Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Orphan Black (S2)

My re-watch of Orphan Black continues with season 2. The first time I watched it, soon after the stellar first season (read about it here), it was a bit of a letdown. This time I think I liked it more.

er-orphanblack2Orphan Black (season 2)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Sarah’s fight for control over her life continues with the villains now better-defined. Both the evil corporation Dyad and the group of religious freaks want to use the clones for their sinister ends and for most of the season the characters try to escape or outsmart them. Or just burn them to the ground.

How I found it:
Once I watched the first season I couldn’t wait for the second one.

Summary judgment:
It’s better than I remembered it, even if it couldn’t remain as good as the first one.

Best things about it:
With the main characters in place the show may now focus on deepening the relations between them and despite many action sequences it actually manages to spend a lot of time on the people. It throws them into new configurations – like Alison and Vic, Art and Helena etc. – shining new light on all of them and allowing for many delightful comedic moments. It’s not just about Sarah this time: Helena, Cosima and Alison, even Mrs. S are all served right with their storylines.

Worst things about it:
It’s usually the case that when you build an intriguing mystery, whatever answer you provide has to be a bit disappointing. And it doesn’t help how convoluted and vague our answers are (and from what I remember season three doesn’t improve on that). A lot is happening and sometimes I wasn’t even sure who was on which side anymore but I didn’t much care because I really wanted to see more Alison drinking and Sarah bonding with her baby daddy. It’s too bad that my favorite part of the first season, namely the personal stories of the clones, slowly begins to compete with the bigger picture for the screen time.

Other pluses:
✤ I don’t think I mentioned it before but this show is so impressive in how it puts multiple Tatianas on-screen at the same time! In fact, the dancing scene was plain showing off, with all of them dancing together, each one differently. But usually it’s done so naturally you don’t even think about the technical difficulties.
✤ Cal is alright. I used to be very Team Paul during the first watch but now I can see Cal’s probably a better choice (so far).
✤ Winter looks both pretty and realistically depressing in this season.

Other minuses:
✤ Ugh, Rachel, and all of the institute, particularly Daniel reaaaally get on my nerves. I know it’s villains’ job but they are just – too good at it.
✤ This season introduces many new characters but most of them feel superfluous and way less interesting than our previous stars. Case in point: the new clone, I don’t see a reason for introducing Tony, except that everyone wanted to see what else Tatiana Maslany could do?
✤ I know it’s only starting this season but can we please not do the male clones? No? Okay, we’ll get back to this.

How it enriched my life:
I watched it so fast, stealing time from other duties. Such a good show.

Fun fact:
So, I caught a cold – again, this time from my son – and that’s why I managed to watch the show so quickly. (I know this barely classifies as a fun fact but I’m trying.)

Follow-up:
Season 3, again. Season 4. Season 5.

Recommended for:
People who loved the first season. People who loved it but thought that maybe there was too little of evil corporations, sinister military or too few characters altogether.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Dangerous Liaisons

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Younger, Again

After my interest in Darren Star’s upbeat show Younger grew over the first three seasons of, at first half-hearted, watching, I watched season four already quite invested in Liza. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here‘s the first review for Younger with details on the show.)

er-younger4Younger (season 4)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Liza’s story as a likeable fraud continues. She manages to stay in her publishing job and even mend her relationship with Kelsey, who learned of Liza’s secret last season – so that more attention can be given to her romantic entanglements. And I fully approve.

Summary judgment:
Except for a disappointing finale this might be the best season yet.

Best things about it:
The show is slowly moving past its one-note premise, which was the most problematic part of the first seasons. Instead of focusing on the increasingly unlikely mystery of Liza’s age it is now showing characters’ development and allowing them to have emotions.
Also, Charles.

Worst things about it:
The finale didn’t capitalize on any of the emotional build-up the show managed to create throughout the season. Instead, the crew went to Ireland. It felt like a denouement with the climax missing. I guess they’re trying to carry on this emotional load into the next season but it didn’t feel like playing fair with the audience.

Other pluses:
After dealing with Kelsey’s feelings of betrayal – which was done quickly enough, luckily, because I prefer the two women as friends – the season focused on Liza’s developing relationship with Charles and, as you might remember, I’m all for this story and I enjoyed it immensely, particularly his passionate outbursts. Hey, it’s this kind of show, deal with it.
Diana finally got a worthy storyline which gave her more depth. She has successfully progressed from a near-caricature to an interesting character and maybe even had the most emotionally satisfying transformation of the season.

Other minuses:
Kelsey doesn’t have much to do these days and her relationship with the rival editor didn’t quite work but maybe it will be more exciting once they focus more on the rival part next season.
I didn’t really warm up to Claire, even when we were supposed (I think?) to like her.

How it enriched my life:
Actually, it always gave me 20 minutes of respite, regardless of what else was happening that week.

Fun fact:
I usually watched the show when R was putting our son to sleep. Ours is this kind of progressive household (for which I’m so grateful).

Follow-up:
Season 5, of course. Bring it on.

Recommended for:
People who liked the previous seasons, particularly the portrayal of friendship. Not Liza and Josh shippers.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Back to Orphan Black

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Rotten Tomatoes

Wildly Enthusiastic Review: Orphan Black

I have so far watched three seasons of Orphan Black, with varying levels of enthusiasm, and before watching the last two I’ve decided to re-watch the beginning. So today I’m sharing my thoughts on season one, but bear in mind that while they might be colored by my knowledge of seasons two and three I know nothing yet about the further developments in the show.

er-orphanblack1Orphan Black (season 1)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A mildly science-fiction show about Sarah Manning, who accidentally discovers that women identical to her exist, precisely – that they are her clones. They become increasingly involved with one another as they try to discover the truth about their origins and about the many dangers they face. The show stars Tatiana Maslany, who does wonders playing all the clones in all their differences. As if that wasn’t marvellous enough, she also gets to play clones who pretend to be other clones and wow, is she amazing. Sometimes you forget it’s the same actress all along. The first season focuses on discovering variants of Sarah and on their private lives and as such is, so far, my favorite.

How I found it:
Back when tv.com was a good website I was mildly addicted to it and when they started promoting Orphan Black (which the fans of the show requested), I decided to check it out. And boy, was I hooked. I watched the first season within two or three days and loved every minute of it.

Summary judgment:
This is one of the all time great first seasons of TV shows, no matter how many times I watch it.

Best things about it:
Sarah: she’s a great protagonist, a determined survivor with a soft side and a strong loyalty, firmly keeping us on her side throughout the season.
Paul: very crushable, even when he’s shady. The episode in which he crashes a suburban party is my favorite.
Also, the show looks amazing, with the filtered subdued color palette and the various interiors, each evoking a different social and emotional situation (my absolute favorites are Beth’s and Felix’s apartments).

Worst things about it:
Rachel, but luckily she only appears at the end. The more of the Institute there will be, the more messy the show will become.

Other pluses:
Felix: flamboyant and lovable, the best sidekick one could hope for.
Alison: putting heart into a suburban mom cliché and possibly Maslany’s quiet tour de force.
Cosima: even though she makes irritatingly stupid decisions, in a way she’s the most relatable clone.

Other minuses:
Helena: I know that within the next two seasons she will become quite great but I never liked her in the first season.

How it enriched my life:
It’s one of my favorite seasons of TV, as said, and even during the third watch it still kept me excited about what was going to happen.

Fun fact:
It was one of quite few shows which kept me up at night binge-watching and not feeling guilty about it afterwards. The other one was the first season of True Blood – you know that the first season was good, whatever happened later.

Follow-up:
Season 2, again. Season 3, again. Season 4. Season 5.

Recommended for:
Anyone who enjoys a well-done, exciting story with just the right balance between action/mystery and emotional moments. Actors serious about their craft, so that they can study Maslany and get depressed.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Next time: Younger, again

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Younger

So far these reviews have showed you a slightly untrue version of me. As untrue as, say, a 40-year-old pretending to be 26? No, not like that, but still I didn’t review a single TV show and it’s really TV shows that take up most of my cultural interests (after books, I guess). However, you caught me at a special time when after a 2-month detox I stopped watching TV shows for a while. However, I got back to Younger as an ironing show (very much a thing for me) and in the middle of the second season started watching the rest without any ironing as an excuse.

er-youngerYounger (seasons 1–3)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon, as streaming TV. S1 | S2 | S3

What it is:
A really, really silly (but fun) show about a woman who gets a divorce and starts looking for a job in publishing. When no one wants to hire a 40-year-old, she pretends to be 26 and, of course, gets hired immediately (in the most non-toxic publishing house on the screen). She starts leading a double life, fitting almost seamlessly into her new identity because she’s that young at heart. It’s produced by Darren Star, of Sex and the City fame and some of it carries. (This pun was so unintended. Not sorry though.)

How I found it:
I remembered it had good reviews and it sounded like something you don’t need to pay much attention to while it’s on so, in other words, a perfect show to watch while ironing.

Summary judgment:
It’s a TV bubble gum, only better because I don’t really like bubble gum and I enjoy this show a lot.

Best things about it:
It’s fun, light-hearted and prettily shot. The interiors and the actors look good and the emotional drama is enough to keep you interested without really getting you down. And yes, there’s space in everyone’s life for exactly this kind of a show. And, as you may expect from the guy who brought you Carrie Bradshaw, clothes are awesome sometimes.

Worst things about it:
The premise is totally unbelievable. Sometimes it actually adds to the fun but sometimes it forces the writers to employ desperate measures to avoid the whole secret unraveling. Like, spoiler, when Thad gets killed by a metal-beam-ex-machina at the end of season 2? Almost made me stop watching. (Only it didn’t.)

Other pluses:
I like that it avoids any obvious villains (except for comic relief) and that Hillary Duff’s character is actually a friend not a rival, as one would expect her to be when she first appears. The writers make female friendship very much a theme and that’s good.
I really like Charles. I don’t like Liza all that much but I think I still ship them. It’s the “will they, won’t they” that really keeps me interested but I’m just this predictable kind of viewer.
I also really like these sitcommy, 20-minute-long chunks of my casual TV because I can always squeeze an episode into my busy day.

Other minuses:
The music is awful. It tries so hard to be young and fresh – and what do I know, maybe it is – but I just find it grating.

How it enriched my life:
It made a lot of ironing (even more) fun and relaxed me. I also learned some (probably inaccurate) things about 20-something New Yorkers.

Fun fact:
It’s probably not so much fun but this show has been a wedge that broke my resolution and since I watched it, I’ve gotten back to watching some TV (significantly less than before though).

Follow-up:
I will be watching season 4 to see who learns the truth at the end of it. There are only really about two people left who don’t know in all of New York.

Recommended for:
People who want to watch something easy and relaxing and are not bothered by obvious holes in the story but can instead focus on pretty clothes and mildly funny jokes.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: IKEA

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Rotten Tomatoes

Bloody True Love

er-truebloodThis is going to be a love story and like the best of them it’s filled with delight and excitement, as well as frustration and disappointment. It ended last Sunday when HBO showed the last episode of True Blood after seven extremely uneven seasons.

I watch a lot of TV, good and bad, and sometimes I get too invested in TV shows but that first season of True Blood was absolutely magical: it got me hooked immediately and kept me up at night, watching episode after episode, completely immersed in the story of Sookie and vampire Bill. I came into it unprepared, only vaguely aware that it had vampires and maybe expecting something like Buffy but certainly not ready to fall head over heels for the atmosphere, the colors, the characters and the accents. I was transfixed; the gritty opening credits felt like the new TV quality that it actually was. I recommended the show to some people and was appalled if they didn’t see the beauty of Bon Temps.

I know some people were already disappointed with season two but I still had my Louisiana-swamp-colored glasses on and I thoroughly enjoyed at least the half of it which had anything to do with vampires. In fact, I think the Dallas storyline was one of the most exciting for me, back when things were mysterious but promised to make sense one day. It was that magical time when you have absolute trust. The second part of the season, about the maenad didn’t make that much sense and didn’t really fit in with the Dallas half but when you love, you forgive little things that make no sense.

But then season three came and I began to worry: what happened to our beautiful friendship, True Blood? What did you go and add sexually-predatory white-trash girl-werepanthers for? What the hell were you thinking with those pointless werewolves? There were still good moments so I strove to ignore the bad ones: Russell was awesome and there was more Eric. But the seed of discontent was planted and grew and already you could see it would become a damn shady tree with all the unnecessary disjoint storylines.

By season four I settled into disgruntlement. I kept watching because you don’t just give up on love even if it leaves dirty socks on the floor or, more to the point, adds new ridiculous characters instead of doing something with the good old ones. Things continued pretty much the same as in season three, without saving graces and with Sam still not dead. Plus, there was the horrid opening scene in fairyland, which at first I couldn’t believe. Still, the witches’ storyline, disappointing as it was, organized most of the season and was at least related to vampires.

But when season five happened, it felt as if I was allowing someone to repeatedly hit me on the head and pretended to like it. I still don’t know why I watched all of season five because I hated pretty much everything about it: I guess it must have been what Jason Stackhouse calls “stockholder’s syndrome.” I hated how every storyline started and ended out of the blue. How the big bad was someone who only appeared in one scene. How they never got rid of the damn-awful Sam, no matter how useless he got. The ifrit storyline, oh hell, the ifrit storyline. And, worst of all, they finally got to show vampire politics – something I longed for since Nancy Flanagan appeared in season one – and made it the most ludicrous, horrid and boring storyline one could imagine. Oh yes, and there was Lilith, too. I hit rock-bottom with that season and honestly promised myself I was done. I wasn’t going to touch the next season. Good riddance, True Blood, you’ve worn me thin.

And then Alan Ball left the show, after running it completely to the ground and I thought: screw it. Let’s see what they will do with this show, now that they certainly can’t make it any worse. Ani DiFranco said: “They say that alcoholics are always alcoholics / Even when they’re as dry as my lips for years / Even when they’re stranded on a small desert island / With no place within two thousand miles to buy beer.” Well, I’m not an alcoholic. But there I was, watching season six.

And hey, I was right: they didn’t make it any worse. In fact, the whole season was a heroic attempt by new show-runners to eradicate some of the worst mistakes of the previous horrible seasons, most importantly limiting the story to one main vampire-centered storyline. It was heartwarming to watch how the writers eliminated one useless character after another (but Sam still lingered, damn it) and struggled to make the vampire mythology interesting again after the Lilith nonsense and without giving everyone amnesia so that they could say the previous three years didn’t happen. Well, it wasn’t nowhere near as good as even season two but I still hadn’t believed it possible for them to get out of everything that happened and make a story that I would care for again. I felt that the new show-runners were kindred spirits: people who also loved the first seasons and wondered how the hell to return to what was once good about this show. (I guess they were in it for money but I’ll cling to my romantic notions.)

So I was firmly on board for the final season. Everyone knew it was the last one and I appreciated the chance to say goodbye, without any illusions anymore. And it was a decent season, once you shed most expectations. Now, I know people hated the finale. People who expected explosions, car chases and zombies found it boring and useless. But for me, and I’m sure for other fans who had a similarly unhealthy relationship to the show, it was a good closure. It made the courageous decision to stop trying to outrun itself and slow down enough to send off the characters gracefully. It ended on a peaceful note and I appreciate that.

So even though you stole hours of my life, True Blood, you treated me like a fool, screamed at me and refused to make sense, I will remember the good things: Sookie’s spunk, Eric’s meaningful looks, Jason’s lines, everything about Pam, and Jessica’s insane eyelashes.

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