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Deadly Class (2018–2019)
9/10
Startlingly Good.
3 November 2020
Harry Potter created a genre; schools that taught very unusual things, but had school structure, nonetheless. There are a large number of series that have used this idea, not quite a plague of them, but too many. Most of these are watchable, but they aren't very good. This is a huge exception. Think of "Pulp Fiction" before you decide to skip this. Like Pulp Fiction, this series adds a touch of philosophy, honesty, and ordinariness into the plot theme. There are also occasional honest glimpses into every human reality. This is really a very good series.
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7/10
Stylized Means Style
20 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Let me concentrate on what I most enjoyed: The tongue-in-cheek self mockery is sometimes subtle, sometimes garish, yet always welcome. At its best, Umbrella acad manages to mock how we feel about violence, how we feel about music, and how we feel about musical accompaniment for violence.

The show pokes fun at the internal radar we all use for determining whether a character will live past the episode, and insists on killing its walking dead the instant you decide they'll make it (in one case by the insertion of 25 or so. knives into the characters body.

Of course time travel is involved, and that gets poked too (though it could stand a bit more prodding.

Oh, and rest assured: If a character has no redeeming characteristics, he'll be killed very soon...no time to savor your pique.
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Homeland: Paean to the People (2018)
Season 7, Episode 12
6/10
Time to speak up
16 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
There is an awful lot of untranslated Russian dialogue this season. I strongly oppose the show's refusal to use subtitles.
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Olympus (2015)
4/10
Cannot recommend
11 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First please let me admit that i haven't seen the whole series; i couldn't finish the second episode.

This series seemed to think that you could throw mythology and history (...and geography) out the window, inventing a story out of whole cloth, still use the historical and mythological names, and create something new, exciting, and interesting.

It does not (and probably can not) work. If this series was populated by new characters, new places, and had no historical burden, i believe i could have watched it. As it is, it was simply impossible to get beyond the burden of suspending disbelief. The plot seemed to be inconsistent, and the dialogue appeared to be flawed...but i cannot say this for certain.

This was a new tale, and it should have been told without borrowing and mis-using characters from history and mythology. One doesn't keep writing on a full blackboard; one erases the board to make room.
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Rome (2005–2007)
8/10
Oh BBC: you rock, you stone, you worse than senseless thing!
10 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Why it took HBO to deliver an historically mindful, yet Shakespearean version of the immediate and fatal transition from Roman Republic to Empire, I know not.

As one views the sacred "I, Claudius", one presumes this cinematic tale; Indeed, "Rome" could have been written by Graves...it has more-than-adequate Gravitas (please do not groan).

Were this epic done for dramatic purposes only, the finale would have been a battle between the 2 invented protagonists...however, this was enacted with a view to both history and Shakespeare...and it must be commended.

Enjoyable, informative, HONEST*...this is a treasure.

*honest in this case, means true to not only the subject matter, but honest in capturing the spirit of the times. ** For more enjoyable information about this tale, please see "legions of Hell", by C.J.Cherryh, and for a more immersive (and wholly enjoyable)texture of the religious beliefs and superstitions of the era, please see Gene Wolfe's "Soldier of the Mist" series.
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The 100 (2014–2020)
8/10
What do you do with a series that...
30 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
...suddenly becomes far better than one could imagine? Well you watch it, of course, and be thankful it had a chance.

I have been streaming this show since its availability, and pretty much felt like i was killing time...until i ran into season 4.

Bearing in mind that this series has one of the least plausible post-apocalyptic scenarios, one cannot help but acknowledge that out of the too-often used mire of end-of-the-world scenarios, this show has become something extraordinary.

Consider the first three seasons as a preamble if you must; certainly the cause of the irradiated earth (revealed in season 3 as the work of a delusional AI), the evolution of immunity due to "cosmic radiation", and most of the damage healed by the earth in 100 years (!), one would think that this was doomed to fail.

Instead, it rises from its own ashes, and becomes a compelling drama with realistic cause/effect, outstanding plot casting, quite good dialogue, and acting talent that comes together in the 4/th season to become an exquisite ensemble. I am impressed, and happy that i continued watching!
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6/10
A poor effort by AMC is still worth a lot
15 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Don't expect "Breaking Bad", "Mad men", or "the Walking Dead". In fact, if you can curb your expectations, you would probably enjoy this

I do. This is a martial arts "Epic",

This is a martial arts drama, driven by character interaction, and a dystopian sci-fi motif. Like anything touched by AMC it is extraordinarily well done, but...now here's the "kicker"?

This story does not transcend its medium: In other words, unlike RAGING BULL, whose fans love and exhort Scorsese's medium as the "Rem" of all genre-based productions, "into The Badlands" does not seek to transcend its roots; it merely seeks to acknowledge them - with good scripts, good dialogue, good performances, and excellent production values.

In short, if you like martial arts stories, you'll either like or love this epic; if, however, you are indifferent to such joys, you might not enjoy this epic.
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Star Trek: Enterprise: Shockwave, Part II (2002)
Season 2, Episode 1
6/10
well...
29 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
With 10 minutes remaining, Archer slugs Silik, and Silik's "uniform" slips - revealing human flesh.

I would like to make believe that this editorial slip is symptomatic of the episode and the show, but i cannot.

This episode, and its prequel are by and large fairly well done, and the time "invasion" thread does stand out. In fact, time travel is handled in this show in a manner consistent with time travel throughout the Star Trek canon ( tho' time travel was never Star Trek's strong suit).

While i enjoy this series, mostly, i find more fault with this one (and the re-booted movies), than I do with earlier ones.

My difficulties: not proceeding into the future, the worsening relations with Vulcan, the theme song, some of the casting (most of the casting), and trivial matters.

My biggest problem is the "revisionist" nature of this and others. Previously, Roddenberry provided the view that we make our own futures, and there is enough good in humanity (and the universe in general), that the future WILL be better than the past. His view forces one to a non-dystopian viewpoint regardless of how the world seems to be doing at any quasi-current period.
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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Nagus (1993)
Season 1, Episode 10
1/10
sigh.....
16 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In the preceding episode, we have Quark going through a spate of mock tears and horrendous sobbing...but in my mind THIS episode, the Nagus, was the start of using 'the little people' as little more than comic foils. It's not such a big deal now, i'm streaming and can either watch or skip the hijinks, but i remember waiting each week for an episode, sitting there with a couple of friends, and instead of watching an episode developing the upcoming conflict with Odo's lost people...poof! there would be an interregnum, and suddenly those little people were at it again...Deep Space Nine is largely a thoughtful show, replete with action, prophecies, tangled plots, larger-than-life characters, and ending with a dark, twisted denouement. These "throwaway" comic episodes only detract from the show's overall value.
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7/10
Where are "Q" when you need him (it/them) ?
10 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It finally happens: there is a con junction between the Star Trek 'multiverse' and environmental issues. What results? the serious commission of a study.

Please, harken to the adjective 'serious'...it is what differentiates Star Trek from current political advisory panels. In today's world, we would watch as political entities vie to decide whether a multitude of opposing commercial and therefore political forces struggle to be foremost in their assessment (or abnegation) of envirornmental concerns.

In this episode of Star Trek, we see both the best and the worst, of a rational response: Now, here's the key: one must TRUST, and have an overriding reason to trust, the review procedure...there ain't no real alternative: one must believe in the impartionality of the process...which means the process details MUST be transparent!!!
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Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Chase (1993)
Season 6, Episode 20
10/10
The answer to the least credible Star Trek proposition:
8 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I apologize for my overly "ambitious" rating. The episode doesn't really warrant 10 stars...but it IS the most important single episode of the the Star Trek mythos.

The first part of the question is: probability fails to explain why (virtually) all the aliens have great similarities to each other, and to standard homo sapiens. The second part of the question is trickier, tho':

How can all these humanoid sapients breed interbreed? Without an episode like this this to definitively give the only possible answer, SHARED GENETIC ANCESTRY, it would be impossible. Indeed, even with shared genes, inter-breeding is exceedingly unlikely without assistance. Humans are genetically closer to other terran apes, yet we cannot successfully breed with them (or so i am reliably informed).

This question was vaguely addressed in an episode of the original Star Trek, where a humanoid alien speculates that he may have been our (humanities') ancestor, but until recently, we have ALL agreed that a fact is better than a guess.

In fact, I would place the last 10 minutes of this episode as a preamble to anyone starting to experience Star Trek.
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7/10
A seminal episode
13 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Perhaps the most damning of all Star Trek critiques is the impossibility of sapient races originating on different worlds to mate and produce young. Yet the series opens with a vulcan/human hybrid (the inimitable Mr. Spock).

In this episode, however, the character Sargon states that in his race's antiquity, many, many worlds were "seeded" (not his word) by denizens of his anthropomorphic genotype - similar to that of standard earth humans. This allows the possibility of similar DNA arising from many worlds that could be similar enough to fruitfully mate. It doesn't actually matter whether advanced forms of life survived on these planets, but the mere unavoidability of multi-cellular entities, and even strings of nucleotides being incorporated in the DNA of all creatures' genome at least allows for possibilities.
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The Magicians (2015–2020)
6/10
Of course it's derivative, but so what?
4 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Yup, i've read the harry potter books, and seen the movies, and if you cannot find similarities, well...let's just say you won't do too well on comparative lit courses.

But is the similarity a bad thing? Why not just define J.K.Rowlings work as creating a sub-genre, and enjoy this video for what it is. To give it a perfect viewer-age reference: Let's view the first 3 harry potter books for ages 10-16, Ms. Clarke's," Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" as 12-80, and this series as somewhere in the middle.

Alright, it comes by its "Mature" rating dishonestly; just some smoking and enough rough language to "allow" the rating, but it's a fun series. Right from the first episode you become aware of a beast and a chosen one, and there's enough interesting coursework (tho' a bit shy for my tastes), to give each episode its own flavor.

Look, just stop expecting another "game of thrones" every time you turn around; that just ain't gonna happen. (at least here, you don't have to worry about how in the seven hells George Martin will write two more books in time).
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Versailles (2015–2018)
7/10
What do you get when you cross the BBC with WB?
24 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Well, you get a show with a great looking cast who perform well together, and very good dialogue. You also get a score that attempts to be modern - about 40 years too late.

This really is a good historical drama. It captures the "feel" of the period quite well, by showing the true side of most of the wars of that period, and by carefully delineating the true battle: King versus the nobility. I'm not entirely certain why the dialogue isn't in French with English subtitles, but that does make it easier for some of us - although you can't use any dialogue from Moliere.

A competent and engaging work.
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The OA (2016–2019)
8/10
Succeeds admirably
16 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
First, don't bother to watch the trailer; that will do no more than confuse you. Next, if you've just watched something that is a more traditional thriller, please take a break...it takes a while to slip into the mood and pacing of this effective and unconventional tale, and a traditional action-suspense story will prevent you from getting involved.

The mood is essential; the pacing is perfect - but only if you can let yourself follow its unusual tempo. It isn't a modality that is currently in use; if you can let yourself flow with it, it will ensnare you.

The story is told in linear fashion with two timelines that never mesh or confuse you.It's oddly, the most coherent tale I've seen lately, with no possibility of confusion - unless the viewer cannot adapt to the unusual pacing, and gets bored.

That's really the key to enjoying this non-episodic tale: if you can match your own tempo to that of film, you will enjoy it immensely; if the pacing makes your mind wander, you won't enjoy it.
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Quantico (2015–2018)
6/10
Good, but not really credible
15 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The show is enjoyable, the plotting and dialogue competent, most of the acting above par, the characterization of the main character well-realized, and most of the others acceptable, but....

The reason for operating in 2 completely different time-lines is inadequate structurally. Dramatically, it allows for the desired level of tension and suspense, but the device is truly over-used. If you wish to make a story more complex, please simply make it more complex; adding a future (or past) time line requires a very demanding adherence to the integrity of each time line, as well as a strong reason to do so. I don't think it works here.

Various integral plot elements are likewise manipulated - often with realism as the hostage. For example, the dialogue between FBI agents right after the "capture" of the lead, is very odd.the line: "Let her figure it out", prior to the arrest didn't make much sense at the time, and in retrospect, makes even less.

At a more basic level, the amount of duplicity surrounding most of the new agents, as well as the levels of duplicity surrounding the recurring staff members, is quite over the top. The apparent argument between the writers about whether the trainees all have done a mission as an amateur agent, or not leaves me with a bitter taste.

I dunno, I did get captivated by the show, and any show that does that is probably worth seeing and recommending, but the ongoing strain to my credibility "shocks" me out of the fantasy too often.
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Dark Matter (2015–2017)
8/10
A very good show
20 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This isn't flawless drama, nor is it flawless sci-fi, but but it is quite good. You'll see a lot of comparisons to other shows, but as Emerson says, "Comparisons are odious". While aspects of this do indeed resemble many recent, and some older shows, the sum total of the plot line equals a unique entity.

It's also a mystery show, that pays off in nibbles and gulps, and finally in large meteors, and finally planetoids of answers - and it doesn't make you wait season after season for these payoffs.

It has no real throw-away episodes, either; it sticks to its major plot line throughout.

Nevertheless, it has flaws, yet astonishingly it corrects them whenever it can - even mid-season! That is a rare occurrence, because as everyone one knows, once you correct a problem (in fighting sequences, in science, et al, you are admitting that there was an error, and isn't admitting to error illegal?

It's a quality sci-fi drama that takes FTL (faster-than-light) travel for granted, has a mixture of high-tech and old tech, has constructed human beings and astonishingly quick but flawed human cloning, energy and projectile weapons, a horrid political amalgam of human world governments, overly powerful, unethically competitive, and resoundingly corrupt mega-corporations, a Galactic government for sale to the noisiest bidder, and a small handful of people who try to do the "right thing".

The show explores ethics in a system overburdened with large- scale and small-scale corruption, and the evolution of a philosophy of survival.

It is a good, complex show that has a production schedule similar to the modern-day "Sherlock Holmes" series - sort of a you'll see 'em when we make em", attitude that before the days of streaming was a death sentence to any show, irrespective of its good qualities.

I enjoy it very much.
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Supernatural (2005–2020)
8/10
Excellent show, except for...
18 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The existence of WD40. Sigh... I've watched then re-build that Impala from the ground up, watched simple repairs, watched Bobby nursemaid it on his lot...but I've never seen a single can of WD 40, nor seen any hint of the existence of lubricants of ANY kind in the Supernatural universe.

How do you repair a car from the ground up and not lubricate the doors???? My first car was a "legacy" from my father, a '63 Impala. The doors didn't squeak, and he wasn't a "hunter" anyway.

I bring this inane issue up simply because it's supposed to annoy us. Well, it does!!! The door squeaks drive me batty!!!! The least credible issue in the storyline through season 11, is...why does baby (the car) 's doors squeak????

Are the makers of WD40 playing hard-to-get? Is this a sign that the "Supernatural" universe is not ours??? Certainly the squeaks are purposeful; but what do they mean? And how can a hunter of unnatural evil tolerate such an awful and awkward announcement of his presence????

This, yes: this and only this defies rational explanation. If you're new to this show, prepare to be enlightened and entertained - as long as you're willing to either enter Pullman's Biblical universe, or you don't have really strong feelings about fiction conforming to Biblical views, even while it sorta seems to conform to these views. It doesn't mock them, really, trust me, I was a clerical student...but it DOES diverge so widely, that there is no possibility that you have a religious viewpoint that isn't cast aside, ignominiously.

This isn't a great show, but it truly is a very good show. And if you follow it, you will note how astonishingly well-done it is, considering its unorthodox viewpoints. I can best describe this show only in ancient religious terms: Latin: Sui Generis; Hebrew: (transliterated): Berya bifnei Atsmah.

Exceptional, extraordinary, unique, astonishingly good, and, though worthy of any spare time, not worthy of anyone's top 10 of-all-time list.

Before i conclude, i must bow to the acting talents of Mark Sheppard, who is one of the three best male actors currently working on the "small screen". There is not a single piece of dialogue presented to him, that he does not sell. Probably he inspires good writing; regardless, he is extraordinary in any role he occupies.
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Supernatural: Red Meat (2016)
Season 11, Episode 17
10/10
A News Flash
18 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
You actually can jump from episode that have 9+ ratings, to each other, and miss little of the essential plot line...but should you?

I say no. Perhaps, when the series has ended, it might be the best way to stream (there are 12 seasons at present, and no signs of immediate ending), yet if these are "live" to you, as they are to me, i suggest you watch 'em. If you've watched more than 2 seasons, and you really should, and if you enjoy the show, then please watch ALL the episodes.

The creative staff spends (expends?) an awful lot of effort making the filler episodes interesting and enjoyable, and this is episode is a very good example of that. While it is certainly not worth the "10 out of 10" rating i have allotted, it is very much worth seeing.

See, there's an interesting, normal, existential, and practical side to the creative input in this show that seldom fails to fascinate: unlike Star Trek Deep Space 9, where "filler" episodes were true throw- aways, The extraneous episodes of Supernatural have a lot to offer.

Philosophically, while a show like FIREFLY has an innate value value in every episode (fleshing out the universe ('verse)) has its own fascination - even if you disallow Whedon's input - there CAN be innate value in a show's filler episodes...as long as the creative staff makes it so.

To set the stage for all "later" filler episodes of Supernatural, please bear this in mind: The brothers become - and this is a natural occurrence - somewhat complacent about "ordinary" evil supernatural phenomena...

Please, attend the psychological effects of succeeding at a grand scale: you become quite unconcerned about your ability to handle things at a much lesser scale. And, in fact, (if you view preceding episodes and demon's reaction to encountering the Winchesters), the bad guys are stunned to discover that Sam and Dean are merely human!

Add to this the fact that they have occasionally (in the past) possessed super-human abilities, their latter-day complacency is not merely understandable, but a necessary adjunct to their current character growth.

As Dick Francis's recurring character pronounces (P.S. if interested in Dick Francis's mysteries, do yourself a favor and do NOT watch the ITN series...ITN wasn't very good back then, you'll have to read the books) : (Sid Halleck) "It's not that we're that good, it's just that we've discovered things, and evil folk are over-compensating" (paraphase/ not quote!!!); one should bear in mind that success has its own series of penalties, psychologically unavoidable, and chronicalling said performance degradation has its own merit.

So may it be with Caesar.
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Supernatural: Safe House (2016)
Season 11, Episode 16
10/10
Explanation of Episode Reviews
17 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Please don't be angry, but this is how it works: 1) An episode that directly furthers the seasonal (or multi-seasonal) plot line gets above a 9. Any episode in the later seasons with Bobby, likewise gets a 9. This episode features Bobby in a "pre-historic" role, hence its high reviews, which i agree with...we all miss that incorrigible idealistic reprobate!!! Again, please don't be angry with me for spelling it out. I must note that this isn't an episode that truly deserves the rating i gave it, but it was nice to see Bobby again. It's nice to know that he will always periodically appear, and by using the device of a flashback, any brief appearance is not an interruption of the plot line. My overly ebullient rating is for the writers/producers/et al for using this plot device. Mark my words, tho': when this series nears its end, "recovering" Bobby will be part of the goal, and he WILL lay an important role.
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Gotham (2014–2019)
7/10
Definitely worth watching, but there are "ifs, ands, and buts".
25 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Mostly a period piece, and for the first time in any superhero drama we get to see life before the superhero, as well as important events that shaped the people who end up in the superhero's life.

It's sort of a "selective" period piece though, smart phones alongside 70s and 80s cars, idioms and colloquialisms less than 10 years old, and an occasional odd mixture of very adult material with very juvenile matter.

The current success of today's superhero shows arises from spectacularly well-crafted villains - fascinating, credible, and intricately developed. Not every villain here has quite that cachet, but some do, and a real effort has been made with most.

Basically, it ain't perfect, it ain't close to perfect, but it's gripping and it's fun!
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Hinterland (2013–2016)
5/10
Moody - The atmosphere, the plotting, and the police work
20 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Until Season 2 Episode 3, I couldn't put my finger on what makes this show enjoyable, yet...problematic. Finally I got it.

In the aforementioned 2:3 a wealthy lawyer who lives and works in London, but spends time in his family's ancestral estate in Wales is found murdered in that estate. The caretaker claims his arrival at the estate at the date he was murdered was unexpected.

Never does the team make any inquiries about his life in London, his friends,acquaintances there, or even his sister (whom he allegedly hasn't seen in a year or more).

While certainly the focal point of the show must be where the murder is solved, omitting more than half the of the lines of inquiry is very odd.

Conclusion: unlike most murder mysteries and procedural crime mysteries originating in the UK, this show is more like an American procedural - it doesn't play fair to the viewer about the mystery, and manipulates drama about the mystery.

Character development, however, is hyper-British: the cast develops and evolves at a rate that is quite torpid; in another few years the principals might all acknowledge that they have first names - or at least last names.

All-in-all it's worth watching, and trying to guess the pronunciation of a Welsh Gaelic word is always worthwhile.
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6/10
Sigh, it could have been great, but...
14 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I forget whether a "wise" person once said to believe or disbelieve 2 implausible things before lunch, but the strain on one's credibility in this series does become too heavy a weight.

The initial "shock" of believing a US corporation made a deal with terrorists is hardly a shock; that hardly puts any tax on one's credibility. That a paramilitary company is used for "off-book" activities is likewise no harder to swallow than milk to a child. A general's collusion is more difficult, and far too many "evildoers" acting with impunity and no fear of consequences is a bit of a stretch, however.

Aside from Ms. Friel, who is more than equal to her role, the rest of the cast occasionally finds it hard to sell the dialogue the writers gave them (unless the editing is simply worse than it seemed - hardly award-winning by itself).

They did a lot of things right, however. The essence of the plot was good, flipping through various languages for a series that stretches through 3 continents was something we need to see done an awful lot more, and they kept the pacing nicely even, and the narrative of the three separate stories lucid (for the most part). Worth watching if your expectations aren't too high.
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Stranger Things (2016– )
6/10
good, yes, great...i don't think so
26 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
First problem i had with this show was why make it a period piece? I felt like it was trying to say to me THIS was how E.T. should have been done. Later i realized that it wasn't (necessarily) meant to compete with E.T., they just wanted to make a script that didn't have to allow for cell phones, car computers, etc. They should have been more careful with the script, tho'...too much modern-day slang kinda grated on me.

Next problem i had was with the teenage sex scene. It just didn't really seem appropriate In a show where prepubescents were the stars, and presumably the audience.

Next, the pacing felt odd to me, as did the character development, and the plot revelations.

On the other hand, this show does have all the necessary elements for both fantasy and horror, and if nothing about it happens to bug you, you should enjoy it greatly.

For me, however, Netflix original productions still need very good sci-fi and fantasy epics to complete their collection.

Please don't think of this as a bad review; I'm spoiled, this is the golden age of shows...and a series i would have been wild over 10 years ago, is only slightly better than mediocre with the current levels of competition.
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Penny Dreadful (2014–2016)
9/10
The brave and the open-minded must watch this
19 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is the home of the very best dialogue on the planet. The writing is in all ways superb, and worthy of a pandemic of applause. It is sometimes quite literate, but never speaks down from a high steed. It is occasionally vulgar: but never to shock - it is simply the BEST dialogue possible from THAT character at THAT particular time. It is therefore the most honest writing in various media today.

It is a period, Gothic, horror, and mystery tale that painstakingly recounts and compiles events from the late 1800 early 1900 era - the dawn of science fiction realized first as horror. It is truer to the writers of the various books, and originators of the various characters than has ever been achieved; it likewise captures the flavor of an era, and glorifies in the difference between individuals (even the walk- on walk-off folk!) in a way that would make Dickens proud.

Vampires enter into this, as do demons, witches, a werewolf, "created" human beings (a la Mary Shelley), a werewolf, and others of that ilk enter, and are transformed. All are transformed!

This is a fresh take on everything, and done with verbal caresses - not bludgeons. Poetic, earthy, witty, vulgar; reality and fantasy mix with blatant disregard for any previous copies.

Simply Wonderful
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