SciFi Weekend: Twin Peaks Finale; Star Trek Discovery Tackles The Trump Era; The Orville; Doctor Who News

As Damon Lindelof said during the Twin Peaks panel at Comic-Con, “Without Twin Peaks, there would be no Sopranos, no X-Files, no True Detective, no Fargo, no Lost…” continuing to list the shows which have changed television.  Twin Peaks: The Return went beyond these in being unusual and something we have never seen before on television. We saw exactly what David Lynch would do with eighteen hours in which he could do whatever he desired, unedited. Some who are huge fans of David Lynch had great reviews. Television reviewers, probably along with most viewers, were more negative, expecting something more like television, and seeing a need for at least some boundaries on the imagination of David Lynch.

It is difficult to truly recap what occurred in either the series or two-hour finale last week. The series was slow, and often confusing. It included fake versions of major characters, including three different versions of Dale Cooper (or at least those who looked like him), and time travel. We also saw Diane, the off screen secretary from the original series, but of course things were not as they seemed with her. Perhaps most disappointing was how little there was of Audrey Horne, and with major questions about her left unanswered. An earlier disappointment was that Madeline Zima’s character, who I initially thought might be the Audrey Horne of the revival, was killed shortly after she took her clothes off.  Many things throughout the series seemed to make no sense, but to criticize the show for this would miss the point in a David Lynch creation.

In the finale, Cooper went back in time to prevent the murder of Laura Palmer, and was as almost as confused as the viewers when the series ended with him asking, “What year is this?” This was followed by a scream from Laura Palmer, who perhaps was recalling her murder in another time. If the interpretation at IndieWire is correct, the better question for Cooper to ask might have been whether he was in an entirely new time line (perhaps created when he attempted to save Laura). The episode then ended, leaving many questions open. Kyle MacLachlan has said there have been no discussions related to another season, and I wonder how many of those of us who made it through eighteen episodes of this series would do so again.

We also might ask, as Dale Cooper, did, what year this is when watching television. Just as we recently returned to Twin Peaks, soon we will be watching Star Trek once again. In the original series, produced during the Cold War, the Klingons represented the Soviet Union. Entertainment Weekly reports that Star Trek Discovery will tackle the political divide in the Trump era:

Star Trek: Discovery will continue the venerated sci-fi tradition of using a fantastic setting to tackle real-world issues — only in a bigger way than any Trekseries has done before.

The upcoming CBS All Access drama tells the serialized story of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The show is set a decade before 1966’s original series — which premiered 51 years ago today — during which the Federation and Klingons were in a Cold War standoff that reflected yesteryear’s U.S.-Soviet relations. In Discovery, war breaks out and the Klingons leading the charge have some ideological ideas inspired by the 2016 electoral divide.

“The allegory is that we really started working on the show in earnest around the time the election was happening,” showrunner Aaron Harberts says. “The Klingons are going to help us really look at certain sides of ourselves and our country. Isolationism is a big theme. Racial purity is a big theme. The Klingons are not the enemy, but they do have a different view on things. It raises big questions: Should we let people in? Do we want to change? There’s also the question of just because you reach your hand out to someone, do they have to take it? Sometimes, they don’t want to take it. It’s been interesting to see how the times have become more of a mirror than we even thought they were going to be.”

Of course we have already seen another genre show deal with a Trump presidency–Game of Thrones with King Joffrey.

Discovery only takes place ten years before the events of the original show, meaning that we already know what some of the characters were doing at the time. TrekMovie.com reviewed where the TOS characters were.

There will be another show paying homage to Star Trek premiering tonight, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. It was originally billed as a spoof, but many reviews are negative, along with saying it is neither a true drama or comedy. Vox compares it (negatively) to fan fiction. I had planned to summarize some of the other reviews, but now see that The Mary Sue has already posted excerpts from several.

Once I heard that Jodie Whittaker was to become the thirteenth Doctor, I had hoped that River Song would get a chance to meet her. Alex Kingston also expressed interest in returning to Doctor Who for such a meeting a Dragon Con:

…she also mentioned that she was going to “call the BBC and let them know River is ready to meet her second wife.” To which, of course, the audience exploded. “Why not?  She (River) said it!”

Billie Piper also says that Rose would be in love with the thirteenth doctor.

It was previously announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class would not be renewed for a second season, but the possibility was left open that it might continue if it did well in the United States, where it did not air for several months after on in the UK. The cancellation is now official.

Sian Brooke, who played Eurus in season four of Sherlock, teases the possibility of a fifth season. Hopefully it really is made.

SciFi Weekend: News From Comic Con Including CW Shows, Stranger Things, Star Trek Discovery, 12 Monkeys, Outlander, & Doctor Who; Briefs On Orphan Black and Other Current Genre Shows

There is a lot of news, and lots of videos, from San Diego Comic Con. Here are some of the highlights, with more likely to be posted next week.

The video above was released at the panel for The 100. TV Line has this information:

 “The prison ship [from the season finale] is from Earth,” Rothenberg revealed. “They’re from before the first apocalypse. They were in hyper-sleep for 100 years. They’ve come back to this planet that they don’t recognize. All that’s left is this Garden of Eden that Clarke’s been living in with her daughter.”

“It’s nice to be playing someone a little closer to my age,” Taylor said of the time jump. “It’ll be exciting to see her as a 24-year-old woman who’s been through so much, and is now taking on this maternal role.”

“Octavia doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing,” Avgeropoulos admitted, “but she doesn’t want to set off chaos with 1,200 people in the bunker. … You’ll see what her plan is to keep the peace and how she reprimands others in her own special way.”

“Raven is so special because she’s so smart,” Morgan said. “She’s a key ingredient in the mix for their survival. Her heart weighs on her a lot. The only reason everyone is in space is because of Raven.”

“All of us have to change up [in space],” Harmon said. “It’s freeing in a lot of ways. Over six years, a lot of therapy can happen. Murphy’s definitely going to change.”

“Harper is Monty’s main lifeline at the current moment,” Larkin said. “He owes her his life. She chose him. I don’t know if they’re still together. … Maybe Monty and Murphy are together. It’s been six years!”

New series regular Tasya Teles also arrived on stage to talk about Echo’s future: “I think about it a lot. Who will she become friends with? … I was thinking she’d get close to Raven for some reason. They’re girls who get things done. I see those two having an alliance.”

Rothenberg wouldn’t say whether any new couples have formed during the time jump, but he reminded us that “six years is a long time.”

Supergirl has new show runners, and it sounds like there will be more of Calista Flockhart. Entertainment Weekly reports:

Calista Flockhart will return as Cat Grant in the Supergirl season 3 premiere, new showrunners Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner told reporters ahead of the Supergirl panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday. She is expected to recur on the CW drama in the new season.

“The way that Calista appears in the first episode is really clever,” star Melissa Benoist told reporters.

Supergirl also intends to give up being Kara Danvers and be Supergirl full time, but I bet she changes her mind regarding this.

The trailer for The Flash shows a new team while Barry is in the speed force, with Iris left in charge. Caitlin Snow also appears to be back with the team, and the trailer does hint at Barry returning. SyFy Wire has this information from producer Todd Helbing:

According to Helbing, this season picks up six months after the events of the finale. Iris will be stepping up as team leader, trying to do what Barry told her to do. According to star Candace Patton, that means stepping back from her journalism career and taking over as leader of Team Flash at Star Labs. She’ll be playing a similar role to Felicity/Overwatch on their sister show, Arrow.

Wally will also be taking on new responsibilities this season as he goes from Kid Flash to just The Flash. That transition is a big challenge, though, says Keiynan Lonsdale. Wally’s relationship with Iris will also deepen as the two work through their respective grief over losing Barry.

And what about Barry? Well, it turns out we won’t be seeing him in the speed force at all, but we will see the effect the experience had on him. According to Grant Gustin, Barry spent his time in the speed force watching his life from start to end, and he’ll have much better insight into himself. He’ll also be a much lighter version of Barry in a much lighter season, a welcome reprieve from the darkness that has overtaken the show in recent years. Welcomed by both the audience and the actor. Gustin said Season 3 was hard on him, admitting that he sometimes went home and cried in the shower.

Helbing also stressed the lightness of the new season, saying they’ll also be taking a break from time travel this year.

The rest of the crew will be back too. Cisco will be further exploring his relationship with Gypsy this season, but he won’t be getting a new suit. Says Carlos Valdez, “My ass feels great in the pants.” Of course, the season won’t be entirely happy for Cisco. He’s feeling the loss of his friends and is working to bring them back.

Cisco isn’t the only one with romance in his future. Joe’s relationship with Cecile will also grow more. But, as always, Joe’s focus will be his children. According to Jesse L. Martin, while Joe is very proud that Wally was able to step into Barry’s shoes, he’s worried about all the pain Iris is going through.

Caitlyn fans, though, will apparently be the happiest of all this season. After succumbing to her Killer Frost instincts, Caitlyn ended Season 3 by leaving her friends to go soul searching, finding the balance between Caitlyn Snow and Killer Frost. Danielle Panabaker was particularly tight-lipped about what’s to come for her character, but she did say that she’s enjoying the opportunity to bridge light and dark.

Speaking of the darkness, what of this year’s villain, The Thinker? According to Helbing, he’ll be the big theme of the year. He did not elaborate, though, so anything beyond that will have to be left to the imagination.

Michael Emerson of Lost and Person of Interest will have a recurring role on Arrow next season, but there is no word about his role.

BuddyTV has this information on Legends of Tomorrow:

The quartet of villains who terrorized the group in season 2, The Legion of Doom is a large part of why Legends of Tomorrow was received so well in its second year. It is no surprise then then that in season 3, two of the four member of the group will make their reappearance. After the trailer which opened the panel, embedded below, the show confirmed that Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk will be back.
Miller and McDonough will both be series regulars for season 3 but their characters won’t be exactly as people remember them. The Darhk of season 3 will less “silly” than the version from season 2. As for Cold, Dominic Purcell who plays Mick Rory, cautioned that the Snart of season 3 won’t be exactly be the same friend that Mick lost in season 1 (and to a lesser extent season 2).

While Miller and McDonough will stay on the show as series regulars, Arthur Darvill won’t be quite as prominent. The actor who played Rip Hunter, the team’s original leader, will still appear in season 3. Darvill will just be a recurring role rather than a series regular one, which is not that surprising since Rip did give up his spot on the team in the season 2 finale. Rip will still play a big part in the season as he is mentioned to have some big secret that he is hiding in the trailer.

E! summarizes Marvel news from Comic Con here. The trailer for Thor:Ragnarok is above.

A trailer for the second season of Stranger Things was released with this description: It’s 1984 and the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.

TV Guide has this information from the Stranger Things panel:

1. The Duffer Brothers wanted to do TV because it’s more like movies now. “We were big movie nerds, and we started to get into television as it got more cinematic,” Matt Duffer told the room, crediting shows like True Detective. They thought about what would be the best “long movie,” and decided a Spielberg homage was the way to go.

2. They knew what the title font should be, before they even started. Producer Shawn Levy credited the Duffer Brothers’ clarity of vision coming in to the project as the reason Netflix decided to take a chance on the unknown filmmakers, citing that they even knew what they wanted the now iconic title to look like from their first meeting.

3. More Will in Season 2! Will was offscreen most of last season, but from Schnapp we learned that not only will, uh, Will show up more, but he’ll be “braver” and we’ll learn more about how the Upside Down affected him.

4. Eleven had less lines, but a harder job. Millie Bobby Brown cited the difficulty of acting with a minimal amount of lines — particularly around “boys who like to play pranks.” But ultimately it was about concentrating, and feeling inside what needed to be expressed — and then letting that come through just with her facial muscles.

5. Hopper may be connecting with Eleven. Harbour stated that his character’s arc in Season 2 is definitely “very different” than it was in Season 1, and “it all begins with some Eggos he’s leaving in the woods.” The actor added that we know he has some daughter issues from Season 1, and that may play out in Season 2. Chances are, Hopper and Eleven are gonna team up, right?

6. Meet the new guys! Dacre Montgomery is playing Billy, Sadie Sink is Max (“a.k.a. Mad Max” quipped Keery), and Paul Reiser is Dr. Owens. Max moves from California, Owens may or may not be evil (though he’s definitely brought in to “clean up Dr. Brenner’s mess”)… And that’s all the info we got on the new folks. This show is a big secret!

7. The new trailer dropped! The new trailer showed off bigger monsters, Halloween costumes, some Michael Jackson music — and Eleven is back! You can watch it right here.

8. No, Barb is not coming back. The first audience question was from — surprise! — Shannon Purser, who played fan-favorite Barb on the show. She asked if Barb was coming back for Season 2, which was, sadly, a resounding “no.” That said, Season 2 will deal with Barb’s death, and give us some #Justice4Barb. “She will be avenged,” swear the Duffer Brothers.

More at USA Today.

Star Trek Discovery trailer. From ScreenRant:

Viewers are told in the teaser that Klingons have been submerged in chaos for a number of years, but are coming back to the surface for a battle against Starfleet. They also get their first look at Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, and it’s revealed that the invention of warp drive will somehow also play into the series. It’s a lot to take in, but Star Trek fans will be thankful for it.

The trailer for the final season of 12 Monkeys was released last week with discussion at SDCC covered here.

The cast of Outlanders took questions at SDCC with video here. Deadline interviewed Ron Moore:

MOORE: It’s a transitional season. You know, the franchise kind of pivots from this point because, it’s not really a huge spoiler, but essentially, the show will relocate to the American colonies after this season. So they’ll always have a foot in Scotland, because there’s always a piece of the story that will continue to play out in Scotland, but Claire and Jamie and their family really do kind of relocate to North America after this season and establish a place called Fraser’s Ridge, which is up in the mountains of North Carolina — and that’s where the rest of the season in the books takes place.

So this is a really important year because it’s leaving sort of one setting, traveling literally across the Atlantic Ocean. You know, we went down and shot on the Black Sails ships and sets in South Africa to do that section of the story, and then end up in the Caribbean, and then eventually into the American colonies. It’s a big transitional year for this show…

Looking at some of the genre shows currently airing, Orphan Black is moving towards its end game, and had probably its goriest scene ever this weekend. There has been some real change for the better with Rachel, and change which I’m undecided about with Allison. Krystal Goderitch finally returned the previous week. (Was the actress who played her unavailable until then?) Recent highlights also include Cosima and Delphine at a strange dinner party on the island. Pictures of Delphine released before the season led to rumors that the two were getting married. While that did not turn out to be the explanation, there are still a few episodes left.

I hope that the writers on Dark Matter aren’t running low on original ideas. In recent weeks we’ve had their takes on Groundhog Day and The Mattrix. There are a lot of interesting threads being developed which will hopefully culminate in something great (and original).

Syfy has renewed Wynonna Earp for a third season.

Now that Game of Thrones is back we can explain the last election in terms which fans of the show will understand. We were spared having Cersci Lannister take over, but got stuck with Joffrey Baratheon. For those disappointed that we did not get a female president, keep in mind that should the earth fall under alien invasion after the regeneration to the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who, she will become the President of Earth to deal with the invasion (if Chris Chibnall keeps this rather silly idea from the Moffat era).

Unfortunately there have been some complaints about Jodie Whittaker being given the role of the thirteenth doctor. The BBC has issued this response to complaints:

Since the first Doctor regenerated back in 1966, the concept of the Doctor as a constantly evolving being has been central to the programme. The continual input of fresh ideas and new voices across the cast and the writing and production teams has been key to the longevity of the series.

The Doctor is an alien from the planet Gallifrey and it has been established in the show that Time Lords can switch gender.

As the Controller of BBC Drama has said, Jodie is not just a talented actor but she has a bold and brilliant vision for her Doctor. She aced it in her audition both technically and with the powerful female life force she brings to the role. She is destined to be an utterly iconic Doctor.

We hope viewers will enjoy what we have in store for the continuation of the story.

It is impressive that the BBC has a site to take such complaints and that they do respond. It is less impressive that this casting decision about a fictional alien is bothering so many people.

There is help for those men who cannot handle a female lead despite having thirty-six seasons with a male lead, The Doctor Who Help Line. For those who don’t want to watch the full video above, the funniest lines include a man calling in saying he hoped that at least Jodie Whittaker will only be paid  seventy-nine cents on the dollar of what Peter Capaldi was paid, and a suggestion that she get her own show about a time traveling nurse. The BBC says that Jodie Whittaker will be paid as much as Peter Capaldi. At least as of now this will be her last appearance:

 “That’s it,” said Mackie. “The Christmas special is your last chance to see Bill. But I mean, hey, it’s Doctor Who, so never say never.”

The trailer for the Christmas episode released at SDCC, entitled Twice Upon A Time, reveals that, in addition to two Doctors played by Peter Capaldi and David Bradley, the cast includes Mark Gatiss and Pearle Mackie, returning as Bill.

Deborah Watling, who played the second Doctor’s companion Victoria Waterfield, died last week.

Update: More news from San Diego Comic Con here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

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

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

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

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

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

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: 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.

star-wars-force-awakens-images-poe-dameron-oscar-isaac

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.

star-wars-force-awakens_fire

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.