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Mar 032015
 

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Truth be told, this episode – “Alpine Shepherd Boy” – was a letdown after the highs of the previous episode. Neatly divided into three parts, the opening act finds Jimmy MacGill realising that getting folks calling him might necessarily mean a good thing as his client prospects tend to be disappointing. However, with the second act – of Chuck getting arrested by police and winding up in the hospital – Jimmy gets the hare-brained scheme to mark out a niche in ‘elder law’ and extends his marketing to the old folks home.

And the show would have ended nicely enough there but that final act with Mike Ehrmantraut seemed awkwardly tacked on. That said, the situation Mike finds himself is tailor-made for Jimmy to come in and save the day.

Mar 022015
 

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Our gang of survivors begin to settle in at Alexandria but our favourite characters are waiting for the pin to drop. Who can blame them, after all the trauma that they have been through in the last five seasons? Halfway through this transitional episode Carl tells Rick that he is worried they would get ‘soft’ if they stayed in Alexandria and by the end, Rick is confident that being ‘soft’ is no longer a part of who they are and rather ominously declares that if the inhabitants of Alexandria are not good enough, then they would take over.

There are signs of tensions even in this superficially placid surroundings but one feels that Rick and company are well suited to handle any challenges and ironically, they might prove to be the biggest threat to the well-being and security of Alexandria.  A great turn of events and change of pace that as usual keep the proceedings intriguing. Kudos!

Mar 012015
 

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Even as I find the leading actors utterly unremarkable (it is obvious they were cast purely for their good looks), I am enjoying Syfy’s re-imagining of 12 Monkeys for its proper exploration of time travel implications. Sure, even that is not perfect but one can appreciate the genuine effort. This episode seems to superficially wrap up the series (it does not of course, in reality) but it was intriguing the manner in which we were led to believe it was. The mechanics of time travel for James Cole (it is all past for him) and Cassandra Raily (living in real time) is that their shared experience may not be linear and that is the beauty of the story-telling. With the various changes in time that Cole is effecting, surely the question must arise is whether there is one timeline or are we witnessing the splintering of various alternate timelines. One suspects that the latter is a tad too sophisticated for a TV audience, even for a scifi drama series but wouldn’t it be nice?

Mar 012015
 

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The 2nd season of Helix has done very well in shifting focus on different characters and casting as protagonists and antagonists in equal measure depending on particular perspectives. Amongst Alan, Peter, Michael and Amy it was never clear who was the actual villain of the piece. But finally, the role has settled on Michael. Yes the placid, seemingly even-tempered cult leader is actually a 400 year old immortal, who has lost touch with his humanity decades ago and despite appearances to the contrary, appears to be aware of every single machination within his community. Enough to be constantly ahead of the game, so to speak. Rather masterful writing, I must say. Discovering the truth, the CDC team now have to thwart Michael as he executes his horrible endgame.

That all said, it is strange that Julia’s story seems to have fall out of the narrative almost completely. What happened in the 30 years later timeline? Will we get back to that? Too many questions in that respect. But definitely worth finding out!

Feb 282015
 

Nimoy

I grew up in the 60s and thus Star Trek was a massive influence on my love for science fiction and space opera. Leonard Nimoy in his role as Mr. Spock was instrumental in making Star Trek the iconic series it has become almost 50 years later. Nimoy passed away on 27th February at the age of 83. One of his final memorable roles was as Dr William Bell in Fringe, where even in his latter years, he was an imposing presence. He will never be forgotten.

Found this moving tribute at Youtube from The New York Times.

Live long and prosper, Mr Nimoy…

Feb 262015
 

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King Henry VIII of England reigned from 1509 to 1547 and certainly is a monarch that has always captured the imagination of modern audiences with his six wives (two of whom were executed) and infamous duplicity. The most recent being The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry. Wolf Hall casts Henry VIII in a supporting role (with Damian Lewis), choosing to focus on one of his right hand men, Thomas Cromwell (played by Mark Rylance).

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Feb 262015
 

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Now, I will come right out and say that a lot of Oliver’s motivations on “Narda Parbat” make little sense. I mean, after everything that Malcolm Merlyn has done, why the hell would Oliver risk, not only his own life but that of Diggle’s, to save Merlyn? Kudos to John Barrowman for making Malcolm a deliciously despicable villain that nobody but nobody has any sympathy for. C’mon, at least Slade was utterly messed up in the head by the mirakuru in his system. So what’s Malcolm’s excuse?

Anyways, much of this episode feels like a re-tread of the one where Oliver voluntarily challenged Ra’s Al Ghul despite everybody (but Malcolm!) trying to dissuade him and for that reason it falls rather flat most of the way. It does seem that ever since the mid-season finale, Oliver has been guilty of incredibly stupid decision making! And… did anyone expect Oliver and Diggle to succeed, against the bloody League of Assassins? C’mon! That all said, I did not expect that final scene with Ra’s – alright, you got me there. Well done!

By the way, can someone tell me why Atom comes across as a second rate Iron Man? That is NOT the Atom, CW? WTF

Feb 252015
 

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In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers speaks to an aged Peggy Carter and tells her “knowing you helped found S.H.I.E.L.D. is half the reason I stayed”.

When Agent Carter was first announced, perhaps many thought that the story of how Carter “helped found S.H.I.E.L.D.” would be told. Instead, what we got was how Carter was marginalised at the SSR but still ultimately played a major role in stopping Leviathan from executing a diabolical plot to kill thousands of innocent people and take revenge on Howard Stark.

This final episode of the mini-series does what one expects it to, and with much aplomb. Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and James D’Arcy provide the star power as Carter, Stark and Jarvis as required, whereas Chad Michael Murray (Agent Thompson) and Enver Gjokaj (Agent Sousa) are functionary at best. So while Agent Carter was a fun ride into the post-war MCU, hopefully subsequent mini-series will explore more seriously the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Carter’s role in the same.

Agent Carter has done well to make connections with MCU films (unlike say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and has exploited well the strengths of having a shared universe. Let’s hope there’s more to come.

Feb 252015
 

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By now, it’s plainly apparent that Better Call Saul as a series is going to be a proper examination of James M. McGill aka Saul Goodman. Vince Gilligan and company are in no hurry to rush through these opening episodes and instead letting the story of McGill play out naturally. It’s fascinating to see how McGill goes from struggling public defender and the perpetual loser to an opportunist seeing the possibilities in every situation. Sure, he is still a little awkward and a bit of a buffoon but this episode – “Hero” lays out the genesis of Saul Goodman for all to see. The straight and narrow seems to be a path rightly forsaken in exchange for success. For the audience, it is intriguing to witness McGill’s metamorphosis and to attempt to second guess each one of McGill’s moves as he manoeuvres himself into positions of favour.

Definitely in no hurry to go from this prequel sequence of events into the post-Breaking Bad continuity – hoping the series will stay with this timeline for awhile.

Feb 252015
 

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Possibly one of the best Walking Dead episodes in recent memory and it was achieved without having to kill a major character! All it did was examine the question of trust in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. After having suffered at the hands of the Governor and the cannibals of Terminus, it’s easy to understand Rick’s reluctance to trust anybody. But what if someone comes along and tells Rick and group that there is a relative paradise waiting for them? Too good to be true? When does playing safe become dangerous? For Michonne, that time to trust a stranger like Aaron is now, and finally Rick has to decide whether he can do so and put his children potentially at risk.

It’s as simple as that but of course, it isn’t simple at all and the tension and drama flows from the audience asking the same question that Rick does – can we trust these people? Well, can we?

Feb 232015
 

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Definitely the most intense season 2 episode thus far as Amy ramps up her plans to get away from Brother Michael and the island. One cannot blame her considering the outrageous revelations made concerning the relationship between Brother Michael and herself. The most unlikely villainess but kudos to the writers for making it so. The CDC team is not in good shape either as the mistrust bred amongst them threatens to destroy them, even as Alan Farragate plays his role as agent provocateur to perfection.

On Julia’s side, the writers chose to tell her story not from the ’30 years later’ perspective but a background tale on what happened after Julia joined the Ilaria Corporation. Disorientating to say the least. Not sure why the writers decided to make that jump as it does not seem to add anything to the ‘present day’ narrative whatsoever. Am just wondering how long it will take for Brother Michael and/or the CDC team to figure out that Amy is behind everything.

Feb 222015
 

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Yes, I will admit it – I am getting a little jaded with the TV versions of James Cole and Cassandra Raily. They are just too picture perfect for their own good. Also, I am wondering whether this plot device of going back in time to recover the ‘original’ timeline is going to get tiring soon. I mean, it was fun when it was done in Back to the Future 2 as Marty McFly did his best to avoid himself in the past but considering that this is the 2nd time it’s happening in 12 Monkeys? Ho hum.

But as usual, 12 Monkeys introduced a new element in the plot that pique my interest. What was the whole ‘red forest’ acid trip that Raily went through? What was that about? Another mystery – who is the Witness? Will they reveal this mysteries soon or will they end up as unresolved plot lines like Lost? And how does one keep track of the alternate realities Cole is setting up? Wait and see or give up – what do YOU think?

Feb 212015
 

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Yes, Scandal fans, if you haven’t seen the latest episode, I’ve just spoilt it if for you! But seriously, this was the solution to the ‘how do we get Olivia back?’ conundrum? Don’t really buy it! Sillier still if you consider that after all the brouhaha to demonstrate how much the enemies of America would want to get hold of Olivia, we are led to believe that a couple of new locks on her apartment door would keep her safe and secure? C’mon, these jokers were willing to pay a billion bucks!?! So, what’s to say some other bright spark would try the same trick? See where I’m going with this – how does the world go back to status quo after this?

Best part is that there was no hint of what the next storyline could even be remotely about after this. Which is rare for Scandal. I mean, how could they possibly top this? Over to you, Shonda…

Feb 212015
 

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Things are looking grim for Peggy and the SSR. She has been captured and accused of high treason whilst Dr Ivchenko is free to work his manipulative hypnotism and instruct fellow Leviathan agent Dottie in his evil schemes. Jarvis tries his best to assist but ends up making things worse. Thompson and Souza have mixed emotions about Peggy as the evidence conflicts with their experience of Peggy himself. Chief Dooley has no such qualms and falls prey easily to Ivchenko’s machinations.

Slowly but surely, Thompson and Souza come to their senses and realize that Peggy is telling the truth but it is too late for poor Chief Dooley and pays the ultimate price for trusting Ivchenko. This episode also reveals what Ivchenko’s plans are and it is surprisingly similar to that of Richmond Valentine’s in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Great minds think alike? Or is there a paucity of ideas in the ‘genre’?

Either way, it sets up brilliantly for the final episode. Considering how long it took Agents of SHIELD not to suck, I say give Agent Carter more episodes!

Feb 202015
 

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Like Thea, viewers of Arrow might be getting a little exasperated at the little twists and turns the CW series needs to take, in order to tell its stories. The last few episodes have been tough on Oliver’s little sister as she has had to deal with an almighty info dump and this latest episode was probably the worst, when she discovered that she was responsible for Sara Lance’s murder. The episode was a bit of a stopgap, serving as an incredulous training lesson meted out by Malcolm Merlyn (why do the Queen siblings continue to trust him when he has proven time and again to be untrustworthy?) but at least brought back Wilson Slade/Deathstroke for more unnecessary violent fun.

In the flashback narrative, Oliver finds himself back in Starling five years ago with Maseo (who is one of the brighter cast additions) which leads to Oliver acquiring his fathers guilty list notebook (remember?). Naturally, the show could not resist throwing in familiar faces into this mix – 2010’s version Tommy, Laurel, John, Felicity, Thea and a drunk Det. Lance all featured in mostly character-revealing moments with the introduction of Lt. Matthew Shrieve (Marc Singer!) at the conclusion spicing things up once again.

But in the present day, things need to move forward with the Ra’s Al Ghul plot line and soon. C’mon!

Feb 202015
 

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Continue to be seriously on the fence about Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. This latest episode basically was a one location (The Nightroom) shoot as Cole and the Army of the 12 Monkeys came ever closer to their goal – the deadly virus. There was quite a bit of people sitting around and waiting for something to happen. The Pallid Man played mind games and tortured Cole as the Army was kept away from the virus by a lazer force field.

Jennifer Goines was reunited with Cole and her contribution proved crucial in the scheme of things. Actually, I am making all this sound more exciting than it actually was. Which made me resolve to give up on the series when once more, the show pulled a rabbit out of the hat with its mysterious ending. When a show is about time travel, there are a lot of possibilities for courageous writers to take narrative risks and it seemed at the conclusion that 12 Monkeys had done just that. Wait and see again, I guess.

Feb 192015
 

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Alright, so we are spoiling season 2 episode 5 with the above image which reveals that cult leader Michael is actually an immortal. But of course, that was hinted by the scores of portraits on his wall and the different generations of women advisors (they are all his daughters apparently). So, is Caleb (from the 30 years later storyline) also Michael’s son? Who knows? This revelation needed to come as the plot lines were steadily going nowhere.

As it was, the fact that certain cult factions were working against the CDC team without any consequences or concern from the ‘benevolent’ Michael seemed a tad too convenient. So maybe this revelation accounts for Michael’s constant placid demeanour. Elsewhere, Alan and Peter sort out their differences without satisfactory resolution with Peter once again keeping his cards close to his chest. Sure, I understand that secrets keep a story intriguing but too much is not a good thing either. In any case, we need some answers and soon.

Feb 192015
 

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is almost Breaking Bad in reverse. Basically, for fans of the latter, we already know ‘Saul Goodman’ as the unscrupulous, immoral shyster lawyer. This prequel/sequel of sorts is telling us the story of how bumbling, inept, down on his luck Jim McGill become Saul Goodman. The best part? There is no rush to get there! The show takes its time to tell Jim’s story first before rushing into Saul. So far, that has meant first class television for the three episodes we have had so far.

Any familiar faces, you ask? Well at the moment we have Jonathan Banks reprising his Breaking Bad role as Mike Ehrmantraut – who we find as a crusty parking attendant.Ehrmantraut is actually instrumental in helping McGill crack the case and save his own bacon. So suddenly our awkward attorney has his very first significant ‘win’ and how it moves from here is anyone’s guess but the show has all the makings of a humongous hit.

Feb 182015
 

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The Firestorm two-parter may well have been the best Flash episodes so far – which is really saying something. No stone was left unturned to flesh out the characters that make up Firestorm (i.e. Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond) and there was a sense of inevitability that the two would eventually merge once again. Harrison Wells (Reverse-Flash) is manipulating events behind the scenes and as the ending suggests is also somehow related with Gorilla Grodd as well! I am curious to see what Wells’ motivation in the scheme of things because the writers have done a good job in keeping Wells’ true intentions hidden.

The episodes worked so well that it played like a set up for a Firestorm spin-off and depending on how the audiences respond, I am guessing that that series may happen sooner than later. Victor Garber (Stein) and Robbie Amell (Raymond) have settled into their respective roles rather well and it would be intriguing to see how a Firestorm series will explore this unique dynamic. But for the Flash, it does feel that we getting ever closer to Barry’s encounter with the Reverse-Flash in a race to save his mother. Can hardly wait!

Just an aside to pay tribute to the creators of these wonderful super-heroes. Even as the credits omit this fact (based on characters in DC Comics), the Barry Allen-Flash was of course created by writers Robert Kanigher & John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino, whilst the original Firestorm was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Al Milgrom. Credit where it is due!

Feb 182015
 

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After the traumatic episodes on both sides of the mid-season break, this episode caught up with our merry band of survivors to find them struggling with a crisis of faith. Season 5 has seen more death, more disaster, more peril than ever before. Inevitably, the question must be broached – what’s the point of going on? Why not just give up? For Maggie, Sasha and Daryl, it seems as if their will to live has gone, even as Beth and Tyreese have gone. The pain is difficult to take and it does not help that the group is exhausted running out of food and water as they make the long trek to Washington D.C.

Quite like episode 9, there is a lyrical, poetic quality to “Them” as the group’s grapples with their biggest challenge – not walkers and not evildoers but themselves. After all, if you cannot convince yourself to keep living, then the battle is already over. This is encapsulated by Rick when he says – “… we are the walking dead” even as the group shelters from the storm. However, moments later when the will to survive is given the ultimate test, the group collectively brave the storm and live to fight another day. Kudos to the writers for giving us yet another deep episode without compromising on zombie kills.

One of the best series on TV now. But you knew that.

Feb 182015
 

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Despite its increasingly implausible plot lines – this episode involved a bidding war over Olivia Pope amongst rogue nations, terrorist groups and crime lords (!) – the folks behind Scandal managed to imbue a sense of pathos that would seem ridiculous when one consider the stakes these characters are up against. Olivia herself does not play much of a role but she does what she can to try to influence proceedings but fails miserably – which is a fairly new situation for her. Olivia’s loved ones try their level best to get her back, short of moving heaven and earth, though the odd murder or two are committed in the endeavour.

But that is exactly what Scandal fans are looking for – over the top scenarios in this epic-scoped soap opera. There are strong moments of human emotion that litter the apocalyptic landscape of Olivia’s pursuit as the key players attempt to stay a step ahead of the other. This is political drama, lest anyone forgets, and by the end of the episode Olivia’s predicament takes on global significance. The ride ain’t over yet.

Feb 162015
 

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Remember that feeling you had when you watching one of the best TV series around? I am talking about Breaking Bad of course. Well, it’s hard not to get a sense of deja vu when watching Better Call Saul, a spin-off/prequel/sequel to that popular series. Well, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is still in the driving seat (together with Peter Gould) and it already looks like this series will be as memorable as Breaking Bad was. Excellent news!

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Feb 162015
 

Canaries

Getting more and more intense with each passing episode, Arrow season 3 is maintaining its status as the best dark superhero soap opera out there.

Secrets are revealed left, right and centre and the impact on the series remains to be seen. Laurel Lance is accepted in her new role as the Canary and Ra’s Al Ghul makes his play and the Queen siblings realize that they have to trust Malcolm Merlyn, for better or worse.

Meanwhile, Oliver’s flashback narrative brings us an unexpected twist.

Feb 162015
 

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Peggy is in big trouble and so is the SSR. The agents of Leviathan have the upper hand and SSR is not even aware of this. SSR wrongfully accuse Peggy of being a spy and most of the episode is spent demonstrating Peggy evades capture until the end where she is subdued in unique fashion, to say the least.

With only two episodes left, it will be intriguing to see how Peggy and the SSR get out of this mess.