Monday, June 30, 2014

24 Season 9.10: Every Card on the Table

I keep saying this, and it's testament to what an excellent season of 24 this is, but episode 9.10, just finished, was one of the best episodes of this season.   It contained scene after riveting scene, closing loops and open new harrowing perils in the blinks of an eye.   This is television at its adrenalin height, as 24 ever was and always will be.

Even when we could see where a line of action was going, it was still fun to watch it playing out.  I knew that Jack wasn't just giving in to his instincts when he smashed Navarro's hands - I knew he had something more in mind - and, sure enough, in this fine little set piece, he was in cahoots with Kate to get the code from Navarro.

I also knew that Chloe wasn't just going to go along with Adrian, but it was fun to see her try to escape, anyway.   What I didn't expect is Adrian getting killed by Cheng Zhi - the same guy who tortured Jack and Audrey years ago - and Adrian in a rare stroke of decency telling Chloe that her husband and son's death in the car crash was truly an accident.   RIP Maurice and Prescott.

It was a night for soulful true confessions.   Jack, seeking to bolster Kate, tells her what he went through after Renee was killed near the end of Season 8.   Kate has in turned confided to Jack her guilt about not believing her husband, leading to his suicide, and how that feels now that she knows Navarro set her husband up.

Just about every card is now in play on the table.   Heller characteristically decides to stay in London and take command, rather than going back to the US to resign.   Mark sics the Russians on to Jack, which slows him and Kate long enough to let Cheng kill Adrian.  Erik's now in charge of CIA-London.   And the Chinese government - Cheng's a rogue - is about to get into the lethal mix.  In terms of the sheer number of threats from different places, this is a season of 24 like none before it.

And there's one big question left in the personal relationship department.  Whom will Jack go with, Audrey or Kate?   I know, likely neither, likely no one.   But I'd like it to be Kate.

See also 24 Season 9 Hours 1 and 2: The Sheer Intelligent Adrenalin Is Bac... 24 Season 9.3: Shades of Disloyalties ... 24 Season 9.4: Brass Tacks and Strong Women ... 24 Season 9.5: Jack and Audrey .. 24 Season 9.6: Expendable In-Laws ... 24 Season 9.7: Silent Clock in President Heller's Future ... 24 Season 9.8: Clearing the Deck ... 24 Season 9.9: The Reason for No Silent Clock, Misleading Coming Attractions, and the New Villain

And 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 ... Hour 14 ... Hours 15-16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22 ... 24 Forever!

And see also Season 7 reviewsHours 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  

And see also Season 6 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hours 8 and 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 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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Rectify 2.2: True Real Time

Well, we knew that Daniel wasn't going to die of those brutal injuries in the hospital, or even be left non-compos-mentis, but it was nice to see him come back to life and consciousness, replete with his sardonic sense of humor, in Rectify 2.2 anyway.

It was also heartening to see the sheriff get at least one of Daniel's beaters.  What remains of the incident that closed the first season is who else was involved, including (possibly) Daniel's brother Ted, Jr., who continues to be one jealous, despicable character.

Ted's wife Tawney was in many ways the central character in 2.2.   For some reason, apparently to have a rapprochement with Ted, Tawney decides to pretty much tell all to Ted about her feelings for Daniel.   This was nothing that Ted didn't already suspect, but hearing directly from Tawney that she had or has feelings for Daniel is only likely to eventually push Ted more over the edge.

Rectify, which tells its story literally one day at a time - that is, a day for each episode - has a deliberateness about it, a patiently unfolding quality, which is rare on television.  At the complete opposite on the spectrum from 24, which packs enough action into each true-time hour to otherwise take more than a day, Rectify in contrast makes each hour-long episode feel like it is indeed taking place over a day or longer.

So we see, for example, in 2.2, the first conversation this season between Amantha and Holden's current lawyer Jon Stern.   It felt like they'd been out of touch for a while, but in fact they were in touch just a few days ago, even though we saw that in the first season last year.

Rectify continues to present in real, compelling time one of the most unreal situations a human being can be in.

See also Rectify 2.1: Indelible

And see also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry ... Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man ... Rectify Season 1 Finale: Searingly Anti-Climactic

 
another kind of capital punishment story

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crossbones 1.3: Deep Undercover

A good Crossbones 1.3 last Friday, which showed just how far Tom is willing to go to maintain his cover, and why.

The igniting event is the English capture of Kate.   This happens not long after she and Tom spend a great night in bed together, which strengthens the feeling - well, it's practically love - the two have for each other.    Tom thus has every motive to do what he can to rescue her.

So does Blackbeard.  Kate knows all kinds of things, and, as reliable as she is, Blackbeard knows that she won't be able to withstand the English torture forever.  Blackbeard thus has as his highest priority the rescue of Kate - but why does he embark on the mission with a scant crew, leaving his second in command behind, Charlie Rider, while taking Tom?

Blackbeard has already shown himself to be the smartest guy around, and he demonstrates this again with a cool fake-out of the Jagger and the Brits.  But in some ways even more interesting is what Tom does at a crucial moment:  he kills one of the redcoats, after he's down.   In other words, Tom kills one of Jagger's men, even though Tom is working for Jagger.

There are several possible motives for Tom's action.  He needed to maintain his cover for Blackbeard - but couldn't he have knocked his victim out, with Blackbeard none the wiser?   Maybe Tom is so deep undercover, he's actually now feeling more a part of Blackbeard's community than Jagger's? Definitely a factor.  But likely the most compelling reason for killing the Brit was Tom's fury over what they were doing to Kate.

Emerging love is a powerful force.   But, interestingly, Kate is a woman who loves two men - Tom and her husband.   And, while we're on the subject, Selina now has something going on with both Blackbeard and Charlie Rider - not love, but Blackbeard won't be happy about it.   Crossbones brews with all manner of appealing conflict.

See also Crossbones: Slow Start but Possibilities ... Crossbones 1.2: Wheels within Wheels

 
more ancient than Crossbones, and even more erudite

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tyrant: Compelling Debut

Tyrant made a compelling debut on FX last night, with an especially excellent three-part twist at the end of the episode to set up the series.

The story of an American pediatrician who goes back with his wife and two kids to a Syria-like Arab country for his nephew's wedding was good in any case.   His father is the tyrant, beset by the Arab Spring, and his brother, the heir-apparent, is cruel and vicious to everyone other than his family, including not only enemies but just about all women.   Understandably, Barry nee Bassam Al Fayeed is less than thrilled about going back home, even for just a few days for the wedding, but he lets his wife talk him into it (who, by the way, is implausibly clueless about what's going on in her husband's country, in one of the few flaws in this series).

The first twist - the sudden death of his father (by apparently natural causes) - also understandably sets Barry in motion to leave the country as quickly as possible.   His daughter is happy enough to do this, but the exit sets off a major argument with his wife, and the son would just as soon stay as well, seduced by the opulence of the palace.

The second and third twists now come into play.  Jamal is seriously wounded in a car crash, which shoves the reigns of power Barry's way, and we learn that it was Barry who as boy shot the prisoner in the series of flashbacks we've been seeing.

This now puts Barry in an ironic and powerful position for this story:  Could it be that he's the tyrant of the title?   We know his late father came to think that Barry not Jamal would be a better successor, and if Barry as a boy had whatever it took to step up and kill someone ... well, that's a fearsome strength indeed.

The show is a Gideon Raff creation - of Homeland fame - and also has Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24) on board, so the propensity for brilliant, high-adrenalin staging and writing is high.   As is the case with Homeland, the borderline with reality is very carefully treaded - the killings of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are mentioned - and given the almost daily explosive events in the Middle East on the news, there will be a lot to draw upon if this series continues in further seasons, which at this point I certainly hope it does.

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Supreme Court Aereo Decision Won't Stop Mobile Television Viewing

The Supreme Court's Aereo decision today was a tough one - pitting the people's right to view television that is already free, versus the networks' right to control and profit from their content. By finding that Aereo violates the Copyright Act, the Supreme Court sided with the networks. But the decision does not mean that the viewing of network content on smartphones, tablets, etc will not be easily available. Indeed, the networks themselves and cable carriers are already making their programs available on digital devices via all kinds of apps. The future of television on mobile devices looks bright, even if independent companies such as Aereo may not be a part of it.

By and large, and indeed with one big exception, the Supreme Court has done well by television viewers over the years.   Especially significant was the Court's 1984 ruling in the "Betamax case" (Sony v. Universal City) against the networks, which held that home recording of television programs by viewers for their personal use did not violate the Copyright Act. This opened the golden age of on-demand television viewing that we're now enjoying.

The exception to the Supreme Court's good rulings about television has been its failure to strike down once and for all the FCC's unconstitutional fining of television stations that broadcast "objectionable" content.   The Court correctly struck down fines for "fleeting expletives" in 2009 (FCC v. Fox), which was an important step in the right direction. But it needs to yank the FCC 100% out of its meddling with television content, and the serious violation that entails of the First Amendment.

As for Aereo, it might have been better off to work out some kind of deal with the networks and cable, perhaps allowing itself to be purchased by one or more of them, as Google and Facebook have done with some of their competitors.  As powerful as the digital revolution is, it has not overturned copyright and the power of the networks, and at least some of that is a good thing.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

24 Season 9.9: The Reason for No Silent Clock, Misleading Coming Attractions, and the New Villain

Well, now we know why there was no silent clock for President Heller last week:  he didn't die.   Jack wouldn't let it happen, as I said in my review of 24 Season 9.7.   Indeed, the only reason why I thought maybe Heller did die, after seeing 9.8, is that the coming attractions were misleading.  Ok, it was indeed a dark day for America, for a little while.  That part was true, while everyone (except Jack) thought Heller was dead.  But why did the voice over then go on about all that was left for Jack was revenge? - when as we saw last night in 9.9, Jack had to get Margot and son not for revenge, but to stop the last missile, which he does.

Anyway, 9.9 was another great episode, with the great twist of Heller living, even if the coming attractions from last week were deceptive.   And with Margot out of the way - in one of the really primo deaths of the series, as Jack throws her out of the window -- we now get to another killer, the megalomaniacal Adrian, the Julian Assange type, who is turning out to be much worse than Assange ever was (indeed some people, including me, think Assange has actually done much good with Wikileaks).

In a nice hand-off to the new villain, we see that Adrian has Navarro completely under his thumb, in case there was the slightest doubt before.  Navarro manages to escape after Jack makes the connection to Jordan's killing, and he's escaped with the deadly drive that apparently can command a lot more than drones, if the new coming attractions for next week's 9.10 can be believed.

And, the nice kicker is that Chloe has a relationship with Adrian, which has been slightly hinted at previously.    This will put her right her in Jack's sights as he tracks Adrian - and it will be fun to see how this plays out.    At least Jack will be fortified by his new-found almost rekindled relationship with Audrey, who is understandably beyond grateful that he saved her father's life.   There's no way she'll stand idly by if she catches any inkling about Mark and the on-and-off plan to turn Jack over to the Russians.

See also 24 Season 9 Hours 1 and 2: The Sheer Intelligent Adrenalin Is Bac... 24 Season 9.3: Shades of Disloyalties ... 24 Season 9.4: Brass Tacks and Strong Women ... 24 Season 9.5: Jack and Audrey .. 24 Season 9.6: Expendable In-Laws ... 24 Season 9.7: Silent Clock in President Heller's Future ... 24 Season 9.8: Clearing the Deck

And 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 ... Hour 14 ... Hours 15-16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22 ... 24 Forever!

And see also Season 7 reviewsHours 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  

And see also Season 6 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hours 8 and 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 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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Monday, June 23, 2014

The Last Ship debuts: Helix meets Last Resort

Hey, I caught the premiere of The Last Ship on TNT last night, and it was pretty good, even if we have seen the pieces of the set-up before.

Helix on the SyFy Channel is the most recent disease apocalypse tale on television, and Last Resort on NBC a few years told the story of an American captain fighting the U.S. and a lot of the world on his rogue nuclear-armed submarine.

But The Last Ship is a little different.  The U.S. is not (yet) the ship's enemy, but rather seems all but wiped out by the plague.   Actually, the government is all but wiped out, but some number of Americans are still alive, including the CO's family, which makes for a compelling continuing story line.

The nature of the virus is of note as well.   It's a deadly virus, already doing damage, but apparently made even more deadly by some deliberate genetic engineering.   This gives the scientist on board an interesting hand to play.  As Dr. Rachel Scott explains to the CO Tom Chandler, she is more likely to find a cure, because she has the original, unengineered virus in her possession.

But the ship - a destroyer not a sub, which is also more interesting - is beset by at least two types of enemies.  One are the creators of the genetically engineered virus.  The other are the Russians - or a splinter group from what is left of Russia - assuming they are not the same as the evil genetic engineers.

So, while the premise is a bit trite, there are possibilities here for a good series, and I'll be watching.   Hey, if it's science fiction, I'm usually more than halfway there whatever the pilot.




another biological agent on the loose ... 

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Falling Skies 4.1: Weak Start

Well, I gotta say that Falling Skies, which I've been by and large enjoying for the past three seasons, got its fourth season off to a weak start on TNT last evening.

I guess the most interesting part is the magically flourishing little city the alien hybrid Lexi has fashioned.   It has possibilities, even if it does resemble just a little some of the safe havens that turned out not to be so safe on The Walking Dead.   And Lexi herself is probably the most interesting character, even if she does look now like Daenerys from Game of Thrones' younger sister.

As for the rest - all the heroes are split into splintering groups.  We've seen this before, not only in Falling Skies but Revolution, etc.   And what's happening to these groups, so far, is not so unusual, either.

The Esphemi-Volm realignment and how it relates to Earth - lots of Esphemi and their ilk down here, with just a handful of our benefactoring aliens - also has possibilities, but little was hinted at last night.

So here's where we stand with Falling Skies.  We have three years of good narrative behind us.   We have characters that literally have grown - in the cases of Matt and Ben and most of all Lexi, literally - and we care about all of them and their parents and friends and associates, too.   But the narrative needs more than the shake-up break-up of last night - it needs some kind of dynamic, new, unforeseen story line.

I'm looking forward to more.


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