Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bosch: First Half: Highly Recommended

I binge-watched the first half of Bosch on Amazon Prime Instant Video last night.  Herewith a brief, nonspoiler review.

The series is superb, and a worthy addition to streaming masterpieces such as House of Cards and Peaky Blinders on Netflix, and what The Man in the High Castle promises to be on Amazon.  These shows are spearheading a new revolution in television viewing, as far ahead of most cable today as cable was to network television when it first unveiled The Sopranos in the late 1990s.   The capacity to binge watch - available with cable usually only for series already aired, or after the DVD was released - has been coupled on Netflix and Amazon with a pace in the narrative that we've not quite seen before on the television screen.

All I'll say about the narrative of Bosch, at this point, is that it's a story that seems old for an instant - about a Dirty Harry kind of cop - which quickly pivots to originality, and surprises with twists and turns in every episode.   The writing is joyfully literate.  In the very first episode, a character asks, can you "humor us about the humerus bone"?   Bosch's love interest, a lawyer turned cop (itself a pretty original character) who wants to be a detective, is said by Bosch to have gone from "the briefcase to the billy club".   And there's a meta-quality that runs through the entire story - Bosch lives in a fancy apartment, with a great view, far above his pay grade, because he was paid a lot of money by Paramount for a movie about one of his cases.

The acting is outstanding. Annie Wersching - of 24 fame - plays Bosch's aforementioned love interest, and she's never been better.   Titus Welliver puts in the best performance of his career in the title role, and that's saying a lot, since he hit the note so well in his stint on Sons of Anarchy.  Jamie Hector from The Wire plays Bosch's partner, and Lance Reddick of Fringe as well as The Wire is on hand as the Deputy Chief aka Bosch's main boss.

It's tough, as I said, to get a fresh take on a police procedural, a genre as old on television as Dragnet in the first golden age of TV in the 1950s.  But Bosch - based on the novels by Michael Connelly, who co-created the series with Eric Overmyer (The Affair, Treme, and Boardwalk Empire are some of his credits) - has somehow managed to give us a police story we haven't seen before, and it's a riveting tale indeed.

                   another kind of police story 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Walking Dead 5.11: The Smiling Stranger

Another thoughtful episode of The Walking Dead this Sunday - 5.11 - in which our heroes are given the dilemma of what to do with someone who shows up, out of the blue, proclaiming and seeming to only want to help them.

Rick, unsurprisingly, is on the verge of killing this smiling stranger, and restrains himself to the point of just punching him out.   But Michonne and Maggie think otherwise - and, for some reason, trust the stranger.   In the end, their take carries the day, and the only one who supports Rick's distrust at all is Carol, who helpfully tells him even when he's wrong, he's right.

And I'm with Rick and Carol - why should our people trust anyone, after what they've been through? Michonne's argument that there has to be a better way may be true in the abstract, but what is it about this stranger which leads her to believe that he's the one?

Presumably what's going on here is that Michonne is so weary of leading this crazy life - and who can blame her - that she's willing to throw good caution to the wind, and Maggie, Glenn, and even Daryl apparently agree with her.  But surely this is a very dangerous gamble.

In something of a denouement, it turns out that the strange is gay - which is an interesting twist (and the second twist of this sort in this past weekend's television, the first having been on Black Sails) - but does this make the stranger, or his partner, more trustworthy?  

Significantly, the episode ends before we see who and what resides behind the locked gates.   So we've yet to get a definitive answer about whether Michonne's trust is justified.   Kudos to The Walking Dead for setting up, out of almost nowhere, a very compelling scenario, even if it did get off to a slightly shaky, not fully motivated start.

See also: The Walking Dead 5.1: The Redemption of Carole ... The Walking Dead 5.3: Meets Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone ... The Walking Dead 5.4: Hospital of Horror ... The Walking Dead 5.5: Anatomy of a Shattered Dream ... The Walking Dead 5.6-7: Slow ... The Walking Dead 5.8: Killing the Non-Killer ... The Walking Dead 5.9: Another Death in the Family

And see also The Walking Dead 4.1: The New Plague ... The Walking Dead 4.2: The Baby and the Flu ... The Walking Dead 4.3: Death in Every Corner ...The Walking Dead 4.4: Hershel, Carl, and Maggie ... The Walking Dead 4.6: The Good Governor ... The Walking Dead 4.7: The Governor's Other Foot ... The Walking Dead 4.8: Vintage Fall Finale ... The Walking Dead 4.9: A Nightmare on Walking Dead Street ... The Walking Dead 4:14: Too Far ... The Walking Dead Season 4 Finale: From the Gunfire into the Frying Pan


no cannibalism but at least a plague in The Consciousness Plague

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Black Sails 2.5: Twist!

Black Sails 2.5 was chock full of surprises and revelations, tonight - the first and foremost being -

The affair that Flint was having in London before he became Flint was not with Thomas's wife Miranda but with Thomas.  This explains a lot of things, including the somewhat strange relationship he had with Miranda last year, and the way Flint was drummed out of town by the British Admiralty earlier in the show tonight.  They wouldn't have been anywhere near as angry or disgusted with him, if he had been in bed with a married woman.   Score one for Black Sails in the unexpected, very well played twist department.

And in a lesser but still significant surprise,  Rackham decides to take Max not Anne with him on his ship, when given the choice (according to what he tells Anne) of being able to bring just one of the women on board the ship.  I discount his convoluted explanation to Anne, and assume his decision reflects how much more he enjoys Max and her charms in bed.

And, if that's not enough, we find that Billy is not only alive but freed, after all.   He was one of the top three or four excellent characters last season - bringing him back into the action promises to be good.

The powerhouse revelatory episode ends on a cliff hanger, as have most of the episodes this season. Vane has realized that there's no way he can beat Flint's superior forces, so he goes for the strategy of cutting off the head of the attacking force.  This one-on-one contest couldn't have happened at a worse time for Flint, as he's just come back in touch with his love for Thomas, thanks to Miranda.   There's no way the series will allow Vane to kill Flint at this point - not to mention what that would do to our novelistic knowledge of the pirate - so it will be interesting to see who and what gets Flint out of this.

But he will now be a different, far more complex character in this series, not just interested in gold, but in finding some equilibrium for himself in this unforgiving world.

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!"

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 

Banshee 3.7: Movie within Movie

A good Banshee 3.7 last night, excelling in what Banshee does best, stretching the form of narrative on television in unexpected ways.   This time it was a fine movie within a movie, with our core of anti-heroes finally getting around to doing their heist, which is brought to us by a bevy of hand-held and stationary cameras, marked "Hood" (shot from his perspective), "Cover shot," etc.   This made for a suitably choppy mix for a disconcerting robbery which almost went bad.

Job is worried that Hood's head isn't in this game.  Hood decides he needs the heist to get his head back in the game, and guess who's right.   Hood sees Siobhan and gets lost in his illusion of her for several crucial minutes, giving the military who are being robbed a crucial jump in this action. Fortunately none of our people are killed or even captured, but it still made for a powerful few minutes of action television.

The other good fight also features Carrie, but this time with Gordon as her partner, taking on a group of young guys whom Deva has elected to spend some time with.  Nothing too wrong with that, until the guy Deva is especially beginning to like pulls a gun on Gordon.  Carrie and Gordon not only take care of business, but sleep together in the aftermath.   One way of looking at this is full-fledged adults can sleep with each whenever they want, but not so their teenaged kids, which seems a little unfair to the latter.   On the other hand, it was good to see Carrie and Gordon together again, at least for this interlude.

Rebecca's story feels a bit forced - I don't quite believe her when negotiates on her own - and the Chayton part of the episode was predictable, another retelling of the tale of the woman who takes in a wounded snake and heals it, only to be bitten by the snake as soon as it sufficiently recovers.   But this sets up next week pretty, well when Hood and Brock, whose head is also not quite in the game, will be going after Chayton in New Orleans.

See you then.

See also Banshee 3.1: Taking Stock ... Banshee 3.2: Women in Charge ...Banshee 3.3: Burton vs. Nola ... Banshee 3.4: Burton and Rebecca ... Banshee 3.5: Almost the Alamo ...  Banshee 3.6: Perfect What-If Bookends

Like crime stories that involve the Amish? Try The Silk Code


Friday, February 20, 2015

12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness?

Another tight-as-a-drum time loop - that's good - 12 Monkeys 1.6 tonight, in which the main new character introduced is a Witness, whom we know almost nothing else about.  But the Witness is clearly unclearly important to the story, and, besides, I always liked the Marvin Gaye song, which is why I gave this review this title.

The loop starts with the alternate reality - a different 2043 - we saw a glimpse of at the end of last week's episode, in which our team in the future under Jones is in pretty bad shape, including Jones no longer really being in charge.  Ramse's on hand with a missing eye, and his presence in this shaky future gives Cole a chance to tell Ramse he's a good man in any reality, which was probably the best line of the night.

The source of the alternate altered future is Cassandra's death in 2015, during or after her kidnapping that we also saw at the end of last week, and Cole's job as he goes back to the past from the alternate future is to stop Cassandra's death at all costs.  He has a pretty strong motive - he not only cares deeply for Cassandra but needs to prevent the degraded future that her murder will for some reason bring into being.

Ironically, in a nice touch, though Cole (of course) saves Cassandra, her saving brings her closer to her former guy, Aaron, who as a result of what he sees in this episode finally realizes what Cassandra has been contending with these past two years.  His apology to Cassandra is a good moment, but, sentimentalist that I am, I'm still hoping she somehow ends up in Cole's arms - in at least in some reality that we get a look at.

Her rescue involves Cole almost running into himself - always a good moment in a time travel story that takes its paradoxes seriously, as 12 Monkeys most enjoyably (for us if not the characters) does.   When Aaron, not the best with a gun, shoots the first Cole - something that didn't happen last week - our current Cole feels the pain in the place from which the bullet was removed in future.  Here's a quick flow chart if that seems unclear:  Cole 1 (last week's Cole) is not shot as he's yanked back to the different 2043, from which he's sent back to 2015 to save Cassandra.  During this rescue mission, Cole 2 (this week's Cole, from a future in which Cassandra is dead) accompanies Aaron, who shoots Cole 1.  Since Cassandra's not yet saved, Cole is still sent back from the future to save her, but this Cole 2 suddenly feels the bullet wound.

See, this is why a witness is important - these time loops can get complicated.  And, although the mission ends on a successful note tonight, with Cassandra saved, we learn that these jaunts through time are taking their toll on Cole, who needs not only a witness but a plan to stop the virus before he runs out of time.  Because, even with time travel, time is not infinite - especially if the time travel leeches the time traveler's existence.

See you next time with a review of the next episode of this series that does time travel the way it should be done.

See also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math"

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys

 three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy

 photo LateLessons1_zpsogsvk12k.jpg
What if the Soviet Union survived into the 21st century,
and Eddie and the Cruisers were a real band?

The Chronology Protection Case movie 

~~~ +++ ~~~


Vikings Season 3 Premiere: Fighting and Farming

Vikings was back for its third season tonight, with a fine episode capped off by a rousing great battle and victory by Ragnar and his English allies over less than half of the English allies' foes.

Had Ragnar taken on the entire force, our Vikings might well have lost.  But in the key moment, Ragnar realizes that the two enemy forces are too far apart to come to each other's aid during the battle.  So Ragnar attacks the weaker force.

Ragnar, in other words, continues to be not only a fearsome warrior but a brilliant strategist - one, moreover, able to make the right decision on almost a moment's notice.   A savagely intelligent opponent indeed, and an apt personification of why the Vikings conquered so much and so far our real history.

Meanwhile, there's some good supporting character development.  Ragnar's son Bjorn is better than ever, and is soon to be a father himself with his shield-maiden Porunn, thus recapitulating Ragnar and Lagertha.   But Lagertha is now coveted by the Wessex King Ecbert, who shows her the farmland that drew the Vikings to England this time around.

But history shows and this narrative demands that the Vikings will take a long time before they settle into farming, even in the lush lands away from Scandinavia.  This is the Shakespearean tragedy underlying this story of the Vikings on television.   Ragnar longs for the peace and contentment of farming with reliable crops and temperate climate.   This life seems right in his reach now that he's in England.  But his prowess as a warrior is irresistible to Ecbert, who won't let Ragnar have the farm until all of Ecbert's enemies are vanquished.  And once ignited, England will just be the beginning of Ragnar and the Vikings' lust for new lands to conquer.

Glorious and sad for Ragnar, good grist for the story that is ahead this season of Vikings and beyond.

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

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

historical science fiction - a little further back in time


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Americans 3.4: Baptism vs. Communism

An excellent episode 3.4 of The Americans tonight - the best so far this season - which pits baptism vs. Communism, among other important scenarios.

The baptism vs. Communism concerns what's to be done about Paige.  The KGB wants her to begin her life in America as an agent.   Elizabeth has come to accept and even embrace that, and Philip's opposed.  But we don't yet know if Philip's position will change after he and Elizabeth learn that Paige wants to wash herself clean in a baptism to be fit for Jesus.   Both parents are, of course, non-plussed if not horrified by what Paige wants, but this sets up a strong argument for what Elizabeth is willing to accept.  The baptism represents the worst of what could become of their daughter in America - and surely, for Elizabeth, being a KGB agent is preferable.

The irony of this is that having children was part of Philip and Elizabeth's cover, and now they may be paying the ultimate price for this, if their daughter is obliged to become a spy.  Which raises the question of what if Paige doesn't want that?  Will she be shipped back to the Soviet Union, and put in a cell next to Nina's?

Speaking of which, we're finally beginning to get a good story in that cell, as Nina is tasked with getting information from her cellmate, an American prisoner.   Looks as if she's off to a pretty good start on that score, and may be on her way to becoming a full-fledged KBG agent herself.

And Stan has a good episode, too.  He likely rightly suspects the Soviet defector as a double agent - though we' still have to see about that - and comes clean with Donna about the affair he had with Nina, and that he loved Nina, in a scene that may allow Stan to be an even better agent, divesting himself of some of his demons.

But the centerpiece remains with Elizabeth and Philip, who, in pursuit of a quarry, now seems on the verge of sleeping with a girl barely older than his daughter.

A simmering brew building up steam in all kinds of directions.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Black Sails 2.4: "Fire!"

That was the last word spoken in Black Sails 2.4 - "Fire!" - and an apt ending indeed to the strategic wheelings and dealings that are working so well in the series this year.

At stake is whether or not Flint should level his cannon at the fortress that protects Nassau.   Once a upon a time, by the way, in the Middle Ages, stone castles and fortresses were difficult and even impossible to breach. Gunpowder, first utilized in China, changed all of that.  Which means that at the time Black Sails is taking place, Flint and his superior cannon should have little problem laying waste to Eleanor's prize possession.

On the one hand, this is a good idea.  Flint need to do this to get the support he needs to get what he ultimately wants, the Orca gold.  Also, he wouldn't mind demolishing Vane, especially since he's now in league with Eleanor.

On the other hand, destruction of the fortress would leave Nassau and all its pirates and booty vulnerable to attack by the British, who are not far away.  So Flint had a real decision to make.

I'm glad he went with the attack.  What good is Nassau to him, really, if it's in the hands of a rival such as Vane?  And, if Flint were to pull back, that would set a very bad precedent for any campaigns he might need to put together in the future.

So what happens now?  I suppose there's a slight chance that Flint could change his mind a split-second after his order, but I doubt it.   If the fortress comes down, that does not mean that Vane will be killed in the attack.  We could still have an ultimate one-on-one between Flint and Vane.  Or, they could decide to band together to fight off the British or Spanish or whoever seeks to take advantage of a weakened Nassau - certainly Eleanor would want this.

Black Sails continues its chess match on sea and island, in a season which is already more taut and focused then the first.

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"

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 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Banshee 3.6: Perfect What-If Bookends

A brilliant Banshee 3.6 tonight, with in many ways the best parts being at the beginning and the end, in a pair of what-if bookends. We first get treated to a scene in the bar, which plays out with our hero not taking over the murdered Hood's identity, and instead using his smarts to defuse the situation so everyone survives.  In the end, we see him meeting Siobhan, briefly, right before he leaves town in a car driven by Job.   A powerful little alternate history of Banshee right there.

In between, we get a strong Banshee as we know it, with the best part of that being a kick-ass Rebecca story.   I tell ya, I like her in charge better than her uncle.   And she's beginning to feel that way, too.  She's humiliated when Proctor reverses the tough deal she negotiated, and is beyond just jealous when she sees him walking off to bed with Brock's former wife.   These are the makings of a lethal brew, which will put Burton in the position of supporting Proctor over Rebecca, which I'm mostly but not completely sure he'll do.

As for Chayton, this was actually my least favorite part of the story tonight, though it was excellent in many places as well.  But there were two pieces that weren't.  The arrogant FBI team leader was a little too close to cliche to work well, and Hood - our Hood - not killing Chayton right out when he walks in on him sleeping is the oldest stupid move in the book.  Kill the bad guy, the monster, for crissake - don't toy with him, or think it's better to do it slowly, because the villain will usually use this opportunity for escape.

Still, the black-and-white bookends of Banshee 3.6 were so perfect, so agonizingly fine, that I still rate the episode as outstanding.  Deva, by the way, had her best episode so far this season, too.  And given what's beginning to happen with Proctor and his niece, it looks like were really in for more powerhouse Banshee television this fine year - and next year, too, with the good news that Banshee will be back for  Season 4.

See also Banshee 3.1: Taking Stock ... Banshee 3.2: Women in Charge ...Banshee 3.3: Burton vs. Nola ... Banshee 3.4: Burton and Rebecca ... Banshee 3.5: Almost the Alama

Like crime stories that involve the Amish? Try The Silk Code


Friday, February 13, 2015

12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter

12 Monkeys 1.5 was edgier and more profound than usual - which is saying a lot, seeing as how most of this series so far has been edgy and profound.  But 1.5 starts with in many ways the most profound question of the series: what are Cole, Ramse, Jones, et al doing in the future - why are they there - if Cole is being sent back to the past to stop that future from happening?  Every instant of their existence in the 2040s, in other words, shows that what Cole tried to do in the 2010s failed.  Right? Or doesn't it?

And the episode touches this paradoxical nerve repeatedly, culminating in Cole apparently destroying the deadly plague virus, being unceremoniously yanked back to the future - which is the only way he ever gets back to the future - only to find he's returned to something not quite the place in the future from which he departed.  Does this mean he succeeded? Probably not.  But we're certainly given a little taste of success not being as sweet as Cole and Jones may have imagined it to be, even though they never quite spelled out what that would be, and sweet seems mainly out of the question here.

Jones does give a good defense of why she ripped apart so many bodies to perfect time travel - still not very perfect, though at least it works.   Mozart, great literature, the cream of human culture is what she tells Ramse she's bent on saving.   We also get some good pictures of Jones when she was younger - Cassandra's age - which I suppose means she's not Cassandra, though I'm still thinking on some level she is.

Jennifer Goines has her best episode so far, including her rendition of Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman," which has to be a first for a television science fiction drama, hats off to 12 Monkeys and SyFy.  And Cassandra learns that Cole killed Henri, and handles that pretty well: she's angry and all that, says she doesn't want to continue fighting against the fate of plague, but she rises to the occasion and helps Cole try to snuff it out with flame anyway, before she's kidnapped by the man with the scar played by Tom Noonan.  His identity clearly holds one of the big keys to this puzzle.

And, just for good measure, we get some good insight into Cole in this episode, too, when, sounding like Don Henley in "The Heart of the Matter," Cole says what he wants most is "forgiveness" (even if you don't love me anymore - no, he doesn't say that, but it's strongly implied).

Looking forward to the next episode in what is now clearly the brashest, savviest time travel show ever on television.

See also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math"

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys

 three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy

 photo LateLessons1_zpsogsvk12k.jpg
three time travel stories (with more to come)

The Chronology Protection Case movie 

~~~ +++ ~~~