Tags: tv

cass, can you not

Just rewatched The Middleman Ep. 1

It holds up quite well. I think it's a little bit more familiar now (in the way that older The Simpsons episodes feel less original, or Holmes stories thoroughly by the numbers; the stereotypical in them is there because the stereotypes moved closer to them, not the other way around), but that's at marginal effect; it's still a great mix of straight-faced comic book bollocks and strong baseline emotional and moral sanity.

I don't think I ever saw it in this way, but in that sense it follows the Star Trek: The Next Generation model: you follow a core of ethical, cooperation-oriented, polymath characters as they deal with increasingly bizarre occurrences with professionalism, empathy, and a generally positive outlook.
cass, can you not

Consider the possibility of Great Britain being a Borgesian post-fictiona construct, like Venice

But I digress.

One of my favorite things about The Avengers (Peel's, not Romanova's) is how pretty much the entire fabric of British life and culture is basically the blueprint for one form of another of murderous conspiracy. At no point, I think, do Peel or Steed find what their lives reflect about the reality of the world as unsettling as it should be; in a country practically wrapped in probably overlapping well-connected conspiracies of the gifted and pathologically unstable, they are a two-person extremely well-connected conspiracy of the gifted and almost pathologically stable, Steed because it's his job and those are often his co-workers (and what could be weirder than that, in their world), Peel because, well, I think it's basically that she does whatever she wants and she's usually very good at it, and it turns out this is such an entertaining hobby (besides, they are both kind loners).

I'm reminded of a couple of comments of wellntruly about Hannibal: how in their world basically most everybody is trying to kill you in gruesome ways, and how, for a while (and in ultimately legendarily unhealthy ways) Hannibal and Will connect because they are alone together (identically different, in Jack's phrase). Steed and Peel share a similar situation, with a some large, fundamental differences in their mental health.

Also: it was 1971, and we had a series where the male and female leads were both single and charismatic and/or hot, kept saving each other's life, spent a lot of time doing things together like going to the theater or just having a quiet read in each other's apartment, constantly looked at each other in various forms of fond and/or exasperated amazement, flirted shamelessly (although, to be fair, their flirted with pretty much everybody for tactical reasons, and with most of the rest for practice) and yet, if memory serves, never slept together. And neither seemed particularly troubled about it, one way or another, which is a fantastically mature approach.
cass, can you not

The Good Place S1&2

Yesterday I forked my sleep schedule by bingeing all of The Good Place. It's a really enjoyable show; more so if you haven't been spoiled, but even then the humor shines. It's immensely funny, but less a comedy than a locked-room mechanism epic, one that eschews metaphorical allegory and goes for surprisingly enjoyable hyper-explicitness. Recommended.
cass, can you not

The Black Monday Murders #8

Just when you think it can still delight you but won't surprise you... Dammit. I have suspicions under my suspicions, but in either case... well played.

And what the hell are Netflix and HBO doing that they haven't bought Hickman's tales already? The zeitgeist is just right for a The Black Monday Murders series, a Pax Romana mini, and, of course, East of West, the socio-ethnically diverse, worldbuilding-ly creative, visually stunning post-Game of Thrones epic.

In the current state of the States, can you imagine a more immediately resonant Rorschach of a story?
cass, can you not

Crisis on Earth-X

By and large, adorable.

Yes, the ethics of everybody not going back to Earth-X to help are rather awful (fixing the timeline (they broke) might get the Legends off the hook, but there's nothing Kara, Barry, or Oliver are doing that has a higher priority than that), but that's the elephant in the room of all episodic media with superpowered characters.

Not that it would be that hard. Doing the crossover right before the series hiatus, you can have the characters spend those few months off-screen fighting on Earth-X. Lots of things can happen there to refer back to later if you need plot grist, important good gets done, and it reinforces the *scale* of what they can and do.

(That said, I acknowledge that Earth-X people might want neither Kara nor Oliver on their Earth; regardless of the good they can do, it'd, well, it'd be a mess. But Barry could certainly spend time there every now and then; plenty of uses for an speedster in a war, even one that won't kill.)

(Although Oliver could, in theory, try to pull a Prisoner of Zenda, and if not change things structurally, at least cause as much havoc as possible. The perhaps bleak and certainly psychologically harrowing long fanfic doesn't write itself, yet it whispers from behind your ear about how much good you could do with all that power... Not that I think Felicity would let him; that'd be a great way to break them up. But maybe she wouldn't let him do nothing, either.)

(In short: once you have well-meaning superheroes with access to a Nazi Earth, pretty much the only non-viable plot option is to have them not go there.)

But I digressed into a complaint; I enjoyed the event quite a bit, less because of the pace and plotting — as choppy and by the numbers as all such events are — than because of the small character moments. The Supergirl-Green Arrow-Flash ("Dorky Cinnamon Roll Who Could Level Your City," "Grumpy Cynic With The Soul of a Puppy", and "Dorky Cinnamon Roll Who's Actually 100% A Dorky Cinnamon Roll") TV Trinity works very well, mostly because they balance their most problematic traits (e.g., it's almost impossible for Oliver to over-brood around Barry).
cass, can you not

Ah, that quirky, uniquely original character, the well-off white male genius asshole

I've been catching a bit of The Mentalist as background TV, and I have to say I had forgotten quite how punchable Patrick Jane is. Clever guy, I like his (pre-Moffat)Doctor Who-ish avoidance of violence, and the amateur-helping-the-police setup isn't more or less implausible than all similar others, but, oh, god, he's a pretentious asshole, even when it makes things more difficult for the people he works with. Part of me wants to headcanon it as a self-destructive reaction to his guilt about his dead family ("suicide by enraged colleague suspect random bystander"), but of course his being a pretentious asshole contributed to their deaths (without going too far into victim blaming, mind you).

He's not as bad as John Luther in that sense; he's sort of broken, and I do feel for the guy. And while Patrick is a walking stressor, Luther oscillates between "breaks the law in violent ways to help innocents" to "breaks the law in violent ways to help himself." But Patrick's grating and insulting in counterproductive ways, and although he gets away with it because he's helpful and, well, the protagonist, I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who are impolite just because they can.

Most of them well-off white male geniuses, unsurprisingly. (Luther is a not well-off black male genius who regularly abuses whatever modicum of power he has legitimately earned through his being good at his job, which makes things more complex, Elba's great acting aside)

Insert here the obvious comment about the World's Greatest Well-off White Male Genius Who's Unnecessarily Irritating To People He Works With, Bruce Wayne, whose overall plan vis a vis the JLA seems to be they think of themselves as good people, so the more they personally want to kill me because they find me obnoxious, the less likely they are to attack me even when technically they would have the right to, or maybe just the newbies don't kill me because they think I'm tough enough to mouth off to the Clark, Diana, and J'onn with impunity, and Clark, Diana, and J'onn don't kill me because they are genuinely good and extremely patient people whose personal lines I've spent a lot of time profiling to make sure I never cross.
cass, can you not

Violence by the numbers[*]

[*] How come that's not already the title of a book about contemporary warfare, the negative social impact of large-scale financial fraud, or something like that? So many options, really.

In a stunningly predictable display of absurd time management prioritization, last night I watched 8+ hours of Bad Guys. The whole one-season series was consistent in its formulaic but competent approach to characterization and plot.

I mean, this picture shows a professional killer with regrets, a gruff gangster with a sense of loyalty, and a psychopath genius learning to feel emotions, and you need absolutely zero hints from me to identify each one:

Some of the clearer beats:

  • The young psychopath genius (the Slick Uber-Professional Assassin With A Case of Regrets's nickname for him being Psycho) is the distilled essence of every young psychopath genius, from the haircut under his perpetual hoodie to the unexplained combat skills</i> (I'd link to the relevant TV Tropes pages, but then this whole post would be blue and underlined).

  • The Lost-style backstory episode that shows how most things were related to most things back in the day, and explains everything except what'll be de- and re-explained at the last minute.

  • Everything got almost exponentially more betrayalful over time, in (what I think is?) a very Korean cop movie/series style.

  • I swear they copied a key scene of the last episode from the A-Team movie. Probably convergent evolution from a common (probably even Korean for all I know) root, but still.

  • The you-were-like-a-brother-to-me other Slick Uber-Professional Assassin. How everybody knows everybody else in the business, down to killing styles, including the go-playing, because of course somebody had to be a go player, former murder matchmaker.

  • Guns are very rare and controlled, even for cops. It's a country of baseball bat and knife-wielding gangs, which I guess would make the viewing experience surreal for an American.

  • Not as much as the fact that knives are blurred, I bet.

  • I'm not sure the writers know or care about what a psychopath is. Also, young psychopath genius spent most of the last half of the season bleeding from some stabbing or another, something I ended up finding hilarious (and even made sense plot-wise).

  • The heart-twisting scenes were as predictable as everything else, but well done.

It'd be pointless to comment on the relevant gender issues, by the way. It's not just that the series is (emotionally) the mutual bonding story of four extremely violent men who have done each other and the rest of their society an awful lot of harm, but that every one of the few female characters is a selfish unrealistic careerist, a doe-eyed angel of a daughter, a grieving widow, a seemingly-perfect girlfriend, an almost literal harpy, or a dead wife. There isn't even a redeemable seductress stock character to widen up a bit the likely range of fanfic.
cass, can you not

Current TV series: Bad Guys (2014)

A Korean cop show with a familiar meta-plot. In this particular instance: a disgraced alcoholic violent former cop suffering from personal trauma nicknamed Mad Dog is reinstated to catch a dangerous serial killer (the explicit premise of the beginning of the first episode explicitly being We Korean police are too nice to catch dangerous bad guys). For hopefully not purely Doylean reasons, he gets to set up a team composed of, besides the by-the-books young and idealistic policewoman who technically outranks him, three convicts that are released under his care and promised years off their sentences for each bad guy they (individually, this is an internal competition) catch:

  • A hitman with a flawless record who gave himself up for unknown reasons after his last kill (you know, the sleek, always-wears-a-suit type).

  • A mob leader (of the rough, slightly comedic relief-y, violent but also well-connected with the underground type).

  • A young genius psychopath serial killer (of the absurdly high IQ, multiple PhDs, killed a bunch of people type).

Needless to say, the plot's probably going to thicken. There's only one season of eleven episodes, and, as you can see, it's pretty much by the numbers, but the first episode was entertaining enough, so it might end up being a once-a-week shut-my-brain-off thing.
cass, can you not

So, the first Castlevania episode, and other TV news

The dialogue is pure Warren Ellis all through, but the plot isn't. Probably won't watch the rest of it.

On other news: I can see Dark Matter becoming my new trashy space show of procrastination, something I'd rather avoid. Ditto Warehouse 13 as my new (-again) trashy weirdness show of procrastination.

(I've probably said this before, but can you imagine a Netflix version of The Monday Black Murders by Fuller on the Hannibal style? It'd make True Crime look like Bad Boys.)
cass, can you not

The Black Monday Murders would be an interesting TV series

Although thinking about it, the best candidate for a John Hickman TV series would probably be Pax Romana. It can be adapted to be a bit like Game of Thrones (including the politics, battles, sex, etc), but with a dash of sci-fi, historically recognizable settings, and a religious pseudo-philosophical background issue. Plus it *is* essentially a huge conspiracy theory, and would let you plug in pretty much any shadowy group as you might as the thing progresses.