I'm going to miss this show when it's gone. It's been far from flawless, but what it has been, every single episode, is an obvious work of art. This entire series has been created in the service of such a unique artistic vision and has been given more license to hew close to its dictates than really any show that I can call to mind. It's eccentric, sometimes uncomfortably so, and yet for just once in my life that pattern of behavior hasn't been a form of pandering or an appeal to some "lowest common denominator" either. Hats off to the Kings for having the guts to make The Good Fight and the street cred to get CBS to pay for it; hats off to the cast and crew who saw something in it that was worth their time (especially Baranski, McDonald and Lindo, heavyweights all); and hats off to you, my fellow viewers, for congregating in sufficient numbers to let this little experiment persist for six wild and wacky seasons, pandemic notwithstanding—let's hope this final season ends up being the curtain call that we all deserve.
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 it—with far more insight than I could—is all too true, namely that the acting is hollow at best and the plot is nothing so much as a severely frayed thread in danger of completely unraveling. It's an utter waste of one of the most creative iterations of extra-terrestrial contact in cinematic history. And yet, despite all of these reasons to dismiss this lamentable execution of the cinematic arts, I can't help but admit…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: how humanity's manifold foibles, when put together, might just be redeeming after all. Through the protagonist, Louise, we see the unfolding of a series of personal tragedies and yet her response to them is tempered with unflinching dedication to the accomplishment of something worthwhile, and therein she finds her purpose. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I found in this story elements of the best of Disney's heroes, Shakespeare's tragic rulers, and religious texts' unwavering commitment to the belief that there is no such thing as a meaningless sacrifice. While they all could've been done greater justice, I believe their coexistence here is cause to sit up, take note, and eschew 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 again 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.
In a way, I'm a bit glad that this season is seemingly so intent on highlighting that, for all that Ben has accomplished throughout this series, in the end it has all been in service to himself and his own narcissism. This story has never really wanted for characters that were motivated by either a sense of moral benevolence and generosity, or the poignant absence of those qualities; indeed, the writers seemed to have no shame when it came time to scoop from the can of tropes when cooking up their recipe for plots and characters. I never could make sense, though, of why they then chose to make their protagonist such a dark, self-absorbed prick who went to any length to keep himself as the fulcrum through which every other part of the story had to pivot upon.
This isn't to say that I don't find it uncomfortable to watch this show throw their "white knight" so unabashedly under the bus and treat the people who he's claimed to love and be motivated to serve, especially his children, like dog shit. I do, and it is. It simply feels authentic to me that his character would crumble so pitifully when tested to this degree. I can think of no better example of this than his treatment of Vance, who he didn't even respect enough to be honest with about the location he was directed to by Eagan. If anyone had earned the right to make their own choice about whether to participate in the rescue attempt in the face of an adverse Calling, it's him. Instead, Ben sends him on a sleeveless errand to Bum F*ck Egypt for no other reason than making sure he can do anything he wants to accomplish his goal without protest or explanation. Personally, I kind of hope that Ben does something reprehensible in the course of rescuing Eden and ends up bent over in the prison showers nightly right alongside Eagan when it's all said and done.
Did anyone else feel like Marlon Brando's spirit was just off-camera, his eyes fixed in silence on Vicerys, during every moment Paddy Considine graced the screen? I certainly haven't seen anything quite like it since Brando breathed both life and death into Don Corleone in The Godfather. It really is one of the best barometers available for anyone's skill at acting, to portray a character first with their vitality intact, and then again as it's slipping away. It cuts against the grain of that which each of us struggles so hard to deny and forestall: time's inexorable march towards our diminishment and eventual death.
It was a rare privilege to see Paddy Considine bring Vicerys full circle in this episode. He's shown us that even strong kings are deeply flawed, and also that it is in overcoming those flaws from time to time, when it matters most, that was the source of their strength all along. Bravo, Mr. Considine, you did Brando proud and will be sorely missed.
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, 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 the issue wasn't a bad recipe, only a bad chef, and resolved to execute the advertised dish properly rather than cook up something brand new.
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! I could easily see this going at least three more seasons now and being a perennial winner for them.
Haha, I 'd never noticed until this episode that Sheldon' s insistent proclamation to Penny in The Big Bang Theory that "We keep our keys in a bowl" is a habit he acquired from his parents. When George Sr. leaves to go to the tavern at the end of the episode, we clearly see him retrieve his keys from a bowl in the middle of the kitchen table. This was a better episode than many of the most recent installments, though I can't imagine anyone would continue to classify it as a sitcom; we seem to be sailing in some rather deep family drama waters here.
At least my review won't be about the pacing, which I deem quite consistently upbeat and even enjoyably ambitious so far. In fact, I'm here to register a complaint about the acting thus far, and by extension the casting for the series. The characters are all shaping up to be (hardly a shocker, either) incredibly rich and in many ways more archetypal. Where I get lost is in the acting, in particular from Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra and even Paddy Considine as Viserys. They're just not selling me on the reality of their characters and I can't tell yet whether the actors lack the depth for the roles or they're all falling victim to lousy direction; I suspect the former, but only time will tell.
Maybe a part of it stems from the ages of these characters, which skew much more to the margins than GOT's did? I'd find that more believable had the young actors who played the Stark children not completely CRUSHED it left, right and center. Plus there's the fact that these aren't nobodies, I mean I first saw Ifans in 1998's The Replacements and while funny he wasn't turning my head there either (though in fairness that's a much higher bar when all your scenes are opposite Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves, hah).
There's something missing here still...that "spark" that makes you forget this is all just fiction in between the credits. I hope they manage to find it because I really want to like this show, but after two episodes I'm still stuck on Meh.
Though flowers have never had any special meaning to me, I will forever have a fondness for white tulips after having seen this episode. It may be the kindest of all acts between one human and another: to offer the reassurance that despite all our flaws, we are nevertheless redeemable. If I can perform it just once before I die in a manner even half as profound as Dr. Peck does here, I will consider my life an unqualified success.
Sheldon: Know what she's gonna do?Mee-Maw: Rue the day?Sheldon: Day, night...if it can be rued, she's going to rue it.
:rofl: It's like watching myself at that age. How some of us ever make it out of childhood alive, I'll never know. :grin:
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.
Others have already expressed all my disappointments with this episode more eloquently than I could, save one... And no, it has nothing to do with Adira's pronouns; her and Stamets are carrying this whole series on their backs lately and I wish the writers would lean into it more.
My massive gripe is with the borderline-criminal level apathy on display this season by the makeup and prosthetics team, and the nadir (or zenith, take your pick) it's reached in the form of the Orion characters this season. On a show with such polished VFX and striking aesthetic choices to turn out alien characters from a well-known race yet look that unconvincing, even by TOS standards, feels like a coup de grâce of sorts.
I've been a Trekkie for far too long to even feign having reached my limit with this one to the point of not watching it anymore, but damn, sometimes it feeling like they're seriously daring me to do just that.
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.
Oh Sheldon, the fact that you think Tie A Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn is "rock and roll" is beyond precious. Please, don't ever change.
This episode was definitely a different type of story than I think they've done before, far more reflective and willing to acknowledge the characters' shortcomings. Honestly it's a poor fit for the half-hour format (especially with CBS carving the runtime south of 21 minutes lately), but it was still refreshing to see the cast get to work with actual subtext for a change.
@triseult I feel much the same way and this decision to so quickly take the ship back to Earth further reinforces my sense that the writing team has far too little awareness of the size of bite the showrunners are expecting them to chew. The first two episodes worked because we had zero expectations for what we were being shown. Sure there were a few familiar touchstones to remind us that we were still in the same universe, but mostly we were flying blind in a way that hadn't really been felt since TOS and the first three seasons of TNG. I, for one, was enjoying that and cautiously optimistic that the series had turned a corner and had learned from its earlier missteps.
In this episode they chose to take us to the very place where we have very legitimate rights to a myriad of expectations and very predictably failed to meet almost all of them. Whether you were hoping for the latent spirit of the Federation to reassert itself (even just a little) in response to the earnest idealism of their unexpected guests or to show signs of the abrupt socio-economic regression we've seen so clearly at our first two stops on this journey, I have little doubt that you were equally disappointed. Instead we saw what appeared to be a fairly stable society with ample resources whose response to a widespread crisis seemed to be little more than building a big wall around itself, hanging "No Vacancy," "No Services," and "No Loitering" signs on it in every direction, and turning an intentionally deaf ear to any who dared knock on the door anyway with barely any interest in first learning their intentions for doing so. If that's what I was after I would've just turned on any U.S. TV news channel or picked up a newspaper.
Lastly I want to voice some mounting frustration over the fact that they continue to miss such obvious plot details and apparently think we all must be too dumb to notice. The one stuck in my craw here is from their arrival in the Terran solar system, where we see Discovery re-emerge into normal space at a point that appeared to be just beyond the orbit of Saturn. Earlier in the episode a point of agreement seemed to be reached that in order to attract as little attention as possible they would jump to a point that was outside the range of planetary sensors, which I anticipated would mean somewhere so far past the Oort Cloud that they'd need to use magnification on the viewscreen just to visualize the solar system. Instead we see that it's a spot that's just a few minutes away from Earth on impulse, and to sell that further the captain of the Border Patrol appears completely ignorant of major events that have occurred on a colony located on one of Saturn's moons.
I won't detail how ridiculous that all is to believe for the 23rd century Earth they just left, or even our own primitive capabilities, let alone for a 32ND CENTURY planet with over a millenia of FTL space exploration under its belt. That level of sloppiness would greatly irritate me for a show delivered under the old network television model they was served by a cable/satellite aggregator, but it leaves me just short of incensed for one that now expects cash up front for just its own (currently underwhelming) slate of content. All of this is compounded by things like a protagonist that suddenly seems at best ambivalent towards her participation in the ship's mission and a complete whiff on the chance to build on the curiosity they managed to spark in Episode 1 regarding the Booker character. Instead they went to great lengths to highlight the fact that Burnam has become quite attached to and comfortable around him to a greater extent than we may have ever seen her do so with the crew of Discovery, complete with tactical shorthand for maneuvers they'd done when they were on his ship together to the fact that they made barely a token feint at modesty before changing clothes in front of each other.
The fact that I as a viewer was completely ambivalent about whether she stayed aboard as first officer or left with Booker is ultimately what feels like the biggest failure on display. Even though it would've been unforgivably out of character, I was silently hoping that when she told Saru that she was genuinely (paraphrasing) feeling unmoored relative to their pre-time travel solidarity that he would react by saying "Well, if that's how you really feel, then as Discovery's new captain I'm rescinding my offer and strongly advising you to kick rocks. My crew is having a hard enough time holding themselves together and the last thing they need is a first officer who half wishes she was off doing something (or someone, perhaps?) else. Goodbye and thanks for all the fish."
Son of a b****, it's like watching Voyager for the first time all over again! FML.
Directed by none other than Garak, guest starring Virginia Madsen, and still we're left with this ruined orgasm of an episode? It's like the more you give these writers to work with, the less they seem to care about constructing a cohesive and relatable narrative! Granted the deck was stacked against them playing her opposite Chakotay, but there were hints of real chemistry there, it could've worked...
Honestly the part that really killed me was the exchange between Harry and Seven in the Astrometrics Lab about the purpose and potential rewards of pairing emotional intimacy with physical intimacy. Seven right now is a total sponge, eager to soak up and assimilate whatever she can about the human condition. The rather tangible but still very nebulous connection between them could've benefitted a great deal by Harry taking that opportunity to share with her some of his own experiences and the ways it's led him to want to manifest intimacies in his own life. But noooo, God forbid they even try to pull that off, easier to just keep everybody in their two-dimensional little boxes and go home early.
Voyager is the perfect example of why I detest almost all comedies, and they won't even try to be funny! How is it that every attempt at Star Trek after DS9 is so abysmal? And why do they suck so f'ing badly at casting them? I have this sneaking suspicion that if the right combination of executives at Paramount/CBS/Viacom boarded some flight that serendipitously crashed into the ocean we'd have another TNG or DS9-calibre show in production fairly quick. It's not a particularly complex formula needed for making good Star Trek, mostly it's just looking for the parts of life we tend to screw up most and not being afraid to examine why and what it'd take to start to do it better.
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 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.
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.
I think the entire cast of this episode deserves the highest accolades for turning in such beautifully measured performances, and of course none more so than our hero, Josh Thomas. This not-quite-half-hour was gripping in a way that kept the Earth from spinning while you watched it, and it's hard to imagine a more perfect portrayal of the shock of an unforeseen loss of this magnitude. That initial phone call to Tom was so authentic on both ends…it broke me wide open and I stayed that way clear through to the closing credits. Director Matthew Saville has been with us the whole way on this journey and we've had glimpses before that he could really draw the magic out of this cast when given the right material (Arnold singing Chandelier in the kitchen to Alan, with stage direction from Josh and accompaniment from Tom comes quickly to mind, for one), but I was properly taken aback by him here.
The most natural and common sin with a story like this is too end up leaning into the material too hard, trying to give grief the face it deserves, as it were. But in fact, this is what grief looks like when it's fresh, at least the sudden kind. Your chest moves up and down so you look like you're breathing and you keep moving about, but really you're frozen in place and drowning almost the entire time, only coming up for air a moment at a time, and spending the rest just wishing you could spare enough air to be able to scream. Even those close to Josh felt like the perfect archetypes of those who love you enough to travel that road with you:1. The one whose heart breaks along with yours, willing to do anything you ask and a few of the things you could never bring yourself too, but whose sympathy compels them to comfort you in ways that you can't bear. (Tom)2. The one who desperately fights to stay grounded lest they fracture into a billion tiny pieces and float away in the wind, turning them into a veteran Red Cross medic of a thousand engagements, wading waist-deep into the horror and trying to triage everything they encounter. (Alan)3. The other one whose heart breaks along with yours, but their self-involvement or sense of guilt makes them act like the horror was meant just for them in the most insufferable ways. God bless them, though, because really soon you're going to need someone to hate on at a distance, with a fierceness no one could ever deserve and they generally fit the bill oh-so-nicely by then. (Hannah)4. The wise one, the one with the presence of mind to know that no matter how gutted they are, you're living inside a massacre several orders of magnitude larger in scope, and they tell you precisely that before you're able to find the words yourself. By its nature their part in the world's shittiest pageant is often the smallest and yet still the most vital and precious; I think maybe the best writing choice of all was how true they stuck to this here. (Claire)
Despite the real tears and vicarious heartbreak that was visited on me by this episode, I will always be grateful for how tight the focus it offered was into this dynamic. If we ever get the wild notion to launch another artifact out into space like the golden phonograph record that was placed inside Voyager 2, I think I'd nominate a copy of this episode instead. If some other species is to get its first glimpse into the existence of humanity, I'd rather they see us for who we really are, and baby…it don't get anymore real than this.
What a creative and unflinching way to perform an examination of the human capacity for honesty. No time is wasted as we open with the presentation of Tom's piñata, complete with the candor of Josh and Claire's tepid initial reaction and Tom showing how it hurt him, the vulnerability of which seems to catalyze their willingness to share his excitement. While that's going on Arnold calls, reminding us that Josh does, in fact, have a boyfriend but that his impending hookup won't be cheating on him. Then enters Ben, and for the next 20 minutes we witness a highlight reel of all of the most memorable ways in which any of us has likely been awkward around someone new...except it's all handled with grace and understanding, and to an extent that I can only dream of being able to extend to another person, let alone to myself.
I don't know what parallel universe this episode was filmed in, but I'd like to move there...permanently.
I've come to think that the meaty part of the craft of acting is more often found in its too-easily overlooked nuances than in its thundering confrontations with the abyss, that agonizing reality that surrounds every one of us and exacts the toll for our journey that we fight so hard not to pay. And yet...heh, that's right, of course that's where I'm going with this. :smirk:
And yet if by chance I am right, our best guide to learning to observe those nuances of actors, the ones that have the power to transport us far away from our bodies to laugh and weep with those who lived and died all in someone else's mind...well that guide is the moments furthest removed from them. Moments that demand your heartbeat to quicken and stomach to grow taut, like a needle and thread they pierce us and leave scars and in their wake is left the thread of life itself, symbolizing the things we will always instantly recognize in each other. No one who has ever truly lived has avoided them...the moments in life where the record skips and for the briefest moment the needle takes flight and the whole world is in limbo, wondering if the song will continue, begin looping the last few, tiresome moments over and over, or be judged so broken as to never play again.
I should warn you though, and I want so badly to warn Spencer, too, because the price of living on the edge is indeed very high and the lucky ones pay it quickly while the taste of their fear is fresh in their mouth. They'll never know that it was merely a stalking horse for the thing they truly needed to fear: that day when joy or grief comes to visit them again but inside they can't feel it, not really, not like they used to. It's a peculiar thought, that the familiar euphemism of being a "glutton for punishment" might not only be possible for things like fear and agony, and then as it always does, rob the indulgent of the thing they once craved most. The languages I know all seem to lack a satisfactory way to describe it. To be still alive and breathing but dead inside, the young say that's poetry, then after a few more years they says it's just melodrama, except for the few who bear its curse, that is.
When Helen Mirren is standing in that kitchen and playing the part of a woman who's facing the evidence of all the world's cruelty painted across every surface of her home in the rich maroons and crimsons of the blood of her one true love, we didn't have to ask where she was going when she turned and marched out to the middle of the pasture. I had no idea though that it wouldn't be nearly far enough and that the wail that she could no longer suppress would possess a ferocity appropriate for someone three times her size; I remain now as I was then...taken aback, and filled with admiration for a true master of their craft. Brava, fair dame...brava.
Not a bad way to ease back into the story, but with only 10 episodes left, I wish there had been a little more meat to the story.
Does anyone know who does that song near the end? It sounds a little like Tom Rhodes, but I don't know for sure and TuneFind is slow at adding new episodes.
You know, so many people seem to only be capable of focusing on what was lost during the pandemic, but looking back on it (and to a lesser extent, even as it was occurring) I find myself strangely awestruck by the creativity and resilience of humanity in the face of adversity. Throughout history, moments like that have invariably done little more than separate the wheat from the chaff, reminding us that while there will always be those with small minds and pitiful spirits to whine about masks and vaccines, there will always be others who not only refuse to bemoan the challenges that life brings and instead use them to create new things to inspire and delight us. This production surely stands as one of the finest examples of that.
Another that comes quickly to mind was a table read organized by the cast and crew of The Good Fight when they reached a point that they could no longer continue producing the show. Not only was it a delightful and engaging performance by all assembled, but they closed with a group rendition of the classic song "You Are My Sunshine," which thanks to the presence of Audra McDonald in the cast (if you aren't familiar with her talents, especially her voice, I implore you in the name of everything sacred to do so this very instant) left me humbled and speechless, wiping tears from my eyes. Even now, as the memory of what we all endured during that period is beginning to fade from memory, my thoughts often return to that moment I sat watching it at my kitchen table, feeling afraid and isolated and irked that one of my favorite shows was ending abruptly, and how after they'd finished singing all of that had been replaced feelings and wonder and gratitude at having just experienced something that I couldn't imagine having come about any other way.
The Princess Bride is full of beautiful lessons, but maybe none so powerful as our lives are impacted far more by our attitudes than by our circumstances. Bravo to all the brilliant performers who refused to cower in the face of a deadly pandemic and preferred to make something seemingly imperfect which is so much more than the sum of its parts. I still have grave reservations about the fate of humanity, but they stem mostly from the tragic proportions of the whiny, small-minded folk to the others who rise to the occasion and grow mightier from the struggle. I hope that the next time we are sorely tested like that, we are able to make a better accounting of ourselves.
So I found myself here because I read somewhere that this was a project that was growing on the Aaron Sorkin family tree of writing; memorably, I distinctly recall a direct comparison of it with The West Wing. I don't know if I rise to the level of "fanboy," but I have a decidedly soft place in my heart for Sorkin's body of work (save for Sports Night, that one just didn't do it for me). Sadly, I must report that this did not have any of the hallmarks that I associate with his approach to storytelling, having none of the witty, charismatic characters, razor-sharp prolonged colloquies, and non-linear timelines that he uses to great effect. The opening sequence certainly seemed to telegraph a "somebody call the fire department" kind of pace that would've worked well for that, but what followed was more of a political intrigue "slow burn" that in several ways hearkened back to House of Cards, though HoC's storylines came injected with greater intensity.
Now for the good… Headliner Keri Russell brings all of her wonderful gifts for authenticity and dynamic expression to bear on her role as the newly-minted U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, looking frumpy and out of place as she confronts a drastic change of plans for her career in the midst of an international crisis. Her efforts are simultaneously amplified and thwarted at every turn by husband Rufus Sewell, himself an erstwhile ambassador whose career has been put on ice thanks to his penchant for gaming every person and situation he encounters like so many pieces on a chessboard. The standout of the cast in its maiden voyage was David Gyasi, a face I hadn't seen since 2014's Interstellar, who here as there plays a supremely competent (if often dry) cog on the gear keeping the whole story in motion. There seems to be a good deal of potential here if they manage to get better at finding the tension in the plot, which so far they only managed to do only weakly via exposition.
I'm going to give it a shot out of respect for what I know both Russell and Sewell can do when given good material, but I hope it manifests sooner rather than later. More than anything, I want to figure out where I read that bit identifying this show as a scion of the Sorkin writing tree and have a long talk with the author about such topics as storytelling devices, due diligence and the accurate taxonomizing of teleplays.
This series has always set itself apart in its willingness to be earnest to the point of actual vernerability, and the end of this episode is where is deploys that quality most effectively. I suspect that it has something to do with how obviously contrived the entire situation is from the point of the writers, and yet each of the characters present is just as clearly seeking their own ends and without any plan or even hope of something beautiful coming as a result. Josh is just being Josh, managing his own insecurities by appointing himself the stage manager of the lives of everyone around him. Alan is justifiably wallowing in the pain of Mae's betrayal, but unable to resist the pull of finding his purpose in being there for others. Tom is being his most authentic self as a melancholy sidekick, unhappy with his circumstances and lack of imagination for shaping them, and predictably leaping at the chance to play off of Josh's ability to do what he can't. Arnold, somewhat tragically, is just so overwhelmed with being truly seen as a human being for the first time, that he acquiesces to Josh essentially mining his very legitimate anxiety over a huge upcoming threshold in his life for nothing more than a distraction.
It shouldn't be possible for such a powerful and genuinely touching moment to spring from such benign selfishness, and yet that is the nature of paradoxes and emergent properties, things that become more than just the sum of their parts, and why they have the power to captivate and endlessly fascinate us. The genius of the scene is how none of the characters lets on that they're aware of the subtext, with Josh continuing to provide cues to his Dad even as Arnold sings. It sucks you into this belief that something magical is unfolding before your eyes and for reasons unknowable, only you, the viewer, is capable of recognizing it for what it is. I've lost count of how many times I've watched that scene and it never loses any of that power to pull you into the reality of that moment, and I can only pray that it never does.
Arnold's singing here is...I don't think I even know how to describe it. It's not flawless by any means, nor even that powerful, certainly not for a song that is typically performed with no shortage of vocal "belt," nor would you want it to be, even if the actor was capable of it. Rather, the fact that he's able to hit all of the pitches in what is a challenging piece to perform and sound so tentative in doing so, it's the perfect encapsulation of Arnold's insecurity as it wrestles with the fledgling sense of agency that is beginning to blossom as a result of his relationship with Josh. Each plaintive note tells you how truly naked he is in front of all of them despite still having all of his clothes still on, and I expect that I'm far from the only one who wishes they could manifest more of that level of courage in their own life as they hear it.
The arc of the average human life is so often bereft of this kind of magic, and this is one of the best examples I've ever seen of how it need not be thus. I pray we all find a little bit more of it somehow, even if only in a silly Australian comedy now and then.
Well that was...unsatisfying, and nothing that I would ever consider a denouement. What is the point, I wonder, of making television on such a scale that the time between seasons is so lengthy that you've forgotten most of what came before and lost your attachment to the characters, and worse still are unable to produce enough episodes in each season to adequately tell your story? I'm asking that specifically here because this show seems a better exemplar of these ills than most, but I feel it's a question requiring a serious and existential answer from most of the major production companies in operation today. A decade ago it seemed as though we had entered a Golden Age of visual storytelling and I remember shows like Breaking Bad, Fringe and the original Vikings leaving me awestruck with the mastery they routinely put on display. Much of what has followed has felt like an immature and vainglorious attempt to surpass it, and the results have been flailing and ineffective all too often. The true masters of this work show their genius best in their ability to captivate you with stories that don't require year-long shooting schedules per season and many more months in post, but rather in letting the cast supply that indispensable magic simply by giving them a story that can't help but ignite the passions of those who watch as well as perform it.
Alright, enough with the existential rhapsodizing, let's talk Season Two of Vikings: Valhalla. This season wasn't a total loss, though at times it felt like it was determined to be so. I thought the character of Miriam was exquisitely written and far too underutilized, considering that the actress portraying her really made the rest of a very female-heavy cast look like amateur hour by comparison. Both Freydis and Queen Emma were perpetually stuck in two dimensions, and any depth that they had fought for in the first season was completely squandered. As fond as I am of David Oakes' acting here, I spent the entire season wishing they'd never wasted a single moment of screentime on the events in London.
They either needed 13-14 episodes to tell both stories (or all three, if you want to consider the events in Jomsborg and London as independent, which is reasonable, too) in full, or they needed to realize that the only thing they had working was the story of Leif, Harald, Miriam and Eleana on their hero's journey down the Dnieper. Not only were all of their best actors working just in that subplot, but it even had the benefit of great timing, had they only seized the opportunity to highlight that much of that storyline was spent in Russia and the Ukraine, sharing a physical space with most of the weightiest global events that have been occurring for the past year! So too was the Kurya character completely overlooked, though his final episode left no doubt in my mind that his story could have been intensely compelling exactly as written, had they only chosen to explore it more.
The best thing they did was to allow this episode's climax to perfectly summarize the desperate and unfocused grasping for meaning that pervaded the season as a whole. It was equal parts overwrought, unconvincing and nonsensical as we watched two of the series' greatest warriors make one tactical error after another, then quickly grow tired of the entire charade. Ultimately, they arrive at a conclusion that did nothing to advance the story, while still managing to remove one of the more pivotal and well-acted characters they had available from season one and had him linger so long on-screen after being run through that I kept expecting Monty Python-esque animations to join him as he groped, unsuccessfully, for some last words less banal than the fate they'd chosen for him!
All that being said, I will no doubt continue watching if a third season is made, though I'll lose a lot of the remaining respect I have for Netflix if they do so without finding more capable showrunners to do so. To fail to do so would be all the missing proof I've needed to conclude that they've jumped the shark. God save these poor Vikings; life at those latitudes in the Middle Ages was brutal enough without the need to curse all their voyages here to take place upon the Sea of Mismanagement.
Without question one of the best conclusions ever for a television story arc. When you think about how they wrapped up three seasons worth of loose threads and how improbable it was to foresee any of them, it's truly masterful storytelling combined with incredible performances front to back.
This one and the last one felt very cliché to me, and far beneath the standards of the column. Yes, the story was cute and the male lead was convincing, but her story felt incomplete and the performance subsequently shallow. Almost like the writers thought being an attention whore is a ubiquitous enough trait in women so as not to require explanation. Grrr. Also the throwaway reference to her seeing her father naked in the hospital shortly before his death was bizarre, I expected that to be the tie-in to the story of her attention seeking, but then the denouement has passed and they're in the cab wrapping up the story.
Hair and makeup didn't do her any favors. That hair color didn't work for her at all, and certainly not with those big, dark eyebrows.
Haha, I suppose I was about due for a random Patrick Fabian guest appearance. The guy is like the Nicolas Cage of television: he doesn't seem too worried about what kinds of roles they are or whether the writing is good, just that the cameras are rolling. Come to think of it, it's somewhat surprising he didn't end up cast as one of the regulars on Voyager with those standards, LOL.