Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Almost Human: Are You Receiving John McClane?






Almost Human followed up it's seminal episode of "Skin" with something more pedestrian, "Are You Receiving?"  Not that it was a bad episode per se.  It did borrow heavily from the original Die Hard movie with people falling out buildings, cops sneaking around unknown, furtive and secretive communication with the police and so on.

If your going to borrow from something you may as well borrow from one of the all time heist classics like Die Hard.  Yes, we even had the crooks doubling as terrorists in this one.

Whatever.  The best thing was the other movie reference.  Did everyone catch the Star Wars quote?  "Boring conversation anyway" as originally done by Han Solo and repeated here by John Kennex.  Does that mean Karl Urban will be in the JJ Abrams helmed movie?  Loved it.

So anyway, AH was ripping off Die Hard in a standard police procedural.  Let me get to two quick things before I get to what I thought was very interesting for this episode.  When John went to pick up Dorian did anyone else wonder where Dorian sleeps?  Does he have an apartment or is he staying with Lom?

The other strange thing I noticed was the huge black ball rolling down the highway when John and Dorian were responding to the call.  What does the giant ball do?  Is it something like the giant orb from the 60's classic, "The Prisoner"?  Hopefully we get more giant black ball.  (Just not on my highway.)


OK, let's move on.  I am officially worried for Dorian.

Here's why, I spotted this quote on io9 today and it is very revealing to the state of mine of Dorian as told by Michael Ealy.  The questioner asks Ealy about Dorian's greatest flaw.....

"As of right now I'd say it's his desire to be human. It's one of his more charming qualities, but it's also one of his biggest flaws because he's not happy with who he is. Anyone who's not happy with who they are, obviously that can create problems."

Oh no.

Why does this bother me?  Did you see Dorian when he was riding back from the scene of the crime with Kennex?  He looked absolutely sick (Ealy is great here). I thought there was something legitimately wrong with him and he was going to suffer a huge meltdown in the car from his battle damage.  Thankfully, a little "Benny and the Jets" brought him out of it.  (That song was stuck in my head as I commuted this morning.  Fortunately there were no giant black balls to pull me over for singing so badly.)

Dorian apparently is going to suffer from depression.  He really looked depressed to me as they rode along.  Again, Ealy really sold it.


Wouldn't you be depressed if you could be repaired with chewing gum?  (ABC gum at that!)  I find this absolutely fascinating.  A clinical struggle with depression by an android.  Yes, we've seen Data and Spock of Star Trek struggle with their humanity but depression?

Fascinating.

I think Ealy can pull this off.  It makes me sad just thinking of the possibilities and how Ealy is going to portray them.  Anyone who knows someone that suffers from depression knows what a black hole it can be.  This will be a very interesting case study.

I'm not saying we'll see Dorian's depression front and center for every episode but it will be lingering there just below the surface.


What are your thoughts?



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Almost Human: Property


The second episode of Almost Human, "Skin" was met with a lot of negative reaction primarily, I feel, from the female half of the viewership.   I can understand why.  Undoubtedly because it openly objectified women.

There was a lot of skin showing and no doubt there is a large demographic group, i.e. young males, that found this quite appealing and would find this episode reason enough to watch this series again. 

Viewership and ratings my friends.

However, I'd like people to look beyond the obvious titillation factor and look at something goes beyond skin deep.


The subtext of this entire series and indeed this particular episode is the examination of what it is to be human.  You could say it is it's raison d'etre. 

The introduction of the sex bots was the first step in what I think was a very brave step in what it means to be human and how we define ourselves.  The first clue was that one of the sex bots was leaving DNA behind,  To the principles of this show that meant that these androids and their creation had crossed into dangerous territory.  That territory was the differentiation between what was human and what wasn't.  Or rather not being able to tell the difference between the two.

This violation shattered every tenant in what is Almost Human's futuristic timeline and probably would do so to our own if we had such technology.  To solve the crime and stop this transgression the police led by Kennex and Dorian had to capture a sex bot.  We came to know her as Vanessa.

It was the interrogation of Vanessa that opened my eyes to how deep Almost Human was willing to go in their examination of humanity.

"Where were you made?"

"Who owns you?"

"Whose property are you?"

And there it was.  That word.  Property.  If you think women are insulted by being made sex objects then how would it be to go one step further?

To be someone's property.

The America Civil War was fought over "property".  The South considered the people they owned as property and went to war to protect that "right".   The only thing is, when you consider another being as your property what you really are referring to is one of mankind's greatest shames.

Slavery.

That is where Almost Human went to in this last episode.  Note the title of the episode was "Skin" and also make note the most poignant conversation between two characters were of African American descent.

It was the color of one's skin that separated the slave holders from the slaves and it took a person of color to breach the lack of understanding between the police and the android they captured.  Dorian stopped the insensitive line of questioning and simply asked Vanessa, "Where were you born?"

She was finally treated with respect as a woman and a person of color.

Would FOX TV and the writers of Almost Human trumpet the fact that they went where television rarely seeks to go?   Would they say, "Look, we examined what it is to be human by openly objectifying women and treating people as property so we could shine a harsh light on what it is to be human!"

No, I think not.  Too dangerous a territory.  There is political correctness to think of and they don't want to scare anyone away from the show.  But I am saying they did go there, albeit tangentially, and it was a courageous endeavor.  It was up to us, the viewing audience, to put together the pieces.


Vanessa had to be destroyed.  Dorian wanted to be there.  He told her she was going to a better place.  But more than that he told her she would be remembered.  In that, she was elevated beyond being objectified, beyond being someone's property.  She was treated as an equal.

It was the human thing to do.








Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sleepy Hollow: Blood Brothers


 I thought this last episode of Sleepy Hollow, "Necromancer" was another fine entry into the series.  It was a little lighter with the humor, the stakes were higher this go around, the acting was good to very good (in other words Abbie's personality wasn't all over the place) and we got a wider involvement from an assortment of characters.  No problems right?

Ok, there was one slight problem and everyone has been talking about it.

Death is Ichabod's old buddy Bram?

What?

I thought Death was Death.  You know, some dark avatar that stalks humanity and forces us to meet our inevitable end.  Without mercy and with great finality.

Death.


We are talking the Four Horsemen here right?  Beings of Biblical proportion?  Not an ex-running buddy that you had a tiff with over a lady fair.

I've pondered over this.  We know this was Moloch's doing and Moloch is the ultimate puppeteer. (Every show we love seems to have one.)  What if Moloch can summon Death or any of the Four Horseman but in order for them to do his bidding they have to embody or inhabit a living being in order to walk this Earth?

I'm a bit torn over the spiritual embodiment of the Four Horsemen.  I've always seen them as ghostly figures.  Beings from another plane of existence that will someday inhabit our own in whatever form they choose.

What if I'm wrong.  What if they can't walk the Earth unless they are humanized.  This isn't exactly the end of humanity and I always thought the Horsemen came at the end.  Here they seem to precede the end.  Maybe that is the diffrence and maybe that is the way Moloch has to play his hand.

Maybe.

So let's extrapolate upon this a little further.  Let's say Bram/Death gets his head back.  That's supposed to mean big trouble.  But what if it also exposes a weakness?  What if the return of Bram's noggin further enhances his humanity.  Yes, he will still be all out evil and vengeful but he will be more of his own man.  And if he becomes more of his own man then he will be come less of Moloch's puppet.

Interesting.

That would throw a monkey wrench into Moloch's grand design.  One of the Four Horseman riding around pursuing his own agenda.

Right now the demons have brought Bram and Brooks back to Moloch.  The Sleepy Hollow Scooby gang still have the head and they've come to realize that Katrina is the key.  (The new and improved Katrina.  I liked the humbler version better but that is another misstep for another blog.)  Has Moloch outwitted himself? Or is this all part of the master plan?  Ichabod seems pretty close to the edge.

I'm saying here that the Horseman will get his head back and it will give him voice.  With it he will demand satisfaction.

A duel will ensue. 

Fate will be decided great and small.






Person of Interest: A Revelation?





Have you ever wondered why the Machine doesn't talk to Finch the way it does to Root?  Harold Finch certainly has.  And far be it from Root to resist the opportunity to rub it into Finch.

I was reading a review of "The Crossing" over at the AV Club when I came upon a revelation on why the Machine speaks to Root the way "she" does.

The review picked out a certain quote from the show that went like this.....

“Let’s not pretend that John is your first helper monkey. Exactly how many guys did you go through before him?” 

Whoever wrote the review went on to say that this quote was a false flag in order to get the viewing audience to believe John Reeses' days were numbered. I thought on this and I wondered to myself, "Really?"

I thought the quote went deeper than this.  What Root is saying is the Machine has a disdain for the way Finch treats humanity.  Root indirectly gave us an insight in how the Machine thinks.  We now know there have been many "Helper Monkeys" before and they've all met a sad demise.

The Machine does not approve.

On the other hand the Machine relates to Root because Root treats her as an equal if not a higher being.  If only Finch had the same respect for all things great and small.

Do I think Root appreciates the breadth of what she just divulged?  No, I don't think she does.  But Finch may have an inkling.  He had that shocked look on his face when Root confronted him.  It was if he just realized the greater truth himself.

Poor Finch, I think he really does like Reese a great deal, it's just never been defined in such a way to him before.  Will this mean greater risks taken by Finch or will he have to intercede as he never has before in order to save one of his "Helpers".

John seems ready to step into the abyss will Finch be there to stop him?




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Person of Interest: For Whom The Bell Tolls.


* Spoilers ensue *

 
I had scheduled a blog post for Sleepy Hollow this evening but with all the buzz about "Person of Interest" I thought I better hurry up and watch the episode before it got spoiled for us.

Person of Interest is one of my favorite shows on TV and we usually watch it over the weekend along with Elementary.  I usually blog about the shows I love but "Person" seemed slightly different and I just wanted to enjoy for itself without having the pressure of re-watching it and taking copious notes.

Tonight my hand was forced.

A beloved character fell this episode and as she passed the empty ring of a telephone echoed through the night.

No doubt it was "The Machine" with a warning that came too late.  Can the Machine be too late or was just a case of Finch being stuck between the call of the Machine and the tableau playing out in front of him.

It would be ironic I suppose if it was the Machine calling to warn Finch.  Finch had been wrestling with the notion of the Machine's lack of personal touch with him.  After all, the Machine had reached out to Root and that hadn't escaped her notice.  She often taunted Finch that the Machine would speak directly to her but not to him.  And he was the Creator.

So the moment the Machine had actually reached out to Finch he ignored it.  Or her.  Ah irony.


The numbers had come up for Reese and they played everything correctly.  Sure chances had to be taken and their forces were split but they had been in tough scrapes before.  Surely things would work out.

False flags abounded in this episode.  For a while it looked as though Lionel was going to get it.  Or perhaps his son would die an untimely death.  Certainly the fact that Reese's number came up meant he may have drawn his last breath.

Instead, that last breath belonged to Carter and with it John did die a little.  He had confessed to her earlier when he was at his lowest, the out stretched hand that brought him back from the abyss belonged to her.  Now as John held Joss in his arms he felt as helpless as he did when he thought of ending his own life.

Bitter irony.




In this episode we saw Jonathan Nolan borrow from his script from the second in the Christian Bale Batman series.  In the movie, "The Dark Knight" the Joker had left Batman with a Hobson's choice which is to say a choice with no options at all.   Rescue his girl or rescue the hero of Gotham, Harvey Dent  Fortunately for Fusco, Shaw had made the right call and rescued his son instead of going for Fusco as she couldn't be in two places at once.  Fusco found a way out of his own predicament.


There was no way out for Carter however.  Did you notice in the last episode that her son was safe with her estranged but reformed husband?  It was a nice little piece of writing by the Person of Interest staff.  It provided closure for the boy and while Reese will be out for revenge he won't be tied down having to care for Carter's son.



I'm going to miss Carter.  The previous episode was her moment to shine and Taraji Henson handled it superbly.  It was getting a little crowded on the show what with the addition of  Amy Acker's Root and Sarah Shahi's Shaw so I had a feeling someone had to go.  It is said Carter will return in flashbacks.  Still it leaves an empty feeling. 

I'm warning them though, if they touch one hair on Bear's head I am done with this show.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Almost Human: Almost Everything!


Phew!  Where do I start?

I'm one for picking out references to movies and or TV shows and how they figure into what we are currently watching.  For the TV show, "Almost Human" there were references aplenty!

Where do I start?  OK, how about Continuum.


Gleaming ultra modern cities are always the architecture of the future.  Which really doesn't jive.  How can these impossibly glamorous cities exist when crime and or terrorism is so rampant that society is almost dysfunctional.  Who pays for all of this when things are so bad?


Well, that didn't stop the creators of Almost Human.  Crime is at a record high (up 400%) and the future looks impossibly utopian.  Maybe it is the crime syndicates that finance all this wonder.  Now that would make sense.


One of the first shots we are treated to is looking down the barrel of a rifle as the police conduct their raid.  I wasn't able to grab that particular shot but it looked something like the game screen grab below.





To me it was an obvious attempt to appeal to the gaming crowd.  Many games are "first person shooters" and it looks like Almost Human wanted to capture the cool factor amongst those viewers.

Speaking of police raids, when that scene, which is a flashback, and subsequent scenes are enacted it is reminiscent of the the cult hit "The Raid" which came out of Indonesia back in 2011.  


Sure, there many police raids on film and TV but if you want to appeal to the younger crowd then you have to stay with something that is cool and current and that would be "The Raid".  The bunching of the police squad coupled with a tight closeup looking down the barrel of a rifle was clearly reminiscent of The Raid.



This leads us directly to the cops themselves, specifically the android kind.  When I look at the MX cops I immediately go to "I Robot" the Will Smith vehicle.


Quite similar aren't they?  I wonder when the crime syndicate will gain control of the city's robotic police force and turn them against the populace.  You know it's coming.

The comparisons to "I Robot" don't end there.




The pairing of a human cop with a robotic partner is hardly new.  Will Smith had an android buddy too.  


Not that there is anything wrong with that.  It's just that it has been done before.  Here's hoping Almost Human puts a new angle on it.  Judging by the second (and much better) episode, they do.


We're not done with "I Robot" yet.  Like Del Spooner, Karl Urban's John Kennex has a cybernetic extension.  I guess they had to make it the leg for Kennex because copying Will Smith's arm would have been too close.



Let's skip away from all the I Robot influences and get to a quick "Alien" homage.  See the "dead" MX in the picture above.  (We're going to see a lot of dead robots this season I fear.)  There was some white goo dripping from the android when it was shot.  I guess the goo doubles for blood.  We've seen this before too with the Android, Ash from "Aliens".


Can't have an android without the white goo.  Blood red would be too graphic I'm guessing. 

Can we swing over to "Blade Runner"?




These two head shots of Kennex of Almost Human and Deckard of Blade Runner are remarkably similar.  I don't think it is a coincidence.  I'm sure Wyman and the rest of the people behind Almost Human want people to, subconsciously at least, make the connection between the two properties.   Wyman borrowed from Blade Runner during his Fringe days and it is fertile ground.  If you are going to explore what is to be human why not go to the best source.


Mackenzie Crook's, "Rudy Lom" borrows heavily from William Sanderson's "Sebastian" of Blade Runner fame.


Both are odd ball loners that work in the eerie labs filled with creepy experiments and the detritus that goes along with it.   In the second episode of Almost Human we get an inventor that is into pleasure Bots.  His name?  Sebastian.  Coincidence?  Nope.



 It was almost too good to be true to true to see Kennex sitting at a noodle bar.  So Blade Runner.  So obvious also.  Nothing wrong with a direct homage.

Ok, ok you say you're sick of the Blade Runner references?  I guess I'll skip the Pris comparisons to the Bang Bots from episode two.  (You can spot Pris in the picture above with Sebastian.)

How about a little Mad Max?


Did you get a load of the police cars from the Almost Human future?  Pretty cool yes?  Dark, souped up, menacing and built for speed.


Kind of like the "Interceptor" that Mel Gibson drove around in the original Mad Max.

Is there anything else Almost Human borrowed from the big screen?  Yes and it a JJ Abrams property!

Mykalon Red is a McGuffan for Almost Human.  It's the stuff that threatens to bridge the gap between what is Human and what is Robotic. 





I guess JJ likes the color Red because in his original Star Trek remake, Red Matter, was the stuff that made the universe go 'round.  Whatever works!

Can I go on?




Sure I can.  Minka Kelly's Detective Stahl did mention she was going to round up the "usual suspects".  Shades of Letters of Transit, Casablanca and Fringe.  Ah, the good old days.

Am I disparaging Almost Human from borrowing so heavily from all these properties?  No, what are you going to do?  It's all out there and you have to get your inspiration from somewhere.  I thought the episode was a decent start and it improved by leaps and bounds for it's second episode.  I should get to that in a couple of days.

Next up is Sleepy Hollow though!

Did I miss anything?  What did you people pick up? Write back soon, its lonely in my lab tinkering with sex bots.  (Hey, did Woody Allen already do that?)


 

 






Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sleepy Hollow: A Show of Infinite Jest.


 "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?"(Hamlet, V.i)

Skulls abound in the most recent episode of Sleepy Hollow, "The Midnight Ride".  Do I think the writers were trying to make a direct connection to  Shakespeare's famous play, Hamlet?  No, but there is something to the allusion between the impermanence of life and the "vile effects of death" that thematically run through each episode of Sleepy Hollow.


Hamlet is perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare's plays, and it's protagonist struggles with the loss of loved ones and the ghosts that haunt his conscience as he strives to find his place in the world.  

You could say the same of Ichabod Crane.  Albeit his ghosts are of the more tangible variety.  I thought this a most humorous episode but there was a poignancy behind Ichabod's pain when he discovered the loss of his Mason brothers.  He looked truly shocked and once more a connection he felt to his past was taken from him.  

Hamlet is a tale of revenge and is steeped in bitterness and treachery.  I don't think Ichabod has reached that nadir yet but there are times when his loneliness seems to take him to a place where the "undiscovered country" of death is preferable to his current state and "to sleep, per chance to dream" is a thematic device where Crane most often finds his connection to Katrina.  He best be careful because that sleep of death is a bourn from whom "no traveler returns."

I think the writers will continue to dance around Crane's struggle with death, loss and loneliness but the show seems too lighthearted to go too far with it.  Yes, Wyman and Abrams steer the same ship here as they did with Fringe and we all know Fringe wasn't afraid to go dark but methinks it won't happen here. 



Hamlet's most fearsome opponent was his own conscience and sense of guilt.  In contrast, Crane's most fearsome opponent is a being that harbors neither of those emotions.  Yet, as we see in the picture above, the Horseman is also beset with loss.  Like Hamlet and Crane he is incomplete.  Unlike either, he is completely inhuman.  I wonder if, while staring at the fake skull meant to lure him, he got the joke.  Probably not, being death incarnate probably leaves one without a sense of humor.

Too bad, the humor that Yorick embodied is what Hamlet found most endearing and the humor on display as Ichaod and Abbie sought to destroy the Horseman's head was probably the funniest part of the show.


From explosives, to acid to sledgehammers the skull of our headless friend was well nigh indestructible.  Thankfully our heroes learned one does not defeat the Horseman by crushing his skull but by trapping him and "transforming the moon into the sun."


As that entertaining tableau of incessant skull pounding proceeded, I was reminded how difficult it was to defeat the Terminator.  (In fact, the Terminator skull is reminiscent of the Horseman's skull.)     Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese tried everything they could think of to stop their own avatar of death.  Only theirs was born of the future while the Horesman is a denizen of the past.  Yet, the evil that each monster carries with him is timeless and is comfortable in any era.





Will we see more of the contemplation of life and loss?  I have no doubt.  Crane will continue to be torn between two worlds and I will keep looking for these thematic cues.  I think we can take heart that it won't be overbearing and Sleepy Hollow to become a dreary dirge.  They're having too much fun!

Okay, now for some odds and ends.




This week's bird sighting was both funny and grim.  There's nothing wrong with a little dark humor.  Squawk!



I counted at least three paintings or images of George Washington in the background of some scenes.  I wonder if that is portentuous.


Here's another favorite device of Abrams and Wyman the "No Crossing" signal.  It was quite prevalent in Fringe and it usually was emblematic of the dangers of crossing between universes.  Here, perhaps it is a warning for Abbie not to rekindle her old romance but it could have more deeper significance as we go on.


I'm sure I've left out plenty.  What else did anybody else catch?  Next week's episode looks great.  How can they possibly keep Death in chains?  Will Moloch come to the Horseman's rescue?  If so,  will he hold his own hostage in exchange?  Who will it be?  (Did they say Jenny will be out soon?  Uh-oh!!!)







 







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sleepy Hollow - Separated at Death?



Anyone else shout in protest when Ichabod Crane was spiritually separated from the Headless Horseman?

This strikes me as a, well, not a missed opportunity, but a dropped one.  Shouldn't these two be linked and therefore indestructible?  Can't you see the Horesman riding to the rescue of an endangered Ichabod because he knows it would mean his own demise?

Or how about the Sleepy Hollow Scooby gang having the Horseman in their clutches only to have to let him go because it would put Ichabod in jeopardy?

There are endless opportunities here for a Danse Macabre pas de deux and now it is gone.  I can only hope the two lay bleeding together again some day.

Does anyone else feel this way?


So let's talk John Noble's entry into the Sleepy Hollow universe.  I think it is a definite plus although I was a bit underwhelmed by his initial storyline.  Just a bit and it's because of high expectations I'm sure.  It looks as though they were going to sell us Henry Parrish's timidity but then he found the strength to aid Ichabod at the end.  (Another too easy Sleepy Hollow close.)

We don't know too much about the Parrish character except that he removed himself from the "Sin-eating" business over a lack of faith.  Fortunately for Ichy he found it in time.

Oh, we were so close to having Walter, I mean Henry, back in Boston.  I guess Hartford will have to do.  If only they had his character hiding out in Salem, Ma.  That would have been "wicked".  


Sleepy Hollow came dangerously close to NBC's Grimm last night.  First of all we have James Frain doing double duty from Grimm and now Sleepy Hollow.  Add to that, the reveal that Banastre Tarleton is a demon and he can be seen as such by the gifted.  That is real "Grimm" territory and I think Sleepy should steer clear of such similarities.

I do like that Frain plays a Rutledge from Declaration of Independence fame.  To have the Masons as a shadowy group deepens the mystery and mythology of the show.


My TV crush on Jennie Mills grows stronger with every episode.  But why leave her in the institute?  I know she is close to getting out but let's go!  Perhaps they would be better served leaving her there but having her come and go as she pleases unbeknownst to the the staff.  Her own little institutional Batcave.


I wonder what significance the discovery of Crane's "burial" site by the Horseman is.  A way of getting those two crazy kids back together?  I hope so!


Oh wait!  I almost forgot to show off my cynical side.  I'm 100% sure Fox had a baseball tie in just after the World Series with their little exercise with the national past time to start the show.


One last act of cynicism.  I didn't buy Abbie's tears when Ichabod was nearing death.  I don't think she's earned that emotionality yet.  I know they tried to get through it with some exposition with her sister Jenny but it didn't ring true for me.

And yes we had another eagle sighting!  Go birds!  (And I don't mean Cardinals or Orioles.)