens and then tells Clara what she needs to hear. That 30-second scene gets me more invested in the connection the two of them have that ANYTHING else in the series. He’s not ‘protecting’ Clara, or trying to make a point, he’s doing the right thing for someone he cares about, and that’s all you needed to make him likeable.

If anything, I’d say the biggest problem with this episode is how well it highlights the failings of the rest of the series when it comes to these areas. It’s like someone read all of my complaints in the rest of this article and fixed them in one fell swoop.

1 – Mummy on the Orient Express

As one of the few episodes in this series that is largely unburdened by the overall series arc, Mummy on the Orient Express was allowed to flourish to become one of the purest and most exciting mysteries the show has ever produced.

What makes this episode so brilliant is that The Doctor is in his element from start to finish. The entire thing feels like one big stream of consciousness from The Doctor. He’s constantly thinking on the move, talking to himself at a million miles a minute and clevering his way out of the situation. This is a version of The Doctor we don’t get to see nearly as often as we should in this series, and it just proves how entertaining it can be to watch.

The mystery of the mummy is so well-paced. The use of the timer in the bottom corner of the screen right from the start is absolutely perfect for building suspense, as well as giving us some clues as to what’s really going on. We start seeing each encounter with the mummy the same as The Doctor, an opportunity to learn more, to get a little bit closer to solving the mystery.

This also continues to poke away at The Doctor’s identity as a good man in a meaningful way. As he says at the end of the episode, he would’ve just kept letting people die until the mystery was solved. Not out of arrogance or malice, but because it’s the only way to save everyone that’s left. It’s the kind of higher thinking that puts The Doctor above you or me, it may seem cold-hearted on the surface, but he’s just doing what has to be done. As The Doctor said: “Sometimes the only choices are bad ones, but you still have to choose”.

While the series arc stuff is there, it doesn’t dig its teeth too heavily into the episode like with The Caretaker. Instead, it serves more as bookends to tie everything together. Clara’s slow realisation that she would never be able to give up travelling with The Doctor isn’t addressed directly until the end, because it doesn’t need to be, we can see her processes as everything unfolds. You can feel the awkwardness between the two of them in the early scenes, as neither of them can say what they really want to. A friendship fading is different from a relationship ending, and I think this is a good representation of the fragile balance The Doctor has with some of his companions. While you could argue that Clara’s U-Turn at the end was a bit cheap, I think just enough was sown throughout the episode that we can understand her thought process.

Regardless, what makes this episode brilliant is the thrill and the mystery. It knows exactly when to accelerate and let off the gas, and knows the best ways to build up tension. Even when you already know the solution on a rewatch, its still an exciting prospect because of how well its told. It’s one of the purest Doctor vs Monster stories we would ever get in the Moffat era, and it’s all the better for it.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you thought of this series, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next week, where I’ll be covering WWE Hell in a Cell!

The 10 Worst Treehouse of Horror Episodes of The Simpsons

Every year, when Halloween rolls around (or sometimes over Christmas depending on when that year’s season starts) The Simpsons’ writers get a chance to flex their creative muscles a bit more than usual. As much as the show slowly gets wilder & wilder each year, it does its best to stick to the universal laws that govern the real world. However, for one episode every year, those rules are thrown out of the window, and the writers go wild with crazy stories that are at least tangentially related to Halloween (sometimes).

We’ll cover some of the brilliance this has given us later on this month, but tonight, we look at the crap. As with any creative endeavour, there are bound to be missed, especially over the course of over 30 years. So today, we’re running down the 10 worst ever episodes of The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror series.

NOTE: I haven’t yet seen Treehouse of Horror 30, as while it has aired in the UK already, it’s not available on-demand, so I won’t be including it in this ranking.

10 – Treehouse of Horror XV

Original Airdate: 7th November 2004
Segments: The Ned Zone; Four Beheadings and a Funeral; In the Belly of the Boss

This is one of the episodes that falls into the “just fine” category. It’s nothing exceedingly terrible, but I’m never going to go out of my way to watch it, or even really remember it.

The first, best, and most memorable segment – The Ned Zone – is a fun concept that I don’t think the writers got as much out of as they could have. Flanders is always a fun character to play around with in a horror setting, as his uptight nature allows for plenty of more risque jokes at his expense. The highlight of it is undoubtedly the Homer/Ned interactions which carry a large chunk of the segment. However, it’s far from their best work.

Four Beheadings and a Funeral is easily the most forgettable of the three. It’s a story set in Victorian England that assumes it can just pull elements from all sorts of different stories set in that era and just get away with it. It’s technically a parody of 1990s graphic novel From Hell, but it takes most of its jokes and tropes from Sherlock Holmes. You then pile on a title stolen from a romance film that has nothing to do with anything, and it creates a bit of a mess. No-one even dies via beheading in it.

In the Belly of the Boss is incredibly dull. It’s a parody that has already been done so much better by Futurama. All of the jokes are basic, and not all that amusing. It’s a kind of story that needs some tension to properly work, but this is a Treehouse of Horror episode, we’re all fully aware that there are no stakes during this. Not to mention, the ending doesn’t land at all. I get the gruesome imagery they were going for, but it just feels a bit uncomfortable to look at. It’s not even slightly funny.

It comes out as an episode that’s an ok watch if it happens to come on the TV late one night, but there’s absolutely no reason to seek it out.

9 – Treehouse of Horror X

Original Airdate: 31st October 1999
Segments: I Know What You Diddily-Iddly Did; Desperately Xeeking Xena; Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die

The earliest episode on this list (and one of only two to actually air on Halloween), this episode was more of a precursor to the steep dive some of these episodes would end up taking.

I Know What You Diddily-Iddly Did is a pretty funny segment with a terrible ending. Most of the jokes got a good laugh out of me, and the plot moves at just the right pace to make things feel meaningful. I can easily imagine a modern version of this episode where they spend almost the entire thing on the ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ stuff and throw away all the other opportunities. The ending with Flanders becoming a Werewolf is pretty dumb though. Partly because it’s completely out of nowhere for the plot, but also because I really hate the way Werewolf-Flanders was drawn. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just looks wrong.

Desperately Xeeking Xena is definitely the weakest of the three segments. There are some funny jokes at the start surrounding nerd culture and the shows they like (and yes, I’m well aware of the irony here), but once it gets going, there’s not a lot to love. For one thing, Bart & Lisa are entirely irrelevant to the plot. Everything important that happened would’ve happened with or without them. It seems like such a waste to take the concept of those two going on superpowered adventures just so you can give your celebrity guest some more lines. Most of the superhero jokes this segment made were already played out, even by 1999, which leads to a segment that just isn’t very funny.

Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die is pretty much the definition of ‘alright’. Doing a segment on the 2K virus was a good call, and weirdly on-time for The Simpsons. It has a handful of good jokes but definitely doesn’t get as much out of the concept as it could’ve. Between the pop-culture references at the start and all of the plot stuff at the end, we don’t get much of technology going crazy, which is where I felt all the funniest stuff was. I know that you don’t want to go to the same well too many times, but surely there was more ground to cover there?

8 – Treehouse of Horror XI

Original Airdate: 1st November 2000
Segments: G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad; Scary Tales Can Come True; Night of the Dolphin

G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad is the saving grace of this episode, and I’d honestly say it’s worth seeking this one out on its own. Its brisk pace keeps the jokes coming thick and fast, with the writers knowing just the right amount to get out of each subject. Highlights include the ways in which Homer almost dies, the way in which he actually dies, and the segment’s portrayal of Saint Peter.

Sadly, I can’t be as complimentary of the other two segments. The first of which is Scary Tales Can Come True, which is just an awful title. The ‘get in, get out’ pace was a good idea, and it would’ve worked if the jokes were anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s the most basic humour you could possibly think of to mock any of the ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales‘ stories. Hey, what if the three bears behaved like real bears? Wouldn’t it be excruciating for a full-grown man to use your hair as a rope? What if the troll under the bridge just wanted to make friends? Why aren’t you laughing? The jokes aren’t creative, and the plot is a threadbare excuse to fit in way too many parodies.

Night of the Dolphin isn’t much better either. This is technically a parody of a film where Dolphins are trained to kill the president (don’t ask), but you won’t actually find any jokes in here to do with that. Instead, the writers did their own thing with it. This sounds like a good thing, but honestly, a parody of dolphins being trained into assassins probably would’ve been funnier than what we got. Instead, the joke is just dolphins killing people in generic and uninteresting ways. The joke where Homer pulls a big speech to get people to fight back, only to be instantly shut down by the horde of dolphins staring at them in silence is utterly hilarious, but that’s the only good joke in the whole thing.

7 – Treehouse of Horror XVIII

Original Airdate: 4th November 2007
Segments: E.T. Go Home; Mr & Mrs Simpson; Heck House

An E.T parody that’s at least a decade too late, this show’s first segment seems desperate to explain all of its jokes to you before it makes them. It feels terrified that no-one watching is going to have seen or remembered anything about E.T, so they make a point of having the characters more or less directly point out when they’re parodying famous scenes from the movie. The joke that none of The Simpsons realises that Kodos’ plan is obviously evil gets overplayed, and then no-one even pretends to care when it gets put into effect. I find it so strange that, despite all being roughly the same length, some segments feel so rushed, while others feel lengthy and deep.

Mr & Mrs Simpson is actually a pretty good segment. The gimmick wears itself out almost immediately, and I don’t care for the big fight scene, but almost all of the banter between Marge & Homer got me laughing. The final ‘they have sex’ joke was quite an obvious and unexciting punchline, but everything else was pretty enjoyable to watch.

Heck House is bland and forgettable. The first half is spent setting up the kid’s downfall, but it’s not funny in the slightest. They just got an upbeat track and had the kids destroy stuff while Lisa shakes her head. There aren’t even any jokes in it, at least not funny ones. It goes hard on the horrific imagery for the next part, but it’s not even slightly entertaining. I don’t get much out of that stuff at the best of times, but this isn’t even a good version of it. Then it wraps thing up on a ‘FOX is bad’ joke, which had been overplayed for about a decade by the time this episode aired.

Maybe watch the middle segment if it sounds like your thing, but the other two are definitely not worth your time.

6 – Treehouse of Horror XVII

Original Airdate: 5th November 2006
Segments: Married to the Blob; You Gotta Know When to Golem; The Day the Earth Looked Stupid

This is an otherwise fine episode pulled into the mud by one awful segment.

Married to the Blob absolutely terrible. There are barely even any jokes in it, it just makes one joke over and over. That joke being ‘Homer eats someone’, and it’s not even funny. Eating the random space blob is a very ‘Homer’ thing to do, and that’s about the only funny thing in the whole segment. Call me a prude, but I don’t see how Homer eating every resident in Springfield is in any way fun to watch. They throw in the world’s most basic Dr Phil cameo, and then end the whole thing on another ‘Homer eats someone’ gag, only now it’s institutionalised. Way to make the hard-hitting political satire there.

You Gotta Know When to Golem is alright, but a lot of the jokes go right over my head. This is probably one of the segments with the strongest sense of plot, but that actually turns out to be more of a negative when it takes precedent over the jokes. Ultimately, this is one that I just forget about, and am mildly entertained by when it comes on.

The Day the Earth Looked Stupid is a good segment, and it’s a shame I have to lump it into this list. However, this should go to show just how much I hate Married to the Blob. There’s a lot of good jokes in this one, it nails the tone of a 1920s Springfield, and I can totally believe that town is dumb enough to believe a radio hoax. The only thing that I didn’t like was the ending, which I think was supposed to be a dig at the Iraq war, but it was so out-of-nowhere that I honestly can’t be sure.

5 – Treehouse of Horror XVI

Original Airdate: 6th November 2005
Segments: B.I.Bartificial Intelligence; Survival of the Fattest; I’ve Grown a Costume On Your Face

B.I. Bartifical Intelligence is an interesting one. This is one of the longer segments, at just under 10 minutes, so there’s a much broader scope when it comes to the plot. Events actually feel like they have time to breathe, and there’s more room for the writers to get out the jokes that they want. So it’s a shame that very few of those jokes land. A couple of the one-liners are pretty funny, but most of it is ground that other comedies have covered better before and since. Then, to end it, it hits us with an “all a dream” ending and the world’s laziest Exorcist parody.

Survival of the Fattest isn’t much better. The downside of the first segment getting 10 minutes becomes clear throughout the next two, as the whole thing feels extraordinarily rushed. There’s very little in the way of interesting jokes here. The whole thing is just a murder followed by a quip. Maybe it would’ve worked if the jokes were funnier, but it’s all just some basic jokes based on things we’ve known about the characters for years. It’s not terrible, but you won’t get much out of watching it more than once.

I’ve Grown a Costume On Your Face barely feels like it should even count as a segment. The shortened length becomes a problem here, as nothing gets a chance to breathe. The whole thing is crammed to the brim with mediocre jokes about various Halloween costume. We don’t get a chance to take anything in because the segment is so desperate to rush us to the finish, we only get about 90 seconds to enjoy the humour of everyone having turned into their costumes before the episode hands us the solution. The ending is just awful too. If it was meant as a joke, then it doesn’t land, but if it was meant to be serious, then it’s even worse.

I still wouldn’t go quite so far as to say this episode is a properly terrible one yet, but we’re definitely getting there.

4 – Treehouse of Horror XXIII

Original Airdate: 7th November 2012
Segments: The Greatest Story Ever Holed; Unnormal Activity; Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure

The Greatest Story Ever Holed is just desperate to explain all of its jokes to you. Thankfully, it’s relatively light on the pop-culture references, but it goes for the base-level humour where the writers don’t seem to have to confidence that the audiences will get their jokes. Instead of letting Homer wrap his long fingers around Bart’s neck and leave it as a visual gag, they have to have Homer exclaim that he’s nature’s choking machine. It’s an extra joke which is a very thinly veiled attempt at explaining the visual gag we just witnessed. It’s the kind of trope that I despise shows like The Big Bang Theory for, and it feels like the writers just didn’t have confidence in their jokes.

Unnormal Activity is definitely the best segment of this episode, but it’s still not great. The opening is quite funny, and Homer generally fooling around while trying to record everything going on was a good series of gags, but that’s pretty much all there is to like about it. As a parody of Paranormal Activity, it’s ok and hits all of the beats you’d expect it to, but it doesn’t go beyond that to create anything super memorable, which, as we’ll discuss in a couple of weeks, is what makes the best segments.

Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure is just plain boring. There was so much potential in a time-travel story, especially with a show like The Simpsons which has so comprehensively covered all of the significant historical events of its characters. I can see a version of this segment that plays wonderfully off of classic Simpsons’ moments in a loving, but fresh nostalgia trip for all of us. Sadly, we only got one scene of that, and then it devolves into how Marge’s life would’ve been so much better if she never married Homer. Which is a joke that wasn’t funny in the first place because of how obviously true it is, and it hasn’t gotten any funnier being constantly repeated. Making a joke out of your show’s flaws isn’t witty comedy if you do nothing to fix those flaws.

3 – Treehouse of Horror XXVI

Original Airdate: 25th October 2015
Segments: Wanted: Dead, Then Alive; Homerzilla; Telepaths of Glory

Wanted: Dead, Then Alive is one of the biggest wastes of potential I’ve seen in one of these segments. Giving Sideshow Bob his own segment was the chance to go truly off the rails with his schemes, give him something really out there and horrifying. Instead, it’s mostly the same joke over and over. I don’t see what I’m supposed to get out of watching Bart get murdered in a bunch of gruesome ways. What’s supposed to be the entertainment value there? Sure, these characters are pretty loose by this point, but he’s still a child. Plus, murder isn’t actually a punchline unless you set it up to be one, which this segment definitely doesn’t do.

Homerzilla feels like an attempt to recapture the magic of segments like King Homer but fails to understand what made a segment like that so funny. Yes, there’s a big element of parody in those things, but that isn’t all that’s there, we still have character-based jokes and a lot of clever punchlines. This segment focuses purely on the concept of parody and doesn’t look any further than that. I even rolled my eyes at a couple of the jokes in here because of how dumb they were. Then, because the writers just can’t help themselves, they go and make a satire of Hollywood remaking things, which is so unbelievably lazy and feels more like an excuse to pad the runtime.

Telepaths of Glory is fine, I guess. There just aren’t many jokes involved. The montage is a bit of fun, but that’s really it. The ‘Maggie did it’ punchline has been done before, and so much better, even on this very list. Ultimately, I just don’t have a lot to say about it, and probably will forget about it again once I end this sentence.

2 – Treehouse of Horror XXV

Original Airdate: 19th October 2014
Segments: Wanted: School is Hell; A Clockwork Yellow; The Others

School is Hell is all the proof you need that original ideas don’t work for these kinds of episodes. Yes, I’ve moaned about a lot of the bad parodies these episodes have given us, but almost all of the best segments are parodies too. The same cannot be said for the original concepts like this. Bart being evil is a very played-out punchline, but I can appreciate that they tried to take it to its logical extreme here. There were some funny jokes about what a school would be like in hell, but there was a lot of lazy visual gags and jokes that explain their punchlines.

A Clockwork Yellow is perhaps the laziest pun-name they’ve ever come up with for one of these segments, and the parody doesn’t get much more interesting from there. The parody of the sped-up sex scene where Homer just eats a lot was a very funny joke, but that’s the only time I laughed during the whole thing. Everything else just hits all the beats parodies like this need to. They spoof the most famous scenes and vaguely hold onto the direction of the original plot. Also, there’s a bunch of terrible cockney accents, but I’m willing to overlook that, as I’m not petty. Sometimes.

The Others didn’t even bother to come up with a pun-name, which is somehow worse than a bad one. In terms of content, its a nice trip down nostalgia road, and it’s nice to see a show acknowledge its roots, but there’s not much to enjoy in the way of laughs. The episode seems to favour the plot over the jokes, which isn’t the way you want things to go in these segments. Unless you count all of the family members killing themselves as jokes…which I definitely don’t.

1 – Treehouse of Horror XXII

Original Airdate: 30th October 2011
Segments: Wanted: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Dial D for Diddly; In the Na’Vi

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a fart joke. For 5 minutes. That’s it. There’s literally nothing else to it. The joke is that Homer farts, over…and over…and over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude, I still find farts funny, but a fart on its own isn’t a joke, it’s just a bodily process. Oh, and it becomes a Spiderman parody at the end for reasons I still can’t even begin to comprehend. Literally the only nice thing I have to say about it is that it’s incredibly short.

Dial D for Diddly is mostly fine. Which should go to show you just how awful the other two segments are to drag this episode down to the worst. The opening segment of Ned doing evil-looking things only for them to turn out to be innocent is well done if a little cliche. The rest of the episode feels just a little below average, Homer & Flanders interacting is always a good thing, the only real problem is the ending. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just upsettingly predictable. God shows up, then the Devil shows up, then it turns out God is the Devil’s bitch, then just to put the cherry on things, Maud is sleeping with the Devil. Great, who cares?

In the Na’Vi is the worst parody The Simpsons has ever done, plain and simple. Despite being the highest-grossing film of all time until 2019, Avatar left a minimal cultural impact on the broader scope of pop-culture, which is a massive problem for a parody like this, especially when it’s coming in two years late. I didn’t laugh once during this. Every joke is either boring or dumb. They’ll go from referencing the wrong movie to making a joke about the different plug shapes around the world for no reason, and then quickly throw in all the essential plot beats to wrap it all up. The big fight scene at the end is ridiculous, and the whole thing ends on a word-play that makes me roll my eyes every time. It’s almost the perfect distillation of everything I dislike about modern Simpsons and an absolute failure of a Treehouse of Horror segment.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of these episodes, either in the comments below, or on Twitter 10ryawoo. I’ll be counting down my favourite Treehouse of Horror episodes on Halloween night in a few weeks, but until then, make sure you come back this time next week for my rundown of Doctor Who Series 8!

NXT Takeover 31: Every Match Ranked

I knew I was right to not give up on Takeovers just yet, this was a lot more in line with what we liked them for! As it happens, I don’t think this show will be remembered all that much in the years to come, purely because there wasn’t any major story or event that stood out in the whole thing. Every champion retained, and the two big surprises will live or die on how they’re followed up on, so there’s not much to look back on in a year’s time. However, it was still a damn good night of wrestling, so let’s break it down.

5 – Damian Priest(c) def. Johnny Gargano
(North American Championship)

This is one of those cases where I have to specify that, even though it’s last, I still really liked this match. It’s just that all the other matches were even better.

After having a key role in the ladder match at Takeover 30, this was the first match where I’ve felt really impressed by what Priest has to offer. He’s had plenty of good matches up until now, of course, but this was the match where I got the feeling that he could properly hang with the best of the best in NXT. Gargano has finally settled into a style that captures the right balance between his heel & face styles. He’s still able to slow the pace, and make nastier moves, but without sacrificing the excitement of the match.

Priest winning was definitely the right decision. I’m a little confused as to why the referee seemed so concerned about the random security guys who were standing in a stupid position. Still, nevertheless, it gave Gargano an opening to do his thing. My only real concern is where Gargano goes from here. There’s no room for him in the NXT title scene at the moment, and he can’t keep hanging around the North American title like he has been most of the year. Personally, I’d think the best creative decision would be to leave him off TV for a while, so we can get excited about him when he’s back. However, I know that’s not realistic, so I just hope they’ve got a good non-title feud on the horizon for him.

Damian Priest, meanwhile, could fight just about anyone. He’s technically a heel, but this feud proved that doesn’t matter too much, and as long as it’s someone he gels well with, I’m sure the final product will be great.

4 – Io Shirai(c) def. Candice LaRae
(NXT Women’s Championship)

I didn’t expect this to seem like it was closing the book on the past year of NXT’s women’s division, but that’s the feeling I got coming out of it.

As expected, these two had all the chemistry you could want in the ring after all the times they’ve competed before. I will say that I don’t think it was either woman’s best work, but it was still an utter joy to watch. Io’s persona has shifted into a face a lot better than I thought it would, and her in-ring style has kept a definite edge to it that makes her feel different to what she was like a couple of years back. Candice, meanwhile, knows exactly what she’s doing, and exactly how to do it. I’d say she’s far better at working heel than her husband, which is a bit surprising considering how lovable she was as a face.

The headlines here though are about what happened after the match. First of all, Toni Storm kicked the door down and declared she’s coming for Io. This is brilliant, I’ve been waiting for Storm to break free of NXT UK and spread her wings here, so we should finally be getting to see her at her peak. The big surprise though was Ember Moon’s return. I honestly wasn’t sure if she’d ever wrestle again after the news of her various injuries, but now she’s back, and we’re going to get to see her fight Io, which is terrific. I think her underwhelming run with the title in 2017 made people forget just how amazing Moon can be, so hopefully, this will be a reminder.

3 – Kushia vs Velveteen Dream

This definitely wasn’t the match I was expecting from these two, so maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

Given Kushia & Dreams styles, I was expecting a highly technical affair. Both men have shown countless times that they can make mat-wrestling look very exciting, so I was settling in for a nice hefty dose of that when this match started. What I got instead though, was very interesting indeed. The pace was exceedingly quick throughout the whole match, as these two really tried to brutalize each other. Both of them came out of the gate with incredible energy that got me pumped for the rest of it.

Things eventually slowed down a bit, but it never lost the pace and energy that the beginning had built up, and it created the kind of back-and-forth contest that I haven’t seen in NXT for quite a while now. It definitely felt like Kushida controlled the match, but Dream was still able to look like an even match for the guy. They played around with the character work a lot, and I was wondering if they were trying to cast a shadow on the heel/face rolls, and if the aftermath is anything to go by, I think I may have been right.

I’m not sure if this would count as an out-right heel turn for Kushida, but I definitely wouldn’t be against it if that was the way they wanted to go. With Undisputed Era having turned face, it’s left a bit of a hole at the top of the card for heels, and I’d be excited to see what Kushida could do with such a role.

2 – Finn Balor(c) def. Kyle O’Reilly
(NXT Championship)

Kyle O’Reilly is a singles star now, it’s as simple as that. Anyone who already followed O’Reilly’s career already knew that he was a fantastic singles competitor, but to finally see it manifest in NXT is wonderful.

I was resistant to Balor’s heel style when he first started having featured singles matches in NXT, but I’ve absolutely come around to it now. I tend to prefer the fast-paced and flashy styles, but I think over the past year I’ve learned to appreciate the slower, hard-hitting styles that someone like Balor can produce. It makes for a match that feels weighty, where every move has a meaningful impact, and the story is allowed to flourish.

The way they structured this match got to show all of O’Reilly’s strengths as a performer and, by extension, Balor’s strength as a champion. People had already fallen in love with his charm – stuff like his belt air-guitar – but here we got to see a very sympathetic side to him. When a character like O’Reilly is a heel, it’s scarce that we see them struggle. The only time that he could be classed as ‘struggling’ as a heel, we’re too busy cheering because we’re happy he’s getting beaten up. I got the clear idea in this story that, Balor had the edge and was the better competitor overall, but O’Reilly was ready to give him one hell of a fight.

It was precisely the kind of feeling you need for an upcoming face. It felt like last night, Balor was the better man, but on any other night soon, it could very easily have gone the other way.

1 – Santos Escobar(c) def. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
(Cruiserweight Championship)

This is the first time since the Cruiserweight Classic in 2016 that I feel like the Cruiserweight Division is living up to its potential.

This was honestly everything you could ever want from a cruiserweight match. It wasn’t super-heavy on high-flying action, but it didn’t particularly need to be. It gave us a healthy dose of the hyper-athletic stuff but didn’t bear down on us constantly with it. I think this ability to hold back from being super flashy all the time is what allowed the story of the match to properly grasp me and become my favourite match of the night.

This is one of those rare cases where the interference enhanced the story of the match and made it more exciting. I know one other match had interference last night, but the way they balanced it before quickly and efficiently disposing of it was far better than the other example. The thing with putting the Cruiserweights in a meaningful Takeover match for the first time is that you have to impress upon the audience that there’s more to the division than just the two guys you’re currently seeing. This interference did that, I don’t really know much about any of these characters, but I absolutely want to know more now I’ve seen this match.

The near-falls scattered throughout were a lot of fun. I know many people don’t like a bunch of false-finishes, but I always have been, and always will be a sucker for a good kickout. If this is the template for the Cruiserweight division from here on out in NXT, then I’m all-in, because this was brilliant.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time on Saturday, where I’ll be counting down the worst ever Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons.