SciFi Weekend: Parenthood Finale; The Marvel Cinematic Universe; The 100; Arrow; Allegiance; The Americans

Parenthood Finale Table

Parenthood concluded with one of the best television finales of all time. This was an easier show to conclude than some others. It did not have the problem of shows such as The X-Files and Lost, which became so burdened by its mythology that it was impossible for the finale to be satisfying without giving up hope that it would really make sense. The Parenthood finale remained true to the stories to date, not tempted to throw in a surprise which did not fit the series, like with How I Met Your Mother or Dexter.

The final episode concluded the major story lines of the season. Most were handled well, but the solution to Adam search for the job of his dreams was the most contrived, with Kristina suddenly having an opportunity at a non-profit which left the position of headmaster at Chamber’s Academy open for Adam. It made sense for Crosby to run The Luncheonette without Adam. Accountants and attorneys could provide some of the business advice he received when Adam was there full time, even if it didn’t make any sense when Crosby said he would be Adam and Amber would be Crosby. It was rather sudden for Julia and Joel to be offered the chance to adopt Victor’s sister, but such an offer coming suddenly did not seem as unnatural as Kristina’s sudden job opportunity.

There were two other story lines which were more important during the season, and which dominated the finale. Sarah’s wedding turned out to be a perfect way to end the series. Besides being a major event for Sarah, the wedding provided a way to get all the characters together as budget limitations required the absence of characters for parts of the season. Besides being the obvious ending for Sarah’s storyline, it provided a good end point for Max, who got the job as wedding photographer and was also “in the picture.” He even got to dance with a girl. Plus the scenes of Max taking the family pictures was a good way to just get a look at the cast members.

The other major storyline of the season was Zeek’s heart problems which, no matter how much fans tried to deny it, was inevitably going to lead to his death. Any lingering doubt that this would occur were eliminated when I read that it would jump ahead to show the Bravermans in the future. It would have been dishonest to not have Zeek die at some point. His death was handled well as he died peacefully at home a few months after he walked Sarah down the aisle, as can be seen in the video above.

Instead of a sad funeral we jumped ahead to see Zeek’s ashes spread at a baseball diamond, and then the Bravermans did what Zeke would have wanted them to do–play baseball, with the series theme song, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young playing. Then, in one of the greatest endings in television history, we had a combination of how Jason Katims ended his previous show, Friday Night Lights with the ending of Peter Krause’s previous show, Six Feet Under.

The show jumped ahead, also in the video above to show the broad outlines of what happens to the Bravermans. There was no ambiguity as in The Sopranos. Adam does become headmaster, eventually handing Max his high school diploma. Crosby does run The Luncheonette. Besides adopting a third child, Julia winds up becoming pregnant with a fourth, and even gets a puppy. Julia and  Joel recreat the original structure of the Braverman family with a younger brother and sister and an older brother and sister. Camille makes it to to inn in France which Zeek had wanted to take her to.

Parenthood - Season 6

Amber’s future is the most exciting. After having her child with Ryan, aka Luke Cafferty of Friday Night  Lights (Matt Lauria), Amber winds up marrying Jason Street (Scott Porter). Ryan even gets his act together and is part of their lives. Scenes with their courtship were shot but got cut from the finale, with Scott Porter’s character named Peter:

“There’s a scene where they meet. Peter and his daughter are at what amounts to a Kidtown, like an indoor jungle gym playtime place. Peter has his daughter and Amber has Zeek. Zeek [named after his grandfather] gets lost in the ball pit and Peter goes bravely in to save him and brings him back to Amber.”

They clicked right away. “They have similar kinds of pasts,” Porter explains. “Both were a little bit wild at one point, and both have kids they maybe weren’t expecting but that were perfectly timed for them. They’re single parents who met and were immediately drawn together.”

While no wedding was actually shot, Porter had no problem imagining the nuptials.

“I imagine it was a very small, intimate wedding. These are two people who are very protective of their families. So pretty small, except for the Braverman side — they come in numbers that most families don’t come in anymore.”

This and other deleted scenes are bound to show up on the DVD set, and some deleted scenes can be found online here.

Matt Lauria and Scott Porter were just two of many former stars of Friday Night Lights who appeared on Parenthood over the years. Yahoo has a slide show, starting with Minka Kelly who both tutored Max and slept with Crosby.

Parenthood - Season 6

This very well might be the end for quality dramas such as Friday Night Lights and Parenthood on network television as I discussed last week. Fortunately cable and streaming networks are doing more quality shows. This topic came up in an interview with Jason Katims at Variety:

It’s unique as a family drama on TV right now. Can you imagine trying to sell it today?

It would be a hard sell to go out and sell a family drama that doesn’t have some sort of twist. There are lot of shows about family, but they’re all couched in other things. This is a straight family drama. It’s unusual in that way. But honestly it was not easy to sell it five years ago. It’s not like anyone was saying let’s have it then. But the TV landscape is changing so rapidly. There’s so much opportunity now, so many different types of outlets — you never know. I’m hoping that there’ll still be a place for shows like this.

The finale provided a broad outline, but also leaves things open to return to their story in the future, either during the period seen or afterwards. Katims is interested, and the new outlets make this more likely in the future.

Given the wealth of platforms on the TV landscape, could you imagine ever revisiting the Bravermans down the road?

Yes, absolutely. Everyone who is doing the show — our writers, our actors, our directors, our producers — we all love doing the show. Everyone would want to do more. There is no one who is angling to get out of doing this thing. I personally would be interested in seeing what happens a few years down the road. I want to know what happens to these people, these characters. If you asked me three years ago, I would say it’s not going to happen. But now there are so many ways of doing things that it’s possible. I would very much be open to that.

Parenthood - Season 6

He also discussed this with E! saying, “I love the idea of doing a reunion movie like Boyhood, where every year, everybody commits a week to doing this project.,” he said. “Maybe it’s not that crazy to think that we could pull something like that off.”

Of course the old episodes are all easily available, both on Netflix and Amazon. I rewatched the pilot later on Thursday night, and this provided a real feeling of going full circle in an episode which introduced the characters. The pilot both had major life events for members of Team Braverman and featured the family at baseball games.

The Bravermans are a fantasy family. It is a family nobody actually has, and it is hard to imagine how Adam and Kristina could have afforded to live in Berkeley, hire private tutors for Max, and afford to send Haddie to Cornell. This universe is still more grounded in reality than the Marvel cinematic universe, with both types of fantasy enjoyable to watch. Digital Spy has some spoilers regarding Avengers: Age of Ultron (trailer above) with more in the full post.

We won’t see the Avengers assemble again (which hopefully also means we’ll be spared a silly alternative UK title). “This movie starts off and the team is together, on a mission, they’re working in tandem, and there are new relationships between them,” explains producer Jeremy Latcham. “Time has passed, so you pick up right in the middle of an action sequence and start trying to catch up.

“I think that’s fun for an audience, to try and figure out, ‘Wait, those two are funny together now, there’s something going on with them, maybe there’s a little tension over there’. You’re showing up at a party when it’s already a little bit started.”

“Bigger” and “darker” are two of the most clichéd terms you can apply to a franchise sequel, but Age of Ultron looks set to earn both – according to Ruffalo, it “makes the first Avengers look like Waiting for Guffman“.

Latcham expands on this by reminding us that much of The Avengers was shot on a small soundstage in Albuquerque, and that its New York City was created “in an old abandoned train station where we’d hung green screen and built part of a bridge.”

Not only are the locations real this time – they’re also global. “The Avengers saved New York, but the Avengers aren’t just about America,” Latcham says. “They’re here to protect this blue rock that we all live on.”

Hence Age of Ultron‘s globe-trotting remit, which sees various strands of the gang show up in South Africa, Northern Italy (playing as Eastern Europe) and South Korea among other places. In preparation for one particularly spectacular set piece, producers asked the South Korean government for permission to shut down Seoul’s equivalent of the M1 for two weeks. They complied.

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The movie adds Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to the Avengers, but they start out on Ultron’s side.

New recruits Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) initially join forces with James Spader’s Ultron against the Avengers, creating a very different balance of power than solo villain Loki. “Instead of Ultron giving a lot of speeches so everybody knows what he’s thinking, it’d be nice if he had some allies,” Latcham explains.

“The story that Joss put together with these two kids is really sweet and poignant, and you really understand why they would start on this side of the line. It’s a great journey that they go on, from being these rough and tumble kids in Eastern Europe who blame the West, and the Avengers for the plight, the power structure of the world that keeps kids like them down. Over the course of it they realize maybe the Avengers are here for good reason.”

But the brother-sister duo have legitimate beef with one Avenger in particular. “Our characters have a lot of anger, especially towards Tony Stark, and we want revenge,” says Olsen. “We meet Ultron, and he’s someone who preaches peace and… believes what we believe, which is that the Avengers create destruction and that Tony Stark’s bomb is responsible for killing our parents.”

Unsurprisingly, their alliance with Ultron ends up turning sour, and Olsen reveals that “my character ends up really having to deal with her ignorance. A lot of problems that happen towards the end of the film are her responsibility.”

Age of Ultron also leads into the next Captain America movie and the situation leading to the upcoming civil war is explained:

Much of the Avengers’ problem boils down to their lack of a clear leader post-Winter Soldier. “SHIELD has fallen apart, so this movie becomes Tony Stark and Steve Rogers trying to put the Avengers together without a parental unit like Nick Fury hovering over them,” explains Latcham. “What you realize is that these are guys who work best with rules, and probably do need some adult supervision.”And as anybody who watched the first film can guess, Tony and Cap aren’t an ideal leadership pairing. “Tony has been paying for everything, designing stuff, building new toys, he’s the benefactor of the whole thing. But Steve Rogers is very much in charge of operations and missions, he’s the moral compass,” Latcham goes on. “But how long can Tony Stark have someone else be in charge?” In other words, groundwork is being distinctly laid for the Stark vs Rogers core of Civil War.

Avengers Age of Ultron Spoilers

Joss Whedon has helped create a fantastic universe with the Marvel characters but has been talking about moving on, and creating a new universe:

“I would never rule anything out, because I like working here. By the same token, the biggest thing for me is that I need to do something that I create myself. It’s been way too long since I created a universe. The last thing I did before The Avengers was [directing an episode of] Glee, and in between I did Much Ado About Nothing. So I haven’t created my own universe for over five years. That feels wrong.”

The Marvel universe is not limited to the Avengers and other movie series from Marvel Studios as other studios have the rights to some of the Marvel characters. Fox has the rights to X-Men and the Fantastic Four, and there is talk that their worlds will ultimately intersect. Information on the upcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four movies here and here respectively.

Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and we learned during the recent leaks of their email that there was talk of Marvel Studios getting partial rights to the character. Blastr argues that it might have actually been a good thing that Marvel Studios did not own the rights to all of the Marvel characters:

It’s easy to forget that back in the mid-2000s, Marvel Studios was one heck of a risky proposition. After partnering with outside studios for years, the company finally decided that, if they wanted good movies based on their comics (and the winner’s share of the box-office bucks that come with them), they’d have to make ‘em themselves. There was just one problem: They’d already sold off any franchise with obvious big-screen potential, most notably Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

So Marvel decided to dig deep. The comic universe has always thrived on variety and a world populated with extremely interesting and damaged heroes, so they decided to apply that model to film. Iron Man and Hulk were arguably the most bankable heroes left on the bench, so Marvel pumped every dime it had into those two projects and prayed for a hit. Luckily for all of us, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau caught lighting in a bottle with Iron Man in 2008. More than $585 million later, we were well on our way toward The Avengers.

Since Marvel didn’t have the luxury of a sure-fire star like Spider-Man — who is currently the most lucrative comic-book character in existence, with more than $1.3 billion in licensing revenue in 2013 alone — they had to work with characters who might not have ever gotten a shot otherwise. Just think: If Marvel could have made splashy Spider-Man and X-Men movies, do you think we’d have ever gotten something as creatively quirky as Guardians of the Galaxy (or Ant-Man), or the risky period-set romp that was Captain America: The First Avenger? Maybe somewhere down the line, but a lot of the limited focus (and release slots) would almost certainly be eaten up by those larger properties. 

Yes, Marvel would probably be making better movies than what’s out there now (especially on the Spider-Man front), but for me, I wouldn’t trade the epic Marvel Universe we have now for the chance at some better Spider-Man movies. Not by a long shot. The fact that Marvel didn’t have Spider-Man in its stable was the catalyst to bring characters like Iron Man and Thor to life, and gave Marvel the confidence to try something as seemingly insane as a film starring Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The only thing they could control was making the best movies possible, and since the characters were mid-tier, they had to be extremely good.

He has a good point that the way Marvel built the Avengers with characters starting with lesser characters like Iron Man worked out well. However, now that this has been established, Marvel Studios (as part of Disney) is probably big enough to hire the crew to put out an even larger number of movies. Plus it would be worth sacrificing some of the planned movies with minor characters if it meant having Spider-Man movies of the quality of other movies from Marvel Studios.

100-1

Briefly looking at other shows on last week, I was glad to see that the cast and crew of The 100 agree that the plan for Bellamy to infiltrate Mt. Weather “sucked.” I can accept writing a script with characters doing foolish things, as people do foolish things, as long as the writers are doing this intentionally. More on upcoming plans for The 100 in the linked interview.

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I am also glad that it was intentional that Team Arrow was so weak without Oliver. It would be especially unrealistic if Laurel was suddenly an effective crime fighter like her sister, who had years of training. Marc Guggenheim discussed Arrow and The Flash in an interview with Assignment X. Guggenheim also tied Arrow into contemporary politics:

AX: How much do you weigh referencing ARROW as a modern-day Robin Hood?

GUGGENHEIM: There’s an interesting thing that’s happening in the country right now, where you’re talking about one percent versus ninety-nine percent, haves versus have-nots. Poverty and whatnot has become a political issue, which is interesting, because to me, it was always an issue on both sides of the aisle, how we distribute wealth in this country. It’s a little scary to me that it’s become this polarizing political thing. That’s not the country I grew up in, so it’s weird also to be writing on a show that’s clearly dealing with that issue head-on. Obviously, GREEN ARROW is inspired by Robin Hood and we’re playing around with those elements, but you go it’s more about social justice than it is about politics. At least, that’s what the show should be about.

AX: Aren’t social justice and politics sort of the same thing?

GUGGENHEIM: Well, the point I’m making actually is that social justice has become a political issue in a way that it never has been in this country. Obviously, yes, there’s always been a political divide, we’ve always had disagreements in terms of how to address these issues, but it just feels like the disagreements have become so vitriolic and the differences have become so severe that it’s taken on a different cast than it used to have.

NBC plans to air Allegiance on Thursday nights in place of Parenthood. It sure sounds like a rip off of The Americans, even if its producers deny it. I’m sure there will be differences, like on The Americans the Russians are after the daughter, but on Allegiance they want to turn the son into a spy. It seems better to place such a scenario with undercover Russian spies in the 1980’s, like The Americans, as opposed to present day.

The Americans started its season with another excellent episode, and is ranked by may critics as the top show currently on television. I doubt that Allegiance will be anywhere as good, either as a spy show or as a family drama. If you haven’t seen it, call in sick for the next two days and binge on the first two seasons on Amazon Prime to catch up.

And, finally, a nine year-old in Texas was suspended from school for threatening to make a classmate disappear. He had just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and claimed to have the one ring to rule them all.

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SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; The 100; Supergirl; Person of Interest; The End of Parenthood and Parks and Recreation & The Decline of NBC; 12 Monkeys; Netflix Marvel Series; The Americans; Sleepy Hollow; The End of The Marvel Universe; The Humor Of Sarah Palin; Mellisa Raunch Sex Scene

Agents of Shield Coulson Skye

Agents of SHIELD has come a long way from the first season. While they always hinted there was something special about Skye, they didn’t have the payoff on this plotline until the midseason finale with her conversion to an Inhuman. This might have major ramifications for her relationship with Coulson:

Executive producer Jeph Loeb says that the current Inhumans plotline has always been the plan for “Agents of SHIELD.” Like they always knew that Grant Ward was going to be HYDRA in Season 1, the seeds of Skye being something other were planned in the pilot.

“Once we started down that road hopefully you were coming along for the adventure, and now that you’ve come along for the adventure one of the things that’s so amazing about what’s happening on that show is so now we know she has gone through a transformation,” he says. “How is everyone going to react to that? And in the same kind of way you’re asking as an audience member, one of the things that I think is really valuable and one of the things that I think Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell and the writing staff really do have a great feeling for is they are audience members. The writers room sits around and tries to come up with, ‘What is it that you think we’re going to do and how can we then turn that on its ear in a way that makes it feel like it’s fun and valuable?'”

Blood says “SHIELD” has often gone in a different ways from what he expected. He says the latest script he read “just turned another corner,” and that audiences will “be surprised of a lot of stuff that’s coming up.” Because the SHIELD team doesn’t know about the term “Inhumans” like audiences do, Blood says “it’s going to be something that is unraveled.” He has yet to find out where the storyline is going.

The obvious turn would be that Coulson helps Skye — someone Gregg says is the “the person he cares about most” — through her transformation into an Inhuman. But what if he views her as a threat instead of an ally because of her new powers?

“His no. 1 job is to be responsible for SHIELD, which he views as being responsible for the safety of billions of people from things they don’t know about. That’s what SHIELD is. No matter how much he loves Skye — and it’s as much as you can love somebody — it’s the closest thing to a daughter he has. That’s a sacred trust,” Gregg says. “I hope he doesn’t get put in that situation [where she is a threat] because it would mess him up.”

He teases there will be trouble within SHIELD in the aftermath of Trip’s death and Skye’s transformation. “I don’t think the whole team is going to be unified behind what just went on, and it’s hard to blame them. He’s got a couple of people that he’s come to really trust,” Gregg says. “One of my favorite things about this season is that everybody comes up to me on the street really worried about Fitz and these new characters we introduced this year. Coulson also has these new people … he doesn’t have the same type of history with those people. It’s going to be hard to hold the baby brand new, on the run SHIELD together in the wake of what just happened.”

There’s also the question of Bobbi’s secret, which Blood says is as big a mystery in the second half of Season 2 as who the man with no eyes is. “I honestly think people are going to freak when they see some of the stuff we’ve been filming recently,” he says.

The 100
The 100 returned last week and the events of the fall finale continued to have a major impact on the characters. While I originally did not watch this show, thinking it was another CW show putting attractive young people in a sci-fi scenario which has been done before, I found that this was far better done than I anticipated.

Yes, it does have its attractive young cast members, led by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who does an excellent job in the role. (Having binged on the first one and one-half seasons over a weekend, I did notice that Eliza Taylor does show less cleavage in the second season, which must have been a conscious decision by the producers considering that the characters couldn’t just run out to clothing stores in this post-apocalyptic world to change their wardrobe). There are also the CW love triangles, but they do not distract from the stories. Both the characterization and plot lines have been strong, even when going where other shows have gone before. Bustle and The Mary Sue both have posts on why you should watch the show.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

CBS has chosen Melissa Benoist to play the lead role on Supergirl. Previous reports on the show have described it as more of a CBS procedural with Supergirl as a feminist investigating crimes, but with cross overs possible with the CW shows Arrow and The Flash.

CBS is showing success with another mixture between procedural and genre with Person of Interest. The show started out as a procedural show with a science fiction gimmick to propel it, and has evolved to what might be seen in the future as “a modern sci-fi epic that is considered a must-see show along the lines of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica…”

Many blogs and podcasts, along with this thread on Reddit, have looked at the question of how someone could get caught up with the show without watching all the old episodes. The purely procedural episodes of the first two seasons are mostly unnecessary to appreciate the more recent episodes since the show evolved into a more significant science fiction series, but it is hard to say exactly what can be skipped and must be watched as often early episodes would have a few minute segment towards the end to slowly develop the mythology in addition to the number of the week story.

There have been some posts, such as here and here, which might help in listing some of the more essential episodes. It would really be helpful if some of the other mythology segments which are only small parts of other episodes could be accumulated in a video.

Parks and Recreation

Time looked at the politics of Parks and Recreation, which is concluding its run on NBC.

But there’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”) Leslie is comically tenacious–Poehler plays her as a cheerfully overprepared super-wonk–but she’s good at what she does and is driven by a fierce love for her hometown as well as its famous waffles…

Leslie can’t do it alone, though: she’s assisted by a network of co-workers and friends (played by a comedy-powerhouse cast, many of whom–like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari–have deservingly become stars). Even her former supervisor Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) admires Leslie’s commitment, even though he’s so libertarian, he once illustrated the evils of taxation to a fourth grader by eating 40% of her lunch. Parks argues not only that we need our neighbors’ help but that helping makes us better ourselves; it’s in the small-town, populist tradition of Friday Night Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Parenthood Series Finale

When I recently posted my list of top television shows of the year, I noted how little representation the major broadcast networks had on the list. Perhaps the biggest decline is being seen at NBC. They will soon be without two of their highest quality returning shows. Besides trying to run through Parks and Recreation as quickly as possible,  Parenthood concludes this week, apparently with Lorelei Gilmore marrying Ray Romano. If it ends with Zeke dying, I’m imaging angry mobs storming Rockefeller Center. After these are gone they will still have some shows worth watching, most notably Hannibal, which I’m amazed a network is broadcasting, but the lineup of quality shows will sure be thin. Their announcements of upcoming shows is being greeted with far more snark than interest.

In the past NBC would often be the home of some of the highest quality drama shows on television, such as The West WingFriday Night Lights, I’ll Fly Away, and St. Elsewhere. They probably had better ratings success with some, but not all of their sitcoms, which included shows such as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Community, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace. Going further back, it was also the home of some classic genre shows such as the original Star Trek and The Man From UNCLE. (We won’t talk about some of their more recent attempts at genre such as Revolution, The Cape and Heroes after the first season.)

So, what happened to NBC? I suspect that that it is a victim of otherwise good changes in television. Writers and producers for many high quality shows are now going to cable and streaming networks, where they can develop an audience without the need for netw0rk-level ratings. (In the case of Community, it is moving directly from NBC following cancellation by NBC, with the first two episodes to be streamed by Yahoo! on March 17.) It will be a challenge for NBC to attract this type of quality show in the future, and it is questionable as to whether they even care considering that lower quality shows will probably deliver higher ratings.

Increasingly cable or smaller networks owned by the major networks are offering higher quality shows than the major networks. FX and FXX are offering some of the best shows on basic cable. CBS has Showtime and CW, with The CW Network  turning into one of the strongest networks, especially for genre, as it attracts a totally different audience than CBS. NBC/Universal have even lagged behind other cable networks which have produced better science fiction than its Syfy Network.

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Syfy is finally trying to compete with hard science fiction. 12 Monkeys remains promising after the second episode, which aired Friday and was available for streaming last week. With Leland Goines dead, his daughter Jennifer becomes a major character. Her character in an insane asylum serves as an alternate version of the Brad Pitt character in the movie. As discussed previously, the television show can cover far more ground with changes such as having the ability to change time and with the Army of the 12 Monkeys playing a more significant role.

I saw a posted link here which supposedly allows streaming of the third episode for cable subscribers in the United States but it would not allow viewing through either my Charter or Xfinity account. I’m posting the link in case it works for other cable systems, or if it becomes active later. The first two episodes are available for streaming there.

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Netflix has released a brief synopsis for their upcoming Marvel shows. While previous reports suggested that we might have to wait a year between shows, it looks like the Jessica Jones show (staring Krysten Ritter) will be out sometime later this year.

Daredevil
“Marvel’s Daredevil” is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night. Coming April 10

A.K.A. Jessica Jones
Working as a private investigator in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a troubled ex-superhero’s past comes back to haunt her in the live-action series, “Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” Coming 2015

Iron Fist
“Marvel’s Iron Fist” follows superhero and martial arts master Danny Rand in the upcoming live-action series. Coming soon

Luke Cage
In this Marvel live-action series, a street-fighting ex-con battles crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as the superhero Luke Cage. Coming soon

The Defenders
“Marvel’s The Defenders” brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an epic superhero team-up in New York City. Coming soon

The Americans returns this week. Unreality Primetime has a couple spoilers on upcoming episodes. The season three trailer is above.

Can Henry be redeemed? The cast of Sleepy Hollow answer questions such as this in videos available here.

The Marvel universe ends as we know it in the comics this spring.

Who needs Tina Fey to mock Sarah Palin? Her own words are ridiculous enough. Check out the reaction to her latest speech from Twitter.

bronze

Melissa Raunch of The Big Bang Theory has received a lot of attention at Sundance for her raunchy sex scene in The Bronze.

“The Bronze” kicked off the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival on a foul-mouthed note Thursday, sticking a dagger through the concept of hometown heroes and providing one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history.

The scene in question, one that involves pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes, was a constant source of amusement during a question and answer period immediately following the film’s premiere at the Eccles Theater.

“Right after this there’s going to be an audition for the sex scene in the sequel,” joked director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa Rauch, the star of the film and its cowriter along with husband Winston Rauch, said, “As for the sex scene, you write what you know.”

Her husband added that it gave the couple a chance to “show you what we do in our bedroom.”

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SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

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2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

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The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.

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SciFi Weekend: Tuesday Shows Go Dark (SHIELD and Person of Interest); Sleepy Hollow; Under The Dome (“Nothing But A Giant Suck Hole”); Doctor Who; Outlander; Arrow; Gotham; Shatner Star Trek Rumors; If Ayn Rand Wrote Buffy

Shield Go Dark

Tuesday night featured the return of two television shows which have both changed for the post-Snowden era, Agents of SHIELD and Person of Interest. On each show the heroes are now working in secret, or even greater secrecy than they had operated in the past.

The premiere of Agents of SHIELD was not as good as the final episodes of the first season following Captain America: The Winter Soldier but did show promise of setting up a far better second season than the first was.  A couple problems from the first season are now solved. No longer can the team theoretically call upon the vast resources of SHIELD. This group is also easier to root for in the post-Snowden era. There is no doubt that the old SHIELD would have been listening in on our phone calls, reading our email, and have no problem with extraordinary rendition or even torture. That SHIELD no longer exists. We can dislike General Talbot as the nominally good protagonist (wondering if Bruce Banner is also in the neighborhood) and root for SHIELD in opposing him.

The episode started with a flashback of Agent Carter, including a glimpse of a green being in a box, suggesting the alien which was used to save Coulson, and later Skye (who works far better as an agent rather than the outsider) along with connecting to Guardians of the Galaxy.The show now makes mention of multiple Marvel characters, and included a super-villain, which gives the show much more the feel of being in the Marvel universe than seen in the first season. Lucy Lawless made her appearance as Isabelle  Hartley and lost her arm if not her life. There is certainly the possibility of her return on a show where two characters have returned from death or near-death, and now we have Dr. Whitehall, who hasn’t aged since seen in 1945.

While we don’t know whether Lucy Lawless will return, there is news that Adrianne Palecki of Friday Night Lights (and who almost became Wonder Woman) will be guest starring as Mockingbird later this season.

There were additional consequences to the events of last season beyond the breakup of SHIELD. Fitz is more interesting than last season now that we found that he did not recover from the lack of oxygen to his brain, and is imagining that Simmons is with him after she left. I would anticipate some recovery on his part and probably a Fitzsimmons reunion down the road. Agent Ward is also a bit nuts compared to last season, and may or may not really know anything about Skye’s father. I suspect he really does, and we might be in store for some Hannibal/Clarice type scenes between Ward and Skye this season.

Person of Interest s04e01

Go Dark was the strategic order from Director Coulson on Agents of SHIELD, and also describes the strategy Root devised with the Machine to keep everyone alive and hidden from Samaritan on Person of Interest.  The increased concern over the dangers of the surveillance state has been fortuitous for the show. Initially the Machine’s surveillance was primarily a gimmick to get the heroes into the story of the week, but last season the show transitioned far more into a series about the dangers of government surveillance and artificial intelligence in the wrong hands. The show has largely been rebooted this season, and shows promise of being even better than previous seasons.

Series co-creator Greg Plageman compared artificial intelligence to the creation of the atomic bomb at San Diego Comic-Con:

I think when we started out this show we were answering a lot of questions about the Orwellian surveillance state and people asking us if that was science fiction and now, in a post-Snowden era, no one’s asking those questions anymore. So what does the show become now?

I think the most interesting question in terms of our show and technology that is emerging is artificial intelligence. We’re living in a world now where not just nation states—Israel, United States, the Russians, whoever—are trying to build an artificial intelligent. The thing closest to this was the Manhattan Project, the greatest existential risk the world has ever faced: the development of the atomic bomb, and the race to get it, and who was going to get it first and what that meant in terms of ending World War II.

We are now at a similar crossroads with artificial intelligence. The only difference is it’s not just DARPA. It’s not just nation states. It’s a bunch of billionaires in their 30s up in Silicon Valley who are buying up all the artificial intelligence companies. It’s fascinating. Look up ‘Deep Mind,’ see what’s going on. No one really knows.

Harold Finch built a machine, an artificial intelligence, that he supposed was sympathetic to humankind. But what if someone built one that didn’t take that into consideration at all? And I think we’re dealing with the next great existential risk to the world and I think that’s something our show can deal with in a really cool way.

The Blacklist was among other shows which returned, once again turning what would otherwise be a mediocre show into a hit due to the presence of James Spader. Mary Louise Parker makes an excellent addition as his ex-wife.

Sleepy Hollow also returned with a strong season premiere. This is a series which I am reluctant to write much about as any description of the show sounds absurd. They manage to pull off its absurdities very well (far better than Under the Dome does). It is always fun to see what they come up with to tie early American history into their mythology, such as revealing that they key used on Benjamin Franklin’s kite is used to unlock Purgatory. As I said, it sounds like it makes no sense, but the show is so much fun.

Under the Dome Season 2 Finale

Under the Dome ended and the series could be summed up by what Noreen said: “It’s nothing but a giant killer suck hole!” The giant suck hole appeared the previous week after Melanie, a character who came back from the dead, was apparently killed a second time. In other recent episodes there was a tunnel under the school in which people could jump off a cliff and appear in another city, until Big Jim messed that up. Recently it became cold and nobody in town had any warm clothes to put on. The Dome started contracting, and when they began to time the contractions I wondered if next they were going to say the Dome was pregnant.

In the second season, and hopefully series, finale, everyone in town who could make it went through a tunnel where the giant suck hole had appeared. The final moment showed Melanie once again back from the dead, saying “Follow me, we’re going home.”But isn’t Chester’s Mill their home? If the show returns next summer, we will presumably see where Melanie leads them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow her, perhaps to an intermediate destination, and they ultimately wind up back in Chester’s Mill, like Patrick McGoohan trying to leave The Village. I imagine that if it doesn’t return, we can just assume that they escape, possibly coming back to rescue those who didn’t make it.

Doctor Who The Caretaker

On Doctor Who, The Caretaker returned to its 1963 roots at Coal Hill School, and Gareth Roberts, writer of episodes such as The Lodger, once again showed the Doctor attempting to blend in with humans. The killer alien story was weak, and primarily existed as a vehicle to have the Doctor finally meet Danny Pink. Along the way the Doctor got mislead when seeing Clara speaking with a fellow school teacher wearing a bow tie, thinking that she had fallen for someone who looks like his previous regeneration. While we had long been led to believe we will have another couple in the TARDIS, with Clara and Danny replacing Amy and Rory, it now looks like there once again might be two schoolteachers and a student, with Courtney joining along, at least temporarily, despite being a disturbance:

Clara: “I would say, yes, I’m afraid Courtney is a disruptive influence.”

Response: “Yeah, but last year you said she was a very disruptive influence. So I suppose that counts as an improvement.”

Courtney discovered the TARDIS after ignoring the Doctor’s sign to keep out, or more precisely, “Go Away Humans.”

The meeting between the Doctor and Danny Pink didn’t go very well. The Doctor continues to object to soldiers, apparently forgetting all the time he spent with UNIT, along with many other individual soldiers over the centuries. Danny sees the Doctor as an arrogant aristocrat, concentrating on the Lord part of Time Lord. He also wondered about about Clara (“Are you a space woman?”).

The episode also introduced another gadget for the Doctor, an invisibility watch. This raises the question of why this was never used on many occasions when it could have come in handy in the past, and whether it will be used again. Another plot hole which we will just have to ignore.

Among other top lines of the episode:  “You’re running out of time.” “For what?” “Everything! Human beings have incredibly short lifespans. Frankly, you should all be in a constant state of panic. Tick tock, tick tock.”

After not seeing this in recent episodes, The Caretaker also showed a character who died in the episode wind up in the Nethersphere, or perhaps Heaven.

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Saturday night’s other time travel series, Outlander, got deeper into time travel in the mid-season finale. Frank heard of the possibility of time travel at Craig na Dun, and by the end of the  episode was willing to accept it as a possibility. In addition to seeing a poster with a reward for information related to Claire, there was another poster in Frank’s era seeking information about someone who sure looks like Jaime, suggesting that he might also wind up traveling in time.

It was surprising that a spy like Frank would fall into such an obvious trap when seeking information about Claire, but he was quite well prepared to take care of himself. He seemed to enjoy beating up his attackers too much, perhaps intending to show a comparison between the violence of his evil ancestor and Frank. Are we to question which husband Claire is really best off with?

The episode had a tease that Claire might return home. At very least she did hear Frank calling out to her through time, but it was intentionally left ambiguous as to whether Frank could hear Claire calling back. Just before getting a chance to return, she fell into the hands of Black Jack once again, with her attempts to deceive him failing. We don’t know  how Jaime managed to get into his window, but he came to attempt to save Claire just before she might have received an involuntary mastectomy. We will see what happens next when Outlander returns in April.

Arrow Oliver and Felicity

Arrow returns October 8 and Marc Guggenheim has discussed the upcoming season:

“He is going to get some new toys to play with,” Guggenheim said. “One of them is a new bow that looks identical to the old bow, but it does something that you’ve never seen before.” Guggenheim disclosed that the explanation behind Oliver’s new equipment will be detailed in DC Comics‘ currently unfolding digital-first series “Arrow: Season 2.5,” taking place between the second and third seasons.

While “Arrow” has traditionally been more grounded, the show’s second season embraced superpowers a bit more, both in laying the groundwork for spinoff “The Flash” and in Slade Wilson and his Mirakuru-fueld army that served as primary antagonists. With “The Flash” now its own series on The CW, Guggenheim stated that “Arrow” will return to a more realistic direction.

“We’re not really planning on revisiting superpowers or enhanced abilities during season three,” Guggenheim told Weiland. “We are really returning to the show’s roots of a very grounded world where it’s very realistic. We may take occasional artistic license with things, but for the most part, everything is pretty well and truly grounded in real-life things and real-life science.”

Another DC comic-based series began with the premiere of Gotham. I think we will need to see more to determine if is worth watching a show with Bruce Wayne before he became Batman. While it includes the origins of several villains, I think we will have to view this as another version of the legend, not connected chronologically with other Batman stories. While we think of the murder of Bruce’s parents as occurring years ago, Gotham appears to take place in the present (or a parallel universe were cell phones have been around a lot longer).

Syfy has renewed both Defiance and Dominion.

CaptainKirkShatner_1

There have been a number of rumors, denials, and perhaps an admission that J.J. Abrams has spoken to William Shatner about doing a cameo for his third Star Trek movie. I have my doubts as to whether it is a good idea, but it is more plausible now than in the first Abrams movie in which Spock from the original time line went back in time. Kirk could not do that because in that time line he was dead. However this doesn’t prevent a future Kirk from being seen from the Abrams time line.

There is yet another rumor that the next Avengers movie will be split into two parts.

If Ayn Rand wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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SciFi Weekend: Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love (About Time; Karen Gillan; Scarlett Johansson; Arrow; Almost Human)

SciFi Weekend is a weekly feature at Liberal Values, and is now being cross posted at The Moderate Voice. To introduce the feature to new readers, every week  this post generally deals with Science Fiction along with other topics. Sometimes, like last week, it is about a single topic (Sherlock Season 3). More often a variety of topics are discussed, typically starting with science fiction and genre television, but often including other topics in pop culture. Some weeks there is a theme. The theme this week is Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love. Beware that there are frequently spoilers, especially for television shows which have aired in the United States. I do frequently leave out some details or only refer to them obliquely to limit this, and try to warn about spoilers when discussing movies or shows which have not aired yet in the U.S.

About TIme

This year we had not one but two major movies combining science fiction and romantic comedy. As I had already watched and blogged about Her, this left About Time to watch with my wife after we returned from dinner last night. About Time uses time travel much more like Groundhog Day than Doctor Who, except unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, the protagonist of About Time can control which portions of his life he relives. The review does include spoilers.

On his twenty-first birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson)was told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family all have the ability to travel in time. There are limitations. You can only go back and revisit portions of your own life. As his father put it, you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Tim asked about the butterfly effect and his father told him he hadn’t run into it. To add some drama later in the movie, it turns out he wasn’t entirely correct here.

There are other limitations, including one standing in the way of Tim’s number one interest, getting a girlfriend. You can’t make someone love you. He failed in his first attempt with a girl spending the summer with his sister. He did later manage to meet Mary (Rachel McAdams) but the meeting was erased from time when he went back in time to help out a crabby playwright who he was briefly living with. There was no butterfly effect which destroyed civilization as we know it, but it is possible to change one’s past. It should surprise nobody that he did manage to meet Mary again, but had to go back in time to dispense with the boyfriend she met because of not meeting Tim.

From there time travel continued to come in handy. No more awkward first times in bed when for Tim it became the second and then third time after going back in time. It wasn’t even necessary to keep his first awkward attempts at removing Mary’s bra or meeting her parents. Minor mistakes later in their life, such as choosing the wrong best man, were also easily fixed.

Some problems were not so easily fixed. Tim found a serious problem in going too far back in time to help reverse a poor decision made by his sister, Kit Kat. Fortunately for Tim, his mistake was easily reversed, but he had to find another way to help his sister. Tim learned that time travel cannot fix all problems. Sometimes something terrible in life must occur to get people to change. If he was truly trying to help Kit Kat, he might have also bought her a comb.

The relationship between Tim and his father became as important to the movie as the relationship between Tim and Mary, even leading the two to once again break the rules, but this time with no dire consequences. Over time, Tim preferred a simpler form of time travel, moving forward in time day to day and fully appreciating every day. “The truth is, now I don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it. As if it was the full final day. Of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” About Time is far from a hard science fiction look at time travel, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Karen Gillan’s romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, is being released in the U.K. on DVD this week but there are no current plans for a U.S. release. Trailer above.  Iain De Caestecker of Agents of SHIELD (Fitz) is also in the movie. The actress who formerly played Amy Pond does not do any time traveling during the movie, but she does write and bake in the nude (more of that scene here). Update: Not Another Happy Ending will be shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 19.

Scarlett Johansson is becoming the go to girl for sexy female leads when she is not in The Avengers movies. When they needed an actress to make it seem realistic for a voice alone to seduce the male lead, it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice used in Her. She is also the female lead in Under The Skin, playing an alien female who seduces men for sexual experimentation. Trailer above. It reminds me a bit of an early episode of Torchwood, back before the show got to be too big and they messed it up.

Doctor Who Both Hearts

If you missed buying a card for Valentine’s Day you might have to use Tim’s trick from About Time to go back and fix that. Or you can go back in your TARDIS, perhaps to use one of these cards.  For the last four years I have posted Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards, with the latest set posted here.  Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.

Heir to the Demon

I had not initially watched Arrow during its first season believing it would just be more CW fluff with attractive people in glitzy backdrops. At times it is, but as I later found out, it is far more. With a rich playboy crime fighter, and now the League of Assassins, in many ways it is one of the best live action adaptations of Batman ever made. Plus there are flashbacks to an island which might remind viewers of Lost. Still, it is on CW, so there is plenty of romance and love triangles in this superhero soap opera.

Before going on a brief hiatus for the Olympics, Arrow looked back at the triangle Oliver had with Sara and Laurel Lance, but things became even more complicated. In Heir to the Demon, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter managed to incapacitate airport security agents without any of the publicity and follow through which such an event would generate in our world. Her mission was to return Sara to the League of Assassins or to kill her, but it became clear that her mission would be more complicated when the two kissed upon first seeing each other. A discussion with the show’s producer over this turn of events can be read here:

With the introduction of Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) — Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter — hunting down Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) to bring her back to the League of Assassins, the stakes would have been high enough. But the show added another, more emotional level to Nyssa’s journey: She was Sara’s ex and wanted to win her heart again.

Of course, Nyssa ended up releasing Sara from her duty to the League when it became clear Sara would rather die than leave her family again. But watching Nyssa deal with the pain of that revelation was what made her one of the series’ best villains so far — a fact with which executive producer Andrew Kreisberg wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s been pointed out that sometimes our villains get short shrift and we don’t always do right by the villains,” Kreisberg tells Zap2it and a handful of other reporters. “We just don’t have enough time for them because our show is just so dense. We’ve gotten away with casting really cool people in the parts and asking our audience to just fill in the rest.”

Kreisberg and fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim are glad that they were able to give Nyssa enough of a backstory to make her a sympathetic villain. “I actually feel bad for her. She really does seem like this broken-hearted person who got the shaft,” Kreisberg says. “She has the advantage of having an emotional and personal tie to one of our characters. She goes on a complete journey from start to end as opposed to someone who just wants to rob a bank.”

Guggenheim is quick to point out, however, that “Arrow” can’t have every villain be like that. “If every episode had a Nyssa, and didn’t have let’s say a Clock King, when the Nyssas of the world showed up it wouldn’t have any import,” Guggenheim says. “It would lack the weight that this kind of episode has. Because some episodes, yes, it’s just a guy bombing the city, but there’s other stuff in that episode that makes it worthwhile and worth watching. If everything becomes special, then nothing becomes special.”

Law was excited to portray Nyssa, but she wasn’t expecting her to have such a rich history with Sara. “I was surprised that I was going to be a lesbian,” Law says with a laugh. “When we did the chemistry read, I wasn’t quite understanding why I was [with Lotz].”

According to Kreisberg and Guggenheim, the decision to make Nyssa a lesbian came from the idea of what it could do for Sara. “We thought of this at the beginning of the season,” Kreisberg says. “If you watch [episode] 205 there’s a reference to ‘the beloved,’ and ‘You think that’s going to keep you safe.’ We talked about, ‘Well, does Ra’s al Ghul have a son?’ And then we were like, ‘Well, can it be Talia?'”

Since Talia al Ghul was portrayed recently in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the writers decided to go with the lesser-known story of Nyssa al Ghul.

“It just felt like something new and different,” Kreisberg says. “At the same time, we didn’t do it to be salacious, because it’s a pretty chaste relationship from what you see onscreen. It just touched on a couple interesting things, like the idea that Sara found one person who treated her with love and kindness. And then for Lance to be this hardened, tough cop and probably not the most progressive guy, even he was just like, ‘I’m glad you had someone who loved you and took care of you during those nightmare years.'”

Nyssa wasn’t the only one getting action with Sara in the episode though, as it ended with her and Oliver (Stephen Amell) hooking up in the Arrow lair.

“We were anxious to have in the same episode where we reveal that Sara had had this lesbian relationship, she was also sleeping with Oliver again,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to be sensitive and realistic. We specifically avoid using the term ‘bisexual’ because we didn’t want to label her at all. Let her be her own person, and if the audience wants to label, fine. We didn’t want to do something just to shock

Before this was all resolved, Nyssa kidnapped Sara and Laurel’s mother, played by Alex Kingston. I had half expected the Doctor to save River Song. It now appears that Amy Pond is the Black Canary’s grandmother. There is yet another triangle, as Sara joined Team Arrow and Felicity can wonder once again about what was going on over on that island between Oliver and all those women.

almost-human-season-1-episode-10-dorian-kennex

During most of the first season, Almost Human‘s best moments were its humor and the buddy cop relationship between the two male leads (one being an android). Unfortunately the last two episodes before its Olympic hiatus lacked the humor of previous episodes, but both episodes (Unbound and Perception) did more to flesh out the world the show takes place in. Perception returned to the events of the pilot and the relationship between Kennex and his probably-evil ex-girlfriend. Now that we now she is still tracking Kennex, there is the increased likelihood this will be used to find her and shed more light on what happened.

The episode also expanded upon the back story of Stahl, who turns out to be a genetically enhanced Chrome. Minka Kelley seemed almost too perfect on Friday Night Lights. She seems more plausible on Almost Human as being more than human, a character whose intelligence and beauty are the product of genetic enhancement.

Amelia Clarke of Game of Thrones was voted the Most Desirable Woman by Ask Men magazine. Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men came in second, with many other women in genre roles also on the  list.

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Two recent Canadian science fiction shows feature strong female leads. Syfy has announced that  Continuum, staring Rachel Nichols will return in the United States on April 4. Unfortunately this is after it returns on Showcase in Canada on March 16, making it harder to cover on line as I will definitely get a hold of each episode as soon as possible rather than waiting for it to air on Syfy.

Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing multiple roles on Orphan Black. Maria Doyle Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that season two is like season one on crack:

That was just one of the tidbits Kennedy dropped when she stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat about the show as well as her music career. Another tidbit? Looks like we can expect more Mrs. S in season 2. “You’re going to see more of her,” says Kennedy. “I had a great time in season 1 and there were some great scenes, but there was also a lot of hovering. They just really liked me so wrote me more this time, so that’s great.”

But on which side will Mrs. S. land in the war between Sarah and Rachel (both played by Tatiana Maslany)? Kennedy says her character’s ultimate objective is protecting Sarah’s daughter, Kira, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. “In the war between Rachel and Sarah and the whole idea about the clones trying to find out about themselves, she keeps going through that and beyond it and goes, ‘Where does Kira land in all this? What’s happening with her? How safe is she? Are they close to her? Can they get her?’”

Okay, but we still don’t quite know where Mrs. S stands and her connection to the clone conspiracy. Is she good, bad, or somewhere in between? “She is an incredibly pragmatic woman with a strong moral compass,” says Kennedy. “That’s how I feel about her. She has definitely done bad things in the past. She came through an era of protest and squatting, so she’s not afraid to be anarchic or against the law, but she always has a strong proper reason for doing what she does.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen appear on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Three girls would normally mean six bikini pieces, but apparently that would have put them above budget, forcing the models to pose topless. The theme is The Past, The Present and The Future. Is this another time travel magazine?

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Magical Tahiti; Star Wars; Mad Man Return Date; Hannibal; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Gone Girl

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Orphan Black was one of the best new shows of last season, along with being one of the best genre shows of recent years. It returns to BBC America on April 19, with the producers having a three-season master plan outlined. There is additional news on the second season of Orphan Black here and here (minor spoilers):

- More boundary-breaking. “We are going to take some risks with our premise in the second season and we are going to push technically what we’ve done with the first season and our actors are really pushing the limits as well,” says Manson. Jordan Gavaris, who play’s Sarah’s BFF/foster brother Felix, prefers when he’s outside of his comfort zone. “It’s not a good thing if you get complacent, when you get comfortable and everything’s easy,” he says. “There should be that discomfort because that pushes you to take the risks to keep it interesting, to keep people engaged — and we’re scared!”

– Plot-wise, Sarah is frantically searching for Kira. The very first scene, which was screened for critics, takes place immediately after she discovers her daughter and Mrs. S. are missing. She frantically calls Felix and Paul, whose phones go to voicemail, but Paul calls back — except Rachel’s on the other end telling her to surrender herself. Naturally, Sarah hangs up, but then two menacing henchmen walk into the diner where she’s taken refuge from the rain and menacingly offer to take her to Kira. What happens next? Well, you’ll have to wait and see!

– Cosima is struggling with her mysterious respiratory disease. “Cosima to me has always been the one who’s the most fascinated with life, so it’s interesting for her to be facing her mortality and that’s really what we start to explore in Season 2,” Maslany says. Adds Manson, “It’s hard because she’s my favorite clone. We’re putting her in this really heartbreaking position, and yet she’s almost as brave as Sarah in a lot of ways. Narratively, examining her illness and looking into her own science is part of our mystery. She performs a really great story function in the second season as well, trying to get to the root of her own illness.”

– Ainsley’s death will continue to weigh on Alison. “Alison is an intense person to begin with, and the secret she’s keeping is really going to eat at her in an interesting way,” Manson says. “Alison’s got some explosions coming up.”

– Felix’s character will be fleshed out. “In Season 1 Felix was very much an integral cog in the mystery… and now I think what Season 2 helps to do is establish him outside of the clones as an individual with his own identity,” says Gavaris. “He has gone along and been that person who picks up the phone at 3 in the morning and I think it’s safe to say that the relationship with Sarah comes to a head and there’s a tough decision that’s going to be made — many tough decisions that are going to be made — and it’s not going to be easy.” While his relationship with Sarah might be tested, he will grow closer to some of the other clones.

Michelle Forbes has also been cast to appear in multiple episodes. According to TV Line, “Forbes will play Marian Bowles, a powerful new player at the Dyad Institute with a birds-eye view on the war between Sarah and Rachel.” Forbes has appeared in multiple genre shows including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Battlestar Galactica.

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Agents of SHIELD revealed some information about Agent Coulson returning from the dead. Apparently it involved a series of painful surgeries, with false memories of Magical Tahiti implanted to replace these memories. There was no real explanation as to how this managed to bring him back from the dead. I’m not sure if this is it and we are just to assume advanced medical procedures at SHIELD could accomplish this or if more is to come. At least this does eliminate some of the theories floating around, such as a room full of Coulson androids.

Agent Coulson is far from the only genre character to return from the dead. No surprise that Peter Parker is returning to the Spider-Man comics after having died last year with Dr. Octopus taking over his body.

Back when the Star Wars saga ended chronologically after the original trilogy, it didn’t matter much if different writers carried the story onward in different ways. Now that Disney is continuing the movies, it would seem to be an insurmountable job to try to maintain consistency. They did what was probably the only sensible option and have decided that the expanded universe is not canon. As I have not read any of the novels, I can’t say first hand, but I’ve also read comments that this is good because almost all of it was crap.

Among the various casting rumors regarding the next Star Wars movie, Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad is reportedly being considered for a lead role. If he is to play an evil role, his time on Breaking Bad will make it easier to see him as a villain.

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Speaking of Disney, I hear that Saving Mr. Banks is an entertaining movie (and plan to see it in the future) but am not surprised to read that it got a lot of the facts wrong.

AMC has announced that the seventh season of Mad Men will begin April 13. While officially the last season, the season will actually be broken into two parts like Breaking Bad. Why don’t they just call these series of shows aired about a year apart separate seasons? Regardless, it will be interesting to see where they go after Don Draper was fired for the bizarre behavior we have grown to sort-of love over the last several years. AMC also announced that Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin-off, will begin next November.

Screen Crush speculates on which characters might appear in season two of Hannibal based upon the book series.

Capaldi First Image

Filming has begun with Peter Capaldi playing the Doctor. Doctor Who will return in August. Current plans are for the next two seasons to be a single run (not counting the Christmas specials) as opposed to breaking them in half. Steven Moffat described Peter Capaldi’s Doctor as being more dangerous:

There would be little point in making as radical a change as we’ve made unless you’re going to go quite different with the Doctor. The last two Doctors have been brilliant, and have been your ‘good boyfriend’ Doctors. But the Doctor isn’t always like that. There is the sort of Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston end of the spectrum, where he is mad and dangerous and difficult.

It remains open as to whether River Song will return:

It’s always down to whether there’s a good story. My immediate instinct was that story’s probably done. Not that we saw all of it, but I never thought we should see all of it. I’m slightly tempted, because I imagine Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be absolutely hilarious together…”

He adds: “She could certainly have met other Doctors. So there’s nothing stopping us… But is there anything new we can do? Or is the new thing that Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be very sexy together? Is that enough? We’ve always had fun with the fact that they don’t look like a couple.”

“Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would look like a couple – that’s the thing. Whereas I thought Matt and Alex were gorgeous together, but it looked slightly strange, because he was so much younger. Alex is just great fun to have on the show. It’s when you want to throw the Doctor a bit, because what River does so well is to make him a bit on the back foot and a bit flustered.”

Moffat also answered questions about a crossover with Sherlock, being non-committal and saying “nothing is impossible.” The final episode of the third season of Sherlock aired tonight but Steven Moffat also says that the fourth and fifth seasons have already been plotted out. I will hold off on discussion of the the third season episodes as they have not yet been shown in the United States. A spoiler-free review of tonight’s episode, The Last Vow, can be found here. I plan to watch a download later tonight. From what I here so far, it is a more conventional mystery after last week’s episode, and I suspect will receive a better reception.

John Simm will star in a new BBC America paranormal drama series, Intruder. He previously stared in the BBC version of Life on Mars and has played The Master on Doctor Who.

Starz has released a trailer for Ron Moore’s series Outlander–video above.

Starz has also announced that Da Vinci’s Demons will return on March 22. Like Saving Mr. Banks, Da Vinci’s Demons is a fictionalized account of a real person. It is probably better enjoyed as an entirely fictional show and ignoring the use of real names or events.

There has been a lot of talk about Gillian Flynn making major changes in the movie adaptation of Gone Girl. I think that this was inevitable, both because of the different structure needed to tell a story in a movie as opposed to a book where the readers were being deceived, and to give people who read the book more reasons to see the movie. Some of stories dealt with a change to the ending. However readers of the book are quite aware that the crucial point was midway through the book with the specifics of the ending being far less important. I can easily see a more satisfactory ending being written without changing the essential story.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Arrow; The Flash; SHIELD; Sarah Connor; Homeland; Interstellar; James Bond; Binge Drinking; Binge Viewing; Santa Claus and Science

BBC America will air a farewell to Matt Smith at 8 pm on December 25 prior to airing The Time of the Doctor. Trailer above.  That means that for many US fans, this will air a few hours after downloading and viewing the Christmas episode.

Steven Moffat told Doctor Who Magazine (via Doctor Who TV) what he thinks the John Hurt Doctor was up to:

I assume what’s been happening during the John Hurt years that we never saw, is that he battled hard and fiercely in a way that the other Doctors would not have done, and that he was a dangerous and difficult man. But in his view he was not living up to the standards. I mean, by involving himself in an ongoing war – I always thought that sounded odd.

He adds: “I remember when David Tennant said, ‘I fought in the Time War’. I thought, ‘The Doctor in a war?’ I mean, the Doctor may be saving people at the fringes of a war, or stopping a war, but I could never imagine him being in one. But John Hurt’s Doctor is the one who was.”

He spoke with SFX about wrapping up mysteries:

Moffat told SFX magazine: “It will be tying up various elements of the Eleventh Doctor’s story, some of which people have asked about before, some of which people haven’t bothered to ask about!”

He adds: “From [Matt Smith’s] first to his last episode, there will be elements. And it should be obvious they were fairly carefully planned.

“It’s not obstructive – if you didn’t remember any of that stuff or care about that stuff it would still be fine. If you’ve been sitting there saying, “Who blew up the TARDIS?” then you’ll get it.”

He has also discussed the female character from the Doctor’s past which will appear in Time of the Doctor.

More at Screen Rant and the BBC.

Wholock–Sherlock Meets the Doctor. Video above.

The BBC has released the synopsis for the third episode of season three of Sherlock, to air on January 12:

In the final episode of this new series, written by Steven Moffat, a case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates.

But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world?

There are no plans for Lara Pulver to return to Sherlock but Natalie Dormer will be returning to fake Sherlock (CBS’s Elementary) to reprise her role as wrong-sex Moriarty when the show returns in January.

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Barry Allen was exposed to chemicals from beakers and lightening on the mid-season  finale of Arrow. We all know what beakers full of chemicals mixed with lightening will do–basic superhero science. I also liked how there is yet another major tie in to events back on the island. Executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Grant Gustin (who plays Barry/the Flash) discussed plans at BuddyTV. A portion:

Barry’s Profound Effect on Oliver and Felicity’s Relationship 
Andrew Kreisberg: I think for Oliver, he knows he feels something for her but can’t quite define it and I think he’s sort of surprised to find in [Episode 9] when Dig points out to him, “What you’re feeling right now might actually be termed jealousy.” And for Felicity, I think she doesn’t want to like Oliver in a way because she finds him unattainable and in a way he is unattainable. Especially after you saw at the end of Episode 6, when he said “It’s probably better if I’m not with somebody I care about.”
So while she really does like Barry, I think she probably throws [herself] even more into it because now he’s somebody who’s available. And Barry, being as smart as he is, because [as we allude to] is familiar with liking somebody who doesn’t like you back – which is something that will probably be explored further down the road – he sees that about her.
So I think at the end of this episode, and certainly as something we pick up in Episode 10 – because the fallout from Episode 9 carries over into the next episodes, as far as the Oliver and Felicity relationship is concerned – Barry has had a profound effect on them and that will carry through.
Flash’s Presence Will Be Felt on Arrow
Greg Berlanti: In the back half of the year, you definitely hear about what happened to [Barry] in the way that you’re hearing now about Star Labs and things like that – in the periphery and certainly in terms of Felicity since she has a connection with him.

The mid-season finale of Agents of SHIELD brought back old allies and enemies, but was yet another disappointing story. There are hints as to the significance of Coulson’s recovery which we should learn more about in the second half of the season, if anyone is still watching.

Emilia Clarke

Game of Thrones already has one Sarah Connor in the cast–Lena Headey who stared in  Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles plays Cersei Lannister. Emelia Clarke, (above without the albino look) who plays Daenerys Targaryen, will has been cast to play Sarah Connor in the planned reboot.

Morena Baccarin and Morgan Saylor, who play Brody’s wife and daughter on Homeland, will not be returning as regulars in season four, probably because there was not much use for either character in season 3.

Teaser above for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar above–to be released in November 2014.

A study in the British Medical Journal found that James Bond drinks too much alcohol:

James Bond’s level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death. The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol. We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.

Bing watching is common among Netflix subscribers.

It appears that the previously-discussed Friday Night Lights movie is not going to happen.

For today’s hard science section, we look at Scientifically Accurate Santa Claus:

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SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter Finale; Sleepy Hollow; The Blacklist; Agents of SHIELD; Orphan Black; How I Met Your Mother

breaking bad granite state

If the television shows I watched this week really reflected reality, many of the characters would be talking about the Breaking Bad finale, with some catching up on Netflix and the AMC marathon. Breaking Bad has done what few shows can do in increasing interest, and ratings, as it approached its finale. Breaking Bad has succeeded against its rivals the same way that Walter’s blue meth has–being superior to the competition. The show has also become as addictive as blue meth. This is primarily due to basics such as high quality acting and writing, but Breaking Bad has also been assisted by modern technology. The ability of many people to catch up at no additional cost on streaming services such as Netflix has helped increase the audience over past years. High definition big screen televisions are necessary to fully appreciate the camera work.

Things appeared to be as bad as possible for Walt and Jesse at the end of Ozymandias. Matters got even worse in Granite State. Walt lived alone in isolation in New Hampshire, unable to spend his money on anything other than supplies from Ed, along with an extra hour of his company for $10,000. Couldn’t they at least give him a pile of good novels and a radio to listen to? Ed even provided chemotherapy. I wouldn’t expect such intermittent doses with no monitoring to be the best way to treat his cancer, but Walt did appear far stronger when he returned home than on his first attempt to walk into town, even if he became so thin that his wedding ring slipped off his finger. Walt’s attempts to save his family have failed, and he hit bottom with the the total rejection from his son, who wished he was dead. This was enough to get Walt to decide to surrender, until his pride took over when he heard Gretchen and Elliot deny him credit for his work creating Gray Matter Technologies on television.

Meanwhile things were so bad for Jesse that he wished Todd and the neo-Nazis had killed him rather than keeping him alive as a slave to cook blue meth. At points Todd appeared to be less than 100 percent evil when he spared Skyler’s life and gave Jesse some Ben and Jerry’s but showed what a psychopath he really is by so coldly killing Andrea (nothing personal).

This brought us to the scenes which started both halves of Season 5. So far we have seen a couple of possible endings–Walt living happy and retired from the meth business at the start of Season 5, and more recently exposed and arrested by Hank. Now we will see a third, and final, ending. We know Walt is well-armed and has retrieved the ricin from his old home. There are many predictions as to what will happen. The overall arc of the show has been for Walt to become increasingly evil, but some signs of goodness have remained from trying to save Hank to his continued concern for his family.  Will Walt be punished for his crimes, or will he survive? Vince Gilligan left us to wonder with comments on the ending such as “I feel like this ending represents on some level, however small, something of a victory for Walter White.”

Beyond coming out of this alive, the biggest potential victory for Walt would be to find a way for his family to be cared for and Skyler to escape prosecution. Perhaps he will force Gretchen and Elliot to give his family the money from Gray Matter which he believe should have been his (although he certainly was not interested in their money back in the first season).

Presumably Walt will get his revenge over Uncle Jack and Todd. The neo-Nazis must be punished. However, as this is so predictable, either it will occur quickly and the finale will concentrate on other things, it or the outcome will include an unexpected element. How Jesse and Walt will react to each other remains a big question. Perhaps Todd’s demise will involve Lydia as opposed to Walt or Jesse. Unlike on his role of Landry on Friday Night Lights, Jesse Plemon’s character is unlikely to get the girl this time. It would come as no surprise if either winds up killing the other.

What is Walt planning to do with the ricin? Perhaps it is intended for Gretchen and Elliot. Maybe we will even see a flashback which more clearly shows what happened between them and Walt. If a flashback does show them screwing Walt out of what should have been his share of the company and a fortune, I would assume that the two wind up dead.

The ricin might also be for Lydia, should Walt want to undo what he has done and shut down the distribution of blue meth. Yet another possibility is that Walt saved it for himself to ensure that he will not wind up living in prison, after being in a situation as bad as imprisonment in New Hampshire. Maybe he will take the ricin, and then arrange a deal where he goes to prison in return for a deal not to prosecute Skyler. There are also several other characters who might knock off Walt sparing him from going to prison beyond the obvious ones, including Skyler, Marie, and perhaps even Walt, Jr. Perhaps Marie deserves the honors, considering how much she was hurt by Walt while never becoming tainted as was the case with Skyler.

At this point I suspect viewers are mixed regarding their hopes for Walt. If the evil characters are punished, this should include Walt, but the show has always been about rooting for Walt to triumph. Jesse wasn’t initially intended to survive past the first season, and now having Jesse survive would be welcomed by fans. Jesse’s survival could also provide an answer to Brock’s fate. There are lots of other characters to wonder about. Will Saul return from Nebraska? At least we know why Better Call Saul will have to be a prequel show. Did Huell ever get out of that room? Is Baby Holly fated to one day take up chemistry?

While we won’t know what happens to Walt and Jesse until Sunday night, we do know what is next for Vince Gilligan. He will be doing a crime series for CBS next season taking place in Battle Creek. I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed that he will be on network television or that it takes place in Battle Creek, but most likely Gilligan will exceed expectations for such a scenario.

Dexter Ending

While most have high hopes for a satisfactory ending to Beaking Bad, the series finale of Dexter was a disappointment–as was much of  the final season. The two problems are interconnected. A better ending would have meant a better lead up during the season. There were two possible satisfactory scenarios. Dexter could have been caught at the end and the final season could have been about Dexter desperately trying to cover his tracks while at risk of being uncovered. Alternately we could have had a big bad who eventually killed Dexter, but there was nobody this season who was big enough to provide a satisfactory conclusion in this manner. A variation of this would be Hannah being the enemy who kills Dexter, but the season did not play out in a way to make that plausible. Instead we saw a number of potential menaces pop up during the season, but none provided a compelling enough story to justify them being the one who beat Dexter.

The finale was disappointing on a couple additional levels. Having Dexter survive at all seemed implausible until we were reminded that Dexter did have a small life boat available on the Slice of Life. While the final episode did blatantly foreshadow the fact that Dexter would never see his son again and that Hannah would be raising him, they might have given a small clue that the life boat existed nearer the conclusion.

The big disappointment is that Dexter’s decision just made no sense. He has brought doom to some people around him, especially Deb, but Deb died because he changed and did not kill Saxon, not because of his dark passenger. His decision would have made more sense if Dexter’s killing someone is what had led to Deb’s death. Besides, leaving the country with Hannah and getting a fresh start would seem to be a reasonable solution, while still allowing him to be with his son. Even after having Dexter fake his death, it would have been more satisfactory if the ending was like The Dark Knight Rises and Dexter was eating with Hannah and Harrison in an outdoor café in Buenos Aires.

There were so many implausible elements in the finale beyond Dexter’s decision to lead a solitary life. He spared Saxon, leaving him to be killed by the state, and then risked everything to kill him. There was no guarantee his connections with the police would lead to those viewing the film to so easily go along with Dexter’s story. I predicted that Saxon would cut off the guy’s tongue after he said he knew he would not speak, but how did Saxon avoid getting covered in blood? A hospital might be in chaos during an evacuation, but not likely to the point where Dexter could turn off Deb’s life support and carry her out of the hospital. Is it really wise to trust that Hannah will give up killing forever and make a good mother for Harrison?

Scott Buck defended his idea for the finale in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Clyde Phillips, show runner in earlier seasons, had a better idea as to how the show should end:

“In the very last scene of the series,” Philips explained, “Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.”

And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.

“That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies.  Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”

Phillips further explained that his idea for the ending was inspired by An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, the 1890 story by Ambrose Pierce about a Confederate soldier that is famous for its time-altering, plot-twisting ending. When the soldier is hanged, the rope breaks, he falls into the river, swims to shore, runs toward his family, see his wife and children and right before they are reunited, the rope catches and he dies. It turns out that the entire story takes place in the two to three seconds between the soldier’s initial drop and his neck snapping.

As SciFi Weekend is supposed to be about science fiction (even though I frequently cover other show) it is time I returned to science fiction in the video above. It is an animated version of Badger’s idea for an episode of Star Trek as presented at the start of the second half of the final season of Breaking Bad. The humor as well as the drama of Breaking Bad will be missed.

I will wait a while longer to come to any conclusions about the new season. Sleepy Hollow showed promise in the first episode, but after the second I’m not sure that I really want to devote an hour a week to it. One thing which might keep me interested is that John Noble will have a recurring role. Nicole Beharie answered questions about the show here.

So far The Blacklist looks like the best new show, with all the twists providing a perfect vehicle for the talents of James Spader. The show does remind me in some ways of Hannibal. A key difference is that with Hannibal we know the broad outline of where the show is going. We were left with lots of questions on The Blacklist.

SHIELD premiere

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a recurring mystery of its own regarding what really happened to Agent Coulson. In some ways it is a light, Disneyized version of Torchwood. Torchwood, in the early seasons, dealt with a team working in a universe where people knew about the Doctor and experienced alien invasions, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a team working after the events of The Avengers. Both introduced their agents by recruiting from the outside–Gwen on Torchwood and Sky on SHIELD. Both pilots even used a sci-fi serum at a pivotal point but in far different ways–Retcon to cause amnesia on Torchwood and a truth serum on SHIELD.

I do have one nitpick about the pilot for SHIELD. (Two if I mention how obnoxious Fitz is). I realize that we must accept a lot of implausible things related to fictitious science and superheroes. There are things which none of this should change from our reality. I have been in many hospitals and have never seen one with big open windows in patient rooms which would allow someone with superpowers to leap out and jump to the ground.

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Orphan Black has started filming for the second season, with Sarah once again trying to get reunited with her daughter.

Lilly met the mother on  How I Met Your Mother and we got a scene from a year later showing her with Ted. She does look like the right woman for Ted to wind up with, and now that it has started I think that a season long wedding will work out fine.

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Amazon To Produce Garry Trudeau’s Alpha House

Alpha House

Cable television has been increasingly producing their own dramas and situation comedies, competing successfully with the networks in terms of quality if not ratings. Additional sources of original programming have been popping up. DirectTV kept Friday Night Lights alive, showing the show before NBC in its last few seasons. Netflix realized that there are many sources for old movies and television shows and that they had to produce their own shows to attract new subscribers. This year they put out shows including House of Cards and a revival of Arrested Development. This was done in a unique manner of releasing the entire season at a time so subscribes could view them at their own pace, similar to watching old shows on Netflix. Amazon Prime is trying to compete with Netflix, providing a combination of pay-for-view shows and shows available without additional charge to subscribers to the service which began as a way to get free or reduced shipping with an annual fee.

Amazon let subscribers chose among over a dozen pilots, airing those which attracted the most support. Yesterday Amazon announced that they will produce Alpha House, which received the most attention due to being created and written by Garry Trudeau, best known for “Doonesbury” and staring John Goodman. There are also cameo roles by Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert in the pilot.

The show, based on a real property in the District that has housed a rotation of various Democratic senators for years, has been the brainchild of Trudeau since about 2008. Inspired by a New York Times story about the house, Trudeau originally wrote the pilot for network television, but things didn’t pan out.

Last January, Alter, a close friend of Trudeau’s, brought up the idea of resurrecting the abandoned pilot. Trudeau’s response, Alter said, was something along the lines of, “Well, be my guest.” Although Trudeau was unsure about pitching the script to Amazon Studios, Alter said, Alter convinced him that an online series was the way to go…

Goodman plays Gil John Biggs, a brash, unfiltered senator from North Carolina who seems to be the leader of the alpha house. When he’s not making fun of his roommate-colleagues, he’s on the phone with his wife, back in his home district, who’s telling him to step up his game, because the beloved Duke basketball coach is planning to run against him in the next election. Goodman is joined by Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos, who also play Republican senators.

(Trudeau went against the political affiliations of the actual house because, he said in a Washington Post interview, Democrats are currently pretty boring, while Republicans “are tearing themselves apart and will be for the foreseeable future.”)

The pilot skewers various aspects of Washington, cracking jokes at the expense of both conservatives and liberals. In one exciting coincidence, Trudeau penned a scene about an epic filibuster years before the 13-hour speech in March by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). At first, the writers of the show were worried that an all-night filibuster might seem unrealistic; after Paul’s performance, truth proved stranger than fiction, and the scene stayed.

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Deal of the Day–Friday Night Lights

Great deal at Amazon today–the entire series of Friday Night Lights on DVD for only $40. If you haven’t seen the series, it is one of the best written network shows in years. (In later years it survived due to a deal in which it was first on DirectTV and later broadcast on NBC).

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