SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, World Enough and Time; Carrie Coon In Ambiguous Finales On The Leftovers & Fargo

World Enough and Time was an excellent way to move into the season finale of Doctor Who, and a near final chance for Steven Moffat to go meta. The episode began with a scene of the Doctor regenerating, which presumably will be continued next week. The actual story got underway with Missy exiting the TARDIS saying, “Hello. I’m Doctor Who.”  Moffat has often liked to play with the show’s title by setting up situations where people ask “Doctor Who?” as a question. Missy said she was “cutting to the chase,” saving time from having to go through the introduction and follow up question, but then went on to claim it is his real name.

Bill had struggled with this issue in Pilot arguing that, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

In recent years you could often tell that people talking about the show were not actual viewers when they made reference to the lead as Doctor Who as opposed to the Doctor. Now we have Bill questioning why Missy called herself Doctor Who. Missy claimed it was his real name and the Doctor did not deny this. DoctorWho TV says that Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Eccleston, and Tennant were all credited as “Dr. Who” or “Doctor Who.”

Moffat also played with the role of the companion. Missy called them her assistants, which was more common in the classic shows. When Bill objected to being called Missy’s “plucky assistants,” she asked what he does call them, “companions, pets, snacks?” Neither the words “assistant” or “companion” are actually used very often on the show and Bill said that the Doctor called them friends. Missy claimed that only Time Lords can be friends to each other and “anything else is cradle snatching.” Missy also saw them as “disposable” with their names not mattering. Instead they had their roles, “exposition and comic relief.”

We learned via flashbacks that this was all a test for Missy. The Doctor not only wanted Missy to be good, he has unrealistically wanted her to be like him. While Bill objected that Missy is a murderer, the Doctor showed a different moral code, noting that Bill could similarly be seen as a murderer from the perspective of the pig who died for her bacon sandwich. The Doctor decided to graze for distress calls and look for a good one, like their usual Saturday. This might also refer to how the show airs on Saturdays. The Doctor explained how Missy is “the only person I’ve met who is only remotely like me.” This could refer to them not only being Time Lords, but also both being renegades in their own way. After all, the Doctor did steal the TARDIS and has often been at odds with the Timelords.

The Doctor spoke about Missy as having been his best friend from when they first met at the Academy. “She was my man-crush.” He further explained, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure I was one too. It was a long time ago, though.” He also told Bill, “We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and associated stereotypes.” Bill noted that despite this, they still call themselves Time Lords She hasn’t had the experience with them to also question how advanced the Time Lords really are.”

This might be Moffat’s answer to the controversy over whether there will be a woman playing the Doctor. The actual decision is no longer in his hands but if the regeneration of the Master as Missy was not enough, this scene firmly sets in cannon that it is possible to have a woman Doctor. It is not actually possible that the Doctor could have been anything but a man at the Academy unless he had another regeneration which we are aware of, and has not been counted like the War Doctor. While there were questions in the past whether William Hartnell played the first Doctor, the count was established during the Matt Smith era (with the War Doctor creating some wiggle room). While it is unlikely the Doctor was ever a woman, we have seen other woman in a near-Doctor role. This includes Moffat having River Song, Clara Oswald, and Ashildr (the guest role played by Maisie Williams) all pilot a TARDIS.

Bill did not feel safe playing Missy’s companion, and asked the Doctor to “promise you won’t get me killed.” He could not do that, with this flashback scene played right Missy was shot.

The first sixteen minutes of this episode were a great opening sequence. Unfortunately the ending of the show suffered because the realities of the modern world. It would be impossible for them to have filmed scenes with the Cybermen without this news getting out and spreading rapidly on line. Therefore they made no attempts to keep this a secret, announcing that both the original Mondasian Cybermen and the John Simm Master would be present. Stephen Moffat had also warned that one of the trailers would give away a lot.

The episode certainly would have been even greater when watching if we were not aware that the Cybermen were present. The episode set up a fascinating scenario in which a four hundred mile colony ship caught by a black hole had time pass at a far greater speed at the far end than at the other.  Again going meta, this later allowed Bill to view the Doctor in slow motion on a monitor and explain his actions. It also led to a situation in which people trapped on the ship were driven to drastic measures, giving a new explanation for the genesis of the Cybermen.

There were many clues throughout the episode that Cybermen were involved. The hole in Bill’s chest was fixed, with the surgeon saying, “full conversion wasn’t necessary.” Words such as “conversion” and people being “upgraded” provided clues, along with people partially through the process with Mummy-like facial covering like the original Mondasian Cyberman. Later Missy found that the ship was not from earth but from Mondas. It became increasingly obvious when the rod-like headgear was shown to be added to those converted so they would not care about the pain. If someone had not known going into the episode that it was about Cybermen, I wonder how long it took to figure it out.

The other surprise which was tipped off was that Razor turned out to be the Master in disguise. In the past, the Master has used names which were anagrams. In this case, presumably the destructive nature of razors has some meaning in the choosing of the name.

On a personal level this could be one of the most evil acts by the Master–facilitating the conversion of Bill while the Doctor was on his way to save her. She had listened to him and waited, like a tragic variation of The Girl Who Waited. This betrayal seems even more evil  on the part of the Master considering that, due to the effects of the black hole, Bill had spent years with the Master before the Doctor could make it down the elevator to come after her.

The John Simm version of the Master was certainly playing a long game here, but I imagine that is no different than Matt Smith defending a planet before his regeneration or Peter Capaldi agreeing to guard the tomb (even if he didn’t follow through with that). The Master has a lot at stake: “I’m very worried about my future.” Missy does not recall being on the ship previously. While difficult to understand, there have been similar memory issues on episodes involving multiple versions of the Doctor.

We have a certain symmetry here. Steven Moffat has seen Peter Capaldi, an older actor, as being like William Hartnell. Harnell played the first Doctor, while Capaldi is the first of the new regenerations granted to Matt Smith. There have been references to the first Doctor, such as with the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk at the university. The Mondasian Cybermen were introduced in the 1966 episode, The Tenth Planet, in which the first doctor died and regenerated.

A big question here is whether the Doctor dies next week, or if this is to occur in the Christmas episode. In some interviews Moffat has suggested he is going to handle the regeneration differently, and questioned if Christmas is the best time for a death. We already know that the first Doctor will be appearing in the Christmas episode, to be played by David Bradley who played William Hartnell in the documentary An Adventure In Space In Time.

It is just a guess, but I’m speculating that the Doctor really does die and go into a regeneration cycle next week. This could have his meeting with the first Doctor as an adventure inside  his own head, comparable to one’s life passing before their eyes. It could be like a longer version of Peter Davison’s regeneration scene in which his companions appear in his head begging him not to die, while the Master encouraged him to do so. Alternatively it could be a final trip through time for the Doctor in his final moments, just as David Tennant visited his past.

We also do not know for certain if Bill will be returning, but it is believed that Chris Chibnall will be starting with a clean slate. Pearl Mackie stated in a radio show that she has met with Chris Chibnall and gave no indication that her status was final, but she might have just been avoiding spoiling the season finale. Her conversion to a Cyberman could very well be Bill’s fate, although this still would not prevent her from helping the Doctor next week. On the other hand, Steven Moffat has avoided killing companions who are leaving, and also might not want a fate like this for her. Amy Pond went into the past and Clara Oswald went on to explore the universe with Ashildr despite being on her last heartbeat. River Song not only escaped death, but appeared multiple times afterwards (at earlier times in her timeline). Perhaps the conversion isn’t final for Bill. Even if she cannot become human again, maybe she can go off and travel through space and time with her friend from Pilot.

There have been multiple season finales to discuss recently, including American Gods, Gotham, and Better Call Saul. I’m going to begin with two this week, The Leftovers and Fargo, as they both have something in common. Both end with Carrie Coon sitting at a table and telling a story to a male lead on the show, with the episode ending in ambiguity. Both are in the tradition of The Sopranos in having an ending which people might be talking about for a long time afterwards.

The finale of any show by Damon Lindelof is going to be compared to the conclusion of Lost. Lindelof handled matters much better with The Leftovers. Neither series could ever have a finale which tied things up. While The Leftovers did not have anywhere near as many episodes and mysteries to tie up, it is based upon a novel which specifically avoided giving any answer for its central event–the rapture-like disappearance of two percent of the world’s population. The episode actually gave more of an explanation than I ever expected, even if not clear if true, leaving me more satisfied than after Lost, while still leaving plenty to wonder about.

For a while the series finale of The Leftovers  was very hard to figure out. After Kevin found Nora he acted as if most of what the two had gone through together on the series never occurred. Was this yet another reality, or perhaps she had gone over and there was another version of Kevin there. Were they in purgatory? Later it became clear that this was our earth when Nora spoke with Laurie on the phone. Ultimately this was explained as Kevin telling a story as a way for them to start over after being apart for several years.

The episode ended with Carrie Coon’s character, Nora, telling a remarkable story to Kevin, but not necessarily any stranger than what we have seen on the show. Two things make it hard to tell if the story is true. She went into a chamber which supposedly was going to send her to where the missing two percent were. At the final moment, as the chamber was filling up with a fluid, she opened her mouth. Was she gasping to hold her breath as instructed, or was she exercising the option of telling them to stop? Those controlling the device had made a point of saying they could hear her the whole time.

It is also not possible to determine if the story was true because we never saw any of the adventure described. All we know is what Nora said.

The description of the episode was “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.” This is exactly what happened with an answer which felt good at the time but which actually left key matters unexplained, and which may or may not be true.

Nora told a story of going to another place which was exactly like our world, except that to the people there ninety-eight percent of the world had disappeared, instead of two percent like in our world. Naturally their world was changed far more.

If her story was true, we know nothing about how this happened, or about events such as the world Kevin seemed to go to in two episodes when he died and returned. However, we would know that there is a physical explanation for reality being divided in two, with a physicist even developing a way to travel between the two realities. Instead of a religious rapture, people were not divided into those taken and left behind. They just wound up in one of two possible places.

Damon Lindelof had even spoken in interviews of filming such a scene in the pilot showing everyone else disappearing from the perspective of one who disappeared from our earth, giving some plausibility to Nora’s story on a meta level. Within the episode, there are arguments both for believing and disbelieving Nora. She even seemed surprised that Kevin believed her. She said, “You do?” He responded,”Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.”

In various interviews Lindelof discussed how this was written to leave things open for interpretation, how those on set changed their minds about whether Nora was telling the truth, and also claims there was a clear intention as to whether she was telling the truth–which he will not reveal. From USA Today:

…Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

What matters at the end of the day? That Kevin is just glad to be in the same room again with a tearful Nora telling him, “I’m here.”

“Whether he actually believes her or he wants to believe her because this will allow them to be together, that’s the $64,000 question,” Lindelof says. “But what is very clear at the end of the series is that these two people are going to be together and they’ve suffered enough. I hope.”

However, Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

Watching the show I thought it is possible that Kevin only said he believed her because he wanted to be together and didn’t really care what had  happened. An interview with Lindelof at The Daily Beast  does confirm that Kevin does believe her:

They’re together, but Nora never actually reunited with her kids.

There’s a number of different ways of looking at that. One potential interpretation is that that didn’t happen at all. That she chickened out and got out of the voice and put herself in self-induced exile and made the story up because it was the story that she needed to tell herself and the story that Kevin needed to hear for them to be together. That’s a cynical interpretation, but it’s one that I’ve heard.

Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who think she made it all up.

Another interpretation is that when she saw her children and they were happy that she suddenly realized, “Who am I to come jamming into their happiness after seven years. There’s not a place for me in this unit anymore.” Not to mention that her husband has been cheating on her and he’s with another woman and her children have learned to be without her. So she must learn, too.

But if you take her story at face value, there’s nobility in her gesture. I think Nora is an incredibly brave and stoic character, and the idea that she went all the way to the top of Everest and then just didn’t plant her flag there. She realized, “Oh. Why did I need to climb Everest again? I think it’s time for me to go back down to the mountain and reevaluate things.” I think there’s nobility in that, too.

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

I can’t tell you what to believe and what not to believe in a show that is based on people telling insane stories. I think that Kevin does believe her and he is the audience’s proxy. Nora is surprised. She’s like, “You do?” Because the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back. But hopefully it becomes, over time, less and less important whether it is literally true and more and more important that it was emotionally true. I’ve learned the hard way not to tell the audience what to believe and what to think and what to feel.

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

We don’t know if Nora’s story was true.

If we showed it, you would know that it was true. By not showing it, you have to believe that it’s true, if that makes any sense. I think that what’s important is Kevin says that he believes her, and she seems surprised by that. She says, “You do?” And he says, “Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.” That’s kind of everything we have to say about how relevant the truth is, because if a belief system works for you, if it brings you together with the people that you love, it’s actual veracity is secondary to what that belief system basically gets you. That’s not like self-help guru promise bullshit, that’s the way that I think things work. I think that this finale and this season and this series is packed with people who are telling stories. Part of the territory, the very rich territory that we wanted to explore was: Are any of these stories true? Or do these stories have an added veracity because they’re told in a world where this crazy supernatural event happened? Or are they all bullshit? We want the audience to be thinking and feeling and wrestling with all of those questions.

What our intention was in writing the scene is 100 percent clear. I would never be like, “Well, that’s up to you to decide. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.” No. The writers had a clear intention. I will bring with me to my dying day exactly what our intention was in whether or not Nora’s story is true by the metric of “did it actually happen.” That said, Carrie Coon and I never talked about that. She just read the script and then played it. Mimi Leder and I never talked about whether or not it was true. She just read the script and directed it. And so the more interesting question is: When the same scene is basically interpreted by multiple artists, what is the truth, even? I think it is sort of a fascinating Rorschach test in a sense that if you’re an agnostic or an atheist and you didn’t want an answer to where all the departed people went, you’re probably not going to believe Nora’s story. Even if you had been multiple times that you weren’t going to get the answer, but when Nora gave it to you and you felt relief, you’re probably going to want to believe her story. Again, all that matters to us is that Kevin really does believe it. There’s no ambiguity about that. And his belief in her story is going to allow them to be together, because now they’re both present, probably for the first time.

There are arguments both for and against believing Nora. She certainly had this story down and was ready to tell it when Kevin arrived. At one point during this episode Nora had even said, “I never lie.” She left Kevin at the wedding after she couldn’t handle the story Kevin was making up, appearing to be opposed to dishonesty. However we have seen her lie, such as in initially denying that she knew Kevin when she was told he was looking for her. Much of the series has been about the stories people tell themselves to explain events.

I wonder if Lindelof was giving away the answer when he said in the interview from The Daily Beast that, “the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back.” There were  points in the story when I did question it. It is a little hard to understand how she could arrive in the other place naked and with no money, but ultimately make it from Australia to the United States, but this felt more like the type of suspension of disbelief which is commonplace in genre stories. It was a realistic touch that, with only two percent of the world’s population left, it was not possible to support an airline industry.

I found it more surprising when Nora described returning to her old house. While it was no surprise that her husband and family had moved on and were involved with someone else, it is questionable that in such a world, with its infrastructure destroyed by the loss of so many people, her family would still be living in the same house. Most likely there would be a tendency for those remaining to join up into communities with others. It is also hard to believe that the physicist would, and could in this world, remake the machine just to send her back. If two-way travel had been developed, it is also hard to believe that there would not be others coming back here and word getting out.

Many arguments can be made for whether Nora was telling the truth, and my answer would probably be that there is no answer if Lindelof hadn’t messed with our heads by claiming there is an answer.

Fargo typically ends each season, which tell an independent story, with characters receiving punishment in some form. This was more ambiguous this season, and also ended with Carrie Coon sitting at a table saying something which may or may not be true. In this case her character believed what she was saying, but we were then given reason to question if she was right.

The beginning of the end occurred when Nikki confronted Emmit Stussy and it appeared that she was going to kill him to get revenge for Emmit having killed his brother (and Nikki’s boyfriend). Instead there was a freak shoot out between Nikki and a police officer who came along, with both killing the other. This is definitely believable in the world of Fargo. Emmitt appeared to have a happy ending, until years later when he was shot in the head

This left Varga, the real villain of the story, at large. In the jump forward, Carrie Coon had moved on to another job at the Department of Homeland Security. Varga was identified at an airport and pulled into a room by Coon’s character, Gloria Burgle. Her talk with him led up to her telling him what was going to happen next:

Let me tell you what’s going to happen next. Three agents from homeland security are going to put handcuffs on you and take you to Rikers and then we’re going to charge you with felony money laundering and six counts of conspiracy to commit murder. And then I’m going to go home to my son — it’s his birthday tomorrow. I promise I’d take him to the state fair.

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

No. That’s not what’s going to happen next. What’s going to happen next is this. In five minutes that door is going to open and a man you can’t argue with will tell me I’m free to go. And I will stand from this chair and disappear into the world, so help me god. Trust me the future is certain. And when he comes you will know without question your place in the world.

The camera then looked at the door and the episode ended, like The Sopranos ending by going to black without revealing what happened. We never saw whether three agents from homeland security came through next and put him in handcuffs, or if a lone man came through and ordered him to be released. Varga was right so many times during the season, and appeared to be in control. It is impossible to ignore the possibility that he could be right.

There is no correct answer here, and perhaps it does not matter. Whether or not Varga gets away with his crimes, there will always be those who do.

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight stems from “Our living in a complicated moment in time,” he says, referring to the President Donald Trump era.

“If I present you with a choice, you have to decide how that door is going to open and if it’s going to end well. It still has a happy ending if you’re an optimist. It just becomes a more active process. It’s an allegory to the conversation we’re having at this moment. How will we treat each other? Is it American carnage?” adds the EP.

But poor Nikki. Did she really have to die? “There was a degree of playing that by ear,” explains Hawley. “I wanted to save her, but I also didn’t want it to feel like a movie twist. At the end of the day, Fargo is a tragedy.”

In regards to Emmit, he’s a standard Fargo archetype; the guy in the middle, a la Martin Freeman’s Lester or William H. Macy’s Jerry, who always has to choose between right and wrong. The accidental murder of Emmit’s criminal-like brother Ray (also portrayed by McGregor) early on urged viewers to have an ironic respect for Emmit. We only sympathize with him further as the underdog as he remains under Varga’s thumb. But with Nikki dead, Hawley relied on Mr. Wrench, a deaf henchman from Season 1, “as the final arbiter of justice. He’s not in their story, he’s an outsider, and he can dispense the cosmic justice that Nikki tried and failed.”

“There aren’t any real heroes and villains, especially if I can make you empathize with these people,” Hawley says of his storytelling technique. “It complicates the violence that’s going to come, and I don’t want people cheering for the violence.”

The article also reports that it is undetermined whether there will be a fourth season:

“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.

“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.

It  makes sense that any decision on a fourth season be based upon whether there is a story idea good enough to justify it. Many shows have been continued far longer than they should be. It  is also a good thing that there is no pressure on FX to make a decision by next season. It is better to wait until any future seasons can be done right.

The article also reveals that, in addition to his work on Legion, Hawley will be doing a limited series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963  novel Cat’s Cradle.

SciFi Weekend: Bryan Fuller Named Star Trek Showrunner; Valentines Day For Marvel Heroes; Agent Carter; Gilmore Girls; Flash & Supergirl; Outlander; 11/22/63; Better Call Saul; House of Cards; Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton As Comic Book Leads

Bryan Fuller Star Trek
Bryan Fuller has been named to be the showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek television series on the CBS All Access streaming service starting in January 2017. Fuller has certainly demonstrated his skills in running a first class genre series with his work on Hannibal. He is also a long time Star Trek fan:

“My very first experience of ‘Star Trek’ is my oldest brother turning off all the lights in the house and flying his model of a D7 Class Klingon Battle Cruiser through the darkened halls. Before seeing a frame of the television series, the ‘Star Trek’ universe lit my imagination on fire,” said Fuller. “It is without exaggeration a dream come true to be crafting a brand new iteration of ‘Star Trek’ with fellow franchise alum Alex Kurtzman and boldly going where no ‘Star Trek’ series has gone before.

Fuller also has experience with Star Trek, including writing two episodes of Deep Space Nine (which he has called his favorite Star Trek series) and twenty episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

Variety reports that “The creative plan is for the series to introduce new characters and civilizations, existing outside of the mythology charted by previous series and the current movie franchises.” This still leaves open whether it will occur in the Roddenberry or Abrams time line, at what point it time it will occur, and whether it will encompass the entire Star Trek universe or be more limited as Voyager was.

For Valentines Day we have a special edition of Marvel Super Heroes in the video above.

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, there is now a question as to whether Agent Carter will return as Haley Atwell has been cast in a pilot for an ABC drama entitled Conviction. It sounds doubtful that she will return to Agent Carter if the pilot is picked up, although this is a series which might return at any point in the future as time allows.

Girlmore Girls Rory Jess

Being Valentines Day, it is also significant that yet another of Rory’s old boyfriends has been cast for the Gilmore Girls revival, now adding Milo Ventimiglia. In an unexpected addition, Sutton Foster has also been cast. Will she reprise her role as Michelle and make this a Gilmore Girls/Bunheads cross over episode, will Foster play another Lorelei stand-in, or will she have an entirely different part.

Supergirl Flash Instragram

Grant Gustin has uploaded the first picture of himself and Melissa Benoist in this Glee reunion and Flash/Supergirl cross over.

The latest trailer for Outlander deals with attempting to change the future due to Claire’s knowledge of history. Outlander returns on Saturday, April 9th at 9pm ET.

11.22.63 also deals with attempts to change historical events. It premiers tomorrow and it is disappointing that USA Today gives it a very poor review, advising to just watch the final episode if you are curious as to what happens. The New York Times and IGN have more mixed reviews. Adaptations of Stephen King novels do not have the greatest track record on television, as with Under The Dome.

The New York Times has a much better review for Better Call Saul, which returns for its second season tomorrow.

The latest trailer above for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which premiers on March 25th, 2016.

Syfy has renewed The Magicians for a second season.

Aniz Ansari’s Master of None has been renewed by Netflix for a second season.

House of Cards  returns to Netflix on March 4th. Trailer above.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle for a third season. The show recently Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe awards and Gael Garcia Bernal won for Best Performance in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.

Bernie Sanders Comic

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are the stars of their own comics. More on the comics here.

SciFi Weekend: New and Returning Shows For 2016, And Other Genre News

There has been a reduced television schedule so far this year, (giving me time to watch the second seasons of Catastrophe, Mozart In the Jungle, and Tranparent), but many shows are starting or coming back soon. Blastr has a list of nine science fiction shows premiering in January. I have already discussed Legends of Tomorrow and the revival of  X-Files several times in the past. The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow,which premieres on CW on Januray 21 is above.  ScreenRant discussed Sara  Lance’s mental state on the new series with Caity Lotz.

As for the three shows I mentioned watching above, Catastrophe‘s second season was broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 late last year but is not availably yet on Amazon, while the second seasons of the other two shows recently became available. The first season of Catastrophe, which I ranked as the best new comedy of 2015, is available on Amazon.

Getting back to the science fiction shows premiering this month, I have heard some favorable buzz for The Shannara Chronicles which began on January 5 on MTV. Nerdist interviewed the executive producer, Miles Millar. Other shows on the list which have received the most interest so far have been The Magicians (with Syfy streaming the pilot early) and Colony (with initial reviews being better for the first). Initial buzz has been negative for Second Chance, and there are questions as to whether Lucifer can make it on a major network.

There will be many additional genre shows premiering later in the year, along with the return of other shows. What Culture has a list of original shows appearing on Netflix this year, including Daredevil, which returns on March 18 (trailer above).

Supergirl returned last week, resolving the cliff hanger of Cat figuring out her secret identity just as I predicted last Sunday.

Sherlock returned for a single episode,The Abominable Bride, on New Year’s day. Those of us expecting a self-contained story in Victorian times were surprised by what was actually done with the episode and how it actually played into last  season’s cliffhanger.

ABC has ordered a pilot for the Agents of SHIELD spinoff, Marvel’s Most Wanted. The series will center on Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood).

Among the shows I’m most interested in seeing, 11.22.63 premiers on Hulu on February 15, with new episodes being released weekly as opposed to all episodes being released at the same time as on Netflix and Amazon. (Trailer above.) There will be some changes from the Stephen King novel. More here and here, plus J.J. Abrams also addressed the controversy over the female lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here) being left out of the Star Wars themed Monopoly game.

In my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I noted how the novelization has filled in some plot holes. Mashable has more from the novelization. In addition, the script has been released which also provides further explanation of some plot points.

"YHWH" -- Finch (Michael Emerson, left) and Root (Amy Acker, right) race to save The Machine, which has been located by the rival AI, Samaritan, while Reese is caught in the middle of the final showdown between rival crime bosses Elias and Dominic, on the fourth season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 5 (10:01-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

J.J. Abrams also says that Person of Interest will probably end after this season, which is no surprise considering how it is receiving a reduced thirteen episode run and has not made the schedule for this season yet. As long as it ends well this season, that is fine with me. The show gradually changed over time from primarily a procedural show to a true science fiction show, and it is better to have it end well as a great genre show as opposed to continuing indefinitely as a typical CBS procedural.

Like Person of Interest reinvented itself this year, Blacklist has also been considerably different from how it began. It was also off to an excellent start in this week’s episode. Unfortunately I don’t know  how much longer they can continue this storyline for.

The trailer above shows how the second season of Outlander will be much different from the first when it returns in April.

While not genre, another show of interest, Love, from Judd Apatow and staring Gillian Jacobs of Community will be released by Netflix on February 19.

HBO has renewed Girls for a sixth and final season. The fifth season begins on February 21.

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

Better Call Saul returns for its second season on February 15. Trailer above.

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

Besides all the speculation as to the fate of Felicity, there have been rumors that Stephen Amell would leave Arrow, presumably ending the series, in the next year or two. Amell responded by saying his contract runs through 2019 (which doesn’t guarantee that CW will continue the show that long).

Laura Dern has been added to the cast of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. While her role has not been announced, there have been rumors that she might play Special Agent Dale Cooper’s previously unseen secretary, Diane. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn,  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Knepper, Balthazar Getty and Amanda Seyfried. The first three were from the original cast.

Coal Hill School

Class, the Doctor Who spinoff from BBC Three taking place at Coal Hill School, will also be available on BBC America sometime in 2016, but no date has been set yet.

Doctor Who has made the short list for the National Television Awards in the Drama category. It is up against Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, and a show I am not familiar with named Casualty. Humans is among the nominees for New Drama. Downton Abbey has completed its run in the U.K. (doing a good job of concluding the series) and has resumed in the United States.

BBC America is also working on a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.

There is now hope that Parenthood will return in some form, with Jason Katims being inspired by the movie Boyhood to return to the lives of the major characters over time. (Review of the finale here). It is interesting that two of the shows which might return in such a manner both star Lauren Graham, with a revival of Gilmore Girls now being filmed. Katims made it sound unlikely that the rumored follow up of his other show, Friday Night Lights, will return.

Yahoo Screen has been discontinued, making it even less likely that Community will ever return.

Sylvester Stallone discussed running for office and Donald Trump with Variety.

Update: News came in overnight that David Bowie died of cancer. The New York Times reports:

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Mr. Bowie’s death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

He died after having cancer for 18 months, according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social-media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.

His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Following is a video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2014:

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:

  • Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
  • Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
  • Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
  • If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.

Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.

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19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

A time travel show which took aspects from the movie, but improved upon them for a weekly series. The series did an excellent job of building on its mythology, providing surprises, and moving in a new direction in the season finale.

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Mr Norrell (EDDIE MARSAN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)

An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

12. Supergirl (CBS)

Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.

agent-carter_promo-cast-photos-616x462

10. Agent Carter (ABC)

This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story.  Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.

kimmy23f-6-web

9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of  Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

A cyber-thriller which is totally different from what anyone would expect from a show on USA. The show gave a lot of hints about one element which was not confirmed until later in the season, but still came up with surprises along the way. The season finale also left room for a lot more.

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul greatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.

Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well.  While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.

Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of  near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.

Honorable Mention

Grace and Frankie Season 1 netflix handout .... Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.

Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.

Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central) were two excellent additions to light night television, a genre which I arbitrarily left out of the rankings. They help make up for the loss of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. I haven’t actually watched much of Larry Wilmore but he has been hilarious when I’ve seen clips. I’m looking forward to seeing him host the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.

Besides the above changes on late night television,  this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).

Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.

Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).

SciFi Weekend: Season Finales of Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, and Veep; Hannibal And Creating Monsters; Breaking Bad Cast News

Orphan Black Season 3 finale

Orphan Black concluded its third season with more answers, bigger questions, a cliff hanger, and several clones together. Last season ended with the clone dance party, and this season began with Helena’s dream baby shower. In the third season finale, History Yet To Be Written, several clones were together, seemingly out of danger for the moment, at Alison’s victory dinner. Afterwards Sarah was reunited with Kira.

The convoluted storyline has often had characters seem to change sides. For much of the finale it appeared there might be a peace between Dyad, Topside, and the Leda clones which included an agreement to share genetic material from Kendall Malone. Then the show suddenly reverted back to the conspiracies of the first season with the return of the Neolutionists, who are far scarier than when Dr. Leekie was around, with Susan Duncan apparently in charge.

This news ended any idea of sharing genetic material, and upset Ferdinand, who really hates “those genetically obsessed zealots.” He said they’re like ticks, quickly decided that his henchman accompanying him was one, and gave him a bath in sulfuric acid. Ferdinand, incidentally was finally informed that the “dirty clone” he was involved with earlier in the season really was Sarah pretending to be Rachel.

Rachel, meanwhile, spent most of the episode wondering where she was, until Charlotte (the younger clone with a leg brace) showed up, who for unexplained reasons is now with Susan Duncan with no evidence that  Marian is around. Rachel’s new eye appears robotic, while surprisingly Krystal not only came out of the coma, but still had two eyes. Most likely we will still see her next season but it remains to be seen how she will escape from Dyad, especially if Delphine is really dead.

Delphine was told she would be dead by morning, and spent the rest of the episode apparently saying her goodbyes, suggesting that she might really be leaving the show. In the episode’s cliff hanger, she was shot by an off-screen assailant. The episode was written as if it was a final one for Delphine, but on a show such as this we can never be certain a character is really dead.

For the moment it appear that obstacles between Shay and Cosima have been removed and Shay might very well be innocent. She does have a point that Cosima has not been all that honest with her either. Of course on Orphan Black, a person who seems innocent at one moment might be shown to have a connection to one of the conspiracies at any point in the future.

Helena got to both see her old boyfriend and fight Rudy under prison rules, “only one of us leaves alive.” Needless to say, Helena won.

The finale left many questions, including who shot Delphine, what the Neolutionists are up to, and what the robotic worm in Dr. Nealon’s mouth was.

Orphan-Black-season-3-finale-3

An interview with Graeme Manson at AV Club leaves the door open for Delphine to return at some point:

The A.V. Club: A lot happens in this finale. There are so many questions, but the first one has to be: Is Delphine really dead? It looks like yes, but there’s no body, and yours is a twisty show…

Graeme Manson: Um… yes. Yes, but. Orphan Black is a cliffhanger. For all intents and purposes, Evelyne [Brochu’s character] is dead. But there’s always a crack of hope in an actor’s busy schedule. They can reappear somehow. But we had to make a bold story choice, and it was a story choice that was very collaborative with Evelyne. It’s a role that we wrote for her. It’s hard to make those big story choices with co-workers that have become your friends, but you got to do it. You got to do it for the good of the show. It’s about the whole story; it’s not about anything else. I mean, we really went for the strongest choice. And Evelyne was up for dying! [Laughs.] Actors really respond to the strong choices. We had made this decision early on that this was the arc of this season, and that we would go for it with the character as an individual. Go out with a bang.

AVC: Speaking of significant deaths: There was Paul’s sacrifice earlier this season, and by the end of this season, every male clone but Mark is dead. You spent a large chunk of this season shading in the male clones’ background with Castor… so how finished do we think Castor is at this point? Does this mean Ari Millen won’t be back in as significant way next season?

GM: Well, it’s every male clone but Mark that we know of. It’s a big-picture story, and so obviously we left the door open for Mark to come back. I think we can all look forward to Ari Millen next year…

AVC: This season alone several factions were fighting for and against the clones: Dyad, Proletheans, Topside, Castor, and apparently, the Neolutionists behind all of it, as we found out in the finale. Do you ever feel penned in by the ever-complicating mythology?

GM: Well, I think this year was a lot about Sarah fighting her way toward an understanding through a conspiracy with a lot of factions. At the end of the season, she’s cut through that, and she’s got one main foe or focus now moving forward. We met Neolution in the beginning with the sort of “pop science” of Leekie. It’s been the fifth column this whole time. I think Sarah can move forward next year with a new understanding, and a new focus on a many-layered but single foe.

Manson was also interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

Kira (SKYLER WEXLER) and Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY)

Variety interviewed the co-creator John Fawcett:

First you killed Paul, then you shot Delphine — do you just hate happiness?

[Laughs.] I like happiness as much as the next person, but happiness sometimes isn’t as dramatic as tragic love stories.

Can you definitively confirm that Delphine is dead, or is there still hope?

I would love to say yes or no, but this is “Orphan Black” and I don’t want to say one way or the other … We wanted to leave it in a hanging cliffhanger, so is she dead? Is she alive? I want the audience asking those questions.

Aside from Delphine’s shooting, the season finale ended on an uncommonly hopeful note. Why did you want to go that route instead of ending with a cliffhanger this year?

It was really important for us in one of our most complex seasons to end with a lot of answers and feel like we’ve had some triumph and victory, and be in a place at the end of season three where we could go “now we can take a breather, we can reset.” We didn’t want to end the season in some giant cliffhanger that meant we were gonna have to start exactly where we left off. We wanted to feel resolution and have more of an emotional ending to season three, so that it gave us a chance to reset for the beginning of season four. We just wanted a very different feel.

On a related note, it’s been awesome to see Alison’s suburban subplot add some levity this season — how important was it for you to have that balance when the ongoing mythology has been so dark and complex?

One of the things that was fun about season three was the fact that Alison and Donnie became “Team Hendrix” and had their own storyline. It was a different way to approach Alison this season for us, and it was nice, just from a writing standpoint, having a clone character that we love have a very different story to tell that wasn’t necessarily linked to the main plot where everything has to be interwoven super intricately. It was nice to be able to use that as a breather and a little bit of lightness. Moving forward, most of the time, we’re using elements to set up things that we want to do, that we know are in our plan for season four and five, so that’s all I’ll say [about Alison’s storyline].

Was it always the plan to have the Neolutionists as the ultimate antagonist, or something you decided over the course of making the show?

When we put Neolution in season one, it was to pave the way for this later season. It was definitely part of the big picture. That was definitely premeditated.

What about Susan Duncan still being alive?

That was something that we always intended. That was part of the mystery of the past: the explosion in the lab, Dr. Leekie and the Duncans and young Rachel…

here’s been criticism from some viewers over the past couple of seasons that the show’s mythology is getting too convoluted, which I suppose depends on how much you appreciate serialized storytelling. Is that kind of critique something you pay attention to?

It always is — we don’t wanna confuse people but the deeper you go into a mystery, the more balls you’ve got to juggle. It’s a complicated story. I felt like it wasn’t that complicated, but I think the point of this conclusion, coming to the end of this season, was always to be able to go “okay, we got all these answers, so what’s next?” and leave the audience peeking into a brand new rabbit hole, and the nice thing about looking into a new rabbit hole is that you get a chance to begin again a little. There’s elements that I miss from season one too — Sarah not knowing, at all, what she’s facing or what any of this is about, and I think that’s a place we always intended to go at the beginning of season four.

How cognizant are you of the need to maintain the mystery but not withhold answers for too long? It seems like a lot of serialized shows have struggled with that ratio after “Lost,” where viewers become frustrated that mysteries are just piling on top of mysteries with no resolution in sight.

It was a real issue with “Lost” because it made people very grumpy, and it made me wonder whether the creators knew where the show was going or not. When Graeme and I first started on the show, it was like “let’s map out where we want to get to. What’s the endgame? What are the tentpoles for however many seasons we want to tell this story for?” And make sure that every step along the way, we’re giving enough answers. We may get more questions as we go, but we’re giving enough answers to the audience to keep them satisfied that they’re not just watching something that doesn’t have any conclusion.

Fawcett was also interviewed by Entertainment Weekly.

Game of Thrones Walk of Shame

Game of Thrones also ended its season with questions over the fate of major characters. Unlike previous seasons, the show has now caught up with the published books, so while the books might provide additional clues, there are no definite answers.

The biggest question is whether Jon Snow is dead, or whether he will come back from the dead. Many of the interviews suggest he is really dead, but they are not accepted as final. If something major happens to a character and then an excuse to return them to life is brought about later, it will often feel like a cheat. This can plausibly be done with Jon Snow based upon the world we have seen. There has been speculation from fans about multiple ways in which Snow could have survived, or be brought back by life, with many of them already foreshadowed in previous episodes. Going more meta, I wonder if he will return primarily because he has provided the major point of view of events at the wall. Some of the stories taking place there have been among the weaker story lines, but they would be even weaker without Jon Snow. It is hard to believe that events at the wall will not continue to be of major significance with winter coming.

Stannis Baratheon was not shown to actually be killed making it very plausible that he survived. Going meta with him, it sure looks like his storyline has been concluded. On the other hand, he does have one of the stronger claims to the Iron Throne, and he might still have a role in whatever end game is planned. Maybe he will wind up returning to the wall, although I don’t see replacing Jon Snow with Stannis as an improvement to the story.

Arya got to kill a  henchman for the Lanisters, but wound up going blind. Either she will have to regain her sight, or become like Daredevil. Otherwise it is questionable how significant her character can be.

Daenerys, after flying away on a dragon, wound up surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Depending on how they respond to her, and whether her dragon quickly recovers, she could either be in grave danger or have a new army at her disposal.

Cersci went from a hated villain to now having an opportunity to be cheered by fans when she inevitably takes revenge. She puts a whole new meaning on “walk of shame.” Those who filmed the scene apparently overlooked the problem of different lighting and on Lena Headey’s’s face and the  length of the neck and on her body double’s (Rebecca van Cleave) nude body, or else they assumed that nobody would be paying much attention to her neck and above. Margaery continues to be held by the religious fanatics. Natalie Dormer would probably have no qualms about filming her walk of shame, even if it also involved full frontal nudity, without a body double.

Veep finale

HBO’s also had two comedies end their current seasons last weekend. Silicon Valley’s second season was better than the first. The ending of Veep suggested where they are going next season, probably eliminating the minor issue that the show is named Veep but this season Julie Louis Dreyfus’ character played the president. The election ended with an electoral college tie and the characters desperately tried to figure out what that meant. One even questioned if they could look it up in a book. One scenario would be having the House also be tied, with the Senate picking Tom James as president. Presumably he would then chose Selina as his vice president, bringing the character back in line with the show’s title.

This would bring things partially back to how the show was first season, with some potential differences. First season the president was rarely seen, especially by his vice president, and Selena had no power or influence. Depending upon how much Hugh Laurie will be in next season, there could be an unseen president or a president with a major role. It would be plausible to have a President Tom James either ignore Selena or make use of her.

Jonah wound up the season looking more respectable, even if as the Testicle Man. It worked out well to temporarily have Dan and Amy play lobbyists and television talking heads (along with a Nate Silver type character), but I wonder if they will be brought back in to the administration next season. At least it certainly looked like Amy would return to the inner circle by the end of the finale.

HANNIBAL -- "Secondo" Episode 303 -- Pictured: -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Secundo, dealt with the making of monsters. This might winding up summing up Will Grahams’s entire story. This does not apply to Hannibal as we were told, “Nothing happened to me. I happened.” Will traveled to Hannibal’s family home in Lithuania where he encountered Chiyoh who is holding in a dungeon the man who apparently killed Hannibal’s sister Mischa and fed her to him. Conversations between Hannibal and Bedelia suggest that Hannibal was really to blame. Chiyoh was left to guard him when she would not allow Hannibal to kill him, but ultimately wound up killing him after Will set him free.

Chiyoh was not the only person manipulated into being a killer this episode. After Hannibal stuck an ice pick in a dinner guest’s head, Bedelia pulled out the ice pick to put him out of his misery. Hannibal made a point of stating, “Let the record show, you technically killed him.”  The two are definitely playing a dangerous game with each other, but their ultimate motivations are not clear. Bedelia noted how Hannibal is bringing everyone back together. This episode showed Jack also alive and  hunting Hannibal, and soon they will be joined by Chilton, Alana, and the Vergers. Bedelia warned Hannibal that he would be captured, and the two discussed how Hannibal must react when he encounters Will in order to forgive him: “I have to eat him.”

Besides playing Dr. Bedelia, Gillian Anderson is also reprising her role as Scully on the X-Files revival. Speakeasy interviewd Anderson about these roles:

It’s hard to tell whether Bedelia is Hannibal’s prisoner or if she’s actually playing him in a way. Where do you think his head is at once they settle into Florence and Hannibal has begun to kill again?

The trouble that I have in doing interviews about Bedelia is that part of what is interesting about her is what we don’t know and is about the lingering question marks. If I were to answer [about] my thought my process in it or what I feel is motivating her, where I think she’s standing or what Bryan has told me, it completely takes the joy out of it for the viewers. So, I often struggle in interviews to have anything of value to say … because I’m trying to protect the viewer in having a real-time and organic experience rather than being told what’s going on.

Everybody wants to know, but it’s almost better in not knowing, I think. I’ll say that she’s intrigued and she’s scared and she’s in way over her head. But I think where the question mark lies is still within that. Where lies her complicity? Where lies her power? Does she actually have the upper hand without him realizing it? Those are the multi-leveled question marks.

At the end of episode one, which everyone has seen already, Hannibal tells Bedelia she isn’t just observing, she’s participating. Do you think that’s true? How culpable is she especially in that instance?

I think it changes halfway through. Not that she would be able to do anything about the current moment and what is transpiring in front of her, but she recognizes, legally, in that moment, if she continues to live there that the longer she stays, the more she will seem to be complicit in what’s going on. I think that is partly why she then starts to do what she starts to do, which I can’t talk about. The question that he poses in that moment is a question she works out for herself in that moment. Her reaction to it is what then moves her storyline through the rest of the episodes. That’s potentially quite a big turning point...

Duchovny recently said the script for the new “X-Files” made him cry. How did it make you feel?

I think since I’ve come up to Vancouver [to shoot “The X-Files”], I’ve become more excited, emotional and embraced the journey we’re about to go on. I’m actually really excited. I don’t think it initially hit me in the first read, but it was more to do with my needing to compartmentalize and not really address the fact that it was all about to happen until I actually got up here because there were too many other things I have to think about.

Breaking Bad

We will be seeing more of the cast of Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan has said that Bryan Cranston will appearing on Better Call Saul, but not until after the second season. There are also reports that Cranston will be directing some episodes.

Aaron Paul will be returning to a regular episodic television in The Way which will appear on Hulu. It is a family drama about a a family involved in a controversial religious movement, produced by Jason Katims and written by Jessica Goldberg. Their past work on Friday Night Lights and Parentood provide promise for this show.

SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys and Better Call Saul Season Finales; The Americans; Daredevil; iZombie; SNL on Clinton’s Announcement

12Monkeys_gallery_813Recap_22

I had been wondering where 12 Monkeys would go after a first season. The season finale, Arms of Mine, doesn’t give the answer but does show that they are probably heading in new directions. Some of the minor questions from previous episodes were answered but far more was left open.

Time travel has become messy, as it should be. Ramse turned out to have been the one responsible for the time travel device after he went back in time. “It took time travel to create time travel. That’s how it works, brother. There are no straight lines.”

The episode ended with Jennifer Goines going on a 12 city tour, and we know the outcome of that. What is not clear is if there is any way to change this. During the episode Olivia said,  “There is nothing more powerful than fate.” Even Dr. Jones said,  “I can’t change the past. Nobody can. All that matters is what happens here.” Yet there might still be wild cards, such as Cassie splintering into 2043. It appears that this is significant from this teaser for season 2:

An interview with the new show runners at The Hollywood Reporter  also indicates that Jones was wrong:

While Jones’ belief in changing the past to save humanity has been shaken, new showrunnerTerry Matalas says the character “is about to be proven wrong.”

“Jones above all else is a scientist,” fellow showrunner Travis Fickett explained. “She’s going to take evidence into account and that will change her assumptions about things. She’s going to get some new evidence, but the mission for her next season will become even more personal.”

Meanwhile, Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Cassie (Amanda Schull) finally come face-to-face with Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) at the Temporal Facility in 2015. Ramse tries to explain that he is not The Witness — the mysterious leader of the 12 Monkeys — during a standoff, but Cassie doesn’t buy a word he’s saying. That results in a firefight that ends with both Cassie and Ramse shot.

In order to save Cassie’s life, Ramse then offers Cole the time travel serum he planned on using to return to 2043. Cole injects Cassie with the serum and sends her to Jones in 2043. Cole leaves Ramse to bleed out, but in a change of heart returns to save his former best friend.

“He’s still his brother. Ultimately everything that has transpired between these guys doesn’t undo the bond they have and share,” Matalas explained. “Even the Striking Woman’s last line in the finale is, ‘There is nothing more powerful than fate,’ and Cole proves there is something more powerful than fate and that’s love. He goes back to save his brother.”

But don’t expect everything to be patched up. “They have a whole lot to sort out in season two,” Fickett adds.

The relationship between Cole and Ramse isn’t the only one the showrunners are aiming to explore in season two.

“We’re going to lean a lot more into the relationships” Matalas says. “Season one was more about setting the dynamics between Cole and Ramse, Cole and Cassie, Jones and Ramse, Jones and Cole, Jennifer and Cole. We’re going to spend a lot more exploring those relationships and delving a lot deeper. We plan on taking a breath or two next season to sit with our characters more and let them talk.”

Time traveling will also see a change of scenery next season. Matalas noted the Syfy series will explore new time periods as well “an exploration into a deeper past.”

When it comes to the identity of The Witness, Fickett assures fans will learn the truth of who is behind the mask next season along with more about the mysterious Red Forest. “You’ll know exactly what the Red Forest is and what it means for the whole world in season two.”

“The second season is definitely a more emotional season,” Matalas noted, with Fickett adding: “And maybe a bit scarier. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but there is still hope.”

Better Call Saul Marco

Many critics were skeptical about Better Call Saul before it premiered, but the first season did exceed expectations. In response to Chuck’s betrayals, Saul returned to his old haunts and went through through petty scam after petty scam as Slippin’ Jimmy.  (An expert in cons discussed them with Esquire). Remember back in season 3 of Breaking Bad when Saul told Walter than he he convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner? We saw the con in which Saul (still going as Jimmy) actually did trick a woman into going to bed with him by claiming to be Kevin Costner:

When he returned home it appeared for a moment that he might have Slippin’ Jimmy out of his system and get an actual job with a law firm from Santa Fe. Instead he decided against the interview, thinking about how much bigger scams Slippin’ Jimmy could accomplish with a law degree. He thought back about returning stolen money earlier in the season: “I know what stopped me. And you know what? It’s never stopping me again.” He is clearly on the path towards turning into Saul Goodman.

It was an excellent season, and we knew from Breaking Bad which direction Jimmy would go in. I did feel that Jimmy’s decision in the parking lot came too quickly. I assume that the writers had Jimmy make the decision after receiving a legitimate job offer to show that it was a decision based upon who he was deep down, as opposed to out of desperation, but I thought more was needed to justify showing such an abrupt change of mind.

HitFlix interviewed Peter Gould:

How does the show change now that he’s decided he’s going to be Slippin’ Jimmy again? How are Chuck and the other HHM characters still involved?Peter Gould: That’s a good question. Has he decided to be? I’m interested that you say that he’s decided to be Slippin’ Jimmy. He drives off, and he’s definitely got a new idea, and it’s pleasing him an awful lot. It might be about Slippin’ Jimmy. I don’t want to be coy, but I don’t want to assume anything. We spent a lot of time as we opened up season 2 thinking about what the ending of season 1 meant, and all the implications of that. I will say that Chuck is his brother, and the connection between these two guys has been disrupted. Their relationship has been changed forever. But they are still brothers, and Jimmy says to Marco in the finale, “I have to go back, because he’s my brother.” These guys are not finished with each other.

If the emotional arc of the first season involves a bad man trying to be good and discovering that the universe has no interest in that, what is Jimmy’s arc going forward? And how far away is he from being the Saul Goodman we met on “Breaking Bad”?

Peter Gould: I love the way you put that. I wish we had had that synopsis when we started season 1. It could have saved us a couple of months. In my mind, he’s got a ways to go before he’s Saul Goodman. The question is, is Saul Goodman just the person that Jimmy McGill was going to be at any moment, and all that was restraining him was Chuck? Or is Jimmy McGill someone else? I have to say, watching Jimmy throughout season 1, I don’t think the only reason he’s a decent guy is he’s got Chuck in his life. Chuck might think so, and Jimmy might even think so. But when I see Jimmy give the money back in episode 7, when I see how he is with his elderly clients, I think this is a guy who has fundamentally got a decent streak. Maybe deciding to be a bad guy, or deciding to be unleashed ethically, maybe that’s not going to be as straightforward as it seems.

Can you say at this point when Gus might become part of this series? Or could the show end before Mike begins that relationship?

Peter Gould: Everything’s on the table. Obviously, we love the character of Gus, and love Giancarlo Esposito. But think about where Mike is right now. Yes, he killed two police officers in Philadelphia, but that was motivated by revenge, and a sense of vigilante justice over the death of his son. But what crimes has he committed in Albuquerque so far? So far, he facilitated one drug deal armed with a pimento sandwich. He is a long way from being Gus Fring’s right hand man and hired gunman. Just like Jimmy’s journey has a lot of twists and turns to it, so does Mike’s. It’s a challenge, because Mike is a character who is fundamentally not materialistic. This is a guy, when we meet him in “Breaking Bad,” he lives in a modest house, drives a lousy car, doesn’t seem to have a lot of expenses. How much money do you really need to earn in order to take care of one little girl? It’s a real challenge for us to think about Mike’s journey. Boy, let me tell you, though, we would love to see Gus, and would love to have Giancarlo on the show. The question is, when is Mike going to be ready for that? And why would Gus hire Mike at this point? He doesn’t really seem to be the man he will be later.

Well, Walter White was never as likable as Jimmy is this season, but in that first season he was a relatively sympathetic character, and you eventually turned him into the biggest monster in the history of the medium. Peter Gould: That’s true. When you say it that way, it sounds familiar. But to us, it’s a big surprise. We, on “Breaking Bad,” this is one case where the writers room saw the character very differently from the audience, and from the way the cast saw him. Very early on “Breaking Bad,” we started to see this was a portrait of a man with a raging ego. And we would go back and forth between empathizing with him and marveling with his ability to fool himself about why he was doing what he was doing. Maybe the answer is that we’re buying Jimmy’s bullshit better, but Jimmy is ultimately a more sincere character than Walt. He’s also a character who knows himself a little bit better. Walt really did have this mist of self-deception that didn’t part until the very end of the show. Jimmy, I think is a little bit more honest with himself, although not as honest with himself as Mike is. He’s openly on a quest to find out who he should be in this world. You know, the more I talk about it, the more similar it sounds, which surprises me. Because I have to say, I find Jimmy likable in a way that I never found Walt likable. But your memory of it may be better than mine.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/better-call-saul-co-creator-we-like-saul-goodman-but-we-love-jimmy-mcgill#F37dmKgJl8jlmRWt.99
The Hollywood Reporter looked at Breaking Bad Easter Eggs you might have missed.

The Americans One Day In The Life

There were no shocking scenes in this week’s episode of The Americans but the show was sure reinvigorated by Paige finding out that her parents are Soviet spies. The episode did what the show does so well–gradually move several different plot lines forward. Martha has acquiesced to her situation for now, with Clarke giving her advice for handling questions. In contrast, Lisa’s husband figured out what is going on, and decides to capitalize on this to make money. Nina both betrayed Anton when, following orders, she searched his room, and also protected him, saying she will not expose his writings. Most likely only Nina will survive this.

Assignment X interviewed Joe Weisberg on the third season:

AX: Does Elizabeth view the possibility of recruiting Paige into the KGB the way someone from an American military family might think, “Well, we’re Navy SEALs, and she should have the opportunity to be a Navy SEAL”?

JOE WEISBERG: I’ve said that a hundred times. Nobody judges a guy when he wants to have his son join the military. That’s the most accepted thing in America, that a father is proud to have a son who’s also proud to join the military. Some people think, “Well, that’s not great,” but mostly, that’s completely accepted in this society. She wants her daughter to be of service.

AX: Also, it seems like Elizabeth genuinely believes what she’s saying when she talks about trying to make the world a better, more peaceful place through what she and Philip are doing …

WEISBERG: That’s right. That is the ambition, the goal. Also very high-minded.

AX: Since some of the audience doesn’t seem to understand how Elizabeth views the situation, do you ever feel like you want to be any more didactic about that aspect of the show, just so people understand what you’re talking about?

WEISBERG: Well, I feel like, yes, but no. Because you can’t. You’d kill it. And I also feel in a way it’s part of Elizabeth’s character, I don’t mean as a television character, I mean as part of who she is, to be misunderstood, that she’s not in the world. In the television world she inhabits, it’s part of who she is, it’s her cross to bear to be misunderstood a little bit. So I think it’s okay.

AX: She holds these things to be self-evident, so when people don’t get it, she thinks they’re being perverse?

WEISBERG: Exactly. And she’s behind enemy lines. But then when her husband doesn’t get it, that hurts more, because he’s supposed to get it. And so it’s in synch with that if there’s a portion of the audience that doesn’t understand her.

AX: What do you think Philip actually thinks of Martha?

WEISBERG:  I think he probably, A, has probably a very realistic and similar assessment of her, more than any of us would have, but B, I think that she’s been very good to him and that he’s developed real feelings for her. I don’t mean that he’s madly in love with her, but I think he’s developed real feelings. She’s been very good to him, taken care of him, comforted him, and he’s been bad to her. And I think he’s come to really care for her.

AX: Can Stan stay in the show if he finds out that Elizabeth and Philip are KGB?

WEISBERG: We could come up with endless stories where he did or didn’t know and stay.

AX: How are you enjoying playing with the 80s technology?

JOEL FIELDS: This year, we’re going to have the first mobile phone. We’re going to have one of those handheld Mattel electronic phones – remember, with the blinking LED? We’ve got some other good stuff, too, this year. Sony Walkman, of course, you’ve got those orange headphones – “Just listen to this,” [Philip] says, and he puts it on [Kimberly’s] ears.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

Daredevil was released on Netflix on Friday. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but the show is well worth watching. Think of Arrow, but much darker, without the CW glitz, and in a much poorer part of town. Of course it isn’t entirely without attractive women, including Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. I am having some difficulty accepting scenes of her out in the light after True Blood.

I’m also enjoying iZombie. Rose McIver gets to do a little of what Tatiana Maslany does on Orphan Black (which returns next Saturday). While she does not play multiple clones, she takes on characteristics of people after eating their brain, giving her the opportunity to alter her character each week.

Saturday Night Live began with a  parody of Clinton’s announcement. I have posted the video here. My comments on Clinton’s actual announcement are here. A street artist in Brooklyn also has expressed an opinion.

Update: A study shows that men are more likely than women to go back in time to kill Hitler.

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; Better Call Saul; Arrow; The Flash; The Americans; Outlander; 12 Monkeys; Orphan Black; Continuum; X-Files; Big Bang Theory; Good Riddance, Carrie Matheson

The Flash Rogue Time

It felt like almost every show I watched last week had major episodes. Agents of SHIELD went back to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and showed the origin of the other SHIELD. Will Nick Fury or Tony Stark settle this dispute? Better Call Saul revealed who was sabotaging Jimmy’s career all along. Arrow blew everything wide open with Lance arresting Oliver and Roy taking his place.  I’m undecided as to who I was more disappointed in, Captain Lance on Arrow or Chuck on Better Call Saul.

On The Flash, Rogue Time made changes in the timeline and had some major revelations, including  how Eobard Thawne took over Wells’s body. Andrew Kreisberg spoke with IGN about these revelations:

The father and son Trickster team proved themselves capable of wreaking havoc, and we likely haven’t seen the last of them, When asked whether the Trickster will be hanging out with the rest of the Rogues’ Gallery in the future, Kreisberg said, “Yes, that is the plan. When I sit down and I think about Wentworth Miller [Captain Cold] and Mark in a scene together and watching the dichotomy of them… I think sometimes there’s a tendency to spit out the same villain week in and week out on these shows, and for us, having people who are so different, and having people who have powers, and having people who are slightly unhinged but geniuses [keeps it interesting]. The other reason we really wanted to do the Trickster is because you have so many villains who have these amazing abilities, either because they’re meta-humans or they have this incredible weaponry, and what was always cool about the Trickster on both series is that he was smart. No matter how crazy he was, he was so smart, and he thought like four steps ahead. Watching The Flash and our team go up against somebody brilliant — a lot of times our shows are about how to figure out how to [stop villains] chemically or scientifically or how The Flash can use his powers to stop somebody, but in this one, they really had to out think him [Trickster]. And Wells had to give Barry something he probably didn’t want to let him know that he could do.”

Kreisberg also mentioned it’s a challenge to find and include adversaries who are worthy of fighting The Flash. “If The Flash can move at super speed, he can’t just be fighting bank robbers. Or if he is fighting bank robbers, they have to be able to do something pretty special. And again one of the reasons The Trickster — both in the comics and the old show, and hopefully people will think on our show — is so cool is because he doesn’t have any of that. He’s just really, really smart. And he’s able to use that smartness to out think the gang.”

Wells, or Eobard Thawne, is out thinking everyone. Barry is finally suspicious of Wells but has no idea about what we learned. Thawne used future tech to take Wells’s body. Kreisberg explained, “It’s what we’re calling genetic camouflage, where he basically stole his body. He basically took his body, he rewrote his DNA to match Wells’s. But what happened to Harrison Wells’s real body and what happened that night — all of these things are going to start coming out. And I know people were concerned that the events of Episode 15 were erased in 16, but what happened in Episode 15, not all of it went away, as people are going to find out soon.”

And as far as whether any part of Wells was left after Thawne swiped his body, Kreisberg said, “That’s actually something we’re just writing the other day. He’s had a lot of times when he’s talked about Tess and I think that one of the things that kind of bled through was Wells’s love for Tess, that Thawne absorbed when he absorbed his body. So that’s sort of a fun thing that that’s come through.” Kreisberg said they wanted Matt Letscher for the role of Thawne and that we haven’t seen the last of him…

Other changes include both Eddy and Snart, now knowing Barry’s secret, but after he went back in time the scene in which Iris learned it no longer happens. Some have been disappointed that two major events, Wells killing Cisco and Iris admitting her love for Barry, have been erased due to time travel, feeling it was a cheat. I did not mind because it was easy to predict this would happen once we say Barry going  back in time at the end of last week’s episode. The two scenes still told us more about both Wells and Iris. What we learned about Wells helped prepare for the events of Rogue Time, even if it is now Barry as opposed to Cisco who is likely to investigate Wells.  While it was hardly a surprise, the scene between Barry and Iris was a good way to make clear how Iris feels deep down. Barry should have realized that Iris would not feel the same when meeting for coffee as when it appeared the city would be destroyed before he changed the timeline.

It was also meaningful to show that Barry can make changes by going back in time, but that changes have consequences, with Barry thinking about going back in time to try to save his mother. One question is whether it is this time travel which actually leads to her death. The nature of time travel was also unclear on these episodes. When Barry went back in time and there were momentarily two versions of The Flash, what happened to the other version?

The Americans Stinger

Last week’s episode of The Americans,started early with a tease when Paige came to the travel agency:

Philip: “We were headed home in about an hour. If you help with the stack of ticket requisition forms, we’ll all get home a little sooner.”

Paige:  “Are you trying to turn me into a travel agent?

If only she knew the truth. After a wide range of dramatic scenes this season, the big scene of the season turned out to be a conversation around the dinner table later in the episode. During what Vox calls “one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history” the inevitable moment came on Stingers. Paige, who was obviously realizing that there was more to her parents than being travel agents, finally asked the big question: “Do you love me? Then tell me the truth.  What — are you in the witness protection program? Did you kill somebody? Are you guys drug dealers like your friend Gregory? Am I adopted? Are we aliens? What?”

This left Elizabeth and Philip little room but to tell her the truth, although I’m sure that for a moment they considered going for alien drug dealers in the witness protection program. “We were born in a different country” We’re here to help our people. Most of what you hear about the Soviet Union isn’t true…We work for our country getting information. Information they couldn’t get in other ways.” Plus the obvious warning: “Just in case you’re not thinking quite clearly enough, we’re going to have to say this: If you do tell anyone … we will go to jail. For good.”

Phillip took the phone off the hook the first night, but beyond that all they can do is hold their breath and hope, even when Paige sees how easy it would be to say something to their neighbor Stan, the FBI agent. Instead it was Henry who bonded with Stan, over a pirated copy of Tron which Stan recovered and an old video game. Plus there is the other connection Stan does not know about–the picture of Stan’s estranged wife in Henry’s porn collection.

Of course a lot more happened in the episode. Oleg was called upon to obtain photos, having no idea how he was helping Nina back in the Soviet Union. Arkady assumed that the person who threatened Zinaida, who we finally saw is really is a faking her defection, was a KGB agent who had no idea what was going on, and had no reason to suspect Oleg. Over at the FBI, where the investigation regarding the bug in Gaad’s office is still underway, Stan was asked if he has any suspicions about who may have done it. He hesitated, and the first thing he asked after leaving was where Martha was.  Kimmy returned, partially to give Phillip reason to think about his relationship with Paige.

We will have plenty of time to see how all these story lines play out over time. FX has renewed The Americans for a fourth season.

outlander-reckoning-01-800

Outlander returned with a controversial episode, The Reckoning, in which Jaime saved Claire from Black Jack Randall but also punished her for being captured. This led to an eventual renegotiation of their relationship, including threats to cut out balls and hearts. More on the spanking scene here and here:

Executive producerRon Moore noted that although they had Diana Gabaldon’s book to work from, their focus was on “digging in to the scenes themselves, and the page, and working with the actors, and really wanting it to be as raw and emotional as it was. It’s the culmination of a lot of things that they just haven’t been sharing because [they were] in that magical ‘get to know you’ kind of phase. And then here [we thought], let’s have a real problem and really see them go at each other. It was a great opportunity.”

But the verbal confrontation wasn’t the end of the argument, as Claire discovered after the Highlanders began to shun her for putting them in danger and disobeying her husband.

While Heughan understood why the spanking scene might’ve been shocking or repellent to modern audiences, he was able to rationalize Jamie’s decision, given the time period and surroundings the Highlander was raised in. “He has to punish her, whether or not he believes in it. He says he doesn’t, but he has to because otherwise the Highlanders won’t protect her. She’s in danger. There’s a moral code, and it’s the way he’s been brought up, and he’s now got responsibility, and he’s trying to do everything that’s right. He’s trying to play that role and be responsible, and she keeps bloody messing with it,” he laughed. “And obviously, out of that, he learns a very valuable lesson, and she does, and their relationship is yet again developed and moved forward. And if he hadn’t, if he’d said, ‘I won’t punish you, it’s okay — it’s not the right thing to do, but you’re very naughty,’ then they wouldn’t have learned anything. And I think it’s interesting, because this relationship is just developing, and it’s like any marriage — it’s taking on different forms. It’s going to keep doing that. God knows where it’s going to be in a year’s time.”

Moore admitted that the producers and writers “talked about a lot” before the scene finally arrived. “I always knew we were going to do it because it was a key moment in the book and we wanted to do it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s really about justice and that’s what Jamie says in the scene: it’s a scene about justice; it’s not a scene about domestic abuse; it’s not a scene about anger. These were the mores of the time. As he says to Claire, if she was a man, she would’ve had her ears cropped, or something worse. And so there was a sense of righting the scales of justice. To her mind and to ours, as 21st century people, we kind of recoil from it like ‘oh my god,’ but I think we also understand the context of the time and why he’s doing it and what it’s about.”

“We knew it was going to be a controversial scene that people were going to ask a lot of questions about,” Balfe conceded. “We really had a lot of conversations about it. We went back and forth with the writers about how they wanted to do it and what we felt comfortable with, but we had the blueprint of the book, which was great. But we really wanted to give it the respect that it deserved, because it’s not something that can be taken lightly. And the thing we always came back to is that we have to understand that, no matter how we as modern people perceive it, this has to be taken in the context of 1743, and this was a perfectly acceptable justice in that time.”

While the scene itself is memorable, it’s the aftermath that truly redefines Claire and Jamie’s relationship. “What happens after is very important because here we see two people figuring out how to make their marriage work, because not only has Claire suffered physical wounds from this, but there’s been a great psychic wound,” Balfe observed. “And I think that the betrayal she feels — that this man she’s fallen for with heart and soul has now betrayed her, in a sense — that’s a big thing for her to get over. But I think the thing they’re learning within the confines of their marriage is that you don’t always have to accept what the person does, but if you can understand where they’re coming from, then you can build a bridge to forgive and move forward. And he also realizes, ‘okay, I can’t treat you as everyone else treats everyone else in this time, and I’m willing to change, and to grow, and to meet you halfway.’”

Claire doesn’t forgive or forget easily, however — banishing Jamie from their bed and giving him the cold shoulder even once they’re back at Castle Leoch, until they finally confront their feelings and reconnect physically — allowing Claire to pick up Jamie’s blade mid-coitus and warn her husband that if he ever raises a hand to her again, she’ll cut out his heart.

12 Monkeys Paradox

While one weekend time travel show has just returned, 12 Monkeys is nearing the end of its first season (and has been renewed for a second). It is probably best not to think too much as to why a transfusion from young Cole caused the Paradox which saved his life, and appears to have permanently teathered him to 2015. I imagine we also shouldn’t ask Cassie why she felt she should threaten the 2015 version of Dr. Jones with a gun as opposed to showing her evidence which was bound to catch her attention.

As with most episodes of 12 Monkeys, this episode raised more questions than it answers. Apparently Jones knew about meeting Cole in 2015 all along. It appears that the events of this episode were events which always happened, as opposed to a change in the time line, such as with the now orphaned Cole meeting young Ramse. (What if Cole had just killed the kid?) This might suggest that things cannot be changed. Or maybe not everything is playing out the same for everyone. As Jones pointed out, “Your always and my always are not the same.”

While it appears that Cole will not be traveling in time in the foreseeable future, there are still events in 2043 to be sorted out. I have no idea what the red leaves mean, but they must mean something. Jones might still send someone back in time from 2043, or perhaps the time travel machine will fall under the control of those mysterious people seen at the end of the episode. We know Jessica is still around. Does that other woman know so much because she comes from the future. She looks like she might be Jessica’s mother– or with time travel involved, maybe her daughter, like River Song and Amy Pond. Any chance Ramse is still alive in 2043 as a very old man after his travel back in time?

There is still much to do in 2015 if Cole and Cassie are going to stop the plague from occurring in 2017, with Aaron out of that triangle for the moment. The connection between Cole’s mother and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will probably be significant.

Of course any comments on Paradox must mention Jennifer Goines’ hilarious hostile takeover of Markridge. How idiotic were those people who actually raised their hands when Jessica said, “Raise your hand if you want to be the new him!”

Orphan Black returns April 18 and new previews have been released. More clones to come.

The fourth and final season of Continuum has started filming and will start airing on Showcase on July 26th. No word as to when Syfy will run it in the United States.

Mitch Pileggi (Assistant FBI Director Skinner ) and William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man, aka Old Alec for Continuum fans) will both be returning to the six-episode X-Files revival.

Big Bang Theory TARDIS

This week was also a genre-heavy episode of The Big Bang Theory. One storyline dealt with Sheldon and Leonard taking a detour to attempt to visit the Skywalker Ranch while on their way to Berkley to give a talk about their paper. In the other storyline, the Wolowitz garage is being emptied for a sale, and Howard resists Bernadette’s efforts to sell his TARDIS. They decided to leave the fate of the TARDIS to a Game of Thrones-style contest on the battlefield of the Transformers and the Thunder-cats. I’m afraid you will just have to watch the episode to make any sense out of that last sentence, or to learn how Amy just didn’t think things through.

CarrieMathison_2571

Maureen Dowd says that real women working at the CIA are ready to say good riddance to Carrie Matheson:

THE co-creator of “Homeland” on Showtime revealed recently that when the new season starts, Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison will no longer work at the C.I.A.

Her real-life counterparts can’t wait for her to clean out her desk.

The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.

“The problem is that they portray most women in such a one-dimensional way; whatever the character flaw is, that’s all they are,” said Gina Bennett, a slender, thoughtful mother of five who has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center over the course of 25 years and who first began sounding the alarm about Osama bin Laden back in 1993.

“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off,” Bennett said. She was sitting in a conference room at Langley decorated with photos of a memorial for the seven C.I.A. officers — including Bennett’s close friend Jennifer Matthews — who were blown up in 2009 by a Jordanian double agent in Khost, Afghanistan.

Agreed Sandra Grimes, a perky 69-year-old blonde who helped unmask her C.I.A. colleague Aldrich Ames as a double agent for the Russians after noticing that he had traded up from a battered Volvo to a Jaguar: “I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way.”

SciFi Weekend: The 100 Season Finale; 12 Monkeys; Better Call Saul; Twin Peaks; Karen Gillan; Cristin Milioti; The Jinx

the-100-lexa-clarke

The 100 ended with a two part season finale which concluded the Mount Weather storyline. While overall I enjoyed the show, that story did get dragged out a bit too long. After things looked bleak last week after Lexa betrayed Clarke, it was suddenly so easy to kill all the Mountain People and escape. From the beginning the show has been about making difficult decisions to survive, and their consequences. One of the strengths of the show is also becoming a bit of a weakness. The show has deserved praise for not taking the easy way out and for showing people getting killed in multiple episodes. However that also makes the show predictable. There was never a question as to whether Clarke would kill all the people from Mount Weather when she had the chance. It doesn’t matter that there were concerns for both those who had helped them and for the innocent children.

Because of these issues, I don’t think the second season was as good as the first, but despite its faults  the show is certainly one of the best genre shows currently on television. I have mixed feelings about where the show is going from here with different people in different places, including Clarke going off on her own. At least they are showing consequences for her decision in the finale, along with her decision in a recent episode to allow people to get killed from a missile Bellamy,  so that her spy inside Mount Weather, would not be suspected. The success of the third season will depend upon where they are going with the story lines started in the finale, and a story which gets into what happened to create the nuclear holocaust could certainly be interesting.

MTV interviewed showrunner Jason Rothenberg about the finale and where the show is headed:

MTV: What went into your decision to have Clarke make so many awful decisions this year? Between Tondc, killing Dante, and all of those kids, she sure has had a rough go of it.

Jason Rothenberg: Going into this season I knew that this season was about, thematically, how far you will go to survive. I wanted to push Clarke, and really everybody, to the brink of having to do the unthinkable in order to save their people, and see who was willing to cross it, and who wasn’t. Literally from day one of this season, I knew Clarke was going to do it. She was going to get her people back, but she was going to have to do something so dark, so intense, that she would be broken by it… She was going to look at herself as a monster.

So, that was literally from day one going into this season, and that’s how it played out. Everyone involved at the leadership level in the triangle between Dante, Lexa and Clarke — forget about Cage, obviously, he was a stooge that was in over his head — but Lexa, she was faced with a really awful choice, which was save your people, but to do that, you have to give up the woman that you love… And she did it… So it comes down to Clarke, where in order to save her people she has to kill every man, woman and child in Mount Weather. I made it very clear, defining the fact that there were good people there. As intense as it is, I wanted the camera to find the kids as much as possible, because I wanted the stakes of what she did to really land.

MTV: Oh, it landed. And here I was thinking that Maya was going to be a series regular next year.

Rothenberg: I was tempted to keep her on the show. The truth is, Mount Weather is only there because of this sin that they’ve been committing for 50 years to the Grounders. Without that, they’d have been gone long ago. So none of them, even the children who had no choice in the matter — they didn’t ask to be born, and they didn’t ask to take the blood — they wouldn’t be there without that sin. To let Maya live just because we loved her felt like the wrong choice, creatively, for the show. Certainly, I don’t think it would be the way we do things if only the people in Mount Weather who were bad died, and Clarke somehow managed to save the people we like — like Maya, Maya’s father and the children.

MTV: What’s next for Clarke, now that she’s on her own?

Rothenberg: She’s broken. She’s devastated in many ways by what she had to do, and what she’s lost. She lost Finn, she lost Lexa, she lost Bellamy — she lost everything in order to get this accomplished, and now she needs to get away from it all. She can’t live around these people that she saved, because it will remind her of what she had to do to get them there. So she’s going on walkabout like a good Aussie, and we’ll see how long that walkabout lasts. There’s another agenda in her mind that takes center stage by the time we catch up with her in season three…

MTV: Well, I’m hoping and assuming we haven’t seen the last of the Grounders.

Rothenberg: The Grounder-Sky Person alliance is definitely broken… Lexa, when she made the deal, was assuming that the 44 would be killed and that Clarke would probably die, and she would still have Mount Weather there to keep her people united. She was probably — master strategist that she is — thinking several moves ahead. Thinking she could keep her alliance together, the 12 clans, because they would still have this evil empire out there to unite them.

Then Clarke goes ahead and single-handedly defeats that evil empire. On the one hand, it means the legend of Clarke of the Sky People grows. Everywhere she goes it’s like, ‘I heard it was 5,000 people! No, I heard it was 10,000 people!’ Everywhere she goes, she’s a legend now. That means that Lexa will probably have to deal with that legend in some way going forward. Certainly it means that her alliance now no longer has a real reason to be held together. I should probably stop in terms of what it means for season three, but I’m really excited to play out the ramifications of all of that.

MTV: And what of this so-called Promised Land? I don’t really get what that AI woman was doing, but I’m excited to find out.

Rothenberg: The idea of ending the season on them is a way to foreshadow where we’re going in season three, just like how the white room foreshadowed where we were going in season two. It was really important for me to tell the story of how the world ended. We’ve never really dealt with that before. The scene in the bunker where Murphy sees the video of someone who was in some way involved with the creation of the AI known as Ali, and he’s killing himself for the guilt of the end of the world… Ali, you can assume, had something to do with that. [This] becomes part of the focus of the story in season three.

More at Zap2It.

Richard Harmon (Murphy) has been promoted to a regular for next season. In the meantime, he will be enjoying himself in that bunker he stumbled upon. I hope that doesn’t prevent him from appearing in the final season of Continuum.

12 Monkeys Tomorrow

12 Monkeys is getting darker and the last episode also dealt with hard decisions by a leader. We now have two factions using technology–one to attempt to cure the virus and one attempting to change history and prevent the plague. Dr. Jones is willing to go to any lengths to proceed with her plan, but what are her motives? Initially it looked like she was taking this course because she did not think a cure would work due to the virus mutating. By the end of  Tomorrow it looked more like it is because she wants to reverse both the death of her daughter and the horrible decisions she has made by reseting the time line. However it does look like the cure could actually work, despite what she was telling others.

We also see events at other points in time. Initially, in 2041 when  Ramse and Cole first met Dr. Jones, Cole thought she was crazy and Ramse insisted upon working with her. In 2043, their roles become reversed. Cole also wound up in 2017 in time to see Cassie die, but it is clear that he will be seeing Cassie at other points in time beyond when she first thought she was dead. Of course Cassie cannot tell him anything out of fear of changing the time line  and interfering with what Cole will learn. He has plenty of time to learn more as the show has been renewed for a second season.

Syfy has decided against renewing Ascension. It did show promise and I wish they had at least finished the story.

Better Call Saul had an excellent episode, concentrating on Mike’s back story. If there are any Breaking Bad fans not watching Better Call Saul, this would be a good, essentially stand-alone, episode to watch.

Arrow Ra

At Paleyfest, Stephen Amell said there will be dire consequences if Oliver doesn’t accept Ra’s Al Ghul’s offer.

“It’s an offer in name only. It’s not really an offer,” Amell said. “It’s a demand. If Oliver says no, there will be incredibly dire consequences.”

In mulling the offer, Oliver will take stock in what he’s accomplished in the time he’s been back in Starling City — and he will determine that what he’s accomplished isn’t that impressive.

The CW has released the finale dates for their other shows. Arrow will end the season on May 13 and The Flash will have its season finale on May 19. Both are returning next season.

After all the hype of Twin Peaks returning, David Lynch now says it might not return due to complications with contract negotiations.

Karen Gillan is joining the cast of The Devil You Know, a show on the Salem witch trial for HBO, co-written by Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan.

Cristin Milioti of How I Met Your Mother and the short-lived A to Z has been cast for the second season of Fargo. Please don’t kill her again.

Robert Durst, subject of The Jinx on HBO, was arrested for murder. Gawker has more background for those not watching the show.

SciFi Weekend: The Americans; The Flash; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who (The Doctor Dates Cinderella); 12 Monkeys; Big Bang Theory; Two And A Half Men Finale; Mad Men In The 70’s; Orphan Black; Kristen Bell; If Ayn Rand Wrote Harry Potter; Birdman Parody; Politics And The Oscars

The Americans Nina Gulag

One of the things which makes The Americans one of the top television shows now on is the manner in which several story lines involving different characters are carried out so well. Whether or not the different story lines become intertwined, one storyline often has lessons for another. On Dimebag, while Elizabeth and Phillip fought over whether Paige should become a spy, neither seemed to have thought that if Paige had been trained they could have used her to get information from Kimberly, the young daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group, instead of Phillip seducing her. Neither realized initially the degree to which they were in danger of losing Paige to her church–hardly acceptable if she were to be a good Communist. There is some similarity to how Pastor Tim is “recruiting” Paige to how Phillip is using Kimberly and the Russians want them to recruit Paige. Meanwhile in Russian, Nina might be saved due to Oleg’s family relationship to the future Russian oligarchs, and she went to work on her cell mate as Elizabeth would work on getting information. On top of this, the episode included a defector who might be double crossing them, an EST meeting, and a visit with an AA sponsor.

Keri Russell discussed the relationships with her character’s daughter and mother this season, and described the scene earlier this season in which Annelise’s body was packed into a suitcase:

IGN: I have to ask about that second episode and the scene of having to get rid of the body in that hotel room. First of all, there’s the “Oh my god!” of it all. And then also is it interesting for you to play a character who already had to compartmentalize everything, but this is a woman that her husband was sleeping with as a part of the job, and now she has the reality of that in front of her?

Russell: All I have to say is so many naked girls! Naked, beautiful actress, naked beautiful contortionist, yeah. Then on a second unit day of reshoots, a second naked beautiful girl. I was like, “There’s a lot of pretty, naked girls on this show!” Yeah, so bizarre! Really gruesome. I haven’t seen it. Does it play?

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

Last week The Flash was both a back door pilot for Firestorm and further advanced the idea of time travel for Barry Allen. We saw once again how far Harrison Wells is willing to go, and his motives remain unclear. We should be learning more when the show returns in March.

Also on CW, we saw a reversal on Arrow, as the flashback took place in Starling City while the present day action took place back on the island. It was strange to see Oliver from the period when he was missing back around his home. Seeing Oliver snooping around Queen Consolidated gave the feeling of a time travel story in which a character is in their past but cannot risk being seen.  Meanwhile, on the island, there was a deliberate reference to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn with Slade’s comment, “I’m going to leave you as you left me.”

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Marvel has released this synopsis of the episode:

After discovering an alien city with ties to his resurrection, Coulson and his team destroyed it before the forces of Hydra could claim its secrets, eliminating the villainous Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the process. But new threats to the world have arisen, including Skye’s father, Cal (Kyle McLachlan), who now seeks retribution against Coulson for stealing his revenge against Whitehall; a disturbing alliance between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33; the enigmatic Raina (Ruth Negga), who struggles with her transformation into something inhuman by the alien Obelisk and seeks vengeance; and Skye (Chloe Bennet), who developed mysterious new powers from the Obelisk but whose lack of experience with her new abilities may threaten the safety of those she loves.

Meanwhile, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) begin the next phase of a plan which seems to have grave repercussions for Coulson and his team, who are unaware that there’s another mysterious force moving against them. And as Hunter (Nick Blood) is forced to make the biggest choice of his life, Coulson will find his mission threatened by this shocking endgame.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks,” Coulson’s team must deal with the consequences of their war with Hydra as shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, and Hydra makes a dangerous move that may involve a traitor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst.

Adrianne Palicki has been promoted to a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, which probably means that Will will not be getting back together with Doctor Sam on About a Boy anytime soon.

Lily James Matt Smith

The Doctor is dating Cinderella–Matt Smith has confirmed that he is dating Lily James. I don’t know if it has occurred yet in the US broadcasts of Downton Abbey so I won’t give any specifics, but I did like her character’s triumph in a late season episode. Of course anything is better than revisiting certain past events yet once again.

In other Doctor Who and related news, The BBC has announced that Michelle Gomez will return as Missy in a two part episode to open the next season of Doctor Who. Add Eve Myles to the list of those interested in another season of Torchwood.

Speaking of Lily James in Cinderella, Ellen DeGeneres has presented a mash-up of Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey. Video above.

I thought there was a chance that 12 Monkeys might be able to make it into the upper tier of genre shows with The Night Room last week but The Red Forest couldn’t keep up the same quality this week. Not that it was a bad episode, but it was too easy to fix the timeline when it simply came down to Cassie getting captured in our present, and saving her would fix things. There are still a number of questions raised last week which could provide interesting episodes. Plus they now know how important Cassie’s role is and will make sure that they do not change history involving her, ensuring that she can deliver the message for Cole before she dies.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle (which I recommend watching, now about half way through the first season) and is going ahead with the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have intentionally held off on watching the pilot, preferring to wait until Amazon shows are released in full as opposed to watching the pilot months earlier, but reviews have been excellent for the pilot.

Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to throw far too much into a single episode, including the reopening of Stuart’s comic book store, a cameo by Nathan Fillion, and (the most amusing part of the show), Sheldon telling Penny how Amy was doing experiments on her. Then we learned what the episode was really about–a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz, who died in November. There is a toast to her in the video above, and there is an unseen tribute to her in every episode:

After we had that impromptu memorial the morning she passed away, Johnny and I were hugging—like everybody was—and right then we found our prop person and asked to get a little picture of Carol Ann and we put it on the refrigerator [in Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen] so she’s there in every episode now. It’s so small you wouldn’t even see it, but on the fridge is this tiny little wallet-size picture of Carol Ann that’s been there since the day she passed away.

It also appears that The Big Bang Theory is so subversive that China doesn’t want its citizens to be able to watch the show.

We are going into the final week of one of the best network sit-coms in recent years, Parks and Recreation. Last week we had the finale of Two And A Half Men, a multi-cam sit-com which over the last twelve years has shown everything wrong with the format. If anyone cares, Chuck Lorre explained his intentions for the finale. There were no apologies to the nation, but at least our great national nightmare is over.

Mad Men 70's

Mad Men enters the 1970’s for its final half-season, and from the music playing in the trailer it might even be doing a time jump to the mid 70’s. After that, I’m looking forward to the inevitable spin-off. Better Call Sally. Just kidding but considering how good Better Call Saul has been so far as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if AMC went that route again.

AMC purchased 49 percent of BBC America, and this has implications for the promotion of the third season of Orphan Black. The show probably has many less viewers than a show of this quality might otherwise have due to not being seen on BBC America. In the hopes of increasing exposure, the third season premiere will be shown on all of AMC’s channels, including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV. The one problem with this strategy is that Orphan Black is not a good show to come into late. Perhaps they should have been rerunning the first two seasons on some other channels prior to the start of the third season.

Forget any thoughts of John Oliver taking over for Jon Stewart. HBO, perhaps thinking along those lines and wanting to lock him in, has signed Oliver for two more seasons of This Week Tonight, with 35 episodes a year. Meanwhile Jon Stewart, after having to put out new shows daily, near year round, might envy Oliver’s deal.

Kristen Bell has no tolerance for anti-vaxxers, and won’t let them around her children. “It’s a very simple logic: I believe in trusting doctors, not know-it-alls.”

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Morena Baccarin (of Gotham, Firefly, V, and Homeland) has been cast as the female lead in another superhero adaptation, this time the movie version of Deadpool. I don’t know if this will impact her work on Gotham, but we know that sooner or later Jim Gordon has to get back with Barbara, or else Batgirl will never be born.

BoingBoing has pointed out an example of Harry Potter fan fiction by Mallory Ortberg, written as if it was written by Ayn Rand. Thus there are passages such as, “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”  Plus don’t miss the link to Mallory Ortberg’s reviews of children’s movies as if they were written by Ayn Rand. For example:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“101 Dalmatians”A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.


Big Bird meets Birdman in the video spoof above. Birdman is considered a heavy favorite to win an Oscar for best movie.

When actors go on stage to accept Oscars tonight, many of them are contributing to the Democrats, and some to the Republicans. The Hill reports:

Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.

Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper, and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.

Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donor…

Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She’s also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-breaking movie.

The article later discusses how Democrats often use celebrities in fund raising campaigns while “Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.”

SciFi Weekend: The 100; Agents of SHIELD; Guardians of the Galaxy; Jessica Jones; Casting News and Rumors; Gotham; The Psychology of Batman; Whether The Doctor Had Sex With Queen Elizabeth I; Better Call Saul; Fresh Off The Boat; American Sniper; Boyhood; Bob Dylan

The 100 Coupe de Grace

The 100 continues to be one of the best science fiction series on television today. Last week’s episode, Coupe de Grace, had power struggles both among the Sky People and at Mount Weather as on this show no group is without internal conflict. Ever since the parents landed on earth there has been a question as to whether they would take control, or whether their kids who are far more familiar with the situation would continue to lead. Clarke made it clear when told her mother, “You may be the chancellor, but I’m in charge.” Alexander Haig couldn’t have said it any better. Kane has shown that he has learned a lot since the events of the first season as he accepts Clarke as leader. We also saw that Clarke is not one to be messed with when she partially emptied the Mountain Man’s oxygen tank just to make sure he hurried back with her message.

The power struggle at Mount Weather also demonstrated that on this show people and groups are never all good or all bad. President Wallace wasn’t going to go as far as his son, but he had been willing to preside over a system of using Grounders for forced blood transfusions. While his actions were not entirely good, they were understandable. While the actions of his son and Doctor Tsing were far worse, their motivation was also understandable. Despite their actions, the Mountain Men are not show as all evil, both with the actions of Maya and with Bellamy seeing the innocent children. It was a little sappier than usual for this show to have Bellamy meet the son of a man he had just killed.

There are also other complicated characters. Indra dislikes most people and has little use for the Sky People as a group, but also accepted Octavia for her strength. Lincoln has shown complexity as a character when he deviated from the views of the other Grounders. While generally displayed as a strong character, he also gave into the drug addiction used by the Mountain Men to control him. His fate remains a big question for the remainder of the season as, unlike other shows, we cannot just assume he will easily overcome the addiction and it will be forgotten.

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Trailer above. New cast members have been added for the Inhumans story line.  Interviews with returning cast members Adrianne Palicki, Nick Blood, and Clark Gregg here.

James Gunn discussed how Marvel is taking risks with Guardians of the Galaxy 2:

 “It’s not really based on anything. The story for Guardians 2 is an original story that I came up with that I started working on actually while I was shooting Guardians 1, and it’ll answer some of the questions that were put forth in the first movie about Peter Quill’s father and who he is and what’s going on with that. We’ll get to know some of the characters a little bit more and then we’re going to meet a couple of new characters who will be very important to Guardians movies and probably important to the Marvel Universe as a whole.” […]

“It’s different than what’s in the comic books. Peter Quill’s father is somebody different in the comics. So then when the movie came out, we got green-lit on the sequel right away. I went in and I sat down with those guys and I’m like, ‘Okay, here’s what I think the sequel should be.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, whoa. That’s risky, but okay.’ Now I’m going to turn over the story in a few short weeks and we’ll find out how well it works.”

But do we get a second awesome mix tape?

AKA Jessica Jones

ComicBookMovie has the first set pictures of Krysten Ritter in filming in A.K.A. Jessica Jones. The do not reveal anything meaningful about the story. I posted more news on Jessica Jones, along with the Daredevil teaser trailer, earlier in the week.

Among the more interesting casting rumors floating around this week, Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad might play the villain in Star Trek 3. Will there be a blue meth problem aboard the Enterprise? Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black is testing for a role in a Star Wars movie. How many roles will she play?

IO9 has an interesting look at what went wrong with the third season of Star Trek.

There are some big changes coming in DC Comics. More information here, here, and here.

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Variety reports that Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes and Gilmore Girls will appear in a multi-episode arc on Gotham:

Ventimiglia will play Jason Lennon, aka “the Ogre,” beginning in episode 19 of the Fox hit’s freshman season.

Handsome, wealthy and seductive, the Ogre is a serial killer who has been preying on the young women of Gotham for nearly a decade, luring them into his web and confronting them with a series of “tests” as he searches for his perfect mate. When the women fail to live up to his impossible standard, Lennon disposes of them quickly and viciously.

His obsessions, combined with the determination of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) to bring him down, send both Gordon and Lennon — as well as those around them — on a course toward tragedy.

Reps for the show note that while Ventimiglia’s character shares a nickname with a villain from the DC Comics pantheon, the “Gotham” Ogre is unrelated to previous versions.

I am glad that Oliver returned on Arrow last week. With all the other spin-offs being made from the show, now there is talk that John Diggle might turn out to be John Stewart, the successor to Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. With the television and movie universes being kept separate on television, we might ultimately see a second version of the Justice League of America on CW and CBS.

The Psychology of Batman is discussed in the video above.

Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat debated an important question from Doctor Who: Did the Doctor ever have sex with Queen Elizabeth I?

Better Call Saul premiers tonight. Here is a review at The Guardian. Some critics have questioned the show. While they have pointed out good reasons why it will probably never be as good as Breaking Bad, few if any shows have ever been that good. With Vince Gilligan and the writing crew who finished up on Breaking Bad working on it, I am certainly going to give it a try. Considering the built-in  fan base from Breaking Bad, along with the lead in tonight from the return of The Walking Dead, I’d expect the pilot to do well.

Fresh off the Boat aired two episodes last week and the show looks quite promising, especially with the performance of Constance Wu and writing led by show runner Nahnatchka Khan (of Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23, which stared Krysten Ritter.) The same night, Aya Cash of You’re The Worst had a brief appearance on Modern Family, playing a character with an attitude similar to Gretchen’s.

Looking at recent movies, I enjoyed American Sniper, but it did present a distorted view of the Iraq war. On the other hand, for a movie taking place in Texas, Boyhood surprisingly contains more accurate commentary on the war and recent politics. Plus he went to a book store event to purchase one of the Harry Potter books, just as my wife and I once did (without the costumes).

With Bob Dylan’s music coming up in last week’s post, it is worth mentioning that he stole the show at the Grammys’ annual charity gala on Friday.The Los Angeles Times has the full text of his speech. He began:

I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground…

From there he thanked those who helped him early in his career and many of the artists who performed his songs.