SciFi Weekend: Westworld, Mr. Robot, Humans, Doctor Who

westworld-bernard

This week I’ll start with two shows which a lot of time could be spent on to interpret their full meaning–Westworld and Mr. Robot. Both deal with technology, but only one is really about robots. Westworld started out with a slow presentation of the story over the first five episodes and then a lot more happened in the last two, with another episode on tonight. Spoilers ahead related to the first seven episodes, along with fan theories which may or may not be true.  Last week’s episode Trompe L’Oeil confirmed what many of us suspected about Bernard being a host–and at times I wonder if even more characters we see as people are actually robots.

For the more casual viewers, here’s some clues to watch for which gave Bernard away, and are worth watching for regarding other characters.  Hosts are programmed not to see some doors that humans can see. Hosts are also literally blind to other things as well and it was a huge clue earlier in the season when Ford showed Bernard a picture which Bernard said didn’t look like anything. Episodes typically begin with scene involving a  host waking up for the day but they only seemed to break with this by showing Bernard waking up.  The big question remains as to whether Bernard is in the image of Arnold.

westworld-man-in-black

The last episode also confirmed what was widely suspected–that Ford is evil, and provided more evidence of the theory that we are seeing at least two different timelines, with William later becoming the Man in Black. It is notable that the scenes from when William first arrived show what appears to be an older version of a Westworld logo. They both use the same knife, and they both wear collarless shirts. William’s white hat is getting dirtier, and darker, the longer he is in Westworld. We have been told that disease has been eradicated in the outside world in The Man in Black’s time, but William was asked about pre-existing health conditions when he first arrived. William’s said things to Delores in the last episode which were remarkably like what The Man in Black said in an earlier scene in the series.

The fan theories regarding William becoming the Man in Black and Bernard being a host (possibly based upon Arnold) are two of the most discussed ideas, but there are many more floating around, such as this about Mauve’s escape plan. The show also has a tremendous number of Easter eggs. Some are obvious, such as an image of Yul Brynner from the original movie in the background. There are others which I would have never picked up on if I wasn’t tipped off by others. For example, the meaning of the robotic player piano is fairly obvious. What is less obvious, as the lyrics are not heard, is that the lyrics to many of the songs played are directly related to what is happening on the show (giving a reason for why modern songs are often played).

In actual news, Ed Harris has confirmed that he will be returning for the second season of Westworld. I hope that this doesn’t blow up anyone’s favorite theory about the show.

mr-robot-season-2-finale

Recode Decode interviewed Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, with full transcript here. The conversation includes the hacker world, technology, Westworld, and Donald Trump. Here are some excerpts:

What was the impetus for you when you were writing it? What were you trying to do there?

There were three things. Initially, it was, I just need to write something about the hacker culture and tech culture that I didn’t think was being represented. So that was in the back of my head for years, since I was 14 and I was like, “Oh, that will be a great movie. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to come up with the idea.”

I always start with characters, so I started thinking about the character of Elliott. And then 2008 happened, the financial crisis. And I was like, “Oh, it’s gotta be …” And you know, Anonymous, the hacking group, had just come out. And LulzSec. So I was like, “Okay, this is kind of like the sort of group that Elliott might be involved in or might partake in.”

And then the 2008 financial crisis happened. I was like, “Okay, this is awesome, it’s going to be an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment character who’s angry and who wants to take down the system.” And then I cooled off a little bit because I was like, “Who wants to hear a guy rant about that for hours and hours?” I thought that would get a little grating. And there wasn’t a humanity to it. So I went away from that. It stayed in there, but the character wasn’t complete yet.

And then the Arab Spring happened and, you know, I’m Egyptian, so I have a lot of family out there, a lot of cousins. I went out there about nine months after the revolution happened to just talk to my cousins, who were young, who were online, who were part of that whole movement, using technology and honestly just channeling that anger that they had against their country, against the way their society was being run, in a really positive way. That was the missing piece. That was the thing that really moved me…

I was watching “Westworld” and it’s again, technology — although it’s humanity in that particular series. But go ahead.

So to me, I feel like obviously, as younger writer/directors come up and they kind of understand it and then want to represent it more authentically, hopefully that mindset will change in Hollywood. Because in terms of just the old-fashioned thing, and then we talked about Donald Trump, those rules just don’t apply anymore. There aren’t 400-pound guys who are devilishly sitting behind a keyboard wanting to change the traffic lights, you know?

I think a lot of it came from the original Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games.” You know what I mean? That really had an impact on people of how the hacking culture [worked]. To me that was the biggest success, I guess.

Well, “Sneakers.” Although I don’t know if “Sneakers” …

With Robert Redford.

But that’s a great movie.

It is a great movie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But one of the things that is important to me is that technology is also a situation that’s ruining their business. The Rubicon has been crossed. People are streaming on phones. Amazon and Netflix are disrupting their business incredibly, so there’s a real fear of the technology, too.

It’s the fear that’s going to kill them, not the technology. Look at Netflix. They’ve pounced on that. They’ve taken that as an opportunity to say, “Well, if no one else wants to embrace the technology, if no one else wants to say ‘hey, no, this isn’t something to be scared of but an opportunity to expand and offer entertainment in a way that wasn’t offered before,’ then we’ll do it.”

And they’re doing it really well. And I think that’s the thing. Even the way films are made right now, they’re talked about as universes, franchises, right? So it’s not just about one movie anymore, it’s about how many movies can you make off that one movie, and how many toys can you make and how many video games. You know, it’s now this whole kind of universe.

See, to me, it’s still an antiquated way of thinking. Because when you watch all movies … I think I watched “Mr. Robot” on my phone, the whole time. How do you, as a creator, how do you think about that? Are there creators like you? You’re obviously illuminated about technology. But do they understand what’s happening? When Google becomes a studio, when Facebook becomes critically important to distribution of entertainment.

I don’t know if they do. And this is the worrisome part. For example, we’re doing a book, but the book is not a marketing opportunity, the book is its own standalone thing, and it’s an interactive thing. It’s not just a book you read, there’s layers to it. A little bit like that J.J. Abrams book “S.” So that’s a thing.

And then we had a mobile game that we released, which is awesome and that is a story. So it’s not just a game that you play and again, not just a marketing fodder for the show, it’s its own story and all these little pieces you can embrace. That’s sort of the universe-building, that’s the world-building of the future. That’s why when/if Google becomes a studio, or Facebook becomes a studio … Oh, we also did a VR film, which is also another story that’s kind of like in between a couple episodes…

And then my last question: I interviewed Elon Musk earlier this year at our Code Conference, and he talked about a lot of things. He talked about going to Mars, he talked about his cars, a bit of everything. But then we moved into the idea of artificial intelligence and whether we’re all in a big game. He believes this is all fake.

Simulation.

Simulation. But he was talking about the idea of artificial intelligence, and that the best case scenario, given your stories about the power of technology, is that we’re all going to end up in the most benign sense, as house cats to computers. And they will take our places.And the only way we can battle it is by attaching neural networks to our own brains.

This is the whole singularity thing: Will machines evolve faster than us? And honestly, you can’t avoid saying yes to that question, because why wouldn’t they? They would just have much more power, much more processing power. And so it’ll come down to that spiritual question, and it’s a tough one: Is there something different about us that a machine won’t have? Is there that soul that a machine might not … I mean, they might have the faster brain, but are we just neurons and electrical impulses, or is there something more to us than that? I don’t know the answer to that.

Because I think your show is about humanity, it’s not about tech at all.

Well, exactly right. I think we tried to. In a weird way, we try and fight against our humanity. I don’t see my friends anymore. I don’t even call them anymore. I text them. We’ve devolved our communication. I remember when texting came out and it was so popular and I was like, “Wait a minute, we used to call each other on the phone, we used to hear each other,” and we would get so much more information out of that, but now we’d just rather text because of our own whatever, I don’t know what it is. Is it just easier or more efficient or too neurotic to get on the phone? I don’t know.

Sam Esmail has also “leaked” a page from a Mr. Robot script in which Elliot’s psychologist asked why he is so disappointed in society. Elliot’s answer: “Oh, that’s easy. Donald Trump was just elected president of the United States.”

Westworld is not the only current television show dealing with artificial intelligence. Humans is already into its second season on Channel 4 in the U.K. I’m currently behind (and even if I wasn’t I would avoid spoiling it for those who are waiting for it to be more easily available in the United States), but it did get off to a good start. So, to keep this all straight, Westworld and Humans are about robots, but Mr. Robot is not.

A sneak peak of the Doctor Who Christmas special was released at Children in Need (video above). Radio Times listed what we have learned.

In other Doctor Who news this week, Steven Moffat might create some controversy with his argument that the Doctor’s companion should always be a female:

Science-fiction is notoriously male. You can tell that because everyone wears uniforms and marches around talking about rules. But Doctor Who has always felt to me, rather female. It’s full of kindness and compassion and eccentricity and wisdom instead of violence. And from that point of view it is important that the main character, the Doctor’s best friend, should be female. I think it would be damaging to Doctor Who if that voice and viewpoint were not represented.

There have been male companions such as Rory and Captain Jack, but there were also female companions at the time. Classic Who also included some male companions, including Ian at the beginning and later Harry Sullivan and Adric. Generally there were also female companions along with male ones. (I am only speaking of companions present for a prolonged period of time, not isolated events such as Christmas episodes).

This argument also does not answer what will happen if there is ever a female Doctor.

doctors-daughter2

Moffat was also asked recently whether the Doctor’s daughter, as played by Georgia Moffat, will return. He has no idea. He said it is doubtful that David Tennant’s duplicate Doctor would even return as, should they have the opportunity to use Tennant again, “then we would bring back David playing the real Doctor, and not a substitute Doctor.”

Karen Gillan has explained why she used such a husky voice in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The major show business story of the week was the duel between the cast of Hamilton and Trump/Pence.

After the final curtain calls that night, Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, stepped forward with a microphone to directly address Mr. Pence, who was leaving the theater. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us,” he said. He added that he hoped “this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Mr. Trump quickly made it clear on Twitter, his social medium of choice, that Mr. Dixon and the “Hamilton” team had been “rude and insulting” and owed Mr. Pence an apology. At first, a part of me could see Mr. Trump’s point, or at least feel a shudder of embarrassed empathy for Mr. Pence. If someone were to single me out for a direct plea from the stage in a large theater, I would no doubt want to run home, dive into bed and bury myself under the covers. (Mr. Pence, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he was not offended by Mr. Dixon’s words.)

I posted more on this yesterday.

SciFi Weekend: CW Superhero Crossovers; Celebrities on The Election; Luke Cage; American Gods; Doctor Who; Class

Digital Spy reports on the threat which brings together the heroes of the four Berlantiverse DC shows on CW. Trailer above.

There’s only one army in the DC Comics universe terrifying enough to unite Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Turns out that the threat of meta-humans running wild has raised the ire of planets across the galaxy, causing an alien race to form its own coalition in order to conquer and subjugate earth’s superheroes.

“This year, for our mega Arrowverse crossover, we’re taking inspiration from a DC crossover from the late 1980s known as Invasion!, which featured an alien race called the Dominators, who’d previously vexed the Legion of Superheroes,” Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow producer Marc Guggenheim revealed in a statement.

“We’re using cutting edge prosthetics and computer effects to achieve a feature film-quality look which is faithful to Invasion! artist Todd McFarlane’s interpretation of the characters.”

The Dominators made their first appearance in the pages of DC Comics all the way back in 1967, and have continued to cause trouble for the Legion of Super-Heroes and others within the DC Universe ever since.

This autumn’s four-night event will be the first of two major DC crossovers. Supergirl and The Flash will also be meeting up for a musical episode that’s sure to be interesting.

Supergirl also teams up with her cousin in the above trailer.

The Mary Sue reports that Lynda Carter Used Hillary Clinton As Inspiration For Her Upcoming Role on Supergirl. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the president on Supergirl will engage in regime change in other countries based upon dubious arguments and sell influence from the White House.

Related story at Paste: Whitewashing Hillary: When Lena Dunham and Her Celebrity Ilk Become Dangerous. Obviously celebrities are hardly the people who we should trust with political analysis, but of course they are going to give their opinion. J.J. Abrams and many a long list of people involved in Star Trek have taken a stand against Donald Trump in a long open letter on Facebook. Unfortunately they also have fallen for the whitewashing of Hillary, and fail to recognize the importance of third party options. Trump is a celebrity in his own right, including The Apprentice and the recent revelation of his appearance in a softcore porn Playboy video.

Netflix has released Luke Cage. There is some background information in the Marvel 101 video above. I haven’t had time to watch it yet and hope to start next weekend. Speakeasy has some information on the series:

Showrunner and writer Cheo Hodari Coker (“Ray Donovan,” “Southland”) talked to Speakeasy about the show and shared some key details that will make “Luke Cage” different than “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” its Marvel predecessors on Netflix.

It takes place after “Jessica Jones,” but it’s all about Luke’s perspective.

The super-strong, nearly indestructible Luke Cage showed up as a butt-kicker and love interest during the first season of “Jessica Jones,” alongside series star Krysten Ritter. Yet, while “Luke Cage” will build on that foundation, it will be told through his perspective. “It doesn’t take away from the Luke you meet in Jessica Jones, but we’re telling a different story,” Coker says. “At the same time, I’m hoping people who see the show that like Luke from ‘Jessica Jones’ like what we’ve done in expanding the character.”

It aims to be the Tribe Called Quest of superhero shows.

The show’s cast is mostly made up of black actors, but Coker, who is also black, wanted to make sure it’s also representative of black culture, while keeping it relatable to all audiences. “I wanted to show it was possible that it had a deeply African-American context but do it in such a way that people who weren’t necessarily from hip-hop culture, or from black culture, and watch the show feel as though they’re part of the conversation,” he says. Coker points to A Tribe Called Quest’s albums as examples of art that both maintained its integrity within the context of black culture and still registered crossover success.

It draws on all sorts of Marvel Comics traditions.

Coker says Brian Michael Bendis‘s “Alias” comics have inspired the look of this Luke Cage, while much of the character’s origin story on the show comes directly from the 1972 comic “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire” No. 1. The showrunner, though, says a variety of Marvel Comics — from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller‘s Wolverine to X-Men comics in general — helped him develop his skills as a writer and dramatist in the televsion world. He says the issue-by-issue run in a comic book story line works well for TV. “That’s kind of the way you structure the season,” Coker says.

More information at TV Guide for before viewing. This article at TV Guide looks like it will be of interest after viewing.

the-tick

Amazon recently began showing a pilot for The Tick, which started as a comic and was also briefly on television in the past. It has been picked up for to start as a series in 2017.  CBR,com interviewed creator Ben Edlund:

CBR News: Ben, the new “Tick” pilot is something of an outlier as it’s rare for creator-owned comics to get a second big media adaptation let alone a third one. And I know this particular project took a long time to come together and had many twists and turns along the way. What was it like for you to go through that process of bringing the character to TV over a decade since the last go round?

Ben Edlund: It was, I would say, some of the scarier work I’ve done recently. [Laughs] This is a very specific character for me. I have a lifelong relationship with this creature, and so to engage with another expression of it and take the chances of messing it up or what have you, it makes you feel like it’d be pretty nice to just let it sit there. This is something I take very seriously, and I didn’t want to do this if it didn’t have a new reason for being and if it wasn’t something that wasn’t its own new thing on top of being another respectful chapter in the existence of this blue creature.

So that put the stakes up pretty high for me. And working with Amazon, we kind of started in a place that was quite distant from where we ended up. There was a lot of growth over the drafts we did, and I had to take time to figure out how to engineer a superhero live-action comedy in a way that would not be immediately ephemeral. It had to be something you could care about. So it was a very daunting bit of work for me.

I was very much the beneficiary of the 13 years I’ve spent working in live-action television. When I first did this, I had no experience other than some film school experience and cartoon experience. Now I’ve been doing this for a long time and working almost exclusively in this hybrid between drama and comedy. That started with “Firefly” and “Angel,” but with “Supernatural” and even “Gotham” and “Powers” – all of them incorporate elements of other things. That’s been a craft I’ve been drawing from and trying to learn about because I did actually feel like eventually it would be appropriate to look at Tick again and try to do something new with it.

And I didn’t know where that would be or when it would take shape. I didn’t even initiate the first ripple that led to this series. That was actually Patrick Warburton and Barry Josephson and others. It just kind of encompassed me, and it was time. It was ready to happen again. So when they came to me and asked if how I could conceive of it being doable in live-action, it took a long time to get my head around it.

Aside from your place as the creator coming back to his creation, the really interesting thing about the new Tick is that the superhero media landscape is vastly different than it was 15 years ago. For a long time, comics was the landscape where you could do anything and get deeper and weirder, while TV was much more restrictive. Now mass superhero media is bigger and weirder than it’s ever been. How has that changed your approach?

I think #1 right now is we’re at a point of superhero saturation. No one could have predicted how comprehensive it would be and how pervasive it would be. And so the level of education per capita [that the audience has] on the minutia of a superhero universe offers a lot more latitude in terms of joke material – because there’s just more to reference. That’s one part of it. The other part is that we’re the beneficiaries of technology. Big effects are a lot more achievable now, and so our vision is wider. That’s a great tool to have.

But I think the thing that’s most intriguing and interesting is that the whole complexion of television has changed. It’s gone from where we sort of anti-serialized stories and promoted the stand-alone ones to where things are completely engaged with the experience of serialization. People want that from these “binge vehicles.” What they want is a novel in televised form which is shaped and conceived as novels are. Those are not things that are free jazz improvisations as a general rule. They’re stories. It’s a demand that’s increasing with our appetite, and I’m happy about that because that’s the thing I want to do. I don’t want it to just be jokes. And nobody else wants that either, which is weird. The conventional wisdom of almost any other era of television was that we’d reduce things to just jokes. But this is a very different organism, and I’m intrigued by the experiment.

american-gods

Nerdist has a video report providing information on the television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. Screenrant summarized some of the key points,  including:

Nerdist News went deep with the cast and crew of American Gods and discovered that the series will follow a path somewhat different from the novel that inspired it. Far from being a true diverging, however, Nerdist reports that the series will not only cull from the near 600-page edition of Gaiman’s text, but also from the author’s character and plot notes, many of which either didn’t make it in, or were merely alluded, to in the novel.

According to Nerdist, much of the expanded story will follow the tales of how the Old Gods came to dwell on American soil. While the novel does tell the stories of how gods like Kristin Chenowith’s Easter and Orlando Jones’ Mr. Nancy left their original homes for our shores, the series is expected to dive even deeper into these character backstories to create a richer, more full universe.

Considering how well Bryan Fuller re-imagined the Hannibal books and movies, I am optimistic he will do a good job with American Gods, especially he will be working with ideas also created by Neil Gaiman.

NBC has picked up This is US for a full eighteen-episode season.

FX reports that The Strain will conclude with season four. FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a fourth season.

There reportedly will be a  a superhero character appearing in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special.

DigitalSpy held a contest in which David Tennant’s 10th Doctor was voted the best TV character of the 21st century

ScreenRant has some videos to introduce the Doctor Who spinoff Class.

 

Save

Save

Save

SciFi Weekend: Emmy Award Surprises & Snubs; Mr Robot Returns; Community Movie; Sherlock; Fargo; Outlander; Doctor Who

the_americans_ep313

The Emmy nominations came out this week, and I think they did a much better job than most years. The full list of nominees can be found here. Common problems in previous years included failing to recognize new shows, snubbing genre, and keeping old favorites in the nominations even when shows were beyond their prime. Last year they finally made up for snubbing Tatiana Maslany for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and she was nominated again this year. The biggest correction this year was finally recognizing The Americans–not only for Outstanding Drama Series, but also recognizing its stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.

While it took four years for the academy to give The Americans the recognition it deserves, another good surprise was that Mr. Robot received nominations, including for the series and for star Rami Malek. As with Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black, it is hard to picture Mr. Robot working without Rami Malek. On the other hand, they did snub Christian Slater, who won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his work on the series. Perhaps the Emmy Awards don’t recognize characters who are a figment of another character’s imagination.

It was also a pleasant surprise that Master of None received nominations including for the series and for star Aziz Ansari. Ansari might have benefited from his work on 30 Rock, while another 30 Rock alumni, Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) missed out her first year but was nominated this year.

Beyond the additions of The Americans and Mr. Robot, the Outstanding Drama Series category was fairly predictable, including Homeland and Downton Abbey remaining beyond their best years. Of course the Emmy’s have also been more likely to include a show or star when they are in their final year, so I was not surprised that Downton Abbey was included. If they must include a show which Damian Lewis was at one time connected with, I would have chosen Billions over Homeland this year.  The biggest snub this year of a show which deserved to be included was Jessica Jones. Similarly, Krysten Ritter and David Tennant deserved nominations for Best Actress and Supporting Actor. The series was nominated for some minor awards but it is hard for genre shows other than Game of Thrones to receive the major nominations.

The Outstanding Comedy Series category includes several worthy shows, along with continuing to nominate Modern Family out of inertia. I would have included Catastrophe and You’re The Worst before Modern Family.

Fargo deserves another nomination for Outstanding Limited Series, but this year I would give the award to The Night Manager, which also received nominations in additional categories. A miniseries was the best way to handle a John le Carré novel. While the same can also be said of other novels, whenever I have seen a movie based upon one of his novels which I have read I would feel disappointed by how much had to be left out.

Mr Robot Eliots Room

Mr. Robot returned with two episodes last week. One question when watching is how much is true and how much is Eliot imagining. I noticed that when the episode showed his routine, whenever he was by a television Barack Obama was on live, throughout the day. That aspect was obviously imagined, even if he really saw Obama at one point. How much of the rest of the day, or where he is living, was imagined?

TV Guide looked at one theory that everything was imagined, noticing how much his room looked like a cell in containing only a bed and a small table, his mother seemed like a guard, his meals with the same person could have been taking place in a prison cafeteria, his meeting across the table with Gideon looked like a prison visit, and the use of a wall phone as opposed to a cell phone looked like a prisoner talking on a prison phone. These, and other examples, could mean that Elliot was in prison, or perhaps a mental hospital. The knock on his door at the end of season one could have been when he was apprehended. However, there were also suggestions that the FBI is pursuing Elliot, which might argue against  him already being in prison, unless he is relating events out of order.

Community

Dan Harmon says a Community movie will still happen, although from this report it sure doesn’t sound like we will see it anytime soon (if ever).

With  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman both becoming such big stars, Steven Moffat wonders if he will be able to continue Sherlock beyond the fourth season.

Channel 4 has renewed Catastrophe for seasons three and four. Amazon will stream them in the United States. Amazon didn’t stream previous seasons until after they were on Channel 4 so I bet I will wind up downloading them as opposed to waiting.

I would watch season three of Fargo even if it stared all unknown actors, but the addition of Carrie Coon (Leftovers) is a huge plus.

In follow up of my review last week of the season finale of Outlander, Vulture has some spoilers as to what to expect in the third season.

Digital Spy looks at the rumors of Matt Smith returning to Doctor Who and gives reasons why they do not believe they are true.

Next week we will have a miniseries of the absurd, The Republican Convention. The schedule of people you don’t really want to see speak is listed here.

SciFi Weekend: Person of Interest; Orphan Black; American Gods; Game of Thrones; Outlander; Arrow; David Tennant; Captain America; DC Rebirth; iZombie

"Sotto Voce" -- The mysterious criminal mastermind known as "The Voice" returns, trapping Reese and Fusco in their own precinct with several armed gang members and the latest POI. Also, Root makes a shocking discovery, on PERSON OF INTEREST, Monday, May 30 (9:59 -- 11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Michael Emerson as Harold Finch and Amy Acker as Root Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With only three episodes to go, Jonathan Nolan was free to do almost anything for the 100th episode, and he did. Major spoilers ahead. Those who were behind this season might not even have been aware that Elias was still alive but in hiding. His actual death this episode was overshadowed by the far more significant death of Root. At least she lives on in some manner with the Machine choosing to make her voice her own.

TV Line discussed the episode with Jonathan (Jonah) Nolan and Greg Plageman. Here is a portion:

TVLINE | For starters, why Root? Why was she the big loss entering this final salvo of episodes?
GREG PLAGEMAN | Root has always implored Harold Finch to make his machine more assertive in this war, and now, faced with what they’re up against, Root ultimately is the one who makes the sacrifice to save the father of The Machine, and that’s Harold. I think it’s true to Root’s character — her first love was The Machine. She always believed people were “bad code,” and more than anything she wants Harold’s machine to win this war. Her going down in this matter seemed apropos.

TVLINE | She did go down in a blaze of glory, after making one of the sickest kills in TV history.
JONAH NOLAN | Yeah, I was holding onto that one for a movie, but I decided Amy Acker was worth it…

TVLINE | In the million months since you filmed this episode, a controversy arose about TV shows killing off LGBT characters. But I think that in your defense, Root was a richly realized character, over four seasons. And as you have said, she died meaningfully.
NOLAN |  Thank you for that. We haven’t seen these other shows [that killed LGBT characters], so I can’t speak to that, but it’s really just about characters getting their due and not feeling disposable, and not feeling like the audience’s investment in a character is being used against them, or that they’re being set up for it. This was always the end of Root’s story, this was always where we were going. It became clear at the beginning of the season that this was the end of the ride for us… and Root’s journey has always been getting ever closer to The Machine, so the end of her story was always basically becoming The Machine. That’s another thing I thinks separates this from the pack, and this is how Root feels about it — it’s an evolutionary step. We’re not trying to sucker-punch the audience.
PLAGEMAN | We’re aware of the objections now to that [“Bury Your Gays”] trope, and I think we circumvent that in many ways. This is a real relationship between [Root and Shaw]. Not only was it consummated but there are real feelings there in subsequent episodes. Not to mention, as Jonah said, we’re heading down the final stretch here. This is not the only loss that Team Machine is going to encounter.

TVLINE | On the topic of consummation, although what we saw a few weeks ago was just a simulation, did I read somewhere that you said Root and Shaw actually first got “together” in Season 3, Episode 6…?
NOLAN |  We definitely implied as much at various moments. Look, we’re on CBS, there’s only so much we can show, a lot of that is left to the imagination…

TVLINE | Elias similarly went out as a hero. How important was it for you to “resurrect” him and get back Enrico Colantoni, if only for a short bit?
NOLAN |  Enrico Colantoni is a f–king magnificent actor, and has been such a fun collaborator for us over the years. We’ve always managed to make it work, when he’s available, and he’s had some great moments here. It was always the plan to fake his death and bring him ever closer to our team. If there’s one thing about the season I regret it’s not having a little more time to play with relationships like these, and spend a season with him on our team. But again, we’ve had to get to the end a little sooner than we wanted. We wanted to spend a little more time with Elias all the way inside the team, though we’d have to be careful with that — Elias isn’t much of a joiner! [Laughs] But that relationship between him and Finch has been so much fun to develop over the years, from the sort of chess conversations to really bringing him all the way in. The idea in this episode was that it’s almost like an avalanche of grief and loss bearing down on Finch, and the cumulative impact of it for Finch is watching as this set of decisions that he’s made, this sort of plan that he has held into all of these years, comes literally to grief with the death of two of his allies and friends.

TVLINE | The Machine actually speaking at the end, springing Harold from jail…. I almost feel like that’s Rocky getting up from the mat before pummeling Apollo Creed. Is our team about to rally?
PLAGEMAN | I got chills, man. One of the things that Elias really served to do…. When a character with that power says to Harold Finch, “You’re the one that people should be afraid of,” he gives that a certain weight and heft that we understand something’s coming for Harold Finch, because Elias told us so.
NOLAN | And at Comic-Con three years ago, when asked, “When will The Machine get a voice?,” we did say, “Someday, but you won’t like how it happens.” I think we fulfilled that mandate.

I was suspicious of Felix’s sister Adele when she showed up on the show, suspecting she worked for Neolution or some other group. After this week’s episode, she just might be what she seems. She filled a needed role of an attorney Donny and Alision could call on. She also had one of the best lines of the episode when she met Alison and noticed how she looks so much like Sarah, “with less anger and more hygiene.”  Next week Helena returns. I’d love to see Adele’s take on her.

Gillian Anderson has had some major genre rolls, including The X-Files, The Fall, and Hannibal. She will be working with Bryan Fuller once again on Amerian Gods. Variety reports:

Anderson will play Media, the mouthpiece for the New Gods, functioning as their public face and sales representative, by taking the form of various iconic celebrities. She lives off the attention and worship that people give to screens — to their laptops, their TVs, to their iPhones in their hands while they watch their TVs. Ever the perky spokesperson, and always in control, she spins stories in whatever direction best suits her.

The attack of the White Walkers on the cave was one of the most memorable scenes on Game of Thrones recently. The above video discusses the making of that scene.

Outlander has been renewed for two additional seasons. This will also make it possible to have less of a delay between seasons. Homeland has been renewed for three additional seasons by Showtime, who will also be doing a series based upon Jonathan Frazen’s novel Purity. Amazon has renewed Transparent for a fourth season.

TV Line has news on next season’s big bad on Arrow:

Arrow‘s latest evil mastermind is heading to Star City by way of Baltimore. TVLine has learned exclusively that the CW drama’s upcoming fifth season will introduce a new villain loosely inspired by Idris Elba’s Wire drug kingpin Stringer Bell.

The character, tentatively named “Anton Church,” is a ruthless crime lord who sets out to fill the sizable void left by 960Damien Darhk and H.I.V.E. The initial casting notice describes him as an “apex predator” who “cuts his way through the shadows” by taking down “the biggest threat first.” (Um, he’s looking at you, Ollie Q.). While the role is being likened to Elba’s classic Wire baddie, the breakdown also references ex-Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa as a physical prototype.

Arrow had a great big bad last season, but sure didn’t conclude the story very well. Hopefully the quality of Arrow will get back to what we saw the first two seasons.

Here’s something for fans of both Doctor Who and Marvel. David Tennant of Jessica Jones does Ask Marvel in the video above.

In other Doctor Who news, Steven Moffat recently revelaled that the role of The Doctor was once offered to a black actor, but it didn’t work out.

Captain America Hydra

There have been a lot of changes in both the Marvel and DC comics over the years. After the last two Captain America movies showed SHIELD to be infiltrated by Hydra, and now has Captain America and other Avengers on the run, there is an even more radical change in the comics. Steve Rogers is apparently an undercover Hydra agent. Of course, in the comics, this could be a trick, or just something to go on for a while until they reboot again.

Here is a review of the DC Universe Rebirth from Nerdist and additional spoilers from Bleeding Cool.

Rose McIver discussed the season 2 finale of iZombie and what might be coming in season 3.

SciFi Weekend: Steven Moffat Leaving Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Legends of Tomorrow; Charlotte Rampling On The Academy Awards

Moffat TARDIS

Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.

The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.

After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.

Following is the BBC press release:

BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.

After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.

Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.

Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.

Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”

AKA Jessica Jones

Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:

Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.

“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”

While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.

When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”

Arthur Darvill Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?

I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 18th December. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING as Jocelyn Knight. Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:

In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”

Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:

“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”

Rampling also said:

“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”

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.

NUP_166495_0049.jpg

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: Doctor Who, Face the Raven; Jessica Jones; Arrow Flash Crossover; 11/22/63; Lost In Space; New Show From Bays and Thomas

Doctor Who Face the Raven

Only four companions had previously died in the long history of Doctor Who, with none in the new series. This changed on Face the Raven with the death of Clara Oswald.  The episode took place on Trap Street, a hidden street in London like something out of Harry Potter, except in this case Maise Williams’ immortal character returned as mayor, providing sanctuary for aliens. Clara’s friend Rigsy (previously seen in Flatline, when Clara was acting as the Doctor) was sentenced to die, with a Chronolock tattooed on his neck, counting down the minutes until his death. The Doctor tried, unsuccessfully, to turn to his index cards to express his condolences, but Clara pushed him to try to save him.

Unfortunately it turned out to be Clara who saved him by transferring the Chronolock from Rigsy to herself. Maise Williams’ character, Me,  had already guaranteed Clara’s safety on Trap Street, so she thought this would buy them time. What Clara did not know is that Me never really intended for Rigsy to die. However, once the Chronlock was transferred from Rigsy to Clara, the terms of Me’s deal with the quantum shade, which controlled the execution, were changed and Me could not save her.

Clara assumed the Doctor could save her once again, but he could not, and the two said their dramatic farewells. It did seem  questionable that the Doctor couldn’t at least try to save her. After all, it was already established that there was a stasis machine nearby. If that couldn’t work, there was also a teleport bracelet, not to mention the TARDIS, which might take Clara to safety.

Clara’s death was actually guaranteed by the decision for Jenna Coleman to leave the series. Steven Moffat discussed writing Clara out in an interview with Blogtor Who:

“What we’re gonna do with Clara’s departure was ‘Plan A’. This is what I wanted to with Clara from very, very early on in Clara’s run but Jenna said that she wanted to leave at the end of Series 8. And I sort of knew she didn’t really want to leave, I think she just felt she ought to leave at the end of Series 8, despite my various attempts to tell her what she was thinking – which never goes down well I find with human beings! [Laughs]

She decided to leave so I wrote her out of the end of Death In Heaven, that was her last episode. I was halfway through Christmas [Last Christmas] without Jenna and she said, ‘Actually, I’d like to be in Christmas,’ so I discreetly threw away the script I was writing and started again. [Laughs] Never told her that – should’ve.

I wrote her out of the end of Christmas but this time I sniffed a wind and wrote two endings; one version where she actually is the old lady and we last see her going up the spiral staircase. At the read through we did the big heart-rending departure and she changed her mind.

Peter and I did perform every form of emotional manipulation known to people on the world tour, badly and ineptly I might add. I like to think in the sheer ineptitude of out apparent subterfuge we were charming.

But what we’re doing now is the right way for her to go, in my view.”

Doctor Who Face The Raven Clara

There might theoretically be a way in which Clara did not die and could return for some of the final episodes of the season, but now that Jenna Coleman had her big exit scene it would be better to leave her character dead. That does not mean that Jenna Coleman might not show up again. A form of Clara has been involved with all Doctors we have seen so far, and the way in which she was fragmented should mean that she will also be involved with future Doctors, although that does not mean that either the Doctor or the audience will see her

The Doctor has met Clara in different forms. He met Oswin Oswald, the soufflé girl, in Asylum of the Daleks, and met the Victorian barmaid and governess Clara Oswin Oswald  in The Snowmen.  He also came close to meeting Clara as a child but did not recognize her.

There are still questions left from Face the Raven. The Doctor was teleported off, and is on his own, leading into the final episodes of the season (which will be extended length). Will he return to face Me, after warning her “You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you”? Who was Me working with? It was apparently someone who knew about the Confession Dial, which might mean Davros, or Missy. Incidentally, it was Missy who put Clara in touch with the Doctor in The Bells of St. John, so it might be fitting that she was also indirectly involved in her death. (Incidentally Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy, also appeared on Gotham last week).

The portion of the season prior to the Christmas episode will end with another two-parter. Heaven Sent will air on November 28th and run fifty-five minutes.  Hell Bent will air on December 5th and run sixty-five minutes.

Behind the scenes videos of Face the Raven can be seen here.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

It was a tough decision with both Jessica Jones and The Man in The High Castle both becoming available for streaming on Friday night. Ultimately a show staring Krystin Ritter, David Tennant, and Carrie-Ann Moss won out. In addition to these three, Rachel Taylor does an excellent job as  Trish Walker and Mike Colter is excellent as Luke Cage. Besides appearing in Jessica Jones prior to appearing in his own show, Luke Cage has been teased in a trailer for the second season of Daredevil.

While I have not finished the series yet, I have seen enough to say that this is excellent. It is possibly the best superhero show ever on television, and possibly the best television show or movie with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Vulture has a collection of excerpts from the many excellent reviews of the series. I will have no spoilers of the individual episodes in discussing the series.

Jessica Jones has started out even stronger than Daredevil. While set in the same Hell’s Kitchen background, it is not entirely as dark and gritty, with more of New York City seen. There are brief mentions of other events in the Marvel universe, but it is not necessary to have seen any as long as you are just aware that New York City was under attack in The Avengers movie.

Krystin Ritter is excellent as the damaged superhero. She plays a strong female lead, but the tone of the show is entirely different from the other superhero series with a female lead, Supergirl. Ritter’s dramatic acting abilities were clear in Breaking Bad, and she showed she could handle being the lead for a show in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. She further shows her acting talent as the lead in this complex dramatic role in which her character underwent a traumatic experience in the past, leading to the season-long arc with the big-bad Killgrave, played by David Tennant.

Jessica Jones Trish Walker

Krystin Ritter discussed playing Jessica Jones at Speakeasy:

Unlike a lot of superhero shows, she doesn’t seem to rely on her superpowers that often.

That’s how I always approach the character. Just a woman and a girl first, with her feet on the ground and with real issues. Her struggle is so personal and so relatable and so grounded. I just focused on that and the superpower thing second. I just felt like it was an extension of who she is – because internally, she’s so strong.

What unique issues are being explored in “Jessica Jones”?

I felt like it was groundbreaking material in how it handles some of the darker stuff that happens to her. We never actually see, literally, [her] history with [villain] Kilgrave. But we see the effects of it. Ultimately, this is a story about coming to terms with something internally with yourself. I also enjoyed that she wasn’t sexualized. She’s never putting on high heels and the tight skirt to seduce somebody like your typical P.I. So there were all these things in there that felt a lot bigger. I felt like it was a great conversation starter. It has the potential to be an iconic character.

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Kristin Ritter and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, who was also head writer on early seasons of Dexter:

“[For Jessica] the superpowers are just a matter of fact. She doesn’t advertise them, but she doesn’t deny them. She doesn’t hide them,” show runner Melissa Rosenberg explains. “What I love about this character is she’s so unapologetically who she is. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, about her powers, about her drinking, about just about anything. She is who she is.”

Her sexuality, and drinking, along with other aspects of Jessica Jones, are certainly not hidden. While there is no nudity, this is not a superhero series for children.

I have also been bookmarking material on The Man In The High Castle but will wait until I have hopefully had time to start the series.

An extended promo has been released for this season’s crossover episodes of The Flash and Arrow, starting December  1 (video above).

The season finale of The Flash is part of the crossover event with Arrow and introduces Wally West. There has been speculation this season that when Iris’s mother turned up and there was mention of another child, this would be Wally West. The following synopsis has been released.

“Running to Stand Still” — MARK HAMILL, WENTWORTH MILLER AND LIAM MCINTYRE RETURN; KEIYNAN LONSDALE JOINS THE CAST AS WALLY WEST — When Mark Mardon AKA The Weather Wizard (guest star Liam McIntyre) returns to break Leonard Snart AKA Captain Cold (guest star Wentworth Miller) and James Jesse AKA The Trickster (guest star Mark Hamill) out of Iron Heights, Barry (Grant Gustin) must stop these rogues from taking over Central City during Christmas. Meanwhile, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris (Candice Patton) meet Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale). Kevin Tancharoen directed the episode written by Andrew Kreisberg (#209). Original airdate 12/8/2015.

We have already seen the first glimpses of Hawkgirl on The Flash, as the various characters for Legends of Tomorrow have been put place on Arrow and The Flash. Legends of Tomorrow will debut on Thursday, January 21. In addition to bringing back old characters on Arrow in preparation for this, Roy will be returning to Arrow in episode 412.

The above teaser has been released from 11/22/63 from J.J. Abrams, based upon the book by Stephen King. It is to be released on Hulu on Presidents Day, 2016.

Danger Will Robinson: Netflix is planning a reboot of Lost in Space.

CBS has signed a deal with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas to produce another comedy set in New York. Deadline reports that the show, named New York Mythological, “centers on a Midwestern girl who moves to Manhattan and experiences firsthand the magic of New York.” It sound like quite a few other shows done over the years but it is the execution which matters. There have also been a lot of shows about friends in New York City, but few did them as well as Bays and Thomas did with How I Met Your Mother.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Mr Robot; Jessica Jones; Patrick Stewart; DC Television Universe; Star Wars Expansion at Disney; The Last Ship; Person of Interest; Homeland

>Hannibal mask

…And The Beast From The Sea continued the portrayal of Red Dragon on Hannibal, and provided the first glimpse of Hannibal Lecter wearing the mask he is famous for in the movies. Hannibal remained in contact with the Tooth Fairy, and even joked about using personal ads or notes on toilet paper to facilitate this in a reference to the novel where this was a more substantial plot point. Hannibal suggested that Dolarhyde  kill Will’s family, leaving viewers uncertain if he would succeed in killing Molly or Walter. Instead a guy just happening to drive by became the victim. Dolarhyde presumably also poisoned the dogs, but fortunately they also survived.
In some ways Hannibal seemed even more evil in this episode, placing Will’s family in risk in this manner. (“They’re not my family, Will”). To Hannibal, perhaps Will is his family, but Molly and Walter are just in the way. Elsewhere in the episode,it was not surprising to see Dolarhyde’s relationship with Reba fall apart, despite how Hannibal characterized the relationship.

Jack and Alana showed again that they do not really understand Hannibal, thinking he would assist them in tracking a call to Dolarhyde. Hannibal played with them, and then tipped off Dolarhyde  with the warning that they were listening. Hannibal had previously given Alana the ominous warning, “I always keep my promises.” Now it was Alana’s turn: “You’re not the only one who keeps their promises, Hannibal.” In response to this latest betrayal. She had all the amenities removed which kept Hannibal so comfortable, “The toilet, too.” As these were removed from the cell, the mask was placed on Hannibal for the safety of those in there.

Mr Robot Darlene

On Mr. Robot, Elliot had a brief meeting with the time-obsessed White Rose, but it was the meetings and surprise interactions between older characters on the show which were of greater interest. There is a major spoiler ahead for those who have not seen this episode yet.

The first big surprise was that Angela and Darlene not only knew each other, but at yoga class both talked about Elliot, showing concern for him. Later there was the meeting between Tyrell Wellick and Mr. Robot, with the two apparently working together, even if not entirely comfortably. This seems to confirm that Mr. Robot is real, but raises major questions, especially for those who think that Mr. Robot and Elliot are the same person.

The biggest scene was when Darlene told Elliot that she loves him, Elliot kissed her, and Darlene recoiled in horror asking, “Did you forget who I am?” Soon it was revealed that Darlene is Elliot’s sister. It was as if Luke had kissed Lea, but is Mr. Robot now Darth Vader?

This led to memories flooding into Elliot’s head. Going meta, Elliot looked at the camera and asked us viewers, “Were you in on this the whole time?” and then“Were you?” Maybe to some degree we are in on it, but we are also quite confused at the moment, also looking for answers.

There was the suggestion that Mr. Robot is Elliot’s father, previously said to be dead. This has been interpreted differently by fans who think that Mr. Robot and Elliot are different manifestations of the same person, and those who think he is a separate and real individual. Mr. Robot showed up at Elliot’s apartment to supposedly explain, so maybe we will learn the answer next week. I wonder if the show will move onto a quite different path as it heads toward its second season.

jessicajones-netflix-509x480

Indiewire reports that Jessica Jones will be a psychological thriller, reporting statements from executive producer Jeph Loeb and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg at the TCA Press Tour. They also discussed a major role for David Tennant:

“When we first sat down and started talking about ‘Daredevil,’ what we said was, for all intents and purposes, it was a crime drama first and a superhero show second,” Loeb told the room. “One of the things we’ve talked a lot about is that ‘Jessica’ is in many ways a psychological thriller first and then a superhero show second.”

…Loeb then went on to say that Tennant’s role in the show would be a key part of what differentiates “Jessica Jones” from other superhero series: “What you get out of ‘Jessica’ is a sort of hold-your-breath tension as to what’s going to happen. When you see the dynamic between Krysten Ritter and David Tennant… that question of ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and ‘What could happen next?’ and how that’s driven by character is something that is so important to not just the scripts but also the way the show is shot, and the way that everyone reacts, and the way those two react with each other.”

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, Professor X (Patrick Stuart) will have a substantial role in the third Wolverine movie.

white-canary-lazarus-pit

Moving on to DC, next season we will see the return of Sarah Lance on ArrowAusiello discussed how Lance responds to the return of Sarah:

Frankly, it could be the last thing Sara’s family needs! “Thanks to Laurel helping him see the light at the end of last season, Lance is back on the wagon for now, trying to keep on the straight and narrow,” Paul Blackthorne previews. “But that will of course be tested when Sara comes back from the dead. Because I think when your daughter’s coming back from the dead, she may not necessarily come back as quite the same person. Yeah, that’s going to be an issue for the family to deal with!’

Her return will also be in an episode with a cross over from Constantine, who assists with her return to life, which in turn leads into the origins of Legends of Tomorrow.

Despite previous reports to the contrary, CBS is now saying there will not be crossovers between Supergirl and Arrow or The Flash. Reportedly they are in the same universe, so this might be open to reconsideration if the right story is presented.

Disney has always provided synergy between their films, theme parks, and merchandise. Therefore it was no surprise to find that, with Star Wars expected to be a huge blockbuster film this December, there will be a fourteen acre expansion based upon Star Wars at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

TNT has renewed The Last ship for a third season.

Sarah Shahi is returning to Person of Interest following her maternity leave. She will return early in the season and be present for eight or nine episodes of the upcoming thirteen episode season.

The firth season of Homeland sounds like it might be expanding its story lines, dealing with Edward Snowden, Putin, and ISIS.

Donald Trump told a boy on a helicopter ride in Iowa that he is Batman. That is about as ridiculous as Hillary Clinton claiming to be a liberal.

SciFi Weekend: Ascension; Person of Interest; Daredevil; Orphan Black; Hannibal; Fargo; Doctor Who Easter Eggs On Gracepoint; The Newsroom; The Fall; The Interview

Tricia-Helfer-in-Ascension

Ascension was billed as  Syfy’s big attempt to return to outer space based, hard science fiction, including the return of Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica. It didn’t exactly do that, but despite some flaws it was mostly a success. Major spoilers here if you plan to watch this at a later date.

The show was billed as sort of Mad Men in space with the advertised premise being of a multi-generational ship sent from earth in the 1960’s. It would have been a lifeboat for the human race during the height of the cold war. The show took place in current time, half way through the ship’s one hundred year journey, with the mission complicated by their first murder. This allowed them to show a culture which did not move beyond the 1960’s, complete with a beach and stewardesses to provide sexual favors for the upper class. It was never clear why such a class difference developed in such a short period of time, but if did make it feel more like the true 1960’s.

During the first episode there were scenes on earth which did suggest that things were not as they seemed, but the big reveal wasn’t until the end of the first two hours. They never left earth with those on board being part of a huge experiment, unaware that they were still on earth and under constant observation. Nobody on board thought it was odd that they never had any jobs to perform outside of the ship.

If this reveal wasn’t until the end of the series it would feel like a cheap cop out, but coming relatively early it did work to provide additional drama for the remaining four hours. I did actually like this development because it was far more plausible than the billed premise. If a science fiction show is set in our future, I don’t mind if they invent technology which is well beyond us such as artificial gravity. However, as the show claimed to have developed this space ship fifty years in our past, I didn’t find it credible for them to have technology which we do not currently have. I could accept them fooling people on board to accept this when they were actually under earth’s gravity.

This twist also allowed for the earth-bound drama to be as significant as the drama on board Ascension, including the well-developed schemes to not only keep this secret but to control those who suspected the plot, or who knew and wanted to take action. While I did like the twist leading to Samantha’s betrayal, I also would have liked to see them succeed in going full Snowden.

I do have mixed feelings about the ending’s almost paranormal nature. However once they did establish that this was an elaborate trick, they did need a big reason for doing it. An experiment as to how people would react to being on a multi-generational space mission would not justify this, but the eugenics experiments which resulted in the creation of someone with Christa’s powers would provide a more plausible reason. Once we saw Christa teleport Gault to an alien world it all made sense. The ability to transport across the galaxy immediately would provide a far better lifeboat for humanity than to send people out on a one hundred year perilous mission in space, in which those who start out would never see the end of the trip. Unfortunately this all ended much too abruptly, and Ascension works better as the first six hours of a series than a self-contained mini-series. I bet that the plan was never to end the story here and those who believed this was a six-hour miniseries were being fooled, just like the crew of Ascension.

The Cold War

The last episode of Person of Interest was far heavier into the show’s mythology. Zap2it discussed Person of Interest, and the trilogy which began before the midseason hiatus, with Amy Acker. Here are some questions from the beginning and end–check out the full post for the rest of the questions:

Zap2it: I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I have been waiting for Samaritan and the Machine to face off all season.
Amy Acker: It was funny because when we got that script everyone was kind of like, “Wait, this is happening now?” It did feel like that’s what this season was about, that Samaritan and the Machine are going to meet. I think that’s what the writers and Jonah [Nolan] and Greg [Plageman] really continuously do with this show is they bring up these things that would be a great season finale and they put them in the middle of the year. It really makes the whole second half of the season go in a different direction. I thought it was kind of cool that they did that when they did.

That scene was so great, and Oakes Fegley, who played the little boy Gabriel that Samaritan speaks through, was amazing.
Isn’t he so good? I have a 9-year-old, almost 10, that’s like the exact same age as him. I just kept looking at him going, “My son would never memorize some of those lines and then be able to deliver it.” [ laughs] He was very impressive. He was so smart and great, and he was excited about doing the scene and had ideas. The director [Michael Offer] was great with him too. He’s just really a special kid, and he was fantastic — and super creepy — as Samaritan.

There’s a little bit of a break until “Person of Interest” returns, so what can you offer as a tease for the next part in this three-part arc?
This is the second part of this trilogy of episodes which we’ve seen the beginning of. I would say this is the most dangerous of the three episodes. It’s a really unique episode. There’s not been a “Person of Interest” like this. When we all got the episode we were like “this is really cool,” and it was a really, really hard shoot. But as they’ve been putting it together, people have been saying this is their favorite episode that we’ve had. I’m excited to see it all together because it was kind of hard as we were shooting it to imagine how it was going to turn out.

The promo for the next episode makes it look like a lot of characters are in life-or-death situations. The last time “Person of Interest” had a big three-parter Carter died, so can we expect a similar game-changer this year?
Well everyone’s definitely in danger in this episode. With the beginning of the new year and the second half of the season, I think it’s going to really affect everything that happens from this point forward.

“Person of Interest” Season 4 returns on Jan. 6 with “If-Then-Else” on CBS. The synopsis reads: “Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the stock exchange, leaving the team with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe.”

DAREDEVIL-NETFLIX

Marvel told Entertainment Weekly that the upcoming Daredevil series will be more about crime fighting than superheroes:

Forget Ben Affleck. Netflix’s Daredevil is ”the exact opposite” of Affleck’s much-maligned 2003 bomb, promises showrunner Steven S. DeKnight. Expect the classic origin story to remain unchanged: Blinded as a child, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a lawyer by day who hunts criminals by night (he apparently doesn’t get much sleep). But this new iteration of Daredevil is more influenced by 1970s mean-street films like The French Connection and Taxi Driver than traditional superhero titles. ”There aren’t going to be people flying through the sky; there are no magic hammers,” says Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb. ”We’ve always approached this as a crime drama first, superhero show second.” There’s also more grown-up content here. ”It’s a little grittier and edgier than Marvel has gone before,” says DeKnight, ”but we’re not looking to push it to extreme violence or gratuitous nudity.” The ‘devil will eventually get his iconic red costume, but first he’ll wear black duds inspired by Frank Miller’s comic Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.

The above trailer for season three of Orphan Black, which returns on April 18, indicates that there will be war. I wonder to what degree it might be between the male and female clones or, probably more likely, between some clones and the groups which try to control them.

 TVOverMind has a round table discussion on season three of Arrow.

Michael Pitt is leaving Hannibal and Joe Anderson will replace him in the role of Mason Verger.

Fargo Season 2

Entertainment Weekly has more information on season two of Fargo:

Fargo is going back in time to 1979 for season two, and EW has a first-look at a page from the season premiere script.

Expect another snow-swept rural crime drama loosely inspired by the Coen brothers’ film, only this time the action is set in Luverne, Minnesota, where humble married couple Peggy and Ed Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons) find themselves caught in an escalating war between a local crime gang and a major Mob syndicate. (A character in season one cryptically described the 1979 case as “savagery, pure and simple,” with a massive pileup of bodies.)

“The scope of the story- telling this season is a lot bigger, it has more of an epic feel to it,” says showrunner Noah Hawley, who adds that the earlier time period and even more rural setting gives the show an almost Western-like quality. “It’s not the ’70s in a Boogie Nights kind of way,” he assures.

Gracepoint Easter Eggs

Gracepoint took advantage of staring David Tennant by including a few Doctor Who Easter eggs. Look at who the messages were from which were left on David Tenant’s desk–D. Noble, Martha Jones, and R. Tyler.

Keifer Sutherland told The Telegraph that he doesn’t see going back to do another season of 24. Obviously this is not the equivalent of a Sherman statement.

The Newsroom ended last week with a mixed series finale. The episode largely contained flashbacks inspired by Charlie’s funeral but the plot did also advance in scenes between flashbacks. Unfortunately much of the plot advancement from this short season came from random events. Previously the storyline with Will in jail for refusing to reveal the identity of a source ended too easily when the source committed suicide. The finale too easily resolved the conflict from the changes made by then owner when scandals, which came out of nowhere, led to MacKenzie being named the new president of ACN. Despite these faults, Sorkin left me wanting to see another season with MacKenzie as ACN president, and even with Jim and Maggie trying to make a long distance relationship work.

The Fall completed its second season with a mixed ending which, like Ascension, ended too abruptly. It did not work completely because of relying on minor characters who have not been seen in recent episodes.  The show would probably work better for those binging on both seasons at once, as opposed to watching the second season over a year later when some key events have been forgotten by most viewers. There is hope of them redeeming themselves as there is talk of a third season. It is not known if Paul Specter survived and whether Jamie Dornan will be returning, but Gillian Anderson has expressed interest.

The top show business story of the week, greatly transcending show business, was North Korea’s hacking of Sony and intimidation resulting in Sony deciding against the release of The Interview. On the one hand, the problems faced by Sony in releasing the movie under the threat of terrorist attacks are obvious, but we hate to such such intimidation succeed. Today on CNN’s  State of the Union, President Obama called this an act of cybervandalism (video above):

President Barack Obama says he doesn’t consider North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures “an act of war.”

“It was an act of cybervandalism,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley that aired Sunday “State of the Union.”

But he stuck by his criticism of Sony’s decision to cancel its plans to release the movie “The Interview,” which includes a cartoonish depiction of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after the country threatened attacks against theaters that showed it.

Obama said in a Friday news conference that Sony made “a mistake,” and that he wished the company had called him first. That led Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to tell CNN that Obama and the public “are mistaken as to what actually happened.” He blamed movie theater companies that opted not to show the film, saying they forced Sony’s hand.

Obama shot back, saying: “I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make. Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.”

The President told Crowley that his problem wasn’t with Sony specifically, but with the precedent the company’s decision set.

Ideally the movie will be released in some way to ensure that North Korea is not successful in preventing the release of a movie they dislike. Many solutions have been discussed. There are now reports that Sony might release it for free on Crackle. Such a free release, along with all the publicity this has received, would probably lead to The Interview being seen by far more people than it would with a conventional theatrical release.

SciFi Weekend: The Flash; Arrow; Gotham; Sleepy Hollow; Agents of SHIELD; Person of Interest; Doctor Who; Selfie; 12 Monkeys; Renewed Shows; Utopia; Gracechurch; Red States & Pornography

flash-pilot_612x380

 The Flash was off to an excellent start last week. It looks like it will be a lighter version of Arrow but has started to set up an interesting back story. There’s the death of Barry’s mother in the past and the episode ended with a look into the future which raises the question if they plan their own version of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. We don’t know for certain that the future will play out as suggested:

“Time travel is going to play a big part in the overall series, but one of the things that we will discover is that time is mutable,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg says. “As the good Doctor says, time can be rewritten, so not everything you see on the show is necessarily what’s going to come to pass and not necessarily everything that’s happened is fixed.” In other words, that newspaper’s headline could change.

Presumably their version will not include the death of Barry Allen. The final scene also revealed that Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) can walk, contrary to what was previously suggested. Is his name supposed to bring H.G. Wells and time travel to mind? With Tom Cavanagh’s character able to walk, this also leaves open the possibility of returning to his bowling alley (Ed).

arrow316

Returning genre shows such as Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, Agents of SHIELD, and Person of Interest have all returned to strong starts. Arrow returned with a very brief romance between Oliver and Felicity along with  (major spoiler ahead)  an unexpected death, which I bet will ultimately lead to Laurel taking over as Black Canary. Thanks to flashbacks, this won’t be the last we see of Sara. The episode also introduced Ray Palmer, who has now taken control of Queen Consolidated. While Gotham has premiered, Arrow remains by far the best television adaption of Batman ever aired.

While still early, Gotham does look  promising. It essentially feels like a comic book world without the superhero. Jim Gordon serves as the superhero, even if lacking either superpowers of the special abilities of characters such as Batman or Green Arrow. In a city where virtually everyone else appears corrupt, just fighting for justice and being the rare good guy is enough. Hopefully the can continue to work in a storyline with young Bruce Wayne without it appearing too contrived.

Sleepy.Hollow.S02E03

What makes Sleepy Hollow so much fun is how theye can have both a conspiracy linking Judas, Benedict Arnold, and events in the current episode, mixed with such humorous scenes as last week with Ichabod learning about how our banks work and getting confused about men wearing hats indoors (but not gays).

Ichabod : Is that considered acceptable now?
Abbie : Oh, lots of attitudes have changed since your days, not everyone’s but supreme court has upheld the constitutional right of same sex couples, and more and more states are even legalizing gay marriage
Ichabod : I meant gentleman wearing hats indoors, I know about homosexuals thank you, I trained under Baron von Steuben. His affections for his own sex were well known. Also, I watches the finale of Glee.

Even when in the midst of the big conspiracy they still don’t take things too seriously, such as with Nick Hawley not getting too worried about the apocalypse they were trying to prevent. After all, every civilization has their own apocalypse story.

Last week had another strong episode of Agents of SHIELD with a new role for Simmons. They are making far better use of both Fitz and Simmons than last year. Presumably the real Simmons, as opposed to the one in Fitz’s head, will appear intermittently while undercover at HYDRA. It would probably appear too contrived if they run into her every episode.

Person of Interest is also off to a great start after a semi-reboot, placing the major characters in new situations. I am hoping they do more with the big issues of surveillance and artificial intelligence as the season progresses, rather than number of the week shows.  There is the danger that the reboot won’t matter as they have quickly made things similar to before with the establishment of a means to communicate, a new base, and a new source of money.

doctor-clara-train-mummy

Steven Moffat had a line in The Big Bang with a call about an escaped Egyptian goddess on the Orient Express in space. With the substitution of a mummy for the Egyptian goddess, this premise turned into this week’s episode of Doctor Who, Mummy On The Orient Express. Perhaps some of the plot holes and unanswered questions from Moffat’s stories will ultimately be answered if we wait long enough.

We don’t know who Gus, who masterminded the situation, really is, but perhaps this will be answered at a later date. I also wonder if there is more to Perkins, and if he will be seen again. I am also curious as to whether this episode was planned at the time of The Big Bang. I suspect that it might have just been an idea in Moffat’s mind, which he later altered because he could not resist the line, “Are you my Mummy?”

The episode also included themes from previous episodes, including jelly bellies and the Doctor talking to his previous regenerations. In keeping with themes from this season, the mummy was a soldier. There was progression in the Capaldi Doctor’s attitude. He still had no qualms about watching people he considered to already be doomed die in order to gain information, (“Old ladies die all the time.It’s practically in their job description.”). However, he also substituted himself for a potential victim. In the end, he used the TARDIS to save everyone.

The Clara storyline was handled in a strange manner. Last week it looked like she was done with the Doctor, leading to speculation that this might have been done to set up a solo adventure. Instead Clara was present, yet they teased that this might be their last trip together. If Clara was planning to leave the Doctor, why did she go with him on the Orient Express? After so much teasing that she would no longer travel with the Doctor, she changed her mind quite quickly at the end. I also continue to wonder what type of cell service the Doctor and his companions have which allows them to communicate not only with each other regardless of where they are, but back with earth in the present. Personally I can lose cell service if I wander too far from the cell extender I found necessary to purchase to set up a cellular hot spot in my own house.

The Doctor Who Extra is below:

I had mixed opinions from the pilot of Selfie but obviously I was going to give any show staring Karen Gillian and John Cho a second chance. I’m glad I did as the second episode was much better. Pilots can be a poor way to judge a series as the pilot has the burden of setting up the situations. In addition, changes for the better are sometimes made in shows between the time a pilot is shot and the show goes into regular production.

While there are some excellent genre shows in the fall, summer was weaker on broadcast television. CBS has shown a commitment to mediocre summer science fiction, renewing both Under the Dome and Extant.

Still no word from Showcase regarding Continuum.

ABC has given a full season pick up to two of their better new shows of the season, How to Get Away With Murder and Blackish.

12Monkeys

IO9 reports that Syfy’s television version of 12 Monkeys, which begins in January, will be different from the movie, taking the aspects they like and changing others, like their previous reboot of Battlestar Galactica. It sounds like it might be an intelligent time travel series based upon their review of the pilot:

What the pilot really proved was that this is a show not afraid of the complications of time travel. It does not slow down and explain to the audience its fractured timeline, save for a few title cards in the beginning. Ivanek gives a speech at the end of the episode that wholly relies on the audience being quicker on the uptake about time travel tropes than the characters.

The pilot also builds in a lot of space in the characters’ backstories to fill in later. And you actually want to know about them. you want to know how Stanford got to be in a position where he was picked for his mission. You wonder endlessly about how Railly can get from where we meet her to where she ends up. There’s more than enough to carry more episodes.

An old CBS science fiction series us returning. Legendary TV is working on a rebooted series of Lost in Space. Hopefully they can improve upon the original with the reboot as Battlestar Galactica did.

Utopia Jessica Hyde

Channel 4 has canceled Utopia after its second season, which was one of the better genre shows over the past summer. HBO is planning a remake with David Fincher directing. He is again working with Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), who has written the scripts for the new series. While I often question making US remakes of recently aired British shows, such as with Broadchurch,I am curious to see Flynn’s take on this story.

As a consequence of lacking the time for all the genre and quality television shows now on (a welcome problem and change from the past), I have not watched Gracepoint, having already seen Broadchurch. For the benefit of others in this situation who are debating whether to watch, I have found that most reviewers are saying that the early episodes of Gracepoint are very similar to Broadchurch, and where they differed Broadchurch did it much better. Both version star David Tennant. Reviewers are also saying Gracepoint begins to diverge from Broadchurch in the seventh episode. The producers have teased that the ending might be different, so at this point the reviewers I have read (who have not seen beyond this point) do not know how significant the difference from the seventh episode will be.

And, finally, yet another study shows that people in red states are more likely to search for porn:

A new study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, produced by researchers from Canadian Universities, found American states that identify as more religious and conservative are also more apt to search for sex online. Of course, the study makes a point of separating the religiously conservative from the politically conservative. The latter is more likely to look for sex specific terms, such as “gay sex, free porn and xxx,” whereas those that consider themselves religious were looking for generalized sex terms that could’ve theoretically fallen under the “health and wellness” category.

In heavily religious states, abstinence is often pushed as the only safe sex, with very little to offer in the way of sexual education. Unfortunately, that leaves a growing number of people with questions about sex but no answers. Enter Google: the best way to find an answer to personal, possibly embarrassing questions without calling attention to yourself. So of course the study finds that religious communities have a higher percentage of sex-related searches. That’s what happens when you can’t find it elsewhere.