Sunday, September 29, 2013

Broadchurch Finale

How Could You Not Know?

Here in the USA we just experienced the Broadchurch finale and it was a fusillade to the senses.  As with most mysteries the anticipation for the conclusion is always intense.  You can't wait to see who the villain is and in the meantime you play your own guessing game as to who the main culprit is.

I had picked Rory the Roman (Arthur Darvill) and had to taste bitter defeat as my wife correctly guessed it was the perfect husband, Joe.

When that reveal was made I was a bit disappointed.  I felt Joe was a secondary character or even lesser as all the other potential culprits seemed more filled out to me.  When DS Miller's husband Joe was outed there was only about 28 minutes gone by out of the hour and my wife exclaimed, "What are they going to do with the rest of the episode?"  

"Show us the aftermath" I replied.

To say the least.  Here is where we found out what Broadchurch was really about.  It wasn't the mystery of who the killer was, it was the people involved and the human toll.  This is where Broadchurch truly excelled.  The mystery behind the identity of the killer was just a device.

Broachurch focused it's lens upon the human tragedy involved and it was done by asking the question "How could you not know?" The most damning indictment of that question was when when Beth Latimer confronted Ellie Miller and basically asked how she could share a bed with someone and not know he was a child killer?

Miller was devastated.  How could she not know?  She was closest to the killer, she was tasked with finding the killer as an officer of the law, her best friend was the victims mother, how could she not know?

You could ask the same of the Susan Wright. Her own husband was convicted of molesting her child.  The news of which became a sensation in her former hometown.  How could she not know?

What of Jack Marshall?  A pillar of the community and a leader of young men.  And a supposed pedophile?  Why did they let their children get so close to him?  How could they not know?

Beth Latimer led the quintessential suburban life.  A fine home, a beautiful family and a loving husband.  Yet all was not as it seemed to be.  Under her very nose her husband was conducting an affair with Becca Fisher.  Were there no clues?  Was she blind to the signs?   Beth was pretty tough on Ellie at the end.  With good reason.  But who casts the first stone?  Had she been watching her husband would not her son have strayed from the family?

How could she not know?

Broadchurch cast it's light on humanity at it's darkest.  The questions and the question will linger long after this season has faded.  We can't help but put ourselves in their shoes.  What would we have done?  How would we have felt or reacted given similar circumstances?  Could we look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "How could you not know?"

When you form a community, a family, a loving relationship you invest your self in that person or group of people.  To place doubt in that relationship would be placing doubt in your self.  You are committed wholeheartedly to your brethren, to the ones you care for and the ones you love.  To do otherwise would shatter the bonds of community, family and love.

We place our trust in those around us as we trust our selves.  To act counter to that would go against our very nature.  It defines our very being and it answers the question,

"How could you not know?"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 's August Debut

Readers of this blog know I can't resist a good pun.  I have to say it was good to see J. August Richards, "Gunn", of Angel fame to lead off this show.   I know I had seen him on "Arrow" but it wasn't the same since he played the nasty character of Mr. Blank.  To see him here as a nominal good guy pulled at the old heart strings for the days of Buffy and Angel.

I know I'm digressing from the real point of the show but you can't have a Whedon reference without a Whedon discussion.  It's hard to believe he still has his detractors.  There may be a few more after this show is reviewed.

So, Agents of SHIELD made it's "August" debut and I found it light, funny, self aware (always important with me) and somewhat dramatic.  Does the "Somewhat dramatic" count against this show?  Skimming the internet today I know "Agents" had its critics.  Not tough enough, too light, and so forth.

I think we have to remember this show airs at the eight o'clock hour.  If you want a Game of Thrones level of violence you'd better stick to premium cable at a later hour.  (For them that would be nine o'clock.)  

I have to admit I was surprised by the light touch of this show.  We are dealing with the superhero world.  Things blow up, crash and disintegrate all the time.  Not that I don't appreciate the humor of the show.  There were plenty of laughs such as the "poop with knives sticking out of it" line and Agent Ward being stuck with truth serum and going on about beautiful women. Plus, there is no better straight man than Clark Gregg.  His entrance with the light bulb was dryly funny.  He's the straight man's straight man. So can we talk about the elephant in the room mystery about his resurrection?

Apparently, Agent Coulson knows little about his own "rehab."  As alluded to by Cobie Smulder's "Maria Hill" his fate is a secret that even he should not be aware of.  Is he some sort automaton or replicate that was infused with Coulson's intelligence?  Some think he will be the Marvel superhero "Vision" someday.  More machine than man.

Another thing I could appreciate about this show were the nods to the larger mythology of the Marvel universe.  After all, there would be no Agents of SHIELD without the movies.   The only hazard here is the expectation from the fans to see some of these heroes.  It doesn't seem like that is going to happen to any great degree.  We'll have to be happy with brief glimpses and clever nods to things like the Sony property of Spiderman when Richard's "Mike Peterson" climbed the wall (get it "Perterson as in Peter - Son, an off shoot of "Peter" Parker.) and Agent Ward throwing the plate like Captain America's shield during his fist fight in Paris.

So, all in all it wasn't a bad start.  Ron Glass has a job again and that's always good.  Perhaps the light touch and the eight o'clock hour has a lot to do with attracting the younger fans. That might seem cynical but you have to share your property with all ages if you want to attract business across all demographics.  Something baseball has failed to learn but the smoking industry knows all too well.  See the World Series starting after nine at night and the "Joe Camel" campaign.

Like my previously reviewed "Sleepy Hollow" both shows are in the probation stage.  Too early to give up on but no too early to nitpick.  Let's hope both shows mange to keep their early vision and hit one out of the park.

(Ugh, that was bad even for me.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sleepy Hollow - Ghoul of the Weak?

Unfortunately I thought Sleepy Hollow took a step back this past episode.  After a slam bang opener that intrigued many across the TV viewing universe it fell back into cliches, familiar tropes and the tired themes that mark too many TV shows.

I'll cool off a little and speak of some of the questions I've posed recently about Sleepy Hollow. 

The morning of the day of the second episode, I asked the group of "Bunsen Burners" on Facebook how long Crane would be in his old duds as they must be a bit odoriferous by now.   As we found out early on Crane has decided to do his own laundry.  Clever.  Dressing him in modern day frocks would dilute his identity as the "fish out of water."  Better to keep him separated from the others as an out of time throw back..

Speaking of frocks here is something I am disappointed in.

Abbie Mills is now dressed in civvies as opposed to her stitched up Sheriff deputy's uniform.  So, it's paramount to preserve Cranes identity through his clothes but Abbie has to be a babe now?  Wouldn't we rather see her a little uptight and starched as a foot soldier type policemen?  It keeps her as an underdog that is always bucking the system.  Now thanks to the clothing change she's part of the system.  Bad move.

Sorry, back to some of the questions I had posed.

In last week's blog I had wondered if Katrina was going to be a series regular and were we going to see her exclusively in the "mirror universe" and flashbacks.

Answer received!

Katia Winter who play Katrina in the series received third billing after Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie.  Impressive.  This leads one to believe she may actually make it out of the "between" worlds and join the land of the living.  It certainly means she  will get a meatier role in the show.

One of my major points from my last blog was the absence of incredulity by many of the show's characters towards Ichabod Crane.  It didn't take long for Abbie, Captain Irving and two of the deputies that responded to the final gun fight to buy into Crane's story.  I loved it and found it refreshing that we didn't have to endure a season long battle for Crane to get people to believe him.

Well, that's gone!

This is very disappointing.  Talk about familiar themes.  Irving has withdrawn his support, the two deputies have recanted their statements, and as Crane noted, Abbie is already rolling her eyes at what he says, where she once trusted what she saw.   Very disappointing.

How is this for a cliched device?  The jealous ex-boyfriend.  Egads.  How tiresome.  They can't create enough tension between Abbie and Crane they have to throw in the angry ex?  Naturally he is a hunk.  Please.

Maybe I should talk about some of the things I did like.

The humor!

Watching John Cho stumble around with his head on backwards was hilarious.  Even his tearing himself out of the body bag was a hoot as he clumsily crashed to the floor.

I also found the yellow stickies in Cranes (Motel?) room funny.  They serve two purposes also.  Its a good joke that Crane can't make sense of things we take for granted every day.  It's funny to see him squirm at his predicament.  But they also remind us what a fish out of water he is.  Humor is a great asset to this show I hope they don't lose it.

Oh, let's get back to something that really bothered me.  The "Ghoul of the Weak".  

Back in the day, when Smallville was still running, they fell into the trap of the "Freak of the week".  They would introduce some Kryptonite tainted kid and Clark, the future Superman, would have to defeat him or her and wrap everything up in a nice tidy bow by the end of the episode.

That grew old very fast but fortunately for Smallville the figured their way out of that box and rescued the series.  Sadly, Sleepy Hollow has fallen into that very same trap in its second episode.  Freak created, freak defeated.  Uh-oh.  Warning Will Robinson this type of story telling is a trap.  Please don't let it sink this show!  Karina drops a hint, Crane figures it out and monster goes bye bye.


Ok, I'm starting to bum myself out and "Agents of Shield" is on so let's wrap this up on a high note.

I love the mythology stuff.  It gives the viewing audience something to chew on much like Fringe did.  The reverse side of Kartrina's tombstone had the "All Seeing Eye" carved into it as well as the two Doves we see above.  Good stuff, keep it coming.

Also good is the introduction of Abby's sister, Jenny.  She looks crazy and kick ass.  A delightful combination.  Maybe this is why they've watered down Abby to make her sister more of a contrast.  I hope not.

OK, I'll perk up maybe next weak (week) will be better.  But if not I still have my single shot black powder pistol by my side.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sleepy Hollow. Worthy of the Legend?

I wasn't sure I was going to blog on this show and I had to watch it twice before I made  up my mind.  It's your typical "fish-out-of-water" story but fortunately for the viewer the show doesn't belabor the incredulity of the participants or the viewing audience.

How many times have we all watched a show where the principle player (such as 18th century Ichabod Crane) is thrust into some bizarre situation and despite overwhelming evidence to support his or her claims no one, save perhaps one, ever believes him.  This point is driven home across the breadth of the season and perhaps seasons to come.  It can be very frustrating for all concerned.

Well, not this show!

It wasn't long before incredulity goes the way of a severed head and by the end of the show everyone is seemingly on board.  Even the character of Captain Frank Irving, (middle name Washington?) who by all rights should be the most disbelieving, has thrown his lot in with Abbie and "Captain America" Ichabod Crane. (Yes, he may be in on the secret like Brooks and the dear Reverend.  That helps.)

I was a bit thrown by this expecting the familiar TV tropes to rule the day.  But after some thought I find this accelerated version most refreshing.  Things were a little off here and there.  Crane himself should be ready for the asylum he eventually finds himself in.  But no, cars don't phase him, modern day weaponry doesn't puzzle him (granted, I would duck too if anything fired at me), power windows, now that is fascinating!

I like a show that has a sense of humor and is a bit self aware.  (See above.)   Little things like the power windows and the "Captain America" line I can appreciate and I find endearing.  But speaking of self aware, does this version of Sleepy Hollow not have the legend in it's story books?  Was there no Washington Irving to write this story in it's time line?  I mean they all live in Sleepy Hollow don't they know the story?  I guess not, I wonder what else has changed?

 Here is something that's changed, Fox has shown the courage to cast a female co-lead of an African-American woman!  Hooray!  (Or should I say huzzah in keeping with the 18th century theme.)  "Leftenant" Abbie Mills is wonderfully played by Nicole Beharie who thankfully dispenses with all the cliches that Black actors are often encumbered with.  Praise be!  I would hate to see Beharie's character weighed down by the stereotypes that are ultimately demeaning and insulting.  No, Abbie Mills is no second fiddle, she's quick, courageous, canny  and resourceful.  (Let's keep an eye on the show-runners to make sure she stays that way.)

Ok, let's discuss some of the finer points of the episode.

The Mirror Universe.

I like it.  Crane's seemingly deceased wife can communicate with him through a mirror.  Our perspective on this world includes Crane existing in this mirror universe as long as he speaks with her.  I wonder if Katrina will be a series regular through this portal or through flashbacks.

Not only can things be seen through to the mirror universe but it's occupants can cross between the two worlds.  At least in the case of the "Demon".   Does that mean Katrina can cross over?  I think not, she claimed to be trapped there.  Bad news though, Mr. Demon is not trapped there.

Revised History

As I noted earlier this world knows nothing of the Washington Irving story but it least it has a George Washington!  But no only is he fighting the British he's fighting a war to stave off the impending apocalypse.  I don't remember that in my history books!

Does this mean the British were on the side of evil when they had the "Headless Hessian" in their employ?  Was it because of their imperialist/colonial ways that brought slavery to the new world?  I'd like to see this explored further.

The interrogator at the beginning of the episode shows Crane a dollar bill (more of the lack of incredulity I loved) and it has Washington on it.  That's fine, but make note of the "unfinished pyramid" on the reverse side.  The meaning to us is of an unfinished union that strives for perfection.  To them I think the mythology is quite real.  In fact it seems apparent that Captain Irving, Officer Brooks and the Reverend (who existed in two time lines are aware of it and "witchcraft".  Interesting.

Nitpicks and Other Observations.

 So Crane and the Horseman are bound by blood eh?  I guess that means the Horseman isn't going anywhere.  But what of the other riders of the Apocalypse?  Can Crane defeat them but not his blood brother without killing himself?  That's a quandry.

So if the Demon can cross through the mirror worlds why doesn't he just kill Crane? Oh right, the blood connection.

If witchcraft exists in this world where are the two covens?  Is the good coven trapped in the mirror world with Katrina or is it represented by Abbie's sister and the dead Reverend?  Is Irving a member of the evil coven?  Was Brooks?  Is the eagle as a "familiar" able to transcend both worlds?

Here's a nitpick, Abbie says she's a member of the police force yet she clearly worked with the Sheriff.  Her arm patch says Sheriffs Department which is county oriented.  So which one is it and why isn't Irving in a sheriff's uniform, everyone else is?

Super nitpick, Crane said he was ordered to Washington's tent and he ends up in a cabin. Gotcha!  (Hey, I said it was a nitpick.)

OK, what did I miss?  What can you all add?

I'll try to quicker with posting next week but with "Almost Human" around the corner I can't promise anything.  Remind me to keep my head up!

 (Pun intended.)