Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bloodline: Mainlining Family

Just finished Bloodline, the latest all-at-once television series on Netflix.  My wife and I slow binge-watched it, for a variety of reasons, mostly because the complex drama was better savored with a just an episode or two each evening.   Netflix has once again hit the mark with an outstanding series, right up up there in its own way with House of Cards and Peaky Blinders, and Amazon's Bosch.

First, the locale is evocative, and best seen in high definition.  We spend lots of time on Cape Cod, which makes me a sucker for anything with a similar land and seascape.   The Florida Keys in Bloodline work just fine as a surrogate Cape.

The story is about a dysfunctional family - to say the least - and the deaths and dynamics of its members make Bloodline a distant cousin, I suppose, of Ray Donovan.   But the narrative is unique and original and all its own.

Ben Mendelsohn puts in a standout performance as Danny, a black sheep prodigal son who returns for a family gathering.   We soon see he's been scapegoated - whether fairly or unfairly - and the family is split about being happy to see him again, with his mother, played Sissy Spacek, most in favor.   What I can tell you, without giving two much away, is that Danny is a masterful deconstructionist, able in any conversation with a family member to pull out just the right stone from their foundation which will cause them to crumble, or close to it.   He also has a good head for crime.

His prime check is his slightly younger brother John, a local lawman, played by Kyle Chandler, in easily his best role since the immortal Coach in Friday Night Lights.   Strong performances are indeed on hand from everyone, and its was especially good to see Linda Cardellini (Mad Men!) as sister Meg, Sam Shepard as the father, and Big Love's Chloë  Sevigny as Danny's sorta girlfriend.

The series is a creation of Glenn and Todd Kessler - best known for their superb Damages - and Bloodline bears the same stamp - dark, deadly, human souls stripped almost bear, and glimpses of the ending to tease the audience, which might have worked better in Damages then in Bloodline, which still should be at the top of your binge-watching television list.


not about a dysfunctional family, but a dysfunctional species

12 Monkeys 1.11: What Ifs

Science fiction is intrinsically about what if this or that incredible event happened, and time travel is especially, and this is what 12 Monkeys 1.11, which does time travel so well, offered us last night, at least twice.

What if Jones were left alone at the time travel facility, with Cole never returning, her dwindling military support leaving, and even the guy who operates the time machine packing his bags and moving out?  Jones, as aware of herself as Socrates, knows she won't leave.  Where else would she go?  What else would she do?   All of this will likely be soon changed as Cole gets back in the picture, but Jones alone in the time travel facility was a touching set piece that could have come out of a Ray Bradbury story.

The other what-if flows from the same event that prevented Cole - at least temporarily - from returning to 2043.  He's fighting to the death with Ramse in 1980s Tokyo.   The result leaves Cole badly wounded, and Ramse arrested and thrown in a Japanese prison.  There he lives for years, contacted by some benefactor who takes an interest him, and eventually brings him to her facility when Ramse is released.

We're thus treated to an alternate reality in which Ramse has been living in the past into our current age all along - but is this really alternate?  It could be, if Ramse's experiences in this past amount to a dead end.  But there's a strong implication that maybe Ramse had indeed been in the past all along, interacting with and triggering the Goines, and intersecting with the Witness.   In other words, in all of the 12 Monkeys episodes we've seen up until this episode, with Cole often traveling back to the past, and Ramse ensconced in the future, an older version of this same Ramse, with the same memories and all, was already in the past, and maybe event to some extent not only reacting to but calling the shots.

Time travel has, until this series, been at its best in short stories, novel, and movies.   Television has checked in with a great episode from time to time - such as "City on the Edge of Forever" in Star Trek: TOS and "Yesterday's Enterprise" in Star Trek: TNG - but the series have been pale in comparison to what has been donewith time travel in other kinds of narratives.   12 Monkeys on Syfy, for the first time, is rolling out a tableau and story with complex and paradoxical parts truly worthy of the time travel genre.

See also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys

 three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy

 photo LateLessons1_zpsogsvk12k.jpg
What if the Soviet Union survived into the 21st century,
and Eddie and the Cruisers were a real band?

The Chronology Protection Case movie 

~~~ +++ ~~~


Friday, March 27, 2015

Vikings 3.6: Athelstan and Floki

A brutal Vikings 3.6 last night, with an ear lost in England, and far more than that lost for Athelstan in Scandinavia, though he was raptured about that, and sure he was about to go on to a better life.

His deliverer was Floki, whose resentment of the Christians has been building to the boiling point all season.   The massacre in England that we were witness to last week added fuel to his rage, and who can blame him for that.  But taking it out on Athelstan, a fundamentally gentle soul whose life of the mind was a beacon and resource for Ragnar, was not the way to go.   Because in taking out Athelstan, Floki deprived not only Ragnar but the audience - us - of Athelstan's vision and wisdom, and this moves Floki from the slightly crazed but almost lovable category to the thoroughly crazed and despicable column of villains.

Athelstan's murder did give us the occasion to see Ragnar in one his most sensitive and eloquent moments, providing a personal eulogy for Athelstan high in the mountains, just himself and Athelstan's body, which Hamlet himself would have admired.   What will Ragnar do now without Athelstan to talk to, was his and our central question.

Will Ragnar first wreak vengeance on Ecbert for his massacre of the Norse village settlement in England last week?  That would be satisfying, but Ragnar may not want to risk so much of his fighting force, with a plan take Paris in the works.   Ragnar is a master tactician, and knows he'll need every sword and knife at his command to take this city in the Seine.

Meanwhile, there are births to offset the deaths in this episode - Ragnar's grandson in Scandinavia and Athelstan's son in England.   These two promise hope for the future, but cannot make up for the loss of Athelstan - not to Ragnar or us.

See also Vikings 3.1. Fighting and Farming ... Vikings 3.2: Leonard Nimoy ...Vikings 3.3: We'll Always Have Paris ... Vikings 3.4: They Call Me the Wanderer ... Vikings 3.5: Massacre

And see also Vikings 2.1-2: Upping the Ante of Conquest ... Vikings 2.4: Wise King ... Vikings 2.5: Caught in the Middle ... Vikings 2.6: The Guardians ...Vikings 2.7: Volatile Mix ... Vikings 2.8: Great Post-Apocalyptic Narrative ... Vikings Season 2 Finale: Satisfying, Surprising, Superb

And see also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4:  Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice
... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

historical science fiction - a little further back in time


Bones 10.11: Life after Death, Sweets in Wonderland

Bones has always been about life after death, about the bones of the dead telling their stories to Bones, who is able to use that information to help bring the killers to justice in our world of the living.   But Bones 10.11 was about this in a different, less metaphorical, more literal way, as the psychic Avalon, played by Cindi Lauper, is in touch with Sweets - on this birthday, no less.

Because it's his birthday, all of our heroes and heroines are thinking about him, in their own ways.   Avalon, called in for the case at hand, is able to segue easily into being in touch with Sweets.   Unsurprisingly, Angela has no trouble believing in her and what she's saying.  Eventually, Hodgins does too - also unsurprising, because Hodgins' love for Angela makes it difficult for him to oppose anything she profoundly endorses.  And we the audience are supposed to believe, at the end, that Avalon has been guided by Sweets to get the book he wrote about Bones and Booth to them on his birthday.

Or are we?  In classic Bones fashion, we're also allowed to believe, if we choose, that maybe Avalon's insight about the thumb drive was just coincidence, and the drive would have been discovered in the car anyway.   At least, I hope so, because I don't believe in psychics, and am not inclined to, since I'm not in love with Angela.

The denouement of tonight's episode is beautifully set, though, in a tea party with Christine, who's a little older and adorably articulate.   This tea party, like all good tea parties, features an imaginary friend. Thus, Bones and Booth and everyone at the party are like the revelers at the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland, where make-believe reigns supreme.  Is the episode's way of saying that Sweets communicating from beyond the grave is all make believe?

Tough to say, but the party made for a very merry unbirthday Bones, indeed.

Bones 100 and 200 podcast reviews

And see also Bones 9.1: The Sweet Misery of Love ... Bones 9.2: Bobcat, Identity Theft, and Sweets ... Bones 9.3 and NCIS 11.2: Sweets and Ziva ... Bones 9.4: Metaphysics of Death in a Television Series ... Bones 9.5: Val and Deep Blue ... Bones 9.6: The Wedding ... Bones 9.7: Watch Out, Buenos Aires ...Bones 9.8: The Bug in the Neck ... Bones 9.9: Friday Night Bones in the Courtroom ... Bones 9.10: Horse Pucky ... Bones 9.11: Angels in Equations ... Bones 9.12: Fingernails ... Bones 9.13: Meets Nashville, and Wendell ... Bones 9.14: "You Cannot Drink Your Glass Away" ... Bones 9.15: Hodgins' Brother and the Ripped Off Toe ... Bones 9.16: Lampreys, Professors, and Insurance Companies ... Bones 9.17: Spartacus in the Kitchen ... Bones 9.18: Meets Day of the Triffids ... Bones 9.19: The Cornucopic Urn ... Bones 9.20: Above the Law ... Bones 9.21: Freezing and Thawing ... Bones 9.22: Promotion ... Bones 9.23: The New Intern ... Bones Season 9 Finale: Upping the Ante

And see also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox ... Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn ... Bones 8.17: "Not Time Share, Time Travel" ... Bones 8.18: Couples ... Bones 8.19: The Head in the Toilet ... Bones 8.20: On Camera ... Bones 8.21: Christine, Hot Sauce, and the Judge ... Bones 8.22: Musical-Chair Parents ... Bones 8.23: The Bluff ... Bones Season 8 Finale: Can't Buy the Last Few Minutes

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution


Neanderthal bones

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Black Sails 2.9: The Unlikely Hero

A stunningly good Black Sails 2.9 - after last week's very good 2.8, too, which I didn't get a chance to review - in which all relationships are torn apart and cast asunder, with the hope of some powerful union at the end, a union of the people least likely to want to work in concert, the pirates.

They've been at each other's throats all season.   Vane, in particular, killed the mad Low, and is bent on revenge for what Eleanor did to him.   He has no love for Flint, either.  Yet, in a brilliant and rousing speech at the end of the episode, he proposes an alliance with Flint, against the British.

Vane has come to see the wisdom of Billy's argument that the admiralty sees no difference among pirates, and just wants to destroy them all.   And we've seen the bloody brutality, if not of the governor himself, then his chief man at arms, who puts a bullet in Miranda's head, right in front of our, the Governor's, and most of all Flint's horrified eyes.  It may not be what the Governor wanted, but it's every bit consistent with the arrogant way of life that the pirates have been rebelling against in all ways.

The fate not only of Flint but of Eleanor and Nassau now hangs in the balance, to the extent that the Orca gold seems almost a thin memory.   And who would have believed, even through most of this very episode, that it would be Vane who steps up to be the savior of it all.

But who and what will he be able to save?   Will he even want to save Eleanor, if he gets anywhere near her?   I suppose he could be, if he makes way to where the Governor is, and if the King's men who took Eleanor bring her there.   How many armed men does the Carolina colony now have?  How many pirates can Vane deploy against them?   Billy is a great warrior, and Silver is cunning, but can they overcome the British forces?

Another important character will likely die.  It could even be Vane.   And, for the first time for much of this season, I'm hoping it's not.

See also Black Sails 2.1: Good Combo, Back Story, New Blood ... Black Sails 2.2: A Fine Lesson in Captaining ... Black Sails 2.3: "I Angered Charles Vane" ... Black Sails 2.4: "Fire!" ... Black Sails 2.5: Twist! ... Black Sails 2.6: Weighty Alternatives, and the Medium is the Message on the High Seas ... Black Sails 2.7: The Governor's Daughter and the Gold

And see also Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy ... Black Sails 1.3: John Milton and Marcus Aurelius ... Black Sails 1.4: The Masts of Wall Street ...Black Sails 1.6: Rising Up ... Black Sails 1.7: Fictions and History ... Black Sails 1.8: Money



pirates of the mind in The Plot to Save Socrates 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Walking Dead 5.15: The Bad Guy

As powerful an episode of The Walking Dead tonight - 5.15 - as we've seen in the entire series, after a relatively quiescent second part of the fifth season.

Let's get right down to it.   Rick pulls a gun on the people in town, especially Deanna, who are trying to talk him out of killing Pete.   This after Pete nearly kills Rick, after Rick tells Pete he's not going to let business continue as usual for Pete and Jessie, which is to say, Pete beating Jessie to the point of at one time leaving her unconscious and bleeding on the floor.   Deanna knows most, maybe all of this, but she can't go along with Rick killing Pete - her policy and therefore that of Alexandria is bad guys are exiled not killed.

But Carl at first tries to stop his father, and Michonne indeed stops him by knocking him out cold from behind.   Why did Michonne do that?   And what was motivating Carl?   The only conceivable explanation is that neither want their life in the town to be disrupted - neither wants their group to be thrown out of the town - because of Deanna's reaction to what Rick was about to do.  Both Carl and Michonne - unlike Carole - desperately want to stay and live in this town.

But does that make their reaction to Rick right?  Carl may in fact have tried to warn his father about Michonne's attack - it sounded like he was calling out to him to warn him - and I think his instincts at that moment were in fact correct.  Because: Rick was right to want to kill Pete and Deanna was wrong.  Yes, a surgeon is very valuable, and it's good not to have to kill wrongdoers, but Pete in his brutality was a step away from killing Jessie - as Rick rightly says - and in that brutal world in which they live, exiling would have left him still a danger to return and kill Jessie and who knows how many else, assuming that he would have even allowed himself to go quietly.

So I once again find myself at least a little in disagreement with the moral dynamic of this series, with the ending of the episode in which Michonne looks like the hero, when in fact I think it was Rick, trying to do the right thing, with almost no support from anyone other than Carole, who was the hero here.   Pete not Rick was the bad guy.

But such moral complexities are the stuff of excellent television, and a great prelude to the 90-minute season finale next week - when maybe we'll also find out the meaning of the "W"s on the foreheads of some of the walkers.

See also: The Walking Dead 5.1: The Redemption of Carole ... The Walking Dead 5.3: Meets Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone ... The Walking Dead 5.4: Hospital of Horror ... The Walking Dead 5.5: Anatomy of a Shattered Dream ... The Walking Dead 5.6-7: Slow ... The Walking Dead 5.8: Killing the Non-Killer ... The Walking Dead 5.9: Another Death in the Family ... The Walking Dead 5.11: The Smiling Stranger ... The Walking Dead 5.12: The Other Shoe ... The Walking Dead 5.13: The Horse and the Party

And see also The Walking Dead 4.1: The New Plague ... The Walking Dead 4.2: The Baby and the Flu ... The Walking Dead 4.3: Death in Every Corner ...The Walking Dead 4.4: Hershel, Carl, and Maggie ... The Walking Dead 4.6: The Good Governor ... The Walking Dead 4.7: The Governor's Other Foot ... The Walking Dead 4.8: Vintage Fall Finale ... The Walking Dead 4.9: A Nightmare on Walking Dead Street ... The Walking Dead 4:14: Too Far ... The Walking Dead Season 4 Finale: From the Gunfire into the Frying Pan


no cannibalism but at least a plague in The Consciousness Plague