Stranger Things Season 2 Review

**WARNING: Full Spoilers Below**

When we open on season two of Stranger Things it’s a year later. Everyone is still trying to move on from the events of last season. Mike can’t get over Eleven, the Byers family is still trying to get passed what happened to Will, and for whatever reason, Nancy is still dealing with the death of Barb.

It’s because of this that the first several episodes of Stranger Things feel like an epilogue to the first season. Showing us how people have tried to move on, but failing to set up what’s going to happen in this new season. In fact, several characters get stuck in that rut for almost the entire season.

Mike for instance, doesn’t do much except whine about missing Eleven and being a brat to the new girl, Max. When he isn’t doing that, he’s being sidelined by staying near Will for several episodes. It isn’t until the last two episodes that he finds something interesting to do and contributes to the story in a meaningful way.

Which brings us to Will. Will was a mcguffin in the first season, the reason the story was happening in the first place. Now that he’s safe and back in Hawkins, you’d imagine they’d give the character room to grow. Instead Will is back where he started: a plot device. Save for a few lines of a dialogue in the first two episodes, Will does nothing but scream a whole lot. And by a lot, I mean entire episodes. By the last two episodes, Will is literally tied to a chair, a bed (twice).

Mike and Will aren’t the only characters given nothing to do for the majority of the season. Will’s mother, Joyce, continues over worrying about Will. I wish the Duffer brothers would allow Winona Ryder to make any other expression than that ridiculous wide eyed worried look that’s stuck to her face until the very ending of the show. At the very least they introduced Bob into her life (played by Sean Austin), one of a few new characters this season. Unfortunately their storyline doesn’t really go anywhere.

There was drama to be mined with Bob. How do the kids feel about their mother dating someone new? How do they feel about potentially having a stepfather? What about everything that’s gone on in the past year, how do they explain that to him? All of this is sidestepped in favor of Will Byers’ screaming. And while Bob isn’t given any room to grow as a character, he lends himself to the plot fairly well. In other words, he becomes useful as soon as its convenient and then is immediately disposed of. At least he was likeable, I guess.

Billy, older brother of Max and one of the other new characters, serves even less of a purpose than Bob does. He’s your cliche high school bully, who couldn’t give a crap about anyone else but himself. The issue is that we’re stuck with Billy being an asshole to anyone and everyone he comes across until he’s knocked unconscious by his sister. The only interesting scene he’s given is when he nearly seduces Nancy’s mother, not that it serves any purpose for either character, it’s just a fun gag.

Max is the only new character who is given a proper arc and given some real character development to work with. She’s fierce, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap. But she’s also alone, and doesn’t trust easily. Yet over the course of Stranger Things’ nine episodes, she learns to becomes one of the party members, and her growing relationship with Lucas is one of this season’s highlights.

The other two kids of the party, Lucas and Dustin, are given much more room to grow and contribute. Lucas finds himself steadily falling for Max, while grappling with the fact that this friend Dustin also has feelings for. The two have great chemistry and it makes for the fact that they sidelined Lucas for a few episodes last season.

Dustin, meanwhile, finds himself a little pet that manages to be something more dangerous than he could imagine. It’s this storyline that brings Steve and Dustin together in what can only be a match made in heaven. Who would have thought that these two could play off one another so well? It’s a shame that it took the show five episodes to get there.

“It’s a shame it took five episodes to get there” could be the motto of this season. Most of the story – and characters – are stuck milling around, inching closer and closer to what’s actually going on. This glacial pace would be fine if it meant we’d learn more about the characters. But most of them are stuck in place, unable to start their new arcs until almost halfway through the season.

There’s also a lack of focus. Last year, everyone was focused on one thing: looking for Will Myers. It wasn’t long before almost everyone was on the same page. This year everyone is off doing their own thing, without real knowledge of how it all ties together.

It doesn’t help that there isn’t a real villain this season. Last year we had the monster, but we also had the government scientist played by Matthew Modine. He was a presence of mystery and conflict. A human element that we could see as the antagonist. The monster itself was imposing and constituted a real threat whenever it appeared. So much so that Eleven nearly sacrificed herself in order to kill it.

Yet this year we’re stuck with the smoke monster from Lost. It isn’t until the eighth episode that we’re given some look into its motivation, but it never appears to us in the way the demigorgan did in the first season. Instead we’re stuck a herd of a demidogs (as Dustin calls them) which is not only silly looking, but kind of downplays the level of fear everyone felt from one in the first season.

This doesn’t mean it’s all bad though. Hopper’s storyline with Eleven is a direction I didn’t expect this season to take. He’s trying his best to keep her safe while also teaching her how to be a real kid. It’s tough, and it certainly isn’t easy, especially when your kid has psychic abilities. But there’s a real warmth there, which is explored until the very end, when Eleven – whose real name is Jane – officially adopted by Hopper.

Nancy and Jonathan finally stop playing around, which means, I hope, that the love triangle between them and Steve is over. Especially given that Steve spent the latter half of the season being Dad of the Nerds instead of hanging with Nancy like he did last year. It’s a more natural direction for both characters and I appreciate that the writers found something better for them to do.

Then there’s episode 7. If you’ve been anywhere on the internet you’ve no doubt heard of the seventh episode of Stranger Things being a “controversial” episode. In reality it’s what’s called a “break away” episode. Where we break away from the main plot in order to spend time somewhere else, doing something else. In this case, it’s getting back story on Eleven and her cellmate when she was a child.

The episode itself was fine. It’s nothing special. In fact, the most frustrating thing is its placement in the season. It could have very easily switched with episode six, allowing a clearer flow of action and drama. Episode six is exciting and thrilling, but that’s all tempered when we put it all on hold to watch Eleven try to discover herself.

What’s even more frustrating is that she doesn’t learn all that much. All she discovers is a “punk” sense of fashion (and I’m being generous here), and that maybe she doesn’t have the heart to kill like she thought she did. This episode could have easily been inter cut with the stuff going on in Hawkins and kept the momentum that started up in episode six.

While the first five episodes are kind of a slog, the action really picks up in episode six, and then again in episodes eight and nine. It’s here that Stranger Things begins to feel like itself again. The action swells and as a third act, it’s one of the best in television. The characters reconnect and their reunion is touching. To call some of these moments heartwarming would be an understatement. The ending is especially sweet, and will make you smile while – possibly – holding back tears.

Overall, the second season of Stranger Things is full of really low lows, and then comes back around to deliver some of the highest highs we’ve seen in both seasons. I just wish that there had maybe been an episode cut and things sized down so that there was a clearer flow and better pacing. It feels like a show that spends its first half in act one and them immediately jumps into the third act. It’s awkward and considering how well the first season was done, a bit of a disappointment.

If the question is, are the highest highs better than the lowest lows, I’d say yes. Maybe that’s all that matters.

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Mindhunter Season 1 Review

**Minor spoilers ahead**When you start Mindhunter and you see the grim opening sequence beside the name David Fincher, you might think that this is going to be similar to his other work. It’s possible, you wonder, that this draws influence from movies like Se7en and Zodiac. Mindhunter starts off like it might be dark tale about the discovery of the psychology behind serial killers and how the definition came to be.

Mindhunter is nothing like this. After an interesting opening scene, it dives head first into the minutia of the FBI. How they work, why they work, and why they’re such stubborn assholes when it comes to learning new things. If nothing else, you’ll come to understand why our government works at a snail’s pace.

In case you’re unaware of Mindhunter and what it’s about it. It takes place in the 1970’s as a pair of FBI agents and a professor in psychology work together in order to identify and classify why serial killers do what they do. Essentially, it’s the beginnings of behavioral psychology and profiling in the FBI. It is in many ways, based on true stories from FBI agent John E. Douglas.

The main character, Holden Ford (played by Jonathan Groff), is nothing short of a wet fart. He wears a suit everywhere he goes, always looks confused, and is desperate to be special. It’s kind of sad to watch at first, but the show never tries very hard to make you root for him. I couldn’t stand Holden at the beginning of the show, and over the course of the show I liked him even less. What was once a meek little man became a little man with a whole load of arrogance. His arc is nothing more than frustrating. There are ways to make the audience love and hate your main character – it’s why people love antiheroes. Holden isn’t an antihero though, he’s just an asshole.

The other main characters fair a little bit better than Holden does. Holt McCallaney plays Holden’s partner, Bill Tench, a more hardened agent who really just wants to play a lot of golf. His gruff attitude is a nice anchor to Holden’s bewilderment at everything he sees. Most of the time I couldn’t help but feel like Tench was supposed to be the audience in a sense, chiding Holden whenever possible because he’s so insufferable.

Anna Torv plays their psychologist consultant, Wendy Carr. At first Wendy is a breath of fresh air, someone who provides a nice balance of professionalism to the FBI agents. Unfortunately as the show goes on, she’s given less and less to do except sit in her office and scowl at Holden’s mistakes.

Also – for whatever reason – each of the characters are given subplots about their lives outside of the FBI. Holden’s involves a girlfriend (Hannah Gross), Tench’s is about his family, and Wendy’s is about… a cat?

It doesn’t help that Hannah Gross can’t seem to emote more than a general scowl and her tone never breaks from bored indifference. This subplot runs all ten episodes and peaks in about episode seven in a scene involving a shoe. Despite that, it continues for three more episodes, dragging the audience along for slowest ride of them all.

Wendy’s story starts out rather strong. We discover that she’s gay, dating a coworker, and is forced to hide her true self from everyone around her. But then the series moves her to the FBI headquarters, and gives us scenes where she tries to feed a cat with a can of tuna. If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the rest of the series, you’re not alone.

Bill Tench is the only main character with a worthwhile story. He and his wife just adopted a son, and Bill is struggling to balance his work and home life. This is made worse by the fact that their son refuses to talk to them and they simply cannot figure out why. Bill is really the only sympathetic character in the entire show and I appreciate the lengths they went to humanize his struggles.

Like most crime shows nowadays, Mindhunter falls into the trap of having its killers be the most interesting part about it. Perhaps its unavoidable, in a way. But I found that shows like Hannibal were able to balance both their killers and their cops in a way that made them both interesting to watch.

Mindhunter on the other hand, revels in its killers. From Ed Kemper to Richard Speck, Mindhunter’s best scenes are when it lets its killers talk. Each of the four killers the FBI interviews steal their scenes, making them the highlight of the show. In fact, I’d say that the scene with Richard Speck is the best scene in the entire show.

If you were going into Mindhunter expecting another great David Fincher story about serial killers, you won’t find one here. Mindhunter revels in its slog and threatens to bore you to tears before you manage to get to anything interesting. But when it does present something interesting, its around just long enough to convince you that this show could be something. Then it’s several hours more of watching these characters that don’t matter. In terms of Netflix originals, there are better ways you could be spending your time. In terms of David Fincher projects, just go back and watch Se7en or something.

Word Vomit: Person of Interest

It’s always weird when a television show, book series, movie series, or even video game series, comes to an end. Despite not being real in the sense that those events “happened” or that those characters are “real people”, there’s still a sense of loss that fills me when a long running series reaches its end.

Today I feel that way because 6/22/16 was the day the last episode of Person of Interest aired. The show ran for five years, starting in the fall of 2011. In that time it had grown from a police procedural with a sci-fi twist to something of a prequel to Terminator. That might not make much sense to those who don’t watch the show, but Person of Interest grew and evolved as a television show more in five years than most other shows.

It was a show of quality. It wasn’t perfect (what show is?), but it had great characters, a wonderfully sinister score, and told a great story. But that’s all over now. So part of me mourns the show. Those characters will never be heard from again. They’re no longer a part of my life.

It’s a strange feeling, mourning the loss of the nonexistent. These people weren’t real. They weren’t my friends, and we didn’t have any kind of relationship. But yet here I am, typing of this post as a way to process the end of this show I enjoyed for five years. I felt the same way when the Harry Potter movies ended, or when shows like Smallville ended, which had been around for ten years. That’s a long time to devote and invest to a set of places, characters, and events.

And perhaps the word “invest” is the key here? We put so much of ourselves into the entertainment we watch that when it ends we feel like a part of ourselves is gone. It’s why we’re sad when a favorite character dies, or yell at the screen when a pairing we enjoy isn’t working out. It can get extreme at times, but I think it also holds true for the end of a show. It’s done, and it’s never coming back. In that way it’s a weird representation of death, I suppose.

Sure we can go back and rewatch or reread or replay that which we miss, but it isn’t the same. The feeling of experiencing it as its happening for the first time, not knowing what’s going to happen, that’s part of the investment, and going back is a hollow attempt at recreating that experience.

Anyways, that’s my piece. This happens every time something ends and I feel this way. I guess this time I decided to word vomit in an attempt to process it. Thanks for “listening”. 🙂

Stitchers: The Next Eureka or Warehouse 13?

So far only two episodes of Stichers have aired, but I’ve decided that there are some thoughts worth putting to paper.

The show, for those unaware Stichers is a show about a secret government organization that has developed the technology to “stitch” into the memories of a dead person. Then they can investigate what happened to them before they died.

It’s a very inception-like concept and so there’s a tiny bit of sci-fi infused in what is more or less a normal crime show. They follow clues, arrest bad guys, and occasionally there are little pieces that relate to the overarching story.

There are a couple of things that might draw people to show. First off, if you were a fan of either Eureka or Warehouse 13 (or both, like I was), you’ll be pleased to see Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Allison Scagliotti as regular cast members. Neither is playing a character similar to their roles on Eureka and Warehouse 13 respectively, but it’s fun to see them both on a somewhat sci-fi like show together.

Like most of the crime shows on TV nowadays, there’s that special someone with abilities no one else possesses. Enter Kristen Clark – played by fashion model Emma Ishta – who has a fictitious condition called temporal dysplasia. Apparently it’s a thing where you cannot feel the passage of time, and because of that she fails to form any kind of connections with human beings. Emotions come and go fairly instantly. Therefore, she’s something of an antisocial, probably on the verge of being a sociopath.

Emma_IshtaKristen comes off as fairly unlikeable in most of the pilot. Like most of the other “consulting detectives” in the genre, her attractiveness is meant to offset the fact that most people would have smacked her for half the things she says (as examples, look at Sherlock, The Mentalist, Castle, and half the other shows that will be airing in the fall).

The other characters aren’t amazing either. Kyle Harris’ Cameron comes off as something of a Shawn Spencer-lite. Trying to deadpan and one liner his way through the script. It’s a little irritating and I hope that it’ll soften as time goes on. I also desperately hope that the writers don’t go the cliche route and put Cameron and Kristen together. But it is an ABC Family show, so that seems like the most likely option.

At the same time, the show is also going against convention. Damon Dayoub plays Detective Fisher, a cop who thinks something is up with Kristen and is determined to find out. Instead of spending seasons avoiding him and sending him off the scent, he just joins the program at the end of the second episode. That’s a turn of events I can certainly appreciate. I hope that the show continues to circumvent expectations in that way.

The other characters are still window dressing at the moment. Many of them have similar one-liners to Cameron, so there’s very little distinguishing them at the moment. Granted, we’ve only gone through two episodes so far. There’s still plenty of room to grow. The concept is fairly interesting and the actresses they have on the show are worth paying attention to. So if the quality continues to improve throughout the first season, Stitchers will be a fun show along the lines of Eureka or Warehouse 13.

We Need To Talk About Gotham

Comic books are in. Not just in the movie sphere, but in the television world as well. Between Marvel and DC alone there are roughly seven shows on air that spawned from comic books. DC itself currently has three shows on the air, with two more on the way (possibly more if things like Teen Titans get greenlit). So it’s natural that with so many properties being adapted that one of them would fall short of the mark. The problem with Gotham, is that it doesn’t even seem to be trying.

Now, traditional essay writing suggests that I should present you with a thesis. So in honor of that, my thesis is as such: Gotham is aimless. It’s lacking a sense of purpose and because of it, the show has no idea what it wants to be. If the show continues on like this, it will crash and burn and become something of a regretful notch in the history of comic book television.

And here is the evidence. To start, we’ll go all the way back to the beginning. Now I understand that pilots are usually rough. The writers have no choice but to cram introductions of the world, and every major character into roughly forty-two minutes of air time. That’s not an easy thing to do. So I can forgive that.

The bigger issues arose in the next few episodes. For whatever reason the writers felt like beating viewers over the head with how the characters felt about the world. For example, Gordon would nonstop reiterate to Bullock that he was a cop and needed to uphold the law. Meanwhile, Bullock would always tell Gordon that he needed to “get with the program” and follow the corruption like anyone else, lest he get eaten alive. We established this relationship pretty quickly in the first episode, there was very little need to remind us of it several times per episode. Not only did this prevent actual progress from happening, it makes the viewers feel stupid because the show isn’t treating them like people who can understand basic motivations. Thankfully this was a problem the show corrected eventually, but it took way longer than it should have.

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There’s also the fact that several characters in the show exist without purpose. It’s bound to happen in a show that has a ton of characters (like Lost for instance). It gets difficult to keep track and assign everyone a worthwhile plot line. But Gotham doesn’t have a ton of characters like Lost does. It has roughly the same amount of “main characters” as a show like Arrow or The Flash.

Let’s take Barbara Gordon for instance. Initially the character was supposed to be someone who was there to support Gordon and be his light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. But through Gordon’s inability to socialize and Barbara’s stubborness, the whole thing falls apart. Now if the show’s goal was to portray how Gotham is tearing people apart and “sucking the life” out of Gordon, then great. You showed that.

But then they kept the character around. She floated from place to place, random event to random event and thus far has yet to show any sort of development or relation to the plot. Mind you, at the time of this writing there are only four episodes in the season left. So if they plan on taking her anywhere, they’ll have to do it fast.

Barbara Gordon isn’t the only character this has happened with. Characters like Catwoman initially show promise and a relation to the “overarching plot” of the season (I use quotes because saying the season has a focused plot is a bit of an overstatement). Even Fish Mooney, who for the longest time was the closest thing the season had to a main antagonist. But her arc came to a swift end in the middle of the season. So now she’s just bumbling about Dollmaker’s mansion until the end of the season where her character will be off the show. If you never planned on the character going anywhere after their initial arc, why keep them around? You’re just asking for the viewers to think about why this character is still on their TV.

Yet other characters, like the Riddler, have literally no focus or storyline associated with them. So far the Riddler has existed only to be weird. Sure, the fact that the other characters make fun of him and he has this girl that occasionally thinks he’s weird (or doesn’t, depending on the episode) no doubt plays into his eventual turn into a villain. But that isn’t story. It’s a collection of random moments. Even worse, the Riddler only factors into the story of other characters when he’s needed. So he’s literally a walking plot device that occasionally makes everyone around him uncomfortable.

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To step away from characters for a bit, the overall season’s plot of Gotham is nonexistent. Most shows – even procedural cop shows and whatnot – have a story that they’ll touch on throughout the season, culminating in a large and important season finale. Gotham has none of that. The initial arc of the season involved the brewing mob war between Fish Mooney and Don Falcone. But as stated above, that storyline came to an end in the middle of season. Now characters like the Penguin are left with nothing to do.

Instead the show fills its time with random episodes with throwaway villains. Even the ones that do touch on famous Batman villains (such as Scarecrow) leave you wanting. Why have a two-parter dedicated to the “origins” of Scarecrow when you could have made him a more interesting character later in the show. Are we to assume that those two episodes were all it took before he became Batman’s enemy? Gotham doesn’t do a good job of leaving the doors open for the return of characters such as these. If the show keeps on this pace, they’ll run out of interesting villains in no time.

Speaking of interesting characters, the show committed a cardinal sin a few episodes ago in attempting to introduce to kid who would eventually become the Joker. If you want a lesson in how not to be subtle, this episode is worth a look. Not only is the Joker’s father a man known as Cicero, he grew up in a circus, and before the end of the episode the kid is laughing like a psychopath. Where is the origin in that? He’s practically already the Joker! He’s just missing a little make up and the gun that goes BANG!

Look at this ridiculous punk.
Look at this ridiculous punk.

And while I’m of the mind that the Joker is best left anonymous, there have been attempts to give him and origin of sorts, like Batman ’89 and such. That’s fine, but this isn’t the beginning of the Joker we saw. This kid was already the Joker. And frankly, that’s a bit boring to watch. If this show is supposed to be about the slow descent all these people go through into becoming villains, then maybe don’t start them off with one foot off the deep end already.

If the show just had something even close to a seasonal arc, then the show would feel like it had a lot more purpose to it. But right now there’s no telling where it will go. What kind of end game is there? I suppose the obvious answer is that Bruce Wayne will be Batman. But the show – supposedly – is supposed to be about Jim Gordon. And unfortunately it’s terribly hard to care about him and his struggles in Gotham City. The obstacles he faces are so random and out of the blue – like being transferred to Arkham Asylum for two episodes – that they fail to make any sort of imprint

Now all of this isn’t to say that Gotham hasn’t done a few things right. You have noticed that there are a few main characters I haven’t touched on yet. Namely, Bruce Wayne. And while I think children are super annoying on television, they’ve done a pretty decent job on making him interesting. The story about his search into his parents death is interesting, mostly because it doesn’t seem to follow the comics in any way. Their original approach to his parent’s death is one of the few things that works.

They’ve also taken what seems like a good deal of inspiration from Batman: Earth One when developing Alfred’s character. It’s a refreshing take on the butler, one that I hope will continue to make a difference in the show’s quality.

Then there’s Detective Bullock. He isn’t one of the show’s most developed characters, but he’s consistent, which is more than I can say for some of the other characters on the show. He delivers a great deal of humor and after the first six episodes or so you can see a real friendship developing between him and Gordon.

Lastly, there’s the Penguin. It’s very telling that one of the most made fun of villains in Batman’s history is currently the best character on the show. With some glaring exceptions, the character has remained on the most consistent path. His rise to power and working his way through the city’s inner workings has been fun to watch. The only problem is that he was hitched the Fish Mooney storyline. So once her purpose came to an end, so did his. There seem to be some hints of what’s coming for Penguin, with him striking a deal with Gordon, but for now he’s in a weird stasis. So for now we’re left watching the man we’ve seen have tons of street smarts and be relatively ruthless bumble around a club, making an ass of himself.

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You might be wondering where the main character of the show, James Gordon fits into all this. The truth is, Gordon still isn’t much of a character. He’s a decent bit ahead of where he was at the beginning of the season, constantly repeating his mantra about cleaning up the city and resisting corruption. But aside from that he’s more of a cipher through which we see all these other characters. The most interesting bits are when Gordon does take that brief step into the dark side. Moments when he works with Penguin and realizes just how easy it would be to reach his goals if he were to just take that final step are great. They’re little bits of character study that I wish the show would explore more.

How does the show fix all these issues you might ask? Well it’s actually very simple. The show simply needs a purpose. Each season needs that storyline in which all the characters are linked to. Shows like Arrow and Flash do this very well. Even from the first episode, you realize where things are headed. That way you’re not left wondering why this episode happened or where into some puzzle it fits. In Gotham’s case there isn’t even a puzzle, just a random assortment of pieces that don’t fit together at all. If there’s a through line to the entire season, then there will be purpose for each character that relates to that season’s current plot. Then you won’t have these extra limbs that don’t do anything and make you wonder why they were there in the first place.

And while it may be difficult to think of villains that are old enough, or developed enough to be a consistent threat for a season, it’s actually the opposite. The show managed to do it this season for the first half. They just need to look a little harder. Take the Court of Owls storyline for example. They’re a secret society that consisted of Gotham’s wealthiest and occult obsessed. They were also around since the founding of Gotham, so long before Batman became Batman. It sounds like the perfect fit for Gotham to tackle.

If the writers are feeling really desperate, there’s always the time jump. Move everyone along their story by five years or so. That way we’ve skipped all the boring stuff and can start fresh from a new point of interest. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s an option worth exploring.

Gotham has a lot of potential. It has one a collection of some of the richest characters in comic book history. But so far it’s squandering all of them. If the show doesn’t fix itself up, it’s hard to imagine it being on air for much longer. And unfortunately for the show’s sake, the man behind the whee, Bruno Heller, is probably the last person you want. This is the man who created a six-season long villain Red John without figuring out his identity first. He just kind of made it up on the spot when it came time to end that story. So if you’re looking for a reason behind all the trouble the show is in, there’s why.

Halt and Catch Fire

Over the past couple of days I took the time to go through all the television shows I watch and want to watch over the summer. It’s a long list that clocked in at around 19 shows. Whether or not I can accomplish all this, I don’t know. Some of the shows are currently airing – such as 24 and Game of Thrones – but others are some I have catch up on by myself – like Warehouse 13 and Orphan Black.

One of the shows that caught my eye while running through summer shows was Halt and Catch Fire. According to the AMC synopsis it’s “Set in the early 1980s, series dramatizes the personal computing boom through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas’ Silicon Prairie.”

The pilot is available for free on YouTube (and posted at the bottom of this post) and I highly recommend everyone check it out. The pilot itself is really fun and I love stories about a group of people coming together to try and change the world. This time it’s with computers and that makes it even better. The show reeks of nostalgia and pop culture references that anyone who grew up in that time will appreciate.

The performances are pretty great too. I don’t know much of Lee Pace, but he does a pretty good job with the main character thus far. Scott McNairy and Mackenzie Davis bring in the supporting roles. Both play fairly interesting characters, though  Mackenzie Davis only has a few scenes to shine in during the pilot.

The show will only run ten episodes in its first season so I expect a fully serialized story with no fluff. AMC seems to grasp the concept that shorter seasons make for better storytelling overall. I only hope that people will check out the show and make it worth bringing back.

If you’re a fan of a simpler time with computers and arcades, along with a heap of 80’s nostalgia I would highly recommend you check out the pilot below.

The Future of SHIELD

It’s assumed by now that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will get a second season. I have to imagine that if ratings don’t pick up, this season would be its last. The ratings have been ho-hum compared to the pilot, but those ratings are inflated. Most people watched that pilot out of curiosity, realized that Iron Man and Thor weren’t in it, and took off for the hills. The rest of us stuck around to see what they would do with the show. Since then we’ve seen the dissolution of SHIELD all due to the events in Captain America 2. By now the show only has two episodes left, so we’re all left to wonder, where will we go after?

There are two major possibilities. By the time that SHIELD’s second season comes to an end it will be just before Avengers: Age of Ultron is released. It’s fair to assume that the events of the second season of SHEILD will tie into that movie. The question is what do we do with all the remaining time?

Well Nick Fury is confirmed to be in the season finale. While we can assume that he’s there primarily to give Coulson answers, he might also be there to give them their new mission. That mission? Go to Europe and help take down the remaining Hydra installations. At the end of Captain America 2, Nick Fury mentioned that he was heading to Europe in order to take down any remaining Hydra bases while they were weak. At the same time, Baron Von Strucker – revealed in the post credits scene of Captain America 2 – revealed his desire to throw the remaining Hydra bases to the wolves in order to preserve their anonymity.

The second possibility isn’t as likely. The other theory is that Coulson will reform SHIELD as an underground intelligence agency. Perhaps bankrolled by Stark Industries? Since How I Met Your Mother has ended I would love to see Cobie Smulders join the show full time. It would be a great way of keeping the presence of the movies known in the show and give us someone to replace Ward. This would also allow them to take on a “Star Trek” persona, using the plane as their “Enterprise” going around, exploring the unknown and so on.

I would prefer the first option though simply because it gives the show a serialized approach. Once Captain America 2 was released SHIELD kicked into high gear, finally able to focus on a true goal. The Centipede angle was fine for the beginning, but there were several episodes that had nothing to do with that. The show needs something to focus on and the dissolution of Hydra would be an excellent goal.

We’ll know for certain over the course of the month whether SHIELD is actually getting renewed and no doubt get details on season two at San Diego Comic-Con. What do you guys think about the future of SHIELD? Is there a storyline you would like to see them tackle?

Is SHIELD Finally Where It Should Be?

*Spoilers Ahead for SHIELD and Captain America 2*

For the longest time, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had been struggling both creatively and ratings wise. While the latter is still an issue for the program, the former is finally finding its place. It took nearly the entire season though, and that’s something I’ve learned isn’t entirely the fault of the writers. Jeph Loeb (producer of SHIELD) told several interviewers that they were stuck in something of a holding pattern because they were waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be released. Now that the movie is out, the show can now deal with the fall out of those events.

Those events of course, are the infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra. What remains of SHIELD is at war and Coulson’s team are on the run from Colonel Talbot. At this time we also learned that one of Coulson’s own, Grant Ward, is a Hydra spy. Though how far he subscribes to their doctrine is unknown. He seems to be mostly tied to his SO: John Garrett. That’s fine, and it makes me glad that the writers decided not to go the brain-washing route. That would be such a TV trope and Whedon isn’t necessarily known for using those.

The greatest gift this show received from Captain America was a goal. The show’s plot is now focused on one thing: defeating Hydra while preserving what’s left of SHIELD. It’s something the show desperately needed. I admit that before Captain America they were focused on hunting the Clairvoyant. But that only came to a head a few episodes before Cap 2 debuted. Now the show has a larger, overarching goal to reach for. This will no doubt drive the show until its end in May. Perhaps their hunt for Hydra will continue on through season two, up until the second Avengers movie.

More importantly though, this goal has shaken up the characters. For so long everyone followed their predetermined mold. Many of the characters had the personality of paper dolls. Now everyone is a bit more varied and we’re finally getting some depth. This is SHIELD’s chance to build on this depth and deliver us characters we can engage with.

For now, I think it’s easy to look at SHIELD as a show worth watching. It’s somewhat disappointing it took this long to get there, but it wasn’t exactly the fault of the show. It’s a strange new thing when your show is directly tied to a movie franchise. This has never been done before so there will be roadblocks. As time goes on I have no doubt we’ll see smoother transitions and a better show overall. I simply hope that the ratings tick up so we’ll get to see that show.

 

The First Face This Face Saw

In 2010 came the end of the tenth Doctor. Everyone made a big uproar about it. Tears were shed, plates were smashed, teenage girls everywhere threatened to slit their wrists. And in the end, I couldn’t give a shit. I never liked Tennant as the Doctor. I didn’t really like the stories that were told and I thought most of his companions were rubbish (Rose especially). Doctor Who simply wasn’t the show for me.

Then I heard about Matt Smith and that a new showrunner was taking over. I figured, okay, if I wanted to jump on board now was the time. It was a clean break and a great spot to start watching the show. So I did. I’d always known that Doctor Who had a healthy amount of cheese attached to it, and with that in mind I enjoyed Smith’s first official episode as the Doctor. More importantly I fell head over heels in love with his companion, Amelia Pond. I have a thing for redheads – in case you didn’t know. She was one of the larger draws in my mind.

As time went on though I began to enjoy Smith as the Doctor. He was funny, charming, and overly silly. He could also be increasingly dark and even evil depending on the moment. That push and pull of his personality was so much fun to watch. I loved how adored the Doctor was and in a way I kind of envied him. In a time where I was suffering a great deal from depression and loneliness, the idea of having a space ship that could go anywhere and anytime was incredibly appealing.

There were other characters that joined the Doctor as well. Unfortunately I couldn’t stand most of them. River Song was interesting in the beginning, the allure of what she knew and the mystery. Alas, as time went and we learned more about her she became less and less interesting. It eventually came to the point where I loathed her appearances on the show. Thankfully it seems like her time is done and the show and we won’t have to listen to her spout catchphrases and half truths anymore.

Then there’s Rory. My biggest problem with Rory is that he was only created for the purpose of keeping Amy from falling in love with the Doctor – that and being a big wimp. That first part is fine, but he had no character otherwise. He just complained a lot and always had this sour expression on. It was a bit frustrating. It wasn’t until his father appeared on the show that we got some insight into Rory. But even that was short lived.

In the end it seemed that the only character who had some development was Amy. She learned to live without her imaginary friend and stop being a “child”. It resulted in a bittersweet ending that left me quite destroyed. It was very upsetting to see Amy leave the show. She felt like an integral part of the show, as important as Matt Smith even.

Then we got a new companion. We got Clara. Clara was the “impossible girl” who kept showing up wherever the Doctor was. Unfortunately the version of her that became the Doctor’s companion, her present day incarnation, was boring. Devoid of any personality, it was frustrating to watch her try and find her footing. It didn’t help that all the episodes were separate save for the occasional mention of Clara’s nature. It wasn’t until the Christmas special that I felt we actually started to get to know Clara as a character. I imagine that’s because her mystery was over and the writers had no choice but to actually create a character. My hope is that she will continue to grow under Capaldi’s Doctor.

During Smith’s run was the 50th anniversary of the show. The episode was spectacular by all accounts. I even enjoyed Tennant’s Doctor in this episode (perhaps because he didn’t have any companions). I also enjoyed Billie Piper’s return as the Bad Wolf if only because it meant she wasn’t coming back as Rose. The episode itself was a joy. It was a great mythology episode, tying together several years of Doctor Who lore and even giving us a “secret Doctor” in the form of John Hurt. While it’s sad that Eccleston didn’t return for the episode, I very much enjoyed Hurt’s Doctor. It’s a little sad that he was only here for the one episode and it’s doubtful he’ll ever return.

Then came the fateful Christmas episode. We learned months ago that Matt Smith would be regenerating into the newest Doctor at the end of the Christmas episode. It was something that haunted me for quite some time. The fact that my favorite Doctor would be regenerating was not something I was looking forward to. I remember watching the episode, filled with anxiety while waiting for the moment everything would change. It might sound dramatic but the show does change and evolve in tone whenever the Doctor changes actors. I’ll be curious to see how things change with Capaldi’s Doctor come August.

But the episode itself was… an interesting send off. What could have easily been a two-hour special was crammed into one hour. Due to that we had a lot of answers to series long mysteries given to us in a throwaway line. It was somewhat frustrating and the whole “town called Christmas” thing was eye roll worthy. But the emotional aspect of the performances and the writing were what captured my attention. It was impossible not to view this episode as something other than Smith’s farewell episode. Because of that the whole episode had this sad feeling to it.

Then it happened. As an old man Smith’s Doctor received a burst of regeneration energy from the Time Lords, allowing him to escape death once more. When Clara found him on the TARDIS, he was young again, but the process couldn’t be stopped. This happened with Tennant’s Doctor as well when he was going to regenerate. Despite being injured by nuclear levels of radiation, Tennant’s body healed itself, making him look fine for the time being. I couldn’t help but think of the way that people seem to get better just before the end. It adds just a touch more of sadness to everything.

The final moment was what took it all away though. My dearest hope for this episode was that the last person the Doctor saw before regenerating was the first person he saw: Amelia Pond. I know it was all fanservice and stuff, but it truly was a perfect moment.

And so I bid farewell to one of my favorite television characters, by listing my top five episodes of his run.

5. Nightmare in Silver

4. Amy’s Choice

3. The Angels Take Manhattan

2. The God Complex

1. The Doctor’s Wife

~GERONIMO!

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