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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

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

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

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

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

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

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Timeless Finale; SHIELD In The Framework; The 100; Doctor Who Trailer; Sense8; The Discovery; Bill Paxton Dies

Timeless ended its first season on the bubble, and the season finale was written without knowledge of whether it will return. I am still waiting for Trump to actually do something useful, such as issue an Executive Order banning cliff hangers on shows which aren’t known to be coming back. If there must be one, it was handled well on Timeless. The season finale did wrap up the running story line of the first season, and could work as a series finale. It also had a huge reveal in the final minutes which changes how we see some of the season, and leaves a lot open for a second season, if the series is renewed.

Deadline spoke with Shawn Ryan, who co-created and executive produces Timeless with Eric Kripke:

DEADLINE: Up until the last few minutes, the series was heading to a happy ending. Why did you decide to add the major cliffhanger at the end?
SHAWN RYAN: We had thought for awhile about what the best way was to give some closure for Season 1 while also setting us up for a new dynamic in Season 2. We wanted to bring Garcia Flynn’s journey to some kind of end, though I’m sure we’ll see more of him going forward. So while many people might see our Season 1 conclusion as a cliffhanger, we see it as a wrap-up of Season 1 and a launch point for Season 2.

DEADLINE: Did you have an alternate ending that would serve as a series finale in case Timeless does not come back?
SHAWN RYAN: No. Eric and I planned for success. We’ve been working towards this ending ever since the season began.

DEADLINE: In the cliffhanger, Rittenhouse takes control over the time machine. What is the plan for Season 2? Will our heroes continue to chase the mothership, trying to prevent Rittenhouse from implementing their sinister plan?
SHAWN RYAN: We are working on our overall plan for Season 2 right now and we’ll pitch it to NBC in April, so I’m reluctant to get too much into it because we’ll want to take a deep breath and evaluate the whole season before we commit to what we want to do in Season 2. What I can say is the current plan involves our heroes traveling to the past to stop history from being perverted and changed too much…

DEADLINE: What will be Lucy’s mom role going forward, and why wasn’t she arrested along with 100+ Rittenhouse members in the government sweep?
SHAWN RYAN: Lucy’s mom will be influential in Season 2. We don’t presume that every member of Rittenhouse was identified and apprehended in the first 48 hours after our heroes returned from 1954, though the organization was definitely dealt a big blow. So we will owe an answer in Season 2 as to why Lucy’s mom was one of the Rittenhouse members not to be identified right away.

DEADLINE: Had she been onto the time machine project from the very beginning, including the arrangement of Lucy’s involvement in it?
SHAWN RYAN: Yes. Eric and I had it in our minds even from pilot stage that Carol was secretly a part of Rittenhouse and was keeping her eye on Lucy this whole time…

DEADLINE: Will Flynn resurface in Season 2 or did his story arc end with the season 1 finale?
SHAWN RYAN: Well, Goran was fantastic for us this season and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Garcia Flynn on the show, though obviously his role would be different going forward

DEADLINE: How did Emma, seemingly a fugitive on a mission to take down Rittenhouse, turn out to be a Rittenhouse operative? Is she earmarked for a major role in the Season 2 developments?
SHAWN RYAN: We will definitely owe some answers and explanations for this in Season 2, but once again, it was always our plan that she was secretly Rittenhouse and she was hiding out in the 1880s for Rittenhouse reasons that we will need to explain. We’ll see what stories we want to tell and how available our actress is to be on the show…

DEADLINE: Will Lucy be able to get her sister back or will she succumb to her Rittenhouse fate as her parents suggested?
SHAWN RYAN: I certainly think she’s going to continue to try to get her sister back. We’ll see if her mother or father can persuade her otherwise.

I posted excerpts from an interview with both Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless last week.

It was only a matter of time until Agents of SHIELD found a way to bring Agent Ward back in some form. This is being done by having the show move into the Matrix. Actually it is called the Framework. The probably couldn’t call it the Matrix for copyright reasons, just as Ray Palmer said he couldn’t call his saber which used light a lightsaber for trademark reasons in the Camelot/3000 episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Jed Whedon discussed Agents of SHIELD with E! News:

How long was it in the works to bring Brett back? How long had you been planning on this?
Well, we knew that at the start of the third pod as we’re calling them, we were going to get into the Framework, so there were a lot of options of things to do there, but that was always sort of at the top of the list. We love him and the fans love him and so we didn’t want to undercut the stories we’ve told with him, but this felt like a way to bring him back in a thrilling fashion that didn’t negate what we’d done earlier with him.

Was there talk at the end of last season when he was written out that this was an option, or was this something that came about later?
His end was his end, but this is Marvel and our show is built upon the foundation of a man who was brought back from the dead. And we had actually done that with Ward. So, it’s always an option that someone can find a way to appear back on our show and I think that this next pod will prove that out.

How would you tease what this Framework version of Ward? Because he’s wholly an Aida creation, it would seem.
The Darkhold has given them this amazing ability to sort of recreate reality, but we know that some small changes were made, repairing regrets for everybody they’ve put in there, so that seems to have had some sort of ripple effect. Who Grant Ward is in this world, we’ll have to wait and see, but they set out to recreate our world in every way and recreate everyone in it and everything in it, so there will be some familiarity to the man when you get to know him right off the bat in the next episode.

Another big surprise was learning that Jemma isn’t alive in the Framework. Are we going to cut to poor Simmons waking up in a coffin when she enters the Framework? How will this work for her?
We’ll have to see, but she didn’t wake up in a warm tub, that’s for sure. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but the two of them are going in and how she comes to be we’ll have to see. I have a feeling that she’s not gone from the series. That’s not how we would end Elizabeth’s run. [Laughs.] That’s a wait and see, as I have a feeling a lot of these questions will be…But that’s the fun part about the Framework. It’s a what-if world and we don’t really know what to expect.

Talk to me a little bit about the decision to have Hydra in control in the Framework. What is this Hydra going to be like and what was the thought process behind going in that direction?
Well, you know, Hydra is sort of the opposite of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the simplest version of the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. And we’ve told a lot of Hydra stories, but this story is more about our characters and sort of dealing with questions of identity and the nature of reality and whether or not you have a true nature or whether or not you’re made up of your experiences. If you’re made up of your regrets. Is there a true you or are you just an assembly of your experiences?

More at TVLine.

Jemma’s death on Agents of SHIELD is only in the Framework, but it appeared that we were seeing a string of deaths on television. There was the death of Alice on The Magicians recently. Connie Britton’s character died on Nashville. In this case I assume it was a matter of Britton not wanting to commit to a series on CMT for more than a brief season after it was cancelled by ABC. The question now is whether the show can survive her loss. It reminds me a little of how Dallas couldn’t survive the loss of Larry Hagman after the revival of Dallas on TNT. The one difference is that Hagman’s death came as a surprise, as opposed to Herskovits and Zwick having planned on Britton’s departure from the start.

For a brief time I thought we also had a major death on The 100. I actually went into the episode expecting a death based upon headlines of articles I had put off reading. The 100 has a history of killing off major characters, including Lexa and Lincoln last season, but Octavia seemed too important to kill off. Between having a sword go through her body and falling off that cliff, she sure did look dead, but the rules for survival are different on television than in the real world. Perhaps the bigger question of how she survived this is how her horse managed to make it down the cliff to her.

At least I am glad that they did show her get on the horse at the end of the episode as opposed to leaving viewers with a false belief that she was killed if they did plan to keep her alive. Now the question is how long it will take for Bellamy to discover that the news he heard of his sister’s death was premature. Plus Clarke’s story line got quite interesting last week, reminiscent of the types of issues raised in the first season.

The above teaser has been released for Doctor Who series 10, which will premiere on April 15. It features the Doctor’s new companion, Bill, speaking about him:

The first time you meet him, he’s funny.The second time, he’s amazing. The third time, you realize he’s the most dangerous man in the universe. He says he’s a man of peace, but he walks in war. I’m having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world–even if it kills me.

As Pearl Mackie has only been signed for a single season, and there is talk about a clean slate when Chris Chinball takes over as showrunner, perhaps she actually will die.

In other Doctor Who news, the spin0ff Class has been cancelled after a single season due to low ratings. It aired in the UK last fall and will be shown in the United States this spring following episodes of Doctor Who on BBC America. I did download the episodes last fall and found it to be a decent show to watch while there was no Doctor Who available, but it is hardly must see for those who have not seen it yet. The eight episodes do wrap up a story for the season, so it can easily be watched as a stand-alone season.

Sense8 returns on May 5, after a teaser Christmas episode.  Here is the (rather vague) synopsis for the upcoming full season:

Picking up where season one left off, Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton) , Sun (Donna Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) come together both physically and mentally, plunged into the middle of each other’s tragedies and triumphs. On the run from Whispers (Terrence Mann), and forced to question their very identity, it’s a matter of survival as the Sensates must find a way to live with, understand and protect one another against all odds.

Some pictures have been posted on line. As we already got the obligatory orgy in the Christmas episode, I don’t know if there will be another in the full season.

Netflix has released the above trailer for The Discovery, a movie in which the afterlife has been scientifically proven to exist and millions of people commit suicide to get there. My bet is that there is a catch.

The 2016 Nebulla Award nominees have been announced.

In this time of peak TV we already have one excellent series by Noah Hawley running (Legion). A second will return soon as the third season of Fargo is schedule to premiere on April 19.

Starz has announced that the long-awaited series based upon Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods will premiere on April 30.

Looking at the winners of recent awards ceremonies can help predict the winners of the Academy Awards tonight. Based upon recent winners, I predict that La La Land will win Best Picture, and Rumor the German Shepherd will win Best in Show.

Bill Paxton has died at age 61 of complications of heart surgery. He starred in Big Love, and has had genre roles including Aliens and Agents of SHIELD. There are many comments on his death on Twitter today, including several from cast and crew of Agents of SHIELD, with TVLine having a compilation. He has also had lesser genre roles including being killed early in The Terminator. The Mary Sue points out the science fiction villains he has faced:

In the course of his career, Paxton faced three of science fiction’s most famous villains. In Aliens, he faced the xenomorphs; in Predator 2, he faced a Predator; and in The Terminator, he played one of the punks from whom Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character demanded clothes. /Film wrote that this makes him “the only actor to have been killed by a Terminator, a Predator, and a Xenomoprh,” and I personally can’t think of anyone else who can come for that title.

SciFi Weekend: Timeless; Legion And Other Wednesday Genre Shows; Doctor Who; Renewal And Returning Show News; A Sci-Fi Explanation For Donald Trump; Oscar First Thoughts

Timeless started out the season as an entertaining time travel series, even if not the most significant genre show on at present. As it approaches its season (and possibly series) finale, the show has gotten even better as the Rittenhouse backstory progressed, and the series moved on from its initial formula. Screenrant looked at Why Everyone Needs To Be Watching This Time Travel Show.

TV Line spoke with producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless:

TVLINE | How would you preview the finale?
SHAWN RYAN | I’m proud of the finale. It answers a ton of the questions that we’ve raised. We’ve had a pretty good plan from the beginning of the season. There are things that happen in the finale that we had plotted out in our first couple weeks in the writers’ room back in June. We’ve known for a while that we were going to make 16 episodes this season, so we were able to plan for that and build to this…

TVLINE | The last episode left off on quite a cliffhanger, with Rufus in very dire straits. How that will play out in the finale?
ERIC KRIPKE | It’s not so much about whether Rufus will live or die, because — spoiler alert! — he lives. He’s one of our main characters and a popular one, and we’re not going to kill him. So as long as there’s a Timeless, Malcolm [Barrett] has a reasonable amount of job security. It’s more about the storyline that it leads to. Rufus is unable to pilot the lifeboat alone because he’s wounded, and so he needs some help, which comes from some unexpected places, and it kind of turns the story into a new direction, and then turns again.

I think the show’s gotten better and better the more we’ve focused in on and doubled down on the characters. The thing I’m most proud about in the finale is that it’s really a character piece. So many finales, especially the genre shows, are just about people running around and fighting, and ours really digs down to the thematics and the character issues that our people have been facing all year. It’s a uniquely thoughtful and emotional finale, and I’m really proud of it because of that.

TVLINE | How much did not knowing whether the show was renewed or not impact the finale and how you chose to end it?
RYAN | It did not have a great impact. We had a story that we wanted to tell from the beginning. We’re moving forward optimistically. We think there will be a Season 2. I’ve been in a situation before on Last Resort, where it was clear as we were making Episodes 10 and 11 that the show wasn’t going to continue, and we chose at that point to write what was essentially a series finale for Episode 13 to give closure. I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism for a Season 2. We’ll find out in two or three months. We’ve always set out to tell this one-season story that then would provide a launching point for a Season 2, but that would answer a lot of things, and I think we did it. We didn’t have any conversations where we were pulling out ratings and trying to do the math. We’re just writers, and we told the best story we could. So we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
KRIPKE | When you write these things, you plan for success. You just sort of have to, and whatever happens happens. But you write it as if the show’s coming back, because I think doing it any other way, you’re compromising the story you set out to tell.

Legion remains one of the more intriguing shows of the last  couple of years, and is already being compared to recent greats like Mr. Robot and West World. It deals with mental illness and an unreliable narrator as in Mr. Robot. While it might not be a major feature of the show after the premise is established, it handled time jumps far better than West World. While the themes are quite different, it also raises comparisons to Noah Hawley’s recent work on Fargo, in which Hawley adapted another universe in his own way. Uproxx interviewed Noah Hawley:

When you first got the material, what was going in your head in terms of how you wanted this to look?

When I sat down to write it, there was nothing specifically contemporary about it, but I don’t think I assumed it wasn’t a contemporary story. Then, I guess we talked about, since the movies jump from decade to decade, should we be in there somewhere? Then it just seemed to me like the subjectivity of the show gave us this opportunity to create a reality and I don’t know why, I just found myself drawn to these ’60s movies, British ’60s movies; Terence Stamp movies and Quadrophenia. There was a sense of the young punks and these are a band of outsiders and there is that sense of teenage rebellion that exists in this thing. In a modern day sense I think we’re over that and yet there’s something about that period in us that makes something familiar unfamiliar.

It started with just thinking like, “Well, let’s embrace the brutalist architecture and let’s not have any cars, because cars date something, so then if you’re in a reality without cars, where are you when you’re outdoors?” We shot on this University of British Columbia campus where there were no cars allowed. Then the hair and the costumes, this idea of the track suits that they’re in and all of that was a process of figuring out what it was and then the music plays into that as well. This idea, as I said to our composer Jeff Russo, that the show should sound like Dark Side of the Moon, so he went out and he bought the patch cord synthesizer they use in the show.

It is this mixture of visuals and the sound and music of it that’s trying to create something that’s not about information but that’s about experience.

Yeah. It’s almost a ‘60s vision of what the future would look like.

Right. Some of the elements seem futuristic and some of them seem dated, but I wanted there to be a certain whimsy to it as well, and a playfulness. I always loved about that genre and genre in general was the pure inventiveness of it and the way like a science fiction story. The example I give is Battlestar Galactica, the remake. It’s the Cylons who have God. It takes God and it takes robots and it creates something completely new. It’s not something that you would do in a drama. It’s something you would only do in a genre and so what are the genre elements that will allow us to take a show that would work as a dramatic story, two people in love, trying to define themselves rather than being defined by society and it turns it into something that I hope every week there’s something that blows your mind a little…

David alone has, in theory, an infinite number of powers. You get a bunch of these other characters with their own abilities that seem to, for the most part, be your own creations, so you can give them the powers to do whatever you want. What was that process like of figuring out, for instance, what Syd can do?

For me it was about creating characters and saying, what makes a tragic love story? A tragic love story is about people who want to be together but can’t be together for one reason. If they physically can’t touch then that creates this seemingly unleapable obstacle. Then it became about her having a power where she couldn’t be touched, and obviously I think there are characters in comic book lore who have different versions of, “If you touch me, something happens.” I took the creative license to say, “Well this is my version of that.” The danger with a character with a hundred issues of mythology is you’re always turning around and realizing you can’t do something because someone’s going to get mad or it’s going to conflict with what they know and it’s going to be confusing.

It just seemed more and more that I could take David and take this multiple personality disorder that he has in the comic and I could create a sort of metaphorical version of that, which is not to say we won’t ultimately realize that’s what he has, but it’s to say that that’s not what he’s diagnosed with in the show. Then to surround him with characters of my own invention so that I’m not hamstrung about what stories I can tell.

There has been a recent TV trend of unreliable narrators. How do you keep the audience from looking at the show as a puzzle to solve?

You have to solve the mystery. The narrator has to become reliable. It’s a lot to ask an audience to take a perpetually unsatisfying journey where it’s like you’re never going to know for sure. It’s another thing to say, “We’re going to take a character out of confusion into clarity and an audience out of mystery into clarity.” That’s the goal of it which is to say, there’s a contract and you watch that first hour and you like, “I don’t know. There’s a devil with yellow eyes and there are these other elements that I’m not sure what they mean, but I trust the filmmaker and I know that I’m going to understand it eventually.” You do. It becomes clear by the end of the first year what’s going on.

Before this era of peak TV, The 100 might have been the top genre show on of the night. Now it shares the night with Legion, The Magicians, The Expanse, and Arrow. The 100 really deserves more attention than I’ve been paying to it, but TV Line does have some comments on the revelations in Wednesday’s episode.

Spoiler TV reviewed last week’s episode of The Magicians in the aftermath of Alice’s death.

Plus information from the producers on Arrow here and here.

Vox has more on The Expanse.

Although they have no inside information, and the decision probably won’t be made for several months, the odds makers seem to like Tilda Swinton as the favorite to replace Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who. Chris Chibnall will be making the actual decision, and says it will be made in the traditional way:

We’ll cast the role in the traditional way: write the script, then go and find the best person for that part in that script. You couldn’t go out and cast an abstract idea.”

He adds: “The creative possibilities are endless, but I have a very clear sense of what we’re going to do, without even knowing who’s going to play the part.”

Steven Moffat says that Chibnall did try to convince Peter Capaldi to stay. He also says he does not plan to write further episodes of Doctor Who for a while after he leaves as show runner. He seems to have thrown all his ideas into Doctor Who the last several years, but perhaps he will come up with something new down the road.

Odds are looking good that The Big Bang Theory will be renewed for two additional seasons.

Fox has renewed Lucifer for a third season.

I gave up on Once Upon A Time a while back, and  from the ratings it looks like many others have too. The producers are talking about wrapping up the current narrative at the end of season six, and possibly rebooting the show in a different direction for a seventh season.

Fox is considering a reboot of Firefly, but only if Joss Whedon is on board. That makes perfect sense. I question if there is any point in rebooting the show, as opposed to leaving it as a brief , but excellent, old series. I really see no point in having someone else do a reboot.

Netflix has announced that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on May 19.

Outlander returns in September. The production is moving to South Africa, which might be a stand-in for Jamaica.

Goliath has been renewed for a second season.

The Flash deals in multiple parallel universes, including the one in which Supergirl takes place. Screen Rant explains the most important Earths in the CW multiverse. This got me thinking after hearing Donald Trump’s comments on what appears to be an alternative Sweden…

It increasingly looks like the best explanation is that Donald Trump and his top aides have been replaced by their counterparts from an alternate universe in which there have been terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta and Sweden. Also, in their universe, Barack Obama really was a Muslim born in Kenya, and scientists never did figure out the connection between human action and climate change. Presumably orange skin and that hair are also commonplace there too.

I’m still racing to catch as many of the top Academy Award nominees as possible by next Sunday. Looking at the favorites, at this point I enjoyed La La Land and am okay with Emma Stone as Best Actress, but I would not pick it as Best Picture. Based upon what I’ve seen so far I’d go with Arrival, but not expecting a science fiction movie to win, I’d also pick Lion above La La Land. It would be a toss up with Manchester by the Sea, depending upon whether I want a more upbeat or downbeat movie. Casey Afflect is justifiably a strong contender for Best Actor.

This could change by next week. My immediate goal is to at try to get in Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight before the awards.

SciFi Weekend: Legion Premier; The Magicians; First Look At Klingons On Star Trek Discovery; Stranger Things; Travelers Renewed & Other Renewals; Supergirl/Flash Cross Over; Missy Returning To Doctor Who

The major genre event of the week was the much anticipated premier of Legion. After watching the pilot, I would say it is worthy of the hype. If it can maintain this quality, it would rank with Jessica Jones, and possibly surpass it as the best superhero show ever. Created by Noah Hawley of Fargo, the show will also hopefully receive a cross over base of fans from those who watch quality television, even if they have not watched superhero shows in the past.

Syfy Wire interviewed Noah Hawley. Here is a portion of the interview:

In a recent conference call interview, Hawley says FX’s John Landgraf was all-in with approaching the show from left field. “The only reason to take on the genre on FX is if we felt we could make a FX show out of it,” Hawley details. “They are hardwired to look for a different way to tell a story. I think the love story [between David and Syd (Rachel Keller)] is also very grounding. When you have a character who doesn’t know what is real or not real, and the audience is on the journey with him, if you give them something positive to root for, they will make you a trade. As long as the girl is real and the love is real, we’ll go where you want to go.”

At the Television Critic’s Association Winter tour, we talked more with Hawley about how closely he hewed to the Marvel X-Men universe when crafting the series, the aesthetic of the series and how he narratively framed the eight-hour first season.

Legion has a very distinct, retro, out-of-place vibe to it. Why go with a vague visual setting for the series?

These latest X-Men movies take place in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, so there is a period-ness to the movies. By hiding the period [in the series], the question is more open-ended and it allows us to prove ourselves and stand on our own two feet. With the first year of Fargo, for the first three hours there was no connection to the movie at all so the audience felt it was working on its own. Then in the fourth hour, we introduced the money from the movie and suddenly it was connected. But by that point we had earned the right to be judged on our own merits.

Was there any burden to look to Marvel comic or even recent X-Men film mythology to construct this series around?

I suppose I have. There’s nothing on a white board with a lot of squiggly lines. For me, the show isn’t an information delivery device, right? It’s an experience delivery device. There is information in there that can often be separated from its meaning. You’re seeing things that are important because [David] is seeing them, but you don’t necessarily understand what they mean yet. It creates something that is a little surreal, which isn’t something that TV normally does, since Twin Peaks or Hannibal. There’s information that you will understand down the line, but right now what’s important is the experience of being in his mind…

Do you apply any of the ‘rules’ of the universe?

We obviously had a conversation based on the movies, where in the second-to-last movie mutants became public knowledge. Our idea is that they are not public knowledge. So it was a lot about where are we and how do we play with those rules. The other thing X-Men has is a lot of alternate universes. I’m not saying [the show is] one of those. I’m saying the rules are flexible enough that I can place the show and say, “Just watch it. Experience it and then we’ll talk.”

What’s been freeing about writing a genre show?

What I always got from the genre is a sense of wonder, and the inventiveness. If you look at the remake of Battlestar Galactica, there was the idea that the robots were religious, which was a such a fascinating idea. To say on an existential level, what is it really like to be these people [in Legion]? This idea that David, in the comics, has a multiple personality disorder, which is not something we are literally doing this year, but you are seeing facets of things that make you wonder, as in The Wizard of Oz, like a little bit of you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and they are all parts of him in some level…

How did you construct the series, as in will there be a cliffhanger to end the season like the comics or films might do, or is this self-contained storytelling?

It ends a chapter. Even though it’s a recurring series, and not a limited series, there is a beginning, middle and end to the first season, and there would be to the second season as well. I think it’s important to think of them in that way.

The Magicians also had some major events last week, with the third episode of the season feeling more like a season finale than an early season episode. (Spoilers ahead). Among the major changes, it does appear that Alice is at least a niffon, and probably dead. Fortunately in a genre show such as this, death may not be permanent, and characters might be seen even after death. Screener tried to find out what will happen with Alice from the cast:

Everyone give a warm welcome to Niffin Alice. Knowing that his girlfriend is essentially gone (niffins don’t have those pesky consciences, or even souls really) Quentin makes the impossible choice to set his keiko demon on her to make sure she isn’t set loose on Fillory.

Naturally, we asked the cast whether we should really accept that Alice is dead and gone. Jason Ralph’s answer was at least a little encouraging, since apparently Alice & Quentin might not be totally done with each other yet.

“The evolution of that relationship continues throughout the season,” Ralph teases. “So in some way, she’s around.”

It sounds like even though Alice is dead, we might be seeing a little more of her through flashbacks, visions, or even as a ghost. At least we can take heart knowing that we’ll see some version of her from here on out.

E! News interviewed Olivia Taylor Dudley:

E! News: At what point did you know we were saying goodbye to Alice this season?
Dudley: I knew eventually Alice was going to die, because I mean I read the books, and it happens in the books. I didn’t know going into the series when it would happen, and neither did John [McNamara] and Sera [Gamble], our showrunners. We talked about it and knew it wasn’t going to happen in the first season, so I assumed it was going to happen in the second season, but didn’t know until we got up to Vancouver and started shooting that we had the conversation that it was going to be in the third episode. And I think it’s so important to the story, and it’s a huge part of Quentin’s journey from here on out, and the heartbreak of that, so I knew that it was important. As much as I didn’t want it to happen, I was excited to get a chance to have that moment, because it was my favorite part in the books when Alice battles the beast and dies.

It was such a cool moment at the end of last season when Quentin realized Alice was really the “chosen one” who needed to kill the Beast. Did that have a big impact on you, especially knowing it was leading to this heroic death? 
That’s very exciting to get to play that. In that scene, when Quentin says you’re the hero, you’re the one, I think it’s really hard for Alice to digest. For me, it was so exciting to get to play the hero at the end, and you know, Alice has so many issues and it takes a really long time for any of them to have any kind of growth on the show, but under the surface, I think that it’s hard for her to swallow that she’s the one, she’s the chosen one. I love that in books and movies, like Lord of the Rings. I loved that character that gets to be the chosen one whether or not they wanted to. She wasn’t seeking this in her life, and to get it thrust upon her and force her to be great is, I think, really beautiful.

She also confirms that Alice will be back, in some form:

“That version of Alice that we’ve been with for the last season and a bit is gone forever. You can’t bring her back, and there’s no cheap tricks on bringing her back,” Dudley says. “So I get to disappear for a while, and there is a version of Alice that fans will get to see in one shape or another. I got to go on a separate journey with her and with this character later on in the season. I’m excited for people to see that. But it is heartbreaking, because I fell so in love with Alice and had such a wonderful time playing her, so getting to not play that person anymore is really sad.”

The Verge took a look at the entire series in an article entitled, The Magicians builds a better fantasy show by bringing realism to magic.

With Star Trek: Discovery taking place before The Original Show, there has been speculation as to whether the Klingons will return to their original look or have the ridges as on later series. We got the first answer in the picture above.

The cast of Stranger Things is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, with some hints as to what happens next season.

Showcase has renewed Travelers for a second season, with it to also be available in the United States on Netflix. Netflix has also renewed The OA and Love.

Set photos suggest that the Supergirl/Flash musical cross over episode will take place in the 1940’s.

The BBC has confirmed that Missy will be returning on series 10 of Doctor Who.

The fifth and final season of Orphan Black will premiere on June 10.

Sarah Shahi of Person of Interest will be appearing in another genre show, Reverie. The NBC thriller deals with virtual reality.

We might need a show as absurd as Veep to make any sense out of the Trump White House. Fortunately the show will be returning on April 16.

Richard Hatch, who stared in the original Battlestar Galactica and also had a role in the remake, died last week of pancreatic cancer.

Al Jarreau died earlier today:

Al Jarreau, a Grammy Award-winning singer whose versatile tenor voice and vibrant stage style blurred the lines between jazz, soul and pop music, died Feb. 12 at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 76.

His publicist, Joe Gordon, announced the death, saying the singer had been treated for exhaustion, after announcing his retirement from touring last week. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Mr. Jarreau was loosely classified as a jazz singer, but his eclectic style was entirely his own, polished through years of obscure apprenticeship in lonely nightclubs. He did not release his first album until 1975, when he was 35, but within two years, he had won the first of his seven Grammy Awards and had begun to attract a wide following.

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: The Big Reveal on Game of Thrones; Orphan Back; Person of Interest; DC & Marvel News; Star Trek; The Handmaid’s Tale

Game of Thrones Jon Snow

While technically a spoiler for those who have not seen lase week’s episode of Game of Thrones, there was little doubt that Jon Snow would return in some form. While he has returned to life, so far all we have seen is his eyes open and beyond that he might not be entirely the same. Vulture looks at some of the possibilities, including that his wounds might never heal or that he might not have his memories. They also speculate that his death might have terminated his vow to to the Night’s Watch which “shall not end until my death.” If so, this would allow him to take other roles, such as leading the North and/or returning to aide the surviving  Starks.

Regardless of what happens to him, Kit Harrington is happy that he no longer has to lie to everyone.

Orphan Black Donnie

Orphan Black started out the season with a bit of a reboot and simplification of all the various conspiracies. The show is always at its best in dealing with the characters as opposed to overly complex conspiracies. While Tatiana Maslany is generally the show, supporting characters do have a lot to add, such as seeing Donny and Felix posing as a gay couple as part of the investigation of one of those conspiracies. It got even better when Donnie called Alison to help him provide a sperm specimen with phone sex in yet another classic scene in this series.

Person of Interest returned for its final season on CBS. A sneak peak from Comic-Con is above. The AV Club spoke with executive produces Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman. Here is a portion:

The A.V. Club:Since the beginning, this show that’s ostensibly been about artificial intelligence is really about human connection. What’s it like to thread that needle and how has it evolved over time?

Jonathan Nolan: It’s a great question. And it’s a big challenge. I remember Greg and I talking from the beginning about the collision between the more esoteric ideas in the pilot and how we were going to draw emotions and humanism and a recurring interest from the audience out of all those ideas. There are a lot of ideas in the show, and it’s something I’m very proud of. It’s funny, it’s not a normal show for CBS, but people kind of found it, which is exciting.

That link between the big ideas of the show and the characters—we’ve concentrated on it so hard from the beginning, because we wanted to explore all these crazy ideas about the surveillance state, big data, and AI—and the collision of all of that on a personal level. And from the beginning, I’ve felt like there was a great connection there between big data and the kind of “normal” violent crimes that you find in a major city like New York. I’m just kind of fascinated by the idea of the collision of all of those things. But the thing that people keep tuning in for is the characters. Week in, week out, you’re looking not for ideas, necessarily, although it’s great when your shows have ideas in them, but for the characters to become extended family. Especially in broadcast TV, that’s what happens on that level: When you’re on weekly, your characters come back and you connect with them every week. So, as you said, threading that needle becomes the challenge throughout all five seasons.

AVC:One of the great things is how you were able to connect to The Machine, even on a very personal level. The Machine was gendered female, whereas Samaritan has stayed relatively genderless. Can you expand on that?

JN: I think the gender question, you know, they’re obviously connected. If you want to understand the impact that any SI, or super intelligence, will have—and it’s pat, but it’s accurate—but it’s as if there were no gods and we made them, right? God has often been gendered in the West in a masculine light, which is absurd, but it evolved sort of organically, talking about The Machine as a person. Finch always referred to The Machine as “it” or a thing, but for Root there’s always been more of a personal connection there, a belief in The Machine as a being. So her personification of it—sadly, in the West, we have to gender things to personify them—it seemed most apt that she would think of it in those terms. There’s also something else we’re doing with that: If you’ve paid close attention to the show and where we’re going, there’s a little bit of foreshadowing there as well.

AVC:It seems as though The Machine went through a rebellion phase when it really started to only speak through Root. Will this season be about The Machine becoming more mature in that sense and answering to everybody?

JN: I’m picturing a hormonal artificial super intelligence.

Greg, what are you thinking?

Greg Plageman: I think the interesting relationship for me is Harold Finch and his creation. And there’s always been a troubling conundrum for Finch, building this thing that’s so powerful yet that could overtake us. He’s never been quite comfortable with the idea of an ASI—building something that’s more intelligent than us and us expecting that we could still actually control it. So he’s always had that dilemma that he’s been grappling with, and that caused him to put a limiter on The Machine. What Root has always implored Harold Finch to do is take the gloves off the thing because we’re losing—we’re losing to a much more diabolical creation.

So I think the evolution of that relationship of Harold Finch and his machine this season, in terms of reconstituting it, and how it’s going to be different this time, it’s almost like, what’s the point? What’s the point, Harold, if you’re going to put a limiter on this thing all over again, as Root has always told him in terms of her wanting to let this thing go and to see what it can do. It becomes an exploration of Harold Finch’s character that I think the audience is going to find very fascinating.

AVC:Do you think that if we had been watching the team behind Samaritan from the beginning, rather than the team behind The Machine, that we would be pro-Samaritan?

JN: I think that’s one of the delicious things about what we’ve been doing with this storyline and where we’ve gone with it in this last season. I’m always most excited about and drawn to villains who have a point of view and have a plan. One of the most exciting things about The Joker in The Dark Knight is, he may be a villain in your eyes, but he’s the only person who hasn’t broken his own rules. Everyone else has, everyone else has corrupted themselves, but he’s in many ways one of the most ethical people in the film in terms of their own ideas. He had an idea, and it drives the story forward. We applied a similar approach here, but even more rationally. A lot of things that Samaritan espouses are believed by the people who work for Samaritan, the same way that I’m sure people who work for Facebook don’t believe that they’re working for the company that will destroy the world. But, you know, they are. And everyone gets through the day rationalizing their own existence.

GP: It’s sort of fascinating right now what’s happening in Russia with Putin’s control of the media and the way the everyday Russian views the West now or the United States. It just depends on who’s telling the story. There was a moment where Root met Greer and he sort of said these things to her: “You and I are not all that unalike.”

Supergirl

CBS has not decided yet about renewing Supergirl, with cost being an issue. Ideas being considered include moving the show to Vancouver and airing fewer episodes. It might also move to CW with the other Berlantiverse shows. (If necessary to make room for all the superhero shows, I’d suggest cancelling Legends of Tomorrow and airing Supergirl instead).

At ABC, it has not been decided whether to return Agent Carter or go ahead with Marvel’s Most Wanted. If they don’t air the second, I wonder if they would write Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood back into Agents of SHIELD. With the way they were written out, it wouldn’t be hard for Coulson to decide he doesn’t care what the Russians think and bring them back–especially as they are operating secretly. We should have news on May 17 from ABC.

Needless to say, there has been a lot out in the past week on the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of Captain America: Civil War. To avoid spoilers I will postpone discussing this until a later date. Here is one link of interest–the backstory from the comics of the history of fights between Captain American and Iron-Man.

CBS All Access remains on track to begin the new Star Trek series in January, 2017. They will be releasing one episode per week.

Hulu will be showing a ten-episode miniseries based upon Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale  in 2017. It will star Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) had will be written by Bruce Miller of The 100. Miller will c0-executive produce the series along with Daniel Wilson (who worked on the movie version of the book), Fran Sears (The Sophisticated Gents) and Warren Littlefield (Fargo). I suspect they will also be releasing an episode a week as they did with the adaptation of 11.22.63.

Speaking of Mad Men, here’s a chance to explore Don Draper’s apartment in 3-D. It would be even more fun to have an apartment like this to spend some time at in Manhattan.

SciFi Weekend: Controversy Over Death Of Lesbian Character On The 100; Orphan Black; Daredevil; 12 Monkeys; The Americans; Put A Bird On It

The 100 Clarke Lexa Kiss

Jason Rothenberg’s decision to kill a prominent LGBT character on The 100, and the manner in which she died, has made many fans of the show upset. At the time I first watched and reviewed the show, while I expected some disappointment and protest, I had no idea how serious a matter this would be to the LGBT community. Reviewing the discussion from those who did take it very personally, along with the views of television critics such as Maureen Ryan who is quoted below, help to understand the importance of this issue. After missing the significance of this in my original review, I hope to make up for it by providing this overview today.

I will start by allowing Rothenberg to explain his viewpoint. He was interviewed by TV Insider. Here are the first few questions, with much more in the full interview:

OK, so you had to be aware of the uproar that would come from killing Lexa, right? This was something that you guys had to realize you’d be walking into.
Yes and no. First of all, I think I should start by saying that for the last two weeks, I’ve pretty much thought about nothing else except for this. It’s taken me some time to process everything, and I’ve been listening, reading everything I could. I took my voice out of it on Twitter because I didn’t want to inflame the situation, and I felt like I didn’t want to shape the conversation. I just wanted to listen and try to understand. I mean, we were a little surprised by it—obviously not that people were upset; you’re right in the sense that we kind of knew that that would happen. The story that we’re telling is a tragedy. Lexa was a meaningful character to our fans, especially LGBTQ fans, and so I knew it would be emotional, of course. What was unexpected was the level of outrage that it’s generated from some people, but I do think I have come to understand that.

We’ve seen this with shows with strong social media bases: The louder the outrage, the more disturbing it can get.
Yeah. Lexa’s death triggered real emotional trauma for some people, you know? It tapped into the real world, it tapped into their lives, and as a straight white male, I obviously didn’t anticipate how deeply it would affect certain people. I look at it now and I realize that if somebody had that kind of a reaction and then were to look back at the way I behaved on Twitter leading up to it, which was celebrating this relationship that then crushed them, I can understand why they would find that reprehensible. I hope that people understand that.

Since there is no winning on Twitter, what do you want to say to the fans now?
I would say, first of all, that it’s taken me a while to get perspective on it myself and to put myself in the position of somebody who was hurt like that. And I hope that eventually they can start to put themselves in our position and understand that we would never want to hurt anybody like that. We would never want to hurt our fans. We love them, we owe them everything, we owe them the fact that we just got a Season 4 to them. We want to take them for a ride, we don’t want to hurt them. And because we didn’t anticipate this sort of level of pain over this fictional death, we were doing what we always do on Twitter, which was celebrating work that we’re proud of. In hindsight, knowing what I know now and sort of realizing the things that I’ve realized, we should have done less of that. We should have done less buildup knowing where this was going to end up and knowing how this was going to affect people.

But it wouldn’t have changed the story you’re telling.
No, absolutely not. We would have told the same story. I stand behind the story; I just don’t think I would have gone out of my way to say ‘This is the best episode we’ve ever done!’ Nobody really anticipated that this would happen so now that we’ve seen it, the idea for me as the showrunner going forward is to learn lessons from it, you know? This is a show where characters die. That’s another reason we were so surprised..it’s a post-apocalyptic world set 100 years later in which anyone can die.

The 100 Lexa Clark

Rothenberg also posted a statement on line a few days ago. Here are some excerpts, but those interested in the controversy should read his full statement:

For many fans of The 100, the relationship between Clarke and Lexa was a positive step of inclusion. I take enormous pride in that, as I do in the fact that our show is heading into its 4th season with a bisexual lead and a very diverse cast. The honesty, integrity and vulnerability Eliza Taylor and Alycia Debnam-Carey brought to their characters served as an inspiration for many of our fans. Their relationship held greater importance than even I realized. And that very important representation was taken away by one stray bullet…

In the show-world, no one is safe, and anyone, even a beloved character, can die, at any time. My favorite shows in this genre embrace a similar sense of heightened urgency. There are several reasons why this particular episode played out the way it did: practical (an actress was leaving the show), creative (it’s a story about reincarnation) and thematic (it’s a show about survival). Despite my reasons, I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have. Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently.

The 100 is a post-apocalyptic tragedy set 130 years in the future. It’s a constant life and death struggle. In our show, all relationships start with one question: ‘Can you help me survive today?’ It doesn’t matter what color you are, what gender identity you are, or whether you’re gay, bi or straight. The things that divide us as global citizens today don’t matter in this show. And that’s the beauty of science-fiction. We can make a point without preaching. We can say that race, sexuality, gender and disability should not divide us. We can elevate our thinking and take you on a helluva ride at the same time.

But I’ve been powerfully reminded that the audience takes that ride in the real world — where LGBTQ teens face repeated discrimination, often suffer from depression and commit suicide at a rate far higher than their straight peers. Where people still face discrimination because of the color of their skin. Where, in too many places, women are not given the same opportunities as men, especially LGBTQ women who face even tougher odds. And where television characters are still not fully representative of the diverse lives of our audience. Not even close.

The 100 Clarke Lexa Thirteen

Maureen Ryan wrote about What TV Can Learn From The ‘100 Mess’ at Variety and helps explain why many fans are upset. Again, these are just excerpts and the full article is worth reading.

The response of the showrunner has, outside of a few unenlightening interviews, has been disappointing. Rothenberg live-tweeted the March 10 episode of the show as if thinkpieces and damning critiques were not still being churned out. In the limited array of interviews he did in conjunction with the March 3 episode, he has given little indication that he understands the depth of the sense of betrayal or the multitude of reasonable objections to the death story line. Since March 3, it has fallen to co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote the episode, to engage with fans in any significant and meaningful way, but his compassionate and committed response has only highlighted Rothenberg’s abdication of responsibility...

So here’s the nitty-gritty: The character who died, Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), happened to be one of the few well-developed and complex lesbians on TV, and it’s an unfortunate but enduring TV cliche that lesbians rarely, if ever, live happily ever after. In the March 3 episode, “The 100,” which had touted its commitment to quality LGBTQ storytelling, invoked one of TV’s oldest gay cliches by killing her off mere seconds after she consummated her relationship with another woman, Clarke (Eliza Taylor).

Many fans, regardless of sexual orientation, were left shaking their heads in disbelief.

On a story and thematic level, Lexa’s death (despite being well-performed by the actors) had little resonance and almost no meaning. But all things considered, the blithe manipulation LGBTQ fans and the show’s willingness to deploy harmful cliches about gay characters remain the things that rankle most…

Adding to the sense of betrayal was the manner of Lexa’s death. She was felled by a stray bullet from an angry male servant, mere seconds after she and Clarke had sex for the first time. The servant, Titus, disapproved of Lexa’s relationship with Clarke, whom he tried to kill, but Lexa caught the bullet. This woman — the most fearsome warrior in the show’s history — didn’t die defending Clarke; she just happened to be in the bullet’s path. And by following her only moment of bliss with her lover, the Grounder queen’s death followed a time-worn and disturbing TV pattern.

Autostraddle came up with a list of more than 130 lesbian and bisexual women who have been killed off on TV shows, and it’s a damning roster. Whatever progress you think TV has made on the front of LGBTQ representation, the sheer number of dead women on the list is profoundly troubling, to say the least. If nothing else, it shows that the Bury Your Gays trope is alive and well on TV, and fictional lesbian and bisexual women in particular have a very small chance of leading long and productive lives.

Critic Nicola Choi wrote that when they spot a lesbian or bisexual woman on TV, many LGBTQ fans simply resign themselves to the fact that the character will die.

The 100 Thirteen Lexa

Dany Roth tried to explain the matter to a conservative-leaning readership at blastr:

If you’re not part of the queer community, an ally of said same, or if you were never a fan of The 100, why should you care? If we’re boiling this down to the most selfish of reasons, it is because next time it might be you. And maybe it already has been you. Forget social justice for a second (as I know many of you often try to, anyway) — think about this as simply acting in the interest of fairness…

The reason Lexa’s death was so upsetting isn’t just because her face was a recognizable one for so many queer people, it’s also because she made the LGBT community feel more visible, more relatable. And it made them feel like they were being listened to. Every time someone tweets about why Lexa matters, each time someone challenges the “Bury Your Gays” trope and demands that writers and showrunners do better, someone who hasn’t thought about any of this hears why representation in stories matters for the first time. Even in death, Lexa is making LGBT people more visible.

Orphan Black Train

There is often much to think about and discuss after an episode of Orphan Black. This was especially true in the early episodes, when we had very little understanding of what was going on. Entertainment Weekly has good news on both of these points. BBC America will be starting a show, After the Black, to discuss each episode. Plus it sounds like next season might recreate some of the mystery of the first season, including going back to when Sarah first saw Beth jump in front of the train.

Taking a tip from AMC, BBC America has announced After the Black, a companion show that will air weekly following Orphan Black.

Hosted by Innerspace’s Ajay Fry, Morgan Hoffman, and Teddy Wilson, After the Black is a 30-minute after show that will feature various cast, crew, and special guest stars chatting about the plot, twists, and theories on future episodes. Other segments will include behind-the-scene footage from the set and an exclusive first look at the following episode.

The format is very similar to AMC’s Talking Dead, which airs weekly following The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

The first post-game, which will air Thursday, April 14 at 11 p.m. ET following the season 4 premiere of Orphan Black, will include stars Tatiana Maslany and Kevin Hanchard.

As for the fourth season, executive producers John Fawcett and Graeme Manson revealed at WonderCon on Saturday that they’ll be going back to basics in a lot of ways by delving into a particular mystery from the pilot. “We really wanted to look at the first season this year,” Manson said. “We wanted to go back to that moment on the tracks with Beth and Sarah and go, ‘What did Sarah miss?’ There’s more story there.”

“We wanted to get that feel back, that feel of season 1 where you don’t know who the bad guy is, you don’t know who you’re speaking to,” Fawcett added. “That was the goal of season 4.”

Above is a trailer for season 4 of Orphan Black. There will also be new characters introduced:

Also this season, viewers are introduced to brand new characters that prove to be pivotal to the clones’ saga. Season 4 introduces Joel Thomas Hynes (REPUBLIC OF DOYLE) in the role of “Dizzy”, an edgy, self-reliant hacker who doesn’t conform to group mentality; Jessalyn Wanlim (Alex Cross) as Evie Cho, a powerful, seductively articulate bioengineer who believes great discoveries require casualties; Lauren Hammersley (MR. D) as Adele, a shameless, brazen, and wickedly intelligent lawyer who outwits opponents even when heavily intoxicated; and Gord Rand (Maps To The Stars) as Detective Duko, who on the surface appears to be unassuming and slightly nebbish, but has used his underlying angst to nastily claw his way to the top.

I will hold off on saying much about season 2 of Daredevil different  people are at different points with the Netflix model. Entertainment Weekly has the above interview with Charlie Cox which helps set up the season after the arrest of Wilson Fisk at the end of the first season:

“What we’ve done this year with the show is we don’t really have so much a Big Bad, but we have characters that enter Matt’s life,” Cox tells EW in a recent interview, viewable above. “They force him to look at himself and look at his actions in a way that no one else has done in the past.”

Those characters are, naturally, The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra (Elodie Yung). The first, as trailers have hinted, comes to Hell’s Kitchen with almost a similar purpose as Daredevil but with a much different modus operandi. And his methodology involves a lot more killing, which puts the entire city on edge shortly after coming to appreciate Daredevil’s work.

“It’s through Daredevil’s actions that someone like Frank Castle has been able to show up and do what he does,” Cox explains.

Yet putting a stop to The Punisher’s bloodlust isn’t the only obstacle thrown at Matt this season. Elektra, the “Greek girl” from college that Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) mentioned last season returns to New York. As portrayed by Yung, Elektra complicates Matt’s life both while he’s in and out of his crime-fighting costume, particularly when it comes to his burgeoning romance with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).

“… Matt is completely authentic with both characters, but that authenticity is different with each character,” Cox said, calling this love triangle “one of the most enjoyable things for me to do as an actor this season.”

12 Monkeys returns on April 18. If we didn’t have the “problem” of so much good television, including genre television, now available thanks to cable and streaming, it might be tempting to rewatch the first season to review all the twists which occurred. While some hardcore fans are doing so, many of us just do not have the time. Syfy has posted the above seven minute recap to help the rest of us to catch up. It is certainly not enough for new viewers to start watching the show, but it is helpful for those of us who watched the first season.

americans-season-4

The Americans, which very well might be the best ongoing drama now on television (separating it from shows such as Fargo which have a different story each year) is off to an excellent start for its fourth season. There is so much which can be said about the quality of the story, but I figure those who are watching understand this and those who are not will not be interested in a play by play.

Besides all the big things, the show gets the little things better than most television shows. While many shows do a terrible job of working in children and home life (such as with Brody’s daughter on previous seasons of Homeland), Paige’s teenage angst, exacerbated by learning that her parents are Russian spies, has been a huge plus in driving the plot this season. Television story lines are often driven by misunderstandings, such as Stan thinking that Philip was sleeping with his wife. While that is a standard television trope, I really appreciated it when Phillip immediately explained the situation to Elizabeth and told her about going to the EST meetings, as opposed to dragging this out and creating further misunderstandings with her–as so many television shows would have done.

Plus so many interesting characters have been developed beyond the main characters. When The Americans inevitably ends, I’m looking forward to one spinoff based upon Nina Krilova in Russia, and another (or perhaps work in into a single show) in which Stan Beeman and Oleg Burov find some reason to team up after the Cold War ends. If Napoleon Solo can team up with Russian Illya Kuryakin on The Man From UNCLE, why not Stan and Oleg?

With all the talk the last few days about the bird at the Bernie Sanders rally in Oregon, prior to his big three-state sweep yesterday, above is a clip from the episode of Portlandia which started the slogan, “Put A Bird On It.”

To conclude by tying this in with the previous story on Daredevil, above is Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) speaking in support of Bernie Sanders.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Luke Cage; The Man In The High Castle; The Expanse; Childhood’s End; 11.22.63; Minority Report; House of Cards; Fargo; Doctor Who; Ted Cruz Christmas Infomercial

Arrow -- "The Magician" -- Image AR304a_0155b -- Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Ed Araquel/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Nable will be reprising his role of Ra’s al Ghul from Arrow in the ninth episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Considering that much of the cast is made up of people who either died or appeared to die on Arrow, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Damian Dark will also be making an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow. On Arrow, Nyssa will also continue to fight Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) for her dead father’s title.

I really liked Daredevil, and liked what they did with Jessica Jones even more. Jessica Jones also has me looking forward to Luke Cage. Collider had an interview with Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage. The discussion included how Luke Cage will differ from Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

Man In The High Castle

I was happy to hear that Amazon has renewed The Man In The High Castle, as expected, for a second season. The entire series was enjoyable, but that ending has me really wondering where the show is headed. I read the book many, many years ago and don’t remember how it ended. Plus there are already major changes from the book so that might not matter.

I’ve  been far too busy around the holidays to keep up with everything on television. I thought I was doing well completing both Jessica Jones and The Man In The High Castle. (My original plan was to review these two series this week, but holiday plans have prevented it.) I haven’t had time to start The Expanse, but I hear that if some time opens up it is possible to stream the first four episodes, and get ahead of what has been shown on television.

I have recorded Childhood’s End with hopes of watching it sometime later over the holidays. Meanwhile this article, which I haven’t read to avoid spoilers, looks like the type of article with a show’s producer on the ending which I would be quoting from if I had seen the show.

Yet another new genre show I haven’t had time to watch–The Magicians. IO9 has a review here.

Hulu is releasing teaser trailers of 11.22.63, produced by J.J. Abrams and based upon the Stephen King novel. Abrams also has something else major out this weekend.

I also haven’t had a chance to watch the movie version of The Martian yet, but did enjoy the book last year. Nerdist has news on Andy Weir’s next book, to take place on the moon and feature a female lead.

With so much to watch on television, I didn’t watch Minority Report after some poor reviews of the first episode, followed by news that production was cut to ten episodes. The final episode aired recently and I have heard some buzz that the series ended well. This is a positive sign of how television has changed. In the past a network needed at least a few years of a series to make money in syndication. If it looked weak after a few episodes, they would be tempted to just pull the plug.

These days a series can still bring in episodes with even a short run. By giving the producers a cut off date, they were able to make a series which stood on its own with ten episodes, or expand into subsequent seasons if it did build an audience. It is still possible to sell a self-contained ten episode series as a Blu ray or DVD set, as well as have it on one or more streaming networks. The networks have reason to continue a show with a small audience for at least a short time, current viewers get a conclusion as opposed to having a show they like abruptly pulled, and genre fans have one more thing available to watch when desired in the future. Plus maybe a show will even be brought back by another outlet.

Netflix ran the trailer for the fourth season of House of Cards during last week’s Republican debate. The show returns on March 4. “America, I am only getting started” sounds sort of scary.

The third season of Fargo won’t be filming until next winter, and therefore won’t be seen until sometime in 2017. It will take place in 2010, four years after the first season. We got an unexpected view of some of the characters from the first season in the second season finale, but reportedly the regulars from the first season will not be the major characters for the third season. Some could appear briefly.

Doctor Who TV has an advance review of this year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song.

ABC will be airing a one hour special, Captain America’s 75th Anniversary, on January 19th, just prior to the season premiere of Agent Carter. It will be opposite the return of The Flash on CW, but that is why we have Hulu, and modern DVR’s which record more than one show at a time.

Vox looks at Tina Fey’s response to some of the internet outrage over Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for having  the blonde, Polish actress Jane Krakowski playeding a Native American woman who was hiding her true ethnicity.

Ted Cruz has paid for a Christmas-themed parody infomercial to air during Saturday Night Live tonight. Steve M. has a review, and finds Cruz to be scary. I agree.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow (Is Felicity Dead?); Martian Manhunter Joins Supergirl; You’re The Worst; Fargo; The Leftovers; More Renewals

Arrow Felicity Shot

Mid season finales have now become a big thing on network television as many shows take a hiatus for the holidays, while some cable shows have completed their season. There were several big WTF moments on television recently, often, but not entirely, part of a midseason or season finale.

Two of the superhero shows from Andrew Kreisberg  and his group featured big WTF moments. The biggest one would be the death of Felicity on Arrow if anyone really believed it was real. Last year we saw Oliver die and come back to life, with Thea and Sara Lance having also come back from the dead. While there is no longer a Lazarus Pit, it seems a safe bet that they would never kill off Felicity. They replayed a portion of the grave scene, to imply that it was Felicity’s, but we’ve also been led to believe that the scene takes place later this spring, not currently to coincide with Felicity getting shot.

While there could be misdirection, Emily Bett Rickards is also present in set photos (such as here) from episodes still being filmed.

This leaves the question of who is in the grave. While there are other possibilities, at present I like the fan theories that it could be Samantha or William Clayton, Oliver’s former girlfriend and their son. This would explain why all of Team Arrow, along with Felicity’s mother, weren’t at the grave site if it was Felicity’s. In a recent interview, producer Wendy Mericle did warn of “serious consequences” that “come to a head” because of the decisions Oliver made regarding them. This most directly seems to be regarding Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, but perhaps it also leads to putting Samantha or William in danger.

Supergirl Martian Manhunter

The big WTF moment on Supergirl was that Hank Henshaw didn’t turn out to be an evil alien as many fans suspected. As with Harrison Wells on The Flash, Hank Henshaw’s body was taken over by someone else, but in this case not be someone evil. Henshaw turned out to be J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter. The show’s producers discussed this with The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s the secret of Supergirl: Within the body of the series of Supergirl, there is a Martian Manhunter series rolling throughout it,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s the thing that makes us giggle the most.”

Back when the showrunners were on set to shoot the pilot, the idea to make DEO head Hank the Martian Manhunter was initially floated as a joke.

“[DC Comics CCO] Geoff Johns, [executive producer] Greg Berlanti and I were saying, ‘It’s so funny we cast David because he’s got those weird ears. Like alien ears,’ ” Kreisberg says. “I don’t remember which one of us said it, but it was like, ‘If we were ever going to make a Martian Manhunter show, David would have been the perfect Martian Manhunter.’ And Geoff said, ‘Well, why can’t he be?’ We already had it set up that Hank was keeping this bad secret, and then we started thinking about well, what if it was a good secret? You think he’s bad but then he turns out to be not only good, but the most good person in the DC universe.”

…Executive producer Ali Adler teases that John’s abilities will blow Kara’s out of the water. “He’s got such tremendous powers,” Adler says. “We really want to show off what he can do, and we’re definitely going to do that in upcoming episodes.”

“There’s a lot of fun to be had,” Harewood adds. “He’s a shape-shifter so he can be whoever he wants to be. So you’ll find me being other members of the cast at some various points of the story.”

You're The Worst Season 2 Finale

You’re the Worst picked up a renewal for the third season as the second season concluded, plus Stephen Falk received a deal to produce additional shows for FX and FXX. While the second season of You’re The Worst was not as good as the first, Stephen Falk deserves credit for taking the season in such a different direction for the second season. I suspect that it might have been the added depth he showed in the second season which led to his deal to produce additional shows.

The arc with Gretchen’s depression showed more depth in writing by Falk, as well as acting by Aya Cash, but it was the comedy, not potential for such drama, which made the show television’s best (even if under-rated) sitcom last year. Another consequence was that there was less interaction between the story lines of the various characters. On the plus side, this ultimately did lead to further development in the relationship between the two dysfunctional leads. Gretchen decided to consider medications for depression, which she never considered in the past, now that she was involved with someone else who was affected by her depression. (Her friendship with Lindsay doesn’t count.)  Jimmy almost ran off with the girl who owns the bar, but in the end did not. Plus the two of them managed to tell each other that they loved the other, even if it required them to be drunk at the time.

Fargo Flying Saucer

Noah Hawley will not only be doing more of Fargo, but has signed a deal to develop additional shows for FX. He had one of the big WTF moments on Fargo last week (“It’s just a flying saucer, hon”), and there is still an episode to go. A UFO was also seen briefly in the first episode of the season. I now wonder if it will play a role in the finale, or just be something without further explanation. It sounds like it will be the later from Hawley’s comments. Perhaps Fox is getting us ready for the return of The X-Files.

Fox has renewed Wayward Pines for a second season. I haven’t seen this one, but a recent plug for the show and news of its renewal might change that.

The Leftovers 2x08 – International Assassin

The Leftovers has been renewed for a third and final season on HBO. This sounds about right. The second season was much better than the first, having completed the events of the Tom Perrotta novel and now able to explore new territory, but I’m not sure there is enough to do in this world which cannot be wrapped up in one more season.

This is the perfect series for Damon Lindelof . He can write about how people respond to unexplainable situations, without being expected to ultimately give an explanation as on Lost. A lot happened in the season finale, but for me seeing the Guilt Remnant show up and seeing Mary wake up was nothing compared to the WTF moment in the eighth episode, International Assassin, when Kevin was in a  hotel from purgatory, if not hell. That episode alone made the season a success.

Blacklist has been much better this season with Elizabeth on the run with James Spader’s character. It has been renewed for a fourth season.

Melissa Benoist Homeland Supergirl

Showtime has renewed Homeland and The Affair. After its slip in quality over the years, I haven’t watched this season of Homeland yet, but might watch binge it Netflix style if time permits. There are many reasons to remember the first season fondly, but the recent start of Supergirl has led to additional attention for the show as viewers recall a topless Melissa Benoist being asked questions such as whether she enjoys anal sex and other women in the first season of Homeland. (Video here–not safe for work.)  Kara would turn as red as the star she was born under if asked those questions on Supergirl.

Person of Interest strangely is not appearing on CBS’s schedule yet. There is speculation that it is being held back until spring or summer, and hope that maybe it can be renewed beyond this year if it is more successful than Extant and Under the Dome, which have been canceled.

The Man In The High Castle, which I completed this week, ended the first season with a couple of WTF moments. One was foreshadowed by events in the book, despite some major differences between the book and the television series. As there are still likely to be many who have not finished the series yet, I’m holding off on discussing this streaming series, as well as Jessica Jones, a little longer. Both are highly recommended.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hell Bent; Batman v. Superman; The Expanse; Transparent; Outlander; Supergirl; Fargo; You’re The Worst

Doctor Who Hell Bent

The season finale of Doctor Who, Hell Bent, concluded the three part story which began with the death of Clara Oswald in Face the Raven. It turned out that the ending of last week’s episode, Heaven Sent, contained some misdirection about where the finale was going. While the Doctor did return to Gallifrey, this was not at all what the episode was really about.

The Doctor returned to Gallifrey as a war hero, and used this return to save Clara. While the leaders on Gallifrey were concerned with the identity of the Hybrid, it turned out that the Doctor did not really know the answer. His priority was in saving Clara.

Face the Raven appeared to end with the Doctor allowing Clara to die as there was way to prevent her death. Now he was willing to break all the rules and risk the fracturing of time to save her. Clara was pulled out of time just before the moment of her death,  in between heartbeats and lacking  a pulse, not really living. She was informed of her condition by a general on Gallifrey: “Although you are conscious and aware, in fact you died billions of years ago. We have extracted you at the end of your time stream. Once you have finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established, historical event.”

The Doctor was willing to break the rules of time, as he had done on occasions before, and to defy the leadership on Gallifrey. He killed a general to demonstrate how far he would go to save Clara.  They escaped through the Matrix, one of several references for things established in old episodes, and escaped in an old school TARDIS. As he had started out, the Doctor escaped Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS, this time with a functioning Chameleon Circuit. They escaped the Time Lords by going to the last hours of the universe, where they met up with Ashildr, who the Doctor had made immortal earlier this season in The Girl Who Died.

While the identity of the Hybrid was never definitively revealed, Ashildr had what came closest to an answer. She theorized, “‘What if the hybrid was to people.‘A passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him – companions willing to push each other to extremes?” The Hybrid might have been the Doctor and Clara working together.  Whether this is the actual answer, it was still a meaningful description of who the Doctor is.

The problem now is Clara was only alive in a form with some very timey-whimey stuff which threatens the space-time continuum. Plus at any moment she could be returned to the moment of her death. The Doctor believed that Clara had to have her memory wiped to return to earth and lead a normal life, where she could not be found from her memories of being with the Doctor. (I’m not sure what would have happened the first time she had any type of medical exam and was found to be lacking a pulse). It would be a sort of repeat of how things ended with Donna Noble, although the need to wipe Donna’s memory was more straight forward on Journey’s End.

Clara was watching in on the Doctor’s conversation with Ashildr and was not willing to give up the best years of her life, or her memory of them. Ultimately matters were left to chance, and it turned out that it was the Doctor, not Clara, whose memories of the other were wiped. This might make Clara safer as nobody could use the Doctor to get to her. Perhaps it also made sense for the Doctor’s memories to be erased if they were not going to remain together. As we saw on The Snowmen, it took him on hundred years to get over the loss of Amy and Rory, and after over four billion years he has not gotten over what appeared to be the death of Clara.

On the other hand, this is not the first time that the Doctor has lost a companion. Is  Clara that much more important to the Doctor than Rose Taylor, Donna Noble, or Amy Pond? Plus it is never clear why the Doctor and Clara could not continue to travel together.

Doctor Who Hell Bent 2

Throughout the episode, scenes were interspersed with the Doctor at an diner speaking to a waitress played by Jenna Coleman. By the end, we finally realized the meaning of these scenes, with Clara knowing who the Doctor was, but the Doctor not remembering her. The Doctor told Clara what he recalled of this story, even believing that he would remember Clara if he saw her, but he did not. He did see an image of her when he got his TARDIS back due to Rigsy’s memorial graffiti, plus The Doctor got a new sonic screwdriver.

Despite the matters left unanswered on this episode, it was all worthwhile for the ending in which Clara, who had already become like a Time Lord, ended up in her own TARDIS with her own companion, Ashildr. Again, it is not clear why Clara can travel with Ashildr, but not with the Doctor. While we will probably not see Clara again on the show, I bet this will launch a lot of fan fiction.

Doctor Who Extra videos for Hell Bent can be seen here.

Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day with The Husbands of Rive Song. The synopsis has been released:

It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas carols and comedy antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?

The Batman v. Superman trailer was shown on Gotham last week. As I know some superhero fans are not watching Gotham due to the lack of superheroes, I’m posting it above for those who might have missed it.

The Expanse officially states on December 14, but the first episode can be seen online here.

Amazon will be releasing season two of Transparent on December 11, but the first episode was made available early.

The second season of Mozart in the Jungle will be released by Amazon on December 30.

Outlander returns for a second season this spring. Teaser above.

Supergirl has been picked up CBS for a full season. The show still seems to be trying to figure out where it is going without being too much a clone of The Flash, and sometimes struggles to be in Superman’s shadow while contractually being unable to show him as an adult (with a younger version of him to be seen this season). Now that it has a several episodes under its belt, it is starting to show more promise.

Meanwhile on CBS’s sister network, The CW Network, the annual cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow has aired. It served largely to set up Legend’s of Tomorrow, but was a fun two hours with the casts of both current shows getting together again. During the week there was also another round of rumors of a cross over episode between Supergirl and The Flash, with this once again denied (but not ruled out for the future).

Fargo season three will take place a couple of years after the first season, and could include some of the same characters.

FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a second season. While an argument could be made that the show had stronger dramatic material from Aya Cash this season, I do hope that she gets over her depression and the third season returns to the dynamic between Gretchen and Jimmy of the first season.