What a remarkable job Netflix has done turning this show around. During the first two seasons the storytelling was so erratic and every episode seemed to be under an implicit requirement to induce a minimum number of eye rolls--whereas both of these first two episodes of season 3 have been captivating and advancing several threads of a rich and nuanced plot with ease. It's like they tasted a stew that wasn't very good but could see that it wasn't a bad recipe, just a bad chef. Whoever they gave it to was very judicious in the changes they made. A pinch of The West Wing here...a dash of House of Cards there...garnish with Anthony Edwards (Goose!) and voila! Magnifico! I could easily see this going at least three more seasons now and being a perennial winner for them.
I can't quite tell if this show has turned the corner or just officially jumped the shark. On the one hand, it really feels as though the narrative presentation has become less chaotic and more nuanced, though I'll stipulate to that largely being the result of them resolving the marital crisis between Grace and Ben (hooray, I can actually tolerate Grace's screentime again, not because I especially like her character but because they weren't going to just write her out, so something had to give for me to keep watching new episodes) and the introduction of the Zeke character, who so far appears to be a much-needed check on the story's mythos getting completely lost in an inward-looking death spiral. However on the other hand, the writing staff seems to have absolutely no ability to advance the plot in a logical, measured manner without resorting to the kind of over-the-top gimmicks that we were treated to in the closing sequence of this episode.
I really want to like this show, it fills a gaping hole in my preference for stories that revolve around an "Unsolved Mysteries" plot device that has existed since Fringe was canceled. I have no problem with the suspension of disbelief when I get invested in a show, provided that the writers can deliver on interesting characters and an internally consistent universe in which to place them. The characters so far on this one are just barely passing muster, and I wouldn't have even given them that much credit if they hadn't introduced Zeke in the last couple episodes. Here's to hoping that the tacky pivot to a new zombie-esque quality to the phenomenon behind the time travel and the callings that we saw at the end of this episode isn't as bad of a sign as I suspect it is.
I just watched the 60 Minutes episode featuring this documentary, and I was awestruck by the wisdom on display by Pope Francis as well as beauty of the very thoughtful way in which he offered his thoughts and opinions. I was raised Catholic but renounced any connection to them over ten years ago after slowly realizing that my own personal values bore almost no resemblance to their stated positions on topics ranging from marriage to objective morality to gender equality. I expected to be reminded of all those things and more when they started showing excerpts from it, and instead was delighted to hear not one thing I objected to.
I'm not so naïve as to think that the entire organization has made an about face and is pointed in the right direction, but it appears that the man in charge of it very well might be. If he were the priest at my local church, I don't know that I'd start attending again, but I'd definitely be sneaking in after the reading of the Gospel from time to time just to hear him speak. There was a goodness that radiated from his face and a light in his eyes that was impossible to ignore, and I can't wait to watch this documentary in its entirety.
I feel like season two up to this point has been a lot of half measures in the fundamental storytelling, but thankfully there was no holding back with this episode. Here we had a perfectly discrete theme that was being examined, clearly defined protagonist and antagonists, an internally consistent story arc and deliciously archetypal characters to traverse it. I'm sure that some would be quick to counter with arguments that it was too cliché, but let me see if I can tease some nuance out of it here.
The opening scene in the classroom where we first meet Grace, immediately cast in a negative light as the teacher attempted to shame her for not appearing to have been paying attention to the lesson in progress, only to be met with her apt summation of the text they just reviewed and an honest admission of uncertainty as to how she might react in a similar circumstance is the perfect metaphor for everything that is to follow. The stuttering reaction of an authority figure confronted with having bit off more than they could chew is revisited often and each time to delicious dramatic effect, usually with her parents, but even the bank teller and the priest get in on the action! It would indeed be cliché but for the obvious growth on display by Grace as the story progresses, who quickly moves from petulance to purposefulness as she shrewdly peels the onion of hypocrisy around her.
Though mostly accomplished in the final scenes, it's really the journey that her parents take in the wake of her headlong dive into genuine Christian charity that we find the narrative heart of this story. I think that's where it retains the ring of truth for me, for as with most conversions of the heart Hemingway's description holds fast in that, "at first it happens slowly, and then all at once." What a joy it was to see that all three members of the family could embrace the ideals they all wrestled with as soon as circumstances conspired to divorce it from the dogma it had been attached to.
I intend to revisit this lovely vignette often and unapologetically when caught in the all-too-familiar vice of life where my mind begs for temperance while my heart cries for boldness. We could all use a Grace in our lives to remind us of how much we stand to gain if we can find the courage to examine the world around us so critically and abandon the inconsistencies found therein.
My entire career as a businessman was perfectly summed up by Quark in this episode when we see him in one of the quarantine rooms, unapologetically harassing a customer stricken by the ephasia virus with the immortal words: "YOU... GOLD... OWE... ME!!!"
On a more general note, for me this is the first episode of the series where we're treated to a glimpse of the producers' vision for Trek's first character-driven show, in contrast to the plot-driven nature of the first two iterations. There's a quaint candor to the reactions of the series regulars, a vulnerability that took TOS and TNG much longer to reveal owing to their greater reliance on classical military archetypes. If asked for a single episode to screen for a newcomer to the series interested in gauging its appeal to them, this is undoubtedly the one I'd select. It captures well the essence of what makes DS9 unique in the Trek pantheon before too many character-specific arcs take root and require familiarity with them to appreciate the dynamics in play.
I don't believe I've ever been so captivated by such a deeply flawed movie as I am with Arrival. What others have written about far more insightfully than I could, namely that the acting is hollow at best, that the plot is nothing so much as a severely frayed thread in danger of completely unraveling, and an utter waste of one of the most creative iterations of extra-terrestrial contact in cinematic history...is all too true. Yet despite all of these reasons to dismiss the lamentable execution of this piece of art, I can't help but admit that I love it.
When you strip away all of the trappings and examine this movie solely for the essential story being told, you are privy to something very profound and genuinely uplifting: a treatise on how humanity's manifold foibles might just be redeeming after all. Through the protagonist, Louise, we see the unfolding of a series of personal tragedies being tempered with unflinching dedication to the accomplishment of something worthwhile and therein given purpose. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I found in it elements of the best of Disney's heroes, Shakespeare's tragic rulers, and religious texts' unwavering commitment to showing that there is no such thing as a meaningless sacrifice. While I believe they all could've been done greater justice, I believe their mere coexistence here is cause to sit up and take note, eschewing any demands for a greater polish and fidelity to realism.
I came away with a greater knowledge of myself and a more forgiving opinion of our species as a whole, and for both of those I am grateful beyond measure. Perhaps in time I'll come to see that the imperfections in its presentation actually work to clarify some or all of these laudable aspects of the narrative,...or perhaps the magic will fade under the weight of familiarity and I'll be unable to defend it as I have here now. Either way, the two hours I devoted to watching this movie for the first time are ones that I won't ever regret, and perhaps that's the best praise any artistic work can receive, especially in light of this particular story.
Easily one of the most poignant and thought-provoking movies I've ever seen. It let me to examine myself in ways I never had before, and I hope someday to see the play it's adapted from.
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle...I thought I'd just watched the series finale! I couldn't imagine that they'd finish out the season, let alone order up another! The show has felt so disjointed throughout its run, splicing together some truly memorable and terrific storytelling with some meandering, lost-the-plot sequences of episodes. I'm glad I was wrong, though. Bjorn really did take over as the protagonist some time ago anyway, and I hope they give him plenty of screentime going forward.