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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Penultimate The Americans: Tour de Force Keri Russell

Well, the next-to-last episode of The Americans, just concluded on FX tonight, was really something.  Keri Russell has been outstanding throughout the six-season series, but she put on an off-the-chart performance as Elizabeth tonight.

Conversations have always been the centerpiece of this series, but the conversion between Elizabeth and Paige tonight set a new high standard for Elizabeth.  She finally admits to what Paige has been in one way or another accusing her of all season and earlier: Yes, she's not only a spy.  She's a spy who sleeps with men, because sex in such circumstances means nothing to her, it's just a means to an end, and Philip knows and approves.  Those statements and emotions would have been powerful coming from any decent actress, but Keri Russell delivers a searing performance in that two-minute conversation.

A little earlier, it's Margot Martindale as Claudia who delivers the goods - to Elizabeth.  Claudia's quiet denunciation of Elizabeth, telling her she's ruined everything in her support of Gorbachev and betrayal of the Centre, was just outstanding.

Meanwhile, Stan's convinced now that his neighbors are the deadly spying couple, and Philip almost gets caught by the FBI when the Russian priest sets him up in a meeting.   I can't recall seeing Philip/Matthew Rhys run faster on this show.   Ordinarily, I would have said there was little chance of Philip actually getting caught in such circumstances.  But the end of the series is nigh, and Philip ran was if he knew that.

The finale of this remarkable series is next week.  I'll be here moments after with my review.

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 24 of 24: The Last Two

The title of this, my concluding review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles - concluding, at least, for now - refers not to the surviving members of the Beatles, or "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," but to the last chapters in Sheffield's book.  I began reviewing this book here literally a year ago - May 23, 2017 - and have been taking my time enjoying this book, as I would with any masterpiece.

So let me begin this conclusion by saying, again, that Sheffield is one hell of a writer.  His very last line in the book is "The field is forever" - a play on Harrison's "Sorry we hurt your field, Mister" line in A Hard Day's Night, through to the Beatles leaving the field of their last in-person performance, all tied together, of course, with "Strawberry Fields Forever".  If you want a literary journey in which nearly every other line is packed with such intelligence, depth, and poetry, Dreaming the Beatles is for you.

 photo LooseEndsSaga_zpsrtu9v069.jpgAs I usually but not always say - like most pain-in-the-ass reviewers (but which I mean that reviewers are intrinsically pains in the ass to writers, and I say this as someone who works or walks on both sides of that street) - but as I usually say in my reviews, I don't agree with everything Sheffield says.  "Yes It Is" in one of my all-time favorite songs - all-time favorite Beatles songs, all-time repeating few-minute segments of  my life.  It's had such a powerful effect on me that I gave it a key and crucial role at the end of my triple-nominated Loose Ends time-travel novella ("Real Love" figures later on in The Loose Ends Saga).   For me, "Yes It Is" is about Lennon telling this girl not to wear red, because a girl that Lennon deeply loved, who left Lennon, and shattered his heart, wore that same shade.   I suppose the girl could be literally dead, and that's why she's no longer part of Lennon's life, but I don't see why Sheffield presents that as the de facto interpretation.

But small potatoes, as far as objections from me about this wonderful book are concerned, because it also has throwaway lines like "I would not have wasted any sympathy on Kevin Kline if I knew he'd marry Phoebe Cates" all over the place.   And the main thesis of these last two chapters - that the Beatles truly came into their own not in the 1960s but in the 1990s, or three decades after the group disbanded, was not only true a year ago, when I began reading and reviewing this book, but is even more true today, with music playing on The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM Radio every minute of every day (I've refrained from saying eight days a week - though I guess by mentioning that refrain, I actually didn't refrain).

I've mentioned how hearing the Beatles every day, in every way, has lifted my existence - which was pretty high already - this past year, and how that experience was enhanced by shows like Peter Asher's and Dennis Elsas's on The Beatles Channel, as well reading Sheffield's book.  My one big regret in finishing this book is that I won't have it any more - at least, not for the first time - to read along with listening to the Beatles on Sirius XM.  ("For the first time" ... reminds me of an especially memorable passage in Dreaming the Beatles, earlier in the book, where Sheffield remarks how Cynthia must have felt when she heard John singing he was "in love for the first time" about Yoko in "Don't Let Me Down," which I heard just the other day on The Beatles Channel.)

But I will be able to dip into relevant portions of this book - on just about every page - whenever I like.  And I was delighted to see on Sheffield's Facebook page just yesterday that he's becoming a paperback writer for the book (see, punning on the Beatles the way Sheffield does is catching) - meaning, a new paperback edition, with some new material, will be published next month, in June!

So I'll no doubt be back here with a review of that, sometime in late June.  Also - I'll be putting together a single text with all 24 of my reviews, and posting it on my Academia page, and also a podcast in which you can hear me read these reviews out loud (no doubt with some embellishments, including me singing a line or two from who knows how many Beatles songs).   I'll post links to all that here.

Until then - thanks again Rob Sheffield, for creating an essential and marvelous component in the clearly continuing story of the Beatles.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of x: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of x: "I'm in Love, with Marsha Cup" ... 17 of X: The Split ... 18 of X: "Absolute Elsewhere" ... 19 of X: (Unnecessary but Brilliant) Defense of McCartney ... 20 of X: "All Things Must Pass" ... 21 of X: Resistance ... 22: The 70s Till the End ... 23: Near the Science Fiction Shop

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Mute - Cyberpunk Sound and Fury, and Light

Just saw Mute on Netflix, latest movie from director Duncan Jones, of Source Code fame, and starring mainly Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, and Big Little Lies) with supporting acting by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. Wikipedia reports that Mute "drew unfavorable comparisons" to Bladerunner, but that's just dumb (the comparisons not the report), since there are no androids that I know of in Mute.  There are all kinds of cybernetic body enhancements and replacements going on - like in The Six Million Dollar Man - and the flavor is definitely LA cyberpunk, even though the action takes places in a future Germany.

Germany is no accident in Mute.  The hero, Leo, is Amish, and he's mute because his Amish mother didn't allow surgery on her son when his neck was injured in some kind of boating accident, or in some accident in the water.   (By the way, although I suppose a given Amish bishop could tell his followers not to accept modern medical care, that's not something that most Amish do.  It's a common misconception that the Amish say no to all technology, when in fact they carefully pick and choose - see my The Amish Get Wired - Wired? published in Wired way back in 1993 for more.)

But back to Mute, Leo's Amish heritage is a good touch, because it helps him fit into this brave new world in Germany (Amish are of German descent).  The movie is superb on detail in this future, including Leo not being able to order food - which could be delivered to his dwelling, when he gets home, via droid - because he's mute, and the ordering app can't respond to anything other than voice.  And the violence, though sometimes a little hard to take, makes some logical sense in this future, in which most body parts are as replaceable as the parts of your car.

The plot is a little obvious and slow at first, but tightens up with a strong wave of well-motivated developments at the end, and a dedication to Jones's father David Bowie and his childhood nanny Marion Skene.  Recommended for fans of Bladerunner, The Six-Million Dollar Man, and Banshee - and, hey, you can see it for free on Netflix if you're a subscriber.

                     more Amish in science fiction

            more science fiction with David Bowie

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Westworld 2.5: Telepathic Control

There were two big shockers in Westworld 2.5 tonight, at least one of them totally game-changing.

Let's start with that.  Maeve has the telepathic power to voicelessly command hosts - both individually and a whole army of them, as in an army of Samuri warriors.  This is an extraordinary power, that instantly ups the science fictional ante of the whole series.  Till now, that ante was to what extent androids could break free of their programming - wake up, to use the current parlance - and go their own way, which could and does include killing guests and programmers who get in their way.  But Maeve can do much more - she can get presumably order an unlimited number of hosts to do her bidding.

Do other woke hosts like Delores have that ability, yet to awaken?  Remains to be seen. But even if Maeve is the only host who has this, it certainly evens the odds against the human armies that will surely descend upon the sundry parks if order isn't restored.   What it means is that every host can be be mustered to the task of fighting the humans.

Which gets us to the other shocker, not so much game-changing as revelatory.  Delores loves Teddy.  But she's willing to lose him, by subjecting him to some kind of radical reprogramming, to make him more violent and/or compliant to her will, or who exactly knows.

But what's clear is the decent Teddy who was coming into his own as a liberated host who would not kill except in self-defense, or in defense of Delores, or in response to most of her commands, unless he thought the victim didn't deserve to die - that ethical Teddy will be gone (unless Delores has a change of heart between this week and next).

Westworld keeps getting deeper and deeper, raising the ante with every episode, as a good science fiction drama should do.

Fahrenheit 451: Updated for Fake News, Hate Speech, and DNA

I just saw the new Fahrenheit 451 - the HBO movie, based on Ray Bradbury's justly lionized 1953 novel of the same name, made into an excellent 1966 movie of the same name by François Truffaut.  The new HBO movie by Ramin Bahrani obviously had a lot to live up to with that kind of pedigree.  I'm here to tell you that it did - which puts me at odds with the numerous dyspeptic reviews it's already received on IMDb (at this point, 5.1/10), Rotten Tomatoes (32%), and Roger Ebert (2/4).  That's no surprise - I often find the established wisdom of professional and nonprofessional critics myopic.

But to the HBO movie - what I look for in a remake is something different, important, and if possible, more meaningfully current than in the original or earlier versions, while maintaining the best parts, including memorable details of the original.  Again, not an easy task.  But the new Fahrenheit 451 does it potently and beautifully.

The lie that Benjamin Franklin started fire brigades in America to burn rather than extinguish fires, with the truth that Franklin wanted fire fighters to put out fires being denounced as a lie, was one of the starkest parts of the original story.  It's in the new movie, too, but the truth is denounced as not just a lie but "fake" - a clear reference to our current crisis of fake news.

Another chillingly effective detail in the original is Captain Beatty extolling the "equality" of all books being burned, and holding up a copy of Mein Kampf as an example.  The scene is chilling because it tempts us to think that it's good if some books are burned - in this case, a book preaching hate, written by a monster who implemented that hate in the worst way. And the scene has special relevance to our struggle in 2018 with "hate speech" and what to do about it.  (See my The First Amendment in the Age of Post-Truth for my brief argument as to why we must not burn or censor it.)

But the new Fahreinheit also introduces something brand new to the story - which has gotten some critics crazy.  In the new ending ... wait, I won't tell you the ending, because I don't want to spoil it for you if haven't yet seen the movie.   But I can tell you the radically new element upon which the ending is predicated: our heroes do more than memorize books, so each person becomes a book, which is the inspiring, ennobling upshot of the original.   In the new movie, our heroes are also working on a plan to encode the text of every book, the digital code of every film, every piece of music, into DNA, where it can be stored and spread via biology. In other words, a good greater than any number of brave individuals.

Now I think that's a really cool departure from the original - and not just because I explored the biological potency and uses of information in my first novel, The Silk Code (reviewed here in The New York Times - one review I really liked).   But in the movie, this plan is brilliant and makes every sense.   After all, the villains are touting digital information (because it can be easily manipulated - another bow to fake news) over books, where the information is stable and reliable.  (The information in books has what I call "reliable locatability" - what's on page 77 of any book will be there on page 77 next week or next year or next century, as long as the book isn't burned.  See my New New Media, 2nd edition, p. 77 - not a novel - for more.)

Anyway - you needn't take my word for it.  See Fahrenheit 451 on HBO and see if you agree.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Eric McLuhan: The Pot Roast and the Jokes

I first met Eric McLuhan in March 1978 at the airport in New York.  He and his father, Marshall, had flown in from Toronto for the "Tetrad Conference" I had organized at Fairleigh Dickinson University which would start the next day, March 10.  Tina and I waited for Marshall and Eric in the baggage claim area.  It was like a scene out of a movie.  Maybe like Woody Allen's take on the closing scene in Casablanca.  Except this was a beginning.

Everyone else had picked up their baggage.  There were no cellphones then, so we could not be 100% positive they had boarded the plane in Toronto.  There were no suitcases left on the conveyor.  Finally, we saw the two of them in the far distance, as if walking out of a mist, carrying their bags.  I had already met Marshall several times before that, after he'd invited me to lunch on an earlier visit to New York, after I'd written a Preface to his Laws of the Media.  Every time, including at the airport, was one of the high points in my life.

We drove Marshall and Eric back to our apartment by Van Cortland Park in the Bronx.  Tina had made pot roast - we forever after called it the McLuhan pot roast.  Josh Meyrowitz and Ed Wachtel joined us after dinner.  At the conference the next day, and at the pot roast dinner, what I most remember about Eric was our exchange of jokes.   We continued this just about every time we saw each other over the years, in New York and Toronto, and somehow always came up with new material.   (Often these jokes were about money - which Marshall had aptly examined as a medium of communication in Understanding Media.   Jokes such as ... A woman walks into a bank and up to a teller, who asks her for identification.  She pulls a mirror out of her purse, looks at herself, and informs the teller, 'Yes, it's definitely me' .... Or, a gunman walks into a diner, points the weapon at the cashier, and demands the money in the drawer.  The cashier responds, 'to take out?' ...)

It wasn't easy being Marshall's son, elaborating upon the work of someone whose contribution was so extraordinary and incandescent, that many academics were not up to understanding it.  But Eric gave it a go, and never lost his sense of humor, and the twinkle in his eye which he inherited from his father.

Paolo Granata emailed me last year with a great idea:  how I would like to organize an event at Fordham to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Marshall's year at Fordham University as a visiting scholar, 1967-1968.  Eric, who of course was with his father at Fordham in 1967-1968, too, would be available in 2017, too.  I put together an evening on October 13, 2017, with talks by Eric, John Carey (who was a student at Fordham in 1967-1968, and attended Marshall's talks then) and me.  (Thanks to Jackie Reich, our department chair, for supporting this.)  The room which seated 100 was packed to standing room only.  (The video of the event is below.  I introduce Eric at about 8 minutes 5 seconds into the video, Eric begins his talk at 11 minutes 50 seconds.)

The night before, Tina and I took Eric and Andrew to dinner.  Andrew had followed in his father's footsteps, being his essential and wonderful travel companion, as Eric had been for Marshall.  The food and the jokes were still good.

I don't know about afterlives.  I know about memories.  RIP?  That wasn't Eric's style.  Maybe somewhere in the cosmos, but definitely in my head, he'll still be telling jokes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Americans 6.8: Lying about the Moon

With only two episodes left to go in The Americans, episode 6.8 tonight mapped out a profound change in Elizabeth.  Till now, in this season and earlier, Elizabeth has been nothing but coldly homicidal regarding anyone identified as an enemy by the Centre and ordered by them to be eliminated.  Likewise, any innocent person who jeopardized her continuing work for the Centre.  But, after a game-changing conversation to start the episode, in which Philip finally tells Elizabeth what he's been tasked by the Soviet government - in contrast to the Centre - to do, Elizabeth finally begins coming into her own, as, well, a human being.

First, she allows Jackson to walk away, after he tells that he knows she's been using him for some unsavory purpose.  In every episode up to tonight's, Elizabeth never would have let him get out of the car.  And next, she disobeys an order to kill Nesterenko, because she's seen for herself that he's not an enemy of the state.

She's still loyal to The Soviet Union, but that means loyalty to the Communist Party and Gorbachev, not loyalty to the Centre.  This puts Elizabeth and Claudia on a collision course, and it's not clear what Claudia will do.  But Elizabeth - and Philip - ironically have worse things to worry about.  Stan is all but convinced that they are the couple who killed so many of the FBI's assets over the years.

A big question mark still hangs over Renee.  The one thing that can stop Stan - easily kill him, if need be - is Renee.  Tonight we see her noticing that Stan is looking across the street at the Jennings home.  When she asks him what he's looking at, he lies to her and says the moon.  She's got to know he's lying.  If she's a Russian agent, what will she do about this?

So far, we've seen no evidence that she is indeed working for the Centre.  But scenes like tonight's, and Stan lying about the moon, should oblige us to think more about Renee.   I wouldn't be at all surprised if part of the stunning ending in two weeks is she kills Stan, before he can bring Philip and Elizabeth down.

On the other hand ... well, I'll be back here next week with my next-to-last review of this extraordinary series.

Best Google Doodle since McLuhan

Today's Google Doodle is about art-deco artist Tamara de Lempicka, who worked primarily in the 1920s and 30s.   I've always loved art-deco - my wife and I still collect art-deco jewelry and silverware, when we can buy it on the cheap at an auction or flea market - and I gotta say this is the best Google Doodle since the July 21, 2017 Doodle (in motion, of course) honoring Marshall McLuhan.

Art-deco, though it extended into the 1930s and provided hope with its sleek shiny lines, was very much a product of the 1920s.   This was an age of fast cars, fast trains, big motion pictures soon with sound, and even the pulse of electricity in the first radio networks, CBS and NBC.   It was also the dawn of truly modern science fiction, with the advent of Gernsback's Amazing Stories, where I was proud to be published in 1993 and will soon be published again (this summer in its paper relaunch).

The science fiction that I've always most loved - which would be Asimov and Heinlein - was very much a reflection and extension of art-deco.   The clean sleek lines of the cars and trains and The Empire State Building and even more The Chrysler Building in New York City - which I've also always loved as architecture - were projected onto the rocket ships that lifted us off the Earth and brought us to other planets and solar systems.   And since that science fiction was the inspiration of space pioneers like Werner von Braun, there's also a connection between art deco and the space program, and, indeed, the whole endeavor of getting us off this planet and out into the stars.

Our digital age is also a reflection of this same impulse - to move our information, and thus us, ever faster.  Why is fast good?  Because life is short.   Someday - I hope, in the not too-distant future - we'll indeed have space ships carrying lots of people out into the cosmos.   On the those ships, I like to image that there'll be some of Tamara de Lempicka's work.  Until then, we have today's Google Doodle to enjoy.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Crossing 1.7: The Locket

On the heels of ABC's announcement that it would not be picking up The Crossing for a second season, it posted a strangely satisfying and important episode.  Of course, that's just a coincidence, since the episode was written and produced long before the cancellation, but it somehow seems significant nonetheless.

The most appealing and provocative of part of episode 1.7 was the continuing story of Hannah and her locket.   The whole locket arc has a quiet elegance about it, and makes The Crossing a much more ... sensitive ... story.  She lost the locket in the water.  A beachcomber picks it up and puts it on his table of trinkets and beach-finds for sale.  Hannah wants it, but doesn't have the $10 he asks for it.  But Roy, who knows how much the locket means to Hannah, later goes back and buys it for $25.

The ingredient that make this little vignette a kind of parable - and emblematic of the entire series - is Marshall.  His image is in the locket.  Hannah is attracted to him, and he to her, as they walk the rocks by the shore.   But who is he?   Someone from our time?  But why, then, is his photo in this locket that Hannah presumably acquired in the future?  If he's from the future, what's he doing back here?

Hannah tells him she comes from the future, but Marshall acts just as you would expect anyone from our present to act when hearing about it: he can't make much sense of it.  Unless he's putting that on, but he didn't seem like that's what he was doing.

I think these quiet stories are more the soul of the story then the battles between Lindauer and Reece and all the super gymnastics.   With the series now not up for a second season, we may never know how this parable of the locket turns out.  Unless some wise network or streaming service picks it up.

See also The Crossing: Lost Again, But OK ... The Crossing 1.2: Calling for More Time Travel ... The Crossing 1.3: The Missing Inventor ... The Crossing 1.4: Hofstra ... The Crossing 1.5: Migrations in Conflict ... The Crossing 1.6

Westworld 2.4: Questions Pertaining to Immortality

We already knew that the AI technology used to construct hosts could construct a host-like version - an android - of a human being who once was alive.  That, after all, is what Bernard is.  But in Westworld 2.4, we get a poignant and telling exposition of how this figures (or figured) in the life of William, whose older self, apparently obtained through just natural aging (though, who knows), is The Man in Black.

William / The Man Black's father is Delos.  He dies of some incurable illness, but not before his mind is captured (or brain in scanned, or however you'd like to put this) and then imprinted on the AI technology that creates hosts.  Except, we discover that this process can't quite be brought to fruition.  William, who in a great series of scenes pays visits to his father and eventually shows up as The Man in Black, discovers this, and reluctantly concludes that this kind of immortality is unattainable.

But important questions remain:

  • Who kept the android Delos alive in that laboratory, after William already looking like The Man in Black clearly realized it wasn't working?
  • Why did imprinting work with Bernard?  Or did it?  
  • In the first episode, we saw Delores making the same kind of speaking errors as William saw with his android father.   Bernard - presumably the original human Bernard? - saw this, and had the same subtle disappointment on his face as we saw with William.  So ... does this mean the Delores we've come to know is actually based on an earlier, living, human Delores?  Is that the source of her memories?
  • I just realized that Delores and Delos have similar spellings.   Is there some significance in that, or just coincidence?  Is Delores in some way related to Delos?
  • What was the relationship between William and Ford?  I can't recall if and what we saw of them together in the first season, but it didn't seem like much.
But we do know certain things we didn't quite know earlier - or they've come into sharper focus.  There are more than just guests and hosts (which we can define as all humans associated with the park - programmers, administrators, etc).   There are hosts who are copies of deceased humans.

So here's another question: Are there androids who are copies of humans who are still alive?

In view of these questions alone, I'm enjoying this season more than the first season, which even without these questions was pretty enjoyable, to say the least.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Timeless Season 2 Finale: Back from the Future

Well, Timeless saved the best of its second season for last - that is, the last minute of the 2nd of a double episode.  There will spoilers ahead, so don't read on if you'd rather not know...

First, to set the context - the double episode, which was pretty much two separate episodes, tied together by the same sinews that tied together every episode this second second - began about 15 minutes late.   Only appropriate for a time travel tale.

The first hour, about Harriet Tubman, was good enough.   But the best story was saved for the second hour, and just got better and better.   Jiya, taken prisoner by Rittenhouse, has escaped, and is living her life in 1880s Chinatown in San Francisco.  She lets our team in the present know where she is - by a message in Klingon in an ad (I wonder if Lawrence M. Schoen was a consultant - look him up) - and concludes with a warning not to come find her.  This is because she's seen Rufus dying in her vision, which she's now learned to scrutinize in its entirety.

Of course the team comes anyway.  Before the episode is over, Lucy's mother and the Rittenhouse "genius" are (apparently) dead, Emma's in charge with a pregnant Jessica (with Wyatt's baby) as her second, and ... yes, Rufus is dead, too.  In one of the best O'Henry-esque you-can't-defeat-fate twists of the season, Jiya manages to save Rufus from the death-by-knife in her vision, only to see him succumb shortly after to Emma's bullets.

Chinatown transforms Lucy, who tries to kill Emma, and fails only because her gun is out of bullets.  Wyatt, back home in 2018, tells Lucy he loves her.  It looks like all is lost - mainly because, in the laws of time-travel that have been articulated so far in the series, you can't go back to a time you've already visited, so there's no way our team can go back to Chinatown and save Rufus a second time.

But apparently you can go back in time from some future date to where you are in 2018, and that's where the great last moment leaves us.  Just when it seems that our team has run out of luck and hope if not time, an older version of Wyatt (bearded) and Lucy appear in a spiffier looking eyeball i.e., time machine, and invite our current versions to go back with them to save Rufus....

I'd say that's a pretty powerful inducement for a third season.  If NBC doesn't rise to the occasion, I'm sure some other network or streaming service will.   Otherwise ... well, you never know who may appear from the future as a convincer.

Safe: Dangerous

Just finished watching Safe, Harlan Coben's 8-hour mini-series that started streaming on Netflix on May 10.  Its closest competition for the apex of this kind of crime story is Broadchurch, where a death is investigated in a town in which just about everyone is a suspect - including parents of the victim and the police - but Safe is somehow even tighter, more harrowing, and more complex.

I won't say anything specific about the plot, because I don't want to give even an inch of it away.  I will say that there are shockers and red herrings galore, and, like all top-notch who-dunnits, thoroughly plausible in retrospect.  It's also just possible to guess some of the crucial components and villains, but not likely all of them, and I find this sort of tension and balance very much the essence of great mystery.

I can say a lot about the acting, because it gives nothing away.  Michael C. Hall makes his first return in a television series since Dexter, easily in the top 10 and maybe top 5 of all series ever in any form on television.   He's excellent, with a fine (to my New Yorker ears) British accent (yes, the story takes place in a gated-community in England, another reason it evokes Broadchurch).   Audrey Fleurot, who did such a good job in the French series Spiral and A French Village, is powerful in a supporting role in Safe, and I didn't mind at all she played a character somewhat similar to the one she played in A French Village.  Indeed, all the acting is top notch, and I got a special kick out of Nigel Lindsay (who plays Sir Robert Peel in Victoria), who almost provides comic relief as a beleaguered  father striving to protect his daughter and his family from the long arm of the law.

Indeed, Safe, like Broadchurch, is as much a dysfunctional family drama as it is a crime and police story.   The gated community seethes with dangerous pasts and relationships, and is anything but safe, which makes Safe such commanding viewing.