Holiday Binge-Watching

Recent binge-watches include Broadchurch, Gracepoint, and The Borgias.

The holidays means sitting blankly in front of a television screen. My recent Netflix binge-watches include:

Broadchurch. BBC murder-mystery series starring David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) and also the guy who played Rory in Dr. Who. This is a gripping series of 8 episodes. Great, great acting.

Gracepoint. Of course, I then had to get a week-long trial of Hulu Plus* to watch the American version of the Broadchurch murder-mystery, which also stars David Tennant, using a different accent. (I actually thought this is what I was watching when I started Broadchurch, because I remember seeing ads for Gracepoint, but it quickly became apparent that everyone in Broadchurch had an accent.) Gracepoint is a decent series of 10 episodes with some slight but interesting changes from the original, but it’s nowhere near as good as the British version. If you have to pick one, definitely watch Broadchurch. (It was interesting to see that the American script had clearly been edited so that scenes and lines were much shorter.)

The Borgias. This series is basically a more scandalous version of Game of Thrones set in 1492, following the adventures of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, and his colorful family. It’s melodramatic at times but pretty good.. then again I’m always a sucker for period pieces.

* Hulu Plus is a terrible, terrible service.

The 100 First Impression

The 100 and the horrible, whiny teenagers in it.

I’ve just watched the first episode of The 100 on Netflix. Well, actually, I started writing this at about the 35:00 mark.

Is it wrong for me to want every single one of these whiny teenagers to die horribly? I mean, it’s not just that I don’t like any of them. It’s more of a deep-seeded loathing, a visceral hatred of everything about them and everything they stand for. I don’t just want them to die. I want them to die suffering, only lingering long enough for them to finally realize in their last moments–too late–just how awful they are as human beings and potential role models. They must, in the end, die knowing that it was the only just fate for them. Because if these whiny teenagers are the last hope for humanity, then I think we can all agree that it’s okay for humanity to die out. We should, in fact, celebrate the end of this breed of whiny teenager.

If you don’t know what The 100 is, it’s a show based on one of those ubiquitous Young Adult dystopian novels that were so rampant around the time of The Hunger Games, where every story had to be set in a bleak future apocalypse and every character had to fit neatly into a familiar high school cliche and also be in some sort of a love triangle. (Ruining the market for any other dystopian novels for years to come.) This particular story has our high school cliches (100 of them, get it?) landing on a post-nuclear-holocaust Earth after having grown up on a space station. You see, a nuclear holocaust wiped out everyone on Earth except a bunch of astronauts from different countries, who somehow glued all of their space stations together into one big space station and colony. Now the evil space station adults (who are dead set on making all teenagers’ lives miserable, as is required in Young Adult stories, except for the “cool mom” of course) need to reduce the population. So they decide to jettison 100 whiny teenagers (who for some reason all happen to be prisoners, because teenagers are are hoodlums and adults never do anything wrong) and send them to the planet to see if it’s still covered with radiation. Because it’s not like you can measure that from orbit or even see anything happening on the surface by, you know, looking out the window.

The plot holes in this show are big enough to drive a truck through, but still I would support the concept if not for this tiny problem of the entire cast of human guinea pigs being so incredibly repulsive to watch. They seem to think they are going to the prom instead of being forced to survive with no food and no shelter and possibly mutant monsters trying to kill them at every turn. But it’s okay because they can build a bonfire and party and those nasty adults can’t tell them what to do!

Still, I might see if I can pick up the book if it’s cheap. I like post-apocalyptic stories. Perhaps network executives injected all the whiny teenagers into the show to appeal to The CW’s audience.

RE: The Leftovers, Season Finale

The season one finale of The Leftovers, not surprisingly, gave us no answers.

I should have known.

There were no explanations. No resolutions. No whys or wherefores. No way to tell if my theory was correct or not. The story just reached a convenient stopping place (sort of) and the season ended, all questions left up in the air. The only thing that we found out was what the Guilty Remnant had been up to.

It occurred to me that by leaving out an explanation for why the people disappeared, we the audience are left in the same position as the characters in the show. After all, they don’t know why the people disappeared either. Although I would swear that at some point (or points) during the season I was convinced that there was an explanation that someone knew. Maybe not someone in town, but somebody somewhere.

One other thing occurred to me after reading a couple of commentaries about the finale: I get the impression that the creators of the show (or rather, I suppose, the author of the book) was trying to put modern man into a situation where he’s confronted with something that is undeniably similar to a miracle of Biblical proportions. The audience was never shown The Departure on camera, so it’s impossible for us to guess what happened, but I suspect a supernatural rather than scientific explanation. The opening credits certainly implies a Biblical apocalypse.

I ruled out a scientific explanation, by the way, because of the evidence given to us, or lack thereof. We’ve not been told of any “pops” or disturbances in airflow which would occur if a person physically vanished and left a vacuum behind. There was no residue of any kind. The peoples’ clothes went with them, suggesting to me that there was some kind of intelligence behind the disappearances. (The body-snatchers knew how to grab a person and his clothes, but not the chair he was sitting on or any part of the floor he was standing on.) These things are pretty strong indicators of a supernatural explanation to me. If that weren’t enough, the scientists in the Congressional Hearing in the first episode concluded that they had no idea what happened–that all but rules out a natural phenomenon. Someone would have come up with a theory to explain the evidence if there had been any.

All of which is probably way too much over-thinking of the show. But since they didn’t provide any answers, I have to do for them.

The biggest thing that The Leftovers achieved was reminding me how much I miss the Ninth Doctor.

The Killing, Season Two

The Killing really should be regulated as a controlled substance.

The Killing really should be regulated as a controlled substance. It’s impossible to stop watching it.

I finished the second season, and you may or may not be happy to know that they do finally reveal the murderer, and it looks like you can walk away from the show after two seasons. Spoilers way down at the end of the post. (Not really, though. I don’t tell you whodunnit, but I do sort of rule out one person.)

They really punch you in the face with feels in the second season finale. Get your hankies ready. Continue reading “The Killing, Season Two”

The Killing, Season One

Why didn’t anyone warn me about this show?

Why didn’t anyone warn me about this show?

Don’t start watching The Killing unless you’re willing to put in the time to finish the entire thing in one sitting. Because it’s really addicting.

And in case you’re thinking you can get away with just watching one season at a time: The murder is not resolved at the end of the first season. The story just keeps right on going into the second season.

I’m writing this paragraph to avoid spoilers, but my full thoughts are way down below: I had an idea of who the murderer might be after four or five episodes, based on my award-winning strategy of “picking the least plausible person it could possibly be.” Through the whole first season I was more and more convinced I was going to be right, because they never showed anything that directly refuted my theory. Once, it was close, but I can think of a way to explain it. At least until they arrested that dude in the last episode of season one. But then some evidence surfaced that made me think my theory could still be plausible, so I’m sticking with it as I start watching season two.

In many ways, The Killing is a stereotypical cop show. It’s got the cop obsessed with finding the murderer at the expense of her family. It’s got the victim’s family coping with the loss of their daughter and the morbid depictions of how a victim’s body gets back to the family after the crime. It’s got the cop who went too far undercover and got hooked on drugs. It’s got the crusty police lieutenants. It’s got the city hall with their political agendas that are more important than the truth.

But somehow it’s still a compelling show.

Continue reading “The Killing, Season One”

RE: The Leftovers, Episodes 8 and 9

I just finished watching episodes 8 and 9 of HBO’s The Leftovers, and something finally clicked. Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t going to watch more than 4 episodes, but I was intrigued by a television show (and a story) that does nothing but raise questions without ever answering them.

Oh, that crack I made about Lost? Turns out, Leftovers producer Damon Lindelof did write for Lost. No wonder!

Spoilers below if you haven’t seen the show yet. (I don’t recommend it, by the way. Unless the 10th and final episode of the season blows my mind, I just don’t get the point of this show.)

Continue reading “RE: The Leftovers, Episodes 8 and 9”

RE: The Leftovers

Four episodes without any story goals is too much for HBO’s The Leftovers.

I feel like there should be some sort of law against television shows (or the books they are based on, I guess) that only raise questions without giving any answers in the first four episodes of the series. I can handle two episodes of story without context. I could even go to three episodes without any context. But four? Nope. That’s too much. I should have a basic understanding of where The Leftovers is going by now. (I have talked before about my need to understand the goals of the characters early in a story.) But now I have lost faith in the writers. Didn’t we learn anything from Lost? They are clearly just making it up as they go.

The Time of the Doctor

I’ve never particularly liked Matt Smith as the Doctor but it was still sad to see him go.

I didn’t understand much of anything that happened in the Christmas Special The Time of the Doctor, Matt Smith’s final episode as Dr. Who. I didn’t understand the story, I didn’t understand why he was carrying around a Cyberman head, I didn’t understand why the crack was back, I didn’t understand why there was a town called Christmas or why The Doctor was stuck there, I didn’t understand where the Church of the Holy Whatever with the soldiers came from, nothing, zip, zilch. It seemed like a completely random jumble of people, places, and concepts. Was any of that in the last half-season anywhere? I sure don’t remember it. I guess I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention.

Also I’m a little confused over how they calculated this to be Dr. Who’s thirteenth regeneration. By my count* it was his twelfth, counting John Hurt between 8 and 9, unless there’s another one in the lore that I don’t know about, which is entirely possible. I was a bit surprised to see them deal with his limited number of regenerations at all. Of course they resolved it in typical Dr. Who problem-solving fashion, which basically involves hand-waving and magic, but at least they acknowledged it instead of just ignoring it.

The best (and frankly the only meaningful) part of the episode was the touching farewell in the last five minutes or so. I’ve never particularly liked Matt Smith as the Doctor but it was still sad to see him go. It was a nice touch to bring back young Amy and older Amy for a moment.

I couldn’t tell what we’re going to get with Peter Capaldi since we only saw him as The Doctor for about five seconds. I’m hoping for a bit more gravitas, though. (Also, it seems like he should consider not regenerating on the TARDIS – this will be the third time in a row that he crashes the thing after regenerating.)

* 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-W, W-9, 9-10, 10-11, 11-12 = twelve regenerations, right?

The Walking Dead Season 4 Has Begun

Since Breaking Bad is gone, I guess The Walking Dead moves up to become the best drama on television. The first episode of Season 4 didn’t do much but set the stage for what’s to come in the rest of the season. Apparently, we are going to see a lot of: Muddy ground, bleak skies, bleak conditions, bleak people, and zombies.

Since Breaking Bad is gone, I guess The Walking Dead moves up to become the best drama on television, now starting its fourth season. This is traditionally the point in a show’s lifecycle when it starts to die out. Maybe not in TWD’s case, though, because the show didn’t really get going (imo) until its third season.

The first episode of Season 4 didn’t do much but set the stage for what’s to come in the rest of the season. Apparently, we are going to see a lot of: Muddy ground, bleak skies, bleak conditions, bleak people, and zombies.

One thing I had forgotten about TWD is how very, very depressing it is. I mean, I guess the total collapse of civilization and the loss of everything you hold dear would be a major downer in the best of circumstances, but good lord. The humans in this show are just as much zombies as the zombies are. There were some hints that they would deal with this in season 4, and I hope they do: These people have almost nothing to live for right now. They are just surviving. There’s no way that can sustain a story forever.

In preparation for the new season, I re-watched some of season 3. I didn’t realize just how much had happened. It feels like they’ve been in that prison for years, but at the beginning of season 3, they hadn’t even found it yet.

I know someone who has just recently started watching the show, and I was interested to hear them talk about how glad they were to see certain people killed. (Spoiler alert: Main characters sometimes die on TWD.) I guess that’s part of the fun of the survival horror genre. That got me to thinking about which characters I liked and disliked on the show. That got me to thinking that I don’t have any strong feelings about anyone one way or another. ("How very neutral of you.") The more I think about it, the less I seem to know about any of these characters. Almost none of them have any backgrounds or personalities or motivations. They are all completely defined by their actions post-zombies. There’s sheriff-guy, crossbow-guy, katana-gal, old-timey farmer, farmer’s daughter 1 & 2, and formerly-funny Asian guy. And some other people who are largely interchangeable survivors. Sort of cartooney. Or, heh heh, like comic book characters. See what I did there?

Anyway, I hope they start focusing on something besides survival in this season. Because I’m ready to move past the survival phase of this survival horror show.

Oh wait, I just realized that I don’t like Rick’s son, and honestly I wouldn’t be sad to see him go at all, so I guess there’s one person I have strong feelings about. I know he might have sort-of smiled once or twice in the season opener, but I still don’t trust him. He’s going to grow up to be a sociopathic serial killer or a traitor and somebody should put him down before that happens.