Grey’s Anatomy: Season 14

I stopped watching last season because of the Alex storyline. I’ve always had a soft spot for Alex as one of the less perfect characters who has actually had impressive character development over the years. But the final moments of season ???? set up a storyline that ran through the following season that I just didn’t want to watch. Fundamentally he seriously assaulted a colleague and then he, his colleagues and the writers seemed to look for excuses for why it happened. I could follow the logic that he lost his temper (his anger being a central character element) but not the machinations everyone went through to excuse it. He should have gone to jail. I didn’t want to watch that happen, and I can’t quite forgive the other characters and writers for forgiving him. So I’m pretending that whole season didn’t happen, that they characters didn’t take sides against each other. The writers seem to have done the same, which is equally offensive really, but I guess we all just pretend the season didn’t happen.

So I returned nervously but soon settled in to the same drama of both a medical and a personal fronts, inducing the usual array of emotions from laughing out loud to sobbing incoherently, occasionally at the same time. What I love about the show (and hence why last season drove me away) is the depth of the characters. The relationships between all the characters all make sense, those that have known and worked together for decades, those that are brand new and trying to find their places, and those in the middle who know some of the stories but not all of them. The friendships and respect are inspiring, but everyone still gets on each others nerves occasionally, knowing exactly how to push people’s buttons. Watching makes me feel like part of the family.

I can’t really remember much about the stories themselves to be honest. Poor April had a miserable season, and although she’s never been my favourite character she’s always been interesting, her evolution has been wonderful to watch and Sarah Drew’s performance was never anything other than breathtaking and I’ll miss her on the show. I’m less bothered by the departure of Arizona who I always felt was one of the less well written characters with less consistency and less of her own agency. The ‘fix’ for Amelia was a bit tacky but served a purpose as it turned her back from the caricature she’d become and re-embedded her into the same level of ridiculousness that the others were in. The stories that tried to get a little more current (me too, immigration) were a little bit clumsy, but I can’t fault them for their intent.

I’m glad I could come back to Grey’s, it’s been with me so long that I did feel like I’d lost a friend for a while. While I can understand why it doesn’t get to compete for awards in the current TV landscape full of ground breaking shows, I think many underestimate the skill it takes to bring it to the screen. The usually spot on mixture of drama and comedy the writers script and the subtle but powerful delivery of the actors is unparalleled. Few things on TV bring me such joy.

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The Americans: Season 6

I came into the final season of The Americans with a sense of dread which gradually built up to almost unbearable levels for the last couple of episodes. I was determined not to look up spoilers, but I came very close a couple of times to googling “does the Americans have a happy ending?”. I won’t give away the spoilers here, because I do think this show is more about the journey than the destination, I’ll just say that it has an ending that felt right, felt satisfying and most importantly made me feel an awful lot of emotions.

If you’ve enjoyed the rest of the series, then you will enjoy this final season and in fact, I think it’s probably one of the better seasons. While there have been some dead ends and long meanders in previous seasons, this is what it’s all been building and navigating its way towards, and everything is brought together. The characters and relationships have grown and evolved over the years, but really not fundamentally changed. The stories being told haven’t changed much either, there’s still a lot of complex politics going on that I didn’t entirely follow, but most of the missions can be understood in simple terms – get the thing, convince someone to tell you something, deliver a message, kill someone, keep someone alive. All with a combination of wigs, confidence games, tricks and gadgets.

The final season is the culmination of everything that has gone before and I found it incredibly tense, the secrets all feel very precarious and there were shouting at the screen for characters to look out, or to not dig themselves into a trap. The close shaves make everyone aware of how easy it would be for the characters to lose everything. That does mean though that the less tense moments could feel quite dull. Expositions of politics (particularly when in Russian with subtitles) were easy to drift off in.

The Jennings family is one of the richest, most interesting set of characters television has produced in recent years. The way the stories and plots provide opportunities for them to react and evolve was masterfully set up by the writers, and delivered with skill, nuance and emotional impact by the actors. All the feelings and all the twists and turns held together impeccably. Although I don’t think it’s had a huge audience watching it season by season, I hope that people will find it and box set it, I think it would work well watched reasonably intensely. I’ll miss checking in with the Jennings family each year, but it went out absolutely perfectly.

Books in June

I started a new job in June. Amongst other changes, I now have a much longer commute and I find myself with about 2 hours a day on tubes. Currently, I’m actually quite enjoying this time because I get to spend that time reading. My previous commute only gave me about 20 minutes on a tube and I often found that by the time I was settling into a book, it was time to get off, so I’d frequently just waste that time playing on my phone. Now though reading time isn’t something I have to squeeze in and I’m finding that really lovely.

Steven Brust – Taltos 15: Vallista
I usually pounce on Vlad books the second they come out, but somehow I completely missed that this came out last year. Still, I’ve now caught up, or at least I’ve caught up with reading the book, to be honest I haven’t caught up at all on the overall storyline because I have no real idea what any of the book meant. I don’t really mind that much, because spending time with Vlad is always a joy, and him wandering around a mystery house is a pretty solid set up. Working out the mystery was beyond me and not only did I not really understand the explanation, but it arrived in such a big chunk that it was actually a little dull. Still, more time with Vlad can only ever be a good thing.

Truman Capote – In Cold Blood
I’ve seen this described as the first “true crime novel” and it does hover between fact and fiction – a carefully researched retelling of true events, but written in the style of a novel, seamlessly moving between the points of view of different people, expanding their thoughts and flashbacks to their pasts. Capote himself has no presence in the book beyond his beautifully eloquence and turn of phrase. I’m sure there’s a lot of extrapolation in his work and maybe some complete fabrication too, even as you’re reading there are things that jump out that seem unlikely to have come from Capote’s research, but it all fits into the wider narrative and doesn’t feel too much like cheating, just enriching. This is now also a period story, and because the descriptions are so vivid it’s a fascinating look at history as well. I was utterly gripped for most of the book (there are a couple of sections that linger too long or get a bit repetitive) and if this was the first book of its kind, it set an extraordinarily high standard.

Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Murders
A thoroughly entertaining murder mystery with a large and likeable cast of investigators and an intriguing group of suspects. It’s in the vain of Agatha Christie, but much richer given the length and details put in, there’s also a fair amount of Downton Abbey in there (not surprising given the author) although not really as much as the book cover might play up – the whole “six sisters” thing is actually a complete red herring as we see relatively little of the life of the main character as a nursery maid. It isn’t a book that will set the world alight, but it is a comfortable and easy read that is rewarding with the steps in the mystery and engaging with the characters.

Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter
Incredibly dull. I got this because I haven’t read “a classic” for a while and this happened to be very cheap on Kindle. It got off to a bad start with a rambling introduction that took up 18% of the book (according to my Kindle) and left me very confused as to whether the book had started or not. The book proper also left me confused a lot of the time. Obviously it’s set in an incredibly different time, and it’s written in another different time, but I found it hard to pin down what attitudes the characters had, and what attitude the author had. It’s written very moralistically, but I could never quite settle what the moral stance was that any particular character was taking. Also the thing rambles on and on, twisting around and avoiding saying anything clearly. It was a slog to read and the ending wasn’t worth the effort to get there.

Peter Jones – The Venetian Game
A nice little easy read. The author’s love and knowledge of Venice is clear, but it’s not a fluffy and overly poetic love, more a very grounded one that actually feels real and tangible. The characters we spend most of the book with also feel realistic, big and charismatic enough to be fun to spend time with, but not quite so much as to be ridiculous. The same can’t quite be said for the plot and the villains of the piece which is a bit daft. But I approached the book more as a pleasant way to spend time than as a high quality thriller, and with that aim it heartily delivered. I’ve just ordered the second book.

M.L. Rio – If We Were Villains
This book is Shakespearean through and through. It’s written by a Shakespeare scholar, the characters are Shakespeare actors and it gradually becomes clear that the plot itself is a Shakespearean tragedy. That final characteristic is what really turned the book from disposable to outstanding for me. I was about half way through and already engrossed with the characters (which isn’t the same as actually liking any of them) and the story, but was a little frustrated with some of the twists of the plot that seemed to rely on somewhat unlikely decisions and actions. But with the realisation that the story was a Shakespearean tragedy, the irritations fell away. Suddenly, all the flaws became deliberate features, and while that can still be irritating, it just felt so right here. It’s not that the actions were completely unbelievable, just that they were unlikely, but with the added aura of melodrama and intensity that Shakespeare brings, they made sense. I’ve never really got on with Shakespeare, and many of the references went far, far over my head; but I found this book utterly compelling.

Nigel Slater – Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger
It took me a little while to settle into this book, but then I couldn’t put it down. The whole book is made up of hundreds of incredibly short, specific memories Slater has of his childhood mostly focusing on food. Each one is very vividly told but it can feel rather bitty. But after a while the overall narrative comes through and you see the people and the history building up. I read the entire book over a gloriously sunny weekend in the garden and I think it’s probably best to read it intensely like that, otherwise it would be easy to make the mistake that it’s just about food.

James Surowiecki – The Wisdom of the Crowds
The core concepts are very interesting, but it’s quite hard going. The author actually seems to have quite an easy style, in short bursts, but the pure density of the book makes it a quite a dry read, and I found myself speed reading chunks of it. It was hard to get a firm grasp of the different ideas he was trying to cover as many of them were quite subtle. It’s also a little dated now, being over 10 years old and I found myself often wondering what examples from the latest financial crisis and political situations would look like. I think I would have got more out of the book if it were shorter and more direct.

Films in June

June was an interesting month for me as I started a new job in the middle of it. That meant the first couple of weeks I was looking for distractions and ‘nice’ films to sooth my nerves meaning that I had a lot of re-watches of stuff I’ve seen before. I’m very grateful to the charity shop near me for supplying most of them for just a pound a dvd!

New films
Solo: A Star Wars Story (cinema) – I’d not really been intending to see this film, but I was looking for something to distract my brain for a day and it worked out that I could do a double bill of this and Jurassic World. As it turned out, Solo lived up to my apathy, and failed to work as a distraction.
The film got off to a bad start with a pet peeve of mine – over colourisation and dim lighting. I thought it was just to hammer home the metaphorical dinginess of Solo’s home planet, but it followed him the whole film. Scenes looked grainy, dull, indistinct and colour filtered beyond any believability. With the visual spectacle crippled, there was more reliance on the story and I just didn’t really care for it or the characters. It felt too bitty (a problem I’ve had with other Star Wars films) – go here, get the thing, go there, get the thing. Fun characters were massively underused disappearing far too quickly, leaving only the rather dull ones, nuance was non-existent so if I was supposed to be surprised by anything it was sadly ineffective. This film failed to distract me, I frequently found my mind wandering which is not what I expect from this kind of film. Really disappointing.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (cinema) – I went to the cinema for a double bill of this and Solo, looking for something big and energetic to drown out my brain for a while. After Solo completely failed to deliver, I was very relieved that Jurassic World did the job I needed it to do.
I had issues with the previous film failing to capture the wonder and excitement of the original Jurassic Park and feeling rather soul-less (see below, I rewatched Jurassic World this month too). With my expectations lowered accordingly, I was actually pleasantly surprised that Fallen Kingdom does manage to do something new, to raise some interesting questions about the dinosaurs and tug at the heart strings. The mixture of actual plot and action sequences is just right, never leaving it too long without some excitement, but also not dragging sequences out until they get dull. Yes, there’s plenty of cheesy moments, and the plot doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but the characters are fun, the cast charismatic and the special effects convincing. There wasn’t a single moment of the film when I was bored or my brain escaped back to the real world. Exactly what I needed, wanted, and hoped for.

Ocean’s Eight (cinema) – I’m a huge fan of the Clooney/Pitt/Damon et al Ocean’s 11, even if 12 and 13 did then get progressively sillier, so I was quite looking forward to a female instalment and the cast was more than enough to inspire enthusiasm. I sadly found myself a little underwhelmed. The first half was a little slow (someone a few rows back in the cinema was snoring!) and then the heist itself a little fast, then slow again for the post-heist follow ups, and then a final twist that came too far out of nowhere. The comedy wasn’t quite as easy as Ocean’s 11, and one of the early reveals about the connection to the previous films (staying vague for spoilers) actually struck quite a negative blow that really felt like the wrong tone to set. The plot was fairly precarious (I was spotting holes/needless complexity as it went) and overall neither characters nor movie as a whole felt quite as smooth and slick as they needed to be. Oh and who’s idea was Helena Bonham Carter’s terrible accent? Was that supposed to be an homage to Don Cheadle’s terrible cockney? Solidly entertaining, but the cast can do a lot better and I don’t think it will be one I re-watch regularly as I do with Ocean’s 11.

Set It Up (Netflix) – With low expectations for this Netflix premier that I’d never heard of, I was very happily surprised. It’s got a fresh and modern tone, but a story of matchmaking and farce that is timeless and very well delivered. The actors are all charismatic and the chemistry is excellent (where it should be). I laughed and I cared. Just what I needed.

New to me
What Happened to Monday (Netflix) – I’d got in my head for some reason that this was a foreign language film and was looking forward to something quite gritty. Unfortunately it was American, and over the top. It started out ok, but it deteriorated into a bit of a mindless action film that didn’t quite land the emotional punch that it was trying to. The ideas are very interesting, it’s just not very well delivered.

84 Charring Cross Road (dvd) – An utterly charming film, really gentle and easy going, but with a beautiful heart to it. Although released in 1987 it has a much older feel to it, even more so than just the period settings would require. The passing of time from the 1940s to the 1960s is very subtly done, as is the distinctions between London and New York. It’s a lovely film to watch, although I have to warn that it does end on a slight down note which while accurate and a ‘good’ ending technically, does leave me slightly sad.

Dark Shadows (amazon prime) – It started off ok, with an interesting tone and visual style to it as I would expect from Tim Burton and this kind of material, but the substance just wasn’t there. It was played up as a hammy spoof, but it wasn’t in the slightest bit clever or funny enough. I was just incredibly bored by it.

Rewatches
All About Eve (Netflix) – A classic that really still stands up. I wasn’t expecting it to be funny (I never expect old films to actually still be funny) but it had me laughing out loud frequently. The elements of the film work together flawlessly – it’s not really a comedy, it’s just funny; it’s not really a mystery, it’s just intriguing; it’s not really a drama, it’s just occasionally tense. It may have first been released in 1950, and be in black and white, but the characters and bite of the dialogue all feel very present.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (dvd) – I was slightly troubled by this film. On one hand it was all very nice, lovely even, with a group of people coming together and discovering stuff about themselves via exploring a new country. The fact that the people in question were ‘elderly’ (although hardly decrepit!) just meant that the cast was full of a wonderful amount of experience. On the other hand though I wasn’t quite so comfortable with some of the tone of things, it came across as a bit colonial and patronising at times. If you can ignore that, or just not see it, then it’s an utterly lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

Fight Club (amazon prime) – This film is getting on for 20 years old and it’s still as original and stunning as it was in 1999. Stunning in a literal sense almost because it kind of takes your breath away and just leaves you overwhelmed by the violence, the emotions and the logistics of it. I re-watched it, remembering the main points, and I was still engrossed in the twists and turns. I’m not entirely sure it quite all hangs together with the reveal, but it doesn’t matter. Definitely a classic.

Forbidden Planet (amazon prime) – Not bad actually. Of course it looks and feels incredibly dated now, effects and the use of the female character are all definitely “of their time”. The ideas have been reused a hundred times, but that’s because they’re pretty solid storytelling foundations. These days it’s probably more interesting as a piece of history than as a film, but it was actually entertaining enough to hold my attention.

Ghostbusters 2016 (Netflix) -I very rarely find comedy films actually funny and this is no exception. There were a couple of good gags in it (some of which were killed through over-use in trailers) but broadly speaking, it just wasn’t funny enough. That would be ok if the rest of the film around it was good, but I got the impression this film and the actors in it weren’t trying to do anything beyond a comedy. The characters were all too extreme (and annoying), the plot made no sense, the pacing was all over the shop and the cameos just got a bit tedious. I didn’t hate it, I could certainly appreciate the sense of fun it had and I have no problem at all with re-imagining Ghostbusters, particularly with an all female cast. But I just didn’t laugh enough.

The Golden Compass (dvd) – I read the books ages and ages ago and frankly didn’t like them very much, and unfortunately the same is true for the film. The main plot was just too crowded with stuff and I had little understanding or caring about what was going on. It fell into the trap that many of this style of film/book do which was feeling like a long list of names and places, more an itinerary than a plot. The key concept with the demons was very interesting, but was critically let down by some rubbish CGI meaning none of it actually felt real. Mind you, some of the human actors weren’t doing a much better job of feeling real either, with some hammy overacting from the adults and some truly terrible accents from the children. And to polish it all off the story stops dead without much in the way of plot management because they were obviously convinced they’d get a sequel. I’m not surprised they didn’t.

Juno (dvd) – A totally lovely film. It sort of talks about issues like abortion and teenage pregnancy, but almost in a peripheral way, I found myself thinking about the implied issues more than the characters on screen seemed to. I liked that it didn’t bother with the standard pregnancy stuff of morning sickness etc, the jokes that are done in every film. There’s more of a focus on the idea of the connection with the family that will adopt the baby, a connection that maybe isn’t ‘supposed’ to happen. It’s got some dodgy dialogue, but superb acting that pulls it off. Even over 10 years later, it still feels fresh and original.

Jurassic World (dvd) – I’m a huge fan of the original Jurassic Park and although 2 and 3 went downhill at least they were trying to build the franchise and do something different. Jurassic Park 4 is just a new version of the original but with all the magic and soul taken out. A key moment for me came very early as I was watching the film. The music swelled into the familiar theme, one that in the first film played as the helicopter swept over the beautiful landscape, eventually coming to a climax as the herd of brontosaurus are revealed to audience and characters for the first time. John Williams’ genius score carried us along with the power of nature, the joy of the palaeontologists seeing dinosaurs walking around – the majesty, the surprise, the delight, the wonder. In Jurassic World, it plays as we pass over a sweeping landscape of shops at a theme park. The music automatically made me feel all the old emotions and then made me hate myself because I was connecting them with commercialisation. In the movie makers’ defence I think they may have done it deliberately, to show us the wonder being turned into a dollar sign, apparently a lot of the product placement is meant ironically. But just because it’s intentional doesn’t make me like it and frankly that comes across as smug rather than self-aware.
The rest of the plot is just basic Jurassic Park – dinosaurs get out, chaos ensues, kids end up by themselves, heroes save the day blah blah blah. Using dinosaurs against dinosaurs was a slightly original trick but it wasn’t enough to make this film feel worth the effort. The only thing I really liked in this film was Chris Pratt who’s rapidly turning into the go-to guy for this kind of charming, slightly insufferable hero. He injects an energy and a heart to the film that is otherwise sadly absent.
On it’s own, it’s not an awful film, and after my initial disappointment in the cinema, I’ve watched it a couple of times on DVD and it always holds my attention and makes for a distracting couple of hours. But I always miss the emotions that I get from the original. In fact, after seeing it in the cinema I went straight home and put the dvd of Jurassic Park in, and 22 years after it was made, it still entertained, moved and had me on the edge of my seat more than Jurassic World came even close to.

Made in Dagenham (dvd) – A film that (I hope) will go down as one of the great British films – alongside things like The Full Monty which tell some important history in a massively entertaining way. There were a couple of minor hiccups with the plot where things didn’t quite follow through properly but for the most part the writing is really very good. The characters are all fun and there are a lot of laughs, but maybe most importantly, it made me want to go and look things up on wikipedia when it was over.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (dvd) – Even as I was reading the book, I was thinking the whole time that it would make a good film, then when I saw Tim Burton was making it, starring the wonderful Asa Butterfield and Eva Green I thought it couldn’t be more perfect. The problem I found with the book was that it didn’t quite manage to really convey the style and atmosphere, and if there’s anyone that can deliver that it’s Burton, and he really did. There are still a few problems that carry over from the book – sadly they didn’t find a way to elegantly explain/show how the time jumping really works, and that still came across as very clunky. If you start thinking too hard about things it also falls apart, there was also no real consideration of how they age while going round and round in timeloops and what that means for their real ages. But it’s an entertaining film that’s lovely to look at, with wonderful casting and acting and enough originality to stand out from the crowd.

Moneyball (dvd) – I love a good sports movie infinitely more than I actually love sports. The only problem is that I know nothing about most of the sports being talked about so the writer needs to either explain things pretty carefully or make it not really matter… unfortunately Moneyball doesn’t quite manage that. I clung on for a bit, but by the end of it I really did have very little idea what was going on, what any of it meant and what the ‘win conditions’. That’s a real shame because I liked everything else about the film so much that I’m giving it a 7 out of 10 when I didn’t have a clue what was going on!

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) (Amazon Prime) – When I first saw this film over 10 years ago in the cinema I didn’t really know what to make of it – “I think it was very good, but I didn’t exactly enjoy it. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and creepy. It’s really very brutal at times and there were a number of bits that I didn’t want to watch. It doesn’t really fall into any particular category or genre, one of the most unusual and innovative films I’ve seen in a very long time.” That’s all still true, but I now appreciate those things, rather than feel uncertain about them. The film still stands out as original and fresh, the practical effects and costumes haven’t aged at all and the ideas are still crisp and challenging. A true classic.

Watchmen (Netflix) – I think this was a superb re-creation of the graphic novel, look and tone were spot on, any changes stayed true to the theme if not the details. It delivers the themes of the novel well and there’s a lot of detail in both visuals and characters, but that detail means a much too long 2 hour 45 runtime. I think there were also times that the quality of the acting was maybe not quite up to the material, it often came across as hammy rather than gritty. Some of the effects look a little dated now, but overall its still quite enjoyable.

When Harry Met Sally (Netflix) – A really sweet romantic comedy that by now also acts almost as a period piece. The sheer amount of hairspray used is amazing, the fashions are occasionally horrendous and some of the concepts are a bit laughable now. But for all that it’s a nice film to watch, a couple with genuine chemistry where the every step in the evolution of their relationship makes perfect sense.

Marvel’s Runaways: Season 1

I don’t know how to write this review. I watched this series last week, I’d let them build up on my Sky box until they were all there then worked my way through the 10 episodes in a few days. I know I enjoyed watching it enough to watch 2 or 3 back to back, but a week later and I can’t really explain why, because all the things I can think to talk about are more on the complaint end of the spectrum.

Even just describing it makes it sound pretty poor. A group of privileged teenagers see their parents go into a secret basement room, don red robes and seemingly murder a girl. Some of the kids then seem to reveal super powers, there’s a scientology-esque church, a magic staff, advanced technology and a dinosaur. Yup, a dinosaur. I really can’t explain it any way that doesn’t make it sound ridiculous. Oh, and of course because it’s teenagers there’s also a complex array of relationship statuses between the teenagers which they seem more than happy to pursue while also dealing with the discovery that their parents are murderers. It’s a mess.

But, it does sort of work. You have to go with it and let it wash over you a bit, but if you engage at just the right level, it’s entertaining. It’s not going to be for everyone because if you want too much from it (ie coherence) then you’re going to be very frustrated. The young actors are pretty good, feeling like teenagers and responding appropriately to the craziness. The adults aren’t quite so well balanced, some playing it for laughs a bit more, others trying to take it seriously and failing.

A brief read of wikipedia and it seems that it’s reasonably close substantively to the comic strip and maybe this kind of chaos just feels a bit more acceptable in comic form. The series feels a bit like they’ve thrown everything together desperately hoping someone interesting will come from it. I’m not entirely sure that it succeeds, but there’s enough there to keep me watching for the 10 episodes of the first season. The season sets up for a somewhat different second season that has me intrigued enough that I’ll be back.

Four Second Seasons and a Miniseries

There’ve been a few things over the last few months (or half a year – oops) that I have ailed to get round to reviewing. So in order to tidy them off the to-do list I’ve just quickly grouped them together and gathered some rather fuzzy recollections.

Dirk Gently: Season 2
If you liked the first season you’ll like the second, but if you didn’t like the first season you’ll probably like the second season even less. The storyline was even more wacky than the first, but I think it still made sense within itself if you really think about it, although to be honest I just let the whole thing wash over me. The overall effect is to leave you kind of numb and stunned, but in a good way. I think.

Preacher: Season 2
The first season had a momentum of insanity to it that really carried it through. The second season had almost the opposite. All I recall of it now is a lot of time spent in a rundown house with characters growling at each other. Oh, and an entirely separate thread involving Eugene and Hitler in hell, which seemingly had no interaction with the main storyline at all. I plodded through it because the actors are good, but I was completely disinterested in the story.

Jessica Jones: Season 2
I loved the first season of Jessica Jones. It had so many levels to it that I still think about the characters and the ethics of it now. So it’s particularly disappointing that about three months after watching season 2 I have absolutely zero idea what happened in it. After a bit of wikipedia-ing, some of it is now ringing bells, but none of them prompt any particular fondness or enthusiasm; it’s just fairly generic superhero story stuff, nothing particularly original or innovative.

Stranger Things: Season 2
I wasn’t nearly as blown away by the first season as most people seemed to be, and the same is true of the second season. It did at least go somewhere with the plot and commit to some of the ideas rather than endlessly hedging its bets, but I also found myself zoning out of the plot. For some reason I don’t really connect with the characters either, although the young actors are doing good jobs, I just don’t really like any of them enough to be really emotionally invested. It’s a solid series, but to me, it’s nothing particularly special.

Godless
It’s getting on for 6 months since I watched this miniseries on Netflix, but unlike some of the things listed above, it’s really stuck with me. I like TV based westerns a lot more than I like films, because I think they really benefit from getting more time with the characters and the feel of the town itself and that is particularly well done in Godless. The setting, characters and story all feel original, but also familiar enough to be comfortable; and the cast is absolutely superb. My only disappointment was that it was so short.

The Rain

The Rain is effectively a Danish, post-apocalyptic young adult novel, there was really no way I wasn’t going to watch it. It ticked all of the boxes for the type of things I gravitate towards, but then have no idea why I’m really watching it. I guess Britain and America can make any amount of shows that are fairly mediocre and yet still get audiences, why shouldn’t Denmark.

Don’t go in expecting a plot that really makes any sense. The setup is that the rain makes people get sick, one drop and you’re a foaming gibbering dead person walking. Simone and Rasmus are just children when they find themselves all alone in a bunker as the world outside disappears. 6 years later they emerge, join a passing group of other young adults and set off on a slightly incoherent quest.

The eight episodes play out pretty much as you’d expect, hitting as many tropes as they can along the way. Most of the characters get little flashbacks to show you who they were before the disaster, and there are some glimpses of interesting ideas there, but none of them go anywhere. How any of them survived any length of time is a bit of a mystery as their decision making is dubious at best and they are very easily distracted by a whole network of love triangles and secret crushes. The acting is all solid and Alba August as Simone is particularly interesting to watch doing a really good job portraying someone who is still a child, but also has to be the adult for everyone. Netflix offers an option of a dubbed version, but you lose too much of the characters and I lasted less than 5 minutes before it drove me to distraction and I reverted to subtitles.

The setting is at least something different from the usual America, and some of the scenery and even rundown city settings are really stunning, definitely making a change from the usual filming locations of warehouses in Vancouver. At eight episodes long, it’s a short sharp burst that doesn’t really set the world alight, but it is passingly entertaining. N

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