The X-Files – My Struggle

Spoilers will be in this post so if you didn’t watch The X-Files last night, don’t read.

We’ve been lied to. What we believe about aliens and what we think we know about aliens has all been a lie. It’s all  been a big cover-up in order to create a new world order. Nothing is known anymore.

That’s what viewers found out about half way through last night’s return of a six run episode of The X-Files. Thirteen years after the series went off the air, fans were treated to seeing old favorites back on the little screen again. No it wasn’t perfect, but it was so good to hear those opening notes of the theme song and to see Mulder and Scully again was everything I hoped it would be.

Mulder, living out in the middle of nowhere, is contacted by Scully in order for the two of them to meet with Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a radical right-wing, tv host who is also a racing conspiracy theorist. O’Malley brings Mulder and Scully to meet a girl who claims to have been repeatedly abducted by aliens who also impregnated her and stole her babies several times over. The meeting appears suspect and the girl seemingly coached by O’Malley. Mulder later goes back to her house and to see if he can get the truth out of her. It’s from this meeting that Mulder’s new world order theory comes about.  He believes all the work he and Scully did in the past and the things they found out were lies. The little green men were just humans dressed up as aliens. Everything has been a cover-up in order for a select few to take over the world.

Mulder believing so quickly in this new world order theory may seem a bit far fetched and convenient plot wise, but Mulder has always had a desperate need to believe. He wants to believe and he’ll do anything to find out the truth.  Is it so hard to believe he’d be convinced of a new idea? What do we know about Mulder from the time we last saw him to now? Nothing really. The world has greatly changed over the past 13 years – cell phones were barely a thing when the show first started airing. Mulder’s search for the truth hasn’t offered him much in terms of answers, so him clinging to a new idea isn’t that hard for me to believe.

What’s harder for me to get on board with is Sully’s implied relationship with O’Malley.  While I like Joel McHale, I don’t think his character quite fits into The X-Files. He’s too brash, too in your face, too much too much.  Why Scully would be involved with this dude is beyond me. He seems more like a way for the writers to say “hey, we know that these crazy, brash, t.v. hosts get a lot of viewers now-a-days, let’s make one who is like that but has a little bit of nuttiness to him.” I’ll be interested to see how his role plays out and how he influences the outcome or ideas of Mulder or Scully.

Overall I was thrilled to see The X-Files back on.  Mulder and Scully are played perfectly and it’s what I’d expect to see after a 13 years hiatus. I was never a Mulder and Scully shipper and I always liked how the show portrayed their romantic relationship as being right on the fringe of everything.  We didn’t really see them together as a couple and the show was so much better for it (see The Vampire Diaries for an example of how main characters getting together and becoming plot can ruin a show). There’s still that biting dynamic between the two. I loved an opening scene when O’Malley pulled up and Scully turned towards him, and the shot showed Mulder looking at Scully for a beat or two without her knowing. It was an excellent way to show their relationship without showing it.

We only get six episodes but that’s Okay. I believe a slightly bumpy start will even itself out and once we find out more about what is really going on, we won’t be bothered by O’Malley’s brashness or Mulder’s new theory.

How about you? Did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? What did you like or not like? I’d love to hear what others have to say!

 

Shows Worth Watching: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Image from BBC America

Magic has returned to England in the 1800’s. Mr. Norrell, a reclusive magician, has been discovered by a group of magic scholars, who search him out and request that he bring his talents to London. At first Mr. Norrell is reluctant to share his magic, along with his precious books, with anyone. Eventually Mr. Norrell agrees to make the trip to London. While there, he uses magic to bring the beautiful Lady Pole back from the dead.  Doing this has ramifications he never imagined, or wanted.

At the same time another magician is coming forth, the naturally talented and charming Jonathan Strange. Jonathan is torn between his love of magic and his love for the fetching Arabella. While trying to secure his union with Arabella, Jonathan comes across a street magician who proclaims Jonathan is destined to become a great magician. Jonathan eventually meets the reclusive and stubborn Mr. Norrell. The older magician reluctantly agrees to take Jonathan on as his apprentice. The two start out as student and teacher and have a fairly level relationship. Johnathan wants to learn more and practice more of the old, dark ways of magicians. This desire eventually pits the two magicians against each other. The battle between the two has ramifications for all of England, and the future of magic.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, aired on BBC America in the states and was a thoroughly entertaining, compelling, and enjoying, limited series to watch. I wish it would have been longer!

The Gentleman and Arabella

Whats good: So much! Lets start with spot on casting. Jonathan Strange is played by the charismatic and charming Bertie Carvel and Mr. Norrell is played by the brilliantly subdued and subtle Eddie Marsan. I can’t imagine two more perfectly cast actors.  Each actor bringing the character’s nuances to the forefront and the interaction between the two is wonderful to watch. Marsan and Carvel were very convincing in their roles and they also played well off of other cast members. Marc Warren plays The Gentleman with creepy perfection. The Gentleman is summoned with dark magic and is from the kingdom of Lost Hope. He is possessed with a great amount of magic and his desire for beautiful companions sets up heartbreak for many. Charlotte Riley as Arabella, Enzo Cilenti as Childermass, and Alice Englert as Lady Pole are just a few of the other stellar cast members. Each role is played with authenticity, making for a well-rounded cast.

Jonathan Strange and The Gentleman

Special Effects: Special effects can make or break a show or movie. This show kills it by finding the right balance. From the big effects of Jonathan gripping the sand to make the phenomenal sand horses to upright a sinking ship, to the subtle effect of candles and the smoke emitted from them. For a show heavily based on magic, the effects are another star. They don’t distract, which is how all special effects should be.

Tone and color: The setting is England in the 1800’s, with a lot of time taking place during mostly winter. The subdued greens, grays, blues, blacks, etc., help to set the feel and look of the show. Most scenes are the darker side and low lit, giving an air of seriousness to the show. This also allows the actors to shine through since the viewer isn’t distracted by the setting. Rather the setting allows the viewer to be absorbed into the action.

The Story: The overall story is very interesting and I found myself rooting for both magicians, even though I wanted to punch Mr. Norrell at times. The plot involving Childermass was compelling and would have loved it if more about him and his background was offered.

What’s not so good: The show is based on the massive book by Susana Clark (which I have not read but have purchased and I plan to read). Given the massive size of the book, cramming the story into seven episodes made it seemed a bit rushed at times. Maybe one more episode would have made the mini-series that much better. The quick run also didn’t leave room to flesh out some characters that viewers might have liked to learn more about.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, while not a serialized over a few seasons show, is a wonderful and terrific program to watch. Stellar acting, solid special effects, characters viewers can be invested in, and a compelling story, combine to make a very watchable t.v. show. Even if you aren’t a fan of magic, the focus on relationships and what others will do to keep those relationships in tact, make for terrific viewing. I highly suggest you take the time to view this show.  You won’t be disappointed. Check out BBC America or BBC One to find out how to view this show.

Shows Worth Watching: Grimm

Image from Wikipedia

This month’s Shows Worth Watching is all about NBC’s Grimm.  The very basic premise of Grimm is it’s a cop show with a slight twist to it.  The twist being that Nick Burkhardt, a Portland homicide detective, is what is known as a Grimm – a line of hunters who fight supernatural forces and beings.  Inspiration for the series is mainly taken from the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales, a collection of stories from the early 1800’s that, during that time, were fairly scary children’s stories (Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, & Cinderella are some of the more popular Grimm stories).

Nick discovers he’s a Grimm after his aunt comes to visit him because she is dying.  She ends up dying while fighting a Wesen – the group of humans who have a second identity that only Grimm’s can see at all times, or Wesen can choose to let a human see it’s “creature” form – and that causes Nick’s Grimmness to rise to the surface (being a Grimm is a family trait and usually passes on when a family member dies).  The first episode featured a Wesen known as a Blutbot (played by Silas Weir Mitchell and known as Monroe) whom Nick befriends.  This is odd due to Grimm’s usually killing Wesen whenever they can.  The balance of Nick being a detective vs. being a Grimm plays a big part in this series and allows Nick to become friends with several Wesen.

What makes this show enjoyable is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The writers are self-aware that the concept of this show can come off as ridiculous. Viewers see the writers self-awareness via the humor that appears in the show or some of the dialog of the cast.  Another good aspect of Grimm is keeping good characters around.  The character of Monroe is a key point to this.  Being featured in the first episode, making him and Nick become friends, having Monroe be in on investigations, and the overall character development of Monroe were all integral to making this show fun.  Monroe has been fleshed out a lot more over the past seasons and expanding on his story-line adds to the show. The writers do a good job of being able to balance between creature of the week and ongoing plot lines as well.  In a lot of shows, a “… of the week” aspect can get played out and take over a series.  With Grimm, the creature of the week tends to be a fun episode that reminds the viewer Nick is a detective.  The show has used small aspects of the “… of the week” feature in the ongoing plots here and there, tying things together in a not too complicated way.

One thing that has been a slight take away from Grimm is Nick’s girlfriend Juliette.  Juliette is a vet and it first seemed the writers would find a way to work this into Nick’s Wesen world.  Turned out that they didn’t quite know what to do with her.  Juliette more often ended up being a damsel in distress or a convenient plot device, which weakened her character.  However, the current fourth season really turned things around and has given Juliette a much more purposeful story.  I’m not the biggest fan of her current development, but at least she finally got something substantial.  Another thing that seems to get a little complicated is the back-story of the Royals – Wesens who are members of the seven royal families who keep the Wesen world in line.  The mythology of this gets a bit convoluted, making it hard to determine who is who and what side they really are on.  Sometimes it feels as if the mythology of Grimm isn’t known to even the writers.

Grimm will be on its fifth season next year and the most surprising thing about that is it has kept its original cast in tact.  Nick’s partner, Hank, has been a consistent presence since the first episode and has been given his own story-lines rather than be known as “the partner.”  Monroe has been a shining aspect of the show and if he ever left, the show would be seriously hindered.  The show has even managed to add to the cast and provide them with fairly integral roles, with the occasional misses here and there.

Overall Grimm is a fun show to watch and has improved with each season.  The current fourth season being the best so far. This show airs on Friday nights, which for some programs is the death-blow.  However, the Friday night slot works in Grimm’s favor.  It’s nice to be able to tune into a program on a Friday night that seems simplistic on the surface, but really gives the viewers what they want – good old enjoyment.  I highly recommend catching an episode of Grimm.  It’s fun and enjoyable and something to look forward to on Friday nights.

Shows Worth Watching: Vikings

Image from history.com

Television today is littered with reality shows.  A finite number of those reality shows are good, and the rest are either mindless, guilty pleasures or utter crap.  One channel that is awash with the latter is the History channel.  A quick glance at their “shows” page lists at least fifteen reality shows. Fifteen.  For a channel named the History channel, this is baffling to say the least.  Thankfully someone at History got a clue and decided to give a shot on a scripted show based on historical people. And it’s actually good.  That show is Vikings.

Image from history.com Lagertha, Ragnar, and Rollo

Vikings is inspired on a mythological Norse hero named Ragnar Lothbrok and the show portrays his journey from farmer to leader via successful raids on English soil, as well as Ragnar’s seemingly complicated family dynamics.  One thing that makes this show work so well is the casting.  The actors selected to play the characters seems to be spot on. Ragnar is played by the insanely good-looking Travis Fimmel, Lagertha, Ragnar’s first wife, is played by the stunning Katheryn Winnick,  Ragnar’s brother Rollo is played by the massive Clive Standen, Ragnar’s close friend and genius shipbuilder is played by the amazing Gustaf Skarsgard, and Athelstan is played by the subdued George Blagden.  The other members of the cast are very good as well, and the aforementioned are ones that stand out to me due to their strong presence whenever they are on the screen as well as the chemistry between the actors themselves.

Another item that makes this show successful is that is does a lot without saying a lot.  Many scenes have limited dialogue, leaving thoughts or feelings left unsaid.  Thoughts or feelings are instead played out by looks conveyed by the actors or glances shared between cast members.  Sometimes the unspoken word is best portrayed by silence and Vikings has found a way to say so much by saying so little.  The production value of the show seems to be fairly good as well.  It’s no Game of Thrones, but for the History channel, its superior to many of its other shows.  One scene from I believe, the second season (I watched the first two seasons in a two-week span so I get a little mixed up on things), was shot so beautifully: Ragnar and his crew were leaving the village for another raid.  The residents of the village were all up on the hilltop watching the ships leave.  No dialogue, just music, images of the villages, Ragnar and his crew sailing away, and even images of grass blowing in the wind.  It was extremely moving and done so well.

An epic scene from season two titled “Blood Eagle” is another example of the excellent production value of this show. Blood eagle is a gruesome way of executing someone.  Essentially, cutting someone’s lungs out and placing them on their back so it looks like blood-stained wings.  When the show has this execution performed it was done in a way to make it seem respectful and beautiful at the same time.  A nighttime shoot, lit with torches and a cast member dressed in white with the villagers watching.  Rather than hear the tortured cries, the show relied on tone, color, and music to convey the scene.  The fact that I find an execution scene beautiful says a lot about the end result.

image from history.com Ragnar and Athelstan

Ragnar’s family dynamics plays a big part in this show as well. Rollo’s constant struggle to be seen as more than Rangar’s brother, Lagertha’s desire to be seen as more than a shield maiden and Ragnar’s wife, and Ragnar’s relationship with his children are all on-going stories throughout the first two seasons.  When Ragnar takes Athelstan the monk back to the village as his prisoner, it sets up a relationship between these two men that allows both to grow and learn from one another.  The interaction between these two is one of value.  They are able to see things in a different light and understand a different system of beliefs that are very foreign to their own.

I’m not an expert on the facts from the time-frame this show takes place in but from what I’ve read, History does a decent job of keeping things accurate.  Given it’s a scripted show, some things will need to be embellished, changed, or even not be as strong of a focus as it may have actually been, but I’m Okay with that since everything else is done with such high quality.  Ragnar’s ambition to do more and be more drives the show. The casting has been chosen well and the characters are allowed to grow and most are well-developed. Season three of Vikings premieres February 19th and previous episodes are available online.  If you haven’t watched it you should give it a try.  If you have watched it, what do you like best about this show? Are you looking forward to season three and where it will take Ragnar and his crew?

Fall T.V. Premiere time – A T.V. Junkie’s Bliss!

Tonight the fall T.V. shows either premiere  or start back up again.  In the eyes of a T.V. junkie, as I am, I couldn’t be happier.  After a few months of lackluster T.V. (other than my 1 month World Cup coma) it will be nice to see some good shows again.

The first show I’m looking forward to is Gotham, which is on FOX.  Gotham is about Commissioner Gordon and his rise from detective to the Commissioner.  We’ll get to see a young Bruce Wayne as well as some of Gotham’s villains.  Previews have looked compelling and buzz is this could be one the best new T.V. shows this season.  Here’s to hoping it’s worth the hype.

Show two is the return of Sleepy Hollow, another FOX series.  Last season left Ichabod and Abbie in questionable peril, but previews have shown that doesn’t last long.  This was one of my favorite shows from last year.  The premise seemed ridiculous – Ichabod Crane comes back to life due to a curse and teams up with a local detective to fight the evil forces that are invading Sleepy Hollow and hopefully stop their fated future.  But Tom Mision and Nicole Beharie have excellent chemistry, the writers gave a fast and fun plot line, and they put a humorous spin on Ichabod’s acclimatization to the modern world.  We’ll see if season two can hold up to the fun and enjoyment of the first one.

Constantine from NBC, which will be on Friday nights is another show that I’m hoping will be good.  This show is based on the comic book Hellblazer, which, I haven’t read.  Constantine has a vast knowledge of dark arts and has a sharp wit where he fights to protect the innocent.  I haven’t seen any previews of this show but I like the concept and am looking forward to checking out the premiere.

One show I’m totally on the fence about is Gracepoint from FOX.  This is the American version of the excellent Broadchurch that originally aired on BBC America.  Why it needed an American remake is beyond me and to have David Tennant in this version as well is an odd idea.  Part of what made the BBCA version so good was the Brits know how to do a drama.  The previews I’ve seen don’t seem to capture that compelling drama of the original. Then again, it could just be my jaded opinion on a remake of this show.  I’ll check it out just to see how the show is.

Marvel’s Agents of Shield is back for a second season and I’m hoping the action that happened in the second half of the series continues in the second season.  Grimm is another show that is back again this year.  This is just a fun show to watch and not one to take too seriously.  Yes there are some issues with it but it fits its Friday night-time slot well and it’s a fun show on a Friday night.  And of course there’s the next season of The Walking Dead on AMC.  Season five is much hyped (like all other seasons have been) and the Grimes gang has to find a way out of Terminus.

There are other shows I’m looking forward to, but these are some of the main ones.  How about you – what shows are you looking forward to?

BBC America’s Orphan Black

Warning: this post will contain spoilers from season 1 and the first two episodes of season 2 of Orphan Black.  Read at your own risk.

Season two of BBC America’s Orphan Black started back up last week and the first two episodes have not disappointed.

Where to Watch Orphan Black

Image taken from BBC America website

Orphan Black is about Sarah Manning who, after watching a woman who looks just like her jump into the path of a train (from season one), comes to find out she is a clone, and there are several people out there who look like her.  Sarah, forges an at first tenuous relationship with fellow clones Alison, the happy homemaker with a mild drinking problem, and Cosima, the brainy scientist whose been researching all the clones.  Then there’s Helena – the Ukrainian clone who is sadistic, a fundamentalist, seemingly crazy, and murderous.

Season one focused on the reveal of all the clones and the back stories of the characters.  Felix, also known as Fe is Sarah’s “brother” (I believe foster kids together), played a large part in helping Sarah and the clones become real friends. There was a lot of comments online about how Fe was a stereo-typical gay guy, but I’d have to disagree.  He’s very edgy and a bit on the kinky side, I think Modern Family has the much more stereo-typical gay guys (but I do enjoy that show as well).  There were two or three big reveals that played out in season one: Sarah is the only clone who is able to have children (Alison’s are adopted); Helena and Sarah are actually twin sisters (I guess that makes them clone twins? seems a bit redundant, ha!); and the Dyad Institute is actively tracking the clones and wants them all to sign an agreement to participate in the studies. And, oh yeah, Helena was shot and assumed dead.

Season two starts up right at the end of season one – Kira, Sarah’s daughter has been kidnapped and Sarah is desparate to find her.  Cosmia is getting sicker and still does not know why, and Helena makes a surprising comeback.  Although I wasn’t that shocked, she played such an integral part I can’t imagine how the show could continue without her.

The first season of this show was really good – so many revals of the clones and it kept you wondering how many more there were.  Sarah started out as a really unlikable person, but after getting to know her fellow clones, she became much more tolerable.  Her relationship with her daughter also helped to sway viewers on Sarah’s likability.

Tatiana Maslany just KILLS IT in this series.  Her portrayal of each clone is distinct and different.  This is most evident when she plays one clone pretending to be another – Sarah as Cosmia, Alison as Sarah, etc.  The supporting cast does a great job as well, especially when a clone is pretending to be a clone.  It almost makes me wonder if I’m hypnotized by Tatinan’a work and can’t really tell if there is a good story with this show.   Doesn’t really matter because I’m going to keep watching this show.  It’s enjoyable, full of good acting, and has a good pace.   This is why I love BBC America programming, they provide something different and they tend to do a good job at casting.

What are your thoughts on Orphan Black?

Da Vinci’s Demons

Tonight the second season of the Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons starts.  The premise of the first season was Da Vinci was set on a path by a group known as The Sons of Mithra to find a book called Book of Leaves.  Entangled in his quest to find the map to the location of the book are Florence’s Medici family, Da Vinci’s friends,  Lorenzo Medici’s mistress Lucrezia Donati, and the pope’s henchman Count Girolamo Riario.

When I watched the first episode last year I was unsure about this show.  Starz cast an English actor, Tom Riley to play the Italian Da Vinci, and I initially thought Riley wasn’t the best choice.   The show also seemed to be caught between being historical or modern.  They brought some of Da Vinci’s ideas to life when we know it wasn’t possible at that time.  Even with these doubts in my head I kept watching (the t.v. junkie in me can’t help it).  Watching each episode after that, my doubts started to fade and I came to really enjoy the series.

This series certainly has its issues – sprinkled with historical facts, but conveniently adjusted for the show.  The modern feel, using incidents from DaVinci’s life but adjusting them to fit the story (a sodomy charge, setting caged birds free, the Medici relationship, etc.), and the portrayal of Da Vinci as a bit of an out of control madman.  One episode I thought was rather dumb was when Da Vinci went to find a member of The Sons of Mithra.  The writers had him go to and meet Vlad Dracula.  I recall reading the writers just thought it would be interesting for these two individuals to meet.  Needless to say, this was my least favorite episode.

Even with these issues,  I still really liked this show.  I started to care about the characters, Lorenzo’s brother and the actor who played him, had undeniable charm.  Tom Riley and the entire cast have good chemistry and I started to think the story interesting and compelling.  All these aspects combined caused me to become a loyal viewer.

The first season ended with the Pazzi conspiracy and doubts of Da Vinci’s chance of moving on to find the Book of Leaves.  The previews of the second season show Da Vinci does continue his quest to find the Book of Leaves.  Given the second season takes place somewhere other than Florence,  I’m again on the fence about this show.  I’m hoping the second season continues with the story and characters I enjoyed from the last.  I can look past the historical inaccuracies and other minor issues as long as there is a good story to support it.

Anyone else looking forward to season two or have thoughts on season one?