Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Saturday, August 31, 2013

REWIND Rewound

Article first published as REWIND Rewound on TheTVKing.

SyFy recently aired Rewind, a two-hour pilot of a series that is not being produced. In the special, an unlikely terrorist (David Cronenberg, The Fly) destroys New York City, killing nine million people. Luckily, the government has a top-secret time travel project, and sends a trio of would-be heroes back in time to try to surgically stop the attack while not altering the rest of the time line.

On one hand, it's cool that SyFy is giving viewers a chance to see something they haven't gone forward with. There's always the chance it will get a ton of positive attention and the network will decide to pick up the show. Cartoon Network did a similar thing this week, and Amazon posted a bunch of pilots last spring, giving viewers the chance to pick the series ordered. So this could be the start of a new trend where programming is more viewer-controlled.

However, it's also kind of depressing to see two hours of something that there won't ever be any more of. When a pilot like Rewind is aired in this manner, it's mostly a burn off, getting a little bit of value out of something that would otherwise provide none. But it's also a tease, showing us a taste of something we can't ever have the next chapter of. There is little chance Rewind will be picked up, and without lots of attention and advertising being devoted to getting eyes to the broadcast, it's doomed to be a one-off.

The concept of the time travel machine presented in Rewind is a neat one, especially because those operating it have no control over the time or place they travel to. It's definitely an early-stage device that needs further study and fine-tuning. This makes sense, and is a departure from the typical machine shown in the genre, which usually works quite well.

However, in the case of Rewind, I think SyFy made the correct choice of not going further.

The characters are likeable enough, but mostly stock. Our hero, Henry Knox (Shane McRae, Four Kings), is strong, but intelligent; emotionally tough, yet caring. He immediately clashes with Doctor Lyndsay Bryce (Jennifer Ferrin, Hell On Wheels), who doesn't think the army should be involved in her scientific project, but he sort of wins her over by the end of the pilot. There's also a corrupt military officer who wants to use the machine for his own purposes. None of these are fresh or original.

As the pilot plays out, it appears that the main characters will be trapped in the 1920s, which is where I thought the show was going. Instead, a too-convenient solution pops up after all hope is, and should be, lost, and everyone gets home safe and sound. This not only feels like a cheat, but also dooms the concept into a case-of-the-week procedural, rather than an intriguing, complex serial tale. Perhaps the procedural is more sell-able for a network, but it makes for a far inferior show. There are none of the consequences for rushing into a project that isn't ready.

There's also a computer that can pretty much predict all of the effects of a given action in the past, as well as access old paper records for anything, which is not at all realistic. Granted, other shows have given computers more abilities than they typically have (looking at your 24), but Rewind's system may just be more over-the-top and omniscient than any I've seen on screen before, especially for a series set in the present day. It takes one out of the moment when it is invoked.

So basically, there are some really good ideas present, and some nice supporting cast members, including Jeff Fahey (Lost), but the thing falls apart late in the hour, and is not the recipe for an original show that can inspire and energize a fan strong fan base. Too bad.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blu-ray Review: ‘Being Human: Season Five’

BHArticle first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Being Human: Season Five’ on Blogcritics.

The BBC recently released the Blu-ray and DVD of Being Human‘s fifth and final season. Longtime fans of the show may be disappointed that by the final season, none of the original characters remained. Yet, the writing is high quality, the stories are fantastic, the tone and mission of the series is kept true, and the last installments deftly balance serious character development with a larger arc, making sure that viewers actually know and care about the relatively new stars of the show, while still being entertained. It’s an all-around top notch job.

Season Five essentially picks up where the fourth year leaves off. Tom (Michael Socha), the werewolf, and Hal (Damien Molony), the vampire are now sharing the inn they inherited with Alex (Kate Bracken), a ghost of a woman Hal killed. Needing income, the boys take jobs at a local motel (as opposed to the non-active one they live in). The trio all struggle with their personal issues, figuring out the kind of life they want to leave despite their secret, supernatural sides, not realizing all the while they are being manipulated by Captain Hatch, a.k.a. the Devil (Philip Davis).

Hal may be the most messed up. That’s because as much as he’d like to pretend he’s kicked his addiction to human blood, he can’t help but be tempted by it. This leads him into a couple of compromising situations, complicating things with Alex, for whom he still harbors feelings. He also faces his brutal element in a large way.

Tom, meanwhile, feels inferior to Hal, and desperately wants to prove he is as good as the vampire. This is especially true as Tom wonders how much the wold holds him back. Finding that Hal isn’t quite reformed helps Tom’s self-esteem, but strains the bond of friendship between the two.

Alex wants to help both guys figure out what’s best for themselves, but also learns a bit about being a spirit along the way. She has some serious juju, getting a quick grasp of her capabilities, but is a little too trusting, and perhaps a bit blinded by her own emotions.

Interestingly, Being Human brings in a couple of new characters for Hal and Tom to mentor. They see these new characters as reflections of themselves, and, providing Hal and Tom with meaning and purpose for them moving forward. It’s a cool dynamic, and it’s sad the show comes to an end so soon, leaving little time to explore these relationships fully.

Rook (Steven Robertson), a supporting player for awhile, also steps into the forefront this season. He is losing the department he runs to budget cuts, which is unfortunate given the very special interest Rook takes in his work. Faced with the threat he feels endangers humanity, he must decide how important it is to restore his work in the name of saving lives, and what cost may be too high.

The ending of Being Human: Season Five is surprising, and I will not spoil it (though I did previously review it). Suffice it to say, there is a lot of personal examination and a major showdown, forcing the roommates to decide what being human means to them. Because of the nature of this confrontation, the personal stories unspooled throughout the season get closure, rather than growth being pushed aside in favor of action. And Rook gets pay off, too.

The extras are plentiful for such a short run, with a wealth of footage that could have been, but was not, used within the episodes themselves. We get deleted scenes galore, comprising all six installments. There are a number of interviews with various cast and crew members. Five bits about Alex trying to complete her unfinished business are present, and probably my favorite extra, though I wish they hadn’t been split between the discs, the only bonus divided in half this way.

Likely the best inclusion for fans is an exclusive scene that is set after the series’ finale. It neatly resolves some of the ambiguity left hanging, and provides an idea of what a sixth season or feature film could look like. I was actually content with the finale prior to watching this, but now that I’ve seen it, it feels the characters are screaming for more. Might this be what creator Toby Whithouse (who guest stars in the final season) was hoping for?

Blu-ray is definitely the way to check out this release. The effects aren’t too plentiful, but aside from some cheesy-looking werewolves, they are well used and natural. There is a lot of darkness in the color palette and tone, so it helps to have the high def version to see the detail in the shadows and the layers of blacks. There is also a great soundtrack, crystal clear and well mixed.

In short, Being Human: Season Five is a must-see for people who enjoy the show, and a fine example of how to both reboot a story with a fresh cast, and also how to end a series properly in that situation. Kudos to all involved.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"The Last Broadcast" of BEING HUMAN

Article first published as "The Last Broadcast" of BEING HUMAN on TheTVKing.


The British series Being Human recently aired their final season finale, "The Last Broadcast," on BBC America. Capping a short, six-episode run, the central trio face who they are, what they want, and battle the Devil for control of the world. So, just another day for our heroes.

I had my doubts about this fifth series, mainly because all of the original characters are now departed. It's rough to put three newbies front and center in a final season, even if they have appeared on the show prior to it. I wondered if Being Human would concentrate solely on a villain, pay homage to the former stars, or develop the fresh personalities.

"The Last Broadcast," and the rest of the series leading up to it, focus mainly on the last of those three, and that is a good decision. Being Human has always been about supernatural creatures finding their way in a world run by human beings, and discovering how they might fit in. That's what people tune in for, and the show really captures the drama of each spirit, as well as what their internal struggles are. This last season is remarkable in that regard.

There's Hal (Damien Molony), the vampire who likes to pretend he has the evil streak beaten, his craving for blood tamed, but he does not. He has a past that haunts him, and if the red stuff spurts in his field of vision, his carnal needs come raging to the surface. He will never fully defeat that part of himself, and keeping it locked in a cage isn't a cure.

Tom (Michael Socha) is also ashamed of himself, or rather, the wolf inside of him. Rather than celebrating the physical enhancements that come with the werewolf curse, he dwells on the dangerous creature he becomes once a month. This prevents him for bettering his position and career, in his mind anyway, and so he is kept in place.

Finally, Alex (Kate Bracken) has unresolved romantic feelings for Hal, since he killed her on their first date, not to mention that being a ghost keeps her separated from her family and former life. She isn't happy with her limitations, even as she is empowered by her abilities, and wishes for something different.

The Devil (Philip Davis) wisely exploits all of these shortcomings in the final battle, giving the three an opportunity at a normal existence. They can live as people, not as freaks. They resist, though, because as much as they war with who they are, they are deep down proud of the life they've built together. Hal says it when he boasts to the Devil that if the Devil really wanted to win, he'd have put them together.

This is a very interesting observation, and one that feels right as the trio wakes up in one place, defeats their foe, and become human once more. It's everything they've wanted, the best of both worlds, not forgetting the trials they've been through, and also getting to be an average person again. This is the best possible ending for the characters and fans of the series.

But the writers are smart, too, leaving plenty of clues that the Devil may have actually won. We see the paper wolf on the mantle. The ritual to defeat the Devil was supposed to kill the trio, and somehow they survived as humans. Everything is a bit too perfect. This is the ultimate bad guy, and while a film where he is defeated once and for all might be cool, the ambiguous, creepy, sort of depressing ending is kind of neat, too, even if it never goes past this.

Plus, there's always the debate, if Hal, Tom, and Alex truly believe they have won, fooled or not, isn't that still a happy ending for them?

Being Human and "The Last Broadcast" additionally serve up a juicy part for Rook (Steven Robertson), too. He is the bureaucrat who believes in his supernatural-control department whole-heartedly. It's a shame the Devil is able to convince Rook that there must be sacrifice for the greater good, so Rook helps with evil deeds, but Rook's end goal is still a noble one. Rook even is willing to sacrifice himself, which stills holds meaning even if the sequence isn't real, because it fits his arc. This indicates he is a misguided savior, but still someone to remember fondly. It's a complex portrait, beautifully acted and written.

Everything about this final hour is well crafted. From the contrast between Hal's song and dance and his brutality, to the bringing back of former characters for the Devil's offers, to Tom's grief, to Alex's inner strength, to the banding together despite all of their ill will, these roles are served, and the result is incredibly entertaining. Even if this had been taken alone, "The Last Broadcast" stands well on its legs, besides being a pay off for the earlier install

It's a little sad that there are only scant references to George, Annie, Mitchell, and Nina, and yet, this isn't their story anymore. The fifth series is fully about Hal, Alex, and Tom, and so it makes sense for the finale to be about them, too. This is a whole different story, almost a whole different show, but it ends as it should. The finale is to be lauded.

Being Human has completed its run, but all five series are out on Blu-ray and DVD, so there is plenty of time to re-live it, or check it out if you haven't done so yet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DVD Review: ‘Revenge – The Complete Second Season’

Article first published as DVD Review: ‘Revenge – The Complete Second Season’ on Blogcritics.

revengeABC’s Revenge continues its sweeping tale of a young woman determined to even the score with the people that destroyed her father in The Complete Second Seasonnow available on DVD. In these 22 episodes, the protagonist’s own past catches up with her, complicating her mission.

The Complete Second Season begins with the remains of a boat wreck, and then jumps backwards in time several months, slowly allowing the action to catch up to this devastating scene over the course of many installments. This is the same formula used in the freshman year, and unfortunately becomes less effective each time it is pulled out, an unwelcome trope at this point. Thankfully, it is only a small part of the larger story.

Season one ends with Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), the series’ main villain, dead in a plane crash. Fans of the show could not stand for the wicked witch to be taken out so easily, and neither could the writers, so it will surprise no one when she rears her head again early in this run, alive and mostly well.

Victoria isn’t the only obstacle for Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), the aforementioned leading lady, this season. There’s: the White Haired Man (James Morrison), a member of the Grayson’s social circle; Takeda (unfortunately recast, as Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa doesn’t look much like the original actor, Hiroyuki Sanada), Emily’s mentor who sends his pupil, Aiden (Barry Sloane, Hollyoaks), to keep Emily in line; Emily’s messed-up mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resurfaces; and a variety of smaller players stand in Emily’s way.

Some have criticized Revenge for getting too complicated in the second season, adding in too many characters and subplots, distracting from the central arc. I disagree. Life is messy, and in a situation like this, there would be many moving parts, some unpredictable and coming in at inconvenient times. This makes sense.

However, Revenge isn’t as sophisticated or adept at juggling the balls as many other current series, especially those on cable. It’s bread and butter is gossipy, drama-infused, soapy interplay, which is does an adequate job at. When it tries to build a larger mythology, which goes perfectly well with the plot in theory, Revenge is lacking and isn’t quite up to the task. When it sticks to shifting loyalties, bed hopping, backstabbing, complicated romance, family secrets, and twisted friendships, it does quite a good job, most of the time.

Revenge is enjoyable, popcorn entertainment. Overall, the flow is fine, and there are some terrific, juicy moments, especially involving Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) and her parentage, and anytime Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart) shows up. Revenge may not be the highest quality show out there, but it mostly knows its own identity and can serve it well.

All of this builds into a startling climax in a two-part season finale that not only results in the tragic, regrettable death of at least one main player, but brings to a close a number of the year’s stories. It also allows Emily to refocus and decide what she wants. There is a cliffhanger, of course, but viewers should be left satisfied with this part of the tale, and be ready for the next bit when it premieres in September.

The bonus features in this DVD release are not as good as the first season’s. As usual, there are audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and bloopers. What the set lacks are any strong featurettes. There’s a bit on the score, which is interesting, but won’t interest a broad audience. The bonus about Ashley Davenport’s style will probably appeal more to the core fan base of Revenge, though wasn’t my cup of tea. Lastly, the book feature seems like an advertisement more than an extra to reward buyers.

In short, I’d say check out Revenge The Complete Second Season for the episodes themselves, not so much that bonuses, though there may be a piece here or there that you’ll enjoy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

CLEAR HISTORY Appeal Is Murky

Article first published as CLEAR HISTORY Review on Seat42F.

Clear History HBO
For those missing Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO recently premiered CLEAR HISTORY. Written by, and starring, Larry David, the tone and humor is pretty much the same, with David inhabiting a similar character. This should tide fans over until David decides to make another season of his well-received comedy series.

The basic premise is of a man named Nathan (David) who gets into a silly argument with his boss, Will (Jon Hamm, Mad Men), leading to Nathan losing his job just before a massive launch of a new car that would have made him a billion dollars. Ten years later, Nathan is living as a drastically different looking guy named Rolly in Martha’s Vineyard, seemingly having escaped his past. That is, until Will shows up on the island, and Rolly begins plotting his revenge.

CLEAR HISTORY is inferior to Curb Your Enthusiasm, so don’t go in expecting an hour-and-a-half episode of the show. David still goes after silly, everyday gripes, but instead of harping on them for thirty minutes, with earlier events coming back full circle, most are dealt with in thirty seconds and then dropped. This is a shame, as there is certainly ripe material here that could fill many installments of Curb, wasted as throwaway gags.

What I don’t buy is that Rolly is considered the nicest guy around. At first, he seems to have turned over a new leaf, not harping on the little things that Nathan used to. But throughout the movie, Rolly makes more enemies than friends, and loses a few chums along the way. Has he turned just because of Will’s presence? It seems doubtful, especially as no character makes that observation.

The ending is contrived, and while a few threads seem to tie together, they don’t play into the final scenes, ruining the setup. Also, the story just can’t decide what it wants to be. For large stretches of the running time, it is a cohesive tale, but then it sometimes falls apart into a series of bits, and the ending is far from satisfying or complete. That is probably the biggest weakness of the project.

Which is not to say CLEAR HISTORY isn’t enjoyable. There are some brilliant turns by wonderful comedic performers, and those alone are worth tuning in for.

The most stand out performance is that of Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) as Tibor, the Czechoslovakian man who sells Rolly an ignition switch, and then gets in a car wreck with him. Tibor’s look and accent are humorous, but it’s more the absolute confusion that he has towards Rolly, not understanding what’s going on when Rolly is involved, and not getting why Rolly isn’t afraid of him, that plays so darn well. Sadly, it is an uncredited role, as Schreiber stars in a series for a rival pay channel.

Among the rest of the cast are familiar faces like Michael Keaton (Batman, Toy Story), J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Amy Ryan (The Office), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live), Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Eva Mendes (Hitch), Amy Landecker (Dan in Real Life), Patty Ross (The Heat), Paul Scheer (The League), Chicago (the 25 or 6 to 4 band), and many more. Each, without fail, not only fits well into this contrived world, but does an outstanding job of selling the scenes they are involved in. They are not the weakness of the piece, and each is not only funny, but also seems to be really glad to have this job, a definite plus.

A particular element I really enjoy is that of Will’s wife, Rhonda (Kate Hudson, Glee, Almost Famous). At first, she seems a pushover whom Rolly can worm his way in with. But the direction the script goes with her as things play out not only fits with her character nicely, even after a few turns, but also rises above the predictable and expected.

Overall, while not as impressed with CLEAR HISTORY as I have been with other David works, it is a nice little snack as we await his next great project.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

HELL ON WHEELS Season 3 Premiere Review

Article first published as HELL ON WHEELS Review Season 3 on Seat42F.

Hell On Wheels Review Season 3
AMC’s HELL ON WHEELS has been back a couple of weeks now, and the third season so far has really shown growth over the first two. There are new characters, new scenarios, and most of the threats come from the outside, rather than internal conflict these days. It’s been quite exciting.

As the season premiere, “Big Bad Wolf,” opens, Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount) is living in a barren, ice-covered land by himself. Seeing the wolf attack him, finding his dead friend, and watching our hero succumb to cabin fever is almost like watching Cullen die, only to be re-born again as he takes the train to New York City, after a stop along the way to pick up Elam (Common).

I like this Bohannan. We’ve seen a few different sides to the character already, but this Bohannan feels like I imagine the original Bohannan was, prior to the strife in his life, before the war and losing his wife. He is a good man, full of virtue, but also one whom can square himself with reality, rather than just spouting ideals. He does the right thing, and is concerned about his sins.

We see a lot of this when Bohannan visits a couple of churchs and talks with Ruth (Kasha Kropinski, now a main character). She judges him for the sin of killing men, and at first, he takes offense. Upon reflection, though, he realizes she is sort of right, and he needs to not only be sorry, but try to find a better way.

Not that getting out of killing is easy. In “Eminent Domain,” Bohannan has to evict a Morman family off of their land. One of them shoots the police chief, and Bohannan has to dole out justice. Is he right to hang the boy who is said to have pulled the trigger? Well, that may be arguable, but in keeping with the laws and doing no more than what is required to keep the peace and order, Bohannan stays on the right side. He feels some sort of regret at the boy’s death, but he isn’t haunted by it much, nor should he be. Fans of the show will think more highly of him than he does himself for his behavior.

Viewers may not be the only ones to admire Bohannan for long. A dogged, determined reporter named Louise Ellison (Jennifer Ferrin, the latest addition to the cast) comes to Hell on Wheels to write a story about the railroad and finds Bohannan far more interesting. Maybe her interest in him is strictly professional or maybe its romantic. Either way, it not only gives us an opportunity to see Bohannan through different eyes, but could improve the character’s position in life, so her presence is welcome.

As good as Bohannan might seem to be doing, he has no shortage of obstacles to overcome this year. Indianas pose a threat, The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) has survived and will presumably makes his way back, Union Army soliders tasked with protecting Bohannan’s crew are uncontrollable and brutal, Sean (Ben Esler) has made a bad deal that casts him as a secret mole, and Durant (Colm Meaney) will do everything he can to sabotage Bohannan so he can take back the project.

Is Durant HELL ON WHEEL’s ultimate villain? Vanquished at the end of season two, he slimily maneuvers his way out of jail and is soon the bee in Bohannan’s hat. He is not easy to get rid of, always working a new angle, and rarely in the public eye when doing so. It makes for some great scenes between Bohannan and Durant, including a recent one at a table with a corpse, and gives the series a pivotal relationship that should serve it well until the conclusion of the final season. Or Durant could die next week and be gone, which would be a shame, but not completely out of left field, considering the setting.

Death hangs heavy in the third season of HELL ON WHEELS. We’ve watched characters die, sure, but with main players taken out and danger all around, suddenly things seem to be just a little bit closer to the edge. Eva (Robin McLeavy),in particular, worries about Elam, especially when Elam’s predecessor as the enforcer in charge is murdered. The show is taking more care to convey the seriousness of the predicament the cast finds themselves in, and it provides an added interest level.

Basically, life on the frontier comes with risks, and while our beloved characters may seem up to the challenge, there is no guarantee. As heartwarming as it is to see them all reunite at the end of “Big Bad Wolf,” combining their skills and attitudes to begin construction anew, there is the definite sense that all will not be around to see completion of the project. Finding out their fates is just another reason to watch a great show.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

LOW WINTER SUN Premiere Review

Article first published as LOW WINTER SUN Review on Seat42F.

Low Winter Sun
AMC’s LOW WINTER SUN begins with the murder of Detroit cop Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady, Ray Donovan) by two of his fellow officers, who do their best to make the death look like a suicide. Viewers are told that McCann is an alcoholic, corrupt, working with mobsters, and an all-around not-good guy. He deserves to die, right?

Well, that’s not clear. LOW WINTER SUN is all about shades of grey, with a character claiming early on that morality is neither black and white. Said character, Detective Joe Geddes (Lennie James, The Walking Dead, Jericho), who happens to be Brendan’s partner, used to be in priest school, so he knows a thing or two about right and wrong.

Yet, just doing what one should or shouldn’t do isn’t enough, and everyone may have a different opinion on whether they are working towards justice or not, and how far one should go.

LOW WINTER SUN asks us to forget about a style of storytelling where we know what’s going on and just pay attention to the characters. What each person says and does may be much more telling than how the plot unfolds, and it presents a world where right and wrong are relative, as well as shifting from moment to moment. The only certain rule in this complex drama is that the episodes will be unpredictable, and we’re supposed to just take it all in, saving figuring things out and making our judgments for later.

Of course, every television show needs an access point where viewers can connect with the world being presented. LOW WINTER SUN’s main protagonist is Frank Agnew (Mark Strong, reprising the role from the British miniseries on which this show is based). Frank is the mastermind behind Brendan’s death, convinced by Joe that killing Brendan is the right thing, and that Brendan may have hacked up Frank’s love. Thusly, Frank is introduced as a hero, a man acting for the right reasons.

Frank and Joe’s alliance quickly falls apart. Joe may or may not have been up front with Frank, meaning Frank can’t trust his accomplice. Joe could be dirty, like Brendan, or could be lying about Frank’s girl. He may just be a smooth talker, or he may have yet-to-be-revealed reasons for wanting Frank dead. There’s a lot of ambiguity here, which James plays brilliantly.

Which is a hallmark of the rest of the series, too. Characters know different things at different times, and have their own motivations. These are well-defined individuals, which means their interactions are complicated and layered. Just as people can be deceptive in real life, so, too, can the players in LOW WINTER SUN, which makes it hard to accept what plays out on screen at face value. This is a plus for the show.

Things get more complicated when Internal Affairs agent Simon Boyd (David Costabile, Breaking Bad, Suits, Damages) shows up to look into Brendan. Simon arrives before Brendan’s body is found, but Simon is very interested in not only what happened to Brendan, but what the implications are. He is the type of man to keep things close to the vest and goad his subjects or not, as the need arises, driving everyone crazy very quickly. He is definitely intelligent enough to eventually put the pieces together, but is he wise enough to balance that information and the law with reality and judgment? Costabile is the perfect man for this difficult, juicy role.

Simon isn’t the only one Frank needs to worry about. A fellow officer, Khalil (Athena Karkanis, Wild Kratts), is already taking note of Frank’s odd behavior, as Frank tries to keep himself under control and not let doubt and guilt consume him. Frank’s boss, Charles Dawson (Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Castle), cares more about his career than his officers, tasking Frank with keeping Brendan from damaging him, and would surely throw Frank under the bus if need be. Frank is surrounded by people who might cause him trouble.

LOW WINTER SUN also takes time to examine the criminal side of Detroit, the one in which Brendan was mixed up in. There’s a wanna-be crime boss, Damon (James Ransone, Treme), his wife, Maya (Sprague Grayden, 24, Sons of Anarchy), and their new recruit, the psychologically damaged Nick Paflas (Billy Lush, The Chicago Code), to round out the cast. This means that not only will the show be giving us a very involved police presence, but also showing the other side, too, which makes sense, given the cross-over component, with villains and heroes working both sides of the line.

The result is an intriguing series that should be well-accepted by AMC viewers, who expect an extremely high quality to their programming, with characters and scripts not easily digested, and installments that leave them with much to ponder and debate. Despite its trappings of a crime drama, LOW WINTER SUN is so much more, and should feel right at home with the network’s other fare.

LOW WINTER SUN airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

Friday, August 23, 2013

TRUE BLOOD Goes "Radioactive"

Article first published as TRUE BLOOD Goes Radioactive on TheTVKing.

HBO's True Blood has had a banner year, surely an improvement over the past couple just in terms of sheer excitement. Major characters died, the rules of the universe began to change, and the tale was much more focused on the central players, rather than guest stars or big bads brought in for a single year. And some of the newbies that joined the cast not only fit as if they've always been there, but definitely have already made a place for themselves in future seasons. It may have only been ten episodes, but it used every minute of those hours well.

Forgive me if part of this review inadvertently refers to bits of the penultimate episode, "Life Matters," as I watched the two hours back to back, and they were quite excellent taken together, especially the Terry (Todd Lowe) scenes in the first half. Additionally, True Blood features a very large cast, so if I skip the subplot you love most, I apologize, but I'm just not going to get to everything.

The end of the vampire concentration camp arc in this year's finale, "Radioactive," is a shocking one. Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), with Bill (Stephen Moyer) on his heels, breaks into the facility and slaughters all who work there. It's poetic justice, and certain notable guest characters get ends befitting them, including Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), whom has been very enjoyable these past years, but is not disappointing to see die now.

Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) escapes, which is appreciated because everyone can't die at once. Steve has his time without her in earlier seasons, and she deserves the same in the future.

Eric's brutality reminds us that he is not the kind and cuddly vampire that Bill introduced us to early in True Blood's run. Eric is much older, and has a different moral compass. It's easy to forget that when we see him interact with Sookie (Anna Paquin). But when his sister, Nora (Lucy Griffiths), is murdered and his other loved ones endangered, he can go back to that steely-toothed beast fans love to fear. "Radioactive" shows us Eric as scary as he's ever been.

Those who worry about Eric's fate in his final scene of "Radioactive" need not fret. We don't actually see him fully die, and the producers have confirmed Skarsgard remains a full-time cast member next season. He's just too important to True Blood to lose.

By contrast to Eric's evilness, Bill, who has been stand-offish while existing as the god-like Billith, fulfills his messianic destiny and goes soft again. He gets to save everyone with his super blood, temporarily allowing them to frolic in sunlight, and then goes back to secretly caring for Sookie. Sookie isn't ready to forgive him yet, not even close (in the first half hour), but fans of the show likely will quite quickly, now that we know old Bill is back.

Sookie is with Warlow (Rob Kazinsky), the one arc this season that never quite made sense. It almost feels right when Warlow turns on her, and then Bill, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), Andy (Chris Bauer), and Adilyn (Bailey Noble) must rescue her. It's all very contrived, though, and ends way too easily, which I'd complain about, except I'm glad no more time was spent on this story.

Mid-episode, the action suddenly jumps six months, a very interesting choice, made much earlier in the episode than most shows would have chosen to. It's such a jarring break that the last twenty-some minutes of "Radioactive" feel like a different season entirely. Which is kind of good because it whets our appetite for next summer, and gets to set up some very fascinating plots.

Most importantly, Sam (Sam Trammell), Bill, and the local preachers have banded together to protect their friends and neighbors from hepatitis-V-infected vamps. This alliance doesn't completely add up, but since there is a lot of time missing, that can be overlooked, as we don't know what happened to convince everyone to work together, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Even Arlene (Carrie Preston) is on board with playing friendly towards the fangers, which shows you just how dire the situation must be.

This is excellent because it gets back to part of the original premise. When True Blood began, vampires were just coming out into the open. We barely got time to see how humans and vamps mix before the plot picked up with Sookie's romantic life, and eventually, a great many interesting supporting characters. Now, we're actually going to see what working together and relying on one another means for the two species, and that will be satisfying. It also neatly fixes the humans-against-vampires war of this season.

It does not appear, however, that the rest of the supernatural creatures have come out of the closet. What will happen when Sam, the beloved mayor the people trust, is exposed as a shifter? This is a recipe to have the alliance fall apart at a crucial moment, leaving the future ripe with dramatic promise.

There are other things of note in "Radioactive," such as the satisfaction many will feel at finally seeing Sookie and Alcide (Joe Manganiello) as a couple, the ultimate betrayal Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) may finally have made against her daughter, Tara (Rutina Wesley), the amazing scene where a tearful Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) vows to protect an almost-not-furious Andy and Adilyn, Jason being more than tamed in his one-sided romance with Violet (Karolina Wydra, House), and the juicy premise that Arlene now owns Merlotte's. But we'll save all of that for next season's reviews.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Muppet Movie – The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition’

muppetArticle first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘The Muppet Movie – The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition’ on Blogcritics.

There are a handful of pivotal films out there that are classics as soon as they are released, and must be watched over and over again throughout one’s life. Some are important, some are dramatic, some are touching, and some are just plain fun. The Muppet Movie, the original motion picture released in 1979 starring Jim Henson’s creations, is all of those at once, with a definite leaning towards the comedic end of things, but with heart, too. Now, it is available on Blu-ray for the first time in The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition.

For those (probably very few) who don’t know the story, Kermit the Frog leaves the swamp to set out for Hollywood, meeting a bunch of friends along the way, including Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Animal, Scooter, Rolf, Sweetums, Swedish Chef, The Electric Mayhem, and more. While traveling, Kermit is pursued by Doc Hopper (Charles Durning, The Sting, Evening Shade), who wants to use the viridescent amphibian to advertise his restaurant, which is kind of like KFC, but with frog legs instead of chicken. With charm, gags, puns, meta references, songs, loads of muppets, and cameos by stars such as Orson Welles, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Elliott Gould, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Cloris Leachman, Carol Kane, Big Bird, among others, there is something magical in nearly every minute of this film.

One would think that such a beloved picture would have all the stops pulled out for it, to present the very best, perfectly remastered, extras-laden edition that fans old and new could appreciate. Some day that might happen, but unfortunately, The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition is not that version.

The picture and audio quality are not much better than the prior DVD versions released. There is a graininess present in practically every scene, and the details are murky, with apparently little to no effort spent on sharpening or enhancing the image. Colors are natural for the time period, but not anything special, and there are few details evident in the black patches, of which admittedly few exist. The soundtrack fares no better, seeming hollow and dated, even if it is pretty much clear from hisses and pops. Overall, it’s a very disappointing effort.

Similarly, many of the bonus features are far from fresh. Present are Doc Hopper’s TV commercial, trailers, and Jim Frawley’s camera test, all of which have been released before, though the packaging seems to indicate the camera test may be longer than on the original. Still, it’s a lot of repetition.

Of the new inclusions, there’s a short profile on Kermit by fellow muppet Pepe and three sing-along “Frog-E-Oke” music videos featuring the big musical numbers from the movie. These are entertaining, but not reason enough to purchase the set if you already have an earlier release, especially considering that’s all you’ll really be shilling out the money for.

The menus are actually very cool, with wonderful design elements. In pop-up mode, they are unobtrusive, but still stylish. The Muppet Movie also has the now-common “Disney Intermission,” which basically means, for this title, that when you press pause, one of the three “Frog-E-Oke” videos play until you start the movie again. Not completely necessary, but a good feature for young children.

If you don’t already own The Muppet Movie, you might as well get this one because it is slightly better than any other version of the film I’ve seen, and the movie itself really is a must-have picture. But it’s not nearly up to what it might have been, and if you already have a copy, it’s certainly not worth paying to upgrade. It’s likely, some time in the future, Disney will do better, so I would recommend holding out for that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blu-ray Review: ‘Doctor Who Spearhead From Space’

DWThe newest Doctor Who release is the first ever classic serial on Blu-ray! It also possibly contains the only episodes of the series’ original run that will ever get the high-definition treatment because, unlike other Who episodes,  it was shot on film due to a strike at the BBC.

As far as picture quality goes, don’t go in expecting to see something as crisp as detailed as movies and shows filmed in the past couple of decades. But it does look stunningly better than any other classic Doctor Who release I’ve ever seen, a real step up from the DVD version of this very story. The menus, in particular, are fantastic. The colors are vividly real, and one can see every pimple on a face’s closeup. The soundtrack fares about the same, maintaining the original sound, which isn’t the sharpest, but lacking the static and noise that most of these older episodes contain. Overall, while dated, the look and sound is impressive, better than I’d dared hope for.

The four-episode story on this release is Spearhead From Space, the season seven premiere that is not only the first one starring Jon Pertwee as The Doctor (the Third, for those keeping track), but also the first Doctor Who filmed in color. It is the first episode that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), whom we’d seen before, is featured as a series regular. It introduces Dr. Liz Shaw (Caroline John) as the new companion. Additionally, the episode has a new title sequence from the first six years, and was the first story aired outside of the series’ normal Saturday night time slot.

As the story begins, our titular character is exiled on Earth, in a hospital no less! At the same time, meteorites are falling, one of which contains an intelligence that can manufacture Autons, which it plans on using to take over the world. UNIT could really use the Doctor’s help in dealing with the invasion, if only they knew where he was.

Spearhead from Space is as much a story about the Doctor as it is about the adventure the characters are undertaking. The concept of regeneration is a new one for Lethbridge-Stewart, who has a hard time believing that this is the same Doctor he has worked with in the past, albeit in a different body. The process of the Doctor switching bodies is still relatively new to the series, and Lethbridge-Stewart serves as a nice vehicle for the audience to access the concept so vital to the mythology.

This serial also sets up the Doctor’s next big arc. He is marooned on Earth at the whim of his fellow Time Lords. The Doctor isn’t too pleased with the situation, but makes a deal with UNIT to make things more tenable. This is a character out of his element, which is always fun to explore. Pertwee seems to be the perfect actor to execute this particular plot.

It is interesting to me that a being of almost pure thought, who has escaped the bounds of a physical body, is still interested in controlling the rest of the world. Yes, the intelligence contains some powers that help it accomplish things it could not as a normal life form. But it seems so much less efficient to not have any limbs. And why is it so concerned with forcing others to its will? What does it need with Earth? Spearhead from Space is far from the only sci-fi story to ponder these questions, continuing one of the strangest themes in the genre.

Rather than recycling the extras from last year’s Special Edition release, the blu-ray Spearhead From Space has only a few bonus materials, but they are fresh and rich in quality. There’s a forty-plus minute profile of Pertwee, with those who had the pleasure of working with him telling us what he was like. A half hour looks at Caroline John. Plus, there’s a short, sometimes side-by-side, comparison with notes on how the picture was converted to high definition, in case anyone doubts the improvement is worth it. The title sequence material alone isn’t very interesting to the casual fan, but I’m sure some will find value in it.

In short, the Spearhead From Space blu-ray is an essential must-see for any Doctor Who fan, or anyone interested in the conversion of old film in general.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blu-ray Review: 'Once Upon A Time The Complete Second Season'

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Once Upon A Time The Complete Second Season' on Blogcritics.

OUATABC’s Once Upon a Time, despite a rough start, has quickly become one of network television’s best shows. The Complete Second Season, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, is a great example of the series’ strength, with some of the best episodes to date, and the addition of some intriguing new characters and plots.

As season two opens with “Broken,” the curse has been lifted and everyone in Storybrooke knows they are characters from the Enchanted Forest, though they retain the memories of their time spent in our world. Dealing with these duel identities and finding a way forward, while keeping in mind of the past, is a major push in the second season. With the secrets and mysteries of the first year blown wide open, it’s a reset, and also a source of momentum for the story.

This finding oneself theme is most evident in the villainous characters. We see Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) tragic introduction to magic in “We Are Both,” and she struggles to regain her lost soul in the present, with her love for Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) serving as a life preserver. She backslides throughout other installments, but always finds herself again. She has a long journey ahead of her, but there are hints that she might overcome her flaws.

Similarly, Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) wants to be a better person for Belle (Emilie de Ravin), as well as for his son, Bae (Michael Raymond-James), who re-enters the tale in a big way mid-year. This is not an easy road for Gold, as the hold the Dark One and magic have over him is strong. Dangers prompt him to keep his power close, and test his mettle. Like Regina, he is no where near redemption, but that path is open to him.

To replace these two, as Once Upon a Time must have bad guys, we get Cora (Barbara Hershey), a.k.a. The Queen of Hearts, and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), the former of which is truly evil, and the latter perhaps just misguided, but with some sort of honor code. Later, Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green, The Walking Dead) and Owen (Ethan Embry), intruders from the world at large, serve a similar dynamic. These four characters illustrate the show’s ability to have both black-and-white roles that serve a purpose, and layered ones that seem realistic, similar to the fairy tale-real world settings. It’s quite impressive.

Once Upon a Time does occasionally suffer from a sprawling cast, especially when Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) are stranded in the Enchanted Forest, dividing the viewers’ attention in too many places at once, but it does strive to keep the core people at its center. To that end, Archie (Raphael Sbarge) and August (Eion Bailey) are demoted to recurring status at the start of year two. They are still present, but don’t necessarily need their own plots very often, pushed back into the larger fabric of the many villagers, some important, some less so, that make the world feel complete.

I would argue Red (Meghan Ory) also belongs in this secondary group, though she is promoted to main character for this season, and may not return at all next year. Belle is a similar situation, yet there have been hints that an increased role might be in store for her, so her upgrade is welcome, if she is well-used in the future. The third new central player, Hook, is not only pivotal often throughout these twenty-two episodes, but a compelling player who fans have rallied behind, so it makes sense to retain him.

Among the stand-out episodes in The Complete Second Season are: “Tallahassee,” in which we meet Tiny (Jorge Garcia, Lost), a kind giant, and see Neal and Emma’s back story; “Child of the Moon,” which reveals the true Red; “The Cricket Game,” in which it appears Archie has been murdered; “In the Name of the Brother,” a story that adds Frankenstein mythology to the universe; “Manhattan,” which brings several central players in New York City; “The Miller’s Daughter,” where Snow battles darkness; “Welcome to Storybrooke,” in which a stranger comes to town in Storybrooke’s first days; and the two-hour finale “Second Star to the Right; And Straight On ’til Morning,” where the town’s very existence is threatened, thieves attempt to take magic out of this place, and the core cast bands together for a hero’s journey into season three.

The special features on Once Upon a Time The Complete Second Season are pretty great. Of the deleted scenes, a couple are wonderful character moments that should not be missed. The blooper reel is genuinely funny. There are several insightful commentaries, including one with the great writer Jane Espenson which is only included on the Blu-ray version. Also exclusive to the Blu-ray is an explanation of Henry’s family tree, which has gotten quite twisted over the years. Plus, there are five minutes with O’Donoghue which should please many female friends.

The best inclusion is a twelve-minute episode of “Good Morning Storybrooke.” Hosted by The League‘s Paul Scheer and Community‘s Yvette Nicole Brown, as fictional characters, it is a parody-like morning show set in the world of the show. While sometimes a little hokey, and not always quite in keeping with the established mythology (a note to Ariel, who isn’t in Storybrooke? Red acting nervous? Gold being too salesman-y?), it does feature many of the supporting ensemble, and is highly entertaining. Plus, there is a fantastic Lost reference, and we finally get to see Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) and Nova (Amy Acker) reconnect!

Lastly, there’s an unnecessary “Girl Power” featurette celebrating the strong women on the show for, um, I guess, people who don’t pay attention, since Once Upon a Time has never made any secret of featuring powerful females. But there may be some very young women out there who appreciate it.

Besides the couple of exclusive features, checking out the Blu-ray version is necessary because of the type of production this is. While not all of the CGI sets look spectacular in HD, the physical places, which are highly detailed, really do. Not to mention the rich costumes and great magic bits, which deserve to be examined closely, as do the amazing emotions that dance across many a face. There is a beautiful, sweeping soundtrack, so to get the crystal clear audio and visual presentation, high definition is a must.

Overall, this is a terrific release, one that will satisfy fans who crave a little more from their extras, and a superb season with some really exciting, moving stories. Once Upon a Time The Complete Second Season is available now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BREAKING BAD Pure "Money"

Article first published as BREAKING BAD Pure "Money" on TheTVKing.

AMC's Breaking Bad kicks off its final eight hours with "Blood Money." After a glimpse at a bleak future where Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) secret is out and his home is abandoned and defiled, the action picks up right where the previous episode (which aired last summer) left off: Hank (Dean Norris) finally suspects Walt of being Heisenberg, Jesse (Aaron Paul) wrestles with guilt, and Walt lies and threatens anew.

I feel like the only way for Walt's story to end is in death. Walt has become an extremely bad dude, as evidenced with many of his words and deeds in "Blood Money." This is a kingpin who is no longer trustworthy for anyone, and he must be brought down. The question is, who will end Walter White's life?

My money is on Walter White. We see him with an M-16 and poison in the opening of the installment. With his cancer back, something he is neglecting to tell anyone, Walt doesn't have long to live, anyway. Perhaps he wants to go out on his own terms, either peacefully by consumption of tainted food or liquid, or violently in a showdown.

The argument against this theory is that Walt is a survivor. He wants people to know who he is, and he isn't content to allow himself to be caught. These feelings could waver in the face of his mortality, but Walt's conversation with Hank, in which he brags to Hank that no jury will send a dying man to prison, shows that Walt is not ready to give up yet. Backed into a corner, this could change.

Or Hank might get Walt. Hank is loathe to publicly accuse and investigate family until he's sure Walt is Heisenberg, staying home from work and checking on things off-book. However, when Walt and Hank have their confrontation, we see how angry Hank is, and Hank punches Walt, making it clear he won't help Walt get away with anything. Hank will work vehemently in these final episodes to bring Walt down.

I hope Jesse doesn't have to hurt Walt. Jesse is having enough trouble dealing with his own behavior, handing out cash he sees as "Blood Money," rather than keeping his earnings from making meth. Jesse is reckless, intent on punishing himself for what he thinks he deserves if no one else will. Yet, we know Jesse is a good guy at heart and we want to see him get better, not descend further. Having to kill Walt could permanently destroy Jesse.

A nice surprise might be if Skyler (Anna Gunn) has to pull the trigger. She's back in Walt's life, sharing his bed, and running the car wash business together. However, she is not a pushover, and would not hesitate to protect her family, and would be able to sleep at night afterwards. She will be furious when she learns Walt is hiding his cancer from her again. Perhaps it's time for her to show ever more backbone and be the ultimate hero.

One thing is certain, Lydia (Laura Fraser) doesn't have the guts to do it. She may be desperate, seeking Walt's help at work, even as Walt tells her to stay away, but that won't be enough to bring down Breaking Bad's protagonist. She is weak and scared and that counts against her.

"Blood Money," besides giving us much to ponder, is a wonderful hour, finely crafted. From Marie's (Betsy Brandt) joking comment that Walt is the devil, to Walt's two 'hello's to his neighbor, to Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete's (Charles Baker) Star Trek conversation, there are layers and metaphors and memorable moments. There are also beautiful, dramatic, character-driven scenes between Hank and Walt and between Walt and Jesse. This indicates the show will maintain its quality til the end, and that is definitely something to look forward to.

Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Monday, August 19, 2013

DVD Review: 'Doctor Who - The Green Death Special Edition'

Article first published as DVD Review: 'Doctor Who - The Green Death Special Edition' on Blogcritics.

DWThe Green Death, now available as a two-disc Special Edition DVD, is the tenth season finale of the classic British science fiction series Doctor Who. Originally aired in six parts in the spring of 1973, it is notable as the final serial in which Jo Grant (Katy Manning) serves as The Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) companion.

As The Green Death begins, Jo and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) set out to investigate the mysterious death of a miner, one whose body has turned green. Jo initially assumes the cause is environmental, despite a local chemical company’s insistence that their process is safe and produces little waste. She has the support of Professor Clifford Jones (Stewart Bevan), whom she is quite enamored with.

Of course, as The Doctor discovers when he finally arrives from Metebelis Three, a planet he has been longing to visit for the past few serials, the situation is a lot more complicated than a little pollution leaking into the ground. The employees of the chemical company, along with UNIT’s Captain Yates (Richard Franklin), have been brainwashed by BOSS, a super computer intent on controlling the Earth. And the waste isn’t just killing people, but producing giant maggots, which turn into giant flies. Gross!

The Green Death is relevant as an environmental story, a topic as relevant today as it was in the 1970s. Sometimes there are hidden and unintended consequences, though there aren’t usually aliens involved. This Doctor Who serial takes something familiar and bends it to the show’s unique spin, producing a realistic-seeming, entertaining, and important story.

It also is part of the proud science fiction tradition of a computer trying to control people. From Star Trek to The Terminator to The Matrix, this scenario has been explored a number of different in ways. Doctor Who lends itself well to this type of tale, and this is a welcome adventure in the genre.

A few things in the script happen a bit too conveniently, such as The Doctor’s souvenir from Metebelis Three turning out to be exactly what is needed to save some people. However, there are also some wonderful connections to other serials, with the Metebelis storyline tying nicely into continuing arcs. While Doctor Who used to be (and sometimes still is) largely procedural, serial elements are always appreciated.

Jo’s departure from Doctor Who is handled pretty well, even if it all happens a bit fast. Unlike some companions, she gets an ending fans should enjoy, both serving the character, and feeling like a progression based on what happens within the six episodes, as well as her earlier tale. Quite satisfactory.

As most fans of Doctor Who DVD releases know, these Special Editions from the BBC always deliver on the amount of bonus features. Among the typical offerings included are PDF materials, an audio commentary with familiar voices actress Katy Manning, script editor Terrance Dicks, and producer Barry Letts, and a photo gallery. But there is so much more present, as well.

One of the best inclusions is an eleven minute mockumentary sequel, in which an investigative report is done on the chemical company featured in The Green Death. A number of guest stars from the episodes participate, and this kind of tie-in seems not only appropriate, but far ahead of its time, as it would fit nicely with the “web-based extras” many shows offer today. A more serious “Making of” is included, too, along with featurettes on visual effects, Wales, interviews with guest star Stewart Bevan and writer Robert Sloman, and a bit with Russel T Davies about Doctor Who‘s modern rebirth. Plus, there’s a second audio commentary track featuring people involved in Doctor Who not spoken to the first time around, and more.

It’s also worth mentioning that although Manning’s Jo did not return to Doctor Who officially, she did pop up in the modern spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Chronicles. Two episodes from that show that aired in 2010 with Manning and Matt Smith as The Doctor are also on this DVD set.

In short, it’s another home run for the BBC and Doctor Who fans everywhere, a wonderful story with a ton of bonus features. Doctor Who The Green Death Special Edition is available now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Schedule August 2013

You may have noticed a lack of articles for the past two weeks. My grandfather was ill, and has passed away. This has taken me away from writing a little bit, and with my looming vacation (August 10-18), I have decided to just review the DVDs I've already promised to review for the month. I will return in force after vacation to continue to provide many reviews per week of a variety of TV shows. Thank you for your understanding.

DVD Review: ‘Misfits Season Three’


81jB0O7XjML._SL1500_Article first published as DVD Review: ‘Misfits Season Three’ on Blogcritics.

Misfits Season Three was recently released on DVD by the BBC. In these eight episodes, the familiar not-quite-heroes figure out their new powers, but more importantly, try to decide what they want for themselves in their lives. It’s a series with super-human abilities, but the characters are extremely down-to-earth, and their complicated relationships, both within and outside of the group, are the focus of the story.

As season three begins, Nathan (Robert Sheehan) has moved to Vegas with his lady love, leaving a hole in the central gang. It is quickly filled by Rudy (Joseph Gilgun, Emmerdale), a young man who is as obnoxious and overly sexualized as Nathan, but who is more open about his insecurities that make him that way. In this manner, Rudy does not quite replace Nathan, but serves in a similar capacity, while also deepening the archetype in a new and engaging way.

Rudy’s power is that he can split himself in two, essentially separating his good side from his bad, though neither personality is as extreme as one might expect from watching other science fiction shows. It’s cool that Misfits takes such an old trope and puts their own unique, grounded spin on it, as the series has done with other superhero elements. This also provides an appropriate conceit to illustrate Rudy’s inner turmoil.

In season two, viewers saw a badass future version of Simon (Iwan Rheon) come back in time to save his lady love, Alisha (Antonia Thomas), only to die in her arms. In this third outing, young Simon is striving to become that man, though Alisha doesn’t want him to be, as the end result would be her losing the guy she cares deeply about. Must Simon fulfill his destiny, or can time be re-written?

This question plagues the story for a lot of season three in a very intriguing way. There is an examination of fate, and a discussion about whether Alisha would just disappear if Simon doesn’t go back, or if, now that she’s been saved, she’ll be OK. Ultimately, the fate of Simon and Alisha is both poetic and poignant, not quite answering these queries, but providing a satisfying conclusion just the same.

Kelly (Lauren Socha) soon discovers her new power, being a rocket scientist, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when people have a hard time taking her seriously because of her physical appearance and accent. Similarly, Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) has many difficulties with his ability to turn into a girl, especially when sex is involved. Both of these seem more like comic relief than Simon and Alisha’s plot, but find room to delve into pathos occasionally, too.

Most of the eight hours in season three are concerned with these character-driven arcs, as well as Kelly’s relationship with power broker Seth (Matthew McNulty). But a couple of installments interrupt most of the forward momentum to present an alternate, Nazi-controlled timeline or battle zombies. Misfits is stronger in keeping to the bigger stories, not being bogged down in weekly stuff, so thankfully there is much more of the former.

At the conclusion of the season, the past comes back to haunt the group, quite literally, as three of the characters they previously killed (including a Downton Abbey star) return as ghosts that can interact with the physical world. It’s a cool callback, especially as most of the central cast ends their story permanently, and a prompt to examine what has happened to the characters, as well as who they have become. It’s a wonderful ending.

The three disc set includes a few special features. Each episode has around 3 minutes of Behind the Scenes footage, too brief to be very informative, but it does give us a glimpse of what happens on set. The featurettes on visual effects and stunts are more than ten minutes each, and go a bit deeper, though also aren’t anything special, too technical for the casual fan, but too light for those actually excited about such things. And there’s an “On the Set” bonus that is interesting.

The best inclusions are two extended webisodes, “Vegas” and “Erazer.” “Vegas” is what happens to Nathan after leaving the group, giving us a glimpse of what he is up to now. The story is totally in keeping with the established character, whom is missed, so the mini-episode is welcome. “Erazer” explores a brand-new hero, which kind of makes it case-of-the-week stuff, but it’s short and artistic and presented separately, so it’s more fascinating than distracting to the overall story.

That makes this a great set for Misfits fans, a fitting continuation of the story. Misfits Season Three is available now.