Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Swamp Thing (1982)

"Some of the men say it was one of those abdominal snowmen or something."

I came to this film, in spite of Wes Craven helming it, expecting a so-bad-it's-good B movie. Instead I find a film that's genuinely brilliant- pacy, stylishly shot and very well acted.  I really wasn't expecting that.

The South Carolina location looks amazing; it may not be Louisiana, but the swampy landscape certainly looks like it and fills the production with a great deal of atmosphere throughout. At the start it feels like an early '80s horror film, but it isn't; it's very much its own beast. We're introduced to Alice, the genius Alec Holland and the rest of the crew who will shortly die. We quickly get to know the witty, driven, flirty Holland and his invention, a plant/animal hybrid formula. And then, suddenly, they are all shockingly killed, aside from the captured Alice, by the thugs of the sinister Arcane. Already the characterisation, dialogue and direction are far above B movie standard.

There are little oddities- why is the bloke in charge of Alec and his mates a Yorkshireman? And yes, the Swamp Thing costume indeed looks very obviously latex, as such costumes always do and as is always priced in. I'm also inevitably reminded of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. None of this is a problem.Nor is Arcane's delightful moustache-twirling evil. Sometimes it's fun for a baddie just to be bad for the sake of it, and Louis Jourdan is brilliant; fun but stopping short of being hammy.

I think the moment I fell in love with this film was the slow-motion boat attack, which felt completely A-Team. It's a genuine classic that rises far above B movie status.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Thor (2011)

"We don't have horses. Just dogs, cats, birds."

"Then give me one of those large enough to ride!"

So far I haven't seen a bad Marvel Cinematic Universe film and this, while not one of the very best, is no exception. It may be an odd film for Kenneth Branagh to direct but he does a fantastic job, giving us Asgard in all it's spectacular glory exactly as we dreamed of. Chris Hemsworth is a splendid Thor, Anthony Hopkins a brilliant Odin, and Idris Elba an implacably magnificent Heimdall. All this and we get Sif and the Warriors Three. Most of all, we get the extraordinary Tom Hiddleston as the villainous Loki. Natalie Portman also impresses as poor Jane Foster, with her doomed love for a god.

The film strikes exactly the right balance between the fantastical and the ordinary, giving us plenty of spectacle but grounding it in just enough reality to avoid alienation. It also subtly continues the ongoing plot thread with Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson and a post-credits sequence setting up what is to come. There's an obvious basic plot, yes, as the arrogant god learns humility and becomes better, but this is a hugely entertaining couple of hours. But then, Marvel films always are.

Only one thing, though... why didn't they incorporate the theme tune for the 1966 cartoon with the closing titles?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Ghostbusters (1984)

"Do you have any hobbies?"

"I collect spores, moulds and fungus."

It's quite an instructive experience seeing a film you saw at the old Cannon Cinema in Hinckley back in '84, watched tens of times while still in primary school, but haven't actually seen since Thatcher was prime minister. You remember very little until you see it happens, and then the memories flood back. You even find yourself unexpectedly remembering dialogue from the next scene. It's quite surreal.

This is the first time I've seen the film as an adult, and so finally realise what Hittites, Sumerians and Babylonians are, and what a cad and a charlatan Peter Venkman is, and what a creep he is with Dana. But I can also appreciate what may not be laugh-out-loud funny but is a justifiably popular fun classic with a top notch cast. In hindsight it's clear how much this film owes to the then-recent Poltergeist, with lots of that kind of ghost activity, but it never attempts to be a scary film and keeps the tone light and fun.

Rick Moranis s great as the possessed Louis, but William Atherton deserves special praise for his Walter Peck, the perfect pantomime villain. But the whole damn thing justly deserves its status as a true classic.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 2- The Resident Patient

"I don't suppose you've read my monograph on cigars and cigar ash?"

Yes, you guessed it; another brilliant episode, superbly acted as ever, with a genuinely surprising twist although, of course, the Russian count was always more than a little suspicious. John Ringham deserves particular praise as this week's Inspector.

There's a striking opening, too, as Mr. Blessington has a surreal nightmare about finding his own body in a coffin. In hindsight, this is our first clue that his past misdeeds may be catching up with him. His mysterious behaviour is, we eventually learn, essentially his way of laundering the money from his criminal past, but sponsoring the career of a promising yet impecunious youth is certainly not a bad way to invest money.

The revelation is satisfying, and gives us a splendid opportunity to see Holmes do what he does best. Even if there's a convenient piece of karma required at the end.

And... that's it for a while. I've been recording these off ITV Encore and, I fear, a recording clashed and failed to record The Red-Headed League. But I will continue this little marathon as soon as I can...

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Norwood Builder

"All my instincts are one way and all the facts are the other."

A superb mystery this episode, with Holmes slower on the uptake than usual. It's also the perfect introduction to the perennial Inspector Lestrade, with a battle of wits between them shaping the whole story. The device of having the main suspect for the crime be Holmes' client is a superb one. As is the gradual revelation that the "victim" was not murdered, but simply wanted to have a man hanged just because the man's mother once rejected him.

This one makes you feel clever as a viewer; I admit I may have remembered Conan Doyle's original short story, but I guessed what was going on before Holmes did. Watson, too, plays a genuinely useful investigative role here. And the revelation at the end is truly dramatic and entertaining. I'm genuinely struggling to find a bad episode.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 2- The Greek Interpreter

"I'm not built for running, Sherlock!"

In what must have been one of the most long-awaited episodes we finally get to meet the legendary Mycroft Holmes, and the ever-splendid Charles Gray, reprising his role from The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, does not disappoint. The central mystery is engaging too and, again, dark.

Our introduction to the sedentary genius Mycroft is well-written, superbly acted and rather faithful to the books, although what leaps up to me is that this unparalleled genius seems to do no more for his living than to audit the books for a civil service department. No hints of espionage, then. At least not yet.

The entertainment value inherent in seeing the two brothers interacting again distracts us somewhat from the nastiness of what is going on, but there's no doubting the excellence of the episode. Two episodes in and this series is unfailingly excellent so far.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 2- The Copper Beeches

"There has been some villainy here..."

Yet again we have a governess (a young Natasha Richardson) called Violet as usual, troubled by the odd behaviour of her employer Mr Rucastle (a gleefully entertaining Joss Ackland), and a splendidly entertaining story of an imprisoned daughter that gets more than a little Charlotte Bronte at the end.

Again, though, the subtext is of the countless young Victorian girls who are being horribly oppressed by these patriarchal figures everywhere, which is really quite dark. And, as Holmes and Watson travel on the train down to deepest, darkest Hampshire, Holmes speaks of how the pretty houses of the countryside are to him a symbol not of beauty but of isolation, of "the impunity with which crimes may be committed". Behind this often light-hearted episode lies some real darkness.

There have been some fine episodes of late but, unlike the first series, the second series starts with one of the finest episodes yet.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Blue Carbuncle

"Mr. Holmes, the goose! The goose, Mr. Holmes!"

"Well, what of it, man? Has it come back to life and flapped through the kitchen window?"

A splendid Christmas episode here, with geese, snow, some first class dialogue and, best of all, Ken Campbell.

A famous jewel has been stolen and an innocent man arrested, while there seems to be an awful lot of commotion about a goose. These two plot threads dovetail spectacularly as Holmes gives us a fine example of his deductive powers and the episode ends up giving us plenty of Christmas cheer as an innocent man is freed and Holmes discreetly let's the culprit off just because it's Christmas. He may be a cold fish but no Scrooge he.

The most fun part is probably Holmes' analysis of Henry Baker's hat, but this is a particularly fine episode throughout. A fine conclusion to a fine first series. Roll on series two.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Speckled Band

"You scoundrel, Sir! I've heard of you before. You are Holmes the meddler. Holmes the busybody. Holmes the Scotland Yard jack-in-office!"

We get a variation of the trope here. Holmes is visited by a young woman living in a big house that is being terrorised by a bounder and a cad acting as patriarch, yes, but this time she's the step-daughter and not, as is more usual, a governess. The villain revels in the splendidly dastardly name of Dr. Grimesby Roylott, and is plotting to kill his step-daughter for her inheritance. With a snake, naturally.

This episode ticks all the usual splendid boxes, with some suitably Holmesian dialogue for Jeremy Brett to deliver as only he can. And Holmes handles the case superbly, with rather more actual deductive ability that he showed last episode. Not bad for a case which begins at such an ungodly hour.

And, of course, beneath it all is the awful position of the unmarried young Victorian women at the mercy of such horrid patriarchs as this. No wonder so many of them seek Holmes' help.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Crooked Man

"Whoever heard of a dog running up a curtain?"

Another excellent episode, and the debut of yet another Sherlock Holmes trope; the bitter and betrayed military man, back from India for revenge. It's a superbly done piece of telly, based on one of Conan Doyle's more memorable short stories; not strictly a whodunit, but making up for that with spectacle, a mongoose and dramatic pacing. There isn't even any real detective work from Holmes, but it's all so well done you don't notice.

It's also the debut of another trope, the extended flashback from the Indian Mutiny on a television budget, and somewhat startling to see a young Fiona Shaw so soon after her turn in Tru Blood. It's incredible to reflect at this point that we're only five episodes in. The format, the look of the series, and the performances of the two leads (Brett especially) feel as though they've been in place for years.

This is the first episode, though, that doesn't quite feel as though it's from a very different time, as it may have done in 1984. Wars in south Asia are, alas, a thing of recent memory to us too.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Solitary Cyclist

"Did I really do remarkably badly?"


The first example of a big Sherlock Holmes trope debuts this episodes, as a young governess in a strange big house seeks Holmes' services. We'll be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing. But here we have a splendid tale of bicycles, silly disguises, lechery, forced marriage and South African skulduggery. Woodley, a true blackguard, is given a South African accent to show how nasty he is; it is 1984, after all, and apartheid is still practised.

The second best bit is when Holmes sends Watson off on a little mission and then bollocks him for his lack of observation although, of course, Watson's hunch eventually proves to be part of the solution. But the real best bit, of course, is the most Victorian bar brawl ever, with Holmes duffing up a "ruffian" whilst loudly proclaiming throughout that he is fighting like a "gentlemen". Naturally it ends in a round of applause...

It's another first class bit of telly from a series that hasn't had a misfire since A Scandal in Bohemia. The series is only four episodes in, but has felt fully formed for at least three. Superb.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Naval Treaty

"Help yourself to tobacco from the Persian slipper!"


Apparent diplomatic intrigue as a treaty is stolen, seemingly by an agent of the French or the Russians; there's even a red herring with a French-sounding name. But the real culprit is, of course, obvious; he's played by the most famous actor, which tends to be a dead giveaway, in this case the sometime star of Blake's 7.

There's a lot here to remind us of just how weird late Victorian times were, though. Percy Phelps is what they used to call "highly strung", a condition not much seen nowadays. But he's posh, well-connected, and has managed to get himself a much sought-after job in the foreign office as an... office dogsbody. Yes, this posh bloke does the late Victorian equivalent of the photocopying for a living.

The tale is well told, bookended by amusing scenes of Holmes doing chemistry with a proper chemistry set complete with various weirdly-shaped glass vessels and bubbling liquids. Holmes, contemplating a beautiful flower, reveals his belief in a superior being. And we have the first of many resentful and contrary inspectors, in contrast to The Dancing Men's fawning example. And that's two superb episodes in a row.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- The Dancing Men

"Sherlock Holmes is cheerful, so Sherlock Holmes must have a case."

At last a proper episode with a mystery to solve- and it's a bloody brilliant one. We have code breaking (shades of Edgar Allan Poe's The Gold-Bug here in Watson's explanation; Poe looms large with the Sherlock Holmes stories), some Derbyshire local character, some Chicago underworld intrigue, a truly engaging mystery, and a gripping story through out. Mind you, it doesn't look very impressive to me that Holmes manages to get his client killed by waiting too long for a telegram. Still, never mind.

The code breaking scenes are particular god fin, as is Holmes' extraordinary rudeness to poor Hilton Cubitt. The crime scene deductions are truly satisfying, and it's amusing to see a provincial inspector so enraptured by all that Holmes says and does. This is the first time and not the last that a professional will defer to this gentleman amateur.

This, of course, is a far more accurate example of what this series is going to be like than A Scandal in Bohemia, and it sets the bar high. And those things that haven't changed- the sumptuous Victorian visuals and Brett's sublime performance- are what truly sets these adaptations apart.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Suspicion (1941)

"What did you think I was trying to do? Kill you?"

In hindsight it's easy to see why this isn't one of Hitchcock's most well-known films. Oh, Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant are their usual charismatic selves and the direction is, as one might expect, superb. Except that the story upon which the film is based is both not that good and somewhat lacking in suspense. Essentially, rich heiress Lina marries gambling ne'er-do-well Johnnie, who is irresponsible but has a good heart, ad the film comes up with unconvincing and contrived reasons for her to suspect him of trying to kill her for her money. Even the idea that he might be a killer is broached late in the film, never seems convincing even with Hitchcock;s bag of tricks as a result of the script failing to establish him as a potential threat, and the frantic ending just feels odd and at variance with the rest of the film.

It's notable how very posh the milieu of the film appears to be, just as there doesn't seem to be a war on; our couple honeymoon in Paris, Monaco and Italy- in 1941. It's engaging for much of its length, and both Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant are obviously watchable. Just... don't necessarily make this the only Hitchcock film you ever see.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Series 1- A Scandal in Bohemia

"It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data."

Yes, I know: I'm doing so many TV series at the minute, some of which are on a bit of an unfortunate hiatus (in the case of Buffy and Angel it's a missing disc in a DVD box set!). But this is being shown on ITV Encore, I have fond memories of it, and I couldn't resist. So, you know, soz and that.

And everything about it screams class. Jeremy Brett is peerless, of course. David Burke is an engaging, if traditionally bumbling and alarmingly reactionary, Watson. The way Victorian London is presented is visually sumptuous and wonderful; this programme was made in 1984, yet its depiction of the 1880s hasn't dated in the way that programmes from the 1970s often have. It all promises much. Except... A Scandal in Bohemia has always been one of the worst Sherlock Holmes stories and a well-polished turd is still a turd.

Yes, there's Irene Adler, but she isn't really any more than a plot device and the actress is pretty blah. So much for "The Woman". And what the story's really about is trying to make sure that a philandering European royal (a hypothetical "King of Bohemia"- Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary?) gets away with his awful behaviour simply because he's royal. Holmes and Watson even break the law to help him. No one seems to stop and think that the King is just some over-privileged laddish twonk. But, of course, it's the 1880's.

There are interesting titbits- Holmes cocaine addiction is mentioned from the start, Holmes as asexual (a bit of a thing with late Victorian men) is explored as an idea, and we see Holmes in disguise for the first time. But, I think, we'll have to wait a week before we see the series really start.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Superman III (1983)

"I just don't believe a man can fly..."

Well, this is a very odd way to do a Superman film. We've had two films based very much on the existing mythology but here we have a perfectly entertaining film in which Richard Pryor is superb, but there's very little about the Superman mythos here, even with the same director helming the film. Even the Kryptonite used to turn Superman nasty isn't red. And Robert Vaughn, while excellent, seems to be playing an ersatz Lex Luthor. Lois Lane conveniently sods off at the start so Clark Kent can get all romantic with Lana Lang. And the film starts with an extended sequence of physical comedy. It's a very odd instalment in the series. Thing is, though, when looked at simply as a film, this is actually rather good.

Gus Gorman is unemployed, lazy, but likeable, and when he turns out to be an unlikely computer genius (of a very early '80s type) and much chaos ensues, although the film is always careful to keep him likeable and make it clear that he isn't a bad sort. We also have a rare film appearance from Pamela Stephenson as a bimbo who enjoys reading Kant.

The scenes where Superman deals with the fire at the chemical plant are awesome, and there's some good character stuff in Smallville with Clark and Lana. But possibly the best bit is Superman straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We end with a very '80s huge computer that Superman has to fight to avoid being turned into a cyborg, after a rather cliched fight in a junkyard between evil Superman and Clark Kent. It's a very weird approach to a Superman film, and I'm bemused as to how this script ever got to be the way it is. But, bizarrely, the film works.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Victoria: Young England

"She is not a queen. And I am not a cow!"

The final episode of this excellent series, then and... yes, it's an ex use for me to start yet another new series now that this has finished, but that's for later. For now all eyes are on the Queen, who is visited by her uncles, the kings of Belgium and (the sinister heir apparent should she do a Charlotte) Hanover. Meanwhile, Albert's brother Ernest (not to be confused with the Duke of Cumberland) arrives back in England and proves not to be quite as much of a bounder and a cad as we had thought.

Vicky may be the most powerful woman who has ever lived but she nevertheless chafes under the many little tyrannies of pregnancy, something portrayed quite brilliantly by Jenna Coleman. But it's quite a sweet episode, with a happy ending to our downstairs romance, Vicky and Albert clearly being in love, and ending with the birth of little Princess Victoria, who will later beget Kaiser Wilhelm II. It's a low-key, gentle but nevertheless well written ending to a series I've rather enjoyed.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Victoria: Engine of Change

"The Queen has requested a dish of bacon and peas."

Vicky is the Queen, and thus has privileges; personal performances by no less a personage than Georg Friedrich Handel, for example. But she has no exemptions from the experiences of pregnancy, and the first part of this episode charts the general realisation that pregnant she certainly is. Albert is lovingly overjoyed, but she is justifiably afraid; the precedent of Princess Charlotte is not an encouraging one.

Lord M may still be PM, just about, but the focus now moves to Sir Robert Peel, for he is the future; Albert likes him. The Queen is still unconvinced. This difference of views is echoed by their respective views of the railways, also the future, and a trip to a staunchly anti-progress Tory household in Staffordshire sees all this play out. Peel and the railways are, of course, aligned, with Albert being tempted from a lonely Vicky's bedside to play trains.

Annoyingly, Vicky must appoint a regent in case she should suffer Charlotte's fate; her choice of Albert is not popular with the many anti-Europeans in Parliament (they're just as uncaring of the country's true interests today), but supporting her allows Peel to curry her favour, and perhaps we can see the beginnings of a thaw.

Meanwhile there's a rather sweet romance going on downstairs involving decadent helpings of chocolate, and Vicky gets her own invigorating train ride. As ever this is history brilliantly sculpted into the shape of drama, and Coleman is deeply likeable as always.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Humans: Season 2, Episode 2

"Why do you hurt us?"

Two episodes in, and both the plot and the philosophical subtext become clearer. At one extreme we have Hester, the Malcolm X of the synths, who hates the oppressive humans and has no compunction about killing them. On the other we have Niska, synth, avid reader of philosophy and, as she's determined to be tried as a human would be for the murder she has committed, someone rather likely to have read The Outsider. This series seems to have moved on from literary sci-fi to French existentialism. I like it.

Niska is the most fascinating character- but she has competition. Mattie, for one, manages to work out what Niska has done with her disk, and that synths are slowly becoming sentient; just the odd one for now but... where will it end? Mattie is also quite brazenly restoring the late lamented Odi in plain sight, which shows an admirable amount of brazen cheek. I love her. Then we have the wise gentle Max, and the kind and loving Mia, who suffers heartbreak here from nothing but an act of kindness.And then we see Kate and Pete again, their relationship having grown rather lovely. Meanwhile, over in that country which seems to think that handing loads of power to Donald Trump is a good idea, Athena has decided to go to England and visit our old friend Hobb.

To an extent things are still setting up, and perhaps it's taking more time this series for things to really start to be sublime, but the philosophical heart is already there.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)

"I'll be bored to death by sheep and hobbits!"

Yes, you guessed correctly; I watched this with Mrs Llamastrangler, being a 39 year old man who doesn't usually watch films aimed at teenage girls. But this was an entertaining and diverting film which held my attention throughout, however illegal I may think it should be to be that young. And it's weird seeing QI's very own Alan Davies as a father figure.

It's a standard plot for a film aimed at teenage girls, really, but I enjoyed the fact that it's set in,of all places, Eastbourne. I also enjoyed the fact that the PE teacher is Osgood from Doctor Who, and the very deliberately obvious animatronic cat. It's fair to say this isn't the sort of film I'd probably choose to watch, but it's well-acted, shot and written for its audience and even I enjoyed it.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Walking Dead- Season 2, Episode 6: Secrets

"There's walkers in the barn and Lori's pregnant!"

This is an episode of revelations and, again, a very well written treatment of the characters but... isn't this season going awfully slowly?

We now know why Herschel wants Rick and co to leave so quickly- he's keeping his zombie family members in the barn from a heartrendingly stubborn belief that they're just sick people who can one day be cured- an attitude that has been much hinted at; he's a good man, but not the kind of good man this new world needs. Especially as Glenn is pants at keeping secrets.

There's an underlying theme here, established visually at the start, of carnivorousness and the food chain, an ominous metaphor. This apparent stability at the farm now seems all the more illusory with all these secrets. It's hard to adjust to this new world, as we see with Lori and Rick arguing over whether Carl should learn to shoot- and whether Lori should keep the baby. It's unquestionably Rick's; her angst, it seems, is far more existential. What sort of life could the baby have? Yet humanity must endure.

Maggie is furious at Glenn and therefore, this being TV drama with all its attendant tropes, ends up aggressively kissing him as the prelude to some no doubt angry sex. Shane, fresh from kissing his shooting pupil Andrea, is accused by Dale of not telling the truth about Otis; showing a truly dark side. I doubt either of them will survive the season.

It's a heartwarming ending, though, with Lori and Rick coming to terms over the baby- and he knows, of course he does, about her and Shane, and understands. Rick is a good man.

All this is plenty of evidence of good writing, I suppose. I just wish something would happen.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Doctor Strange (2016)

"What's this? My mantra?"

"It's the wi-fi password. We're not savages."

This may not be the best Marvel film ever, perhaps. It's not even the second best I've seen this year. But you know what? It doesn't need to be. Yes, it may be a fairly standard fantasy/sci-fi plot to the point that you know the Ancient One's going to die because Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it's standard stuff done very well, shot superbly with some splendidly trippy and Ditko-esque magic special effects and the perfect Stephen Strange in Benedict Cumberbatch, who not only plays the character superbly but looks exactly like him. There's no witty dialogue, which is odd for a Marvel film, but the brilliantly stylised and trippy direction and effects really elevate the film visually.

The Escher-esque weirdness with the cityscapes of London and New York is what I'll probably remember most from a film with a deliberately predictable plot, but the film just looks and feels exactly as Doctor Strange should. It feels trippy, Ditko and as psychedelic as the snippet of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" that we hear at the start. It doesn't feel like a Marvel film, but then Doctor Strange never felt much like the Marvel Universe anyway.

So, yes, an average Marvel film, if very far from a typical one. But Marvel set the bar high, and an average film of theirs is well worth seeing.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Walking Dead- Season 2, Episode 5: Chupacabra

"Don't be too hard on yourself. We've all wanted to shoot Daryl."

Again we begin with a flashback, this time of Lori, Shane and Carl making their way away from the many others fleeing and observing as Atlanta gets napalmed. It makes you appreciate the sheer horror of events while Rick was asleep and how they were just trying to do what was best. It's a contrast to the present day where a darker, balder, nastier Shane wants to give up the search for Sophia.

Where is Sophia? This sub-plot is being dragged out so long that she can't simply be dead. Daryl is certainly dedicated to finding her, leading to his accident and his getting unfortunately shot by Andrea. Worst of all, he has a hallucination of his deeply unpleasant brother that feels, at first, as though Merle is genuinely back. Foreshadowing?

There's a fascinating conversation between Dale and Glenn which illustrates, again, how women's rights have gone backwards, subtly and otherwise, since civilisation ended. Maggie is a grown woman, but Dale is terrified that Glenn may have offended their host Herschel by sleeping with his daughter Maggie. She is, in a sense, property; that's the implication.

We end with an awkward dinner showcasing tension between the two groups, and Glenn discovering that Herschell is keeping a bunch of zombies in a hidden place. It's quite a cliffhanger, and quite a well-crafted plot line as ever, but this season is beginning to feel a little too slow-paced.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Humans: Season 2, Episode 1

"If I was here to kill you all, I wouldn't have rung the bell..."

It's always been interesting to speculate how the second season might go; the first season, after all, was based on a Swedish original. This season is uncharted territory and seems to be exploring very real themes. There's the very real threat to our jobs from robots, for a start- even Joe's management job isn't safe. And then there's the ever-present Singularity, which here has only just occurred and which, with Niska's uploading of the disk, is beginning to spread.

This in turn raises further questions about using synths as slaves- here we see a hellish Bolivian mine (poor Ten), and factory worker Hester, whose owners see her simply as property much as slave owners once did. These are rich themes.

We begin, though, in Berlin, as Niska starts an abortive relationship with poor Astrid while reading lots of philosophy- this being Germany, we naturally get a bit of Hegel. And the episode ends, of course, with Niska asking the Hawkins family to try her for murder like a human, an interesting twist. Oh, and Max is alive, a cause of much rejoicing, and still with Leo and Mia, who is as kind as ever.

Laura and Joe are still working through their relationship ship, and it's fascinating to see them with a synth relationship counsellor, played by an excellent Josie Lawrence. And the whole family is, of course, suffering with not being able to reveal what they know.

There's a new sub-plot in San Francisco, too; none other than Carrie-Ann Moss plays Athena, a professor who has secretly created an AI, eventually agreeing to help the very rich Khoury (Tommy from True Blood) to study the newly sentient synths.

As ever for a first episode this is all really set-up. But the world-building is brilliant as ever. I'm excited...