Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Timeless 1.13: Meeting, Mating, and Prediictability

An altogether excellent, tip-top Timeless 1.13 tonight, in which Wyatt in classic grandfather paradox mode goes back to 1983 to stop the parents of a serial killer from mating, to save the love of his life who was one of three women murdered by said serial killer.

Several appealing points about this set-up.  From the outset, Wyatt realized that he doesn't have to kill either of the serial killer's parents.  As I've often said, to get the grandfather paradox going, all you have to do is prevent your grandparents - or parents, who will also do - from meeting.  You don't have to kill them, and, actually, you don't even have to stop them from meeting - just stopping them from mating will do the trick.

Wyatt, decent person that he fundamentally is, however, plans just to stop the serial killer's parents from meeting.  But because things can often go wrong in time travel, and so often do in Timeless, he's soon down to no choice but to stop them from mating.

He manages to do that, just barely, but then as he's chasing the guy (played by Drew Roy - good to see him back from Falling Skies), the father of the serial killer hits his head on the curb and ... dies. So Wyatt has now, through no fault of his own, gone to the brutal essence of the grandfather paradox and killed one of the progenitors.

I had a feeling Wyatt's love wouldn't be saved anyway.  My theory was that killer's mother ended up sleeping that night with the other guy in the bar who wanted her, and those two were the serial killer's real parents (which fact got jumbled in the birth certificate or whatever that Wyatt saw).  Who knows, maybe that was in an early draft of the script.  But what happens is actually better.  Two of the three women killed originally by the serial killer are alive when Wyatt returns to the present.  Just not his true love.

What this tells in a sad but eloquent way is that changing events in time is more complicated than even a grandfather paradox story can accommodate.  Who knows why Wyatt's wife was killed - and by whom.  The universe is fundamentally unpredictable - even for the time traveler.

But I predict Timeless will be on next week, and I'm looking forward to it.

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded! ... Timeless 1.8: Time and Space ... Timeless 1.9: The Kiss and The Key ... Timeless 1.10: The End in the Middle ... Timeless 1.11: Edison, Ford, Morgan, Houdini, and Holmes (No, Not Sherlock)! ... Timeless 1.12: Incandescent West

Monday, January 30, 2017

Homeland 6.3: Potentials

An ok Homeland 6.3 last night, with Quinn resurgent and Saul in Israel.

The Israeli part reminded me what a superb job Fauda does of showing the simmering tensions in that country.  Saul's conversation with his sister was interesting enough, but didn't really further our knowledge of Saul very much, and not much at all for the plot at hand.

Quinn in Brooklyn was better - better to see, and better that Quinn is coming back into action.  What he did to the guy who took advantage of his weakened condition was just and satisfying.  I hope it's just the beginning of Quinn in fuller service - to the cause and to Carrie.  Both certainly need it.

And Homeland needs it too.  So far, this season is almost nothing like the first season, which was such a powerhouse.  And even last season, with no Brody, managed to grab us by the collar.   This season has some potential, but so far it's yet to be realized.

The most significant potential is in the President-elect, who is different from our current President in just about every way.  Obviously, the script was written and put to screen long before we knew the results of our election.   So here, too, we can only hope that the President-elect, whenever she takes office in the story - assuming she does - will provide a bracing counterpoint to our own real political situation.

Potentials are very valuable - as long as they are, at least to some extent, fulfilled.

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


  more espionage in New York City

Black Sails 4.1: "True Friends and Mortal Enemies"

Black Sails launched its fourth and final season tonight with an episode that made me wish this season wasn't the last.  A tip-top battle scene at the beginning, and lots of soul-searching conversation, my favorite being the one about "true friends and mortal enemies" and no one in between.

The mix of real history and staying true to well-known fiction has always been a bit of a hindrance to the Black Sails storyline.  So we know for a fact, because he lived on in Robert Louis Stevenson's fiction, that Long John Silver couldn't die tonight.

But it was good to see the way he survived the sinking ship around him anyway, from severing his fake leg to being welcomed home by a certain pirate at the end.   It was also good to see him getting some loving in the flashback.

The verbal duel between Billy and Flint was also good, and long overdue, as was the very different but also sensible conversation between Rackham and Bonny.  I could have lived without the Eleanor and Governor scene, but then again, I never liked them as a couple and still don't.

So what will become of our real historical pirates?  History tells us Anne Bonny lives a long life. Blackbeard (Teach) and Rackham die much sooner - and not of natural causes.  It wouldn't be stretching history too much for either or both to be killed directly or indirectly by Governor Rogers, but, pirate romanticist that I am, I hopeful that at least Jack will survive the finale, and live happily ever after in some fictional off-screen world with Anne.

See also Black Sails 3.1: Restored ... Black Sails 3.2: Flint vs. Sea ... Black Sails 3.3: Gone Fishin' ... Black Sails 3.4: Mr. Scott's People ... Black Sails 3.5: Alliance ... Black Sails 3.6: The Duel ... Black Sails 3.7: The Blackening of John Silver ... Black Sails 3.8: Whether Vane? ... Black Sails 3.10: Wither Vane ... Black Sails Season 3 Finale: Throckmorton

And see also Black Sails 2.1: Good Combo, Back Story, New Blood ... Black Sails 2.2: A Fine Lesson in Captaining ... Black Sails 2.3: "I Angered Charles Vane" ... Black Sails 2.4: "Fire!" ... Black Sails 2.5: Twist! ... Black Sails 2.6: Weighty Alternatives, and the Medium is the Message on the High Seas ...Black Sails 2.7: The Governor's Daughter and the Gold ... Black Sails 2.9: The Unlikely Hero ... Black Sails Season 2 Finale: Satisfying Literate and Vulgar

And see also Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy ... Black Sails 1.3: John Milton and Marcus Aurelius ... Black Sails 1.4: The Masts of Wall Street ...Black Sails 1.6: Rising Up ... Black Sails 1.7: Fictions and History ... Black Sails 1.8: Money



pirates of the mind in The Plot to Save Socrates 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Affair 3.10: Taking Paris

After a ragged, often frustrating season 3, the finale of The Affair tonight served up an altogether sensitive, satisfying episode - not only the best of the season, but one of the best of the series.  By the far the closest we've seen in this series to anything approaching a happy ending.

The Paris parts - Juliette and Noah - were excellent, just because of the great Paris scenery, including a bookstore (of course) and the Foucault Pendulum.   It was great to see Juliet and Noah in bed, and after, and the story of Juliette's husband was interesting, too.

But that was just an appetizer for the main event, much shorter in time, which came near the end of Noah's half hour, and ended with the rapprochement of Noah and Whitney.  This has been brewing and needed for almost three seasons, and the conversations they have in Paris allow Noah to finally come into his own as father.  He was positively profound when he tells her that children can learn from their parents and be better parents, not perfect, but better, and someday in the future maybe someone will have a perfect childhood.

And Noah goes home with Whitney - or she with him - and the last scene outside of Helen's apartment is also the happiest we've seen of that family since maybe the first episode of the series.  At this point, not only is Helen and family and Vic happy, but so are Noah and his children, and, as per last week, so are Alison and Cole.

And there's even a chance we'll see more of Juliette and Noah, though that's the least certain at this point.  Noah in the cab, not knowing where he wants to go, was sad, but at least he's no longer psycho, and he could even take a plane right back to Paris.

In any case, given this insane world off-screen we currently inhabit, I'm more than content to close the curtain on The Affair until the next season, and know that all of our major characters are ok - and, hey, I don't even mind too much that we still don't know why the detectives investigating Noah's stabbing never found his self-inflicting knife.

See also The Affair 3.1: Sneak Preview Review ... The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds ... The Affair 3.3: Who Attached Noah? ... The Affair 3.4: The Same Endings in Montauk ... The Affair 3.5: Blocked Love ... The Affair 3.6: The Wound ... The Affair 3.7: The White Shirt ... The Affair 3.8: The "Miserable Hero" ... The Affair 3.9: A Sliver of Clarity

And see also The Affair 2.1: Advances ... The Affair 2.2: Loving a Writer ... The Affair 2.3: The Half-Wolf ... The Affair 2.4: Helen at Distraction ... The Affair 2.5: Golden Cole ... The Affair 2.6: The End (of Noah's Novel) ... The Affair 2.7: Stunner ... The Affair 2.8: The Reading, the Review, the Prize ...The Affair 2.9: Nameless Hurricane ... The Affair 2.10: Meets In Treatment ... The Affair 2.11: Alison and Cole in Business ... The Affair Season 2 Finale: No One's Fault

podcast review of every 2nd season episode

podcast review of every 1st season episode

the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy

Vikings 4.19: On the Verge of History

Vikings 4.19 pitches us onto the verge of the ultimate battle - at least, ultimate for this season - between the invading, revenge-seeking sons of Ragnar, and King Eckbert's chosen defending leader, his own son  Aethelwulf.  The final scene is fine classic: Aethelwulf and what's left of his army, ravaged by Ivar's clever appear-and-run strategy, finally charging headlong into the Vikings.

Based on what we've seen, there's no way, short of a bolt from the blue that destroys the Vikings, for Aethelwulf to win this.   History, for those who want to consult it, is unclear in how it relates to this battle.  In general, we're told the Vikings were not that much of a threat to Wessex in Aethelwulf time - clearly not exactly the case in this television portrayal, certainly not in a psychological sense. And we're told that Aethelwulf did fight two battles with the Vikings, the first in Carhampton to the east, the second on the Thames, and that he was defeated in the first, won the second, and obviously therefore did not lose his life in either.

Clearly, if his penultimate episode is any indication, there's no way that Aethewulf can win it.  And frankly, it's hard to see at this point how he'll even survive.  The circumstances of his survival in this coming week's episode therefore should be interesting indeed.  Who among the Vikings will save him?  How and why?   My guess is Ivar may surprisingly choose not to kill Aethewulf, who after all was not the one really responsible for Ragnar's death.  But we'll see.

Meanwhile, Lagertha's holding forth back home is fun to see, but adds little to the historical tapestry in England which is the centerpiece of this story.  For that reason, I regret Lagertha not being part of this expedition.  But we'll see how at least some of this turns out this coming week.

See also Vikings 4.1: I'll Still Take Paris ... Vikings 4.2: Sacred Texts ...Vikings 4.4: Speaking the Language ... Vikings 4.5: Knives ... Vikings 4.8: Ships Up Cliff ... Vikings 4.10: "God Bless Paris" ... Vikings 4.11: Ragnar's Sons ... Vikings 4.12: Two Expeditions ... Vikings 4.13: Family ... Vikings 4.14: Penultimate Ragnar? ... Vikings 4.15: Close of an Era ... Vikings 1.16: Musselman ... Vikings 1.17: Ivar's Wheels ... Vikings 1.18: The Beginning of Revenge

And see also Vikings 3.1. Fighting and Farming ... Vikings 3.2: Leonard Nimoy ...Vikings 3.3: We'll Always Have Paris ... Vikings 3.4: They Call Me the Wanderer ... Vikings 3.5: Massacre ... Vikings 3.6: Athelstan and Floki ...Vikings 3.7: At the Gates ... Vikings 3.8: Battle for Paris ... Vikings 3.9: The Conquered ... Vikings Season 3 Finale: Normandy

And see also Vikings 2.1-2: Upping the Ante of Conquest ... Vikings 2.4: Wise King ... Vikings 2.5: Caught in the Middle ... Vikings 2.6: The Guardians ...Vikings 2.7: Volatile Mix ... Vikings 2.8: Great Post-Apocalyptic Narrative ... Vikings Season 2 Finale: Satisfying, Surprising, Superb

And see also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4:  Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice
... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

historical science fiction - a little further back in time

Sneaky Pete: True Win

Graham Yost, one of the main creative forces shaping Amazon's Sneaky Pete, was and is also executive producer of two other superb series, The Americans and Justify. But Sneaky Pete has the most in common, and is almost a kind of mirror image, of another pathbreaking series created by another GY - Greg Yaitanes - Banshee.

Both tell the story of an ex-con who adopts someone else's identity, needs to fool a lot of people, and must match wits with a vicious, highly intelligent, racketeering villain who holds forth from New York City.  Both must deal with expected and unexpected near revelations of their true identity, and cleverly fend them off.   Sneaky Pete is a little lighter than the unremittingly brutal Banshee, but Sneaky Pete has plenty of dark and violent moments, too.

Unlike "Lucas Hood" in Banshee, however,  Marius Josipovic is not only conning the world about being "Pete," but running cons in everything he does.   These cons start and end the season, and give Sneaky Pete something crucially in common with other great con narratives on the big screen, ranging from the The Sting (mentioned in Sneaky Pete) to Ocean's 11.

And speaking of Ocean's 11 (and Ocean's Eleven), Sneaky Pete has an impressive array of star power, with Giovanni Ribisi in the lead role, Bryan Cranston as the arch villain, and Peter Gerety, Margo Martindale, and even Ben Vereen and Malcolm-Jamal Warner in supporting parts.  All do memorable jobs.  Not as well-known Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, and Libe Barer also put in good performances.

As was the case with Banshee, credibility is strained by the extent to which the imposter can get away with it for so long.  And Sneaky Pete has the problem of needing to fool the real Pete's grandparents and cousins - wouldn't they realize something was different in his eyes, which would be pretty much the same for someone in his thirties, not seen since he was a boy at least 11+ years old?  "Lucas Hood" in Banshee didn't have to confront anyone in the real Hood family, except his son, who realized the deception immediately.

But it's easy enough to suspend your disbelief in Sneaky Pete.  The action is quick, the surprises jolting, and the series clocks in as another true win for streaming television.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Colony 2.3: The Wall

Just as Trump is railing on about his wall, Colony 2.3 has a harrowing scene of Will and Charlie scaling a wall, against enemy drone fire that threatens to pick them off. Two of the people on the rope are indeed killed.

And, indeed, intentionally or not, Colony is shaping up this season as a slightly futuristic scenario of what the new President and his worst advisers may want to have in store for us.  Or, who knows what the new President wants, and to what extent he's aware of the consequences.

But just as in our reality, a large part of the story of Colony is the resistance, and how that plays out against collaborators and the unseen aliens - real aliens from outer space, bad aliens, in contrast to our immigrants who good are human beings who want to be part of the American fabric.

Or at least, the American fabric prior to now.  Just as we have no idea where Colony is headed, which makes for good narrative fiction, we have little idea where America is now headed - or how this will all turn out - which makes for a dangerous reality.

Fiction in a dangerous world takes on a new tone, especially if that fiction bears a resemblance to what is going on, off the page and the screen.   And this tension is only heightened, when the people in power in our reality - Trump and Bannon - turn their fire on the media, which includes not only news today but maybe even science fiction like Colony tomorrow.

And I'll be back here with another review next week.

See also Colony 2.1: Prelude ... Colony 2.2: 1969 ... Colony 2.3: The Wall

And see also Colony 1.1: Aliens with Potential ... 1.2: Compelling ... 1.5: Questions ... 1.6: The Provost ... Colony 1.7: Broussard ... Colony 1.8: Moon Base and Transit Zones ... Colony 1.9: Robot Arm ... Colony Season 1 Finale: Not Quite Enough

not exactly aliens, but strange enough ...  The Silk Code

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Moving the Doomsday Clock Forward 30 Seconds Does More Harm than Good

This may come as a surprise to you, my readers, but I think the moving of the Doomsday Clock by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 30 seconds forward, so it's now 2 and 1/2 not 3 minutes to midnight, does more harm than good.  I agree completely with the reasons given for the unprecedented move (first time in the Clock's 70-year history), ranging from Donald Trump in the White House to the rise of fake news, but I think the clock exacerbates the problems, especially the crisis of fake news and its effects, and the deterioration of the public's understanding of science.

Science is supposed to be about the search for truth, and the test of results, all via methods that make it likely that facts and truth have been discovered (see Karl Popper for more).  Scientists are of course entitled and encouraged (as are all human being) to have opinions on political and social issues which go beyond science.  There's nothing whatsoever wrong with a scientist saying I, as a scientist, have such and such a political view, for the following reasons.  Nor is there anything wrong with scientists or anyone agreeing or disagreeing with a political view because they think that view runs contrary to science.  Indeed, expression of such disagreement is a public service.

But there is something harmful in presenting political views, and social forecasts, in a literally numerical package which, frankly, feigns the imprimatur of science.  Hari Seldon's psychohistory sought to do that in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, but that is superb science fiction not fact.

The fact is that the metaphor of the clock is just that - a metaphor.  Two and 1/2 minutes to midnight has no more correspondence to the reality of present or future than does 3 minutes or 30 minutes.  It is just a clever way of calling attention to concerns that scientists have - scientists who are not Hari Seldon, and therefore have no better mathematical way of predicting the future than anyone else outside of characters in science fiction.

And it hurts science, and the public's confidence in it, precisely at a time when we most need it.  Scientific research and models which show climate change come from real evidence and events, and we need that respected as such.  The Doomsday Clock is a dramatization of understandable opinions - opinions which I share - but which ought not be presented or even implied to be in any way the result of scientific research.

Indeed, to present such as concerns as science is in itself a form of fake news, which thrives in making the boundaries between science and opinion even less clear than they now are.   I think the best thing that can be done with the Doomsday Clock is retire it.

more about fake news here

Frequency 1.13: Almost Happy and Sad Endings

Well, Frequency 1.13 saved the best for last, and I hope that's the last of season 1, with a season 2 to follow, and not the end of the series.

The episode opens with as happy an ending as you could hope for in this situation. Raimy's mother Julie is alive and a doctor.  Raimy's engaged to be married.  Even Gordo's a mentch - actually, a lawyer, in a suit.

The only thing missing is Frank, who was saved at the start of the season, in 1996, but died in a car accident five years ago.   In a nice touch, Raimy's fiance wants to know whom she is talking to on the ham radio, and Frank, apprised of this, says maybe it's time to retire their intertemporal chats.  But Raimy wants her father at her marriage, and wants to change time at least one more time, and Frank agrees...

This could make a good story in itself, but just in case, the Nightingale killer is still at large,  That's because, not only was the son looking like he was going to follow in his father's footsteps (as I thought last week), but it turns out the son actually was the the Nightingale killer all along.  He's been controlling himself for 20 years, to take advantage of his father going to prison for him, but he's reached the end of his self-control.

So we've got a really good set-up for a new season.  Frank stops the Nightingale - the son - from killing Julie in 1996, but the Nightingale is getting ready to strike again in 2016.  And the time-tranversing radio is broken.

But, hey, I just used my own time-leaping cable connection and I think I saw a little bit of the first episode of Season 2, later this year or early next, I'm not sure.  If I did, I'll see you then with some more reviews.

See also Frequency 1.1: Closely Spun Gem ... Frequency 1.2: All About the Changes  ... Frequency 1.3: Chess Game Across Time ...  Frequency 1.4: Glimpsing the Serial Killer ... Frequency 1.5: Two Sets of Memories ... Frequency 1.6: Another Time Traveler? ... Frequency 1.7: Snags ... Frequency 1.8: Interferences ... Frequency 1.9: The Wife and the Fiancee ... Frequency 1.10: The Clarinet of Time ... Frequency 1.11: The Unkilling ... Frequency 1.12: Good Inter-temporal Police Work, But...

                       more time travel

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Doctor Foster: The Affair, On the Other Side of the Pond

I just watched Doctor Foster, the five-part British 2015 series, recently brought over here by Netflix, after a showing earlier last year on Lifetime.  Excellent on all accounts.

The story starts off as many extra-marital affairs that shake-up families do: Gemma finds a blonde hair on her husband's scarf.  She's a brunette, and off we go.

But Doctor Foster has unusual depth and attention to character detail, and this puts the series in league with the other fine account of an affair - The Affair - and in some ways Doctor Foster is better. Gemma is a doctor - Doctor Foster - and has a practice that is in itself the stuff of good narrative.  Her husband is on the surface a genial real estate developer, but there's much more beneath the surface. And their son Tom, who looks to be about 11-to-12-years old, has just the right amount of savvy for someone that age.

The series is lifted by Suranne Jones's portrayal of Gemma.   Jones has a very expressive face, and conveys Gemma's quick changes of mood, as she struggles with what to believe and what to do about it, what to show to the public and what not, very effectively.   The story is well parked in our digital age, as when Gemma is called in by her superior after negative comments are posted about her on a web site that rates and gives feedback about doctors.

Unlike The Affair, in which crime and police investigation are an essential part of the narrative, Doctor Foster sticks almost completely with the affair at hand, and its ramifications.  Packed with twists, and highly recommended.

Timeless 1.12: Incandescent West

Timeless keeps getting better every time, and as I've been saying with almost every review of the past few episodes of this series, episode 1.12 was the best episode so far.

Here's why -

1. An excellent Flynn episode, in which he not only interacts with Jesse James - whose life he saves - but with Emma.  Who's Emma?  Well, she's not only played by 24's Annie Wersching - always up for a gritty, attractive performance on screen - but she's the very first time traveler, who has been hiding out in the past for a decade.  This alliance promises some good times ahead.

2. Not only does Jesse James play a big role in this episode, but so does the Lone Ranger and Tonto - and the Lone Ranger is African-American, much to Rufus's delight, and played by Colman Domingo of Fear The Walking Dead.  For that matter, Tonto is played by Zahn McClarnon of Longmire (and I just saw him on Frontier).   Timeless has had some strong guest starring power all along, but episode 1.12 was a special event.

3. Lucy puts in one of her best roles - actually, it all happens in one scene, but this was something new and important for the show.   She shoots Jesse James in the back, for the sake of saving history. Of course, Flynn's actions already changed our history - the Ford Bros no longer did the cowardly deed - but at least Lucy kills Jesse, and in much the same way as in our original history.

4.  Wyatt's philosophy is it's right to kill bad people who kill good people. That has never been Lucy's philosophy, but tonight her values and Wyatt's coincide.  Clearly they won't in the coming attractions for next week's episode, when Wyatt will try to save his wife which in some big way may change history as Lucy and we know it.

And I'll be back here with a review to tell you how all that went down ...

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded! ... Timeless 1.8: Time and Space ... Timeless 1.9: The Kiss and The Key ... Timeless 1.10: The End in the Middle ... Timeless 1.11: Edison, Ford, Morgan, Houdini, and Holmes (No, Not Sherlock)!