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TV Reviews

Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 09:21 by BenCTurnbull

Another promising project, another let down. Spoilers to come

Story

We meet out royal family on a technologically-shielded moon city, Attilan, and learn that they have been there for quite some time, after having fled from tensions on earth. The story then quickly proceeds to tear the protagonists apart and leave them scattered on earth to start their individual journeys. Meanwhile, Maximus, the rebel brother of king Black Bolt, is left to manipulate their home into his own.

The following 6 episodes are spent with our family forming bonds and enduring struggles of their own on earth including being lost in the wilderness, arrest, and experimentation. Through interaction with secondary characters, we learn of some of the backstory to the Inhumans and bit-by-bit they reassemble. Through a few obstacles, they return home to overthrow Maximus and take back their people.

The story’s strength lay within its integration into the wider MCU as well as its simplicity. Firstly, the series adapts the ‘Inhumans’ graphic novel in a very obvious but well done way with regards to the MCU canon. Attilan is moved to the moon yet there is still links with the oceans, the Inhuman outbreak in Agents of Shield is acknowledged and explained clearly, and the overall feel fits well. The simplicity of the basic story gives room to focus on characters and truly engaging moments which, sadly, aren’t often capitalised upon.

The weaknesses come with pacing and, specifically, how rushed the storyline is. We move very quickly from learning they exist to tearing them apart which leaves no resounding impact on the viewer. Why should we care if we don’t care about them? There’s also symbolic moments such as the removal of Medusa’s hair which are meaningless to the viewer as its importance is never established. The lack of establishment from the start makes it far less easy to appreciate the strengths that come later and ultimately serve as the story’s demise. Whilst there are great character moments and some revealing story it’s done in much more of a patching up way than setting the scene organically.

Characters

The characters are, surprisingly, pretty good. Black Bolt is done incredibly well considering his inability to speak. The use of signing coupled with physical mannerisms is compelling and testament to the actor. Medusa shows depth and a character arc which works well (once they explain her motives) and she has a lovely interaction with Black Bolt. Karnak, likewise, is complex and is given room and story which make you feel for the character. Ultimately, he’s the unsung hero of the show. I also include Maximus in the list of well-done characters despite being a tad underwhelming. He is essentially a watered-down Ramsey Boulton (Game of Thrones) and that’s clearly the role which got the actor this one. Given that, he is portrayed well and is more than a villain-because-villain that he could easily be. Lastly, Louise, a human scientist who stumbles upon Medusa and becomes her friend in the process. She is the best supporting character and one of the stand outs of the whole show. She progresses from functional through to having her own key moments which is fun and would have been nice to see more of.

Visuals

The show utilises some good but mostly underwhelming visuals. Teleportation via Lockjaw or other means are well done and fit the theme. They are also slightly different from the portals and other means of transport we’ve seen in the rest of the MCU. Also, Karanak’s ability to see weakness in everything was incredibly well done and only added to how well portrayed his character was. Before setting on a plan, he can run through events (similar to that Nicolas Cage movie) and it’s shown like a series of schematics or a crime scene with pins and lines connecting events and locations. It’s difficult to convey in words something well shown visually so you’ll just have to trust me.

Beyond that, the visuals were a steady meh. The sets were fine, sort of what you’d expect, but most of the costumes were lacking. They felt more like they dropped the line towards good cosplay rather than high production media. I’m not sure what I expected but after the stunning costumes of the other tv shows (Daredevil, Agents of Shield) this was just a let down.

Overall, it just felt rushed on every level. The story could have done with being a 13 episode run and used the first 5 to establish our characters before ripping them apart. All of the characters would have got more depth and time then as opposed to 3-4 key ones. Likewise, with the visuals, more time would have allowed them to develop the look of other characters more. It, in all honesty, feels like the whole project was cancelled when the film was but then somebody demanded it return so they cobbled it all together just to tick a box. A sad state of affairs considering just how interesting the inhumans are and their potential role in the MCU. They integrate with what’s happened (Agents of Shield) and the Sokovia Accords (Civil War) as well as what’s coming such as the Kree-Skrull war (Captain Marvel) and the potential for one of theirs to be Thanos’ son Thane (Infinity War). Overall, a massive loss as I doubt this will be continued and the low ratings will probably cause Marvel’s TV arm to drop Inhumans in general.

Rating given because I feel it fell on the bad/meh boarder. It pulled in just slightly lower than Iron Fist because the latter at least told a single, simple story that albeit wasn’t engaging was still set up well. Inhumans, however, had the meh moments but did nothing to set itself up. A sad state of affairs for the Marvel TV universe as they are now only 5 for 10 in terms of strong shows. Perhaps they need to hand the reigns over to Cap Fiege and his film teams.

3.5/10

Rating:
4
Topics:
Marvel, MCU, Netflix
Monday, August 21, 2017 - 15:51 by BenCTurnbull

It’s fair to say that I was excited for The Defenders. The Netflix MCU branch has been strong throughout (bar Iron Fist, comments about which you can see in my review) and the potential in a get-together was high. Much as Avengers Assemble brought together the feed from five films into one of the best superhero movies ever, Defenders was poised to do the same with five shows feeding into a more gritty and aggressive cousin of the film epic. What we were handed did not live up to that hype nor potential. It wasn’t overall bad but just suffered in several ways in which it shouldn’t have. It wasn’t the meh of Iron Fist but it didn’t capture what it was set up to do. But let’s stop being mean, what did the show do well?

Its first strength was not starting us off with an assembled team. The show felt like a natural coming together of four independent stories. We start with our heroes in their respective lives working through events following on from their recent shows. Bit by bit this is weaved to a point where they intersect (for good or bad) until they realise they are working on the same big picture. This made it feel very organic and it was excellent to fill in some of the gaps between shows. Secondly, and relating to the previous, it was engaging from the start. We weren’t treated to a few episodes of dawdle but instead hit the relevance from the opening. Thirdly, and critically, the principle villain was both intriguing and humanised from their opening scene which made you really want to learn of their agenda. They also were presented with important connections to previous events which enabled you to set them in an established scene. Lastly, the interplay between the primary characters, including their individual motives and perspectives, were well played out. Bringing together a bunch of super-people is never going to go smoothly and the show was very good at finding the relevance for the individual to be there. The show also did well including secondary characters from other shows as well as producing some genuine tension, striking a good balance of action styles, and making Danny a bit more likeable. However, I opened this review with some disappointment so let’s now look at the less good parts of the show.

Whilst we had a great opening and closing story, the middle of the show felt like filler. As if the writers came up with a good way to bring them together as well as conclude the story but couldn’t quite find the right link between the two. Even in such a short show, the middle couple of hours were a little wasted and I felt myself getting distracted. Additionally, the concluding event was a tad belittled by the prior announcement of season renewals. A potential solution to the whole problem established by the villains utilised a rather easy (in terms of writing) and predictable solution. Whilst they then did take an interesting left turn with it, it still rested on a rather easy foundation which we’ve seen done far better in one of the MCU films. Likewise, the approach and attitudes of The Hand (serving as the connecting villains across all the shows) mirrored those of Hydra from both the films and tv shows a little too much. Overall, this made it feel as if they were simply finding a 15 rated, tv version of the film world rather than creating something a bit more unique for it to show off. Regarding the villains, the aims of their team were never really put out their beyond some selfish motives and the central McGuffin wasn’t really explained at all. This really paled in comparison to the likes of Fisk (Daredevil), Kilgrave (Jessica Jones), and the two from Luke Cage in terms of motivations and well-roundedness of the villains. Additionally, the climax itself wasn’t built towards nearly as well as in the likes of Daredevil nor Jessica Jones which made it feel like less of a tension reliever and more of a moment of just ending. Lastly, the was some CGI use which was not only cheap but came off cartoony (much more what I would expect from the like of Sharknado).

Overall, The Defenders wasn’t a bad show (hence the rating) but it fell short in a lot of ways which could have been easily improved. They created much more of a fan-pleaser than an epic show of its own and whilst it was fantastic to see these characters together, what we got did not do them justice. It was a fun show with fantastic moments but fell short of the amazing it should have been.

Rating:
7
Topics:
Marvel, Daredevil, Jessica Jones
Saturday, March 25, 2017 - 13:19 by BenCTurnbull

I find myself, once again, short of words when it comes to describing Iron Fist as a show but unlike before it is not for good reasons. We are introduced to a homeless Danny Rand as he attempts to return to western society and reintegrate into his family’s company whilst convincing the world that he’s not actually dead. We then learn that in the 15 years since his supposed death he has been training to be the ‘Iron Fist’: a warrior of martial arts who is able to focus his chi and enhance his hand as a weapon. He has returned to use his strengths for good and then things happen. But that’s precisely where Iron Fist falls short as a show: things just happen. It’s not that the show is bad but that it’s also not particularly good either. It lingers in the fuzzy zone which leaves you a feel of “well…that happened” and I feel this for several reasons.

Firstly, plot. As I mentioned, not a huge amount seems to happen and the show seems to lack a focussed plot. That’s not to say that a show needs a simple and straightforward narrative resulting in the defeat of a clear villain, such as how Daredevil season 1 panned out, but you shouldn’t get 2/3rds through a show and still be unsure as to what is even happening. Now I will say at this point that one of the things Iron Fist did well is by not ending in an explosive and character-defining battle. It’s very easy to end a story with an epic fight and then happiness all around and they avoid this but for 11 (out of 13) episodes the entire show felt like a loose prequel to upcoming Defenders tv show and with little of its own standing.

On that note: universe building. Marvel have continued to go from strength to strength with their vast and integrated universe. Iron Fist seeks to extend that by broadening the street level antics of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage whilst also delving into the mystical elements (no doubt, facilitated by the release of Dr Strange). By in large, Iron Fist pulls this off well. There are cameos, to varying degrees, which do not feel gratuitous, as well as name drops which, whilst at times are quite coincidental, fit well with the story. However, it felt as if it was doing this at the sacrifice of the shows own development and left it hanging in a similar way in which Iron Man 2, Age of Ultron, and Daredevil 2 did. These examples aimed to provide bridges between parts of the MCU and were thus rendered quite fragmented in places. Iron Fist didn’t quite have so many boxes to tick, and thus wasn’t as chaotic as the aforementioned, but still felt as if it was devoting more of its time to broadening a world than actually providing its own piece of that world.

Thirdly, characters. Iron Fist has some excellent and intriguing characters throughout. There are a couple of returners from other shows which continue to show development (one of which takes quite a surprising turn which is nice) as well as some new faces. The newer ones are largely well presented, convincing, and have some enjoyable development in places. The downfall here was truly in Danny Rand himself. The protagonist of a show should not be one of the least interesting things about it but that is what we were given. His portrayal came across as a less-good Oliver Queen from Arrow and the character similarities only enforce this. He wasn’t very strong in his dialogue and didn’t deliver much in the way of range. His supporting co-stars, on the other hand, really stole the show whether it was the sidekick, the Night Nurse, the tortured son, the disturbed father, or the leader of The Hand. Hell, when a kung fu Jack Sparrow is one of the best characters in the whole show despite being in a single scene, you know something’s off with the lead.

Lastly, and not entirely separate from plot, action. The action is fine, ok? The fighting is nice and well put together. It’s always fun to see these sorts of actions performed well. The trouble was that none of it was gripping. The action came across as more of a show and there was very little sense of danger for the main characters throughout. Within the MCU tv universe I think of Daredevil being beaten and thrown off buildings, Jessica Jones being trapped by Kilgrave, or Luke Cage being short by armour-piercing bullets. Real threats to these characters which could have taken a turn for the worst. However, Iron Fist brings Danny the threat of martial-arts fisty-cuffs and yes, whilst he does get battered at times, there’s no tension. Even when vastly out-numbered there is no sense of danger for his life; as if they are all going to take a bow afterwards. There is one gripping scene towards the end where you start to really feel it for the Danny character but even that is eclipsed by one featuring his sidekick only moments before.

Overall, Iron Fist did not even whelm me. It was fine, intriguing but not gripping, fun at times but largely immemorable. As I said at the start, it’s not even bad it’s just not much good either. I hope they do something good with him in The Defenders but if they don’t there are alternative choices for the role of Iron Fist in that show. For now, though, Iron Fist goes close to the bottom of my Marvel list, firmly in the ‘won’t watch again’ pile. About on par with Daredevil 2 but for very different reasons.

Rating:
4
Topics:
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 10:00 by David

West.

Or rather Westeros.

It will soon be gone.

With only a few episodes left, until the Game of Thrones is won (or lost maybe), HBO looks westward, hoping to capture the lightning again.

So we move to Earth in the future.

America to be precise, or rather a simulation of the old west.

The Game of Thrones comparison is not a coincidence. This show is being touted by the network as the next GOT, even the continuity announcer before the UK Sky Atlantic broadcast referred to it as such.

A lot is riding on this.

So hitch up your saddle and get ready to ride out onto the prairie on your synthetic horse.

For those that may not have seen the original, the 1973 film of the same name is a classic of science fiction, from an age when the genre was dominated by cold-war inspired moody post-apocalyptic dismal-fests.

Essentially it was a theme park with robot attractions that are not supposed to kill the guests. Westworld was written by Michael Crichton, who would later write about a theme park with dinosaurs in it that are not supposed to kill the guests.

One of the big draws (pun intended) was the casting of Yul Brynner as ‘The Gunslinger’, a cold and relentless terminator, years before the word was upgraded to start with a capital ‘T’.  

The film robots are infected by a virus but continue to behave as they are programmed to, now with the safety features no longer working. Lazy, rich tourists become dead very quickly. As the numbers thin out the main protagonist finds himself hunted by the Gunslinger, and unable to easily distinguish between man and machine.

This was followed by a poor sequel,’Futureworld’ and an even poorer TV series ‘Beyond Westworld’, which was quickly cancelled.

So this is attempt three to bring Westworld back to the masses, and this time it is a superior product.

We begin with the title sequence, which juxtaposes western landscapes with hi-tech machinery busily constructing horses and humans. Printed robot fingers tap out the mournful theme music, then abruptly lift off the keys to show that the keyboard is actually a pianola, playing itself from a punched paper roller. This is a nice touch to show modern and ancient automata together. The pianola appears again later in the episode playing a grunge classic in a tinkly cowboy style. I hope this is a running gag, it put a broad smile on my face when I recognised the tune. There is also a re-imagined 60’s version of a Rolling Stones anthem. 

Once we get under way with the narrative we get a sense of what the series is trying to do. There will be shocks, sex and violence, and much questioning of reality and morality (nudge,nudge,wink,wink, Game Of Thrones).

We’re are introduced to Dolores, who we immediately understand is a ‘host’. We see her first in one of her ‘dreams’ which is in fact a diagnostic analysis by Westworld technicians and security staff. We then flick to her theme park reality .

Soon she meets up with Teddy, who she seems to know, and we enter her ‘Loop’, being a pre-scripted storyline that happens every day with a set of predetermined characters that park visitors can observe or interact with (we see the Loop playing out a couple of times slightly differently over a couple of cycles).  

Some of these loops are violent and tragic. Some involve romance between the hosts. As with the film, the guests can indulge in violence and sex as much as they can fit into their stay. 

These behaviours raise a couple of key themes. What is this constant barrage of immorality doing to the hosts, and what is it doing to the guests?

There’s an early fleeting comment from a visitor that after his first stay he came back ‘...straight evil. Best two weeks of my life’. The implication being if there are no consequences to your behaviour, then there is no need for morality.

This is only a problem for the paying guests of course, for the attractions it's an endless repeating loop cycle of sex,violence, or both.

It's a good job they can't feel, or remember what happened the day before, eh? And what about the week, month, year, or decades before as well. 

Yeah, if you started to recall all the bad stuff, and were advanced enough to be on the cusp of conscious thought and emotion you'd be a ticking time bomb wouldn't you?

So the roles are reversing. 

The humans are losing their humanity and the robots are gaining theirs. Throughout the first episode this convergence makes it hard to tell human from non-human. Roles from the film are deliberately subverted to confuse and build tension. 

Who is real?

Enter Ed Harris as the un-named Gunslinger. 

(At this point I must inject a sentence as part of an agreement with another potential reviewer from ‘The Wonky Spanner’. I get to write the review for Westworld as long as I attribute the following sentence about Ed Harris to Jon Lee)...

He’s no Yul Brynner, but he is good.

There. 

And to be fair the sentence is correct in every way. This is not the same Gunslinger from the movie, this is a far more brutal and complex character. He’s going to be a major character in this. I won't spoil anything here, but the black clothes,hat, and the vicious nature of this character are both reminiscent of and a departure from 1973.

Blood flows. 

The nature of the narrative loops comes into play here, some hosts will ‘die’ regularly on screen. Some die every day. I am really going to have a hard time either not getting alcohol poisoning after turning this into a drinking game when the same character is shot to pieces every episode, or, I will be bludgeoned to death by my wife after going all ‘South Park’ and constantly resorting to ‘Oh My God, they've killed ….(insert name)’.

As with any theme park there is the public face and back-stage (or back-stagecoach?).

What I liked here is that this is not the old trope of this being a new park with unexpected problems from the off, we are in a mature (in many senses of the word) establishment. 

We get our first main look at the Westworld staff when one of the hosts seizes up during a loop. The shouty English narrative Director, an up-tight corporate bitch, a stolid heroic security type, and the main technicians try to identify the source of the glitch. 

This is not a happy band.

The Loop/script director is Mr Sizemore who shouts obscenities about his scripts being ruined. The corporate bitch is Operations Director Miss Cullen, who appears to be very on edge and ready to pull the plug on the hosts at the slightest provocation.

It is clear that there have been incidents with the hosts in the past, the last being around 30 years ago. 

The current glitch is speculated to have been caused by Dr Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who appears to be in charge. Ford can't stop tinkering with the hosts programs. His chief technician is Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) tasked with letting his boss know that the off script adjustments have been causing problems. 

There are layers of things going on here. Ford seems a bit too attached to his creations and making them more life-like, Bernard wants to keep everything running. Meanwhile Cullen and Sizemore clash, but acknowledge that the park is much more than it seems.

As more hosts start glitching, it becomes clear that the problem needs to be contained, so a whole heap of loops are adjusted to engineer a mass slaughter of the infected units, whilst entertaining the guests at the same time. 

We wrap up the episode with Ford interrogating a glitched host. This is a gripping and intense scene, the unit behaves erratically and threateningly, and its’ resolution is clearly a setup for later.

So a fantastic start, dense and gripping, with a major cast.

There is a lot of ambiguity and misdirection here. Whenever there is tension you expect a host to go on a killing spree. Telling guests from hosts is impossible from looks alone, and as the behaviours start to overlap it is only going to get harder…

How many of the park staff are going to turn out not to be human is going to be a maddening puzzle. Especially as some of the personalities are already clichés (I mean how many times have we seen shouty obnoxious English directors in Hollywood productions, or the single career woman taking a hard-line to prove her worth).

Who is up to what ? Who is real? What is really going on? Is there a link to film ? Is there a Roman World or Medieval World as there was in the original? Why has the park chosen such a stupid way to deal with malfunctioning units? Is the program for a host analogous to human experience?

And the most important question of course…

What is the pianola going to play next????

If the quality of this keeps up as well as the first episode then this will be compulsory viewing. 

I do have some nagging doubts about a couple of things, but I’m not going to voice them here as I think that I need a couple more episodes to see how they pan out.

So is this the new Westeros?

Perhaps.

Or maybe..

‘WestrU.S.’?

Uh oh, a man all in black has taken offence at that terrible pun.

He’s drawing his gun and…..

I'm shot… 

My vision is fading…

There's blood everywhere…

But…

I’ll be back in the loop tomorrow...

Rating:
9
Topics:
WestWorld, TV Reviews
Friday, February 5, 2016 - 10:00 by David

Ah, the sad life of the Hollywood scientist.

They tend to fall into two camps…

The first is the Evil scientist, hyper-efficient, thoroughly immoral, clutching for power and mastery over the elements, man, and God. He will eventually fall victim to a horrendously gruesome death at the hands of his own creations.

Then there is the Good scientist. The flawed genius, performing calculus before they were potty trained, the ugly social outcast, sporadically inspirational, unflappably moral, and prone to using the phrase…

‘There are just some things that man is not meant to meddle with’

The Good scientist will either triumph over Evil but lose his entire life's work, or make the noble sacrifice to make up for angering the fates.

For either case, the reality of the common man is a mystery, a thing to despise with contempt or marvel at these quirky non-brainy types. 

Hollywood does not like sciency people, they are to be feared or laughed at. 

Refreshingly, we have Dr Jason Wilkes, a man from humble beginnings in one of the poorer African-American suburbs of LA. He’s worked his way up through the only crappy jobs available for someone ‘of his kind’ as he puts it, to save for a degree. Then WWII intervenes and the Navy educate him to where he wants to be.

He’s intelligent, handsome, charming, one of the good guys, and he's wearing down Peggy’s emotional resolve. She's chasing the leads from the stolen frozen body from last week, he has info, but is reluctant to turn on the only employer who would give him a break. Alongside these qualities, he doesn't appear to be neurotic, damaged, infected with anything, has all of his limbs, and is also a man of action due to his Navy Training. 

All in all a pretty good catch for Ms Carter.

Something horrible is going to happen to him isn't it...

Agent Carter however, is, as ever, all business. The dead body is missing, two agents have been assassinated, she wants to crack heads.

Dr Wilkes has evidence of what Isodyne is hiding. He is however being tracked by one of his colleagues. Now this individual doesn't say anything in this episode, he does lurk Evilly around corners, and Evilly moves slowly, as he Evilly stares from behind his clearly Evil glasses. I couldn't see any physical deformities, and there was no maniacal laughter, but the message is clear...this is definitely one of those ‘Hmmm, Let me use my experimental high power laser to determine if it can down military aircraft by firing at this box of kittens’ types. I wonder if he has an almost unintelligible Eastern European accent when he speaks.

Being investigated by the SSR, does not sit well with Isodyne chairman Calvin Chadwick, nor with the other members of the secret society that he belongs to. At an exclusive club, males only by the looks of things, a board of wealthy looking middle-aged white men declare that the Isodyne project is over, Calvin is to shut it down. Now these are SERIOUSLY EVIL types.

The big hints to this is that these men are corporate types,(always a level up from the Evil Scientist on the organisation chart of Doom), and…

Ray Wise is back!

There is simply no better credential for a sinister plot than to have Ray Wise in it.

We saw him briefly last year as the head of Roxxon Oil persecuting Stark, this time he’s being very understanding about the failure of Isodyne’s ‘ Zero Matter’ project. These things happen he says, we all learn from our mistakes. If I were you Calvin I wouldn't drink anything at the club for a few months…

Back with the good guys, and we have poor Daniel Sousa. You would think he would be happy. Well apart from the dead guys in his team that is. He has been made up to Chief, he has the respect of his men in a way he didn’t have in New York, he has the best field agent he could possibly want assisting him in his case, and he is in love with his soon to be intended, Violet.

Ooops. 

By resurfacing back in Sousa’s life, Peggy has stirred up his old feelings. Those feelings are still strong, and he carries a very large torch indeed for Carter. This becomes evident when he thinks that she's in danger while trying to steal the ‘Zero Matter’.

Well !

There was a lot there this week, not just action, but romance, tragedy, racial tension, comedy, secret societies, links to last series.

In a lesser series this would be difficult to intertwine, not so here. It all hangs together beautifully, it is well paced and enjoyable. 

‘Q’ branch must have been taking notes too, even Bond would have been impressed with Stark’s ‘Leisure car’. Stark's missions in the car are obviously a little less savoury though.

And the passenger seat moves too…

...just not like an ejector seat…

Only two episodes in I'm hooked again already.

Rating:
8
Topics:
Marvel, Agent Carter, TV Shows
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 10:00 by David

Hey ! 

I think that Marvel must have read my reviews of the last season!

We start by addressing one of my comments about the last episode of season one, namely the short fight between Peggy and Dottie. This is rectified almost straight away with a satisfyingly brutal set to in a bank vault which, to coin a phrase, is right on the money! 

Before Peggy gets a chance to conduct a proper interrogation, Chief Thompson packs her off to Los Angeles to investigate a different case. Thompson hasn’t mellowed much, and this posting appears to be to sideline our heroine and embarrass both her and newly appointed 'Chief' Dan Sousa. There appears to have been some attempt at a liaison or two Peggy and Dan in between the seasons that hasn't really gone anywhere, so relations are a little awkward.

Thomson also wants to take control of the Dottie case, he can sense a commendation coming his way for a successful capture and wants all the glory. Oh, and because he’s a scumbag who doesn't like ambitions females, or males for that matter. Methinks his arrogance towards women is going to be his downfall here, he is no match for the Red Rooms’ 50’s Black Widow, this can't be the end for Ms Underwood.

So, it's off to the West Coast for Ms. Carter, to investigate an icy corpse, freed from a frozen lake, beneath the scorching California sun.

There she is reunited with Edwin Jarvis, his wife and the newest member of the Stark household...a pink flamingo. 

The actual case leads to the Isodyne corporation, shenanigans ensure. Here we meet Dr Wilkes, a sympathetic scientist brewing illicit hooch in the lab. He’s clearly interested in a more romantic liaison with Peggy, but she keeps him at arm's length.

Investigations between the SSR and their local police liaison Detective Henry diverge, he is assured that he can get the best results and throws a wobbler until he gets his way. Nicely though Sousa has learned to respect Carter’s methods and let's her follow her own lead off to the races. Here we meet Calvin Chadwick,the head of the Isodyne corporation and his Hollywood Actress wife Whitney Frost.  

Head of a Marvel Universe Corporation that isn't Stark you say? Fishier than the contents of a Tuna canning factory you say? What could possibly give you that impression? 

Talking of fishy, the FBI start muscling (or should that be ‘mussel’ing?)  in on The New York SSR operation. Just as Thompson is making progress with Dottie. Well I say progress. In reality, she is clearly in control.

There is a reason for this of course. The women are much stronger characters in this show than their accepted stations should allow, Carter the superlative Agent, Underwood the unstoppable Assassin, and a new one to add to the mix - Mrs Jarvis.

Ah, yes. Anna Jarvis.

We didn't see her in the last season , but had a few bits of information about her that help form an opinion. None of it pointed to the actuality, and reality is a bit of a shock! We know that Edwin Jarvis is besotted with his wife, and that he’d do anything including treason to stay with her and protect her. Clearly she could survive on her own, and with a mischievous level of passion to offset her husband's’ stoicism. We were told in season one that they go to bed at nine o’clock every evening. Presumably she throws him into it! Peggy and Anna bond over a loaded garter belt!

Peggy is also not as before. No more having to prove competence to her peers, they know quality when see it, even if it threatens their masculinity. She’s comfortable in her abilities, not having to fight for her place in the team has lightened her. 

Whitney Frost is also going to be  important, her husband could well end up as fish food. As with last year, how on earth have the men in this story managed to convince themselves that they are superior? Not a chance. 

For a first episode we get plot, character, action, double-crossing, burgeoning romance and exploding frozen people. 

The whole thing feels like the twelve months since we last saw Agent Carter was a small mid-season break. As with season one this is a lean, focused, show. It’s so refreshing to see a show that is all plot without half a dozen filler episodes before dropping a hint or two about something that isn’t going to play out for another fifteen weeks. This is ten in total, it's straight for the accelerator pedal, arc story from the first scene!

Looks like we’re in for another great series, already confident and assured that feels like its’ going somewhere. 

And I haven’t even mentioned the selection of hats! 

Including…

The evil twin of the red fedora…!

Rating:
8
Topics:
Agent Carter, TV Shows, Marvel
Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 15:52 by Spindles

Given that this season seems to be comprised mostly of two-parters, we'll be releasing our reviews after both episodes have aired.

So, we're back again with a new series. We've done a fair bit of dissection and discussion around the trailers for this season on NerdVsWorld and I'm happy to say that it seems a lot of them haven't taken too long to be either proven correct or otherwise.

We're thrown straight in at the deep end with this episode and into the middle of a war. I absolutely love the concept of the Hand Mines and I really want to know more about the war. For now, however we're immediately presented with a dilemma for The Doctor. Does he leave the child that will grow up to become the inventor of the Daleks to die, or save him? I'll skirt over the possibility that it may have been a completely unrelated child who just so happens to have the same name and assume that The Doctor knows that it is, in fact, the Davros. To cut a long story short, he leaves him to his fate and loses his screwdriver along the way.

The majority of this episode is taken up with a game of Hunt The Doctor across many locations we've come to know and love including The Shadow Proclamation and the final resting place of Doctor McGann, Karn. Along the way Missy returns and she and Clara eventually join forces and finally find him having an Axe battle on a tank in medieval England. All of this is wonderfully silly and eventually allows Colony Sarff to deliver his message from Davros to The Doctor. The reveal that his axe foe is actually a human form Dalek makes the whole hunt seem utterly irrelevant if the Daleks had someone with The Doctor all the time Sarff was slithering around the universe looking for him. Still Doctor, Electric Guitar, Tank? I'll overlook the plot hole given that the whole sequence was utter genius.

Once everyone has decided to go along with Sarff we find that we're actually back on Skaro (well played Brendan), homeworld of the Daleks and those poor, forgotten Kaleds. The episode crescendos with the deaths of Missy and Clara and the destruction of the TARDIS. It appears from the cliffhanger ending that, in order to save them, he decides to go back and finish off baby Davros on the battlefield after all.

The second part of this story quickly dispels the deaths of Missy and Clara with another, frankly ludicrous explanation. Again, I can overlook it as the interplay between Clara and Missy is absolutely priceless. Missy has very quickly cemented herself as one of my favourite things about this current incarnation of Who. Her mix of genius, malevolence, insanity and playfulness is truly fantastic. More of her please.

The rest of the episode plays out on a very odd note, with The Doctor slowly coming to develop feelings of sympathy and compassion for Davros until his sudden, inevitable betrayal. What? You didn't see that coming?

I'm still not entirely convinced by the vocabulary limitations on the Daleks and the explanation for them. It all felt a little too MidiChlorian-y for my liking. The final part of the episode with The Doctor going back and saving baby Davros feels a little weird, but I guess it's the bit that you don't see in Bill and Ted where they actually go back and leave the keys for themselves.

I think these two episodes have very much cemented Capaldi's Doctor for me and I now can't wait to see more. Oh, and more Missy too. 

Rating:
8
Topics:
Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, Missy
Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 13:24 by Spindles

The premise for NBC's new drama, Blindspot, seems on the surface to be a hybrid of ideas that falls somewhere between Memento and Prison Break. The series opens on a busy Times Square as a police man discovers an abandoned bag. Suspecting it may be an explosive, the bomb squad are called in and are shocked to discover that the contents are actually the very naked and very tattooed Jamie Alexander.

In a slightly similar fashion to NBC's other hit show, The Blacklist, FBI Agent Kurt Weller is called in to assist with the investigation into the woman's identity as he is named in one of Jane Doe's tattoos although he has never seen her before. The science blag around the reason for her amnesia consists of an experimental drug called ZIP that can be used to erase selective memories, although she has had a massive dose and has forgotten everything.

The show is wonderfully shot, with scenes that could well have just been gratuitous instead being artfully lit and beautifully crafted. Jamie Alexander puts in a wonderful performance portraying Doe's confusion, fragility and later hints at an underlying strength and resilience that will hopefully grow along with the show. Sullivan Stapleton also turns in an excellent performance as Weller who is both strong and caring and seems genuinely concerned for Jane's safety. I do hope that this develops as simply a friendly, caring relationship as I think it would be too easy for it to go down the typical love interest route.

Over the course of the episode the first strands of the investigation are uncovered and we start to learn a little more about Jane's skills, personality and history.

I have very high hopes for this show. I would say that it's easily the strongest pilot I've seen so far this season and can't wait for next week's episode.

My only concerns are that it doesn't fall into the Prison Break trap where the tattoos only had a limited shelf life before they became irrelevant and the plot went away with their relevance.

For fans of: 24, The Blacklist, Homeland, Memento

Rating:
9
Topics:
TV Shows, Blindspot, NBC
Saturday, August 29, 2015 - 21:43 by Spindles

Okay Ladies and Gents, It's the spin off we've all been waiting for...

Well... It's the spin off that I've been waiting for...

Well... It's the spin off that I heard about a few month's ago and then promptly forgot about until it was actually released.

After 5 very hit and miss seasons of The Walking Dead, it's time to see what's going on in the world outside of Atlanta in the Deadverse.

Opening in a church with a Johnny Depp-a-like stumbling about in a Shaun of the Dead / Fear and Loathing fashion we're thrown headlong into the Zombocalypse as it begins.

Initial thoughts: I really hope that Nick isn't a main character as my first impression is that he's pretty much a complete asshole. 

So, all the ingredients seem to be here. Jocks, nerds, a guidance counsellor, broken families and, of course, Zombies.

About 20 minutes in and we're suffering from a severe 28 Days Later vibe as the Atticus Ross soundtrack kicks things up a notch.

The rest of the episode seems to be a whole load of filler and foreshadowing as Hero Dad goes wandering around in the dark with the junkies to prove Nick's story and Hero Mom keeps watch over Major Cockwomble himself in the hospital as the inevitable next bed zombification continues.

The family fractures once more and I think I can smell a family reunion/redemption storyline somewhere in the not too distant future

The eventual reveal of the episode is well executed, although my main hope at the end of this is that we'll actually get on with some storyline now that the fit has finally hit the shan.

In summary, the pilot is a lot of frankly unnecessary character background alongside an epic musical score. This show seems to have a very different dynamic and feel to it's parent show but, hopefully, it won't end up being more style than substance.

A cautious five out of ten.

Rating:
5
Topics:
Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, AMC
Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 20:41 by David

Where were we ?

Jonathan Strange enchanted in a mystical energy sapping vortex, Arabella, Lady Pole and Stephen Black are all still enchanted, Norrell is under the influence of Lacelles, and all the mirrors in England are broken. Oh, and let's not forget Vinculus swinging by his neck from a tree.

With all of this going on, someone needs to take the rap. Step forward Sir Walter Pole, who resigns from the government for releasing magic on the general public in his attempt to bring his wife back from the dead.

Speaking of Lady Pole, there's a small piece of her on the way from Strange via an ex-publicist courier. Drawlight, who is now utterly pitiful, runs into Lacelles who finishes off their partnership permanently. Despite Lacelles best efforts to hide his treachery, the battered and tatty magical  cards that Childermass owns reveal all, there's a confrontation and Childermass leaves Norrell's service with nothing more than an enchanted finger and a bleeding scar across his cheek. 

We're now in endgame territory. Magic is everywhere, with the magicians getting together in Norrell's library plotting to rid themselves of the Gentlemen, his bargains, and rescue Arabella.

This is great stuff. The two leads reconcile, Strange asks for help, and Norrell admits that he is no longer the master magician, and owns up to his bad choices. 

Things move along in a whirlwind like the Black Tower raging around Strange. 

If there is a criticism, it is that some of the ambiguities that are key to understanding the plot are not referenced or not mentioned early enough in the series . The Raven King's name, the nature of the Gentleman's curse to name but two. For one of these it doesn't matter, for the other, which is very important, it feels a little late to be adding this to the plot.

This shouldn't detract too much though. The final episode is a blinder. Lots of confrontation. Lots of magic, lots of comeuppances and lots of kings. And let's not forget a blunderbuss full of walnuts.

At the end we're left with things substantially changed for everyone. This is not your typical "Happy Ever After", indeed for some characters it appears that happiness is far from certain. 

This is a series that is crying out for a sequel, but there is no book to draw from as there has been no follow up from the original by Susanna Clarke since the original was published in 2005 (Ha ! Take that George R. R. Martin you lightweight!).

All in all a satisfyingly appropriate ending.

The use of Magic has had consequences for all. If they'd left it alone their lives would be going on as normal. There is a suggestion though that this was all engineered for a purpose and no-one had a choice anyway.

So, a lavish production, beautifully acted by the whole cast. This has been one of the best pieces of fantasy television from the BBC that I've ever seen. 

A word of warning though if you are thinking of tackling the source material! The book ,though brilliant, is structured very differently to this show, it can be hard going, but is absolutely worth sticking with.

Thoroughly enjoyable. If you get a chance to do see this l then I would strongly  advise you to do so.

In the words of Gilbert Norrell...

"It is very respectable,Sir!"

Rating:
9
Topics:
Jonathan Strange, BBC, Mr Norrell

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