SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Orphan Black; Hannibal; Agents of SHIELD; The Blacklist; The Americans; Fargo; Mad Men; How I Met Your Mother/Dad; Game of Thrones; The Newsroom

Arrow Moira

This week’s Arrow, Seeing Red, deserves the lead for including a change to the show almost as significant as the recent change on Agents of SHIELD and for  psychological horror inflicted upon the main character as disturbing as what we would expect from Hannibal. Initially viewers probably thought that the red in the episode title referred to Roy’s red hood as the Mirakuru had him go on a rampage. Instead the significance of the episode was how it ended with blood.

In retrospect it is clear the episode was both providing a farewell to Moira Queen and making her sacrifice plausible by concentrating on her love for her children. Susanna Thompson will certainly be missed. She dealt with Oliver getting a girl pregnant in a flashback, and in the main story almost dropped out of the race for mayor to try to repair her relationship with Thea. The only reason she remained in the race was the thought that it might help Thea more by being in the role of someone helping the city.

Late in the episode I thought the cliff hanger was going to be the secret Moira was about o tell about Malcolm Merlin when their car was hit, but the real drama of this week’s episode was still to come. Slade recreated the scene in the island with Sara and Shado, this time demanding that Oliver decide between Moira and Thea. Moira spared Oliver from making the decision in sacrificing herself. Slade ran his sword through her heart, telling her that he respected her courage, and saying that one more person still had to die. Is Felicity now in danger?

While Moira’s death was the major change in the show, there were others, such as the change to Roy. Now that it is established that Oliver has a son in Central City, there is no doubt that this will come up again, perhaps creating another connection to The Flash. I found it surprising that Sara would leave Oliver at a time of such danger and perhaps this will cause her to return, hopefully with reinforcements among her assassin friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sara dies in the final battle against Slade, or as his final planned last victim, leaving the way open for Laurel to become the Black Canary as in the comics (or perhaps they will differ from the comics on this matter indefinitely).

arrow seeing-red-moira-dead

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with executive producer Andrew Kreisberg about Moira’s death:

“It wasn’t something we were talking about last year. I don’t want to give the impression that [it was like] ‘Welp! Somebody has to die; let’s spin the wheel. And, bad luck, Moira,’ ” he further explained. “Susanna has been with the show since the beginning, and she was one of our big gets early on that really signaled to the audience and to reviewers that this wasn’t your average CW show, it wasn’t your average superhero show. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in the season-one finale], these last episodes are her pinnacle.”

At the end of the day, the decision came down to the finite number of directions Moira’s story could go. From the producers’ perspectives, it seemed they had exhausted nearly all their options. After all, Moira was a part of the Undertaking, went to jail as punishment, ran for Starling City mayor, kept the identity of Thea’s biological father a secret and knew of Oliver’s Arrow life. And that’s just the half of it. “When we were talking about the future, knowing that it was only going to be powerful if Slade was going to change the game by doing something truly monstrous — if Moira wins the mayorship, if she makes up with her kids, what is Moira without a giant secret?” Kreisberg said. “If they all forgive her, and then there’s some other giant secret, for us it felt like we were becoming a soap opera.”

By allowing Moira the opportunity to sacrifice herself for her kids, “she could die a hero’s death,” he said. Even though she’s attempted to turn over a new leaf, just seconds before the car accident, Moira was about to reveal yet another secret. “You can’t change her. She literally goes to the grave despite the fact that she sacrifices herself for her children,” Kreisberg said, hinting that Moira’s final secret plays out “sooner than you think.”

Next week’s episode, “City of Blood,” opens with Moira’s funeral — and Oliver is missing. “There’s a line in the next episode where Walter says to Thea, ‘Your mother showed you how much she loved you in ways few parents can,’ and yet she was still lying,” Kreisberg previewed. “Ending it at this time left you with that great feeling of what a great character she was rather then let her become a caricature.”

As Oliver and Thea head into the thick of the storm, their personal loss drives them for the rest of the series. “That was the math — it was horrible math, it was tearful math but her death has a profound impact on everyone on the series,” Kreisberg promised. “It’s certainly what’s going to drive Oliver in these last three episodes. It’s going to drive Thea, not only in these last three episodes, but also into [season] three. Sometimes the worst thing you can do personally is the best thing you can do professionally.”

But it was Moira’s surprising admission that she knew of Oliver’s secret life as the vigilante that was eyebrow-raising. “We had always talked about the idea that Moira knew Oliver was the Arrow,” Kreisberg said, revealing that there were “a couple of other places” where the producers thought Moira should inform Oliver. But he pointed to a pivotal scene in “Sacrifice,” where Oliver essentially talks to his mother as the Arrow amid the Undertaking, as her moment of revelation. “She’d be borderline low IQ if she wasn’t like, ‘Wait a minute!’ We liked that she had never told him, and everything just felt like it came together in this one episode.”

Arrow wasn’t done with the bombshells. It was revealed in flashbacks that Oliver had fathered a child before his time on the island and that Moira paid the woman $1 million to disappear and lie about losing the baby. “The seeds for season two were planted in season one and again, the best part of the success that the show has had is knowing that we were going to make more and knowing that we could drop these things in and pay them off later,” Kreisberg said. “This is something that will be paid off in season three.”

Orphan_Black_Episode_2_Donnie_Allison

Watching Orphan Black is essentially a matter of finding answers to questions and then having still more questions. Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion had Sarah searching for Kira, Alison looking into the identity of her monitor, and Cosima looking into their genome for explanations about her illness and why Sarah is the only one of the clones who can have children. We also learned more about Helena and the Prolethians.

I was happy to see that Sarah’s search for Kira was resolved without dragging it out for several weeks. They made good use of the relationship between Sarah and Kira by having Kira make the final decision to run after Kira told her things did not feel right. The episode included the return of Mrs. S, who we were given reason to be suspicious of late in the first season. Mrs. S’s motivations appeared questionable at one point, but ultimately it was her “friends” from the old network who previously helped them disappear who were deceiving them and at it does look like Mrs. S really has been on Sarah’s side as she claimed.

Allison looked like she might fall apart after realizing she was mistaken in thinking Aynsley was her monitor and not acting to save her from choking. She wound up working far better with Felix than we would have guessed from Allison’s initial introduction first season. They managed to trap Donnie, who isn’t the brightest of Leekie’s people, by having him overhear a conversation about meeting Sarah, who turned out to be a different Sarah from her community play. I’m not sure about a play with lines such as “We must heed the call, picking the brains off the wall,” but remain glad that it is not Cats.

While Cosima’s major role is to look into the science, her most notable scene was meeting Rachel, who was assaulted by Sarah pretending to be Cosima last week. “I’m Cosima. The real Cosima. Not the one who kicked your ass or whatever.” Rachel acknowledged seeing Cosima kiss Delphine by saying  “So, you’re gay?” with Cosima responding, “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.”

Orphan Black henrik

We also learned that Helena survived a shot to the heart thanks to dextrocardia, or in her case being a mirror image of her twin Sarah. We have a new sect of Prolethians who have a different view of the clones, and no qualms about killing those who do not follow their views. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Peter Outerbridge, who plays new Prolethian leader Henrik Johansson:

Henrik has a line in this episode where he says Helena’s existence is “God opening a whole new door,” which seems to sum up his motivations, his beliefs and his desires pretty well.

Exactly. He doesn’t see the clones as an abomination at all. He thinks they’re fascinating. In fact, perhaps the next phase in evolution. If that’s the case, it’s all part of God’s plan and he’s going to a part of it.

Is Henrik’s assessment of the clones correct? Is this a question that toggles between right and wrong for much of the season, or is there a gray area?

That’s always the case when you’re talking about big issues like this. The idea of cloning human beings has been on the decade for at least a decade now and the ethics behind it are questionable. Bottom line, if you were to clone a human being in a laboratory, does that constitute a soul? Does that constitute a human being? Or because it’s created by humans it’s a manufactured thing that we can [use] to do whatever we want? Is the clone property because the laboratory made it or once its born, does it have free will and is it its own thing? That’s what the show is exploring. Henrik has cut through the ethics by saying, “Look, the clones are here on the planet, so I’m going to embrace that and I’m going to say that it’s part of the whole plan and I’m going to be its chief advocate.”

We learn at the end of the episode that Henrik’s prime reason for wanting Helena is simple: He believes she can conceive, like Sarah.

One of the definitions of life is something that is able to recreate itself. Something like a rock can’t recreate itself so we say we say a rock doesn’t have a life force to it. But as soon as an organism is able to replicate and duplicate, and recreate itself, we define that as having some sort of life to it in terms of organic life. That gets even stranger when you get into species because in order for it to be a species, it has to be able to procreate. If a clone can’t procreate, it’s not a legitimate species, ergo it’s not really a part of the planet. Henrik is fascinated with the idea that if he can find another clone that is capable of conceiving like Sarah — the whole question is, is Sarah the clone or is Sarah the original and the fact she has a daughter suggests she’s the original — then it’s a legitimate species and a legitimate creation. That’s what he becomes fascinated with and that’s what he finds with Helena.

What is Henrik’s ultimate end goal if Helena can do that?

There is an endgame, but it’s simpler, it’s not so sinister as world domination. It’s more megalomaniac than that. He wants to be a part of the new wave of humanity. Once he finds a clone that’s capable of conceiving — he thinks that’s the spiritual movement — he is going to be the father of all of these children.

Hannibal - Season 2

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Shiizakana, dealt with how Hannibal dehumanizes and manipulates other people, including making them kill. Thanks to this episode I also learned that dire wolves are extinct animals which actually existed, and not just creations of Game of Thrones. Besides manipulating Randall Tier, the protagonist in the case of the week, we saw Hannibal manipulating Margo, who then compared notes with fellow Hannibal victim Will Graham.

Hannibal told Randall Tier what to say to avoid arrest by the FBI and then sent him to his death by having him attack Will. Will saw this as Hannibal repeating his attempt to hill him while Will was in prison. “I sent someone to kill you. You sent someone to kill me. Even Stevens.”I thought that Hannibal’s goal was not to actually have Will killed but to force Will to kill, perhaps to further bring out the monster in Will. Bryan Fuller had this to say about the scene in which Hannibal nods after Will gave the above line, appearing to acknowledge his actions to Will”

AVC: When Hannibal makes that tiny nod at the end of the episode, do you see that as a tacit admission of guilt or is it just him saying, “That’s certainly one theory”?

BF: [Episode] nine really starts an arc that will reach a crescendo in 12, which is one of our best episodes of the season. I just think it’s fantastic and bonkers and hilarious and deeply disturbing. So the end of nine is sort of the beginning of 10, and it’s answered very quickly at the top of the next episode, but it absolutely is an acknowledgment, “Yeah, I sent him to do this. Yeah, you did exactly what I thought you were going to do. And now we can have a conversation,” which we will have at the beginning of the next episode.

The Backlot interviewed Bryan Fuller about descriptions of the show as homoerotic, rooting for the villain on television, and prospects of returning for a third season.

SHIELD Skye Ward

Agents of SHIELD wasted Amy Acker’s talents in a (super) villain of the week storyline, with this mainly serving the purpose of getting a few members of the team away so that Ward and Skye would be alone after Ward killed Koenig (Patton Oswalt). Fortunately Person of Interest makes much better use of Amy Acker.

Ward faked his way through a lie detector exam by doing far more than Nina did in squeezing her anus to pass a more primitive polygraph exam on a recent episode of The Americans. We also learned what each cast member would want if stranded on an island. Simmons had the best idea with the TARDIS. Chloe Bennet did the strongest acting in the episode, quickly progressing from being terrified when she learned about Ward to deceiving him, and setting up the cliff hanger of the two flying off together.

While only half of this episode really worked, the series might be off to a strong finish for the season. Cobie Smulders returns next week as Maria Hill, and is expected to be seen more regularly assuming the show returns next season now that she is no longer busy on How I Met Your Mother. TV Guide summarized the season finale which airs May 13:

Now that Hydra has revealed themselves and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded, Coulson and his team are on their own to take down the now-missing Clairvoyant. But how will they react when they learn Ward is actually a member of Hydra planted in their group? The finale will address Ward’s true allegiances as well as answer questions about Skye’s lineage, who’s controlling Deathlok and what the Clairvoyant wants with Coulson. “We think the audience is waiting for a showdown between Coulson’s team and Garrett’s team and they’re going to get a satisfying payoff to that epic conclusion,” executive producer Jeffrey Bell says, hinting there could be other sleepers. “If they win, it comes at a price.” Plus: Nick Fury returns!

Blacklist Lizzie Knows

I was happy to see the story advance more rapidly on The Blacklist. Once it was definitely revealed to the audience that Lizzie’s husband is not what he seems, it didn’t take long for Lizzie to figure it out. This week he realized that Lizzie knows, and the episode ended with a major cliff hanger. Speakeasy has some theories as to what Lizzie found in the safe deposit box.

The Americans went to the Contra training base and received so much assistance from Oliver North on the episode that he received a writing credit. Philip also took on the church which Paige has been attending, but I questioned if it was wise for an undercover agent to risk drawing attention to himself in such a manner. There was more of Martha at work. Stan’s biggest scene was in asking American scientists about their secrets to prevent them from being compromised, unaware of how he has become compromised.

I wouldn’t expect the second episode of Fargo to be as good as the first, considering all that happened, but it still left me optimistic that this will be an excellent series.

I did like the second episode of the season of Mad Men better than the first. While Don Draper has his faults, I do hope he recovers, and was happy to see him improve his relationship with Sally by being honest with her.

Last Forever Part One

Alyson Hannigan described a cut scene from the finale of How I Met Your Mother (which I reviewed here):

Speaking with TVLine at Friday night’s Taste for a Cure event in Los Angeles, HIMYM vet Alyson Hannigan said that the finale that aired last month was some 18 minute shorters than the script they worked off of at a “perfect” table read. “But [the full script] was also much more heart-wrenching,” she shared, “which maybe people wouldn’t have liked.”

Among the deleted scenes was what Hannigan described as a “one-second” montage of title character Tracy’s funeral. Instead, viewers only learned from Narrator Ted that the kids’ mother had become ill, then passed away — some time before he decided to rekindle things with their “Aunt” Robin.

“Honestly, if you saw [that] cut, it would be even more heart-wrenching than what the finale was,” Hannigan noted. “They were like, ‘No. It’s just too gut-wrenching.’ And I was like, ‘That’s what I want. I want my heart ripped out and slammed on the floor and, like, stomped on!’”

Hannigan also believes that missing moment “would have been better for the audience, so that then they can process, ‘Oh, [Ted] mourned. He got closure’ — and then they’d be happy that [he and Robin] got together. Rather than be like, ‘Oh, wait. She died? What? They’re together, huh?’ And credits. That’s what I think was too fast.”

Meg Ryan has been cast to be the future voice of the lead character in the spin off, How I Met Your Dad. I’m not sure of the point of a different person playing the narrator. Ted Mosby still had the same voice in the final scene of How I Met Your Mother which took place after telling the story to his kids.

The rape scene by Joffrey’s body in last week’s Game of Thrones was controversial, between the circumstances and the manner in which the scene was changed from consensual sex in the book to rape. I discussed this further in a separate post.

Aaron Sorkin has apologized to those who misinterpreted a decision he made on The Newsroom:

“I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with The Newsroom and I apologize and I’d like to start over,” Sorkin told the audience at a Tribeca Film Festival event Monday, referencing the criticism over his choice to set the show in the recent past. “I think that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. … I wasn’t trying to and I’m not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson. That wasn’t my intent and it’s never my intent to teach you a lesson or try to persuade you or anything.”

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

Arrow Suicide Squad

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

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

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

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

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

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

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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

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

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

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

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

Hannibal Takiawase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person of Interest Root2

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

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

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

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

mad-men-season-6

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Arrow; Revolution; SHIELD; The Americans; Almost Human; Does Ted’s Wife Die On How I Met Your Mother?; Continuum; Cosmos; Captain America; 24; Karen Gillan; Mad Men

Hannibal - Season 2

Sakizuki, the second episode this season of Hannibal, did an excellent job of blending a serial killer of the week story with the overall mythology of the show. Hannibal did track down the killer the FBI was hunting, but finished the killer’s job before the FBI got there. Only Hannibal could look so fashionable in a plastic suit, or convince the killer to become a part of his own work. Will Graham is doing an expert job of playing a cat and mouse game with Hannibal. He purposely looked beaten when saying, “I am the unreliable narrator of my own story” and asking for Hannibal’s help, but looks far stronger when alone, contemplating his next step.

The biggest tension of the show involved Hannibal and his psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier played by Gillian Anderson. There were moments when it was not clear if she would come out alive, with this tension increased by the knowledge that Anderson is involved in two other shows this season. Instead the episode made it plausible for Dr. Du Maurier to disappear for a while (or have a reduced) role without winding up visiting Hannibal for dinner. I suspect she will return towards the end of the season and be involved in Hannibal’s downfall, as foreshadowed by the start of last week’s episode, especially with her telling Will she believes him at the end of this week’s episode.

Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with A.V. Club. An excerpt:

AVC: Bedelia leaves town at the end. Obviously, you had limited time with the character because Gillian Anderson has another show…

BF: Another couple of shows!

AVC: What did you want to do with bringing her back, and how much of her backstory with Hannibal do you, as writers, know?

BF: There was a much bigger, broader, longer story to be had with Bedelia that I’m hoping we get to play out in some form in the future, but because of Gillian’s schedule, we were only able to get her for a couple of episodes at the beginning of the season, and we’re desperately trying to figure out how to get her to navigate her schedule and get her back to wrap up her story. Though we want the audience to think when they see the trailer for episode two that she’s going to get killed at the end. The idea would be to get her back. There’s so much cool stuff with her backstory and her relationship with Hannibal and how closely it parallels Will’s relationship with Hannibal, which would be explored in an episode toward the end of the season if we can figure out schedules.

AVC: She also tells Will that she believes his story. How important was it to you to give Will an unquestioning ally at this point?

BF: I think he needed it, because there was so much despair, and everybody was just assuming he was guilty of all of these crimes. I think he needed someone to say simply, “I believe you.” When I was writing that scene I teared up, because something so simple as someone saying, “I understand you, and I believe you,” when you’re in a dark, lonely place is such a beacon of hope. I love Gillian Anderson as a human being and as an actress. And I love Hugh Dancy as a human being and as an actor, so I was excited to get them in a scene together, especially one that was so still and eerie and wrought. I’ve always been inspired by this line from Damaged that Juliette Binoche says, which is, “Damaged people are dangerous, because they know they can survive,” and I paraphrased that in the last scene with Dr. Du Maurier and Will Graham, where there is a camaraderie in the damaged. You may feel you are alone in your damage, because it is such an interior experience to be damaged in that way, and then to have somebody come along who you know can know you in that way, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a glimmer of hope. So I was really excited about that moment, writing it, and even more excited when I saw the actors perform it, because I do think that there is a bond between Will and Bedelia that I hope we get to explore.

arrow-season-2-the-promise-still-01

Arrow picked up in The Promise where it left off last week with Slade in the Queen Mansion, but Team Arrow came to the rescue. The bulk of the episode, reversing the usual pattern, took place back on the island. Once again the show has greatly surpassed  most other attempts at bringing superheroes to the screen. The manner in which the back story is fleshed out on the island makes comic book scenarios in the present seem plausible, taking far less suspension of disbelief than is generally necessary to accept the conventions of superhero series. The scenes on the island also showed the first time Oliver ever put on his hood and Slade ever put on the Deathstroke mask in their attack on Ivo’s freighter. I wonder if we will see more of Dr. Ivo.

Revoloution Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher was a fun episode of Revolution, with the nanobots putting Aaron in the Matrix. Aaron was back in a world with electricity, seeing people he knows but who initially do not know him. Some took active roles in the story while Giancarlo Esposito was seen as a sleazy insurance salesman on billboards and television commercials. Although fun, the episode could have been much better if not for so many plot holes and being so predictable.

The premise was that the nanobots were trying to trick Aaron into solving a formula which would allow them to survive. As viewers we know they must survive as the destruction of the nanobots would mean they would not be around to eat all the electricity, ending the show (which might not be a bad thing). Just as we must suspend disbelief in the premise of nanobots which eat electricity which powers devices while ignoring the electricity in our nervous systems, we must grant the premise that the nanobots can mess around in Aaron’s brain but could not just force him to solve the equation or extract the information they needed.

Aaron’s mind fought back, first in the form of Charlie. Seeing her shot in the head was one of the highlights of the episode. After being chased by Horn, who represented Aaron’s greatest fears, he managed to wind up with Rachel, Miles, and Monroe. Aaron gave the nanobots the information they needed to manipulate him by telling Rachel he would never harm her. At first Rachel, Miles, and Monroe did not recognize Aaron, creating some drama, but then suddenly they knew everything. It was too easy. They came up with the idea that if Aaron fell in this “dream” he would wake up, unconcerned about horror stories in which death in one’s dreams results in death in the real world.

From here it was so predictable. Aaron appeared to wake up. Rachel was placed in danger, and Aaron gave in and solved the equation. Then (coming as no surprise) it was revealed that he was still in the Matrix. I would have expected Aaron to have seen enough science fiction to see that one coming.

SHIELD TAHATI

T.A.H.I.T.I. was revealed on this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be not the Island where Agent Coulson was rehabilitated after being brought back from the death but a room with possibly alien science which was used to save him. The show is certainly more fun to watch than in the early episodes, but remains a disappointment. Ignoring the superhero and science fiction elements, the show just remains impossible to believe. Among other problems, there are no consequences as would be expected in an agency of this nature. In a previous episode, Simmons knocked out a superior with no repercussions. It appears that this was totally consistent with the world in which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. operates.

The show opened with faux drama in having Bill Paxton as Agent Garrett coming to board Coulson’s plane for disobeying orders in keeping custody of Ian Quinn. False drama and no consequences once again as Paxton and Coulson worked things out. The handling of Quinn made me wonder if S.H.I.E.L.D. is really supposed to be the good guys or a parody of our worst fears of the Bush administration. It is understandable that Coulson would place a high priority on saving Skye’s life, but absurd to expect that he would attack a base, and kill those working there, when the base had to either be part of S.H.I.E.L.D. or another facility they were working with. Then more false drama when Coulson suddenly decided they should not inject Skye with the drug, followed by the drug magically healing her wounds.

The-Americans-Season-2-Episode-2

Fortunately The Americans presented a spy story which seems much more grounded in reality as it continued to deal with the repercussions of another undercover family being killed last week. Philip went to check if they guy in the drop knew anything but things didn’t go well between Philip and Fred at first. Philip’s efforts to gain Fred’s trust was far more compelling to watch than the relationship between Phil Coulson and Agent Garrett on SHIELD.  I loved seeing Elizabeth’s fear as the construction truck pulled up outside of their home, along with her side trip to help out another agent. What will Paige walk in on next?  Once again, there are so many story lines being expertly intertwined.

I was a little puzzled by Nina telling Stan about the walk-in at the Soviet Embassy. Certainly her handlers would realize that the embassy was being watched and the FBI would figure out who it was. Did the Russians have no real interest in Bruce Dameran? Did they just make a mistake allowing Nina to mention this, was it a mistake on Nina’s part, or on some level did Nina still want to help Stan?

Almost Human - Episode 1.13 - Straw Man - Promotional Photos (4)_FULL

One problem that Almost Human faced is that episodes were aired out of order. While there was no major continuing story line which required viewing the episodes in order, the most enjoyable aspect of the series was the relationship between John and Dorian. Seeing them out of order led to a couple of recent episodes which lacked this dynamic which had been filmed earlier. Fortunately the final two episodes of the season were done later when this relationship was better established.

It is unfortunate that, despite hints of developing an ongoing storyline, little came of this and the final two episodes were again essentially stand alone cases of the week. The season finale did concentrate on the dynamic between John and Dorian, with Dorian’s performance review. I had feared that they might run a cheap cliff hanger of having Dorian fail and be scheduled to be removed as John’s partner, only to have this reversed next season. Fortunately they did not succumb to a feeling they had to do a cliff hanger as far too many shows do. With or without a cliff hanger, this show was entertaining enough to return to next season. I just hope they do more to expand on some plot lines they hinted at this season, such as what really happened in the ambush at the start of the season and what is beyond the wall.

HIMYM MomA

How I Met Your Mother is winding down and this week’s episode, Vesuvius, did a lot to promote a fan theory which has been going around that the Mother had died before Ted began his stories, possibly with Ted actually winding up with Aunt Robin. The first episode of the series had viewers expecting it was a typical love story about Ted meeting Robin and eventually marrying her until the ending, That’s how I met your Aunt Robin.

There have been scenes suggesting that the Mother might not remain alive, but all have alternative explanations and are far from definitive. The most compelling was in The Time Travelers in which Ted was outside his future wife’s apartment and said,  “Exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet. I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” If the two were really to meet in 45 days and live a long life together, there would be little reason for Ted to be so concerned about getting those 45 extra days together.

In a fifth season episode, How I Met Everyone Else, Ted, Marshall, and Lily are seen at a reunion in 2020 and it was awkward when Ted asked, “Where is my wife?”

There are pictures of Neil Patrick Harris on the set of the final episode in regular clothes. Barney has said that the one time he doesn’t wear a suit is to funerals. Could he have been filming a scene of the Mother’s funeral?

All of these items, along with suspicious answers by the cast about the finale, could be explained in other ways. Vesuvius keeps theories that the Mother will die alive. Throughout the episode there is a sense of sadness in the way Ted looks at his wife in scenes of the two from 2024. The most suspicious scene of all was when there was mention of the present when Robin’s mother made it to the wedding. The big question, with tears filling both of their eyes was, “What kind of mother would miss her daughter’s wedding?” Were these tears of happiness for Robin as they thought back on her wedding day, or tears of sadness as the two realized that Ted’s wife was dying and would never see her daughter’s wedding? Was she dying in 2024, or worse was Future Ted revising the Inn with the ghost of his wife?

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Barney and Robin either wind up not getting married or if their marriage doesn’t last. In the final twist of the series, it could turn out that Ted and Aunt Robin are married. Then it would not matter as much that Robin could not have her own children as she might wind up eventually becoming the mother to Ted’s children. The series could easily be seen as an explanation to the children why Robin was the one he was meant to be with if their mother could no longer be with them.

This plan would have made a lot of sense when the series was first developed and fans rooted for Ted and Robin to get together. Now fans are strongly hoping it is not the case. Too much has changed. As absurd as the pairing of Barney and Robin was at first, fans now want them to succeed together. More importantly, fans have fallen in love with Cristin Milioti’s still unnamed character this season and having her die would be far too sad a way to end the series.

Another possible explanation for the scene in Vesuvius is that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas want to make us believe the Mother does have a serious illness in 2024, but in the end she survives. Perhaps they even changed their original plans after seeing  how this season has played out.

Moving on to another series involving time travel, Rachel Nichols and the cast of Continuum discuss season 3 in the video above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBTd9–9VMI

An updating of Cosmos was already a big event. We know so much more than when Carl Sagan first aired the show. As an example of how important this show is in an age of such tremendous misunderstanding and denial of science, the show is going to be introduced by Barack Obama.

Extended clip above of Captain America and Black Widow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Trailer for 24: Live Another Day

Clip of Karen Gillan in Oculus

As usual, previews of Mad Men tell us very little.

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

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

About TIme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who Both Hearts

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

Heir to the Demon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

continuum02

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

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

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

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

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

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

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

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The 2014 State Of The Union Address

Boehner SOTU

The State of the Union address (transcript here) was rather modest, considering the limitations Obama faces in dealing with Congressional Republicans who have had the policy of opposing Obama’s agenda on political grounds since the day he took office. The few policy proposals had already been released, such as an executive order regarding the minimum wage at companies receiving government contacts. There were a few moments during the speech worth noting. He began with what was basically a defense of his record on the economy:

The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.

Of course, in what is essentially a disproof of trickle-down economics, he recognized that problems remain:

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

This sure makes the right wing claims that Obama is a socialist sound ridiculous. Plus there is his support for small business:

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.

While it may or may not be wise, I always wish that Democrats would do more to directly take on the absurd positions held by many Republicans. Unfortunately I’m not sure that showing Republican denial of science would be politically successful in a country with such vast scientific illiteracy. At least we did get this:

But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.

He is right about climate change, but the debate is only settled in terms of the scientific knowledge. Climate change is a fact. So is evolution. And the earth is round. Try to convince the Republicans.

Obama also defended his record on health care:

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Obama said little about the problems caused by Republican obstructionism, but did mention the “forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.” I believe the exact number is forty-seven votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Among the lines which got the most attention of the night, when discussing equal pay for equal work:

It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.

The official Republican response was rather empty, and there were also two Tea Party responses. The bulk of the opposition I saw to Obama on line (and in an op-ed by Ted Cruz)  has been to the use of executive orders, ignoring how much fewer he has used than his predecessors. Where were all the conservatives now complaining about Executive power during the Bush years, when Bush went far further than Obama is contemplating?  I doubt their complaints will receive much sympathy from swing voters (the few who exist). As I pointed out recently, voters are realizing that the Republicans are responsible for gridlock, even if the media often overlooks this in their efforts at appearing objective by treating both parties equally when they are not mirror images of each other.

sotu_ideology2

All in all, the address was liberal but hardly ground-breaking. The Monkey Cage has compared every SOTU address since 1986 based upon ideology. This year’s speech was placed around the middle of previous addresses from Obama and Bill Clinton. What I really found interesting about this chart was how far the Republicans moved to the right under Bush. State of the Union addresses are hardly an exact measurement of the ideology of a president, but it is interesting that Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush are far closer to the two Democratic presidents compared to George W. Bush. George W. Bush Started out comparable to the previous Republican presidents in his first speech, then moved significantly to the right. Maybe this was the result of 9/11.

If nothing else, I was happy that it wasn’t Mitt Romney giving the speech. I’m imagining Mitt Romney spending the evening going up and down in his car elevator. I couldn’t resist staring with the above picture which captures John Boehner, even if he isn’t orange enough. I did feel that his green tie did clash with his orange face.

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

tatiana-maslany-orphan-black-season-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capaldi First Image

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

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

It remains open as to whether River Song will return:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day: Jimmy Kimmel Being Intentionally Humorous & Sarah Palin Being Even Funnier

“Amazon announced plans for an amazing service called Amazon Prime Air. When you order something from Amazon that weighs five pounds or less, a robot will drop your package on your doorstep. It’s all part of Amazon’s pledge to drive your dog insane…

“You know in some countries seeing an unmanned drone means your village is about to be destroyed. In America it means you ordered Mad Men on Blu-ray.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Bonus Humor:

Check out Sarah Palin at Liberty University lashing out against “angry atheists” who want to “abort Christ from Christmas.” She also said:

If you lose that foundation, John Adams was implicitly warning us, then we will not follow our constitution, there will be no reason to follow our constitution because it is a moral and religious people who understand that there is something greater than self, we are to live selflessly, and we are to be held accountable by our creator, so that is what our constitution is based on, so those revisionists, those in the lamestream media, especially, who would want to ignore what our founders actually thought, felt and wrote about in our charters of liberty – well, that’s why I call them the lamestream media.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Atlantis; SHIELD; Arrow; Last Week’s Revelation on Homeland; The Blacklist; Once Upon A Time In Wonderland; Star Trek; Star Wars; American Blackout; X-Men; Time Travel; Dealing With A Zombie Apocalypse

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Matt Smith and David Tennant worked very well together during filming of The Day of the Doctor according to Steven Moffat:

Matt Smith and David Tennant got on so well while filming the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special that they hatched a plan to continue working together on the show, says Steven Moffat.

“They got on like a couple of old women. They just say in the corner and gossiped the entire time,” revealed the Doctor Who showrunner.

“By the end of it, Matt told me that he’d worked out this plan that they’d both continue in Doctor Who: do five individual episodes each and three together – would that be ok? It was a nice plan. I think if I’d said yes they’d have gone for it.”

However, Moffat admitted that neither star had started out completely confident about bringing their two Doctors together.

“David and Matt, I think… were both quite apprehensive of the other,” Moffat told the audience at a Radio Times event earlier this month. “David’s continued to watch Doctor Who like the sad old fan he is and so as far as he’s concerned Matt’s the Doctor. And of course for Matt, you don’t believe yourself you’re the Doctor, you just think David’s the Doctor. So they were both slightly nervous and slightly apprehensive.”

Steven Moffat also told Radio Times that John Hurt would steal scenes with his eyes:

“It was great fun,” said Moffat. “You’d have David and Matt, they’d be leaping around the set and doing every form of physical comedy with each other – and, you know, slightly competing about who could be slightly more insane than the other – and then John Hurt would come along and do this [tiny movement] with his eyes and you go ‘That’s it – he’s got the scene now hasn’t he?'”

Moffat has also discussed the return of the Zygons:

Steven Moffat says bringing back the Zygons has been an ambition since he took over Doctor Who – and that the classic monsters are so well designed he hardly had to change a thing for their return in the 50th Anniversary Special.

“Every year since I took over I’ve been trying to get the Zygons in,” says Steven Moffat, “and then I thought ‘Well, it’s the 50th…’

“The Zygons are beautifully designed monsters, they are so wonderful… We barely changed the design at all because it was so good.”

The classic Who foes have appeared just once before, in 1975 adventure Terror of the Zygons, yet remain a firm fan favourite.

Cult Box interviewed Doctor Who composer Murray Gold. H:ere is just one question on the show’s theme, which has changed with the lead actor:

Have you started thinking about what the 12th Doctor’s theme will sound like? Are you going to miss using the 11th Doctor’s wonderful theme?!

“I’m not 100% certain they will let me drop that theme entirely… but yes, I have started to think about it. I really need to see Peter in the role to get it all firing up.”

Peter Salus looked at the history of computers in Doctor Who.

Sherlock season 3 will premiere in the United States on PBS on January 19 at 10 p.m. This means it will air back to back with Downtown Abbey, which starts on January 5 in the United States. Downton Abbey is already well into the season on ITV (with a rather major event for Anna at one point during the season so far). The BBC has not announced when Sherlock will return in the U.K.

Atlantis (the replacement for Merlin) will premiere in the United States on November 23, after The Day of the Doctor.

black canary arrow

Agents of SHIELD and Arrow are extending further into the Marvel and DC universes respectively. SHIELD has come up against Centipede, plus expect more connections to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On Arrow, Oliver was saved by the Black Canary, who turns out to have been working in the past for Ra’s al Ghul, ultimately tying into Batman. We will see more of this Black Canary next week, and will have to wait and see  how things play out regarding the discrepancy with her identity in the comics. Situations and characters do tend to evolve gradually on Arrow.

Arrow, while well-done and quite entertaining  for its genre, does trace back to the teen/young adult form of genre common on CW. In this vein, CBS is considering a reboot of Charmed.

Anastasia and Will Wonderland

I think that Once Upon A Time would have worked better if they stuck to the first season’s story as opposed to trying to stretch it out into a conventional multi-year television series. American television often is of a lower quality than British television due to the usual format requirements in the US.  Once Upon A Time In Wonderland shows promise partially because it is planned as a single season story. Last week Alice learned more about the White Rabbit but the story is not limited to Wonderland. Any Disney fan has to just love to see Robin Hood and his Merry Men rob Maleficent’s  castle, as occurred on last week’s episode. Then there was the revelation that Will’s girlfriend Anastasia becomes the Red Queen.

I was happy to see that last week’s episode of The Blacklist delved more into Elizabeth and her husband, with implications that more is to come next week. I do hope the series concentrates more on this mythology as opposed to being a villain of the week series. According to E!, episode eight is also major:

Episode eight is a big one. Don’t miss it. Oh, you want more than that? Fine. Not only does someone on the team get severely injured in the episode, but Red comes face to face with one of his mortal enemies. Someone Red is scared of? This we can’t wait to see!

Episode 304

Showtime has renewed Homeland and Masters of Sex. The big revelation on Homeland last week didn’t come as very much of a surprise. In many ways it is more plausible that Saul and Carrie are working together consider the past working relationship between the two and the fact that Saul knows that Brody’s confession tape had to be a set-up. On the other hand, Carrie sure played her role at all times she was seen on television. I would have to go back to past episodes to verify this, but I believe this includes times in which there was nobody else watching her beyond the television audience. Alex Gansa discussed the revelation with TV Guide:

In your mind, when did Carrie and Saul hatch this master plan?
Alex Gansa:
 I think they decided the very next day after the bomb went off. Carrie and Saul were culpable in what happened, and they were looking for some way to make good, to make it right, to get the guy who was ultimately responsible. They began to hatch the plan right then to figure out how to lure the bad guy of the season, Javadi, out of his anonymity in Iran.

So, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Quinn (Rupert Friend) don’t know about this?
Gansa: For the first four episodes they were totally outside the circle. This was a ruse and a plot that was hatched just between Carrie and Saul.

There were a lot of machinations to this plot. Saul continued to pursue Javadi on his own, for example. Was that just to throw the audience off or was it a backup plan?
Gansa:
 One of the things that our intelligence officer consultants [told us] is that the most effective intelligence operations are 95 percent true. Carrie and Saul were largely to blame for what happened and [they knew] the CIA would be looking for a scapegoat to take the blame. How would they turn that into a silver lining? This was a huge gamble, and Carrie was asked to sacrifice a lot in that gamble. It’s not a sure thing, so Saul was really playing all sides of the equation here. And you will see that he’s got a Phase 2 of the operation in mind, which he is not sharing with Carrie. Saul is very much the puppeteer here. He’s the maestro.

Why would Carrie react the way she did to Saul “outing” her during his senate testimony if she knew this was all a scam?
Gansa: 
Saul is the one who leaked the idea that she was having a sexual relationship with Brody to the committee. Carrie was aware that he was doing that. However, it doesn’t diminish the reality of it when it’s actually presented in front of you. When we were shooting it, we were talking to Claire about, “This moment is going to have to play two ways. It’s going to have to play one way if the audience is watching it for the first time not understanding that this is a ruse.” But when you go back and look at it again, you’ll understand that she’s not surprised by what she’s hearing. She’s amazed at how it affects her to understand that she is to blame for what happened. That’s where the emotion catches up with her in an unexpected way.

There’s more at The Hollywood Reporter, including how Brody will fit into the storyline:

How will Brody figure in to all of this?

I will say that Brody becomes a principal player in the architecture of the last sweep of episodes. His predicament down in Caracas and his separation from Carrie and Saul is really paramount as we move into the next two movements of the season.

Did you have any reservations about having an episode (“Tower of David”) that was almost exclusively from Brody’s point of view?

It was really a function of how much story was to be told there. Just anecdotally, some people felt we were with him too much and others felt we were with him too little. It felt right to us to establish his predicament and to parallel his plight with Carrie’s. These are two people in some very desperate circumstances. The show has paralleled their stories before and some of the most successful episodes that we have done have drawn comparisons between their predicaments.

I just saw this commercial from May. It has to be the best car commercial ever. Spock v. Spock. May the best Spock win.

I don’t find it to be a good sign when there is a need to change writers for Star Wars VII.

The National Geographic Channel is airing a fictionalized account of the consequences of a catastrophic ten day cyberattack:

As the power grid goes down across the country, the streets quickly descend into chaos while consumers ransack stores for bottled water and canned goods.

Those without sufficient cash handy are quickly in dire straits, since no electricity means no credit cards or ATMs, either.

Meanwhile, the heroes of the day are “doomsday preppers” who have had the foresight to stockpile a couple years’ worth of bottled water, batteries, and military-style meals-ready-to-eat in secret underground bunkers.

This is the scenario explored in “American Blackout,” the National Geographic Channel’s fictionalized account of a 10-day-long power outage precipitated by a cyberattack.

What Culture has ten alcoholic drinks from Mad Men which you must try.

Screen Rant reports that X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Trailer Preview Includes a Time-Traveling Wolverine

Is time travel even possible? See the above video from TED-ED. No X-Men but it includes plenty of scenes with a TARDIS. It only deals with time travel into the future. No hope we will be visited by Kiera Cameron of Continuum.

Some people think that TED Talks fail to deal with real problems. The above DED Talk might be more practical after a zombie apocalypse.

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SciFi Weekend: Under the Dome Finale; Atlantis; Agent Carter; Breaking Bad; AMC Spin Offs; Downton Abbey Premiere; Orphan Black; Revolution and Blacklist

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The season finale of Under The Dome has been widely criticized by reviewers. We were promised some answers about the dome but instead we got what felt like a bunch of random scenes. After more meaningless butterfly scenes, the big revelation was that Julia is the Monarch, not that we know what that really means. The beings behind the dome spoke in the body of Norrie’s dead mother and declared that the intention was to protect them and apparently we are to believe they are good because they say they are. (They really are intended to be protecting the humans per this interview with executive producer Brian K. Vaughan).  There is no indication of what the dome is protecting Chester’s Mill from, and they show a funny way of providing protection when the dome turns black. Of course we don’t have to worry for long because somehow Julia was right in deciding that the way to protect the egg was to dump it at the bottom of the lake, leading to pink stars rising and the dome turning white. There was no explanation as to why the beings behind the dome even require a human to protect the egg.

The interview noted above tells more about the plans for the series but beware that it also spoils aspects of the book if you intend to read it between seasons. That is pleural seasons. There was a limit to how satisfying any revelations about the dome might be with a plan is to continue the series for several years. This would probably work much better as a single season show with a clear ending, but that is not how network television operates. Regardless, the writers knew there would be a break for the season and might have come up with something more sensible.

Ultimately the dome is just a mechanism to drive the conflict between the various human characters. We might have forgiven holes in the mythology if it actually drove good stories, as with Lost and Fringe. I already discussed many of the flaws in the story here. The cliff hanger hardly provides any suspense, knowing that they will not kill off Barbie as they have killed off less important characters. Potentially better writing might have made the plot line more  believable. Stephen King will be writing the second season premiere. Hopefully he can get the story back on track, and the show’s regular writers can carry on from there.

Atlantis

With Merlin finishing its run last year, The BBC is starting Atlantis, which reimagines Greek mythology.

The action packed series brings to life the vast store of Greek myths and legends re-imagined for a new generation.

From the creators of the hit show Merlin and the creator of BAFTA award-winning series Misfits comes a thrilling new thirteen part adventure series: ATLANTIS.

When Jason sets out to find his father, he could never have anticipated where his journey would lead…

Far from home and desperate for answers, Jason washes up on the shores of an ancient land. A mysterious place; a world of bull leaping, of snake haired Goddesses and palaces so vast it was said they were built by giants – this is the city of Atlantis.

But under the surface of this enticing place is a dark and simmering past, a complicated web of treachery and deceit, with which Jason himself seems inexplicably bound. He soon finds himself embroiled in a perilous game of politics and power from which there is no escape.

Aided by the studious young Pythagoras and the overweight, overbearing Hercules, Jason embarks on a voyage of discovery and salvation which sees him brush shoulders with Medusa, come face to face with the Minotaur and even do battle with the dead.

As the series’ progress, this unlikely but engaging trio will take us on a journey through the vast store of Greek myths and legends, which provide the bedrock of western literature. A treasure trove of extraordinary tales re-imagined in a thrilling and unexpected way for a new generation.

Atlantis was created by Julian Murphy (Merlin, Hex, Sugar Rush), Johnny Capps (Merlin, Hex, Sugar Rush) and BAFTA award winning Howard Overman (Merlin, Misfits, Dirk Gently). BBC Executive producer is Bethan Jones.

Starring Mark Addy, Jack Donnelly, Robert Emms, Sarah Parish, Juliet Stevenson, Jemima Rooper and Aiysha Hart.

Den of Geek has a spoiler-free review of the first episode.

Agent Carter

The Flash is being introduced as a potential DC Comics television spin off of Arrow, and Marvel isn’t far behind. Although the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t air for a couple more days, a second Marvel television series is under consideration. The second one is on the career of Agent Carter after her boyfriend Steve Rogers (Captain America) gets frozen in ice.

AMC is especially interested in spin off shows with two their major shows concluding soon. With Breaking Bad ending next week, they are developing a spin off, Better Call Saul. There had been talk for a while of a Mad Man spin off, potentially based upon the California office opened last season, but this plan is off. AMC will at least drag out Mad Men for another year, dividing the final season into two seven episode parts. At least they might extend it to eight as Breaking Bad has done. AMC is also working on a companion series to Walking Dead based upon another group in the same universe.

I do wish they weren’t airing the Emmy Awards opposite the final episode of Dexter and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad. That was quite an episode last week as Walt lost virtually everything, including his family, Jesse, most of his money, and even his identity. We knew since the start of the fifth season that he would ultimately return with a new identity and lots of weapons (including returning home to retrieve the ricin).

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Presumably the major remaining business for Walt is go go after the neo-Nazi’s and possibly save Jesse in the process. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t found that Jesse is being forced to cook for the neo-Nazis. Perhaps while hiding out in New Hampshire he finds out about pure blue Meth still being produced and realizes that only Jesse could be cooking it. There remain many other questions such as what becomes of his home and family and whether Skylar will follow Walt if he survives in light of how he acted to protect her in that phone conversation. Last week we also saw that there was still some good in Walt as he tried to save Hank along with Skylar. On the other hand, he also turned Jesse over to the neo-Nazis and unnecessarily told Jesse about watching Jane die. Of course if Walt thought more, he wouldn’t have fallen for the fake pictures of the money, and previously wouldn’t have left that Walt Whitman book sitting around where Hank could find it. Considering the nature of the relationship between Walt and Jesse, it wouldn’t surprise me if either the two join together against the neo-Nazis or if one kills the other. I’m also sure we haven’t seen the last of Lydia, and Saul might have some role in how this all ends. Finally, is Huell still sitting in that room, afraid to answer the phone?

Michelle Dockery

Besides Dexter, Breaking Bad, and the Emmy Awards, tonight also marked the season premiere of Downton Abbey. Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) didn’t look as good on the show as she did in this photo shoot to commemorate the fourth season premiere. I’ll avoid any real spoilers. It should come as no surprised that Lady Mary starts out the episode quite depressed in an era where Prozac has not yet been invented. Very early in the episode viewers also learned about the first major crisis of the season as a servant left without giving notice. At least two of the characters were quite unlikeable.

Orphan  Black recently started on BBC Three. Digital Spy asks if it lives up the hype. After seeing the full first season, the answer is yes.

Trailer for the second season of Revolution above.

With James Spader staring, Blacklist is high on the list of new shows to try.

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SciFi Weekend: Star Wars at Disney World; Lost Doctor Who Stories; Game of Thrones; Obama Cut From One Genre Show And Influenced Another; Emma Watson; Mad Men; True Blood; Dexter; Hannibal; Man of Steel

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Disney makes it profits by using each of its holdings to promote its business. The theme parks promote the television shows, movies, and merchandise and vice versa. Disney has long  had an arrangement with Lucasfilms  with Star Tours at the Walt Disney Studios at Walt Disney World. Now that Disney owns the rights to the upcoming Star Wars movies, it is likely that there will be even more promotion in the parks. The latest rumors are of the addition of a Star Wars Land:

The logical places for that expansion would be on either side of the existing Star Tours ride. From what I’ve heard, it appears that the expansion would take out the area between Star Tours and the auto stunt show stadium, including the Muppet theater and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area. But I’ve also heard of consideration of going in the opposite direction, which would place the new land on the site of the Backlot Express restaurant and Indiana Jones stunt show theater. Given that the Indy theater’s used for several other events throughout the year, and that both the Muppets and Honey I Shrunk the Kids attractions long ago passed the height of their popularity, I’m hearing more forceful arguments for the first option.

This appears to be a five-year project, putting completion in 2018, though Disney could choose to throw money at it and accelerate it by a year.

I wonder if they will really disrupt much of what is already there as opposed to mixing more Star Wars throughout the park. It is common for Disney to mix up different things from different movies throughout their parks. Will they really get rid of Muppet Vision 3D and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids park? While perhaps not as major as The Great Movie Ride or Tower of Terror, I’ve always seen Muppet Vision 3D as one of the icons of the park. Besides, Disney still has plans for those Muppets, such as a live stage show. We are long past the prime for the movie version of Honey I Shrunk the Kids and I could see them remove this exhibit, but it is the best item at the Walt Disney Studios Park for small children.

A Star Wars Cantina would probably be the major addition, but this could be added at various places if there is not room near Star Tours. Increased character involvement in parades and character meets would not require removal of older attractions.  Increased use of Star Wars might not even be limited to Disney Studios.  I wouldn’t put it past Disney to create an exhibit at Animal Kingdom with creatures from the Star Wars Universe or turn Spaceship Earth at Epcot into a replica of the Death Star in time for the release of Star Wars VII. There’s little doubt that the monorail will be used to promote the movies.

In case you are wondering why characters from the Marvel movies are not flooding the Disney theme parks, Universal still owns the theme park rights to these characters. In addition, the movie rights to some Marvel comic characters, such as Spiderman, are owned by other studios. Of course we sort of got to see Iron Man at Epcot in Iron Man 2. The Stark Expo was clearly built in the image of Epcot and the film of Tony’s father looked considerably like old footage of Walt Disney discussing his idea for Epcot.

Joss Whedon isn’t “going Nolan” with Avengers 2.

Bleeding Cool reports on rumors of more lost Doctor Who stories which have been found–an added surprise for the 50th anniversary. This might include the lost first regeneration story. (Update: This may be a hoax. Awaiting further information).

Den of Geek gives a round up of this week Matt Smith replacement rumors.

Jaime Graphic

Now that Game of Thrones has concluded its third season, here are some amusing info-graphics to help explain what is going on. One example above.

Here’s an update to the relationship chart from Person of Interest. While I was initially fearful the show would just use the Machine as a gimmick for a crime of the week show, they have certainly developed a complicated mythology over time.

UNDER THE DOME

An adaptation of Steven King’s novel, Under the Dome, sounds like it might be the biggest genre television show of the summer. Barack Obama was initially heard on the first episode but the scene was cut. They had used a clip from Obama’s speech following Hurricane Sandy but decided against using real life events:

President Obama has been left on the cutting room floor of CBS’ new summer series “Under the Dome.”

An audio clip of the president that was in the first hour of the series that CBS sent to critics earlier this month will be cut from the episode that will ultimately air, a CBS spokesman said. The show, based on a Stephen King book, is about a small town that for mysterious reasons becomes enclosed under a huge transparent dome.

In the scene, which comes at the end of the first hour, Obama is heard amid a slew of fake reports talking about what is going in the town. The audio of the president is actually from his remarks following Hurricane Sandy when he said the nation feels “profoundly for all the families whose lives have been upended. The most important message I have for them is that America is with you. We are standing behind you and we are going to do everything we can…”

Although the standards and practices department at CBS had approved the use, a decision was made to cut it anyway on Thursday. While use of audio from actual news events for a fictional TV show is not unusual, the network and producer Amblin Television decided that having these remarks from a real tragedy inserted in an entertainment show was inappropriate.

Emma Watson at the premiere of The Bling Ring in Los Angeles

 Emma Watson returns to fantasy movies, and Barack Obama’s name comes up once again:

Harry Potter star Emma Watson is returning to fantasy cinema after signing on to play the lead in “Game of Thrones-style” saga Queen of the Tearling, reports Variety.

Watson will play 19-year-old idealistic princess Kelsea Glynn, created by Erika Johansen after the author heard a 2007 speech by a pre-presidential Barack Obama. Johansen signed a seven-book deal in February and the first novel in the series is due next year. It is set three centuries after an environmental catastrophe, when a malevolent Red Queen reigns over the kingdom of the Tearling. Glynn must defeat the monarch to reclaim her deceased mother’s crown, and publishers have compared the tone of the series with that of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which is being adapted by US network HBO as Game of Thrones.

Despite the comparisons between Megan Draper and Sharon Tate, Matthew Weiner says that Megan will not die this season. After last week’s episode, the question has now become whether/when Megan will find out what Sally saw and how she will react.

True Blood returns tonight with a new show runner. This might be better because the show really needed a change in direction. On the other hand, we might wind up with the same show but with a show runner who isn’t as good as Alan Ball and have an even worse show.

Dexter returns June 30 and we meet the woman who helped Harry develop The Code. Will bringing in someone who could figure out what Dexter has been up to lead to his end?

Just one more episode to go this season on Hannibal. Lase week we saw how a comb could be turned into a murder weapon, and the murder of another recurring character looks likely. For those who haven’t been watching from the start, it was a very good show for binge watching and highly recommended.

Da Vinci’s Demons is less compelling but I have now made it through the second from last episode and will try to catch the finale this week. I might give up on Defiance after four episodes. Even though SyFy had hoped this would be the next big thing after Battlestar Galactica,  there is little in the show so far to promote any long term interest in what happens to the new town. Moving beyond genre, I just finished the first season of Mr. Selfridge from ITV, also broadcast by PBS on Masterpiece Classic. It is more soap opera than serious historical fiction and fans of Downton Abbey should enjoy it. The show was light and entertaining to watch, and did an excellent job of utilizing plot threads from throughout the season to set up its finale.

I couldn’t make it to Man of Steel this weekend and will limit coverage to this link on the movie (which also gets back to Chris Nolan’s Batman, as in one of the links above).

Have a Happy Captain Picard Day

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