Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost 6.10: Cloudy Sun

Alternate better-LA reality in Lost 6.10 was scarcely better than island reality, which added up to one fine episode.

Both realities focus on Sun and Jin.   In L.A., we find they're not yet married.   We know that something no good is going to happen to Jin, because we saw him being held by Keamy at the end of 6.6, in which Keamy is dispatched by Sayid.   Tonight, we have the pleasure of seeing Sayid give Jin a razor so Jin can free himself.   Jin then shoots and kills Mikhail - tonight's one new intersecting character (I wonder if he'll rise from the dead as back on the island - probably not).   All of that is good.   But in the struggle with Mikhail, Sun is shot - in the stomach.   And she's pregnant (she was about to tell Jin in the hotel room, after a very tender love scene).   This is what I meant about alternate-better LA reality being not so good tonight.

Sun's pregnancy, now in serious jeopardy, also raises some serious questions.   Sun and Jin in the hotel room could not have been the first time for them - though it seemed pretty new for them - if Jin is the father.   That presumably is the case, for why else would Sun have wanted to tell Jin?   But, unless this L.A. reality is also different prior to L.A. - which has been the case for other major characters - then Sun in L.A. has also been sleeping with the other guy back in Seoul.

Meanwhile, back on the islands, we find that Widmore knows how to lock-out faux-Locke - Widmore set up some pylons on the shore.    Widmore is sure that if faux-Locke gets off the island, he'll kill Penny and Sun and Jin's child and who knows who else.   Desmond will apparently play some crucial role in this - we see him in Widmore's facility in the last scene.

So where do we stand in the looming battle for the island, and indeed, maybe the world?   Widmore vs. faux-Locke, for sure.   Sawyer made clear in his episode a few weeks ago that he's on no one's team, though he cares about Kate.  Claire's still out to get Kate, and f-Locke tells Claire he still needs Kate, but once she serves her purpose - attracting more people to leave with f-Locke - Claire can do with Kate as Claire pleases.  And Jack will oppose faux-Locke, but to what extent will he work with Widmore?  Should be some good final episodes ahead.



5-min podcast review of Lost


See also  Lost Season Six Double Premiere ... Three Questions Arising from the Lost Season Six Premiere: Linkage Between Two Realities,  Dead Bodies Inhabited, Who/What Survived H-Blast? ... Lost 6.3:  Kate and Claire, Tenacious Details, and Dr. Arzt's Arse at the Airport ... Lost 6.4:  Better LA, Wilder Island, Some Partial Answers at Last ... Lost 6.5: Jack's Family and Prester John's Speculum ... Lost 6.6: Sayid the Assassin in Both Realities ... Lost 6.7: A Better Ben in Both Realities ... Lost 6.8: The Third Team ... Lost 6.9: Richard's Story

More Lost - see : The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb ... 5.4: A Saving Skip Back in Time ... 5.5 Two Time Loops and Mind Benders ... 5.6 A Lot of Questions ... 5.7 Bentham and Ben ... 5.8 True Love Ways ... 5.9 Two Times and a Baby ... 5.10 The Impossible Cannot Happen ... 5.11 Clockwork Perfect Time Travel ... 5.12: Ben v. Charles, and Locke' Slave ... 5.13: Lost Meets Star Wars and the Sixth Sense ... The Problem with Baby Aaron and the Return of the Oceanic Six ... 5.14: Eloise, Daniel, and Obsession Trumping Paradox ... 5.15: Moral Compasses in Motion ... Lost Season 5 Finale: Jacob and Locke







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The Plot to Save Socrates









"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

V's Back with 1.5!

V came back slashing for the second half of its first season tonight, with a fine episode 1.5 that:

1. Got Father Jack injected with the Visitors' tracking compound - which means they'll be able to follow his every move.  Not good for the good guys.   And, I'm still a little suspicious of the older priest - he may be a Visitor, he did bring Jack to the Visitors' healing center.   On the other hand, he did seem to be praying fervently.

2. Moved Valerie's pregnancy along, to the point where she's craving mice.   Not surprising, since Ryan's the father, and he's a Visitor 5th columnist trying his best to help us.   Valerie's going to the doctor "next week," which should bear some interesting results - unless Ryan can get her to a V-5th-columnist doctor (maybe the one on the ship?), who can lie to her.

3. Got Erica to recruit a leading world terrorist - a British Isles guy (a safe choice for our American audience).   When the human race is in danger of extermination, we need to put aside our differences.

4.  Moved V-leader Anna to select a Visitor stud, the father the army which is now intent on raising to fight the growing human resistance.  Presumably she just needs to be impregnated once - how many of her eggs were fertilized at this point is not clear - and then she'll clone her offspring into an army.   In any case, the mating is a chilling scene, beginning with the stud passing her sniff test, to Anna killing him black widow spider form at the end.

V continues as an excellent, thoughtful, sociologically relevant science fiction tale, worthy of its original incarnation back in the 1980s.


5-min podcast review of V

See also V Returns to TV ... V 1.2: The Effects and The Characters ... V 1.3: Multiple Twists and Lizard Visions ... V 1.4: Good Medicine for Television




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Supreme Moral Dilemma and Great Writing in 24.8.14

A powerful 24.8.14 last night, propelled by a supremely difficult moral dilemma.  I found the episode all the more compelling because I watched it with the news that this will be the last season of 24.   True, we may be treated to a movie, perhaps a series of movies, of 24 and Jack Bauer, but I will forever miss this revolutionizing television series.   It was one of the initiators of what I've been calling the new golden age of television drama, currently represented not only by 24, but by Friday Night Lights, Dexter, Lost, NCIS, Bones, Mad Men, and much more - that is, the shows you'll find reviewed here on Infinite Regress.

The dilemma in last night's 24 stemmed from the terrorists' demand that "Iranian" President Hassan be turned over to them, otherwise they'll set off the radiological weapon in Manhattan which would take out a quarter of a million people and leave a swath of Manhattan uninhabitable for decades maybe centuries.   Bearing in mind that Hassan is a good "Iranian," someone who wants to bring peace to the region, and also here as the U.S.'s guest, our own President Allison Taylor is not willing to give him up to save the upper West Side of Manhattan.

Although I admire her moral strength, as do members of her cabinet and staff, some are not willing to sacrifice part of Manhattan for an ethical principle.  It's actually more than an ethical principle - the U.S. would have trouble working with any ally in the Middle East or anywhere if we gave up Hassan - but I'm not even sure I would have supported President Taylor in this decision.    A general does not, and he talks the President's Chief of Staff into snatching Hassan and delivering him to his enemies, but making it look as if it was not with any American cooperation.   President Taylor has ordered Jack Bauer to help escort Hassan and his family to safety, so the general will have his work cut out for him.

The story now plays out in perfect, tick-tocking detail.   CTU has a bead on the car with the terrorists and the nuke rods, but Dana the mole blanks the screens just long enough for the car to slip away (see below for more on Dana).   Secretary of State Kanin, loyal to the President, comes upon the general and the Chief of Staff and their plans (because they're using his computer in his office).   He objects.  The general refuses to let him leave.  Kanin tries to call Jack via the cellphone in his pocket.  He then has a heart attack.   This was a good piece of writing.   It would have been less believable for the general to shoot or otherwise assault a Secretary of State to keep him quiet.

Meanwhile, Jack sees that Kanin tried to reach him, and when Jack can't reach him back, he gets suspicious.   This sets up one of the best action sequences of the season.   Jack avoids walking into an outright massacre, but he, Renee, and Hassan's original American guard have to fight the crack, Unit-like American team sent in by the general.   Their mission is to grab Hassan, and kill anyone who gets in their way.   I don't like seeing Americans firing on Americans, but this was well motivated.  As the head of the commando team tells Jack after Jack and Renee prevail, just barely - with a nice assist from Hassan, who shoots one of the commandos, and brave sacrifice by the American woman leading the original Hassan escort team  - the commandos are fighting to save Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Dana's story, which has been irritating up until last week,  played into this excellent episode just perfectly.   After Jack and Cole get the news, earlier in the episode, that the car with the radiological weapons has eluded CTU, because screens went blank at a crucial interlude, they discuss the possibility that a mole at CTU was responsible.  Chloe was in charge of the surveillance.  Jack says he trusts her with his life.  The next logical person they would have turned to is Dana - but they're interrupted by the President's call to Jack to escort Hassan.    Again, very nice writing.

Dana, by the way, does not want the radiological weapon to go off in Manhattan - which raises the question of who is she really working for.  Not the terrorists (who don't care if the weapon goes off - for them that's just as good as getting Hassan).   I'm guessing Dana is working for the same Blackwater-like group that was behind last year's dirty business - the group that was ultimately superior even to Hodges (played by Jon Voight).

This final season is shaping up to be one of the best of 24.



10-min podcast review of 24

See also Season 8 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 12 ... Hour 13

And see also Season 7 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15 ... Hour 16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19 ... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22  ... Hours 23-24 




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 The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Caprica 1.9: Zoe at Large

Well, in the cliff hanger ending of the half-season finale of tonight's Caprica - episode 1.9 - Zoe's almost at large, that is, out there in the world, out of Daniel's laboratory and clutches, and here's how that came to be:

The military is putting pressure on Daniel to deliver his sentient robots - putting pressure in the form of a tough-ass female colonel, who is also playing footsie with Vergis.   Desperate, Daniel decides to take apart his one prototype sentient robot - aka Zoe, the first Cylon - who maybe now regrets that she outsmarted her father last week into regretfully concluding that the robot was not really Zoe, after all (though, in the BSG/Caprica land, you never really know - maybe Daniel is so far gone that he doesn't give a damn any more about Zoe, precisely because she tried so hard to delude him).   Zoe in Cylon clothing is also desperate - she reveals her true identity to Philomon, who is starting to fall in love with Zoe in V-world.   Zoe pleads with Philomon to help her escape.  Philomon says he will - but calls security instead.  Zoe hurls him across the room, in a fury, which kills him.   We've seen the first human dead at the hands of a Cylon, although mostly unintentionally.

Zoe makes off in a van, and the police/military are after her.   She pulls a Terminator move, and crashes through impossible barricades.   If she's anything like BSG Cylons, she'll survive, but we don't know that, yet.

Meanwhile, Amanda jumps off a bridge (but we don't know if she lived or died).  Clarice steps out of her car to look at Amanda, just in time to save her, Clarice's, life from a car bomb that Lacy ignites (she's forced to do this by Barnabus).  Jason Street from Friday Night Lights almost certainly dies.

The only really possibly good outcome for a character in tonight's episode was Joseph's.   He's finally seen his daughter Tamara in V-world, thinks she's now dead there, too, and may be giving up the holoband and the drugs for a better life back in the old analog world.   He even has a woman - the real world woman behind his avatar partner - who seems to love him.   But given that Tamara is indeed still alive in V-world, this part of the Adama story may not be over yet, either.

I think Caprica has really come into its own in the past few episodes, as a series powerful and intriguing even if it wasn't BSG's prequel.  I'm looking forward to the second half and more.


5-min podcast review of Caprica

See alsoBattlestar Galactica Caprica: Exquisite, Flawed Copies ... 1.2:  Dawn of a Different Machine ... 1.3:  Daughters, Missing and Present ... 1.5: Adama's Daughter ... 1.6: The Chip and its Roots
... 1.7: The Cylon and the Dog ... 1.8: The Metaphysics of Flesh





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The Plot to Save Socrates



"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Friday, March 26, 2010

FlashForward 1.13: Aaron's Daughter, Mark's Gun, and Magpies

Good FlashForward 1.13 tonight, which moved the story along in two important areas.   The story is that, with one exception (Gough's suicide), the future seen in the flashforwards cannot be prevented.

1.  Aaron Stark's flashforward showed him finding his daughter Tracy alive in Afghanistan - she had been reportedly killed there two years earlier.   When she showed up at Aaron's door alive, if not quite well, a few episodes later, this apparently confirmed the flashforward of her being alive.   But what was she doing in California?   Tonight's FlashForward episode nicely untangled this web.  Tracy is drugged, taken from the hotel California back to Afghanistan.   Aaron is in full pursuit.

2.  Mark Benford's gun is one of the centerpieces of the series.  Nhadra (I think of her as Behrooz's mothers - you'll know why if you're a 24 fan) reports from her flashforward that Mark will kill Demetri (who had no flashforward) with Mark's gun.   The FBI confiscated Mark's gun shortly after, so this seemed to foreclose at least that specific vehicle of Demetri's death.   In tonight's episode, Demetri's fiance Zoey is understandably determined to make sure that Demetri is not killed - her vision of the future is apparently one of her at Demetri's funeral (earlier thought by her and me, apparently incorrectly, to be their wedding).   To reassure her, Demetri takes Zoey to the FBI evidence room.  His intention is to melt the gun with a blowtorch.  But it's missing!

So the pieces of a future that some characters want, others hate, continue to fall inexorably into place.  Meanwhile, on the scientific front, an FBI team is dispatched to investigate the death of crows in Somalia, where a blackout apparently also occurred in 1991.   Watch for more of the "mirror effect" - the capacity of a disparate group of organisms, ranging from great apes to elephants, pigs, and magpies (a kind of crow) to recognize themselves in the mirror (in contrast to, say, a dog, which thinks it is looking at another dog in the mirror).

And I'm looking forward to seeing more of FlashForward in the mirror of ourselves and our speculations that is science fiction on television.


5-min podcast review of FlashForward

See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost ... 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability ... 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures ... 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House ... Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5 ... Across the Universe in FlashForward 1.6 ... FlashForward 1.7: The Future Can Be ... FlashForward 1.8: The Nightie as a Grain of Sand ... FlashForward 1.9: Shelter from the Storm ... Olivia Benford at Harvard in Flashforward 1.10 ... Flashforward 1.12 Parts 1 and 2

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer


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The Plot to Save Socrates





"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lost 6.9: Richard's Story

Well, we finally get the story of Richard Alpert in Lost 6.9. Turns out he's not quite eternal, having come to the island on the shipwrecked Black Rock in 1867, but that certainly suffices for ageless immortality for our 20th-21st century characters.

First, let me say I always liked Richard. Timeless characters, whether observers or players, provide a satisfying unity, an anchor, to high-flying magic and science fiction. Over on Fringe, J. J. Abrams latest excellent creation, the eternal bald observer (revealed as part of a team of eternal bald guys) does a good job in this role.

Unlike eternal characters who literally look the same all their lives, Richard Alpert's appearance and manner changed with circumstances, while his age stayed constant (late 30s, maybe a little older). He was homespun on the island, but urbane when he traveled in the greater world, as when he recruited Juliet.

Tonight we learn that through all of this he has been a pawn in the battle between Jacob and the Man in Black (aka Nemesis, faux-Locke). Jacob pulled the Black Rock to the island, Nemesis recruited Richard to kill Jacob, but Jacob succeeded in turning Richard to the better cause and making him ageless in the bargain. We got about as explicit a statement from Jacob as we've so far heard about this cause: keep the evil that is now faux-Locke from spreading out from the island to the world at large. Keep the evil genie in the island-bottle.

Richard's commitment to Jacob and the good receives its ultimate test in Lost 6.9. Devastated by Jacob's death, recalling the Man in Black's offer to Richard to join him if Richard ever changes his mind, Richard is about to move over to the dark side when Hurley engages him in the jungle. Hurley's ability to see and converse with the dead - more full-fledged than Miles' - puts Richard in touch with Isabella, his wife, deceased. Richard's attempt to save her back in 1867 put him on this path of restless immortality. Fortunately, Hurley Reyes is of course fluent in Spanish, and easily converses with Isabella's ghost, who among other things praises Ricardo's fine English. The result: Richard is staying with the good guys after all.

There were some good Tenerife (Richard's original home) scenes in tonight's show, some interesting background on the Jacob-Nemesis conflict, but overall the story was oddly unsurprising, and I missed alternate better-LA and its inexplicably intersecting characters, which I look forward to seeing more of next week.


5-min podcast review of Lost

See also  Lost Season Six Double Premiere ... Three Questions Arising from the Lost Season Six Premiere: Linkage Between Two Realities,  Dead Bodies Inhabited, Who/What Survived H-Blast? ... Lost 6.3:  Kate and Claire, Tenacious Details, and Dr. Arzt's Arse at the Airport ... Lost 6.4:  Better LA, Wilder Island, Some Partial Answers at Last ... Lost 6.5: Jack's Family and Prester John's Speculum ... Lost 6.6: Sayid the Assassin in Both Realities ... Lost 6.7: A Better Ben in Both Realities ... Lost 6.8: The Third Team

More Lost - see : The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb ... 5.4: A Saving Skip Back in Time ... 5.5 Two Time Loops and Mind Benders ... 5.6 A Lot of Questions ... 5.7 Bentham and Ben ... 5.8 True Love Ways ... 5.9 Two Times and a Baby ... 5.10 The Impossible Cannot Happen ... 5.11 Clockwork Perfect Time Travel ... 5.12: Ben v. Charles, and Locke' Slave ... 5.13: Lost Meets Star Wars and the Sixth Sense ... The Problem with Baby Aaron and the Return of the Oceanic Six ... 5.14: Eloise, Daniel, and Obsession Trumping Paradox ... 5.15: Moral Compasses in Motion ... Lost Season 5 Finale: Jacob and Locke





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The Plot to Save Socrates





"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Monday, March 22, 2010

24 8.13: Chloe, Renee, and Dana!

Well, it was ladies night tonight on 24 8.13, with Chloe, Renee, and Dana each flexing their clout, with powerful consequences for the fate of New York City.

With CTU's electronics knocked out by the EMP bomb that the "Iranian" President's daughter Kayla unwittingly brought in, a clueless, arrogant NSA guy has come in to get the system back up and running.  Chloe has a better idea.  The suit disagrees.   Chloe calls Renee (more on her soon), who tells Chloe to do whatever it takes to get the system back online.  Chloe appeals again to the suit.  He's not moving.  So, Chloe pulls a gun on him.  Sweet!   And when he goes crying to Hastings, who is advised by Dana not to go with Chloe's plan, the suit finds out just what Hastings (one of my favorite 24 characters) is made of:  Hastings backs Chloe!  Sweet, again!

Meanwhile, Chloe has told Renee that Jack is in danger, and where about he may be.  Jack, Cole, and two other of our guys are out-positioned and out-gunned.  Jack tries a Roman testudo formation - use your shields to form a slow-moving turtle-like formation.   Jack uses the sides of cars as the shields, and the formation is working, until one of the guys panics and moves too quickly.   He and the other new guy are pretty soon killed.  Jack tries a suicide move to let Cole get to the telecom - a wall phone - and he's on the ground, his head in one of the terrorist's gun sights, when-   Renee kills that terrorist!  Another sweet move!

What happens with Dana is not so sweet, but even more surprising.  You know why Dana did those bad things earlier on in the story, why she didn't back Chloe on the tech fix tonight?   Turns out Dana was never any good in the first place - she's the mole inside CTU, working with the terrorists.   She kills the marshal who was looking into her former cheap-punk girlfriend, and now she's going to escalate her work with the terrorists.  Poor Cole!  But good writing in now putting the whole Dana story into context.

As I said last week, now that's an episode of 24!



5-min podcast review of 24




See also Season 8 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 12

And see also Season 7 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15 ... Hour 16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19 ... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22  ... Hours 23-24 






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 The Plot to Save Socrates





"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Caprica 1.8: "The Metaphysics of Flesh"

The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty spoke of the "metaphysics of flesh," by which he meant that we cannot understand intelligence as an abstract, but only as a process that animates and directs real bodies in the real world.   In my Mind at Large: Knowing in the Technological Age (1988), I argue that this means that artificial intelligence consisting of a program however powerful in a stationary computer can never really be like human intelligence - that would require a program in a machine that moved through the world, like a human being, or a robot.  Or, in BSG/Caprican terms, a Cylon.

Daniel Graystone almost says as much to Zoe in Caprica 1.8 tonight, telling her, "I took you out of a virtual playground and brought you into the real world" - took her out of V-world and put her into a robotic body that moves through the world, if not exactly like a human, certainly at least in our real world, not a virtual realm of electronics and pixels.

Since I agree with Merleau-Ponty, I thought Daniel's point was well taken.  Not that I admire his methods - trying to use everything from fire to ordering Cylonic Zoe to kill her beloved dog to get her to come out - but I do think Zoe owes some kind of debt to Daniel.  He didn't set the bomb that killed her flesh-and-blood existence.   Rather, it was his work, both in holobands and robots, that has allowed Zoe to continue to have two ongoing lives after death.

Caprica's first season (or the first part of the first season) will end next week.   I may be a little late in posting my review - I'll be a guest author at the science fiction convention, I-Con, where Ronald D. Moore will be a guest of honor - but I wanted to say now that I surely hope Caprica comes back for a second and more seasons.   Like Battlestar Galactica, Caprica has delved into some of the most profound philosophic issues, in or out of fiction, only Caprica's have been somewhat different from BSG's.    Its mix of fathers and daughters and avatars and Cylon has been uniquely thought-provoking and enjoyable.


5-min podcast review of Caprica


See alsoBattlestar Galactica Caprica: Exquisite, Flawed Copies ... 1.2:  Dawn of a Different Machine ... 1.3:  Daughters, Missing and Present ... 1.5: Adama's Daughter ... 1.6: The Chip and its Roots
... 1.7: The Cylon and the Dog





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The Plot to Save Socrates




"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FlashForward 1.12 parts 1 and 2

FlashForward came back on ABC tonight with a double episode - two new hours (Episode 12, Parts 1 and 2 - Episode 11 was the recap) - of which the last 20 minutes or so were superb.

Let's talk about that first.   I wrote in my review of the premiere episode about the "mysterious hooded figure who did not black out (he's caught on a video taken at a stadium - I suspect he's the character played by Dominic Monaghan, by the way, but that's just a guess)".   I was glad to see tonight that I was right - he is Simon, played by Dominic Monaghan, indeed.

I also enjoyed Simon's story, and the good twist at the end of the two hours.   His story is that he is being run by the nasty character played by Ricky Jay, who arranged for Simon to be at the stadium with a magic (ok, quantum entanglement) ring that kept Simon and Ricky (who also had a ring on his finger) from blacking out and flashforwarding.   When I say Ricky is nasty, I'm being kind.   He kills Simon's father and teacher (two different people), has Simon's sister kidnapped, tortures Simcoe (Ricky's guys did the kidnapping of Simcoe we saw in December), and faux-tortures Simon, who nonetheless loses a finger in the pretense.   Ricky reps a group who want to use the blackout for their own benefit - whatever that is (we don't yet know) - and are not all troubled by killing millions of people.  And the twist?   Ricky tries to squeeze Simon into further service, and Simon kills him.  Just like that.  Didn't see it coming.  A fine twist.   And I liked when Simon tells Ricky that he doesn't want to deal any more with just "the middle man".

As for the rest of tonight - I thought that FlashForward had some fine ingredients going in.  Characters struggling to prevent the future they saw, others struggling to make sure it happens, and, with one exception, not being able to do anything to stop it - in fact, for the characters trying to stop it, the more they try, the more they seem to be making it happen.   Mark is the best example of this, trying to keep what he saw in his future from happening, but investigating this case in a way, seemingly beyond his control, which usually makes the very pieces of this future fall into place.  The only character who seems to break out of this is Al Gough, who stops the future he doesn't want - he apparently kills an innocent woman - by taking his own life.

I continue to find these ingredients highly compelling - in particular, why Al was apparently able to  stop his future.   Tonight's two hours made the significant move, late in the story, of establishing that Simcoe in his flashforward in Olivia's house was talking on the phone to Mark in his office, thus tying Mark's, Simcoe's, and Olivia's flashforwards provocatively together.  It was also good to see Sleeper Cell's Michael Ealy continue in his CIA-agent role on the show.  But 1.12 otherwise did little to advance the central stories, and instead introduced a new character, a window cleaner who survives the blackout and finds the Almighty.   I think an intelligent discussion of faith and how it could play in the flashforwards could have added a significant element to the story.   But the born-again window cleaner's voice-over narration just didn't do that for me. 

FlashForward has had two show-runners replaced since the Fall.   The show is still based on a tip-top novel by Rob Sawyer, and has taken that story in powerful directions.   But we need to see more of Simon - or stories that have the punch of his - and less of the window cleaner's.


6-min podcast review of FlashForward

See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost ... 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability ... 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures ... 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House ... Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5 ... Across the Universe in FlashForward 1.6 ... FlashForward 1.7: The Future Can Be ... FlashForward 1.8: The Nightie as a Grain of Sand ... FlashForward 1.9: Shelter from the Storm ... Olivia Benford at Harvard in Flashforward 1.10

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer

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The Plot to Save Socrates




"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
 

My 1997 C-SPAN Talk about The Soft Edge at Borders World Trade Center

The following was just posted in the C-SPAN Video Library Archive - my December 30, 1997 talk about The Soft Edge at the World Trade Center Borders bookstore in New York City.

This talk was televised on C-SPAN and meant and means a lot to me. The Soft Edge had just been published in September 1997. I had already done a major talk about the book at the World Trade Center Borders on October 15, 1997. Tina - my wife and publicist - had been been in contact with C-SPAN about their interest in videotaping and broadcasting a talk I would be giving about The Soft Edge. The question was when and where.

A few days before Christmas, we got the call from C-SPAN - they had a crew available to tape a talk on December 30, in New York City. Not exactly the best time of the year to give a public lecture about any book, let alone a book about the history and future of media. But I called the Borders store manager, and said, this might sound crazy, but how would you like to have me back in your store after just two months - something almost never done - to give another talk about The Soft Edge, except this one would be taped for later viewing on C-SPAN. The store manager said yes - The Soft Edge had been selling very well in the store - and we were in business.

That Borders at the World Trade Center was thereafter my favorite book store. In June 1999, I gave another talk there, this one about my next book, Digital McLuhan. That talk was covered in an article by Jesse McKinley in the New York Times.

The store was lost, with so many other good people and precious things, on September 11, 2001. I'm glad that C-SPAN has preserved a little more than an hour in that store, forever, below...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NCIS 7.18: Bogus Treasure and Real Locker

NCIS 7.18 spun out a good, picaresque story about treasure in a sunken galleon and various lockers, Davey Jones' and real.   Turned out the coins under water were gold plated, and the real treasure resided in lots of paper money stored in someone's locker.

And the real fun was the alternate team that our NCIS team both tangles and works with.   NCIS has run into a counterpart team in at least one earlier episode, if memory serves, but last night's encounter with the Coast Guard Investigative Services - CGIS - team was longer and better.   The CGIS team is led by Abigail Borin, played by Diane Neal of Law & Order: Special Victims fame, and it was good to see her in action again, especially as an agent not a lawyer.

The pirate motif was tailor made for DiNozzo, who waxes on about pirate movies, and ends the show watching The Black Pirate in the office with Ziva and a big bowl of popcorn.   This has the effect of continuing that spark of more than a business relationship between the two, as well as demonstrating the deepest historical reach of DiNozzo so far.   The Black Pirate starred the original Douglas Fairbanks in 1926.   I can't recall DiNozzi ever talking about any older movie.

Toss in a good scene with Ducky's assistant Jimmy Palmer and DiNozzo talking about the excellent effect of oysters, Gibbs early on telling Abigail that the problem he has with her is not that she got the drop on him in their first encounter, not that she's a woman, but, in Gibbb's words - "I don't know you," a perfect expression of what counts most with Gibbs - and we have an episode of NCIS Jack Sparrow would have enjoyed (he's mentioned in the episode, too).

See also NCIS  ... NCIS 7.16: Gibbs' Mother-in-Law Dilemma ... NCIS 7.17: Ducky's Ties


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The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Lost 6.8: The Third Team

Another superb Lost - 6.8 - tonight, as the story just gets better and better.  This one centers around Sawyer and his deceptions of others, in both realities.

First, in better LA:  Sawyer is a cop, not a con-man, looking a little like Don Johnson in Miami Vice.   He's kept his James Ford name.  He chose the cop over criminal life, because, after all, this is better LA.  His partner is Miles (first intersecting character), who helps set Sawyer up with a gorgeous red-head:  Charlotte (second intersecting character), who looks better than ever!   She and Sawyer sleep together - still a much better LA.  But she's on some kind of mission, some kind of spy - working for who, Widmore, but why, in this reality?  Sawyer gets furious when he finds her going through his files, with photographs of parents and him as a kid, behind his back.  He throws her out.   Ok, this is a better reality, not a perfect one.   But a few beats later, he and Miles apprehend another beauty: Kate (third intersecting character) on the run in LA.   (And in the just for good measure inexplicable intersection of characters, Sawyer the cop encounters Charlie's brother, looking to bail Charlie out of jail.)

Back in island reality, I've just to mention that Terry O'Quinn is giving a fabulous performance as faux-Locke/smoke monster.  He's 99% just like real Locke, and puts an enormous amount into the 1-percent difference.  Josh Holloway as Sawyer was better than ever tonight, too.

Anyway, back on the island, faux-Locke sends Sawyer on a mission: scout out that island across the water.   Sawyer eventually meets face-to-face with Widmore on the sub, and offers to work for him, to get Locke, in return for Widmore helping Sawyer and his friends, whoever they may be, off the island (I'd say, at very least, Kate, Hurley, Sun & Jin, and maybe Jack, if he wants to leave).   Sawyer's very convincing.

But back with Locke, Sawyer says he's just setting Widmore up for Locke to kill him.   Locke apparently believes him,  as did Widmore on the sub.   But then, alone with Kate, Sawyer says his real plan is to have Locke and Widmore fight it out, while he and Kate (and presumably Hurley etc) escape on the sub.

So, what does that leave us?   Last week, we had but two teams, Locke's vs. Jack's, with the status of Sawyer and Kate not yet determined.   Tonight, we have a third team with Widmore, and maybe a fourth team with Sawyer et al escaping, though could really be just part of the second team (or the first team, depending how you're counting) of Jack, Hurley, etc.

And regarding Sawyer's convincing deceptions, who really believes him?   Widmore's a pretty smart guy, is he really taken in?   Locke/smoke monster is way beyond smart - hard to believe that he'll fall too long for Sawyer's set-up?   And what about Kate - is Sawyer deceiving her, too?

I've always liked Kate and Sawyer better than Kate and Jack as a couple, so I'm most believing what Sawyer said to Kate on the island.   But what a tangled web Sawyer's weaving ...

And he and Kate may be just getting started in better LA.


6-min podcast review of Lost

See also  Lost Season Six Double Premiere ... Three Questions Arising from the Lost Season Six Premiere: Linkage Between Two Realities,  Dead Bodies Inhabited, Who/What Survived H-Blast? ... Lost 6.3:  Kate and Claire, Tenacious Details, and Dr. Arzt's Arse at the Airport ... Lost 6.4:  Better LA, Wilder Island, Some Partial Answers at Last ... Lost 6.5: Jack's Family and Prester John's Speculum ... Lost 6.6: Sayid the Assassin in Both Realities ... Lost 6.7: A Better Ben in Both Realities

More Lost - see : The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb ... 5.4: A Saving Skip Back in Time ... 5.5 Two Time Loops and Mind Benders ... 5.6 A Lot of Questions ... 5.7 Bentham and Ben ... 5.8 True Love Ways ... 5.9 Two Times and a Baby ... 5.10 The Impossible Cannot Happen ... 5.11 Clockwork Perfect Time Travel ... 5.12: Ben v. Charles, and Locke' Slave ... 5.13: Lost Meets Star Wars and the Sixth Sense ... The Problem with Baby Aaron and the Return of the Oceanic Six ... 5.14: Eloise, Daniel, and Obsession Trumping Paradox ... 5.15: Moral Compasses in Motion ... Lost Season 5 Finale: Jacob and Locke




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The Plot to Save Socrates






"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

House 6.15: About Taub...

House 6.15's main story was about a high school senior who gets stricken with a strange, deadly ailment - the staple of House - before she's about to fly across the country to go to Stanford.   Turns out she's suffering from an allergic reaction to semen.   The mystery revolves around whose.

The more interesting part of the episode, for me, was Taub and his marriage.  He wife sort of thinks he's having an affair.  He's done a lot of this in the past.  Taub convincing tells her he's not.   Even cynical House is convinced.

But in the very last scene, we see Taub walking away with a nurse or young intern.  They're not explicitly doing anything more than a hand on a shoulder, brief touching.   But we notice it, and House sees it, too.

Has Taub put one over on us, and, even more surprisingly, on House?  What is House thinking as he sees Taub walking away?   That whatever Taub may say or intend, he's still vulnerable to having affairs?  Is House thinking that, damnit, Taub managed to fool me this time, am I losing it?

As I've mentioned earlier, House this season seems nicer, more human, than ever we've seen him before.  Does this means he's more likely to be taken in by someone's - in this case, Taub's - pretense of being good, if that's what it is?

It's always good to see House in some sort of complex evolution.

See also House Reborn in Season Six? ... 6.2: The Gang is Back and Fractured ... 6.3: The Saving Hitler Quandary ... 6.4: Diagnosis vs. Karma ... 6.5 Getting Better ... 6.6 House Around the Bases ... Four's a Crowd on House 6.7 ... House 6.8 and the Reverse of Flowers for Algernon ... House 6.9: Wilson ... House 6.10: Back in Business ... House 6.11: Making Amends, Mending Fences, and a Psychopath  ... House 6.12: The Progression to Mensch ... House 6.13: Cuddy's Perspective ... House Meets Blogger in 6.14





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The Plot to Save Socrates





"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

24 8.12: Quadruple Twist

Cable service is down here in Westchester, NY - a ferocious rain over the weekend took down some big trees which took down some wires - so I'm a little late with this review of 24 Episode 8.12, which I just saw on wisevid.com and -

I don't who's saying this season of 24 isn't up to par, but tonight's episode is right up there with the best of the entire series.

The best action revolves around the quadruple-crossing "Iranian" President's former head of security.  At first, a few episodes ago, we thought he was a good guy wrongly suspected to be a traitor by the slightly paranoid President (who has hair, by the way, that can stand up to Steve McGarret's).  Then, last week, we found the former head of security really was a bad guy, working with the guys who want to set off a radiological (dirty) bomb in New York City.  Tonight, he turns again and rescues the President's daughter from the clutches of the bad guys, gets shot and killed in the process, and she escapes in a car, following his last instructions, to get to CTU.

But it turns out he's a bad guy, after all.  There's a bomb in the car, and the real plan was to get her and the bomb into CTU headquarters in NYC, where it will take out our apparatus for detecting radiological material coming into the city.   And in as powerful and expected a scene as has ever been on 24, the bomb goes off ...

Not clear, at this point, if any of our major characters have been killed, but the place is in ruins.  The only slight benefit out of all of this is that maybe the bomb got the marshal or whoever he was at CTU, pressuring Dana to tell her whole story about helping her former boyfriend (who beat up a cop, stole a lot of money, etc).   At very least, the explosion likely destroyed the evidence against Dana.

But Jack and Cole are out in the city, driving blind, and the terrorists may have a open gate ahead for the dirty bomb they're bringing into the city.

Now, that's what I call an episode of 24!


See also Season 8 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11

And see also Season 7 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15 ... Hour 16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19 ... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22  ... Hours 23-24 



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 The Plot to Save Socrates




"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Caprica 1.7: The Cylon and the Dog

Dogs have played a role in science fiction at least as far back as sentient dogs and robots inherited the Earth in Clifford Simak's City in 1952.   A dog was the crucial character in the last scene of Caprica 1.7, one of the most important scenes in the series so far.

Zoe has managed to conceal her Cylonic identity to her father Daniel, until now.  It actually has been pretty easy.   Daniel had no way of knowing that the special chip that infuses soul into the Cylon, whatever exactly that might mean in these circumstances, was infusing Zoe's.   The Cylon, after all, looks nothing like Zoe.

But apparently the family dog can see - sense, feel, perceive - through this.   In a fine final scene, Caesar the dog (possibly the great-great-grandfather of Jake the dog we met in the New Caprica insurgency in Battlestar Galactica's third season) clearly recognizes Zoe in the Cylon.   Exactly how is not clear.   Surely the Cylon, in addition to not looking like Zoe, neither moves nor smells like Zoe either.   So how does the dog know it's Zoe?  Assuming it's not some sort of super dog, a different variety of dog on Caprica unknown on our Earth, the only answer is that the dog can sense Zoe's presence in the Cylon, through the non-organic packaging.   Dogs are sensitive to the characteristics of personhood that are shared by both humans and Cylons.

This provides a profound connection between humans and Cylons that was not fully apparent even in Battlestar Galactica.   In philosophic mind-body terms, it says that mind (psyche, personality, soul: who were are) is not dependent upon the flesh.   It can live in completely artificial housing.    Even more so than BSG, Caprica is staking itself out as important philosophic science fiction.

Meanwhile, in terms of the plot, Daniel now knows Zoe is in the Cylon - at least, he says her name, after the dog jumps happily around her.   And in V-world, Zoe and Philomel realize that every Cylon, like every genome, can be subtly different, showing us how it came to be that the Six's had significant differences in personality in BSG, as did the Sharons and the other models.

Caprica continues as one of most thoughtful science fiction series in years.

See alsoBattlestar Galactica Caprica: Exquisite, Flawed Copies ... 1.2:  Dawn of a Different Machine ... 1.3:  Daughters, Missing and Present ... 1.5: Adama's Daughter ... 1.6: The Chip and its Roots





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The Plot to Save Socrates



"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Friday, March 12, 2010

Farewell Numb3rs

Possibly just for the season, more likely for a long time or forever, Numb3rs just posted its last episode tonight on CBS. It was a good story, representative of everything that was appealing about the series ... thoughtful, sometimes almost insanely intellectual characters ... compelling life and death FBI stories ... people who care about each other, love each other, but just can't seem to get their relationships to work (until tonight) ... and most of all numbers, statistics, odds, graphs, all used to help find the culprits and solve the crimes.

It's been a series like no other.   Not as momentous as 24, as hard-driving and engaging as NCIS, as dark and disturbing as Criminal Minds, not like any other FBI or cop show, really, but with an off-beat appeal all of its own.   No one would have complained much if a Presidential State of the Union had been scheduled opposite Numb3rs, it's hard to imagine a Press Secretary even joking about that as Gibbs did about Lost, but the soft-spoken action, the cut to animated charts and wave-forms, the talk about quantum mechanics and the cosmos and the connection of that somehow to a guy with a gun, a bank job or a kidnapping, will be missed nonetheless.

Don and Charlie should have settled down with loves of their lives years ago, except Don didn't really have one, and Charlie was too young emotionally to commit to Amita.   So they argued and laughed with their father instead, like a good Jewish family, in between their solving crimes and nabbing some nasty villians.   David and Colby were both far better than just agents on the team.   Megan, Liz, Nikki, all the women agents each had off-beat, original quality.

Some of these relationships were nicely resolved tonight, with a marriage, an accepted proposal for marriage, and a promotion to a better position back East.   But I like to think that even when I can't see them on television, the Eppeses and all the rest of these appealing people will be talking their heads off about one thing or another as Alan brings the chicken or whatever tasty dish he prepared to the table.



5-min podcast review of Numb3rs finale

See also Numb3rs ... Numb3rs 6.14: Globes, Relationships, and Poincaré




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The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
 
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