SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; Suicide Squad; Star Trek; Gotham; Stranger Things; Doctor Who

SHIELD Daisy season 4

Agents of SHIELD concluded the third season with a jump ahead showing that someone other than Coulson will be Director of SHIELD. Marvel has revealed that Jason O’Mara will play the Director. While vague, the release did say that he will be “playing a character whose Marvel roots go back to the 1940s.” The synopsis for the upcoming season explains the reason for the change, as well as the changes in the role of some of the other characters:

In light of the Sokovia Accords, and with Hydra obliterated, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been legitimatized again and no longer needs to operate in the shadows. Since the world presumes that Coulson is dead, the organization needed a new Director (Jason O’Mara) to be the face of the organization.

Coulson finds himself back in the role as an agent and teamed with Mack (Henry Simmons), and together they are tasked with tracking down and confirming the presence of Enhanced people, aka Inhumans. They have been trying to track down and capture Daisy (Chloe Bennet), aka Quake, who has gone rogue in an attempt to atone for sins from the past. But with the world believing that Daisy is a dangerous outlaw who has taken down banks and bridges, the new Director has no qualms about taking her down for good.

Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) is tasked with training specialist strike teams, and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) have taken a big step forward in their relationship. But with Simmons’ new promotion as Special Advisor to the Director in Science and Technology, Fitz, as well as her former team members, finds it hard to confide in or trust her since she’s now the Director’s confidant.

Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) will roar into the lives of Agent Coulson and the team as a junkyard mechanic who can turn on a dime into the terrifying Ghost Rider. Will Robbie be a friend or foe to S.H.I.E.L.D. – as well as the world, itself? Meanwhile, Fitz discovers that socially awkward genius and friend Dr. Radcliffe (John Hannah) has started putting the finishing touches on a new, secret invention.

Chloe Bennet talked with TVLine about Daisy going rogue and her agenda.

In other news about Agents of SHIELD, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said at the Television Critics Association press tour that Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood could possibly return. As I noted last week, the return as a regular would be complicated by Palicki being cast in another role.

Suicide Squad2

Suicide Squad has opened to a large box office but has received very poor reviews. It does sound like studio interference played a role in any problems the movie has. The Hollywood Reporter‘s account begins:

“Better late than never.” That was one Warner Bros. executive’s reaction to the excitement at Suicide Squad‘s splashy Aug. 1 premiere in New York. Tracking indicates the film could open to more than $140 million domestically and potentially hand the studio its first unequivocal megahit since American Sniper‘s $547.4 million in December 2014. With March’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice grossing $873 million worldwide but failing to impress audiences or reach the hoped-for $1 billion mark, Warners still urgently needs to jump-start its critical DC Comics universe, raising the stakes for Suicide Squad, which cost at least $175 million to make.

Yet if the villain team-up ultimately works — and it has drawn some harsh early reviews  — it will be in spite of the kind of behind-the-scenes drama that is becoming typical for giant franchise movies that now are the main focus of the studio business: a production schedule engineered to meet an ambitious release date; a director, David Ayer (Fury), untested in making tentpole movies; and studio executives, brimming with anxiety, who are ready to intercede forcefully as they attempt to protect a branded asset. Often, efforts to fix perceived problems ratchet up costs, which drive anxiety ever higher. In extreme cases, such as Fox’s troubled Fantastic Four, the intervention is so aggressive that it becomes unclear what it means to be the director. (In each such case, studios are careful to stress that the credited director is on-scene and in charge, which is essential to avoid DGA issues. And the wise director plays along.)

The video above is a tribute to Star Trek with clips from ever show and movie.

Star Trek Into Darkness ended with Carol Marcus appearing to be a new crew member but she was not seen in Star Trek Beyond. Simon Pegg, who c0-wrote the movie responded to questions about this by explaining they didn’t have a role for her which made fit into this movie and,“We thought rather than have Carol Marcus be not used to a reasonable capacity, let’s just not include her, have her be alive, in canon, and be ready to come back at any time.” As Star Trek Beyond took place three years later, it is quite plausible that she spent some time as a part of the Enterprise crew and then either left or was not present for some other reason in Star Trek Into Darkness.Nerdophiles has information from the cast on the third season of Gotham.

Stranger Things

I’m sure that by now pretty much everyone has heard the hype about Stranger Things. It deserves all the hype, and more. Some compare it to E.T. and to Super 8. It is very rare to see a television show which is as immediately captivating as Stranger Things. The show brings three television series to my mind with their ability to also do this: Twin Peaks, Lost, and The X-Files. One other thing that all three have in common is that they went downhill. The mythology on Lost and X-Files got too convoluted, and they didn’t know where to go beyond the initial story on Twin Peaks.

The format on Netflix should reduce the risk of the show deteriorating over time. Eight episodes allowed them to tell a complete story, while leaving some things open for future seasons. There was no need for filler episodes, and there won’t be the same push as on network television to continue too long. Matt and Ross Duffer have hinted at a second season and it would be quite a shock if Netflix didn’t go with it.

The BBC has a round up of news since series ten of Doctor Who went into production here. More pictures at DoctorWhoTV.

I’ll conclude with commentary on this year’s election from The IT Crowd:

IT Crowd

SciFi Weekend: Star Wars, The Force Awakens; Doctor Who, The Husbands of River Song

Star Wars Force Awkens Rey BB-8

The Force Awakens was the sequel to Star Wars we were looking for after the original trilogy. While J.J. Abrams has never understood Star Trek, he is a perfect fit for a franchise such as Star Wars which centers more on action and mythology than the type of ideas which characterize Star Trek when done well.  Rather than rejecting parts of of the original as with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams made a sequel to Star Wars which was a true homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie has many parallels to the original, but does introduce a new generation of characters and mix things up enough to keep it fresh.  It avoided the mistakes of the second trilogy. There was no Jar Jar Banks, and it presented a cuter version of R2-D2 for a new generation. This review contains major spoilers, along with looking at some of the questions left unanswered in the movie.

In many ways, The Force Awakens was a retelling of the original story for a new generation. Both The Force Awakens and A New Hope have much of the early action on a desert planet with a droid carrying important information playing a major part. Therefore it did not came as a surprise that the escape was on The Millennium Falcon. Having it sitting there unused for years but all fueled up and ready to fly is just one of many plot holes which are easily ignored. Nor was it a surprise that Han Solo showed up. Many of the scenes on The Millennium Falcon felt quite familiar. Rather than repeating one classic scene, Harrison Ford did provide another reference to the original when asking about a garage chute.

The biggest surprise of the movie was that Rey turned out to be the character with the Force. We saw this when Rey found Luke’s lightsaber at Maz’s watering hole (reminiscent of the Cantina scene), with no explanation of why it was there. The producers did an excellent job of keeping this secret, such as showing the rare scenes in which Finn held the lightsaber in previews and posters.The experience would have been quite different if the previews showed the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, or showed Rey holding out the lightsaber for Luke at the end.

Once we learned that Rey was really the main character with the Force, her path in the movie became clear. She would fight the movie’s villain, be tempted by and resist the dark side, and ultimately find Luke–after this movie’s version of the Death Star was destroyed (including flights through the trenches).

Once we saw the bridge in this part of the universe where hand rails have never been invented, it was also obvious that Han Solo would reprise Obi Wan Kenobe’s death scene. J.J. Abrams explained that this was also done to establish how evil  Kylo Ren was so that he could be at the level of a Darth Vader. Of course moments later in the movie R2-D2 woke up, so that viewers wouldn’t be sad for too long.

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The movie introduced other characters. One of the new characters, Poe, was intended to die but instead he turned up later in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Abrams planned to kill a character who seemed like a major character and later changed his mind. The original plan was to for Jack to be killed on Lost. While it might have been a surprise to see him later in the movie, most genre fans know that if you don’t see the body, the character most likely isn’t dead. I would have preferred it if there were brief scenes of Poe surviving but getting separated, and showing how he escaped from the planet.

Abrams also repeated an error he made in Star Trek in ignoring how big space is. The Enterprise seemed to travel from Vulcan to Earth in minutes, and in the alternate universe it is possible to beam by transwarp onto a starship traveling at many times the speed of light. The hyperlight weapon in The Force Awakens seems implausible, undoubtedly as a result of a desire to have a weapon even more powerful that the Death Star. The weapon was capable of destroying four distant planets as if they were nearby, with the four planets also appearing to be very close to each other.

The politics of the movie was also puzzling. It looked like we had a civil war between the Republic and the First Order. If that was the case, why weren’t the forces under Leia’s command the military for the Republic, as opposed to a rebel group? While I’ve seen explanations on line such as a peace treaty between the Republic and the First Order which made it necessary for the Republic to hide their actions against the First Order, the meta reason is most likely to be reminiscent of the rebel forces in the original trilogy. I suspect that having had its capital and a few other planets destroyed, we won’t see much more of the Republic, except possibly at the conclusion.

If a big moment in the second movie of the first trilogy was Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father, I wonder if the second movie of this trilogy will be Luke saying the same to Rey. While I think that this is the most likely reason for Rey having the force, there are other possibilities. Maybe Leia is her mother, making Ren her brother, but this would require an explanation for Leia giving no indication of knowing about a daughter. Possibly Rey is descended from Obi Wan Kenobe. This could also explain the connection with the lightsabre as Luke’s lightsaber previously belonged to Obi Wan.

Another theory is that Ren’s parents are not from the characters we know. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Luke completed his training under Yoda, Obi Wan said , “This boy is our last hope.” Yoda replied, “No, there is another.” It was assumed he was referring to Leia, but she was never trained in the Force. Perhaps Yoda was referring to someone else that we do not yet know about.

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There are many other questions raised, some of which will probably be answered in subsequent movies. Others might be plot holes which there is no good reason for, but the movie was so much fun that most viewers won’t care. Some elements of the movie were taken from plot points in the expanded universe which was invented after the movies, which should give fans a lot to speculate on. The novelization for The Force Awakens also fills in some points.

The Daily Dot listed ten things learned from the novelization. Among the most interesting are the description of Kylo Ren’s feelings about killing his father:

In the movie, it isn’t clear what’s going through Kylo’s mind after he stabs his father through the chest with his lightsaber. The scene quickly shifts gears, and Kylo, wounded by a shot from an enraged Chewbacca, snarls up at Finn and Rey from a crouched position before the two heroes flee.

In the novelization, Kylo feels “stunned by his own action.”

“Following through on the act,” the narration says, “ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened.”

Foster wrote the novelization based on a version of the script that later underwent significant revisions. It’s possible that the discrepancy between page and screen here is not a casual inconsistency but a deliberate choice—that J.J. Abrams and company didn’t want to suggest that Kylo felt conflicted after the fact. Of course, given how difficult it is to visually convey an internal monologue, it’s also possible that this moment wasn’t so much deliberate struck as overlooked for simplicity’s sake.

Rey’s battle with the dark side was more obvious in the novelization than the movie:

Rey’s triumph over Kylo in their lightsaber duel is widely considered one of the film’s greatest moments. But what you don’t fully see on-screen is that, standing over a defeated Kylo, Rey faces a final challenge. The novelization portrays it thusly:

Kill him, a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.
Instead of killing Kylo, Rey “recoil[s]” from the feeling, which the narration describes as the pull of the dark side.

This is a very significant moment. Every Force-strong Star Wars hero faces this kind of challenge. When the narration refers to “pure vengeful emotion,” it’s important to remember that part of what drove Rey was seeing Kylo brutally defeat her new friend Finn. She had just seen Kylo deal Finn what might have been a killing blow. She was no doubt furious in that moment—the perfect target for the lure of the dark side.

This is, in essence, the dark side’s modus operandi. It’s how Anakin Skywalker began his fall in Attack of the Clones, when he slaughtered a village full of Tusken Raiders after they kidnapped his mother, who died in his arms.

But Rey, like Luke, is stronger than Anakin. She resists the urge to deliver her own killing blow. In the movie, a chasm quickly opens up between her and her vanquished foe, appearing to foreclose the possibility of her killing him. In the novelization, she makes her choice before that happens. She runs to Finn, to her friend, instead of yielding to her rage. In refusing the dark side, she has just taken the biggest step of her life.

I will be looking forward to seeing where they go with the next installment. It might be difficult to top the Starkiller base, and I hope they are not tempted to come up with a more implausible threat.  The answer might be to concentrate more on the characters now that The Force Awakens has made them important to the viewers. Will Luke have a more significant role? Presumably we will learn more about Ren’s back story, and possibly more about Snoke, assuming he remains a factor.

Doctor Who Husbands of River Song

Christmas also meant the annual specials from British television. This year’s specials included Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey. The Downton Abbey special was also the series finale, and therefore I will not give any spoilers for those who are waiting for the US showing of the final season. I wills say that they ended the series quite well.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song, was a very fun episode. The actual story hardly mattered. What was important was that it set up the situation where the Doctor met River Song with a different face that she knew, with River not recognizing the Doctor at first. This provided the Doctor a chance to act like those who see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter Capaldi really hammed it up:

River: Oh, before you come in, you’d better prepare yourself for a shock. It’s not as… snug as it looks.
The Doctor:Finally… It’s my go. Oh… my… God! It’s bigger!

River: Well, yes.

The Doctor: On the inside!
River: We need to concentrate.
The Doctor: Than it is!
River: I know where you’re going with this, but I need you to calm down.
The Doctor: On the outside!
River: You’ve certainly grasped the essentials.
The Doctor: My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three-dimensional Euclidean geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed… forever. Sorry. I’ve always wanted to see that done properly.
River: Would you like a drink? Aldebaran brandy. Help yourself, but don’t tell Dad.
This also allowed River to describe her relationship with the Doctor, more than once. First, someone looking for the Doctor questioned River, having identified her as “the woman who loves the Doctor.”
River: Yes, I am. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor, he doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
Doctor Who Husbands of River Song2
River discussed their relationship once again, when they were in danger, just before the Doctor revealed his identity:
River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!
The Doctor: Hello, sweetie.
Another of my favorite exchanges between the two when in danger:
River: Does sarcasm help?
The Doctor: Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?
The dangers in this episode were handled, but we know there are other dangers ahead for River Song. She had a feeling for this when she saw how little room was left in her diary and noted, “The man who gave me this was the sort of man who would know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.”

The Singing Towers of Darillium was established as the location for their last night together when in 2008 in Forest of the Dead. However things were not as bad as they looked, even if this is truly their last night together before River met a younger Doctor in the library:

River: So… assuming tonight is all we have left…
The Doctor: I didn’t say that.
River: .. how long… is a night on Darillium?
The Doctor: 24 years.
River: ( gasps ) I hate you.
The Doctor: No, you don’t.

Doctor Who Extra videos can be seen here.

SciFi Weekend: Continuum Series Finale; Doctor Who; Fargo & Manhattan Return; Defiance Canceled

Continuum Finale 2

Continuum had both a happy and sad ending but, even more remarkably, ended with a surprise which was totally consistent with what we have seen. With all the  questions among fans, and even some characters on the show, as to whether Kiera could return home, nobody I’m aware of predicted the ending. She was successful and returned home to a better world where the Corporate Congress never took control, and old Alec was much more like young Alec than a futuristic version of the evil cigarette smoking man. However, as in this future there was never a reason for her to be sent back in time, the future included another Kiera who was the mother to Sam. Kiera could see that her son would have a better future, but would not personally be a part of it. Plus Sam grew up with different versions of his parents and in a different culture and might not be anything like the Sam she left. She also has no real role in this timeline with another Kiera being there.

In retrospect, the ending was obvious. We already saw that when Alec went back in time to save Emily there were two Alecs. When Kiera crossed into the other timeline, there were two Kieras, even if one had been killed. If Kiera never went back in time in this timeline, of course there would be another Kiera there. This all assumes that the same people would be born. It is actually more likely that if the timeline was radically changed, there would not be the exact same people born in the future. This, like having all the action taking place in Vancouver, are just things we have to accept for the show.

In this future timeline, Alec grew older and remained good. Kagame was alive, and his role primarily served as a means to momentarily make Kiera think that the future was worse than it actually was. There would presumably be versions of other members of Liber8 who never went back in time, possibly with both an old and a young Garza since she remained in the past.

It was no surprise that the Time Marines were lying about their goals, and their plans failed. Kiera had a mixed ending. The ending was not so good for Kellogg. He killed Vasquez with a corkscrew (fitting for Kellogg) but learned while she was dying that she was his daughter, and not the lover of his future self as assumed. He was momentarily safer, if not for the legal penalties he faced, when the current timeline was tethered to the timeline of the Time Marines. Now if anything happened to him, such as having both kidneys removed, his older self would undergo a 12 Monkeys style fate (movie version). Kellogg tried to go back in time to when everyone first came back to get rid of them (presumably including another version of himself) to try to make things turn out as he wanted, including taking control of that kid in the garage (Alec). Instead Alec outsmarted him, sending him to prehistoric times. I’m not sure if Kellogg will get killed, or manage to be treated as a god. Maybe he does have a happy ending.

Continuum Finale

The condensed six-episode season did wrap up the series well, but compromises had to be made. It was necessary to quickly have Kiera want to remain in the present at the end of last season and then want to go home this season. Kiera’s husband was totally ignored for the final season.

Presumably there were plans to do far more with The Traveler, but his story had to be wrapped up very quickly. Once Kellogg went back in time, the future with the Time Marines, along with a future with evil Alec and the Corporate Congress, never took place and The Traveler’s future was again present, allowing him to return home.

The flash-forwards of previous seasons were no longer used and until the finale we only saw old Alec in Zero Hour. I still have so many questions which will never be answered. The episode confirmed that Alec sent Liber8 back to prevent the future he created, and that Kiera was assigned to be at the fake execution because young Alec mentioned her name. However, young Alec never told old Alec that Kiera arrived with no idea what was going on. Knowing the little he did know, I would think that old Alec would have instead briefed Kiera and sent her back with a more concrete mission. If there was more time in future scenes, it might have convincingly be shown that Alec considered this but, in recognizing her views at the time, decided it was better to send her back without such a briefing.

It is also unfortunate that there was little time to get into the politics of the show in this condensed final season, especially with the series ending this year. Given more time, Continuum could have been partially a weekly promotion for the views of Bernie Sanders. Maybe there is a timeline where Bernie Sanders gets elected to prevent the corporate excesses shown on the show.

Simon Berry had said he envisioned the final scene from the beginning. This led to the show making more sense than shows which drifted like Lost and The X-Files. However, the other examples which come to mind of a television writer having the end in mind have not worked out as planned. J. Michael Straczynski got the ending he intended for Babylon 5, and then wound up having an extra year to kill. Amy Sherman-Palladino never got to end Gilmore Girls as she planned as she did not remain for the final season. The ending for How I Met Your Mother might have been clever at the time, but no longer was the best ending by the time the story was told.

Doctor Who The Girl Who Died2

The Girl Who Died was on one level a light episode of Doctor Who with Vikings versus aliens, but it also included a lot of references to the mythology of the show, and presumably leads into however the season ends. The Doctor was caught by Vikings and tried to pretend to be Odin. That did not work as there was already another alien pretending to be Odin. Plus it was the nearest thing we will probably see to Doctor Who meeting Game of Thrones.

The Doctor helped the Viking village defeat The Mire with clever but improbable strategy including electric eels, mind tricks to make the invaders think they were under attack by a giant serpent, and threats to ruin their reputation with a video of the events. Along the way there were references to previous Doctors along with some seen in videos. The Doctor used the phrase attributed to the third Doctor, even if not really used all that often: “I’m reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something, it sounds great.” The seventh Doctor was also recalled with “Time will tell – it always does.”

There was an explanation for the current Doctor looking so much like Marcus Aurelius from The Fires of Pompeii (beyond both being played by Peter Capaldi). Seeing this face was a reminder that he can sometimes change what might be fixed points in time.  In the episode, Donna Noble convinced the Doctor into saving a the volcano which destroyed Pompeii. This tells him: “I’m the Doctor and I save people!” (Will we later get an explanation for Peter Capaldi’s appearance in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or is it just better to pretend that one never existed?)

It is never clear what the rules of time are. Will they necessarily lead to problems, or are they just rules of the Time Lords which can be ignored when they are not around? We received a little guidance: “It’s OK to make ripples, but not tidal waves.”

This all mattered first to get the Doctor to save the village. It was saved but Maise Williams’ character, Ashildre, died during the battle. The Doctor not only made her “functionally immortal,” but also gave her a second dose of the revive-chip for “whoever she wants” so she will not be alone. It is strange that the Doctor did this for her, but never considered it for many other people he saw die, or to make sure he is never alone. I wonder if there will be tragic consequences of this violation of the rules to provide reason for him to never consider it again.

The Doctor did realize that he turned Ashildre into a hybrid. We heard mention of a hybrid earlier in the season in The Witch’s Familiar, but it sounded like a cross between a Time Lord and a Dalek. We will have to wait and see if this is all connected.

Another event of the season was to have the Doctor lose his sonic screwdriver and replace it with the sonic sunglasses. The Vikings broke them, but they also appear in a preview so presumably are returning.

The episode had the second suggestion that Clara might be bisexual when she spoke of fighting the Doctor for Ashildre. In The Magician’s Apprentice she mentioned that Jane Austen is “a brilliant writer and, strictly between ourselves, a phenomenal kisser.”

A couple other memorable lines from the episode:

Doctor: “I’m not actually the police, that’s just what it says on the box.”

Clara: “The universe is full of testosterone. Trust me, it’s unbearable.”

Behind the scenes videos with Maisie Williams can be seen here.

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Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching.

Fargo and Manhattan returned for their second seasons. Fargo looks fantastic. I have not seen Manhattan yet but I hear it was also excellent. I would highly recommend watching the first season of each of these shows. Fargo is a different story with slight overlap in characters, and I doubt it will be necessary to have seen the first season to enjoy the second. It would be better to watch the first season of Manhattan before trying to jump in.

Fresh Off The Boat, also in its second season, has been picked up for a full twenty-two episodes.

Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching. Please do not  let Manhattan suffer this fate–it is an excellent show despite being seen by so few people as it is only on WGN.

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.

SciFi Weekend: Person of Interest; The Flash and Other CW Shows; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; The Returned; Mad Men; Star Talk; Neil Gaiman; Robert Crumb on Charlie Hedbo

Person of Interest Simulations

Often middle episodes of a trilogy can be weak, containing neither the set up or conclusion, but Person of Interest had no difficulty with the second part of their current trilogy. A show which deals with showing different versions of the same scenario might also be risky, but they certainly pulled that off well with If-Then-Else. Many viewers were aware that the episode might deal with the death of a character and they played with viewers in showing Finch get killed early in the episode. While the series has had one major character get killed in the past, it is a safe bet that Finch and Reese are safe, so it was no surprise that Harold’s death (along with a later sequence showing Reese get killed) were only a computer simulation as the Machine looked at every possible strategy.

I particularly enjoyed one way they kept the showing of different scenarios from seeming redundant or boring–the use of generic responses to speed up the dialog:

Reese: “Coolly delivered sadistic warning.”

Fusco: “Self-deprecating inquiry into the time necessary to infiltrate system.”

Root: “Funny, yet insightful retort.”

Finch: “Mildly agitated declaration of mission completion.”

Once the scenarios were evaluated, we had the “real” version of events, with a couple of  surprises. While one simulation had Root kiss Fusco, as it was just a simulation, the real version showed a progression in the relationship between Shaw and Root. It was not entirely clear to what degree Shaw kissed root out of romantic interest versus to startle her so that she could sacrifice herself to get the elevator rising.

Person of Interest Shaw Kiss Root

It is notable that the when the final shot was heard we did not see Shaw’s body, and we know that in the absence of a dead body we should never assume a character has really been killed. The previews suggest that at very least Team Machine believes Shaw is alive. Interviews with the producers and cast reveal some spoilers as to whether Shaw is really dead. From TV Guide:

While debate rages about whether or not Shaw is actually dead, she certainly won’t be appearing on POI in the near future. In fact, this entire storyline was crafted after Shahi informed the show’s producers she was expecting twins.

“Our fans think we’re sadists who like killing off our characters. In this case, we had no choice,” executive producer Jonathan Nolan tells TVGuide.com. “Our hands were tied. The circumstances of Shaw’s character and what she does — being a lethal operative who goes around the world and exterminates people and often puts her life in peril — kind of makes her irresponsible as a maternal figure on the show. Sarah was the first person to say, “There’s no way we can write this into the character,” and we agreed.”

So, is Shaw really dead? “You have to stay tuned,” executive producer Greg Plageman says. “The great part of doing a serialized show is that you have people waiting to find out what happens. We’d hate to spoil that for the audience, but there is a little bit of ambiguity about what happens after those elevator doors close.” As for how long that ambiguity will last, Nolan quips, “What’s the earliest you can put two twins on an airplane?”

Regardless of Shaw’s fate, the producers did give fans a huge moment between Shaw and Root (Amy Acker), as the much-‘shipped duo finally locked lips before Shaw’s heroics kicked in. “I directed their first scene together on the show, and it was abundantly clear to me that there was a great deal of chemistry between those two characters,” Nolan says. “So from the beginning, for me, that tension has always been there. We felt like the fans were invested in that relationship. You don’t feel like you can walk away from something like that without giving some kind of consummation.”

Person of Interest Root Elevator

Initially stories I read about Sarah Shahi leaving the show reported an expected two year absence, but Shahi left this more open in an interview with Entertainment Weekly where she talked about her pregnancy and the kiss with Root:

How did you break the news to the producers?
I just kept hitting them, like one after another. At first it was, “Guys, I’m pregnant,” and they were like, “Woah, okay, this is great, how far along are you?” And then: “Hey guys, just went to the doctor, I’m having twins.” “Woah! What! Oh shit!” So the whammies just kept coming for them. They’ve been wonderful about it, and they’re all fathers themselves so they understand what blessings children are, but it did take some adjusting. As far as the show goes, I do 99 percent of my own stunts all the time, so it took a little re-wiring in terms of what was safe for me to do, what was not safe for me to do. There are things that on paper didn’t seem like a stunt. When you’re carrying two human beings inside your belly, sometimes just walking or standing is a stunt.

Was there any conversation about writing the pregnancy into the show?
There were. Even through creatively I didn’t have anything to do with how Shaw goes, I just kept stressing that I wanted to honor her in every way that I could, and I didn’t want them to write me behind a desk. I didn’t want them to lessen Shaw’s abilities in any way because of my physical inabilities. I just kept stressing to them, please please please let’s honor her the right way. I still want to go balls out. Don’t hold back just because I’m pregnant.

What is the right way to honor her?
Her going out the way she did is pretty perfect for her. I always viewed this character as somebody who had a death wish on her. She’s such an adrenaline junkie and she’s got an appetite for violence. She will definitely put herself in that situation. It’s fun for her. If she doesn’t do that, she’s not living. She looked death squarely in the eye. She had a hint of a smile in her eyes. And then it just went to black. I think for her, that was the perfect ending. If Shaw could pick anyway to go, that’s the way she would want to go.

Tell me about that big kiss between Root and Shaw. Was that purely for the fans?
It’s funny because that was Amy’s first girl-on-girl kiss, whereas I’m incredibly experienced because of The L Word. I’m a veteran at the girl-on-girl! And Amy was kind of getting kissed all over that episode, between me and Fusco. Although I think she’d rather me than Fusco.

But yeah, to be honest, I felt like it was more for the fans. The one thing that the producers and I did kind of disagree on was they felt like Shaw knew she was going to die. She’s against ten Samaritan operatives, there’s no way she’s getting out of this alive, and that kiss was a goodbye kiss. Whereas I didn’t see it like that. I don’t think Shaw goes into any situation going, okay, I’m going to die today. I feel like the stronger choice is to struggle to live, and so I felt like that kiss was just like, “Oh, shut the f–k up already, Root!” I felt like it was more trying to calm down a pestering child, if anything. “Okay, fine, I’ll give you what you want, now be quiet.” Just one of those moments. But again, I also felt like it was more for the fans than anything….

So, the million dollar question once more: Is Shaw gone for good?
This episode is the second episode in a three-part series, and that is going to be the question moving on. That is what the team is going to have to figure out. Is she alive? Did Samaritan capture her? Where is she? The rule in TV is if you don’t see a body, then they’re not dead.

If hypothetically you did return and Shaw wasn’t dead, do you have an idea of your own timeline?
As far as my own timeline, it’s one of those things where you say that you’re having twins and you automatically see the fear of God in people’s eyes. Most people know what it’s like to handle one baby. There’s not a lot of sleep that involves just one baby. Then you add another baby to that equation and it’s just like doomsday. It’s going to be me for the next, like, two years. So to be honest, I have no idea. I’m trying not to think about stuff like that. But there’s no way—I’ve never had experience in this department before, so I can’t say at all, no clue.

SpoilerTV has a spoiler-free advance look at part three in this trilogy, Control-Alt-Delete, which does include the return of Camryn Manheim as Control.

Flash-TV-Reverse-Flash-Theories

There have been a number of teasers on Arrow and The Flash coming out of the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Among items of interest, it does appear that Tom Cavenagh’s character is the Reverse-Flash, as was suggested before the holiday hiatus, but he might not be the only Reverse-Flash:

Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg hinted that another person may be involved in the Reverse Flash mythology — namely Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). Fans have speculated that Eddie (whose name resembles Eobard Thawne, one of the aliases of Reverse-Flash in the comic books on which the series is based) will emerge as Reverse Flash in the series.

“His name is not an accident,” Kreisberg said Sunday. “Eddie’s connection to the Reverse Flash lore is going to pay off big time in the back half of the year.”

The DC universe will also be growing on CW. This includes another spin-off based on The Atom and there are plans for an animated series about Vixen taking place in the same universe.

The DC v. Marvel rivalry didn’t interfere with this discussion between writers and producers of both the DC and Marvel based television shows in this interview at The Hollywood Reporter. It was confirmed in this interview that a crossover between Supergirl (on CBS) with the CW shows is a distinct possibility.

CW has announced the renewal of multiple shows including Arrow, The Flash, The 100, and Jane the Virgin.

While the DC cinematic universe will be kept separate from the television universe, there will be overlap in characters between the movies. Viola Davis is rumored to have been offered the part of Amanda Waller in the Suicide Squad movie, with her character to also appear in other DC movies.  There are also rumors (and a denial) that Batman V. Superman will be split into two parts.

Agent Carter Poster

Agent Carter started out much stronger than Agents of SHIELD, hopefully indicating that Marvel has learned its lesson and will be doing a better job with its future television shows. Although set in the 1940’s, there were plenty of references to the Marvel universe. Besides frequently mentioning Captain America and including Tony Stark’s father, there were multiple other references. What Culture provides a list of 10 Easter Eggs.

Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galactica will be appearing in a major role on Agents of SHIELD. Reportedly his character will have “massive repercussions” for SHIELD.

A date has finally been announced for the next Marvel television show. Netflix will be releasing Daredevil on April 10. The other planned Marvel shows on Netflix will be released approximately one year apart, with Jessica Jones, staring Krysten Ritter,  next in 2016.

Carlton Cuse is busy working with A&E, although not on original ideas.  One of his shows, Bates Motel, starts its third season on March 9. In addition he has a second show premiering with the network on the same day. He is doing an American adaptation of the French series, The Returned. This has the same basic premise as ABC’s Resurrection with people returning from the dead, but it is a totally different story. The American adaptation will also diverge from the French version after the sixth episode, and the second season will be entirely new as the French version only ran for a single season.

When Amazon included a show from Chris Carter, The After, in their pilots, there was mixed reaction. Some were excited, hoping for great things from the creator of The X-Files, while others remain wary of Carter after the way The X-Files deteriorated over the years. We will not find out whether he learned from his past mistakes on this series as Amazon has decided not to pick it up.

Mad Men Bar

AMC announced that the final episodes of Mad Men will start on April 5. Matthew Weiner has discussed the finale saying, “The last seven episodes, I would say each one of them feels like a finale in the show.”

Following an era filled with very polarizing finales, from Lost to How I Met Your Mother, Weiner says he is very cognizant of finding a balance between giving the audience what they want and best serving the overall story. “I’m extremely interested in what the audience thinks, so much so that I’m trying not to confound them, not frustrate and irritate them,” Weiner said. “I don’t want them to walk away angry. But I don’t want to pander to them. This sounds patronizing, but as the person telling the story, sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen and the story has to have its own organic thing. You can’t just give them everything that they want. That said, part of entertainment can be catharsis. Bad things happening are considered a good thing in entertainment.”

Tonight Girls returns and there is the debut of a new comedy on HBO entitled Togetherness. The advance hype for the show has been making a big deal out of Amanda Peet appearing topless considering she is 42 years old. Personally I find seeing Amanda Peet topless, regardless of her age, to be far more desirable than to see more nudity from Lena Dunham.

Neil deGrasse Tyson will be returning to television in a weekly late night talk show entitled Star Talk.

neil-gaiman-trigger-warning

Neil Gaiman has a new book coming out entitled Trigger Warning which includes a Doctor Who short story. It is not clear if this is the same story which was previously only available in an ebook collection for the 50th anniversary.

Speaking of books and ebooks, Time and Financial Times are reporting that ebooks are going “out of fashion” but, even if they are correct, I question how they came to this conclusion. First they cite declining sales for ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. I see three flaws in using sales of these devices to be a meaningful measure of reading ebooks. First of all, while some might upgrade to the newest versions, many people might still be using an ebook reader which was purchased over a year ago and have no reason to buy a new ebook reader. Secondly, tablets have come down in price so much that many people might be using tablets as opposed to dedicated ebook readers. Thirdly, as screens on cell phones have increased in size and screen resolution has increased, cell phones have become much better for reading ebooks. Personally I find myself using my phone more than ebook readers since upgrading to an LG G3.

Their second argument is an increase in sales of physical books, but increased sales of physical books could just as likely mean more people are getting ebooks as mean less are. It could be a sign of an overall increase in reading and book sales, with different people buying more of one or the other along with some of us who buy both. Generally when I read a book I’ll obtain both a hard cover copy for my library and to read when at home along with an ebook copy to have it available for either when away from home or to read on my phone or tablet in night mode should I awaken in the middle of the night and decide to read for a little while.

American cartoonist Robert Crumb gives a

The New York Observer interviewed American cartoonist Robert Crumb, who moved to France in 1991, about the recent killings at Charlie Hebdo:

Charlie Hebdo, they print so many insulting cartoons about Muslim extremists, you know, geez, they just kept at it, you know…but that wasn’t the only people they insulted, they insulted everybody. The Pope, the President of the country, everybody! They were merciless, to everybody. It was a really funny magazine. They just didn’t hold back towards anybody. You know, they didn’t let anybody off the hook, which was good.

What was your reaction inside when you first heard about it?

I had the same reaction I had when 9/11 happened.  I thought, “Jesus Christ, things are really going to turn ugly now.” That kind of thing, just like 9/11, it gives the government the excuse to crack down, to become very much more, like, you know, “Homeland Security” oriented.  And the right wing gets like this kind of like fodder for its arguments. The right wing here is very down on the Arabs. And France has an Arab population that’s like, 5 Million, something like that – huge population of Muslims in this country, most of whom just want to mind their own business and don’t want to be bothered. Those kinds of extremists are a very small minority. We have friends here who are from that background, you know, Moroccan or Algerian. And they just don’t want any trouble, and their kids are mostly even more moderate than they are.

Is there anything in the US in our history that comes anywhere near this tradition – the Hedbo tradition? If so, what would it be?

Underground comics, back in the 70s.  But today, I don’t think there’s anything like that now in the US. The thing about Charlie Hebdo is that it started in 1969. The gang of guys that worked for that magazine, they just kept at that for decades. Those guys are fairly old, you know, older guys most of them. There wasn’t a whole lot of, you know, 20- somethings or 30-somethings in that group. The cartoonists are mostly older guys. There is lots of critique of the left also. They say the left is hypocritical, bullshitters and opportunists, and all that. But generally I would say there’s a leftish sympathy in Charlie Hebdo. But they just came out with that every week. Every week. And people would just look at it and laugh, “Oh, you know those guys, those crazy guys.  They’re outrageous.”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock and Sex; Agents of SHIELD; Agent Carter; Gotham; Arrow; The Flash; 12 Monkeys; Billy Bob Thornton and Other Sitcom News; Crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Doctor Who Black Water

Black Water is so far likely to be the most memorable episode of this season of Doctor Who, but any such judgment will be influenced by the second part of the story, Death in Heaven. It is difficult to review the first episode of a two-part story as when an interesting idea in genre is raised we never know how well the story will play out. Of course this could also be said of both individual stories and entire series (such as Lost and The X-Files.)

The episode demonstrated how much the Doctor cared for Clara: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” Fortunately the betrayal was in a dream sequence. Before realizing it was a dream I expected that the Doctor would either pull out a spare key or show that he can still get into his TARDIS even without a key. Clara pointed out a common issue on the the series in which the Doctor is inconsistent as to whether he can change time. Such inconsistencies are unavoidable on a long running time travel series and actually seem less objectionable when openly acknowledged by a character.

Danny Pink appears to have died, but it isn’t clear if it is final. After all, the idea of the episode is that death is not what we think it is, although it is not clear if we were told the truth or if it was entirely lies coming from Missy. We were told,  “This isn’t really an afterlife. It’s just more life than you were ever expecting.” With rumors that Jenna Coleman might be leaving the series, it is possible that he really is dead, but also possible that he can be rescued from the Nethersphere for further adventures. The previews of Death in Heaven suggest that Clara might have never existed, but previews are often misleading.

The biggest danger to Danny might not be that he appears to be dead, but that he might delete his emotions and voluntarily become what was hidden away in the black water, which hides all not-organic material. Even though it was well known that the finale involved the Cybermen, and it might not have made sense keeping all of them stored in water, the scene revealing what they were as the water drained away still had considerable impact.

If we can believe what we heard, the dead are still conscious and feel what their body feels–making “don’t cremate me” a crucial plea and avoiding being studied for science also an important goal. One reason we cannot be certain of anything we were told was the reveal as to the identity of Missy: “Try to keep up. I’m Missy. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?”

Although there was widespread speculation that Missy was the Master, we were kept guessing until the end, including with a claim earlier in the episode that she was just a droid. Now that we know that Missy is the Master, the question remains as to whether she really was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St. John, and if so what the purpose was. We can be certain that her use of the Cybermen is not a good thing,

Having the Master regenerate as a woman has been received with excitement by a lot of fans who have been hoping for a female doctor. While this establishes that it is possible for a Time Lord to regenerate in the opposite sex, having this be possible and actually doing it are quite different things. I suspect that for now this might have been done to placate fans calling for a female doctor with no current plans to actually do so.

The Doctor Who Extra for Black Water is above.

Benedict Cumberbatch discussed Sherlock and sex in an interview with the UK edition of Elle.

ELLE UK: What do you think Sherlock would be like in bed? How would you play a love scene as Sherlock?

BC: Oooh… You know I’d get the, I’d probably test the latex, if it involved prophylactics, beforehand.

BC: I’d do a little experiment to do with durability, length, girth, and um, strength. And um, I would probably take a lot of vitamin supplements to make sure that I could perform, and had had my sleep, and probably not had many cigarettes. Or drink, for that matter. Not that he does drink.

ELLE UK: You see. Proficient, but lacking enthusiasm.

BC: Yeah, no wait for it. I would probably watch a lot of porn…

Cumberbatch is currently in negotiations to star in Doctor Strange but perhaps he should also be signed for a guest appearance on Masters of Sex.

Agents of SHIELD Ward

SHIELD could really use better security. We figured that Ward wasn’t going to spend the entire season in Coulson’s basement, but I would think that they would have taken even more precautions to transport him. Brett Dalton discussed his character with Entertainment Weekly.

ABC has released the official synopsis for Agent Carter.

It is too early to judge Gotham as they are busy building their pre-Batman universe. Screen Rant looks at Arkham Asylum. Of course any discussion of Arkham leads to the Joker, and the post also mentions the fan theory that Oswald Cobblepot actually turns out to be the Joker, not the Penguin.

It has been announced that Morena Baccarin (Homeland, Firefly, V) will be playing Dr. Leslie Thompkins:

She will play Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a gifted and dedicated physician who was a friend of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha. She is determined to use her skills to aid Gotham’s most in need, which currently means working at the newly opened Arkham Asylum’s Home for the Criminally Insane. In addition to her medical skills, her coolness under pressure will serve her well as she finds herself drawn close to James Gordon and into more and more dangerous waters.

Blastr looked at Christopher Nolan’s original ideas for the Dark Knight trilogy, which were changed with the death of Heath Ledger (the Joker).

At this point CW is doing the better job of bringing the DC universe to television, and Gotham has a long way to go to compete with Arrow as the best television adaptation of Batman. Last week Felicity visited The Flash and the next episode of Arrow features her in The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak. The synopsis for the episode reads:

When a cyber attack brings Starling City to its knees, Oliver and Felicity are pushed to their limits to contain the destruction. Life gets even more complicated for Felicity when her mother, Donna (guest star Charlotte Ross), stops by for a surprise visit. Meanwhile, Ted Grant (guest star JR Ramirez) questions Laurel’s motives, and Thea buys an apartment with Malcolm’s “estate””money, which infuriates Oliver.

 Stephen Amell discussed Arrow, The Flash, and DC movies;

We’ve heard so much in recent weeks about Marvel and DC announcing so many comic book movies over the next few years. Are you ready for a Green Arrow movie? I am completely indifferent. First of all, wanting a movie undersells the idea that making 23 episodes a year isn’t a huge achievement. It is and I would put that degree of difficulty up against any feature film that has ever been made… except “Lord of the Rings” and that gigantic Peter Jackson-led undertaking… and maybe “Titanic.” But, other than those two movies, I’d put making 23 hours of interesting content in a TV season up against anything on the film side. It is difficult to me to want or envision an “Arrow” movie when we are shooting the 10th episode of our third season with 13 more episodes to go and in all likelihood 3 more seasons on the other side of that. I’m interested in keeping that content fresh. Once we get to the end of that road, maybe then I’ll shift my focus. There was some talk and controversy about the fact that Grant Gustin is doing the “Flash” TV show but was not named the Flash for the “Flash” movie. If Green Arrow was going to be on screen, do you feel like it should be you? Yeah. Of course. And I feel like it should be Grant doing the movie. But the important thing to remember is just because Grant Gustin plays the part of Barry Allen doesn’t mean Ezra Miller can’t also play Barry Allen. There can be different interpretations of the character. Anyone who is a fan of the comics knows the Flash character is one of the forces that leads to parallel universes. And who knows, they might find a fantastic actor to play Oliver Queen on the feature side who has a different take on the character. I’m certainly a departure from the typical Oliver Queen from the comic books. I just think that everybody needs to be patient with the whole thing. The fact that DC and Warner have announced all these comic book features is nothing but good for business.

Syfy has released the above extended footage for their upcoming series (based on the movie) 12 Monkeys.

Last season CBS killed Cristin Milioti in the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.  Now NBC has killed her on A to Z, or for now turned her into a zombie. She is currently walking dead, not unlike Brady Hoke as Michigan’s football coach. The series will complete its initial thirteen episodes but end at that point. Unless the thirteenth episode is rewritten we will never learn about what happens in that final hour of her eight-month, three-week, five-day, and one-hour relationship. I would expect that viewership will fall even further now that we know the show will not be on much longer. I have already deleted it from my DVR’s schedule.

NBC also canceled Bad Judge along with A to Z. NBC still has Marry Me for now but, having watched the pilot only, it hardly seems worth watching. Seeing these shows leads to the inevitable question–why did NBC cancel Community to make room for these? (Fortunately it has been saved by Yahoo!)

It has not been a good year for romantic comedies, with ABC having already canceled Manhattan Love Story.  At the moment, the only new network sitcoms I’m watching are Blackish and Selfie. Weak romantic comedies seem even lamer than most years after watching You’re The Worst which premiered last summer.

Big Bang Theory Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton was largely responsible for the success of Fargo. Late in the series he impersonated a dentist, and last week he went on to portray a doctor on The Big Bang Theory. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Steve Molaro about his memorable appearance (which hopefully will be repeated). Billy Bob Thornton is a big fan of the show, and he is the one who pitched the idea of playing a doctor who tries to steal Penny away from Leonard. Molaro also states that “a major move forward in the Sheldon-Amy relationship occurs” in next week’s episode.

It was a real tragedy when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo experimental space plane crashed on Friday.  While a huge setback, hopefully this is not the end of the idea of commercial spaceflight:

For now, the future of the New Mexico spaceport intended as the hub and central customer for Virgin Galactic’s operations seems uncertain.

And for Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, Messier says, “it’s obviously a massive setback.

“I’m hesitant to try to make predictions this soon after the accident,” he says.  “They’ve been working on SpaceShipTwo for ten years now. If the engine blew, they may have to go back to the drawing board.”

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Walter White Possibly Still Alive; Eva Green In Controversial Sin City Poster; Lost & The Leftovers; Save Community; Under the Dome; Doctor Who; Karen Gillan; Ann B. Davis Dies

Orphan-Black Rachel Leakey

Most of this week’s episode of Orphan Black, Knowledge Of Causes, And Secret Motion Of Things, seemed like a lighter episode with less actual changes to move the story compared to other recent episode, until the end. Several characters did learn significant things they did not know before.

The episode introduced Marian, played by Michelle Forbes, as someone  high up in Dyad, but without the ambiguity as to whether he is good or evil seen in Leekie’s character. There was also a reunion between Sarah and Allison, with Tatiana Maslany once again having the opportunity to play one clone playing another. This situation was set up by Allison calling in Sarah for help after she made the mistake of trusting Vic with the truth about what happened to Aynsley before discovering he was spying on her for Angie. Sarah wound up filling in for Allison, both giving a speech for family day to the booze hounds and the pill poppers, and then engaging in role playing in which she pretended (not all that well) to be Allison playing Donnie who was speaking with Allison.

The same evening included additional comedy with Sarah and Felix carrying around Vic’s body Weekend at Bernie’s style after Felix spiked his tea with benzodiazepines. Donnie ultimately saw Sarah and Allison together and it became clear that despite being Alison’s monitor he had no idea that they were clones or what Leekie was really up to. Yes, I could believe Donnie is stupid enough to think he was helping a long term social metrics study. Needless to say, he became quite angry when he learned how he was being duped.

Donnie wasn’t the only one to learn the truth. Cosima found out that the stem cells were from Kira and was not happy about this either. She threw Delphine out of the lab saying, “This is my lab, my body. I’m the science.” Kira was the only one to learn something this episode without getting angry. Finding out that stem cells taken from her tooth were somehow significant, she calmly got a piece of string and pulled out another loose tooth.

Rachel found out that the first father to raise her was still alive and that Leekie had set the fire which killed her mother. Marian sided with Rachel, but Rachel did give Leekie a chance to survive on the run, with warnings not to get in his car or to go home. At first it looked like he was safer with Donnie finding him (although I’m not sure how he did it) before Dyad. Donnie happened to be holding a gun and accidentally blew Leekie’s brains out. Apparently keeping Leekie, Rachel, and now Marian around would have left too many at the top.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed John Fawcett about the decision to kill off Leekie:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with some words for the dearly departed Aldous Leekie.
JOHN FAWCETT: We knew Dr. Leekie was going to die in season 2. And we knew that was something that we wanted to work towards and was going to be a big part of the Rachel/Dr. Leekie story and be a big part of why we’ve been telling a lot of this backstory. Ultimately, I think we didn’t really know how we were going to do it. We knew we were going to do it, we just didn’t know how we were going to do it. And [co-creator] Graeme [Manson] early on had this idea that Donnie should kill Dr. Leekie. It’s funny because my initial reaction was “that’s ridiculous.” Then we sort of kind of went at it a bunch of different ways: Who would kill him? How would he die? And ultimately we came back to Donnie. We wanted to do it in a surprising sort of strangely comic fashion, and that was the result.

EW: And to have Donnie be an accidental triggerman is kind of perfect.
FAWCETT: Yeah, we wanted it to be surprising. And you know that Leekie’s life is in danger at the end of the episode. Rachel in a way kind of lets him escape, but there is a very real threat to his life, and Donnie just happens to step in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gun goes off.

EW: Obviously when you kill off a main character, that’s a big deal and you have to walk through the pros and cons of doing that. So why Leekie and why now?
FAWCETT: Well, I think that obviously Dr. Leekie and Matt Frewer are a big part of our show and it is a very big decision to decide to eliminate a character. We don’t want to just make those decisions lightly, and it really has to have a bearing on not just story structure of the season, but really the big picture also. It has to work towards our end goals. So we designed the first part of the season all the way to episode 7 knowing this was going to come to a head and that Leekie was going to die. We used that as building blocks for that character, and by the time the end came for him, he wanted to build a character that we actually had grown to like and maybe couldn’t entirely trust, but were having some sympathies for. And he wasn’t just a kind of a bad guy. He was kind of in a weird way helping. It’s interesting then to kind of kill off someone that actually the audience and the fans are sort of starting to like and care about. I think it was an important element to building that character and using his death to actually mean something at the end of episode 7, and going forward in the next bunch of episodes. Because Dr. Leekie’s death…the fact that he’s gone or missing or presumed dead or whatever — that informs a bunch of story in the coming episodes.

Fawcett made it sound pretty definite that Leekie is dead after we saw “brains on the window.” However this week there was a hint of another character possibly surviving an apparent death. Bryan Cranston suggested that Walter White might still be alive. He pointed out, “You never saw a bag zip up or anything.” Theoretically they could have him return on Better Call Saul, which sounds like primarily a prequel series but which might jump around in time. They better have a really good storyline to justify saying Walter White is still alive as otherwise his death in the series finale of Breaking Bad would be the best way to end his story.

Eva Green Sin City

The Motion Pictures Association of America is unhappy about this poster for the Sin City sequel, feeling it reveals too much of Eva Green.

The New York Times Magazine looked at Damon Lindelof, discussing both Lost and his new show,The Leftovers. His upcoming show is based upon the Tom Perotta novel:

The conceit of “The Leftovers” is also a kind of trick: 2 percent of the earth’s population disappears one day with no explanation. There appears to be no common denominator to the people who go missing. Condoleezza Rice is gone. The pope is gone. So is Gary Busey. It may be the Christian Rapture — when believers ascend to heaven — or it may not. The story begins on the third anniversary of what has become known as the Sudden Departure, and focuses on characters living in a world that is trying to figure out how to move on.

It’s a compelling but tricky premise for a TV show, because the show’s central mystery may (or may not) be teased out indefinitely. Perrotta’s novel wrapped up its story after 355 pages, but a successful HBO series has to sustain several seasons of intrigue. And because it is Lindelof’s first TV project since he was a creator of “Lost,” the ABC show that famously drew out several mysteries for many seasons — only to end with resolutions that many people found, to put it mildly, unsatisfying — this may be a good time to remember how comfortable Lindelof is with the whole idea of mystery. The short answer: very, despite everything.

Save Community

The most disappointing cancellation from last season was for Community. Now Deadline gives hope that Hulu might keep the series alive.

There is a glimmer of hope that there could be a sixth season of cult comedy series Community. I have learned that Hulu is in talks with Community producer Sony Pictures TV for more original installments of the show, which was cancelled by NBC earlier this month. Sources stress that conversations are preliminary and it is unclear whether they would lead to a deal, but I hear there is will on both sides. That includes Community creator Dan Harmon, who confessed on his blog that he had warmed up to the possibility of continuing the show elsewhere, changing his stance from “eh” when Sony TV called him with the news of the series’ cancellation by NBC to “sure, let’s talk” two days later. Said Harmon, “I’m not going to be the guy that re-cancels cancelled Community.”

My review of last week’s episode of Mad Men, the last until next year, was posted here.

under-the-dome-image

Collider discussed the second season of Under the Dome with Neal Baer:

Question:  What can you say about what viewers can expect from Season 2?

NEAL BAER:  We are really excited about Season 2.  It is the season of transformation.  Last season was the season of secrets being revealed.  Our characters were trapped under this impenetrable Dome, where no one could get in and no one could get out.  And because they were trapped in this hot house, their secrets started to come out.  This is the season where we will find out what they are truly made of.  One of our characters met a very untimely death, and so will another beloved character.  That doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily see them again, because anything is possible under the Dome.  But, we are very excited to continue our journey with these characters, and we have so many surprises in store, this season.

Are you going to deal with the practical aspects, this season, of how they are getting food, what happens when they run out of toilet paper, and things like that?

BAER:  That’s a huge part of it, and it really puts Julia and Big Jim at huge odds, in Episodes 3 and 4.

What new capabilities does the Dome have?

BAER:  It’s certainly magnetic.  We just love the butterfly metaphor. This is a season that’s almost about impending ecological disaster.  That magnetism has caused many things to happen.  So, you will be seeing, in the early episodes, our characters, and particularly Big Jim, confronting the almost Biblical problems of pestilence and bloody rain.  Our characters haven’t been the stewards that maybe they should be, protecting the land and protecting each other.  They have a lot to learn this year, and I guess the Dome is teaching them.  That’s what Julia keeps talking about.  We have to understand the message that the Dome is trying to give us, and what it is trying to teach us.

How many years do you think this can continue, given the structure of the book? 

BAER:  Well, I’m glad you brought up the book because Stephen King wrote the first episode, so he’s certifying that he is very much involved in this show.  The book is there for those who want to read it, if they haven’t, at this point.  But, we are way past the book.  The book is really only about the first week under the Dome, and we are already two weeks in.  This season, we will be going for two more weeks.  We really go day-by-day under the Dome.  If we lasted 15 years, that would really only be a year under the Dome.  So, I think it’s certainly possible to keep going because we have so many stories to tell. 

We have new characters, as well, who shake things up.  We’ve got Eddie Cahill coming on as San Verdreaux, who is Big Jim’s brother-in-law.  He has been a recluse for the 10 years since his sister died, and was an alcoholic.  We have Karla Crome coming on as Rebecca Pine, who is a school teacher.  We are really getting into the science versus faith elements this season.  Rebecca represents scientific explanations for what’s going on, versus Rachelle’s character, Julia, who is really much more about faith.  And Big Jim is in the middle, trying to figure it out.  We have Grace Victoria Cox, who is the young woman that Julia pulls out of the water.  She is a pivotal character whose connection will be revealed.  And we have Sherry Stringfield, my dear friend who I worked with on ER.  We have a reunion this season because Eric LaSalle will be directing Sherry in Episode 10.  We are excited about that.  So, Stephen writing the episode is really sending us off into a place that he feels really proud of and really loves.  It’s his ideas of how to go beyond the book.  It’s really special for us to have Stephen launch us this season.

Maybe Stephen King can get the show back on track.

Town Called Mercy

BBC and BBC America are running teasers announcing that Doctor Who will be returning in August with a new Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. Steven Moffat revealed that the BBC had considered canceling the show after David Tennant left but Russell T. Davies pushed to keep it going, giving us Matt Smith along with Karen Gillan. Not only does Karen Gillan have an upcoming sit-com, Selfie, she will also be staring in a Western, In a Valley of Violence. According to BBC America, “She joins Ethan Hawke, John Travolta and Taissa Farmiga in the story of a drifter (Hawke) turning up in a small town in the 1890s, ready to find and punish the people who murdered his best friend. Karen and Taissa play sisters that run the local hotel.” She has previous western experience in the Doctor Who episode, A Town Called Mercy.

Ann B. Davis, best known for playing Alice on The Brady Bunch, died on Sunday.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Arrow; Continuum; Doctor Who; 12 Monkeys; The Wil Wheaton Project; The Americans; The Big Bang Theory Does Star Wars; How I Met Your Mother Ends In The Darkest Timeline

hannibal6

With Futamono, we are about half way through the second season of Hannibal, and some people are beginning to suspect that bad things are happening to people around the title character. We know that he will be exposed by the end of the season, but at the moment he is a sort of Superman who is able to outsmart almost everyone and evade detection. He can even manage to get Abel Gideon out of the psychiatric institution in order to have him over for what is probably his last meal. (“You intend me to be my own last supper?”)Fortunately for Gideon, he is insane himself and can be witty while being served his own leg. Bryan Fuller explained why Gideon suffered this type of fate:

 I think part of the reason he meets the horrible fate that he does was the symmetry. Here he is, a guy who claimed to be the Chesapeake Ripper and was the grand pretender to the throne. For him to both become the Chesapeake Ripper and the Chesapeake Ripper’s victim felt like there was a certain poetry that Hannibal would appreciate. We see in episode five, Abel Gideon really goes out of his way to save Hannibal Lecter from Will Graham, but more importantly, save Will Graham from Will Graham by preventing Will from taking a life out of malice. We see that there is a humanity to him and an understanding and even a sympathy for Will Graham and his plight. So as Beverly Katz has carved the path for all of those who believe Will Graham in any capacity, he had to go down the same chute.

It appeared that Jack might obtain some evidence about Hannibal when he finally paid attention to Will’s theories: “If the Ripper is killing, you can bet Hannibal Lecter is having a dinner party. You and I probably sipped wine while swallowing the people who who we were trying to give justice, Jack.” Jack took some food from one of Hannibal’s dinner parties to be tested. Hannibal outsmarted Jack that night as the beef really was wagyu beef (which really is delicious).

While there was not conclusive evidence against Hannibal, there was evidence showing that both the Chesapeake Ripper and the alleged copycat who continued after Will’s incarceration were the same killer, proving it could not be Will. I did not expect to see Will go free until much later in the season. (Can I still wear my Free Will Graham t-shirt?) There was also a piece of rare tree bark which led to the discovery of Miriam Lass, the young FBI agent who figured out Hannibal’s secret in a first season flash back. Surprisingly she is still alive, but is missing an arm.  From the interspersed scenes with Hannibal, I suspect that the discovery of Miriam was a planned move on his part and there is not enough of her mind left after all these years to incriminate him. Coincidentally, Anna Chlumsky returns to Hannibal the same weekend she also returns to television on a new season of Veep.

Hannibal - Season 2

Seeing Hannibal seduce and drug Alana was as chilling as the scenes with Gideon. While her fate (so far) is not as terrible, we have far more invested in her character. For the purposes of this episode, sleeping with Alana provided an alibi for Hannibal capturing Gideon. Television sedatives work wonderfully, with the victim being guaranteed to neither wake up or realize anything was unusual during the night. Next we presumably will see the consequences of a newly freed Will finding that while Jack might now be open to his theories, Alana is almost literally sleeping with the devil.

Dr. Chilton seems to be the smartest one after Will in Hannibal’s circles. He both figured out the rhyme (“They’ll call him Hannibal the Cannibal; he does fit the profile”) and revealed that he only eats salads when dining with Dr. Lecter. He also theorized that Hannibal “is attracted to medical and psychological fields because they offer power over man. Cannibalism…cannibalism is one act of dominance.”

Seeing Hannibal wink at Chilton was enough to suggest he may be doomed, but there would also be some justice in keeping him alive to see Hannibal’s downfall. There has to be someone left to begin treatment of Hannibal once he takes Will’s place in the hospital for the criminally insane. Besides, unlike Miriam Lass and Beverly Katz, Chilton is not likely to allow himself to be alone with Hannibal Lecter.

Arrow Deathstroke

Arrow had yet another strong episode with Deathstroke. It was a key episode for Thea, who is now angry at Oliver after Slade revealed that Oliver was keeping secret the fact that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) was really her father. I had expected the secret was going to be about Oliver on the island and now being the Arrow. We never saw how Slade also knew about Malcolm Merlyn, but it does not contradict anything we have seen for him to have discovered this on his own.

Poor Oliver, now being blamed by Thea for keeping the same secret which he was now become estranged from his mother over. Speaking of secrets, if she knew the full story, Thea would also have good reason to be angry at Oliver for not warning anyone about how dangerous Slade was. If Oliver had said something when he showed up in their home, Thea might not have gotten into the car with him.  Having released Thea, it no longer appears that Slade has any interest in keeping his actions a secret. It seems like after this week, most of the secrets are out in the open.

Arrow Queen Industries

Not only has Oliver lost Thea, he has also lost control over his company as we learned that Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau),  who he had only planned to make CEO pro tempore, was also working with Slade.This is all part of Slade’s plan to take away everything from Oliver.

The episode ended with yet another cliff hanger. While he didn’t tell the secret I had expected him to tell to Thea, Slade did visit Laurel at the end to tell her that Oliver Queen is the Arrow.  Most likely this will change things, especially as her father’s freedom now depends upon him revealing the Arrow’s identity, but there is no guarantee she will believe Slade. After all, as I pointed out last week, she couldn’t even tell that her own sister was the Black Canary when sitting right next to her. Although common in the comics for a mask to be sufficient to hide one’s identity, the mask did very little to hide her face. If Laurel had encountered Sara at the beach wearing large sunglasses, which would cover as much of her face as the mask, would she be unable to recognize her? Just how much alcohol and drugs did that girl consume?

Continuum minute-by-minute

Continuum season three finally aired in the United States on Syfy with resolution of last season’s cliff hanger, answering some questions and raising new ones. Alec has gone back in time a week in hopes of saving Emily, creating a new timeline. I feel like I’m in yet another time jump, being three weeks ahead of where the show is in the United States by downloading the episodes after airing on Showcase. I will limit spoilers to the episode which aired in the United States and will avoid mentioning events of subsequent episodes which have aired.

Minute By Minute began with action scenes with Kiera (Rachel Nichols) and Garza working together to escape, but things got far more complicated with the timeline collapsing and the Freelancers sending Kiera (who has now joined up with them) to the new timeline created by Alec going back into the past. The episode deals with some of the central questions of the series regarding time travel but hardly settles anything.  If traveling in time creates a new timeline, does this mean that Kiera cannot ever return to the time she left? Perhaps the fact that the Freelancers could send her to the same timeline Alec had created suggests some ability to move between timelines and presents a mechanism by which Kiera could ultimately return to both the same time and timeline she came from.

The episode does suggest that the problems and paradoxes from time travel occur if one encounters another version of the same person. They eliminated one possibility of problems here by having the Kiera of the new timeline get killed, leaving only the problem of two Alecs. The suggestion is that one will lead to the future we saw while the other must be eliminated–not that it appears to be a desirable future. Kiera wants to return to her family, and fails to understand many of the problems of her own time. The Freelancers don’t have any interest in choosing which future is best, only wanting time to run its course as it should, but is there really one correct future timeline from the perspective of people in our time? (Might future Freelancers intervene to correct the timeline in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies?)

Possibly actions by people from the future might give some insight into how time travel works if we can assume that they really understood it. Now we know why Kagame made sure he died on the day he was born, understanding the consequences should he ever meet himself. I think the real key is that future Alec Sadler, having his memories of what happened in the past, must have had some master plan in sending both Liber8 and Kiera back in time. Presumably he had some goals based upon changing the conditions he created. However, will this really change the future he lives in, or just create a second and hopefully better timeline?

There are already some key changes in the new timeline with Escher dead, although now any death might not be permanent if there is the possibility of the show moving to yet another timeline. We no longer know Emily’s fate. Can Alec succeed in saving her, or must she be allowed to die to save the future, like Edith Keeler in the classic Star Trek episode, City on the Edge of Forever?  The final scene from last season with Carlos deciding to join Julian will probably never occur.  Hopefully changing timelines doesn’t turn into an easy cosmic reset switch.

tardis-tomb-trenzalore-finale-300x168

Steven Moffat has sort of given an answer to another time paradox–how the Doctor’s tomb can be on Trenzalore when he escaped his fate and wound up not dying there in The Time of the Doctor:

Moffat replies: “I’ve often wondered about that. Fortunately, late one night, the Doctor turned up in person and explained it to me:

“THE DOCTOR: Changing time is tricky. It’s a bit like a detective story: so as long there isn’t an actual body, you’ve got a certain amount of wiggle room – for instance, if the body has, rather conveniently, been burned on a boat in Utah.

“Here’s the thing: I can change the future so long as the future has not already been established as part of my own past. I can’t rescue Amy and Rory because I already know that I didn’t.

“But what do I know about Trenzalore? There’s a big monument that looks very like my TARDIS. There’s a temporal fissure leading to my timeline. Maybe it’s my grave. Maybe, one day, it’s my burial ground. Maybe it is something else entirely, and we got it all wrong. Don’t know. Don’t plan to find out for as long as possible. The main thing is, Clara still jumped into my time stream, and ended up helping me through all of my life. All that is established, unchanged – but there’s wiggle room!”

There will be additional time travel coming on Syfy. The network has picked up an adaptation of 12 Monkeys:

The cable network on Friday announced that its adaptation of the Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis feature film has been picked up to series with a 13-episode order for a January 2015 premiere.

Nikita’s Aaron Stanford and Suits’ Amanda Schull star in the drama based on Universal Pictures’ Terry Gilliam film. In Plain Sight’s Natalie Chaidez serves as showrunner on the drama about a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in the present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race.

Chris Hardwick's A Celebration Of "The Nerdist Way"

In addition, Syfy has picked up The Wil Wheaton Project:

Syfy has picked up 12 episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (working title), which the actor-blogger has dubbed “sort of like Talk Soup for geeks.” The half-hour show, hosted by Wheaton, will allow the geek hero to dissect the week’s biggest stories in sci-pop culture with the witty commentary that has made him a social media star.

In his own words, Wheaton describes the show as a “weekly roundup of the things I love on television and on the Internet, with commentary and jokes, and the occasional visit from interesting people who make those things happen.” In a blog post, Wheaton gives a charming behind-the-scenes account of the year-long process that led to the series being greenlit; his enthusiasm for genre entertainment and insider status serve his audience well. ”We discovered that nobody was doing a show like this that was just focused on the genre shows that nerds like us love, and we decided that we’d make that show,” he writes.

The Wil Wheaton Project premieres May 27 at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.

The Americans Behind the Red Door

The Americans remain on the trail of the murders of the other spy couple in Behind The Red Door.  We learned why this is personal for Claudia, who might have let some information slip out while dating. There’s historical references to Reagan’s actions in Nicaragua. There’s also both discussion of the heroin overdose of John Belushi and a young agent using poisoned heroin to kill the Congressional aide to eliminate the risk of stolen material leading back to her.

The strongest scene of the episode might have been the aftermath of last week’s visit from Elizabeth to Martha. Elizabeth couldn’t get past  Martha’s talk of how wild Clark was in bed and wound up regretting forcing Philip to remain in the Clark role. Initially it seemed that what Martha found wild was the usual for Elizabeth, but then Phillip went further when Elizabeth seemed disappointed.

Meanwhile Oleg is making matters far more complicated for Stan and Nina, trying to turn Stan into a double agent. This week we saw primitive 1980’s technology, a dot matrix printer, used to print out reports. Next week we will see if Nina can fool 1980’s lie detector technology.

Big Bang Star Wars

The Big Bang Theory will be airing a Star Wars themed episode which also includes the return of Bob Newhart as Professor Proton:

CBS’ The Big Bang Theory is teaming with Lucasfilm for an epic Star Wars episode timed to Star Wars Day, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

In “The Proton Transmogrification” — the episode set to air May 1 and timed to the annual May 4 Star Wars Day — the gang gets together to celebrate the annual geek holiday, while Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is guided by visions of his childhood idol and mentor, Professor Proton (Emmy winner Bob Newhart), who appears to the socially challenged genius as his own Jedi master.

For those not in the know, Star Wars Day is recognized every year on May 4, with the traditional celebratory greeting being “May the fourth be with you” — a play on Star Wars’ famed “May the Force be with you” line. Fans across the globe celebrate the film franchise with screenings and special events.

For the episode, the CBS comedy teamed with a group of special effects technicians from Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic to re-create Dagobah — the remote world of swamps and forest that served as a refuge for Yoda during his exile — and provide props for the episode, including a light saber. Lucasfilm experts consulted on the episode and visited the Big Bang Theory set to oversee the production, with the final touches completed at its San Francisco headquarters.

Last Forever Part One

How I Met Your Mother was a remarkable sitcom. It was the best ensemble show of young people in New York despite multiple attempts at this theme following the end of Friends. It did a far better job of telling a story by jumping around in time like Lost than any of the more explicit genre attempts to follow Lost. Unfortunately, instead of being, wait for it, legendary, the finale was a huge disappointment to most fans. If this was Community, the series would have ended in the Darkest Timeline.Fortunately the shock of Tracy’s death was made bearable by advance warnings in fan theories which turned out to be true.

We knew that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas would have some twist planned considering how the series began, but hoped they had something tricker planned than having the Mother die leaving Ted free to wind up with Aunt Robin. Upon reading that they had filmed the ending with the children during the second season so that they wouldn’t appear too old when the series ended, I feared that this is how they would end the show, but still held out hope that they understood the changes in their own show and would come up for a better ending.

During the second season, when the scene was filmed, this certainly made sense. For years the show centered around Ted and Robin and during that time I did suspect that the twist at the end of the pilot was a diversion and that the two really did wind up together, even if someone else was the mother of Ted’s children. The final scene, with Ted going over to Robin’s apartment carrying the Blue French Horn, with Robin’s dogs in the window, was a recreation of a scene from the pilot when Ted returned to Robin’s apartment after failing to kiss her goodnight the first time. (He also missed the signs and failed to kiss her whens he returned–but just  rewatch it on Netflix if you don’t remember the details).

himym blue french horn

However, over the course of nine years the characters changed. If they had stayed the same, it would have been fine if they used this ending. It is also fine that the people changed, but that required a different ending for the show. By the end, Ted and Robin were no longer Ross and Rachel.

Sure there were plenty of clues in the final episodes as Robin had moments when she said Ted was the one she should have wound up with while Ted finally looked ready to move on. However the final season was more about the couples of Ted/Tracy and Barney/Robin. The Mother was no longer just a MacGuffin to propel the story of Ted and Robin. Thomas and Bays did too good a job of making the fans fall in love with Tracy (whose name we didn’t learn until the final episode), and see that she was really the perfect girl for Ted. They also made us accept and welcome the implausible marriage of Barney and Robin.

If the show ended a year or more earlier, as expected, and an unknown woman, or perhaps Victoria, had married Ted but died after having their children, we could have accepted that as a plausible ending and might have been happy that Ted wound up with Robin. Killing off Tracy was a totally different matter. Thomas and Bays should have realized that the evolution in their characters required a different ending than had been planned back in the second season.

how-i-met-your-mother-dying

Besides being the wrong ending for where the characters had evolved to, the timing for the show now felt wrong. We spent the entire final season seeing the weekend when Robin and Barney got married, and then their marriage fell apart in a quick sequence in the final moments of the finale (which was a huge clue as to where they were going). They left us wanting to see so much more of Tracy and Ted but all too quickly she became sick, and that was that. She pretty much died off screen just as she spent most of her life. If they were going to have her die, she at least deserved a longer exit. It was as if Love Story was all about Ryan O’Neil and past girl friends and then Ali MacGraw appeared in the final five minutes and stole the movie.

Being television, an ending is not necessarily the absolute end. I had thought earlier in the week that if this was the ending they originally filmed, the smarter thing would have been to film a new ending which was consistent with where the show was this season, and then add the original ending as an extra on the season DVD. Instead the went with the wrong ending but reportedly they cut a happier ending to add as a DVD extra. There is also a spin off of the series planned, but I suspect the ending to HIMYM will always haunt Thomas and Bays as fans will now fear that the new series might turn out to be How I Killed Your Dad.

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

Arrow Suicide Squad

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

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

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

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

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

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

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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

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

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

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

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

Hannibal Takiawase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person of Interest Root2

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

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

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

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

mad-men-season-6

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD

SLEEPY-HOLLOW-FINALE

Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.

russell-americans_opt

The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.

Tremors

Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

Gal Gadot2

Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.

CHLOE BENNET

Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.