Discuss and Rate the Last Thing You Watched (non-movies)

Something Amyss

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Lethal Weapons seasons 1-whatever part of 3 we're on: 4/5 overall. less now that SWS is in the main cast. I don't hate him, I just miss who he replaced.

Doctor Who series 11: 3/5. Most of the episodes so far are kind of in middling territory.

Bleach: The bount arc: 1/5 can't believe I forgot this is why I stopped watching in the first place.

She-Ra and thetpy advert of Power: this is as close to a 5/5 as I'm gonna get any time soon. Oh, wait, I forgot

The Dragon Prince: 5/5 easily. Then again, give me something Avatar-like and I will probably enjoy it.
 

Hawki

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Something Amyss said:
Hawki said:
When I first started, I called it a "poor man's Doctor Who."
Slightly relevant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN0MZB0HU4k
Thanks to region blocking I'll have to take your word for it.

I will say that the Librarians OST doesn't hold a candle to NuWho's, least during the RTD era. The only Librarian tune I can recall is the ending tune, and that's probably more down to repetition. In contrast, the DW theme is instantly memorable, and there's plenty of tracks by Murray Gold that I can still remember.

Something Amyss said:
The Dragon Prince: 5/5 easily. Then again, give me something Avatar-like and I will probably enjoy it.
*Thinks about Prisoner Zero*

Yeah, be careful about such assertions.

But anyway, I'm actually in the midst of writing my DP review. It's a 4/5 for me, but still good - given me lots of stuff to talk about.
 

Something Amyss

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Hawki said:
Thanks to region blocking I'll have to take your word for it.
Somehow, hit post without hitting it. Technology!

There are a lot of tonal similarities between whatever they call the Librarians' leitmotif (usually plays for Flynn, but not always) and Murray Gold's "I am the Doctor." You can probably find the tracks individually in your region and comare them.

Granted, Murray's work is pretty straightforward, but it doesn't help the comparison that the Librarians has a sound-alike.
 

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The Dragon Prince: Season 1 (4/5)

Let's get one thing out of the way before saying anything else - no, this isn't as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even if we compare the first seasons of each show, it still isn't as good. TLA has better characters, better plot, better worldbuilding, and better animation.

That being said, TDP does a good job in most of these things, even if the job done isn't as good as what's come before. And in the light of these aspects, it gives me a good foundation to analyze this show in isolation.

First, the thing that everyone's noticed, the animation. I really have no idea why they went for the style they did other than to save money, because with the whole feeling of frames being missing, that's one advantage I can imagine. That said, this is only an issue about 10% of the time. When characters are at a distance, it's a moot point. However, it's when we see characters up close that the animation style becomes noticable, as people seem to be missing basic movements or somesuch. Like, you know when you're on skype, and the connection isn't perfect? Imagine that, just not as severe. In fairness, the art in of itself is fine, but the animation is a noticable drawback.

I'm going to touch on worldbuilding and themes next, because the show's a mostly postive bag here. So, basically, we get a situation where elves and humans are at war because of past attrocities committed by both sides, and our protagonists want to bring the egg of the titular Dragon Prince to its mother to stop said war. Which isn't too bad as plots go, but I'll get to that in a bit. The worldbuilding is...okay. As in, like Avatar, we have an example of what's called a "hard magic system," where supernatural abilities operate within a defined ruleset. So, that's neat. Likewise, I do get a general sense of this land, where elves live in Xadia in the east, and humans live in a collection of kingdoms in the west (only one of which is named), but there isn't too much of a sense of geography, at least in regards to where the protagonists are at any given time in respect to their points of origin or destination.

By extension of worldbuilding in this case, there's themes. Now, this is weird to talk about, because TDP is trying to engage in themes of prejudice, and at times it does this very well, and at other times, it doesn't. To understand, I'm going to give an abridged history of the setting:

-Humans and elves live in Xadia.

-A human mage discovers dark magic, bad stuff happens

-Mage is defeated. Elves and dragons banish all humans from Xadia to the west of the continent.

-Humans try to re-enter their homelands, but are kept at bay, up to the moment when they slay the Dragon King and supposedly, his son. This sets the stage for all-out war.

So, basically, humans and elves have good reason to hate each other. However, the catalyst for the events in the series rarely go beyond the point of the death of the Dragon King. Granted, about 1000 years pass between the human banishment and the king's death, but it's not like this is unknown history within the setting's context. So when the show gives us an info-dump in the first episode that covers all this, but the show itself rarely touches on it, it does create a sense of disconnect when elf prejudice against humans is never called out, or the dislocation of an entire species due to the actions of just one individual. I'm fine with humans being xenophobic assholes in fiction (see W40K for instance), but if you're going to do moral equivalancy/moral ambiguity, actually commit to it. If anything, when Rayla complains about human prejudice, she comes off as a hypcrite when we see her own prejudices alive and well later on in the season.

But, okay, fine, that's the part of the "prejudice is bad" theme that doesn't work. What DOES work however, is how the show highlights prejudice more subtly. It's telling that when it comes to human prejudice against elves, more senior humans are more prejudiced than children. On one hand, we have Viren whipping up his people with xenophobia after the death of their king, and everyone buys into it. Even 'good' characters like Amaya have this. Someone like Callum is middle of the road, in that he has prejudices, but is willing to examine them. And on the far end of the scale we have child characters like Ezran and Ellis, neither of whom express any real prejudice towards elves. There's a moment when Ezran comes across an elf figurine that's drawn as a kind of monster, and the way he looks at it, it's like he's seeing it for the first time, even though he's almost certainly played with it before. Ellis never even questions why an elf is tagging along. Now, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but in this case, I don't think I am - there's the underlying theme that prejudice isn't innate, it's inherited through one's culture. It's arguably telling that Rayla, a young elf, is willing to forsake her fellow assassins over the discovery that the Dragon Prince wasn't killed, while Runaan, even with the egg right in front of him, won't stray from the path. So, when it comes to understated theme, the show does quite well.

When it comes to plot and storytelling, the show does a good job as well. Plot is good - moves very quickly, and there's not really any stand-alone or filler episodes. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is up to you. As for storytelling, again, it's quite good. While this is obstensibly a children's cartoon, and is thus limited in certain aspects (e.g. no-one dies on-screen), the dialogue and context isn't juvenile, and never talks down to the viewer. There's some cartoons I can enjoy, but only with a kind of 'mental block' in the knowledge that I'm not the target audience, and thus, have to view it in the knowledge that I'm going to get some cringeworthy material. Like TLA, Dragon Prince thankfully isn't one of those cartoons. Hardly Game of Thrones, but well above something like MLP (and I say this as someone who likes (or liked) MLP). However, there is a caveat, in that this show is actually quite funny...for about 80% of the time when it's trying to be funny. As in, when jokes are used, I find myself at least smirking 80% of the time. However, there's a recurring gag of characters having to explain their jokes, the joke being not so much the joke itself, but a character not getting it, and ergo, we should laugh at the character. Sometimes, this works, such as when a characte makes a good joke after those around him make so-so joeks, but not one laughs, the implciation being he's the smartest guy there, but the people around him are too dumb to get the joke. However, most of the time it just serves to bog the pacing down, especially when the whole "the joke is that the joke has to be explained" is used over and over. In Red vs. Blue this kinda worked, but here? Not so much.

As for characters, again, the show does a good job in making them feel multi-layered, protagonists and antagonists all. There's no real weak links, no stock characters, just individuals with varying qualities, fears, hopes, and desires. Like the first season of TLA, we have our main trio of characters, but while similarities exist, it isn't a 1:1 comparison, even as shades exist. Likewise, our villain gets a good treatment - he's not evil for the sake of being evil, he's a character who does evil things for what he believes is the greater good, and still has humanity within him. Like, not Zuko, but better than Ozai, if we're using TLA as a comparison.

So, yeah. Very solid first season. Here's to 5/6 more (if they're doing the whole "name the season after an element" thing).
 

Hawki

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Something Amyss said:
Somehow, hit post without hitting it. Technology!

There are a lot of tonal similarities between whatever they call the Librarians' leitmotif (usually plays for Flynn, but not always) and Murray Gold's "I am the Doctor." You can probably find the tracks individually in your region and comare them.

Granted, Murray's work is pretty straightforward, but it doesn't help the comparison that the Librarians has a sound-alike.
So, here's the theme "I am the Doctor." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7VmOZ4Ppj8

And here's the Librarians motif I think you're referring to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7FQ1FCYGzg&t=0s&index=2&list=PLduVTFL9-W7ZL283gJHjTi2u4TKtyduOq

Listening to them back to back, I can see the similarities, but I wouldn't really call the Librarians one a rip-off. It's got a similar structure and flow, but it's far more...contained, I guess? Like, ImDoctor is big on orchestral sounds, selling the Doctor as the legendary, almost messianic figure he was often portrayed as under Davies and Moffatt. The Librarians one is far more subdued, more playful almost. If anything, ImDoctor has more in common with the Mass Effect 2 Suicide Run OST.
 

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The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden (3/5)

This is one of a trio of plays by Alan Ackbyrn (sp.) that take place over the same timeframe, but at different locations. Each play is stand alone but acts as part of a bigger story with the same characters. So, one takes place in the kitchen, one in the living room, and in this case, one in the garden.

And...that's it really. The play's fine. It's average. It's humourous, but it lacks 'meat' to it. I don't think it's by virtue of being a comedy, because comedies have provided me with far more in the past. It's...fine. Supposedly seeing all three plays elevates the experience, and I do intend on seeing them, but in of itself, it's...fine. Really not much more I can say.
 

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Disenchantment: Season 1A (4/5)

So, Disenchantment. The latest product from the mind of Matt Groening. A product that's had a very mixed reception from fans and crtiics alike. And having seen season 1A...I really don't get why.

Okay, two clarifications. First, I'm using the term "1A" because the first ten episodes are actually just the first half of a season split in two. As it is, every set of ten episodes will air per year, so we'll get 1B in 2019, 2A in 2020, and so on. Second clarification is that when I say "I really don't get why," I can understand sources of frustration, but I wouldn't have thought those sources would be enough to give it as mixed a reception as it did. But while I do have gripes with the season, there's far more that it does right than it does wrong.

So let's start off with what it does right. First, if we look at Disenchantment in the context of Groening's other shows, it bears far more resemblance to Futurama than The Simpsons. In the context of genre, it's as happy to poke fun at fantasy tropes as Futurama as to sci-fi tropes. Similarly, while The Simpsons' main characters are the titular Simpsons, Futurama's main characters are basically Fry, Leela, and Bender, with everyone else getting secondary status at best. Disenchantment is closer to this, but goes even further, in that Bean is very much THE main character and Elfo and Luci are primarily there to support her. This isn't good or bad in of itself, but it is the paradigm that's being worked in. Like Homer though, Bean's an alcoholic, and like The Simpsons in its heyday, Disenchantment has a lot of heart to it. Bean and Zog are the main beneficiaries of this, in that they appear one way on the surface, but are shown to be quite multi-layered as time goes on. Bean is a boozer and all that, but it hides her feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness from her father. Zog is a loudmouth and a brute at times, but as frayed as his relationship is with his daughter, it's established how much he actually cares, and how much he misses her mother. In essence, they're both kinda like Homer, in that for all their vices, both of them have a lot of heart, even if it doesn't always show.

Further on, there's the likes of Elfo and Luci, who are mostly tertiary to Bean, in that their actions and motives are usually in respect to her own actions and desires rather than being fully independent. For instance, Bender might have been friends with Fry and Leela, but he'd happily do his own thing. In contrast, Elfo and Luci are far less independent. This isn't bad in of itself, but it's kinda noticable, in that if Bean has a choice between right and wrong, Elfo might push her to do the right thing, while Luci, being a literal demon on her shoulder (that everyone calls a "talking cat") will push her to do the wrong thing. So, on one hand, while Elfo and Luci are enjoyable characters, they exist in relation to Bean more than being characters on their own terms a lot of the time. Elfo does kinda have his own arc, what with being infatuated with Bean (an infatuation that comes out of nowhere), but Luci's just kinda 'there' a lot of the time.

Other pros are that Disenchantment is actually quite funny - no idea why people say otherwise, because it's humour in the same vein as Groening's other works. Same sharp wit, both in the dialogue and in the background - there's a lot of written signs for instance that are quite humorous if you take the time to read it. And while worldbuilding isn't really the biggest focus in a fantasy comedy like this, it's at least present, in that I at least have a general sense of the setting's geography and elements of its history. Nothing major, but it's there.

So, in essence, Disenchantment does a lot of things right. As a season 1 opener, it's certainly above season 1 of the Simpsons. Maybe Futurama, maybe not. But it's solid. However, now that I've told you about what it does right, let's discuss what it does wrong.

Basically, that's continuity, in that Disenchantment seems to have both stand-alone episodes but also an overrunning story. Nothing wrong with that. However, it doesn't do it that well. For instance, we learn that Luci's sent to Bean by 'bad people' to get her to do bad things, to send her down a bad path. This is brought up in the first few episodes, but is dropped for most of the season. There's a certain reveal in the penultimate episode, but it doesn't actually mean that much. If Luci's there to manipulate Bean, his level of inferterance varies per episode. A lot of the time he seems content just to sit back and be a jerk. Other times he actively sabotages Bean. While the results are arguably the same, Luci's supposed motivations are rarely touched upon. And if this is him holding back in the understanding that he's ruining Bean's life, he never has that moment of realization, and Elfo calling him out for it doesn't really go anywhere. But more damning is the issue of Bean's mother. There's a good plot twist with the elxiir of life and Zog's true motiavions in seeking it. What doesn't work as well is Bean's mother herself. We know early on that she's supposedly dead, but don't learn how until towards the very end of the season, at which point being dead is reversed, and a whole lot of other plot developments and revelations are stacked upon the viewer. The last episode...okay, it isn't bad, but it's a drastic shift in tone and plot. Up to episode 9, Disenchantment is quite light-hearted, even if it has moments of gravitas. Episode 10 is where it starts treating itself seriously, where plot twists are revealed and fulfilled...that have nothing to do with Luci or the people he serves. Rather, Dagmar's working with yet another group, and it turns out that Bean's "the special." I'm kind of reminded of Red vs. Blue when it shifted to a more serious tone with the Freelancer saga and butchered itself in the process. I don't know if Disenchantment will meet the same fate, but the change in tone is striking. I've heard some say that all of season 1 was meant to be aired in one go, which might have alleviated the shift, but as it stands, if episodes 1-9 feel like a, and episode 10 feels like b, then not only am I left with b after 90% of a, but if I liked a up to this point, what makes you think I'm going to suddenly like b? After watching episode 10, it really casts a shadow on the continuity of everything up to this point and how uneven its level of plot development feels in retrospect.

Still, all this aside, I want to stress that I really liked Disenchantment. While its greater arc is perhaps a bit messy, the individual episodes and the characters within them are good enough that this show is still a blast. All in all, a very solid outing.​
 

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The Norman Conquests: Living Together (3/5)

So, second lot in the Norman Conquests trilogy, and it's kinda mixed. Having seen 'Round and Round the Garden,' it simultaniously benefits from the shared story format, but also loses out. On one hand, because I already know the characters, I can benefit from seeing elements of their personas and lives explored further. On the other hand, it does feel kinda underbaked in areas. I mean, the play could probably stand alone (Round and Round the Garden did), but, yeah. TBH, I'd kind of preferred the option of seeing all the trilogy in chronological order at this point.

So, decent. Not great, but decent.
 

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Arrow: Season 6 (3/5)

If I had to put a divide between the seasons of Arrow, there's a pretty clean divide at this point between the "good/great" seasons (1, 2, 4), and the "okay" seasons (3, 5, 6). So, on one hand, 6 is in the "okay" end of the spectrum. On the other, it's probably the "best okay" season, if not actually "good." In case you're wondering, the ranking currently goes like this:

6) Season 3

5) Season 5

4) Season 6

3) Season 4

2) Season 2

1) Season 1

But that aside, let's talk about Season 6.

​Thing is, Season 6 is a bit weird to talk about. Every season up to this point has had some kind of 'essence' to it, some kind of 'drive.' A lot of it has come down to the type of villain being used. I don't think season 6 is technically the only season that's done this, but for me, there's a pretty distinct first act of the season (everything involving Cayden James), before moving onto the second act (Ricardo Diaz). What's notable with these villains is that they're easily the most down to earth so far in Arrow. Up to this point, even the most 'normal' of the show's villains were still along the lines of Merlyn, Slade, or Prometheus - human, but those with incredible martial arts/bow/sword/whatever skills. In contrast, Cayden James is 'just' a hacker. Ricardo Diaz is 'just' a street thug. Both are dangerous in their own way, but the threats they represent are very different from the main villains up to this point. Season 5 was billed as a "back to basics" season, but honestly, season 6 feels far more deserving of that declaration. Season 5 was back to basics only in as much that Prometheus was a composite of Slade and Merlyn (getting the worst of both worlds IMO), whereas Season 6 feels like something out of early season 1, where Oliver's enemies are street/business criminals. There's even a heavy focus on the law enforcement angle as the city and FBI push for his prosecution. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to you. Me personally, I'm kind of neutral. One one hand, Diaz is less memorable than some other villains, but at least he doesn't feel woefully out of place (e.g. Ra's) or a poor attempt at aping better villains (e.g. Prometheus).

We can also talk about the characters. Season 5 had the whole "new Team Arrow" thing going on, which felt contrived and unnecessary. Season 6 sticks with these characters, but they're far more interwoven with the setting. If anything, I'm reminded of Season 3/4, in that people complained about the magic elements in 4. I wasn't so put off, because Season 3 had already jumped the shark there, Season 4 actually made use of it. Similarly, Season 5 spent time introducing the new characters, Season 6 has them at least doing the stuff I watch this show for - action. And to be fair, least in places, the action is pretty good. Camerawork has certainly improved. The whole split-up of the team and the inter-personal conflicts sometimes hit the mark, sometimes don't, but...yeah.

Season 6 is okay. It's got good elements, it's got bad elements, and most of those elements stem from the same concepts. Arrow is long past the glory days of its first two seasons, but it's at least managed to crawl its way up from rock bottom. So...yeah.
 

Hawki

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The Norman Conquests: Table Manners (4/5)

So, the third installment in the Norman Conquests trilogy, though in theory it's the first. Meh, whatever. As you can tell by the rating, I think it's the best of the bunch, though it's hard to tell whether that's down to me benefitting from the additional context of the other two plays, or if it's simply the best written. Honestly, think it's a bit of both.

But anyway, had fun with this. Going to miss the characters, I can tell you that much.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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Big Little Lies
Hmm. Considering this could be summarised as "rich, mostly white people's problems" I am left wondering why I don't hate it from the very core of this hollowed out husk of a soul. Something is being done right to nimbly avoid a deeply-seeded socially- aware writhing wrath here. Perhaps it is the intimate focus on a small group of connected characters portrayed as human as anyone else. Perhaps it is the way it presents itself as a murder mystery where the main enigma is who the victim is. Perhaps it is due to its' desire to be complete and self-contained with the one and only season where everything is done and tied up by the final episode, leaving no room for the inevitable milking that comes with this format. Oh well. Ultimately it succeeded, the sly bastard. Now off to flagellate myself with fair-trade hemp ropes covered in rose thorns and failed government petitions.

Next on list is to try Sharp Objects cause it's Christmas and all that childish joy must be countered with misery and self harm.
 

Kyrian007

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This one's odd. Its been gnawing at me.

Travelers: Season 3 (7?/10)

I've been watching Travelers, generally because there isn't something else I'm watching when it has released. I like it, but I'll be the first to admit it isn't really great. It has a couple of actors doing a fairly good job and is above average... but it isn't without dud episodes and it really doesn't get the best out of its time travel sci-fi premise. Seemingly most of the time its more of a character drama set in a time travel story.

But then, season 3 ended... differently. TV seasons and shows don't end the way that Travelers ended season 3. Its satisfying if its over. If 3 seasons are all there will be, then season 3 very definitively ended the series. But strangely enough if there will be another season... they could go anywhere with it. Whole new cast, drop a few keep a few, or just keep the same folks around. It is the furthest away from "writing themselves into a corner" that I've ever seen... yet somehow be a definitive finale if it has to be. Its far from the best written show I've seen, but I'll give lots of credit to the writing team... that ending is very shocking, different, and pretty well crafted. And I'm still not sure if I want there to be more episodes, or not. Its good enough with the ending it has, but on the other hand it hasn't overstayed its welcome just yet.

Oh yeah and I also just watched

Castlevania: Season ? Ok, I'm going to call it season 1. Netflix's 1st "season" of Castlevania wasn't anything more than a prologue to the series and I refuse to go along with their labeling of the new episodes as season 2.

What did I think... middle of the road. 6/10, maybe a little better. It was just so insubstantial its hard for me to have an opinion. They did a lot right, I liked the character interactions and dynamic on the good and bad guy roster. The worldbuilding and lore was genuinely interesting. Good voice acting, score worthy of being in something called Castlevania? there's a lot to like. And yet flaws spoil it. The best example is the stakes. Its constantly said that Drac is going for total genocide... all humans dead. The most dire stakes could be... right? They kept SAYING that, but I never SAW them SHOW that those were the stakes. The "immortal" vampires and zombies and monsters that made up Drac's "army..." They seem to go down pretty easily. Yeah, they'd stomp a human army of the same size; but we don't see "endless hordes" of the undead. We see an army of the dead and some small villages in one country. We don't really know what the scale of the rest of the world is, but on THIS world there are a shitload of humans. I just never got the sense that Drac's army COULD wipe out all human life. Drac personally was a beast of a fighter... but his vampire lieutenants seemed to die easily enough. His two human lieutenants were either all kinds of compromised or actively self-destructive. It just didn't seem to me that anyone but Dracula himself could pose a threat to whole armies. In an animated series like Castlevania it should be easy to "show, don't just tell." But as far as the stakes are concerned, they did lots of telling and precious little showing. And without spoiling it, I don't see anywhere more interesting they could go with the story if there are more episodes to be had. It was fine, I just wanted it to be better.
 

Hawki

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​​​​​​​​​Falling Skies: Season 4 (3/5)

Season 4 of Falling Skies is where the show jumps the shark.

I could leave it at that, but I feel like extending this metaphor a bit further. So, more specifically, Season 4 jumps the shark literally within the first five minutes of episode 1. From episodes 1-8, it spends its time in the water, as the shark tears out pieces of flesh. Over episodes 8-12, our shark-jumper starts swimming back to shore. And while it does stand on the shore, and look fine at first glance, you can't help but remember that our swimmer was bitten by a shark, and if you look hard enough, is still bleeding.

But metaphors aside, this season...why? Just, why? This season makes every wrong decision it could. Course that's subjective, but given that this season seems to be poorly regarded in general from what I can tell, I don't think I'm in a minority here. While a lot of my gripes with this season are subjective, this season feels like such a misfire I'm surprised that the guns in the show weren't misfiring around the clock to reflect how bone-headed a direction this was. But to articulate said direction, let's look at what this season does wrong.

Well, for starters, it reverses the gains of season 3, where the volm-human forces took out the espheni defence grid, allowing volm reinforcements to come to Earth. We're left with the promise that the tide of the war is going to turn. That the direction since season 1 will continue. That the espheni are now going to have to struggle to keep their ground...none of that happens. Instead, what happens is that the volm bug out for off-screen reasons, and most of what's left of the human race are rounded up into ghetto camps for skitterization. This happens within the first five minutes of the first episode, after which there's a four month gap. This is...wow. Just wow. To convey how jarring this feels, imagine Lord of the Rings. Imagine Two Towers ends the way it does. Now imagine in Return of the King that it's established that Sauron got the ring, conquered Middle-earth, and that the third film is going to focus on a resistance movement to the Dark Lord. None of this is outside the realm of possibility, but from a storytelling perspective it's jarring. It's even more jarring here, because it makes little sense for the espheni to only start skitterization now, and considering that the espheni are pretty incompetent, and are acknowledged as being incompetent in-universe, this move is just..,.huh? Oh, and Charleston and its characters? Gone. Skitter Rebellion? Never mentioned (though in fairness it was being sidelined in season 3 as well). I kind of get the sense that maybe the writers wanted a back to basics approach, to rekindle a feeling similar to season 1. Maybe they didn't have the budget for more volm. Whatever the case, it doesn't work. You can't go back to basics in your penultimate season, and if you wrote yourself into a corner in season 3, that's on you. And even if this was back to basics, it still doesn't work, because season 1 featured the 2nd Mass constantly on the move. In contrast, season 4 spends most of its time in effectively the one location. Also, for all its faults, season 1 did establish a sense of dread and mystery with the invaders - we never see an actual espheni until towards the end. Season 4 can't rely on mystery, because a lot of the mystery has been revealed.

Carrying on in the realm of bone-headed decisions, let's look at Chinatown. Y'know, Lexi's colony where humans live in peace and aren't bothered by the espheni, and we get insufferable pseudo hippies combined with Eastern mysticism? I could live with that...maybe. What's harder to stomach is Lourdes. Lourdes, who over the course of the first three seasons developed as a character from the starry-eyed Catholic girl to...well, someone better. Lourdes, who ended the prior season freed from espheni control, leaving the viewer wondering how people will treat her for that, and how she'll move forward. Lourdes, who come season 4, is now a sycophant for Lexi, and who's permanantly in "hippy mode.' I...I don't...I can't...sorry, I want to know what the hell the writers were thinking. Without hyperbole, Lourdes has got to be one of the worst examples of character assassination I've ever seen in fiction. Again, none of this is breaking the rules of the setting. Again, Lourdes was never my favourite character in the world, but she at least developed over time, and had the potential for a compelling arc in season 4. Of the two Falling Skies entries I've got on ff.net, she's the protagonist of one of them for a reason. But this season just throws it all away. Even her death at the hands of Lexi is more to serve Lexi's arc. And while the season wants me to feel sorry for Lourdes given its use of music and whatnot, at this point, I'm past caring, because you've spent numerous episodes up to this point going out of your way to make me hate her. So, well done Falling Skies. Well done.

Y'know, I could live with one ham-fisted allagory. But Falling Skies decides that it's time we have Nazi equivalents. Basically the espheni get their own Hitler Youth, to brainwash kids into thinking that they're there for the betterment of mankind. Kids wear Youth-esque uniforms, get Youth-esque instruction, and get Youth-esque sublety. As in, none at all. This is so ham-fisted that the Nazis are even used in-universe as a point of comparison. To which I say...no. Just no. If this was in season 1 or even 2 I could buy it, but for the espheni to try this now? When they've already got most of the human race in camps? It feels unnecessary in-universe, and from a writing perspective, it lacks any kind of subtlety. Even the show seems to realize this as the not!Nazi plot is dropped fairly quickly, though comes back later, and is still cringeworthy. There's a girl one of the Masons meets who befriends him (and kisses him in the first episode they meet), only to get brainwashed off-screen, and gets to die off-screen as well. I can't even remember her name. But since this is the season where Lourdes goes from "sweet doctor Catholic girl" to "sycophantic, annoying space hippie," maybe expecting good deaths is too much to ask for. Thing is, Falling Skies has already done the plot point of human collaborators in season 1, and it did it better. And it did it without Nazi allagory. Newsflash - using Nazis or Nazi stand-ins is a low hanging fruit, and you're not clever for using them, unless you make it subtle. Y'know, like Harry Potter did, and even then the allagory was clear.

Is that all? Oh no. Not yet. Y'see, Lexi is now pretty much this setting's Sarah Kerrigan in that she's a human-zerg (sorry, espheni) who goes into a chrysalis (sorry, coccoon), who can use psychic (sorry, gravitic) powers, and is their own Queen of Blades. Or something. Like, powerful enough to destroy mechs with lightning, or change the weather, or...whatever. Y'know, Falling Skies was never exactly hard sci-fi per se, but it was at least down to earth. Even in season 3, with the volm and super-cannons, it still kept that feeling to an extent. But here, we get Lexi. Here, we get espheni conversing over the "Shadow Plane" (which conveniently looks like Hell), with a monk and all that. Just...no. No. No. No! Lexi isn't interesting as a character. Her arc isn't interesting. Her powers feel out of place. I doubt they were actually copying StarCraft in this, but Kerrigan succeeds as a character in all the ways Lexi fails as one.

Oh, and did I mention that the plot point of season 4 is practically the same as season 3? As in, they need to take out an espheni power core. Again. Only this time it's on the moon, because of course it is. Y'know, at least by this point the season had a clear goal, but while that did pick up the season a bit for me, it was too little, too late, and above all, too similar to what had come before. So unlike season 3, when the power device is destroyed, I was past caring. Oh, and after that, when Tom Mason is in a fancy room in space, and the show gets delusions of being 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's showing a misunderstanding of why the sterile room worked in 2001 (both the book and film), and arguably a misunderstanding of its own setting. When this show began, it was a down to earth alien invasion story. If it was taking reference from anything, it was War of the Worlds, and even that didn't go beyond superficial similarities. Now, it's aping space opera and high concept sci-fi. And while a change of tone isn't a bad thing in of itself, season 4 screws up the transition so much that when the show ended, I was just kinda glad, because I could devote my remaining time to watching the rest of Nomad of Nowhere (more on that later).

Oh, and Pope's still an asshole. Sorta. The show can't seem to decide what to do with him. Just FYI.

So, that's Falling Skies for you, or rather, season 4. In terms of the actual craft of filmaking, it's fine. Kinda. But in terms of story and worldbuilding, it's just one bad decision after another. If I had to rank the seasons, it would go 2>3>1>4. So if anything, we've got another bell curve. Maybe season 5 will salvage things, but I don't have high hopes at this point. Basically, when people said Falling Skies lost its way, while I don't agree that the losing began in season 2 or 3, the statement itself? Now, I agree with it. :(
 

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Nomad of Nowhere: Season 1 (3/5)

Nomad of Nowhere is something that does my cold, withered heart good...and therefore, i write this thinking that it's somewhat unlikely we'll get a second season, or even if we do, it'll be overshadowed by RT's other efforts. Because when I look at those other efforts...Red vs. Blue, I stopped caring about in season 10 for somewhat obvious reasons. I gave RWBY a try, didn't take. Gen:lock looks like something between "meh" and "bloody hell this is stupid." Every other RT production I cared about (e.g. PANICS) has long since concluded. Obviously RT is free to take the direction it wants, but I'm not under any obligation to follow them.

Which leaves us with Nomad of Nowhere, a charming 12 episode season that's basically weird west (not wild west, weird west) that's gone overshadowed by its larger offerrings. And while this season isn't perfect, it's easily the most interesting thing that's come out of Rooster Teeth for me since season 6 of Red vs. Blue. A.k.a. the best season, before the show started its decline to the drek that was Freelancer. And while some have said that RvB has recovered itself since then, I don't really care. But as for NoN...

...okay, so like I said, it isn't perfect. Thing is, NoN is weird west, but that's not the whole story. The land of Nowhere is certainly inspired by the American West, but it freely combines these tropes with more medieval ones - governors rule the land, but they answer to a king. The Nomad looks like a cowboy, but his prior companion was a witch. It's about 90% Western, 10% traditional fantasy. And while I'm not sure I feel about it, the worldbuilding feels a bit too vague for its own good at times. Like, there's hints of how this world operates, but it could have benefitted from more. Arguably this means that the worldbuilding is well done, in that I want to know more, but apart from that...

Also the characters. They range from "fine" to "decent." Problem is, of the main three characters (Toth, the Nomad, and Skout), Toth is the weak link. She's your usual "all tough on the outside, soft spot on the inside" character. Because she's basically constantly angry, it's hard to relate to her. Similarly, the Nomad is kind of a cipher, given that he's a mute. Like, he has a personality, but by nature that personality isn't going to shine as bright as someone who can speak. And Skout...Skout's adorable okay? Skout is the character I can relate to the most, but that's still 1/3. If anything, the background characters are more engaging than some of the protagonists at times, such as Don Paragon. Yeah, he's a jerk, but he's an entertaining jerk, whereas someone like Toth isn't entertaining when she's being a jerk. Also, minor point, but the season does undergo a shift in tone towards the end (kind of like Disenchantment), as we get a bit more serious, and way, WAY more dark.

Because NoN isn't a so-called "proper watch" (having it on while I'm doing other things), I wonder if the lack of worldbuilding could be attributed to this. Still, while not perfect, I'd love to see more of this. The world is enticing. The show's aesthetic, and characters (Toth aside) are charming. And again, it's nice to have an RT product I can get behind again. That may not be the best reason to support NoN, but damn it, it's still one of them.
 

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Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 1 (3/5)

This show (or at least the season) is weird.

Reading that, you may be thinking "it's Voltron, of course it's weird." To which I say "not that kind of weird." Though of course, when it comes to the content of the show, it does have some trippy stuff, including, but not limited to, the ability of everyone to speak English with no explanation, the melding of magic and technology, and of course, the fact that this is a show where five space lions merge together to form a giant space samurai thing. I mean, the only Voltron show I saw prior to this was a few episodes of The Third Dimension (which I barely remember apart from thinking "meh"), but when someone says "Voltron," chances are you're going to have at least heard of it, and have at least the most basic concept of it (lions, Voltron, space, fight stuff). No. What makes this show weird, is that while all those elements are there, the show's actually quite sparing of them. As in, like, it has the brand recognition of Voltron, but seems to have those elements as a matter of courtesy rather than enthusiasm for them. Maybe the other Voltron shows were like this, but regardless, hopefully over the course of this ramble, you'll see what I'm getting at.

First thing to note is that the show's pretty funny. Like, the stakes are big (band of heroes have to defeat Zarkon and his empire that's stood for 10,000 years), but there's constant banter between the characters. Each of them mostly feel distinct, though the style of dialogue is the same for each, so any line could basically be stated by any character. In other words, while the characters all have their core personality trait, it's never the be all and end all of said personalities. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is something I'll leave up to you. I can't compare this to other Voltron shows, but I can compare it to something like Power Rangers, and the difference is like night and day. Even when Power Rangers was at its best as far as writing went (see RPM), Legendary Defender still does a better job. It's a kid's show, but never as an adult did I feel like it was 'dumbed down' in terms of dialogue or character. Still, of the lion pilots, some get far more development than others.

What's also weird is that this season is on a pretty slow burn when you get down to it, which isn't something I'd expect. Like, for about two thirds of the season, the characters are effectively all in the one place, and it isn't towards the end that they actually set out to fight Zarkon. Like, I'm not complaining, but I can't help but imagine younger viewers criticizing the season for being slow. By extension, for a show named Voltron, we don't actually see that much of the giant in question. And given how fights go, given how each individual lion can easily match the majority of Zarkon's forces by itself, I'm left to ask whether it would be a sounder strategy for the paladins to stay separate. This might be thinking too much into things, but it's a level of intelligence that the cartoon already possesses. When they finally start taking the fight to Zarkon (a move that takes almost the entire season), it's pointed out that they should start with lightly defended targets rather than going straight for his base of operations...which circumstance forces them to do, anyway, but still, it's the thought that counts.

All this aside, taking the cartoon in of itself, it's...it's fine. It's enjoyable. It's entertaining. Still, it sticks in average territory, because it feels like it's missing...something. I dunno. It could be because it feels like the show wants to be one thing, but is obliged to keep certain elements out of brand recognition, but I could be way off the mark, because again, I have precious little prior Voltron stuff to compare this to. Still, it was entertaining, so, um, yeah.
 

PsychedelicDiamond

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Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Netflix show based on a series of Childrens/Young Adult novels written by Daniel Handler under the pseudonym Lemony Snickett, who's a character in the story. There was another adaptation in the early 00s, with Emily Browning and Jim Carrey, but I haven't seen it so I can't compare them. In any case,Series of Unfortunate Events is the story of three orphaned siblings running away from from an evil count and his henchmen and uncovering a secret society that their parents were involved in. The show's obviously mostly made for children and teens but watching it as an adult, I still found it more than enjoyable. It's got a very likeable style to it, very gothic and anachronistic, making it look like the sort of thing Tim Burton would be making if he hadn't lost most of his talent somewhere in the early 10s. And, hell, Count Olaf's henchmen seem like something right out of a Jean Pierre Jeunet movie. The show has a very witty sense of humor most of the time, certainly much better than you'd expect from a kids show, and goes some relatively dark places. The plotline itself isn't too bad either, takes some time to pick up but by the last season I was pretty invested in it. It's all very silly, but doubtlessly entertaining.
 

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PsychedelicDiamond said:
There was another adaptation in the early 00s, with Emily Browning and Jim Carrey, but I haven't seen it so I can't compare them.
Basically a case of a decent movie that's a poor adaptation.
 

Hawki

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Falling Skies: Season 5 (3/5)

Well at the very least, this season is an improvement over the previous one. Granted, with season 4, that's a pretty low bar, and season 5 hardly soars above it. If I had to rank the seasons now, it would go 2>3>1>5>4. With only 40% of your seasons being "good," that's not exactly a stellar record. Which is a shame, not only for this season, but this show as a whole.

Thing is, the season actually starts off pretty strong. I've mentioned previously that season 1 felt like season 2 given the amount and type of backstory it had to cover, and that season 4 felt redundant. Early on, I felt ready to say that if Falling Skies was obliged to have five seasons, then make season 1 season 2, cut out the original season 4, and season 5 could follow on from the original season 3. And certainly, given the overall trajectory of season 5, that could work for the most part. And like I said, the season starts strong. With the loss of their moonbase, the espheni are robbed of their high-end technology and basically have to rely on skitters and drones to do their fighting for them. Like, if this was a match of StarCraft, basically imagine the espheni being the zerg, losing all their structures but the spawning pool, and in a bid to stay in the game, mass spawn zerglings. That's pretty much what's going on, and as the protagonists have to deal with hordes of skitters/drones attacking their fortified position, it's pretty fun to watch. We get a look at mass warfare, and it makes sense within the context of the setting. We also, finally, get something beyond lip service of other militias, with the plan being to push forward on all fronts, to beat the espheni while they're down. So, alright then, I think to myself. This could be pretty good.

Alas, this is Falling Skies. And true to Falling Skies, we again have to go with a promising idea that's brought down by its execution. Y'see, Falling Skies reminds us that Pope's a dick. Yes, I know a lot of people like Pope, but no, he's a dick, and after losing Karen and blaming Tom, he becomes such an asshole that he forms his own bunch of assholes, kidnaps Hal, and decides to leave, forcing the group to split their attention between moving on the espheni base at Washington, and dealing with Pope. It's also at this point that the season loses a lot of its lustre. I mean, you can tell by this review, and the reviews I've done of past seasons, that I've never been fond of Pope's character, but at this point in time, human vs. human conflict doesn't carry the weight it once did in prior seasons. The stuff after this point isn't too bad, but it feels so...unnecessary. It feels unnecessary for the Ben-Maggie-Hal love triangle to be replaced by a Hal-Maggie-some girl love triangle. It feels so unnecessary to be wasting our time with Pope, it feels unnecessary to have the whole dornia sub-plot as well. Thing is, I actually like the idea of the dornia - first race the espheni skitterized, the last dornia left seeking vengeance. However, similar to season 4, we get far too much into mysticism for my liking, with the dornia existing on a different plane of reality or something...despite having a physical ship. I'm left to ask if the dornia are so different from other species in this regard how the espheni even skitterized them in the first place. Also, the whole "kill the queen and the race dies" is a cliche - even more than other cliches, because while taking out the hivemind can usually incapacitate 'bug species', it's never to the extent of "kill the queen and the whole race dies." I've no idea how this kill switch the dornia give Tom even works biologically, but, I dunno, Clarke's Third Law.

Moving on, as the season loses its punch, as all militias converge on Washington (because of course the queen's going to touch down there), there is a fairly interesting diversion where the characters stop off at an Army base where the captain in charge seems more intent in apprehending collaberators than fighting the espheni directly. Now, you can guess before the episode's end that she's an espheni plant, and yes, you'd be correct. Still, the whole sense of paranoia within the base is actually well done, how normal people can be swept up in said paranoia. Basically, Falling Skies does in two episodes what all of season 4 tried to with its pseudo-Nazi sub-plot and failed at (I like to think the whole collaborator thing is kind of a shot at the actual collaborators who thought "hey, let's imitate the Hitler Youth"). You can choose whether you want it to be an allagory for anything, but the difference between good and bad allagory is that good allagory can survive on its own without having to know about the frame of reference. So, the two parter base episode works. That said, it's effectively a repeat of Charleston, and not done as well.

What also doesn't work as well is the whole "Pope's gone savage" thing (in what feels like a rip-off from The Walking Dead), and his attack on the base, and supposed death off-screen.

So, assault on Washington comes. Espheni have bunkered in. Clearly this is what the entire series has been building towards. They're gonna go all out. They're...going to have the battle off-screen as a small group infiltrates Washington to take out the queen, making their way through an espheni hive, because fuck it, let's just rip off Aliens. Similar to Aliens, Tom gets a one on one confrontation with the queen. Unlike Aliens, this entire sequence is pretty stupid, because:

a) The queen knows about the dornia biological agent, but doesn't destroy it, and leaves it in arm's reach of Tom.

b) The queen reveals that Earth is the only inhabitable planet in the galaxy and is of immense strategic importance (I'll let you process why this is a stupid idea)

c) The queen reveals that her daughter came to Earth before, but the Nazca killed her, causing the queen to swear vengeance and come back 1000s of years later. I really dislike this idea - really, REALLY dislike it. There was nothing to suggest there was anything special about Earth up to this point. There was nothing all that special about humanity bar the whole "humans don't give up thing." But no. We've got to force in a reference to the Nazca lines. And we've got to have Tom kill the queen while she's sucking the blood out of him, causing every espheni and skitter to explode, because hey, genocide is fun. Also, not a single character even questions the ethics of this - the action's understandable. The lack of any consideration? Not so much.

But it's not over, because Anne's dead, forcing Tom to take her to the dornia. Dornia isn't exactly forthcoming, allowing for a final confrontation between Tom and a nearly dead Pope (who's still alive). Now, I'm not a fan of Pope, but at the least, the moment is touching. He sees that Anne's dead, and comments that he thought Tom going through what he did would have brought him joy, but it hasn't. Pope dies, as the two men finally get a wary understanding of each other. They've both lost. They've both loved. They both saw the end of the war. "Huh," I think. "That's a pretty nice moment."

Of course, Anne survives, which negates this entire sequence and the impact of Pope's character arc. I...okay, on a personal level, what they did to Lourdes in season 4 irritates me more, but from a writing perspective, this is terrible. You set up an arc for Pope, complete the arc, then negate the arc five minutes later. For those who like Pope, it's not hard to see why this irritates them, why Pope's entire arc (or lack of it) in season 5 does. And that would be bad enough, but it's at this point that Falling Skies remembers that it's got the idea that it's telling the story of the Second American Revolution (I've already explained why this analogy doesn't make sense). So, the show seems to want to have it two ways, as in the same speech, Tom seems to try and find a middle ground between "America, fuck yeah!" and "we're all human, and once we lived in a world without nations, so maybe we can do better." This...really doesn't work. Independence Day got away with it, but at this point...no. Just no.

So that's Falling Skies for you, both this season, and the series. Honestly, I'm disappointed. There were certainly good seasons, and good moments in the average ones. I can understand the criticisms of some as to how it changed, as the mythology was built up, even if I don't necessarily share them (apart from the revelations at the end). But at the end of the day, this entire series screams wasted potential. "Aliens invade Earth" is hardly an original plot point, but if you're given five seasons to flesh that plot point out, a few ideas might be to not waste an entire season spinning your wheels, be smarter with your worldbuilding, get some consequences for the main characters, and FFS, choose a theme and stick with it. Otherwise you get, well, this.

Shame. :(
 

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Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 2 (3/5)

So, I saw season 2 of VLD. And...really, what do I have to talk about?

Okay, in fairness, I should emphasise that like a lot of what I watch, this is a case of me watching while also working, that VLD was secondary to The Walking Dead, and I was watching it at a time where I've been routinely distracted by other matters. But that can only go so far, because watching Season 6 of TWD, even sharing all the above considerations bar the secondary status, I've still got plenty to talk about in regards to that. But here...well, what do I say? Pretty much everything I said in my review of season 1 could be applied here. On the one hand, the season remains strong in characterization and character interaction, in that each character feels unique, and the dialogue is crisp and snappy - it's never talking down to me the way a cartoon designed exclusively for children might. On the other hand, the season shares the same issue for me in that I've really got no sense of place or worldbuilding. Again, when you're up against a foe that apparently rules multiple galaxies for 10,000 years, I don't care how powerful your flying robot is, logistics dictates that you're boned.

That said, there's still a key difference between this season and the last...maybe. Dunno if "key difference" is the best term to use, but I mentioned last time that season 1 felt like it was on a slow burn. That the paladins were spending the bulk of the season preparing to take on the galra, only for circumstance to dictate that they go all-in at the very end. In contrast, season 2 feels much faster in terms of plot progression and its pacing. Like, two seasons in, and we're conducting an operation at the very end that will supposedly put an end to Zarkon. I'm not sure how I feel about this per se - at the least, I can't really state whether this season is better or worse than the previous one. Still, I'm left to ask (again) why this series is so beloved. Like, I'm not talking Adventure Time levels of dissonance, where despite praise heaped from all directions I found the first two seasons to be bereft of any real value), but at the end of the day, VLD is a series about magical lions forming up to form a giant space guy that destroys aliens with a giant sword. For all the talk of VLD having deep themes, dealing with issues such as PTSD and abuse, I'm left to go, "huh?" Newsflash - alluding to themes isn't the same thing as engaging in themes, and I'd have to squint pretty hard to even see those allusions. This isn't a mark against the show itself - a work of fiction is under no obligation to engage in heavy subjects - but when you're constantly being told how great something is, and find it to be simply average...well, the dissonance is noticeable.

Anyway, that's it. I watched the first two seasons on a borrowed DVD, so until I renew my Netflix subscription (which won't be happening for quite awhile), I won't be able to talk more. Overall, I can say that VLD has been like popcorn - tasty while being consumed, but quite forgettable.