THE LEFTOVERS Series Premiere Recap: “Pilot”

by     Posted 54 days ago

leftovers-recap

Any series that starts off with a baby screaming and crying and a dog being shot is not one that seems will lend itself to levity; and indeed, The Leftovers is a very serious and very dour show.  In the deluge of reviews that landed this week about (it being based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, directed in part by Friday Night Lights Peter Berg and overseen by Lost‘s Damon Lindelof), the overwhelming feeling seemed to be that The Leftovers is a show whose crushing emotional weight will either draw you in, or repel you fully.  And, if you thought it might grow out of it, well, the unrelenting sadness goes on for at least the first half of the season (which is as far as has been made available to critics).  Hit the jump for a reheating of The Leftovers (a joke I promise to make only once … maybe).

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “Possession”

by     Posted 61 days ago

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What Penny Dreadful‘s penultimate first season episode “Possession” taught us above all is that Sir Malcolm is essentially a Victorian Professor X.  (I’ll let you all fill in the blanks as to who that makes Ethan, Victor and Vanessa). The main thing is, what has saved Penny Dreadful again and again from swinging too far into camp (a la True Blood) is its commitment to the integrity of its characters, and a sense of them as family.  Hit the jump for why “fat mother wept!”

TRUE BLOOD Season 7 Premiere Recap: “Jesus Gonna Be Here”

by     Posted 61 days ago

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Oh, True Blood.  What would your season premieres be without unintelligible chaos that takes viewers until the opening credits to discern the who and the what? (But never the why).  Last year, the series seemed to be in free fall after creator Alan Ball left (which was also kind of a good thing), but then the new showrunner left, too.  Eventually, one stayed, and the show’s sixth season actually went far in righting the ship after Season Five’s disastrous Billith situation.  For this final run, viewers were promised a return to a focus on Bon Temps, and the humans (like Season One), but did “Jesus Gonna Be Here” deliver?  Hit the jump for more.

GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Finale Recap: “The Children”

by     Posted 68 days ago

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With “The Children,” Game of Thrones delivered one of its most cinematic and epic hours yet (and also spent a mint on their CGI budget for this episode, surely).  Unlike other premieres and finales, the show didn’t touch on every story line, and that was a very good thing.  When Game of Thrones restricts itself to just telling a few narratives well, it’s a much, much better show.  “The Children” also ran for a slightly extended length of time, which the series (and this episode in particular) desperately needed.  And for once, Game of Thrones chose to end its season in a place of contemplation, rather than shock and awe.  Hit the jump for more.

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “What Death Can Join Together”

by     Posted 68 days ago

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Penny Dreadful has become one of those delightful shows that starts strong, and then just keeps getting stronger.  After the exceptional “Closer Than Sisters” last week, it was possible, even probable that “What Death Can Join Together” might hit a speed bump.  Though the plot didn’t really advance much in this hour, it showed that Penny Dreadful is so good with its character development that it doesn’t need to. Mina is still seen in glimpses, the Creature is still in emotional pain, Vanessa and Dorian spent scintillating time together, and Victor had some difficult lessons to learn.  And yet, the world-building in Penny Dreadful is so strong that it was still an incredible hour.  Hit the jump for some possible “chicanery!”

GAME OF THRONES Recap: “The Watchers on the Wall”

by     Posted 75 days ago

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Like in “Blackwater,” which chronicled the massive Battle of Blackwater Bay, Game of Thrones allowed “The Watchers on the Wall” (also directed by Neil Marshall) to exclusively focus on a battle.  It also topped “Blackwater” in terms of expense, but did the show do enough to build up the Night’s Watch’s story to make it resonate emotionally as well as visually?  Hit the jump for why “when you’re nothing at all, there’s no more reason to be afraid.”

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “Closer Than Sisters”

by     Posted 75 days ago

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“Closer Than Sisters” was Penny Dreadful‘s strongest episode yet, and with the backstory of The Creature in play, that’s really saying something.  The show seems to be getting more into a pattern of “dreadful” episodic tales, or at least, taking the time to break each member of Sir Malcolm’s consortium off to explore their backstory.  The biggest question so far has been Vanessa — she doesn’t have a backstory we know from literature (as far as I’m aware), which made “Closer Than Sisters” the most intriguing hour thus far.  Hit the jump for why “I love you enough to kill you.”

GAME OF THRONES Recap: “The Mountain and the Viper”

by     Posted 82 days ago

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To quote Time‘s TV critic James Poniewozik, “said it before, but for all the spectacle, Game Of Thrones is never better than when it’s about one person talking to another.”  Amen.  The last ten minutes were brutal, and next week teases an epic battle between the Wildlings and the watchers on the Wall, but one thing that this season of Game of Thrones has done so well is bring the show down a notch, and return it to the essence of what makes the books so compelling: characters.  (And scheming, of course).  But by focusing on only a few stories each week, Game of Thrones has made things simple while keeping it twisted.  “The Mountain and the Viper’s” finale had a big impact, but perhaps even more shocking was the transformation of another character.  Hit the jump for more.

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “Demimonde”

by     Posted 82 days ago

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In its fourth episode, Penny Dreadful does not cease to amaze in how it has drawn together and played around with, in a way that really resonates, these characters from classic horror literature (plus a few others).  One of the best things about a collaboration film like The Avengers, say, is seeing favorite characters come together and interact in new and unexpected ways.  And with Penny Dreadful, there’s plenty of time to explore the nuances of those relationships, as well as how they develop (or don’t), outside of the key mission.  Hit the jump for why “you are fucking a skeleton every night!”

SILICON VALLEY Recap: Season One Finale, “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”

by     Posted 82 days ago

silicon valley recap

What a fantastic inaugural season for Mike Judge‘s Silicon Valley.  The show fired on all cylinders through its run, and is probably the funniest comedy HBO has produced in years.  A lot of HBO’s recent comedies have been dark or subversive — Girls, Hello Ladies, even Looking (which was excellent, and never really a comedy).  Silicon Valley is very smart, very sharp, but never dark.  The season was tight, reflexive, funny, weird, and deeply satirical.  Hit the jump for more adjectives.

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “Resurrection”

by     Posted 89 days ago

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First of all, no, I haven no idea how my insane brain made the connections it did regarding the end of Penny Dreadful‘s second episode, “Séance.”  (I’m off that cold medication now).  What I do know is that in “Resurrection” it was all made clear, or at least, as clear as Penny Dreadful ever is.  And in its third hour, the show continued the story of Victor Frankenstein in such a wonderful and emotional way that the entire series could really just be about him and his weird, created family.  Hit the jump for why, despite what the poets say, death is not serene.

HANNIBAL Season 2 Finale: “Mizumono”

by     Posted 90 days ago

hannibal-recap

Clean off your knives and have a rest, Fannibals — there’s a lot to unpack here.  Hannibal has always been about the monster within.  Throughout this second season, Hannibal himself has tried to cultivate that monster in Will like he did with Garrett Jacob Hobbs and others.  After Will was finally freed, though, he was ready to implement his master plan against Hannibal, which meant pretending to go along.  Except, as DuMaurier warned him as well as Jack, if you think you’ve got Hannibal cornered, it’s probably because he wants you to think that.  Hit the jump for why “we’re all desperate for a little hope.”

THE AMERICANS Recap: Season Two Finale, “Echo”

by     Posted 93 days ago

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The Americans has had a fantastic second season, one that tied in its many plots together in emotional ways.  While the series was propelled by the gruesome murders of the Jennings’ fellow spies (and their daughter Amelia), as well as the roving wild card of Larrick, the season also never felt beholden to those things.  That’s what made “Echo” such an odd finale in many ways; it answered those questions (quickly), and then raised so many more.  Hit the jump for why “she belongs to the cause, and to the world.”

MAD MEN Recap: “The Strategy”

by     Posted 96 days ago

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Mad Men is a tough show for me because at most I’ve respected it but never really enjoyed it.  Honestly, I would have bailed if we weren’t so close to the end, but I must say that this season has been quite good.  While season six was about how Don fell back into old habits (and the writer’s room looked like it had run out of ideas), the first part of season seven has done some really interesting things with its characters.  I lead with this disclaimer so you know where I’m coming from as I step in temporarily for Allison.

This week’s episode, “The Strategy” was another good step forward as Mad Men decided to show there’s really no going home again, no matter how much Burger Chef you order. Hit the jump for why “I’m just being realistic.”

PENNY DREADFUL Recap: “Séance”

by     Posted 96 days ago

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In Penny Dreadful‘s first episode, “Night Work,” Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) told Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to not be amazed by what he sees.  Indeed, there were many monsters and horrors to be beheld by Ethan, and by viewers.  But the most amazing things Penny Dreadful has shown so far is a tenderness and attention to the emotional needs of its characters.  “Séance” had frights (not as much as the premiere), but it also had a number of truly beautiful moments.  Hit the jump for why “I never say no.”

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