Films I watched in 2017

Overall 176 films watched this year, 133 (76%) of them were films that were new to me, which I’m pretty pleased with, including 31 cinema visits. I joined Picturehouse and regularly go to the Central which is generally a really lovely experience (we even refer to it as the Happy Place). 89 of the films from the now sadly departed Lovefilm, that was about £1.12 per film. I’m really missing the service, my film watching plummeted after it ended. It was such an easy way to watch films, no faffing about trying to decide what to watch (something fun, versus something worthy) from the limited selection available between Netflix and Amazon. Without Lovefilm I would never have come to love film so much. Between Netflix and Amazon I watched 23 films. The rest are a combination of normal TV, my own DVD collection or other sources and are often watched in bulk with days where I just decide to watch films, barely moving from my sofa and binging through 6 or 7 films. Bliss.

2017 films
I’ve slightly modified how I track dates so it’s now going by UK release dates, not the year that IMDB gives by default, this will stop films falling between the gaps at the beginning of the year. I watched 52 films from 2017 and my film of the year was Hidden Figures. I’ve watched this film 3 times and it has never failed to make me laugh, cheer and sniffle a little. It’s a very rare thing unfortunately – a film with an important dramatic core that’s also hugely entertaining.

Honourable mentions:

  • Ma vie de Courgette (My Life as a Courgette) – a Swiss, 65 minute stop motion animation about abandoned/rejected/alone children and it’s absolutely beautiful.
  • Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi – I’m a little surprised to see this on the list, but I can’t deny that it did everything a Star Wars film sets out to do (which comes with its own constraints), and it did it well.
  • Paddington 2 – this is one that maybe says more about me (and possibly the world of 2017), but the easy humour and HUGE heart of this film really spoke to me.
  • Bar Bahar (In Between) – an Israeli film about three women living their lives in Palestine. This film was immensely satisfying to watch and has really stayed with me since I saw it.
  • Dunkirk – literally took my breath away. Even though I didn’t understand the construction it was still a stunning enough film to get 8 out of 10, and I suspect if I watched it again and understood the interweaving timelines, it could go higher.
  • Kedi – a Turkish documentary about stray cats. Beautiful cinematography by and about people who love the city and love cats.
  • Wind River – a very well put together thriller that easily avoids a lot of the annoying cliches that lesser writer/directors would have fallen into and therefore deserves considerable praise

Worst of 2017
14 films go only 4 or 5 out of 10 which counts as ‘bad’ in my book. Some ‘standouts’:

  • Bad ‘good’ films – I seem to be in the minority, but I really didn’t like Jackie, La La Land or The Big Sick; respectively too narrow a focus, unsympathetic unrealistic characters, and a film about a relationship where one half is unconscious most of the time.
  • Not funny enough – The Party, and The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • What a colossal waste of talent and idea – Suburbicon (two different stories, one of which was interesting but completely smothered by the other, which in turn is trite compared to the other), and The Greatest Showman (so many good elements and so completely botched in delivery).
  • Just plain rubbish – Power Rangers, Life, Bright

Foreign Language (16, 9%)
When I looked at the long list of films a set that really stood out to me were some of the ‘foreign language’ films that I saw. Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) and Mustang, alongside the above mentioned Bar Bahar (In Between) are all incredibly powerful and enjoyable watches, each about groups of girls/women living in very different locations, cultures and contexts and how they live. Each film had me completely engrossed and sad when they ended that I wouldn’t get to spend more time with the characters. Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) meanwhile was one of the best zombie films I’ve seen in a long time, a masterpiece of the genre. Mind you, there were still some turkeys in there and while many people raved about them I found Toni Erdmann absolutely unwatchable due to the cringe factor and The Red Turtle (La tortue rouge) boring beyond belief.

Documentaries (12, 7%)
Film documentaries are as varied in tone, subject and quality as the rest of the film landscape. While Kedi was my favourite of the year, I have to acknowledge that it was literally and figuratively fluffy. Similarly The Beatles: 8 Days a Week gives a wonderful insight for those of us too young to experience Beatlemania was like, but is hardly challenging. Unfortunately the films that were more hard hitting slightly stumbled for being obviously one-sided in their investigations, but 13th and Where to Invade Next are both still worth a watch. Somewhere in the middle areLife, Animated; Weiner and Williams all of which get unprecedented and fascinating access to talk to respectively an severely autistic who engages with the world via Disney films; a disgraced-redeemed-disgraced politician; and the incredible man and family who runs the Formula 1 team. I wouldn’t bother with either Notes on Blindness or My Scientology Movie though, the first was INCREDIBLY boring and the second which was too broad and one-sided.

Animation (18, 10%)
Animation is another genre that is a microcosm for film as a whole able to deliver any genre, just through the medium of hand or computer drawn, or stop motion animation. On the pure fun side of things I really enjoyed Sing and Trolls, neither doing anything particularly original, but they were enjoying to watch. For something with a bit more depth I’d recommend Kimi no na wa (Your Name) or Kubo and the Two Strings, the latter in particular had an utterly gorgeous animation style. Weird to have a whole year with no new Disney or Pixar films.

Comedies (26, 15%)
Given that I don’t like cringe comedies, or gross-out ones, there’s often not much in the comedy section that I’d recommend, but this year’s viewing felt a little better. From this year the standout was The Death of Stalin which had a very weird tone whereby the comedy was absolutely hilarious, but it was combined with some horrible historical tragedy that was rather bizarre. A trio of films about men also gained 8’s out of 10 – Eddie the Eagle, Swiss Army Man and The Nice Guys. For a bit of gender balance Bad Moms was a lot better than it sounds.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror (30 in total, 17%)
I couldn’t be bothered to tie myself in knots about whether something is SF or Fantasy, so I’ve lumped a load of stuff into this broad bucket, and still haven’t ended up with much of note. Except for Star Wars, and very well put together horror film Get Out there were no 2017 films scoring above a mediocre 6. In fact overall there were only two 8/10 films – Age of Adaline which surprised me as a surprisingly rich storyline and subtle performance from Blake Lively; and WarGames which holds up really well despite being over 30 years old. Sadly there were far more disappointments – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 just seemed to lack the magic, I think thanks to a trudging plot. Wonder Woman did absolutely nothing for me, boring me like the other DC universe films that fail to balance humour, plot, character and action. SF was responsible for some of the big turkeys I saw this year – Life, Power Rangers, Bright and The Circle; and some older awfulness from Ghosts of Mars, Gods of Egypt, Assassin’s Creed and The Love Witch.

Action (20, 11%)
A broad genre of ‘films where stuff happens’, often at volume and with explosions. To be successful in this category I should not want to take my eyes off the screen and ideally be on the edge of my seat; a bonus would be actually caring about the outcomes. That’s more of a challenge than it should be, many of the superhero films for example failed to have me engaged in the battle scenes due to the lack of jeopardy with seemingly invulnerable characters (Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad). Dunkirk is the outstanding offering in this category though, I was completely engrossed in every moment and fully engaged with the characters as well. Free Fire meanwhile took the other extreme basically committing almost every moment to a protracted gunfight to entertaining effect. I gave bothThe Accountant and The Legend of Tarzan 8/10 as well, but now have almost no recollection of them; but that’s not necessarily the nail in the coffin that it would be in other genres.

Other (53, 30%)
For stuff that doesn’t fall into the other categories I’ve just grouped them together, everything from hard hitting message movies, to films almost without plot that are just letting you share in the characters’ lives for a while. The standout here was I, Daniel Blake will have you feeling all the emotions with an intensity that will leave you exhausted – I raged, cheered and laughed out loud and sobbed my way through half a box of tissues. Amazing characters – Sully: Miracle on the Hudson gives Tom Hanks full potential to show his mastership of this, and the structure of the film had me gripped; Captain Fantastic took me on a complete rollercoaster of emotions about how a single father raised his children – confusion, support, respect and horror. Hell or High Water is a film that almost defies description but I would highly recommend it. There are a lot of films in this category that could easily be unremarkable but shine because of the performances – 20th Century Women, Lady Macbeth, Manchester by the Sea, Trumbo, Battle of the Sexes and Weekend.

Rewatches
These are films that I can watch over and over again and they never disappoint me, they’re all good at what they do, which may not always be about being outstandingly challenging films, but they always leave me happier after I’ve watched them. Musicals (Kinky Boots, Singin’ In the Rain, Moulin Rouge!), Disney films (Zootropolis, Lilo and Stitch, Moana, The Incredibles) and other animations (How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me) tend to fall into this category. And just to prove I don’t dislike all comedies, there are a fair few of those too – Hot Fuzz, Deadpool, The Full Monty, The Birdcage, A Knight’s Tale. And the ever reliable Ocean’s Eleven and Gosford Park

The full list
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Books I Read in 2017

Oh dear – only 22 books this year, that’s not great. A long way down on last year’s 49, but also a bit above my worst (10). I got ‘blocked’ a couple of times this year, either in the middle of a mediocre book that just didn’t inspire me to pick it up (and I’m pathologically unable to stop reading a book I’ve started) or with a lack of inspiration for what to pick up next. I need to get in a mind-set again of defaulting to reading at certain times (tubes etc) rather than just reaching for my phone, so I’m setting another page count target for the year to see if that helps.

The numbers:

  • 22 books, of which 17 were new reads. All of them were read in dead tree form except one which I read on my poor neglected Kindle, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t make it through the pile of books on my shelves to read. .
  • A little under 8.5 thousand pages, that’s about 23 pages per day on average, this year I’ll set the target at 40 pages.
  • 16 different authors (two books had two authors, and there were two authors that accounted for 10 books between them). Mostly British (74%), a few Americans (38%), one Irish and one Danish (if Sandi Toksvig counts as anything other than a British institution).
  • Dead even split between male and female which I’m quite pleased with, (I’m counting Robert Galbraith as female as it’s really JK Rowling).
  • Genres – only 3 non-fiction (14%), about half were some form of SF/Fantasy, and the rest were some sort of drama, crime, thriller type. None that I would say are ‘young adult’ this year which is odd for me.
  • All of the books are from the 21st century except two (one from 1990 and the other 1932). 9 (41%) were published this year or last.

Read of the YearThe Power – Naomi Alderman. Lots of people have raved about the important messages in this book, and it is a fascinating (and slightly terrifying read), but what struck me more was that it was incredibly enjoyable to read. Many books that are delivering strong and complex arguments lose track of the fact that the plot and characters need to be believable and interesting, but this one didn’t. The plot and characters are well thought through and developed, and the way the book jumps though time moves things along quickly, but it’s always easy to fill in the gaps of what happens in the missing time.

Runner upRobert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series – something about the TV series spoke to me, so I decided to give the books a try and I wasn’t disappointed. I think seeing the TV series first helped because the actors gave a depth to the lead characters that was possibly not entirely there in the writing. They’re not going to go down as great works of literature or anything, but they are a very solid entry to the genre and I spent hours curled up in an armchair unable to put them down and they made me want to read again after some disappointments.

Lifetime Achievement AwardBen Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series – I re-read the whole series before moving onto the new book 6 and the novella that counts as 7. The series is just as good on second read through and a complete joy which I can’t recommend highly enough. From the first pages of the first book, Peter Grant leaps from the text and is one of the most natural characters I can ever remember reading. The plot occasionally gets away from me, but the characters, and London itself never feel like anything other than pure reality.

Non fiction – only three this year (pathetic!) and two of them were television related. Alan Sepinwall is one of my favourite TV writers and his book (unimaginatively called “TV (The Book)” co-written with Matt Zoller Seitz is a scientifically calculated list of the best American TV series. I don’t necessarily agree with all the entries, but they’re fascinating to read nevertheless. Watching The Crown left me wanting more information and Robert Lacey’s companion book delves a little deeper, although possibly still not deep enough to scratch the itch. Finally, Felicia Day’s autobiography (You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)) is just as vibrant, funny, inspiring and open as she is, and just as wonderful.

Disappointments

  • A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers – After the hugely enjoyable Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I was really looking forward to the second book in the series. Unfortunately I’m disappointed. The story being told was incredibly basic, with limited settings and characters and very little carry-over from the first book. It felt like it had been rushed out.
  • The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North – one of the books that killed my reading momentum. The great ideas and depth of development are here, but the delivery was awful. Way too much time telling us how we should feel about everything, long lectures spelling out all the nuances and intricacies of the issues.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor – I thought this could be a good entry way for the podcast, but it was just too weird for me, too incoherent.

Miscellaneous

  • Lying in Wait – Liz Nugent was a random thriller a friend gave me which was ok but predictable and disposable.
  • Flying Under Bridges – Sandi Toksvig – I love Sandi, but this was unremarkable and a bit of a drag.
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons – normally I make an effort to read some classics, but this was the only one I managed this year. It was quirky and fun, but not really outstanding.
  • Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton – does this count as a classic, it was 1990, which I guess now is a long time ago. I was slightly underwhelmed, while the fundamental ideas are great and the writing surprisingly as good as film at conveying both the wonder of the dinosaurs and the tension of the action, unfortunately the plot mechanics are a little clunky.
  • Revenger – Alastair Reynolds – a quilt assembled from very familiar panels from SF tv and books, but sown together competently.

Casual: Seasons 1-3

I powered through three seasons of this in just a couple of weeks. It’s only about 40 episodes in total, and they’re only 1/2 hour, so it’s no big commitment of time. However, it does do a slightly odd thing to your brain to spend that amount of time with the characters and leaves you with a rather more foul-mouthed and cynical view of humanity. Which should probably be considered a bad thing, but I found it mildly empowering.

I was gripped from the first episode because the tone of the three central characters – teenage Laura, mum Valerie and uncle Alex was so brutally frank and open that I practically gave myself hiccups laughing and gasping simultaneously at them. I could recognise the distant echoes of my close circle of friends and family in the scorching lines, a lot of “I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I can with you”.

The ‘casual’ relationships that the title refers to is less familiar, and a look into a terrifying world at the extremes (at least I hope they’re extremes) of the dating world. It’s a very clever set up of three characters – Alex is the ‘expert’, the insider in the world having written a dating app; Valerie is the newbie, getting divorced and not sure what she wants or how it works; Laura is the naïve cynic, thinking that she knows exactly what she’s doing, but really just being a confused teenager. None of them really know what they’re doing and screw up in truly spectacular ways that, frankly, anyone could see is going to end in disaster.

The relationships between them are alternately lovely and horrific, each knowing exactly how to support and how to hurt the others. The cast of supporting characters alternately ground the series (the utterly superb Leon, charmingly fun Leia and some of the transitory relationships) or just push it to new absurdity (the parents really do explain how Alex and Valerie became this messed up) and for the most part balance everything out.

Mostly the series is played for laughs. Real people wouldn’t screw up (quite) this badly or (quite) this often, and would climb out of holes rather than just digging deeper and deeper (I hope). There are moments that it all gets a bit much, the situations just get a bit too depressing and too far from the comedy that it mostly purports to be. It’s best to watch in big chunks as most of the stories span multiple episodes, and you can then power through the blips. Taken at a run like that, it’s a lot of fun, and when I ran out of episodes, I felt slightly lonely. They’re horrible, terrible, insane people, but they’re a lot of fun to spend time with.

Seasons 1-3 are available on Amazon video, season 4 will be the final one and will probably be on Amazon next year sometime.

Things I didn’t bother with this year

So one of the big things I clearly didn’t bother with this year was to keep on top of my reviews and actually post me review of the television year before the new seasons all began. I was trying to finish some things off before posting the summaries because otherwise it was a surprisingly short list of shows. There were however a few shows that I just didn’t bother with this year, and thought it would be a good idea to bundle them all together so they didn’t pollute the others.

Criminal Minds: Season 12 – when did this show get so poor? I realise that after a couple of hundred episodes the writers may start to struggle and the actors may get a bit bored, but this season feels like some kind of step change in quality. I mean it’s just bad. The dialogue from the writers and delivery from the actors are just amateur, like everyone is phoning it in, it’s full of cliché’s utterly lacking in subtlety and painful to listen to. I know they’ve had a lot of change in the cast, but I don’t think it’s because Morgan and Hotch left, or Alvez joined. Tara has never really come out as a character, and Prentis isn’t working in her new role as leader, she’s just too wooden (I think Paget Brewster is better suited to comedy and struggles to carry the weight of the drama necessary for the leader of the team). Reid is more of a caricature than ever and the only point of life is Garcia who just cannot do it all by herself. Time to retire this one I think.

Fargo: Season 3– I really enjoyed the first two seasons, but I didn’t even last half hour of this one before I lost interest. Having the same actor playing brothers just feels like a completely unnecessary gimmick. It’s not the Ewan McGregor couldn’t play either role, but I just didn’t want to spend my time trying to suspend my brain from continually working out how they edited scenes together. Nothing else jumped out as interesting, so I gave up.

Code Black and The Night Shift – both haave the same problem. The first seasons were enjoyable tosh, but I just couldn’t be bothered to continue watching. A few characters I liked disappeared, the melodrama ramped up and it just felt too artificial for any real engagement. Life’s too short.

Bull: Season 1– I managed about three quarters of the season and I kept thinking that as I was so close to the end I should just stick with it. But I once again realised that life’s too short to watch mediocre television. Particularly when it’s just making me sad to see a talented cast wasted on utterly mediocre ideas and writing. It was so formulaic and derivative that I can’t believe anyone involved was really putting any effort in or cared about the output. The idea of the show was just too narrow to really support a full 20 odd episode season, particularly given they decided to have almost no arc stories at all, each episode was completely standalone with no plots or character development spanning multiple episodes. A waste.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12 – Season 12 finished in a place that I was incredibly unhappy with. I’ve always like the character that Alex grew into, starting out as an obnoxious arsehole and gradually showing where he came from and allowing the other characters to influence him into a better person. Then the writers had him beat the crap out of someone because he was jealous. I thought I’d let a few episodes of the new season build up to see where they went with that, and reading the spoilers I liked the direction even less, as it seemed to be verging dangerously into victim blaming. So I decided not to watch. I kept reading spoilers, and there really wasn’t anything in there that made me want to watch again. It wasn’t just Alex, other characters were frustrating too (ugh – Amelia) and I just didn’t want to watch. So I didn’t bother. That makes me sad, because I adore this show. I’ve read similar frustrations from reviewers online, but they seem to be a bit more positive about the new season, so maybe I’ll just pretend this season never happened.

The Good Fight: Season 1 – I adored the early seasons of The Good Wife, but I lost interest to the extent that I didn’t even get through the final season. I felt the writers rushed things a bit and characters went in directions I either didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe they’d go. I tried The Good Fight because, well, Christine Baranski. But I never really felt like watching more. It sat on my Sky box for months waiting for me to get to it before I finally gave up and deleted it. It may have been great, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

The Defenders: Season 1: I loved Jessica Jones, liked Luke Cage and even sat through Iron Fist just so that I could be more up to speed for The Defenders, but I haven’t yet made it beyond episode 2. I was bored. Even though I’d watched 3 out of 4 of the components, I didn’t remember enough of the plots to really pull everything together and there was absolutely zero help from the writers to elegantly remind you. I’d even have been happy with an inelegant “previously on…” few minutes at the start. I didn’t engage at all, but I will give it another try.

The Good Place: Season 1

As a quick browse through this site will show, I don’t really watch many sitcoms. I seem to have a very specific type of humour which doesn’t seem to match mainstream television. I can’t abide stupid people, particularly characters who have to act stupid just to drive a plot or get a laugh. That feels cheap and I’m more likely to cringe at their poor choices than I am to laugh at the punchline. If I’m looking for comedy I’ll usually head towards one of the middle-of-the-road dramas which tend to have humour embedded around the serious stories. I’m more likely to laugh at The West Wing, Grey’s Anatomy or Agents of SHIELD than I am at most sitcoms.

So I approached The Good Place tentatively. I was approaching it at all because it has Kirsten Bell (who delivered the perfect mix of comedy and drama in Veronica Mars) and Ted Danson (who I’ve loved since Cheers), plus I had got incredibly bored of dismissing everything on Netflix as “not quite what I felt like” and this at least was only 1/2 hour. A few hours later I’d watched the whole of the first season, pretty much back to back.

That’s not actually as impressive, or as big an endorsement as it sounds. Each episode is in fact only 22minutes long and there are only 13 episodes, so it’s less than 5 hours long, about two films worth. Even taking a few breaks to putter and do some chores it was easy to watch it over the span of a day. The episodes are so short, and the episodic elements so minor, that I would imagine watching one episode per week would be incredibly unsatisfying and dull. But there’s a well paced arc playing out over the season as a whole, with some satisfying twists and developments towards the end, which makes it very well suited to box set viewing.

I wouldn’t say it’s a show that will go down in the annals of history as one of the greats. It’s got some funny moments, some clever observations, and a couple of chuckle-worthy recurring gags, but nothing that’s really going to be replayed over and over as comic genius. The characters are built from stereotypes, but most of them add a level of richness that elevates them into the realms of interesting and natural feeling. The world that’s created is a fun one, although if anything it’s slightly underused in the middle episodes. It’s a series that was nice to spend a weekend with, but probably nothing more. I won’t be rushing to watch each episode of season 2 as they arrive, but I will quite look forward to the weekend when I eventually have all of them available.

Iron Fist: Season 1

I wasn’t going to bother watching this entry into the Netflix Defenders franchise. Nothing about the concept appealed to me – kung fu movies leave me utterly bored at the action and chuckling at the cheesily delivered philosophy. But I decided to at least watch the pilot so I’d been introduced to the character before moving on to The Defenders. No one is more surprised than me that I made it through all 13 episodes in just two days.

I will say that I think this says more about me than it does the series. I had very little enthusiasm this weekend for doing anything more challenging than slumping on the sofa and doing a jigsaw and it was more by luck than planning that the first thing I picked to watch was Iron Fist and I was just too lazy to stop Netflix auto-playing the next episode.

The show isn’t anything special in the slightest. It has all the things about kung fu movies that I don’t like. There are lots of action sequences, which I’m sure took a lot of skill and talent to do, but almost always left me reaching for my phone to play with, or focusing on a particularly boring bit of sky in the jigsaw. I glazed over an equal amount whenever a character started talking about Chi and K’un L’un, The Hand, and the mystical destiny of whatever. Maybe I’m being incredibly disrespectful, but it just sounded silly. I did the same thing with any of the inhumans philosophy on Agents of SHIELD and a huge amount of Doctor Strange. Once you’ve taken all that out, you’re left with a fairly run of the mill story, missing heir comes back, tries to reclaim his father’s business and runs into scheming former friends/relations and an overly convoluted investigation into what the mystical Hand are doing in New York.

The more I write, the more I’m not sure why I watched the whole thing. Finn Jones is likeable enough as Danny Rand, but I’m not sure the character makes any sense. He’s sometimes completely at home in New York (where did he learn to drive a sports car in K’un L’un?) and other times completely out of touch with the reality of running a business or understanding people. Similarly his temper and zen flip flop depending on what the mood of the episode needs rather than necessarily with any relation to the circumstances he’s in. Other characters are pretty one dimensional until they too flip flop because everything needs to be dragged out to 13 episodes so it should appear that the bad guy has a heart after all, or the childhood friend may be a bit of a bitch. The plot relied on far too many cases of characters not being what they seemed so that after a while I just became immune to it all.

This is definitely the weakest of the series in the franchise I’ve seen. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were both much more carefully built series, both made me actually care about the characters and challenged me to think about the issues. Iron Fist was just pure background noise. Still, I did finish my jigsaw.

Orange is the New Black: Season 5

This show still can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a drama or a comedy. Some shows manage to blend both together (I loath the word ‘dramedy’ but it is sort of useful), but this one just swings from one side to the other, with very little in the way of elegant merging. That problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s not just nudging back and forth on the natural boundaries between funny and sad, but lurching from extremes of tragedy to absurdity of farce.

The season also feels like it’s using a cast of characters so huge that individuals get completely lost in the noise.

The wikipedia page for the season lists 17 main cast and over 40 recurring characters. For thirteen episodes. That’s not including guest stars or bit parts, almost all of those characters get some kind of storyline and attempt at development. That’s insane and it just doesn’t work. To even attempt to cover that ground meant the flashbacks were hardly used at all, and I really missed the structure of giving each episode a focus on one character and telling their history at the same time as their present.

The other mistake of the season is focusing the time down on just a few days at the prison. That should bring some element of focus to the season, but because there are so many threads going on, it’s no more focused and just opens up confusion. I don’t think the writers plotted and structured it as well as they could, it felt like time was passing differently for different characters and there was no satisfaction to be had from interweaving of different strands.

Frankly, the whole thing was chaotic. And not in a good way. Characters had so little time – both screen time and actual passing time – to do anything, that they each got boiled down to just one or two aspects. The wavering tone made it impossible to either laugh at the comedy or allow yourself to really feel the impact of the tragedies. They continually undermine the weight of any of the serious messages they’re trying to introduce and it cheapens the whole thing. I was really disappointed.