Sunday, January 31, 2016

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Pilot Part 2 - Recap and Review

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After the great first part, we get the concluding section that is wonderful in parts, but a bit lethargic in certain aspects.

As things stood at the end of the previous episode, the team had met Dr. Aldus Boardman (Peter Francis James), the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their previous incarnations. Dr Boardman was killed but not all was lost. The rag-tag group came together as a team.

As this episode opens, the team determines that Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) must be somewhere near an impending auction for illegal arms and ammunition. Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) are sent to infiltrate the event as potential buyers.

The savvy Vandal senses the presence of Hawkman and Hawkgirl and deduces that there is trouble afoot.


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This results in a well executed action sequence with our heroes. While our heroes do manage to make it out, there is an unintentional outcome: Ray Palmer/Atom (Brandon Routh) loses a minor part of his suit in the melee.

Vandal sets his scientists to reverse engineer the advanced machinery. When Rip realizes the potential impact of Vandal utilizing the Atom's technology, it is time for yet another mission. This time, Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber) offers to visit his younger self, who is an expert on Alpha Particles. The plan is to use these particles to track the suit.

The younger version of Dr Martin Stein (played by Graeme McComb) is a ladies man. He starts hitting on Sara, the moment he lays eyes on her. Dr Stein is concerned that his tampering with the timeline might prevent his own encounter with his future wife, Clarissa (played by Isabella Hofmann on The Flash).

Ray Palmer, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory have their own task to complete: retrieve the dagger that was used by Vandal Savage to murder Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their very first lifetime.


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The owner of the house turns out to be none other the immortal Vandal Savage himself. His presence brings the whole team for the climactic fight sequence. Hawkman tries to kill him using “The Aman Dagger”.

This proves to be a fatal mistake as it is only Hawkgirl who has the ability to use the dagger to finish Savage once and for all. This knowledge comes too late, as Vandal ends up stabbing Carter Hall with the dagger, resulting in his death. A distraught Kendra repents at not expressing her love for Carter.

Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) repays Dr Stein's efforts to retrieve the broken part of Atom's suit, by ensuring that his younger self meets with his Clarissa.


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Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell continue to be the best parts of the show. And Victor Garber's Dr Stein. These three nicely counterbalance the serious characters (Ray, Rip, Carter and Kendra).

The scenes featuring the trio of Wentworth, Dominic and Routh as they attempt to steal the dagger was hilarious. Ray's naivety was the perfect counterpoint to the career criminals. Things are also starting to heat up as Ray/Atom and Leonard/Captain Cold exchanged blows.

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The other enjoyable parts of this episode were the ones pitting the elderly Dr Stein against his much younger version. He realizes that despite his advanced age, he still retains the same arrogance as he did in his earlier years.

Even though Carter Hall/Hawkman dies, we know quite well that nobody ever stays dead for long in the comic books. And considering the fact that time travel is also involved, it is only a matter of time, before Carter Hall is up and flying along with Kendra Saunders (who has had a change of heart).


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A surprise guest in this episode was Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) from Arrow. This was a nice touch to show the inter-connected nature of the universe that the show is building on.

Trivia

1. The song “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps Fire can be heard as Kendra, Carter, Rip and Dr Stein are walking in the University campus to see Dr Boardman.

Highly Recommended watch to fans of DC Comics/Comic Book fans.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Pilot Part 1 - Recap and Review

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In a post-Avengers world, every Hollywood studio is working overtime to churn out their own version of an interconnected movie universe.

Universal Studios is trying to build one based on their collection of movie monsters (Dracula, Wolf Man, Frankenstein), first of which is the 2014 movie: Dracula Untold. Fox tried unsuccessfully to connect their popular X-Men movies with the Fantastic Four universe. The critical and commercial failure of the 2015 movie (Fantastic Four) does not bode well for the studio's plans.

Warner Bros. and DC Comics have now responded in two different ways: A movie franchise collectively titled DC Extended Universe and DC's Legends of Tomorrow on the small screen.

The CW show has an ensemble cast, drawn from both the Arrow and The FlashRay Palmer (Brandon Routh), Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Jefferson 'Jax' Jackson (Franz Drameh), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel). There are supervillains too: Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell).


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Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) is the main baddie here. He is an immortal, who thrives by inciting trouble on a grand scale. Wars are his preferred modus operandi.

Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) is a Time Master who has lost his wife and son to Vandal's activities. He tries to get support from the Council of Time Masters to stop Savage. When his requests are denied, Rip takes matter into his own hands and steals the Waverider (a flying contraption fitted with all necessary tech) to assemble a rag-tag group of individuals.

One by one (and sometimes two at a time), he kidnaps our group of characters. Rip entices them to participate in his campaign by lying that they will become legends in the future. In reality, he recruited individuals who have minimal impact on the timeline.

Except for one reluctant individual (Jefferson 'Jax' Jackson), the rest are happy to join the mission. Dr. Martin Stein takes care of this issue by drugging Jax.

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Rip and the team time travel back to 1975. The plan is to meet Dr. Aldus Boardman (Peter Francis James). Aldus has done extensive research on Vandal and willingly shares his information. He also happens to be the son of Joe and Edith Boardman, the most recent incarnations of Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders.

But trouble is not far behind. Chronos, a temporal bounty hunter has been sent by the Council of Time Masters to stop Rip and retrieve the Waverider. Our heroes work together to stop the villain. They manage to escape and Jax is inspired to become part of the team.

This looks to be the most fun adaptation based on DC Comics. Yes, even more so than Supergirl and The Flash.

The reason is simple: As good as these two shows are, they still suffer from very minor drawbacks. Supergirl has the insufferable Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen. The Flash on the other hand often gets a bit melodramatic for a show featuring a superhero who can run really fast.


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DC's Legends of Tomorrow (from what we have seen so far) seems determined to be a fun ride for fans. The # 1 reason is the presence of  Victor Garber as Dr. Martin Stein. Victor is a blast as the quick-witted and brilliant scientist. He has arguably the best one-liners in the episode and Victor pulls them off with effortless ease.

Victor's presence has been a great value addition to The Flash and the episodes featuring his Dr Stein tend to be my favorites. I had wished often that Dr Martin would be a more regular feature and thankfully, this show seems to have rectified that anomaly.

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Giving good competition to Victor is Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson. The interchange between these two are probably the funniest.

Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are the other pair that manage to hold our attention. The scene at the pub where they get into a fight, along with Sara Lance was executed well.


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Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renée are adequate as Hawkman and Hawkgirl respectively. They have the serious characters to play and accordingly do not indulge in much of levity. Caity Lotz is good as Caity Lotz, though she does seem to be packing some attitude as the assassin.

Brandon Routh is a bit bland as Ray Palmer/Atom. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that his turn as the Man of Steel in Superman Returns (2006) did not set the box office on fire (or) capture the public imagination as the studio would have wanted.

However, the one to make the least impact is Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter. Arthur seems to be just going through the motions. His IMDB page informs us that he has played Rory Williams, a companion for Matt Smith's Doctor Who. If this was the basis for casting him, then this is a disastrous one. Arthur seems to be having absolutely zero interest in the role or the show. Hope either the character gets recast (or) Arthur develops some passion for the project. At least, we can wish that there will be more scenes of Rip get slapped around by team members, like we had in this one (thanks to Sara Lance).

There were a couple of Star Wars references: Chronos is referred to as both Darth Vader and Boba Fett at different points in the episode.

Trivia

1. The song “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire can be heard as Kendra, Carter, Rip and Dr Stein are walking in the University campus to see Dr Boardman.

2. The song “Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille is played in the fight scene at the pub.

In the recent past, there has been constant criticism about DC being too dark and serious. Well, here is your answer - a lively and colorful comic book adaptation that wholeheartedly embraces the nature of its source material.

Highly Recommended watch to fans of DC Comics/Comic Book fans.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Suicide Squad Trailer - Reaction/Review

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The first official trailer for the upcoming DC Comics movie Suicide Squad has been released.

Directed by David Ayer (FurySabotageStreet Kings), the movie stars Will Smith as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, Jared Leto as The Joker, Margot Robbie as Dr. Harleen F. Quinzel/Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Waylon Jones/Killer Croc and Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman.

For the uninitiated: Suicide Squad (a.k.a Task Force X) is a group of villains who are (forcefully) recruited by Amanda Waller to complete deadly missions. For obvious reasons, the trailer does not reveal the exact mission for which they have been assembled in this movie.

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I was not a big fan of the Comic Con trailer. But this trailer looks promising. Set to the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the British rock band Queen, this one manages to differentiate the movie from the unnecessarily serious trailers we have seen for the other DC Extended Universe movie - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Jared Leto seems to be a great casting choice as The Joker. Margot Robbie and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje also look to be having fun with Harley Quinn and Killer Croc respectively.

The major drawback is Will Smith as Deadshot. He is way too serious. His casting is understandable: The Studio wanted a big name actor to ensure a decent opening for the movie. But Will probably wanted a bigger role for himself. This is pretty obvious considering that Deadshot is on an equal footing with Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), the squad leader. At least, Rick manages to land a line in the trailer.

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As readers might know, Tom Hardy was first cast as Rick Flagg. But supposedly, his scheduling conflicts due to the then ongoing Leo DiCaprio movie, The Revenant made him skip Suicide Squad. We can only speculate.....

Even the usually dull as dishwater, Jai Courtney seems to be enjoying himself as Captain Boomerang.

Looks like David Ayer has finally managed to make an enjoyable DC Comics movie since Christopher Nolan left the DC Universe.

If this movie is even half as much fan as the animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, we are in for a major treat.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sherlock Special "The Abominable Bride" - Canonical References and Nods

benedict cumberbatch martin freeman victorian sherlock 221 b baker street christmas special the abominable bride image wallpaper poster picture screensaver

The Sherlock Special episode The Abominable Bride has aired and as can be expected, there are a bunch of nods to Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories and novels. There might be spoilers and the readers who are yet to watch the episode are recommended to skip this post.

1. The episode title The Abominable Bride involving the bride: Emilia Ricoletti (Natasha O'Keeffe) and her husband Thomas Ricoletti (Gerald Kyd) - Sherlock Holmes mentions to Dr John Watson about this case in The Adventure of the Musgrave RitualBut there are some pretty little problems among them. Here's the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife.

2. The following lines spoken by Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman): The second Afghan war brought honours and promotion to many. But for me it meant nothing but misfortune and disaster... Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are drained. - They are taken almost verbatim from A Study in Scarlet. They are also among the very first lines written by Arthur Conan Doyle, that would eventually culminate in the legendary Canon comprising 56 short stories and 4 novels.

3. The newspaper salesman asking Dr John Watson if his next story will feature an actual murder, unlike his current story The Blue Carbuncle” - Reference to the plot of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, in which Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery behind the theft of a rare stone. This story was set during Christmas time and did not involve any murder.

Also to be noted: the man is seen holding a copy of The Strand Magazine. The Sherlock Holmes stories were published in this magazine, including The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.

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4. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) deducing the identity of his client as being Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington) based on her perfume - Reference to this line spoken by Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles: “There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition.”

5. Sherlock is impressed by John's growing deductive capabilities and comments: My Boswell is learning. They grow up so fast.” - In A Scandal in Bohemia, Dr Watson offers to leave when Sherlock Holmes is about to receive a very wealthy client. Holmes responds: Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell.

6. Dr John Watson receives a message from Sherlock: Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same. Holmes - Sherlock Holmes sends this note to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Creeping Man: “Come at once if convenient–if inconvenient come all the same. S. H.”.


7. Sherlock comforts the fearful Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves): Fear is wisdom in the face of danger. It is nothing to be ashamed of. - In The Final Problem, Sherlock Holmes explains his fear of airguns to Dr Watson: I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.

8. When asked to describe the bride's face, Lestrade responds: White as death, mouth like a crimson wound. Sherlock asks: Poetry or truth? When Lestrade replies that many people would consider both the same thing, Sherlock retorts: Yes, Idiots” - In The Adventure of the Retired ColormanSherlock Holmes sends Dr John Watson to collect information about Josiah Amberley. Dr Watson returns and explains about Josiah's house: You know that particular quarter, the monotonous brick streets, the weary suburban highways. Right in the middle of them, a little island of ancient culture and comfort, lies this old home, surrounded by a high sun-baked wall mottled with lichens and topped with moss, the sort of wall...”. Holmes' angry response: Cut out the poetry, Watson...I note that it was a high brick wall.


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9. Mary receives a letter from a certain M (Mycroft). When Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) asks who it is from, Mary responds: England” - In The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington PlansSherlock Holmes explains about his brother to Dr John Watson: You are right in thinking that he is under the British government. You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally he is the British government.

10. The writing (in blood) on the wall: You” - Possible reference to the plot of A Study in Scarlet. In the original novel, the murderer writes the word RACHE (using his own blood) on the wall at the crime scene.

11. Dr Watson reprimands his maid, Jane (Stephanie Hyam) for being late, being incapable of boiling an egg and almost destroying his boots while scraping the mud off them. He also warns Jane that he will ask Mary to have a word with her -

In A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes deduces that Dr Watson has a clumsy and careless servant girl based on the careless scrapes round the edges of the soles of Watson's shoes. Dr Watson confirms Holmes' deductions:  As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice....

In The Problem of Thor Bridge, Sherlock Holmes complains about his new cook to Dr Watson: There is little to share, but we may discuss it when you have consumed the two hard-boiled eggs with which our new cook has favored us. Their condition may not be unconnected with the copy of the Family Herald which I observed yesterday upon the hall-table. Even so trivial a matter as cooking an egg demands an attention which is conscious of the passage of time and incompatible with the love romance in that excellent periodical.



12. Sherlock is seen reading up on The obliquity of the ecliptic - The inclination of the earth's equator to the path of the sun on the celestial plane.”. John teases that he has been preparing himself to impress someone (Mycroft) who is more clever than him - In A Study in Scarlet, Dr Watson mentions that Sherlock Holmes' knowledge of Astronomy is NIL.

13. Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) states: To anyone who wishes to study mankind, this is the spot.” - This exact line is spoken by Mycroft Holmes at the Diogenes Club in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

14. Mycroft scolds Sherlock: As ever you see, but you do not observe. - In A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes says the same line to Dr Watson: You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.


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15. The following exchange between Mycroft and Sherlock is taken verbatim from The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter:

MycroftI expected to see you a few days ago about the Manor House case.  I thought you might be a little out of your depth there. 
Sherlock: No, I solved it. 
MycroftIt was Adams, of course.
Sherlock: Yes, it was Adams.

16. Sherlock asks Mycroft if he has solved the case. Mycroft responds that he has solved it, but needs his brother to do the legwork” (something he clearly hates) - In The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, Sherlock asks Mycroft as to why he does not solve the case. Mycroft replies: Possibly, Sherlock.  But it is a question of getting details. Give me your details, and from an armchair I will return you an excellent expert opinion.  But to run here and run there, to cross-question railway guards, and lie on my face with a lens to my eye - it is not my metier.

17. Wilder (Tim Barlow) informs Mycroft: Also a Mr. Melas to see you, Mr. Holmes” - Reference to the character of Mr. Melas, the titular character of the story: The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.

18. Sir Eustace Carmichael (Tim McInnerny) receives five orange pips as a warning of his impending death - In the original story, The Five Orange Pips, the secret society known as the Ku Klux Klan sends five orange pips as a warning to individuals who have been marked for death.

19. Sherlock tells John: The game is afoot” - Sherlock Holmes awakens Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange and implores him: “Come, Watson, come! ... The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

20. Sherlock's response to Dr Watson's comments about Lady Carmichael (Catherine McCormack): The fair sex is your department, Watson. I will take your word for it.” - In The Adventure of the Second Stain, Holmes asks Watson for his opinion about Lady Hilda Trelawney HopeNow, Watson, the fair sex is your department ... What was the fair lady's game? What did she really want?


21.  Sherlock states: All emotion is abhorrent to me. It is the grit in a sensitive instrument. The crack in the lens.” - 

Dr John Watson writes about Sherlock Holmes' attitude towards love in A Scandal in Bohemia: “All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind... He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer... But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.”

22. Sherlock and Watson are constantly at odds about the possibility of ghosts. Finally, Sherlock has had enough and shouts: There are no ghosts!” - This reminded me of the story: The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. Sherlock Holmes expresses clear skepticism about the existence of supernatural entities like vampires and ghosts. He comments to Dr Watson: But are we to give serious attention to such things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.

23. Sherlock frowns due to the fact that the murderer has escaped due to Watson's mistake: Our bird is flown - In The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Holmes makes a prediction that the kidnappers of Mr Melas would have escaped by making the statement: Our birds are flown and the nest empty.


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24. Sherlock scolds Watson: Use your brain, such as it is, to eliminate the impossible, which in this case is the ghost, and observe what remains, which in this case is a solution so blindingly obvious,...” -

In The Sign of the Four, Sherlock Holmes makes one of his most famous statements: How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

25. Moriarty (Andrew Scott) taunts Sherlock: It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one's dressing-gown.” - This line is taken verbatim from The Final Problem. 

26. Moriarty states: There is nothing new under the sun” -

In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes states: “There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before” 

Sherlock Holmes mentions in The Valley of Fear: “The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It's all been done before, and will be again.”

27. Dr Watson asks Sherlock: Morphine or Cocaine?. Sherlock replies:  Cocaine... a 7% solution. Care to try it?” - This exchange takes place between Holmes and Watson in The Sign of the Four.

28. Mycroft asks Sherlock as he is about to search for the corpse of Emilia Ricoletti: Cherchez la femme? -

Sherlock Holmes explains about his ancestry in The Adventure of the Greek InterpreterBut, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.

Sherlock Holmes also uses the word “recherché” in The Musgrave Ritual - But there are some pretty little problems among them. Here's the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife. And here—ah, now, this really is something a little recherché.




29. We can see the name Vernet” in Mycroft's notebook -  Sherlock Holmes explains about his ancestry in The Adventure of the Greek InterpreterBut, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.

30. In the closing scene, Sherlock states: From a drop of water, a logician should be able to infer the possibility of Atlantic or Niagara.. Watson adds: “... or a Reichenbach?” - Sherlock Holmes says this line in A Study in ScarletFrom a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other”

31. The character of Sir Eustace Carmichael shares the first name with the character of  Sir Eustace Brackenstall from the original story: The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange.


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32. The dress worn by the women seeking revenge is similar to the dress worn by the Ku Klux Khan. This counts as another reference to the original story: The Five Orange Pips, that featured the members of this cult society.

The last 2 are credited to Meghashyam Chirravoori.

Readers are welcome to point out any other nods I might have missed out.

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