SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Captain America and Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Orphan Black; Continuum; Captain Janeway and Geocentrism; The Expanse

Hannibal Chilton

 Yakimono provided an excellent start for the second half of this season of Hannibal. The episode answered the question of how they continue for several more episodes between the release of Will Graham from prison and the ultimate revelation that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper. Chilton had an agenda, but his plans did not work out: “Yes, I have an agenda. Living.” We knew after Hannibal winked at Chilton last week that he was doomed, but had no idea how complex his (apparent) death would be, along with the role of Miriam Lass. We found out why Hannibal kept Miriam alive, brainwashing her so that she would identify Chilton as the one who kidnapped her instead of Hannibal, and then shooting Chilton. This should serve to take suspicion away from Hannibal for several episodes.

It did take some foolish decisions by Jack Crawford for this all to play out as it did. Is it really plausible that Chilton had the strength to pull off all these murders, or that after covering his tracks so well would suddenly leave evidence out in plain site? Jack should have believed Will. Things were obviously not as they seemed. It didn’t make sense for Jack to go after Chilton alone if he believed he had really killed the FBI agents left in his home, but at least this didn’t affect the outcome. It was especially foolish for Jack to ignore all the warnings about Hannibal and take Miriam to Hannibal for hypnosis to “recover” her memory. Perhaps Jack will put this all together by the end of the season, or maybe Will will provide additional evidence against Hannibal.

Will remains the only one alive who has any idea what is going on, and decided that he preferred to get all the answers as opposed to killing Hannibal when he had the chance this week. Ultimately he returned to therapy under Hannibal, knowing that Hannibal would be unable to resist this request, and it might provide more information.

Abel Gideon is now dead and it appears that Chilton is also dead, but this is not certain. His death, along with the death of Beverly Katz, represent differences from Red Dragon. After Beverly was last seen cornered by Hannibal, Bryan Fuller did verify that she was dead in interviews, but he is being more vague about Chilton:

AVC: Chilton, correct me if I’m wrong, is the first character from the literature that you’ve killed who’s still alive in later books. Do you feel that shakes things up, or do you worry about not having that character to play later?

BF: [Frank] Serpico survived a bullet to the face.

Fuller explained Will’s motivations:

AVC: This episode ends with Will resuming therapy, and getting out of the hospital. Why did you need to pull him out of the hospital, and what is his thinking behind going back to the devil’s lair?

BF: The idea—and it’ll become much clearer in episode eight where you understand exactly what Will is up to—but it felt like we had completed the arc of the institution. We had Will very actively investigating Hannibal in his own way by not only going interior to his mind, but also using those around him who can be his own avatars out in the world to dig up clues. It felt like because we had completed the arc of the Chesapeake Ripper in some sense, that it was good to exonerate Will, and since he was never convicted of anything, it’s easier to get them out, once proof has been discovered that they’re guilty or innocent. So we wanted Will back out in the world, because we needed to continue to shift the dynamic of what’s happening between Will and Hannibal, and as we end this episode, seven, with “Let’s resume therapy,” we were launching a whole new psychological arc where it is Will and Hannibal. Will now, of clear mind, is beginning his own seduction of Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has been working very hard to seduce Will, and now, it’s up to Will to seduce Hannibal and perhaps lull him into a false sense of security, so he can ultimately be exposed.

AVC: Why do you think Will doesn’t kill Hannibal when he has the chance?

BF: Because I think he honestly wants to know why. I think there has to be—and I talked with Hugh Dancy about this quite a bit—there has to be an element of honest reality to Will’s fascination with Hannibal Lecter. This man built him up and destroyed him in the first season, and then continued to manipulate him through the first half of the second season. When someone is so invasive to your psyche and has had such an impact, if you ended them, it’s like, Hannibal successfully bonded with Will and had Will bond to him, and it was probably more painful to kill Hannibal, because Will knows that he is started on this journey into a very dark place, and Hannibal Lecter may be the only one who can help him understand it.

He also explained how Hannibal accomplished some of his murders, along with the limitations imposed by a television budget:

AVC: How much do you sit around and figure out how he does all this stuff?

BF: Well, we had a lot of stuff that we cut out that we simply couldn’t afford to produce. The show has a very tight budget, and it’s very streamlined in its storytelling. We had scenes where Hannibal goes down into his basement kill room, where we saw Beverly Katz go, and he goes through a door, and he goes into a steam tunnel, and you see him following that steam tunnel, and he goes down for like miles and miles and miles. So we essentially established a way for Hannibal to get in and out of his house without anybody seeing him and use underground steam tunnels throughout Baltimore to get around the city. We simply couldn’t produce it and couldn’t find the time. In our minds, he goes down in the basement and goes out a secret door into the steam tunnels, and that’s how he got to Chilton’s house, and that’s how he got back into his house without anybody noticing, but we couldn’t produce it, so we lifted that element and have the rationale in our brains, if anybody asks the question—but we just weren’t able to show you.

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Agents of SHIELD is finally becoming the show we wanted it to be. It is never going to be a spy show of the quality of The Americans, and remains behind Arrow in ability to turn a comic book world into successful television, but it has now become important to watch for those interested in the Marvel cinematic universe. Turn, Turn, Turn does a far better job of tying into Captain America: The Winter Soldier than previous episodes did with the attempts to tie into Thor: The Dark World. If you have not seen the episode, this contains major spoilers for both SHIELD and Captain America. If you have not seen either yet, I advise watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier before watching any further episodes of Agents of SHIELD, but if for some reason this is not possible it will still be possible to enjoy the episodes of SHIELD.

It is now apparent that Agents of SHIELD had been limited by the need to wait until the latest Captain America movie came out. The story line about the Clairvoyant was a distraction, with information really coming out due to the infiltration of SHIELD by HYDRA and not due to clairvoyance. It came as no surprise that Agent May was not the spy despite the suggestion of this last week and that instead she was reporting directly to Director Fury. The development of Coulson’s entire team makes more sense after learning it was based upon having the ability to repair, or if necessary kill, Coulson should there be problems after bringing him back to life with the alien blood.

The biggest surprise was to find that Agent Ward was working with Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA. Considering what a boring character he has been so far, this can be a welcome change in the show. Of course it is possible that the shooting of Hand and others was all staged with a gun shooting blanks and fake blood so that Garrett would trust Ward, allowing Ward to infiltrate HYDRA. Otherwise it seemed strange for Hand to tell Ward to kill Garrett when he was already in custody, and we already have two major characters who have come back from death or apparent certain death. This preview from next week’s episode portrays Ward as the villain, but again we don’t know if this is real or if he is faking to infiltrate HYDRA.

As we have a long time to wait for further movies, Agents of SHIELD can now provide a look into the Marvel universe. Will SHIELD rebuild as a major organization or will they just be fighting to survive and later get revenge against HYDRA? Presumably the show will set up the plans for what is desired for SHIELD in The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the next Captain America movie.

Captain America ended with Maria Hill applying for a job at Stark Industries and Cobie Smulders will be reprising this role on an upcoming episode. Samuel L. Jackson will also be appearing in the season finale. With Maria Hill working for Tony Stark and Nick Fury in hiding after faking his death, these episodes may or may not pertain directly to SHIELD, but should give some clue as to where they are going.

Besides the obvious tie-in to Agents of SHIELD, James Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Guardians of the Galaxy will tie into The Avengers 3.

Arpanet-The-Americans-3

The Americans tied into the early development of the Internet on Arpanet. Elizabeth and Phillip concentrated on placing a rather large bug on Arpnet for the Russians. The subplot with children concentrated on Henry instead of Paige. I hope that Elizabeth and Phillip are proud of how he is developing an interest in spying on neighbors.

The storyline with Nina, Stan and Oleg overshadowed the usual main storyline with Elizabeth and Philip this week. The entire storyline with Oleg has turned out different from how it first appeared. Instead of working on his own, it turned out that his actions were planned with the KGB, and the initial fears that he presented to threat to Nina were probably a false alarm.

Nina had no difficulty fooling the polygraph thanks to coaching from Oleg. The Americans effectively leaves open questions in episodes and then often answers them with revelations of further information in subsequent episodes. The final scene with Oleg and Nina in bed together raises questions as to whether this was a new development, perhaps due to Nina’s gratitude for Oleg’s help, or if this had been occurring off screen for a longer period. In retrospect, Oleg’s coaching of Nina, including about squeezing her anus and imagining him in the room, might suggest a closer relationship between the two at the time.

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I have concentrated on coverage of Hannibal and The Americans since each started its second season this winter as these are two of the best shows on television. A third show of this caliber, Orphan Black, returns for its second season on April 19. Entertainment Weekly spoke with Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett about some of the new characters for the second season, and the fate of one of the characters from the first season:

EW: Obviously one of the big cliffhangers from season 1 was Cosima’s illness. What can you say about that?
FAWCETT: Cosima’s illness is a major, major storyline in season 2. It’s something that is life or death for Cosima and then for everyone else. When someone is sick, it really kind of brings people together. I think that’s what we see from this. Now, Delphine and Cosima are in love, but Delphine’s kind of trapped in the middle. She does some bad things. But she does good things. She’s in love, but she’s still doing bad things. And trying to discover if there is a cure for Cosima is a big plot issue with season 2. And it’s something that carries through from episode to episode — this journey to try to find some sort of way to cure her.

There are also other excellent shows which I don’t discuss as often here. I am reluctant to speculate on Game of Thrones as those who have read the novels have such a tremendous advantage. It is also so much work trying to keep up with the names of all the characters. This chart might help. Person of Interest does not have as large a cast, but it is another genre show which is adding an increasing number of characters while gradually revealing more details about their back stories.  This character relationship chart might help keep track of all of them.

Continuum is another excellent science fiction show, but it is harder to review here since I’m watching it a few weeks ahead of most in the United States by downloading from Showcase. Minute Man, the second episode which aired in the United States this week, showed how Kiera became a CPS agent. While I will avoid being specific to avoid spoilers, future episodes to air provide more information about Kiera’s background and beliefs, some of which might be seen as positive and some negative considering her support for the future system.

Janeway

Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager (as well as Red on Orange is the New Black), did voice over work for a “documentary” which claims that the earth is the center of the universe. Lawrence Krauss had already been tricked into participating. Kate Mulgrew explained on her Facebook page:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew

Mulgrew’s work on a project claiming that the earth is the center of the universe led to inevitable jokes as to this explaining why Voyager was lost for seven seasons, but the real joke is the perversion of science coming from the right wing, adding geocentrism to creationism.

Filming for The Fall season 2 finally began this month. Colin Morgan, who previously starred in Merlin, joins the cast. This is a high quality mini-series well worth watching.

Syfy has had a hard time coming up with a major science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica ended. Defiance looked more interesting in its first season finale, but still is limited in scope. They are now looking into doing a series based upon The Expanse novels which does sound really promising.

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Another Study Showing No Medical Benefits From Prayer

Periodically there have been reports in which someone actually bothered to compare medical outcomes with and without prayer. As expected, no benefit was found from situations in which someone was praying for someone else without their knowledge (to remove any psychological benefits). Irregular Times has reported on another study:

Does prayer really work wonders? Not according to epidemiologst Maria Inês da Rosa.

Da Rosa and her research team published results of a double-blind randomized trial in the Brazilian Journal of Science and Public Health last year. Half of the more than five hundred pregnant women in the trial had their health prayed for from a distance by a prayer team. The other half received no such prayers. When Da Rosa’s team measured the apgar scores, type of delivery and birth weight of the two groups, there was no difference in pregnancy outcomes.

A few years ago, intercessory prayer researchers were promising a golden age in which they would supposedly prove the effectiveness of their religion. That’s not happening. Careful science is establishing the opposite.

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Denial Of Climate Change Is A Hoax

Climate change deniers often cite sources other than experts in climate science to support their position. They would have a tough time finding actual experts in the field to agree with them.

As geochemist James Lawrence Powell continues to prove, the only people still debating whether or not climate change is “real,” and caused by human activity, are the ones who aren’t doing the actual research. In an update to his ongoing project of reviewing the literature on global warming, Powell went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013, finding 10,885 in total (more on his methodology here). Of those, a mere two rejected anthropogenic global warming…

Adding this new data to his previous findings, Powell estimates that the going rate for climate denial in scientific research is about 1 in 1,000. The outliers, he adds, “have had no discernible influence on science.” From this, he comes up with a theory of his own:

Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic global warming is false. Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don’t have it.

What can we conclude?

1. There a mountain of scientific evidence in favor of anthropogenic global warming and no convincing evidence against it.

2. Those who deny anthropogenic global warming have no alternative theory to explain the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature.

These two facts together mean that the so-called debate over global warming is an illusion, a hoax conjured up by a handful of apostate scientists and a misguided and sometimes colluding media, aided and abetted by funding from fossil fuel companies and right wing foundations.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Hannibal; Orphan Black; Doctor Who; Star Trek; Person of Interest; The Americans; Continuum; Fox vs. Kristen Bell; Mad Men; Lost; Creationists vs. Cosmos

Arrow Suicide Squad

I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed by this week’s episode of Arrow, not because it was a bad episode (it wasn’t) but my expectations had been raised so high by all the hype over the introduction of the Suicide Squad. I did like how they tied it to Dingle and his ex-wife, but beyond them there was little time for anyone else other than Deadshot and Amanda Waller. Of course Shrapnel didn’t last very long. (Are we certain he is really dead–we never saw the body.) They probably could have used more time to flesh out the story further, perhaps as a two-part show. Dingle was definitely able to carry the episode as lead and if limited to one episode it also might have been better to just give him the entire episode. Most of the scenes with Oliver and Felicity, other than the final scene, were pretty much filler anyways. I know it is unconventional to leave out two of the biggest stars, but it would have made a stronger episode.

There were two scenes with Oliver worth noting. I have no idea how Slade could have had video of Shadow from the island and suspect this was a case of the writers going for a more dramatic scene at the expense of reality (even within the parameters of this series). I did like the ending, tying into not only Dingle but Oliver, and having a potential new ally against Slade. While she was introduced to the DC world long after I stopped reading Batman comics, I understand that the cameo by Harley Quinn is a huge deal for many fans. Collider spoke with producer Marc Guggenheim about the series and potential appearances from characters from the Batman universe:

How much of the Batman universe can you plug into this show, especially now with Gotham out there?

GUGGENHEIM:  That’s part of the ongoing relationship and discussions that we have with DC.  Things have not really changed with Gotham.  It’s the same thing that it always is, which is that we have an idea, we go to DC, we talk about it, and we find out where the lines are and which characters are available or not available.  I want to manage expectations with respect to Harley Quinn.  She was always intended to be an Easter egg.  I don’t want people to go in with incorrect expectations and walk away from Episode 16 disappointed.  But there is an element to the Easter egg that was not spoiled by the promo, that I think people will find a lot of fun. 

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

Question: There are a lot of people who know Oliver’s secret now.  Is that number going to go down, before the end of this season, or are more people going to find out?
MARC GUGGENHEIM:  I would say that that number is going to go up, before the end of the year.  By the finale, more people will know than currently do.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

GUGGENHEIM:  We talk in the writers’ room a lot about, are there too many characters that know and does it diminish the secret identity?  Where we have come from is the philosophy that, when members of our cast of characters know, it draws them into Oliver’s world and it draws them into the show more.  So, we tend to get more story out of people knowing than people not knowing.  You could say that too many people know, but we always use The Dark Knight trilogy as our compass, and a lot of people knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman, particularly by the third movie, and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of watching those stories unfold.  Obviously, there are different philosophies and different points of view.  For us, as writers, we always go towards whatever gives us more story, and more interesting story.  For now, at least, certain people knowing is more interesting than certain people not knowing. 

Quentin Lance used to be a detective.  How has he not figured out that Oliver is Arrow?

GUGGENHEIM:  Episode 19 pretty definitively answers that question, as far as Lance is concerned.  And the answer to that will surprise you.  It’s not something that you would expect.

I’m happy to hear they are addressing Lance. After a recent episode in which Lance saw Sara with Oliver and with the Arrow in a couple scenes I could not believe that he did not figure out that they were the same person.

More characters from The Flash will also be introduced in episode 19, The Man Under the Hood.

Hannibal Takiawase

Hannibal stressed a couple of themes this week which are pertinent to the series as a whole: death as an escape and unconventional psychiatric therapy. The first involved both the motives of the killer of the week (well played by Amanda Plummer) and a second storyline in which Hannibal was the villain not for committing a murder but for thwarting Bella’s attempt to die on her own terms. If the coin toss went the other way, would he have had Bella for dinner?

For a moment I thought that perhaps Will was going to win over a new ally but instead it is clear that Hannibal is going to have Beverly for dinner. If only she had taken Will’s claims more seriously, refrained from relating any suspicions to Hannibal, had passed on her suspicions to Jack, and had thought to have backup before falling into his trap.

Will might have lost one potential ally, but he is still not powerless despite being locked up, and now better able to play detective with the return of lost memories. As he does every week, Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with AV Club. Here is an excerpt about Will:

AVC: Will is getting his memories back, and you’re filling in some of the gaps in season one. Was that always the plan? Did you have thoughts of what had actually happened when you were writing last season?

BF: There was, once Will says, “The answers are in my head, and I’m going to find them,” I felt like we were obligated to tell that story and to keep peeling back the onion of his memory, or the pomegranate, as it were, peeling back membranes and finding these clusters of bloody seeds that he has to deal with. We did that with the intubation of the ear, and then we did that with the reveal of, on some level of consciousness, he was aware what was going on in Hannibal’s dining room when Gideon was there, and is able to access that it causes him to seek out Chilton, to see if he can help him answer some of the mysteries that are locked away in his mind. It felt like it was a way to keep Will active. He can’t actually go out to investigate things, as much as he can go in and investigate things, so we needed to have some device for him to continue his investigation. To be active while he’s incarcerated and going inside his mind felt like a really strong way to do that.

AVC: Did you struggle with finding ways for Will to be active?

BF: It was always part of the conversations when we were story-breaking. “Okay, Will’s not active enough. Will has to be driving this.” We are telling Will Graham’s story, so it was very important to seek out those ways to keep him active when he’s incarcerated. That was the big thing: We need to get outdoors and see him in his mind palace fishing to give us a sense of the power of his imagination and also the transportive power of imagination in general. I think we hear from survivors of terrible atrocities, and how they survive is their imagination. It’s such a wonderful gift, and there was a line that we cut from an episode where they talk about how imagination is the greatest virtual-reality machine known to man, and it’s between our ears. It’s that kind of, almost, masturbatory transportation where you can go someplace and make it as real as you need it to be in your mind, even though you’re locked in a cage.

Orphan Black insider video with Tatiana Maslany above. We already have a strong set of genre shows airing now with Arrow, Hannibal, Continuum, and The Americans. Orphan Black might be the best of them all.

Mark Gatiss has discussed the return of the Time Lords of Gallifrey to Doctor Who.

Blastr has the first hints about the third Star Trek movie since the J.J. Abrams reboot. I’m still waiting for a movie in which the original Spock recruits the Enterprise crew to fix the time line and save Vulcan.

The Americans had another great episode. Claudia is back, and they are trying to track down the killer from the first episode. I would assume that the couple who intervened in the final scene were involved. Last week Elizabeth used fear to get information from the poor janitor. This week she used other more womanly techniques for interrogation. Paige created problems again, this time by going to church and getting caught reading a Bible. Plus Nina might be in danger because of Oleg, and Martha might place Philip’s identity at risk. Arrow shows what a superhero show should be and The Americans sets a new bar for spy shows. This makes Agents of SHIELD look so weak in both genres.

Person of Interest Root2

I’ve also highly enjoyed the last couple of episodes of Person of Interest. The first was almost entirely flashback, filling in some major holes to date in the back story. It ended with Root in the present, leading into this week’s episode which was more centered around Amy Acker’s character. She can easily carry the show, just as Dingle could carry an episode of Arrow. I was happy to read in this interview that she will probably be in the remaining episodes this season.  It looks like she has her own team to rival Harold’s, with root more connected to the Machine.

In many ways Person of Interest is increasingly reminding me of Fringe. Both started by concentrating more on monster or case of the week episodes, but overtime the mythology of the show took over. The characters have become increasingly compelling as people beyond operatives. Root is by far my favorite to watch, and I enjoy seeing her developing relationship with Shaw (“I love it when you play doctor.”) At least the two get along better than Root gets along with Fusco, who constantly calls her “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I am trying hard to avoid any major spoilers on the season premiere of Continuum. Alec’s decision to use time travel has major repercussions, and is moving the show in a new direction. There is finally an answer to the central question of the show, as to whether the time line can be changed.

Now Fox (the network which says it might take a long time to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 because it took us 2000 years to find Noah’s Arc ) is attacking Kristen Bell for saying rich people should pay more because they can afford it. Incidentally, I received my copy of the script and digital download of the Veronica Mars movie last week after donating to the Kickstarter campaign, but have not had time to watch yet.

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Matt Weiner isn’t going to let much out about the upcoming season of Mad Men, but there was a little information at PaleyFest. Here’s what they said about Don Draper:

Don is even more aimless without his job.
Don Draper has had some dark moments, but he’s always had his job to fall back on and obsess over. “His marriage is in trouble, his relationship with his kids is tricky at best, and now work isn’t there,” said Hamm. “Don is trying to process his life and his place in his job, his career, his family, everything.” And he’s made some uncharacteristic mistakes of late, including the disastrous Hershey’s pitch. “That was a completely honest moment for him. He thought, I’m going to try this because it’s a step in the right direction,” said Hamm. “But it was a step in the exact opposite direction.” Don’t dismay, though. Hamm ended on a hopeful note: “There’s one principle to Don: He’s a survivor. He rises to the challenge.”

The Lost show runners discussed the finale at PaleyFest. No, the fan theory which I never believed that they were dead the whole time is not true.

Creationists are angry about Cosmos as Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t providing them with equal time to deny science. Last week’s episode did an excellent job showing how evolution is the foundation of modern biology. As there is tremendous evidence for evolution and zero for creationism, there is no reason to grant the creationists a moment of time (other than perhaps to further debunk their claims).

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Cosmos For Creationists

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A Fox affiliate in Oklahoma cut the only reference to evolution by cutting out fifteen seconds of the premiere episode of Cosmos. Reportedly this was accidental, just like the eighteen minute gap in the Watergate tapes. The above video shows further editing of Cosmos to appeal to the anti-science right.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Arrow; Revolution; SHIELD; The Americans; Almost Human; Does Ted’s Wife Die On How I Met Your Mother?; Continuum; Cosmos; Captain America; 24; Karen Gillan; Mad Men

Hannibal - Season 2

Sakizuki, the second episode this season of Hannibal, did an excellent job of blending a serial killer of the week story with the overall mythology of the show. Hannibal did track down the killer the FBI was hunting, but finished the killer’s job before the FBI got there. Only Hannibal could look so fashionable in a plastic suit, or convince the killer to become a part of his own work. Will Graham is doing an expert job of playing a cat and mouse game with Hannibal. He purposely looked beaten when saying, “I am the unreliable narrator of my own story” and asking for Hannibal’s help, but looks far stronger when alone, contemplating his next step.

The biggest tension of the show involved Hannibal and his psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier played by Gillian Anderson. There were moments when it was not clear if she would come out alive, with this tension increased by the knowledge that Anderson is involved in two other shows this season. Instead the episode made it plausible for Dr. Du Maurier to disappear for a while (or have a reduced) role without winding up visiting Hannibal for dinner. I suspect she will return towards the end of the season and be involved in Hannibal’s downfall, as foreshadowed by the start of last week’s episode, especially with her telling Will she believes him at the end of this week’s episode.

Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with A.V. Club. An excerpt:

AVC: Bedelia leaves town at the end. Obviously, you had limited time with the character because Gillian Anderson has another show…

BF: Another couple of shows!

AVC: What did you want to do with bringing her back, and how much of her backstory with Hannibal do you, as writers, know?

BF: There was a much bigger, broader, longer story to be had with Bedelia that I’m hoping we get to play out in some form in the future, but because of Gillian’s schedule, we were only able to get her for a couple of episodes at the beginning of the season, and we’re desperately trying to figure out how to get her to navigate her schedule and get her back to wrap up her story. Though we want the audience to think when they see the trailer for episode two that she’s going to get killed at the end. The idea would be to get her back. There’s so much cool stuff with her backstory and her relationship with Hannibal and how closely it parallels Will’s relationship with Hannibal, which would be explored in an episode toward the end of the season if we can figure out schedules.

AVC: She also tells Will that she believes his story. How important was it to you to give Will an unquestioning ally at this point?

BF: I think he needed it, because there was so much despair, and everybody was just assuming he was guilty of all of these crimes. I think he needed someone to say simply, “I believe you.” When I was writing that scene I teared up, because something so simple as someone saying, “I understand you, and I believe you,” when you’re in a dark, lonely place is such a beacon of hope. I love Gillian Anderson as a human being and as an actress. And I love Hugh Dancy as a human being and as an actor, so I was excited to get them in a scene together, especially one that was so still and eerie and wrought. I’ve always been inspired by this line from Damaged that Juliette Binoche says, which is, “Damaged people are dangerous, because they know they can survive,” and I paraphrased that in the last scene with Dr. Du Maurier and Will Graham, where there is a camaraderie in the damaged. You may feel you are alone in your damage, because it is such an interior experience to be damaged in that way, and then to have somebody come along who you know can know you in that way, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a glimmer of hope. So I was really excited about that moment, writing it, and even more excited when I saw the actors perform it, because I do think that there is a bond between Will and Bedelia that I hope we get to explore.

arrow-season-2-the-promise-still-01

Arrow picked up in The Promise where it left off last week with Slade in the Queen Mansion, but Team Arrow came to the rescue. The bulk of the episode, reversing the usual pattern, took place back on the island. Once again the show has greatly surpassed  most other attempts at bringing superheroes to the screen. The manner in which the back story is fleshed out on the island makes comic book scenarios in the present seem plausible, taking far less suspension of disbelief than is generally necessary to accept the conventions of superhero series. The scenes on the island also showed the first time Oliver ever put on his hood and Slade ever put on the Deathstroke mask in their attack on Ivo’s freighter. I wonder if we will see more of Dr. Ivo.

Revoloution Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher was a fun episode of Revolution, with the nanobots putting Aaron in the Matrix. Aaron was back in a world with electricity, seeing people he knows but who initially do not know him. Some took active roles in the story while Giancarlo Esposito was seen as a sleazy insurance salesman on billboards and television commercials. Although fun, the episode could have been much better if not for so many plot holes and being so predictable.

The premise was that the nanobots were trying to trick Aaron into solving a formula which would allow them to survive. As viewers we know they must survive as the destruction of the nanobots would mean they would not be around to eat all the electricity, ending the show (which might not be a bad thing). Just as we must suspend disbelief in the premise of nanobots which eat electricity which powers devices while ignoring the electricity in our nervous systems, we must grant the premise that the nanobots can mess around in Aaron’s brain but could not just force him to solve the equation or extract the information they needed.

Aaron’s mind fought back, first in the form of Charlie. Seeing her shot in the head was one of the highlights of the episode. After being chased by Horn, who represented Aaron’s greatest fears, he managed to wind up with Rachel, Miles, and Monroe. Aaron gave the nanobots the information they needed to manipulate him by telling Rachel he would never harm her. At first Rachel, Miles, and Monroe did not recognize Aaron, creating some drama, but then suddenly they knew everything. It was too easy. They came up with the idea that if Aaron fell in this “dream” he would wake up, unconcerned about horror stories in which death in one’s dreams results in death in the real world.

From here it was so predictable. Aaron appeared to wake up. Rachel was placed in danger, and Aaron gave in and solved the equation. Then (coming as no surprise) it was revealed that he was still in the Matrix. I would have expected Aaron to have seen enough science fiction to see that one coming.

SHIELD TAHATI

T.A.H.I.T.I. was revealed on this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be not the Island where Agent Coulson was rehabilitated after being brought back from the death but a room with possibly alien science which was used to save him. The show is certainly more fun to watch than in the early episodes, but remains a disappointment. Ignoring the superhero and science fiction elements, the show just remains impossible to believe. Among other problems, there are no consequences as would be expected in an agency of this nature. In a previous episode, Simmons knocked out a superior with no repercussions. It appears that this was totally consistent with the world in which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. operates.

The show opened with faux drama in having Bill Paxton as Agent Garrett coming to board Coulson’s plane for disobeying orders in keeping custody of Ian Quinn. False drama and no consequences once again as Paxton and Coulson worked things out. The handling of Quinn made me wonder if S.H.I.E.L.D. is really supposed to be the good guys or a parody of our worst fears of the Bush administration. It is understandable that Coulson would place a high priority on saving Skye’s life, but absurd to expect that he would attack a base, and kill those working there, when the base had to either be part of S.H.I.E.L.D. or another facility they were working with. Then more false drama when Coulson suddenly decided they should not inject Skye with the drug, followed by the drug magically healing her wounds.

The-Americans-Season-2-Episode-2

Fortunately The Americans presented a spy story which seems much more grounded in reality as it continued to deal with the repercussions of another undercover family being killed last week. Philip went to check if they guy in the drop knew anything but things didn’t go well between Philip and Fred at first. Philip’s efforts to gain Fred’s trust was far more compelling to watch than the relationship between Phil Coulson and Agent Garrett on SHIELD.  I loved seeing Elizabeth’s fear as the construction truck pulled up outside of their home, along with her side trip to help out another agent. What will Paige walk in on next?  Once again, there are so many story lines being expertly intertwined.

I was a little puzzled by Nina telling Stan about the walk-in at the Soviet Embassy. Certainly her handlers would realize that the embassy was being watched and the FBI would figure out who it was. Did the Russians have no real interest in Bruce Dameran? Did they just make a mistake allowing Nina to mention this, was it a mistake on Nina’s part, or on some level did Nina still want to help Stan?

Almost Human - Episode 1.13 - Straw Man - Promotional Photos (4)_FULL

One problem that Almost Human faced is that episodes were aired out of order. While there was no major continuing story line which required viewing the episodes in order, the most enjoyable aspect of the series was the relationship between John and Dorian. Seeing them out of order led to a couple of recent episodes which lacked this dynamic which had been filmed earlier. Fortunately the final two episodes of the season were done later when this relationship was better established.

It is unfortunate that, despite hints of developing an ongoing storyline, little came of this and the final two episodes were again essentially stand alone cases of the week. The season finale did concentrate on the dynamic between John and Dorian, with Dorian’s performance review. I had feared that they might run a cheap cliff hanger of having Dorian fail and be scheduled to be removed as John’s partner, only to have this reversed next season. Fortunately they did not succumb to a feeling they had to do a cliff hanger as far too many shows do. With or without a cliff hanger, this show was entertaining enough to return to next season. I just hope they do more to expand on some plot lines they hinted at this season, such as what really happened in the ambush at the start of the season and what is beyond the wall.

HIMYM MomA

How I Met Your Mother is winding down and this week’s episode, Vesuvius, did a lot to promote a fan theory which has been going around that the Mother had died before Ted began his stories, possibly with Ted actually winding up with Aunt Robin. The first episode of the series had viewers expecting it was a typical love story about Ted meeting Robin and eventually marrying her until the ending, That’s how I met your Aunt Robin.

There have been scenes suggesting that the Mother might not remain alive, but all have alternative explanations and are far from definitive. The most compelling was in The Time Travelers in which Ted was outside his future wife’s apartment and said,  “Exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet. I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” If the two were really to meet in 45 days and live a long life together, there would be little reason for Ted to be so concerned about getting those 45 extra days together.

In a fifth season episode, How I Met Everyone Else, Ted, Marshall, and Lily are seen at a reunion in 2020 and it was awkward when Ted asked, “Where is my wife?”

There are pictures of Neil Patrick Harris on the set of the final episode in regular clothes. Barney has said that the one time he doesn’t wear a suit is to funerals. Could he have been filming a scene of the Mother’s funeral?

All of these items, along with suspicious answers by the cast about the finale, could be explained in other ways. Vesuvius keeps theories that the Mother will die alive. Throughout the episode there is a sense of sadness in the way Ted looks at his wife in scenes of the two from 2024. The most suspicious scene of all was when there was mention of the present when Robin’s mother made it to the wedding. The big question, with tears filling both of their eyes was, “What kind of mother would miss her daughter’s wedding?” Were these tears of happiness for Robin as they thought back on her wedding day, or tears of sadness as the two realized that Ted’s wife was dying and would never see her daughter’s wedding? Was she dying in 2024, or worse was Future Ted revising the Inn with the ghost of his wife?

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Barney and Robin either wind up not getting married or if their marriage doesn’t last. In the final twist of the series, it could turn out that Ted and Aunt Robin are married. Then it would not matter as much that Robin could not have her own children as she might wind up eventually becoming the mother to Ted’s children. The series could easily be seen as an explanation to the children why Robin was the one he was meant to be with if their mother could no longer be with them.

This plan would have made a lot of sense when the series was first developed and fans rooted for Ted and Robin to get together. Now fans are strongly hoping it is not the case. Too much has changed. As absurd as the pairing of Barney and Robin was at first, fans now want them to succeed together. More importantly, fans have fallen in love with Cristin Milioti’s still unnamed character this season and having her die would be far too sad a way to end the series.

Another possible explanation for the scene in Vesuvius is that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas want to make us believe the Mother does have a serious illness in 2024, but in the end she survives. Perhaps they even changed their original plans after seeing  how this season has played out.

Moving on to another series involving time travel, Rachel Nichols and the cast of Continuum discuss season 3 in the video above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBTd9–9VMI

An updating of Cosmos was already a big event. We know so much more than when Carl Sagan first aired the show. As an example of how important this show is in an age of such tremendous misunderstanding and denial of science, the show is going to be introduced by Barack Obama.

Extended clip above of Captain America and Black Widow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Trailer for 24: Live Another Day

Clip of Karen Gillan in Oculus

As usual, previews of Mad Men tell us very little.

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Dogs Have Special Reaction To Human Speech

Liberals might like cats, but it might be their dogs who understand them. From PBS Newshour:

In a finding sure to delight many a dog lover, a study published Thursday suggests the brains of canines react to human voices in a very human-like way.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was conducted by scientists at Eotvos University in Budapest and concluded that dogs’ brains contain a vocal region that functions similarly to the region located in the temporal lobe of human brains. In addition, the researchers found that vocal emotional cues activated a similarly located non-primary auditory region of the brain in both humans and canines.

Translation? The next time you hear a pet owner say their beloved pooch can actually understand what they’re saying, they may be correct.

The study placed 11 well-trained pups and 22 human subjects inside an MRI machine and measured the location and response characteristics of electrical impulses in their brains after playing an array of 200 different noises for them ranging from car sounds and whistles to human voices. The findings were striking.

“We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds,” Dr. Attila Andics, the lead author of the study, explained to BBC. “The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain is a surprise — it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate.”

Beyond simple vocal recognition and processing, the study confirmed something dog owners have long suspected: dogs can understand and react to human emotions.

“We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners,” said Andics, “and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”

Andics said this points to the ancient history between humans and dogs, and that the evolutionary origins of the species’ relationship may have even older origins than previously known…

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Bill Nye and David Attenborough Respond To Science-Deniers on Evolution And Climate Change

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Sir David Attenborough have both worked hard to use the media to provide education on science. This task is especially important considering the vast ignorance of basic scientific concepts found in recent polls, and due to political groups intentionally spreading denial of science. Both Bill Nye and David Attenborough are now taking on attacks on science coming from creationists and climate change deniers.

There is a valid argument that the debate format is the wrong way to confront those who are intentionally giving arguments which are counter to fact, and Bill Nye is far more knowledgeable at science than in political debating. He still deserves credit for seeing the importance of confronting science-denial. I previously looked at Bill Nye’s debate against  Ken Ham on evolution. Over the weekend he confronted a Republican member of Congress on climate change. The video is above and the transcript is here. Coverage from Swampland:

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” told Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to stop questioning the facts behind climate change on Sunday morning, as the Congresswoman said the “engineer and actor” didn’t know enough about climate science to claim authority.

The two sparred over the the most appropriate response to extreme weather events and global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, and disagreed on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

Blackburn maintained that there is no consensus in the scientific community about global warming, pointing to two vocal dissenters, Richard Lindzen of MIT and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who claim that humans are not causing climate change.

“Neither [Bill Nye] nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists,” said Blackburn. “There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Experts say there is still some uncertainty in absolutely linking isolated extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or bad droughts to global warming, but the vast majority of scientists ascribe climate change and the increase in extreme weather to human activity.

Nye responded harshly to the Congresswoman.

“We have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing,” said Nye. “There is no debate in the scientific community. I encourage the Congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are our leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

More at Climate Progress.

Attenborough

David Attenborough has typically stayed out of these debates in the past, but The Daily Beast reports that he is now speaking out:

In the U.S. Attenborough is perhaps best known for the Life on Earth series that was broadcast on PBS in the 1980s, on the other side of the Atlantic he is an institution, recently winning a BBC poll to find the greatest living British icon. His work has often been diluted for an American audience, with his masterful narrations for Planet Earth and Life re-recorded by Alec Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey before they were broadcast on the Discovery channel. There have also been accusations that the U.S. network sought to downplay climate change in the shows.In fact, Attenborough says he has finally grown sick of America’s attitude to climate change. “I think it’s very sad that people won’t accept evidence for what it says—it’s extraordinary that one of the wealthiest, materially advanced societies in the world can support irrational myths in that way,” he said. “That they should do it privately is up to them but since what they do effects that whole world it’s pretty serious that they should not accept that humanity has been responsible for these changes that are absolutely evident to everyone else.”

You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Ignorance of Science In America

Earth From Moon

Last week I wrote about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution versus creationism. Many scientists were justifiably annoyed that this was even a topic of  debate. We are contrasting evolution, based upon a tremendous body of actual evidence, with creationism, a belief lacking any evidence which is based purely upon religious dogma. I’ve noted in the past that a disturbing number of Americans do not accept evolution, which provides the foundation of modern biology. While far more Republicans deny evolution than Democrats and Independents, the problem is not limited to Republicans.

We see ignorance of science in many areas. While the tobacco industry has pretty much given up the battle against evidence that cigarette smoking is hazardous, we see essentially the same type of anti-scientific misinformation being spread by the petroleum industry regarding climate change denialism. The recent death of Philp Seymore Hoffman of a heroin overdose raised the issue that there are people who remain unaware of the science demonstrating that addiction is a disease, not just a bad choice.

Unfortunately ignorance of science is widespread in this country, often impacting views on public policy. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a survey demonstrating this ignorance:

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

The result of the survey, which is conducted every two years, will be included in a National Science Foundation report to President Barack Obama and US lawmakers.

One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.

Nearly 90 percent said the benefits of science outweigh any dangers, and about the same number expressed interest in learning about medical discoveries.

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The Evolution vs. Creationism Debate

Creationist Debate

MacLeodCartoons sums up the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution vs. creationism in the cartoon above. This comes quite close to this summation of an exchange from The Guardian:

What is the one thing upon which you base your belief?

Ham: the Bible. There’s no other book like it. It tells us everything we need to know. Man is a sinner. The Gospel…Jesus died on the cross. Salvation, Jesus, God, God, the Bible. The Bible, the Bible, the Bible. God will reveal himself to you.

Nye: “I base my beliefs on the information and the process that we call science. It fills me with joy. It is a wonderful and astonishing thing to me. If we abandon all that we have learned, if we let go of everything we have learned before us, if we stop looking for answers, we will be defeated…We have to embrace science education. We have to keep science education in science classes.”

Here is another key exchange which sums up the difference between creationism and science in a nutshell. When asked what would change their mind, Ken Ham essentially replied “nothing” while Bill Nye replied “evidence.”

Ham-Nye-debate-in-a-nutshell

A more detailed recap of that portion of the debate:

What, if anything would ever change your mind?

Ham: I can’t prove it to you, but basically, God and Jesus. “The Bible is the word of God.” No one will ever convince him that the word of God is not true. Like, ever.

Nye: “We just need one piece of evidence like a fossil that swam from one level to another.” We would need evidence that rock layers could form in 4,000 years. Bring me any of those things and I would change my mind immediately.

Many things were said without responses. This included Bill Nye asking if Kangaroos got off the Ark in the middle east, why are they only in Australia, and not even a fossil of one anywhere else? I would have liked to hear an answer to that one.

Ken Ham is a young earth creationist, the craziest of the crazies. Even Pat Robertson thinks that young earth creationism is a joke.

More commentary here, here, and here.

Video of the debate here:

Unfortunately many schools which receive public money teach creationism. Slate put together this map as to where they are located:

Creationism Schools

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