Have you ever gone through TV channels or through your Netflix account, looking at the many names of shows and just skipping over them, perhaps with a momentary judgement towards them? Maybe their names seem over the top or the logo seems silly, or perhaps even the genre is not your usual thing.
But then, one day, you’re extremely bored or you read or heard about some of those shows or films and decide, “yeah, I’ll watch the first episode,” and suddenly “how bad could it be?” turns into a day or binge-watching an entire season, or looking forward to the next week’s entry. Continue reading Surprisingly Good TV – Riverdale
Can you believe I’ve had this review drafted for a couple of years? Now, much like things happen in the world of Constantine, it’s begun to haunt me, to possess the other parts of The Mental Attic, so I have no choice but to send it out into the world and hope it doesn’t do much damage…ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but here’s the review of the first and only season of Constantine, the second (and best) adaptation of Hellblazer and the adventures of John Constantine!
The series stars Rose McIver as Liv Moore, a former cardiac resident turned into a Zombie during a party. With her now unhealthy appetite for brains, she abandons her job and takes a position at the Seattle Coroner’s office. The job gives her access to fresh brains to keep her hunger at bay and humanity in check, but if she feeds, she takes on some of the victims’ personality traits and last memories. While working with Detective Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin) she and her boss, Ravi (Rahul Kohli), claim she’s a psychic to explain he sudden visions.
The premise itself isn’t bad. It’s certainly more interesting than most procedurals and modern Zombie series. It has a lot of style and manages to keep itself silly even with the somewhat dark subjects it handles. And it has to be said, the comic-style intro and scene transitions are awesome! But it depends on Deus-Ex-Machina a bit too much, on Liv getting a vision or hulking-out (more on that later) at just the right time to solve murders or catch the criminals.
The episodes follow the standard procedural formula: victim, investigation, culprit apprehended. The twist is Liv eats chunks of the victim’s brains to get the visions they need to get the criminal. Along the way they deal with some of Liv’s family and romantic issues—which to me, considering she’s a zombie, feels kinda icky. But while she is the protagonist, I would love it if they explored Ravi & the Detective’s lives as well, to help us form a connection with them. Episode 4 makes some headway on this but only because it’s case-related.
So far, the episodes have stuck to the above formula down to the letter and including some voice-over commentary from Liv, which actually works in the series’ favour as it makes her an even more compelling character. When you’re supernatural, it helps to have something to connect you with us normal folk.
It’s impressive how McIver portrays the different personality traits she inherits from the brains she eats. Her boss Ravi provides the much-needed comedic relief, acting as the mad scientist, studying his zombie employee. The two actors have wonderful chemistry so their scenes are always a joy to watch. On the other hand, there isn’t any chemistry between them and the Detective, making all his scenes drag on more than they should. It doesn’t help the fact that he’s stuck in a very tired trope: the Detective using a disreputable source of information because it works. It’s been done before, masterfully so in series like Psych, but it hinges on the chemistry, which we’ve established is non-existent, and the performances. I have to give it to Malcolm Goodwin, his portrayal is very good. You can feel the stress his character deals with every day.
They seem to be putting David Anders’ character up to be the big bad of the season and at first I didn’t feel it, he felt less of an evil mastermind and more a bumbling sleazeball—much like he is in all his other roles. But then he zombified a one-night-stand, extorted her and has been shown to mercilessly kill people, so I quickly changed my mind! I especially like his scenes with Liv, how he tries to both get into her good graces and still manipulate her. Their Zombie-shop-talk is lovely.
The rest of the cast, however, is entirely forgettable. Even the room-mate and ex-fiancé are bland and uninteresting. Liv’s mother is the cliché overbearing mother, his brother is the cliché annoying teenage brother and so on. It’s still early in the series, I know, but the characterisation is just too weak on the secondary characters.
It’s very early to tell just how deep the ‘lore’ is. Zombies all have chalk-white skin and ash-blond hair…and no one comments on this. I’d say that’s a dead giveaway that something is definitely wrong with you. The way they feed to keep the zombie-urges at bay and keep their humanity is a bit too Vampire-y for my tastes, but it’s not bad, though I wish they explored how other Zombies react to the brain eating—is it just Live who gets a personality shift and memories or do they all? In certain situations they can ‘hulk-out’ and become unstoppable killing machines but so far it’s just another example of Deus-ex-Machina. It’s not something Liv has to struggle with, to keep at bay, but something that happens at the most convenient moment. I wish they had used it as an avenue for character growth.
So far, I’m on the fence with iZombie but the good outweighs the bad. It has an interesting premise, oozes style, Liv is a strong character and her scenes with Ravi are so fun—and good at world building—they overcome some of the series’ deficiencies.
Do note that is just a first impression based on 4 episodes.
The 100 season 2 picks immediately after the previous season’s finale. The 100 defeat he grounder forces, but the Mountain Men—those living in Mount Weather—soon capture them. While some left for space, others stayed behind in bunkers protecting them from the radiation. Mount Weather is one such place. They welcome The 100—or The 47 as they call them this season. But Clarke suspects something’s off with these bunker people.
And man is she right!
The first thing I have to say about The 100 Season 2 is how much I loved the visual design of it. The people of the Ark are on Earth and they’ve made their own makeshift camp around their landing zone, the look of it an amped up version of The 100 camp, with makeshift structures but a badass electric fence and gate. Mount Weather has a definite Americana feel to it while still being extremely oppressive, with its secret bunker door and tight hallways. The Ton DC village and other Grounder settlements tell you so much about their civilisation.
Second thing is that this season took the time to both show and explain how the hell Grounder culture works, helping to explain why they’re all so crazy for battle and eager to go Friday the 13th on the Sky People—yet another unoriginal name. Really, this show’s greatest weakness is in naming crap.
The overall plot of the season involves Mount Weather and its questionable practices towards both Grounders and Ark-folk—I refuse to call them Sky People—and Clarke doing her very best to forge an alliance and still remain human in the face of hard choices. In terms of character growth, hers is the best, closely followed by Octavia’s warrior journey. Bellamy has calmed down and become more level-headed since last season but it was now Finn’s turn to lose all his marbles and become the new resident douchenugget. You know you’re a complete bastard when Murphy is telling you you’re crossing a line.
My two favourite characters this season were Maya and Jasper, the latter one of the original 100s, and the first guy to get crucified by Grounders—he got better—and the former one of the Mount Weather people. At first, you think she’s an enemy but you slowly see more sides to her until she’s one of the best in the season.
Aside from those characters I’ve mentioned, the ever badass Licoln and the newcomer female Grounders, Indra and The Commander—who’s an outstanding character—I pretty much hated all characterization in this season of The 100. The Ark people are asinine, completely disregarding the kids’ accomplishments and treat them like children. They spend the entire first season seeing this kids survive impossible situations and even state how proud they are of them, but the first thing Kane says when meeting them is “You are not in control anymore!”. Clarke’s mother is the worst of the bunch. She constantly tries to be the protective parent to a child she essentially sent to her death on the ground and then harshly judges her for making some of the same choices she made as a leader on the Ark. But it does lead to one of the most amazing lines in the entire season, from Clarke to her: “You may be the Chancellor, but I am in charge!”
Speaking of Kane, he goes back to being a complete ass for the first few episodes, even going so far as flogging Clarke’s mum with a taser, but then becomes a really nice guy again and remains that way for the rest of the season. It’s the Ark’s original Chancellor, Thelonius, who gets a permanent spot on the douchenugget fun train, leading to one of the strangest, most convoluted, contrived and harebrained character and plot developments in any TV series to date, with him first riding a missile to Earth and then taking a handful or survivors and Murphy across the desert to find the promised land, all while acting like he’s freaking Moses. Every scene with him will have you asking “What?” as it becomes more and more surreal. It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect from dream sequences or after a character has a psychotic break during the previous season. By the season finale, it broke my Bullshit Tolerance Threshold—or my suspension of disbelief, use whatever term you prefer.
Having said so, the performances are good all around, though the Grounder actors could’ve showed a bigger range of emotions. Resting Bitch Face is their default mode. I wanted to see some of them at least crack a smile that wasn’t cruel or scary. They’re stoic and humourless for the entire season. It’s not their fault because I know Adina Porter—you’ll recognise her from her True Blood days—is a terrific actress, and even though she barely shows any emotion, she manages to convey just how strong her character, Indra, is. It’s the same with Alycia Debnam Carey’s Lexa, the Commander for the Grounder forces, but in her case, the lack of emotion is fully explored through her interactions with Clarke and you can understand it. In fact, I give Alycia full props because she manages to portray the character’s emotions with just her eyes.
If you thought The 100 Season 1 was a dark show, you haven’t seen anything. This one goes so dark I’m tempted to call it evil. People die by the scores, some are tortured and others die slow and painful deaths, though a lot of those really deserve it. The season finale has a fantastic climax and things end in a believable way for Clarke…and completely off the rails BS for Thelonius. They should’ve let that character die in peace.
Aside from the characterization and the Thelonius messiah plotline, this is the season that got a bit over the top with the Sci part of Sci-Fi. What the Mountain Men do to stay alive will have you react like “Holy s***!” before you realise it’s complete nonsense. What they do to the 47 afterwards is beyond that and well into poppycock territory.
Even with all I’ve said above, this is a very strong season. The main storyline, characters and pacing overcome some of the more glaring deficiencies.
Last year I said on social media that The 100 was a terrible show. I saw the first few episodes of this loose adaptation of Kass Morgan’s novel, and I wasn’t even remotely impressed. This year, my brother-in-law convinced me to give it another shot, as it had become one of his favourites. Having nothing else to do, I did as he asked and watched the first season on Netflix.
After a Nuclear war the Earth became an uninhabitable radioactive dump, forcing humanity into space stations that over time join to form the unoriginally named Ark. The Ark holds the last vestiges of humanity as they wait until such a time as they can return home. To make sure everyone works for the community, all crimes are punishable by ‘Floating’, which in The 100 is code for “we’ll shoot you out of an airlock!” That is unless you’re a minor, in which case they lock up you for a few months.
That’s what the eponymous 100 are—One hundred criminal kids. With the Ark’s resources dwindling and life support slowly failing, the Ark Council decides to send the 100 to Earth, to check if the planet can support life. For all the 100 know, it’s a death sentence in a radioactive wasteland. Instead, they find an almost pristine, nature-retaken planet. They land in a lush forest.
But it’s not the Earth itself that starts killing them like teenagers in a slasher movie, but their neighbours, the unoriginally named ‘Grounders’, Viking-like people living on the ground since the time the first humans left for space, surviving and adapting to their new world.
The 100 doesn’t have the strongest opening. The reason for sending the kids down is a bit contrived—and might as well be “just because”—and the status quo and relationships and conflicts between the kids are ridiculous, just episodes of leadership and domination battles between Belamy and Clarke. But to balance that out, they introduce the Grounders and the threat they pose and don’t abandon the Ark storylines, showing you how things degrade in space and revealing some of the more heinous acts the leadership has committed to keep things stable. And of course, they start killing the kids off. It doesn’t take long for there not to be a hundred of them. This is a show that goes dark very often and I’m glad it does.
Everything on the ground you see from the 100’s point of view, in that unless one of them is present in the scene, you don’t learn of the world around them. It’s a very good approach as it keeps the mystery for as long as possible. On the Ark on the other hand you see things from many points of view, learning just how crappy life in space can be.
But what finally hooked me on The 100 were the characters. One you move past the annoying leadership and faction nonsense, characters really start developing, and you learn their origins and their fears and you see them growing out of them or falling deeper down the super-fun-slide of psychosis. Even the characters you think are complete bastards turn out to have a lot of depth and become relatable. Marcus Kane, a council member and head of security on the Ark is an example—he becomes less of a murderous antagonist as the season goes by. On the ground the equivalent is Belamy, at first an idiot taking command of the 100’s makeshift camp—built around their dropship—and later becoming one of the best characters in the series. Clarke goes from determined young woman to the absolute leader of the group, crossing more and more lines as she’s forced to do what’s necessary to survive. And then there are Finn and Murphy. Finn is the absolute good guy in the first season, always taking the high road, and Murphy’s the complete opposite, a unforgivable monster of a kid, for lack of a better term that is still polite among company. Oh, screw it! He’s a douchenugget from start to finish.
In terms of visual design—a term I find very strange to use outside of a video game—they do a bang up job with the Ark, making it look futuristic and still derelict—steel corridors with scorch marks and emergency welds. The Ark people dress mostly in hand-me-down rags, which they are. If you die, your stuff goes to the community and it made me feel a bit weird that they’re all wearing dead people’s clothing. This is not high-tech, with lasers and super-science but the “we’re barely keeping things together” kind of Sci-Fi. The technological level isn’t very high and things usually get resolved the medieval way—with copious amounts of threats and violence. On the ground, it’s all wilderness and shacks, a mix of survivor and Mad Max. Things are gritty, deadly and people die every episode in horribly painful ways—the acid cloud being the worst to be honest—but there are also beautiful landscapes and bright open areas, giving you a sense of awe every so often to break the tension, making the next emotional moment much more intense.
The performances are strong all around…after the pilot. We’ve established that the start is atrocious but it does get better. Eliza Taylor’s performance as Clarke is phenomenal and she’s one of the most believable actors in the show. Bob Morley’s and Marie Avgeropoulos are equally strong as the Blake twins, Bellamy and Octavia. The latter in particular becomes one of the strongest characters in the show. It was a surprise to see Dichen Lachman in the 100 as Anya, one of the Grounder leaders. She and Tristan (Joseph Gatt) become the main antagonists for the season, leading the grounder forces in attacking The 100 camp. On the Ark, Henry Ian Cusick is outstanding as Kane and I immediately recognized Jean Paige Turco, who playes Clarke’s sometimes-annoying but just as badass mum.
The conflict with the Grounder is the season’s main plot, but don’t expect any deep reason behind it. The Grounders hunt and kill The 100 because they’re in their territory and being the stereotypical Vikings they are, they can’t see that it’s a bunch of kids and start picking them up with greater efficiency and zeal than Jason Voorhees.The only character from this group not to show this level of tunnel vision is Octavia’s love interest, Lincoln, one of the most badass characters on TV—hands down.
I’m not a fan of the overall plot, as you can say the Grounders’ reason for attacking is “because.” The season gives you glimpses into who they are as a people but not enough to give their aggression a bit of much-needed context.
The 100 starts off weak, but once you get past the first set of episodes it all picks up significantly and keeps its pace and momentum all the way to the outstanding and intense season finale. With strong performances, beautiful landscapes and fantastic set design, this is a Sci-Fi series you should give a watch