Tuesday, February 28, 2017

24 Legacy 1.5: Who's Left?

Well, I was wrong when I predicted last week that Gabriel would be Tony Almeida - indeed not only was Gabriel not that, he didn't even ... [spoiler]

survive the night (or, the hour, to stay with the 24 structure.  And neither did Ben Grimes.  Which leaves our side with far fewer possible leads and clues than we might like in 24 Legacy at the end of episode 1.5.

So where does that leave us?  I would say Henry Donovan - the Senator's father - is not only the best but pretty much the only live lead our side has.   And he seems to be a past master at lying.

We know that he's certainly up to something more than his professed goal of saving and strengthening his son's candidacy.   But in with the terrorists?  That's pretty extreme.

Of course, in the rich history of 24, we've had plenty of instances in which an American businessman or some such was either the arch-villain or close to it.   I'm actually hoping that's not the case for Henry, because well, at least at this point, that seems much too obvious.

But if not Henry, who else?  I mean, who else other than the terrorists we've already seen?  There's some kind of double-agent still at large at CTU, right, but this person is unlikely to be the head of any terrorist operation.

I'm looking forward to seeing more - meaning, not only future episodes, but a little less of Amira's family, and, for that matter, Eric Carter's, too.  Let's get on to the biggest dangers at hand.

Humans 2.3: Motives and Uploads

An important Humans 2.3 on Monday night, with a look at the motives of Dr. Athena Morrow, and a revelation that her research and work now for Qualia are in pursuit of more than just scientific accomplishment.

We discover the Athena's daughter has been in a coma for several years.  Her father wants to end it already, but Athena can't bear to do this.  That, combined with her AI speaking about a waterfall that appears in a photo of Athena and her daughter that Athena cherishes, put this all into high relief: Athena is investigating and trying to create a form of conscious synthetics - or, as one synth aptly put it, synths that are "awake" - because Athena is hoping to embed in a conscious synch the personality, psyche, or call it soul, of her daughter.

This makes Humans an even more profound narrative about intelligent androids than it was.  It's one thing to create conscious synchs out of nothing, or no previous mentality or existing being.  I mean, that's incredible indeed, certainly.  But employig that digital sophistication to give humans immortality is something quite else, and more.

In a way, this is what motivated Dr. Millican in Season 1.  But Athena's seems to be more explicit, and echoes strongly with a novel that hasn't received enough attention over the years - The Silicon Man, a 1991 work by Charles Platt, which explored the form of immortality achieved by uploading someone's mind into a mainframe computer (see my review).   It's a theme that has also been explored in many a movie, but The Silicon Man does it best, including the issue of whether it would be murder or suicide or ...  to end the fleshy existence of someone whose mentality was uploaded and and from that new ensconcement ordered such termination.

Androids, while not necessarily made of flesh, do have a mobility that Platt's mind in a mainframe didn't have.   In effect, putting someone's mind into a synth - Athena's daughter or whoever - may be more akin to cloning than what Platt was playing with.  But it will be fun to see where Humans goes with this in any case.

Black Sails 4.5: Bold Move

The chess game intensified in Black Sails 4.5, with a truly bold move by Rogers: sail into Spanish Havana, and enlist the aid of England's sworn enemy, in an active state of war with England as almost always in those days, against the pirates in Nassau.

At this point there's no point in consulting real history, which tells us the Spanish did indeed try to conquer Nassau at various times, if not precisely this one.   For Rogers, it's a dangerous but logical move - the most or only reliable way of crushing the pirates for good.

The scene on the beach with Rackham and Flynt was excellent, too.   In this narrative, Rackham has in effect lived so he can deliver that crucial message to Flynt: there's no way, given the blood lust that Rackham has witnessed first hand in Rogers, that the Governor could accede to Eleanor's deal, as much as he does love his wife.

And so a battle of battles is shaping up in Nassau.  Flynt was even concerned that the pirates could beat the English.   They certainly can't beat the fleet of Spanish ships of war that are approaching the harbor.

The only question left is who will live and who will die in this battle.  Again, real history and Robert Louis Stevenson have given some of the major characters a lease on life (that's how I knew that Billy wouldn't be killed Sunday night).   On the other hand, who will complain if Black Sails takes a liberty here and there?

I'm awaiting the next episodes.

See also: Black Sails 4.1: "True Friends and Mortal Enemies" ... Black Sails 4.2: Bones vs. Flint ... Black Sails 4.3: Decisive Victories and Losses - On Both Sides ... Black Sails 4.4: Chess Game

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 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Anatomy of an Academy Award Error: The Video Shows Warren Beatty Was Almost a Hero

Warren Beatty has been roundly criticized for wrongly announcing that La La Land (not the actual winner Moonlight) won the Oscar last night for best motion picture (for an especially nasty rendition, see this) - even though Price Waterhouse (I know, it's PriceWaterhouseCoopers, but that doesn't have the pizzazz of the original name) has indicated that it was to blame for giving the wrong envelope to Beatty (details here and here).   But if you look at what actually happened on that stage last night, you see that Beatty was not the cause of the error.  Indeed, he realized something was wrong, and struggled under the spotlight to correct it.  And though he couldn't quite manage to do that, I think he deserves credit for trying.

Here's a video of the televised event with a second-by-second timeline:

.06-14 seconds: Beatty looks in the envelop, and realizes something is wrong (he later explains, and Price Waterhouse acknowledges, that what's in the envelope is the card announcing Emma Stone winning best actress for La La Land).  He's likely looking to see if there's another announcement card - one for the best motion picture.

.14-16 seconds: Beatty turns to Faye Dunaway, hoping she might have some idea about what's going on, but she just gives him a reproachful look, thinking he's horsing around at the wrong time.

.17 seconds:  Feeling the pressure, Beatty begins to announce, "And the Academy Award..."  But he can't bring himself to finish, because he knows something is not right.

.20 seconds:  Beatty looks down again at the card, thinking maybe he missed something.

.21-.25 seconds: Beatty says "for best picture..."  He looks past Dunaway, desperately hoping, again, for some guidance from someone off-stage.  Dunaway, still thinking he's joking, says "You're impossible."

.26-29 seconds: Beatty, unable to continue, because he knows something is wrong, gives the envelope to Dunaway, who barely glances at the errant card, and announces "La La Land"

So ... we still need to find out how exactly Price Waterhouse - or the people or person at Price Waterhouse - came to give Beatty the wrong envelope (Russian hacking, maybe? - I'm only joking) (mostly) (he did direct, co-write, and star in Reds).  But, Warren Beatty can hold his head up, if not high, at least not too low, as someone who struggled with tens of millions of people watching him, to do the right thing, under incredible pressure.

Once upon a time, prior to the digital age, a mistake made on television and wrongly attributed left the non-culprit with little recourse, totally at the mercy of the "professional" critics who sounded off today.  But also today, videos on YouTube show the truth.  Beatty wasn't a villain last night - to the contrary, he was almost a hero.

The Chronology Protection Case short movie now FREE on Amazon Prime

from the 1995 Nebula-nominated novelette, reprinted five times,
adapted into Edgar-nominated radio play ... here's the movie, first
released in 2002, re-cut with new, extended ending in 2013, now
available FREE on Amazon Prime for first time

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Break (La Trêve): Riveting Belgian Whodunnit, But

My wife and I streamed The Break - the English title for the 2016 Belgian La trêve noir police procedural on Netflix - and thought it was excellent, even great, until the end.   Though even then The Break had its moments.

The story is about a high-school soccer-player suicide, which, of course, quickly turns out not to be a suicide.   Yoann Peeters (very well played by Yoann Blanc), in this small town after a case that went very bad in Brussels, catches this investigation.   The local police are mostly earnest, somewhat bumbling, and by-and-large competent. Suspects are manifold, and the narrative develops with lots of twists and turns and surprises.  [From here on there'll be lots of spoilers, so read on either if you don't care or have already seen the series.]

The power of the narrative comes from the likely and unlikely suspects who are revealed and then turn out, for one reason or another, not to have done the deed.   This is the part of the story that makes it a top-notch, powerful whodunnit.

But a story like this requires an equally powerful, plausible ending.  And though the end is powerful, it opens up a huge pothole in the plot.    Inès, Yoann's high-school sweetheart (he grew up in the area), is a great choice for the villain, since that delivers such an emotional punch to Yoann and the viewers.   She's been Yoann's lifeline for a lot of the story, resisting his entreaties to get back together again at first, and now that they're together again her revelation as killer is emotional dynamite.

But ... why would she, as the killer, have been the one to show Yoann, early on, that Driss (the victim) couldn't have written the suicide note, since he didn't have the written skills?  Wouldn't Inès have wanted the case closed as a suicide, as soon as possible?

We could come up with reasons - Inès felt guilty, she wanted Yoann to investigate the death because she loved him and thought Yoann's active investigation was the best way of keeping him around - but we shouldn't have to come up with motives like that, especially when there was another, much better, candidate for the killer, the police chief, who indeed did do his best at first to close the case as a suicide.

But The Break is nonetheless a riveting 10-episode series, and well worth your viewing.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Upstream Color: Upscale Biological Science Fiction

I finally got around to streaming Upstream Color, the 2013 and second movie by Primer (2004) creator Shane Carruth, who, as Wikipedia aptly puts it, also wrote, directed, produced, edited and scored the movie, and stars in the main role, as well.

The two movies therefore, unsurprisingly, have a lot in common, including brilliantly, carefully plotted, complex stories, minimal exposition in dialogue, and a low-key ambience that goes far below and deeper than just low-budget.  But the two are also very different - not only because Primer is about time-travel, and Upstream Color is about, well, I'll get to that in a moment, but because Upstream Color has a much richer emotional current.

And, actually, that current gets to what Upstream Color is and is about.  It's a relative rarity in science fiction movies - unlike time travel - a highly literate, philosophical kind of biological science fiction. Biology in science fiction is common - we encounter it every time we see a movie about a mutation gone amok, and often in narratives about aliens.   In many cases, such movies are pulp-horror or superhero stories.

There is a horror in Upstream Color, but it's more quiet, under the surface, and therefore disconcerting if not viscerally frightening, though Upstream Color has some of that, too.  The story, in a nutshell, is a about a worm-like organism, whose life cycle entails orchids, pigs, and human beings. As in all parasitic life cycles - a real part of our natural world, not just science fiction - the hosts do their thing, live their lives, with little or no awareness that they're doing the parasite's biological bidding.    Upstream Color explores this, harrowingly, subtly, compellingly, for humans, including our two central characters (with good work by Amy Seimetz as Carruth's character's partner), who discover a powerful attraction to one another, and various people ranging from a swindler who's also a kidnapper to pig farmers and gardeners.

The result is an indelible Blue Velvet-like tableau of life under the surface, which feels incomplete, just as did Primer. But that's part of the power and charm of these movies.

a different kind of biological science fiction

Friday, February 24, 2017

Colony 2.7: Countdowns and Intentions

Colony 2.7 really got down to nasty brass tacks last night, with an episode that revealed all sorts of tidbits and bigger things about what's really going on.

First, we learned more about what we were teased about a few episodes back - the aliens have been in our vicinity since 1969, counting down to the Arrival.  And by the end of the episode, we learn two other things: the aliens are shipping humans off planet, to be eaten or who knows what, and there is another countdown in motion for when the extermination of all humans on Earth will be completed.

That end date is just a few years away, and ups the ante for what our heroes need to do.   They have less time that the usual run for many science fiction series on television to stop the invaders.   (Of course, the series could run longer, if need be.)

But we still don't quite know the nature of what the aliens expect to do with the humans, or human bodies, that they're packing up and sending off-planet.  I said "eat," which would make Colony an extended version of "To Serve Man" (classic Damon Knight story made into a classic Twilight Zone episode), but we don't really know.  Clearly, the aliens are not just incinerating humans on Earth. They're putting some effort into getting their quarry with bodies intact off-planet.   It will be interesting to see more of the alien plans.

Meanwhile, as knowledge spreads among our human characters of what the aliens are really up to - planning our elimination, for whatever reason - this is bound to bring humans, at least most of us, together.  Surely Katie's sister and her greedy husband won't want to go along the aliens, and neither will Snyder.  (Some of those new guys in the police state are so far gone, there's no telling what they'll do.)

Bram's helping with the blowing up of the alien ship has a lit a strong fuse.  The repercussions should set the rest of the season in exciting turmoil.

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

Science Fiction in Person in New York in March

March is shaping up to be a break-out month for science fiction in the flesh - or at in-person events - in the New York area.   Here are three where I'll be talking about all sorts of wild and profound things:

  • March 1, 6-9pm, "Science Fiction, Language, and General Semantics," panel with Paul Levinson, Ed Tywoniak, Marleen Barr, and Lance Strate - for the New York Society of General Semantics, at The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park S., New York City - admission FREE - details here ... [added March 3, 2017: video of my talk here]
  • March 4, 12noon-2pm, "Why the Impossibility of Time Travel Makes Such Good Fiction," I'll be talking for at least an hour, to the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, and then we'll go to questions and answers - Old Bridge Public Library, One Old Bridge Plaza, Municipal Center, Old Bridge, NJ -admission FREE - details here
  • March 10-12, HELIOsphere, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tarrytown, 455 South Broadway, Tarrytown, New York - my events: FRIDAY (March 10) 5:30pm - 7:00pm - "Religion in Sci Fi and Fantasy" (panel); SATURDAY (March 11) 2:30pm - 4:00pm - "Robots 201: After the Three Laws" (panel) ; SUNDAY (March 12) 12noon - 1:30pm - Westworld and the Civil Rights of Robots" (solo talk); reading & autographing (times to be announced) - details here
And, just to whet your appetite for some of what I'll be discussing re: time travel, The Chronology Protection Case movie just became free on Amazon Prime.  It's a 40-minute short, adapted by Jay Kensinger from my 1995 Nebula-nominated novelette published in Analog, and reprinted six times. The movie was made in 2002 but has been recut with a new, extended ending.   (The original novelette is available here.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Humans 2.2: The Consciousness Code

Humans 2.2 begins with talk of a "consciousness code" - a good description of what Niska has digitally sent out to the world, a code like a virus, that operates in an inexact, unpredictable way, triggering consciousness in just a relatively small number of androids - as far as we know - and maybe not at the same time.  This also is a good description of the unpredictable power of the overall series.

Episode 2.2 can be seen as various riffs on this consciousness code.  Athena is trying to transplant her AI desktop creation into an android body.  She doesn't say this, but she's probably read Merleau-Ponty and his notion of a "metaphysics of flesh" - that you can't have true human sentience in just a nonliving machine, what's needed is a brain in an physical, living, moving body.  Merleau-Ponty was talking about how human intelligence evolved and exists, but the same presumably would apply to artificial brains or AI - they require bodies.   So Athena's on the right track, but her attempt tonight fails.

Mattie's working on this, too, in a different way.  She has a copy of Niska's code, and she wants to create a human sentient android out of a stock model, by uploading the code in its/his brain.  She looks like she's well on the way.

As in season 1, we also are getting a good display of other androids, almost sentient, or sentient in different ways from our main characters.  The shrink introduced last week is back again, and is as well versed in accents as in therapy.  This android psychologist - a psychologist who is an android, not a human psychologist attempting to understand an android -  is actually a good joking commentary on Rogerian therapy, which, as Joseph Weizenbaum demonstrated decades ago, can be easily mimicked by even a primitive AI program.  It's also a riff, come to think of it, on that old joke - "I went to see a child psychologist, and that kid was useless!"

And the android who was a detective - DI Voss - is back again this year.   She seems as sentient as Niska, Mia, Sam, and the rest - but there's something a little different about her consciousness code too, and it will be fun and provocative to see how it plays out.

And I'll be back here with more musings on all of this next week.

See also Humans 2.1: Westworld meets Nashville

And see also Humans: In Ascending Order ... Humans 1.7: "I Think You're Dead, George"

 photo THECONSCIOUSNESSPLAGUE5_zps8e1b18e3.jpg

24 Legacy 1.4: Who's Gabriel?

24 Legacy was back with another adrenalin powered episode - 1.4 - tonight, with news of an important new character in the metaphorical balcony: Gabriel, an international arms dealer.

Carter at Ben's urgent urging thinks Gabriel is so crucial in stopping the terrorist attack - the only play CTU has - that he breaks out of CTU along with Ben to find him.  This in itself is a good part of the story, with Rebecca and Andy's help.  Andy, by the way, is quickly shaping up as an excellent character - he has just what you want in terms of tech savvy and sass in a CTU computer geek, a worthy successor to Chloe.

And there are other strong things going on in the story tonight, including Donovan breaking down his father - at least, to some extent - Nicole breaking away from Aisha and her thug, and Amira killing that poor high school kid, after all.  (I think having him wake up, but with amnesia, would have been a more interesting move, but ok.)

But looming behind and over all of this is Gabriel.   Carter and Rebecca are risking everything to get to him, so my guess is he's someone really important, played by someone really important.

All we know of him is he's former military.   But he's likely much more.   So here's my prediction: Gabriel is Tony Almeida, who we know is coming back to 24 in Legacy, "mid-season".   Gabriel is Tony Almeida, operating under an assumed name.

We'll see ... and I'm looking forward to seeing next week's episode, and every episode after.

See also 24 Legacy 1.1: Dammit! I Liked It ... 24 Legacy 1.2: Heroes and Villains ... 24 Legacy 1.3: First Big Card Revealed

Monday, February 20, 2017

Timeless 1.16: A Real Grandfather Paradox Story

Timeless saved the best for last - last of just the first of many seasons, as I keep saying and hoping - with an episode that literally mines the grandfather paradox, and much more.

Timeless has always, more than any other time travel television series, explored the disruptive impact of trying to protect the past, not just on the present in general but on families in the present, the families of our time travelers in particular.   In Lucy's case, the very first trip to the past erases her sister in the present, but helps her mother (who, not being a party to Lucy's time travel, has no memory of the lost sister).  Flynn and Wyatt struggle in vain to keep their loved ones from perishing.

The main villain, Rittenhouse, is the subject of Flynn's attempt to save his family.  But he's a villain, too - or, at least, someone with fewer moral qualms than Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus.  In past episodes, Flynn fights with our heroes in an unsuccessful attempt to nip Rittenhouse in the bud, by killing the founder in Revolutionary War times.  That story was, in effect, a grandfather paradox tale, though there was no grandfather of Lucy or any of our characters literally involved.

Tonight, we get just that, and done up with all the trimmings.   Flynn wants to kill Lucy's grandfather at a Rittenhouse meeting in 1954.   He's not happy about the likelihood of this deleting Lucy, but he won't let anything stand in the way of saving his family.  Lucy has a better idea, and she succeeds. (Or so we think.)

Along the way, we get a good little Joe McCarthy story (the episode is titled "The Red Scare," and as a nice touch Jiya gets a dangerous red eye condition), as well as a story about the difficulty of being gay in the 1950s (Lucy's grandfather, though happily married and already the father of a child - Lucy's father - is gay.)   Rufus and Jiya finally get together, Mason turns out to have heart as well as a brain, and--

Well, I won't tell you the surprises at the end, in case you've read this far and somehow haven't seen the episode.   But I will say there's more than enough here for a strong second season - a lot more to explore in the provocative intersection of family life and changes in time with erudite historical details that Timeless does so well.  I'll be waiting...

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 ... Timeless 1.13: Meeting, Mating, and Predictability ... Timeless 1.14: Paris in the 20s ... Timeless 1.15: Touched!

The Good Fight 1.1-2: Great Show!

CBS teased with the pilot of The Good Fight tonight - and just for good measure, put up the second episode on CBS All Access, its new streaming service, that you pay for like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.  My wife and I saw both hours and loved them.

In case you've been on Pluto (it's indeed a planet) and didn't know, The Good Fight is a sequel series to The Good Wife, one of the best all-time lawyer series ever on television.  (How good?  Right up there with Perry Mason and Petrocelli.)  It was always current, brilliant, funny, and stylish.

The Good Fight, minus Alicia and Peter, has all of that.  It even manages to start with Diane watching, aghast, as Trump is inaugurated.   And it takes off from there, with Diane caught up in a Madoff scheme, Lucca on hand, and some great new characters such as Maia (played by Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones) and Robert (played by Delroy Lindo, who always puts in a commanding performance).

The mix, like The Good Wife, is high octane, but The Good Fight looks like it will have a charm all its own.   Diane-centered episodes were always especially welcome on The Good Wife, and we'll get more of that on The Good Fight.  (Christine Baranski is better than ever.)   Maia makes an appealing new-minted attorney, and the three - Diane, Lucca, and Maia - are a powerful triad of the bar, in both the courtroom and the office.

Will The Good Fight be enough get CBS All-Access flying, along with a new Star Trek series coming soon?  Tough call.  Cheapskates that we are, we don't like paying for anything, especially sequels of series we've come to know and admire for free.   But we're happily paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime now, so you never know.

Homeland 6.5: The Attack on Carrie's Brownstone

And it was literally that - an attack on Carrie brownstone, by New York's finest some kind of swat team - and it was a sight to see in Homeland 6.5.

What brings it on is Quinn, although it's not completely his fault.  And in a way not his fault at all.  It's whoever's been spying on Carrie from across the street - that got Quinn into his professionally defensive frame of mind.  And it's the media, surrounding Carrie's apartment, and bombarding Quinn at the door with questions. And the police only made things worse.

Given Trump's know-nothing and dangerous attacks on the press from his literally bully pulpit, I don't like to see the media portrayed this way, though I suppose there's a least a little truth in local cameras congregating around some subject's house at a time like this.

On the other hand, had New York really been subject to a bomb attack on the bridge - which fortunately only killed two people - the media would likely have had more important things to do than form a mob in front of Carrie's house.

Quinn was right to shove the lady reporter out of Carrie's house, but wrong to shove her down the stairs. He was completely right, however, to shoot and wound that jerk who threw a rock in Carrie's window, which could have killed or badly hurt somebody, including Carrie's daughter (who again had some of the best lines of the evening).

And the police gave a poor accounting for themselves.   Whoever was in charge should have listened to Carrie, sooner, and a lot of what happened could have been avoided.

All of which is to say - Homeland made good on its commitment to bring the story back to New York, and gave us a strong, unsettling episode tonight - or, just what you want in Homeland.

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


  more espionage in New York City

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Black Sails 4.4: The Chess Game

An outstanding Black Sails 4.4 tonight, as the chess game for the control of Nassau and the future of North America continues apace.  Among the highlights -
  • Annie taking control of the British controlled pirate ship literally in her bloody hands.  Well, that was hardly chess, even metaphorically, but it was a great if harrowing scene anyway.
  • The conversation between Billy and Long John.   Their conversations are always important, and usually, of late, about Flint, with Billy taking the con and Long John the pro side, and this was no different.  But it was good to see the future of the this part of the world hanging in this balance.
  • The talk about the new slave army, independent of both the pirates and the British.  If we think about what these islands are today, we can see that neither the pirates nor the British lasted.  So that new army, whatever its role and fate in Black Sails, is a harbinger of the future.
But the best part, and in a class by itself, is Flynt agreeing to Eleanor's proposal, and putting himself in her custody, over Long John's strenuous objections.  We know her motives.  She's pregnant, and wants a life for her, the Governor, and their baby, away from all of this fighting.

But what is Flint's motive?  What's up his billowing sleeve?   He never really answers Long John's question about whether he'd give up Nassau for the love of his life.  All he says to Long John is, "trust me".

Should he?  Should we?  We'll no doubt find out in the remaining weeks ahead.

See also: Black Sails 4.1: "True Friends and Mortal Enemies" ... Black Sails 4.2: Bones vs. Flint ... Black Sails 4.3: Decisive Victories and Losses - On Both Sides

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 

The Missing Season 2: Unforgettable

My wife and I just binge-watched The Missing Season 2 on Starz, and we both thought it was as perfect, heart-rending, and brilliantly plotted as a missing children story can be.   I cleverly titled my review of the first season "The Missing: Worth Finding," but the second is so superb on all levels that it beggars clever description.   (Of course I tried anyway with "unforgettable".)

I'll try to hint at some of the essentials here without revealing anything crucial in this carefully constructed, beautifully rendered, complex story with at least a dozen moving parts.  Alice shows up unexpectedly near her home after having gone missing 11 years earlier, but something's not quite right.  This in itself is not uncommon in these kinds of narratives, but there's nothing supernatural involved, and nothing common, either,  in the intricate tale that unfolds.   The main environment is a British military base in contemporary Germany, and people at all stages of command and former command propel the story, along with Alice's family.

But the character who propels this the most is Julien Baptiste, back from the first season with an uncanny sense of who's lying, and indefatigable in pursuing missing children and if at all possible reuniting them with their parents.  He failed to do this some years earlier for Sophie in France, and when Alice mentions Sophie, this is more than enough to get Baptiste tenaciously on the case.

Julien's task is complicated not only by the villain - who in his own sick way is almost as intelligent and calculating as Julien - but by just about everyone in the story, unwilling to believe what's right in front of their eyes, and/or too willing to believe other things that should not be believed, at the same time. And Julien has problems of his own, not of the villain's or anyone else's making.

The cards in this story are held very close to the chest, with just enough revealed - a quick shot in a scene, a word barely heard - that you can generate your own hypotheses, which are not likely to be right, at least not too early on in the story.   But if you keep your eyes and ears and mind open, you can figure out at least some big parts of this jigsaw, and, trust me, you'll be moved to tears at the end, for more than one reason. Testament not only to the nonstop, powerhouse story, but the superb acting by Tchéky Karyo as Julien, David Morrissey as Alice's father, Keeley Hawes as Alice's mother, and in fact every single person on screen.

See also The Missing Season 1: Worth Finding