Tuesday, February 26, 2013

House of Cards Season 1: A Review

Just finished watching House of Cards on my MacBook.   Watching a television series all at once, or over a few days time, rather than on a once-a-week basis, is nothing new.  And, in fact, ever since I saw the first few seasons of Alias, The Sopranos, and 24 that way back in the mid-2000s, I've been saying that's far and away the best way to watch television.  It's also a key characteristic of what I call "new new media," or the putting into consumer's hands the powers previously in the hands of producers - such as, in this case, being entertained on your not the producer's or network's schedule.

But House of Cards shuffles the deck in other new and crucial ways.  First and foremost, its entire first season debuted all at once on Netflix - unlike Alias, etc, in which the DVDs did not become available until after the season had aired on television.  This is a first, and made the series even more exciting.

The trappings of the series - the backdrops and tech environment in which the characters live and work - are also brand spanking new, and presented in the savviest way I've ever seen on television.  Texting, twitter, YouTube are not just throwaway references inserted in the story to make it seem hip, but crucial  components of the narrative.  Zoe, a reporter who moves from the equivalent of the Washington Post to the hypothetical successor to Politico, is aptly called a "twitter twat" by her rival in an early scene, and Zoe's knowledge of how information moves in our world is even more central to her success, or at least ability to stay above water, than her body, which she also uses to good effect.

The story is like Boss, but played on a much higher level, and without the literal insanity that the Mayor of Chicago had in that recently bygone series.  But House of Cards is also like Homeland, in that there are characters willing to commit murder to get to a heartbeat from the Presidency.

Kevin Spacey is better than ever as the lead character, and the rest of the cast, especially Corey Stoll, are the toppest notch.  I'd say House of Cards is among the top 3 best new television shows this 2012-2013 season, and I'm looking forward to more next year.

See also House of Cards Season 2 - Even Better than the First

     

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bones 8.17: "Not Time Share, Time Travel"

How, we're asked in Bones 8.17, can the same victim be found dead twice - in two different places, with one victim 20 years older than the other?  After a tasty UFO romp a few years ago, Bones gives us  an equally enjoyable time travel caper tonight.  Actually, the two victims turn out to be son and father, and not really involved in time travel, but my favorite kind of science fiction - as a reader, viewer, and author - was still the topic de jour tonight.  "Not time share, time travel," as an early suspect explains the passion of the younger victim.

The team gets it - time travel and all its complexities - precisely right.  Hodgins correctly says that time travel to the future is more possible than time travel to the past, which pitches us into paradox.  No time on a network television show to explain why with examples, so here are two:  I go back in time and prevent my grandparents from meeting.  So how did I exist in the first place to go back in time?  Or, an old guy (yeah, older than me) knocks on my door and gives me instructions on how to build a time machine, which I build, and then travel back in time to knock on my door to give myself the instructions.  So where did the instructions come from in the first place?  (Only a multiple universe muti-verse, in which every act of the time traveler creates a new universe, can get us out of such paradoxes.)  But travel to the future is no bed of roses either - it robs us of free will.  If I travel to the future and see you wearing a red shirt tomorrow, that deprives you of your free will to don a blue shirt tomorrow, if you choose.

Anyway, conundrums like this are what make time travel so much fun to think about it, as we see tonight again in Bones.   A new intern, who may even be brighter than Bones, thinks time travel is a possibility.  His name is Wells - a good name, given that H. G. Wells wrote the time travel classic, The Time Machine.  He gets Bones to see, at least a little, that luck can be a factor in solving cases, and you have to be open to all possibilities, however unlikely.

Tonight's episode is really about unlikely possibilities paying off.   Booth wants to invest in asteroid mining, Bones is skeptical about such a literally far-out venture paying off, and Booth in the best line of the night says, well people didn't think that we would pay off.  Exactly right.  And although time travel may forever be beyond our reach because it would shake up the very cause-and-effect nature of the universe, Booth and Bones certainly are not, and, in fact, according to the ratings, are doing better than ever as a couple.  Time well shared.   Viewing well re-paid.

See also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox ... Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution



"A thinking person's time travel story... I felt like I was there." - SF Signal

The Walking Dead 3.11: The Patch

Well, the most interesting and important development - and maybe revelation - in The Walking Dead 3.11 happened when the Governor aka Phillip takes off his eye bandage back in Woodbury.  It's not 100% clear, but it looks as if his badly injured eye may not be completely gouged out.  I'm no ophthalmologist, so I couldn't tell you if the Governor can now see something out of that eye, but the producers showed us that scene for a reason.  So I'm guessing/betting that the Governor does indeed have some vision out of that eye now.

Why is this important?

Andrea's back in the Governor's bed, following Carole's good advice that Andrea should give the Governor "the time of his life," and then kill him in his sleep.   Andrea seems well on the way to doing that, but pulls a little back at the end of this episode.   Presumably Phillip is safe, for now.

But did he see what Andrea almost did?   He was wearing a patch over his eye, and, ordinarily people don't see through patches.  But The Walking Dead is clearly no ordinary story, so I'm thinking maybe the Governor put a little pinhole in the patch, to enable him to see through it, which would give him an advantage with people in addition to Andrea.

We'll see (pun intended).  Meanwhile, Tyreese's group is now in Woodbury, Rick may be getting it a tad more together (after that great scene in which Carl tells him maybe he should step down as leader), and both sides - Rick's and the Governor's - are gearing up for some kind of battle.   More than in any of the three seasons so far, The Walking Dead is moving into humans versus human territory, with the walkers an ever-present danger to both and, as we saw last week, weapons that the Gov is happy to use against our people.  Not a bad state of affairs at all for a good story, and I'm looking forward to more.

See also The Walking Dead 3.3 meets Meadowlands ... The Walking Dead 3.4: Going to the Limit ... The Walking Dead 3.9: Making Crazy Sense ... The Walking Dead 3.11: Reinforcements


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Americans 1.4: Preventing World War III

Just heard the news that The Americans is being renewed for a second season - excellent, in view of how good the first season has been so far.   Consider, for example, 1.4, on last night, in which both Soviet and American agents, working not in concert, manage to stop a possible nuclear war between the USSR and the USA.

The trigger is the Reagan shooting of 1981, compounded by Secretary of State Haig's now infamous statement that he's "in control" of the government.   Haig was not only wrong constitutionally - a couple of elected officials stand between the VP and Secretary of State in succession to the Presidency - but his clumsy statement gives the Soviets the wrong idea that there may be a coup underway in the USA, which would prompt the Soviet Union to take some sort of military action to protect its interests.

There is a fearful, perfectly portrayed symmetry between the Soviet and American  agents and how they each work on their own to stop this dangerous escalation.  Phillip is the first to see that there may not be a coup going on here at all.   Though he and Elizabeth have been here the same amount of time, he is much more perceptive about American political culture than is she.  Elizabeth therefore at first opposes Phillip - and indeed kills a security guard in one of their surveillance missions - but one of the best parts of this series is how to the two come to reach conclusions through and in spite of their different starting points.  The fact that Elizabeth is now falling in love with her husband, after all of these years, also helps - and is a good motive point in the plot.

Meanwhile, Stan uses his own contact with Soviets to get a handle on how the Soviets are reacting, and is able to convey to his superiors that no massive military action is imminent or even under planning.  And, then, in a sweet move for the relative peace of the world, he tells his neighbors that American intelligence knows the KGB was not behind the assassination attempt.   Since his neighbors just happen to be Phillip and Elizabeth, this is the final defusing element in the story.

As I've written earlier, Stan being the neighbor of Elizabeth and Phillip is the one conceit of the plot set-up which seems unlikely.   But it was worked to great effect in this episode, and I'm looking forward more than ever to what may come next.

See also The Americans: True and Deep



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cool Television Reviews by Other Writers

Following are some blogs with cool, savvy reviews - not written by me - of some excellent television shows -
Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn

Another fine bitter-sweet Sweets-centric episode of Bones tonight - 8.16 - as the team investigates remains that come with Ketamine, a date-rape drug.   But it soon turns out that the male remains were only carrying Special K, and the episode pivots into an investigation of a date-rape victim.  For a while, it seems that the dead body was the rapist - the victim can't remember much of what happened - but there's a good twist at the end of the episode about that.

So why was this bitter-sweet for Sweets?  It falls to him to question the girl who was raped, who understandably - and on advice of her mother - doesn't want to talk about it.  As Sweets tries to draw her out, and she says Sweets can't understand what's she's going through, Sweets reveals that he was raised in a foster home (I'm not sure if we knew that already) and he was beaten by his foster father.

Probably more than any other character on the show other than Bones and Booth, we've really gotten to know Sweets better this season.  Professionally, he's taken a much more active role in the investigations.   Personally, living with Bones, Booth, and Christine, he's in effect become part of their family, and the third most important character on the show.

Meanwhile, Cam shows an excellent perspective when her daughter Michelle neglects to tell her she's back in town and spending her time at Finn's place.  Rather than going crazy, she gets Finn to tell her where he and Michelle will be when they're out, so Cam can "accidentally" bump into the couple.  This, as Cam explains to Finn, will allow her to be mad at Michelle without outing the honest Finn who  told Cam about Michelle and him.   Very sophisticated and sensitive on Cam's part.  (Her relationship with Arastoo has helped her - nothing like a mother and daughter both seeing interns.)  Of course, it ironically gets the honest Finn to lie - but it's a white lie - and consistent with the underlying Bones philosophy of nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems.

Hey, did I hear something about time travel in the coming attractions?  You know I'm going to have a lot to say about that (time travel is my favorite science fiction to read and write).  In fact, I may travel ahead and see if I can get a peek at the show, so I can have a week to think about what to say in my review ...

See also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution

                                                            

The Following 1.5: The Lawyer and the Swap

The Following 1.5 introduces yet another tentacle of Joe's distributed insane network:  his lawyer.  He gets her to read his statement to the press - another excerpt from Poe - and that's of course a trigger for Joe's bold move.

Did the lawyer realize that was a trigger?  Well, yes, she did.  So why did she do it?  Because, after thinking she was severing her representation of Joe in 2010, Joe makes her an offer she can't refuse - he has one of his following sever two of her fingers.   A psychotic fantasy fulfilled for any one who's ever been dropped by an attorney, I guess - and another reason why The Following is such good kick-in-the-gut television.

And what was the trigger for?  A plan to kidnap Claire, which works.  Question: why would she be so stupid as to give her FBI security the slip and not even tell Ryan what she was doing?  To see her boy Joey, of course - but, still, she knows what she's dealing with regarding Joe, and I can't quite believe she'd be so quick to throw caution to the wind.

As for Joey, he's pretty bright, and is seeing through his captors.  He almost escapes - but lets Emma talk him into taking him back to their cottage.  Surprising, given that Joey has just overheard Emma say she was lying to him.

But Joey looks good to be rescued, anyway, with Ryan closing in, and even though the episode ends with a gun to Ryan's head.  I'm predicting he will spring Joey, and that's why I'm seeing a swap in The Following's future.

I'm thinking as Joey is freed, Claire will be taken hostage.   In The Following, there is not yet any redemption.  The kidnapping must go on.   And so must this addictive show.


See also The Following Begins ... The Following 1.2: Joe, Poe, and the Plan ... The Following 1.3: Bug in the Sun ... The Following 1.4: Off the Leash

                                                                
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