Supergirl S01E20 — Better Angels (or How to Make the End of the World Boring)

If you want to know both what is right and wrong with Supergirl then the season one finale is a great summary.  There's some great acting, some decent character moments and yet somehow the show manages to leech all of the drama out of what should have been a tense end of the world scenario. Every time the show sets up something interesting instead of building on it, it falls back on the most clichéd of clichés. When it's not doing the tedious love triangle stuff there's some good relationship and character work in Supergirl. But the credit for that goes almost entirely to the actors who do a remarkable …Read more  »

Daredevil Season 2

The second season of Marvel's Daredevil is not as strong as the first, but calling it a sophomore slump would not only be cliched, but overstating things. Much of what made the first season of the show enjoyable remains but there are some pacing and focus issues that mark things down a notch. The first four episodes of the season form what I have internally referred to as the first Punisher arc. While what happens here is built on later they do feel like a complete story that could have been told on its own. It's bleak and slow moving (particularly in the first episode) but narratively coherent. The Punisher …Read more  »

Review: The Expanse S01E05 — Back to the Butcher

If the latest episode of The Expanse doesn't have the level of tension that the previous one did, that does at least give the show a chance to do yet more world building and let its characters breathe a little. One of the biggest problems with this show for people who aren't familiar with the books is the amount of characters and locations and story that are being crammed into a mere 10 episode season. At the very least that can make it hard to keep everything straight. Up to now each episode has been packed with events and characters and stuff.  This week though if you just wrote down what …Read more  »

Review: The Shannara Chronicles S01E01 through S01E04

What do you get when you cross epic-fantasy heavily inspired by Tolkien with a post apocalyptic future and MTV? Apparently the answer is The Shannara Chronicles a series that is, based on the first four episodes, resolutely... okay. I mean it's just exactly what you would expect... I guess? It's not like it's bad... you know? By this point my ambivalence should be shining through and there are a few reasons for that. One is of course the fact that someone in their forties isn't in the prime demographic for MTV dramas. Another is that while I acknowledge their flaws I do have a soft spot for the first three Shannara books …Read more  »

Sherlock Christmas Special — The Abominable Bride

I'm not sure what exactly the expectations were for this year's Sherlock special The Abominable Bride. All the promotional material made it clear than unlike the regular series it was going to be set in the Victorian era and thus just a stand alone stocking-stuffer. And that's how it proceeded for let's say the first 60 minutes of its running time (I didn't use a stopwatch I may be off by 3 seconds). At which point it got, complicated. Okay let's step back. Opening with a "previously on" was an interesting technique that actually worked really well because it gave the audience an easy way to compare and contrast modern Sherlock with this Victorian …Read more  »

TV Review — The Expanse S01E04 — CQB

2015 has seen the rise and rise of serialized storytelling on tv. It's a trend that has been growing slowly for years but particularly with the likes of Netflix and Amazon it is coming into its own. While The Expanse is on a traditional cable tv channel it's very much serialized rather than episodic in nature. Hardly surprising perhaps given it seems to be a very faithful adaptation of the source material (a series of scifi books). There's a lot to like about serialized storytelling not least of which is the ability to go unexpected places. In episodic tv you set up your "home locations" early on and keep returning to …Read more  »

TV Review: Colony S01E01 — Pilot

I am predisposed to like science fiction shows so it's probably not a good sign when part way through the pilot of USA Network's new show Colony I found my attention drifting away from the screen and over to my laptop. It's not that it was boring so much as that I just didn't care about what was happening to the people on my screen. I guess the opening sequence which subtly revealed the status quo of the world (it's been invaded by aliens, spoilers!) through the lens of a family just going about doing it's normal morning routine should probably have been a clue about the sort of show this …Read more  »

Doctor Who S09E11 — Heaven Sent

Well if this isn't just the most Moffaty of Steven Moffat episodes. In many ways it epitomizes what Steven Moffat brings to Doctor Who, both the good and the bad. Heaven Sent is the much heralded Doctor on his own episode with a promised huge cliffhanger. And, based on the online commentary at least, it has proved to be very popular episode. Which surprises me because as I said it's a very Moffat episode and not just the stuff everyone likes but the things people have been complaining about for several seasons now. Plus the cliffhanger really isn't anything to write home about. Peter Capaldi If you're compiling a list of …Read more  »

TV Review: The Expanse S01E01 — Dulcinea

Those of you lamenting the lack of space based science fiction on tv should be very pleased about SyFy's latest series The Expanse which is adapted from a series of books by James S. A. Corey (actually a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) because we're firmly in Space Opera territory here. While the story is set within our solar system we're looking at a (partially) terraformed Mars and assorted space stations. The reason you don't see shows like this on TV very much is that even with modern CGI, doing them convincingly is expensive. People have become so used to movie style special effects that they are not at …Read more  »

Doctor Who S09E10 — Face the Raven

I'm always a bit reluctant to rank Doctors or seasons of the show but I will say that season 9 is one of my favorites. The stories haven't been perfect, they never are, but I've loved the slower pacing and the variety on offer. There's really only been one clunker in my book and fortunately Face the Raven wasn't it. Generally I prefer two part stories because it gives things more time to breathe, but in this case the pacing was just fine. Yes, you could argue that this is really part 1 of a three parter, but you would be wrong. This is a stand alone story with a …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S01E01 — S01E03

While DC comics basically owns network tv adaptations of comic book characters, Marvel Comics has been setting out to do something radically different with its Netflix series. Daredevil set a very high bar giving is a dark exploration of  a street level vigilante. Marvel's Jessica Jones  is even darker and quite possibly better. I say that having only watched the first three episodes of the series so far, but the quality is immediately apparent. While Daredevil showed us the blood and violence that the inhabitants of Hells Kitchen were exposed to Jessica Jones is a much more personal exploration. The violence here is as much emotional as it is physical. Strong Female Character If ever …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: S09E02 — The Witch’s Familiar

Episode 2 is even better than episode 1 (which I enjoyed a lot). I'm pretty sure a lot of the people who haven't liked the direction Who has gone in for the last few seasons still won't like it though. The show isn't offering methodical, fill in all the gaps type of stories. It takes jumps and expects you to accept it (like the cuppa). Nor is it offering up sciencey science fiction. In all honesty it rarely did, but it has fully embraced bombastic movie blockbuster fantasy in stylings in recent years. The Titles, They Mean Something So last week Clara was the Magician's Apprentice and this week she …Read more  »

TV Review: Minority Report — S01E01 — Pilot

If you want a one sentence review of Minority Report then here it is: Entirely adequate. In fact the pilot episode of Minority Report is exactly what you would expect from a broadcast network tv show in 2015 and not one bit more than that. There are hints of an ongoing story-arc; there's a pleasantly racially diverse cast; there's a "strong female protagonist" and it's shot like a mini-movie. None of these are bad things by the way it's just that it all came across as terribly predictable. It's competent enough but we've seen it all before right down to that final moment reveal that "something bad" is coming. This is TV …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: S09E01 — The Magician’s Apprentice

Don't spend too long thinking about the title, its significance is likely not that great and besides you'll need to concentrate to catch everything that's going on in this episode. Despite being the return of two-parters (something I am terribly happy about)  there is no noticeable slowing of Doctor Who's break-neck pace here. If anything Moffat goes overboard in scattering ideas that could probably have sustained an entire episode in their own right only to sweep them aside and move on. But that's a minor criticism for what is not only a very enjoyable but also dense (in plot and character) episode of Doctor Who. And there's so much to like that …Read more  »

Star Trek: Renegades Review

There is a long tradition of Star Trek fan productions and over the years the drive to come closer and closer to production quality has been impressive. While I've seen a lot of Star Trek over the years I wouldn't designate myself as a fan of the show specifically. In truth I actually prefer the recent movies to any of the previous or the tv output. So I may not be the best judge of what makes a great Star Trek story for a Star Trek fan, but I think I can speak for the more casual viewer. While most of the fan productions I'm aware of have focused on recreating …Read more  »

TV Review: Sense8 S01E01 — S01E04

The modest goal of the latest Netflix Original Sense8 (created by the impressive teaming of the Wachowski's an J. Michael Straczynski) was to reinvent the television series. So if nothing else this show is shooting for the moon and while the landing isn't smooth, but I think they at least made orbit. The high concept of Sense8 isn't radically different to other genre bending shows. Basically you've got a group of 8 individuals who are going about their lives when they are somehow gifted with the power to sense each other, talk to each other and utilize each other's skills. There's also an evil (I'm assuming) group lead by a …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E09 through S01E13

This review is going to be a little different to my usual style. Normally I keep it pretty light on the spoilers and talk in generalities. In this case though I'm reviewing the last 5 episodes of Daredevil season 1 and I've posted two previous reviews. You already know I like it and think you should watch it. Let's talk specifics. The Origin of The Kingpin While we do get most of the elements of Daredevil's origin revealed to us over the course of the season, the show isn't really telling his origin. Matt Murdock has already decided he wants to be Daredevil and how he wants to behave.  Yes …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E05 — S01E08

So in my initial review of Marvel's Daredevil (because all Marvel tv shows apparently must be called Marvel's xxx) I think I made it pretty clear that I was really enjoying the show. If you're looking for a synopsis of this review it would be: Still enjoying it! But the show is evolving and I think I have some additional thoughts to offer on it, so this won't simply be a recap of the episode nor a repeat of my last review. What Happened to the Lawyering? In the first couple of episodes Daredevil leant on some familiar tropes to establish the setting and the type of show it was …Read more  »

TV Review: Daredevil S01E01 through S01E04

My plan was to watch and review the first three episodes of Netflix' new original show, and the first fruits of their partnership with Marvel,  Daredevil.  When I finished the third episode though I immediately started watching the fourth and that should tell you how much I'm enjoying the series. The show is very good but it isn't perfect. However, Netflix and Marvel are doing so much right here that most of my criticisms feel like nitpicks. Daredevil isn't nearly as well known to the general public as many other superheroes and what they do know about him is "that terrible movie with Ben Affleck" so Marvel and Netflix faced a …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: The Moonbase

The second outing for perennial Doctor Who villains the Cybermen and Patrick Troughton's first meeting with them is a less than thrilling affair. Even allowing for the much slower pace of a all the 60s Doctor Who there's still something particularly stagey about this adventure. Moonbase uses the base-in-peril format that was the template for this period of Doctor Who, but unfortunately the slow pace really undermines the tension that they are trying to build. An awful lot of time is spent talking to each other and explaining things that are mostly fairly obvious anyway. Slow, Very Slow [amazon template=image&asin=B00C6ACWLC]At this point in Doctor Who's history they are still paying …Read more  »

TV Review: Constantine

Thirteen episodes and that is likely all you get for Constantine. Officially it hasn't been cancelled yet, but the odds are piled up so high against it, you'd be better to assume it was and avoid disappointment. So what went wrong? John Constantine is a DC Comics character perhaps best known for the long running Hellblazer comic and that's certainly where the tv show took most of its tonal inputs from. Which is slightly odd since Hellblazer was actually cancelled two years ago and replaced by a more mainstream version of the title, tied into the DC superhero universe. And it's that more recent version that informs the setting of the …Read more  »

TV Review: The Man In The High Castle

Amazon's streaming video service was long regarded as an also-ran behind Netflix and even Hulu.  Their efforts to broaden appeal by producing original pilots (and taking some to series) was met mostly with apathy until last year. The success of Transparent changed things. It showed that Amazon could produce the same sort of quality material that Netflix and HBO do. So when I heard they were going to do a series based on Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle, I had to check it out, even though I dislike their interface and don't have a device that will Stream Amazon Instant to tv. And having watched it, …Read more  »

TV Review: Agent Carter

Two episodes into Marvel's latest TV venture Agent Carter I feel like I have a good enough grasp on the series to pronounce it great. It's not important or worthy tv. It's not pushing the boundaries or remaking tv drama in any way. But it is wonderfully fun, and that's what I want from a tv series. It's basically a glorious mixture of pulp, noir, comic books detective fiction and James Bond influences. The Feminist Agenda By setting Agent Carter in the post war period, the show gets to have its cake and eat it. On the one hand they get to show Peggy Carter as both an extremely capable agent …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: 2014 Christmas Special — Last Christmas

The 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special was flawed by the need to resolve so many plot elements and give Matt Smith a swansong and to try and make it Christmassy as well. That's probably too many things for one special to achieve. This time out, it just had to be Christmassy. That's actually a Moffat thing. The earlier Christmas specials were only very loosely tied to Christmas, but Moffat likes to really hammer home the holiday vibe. I get it, but it's probably unnecessarily limiting. In this case however, putting Santa Claus into a Doctor Who episode is a stroke of genius. Wait, Santa? It could have gone hideously wrong …Read more  »

TV Review: Gotham S01E09 — Harvey Dent

It's been a while since I checked into Gotham with a review, but I have been watching it every week. The show is more compelling than I would have predicted from the first episode. Why review this particular episode? Well it is called Harvey Dent. And that should catch the attention of anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the Batman mythos. Gotham's biggest strength so far has been its cast of actors.  Whether it's Ben McKenzie as the earnest Jim Gordon, Robin Lord Taylor as a perfectly cast Penguin or Donal Logue as a lovably slovenly Harvey Bullock, this is a cast that makes the most of everything …Read more  »