Summer TV – Mini Reviews to Get You Through the Dog Days

Are you ready to do some serious binge watching? Guest reviewer Heather Thayer has you covered!  Here’s her mini-reviews of new TV this summer.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I can summarize everything wrong with this show in one word: summer. The dark, brooding mood of the show and the heavy, gloomy Victorian settings are unappealing on a bright sunny day when it is light until late at night. I did watch two episodes and they were quite well done. The actor playing Mr. Norrell is perfect. The Man with the Thistledown Hair is frightening and ominous. I wonder whether someone who has not read the books will find the show easy to follow, but the source material is so great that I would hope that people new to the story could pick it up. DVR this show and wait for a storm (or winter) to watch it. I trust it will be excellent in the right weather.

Dark Matter

The concept of this show is intriguing – six people come out of stasis on a space ship with no memory of who they are, where they are, or what they are doing. They start to realize that they have skill memories, and there is an android who can handle the basics of operating the ship and everything else, so that’s helpful. After a few episodes I am still curious about the mystery, although the show can’t seem to steer clear of tropes – for example, one character is sullenly offensive and consistently resorts to conflict and violence. So tiresome. Another character is a manic pixie dream girl who dreams other people’s dreams. Hello, River Tam. The premise is interesting and they occasionally manage to avoid cliché, but it is turning into an “only if there isn’t something better to do” show.

Killjoys

Oh, how this show wants to be the new Firefly. Oh, how it isn’t. The premise is bounty hunters in outer space. Fine, great. I like that the lead character is a kickass woman and I like that the two initial main characters (a straight man and woman) have been business partners for six years but aren’t romantic partners and it is no big deal. I like the feel of the show (which does feel like Firefly) and the world building (which also feels like Firefly). But it is missing the wit of Firefly, the characters aren’t very interesting, and the writing is formulaic. Watch this one if you are sick and you don’t want anything challenging to hit your eyeballs.

Mr. Robot

Full disclosure – I am a lawyer who works with banks on consumer lending issues. I am going to have an issue with a show that has as a ridiculous premise “we’ll hack the banks and everyone’s loans will go pffft, and it will be wonderful for everyone!” But I love this show, even with that nonsense going on. The main character is fascinating. The show has a bleak outlook and is heavy-handed with its depressing message. It is terrific. It is slow-moving and complicated and spends most of its time looking at computer screens. It is riveting. Deliberate, lecturing, absorbing, mesmeric, thrilling. Impossible to explain or categorize. Best show on television right now.

True Detective

First episode. Meh.

First fifty-nine and a half minutes of the second episode. Meh.

Last thirty seconds of the second episode. WTF!!! WTF!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: The Well

Agents of SHIELD logoIn this week’s very special episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., we learn about the lasting effects of trauma.  We find out that not everyone on Asgard knows everyone else, and we discover yet again that it’s very important to watch this show all the way to the end.

First of all, I’m writing this late at night and off the cuff – please excuse any typos.  Late night blogging is never my friend.  Also, this is short.

Second of all, this movie had three great moments, and they are all very spoilery, so I’m not going to talk that much about this actual episode.

Here’s the great moments:

1.  Inspired guest casting.  This show really brings it in terms of hiring great guest actors.  Every minute with the professor, played by Peter MacNicol, was delightful.  I shall say no more.

PETER MACNICOL

2.  The theme of trauma.  Grant’s memories are freaking awful.  Child in peril trigger warning alert.  Meanwhile, Agent May takes the episode to a whole new episode with her own reaction to traumatic memory.  In every episode , there’s at least one line that makes me unwilling to give up on the show.  Her line, “Because I see it every day” is the line that keeps me going this week.  Fantastic.

detail

3.  The last one minute and thirty seconds.

Right now the only current TV shows I’m watching are S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow, and I vastly prefer Arrow.  Arrow is a ridiculous show, yet it’s deeply satisfying, because it knows exactly what it is.  Arrow is so ridiculous that at in one episode Ollie swings from a rope-like object  (Tarzan style) to whisk a girl out of danger not once but twice.  Twice in one episode.  Once, without a shirt.  With every second that I watch Arrow, I feel dumber and happier.

I feel dumber and happier just looking at this.

I feel dumber and happier just looking at this.

But Arrow gets us deeply invested in its soapy characters in a way that SHIELD (I’m bored with including the periods)  has yet to manage, and it moves the plot along with every episode – not in tiny increments, but in large steps.  Every episode ends with a question answered (Who is Canary?) and a question asked (will Ollie reveal her identity now that he knows it?).  The cinematography allows it to do a lot with a little, and the fight scenes are excellent.  Arrow is a soapy, silly, fun show and it knows it and it delivers fun, soapy, superhero derring-do and surprisingly realistic character development every single week.  If it’s not your cup of tea, you’ll know right away and never waste a moment of your time on it.  It delivers what it promises to deliver.

SHIELD does not seem to know what it’s doing.  We’re now in episode eight and the show still hasn’t kicked into gear.  I enjoy watching it, but I don’t think about the show in between episodes.  It’s still just “OK” and I’m getting a little pissy about it.  Every episode has some interesting stuff going on but not enough to make any particularly wonderful episodes.   The next episode is supposed to be May-centric, so I live in hope.

Agent May, you're my only hope.

Agent May, I’m counting on you!