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Monday, September 30, 2013

Low Winter Sun: Penultimate Review

Low Winter Sun has been struggling.  AMC's positioning of the series right after Breaking Bad hasn't worked so well, because, well, after Breaking Bad, no one's much in the mood for a noir cop drama in Detroit.

But I've been watching the series - on DVR - a day or two after its airing, and I think it's pretty good. The two-hour finale will be on next week, so here are some thoughts about what has been happening since episode 1.3, which was the last episode I had a chance to review.

The set-up - of two detectives investigating the killing of a detective whom they themselves killed - has held up well and works.   Frank Agnew, in particular, is one of the more interesting anti-hero cops to come down the pike on television.  Not as vicious as Vic Mackey on The Shield, Frank has a keen intelligence and persuasiveness.   You almost believe that he is really trying to find the killer as he goes through the complex charade of an investigation into who killed McCann.   His goal, of course, is to pin the killing on a plausible suspect other than him and his partner Joe Geddes.

But it's not easy, not least because the other detectives are watching his every move.  Dani is the most difficult in this regard.  She trusts Frank implicitly, but she's bright and is beginning to suspect Joe.  She sees that Frank is not conducting the investigation up to his usual standards, but chalks this up to Frank's turmoil over losing Katia (for more of whom, see below).  Frank, likely sensing that Dani is getting too close to what actually happened to McCann, sleeps with Dani.  The result is she tells him her suspicions about Joe, and likely she's a little less likely now to suspect Frank.   But how long that will last - especially with Internal Affairs pressing its investigation - remains to be seen.

Frank is indeed obsessed with Katia, and in one of the best sequences of the series last night, Joe gets to Katia before Frank arrives, and Joe kills her.   Katia's death will help Frank and Joe keep their secret. But if Frank realizes that Joe killed Katia, there's no telling what he'll do.

I'm thinking that in two-hour finale next week, Frank will implicate and kill Joe - in a way that will keep Dani and the IA agent in the dark.

At least, for this season.  And I'm hoping they'll be a second season in which this crafty story can further play out.

See also Low Winter Sun 1.1-2: High Hopes ... Low Winter Sun 1.3: Katia and the Bridge


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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Breaking Bad Finale: "I Did It for Me"

Breaking Bad ended with an honesty that rippled through all things, including the soul.

Honesty from Walt to Skylar, who tells her, in the end, that he did this not for the family, but because he "liked it".   Being Heisenberg made him feel "alive" - and, stricken with deadly cancer, who can begrudge Walter his wanting this feeling, his wanting to feel alive.   He did indeed it do it for his family too, but more than that, Walt was supremely honest when he said, "I did it for me."  (Yah, and he did for us, the viewers.)

But that doesn't mean Walt didn't care intensely about his family - they were certainly Walt's main goal when he started down this road.  And Walt takes care of his family tonight, in a brilliant manipulation of the Greymatter couple.

The dispatching of Todd and his uncle was a masterpiece, too - Walt's last masterpiece.  And then it's Walt vs. Jesse.  Walt saved Jesse's life, that's one reason why Jesse won't kill Walt as Walt requested. But Jesse knows he can never truly be free of Walt if Jesse's last act with Walt is to follow Walt's request to kill him.

I was sorry to see Walt die, but I'm glad he didn't die of the cancer.  It was more appropriate that Walt died with his boots on, from the very bullets that he helped bring down on Todd's uncle's gang.   We see that Jesse sees that Walt has been wounded, which is likely another reason that Jesse doesn't kill Walt.

Jesse does kill Todd, in one of the most satisfying scenes of the finale.  Todd epitomizes all that's wrong with the depraved world that Jesse and Walt walked into - in his own way, even more of a psycho than Gus, certainly more soulless.

And so Breaking Bad ends, with Walt talking care of almost all loose ends, including that stevia-consuming drug-queen Lydia.  I would have liked to see Walt also tell Flynn the truth about Hank - that Walt didn't kill his uncle - but take solace in the expectation that Skylar will do that.  I still would have liked to see Walt and his indomitable spirit live on, but I'll settle instead for the recollections of this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind series.

See also Breaking Bad Final Episodes #1: Walt vs. Hank ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #2: Skylar and Jesse ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #3: The Ultimate Lie ... Breaking Bad Final Episodes #4: Old Yeller ... Breaking Bad Final Episode #5: Coordinates ... Breaking Bad Final Episode #6: The Knife and the Phone ...  Breaking Bad Penultimate: $10,000 for 2 Hours ... Talking about Walter White and Breaking Bad

And see also Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere: Riveting Entropy ... Breaking Bad 5.3: Deal with the Devil ... Breaking Bad 5.7: Exit Mike ... Breaking Bad Final Half-Season Finale

And see also My Prediction about Breaking Bad ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Debuts ... Breaking Bad 4.2: Gun and Question ... Breaking Bad 4.11: Tightening Vice ... Breaking Bad 4.12: King vs. King ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale: Deceptive Flowers


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Boardwalk Empire 4.4: Bullies and Betrayals

Few ended up with smiles on their faces in Boardwalk Empire 4.4 - which made it a more grim than usual episode, but also one which moved the story along quite well and to unexpected places.

Perhaps the biggest shock was the unexpected arrest of Eddie at the end.  J. Edgar Hoover, who's moving into a position as Nucky's #1 governmental adversary, is tasking his Feds to crack down on organized crime.  Something is not 100% right about Eddie, anyway, and Nucky has been lacing his sarcasm with an almost tenderness towards his main valet and aide-de-camp.  This means that Nucky will be especially aggrieved when he learns of Eddie's fate.

Next, we find Arnold Rothstein in about the worst shape we've seen in the entire series, in a high stakes card game in which Nucky extends Rothstein copious credit, which he loses when the cards are put on the table. Meyer Lansky is also at the table, and although he later extols Rothstein to Nucky as the legendary "A.R.," Meyer also happily suggests himself as an investing partner for Nucky's new Florida operation when Nucky indicates that he no longer wants Rothstein.  We also get a great exposition of Meyer's childhood, and how he became friends with Lucky Luciano after not giving in to Lucky's bullying.

Meyer's betrayal of Rothstein is mild and potential.  Purnsley's betrayal of Chalky to Narcisse is classic and real - an underling seeing a chance for himself and figuratively knifing his boss in the back.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this.   Presumably Chalky will find out and eliminate Purnsley - but how much damage to Chalky will first be done, and how will Narcisse play in all of this?  This story has room for surprise and unforeseen turns, seeing as how these characters - certainly Chalky and Purnsley -  have much less footprint in our real history, as in none, than do Rothstein and Lansky.   In Rothstein's case, we know he'll be eventually murdered, though Meyer and Lucky's role in that is not clear, either.

And then we have Eli's son Willie, who's also been subjected to ridicule and bullying - but the result of that is far worse that what happened with Meyer and Lucky.   Willie puts together a concoction to embarrass his tormenter - by giving him an urgent upset stomach - but the brew winds up killing the bully.   Eli, who was getting ready to take over the A.C. business with Nucky's blessings as Nucky plans to go to Florida, will have his hands full.

And I'll be back here in a few days with my sneak preview non-spoiler review of Boardwalk Empire 4.5.

See also Boardwalk Empire 4.1: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: J. Edgar ...Boardwalk Empire 4.3 Sneak Preview Review 4.3: Honey, Sunny ...Boardwalk Empire 4.3:  Nucky, Sunshine, and Heroin ... Boardwalk Empire 4.4 Sneak Preview Review: Downfalls

And see also Boardwalk Empire 3.1: Happy News Year 1923  ... Boardwalk Empire 3.2: Gasoline and the White Rock Girl ... Boardwalk Empire 3.3: The Showgirl and The Psycho ... Boardwalk Empire 3.5: "10 L'Chaim" ... Boardwalk Empire 3.7: Deadly Gillian ... Boardwalk Empire 3.8: Andrew Mellon ... Boardwalk Empire 3.9: Impaired Nucky


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hell on Wheels 3.9: Shoot Out and Truths

Hell on Wheels 3.9 had one of the best old Western best shoot-outs I've seen on television in decades, as Cullen, Elam, Durant, and even that woman in town go to it with a bunch of men in long coats and guns on horses bent on getting Cullen.

Why?  We learn at the end that the men are led by the Mormon who manipulated his own son into being hung by Bohannan.   That hanging already almost resulted in Bohannan being deposed from the railroad, and it's now it's on the verge of costing him his life.  We saw the father's face at the beginning of the episode.  It looked familiar, but I didn't get it until Bohannan recognized him immediately at the end, and the two started talking.   This is worse than no good deed goes unpunished because, as Bohannan himself realizes, his hanging the boy wasn't too good a deed in the first place.

This was also the episode in which Elam comes out of his stupor and plays a courageous supporting role for Bohannan, first in the shoot-out, and, in the end, keeping the construction of the railroad moving as Bohannan requested.   Elam gives a pretty good inspiring speech to the workers - in fact, right up there with Bohannan's.

We also have an important scene with Ruth and Louise, in which Louise says and Ruth doesn't deny what we've already seen:  Ruth likes Bohannan.  Are his feelings reciprocal?  Not entirely clear, because, in true old West fashion, he's not admitting it just yet.  Meanwhile, there's also a good scene with Louise and Eva, in which Eva, correctly getting what's on Louise's mind when Louise looks at her, and happy for the help Louise is giving her, offers herself to Louise.  But Louise says no  - not wanting Eva to think Louise has been helping Eva in return for sexual access - and Eva, for her part, presses the matter because she doesn't want "charity".  The upshot: sexual tension which will likely find expression if not in this season than the next, in a world in which codes are strong and prides run high though you can never figure just which way they'll come down.

Next week's the season 3 finale, and I sure hope there'll be a season 4, because season 3 has been the best season by far, with the show runner of the Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles series at the helm.

See also Hell on Wheels 3.1-2: Bohannan in Command ... Hell on Wheels 3.3: Talking and Walking ... Hell on Wheels 3.4: Extreme Lacrosse ... Hell on Wheels 3.5: The Glove ... Hell on Wheels 3.6: The Man in Charge ...Hell on Wheels 3.7: Water, Water ... Hell on Wheels 3.8: Canterbury Tales

And see also  Hell on Wheels: Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the Track, and the Telegraph ... Hell on Wheels 1.6: Horse vs. Rail ... Hell on Wheels 1.8: Multiple Tracks ... Hell on Wheels 1.9: Historical Inevitable and Unknown ... Hell on Wheels Season One Finale: Greek Tragedy, Western Style


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Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview 4.4: Downfalls

Continuing with my sneak preview reviews of Boardwalk Empire - this one of 4.4 - courtesy of screeners from Starpulse, guaranteed to be spoiler free, and to be followed this Sunday with a proper recap/review right after the episode has aired in New York City, just up the road from A.C.

Episode 4.4 is a darker than usual show, in which almost nothing ends up well for the characters on center stage.  Murder, humiliation, betrayal, and arrest by the Feds are the fates  our characters encounter.

  • One major mobster is humiliated in a high-stakes card game.
  • Two mobsters are betrayed by underlings or seconds-in-command.  One is not quite a full betrayal, but will set in motion betrayals in the future.  And, if BE follows real history, this betrayal will eventually lead to the murder of this top mobster - who also happens to be the mobster humiliated in the card game. The second betrayal is more a straight-forward perfidy, and it's not clear what its outcome will be, since the character betrayed has no clear analog in our real history.
  • The murder stems from an act of revenge, but the death is not intentional.  Also, the perpetrator is not a mobster, and is not Al Capone.   Al does throw someone out the window and enjoys it, but it's not clear if the victim is fatally hurt.
  • The arrest comes at the end of the episode, and happens to one of my favorite characters on the show.
Speaking of arrests, this one's part of a new crackdown on organized crime ordered by J. Edgar Hoover.  As I indicated in a review several weeks ago, Hoover is moving into the position of major governmental antagonist of Nucky.   The arrest moves that antagonism a big step closer to face-to-face.

But not everything is grim in this episode, and in fact we get one of the best scenes in years between Nucky and his brother Eli, which is almost heart-warming.

And I'll be back with more about this in my review after this episode airs on Sunday.

See also Boardwalk Empire 4.1: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: J. Edgar ...Boardwalk Empire 4.3 Sneak Preview Review 4.3: Honey, Sunny ... Boardwalk Empire 4.3: Nucky, Sunshine, and Heroin

And see also Boardwalk Empire 3.1: Happy News Year 1923  ... Boardwalk Empire 3.2: Gasoline and the White Rock Girl ... Boardwalk Empire 3.3: The Showgirl and The Psycho ... Boardwalk Empire 3.5: "10 L'Chaim" ... Boardwalk Empire 3.7: Deadly Gillian ... Boardwalk Empire 3.8: Andrew Mellon ... Boardwalk Empire 3.9: Impaired Nucky


Homeland 3.1: Sneak Preview Review

I just watched the first episode of the new season - #3 - of Homeland, courtesy of a screener from Showtime. Herewith a review, with some spoilers.

The action starts some two months after the deadly attack that took out the CIA and 219 people, including Counterterrorism Director David Estes.  He's been replaced by Saul - which might seem like a good thing, because he has implicit faith in Carrie, and is smarter than Estes. In fact, Saul's the smartest non-bipolar thinker on the show.  But he's subject to incredible pressure when he makes decisions, even though he strives mightily to do the right thing, and by the end of the episode does two things he and we would rather he didn't do. Well, definitely one that we'd rather not see.  And given what we've seen of Saul in the past, this is somewhat surprising and therefore a good opening plot twist.

First, our team has put in the cross-hairs six people on three continents who helped make America's "second 9/11" - the devastation of the CIA - possible.  Saul resists giving the final go ahead.  In dialogue that typifies his acute morality, and is satisfying to see, he says the CIA's job is not to kill enemy operatives it identifies, but turn them or otherwise use them to identify higher-ups.   We're not "assassins," he says.  He wants the CIA to practice the fine art of espionage rather than butchery.  But pressure from everyone - including the tender kind, from Mira, his wife - bid him to do otherwise.

This pressure also comes indirectly from Senator Lockhart - in many ways, the worst villain seen in the first episode - and his Senate Committee investigation of the CIA bombing massacre.  He's out to put the CIA itself out of business - in effect, to complete the destruction wrought by the bomb in Brody's car.  He's targeted Carrie and knows about her romantic relationship with Brody, which someone in the CIA leaked to the press.   Will Saul support her?   The second surprise, bigger and more painful than the first, comes with what he says in his testimony.

Missing from the first episode is Brody.  His family's on hand, but in distress, as they try to put the pieces together after Brody's disappearance and presumed involvement in the CIA bombing, and daughter Dana's attempted suicide.  But she's back, spunky, and even manages to send a half-clothed picture of herself to her boyfriend.

So Homeland has returned in fine, brooding form, with betrayals leering behind every corner, and I'll be back next week with a sneak preview review of the third season's second episode.

See also  Homeland on Showtime ... Homeland 1.8: Surprises ... Homeland Concludes First Season: Exceptional

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Sleepy Hollow 1.2: Patriotic Gothic Horror

Sleepy Hollow clocked in a good second episode earlier this week, and clearly emerged as an example modern gothic horror, with a patriotic flair.

No vampires are yet apparent in Sleepy Hollow, but there are witches - good and bad - and other beasts of the night likely out for no good.  People come back from the dead - or, at least, Officer Dunn does, and that's both good (I was aggravated to see John Cho limited to just one episode) and bad (the reanimated Dunn is working for the evil forces.

There may be some hope that Katrina will come back from the departed, too, and could create some romantic tension between Icabod and Abbie, especially if Katrina takes her time to return to the living, and leaves Icabod and Abbie to their relationship which is still nascent in many ways.

The time traveler's plight continue to be one of the mainsprings of humor - and, for me, one of the main appeals - of the show, and Icabod plays that part perfectly.  In episode two, we find him patriotically complaining about what to him are insanely high taxes - actually, I feel that way, too, and as far I know, I'm not a time traveler - as well as being fascinated by electric lights, discarding a gun that Abbie gives him after he fires a single shot because he thinks it needs reloading, and putting up post-it notes to remind him about how modern things work.

And there's new blood in the wings - Abbie's sister, whose life has thus far been ruined because she's sure she's been in contact with spirits from another world - looks like she's about to get out of the institution that's confined her.   Good to see in this series that takes place just a little up the road from where I live, and not too far from where I think - at least about time travel - either.

See also Sleepy Hollow Debuts: Sleepers, Dollar Bills, and Witches


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Broadchurch Season 1 Finale: "Lying Next to the Murderer"

The first season of Broadchurch concluded tonight with a brilliant episode, even though I didn't quite believe the murderer, revealed at last.

He would be Joe, Ellie's husband, and that provides the major obstacle to believability.  As Ellie herself says near the end of the episode, how could she, an excellent detective (my evaluation, not hers, but clearly true) have missed this?  How could she have been "lying next to the murderer" she was looking for?

I don't see how, either.   The similar looks of Joe and Nigel, a nice touch to explain Susan's incorrect, heartfelt identification last week of Nigel as the man she saw on the beach and therefore the killer, still doesn't explain how Ellie could have been so blind to Joe.  Even the old adage that we can be blind to things too close to us doesn't quite explain this.  Was Joe such a great actor that he not only fooled Ellie and Tommy, but everyone else in town?  No one saw even a slight hint of his attraction to boys, a glance in the market or on the street?

But the finale was brilliant nonetheless because of the way it showed the impact of the revelation of the murderer on the town, especially on Danny's parents.  Danny's father shouting at the sea, after holding it in for so long, was a major scene, and perfect for the deepest emotions that the sea can symbolize and set loose.  Danny's mother not believing how Ellie could have missed her husband as the murderer was right, too, for the reasons indicated above.

And the last scene between Ellie and Alec - following several superb earlier scenes - couldn't have been better, either.   Both detectives not seeing much of a future for them in the police force of Broadchurch - Ellie because of Joe, Alec because of his health.  Ellie again comes up with a great phrase, saying they're a "former detectives club".

But there is a Broadchurch second season in the works, so we may well see these two again.  Or maybe not, if the common thread of Broadchurch is the town and its events, with murder just the venue for the first season.   Whichever way it goes, I'll be watching.  The Brits know how to make television.

See also Broadchurch: Powerful Viewing ... Broadchurch 1.2: Brooding Excellence ... Broadchurch 1.3: The Spy ... Broadchurch 1.4: The Unusual Suspects ... Broadchurch 1.5: Good Loving and Almost Loving ...Broadchurch 1.6: "A Break from Being Sad" ... Broadchurch 1.7: Missing Links


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Revolution 2.1: "The Last Surviving Friend"

Revolution was back for the debut of its second season tonight, with a line that typified how far civilization had fallen.   Walking through a ravaged excuse for a carnival town, a barker inveighs Charlie with the opportunity, right in that tent, to see David Schwimmer, "the last surviving friend".

This is what the United States has come to, in the wake of the nuclear missiles that were launched in the brief window of time in which the electricity was back on:  Atlanta and Philadelphia were destroyed, and our band of heroes is in worse shape than ever.   Not only is the sad sack of Friends the only survivor of that crew, but life is even harder and meaner in the three places we visit, in the Plains state (where Charlie is), down south in Texas where Rachel and Miles and Aaron now reside, and the outskirts of ruined Atlanta where we find the Nevilles, father and son.

Tom, like most of our major characters, is majorly depressed over the missile holocaust.   And Tom is more upset than most, since he still can't find his wife.   The lies of the US government snap him out of this and give him a purpose.  The US claims that Monroe and Foster launched the WMDs.  Tom and we in the audience know better.  In a very nice touch, we see the White House, gone to weed in the blackout, being reclaimed. Ordinarily, this would be an inspiring scene.  But as Tom tells Jason, the people who claim to be our original government are probably being run by someone else.

But the original lines of hatred still burn strong.  Charlie, after declining her chance to see Schwimmer, runs into Monroe in another tent and sets out to kill him.   Rachel's father, a doc, tells Miles to leave because he's not good for his daughter.

And either he's not a very good doctor, or there's something strange going on with nature in this neck of the woods.  Aaron looks to have been killed, and is pronounced dead by the doc, but comes back to life in a literally gasping twist at the very end of the show.  Given that this is the wrong channel for The Vampire Diaries, what's going on?

It may have something to do with the fireflies that Aaron and then his woman see in the sky.  At the very least, they could be a good source of light - as I went into in my 1999 science fiction novel, The Silk Code.

See also Revolution: Preview Review  ... Revolution 1.2: Fast Changes ... Revolution 1.14: Nanites and Jack Bauer ... Revolution 1.15: Major Tom and More 24 ... Revolution 1.16: Feeling a Little Like the Hatch in Lost ... Revolution 1.17: Even Better Nanites ... Revolution 1.18: Whodunnit? ... Revolution 1.19: Cheney's Bunker ... Revolution Season 1 Finale: Good Pivot


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