I might have mentioned it a couple times before but Fall 2013 has proven to be a really good season for television, I feel. So many great shows got their start in September/October last year and while a few have fizzled out on their initial promises, far more have gotten better with each episode, developing and solidifying themselves, you could say. And NBC’s The Blacklist is one of those shows. Its a spy action-drama, but it flips the genre on its head and does something rather unique with it. And in a way, I can’t help but make comparisons to Fox’s Fringe, which too was a genre-flipping show that’s been really good, what little I’ve seen on it.
The first three episodes of The Blacklist did a pretty good job of laying out who all the main characters were, what their relationships to each other were, and what the overall premise really was. We also got introduced to a fair amount of mysteries, both professional and personal as far as the two leads Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington were concerned. Thankfully, the next set of three episodes carried on from there and were even better than the previous three. While also advancing the season story-arcs, we got some great one-shots and I’m definitely in love with both the actors and the characters.
Arrow returned from a long break of some six weeks or thereabouts three weeks ago and just while things were building up the momentum once again, it is taking a two-week break for the next two weeks. It will return on February 26th. But to help us tide over, this week’s episode packed a hell of a lot of awesome, just as the mid-season finale did with everything that went on with Barry Allen and Sebastian Blood and Roy Harper. I’ve said several times that I love the show despite its faults, because it does a ton of things right, and because it has improved a lot since its first season.
This week’s episode, titled Heir of the Demon, brings back Sara Lance aka Canary and it also introduces Katrina Law as Nyssa Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, the immortal leader of the League of Assassins, of which Canary is a part. The majority of the episode is focused on the relationship that Sara has with Ra’s, and it also gives us some interesting flashbacks to six years back before Ollie and his father went on that fateful trip on their yacht. This particular episode packed in a ton of emotional drama that I really liked, and for that alone, I loved it.
Note: This review contains some significant spoilers.
After all the exciting epilogue-ish reveals of last week’s episode, Arrow did one better this week by dropping a big bomb on the proceedings and showing that whatever we as viewers thought was going to happen with certain characters isn’t quite going to happen like we imagined. I love the format that the show has evolved into, where the last five minutes or so are often used to drop hints and clues as to the larger story arcs of the season. Last week’s highlight was we saw Slade Wilson as Deathstroke, in full gear, laying down justice on four of Blood’s henchmen for the price of Blood failing in his mission. This week, well, this week was quite special altogether on a different note.
Once again, we have an aptly named episode. While the name “Tremors” might give you certain ideas about the plot of the episode, it is also something more, it is about the shake-ups in the lives of the main cast and the supporting cast. Each and every character in the show is impacted to a certain degree here and their world is shaken up because of it. All I can say on seeing the episode is that I am still in love with the show. It is going from strength to strength and is finally picking up the momentum after the recent six-week break.
I remember watching the Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves Dracula movie with the former in the titular role and really enjoying it. It was a bit hard to follow at times, but overall I enjoyed it for sure. That was almost a decade ago and ever since I’ve enjoyed reading various types of vampire fiction. My fascination with the genre started with Buffy and Angel however, and after all these years, I’ve seen and read a lot of different stuff and enjoyed most of it. Novels such as Matt Forbeck’s Carpathia are really fun and shows like True Blood are the same. I’d credit the latter for really invigorating my interest in watching vampire shows since it got me to watch Vampire Diaries, although I didn’t like the show that much and gave up in the middle of the first season.
And now we have NBC’s Dracula which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the titular role and is very much a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. Having seen the first three episodes of the show by now, I have to say that while the series often feels cliched and clumsy, it does have some good moments and that I find the characters to be quite fascinating. And the motivation behind Dracula doing what he does is also quite interesting although it seems somewhat shoehorned in. My verdict though, at this early point, is that this is a decent show.
Recently, and starting with Homeland, I’ve come to take an interest in contemporary espionage shows. There’s something quite fascinating about FBI, CIA agents and others of their kind taking down the bad guys, mass murderers and terrorists and more. After having seen the first three episodes of Homeland a while back however, I’ve kind of fallen off due to other shows (not that Homeland is boring or bad or anything, quite the contrary), but watching The Blacklist recently has gotten me really interested in the whole genre once again.
The reason that I started watching The Blacklist in the first place is because of the lead actor James Spader. I’ve seen a lot of his films, especially the sci-fi flick Stargate that spawned no less than three spin-off shows, and have seen him in Boston Legal as well where he was just amazing alongside William Shatner. Spader is a great actor and I dived into The Blacklist last week nothing about the show. It so happened that I loved it, and now, having seen the first three episodes, I can say that the show is really good. Almost all the actors are top-notch and the plots are quite interesting as well, which always helps.
With the show back on air for season 2 following the recent big break and the awesomeness of seeing Barry Allen on the show in the moments before he becomes The Flash, its time to get the momentum going once more for Arrow. The mid-season finale was a hell of a place to stop before the long break, and while the mid-season premiere wasn’t quite what I was looking for despite being a good episode, my enthusiasm in the show is undimmed. In fact, each and every week I am more and more excited because the show has surpassed pretty much all my expectations of it in this season.
Episode 11 is, first and foremost, aptly named: “Blind Spot“. It is all about the blind spots that the various leading characters have with regards to each other. This episode does a great job of thematically exploring that concept even though that’s pretty much what a lot of it has been about from the get go. But I dare say that nothing we’ve seen so far has been quite on point as in this episode. And additionally, the biggest thing of all, I finally got to saw one particular character kick ass just the way that I wanted the character to ever since the character’s first moment on the show. So indeed, this was a pretty good show.
Note: The review contains a spoiler to a really awesome and cool moment from the mid-season finale, episode nine.
Its been a long, long wait, but after almost a month, Arrow returned this week to CW and all was right with the world. In episode 9, the mid-season finale before the Christmas/New Year break, we got a really good half-resolution to the second season and saw a lot of new beginnings for various characters. Mirakuru, Sebastian Blood, Slade Wilson, Barry Allen, Roy, and a lot of other things got addressed, and it was a really fun time. There was also a character death involved, which was really heartbreaking, but something like that was coming, so I wasn’t too shocked by it. Saddened yes. Still, all in all, CW ended things on a good note.
And now we are here with episode 10 as things get back underway once more and we see some bigger changes on the horizon than we have seen before. Overall, while I liked the new episode, I have to say that at times it felt as if the writers were channeling the season 1 mentality rather than the season 2 mentality. The show wasn’t quite as intense as previous episodes have been this season and if I had to sum it up, I’d say that they played off things safe rather than take some left-field chances. But that’s fine with me. There’s been a long break in between the mid-season finale and this episode, so they need to rebuild their momentum so to speak.
Almost a month ago we had the 50th anniversary special for BBC’s Doctor Who. It was my first ever episode of the show, and I quite liked it as you can tell from my review of it. With excellent production and cinematography, not to mention a really cool script with some great performances from everyone involved, The Day of The Doctor is one of the best episodes of any show that I’ve seen to date. Following that, I got around to finally starting on Doctor Who proper with Christopher Eccleston’s short-lived run from 2005, which was the first season of the revived show and five episodes, I’m really liking it.
Two nights ago we had the show’s Christmas Special for this year, which also marked the end of current incumbent Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. Matt Smith spent three years as the Doctor, and this special is his final swansong, the third in the loose trilogy formed by The Night of The Doctor (a mini-sode), The Day of The Doctor and this one. Going in, I went in expecting something on the same level as the anniversary special, and in some ways it was, in some ways it wasn’t. All I can really say though is that I really need to move on to Matt Smith’s era!
Almost Human is one of the newest shows to join the Fall line-up of television entertainment and it is yet another police procedural. But where it departs from the norm is that it is also an SF thriller through and through. It is set in the future and in this setting, each cop is paired up with a synthetic, an android cop. The ever-fantastic Karl Urban and the excellent Michael Ealy are in the lead roles here and much as with Fox’s Sleepy Hollow pairing of Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, the interaction between the two leads is what really helps sell the show.
I’d seen the trailer for the show a few weeks ago when io9 ran a round-up of the debut shows, but I’d forgotten about it since then. But a couple friends on Twitter were talking about them recently and I got interested all over again. So I decided to watch the shows, and came away with yet another big hit for myself. With Arrow, Sleepy Hollow and now Almost Human, my TV viewing has never been better. Almost Human hits pretty much all the right notes for me and the storytelling, the visuals, and the acting are all top-notch in here.
In the last few years, a really interesting trend has surfaced. When it comes to the entertainment industry, specifically the visual media segment, movies based on Marvel Comics characters have set a new benchmark for box office success in the superheroes genre. DC Comics characters have struggled to meet those same successes outside of the tentpole movies like the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy and the recent Man of Steel. On the flipside, television shows featuring DC Comics characters have established their own high benchmarks that Marvel Comics characters are struggling to meet, rather desperately so. Case in point, the brand-new Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been hemorraging viewers every single week while DC’s Arrow, now in its second season, has continued apace and its success has led to DC green-lighting several more shows.
However, when it comes to the animation divisions, there is much more equity between the Big 2 of the comics industry, and this is where Wolverine and the X-Men steps in. A fourth animated adaptation of the X-Men characters, the show brings along a whole different team, and things start off with a bang, with a three-parter opening arc which puts the X-Men on the offensive from the get go and touches on various different areas of the X-Men universe. It is bold, it is ambitious, and based on the first three episodes it is also rather good.
Here we are, the mid-season finale of Arrow for its second season. Up until now, in almost each episode, we’ve seen how the writers, the producers, the actors and the directors and everybody else involved have all tried to push the bar and set new levels of achievement with the show. The season started off really well and as expected, the mid-season finale something of a smash-hit as well. The defining thing about this season has been the show’s willingness to take characters and concepts from the comics and reinvent them for a modern television audience who are looking for a balance between the goofy comic concepts and something that they can well relate to.
This week’s episode, the last one we’ll have since the show is now on a one-month break till January 15th, is the second of a 2-part arc which saw the introduction of Barry Allen aka The Flash, one of the core characters of the DC comics universe and a major hitter since he’s been a part of various Justice League teams since his intro. But things didn’t end there of course. Given the long break, the writers tie up a lot of the loose ends and give closure to quite a few subplots that had been running through the season so far. And they do it all in fantastic style. As I mentioned to various friends on Twitter, the last five minutes of the episode left me with my jaw hanging open.
Three Ghosts was a damn awesome episode and I seriously wish that all future episodes are this good.
Note: This review contains some minor spoilers about the episode, although your mileage may vary.
This is going to be a very short post. Just over 2 weeks ago I posted a review of the 50th Anniversary Special episode of BBC’s Doctor Who, one of the world’s longest running television shows. It was my first ever episode of Doctor Who and, in a nutshell, I quite enjoyed it.
This past weekend, I made plans with a couple of friends to do a podcast together and talk about our experiences. Paul (blogger extraordinaire for the Hugo-winning SF Signal) and Sally (chief editor of The Qwillery) are both far more experienced Whovians than me, and they’ve been watching the show for years. We had a really great discussion and I enjoyed chatting with them about the show and the episode in particular. Of course, I listened to these two get into the nuts and bolts of various things more than talking about it, but it was fantastic.
Always great to be able to discuss current shows with people.
Sally was kind enough to upload the audio file of our chat to SoundCloud and get that up and running. So here is the link (and here is Sally’s own write-up). Hope it is a lively discussion.