If you haven't heard, the streaming-verse is about to gift us yet another video-game adaptation: Fallout, which will debut on Prime Video later this month. Its source material is a role-playing game (RPG), in which the story unfolds based on the player's decisions. It's a choose-you-own-adventure style of freedom that's largely only found in video games—which, obviously, presents a challenge once those elements are removed.

So the best way to experience everything that Fallout offers is to simply play the games. Beginning as a two-dimensional PC title, the series now plays as a modern 3D first-person shooter. It's equipped with everything that fans of Bethesda Softworks—the studio behind The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Starfield—know and love. Player freedom is vast, and gameplay systems are easy to understand. All the player must do in this postapocalyptic world is survive in the Wasteland by any means possible. Throughout five mainline titles and three spin-offs, the Fallout series still boasts a strong community. But there's only so much I can explain about Fallout in words alone. The only way to truly understand what makes the series so great is to jump in yourself.

Fallout (1997)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Way back in 1997, the first Fallout game set up everything that would delight fans for the next 27 years. But just like early entries in many long-running gaming franchises, Fallout’s top-down RPG style doesn’t exactly inspire the shock and awe of modern 3D titles. Still, Fallout told a compelling story—which is based in the year 2161, as nuclear fallout forces humanity to take shelter in Vaults. Venturing out into the Wasteland, the player searches for water while they fight the Master and his army of Super Mutants. (Don't worry: Spend a few hours with the game and you'll have its lexicon mastered in no time.)

Fallout 2 (1998)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Set 80 years after the original FalloutFallout 2's story follows a descendant of the first Vault Dweller as he sets out to create a Garden of Eden for his Vault. While Fallout 2's gameplay and look doesn't stray too far from those of its predecessor, the game features more environments from around the world.

Fallout Tactics (2001)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Fallout Tactics—the first spin-off in the Fallout series—threw everything you thought about Fallout out the window, creating a multiplayer turn-based RPG with linear story campaigns. Instead of playing as a Vault Dweller, users control six members of the Brotherhood of Steel, an in-game technology-focused faction, as they conquer the Wasteland and expand their territory.

Fallout 3 (2008)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

In 2006, open-world games—such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion—sold so well for Bethesda that the studio took the formula and (controversially!) applied it to the world of Fallout just two years later. Turns out, everyone loves an open world once they actually play it. The game received universal acclaim.

Set in the ruins of Washington, D.C., the game has your Vault Dweller once again entering a wasteland. But this time you're equipped with first-person-shooter capabilities and 3D exploration. Fallout 3 also introduced a new (now classic) combat system, which allowed players to target specific areas of the body to disarm opponents, slow them down, or even go for a quick headshot.

Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Fallout: New Vegas is considered by many fans and critics to be the best entry of the series. Building on the success of Fallout 3New Vegas places players in a three-way faction war where gameplay choices drastically affects the story moving forward. From altering where they explore to who they fight for, New Vegas allows players the greatest freedom in a Fallout title to date. Obsidian developed the spin-off title in just under a year before eventually going on to make the celebrated 2019 RPG The Outer Worlds.

Fallout Shelter (2015)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Functioning as a free-to-play construction game, Fallout Shelter allows players to build and manage their own Vault. Though the mini-game features some annoying microtransactions, the spin-off expanded the world of Fallout and integrated a complex system of resource management.

Fallout 4 (2015)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Fallout 4 shocked many fans of the long-running series when it arrived in 2015. Abandoning the franchise's traditional RPG elements for a more streamlined story, the fourth numbered Fallout entry functions more as a shooter (and looter) than it does a traditional Fallout RPG.But even without the freedom of choice of Fallout: New VegasFallout 4 still incorporates an expansive base builder and more weapon enhancements than I’ve ever seen in a video game.

Fallout 76 (2018)

BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

For all the bugs and disappointments that surrounded Fallout 76’s rushed launch, the massive online multiplayer spin-off eventually garnered a rich community. One group of players—collectively known as EATT (Establishment of Appalachian Taste Testers)—hunted other players and used the game's bizarre cannibalism mechanics to eat them. Another community even put an NPC on trial and let the game's users decide his fate. Even if you remove traditional RPG elements, gamers always find a way!

Originally published on Esquire US

If Shōgun's events feel like they're based in historical fact, that's because most of the story is based on a real-life power struggle. Author James Clavell borrowed many historical figures from the 17th century for his 1975 novel of the same name—which greatly dramatised the story of the first Englishman to sail to Japan. His work of historical fiction even garnered a popular miniseries in 1980, which was such a hit that many cultural observers attributed the show's success to the rise of interest in sushi in the West.

FX.

Although Clavell—who hailed from England himself—beefed up both the story of John Blackthorne's arrival in Japan and his influence on the eventual Tokugawa shogunate, many of the characters and events depicted in Shōgun are based on historical fact. This week, FX debuted the first two episodes of its take on Shōgun—and it's already a hit amongst critics. The series stars Hiroyuki Sanada (John Wick: Chapter 4) as Lord Toranaga and Cosmo Jarvis (Persuasion) as John Blackthorne. But what's fact and fiction in the latest Shōgun adaptation?

The events of the series begin with the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was the second "Great Unifier of Japan." In Shōgun, he's called the Taikō, which was the title given to a retired advisor of a former emperor. Hideyoshi carried on the work of Oda Nabunaga, the first Great Unifier of Japan, following nearly a century-long of civil war. After the Taikō died, a new path opened for infighting. Five great lords, called daimyo, vied for the title of shōgun: the de facto ruler of Japan.

Japan feared another century of conflict after the Taiko’s death, so Hideyoshi established the five elders who would rule in his place. A prominent member among the five included Tokugawa Ieyasu, renamed Yoshii Toranaga in Shōgun and brought to life by Sanada. Over the span of just two years, he leveraged his power and close connection to the Taiko to become the new shōgun. Assembling his forces, he took Osaka Castle and easily won the bloody battle of Sekigahara—which is one of the most important battles in Japanese history.

Around this time, Takagawa met William Adams, the first Englishman to sail to Japan. Adams eventually became a trusted advisor to Takagawa, who was impressed by his knowledge of Western ships and navigation. He commissioned Adams to Japanese ships—and he later replaced Jesuit Padre João Rodrigues as the shōgun's official interpreter. In the miniseries, Adams’s counterpart, John Blackthorne (played by Jarvis), holds much more significance to Tokugawa’s rise to power than he did in real life. What really won Tokugawa the shogunate? It was military might.

FX.

In Shōgun, Tokugawa uses Blackthorne’s presence as a Protestant to sow disagreement between the Five Elders—some of whom profited from the nation’s Christian colonisers, who hailed from from Portugal and Spain. Sure, the Five Elders demanding the persecution of one heretic among Tokugawa’s castle may be a tad far-fetched. But Clavell’s addition of Blackthorne is more so the story's powder keg. Clavell also added a relationship between Blackthorne and Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), whose real-life counterpart never even met Adams.

That isn't to say that Tokugawa and Adams didn't share a friendship in real life. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the two wrote many letters to one another, and the powerful daimyo was fascinated by Adams's knowledge of the globe. Tokugawa also greeted the Englishman during his trips to Japan, even after he had rose to the shogunate. Eventually, Adams was gifted the honorary title of samurai. Meanwhile, Tokugawa remained in power until his death in 1616. He constructed the great Edo Castle—the largest castle in all of Japan—and the Tokugawa shogunate ruled the country for the next 250 years.

Originally published on Esquire US

HBO

There are obviously a ton of highly anticipated TV shows and sequels in the pipeline this year. There's Masters of the Air coming to Apple TV+ this month, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith reboot (Amazon Prime) and Abbott Elementary Season 3 (Disney+) across early February, and 3 Body Problem (Netflix) on 21 March. That's just the first three months of the year, guys.

Our hearts are personally on Severance and Silo, even though the mind knows better than to expect seeing their new seasons this year. In the meantime, there are a handful of already confirmed installations, with HBO Max taking the most of the picking. The trailers aren't just teasers. These shows are certainly dropping this year, the only uncertain thing is the exact date, which are to be announced in due time. Get excited.

House of the Dragon Season 2

The redeeming spinoff from the messy conclusion that was Game of Thrones returns. With allegedly more dragons this time (“You’re going to meet five new dragons,” says showrunner Ryan Condal), the second season will likely pick off from the impending civil war and perhaps even trouble in uncle-husband-niece-wife paradise.

The Sympathizer

C'mon, that's how a trailer should be done. Give a little premise, but not spell out the entire plot in two and a half minutes. Name drop A24 under Executive Producers alongside the Downeys, and casually mention direction by Oldboy's Park Chan-wook. Plus, RDJ doing the most? Sold.

The Boys Season 4

With the surprise cameos in Gen V season 1, it's reasonable to expect crossovers between the two narratives. Besides the familiar antiheroes reaching for their capes again, new faces joining the cast are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Rosemarie DeWitt, Rob Benedict and Elliot Knight; characters yet to be revealed.

The Bear Season 3

We didn't need the accolades to convince us what a gem the hit FX series is, but in case you needed reminding; it bagged a total of six awards at the 2023 Emmys. Best comedy series, lead actor in a comedy series (Jeremy Allen White), supporting actor in a comedy series (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and supporting actress in a comedy series (Ayo Edebiri). So yeah, can't wait to see Carmy get out of that fridge.

The Penguin

Whatever your verdict on Matt Reeves' The Batman was, no one can deny Colin Farrell's performance as the titular villain. Oh wait, did you just find out that was the actor under all those unrecognisable layers of prosthetics? We don't blame you. To his credit, the voice and mannerisms also played a part. Which is why we can only anticipate how the eight-parter on the Gotham gangster will play out.

Leave it to Severance to start posting mysterious images on social media. After Apple TV posted an image (scroll down) of Adam Scott's character, Mark S., some fans suspected that it meant we're on the cusp of some overdue Season Two news. So, is Season Two finally be around the corner? Well, it's complicated. Even with the new teaser from Apple, I'm sorry to report that 2022's breakout series has become, shall we say, severed from its work-half.

Following the WGA strike and rumors of drama behind the scenes, production on the show was halted indefinitely, according to Deadline—forcing audiences to sit with the first season's amazing cliffhanger. Luckily, according to producer Ben Stiller, production is finally back on. After a fan commented on the cryptic Apple teaser for Stiller to "give us a sign," the comedian responded, "We are working on it." Mark S., hold on, buddy.

Stiller also recently shut down rumors of drama surrounding the series creator Dan Erickson and co-executive producer Mark Friedman. The two "ended up hating each other on the first season, per multiple sources," according to The Town's Matthew Belloni, with AppleTV+ going through several rewrites for Season Two.

"No one’s going to the break room," Stiller responded on Twitter. "Love our fans and each other, and we all are just working to make the show as good as possible." Lumon Industries, I'm sure, is furious at the lack of efficiency. Those numbers aren't going to sort themselves! But Season Two is still very much in the cards for Severance.

Team Severance has been tight-lipped on potential Season Two plot reveals, but Patricia Arquette did issue a sinister warning. Speaking with Entertainment Tonight a year ago, Ms. Harmony Cobel herself joked, “Be scared, very scared." She continued, "I think these guys have been working really hard, and come up with a lot of really creative things. They have a whole world in their minds. They just let us in, piece by piece, into what’s going on, but I think it will be fun and beautiful.”

She also revealed that she loves to read fan theories, so if you've been trawling the Severance Reddit in the wee hours of the morning, just know—Arquette is watching. Now that talk around the Lumon water cooler is officially heating up, here's a quick rundown of everything we know about Season Two so far.

Milchick (Tramell Tillman). IMDB

We're Starting With Mr. Milchick, Of Course

Well, when we talked to Tillman back in August, we had to ask him if there is any way he could top his defiant jazz performance in Season One. If you didn't know, Tillman is a massively accomplished theater actor, with a beautiful singing voice. So you know what we had to ask him: If Season One saw Mr. Milchick dance, Season Two has to see the man sing, right?

"Oh, you're going to get in trouble!" Tillman exclaimed. "You're going to get me in trouble. I have no idea. That's in all honesty. I am not trying to evade the question. I have no idea. Ben and Dan are working as we speak, and I know they're going to craft something that is incredible, genius, and funny. So we'll see."

Mr. Tillman, if you're reading this? If you end up singing a three-minute-long ballad to the severed floor next season, we're absolutely getting you on the phone again.

Who Will Star in Severance Season Two?

Considering that just about every major character was left in the lurch at the end of Season One, it's safe to assume that all your favorite stars will return, including Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman, Zach Cherry, and Dichen Lachman. As for new faces, the series has added a stacked cast of new players, including Bob Balaban, Robby Benson, Stefano Carannante, Gwendoline Christie, John Noble, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Alia Shawkat, and Merritt Wever.

For Season Three and beyond? Severance's creative team is shooting for the moon, with Erickson saying that he hoped to pitch President Barack Obama on a guest role at the Emmys (where Obama was nominated for outstanding narration in the Netflix docuseries Our Great National Parks). “If he is [there] I’m going to see if he wants a role on this show,” Erickson said. “I think he’d be really good, he’d bring some gravitas.”

Jen Tullock, who plays Mark's sister Devin, joked, “If we could get Barbra Streisand to come around, I’d pretty much give you every American dollar I’ve got in my bank account.” Stiller, for his part, has more realistic expectations. “For me there are a lot of people like Christopher Guest; I kind of imagine, ‘Wow that would be amazing if someday he might be a part of the show,’” Stiller said. “It’s fun when you have a show like this where it allows for people to maybe come in for an episode or two but also fit into the world of Severance.”

What Will Happen In Severance Season Two?

We don’t know much about Season Two yet, but yes, Erickson offered some tantalizing hints in our interview with him. "There's definitely going to be some expansion of the world," he teased. "Within Lumon, we're going to see more of the building, and we’ll see more of the outside world, too." He went on to comment on the storytelling architecture of the entire narrative:

There's an overall plan for the show. I have an end point in mind, and I intentionally didn't plan it season by season, because I wanted it to be flexible enough that we could get there in two seasons or six seasons. I want to allow us to be surprised by where the show goes. There’s a sense of what Lumon is trying to do and the role that our main characters are going to play in that, and where it all will culminate. It's really exciting to think about taking the next step on that trip.

Season One ends with a spectacular cliffhanger when Mark, Irving, and Helly manage, with great difficulty, to bring their innies into the outside world. The consequences of their subterfuge are enormous: Mark learns that his supposedly dead wife is in fact his coworker, Irving discovers that his Lumon lover is married, and Helly learns her Eagan heritage, then announces to a gala of industry bigwigs that the severance procedure is torture. Dylan is apprehended by Mr. Milchick, but as Stiller pointed out in an interview with Deadline, Dylan has already seen the Matrix, back when his innie discovered that he has a child.

"Obviously, that’s a huge question and something that really is important to be dealt with because their whole perception of the world has been altered by having this glimpse," Stiller said. "That’s going to be a lot of what the second season has to deal with—a big part of the engine of the second season’s beginning." Similar conflict abounds for Mark, whose revelations will cause strife in his love life. "With Innie Mark, we’re starting to root for him and Helly, but now we also want to root for Outie Mark to find his wife," Stiller said. "That’s an interesting juxtaposition and conflict we’ll explore in the second season."

Though Season One centered on Mark and his perspective, meaning that we got scant few glimpses of his colleagues' outies, Erickson promises that everything is about to change. "In Season Two, we're going to be showing all of these people on the outside," he told EW. "Similar to Mark, they each had their own reason for getting this procedure, and they're all at some stage of a healing process for one thing or another... Being able to take what Adam did in the first season—with the differentiation between his innie and outie, and how they feel like the same person but with this vastly different lived experience—seeing the other three characters' version of that dichotomy is, I think, the most exciting part."

Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette). IMDB

Mark's outie undergoes near-constant surveillance from his boss, Harmony Cobel, who moonlights as his kindly neighbor, Mrs. Selvig. Though Mark now knows the truth about Cobel's double life, Erickson teases that we haven't seen the last of her schemes. "I think that she does have some special attachment to Mark," he told Polygon. "And I don’t think it’s entirely Lumon-based, that’s what I’ll say. I think that she’s—without giving away too much of what we’ll see—there’s a professional interest for sure. And obviously, we’ve seen that there’s some sort of experiment or something happening with him and his wife, and sort of observing them. But I think that you can see it in her eyes that it’s become about more than the job."

If you really can't wait for Season Two, mosey on over to the Severance Reddit, where fans have already posted thousands of compelling theories. Many fans have latched onto a comment made by Helly's father ("One day, you will sit with me at my revolving"), postulating that the Eagan family members upload their consciousnesses to a computer and become part of the Board that so tormented Harmony Cobel. Could Kier Eagan still be alive in the ether, by that logic?

Another fan suggests that Irving, an ex-military man, may be an undercover operative who underwent the severance procedure to investigate Lumon, judging by his obsessive research and documentation about Lumon employees. "What if the severance procedure was initially developed for use in war?" one Redditor wonders.

"You have enlisted soldiers that are easily indoctrinated to do your will, and they have no recollection or PTSD after their tour is complete. Irving would have been involved with this severance program as a soldier, and it explains why his so interested in secretly tracking down other people." In a recent Reddit AMA, Erickson nodded at this theory, saying, "One of the nice things about opening up the world a bit is that we'll get to see other applications of the technology. Other ways society willingly 'segments' itself from unpleasant truths."

And what about those damn goats seen wandering around Lumon? Theories abound, with explanations ranging from cloning to brain experimentation. Erickson isn't saying much, but he assures viewers, "I don’t think we have seen our last goat on the show." In an interview with Variety, Stiller confirmed that we'll learn more about the goats in Season Two, saying, "There’s no way the goats are there for no reason." Things could get even stranger than random goats wandering the halls; when Esquire asked Tramell Tillman about the possibility of bringing his vocal chops to Season Two, the actor joked, "You're going to get me in trouble!"

Erickson's AMA confirmed some Season One mysteries and teased what's to come in Season Two. One thing's for sure: "The office is real," Erickson confirms. "It exists physically and everything we see there is actually happening (except the black goo, which is Irv's dream)." If your money was on the good old "it's all a simulation" theory, you've lost your bet. Erickson also hinted at another Season Two mystery—just why did Helena Eagan conceal her innie's suicide attempt from the Board? "Good question. I think more of that will reveal itself in Season Two!" he replied.

Alas, until Season Two makes its debut, there's not much we know for sure. As Erickson tells IndieWire, "It turns out it’s easier to ask interesting questions than answer them." We may not know much, but we do know one thing: trust in Ben Stiller. In an Esquire profile of Stiller, Severance star Patricia Arquette said, “He’s merciless. He never stops. He never stops rewriting, he never stops thinking. Weekends, holidays—you’d get phone calls late at night, you’d get phone calls early in the morning. Ideas. New things. He has incredibly intense focus on everything—every little set piece, every little wardrobe thing. I’ve never seen anybody so focused on everything.”

Mark (Adam Scott), Dylan (Zach Cherry), Irving (John Turturro), Helly (Britt Lower). IMDB

When Will Severance Season Two Premiere?

In Stiller and Erickson’s capable hands, no doubt Season Two will be another thrill ride of sci-fi goodness and corporate intrigue, though it's still a long way away, with no specified air date.

While we wait, there’s still a lot to chew on. Fans who want to delve even deeper can check out The Lexington Letter, a free, supposed “tell-all” book from former Lumon employee Peggy Kincaid, which Erickson confirms is, in fact, canon. We may soon have another book to enjoy, if his tease from the AMA is anything to go on; replying to a fan who asked if Ricken's The You You Are would ever make it into print, Erickson said, "I think the chances are pretty good it will happen..." Praise Kier!

Originally published on Esquire US

This story contains spoilers for the Season Two finale of Loki.

It's been—what's the word?—a hectic couple of months for Loki's executive producer and head writer, Eric Martin. Rolling out a six-episode television series from a billion-dollar-plus-grossing superhero universe is no easy feat, even during normal times. But doing it during an actors' strike, which pretty much shifts the promotion of said television series entirely onto your own shoulders? Phew.

So when I caught up with Martin not even 24 hours after Loki's uber-chaotic Season Two finale aired, I asked him, you know, how he was doing. "I'm good," he said. "Relieved more than anything. I'm not great at celebrating victories. But I definitely felt some pride and had a bunch of people over from the show last night to watch the finale. That was a lovely event."

Even by MCU-postgame standards, we had a lot to talk about. Of course, the Loki finale begged a multiverse's worth of questions: Is Tom Hiddleston's Loki the most powerful being in this entire story, quite literally holding time and space together? Will Owen Wilson's Mobius transition to a full-time, Heineken-sipping suburban dad? Is Season Three in the cards?

Also, how Martin handled the ongoing legal issues of star Jonathan Majors, which emerged after filming wrapped. Uneven responses from reviewers and fans, too. Add to that, Variety's explosive dispatch from earlier this month, which alleged significant turmoil at Marvel.

Here, Martin opened up about Loki's journey to true godliness, where Sophia Di Martino's Sylvie goes next, his thoughts on Loki's critics, and more. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ESQUIRE: Before we really get into it, I have to ask: How does food work at the TVA?

ERIC MARTIN: That's an interesting question, because time isn't passing. I always approached it as if there is a [nutritive] requirement. Thermodynamics still apply and they need to create energy to move. But they don't get much time for it. Everything moves quickly at the TVA. You're always working and you get your nine-minute lunch break. There was a great gag we had in Season One. We ended up just having to cut it, but it was funny. We see a hunter in the cafeteria—they finish their meal, and then they just prune the tray. Instead of throwing anything away.

Now that we’ve seen the season, we know what the bookends are: Loki going from the He Who Remains aftermath to becoming the man at the end of time himself. Tell me about getting from point A to B.

The big idea was taking Loki from a lowercase-g god, to a capital-G God, powering him up to that place where he gets his throne—but it's not a throne he wants anymore. This is a duty. He's doing this so everyone else can have their lives. He's giving up the thing that he wants most so that everyone else can have their free will… We wanted to power up his abilities, but also his wisdom and knowledge.

Are we meant to understand that he’s suffering?

I leave that up to interpretation. That final image is meant to be ambiguous. So I'll let people make up their own minds there. If you look into mythology, someone like Atlas is an interesting person to look at with that.

MARVEL STUDIOS

Let’s talk about some of the other heroes. It’s great that Mobius is choosing the path of an Owen Wilson Character.

Mobius was the one in turmoil through all of this, truly not knowing which way to go. As much as he was this rascal that kind of broke the rules a little bit, he was a company man. Now, finding out that company isn't a place [where] he wants to work scrambled everything going into Season Two. So it's like, Well, what is my role? He just takes on the mission, while trying to ignore the other possibilities that are now out there. So with him by the end of the season, it's like he's just now able to go explore and figure out the opportunities that are out there.

I was surprised to see Sylvie alongside him in that moment. She seems to be in the same place of We’ll see where I go next.

Sylvie is interesting, because of all the stuff with McDonald's and her living that quiet life. It feels very gap year-ish. I'm not quite ready to grow up and do the thing. And she was pulled out of that. Now the work begins. I'm not sure where she goes from here. But I don't think she's going to live just a quiet life. Maybe she would. I don't know. But she's going to make a very active decision about what she's going to do—whatever that is. She's making that choice. It isn't just like, Oh, I'm going to feel things out. She's going to go in a direction.

Did you ever get to step foot in that McDonald's?

Oh, yeah. It was amazing. Everything was so period-specific. McDonald's has an in-house historian that advises on [projects like this]. It's one of those things I never considered like, Is that a thing? And then it's like, Of course it is. That's a gigantic company.

What about Ravonna's final scene?

I'll let people muse about what that can mean. She's up in the air. There are things that can happen with her. If you look to the comics, there are some fun inferences that can be drawn from the pyramid. And you know, who knows? Does Alioth kill her? Or did they strike up a friendship? Maybe Alioth remembers her? I don't know.

Jonathan Majors figures heavily into the season, between Victor Timely and the return of He Who Remains. I imagine it might have been a difficult position for you when allegations against Majors first surfaced. Tell me what happened next for you as a head writer.

You know, it's just: Try to keep it about the show. Let's do the best thing we can, here. There's so much, like—we just don't know about anything. So, OK, what can we do with our show? Let's just treat our show with respect, and you see what happens. It's a difficult situation all the way around.

Did you ever consider reshoots or editing the character out at any point in production?

You know, that's a larger studio conversation. For us, we were just focused on what we had and making that.

It does seem like everything was compiled and shot before his March arrest.

Yeah, no, we didn't do any reshoots for this season. There was no additional photography. So everything we shot, there in London, is what we see.

We see a small tease with the files—that the He Who Remains variants are running amok. Is it more likely that we see the character return in Loki, or somewhere else down the road? Or is that part of a larger studio conversation?

That is a decision that is made above my pay grade. They decide who's going to end up in what things.

KATIE MARTIN

On a macro level, where would you say Loki Season Two fits in within the overall Marvel story?

I actually don't know what the overall story is going to be. Things are so siloed off. I hope that we've been good teammates and created fertile ground for other things. The goal is to make it so good that the rest of the MCU comes to you. Obviously, I'd love to see all of our characters live on—OB and Ke certainly deserve to continue on. I'd be shocked if they didn't use them.

What would you say to the corner of fans and reviewers who have been critical of this season—and even the Marvel operation at large lately?

Thanks for watching? [Laughs.] No, I mean, I don't want to be ridiculous about that. Seriously, thanks for watching, and I hope they stuck with it. I think we had a challenging season with a lot going on. And I'm sure people at points got a little frustrated, like, Well, is this gonna lead to anything? But it always was.

That's the tough thing about Rotten Tomatoes, and people reviewing and weighing in on things that are in progress. Nobody's going out and reviewing a movie at the midpoint. It doesn't make any sense. You need to see the whole [season]. But I hope they stuck around, and I hope it landed for them. Ultimately, I'm just glad they watched.

That's a great point. Rotten Tomatoes does a Tomatometer for each episode, which is a different bar versus a binge release.

Yeah, for sure. I'm really happy. We had a weekly release. It's good for the industry; for the viewers; for the people making it. It makes what we do a little more precious, and it doesn't reduce it down to your weekend binge, and then you forget about it. It's good to live with these things, and to absorb them and fight about it. It makes it all more valuable.

Originally published on Esquire US

The premiere of Stranger Things Season Five is still far off, but the writers' room is ready to share what they’ve been working on. Last night, the Stranger Writers X (formerly known as Twitter) account posted a picture of the script for Season Five. The picture shows the opening scene, which reads, “Darkness. The sound of cold wind. Groaning trees. And… a child’s voice. Singing a familiar song.” The song must be Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," right?

Meanwhile, the Stranger Things cast is preparing to film Season Five. Earlier this year, Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers in the series, said that filming was set to begin in May of 2023. Since then, production has been paused due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. Until production begins, all we know for sure is that Season Five is the final chapter of the show.

The Duffers confirmed as much in an open letter to fans via The Hollywood Reporter. “Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things," they wrote. "At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four, but—as you’ll see for yourselves—we are now hurtling toward our finale.”

Let's change the subject, shall we? When you're ready, here's everything else we know about Season Five of Stranger Things so far.

How many episodes will there be in Season Five of Stranger Things?

Don't worry, Stranger Things heads. There are still anywhere from 80 to 120 hours of the show left, depending on how many volumes the brothers divvy Season Five up into. Kidding, mostly because it seems like Season Five will consist of eight episodes. In the meantime, though, we have one question—well, more of a worry—on our minds. After we lost the great, late Eddie Munson, are we in for another heartbreak?

We hate to say it, but yes, most likely, especially considering the Stranger Things crew is out and about, teasing their counterparts' deaths. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Maya Hawke (who plays Robin), said, “I would love to die and get my hero’s moment. I’d love to die with honour, as any actor would.” Maya, stop it! Stop it right now. We can't take much more. Regardless, she added, "It’s the last season, so people are probably going to die." Ugh.

Are there any new characters in Season Five of Stranger Things?

Linda Hamilton, who famously starred in The Terminator, is joining Season Five of Stranger Things. It makes me wonder: What’s harder, dealing with a cyborg assassin or Vecna? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see!

Hamilton announced the casting news at Netflix’s Tudum event in Brazil. After greeting her former co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Netflix’s chief action officer (!), she said, “Good to see you, Arnold. Let’s get dinner soon... and everyone else, I’ll see you in Hawkins.”

Will Eddie Come Back in Stranger Things Season Five?

In our interview with Joseph Quinn, who plays the show's resident deviant, we asked whether or not the actor would like to return to Hawkins. (Despite his character's fate.) "Yeah, of course," Quinn said. "He's great fun to play and they're great people to play with. So yeah, I would be up for coming back, but it feels like his story's been told, slightly, to me." Ugh. At least there's a chance.

Regardless, Eddie's death is sure to affect our heroes—especially Dustin, who had to watch his buddy die in front of him. In an interview with TV Insider, Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, seemed to have very specific thoughts about how his character will live with the trauma. As Matarazzo said, "there’s no denying that there’s going to need to be a shift there and there’s going to need to be a bit of focus on the fact that nobody can really come back from seeing that." The rest of the actor's thoughts are worth checking out here:

[Dustin] has dealt with loss in the past. He’s seen horrible things, but to have a very close friend of his brutally die, not just there in front of him, but directly with him is [another thing]. The one thing that I’m always thinking about going into it is that we don’t necessarily see it happen, but Dustin would’ve had to have left [Eddie] there to get out and leave himself. And that’s something that I was thinking about during the scene with Eddie’s uncle. Because of the leg injury and because of Dustin’s lack of upper body strength, he would’ve needed to leave [Eddie’s] body there while needing to get out himself. And if they’re going to play with that, it’s something I’ll be thinking about quite a lot.”

What Will Happen in Season Five of Stranger Things?

How about we start with the interdimensional rift that turned Hawkins into a disaster site? The war between the Upside Down and Hawkins is fully on. The final shot shows massive, hellish clouds looming above the neighbourhood—and a field of flowers slowly dying. It nearly goes without saying that by opening the doorway between the Upside Down and Hawkins, the oft-terrorised Indiana town will slowly morph into the red-and-black hell our favourite kiddos have fought to destroy for the entirety of Stranger Things. TBD how long residents will be able to convince themselves that it was all just an earthquake.

Does the gang have one last fight in them? They better. Even though Vecna, you know, will be busy creating a new world order, he’ll surely seek out Eleven to get some sweet revenge. Since we’re slowly learning that the Hawkins Lab prodigies essentially have god powers—they can resurrect the dead, I guess!—she’ll most likely level herself up before the final battle. Here’s my one theory: she’ll have some help. And not the Dusty-Bun-with-a-garbage-can-lid kind.

Either Will or Max will develop powers, somehow. Maybe Will’s time in the Upside Down imbued him with abilities he’ll only uncover as he nears adulthood. And Max? After just surviving Vecna’s grasp, maybe the Duffer Bros. will write in a Harry Potter-esque, Boy Who Lived situation, where she’s scarred from the near-death experience but has some kind of an edge against the baddie because of it. Either way, she’ll probably wake up from her coma soon enough, but Eleven will have to pull more mind tricks to make it happen. However it all goes down, Season Five will most likely pick up with our heroes struggling to put the Upside Down back in the Upside Down—or destroy it entirely.

Speaking of Will, it seems like the poor kid is in some serious trouble. In an interview with Variety, Noah Schnapp seemed to know something that we don't. Check this out. After Schnapp said that he has "hope for a coming out scene" and clarity on Will's connection to the Mind Flayer, he said, "And I’ve always been wondering, why was Will the first victim and the first one captured?" Interesting! Noah, you can mess with Doja Cat. Don't mess with us.

Elsewhere in the Stranger Things-verse, if you have any doubt that Vecna will return, the actor behind the baddie, Jamie Campbell Bower, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the baddie will come back. "Let me put it this way: I know about Season Five. Take from that what you will," Campbell said. Want a good laugh? At the time, he teased how Vecna would change in Volume Two. "I think what you will see is more of the human aspect of Vecna," he said. “Let me say that much. And there’s a huge, great, cool thing—I need to keep my mouth closed!—but there’s a huge, great, cool thing you see as well!” A huge, cool, thing, man? Your character turning out to be the singular evil force behind the entirety of Stranger Things is a wee bit more than a huge, cool thing?!

Now, begin your prayer circles, so that none of your favourite characters will die at the monstrous hands of Vecna in the series finale. Brace yourselves for the horror, people.

Originally published on Esquire US

The release of Beckham, Netflix’s four-part documentary chronicling the rise of English football’s most famous son. Directed by Succession and Short Circuit actor Fisher Stevens and assembled by Beckham's own production company, it promises “never-before-seen” footage of the former England captain’s career and family life. No mean feat for a man who has taken us behind the Brylcreemed curtains from the very beginning.

Ours was a full-blown national obsession that transcended sport and social strata, whipped up by a consummate self-promoter with a face for billboards. In the eight transformative years that followed his wonder goal at Selhurst Park in 1996—the ones that took him from a house-share in Salford to a mega mansion in Madrid—David Beckham released three autobiographies: My Story, My World, and My Side.

They were best-sellers, supplemented by three access-some-areas documentaries—David Beckham: Football Superstar (1997), The Real David Beckham (2000) and The Real Beckhams (2002)—as well as countless interviews in magazines and newspapers and TV studios.

GETTY IMAGES

All but one of the aforementioned documentaries promised the kind of candour and intimacy that you very rarely receive—or arguably even deserve—from a star of his wattage. They occasionally deliver on it. Watching them all back is an exercise in squaring his supposedly shy, solitary, family-first persona with a relentless pursuit of global fame. The clothes are fun, too.

In Beckham, the latest "definitive" effort, we're watching a man bask in the glow of his own legacy, often mere millimetres away from his (admittedly, still great) face. It's the never-ending victory lap, available in perpetuity around the world. And to director Fisher Stevens' credit, the film is as deftly put together as its subject. But to watch the old documentaries back—shot in more detached, traditional formats—is to see David in the eye of a long storm, as the giddy days of Beckham-mania give way to something eerier, more perilous and overwhelming.

It starts out innocently enough with the straight-to-VHS David Beckham: Football Superstar (with “free double-sided Becks poster!”) filmed a year before the World Cup in France. The 22-year-old seems to be taking his newfound fame in his stride, proudly showing off the racks of designer clothes that fill his modest home (alongside a life-size cardboard cut-out of… himself. He swears it’s not his).

But in other ways, Beckham seems unfit for it. He talks protectively about his alone time, and likes nothing more than going to his local Chinese restaurant for a solo meal. “I enjoy my own company," he tells the documentary-maker, bashfully. "I suppose I’ve got used to being alone for a long time”. You wonder when he last enjoyed a prawn cracker in peace.

Then things ramp up several notches. In the 2000 BBC documentary, The Real David Beckham, he talks about the people who rummage through bins outside Vidal Sassoon "trying to find my blonde locks"; about the fall-out from that self-inflicted red card at the 1998 World Cup, the death threats and the abuse and the bouts of depression. Sitting in a sports car outside Gary Neville's house, the documentary fades to black as Beckham laments his lack of trust with the outside world.

If Netflix's Beckham owes a debt to The Last Dance, then The Real Beckhams from 2002, aired again on the BBC, is a heavily subdued take on the early reality shows of that era. It catches the couple in a moment of flux: David has just been (somewhat reluctantly) carted off to join the Galácticos of Real Madrid, while wife Victoria is on the verge of launching a new single and touring the world.

But it's at this crossroad that you can see the pair finally begin to wrestle control of the PR machine, talking solemnly about their business politics, commercial interests and desire to take personal brands to "the next level". The disapproving spectre of Alex Ferguson is no more. Ironically, an otherwise dry conversation about setting up an office in Madrid produces one of the film's lighter, more revealing moments.

"We both worry about the overexposure thing," says Victoria, as her husband lounges on the sofa chomping Hobnobs. "There isn’t a lot that David hasn’t advertised recently. He’s got away with it because he’s played fantastic football. But we're very much aware of the sell-by-date."

David looks bruised. "I haven't advertised that much".

"Babe, you have," responds Victoria. "But you haven't advertised McVitie's, so stick them behind the terrapins."

But none of the documentaries, in my mind, can match the accidental pathos that arrived with David Beckham’s cameo in ITV's seminal piece of football reportage, Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup Wind-Ups. Aired in the summer of 2006 in the build-up to another doomed international tournament, it was a hidden camera rip-off of the MTV reality show Punk’d, aimed at the England squad, with Rio larking about in the Ashton Kutcher role (it followed Nancy Dell'Olio’s Footballers' Cribs a year earlier, which was cancelled after a spate of robberies). Some of the pranks were surprisingly dark—Wayne Rooney comforting a boy whose dog has just died, in particular—but Beckham’s episode is equal parts melancholy and menace.

The set-up was simple: a taxi driver and loudmouth security man have been tasked with whisking the Real Madrid winger from Manchester's Lowry Hotel to an important business meeting, and they decide to take a time-wasting, deal-delaying detour. Harmless stuff. But from the moment Beckham enters the cab and folds to the floor like a discarded sarong, the everyday reality of his A-list status sets in.

We recognise smiley Becks. We recognise steely Becks, posing over a free kick, a magazine rack or a major shopping district. But here he looks uncharacteristically shifty, scoping out a potential paparazzi ambush while resting awkwardly against the car door handle, as speed bumps jostle his expensively insured body around the carpet. Even when the coast is clear, he can’t help but stare out of the rear windshield like a hunted animal.

Then the drama ramps up. Beckham asks if the driver is going the right way, and before you know it the pair are refusing to let him go, building to a full-blown barney. With the car still rolling with some speed towards a red light in Manchester’s Moss Side, Beckham jumps out and legs it before Rio and his camera team can catch up. Obtuse as this may sound, it does leave you wondering: what is the real upside to all this? Why would someone so self-contained want to be quite so famous? It looks like hell.

As sell-by-dates go, Beckham has long outlasted the biscuits. A pre-destined move to America four years later launched him into the stratosphere, first as a player for Los Angeles Galaxy and then, lately, as the Messi-whispering co-owner of Inter Miami. There have been more TV specials; more books, merchandise and commercial deals. He has received justified criticism for some of those—not least from the LGBTQ+ community for his ambassadorial role at the Qatar World Cup—but he can fall back on his 83 million Instagram followers, or the 3.6 billion views he has received on TikTok.

The world of celebrity has changed irrevocably, but the artist formerly known as Golden Balls remains on top. Now comes the award-bothering Netflix treatment. What next? And, perhaps more interestingly, why? Only David Beckham knows.

Originally published on Esquire UK

When Ahsoka takes her final bow in the season finale of her solo outing, it's more of a beginning than an end. Over eight episodes, the latest Star Wars series on Disney+ spent it time boosting bad guys to new heights, forming a team of galactic Avengers, and reconnecting with the Force. If anything, Star Wars fans just watched an eight-hour-long prologue. It's funny, considering Ahsoka was initially touted as a sort of Star Wars: Rebels Season Five—a quasi-sequel that would finally bring the beloved animated series to live-action.

After spending such a long time introducing all of our new characters, there's a big "So… what now?" that hangs over our heroes' heads. Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra finally reunite, but there are still more villains than I can count roaming around the galaxy. The only one to fall in Ahsoka's finale is Morgan Elsbeth—who you can tell is nothing more than a mini-boss, because her title is "magistrate." The Nightsisters do grant her a cool sword, but it's not enough to rival the Darksaber. She meets her end in the same episode that she's promoted to Major Villain, which may be the most obvious tell that there's still plenty of Ahsoka left when the credits roll.

Ahsoka is all about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn to the galaxy far, far away. DISNEY+

Speaking of credits: it was a big surprise when Ray Stevenson's Baylan Skoll survives. This move was the greatest shock for fans, because Stevenson tragically died earlier this summer. A tribute to the actor appears in the final moments of the finale. It'll be interesting to see how the show continues his story without him, especially since his ideas about the galactic power struggle are the most intriguing motivations for a Star Wars character we've seen in years. His apprentice, Shin Hati, may end up taking up a bigger role than initially planned.

Still, like many fans predicted, Ahsoka was about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn as much as it was built to give Ahsoka her own supporting cast back. Hell, not even the addition of zombie stormtroopers in the finale could distract from Ahsoka's true aim. As much as I love Rosario Dawson and Ray Stevenson's fantastic performances, Ahsoka's main mission was clearly to introduce Thrawn as this franchise's Thanos. Will we see him in a potential Ahsoka Season Two or the Mandalorian movie? Who knows! It's an ending that promises more Ahsoka Tano—there's another major element of story that the finale leaves unanswered—but it remains unknown just how much the fans have bought into the story here.

Either way, Thrawn is ready to rule the galaxy with an iron fist. In the end, we're left with a Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker still looking over Ahsoka, as she tells her friend Sabine that it's "time to move on." But to where? When? How? I have an even more pressing question: Will audiences see it? For the fans' sake, I certainly hope so. Maybe even with Baby Yoda in a mechsuit.

Originally published on Esquire US

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