SciFi Weekend: The Defenders; David Tennant Returning To Jessica Jones; Krysten Ritter on Season 2 of Jessica Jones; Karen Gillan; Sense8; Dick Gregory And Jerry Lewis Die

The Defenders was the big event of the week. Considering what a major event it was, along with only being eight episodes and being released in the summer without much competition, I am going to assume that most who are interested have already viewed it and will vary from my usual practice of holding off on spoilers about Netflix shows until after they have been out for a while. Before getting into spoilers in the rest of the review, I will say that the series was mixed in terms of plotting and pace, but certainly worthwhile to see all four stars of the Netflix Marvel series together. Just hearing Krysten Ritter’s wise cracks made up for slow moments. I would advise those who held off on watching Iron Fist due to its weak reviews to watch this first. The villains in The Defenders are from the Hand, with this story being largely a continuation of Iron Fist. While it therefore has some of the weaknesses of Iron Fist, it is improved by the character interactions of the other characters.

The Defenders starts with Danny Rand and rapidly makes the final scene at K’un-Lun almost irrelevant, at least for now, as he quickly returned to New York. Even worse, they quickly dispensed with the ending of Luke Cage as he was quickly released from prison. The show had all four leads in New York City, and there were enough connections between the four shows to make it plausible for their paths to begin to cross. Still, it wasn’t until the fourth episode that all four were together as a team.

The series did benefit from cutting down from thirteen to eight episodes, but there were still problems with the plot. Dealing with the Hand did not feel entirely like a rehash of Iron Fist by bringing in Sigourney Weaver along with the other heroes. There was also good use of the supporting characters from the other series, most significantly with a resurrected Electra. It was surprising to see Sigourney Weaver’s character only lasting through the first six episode, similar to the change in villain midway through Luke Cage.

The final fifteen minutes took place after the main event with the apparent death of Matt Murdock becoming the focus. This did not work very well as, even if it wasn’t already know that at third Daredevil series was planned (including news earlier in the week of plans to start shooting in October),they would not be likely to kill off the most well known member of the team. Plus fans of the genre know that if  you don’t see a body, the character is undoubtedly alive–and in this series even being seen as dead is no guarantee that this state will persist. Finally, Matt Murdock was seen in the final seconds, likely setting up matters for the next series.

The belief that Matt Murdock was dead also placed Iron Fist in a situation where he was asked to protect the city, and he did appear like Daredevil in his final scene. We don’t know for sure if the Hand is really destroyed, but this does provide for an alternative type of story line for his second season in a more traditional super hero role.

Being Marvel, there was even a scene after the credits (which I had to search for as my setup of Netflix on a Roku tried to skip past the credits). The scene involved Frank Castle, the Punisher. More on that scene at Screen Rant.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Defenders showrunner Marco Ramirez:

Let’s start not at the beginning, where Jessica likes to begin her interrogations, but at the ending. Is this the definitive end to the Hand? What can you tell me about the status of everybody in the organization who didn’t get decapitated? That includes Gao, Murakami, and Elektra.
Well, in the Marvel world — and as Jeph Loeb, the Marvel TV head, would say — in the comic-book world, you can always find a way. The story finds a way, so who knows? But we definitely felt like we wanted this to be the end of this specific show, so while I don’t know if it’s the end of the Hand forever — who knows what will happen in the future — it just felt like it’s the end of this story in the lore. Particularly for Iron Fist, we wanted to close that chapter [of the Hand’s story]. I don’t know what the future holds. That’s a Jeph Loeb question [laughs] but for me and for the writers’ room, it felt right to end the story here.

That dragon skeleton — that wasn’t Shou-Lao the Undying’s, is it? It’s just a pile of bones implying that there had been dragons all over the world and one wound up buried under New York?
Yeah, it’s the second one. The idea of that was that there had always been this kind of mystery that the Hand can bring people back from the dead, but we never knew exactly how, and it made sense to connect the life-force idea of the chi in the Iron Fist to the idea of the life force [the Hand members] use for various purposes, so we’re just saying it’s dragon bone that they use, that that’s the substance. That felt like the cleanest way to tie everything in.

And it’s been set up since Daredevil season 1; Gao operates in the background of New York with drugs made from that ground into powder. It felt like we could make back alley drug deals in New York and dragon mythology all part of the same story, so that was my way of trying to tie them all in.

But then, do we know where the city of K’un-Lun went? A part of me thought that was Shou-Lao only because K’un-Lun disappeared, and New York did have a conveniently huge hole in the middle of it.
That’s a question for the Iron Fist showrunner, not me. Honestly, I don’t know where they’re going with that…

I’m running with it. Moving on to Matt’s near-death, why did he find it so important to stay behind to fight Elektra, knowing that he would probably not make it out alive?
To me, Matt and Elektra always felt like Edward Norton’s character and Tyler Durden in Fight Club except with a more overt sexual dynamic. [Laughs] And so, in the end, it felt more like the end of Fight Club…  Emotionally, Matt knows and has to embrace the fact that she’s his burden to deal with, and though he’s fought for three episodes alongside Luke, Jessica, and Danny, Elektra is his problem, his cross to bear. That’s very Matt Murdock to say “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do this. I’m going to die for this.”

How exactly did he make it out alive in the end? Can you tell me?
I can’t. I can’t say anything.

You’re back to keeping secrets!
I know, I know.

Well, can you confirm for me that the Maggie mentioned at the end of the series is Matt’s mom?
[Laughs] I can’t confirm anything! I can say that visually that shot at the end of Daredevil’s story was definitely an homage, as were a couple of other scenes, to the comics. That’s one of my favorite Daredevil images, so regardless of who any of the characters are, I went to the production meeting saying this is the image we’re going for, we’re going to feel like this, and that came from that image that I purposely borrowed from the comics.

Let’s go back to The Defenders. Before the Midland Circle showdown, Elektra brutally murdered Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, literally stabbing her in the back with her preferred sai. Why did you kill off who we thought was the Big Bad of the entire series at the end of episode 6?
Well, part of it was just about giving the audience a little something unexpected. Audiences I think sometimes expect that a major storyline or major character is going to end in the ultimate or penultimate episode so they go, “Oh all right, something’s going to happen here at the end of the story,” so it just felt like a jolt, and it was exciting to write. The second part was really in a way we introduced Sigourney’s character a little bit to highlight Elektra’s story. I like to think that we wrote a really fun cool character for Sigourney but really it was also a way for us to say this is the journey that Elektra is going on…

Back when the series was still filming, Jeph Loeb had said this series could end with these characters telling each other they never want to see each other again. So to you, at the end of this season, what would you call the Defenders? Are they teammates? Friends? Acquaintances?
I think of them mostly as like people who were on the same bus when it got in an accident, and then they all filled out paperwork together, and they all went to the hospital together, and now they’re going home. And it’s kind of like, “This was a great adventure to have with you, I’d be okay with seeing you again, I’d also be okay with never seeing you again.” It’s more like a bond that happens in a crisis. People are intimate now, but it’s not like you’ll be inviting them over for dinner every Tuesday. [Laughs] We designed it so they could go back to their individual worlds, but it’s not like they’re apart permanently in any way.

This week’s Doctor Who news overlaps with characters involved in The Defenders. David Tennant was the best of a handful of strong villains in the Netflix shows, and I had wondered if a second season of Jessica Jones will be as strong without him. There was surprise news this week that David Tennant will be returning to the second season, with no word as to the specifics. It is possible it could be as flashbacks or as something in Jessica’s head. I also wonder if perhaps he only made Jessica (and the audience) think he was killed, or if surviving a broken neck is another one of his abilities.

David Tennant is also going to star with Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) in an adaption of the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett novel Good Omens on Amazon.

As I noted last week, David Tennant has been speaking out in favor of Jodie Whittaker being cast as the thirteenth Doctor. The Sunday Express also looked at that, along with the news on how her father was kept in the dark about the role.

Krysten Ritter discussed the second season of Jessica Jones with Bustle:

Ritter emphasizes that the key topic of the second season will be exploring “more of why Jessica is the way she’s is” (which could also lend itself to some therapy sessions). She argued we shouldn’t assume that the superhero’s personality is just about Kilgrave: “Even in the source material, so much stuff has happened to her. You feel for her … Every time, you’re just like, ‘Ugh, she’s been through so much.’ Yet she still fights. Which is what we love about her.”

And if you’ve been wondering what could have led to the character’s pessimism and cynicism, it sounds like this is going to be the season we’ll get plenty of answers. Which is a lottery win of a plot development, right? But the actor also warns audiences that while she has been hoping to recreate Season 1, that this is a radically different beast, summarizing the evolution in where each installment took place. “The first season was in her head and the second season is in her heart,” offers Ritter.

Karen Gillan already has a character in the Marvel Universe in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and she has a definite role which she desires in the DC universe–The Joker. From ComicBook.com:

karen Gillan is best known across the pop culture landscape for her roles as Doctor Who‘s Amy Pond and Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Nebula. But if she had a chance to lend her talents to another corner of geek culture – the live-action DC Comics universe – there’s one character she would like to play.

During a panel at Florida SuperCon, Gillan was asked what character she would be willing to play in another fandom. And to the surprise of comic fans, she had a noteworthy DC Comics antagonist – The Joker – in mind.

“Oh, can I say something DC?” Gillain asked. “Okay, I’m going to say something DC, and I’m going to play the Joker. Maybe a female Joker.”

A fan then informed Gillan that there is comic precedent for a female Joker, with Martha Wayne taking on the mantle in DC’s 2011 event Flashpoint.

“This is my calling!” Gillan said with a gasp. “Somebody make a call for me and let them know I’m available.”

…At the end of the day, Gillan might not end up playing the DCEU’s version of Flashpoint Joker, largely because she’s busy filming Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity WarAvengers 4, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But you have to admit that it’s pretty easy to picture her playing the fan-favorite role in some capacity.

In other cross-genre casting news, Susie Abromeit, who played Jeri Hogarth’s girlfriend Pam in Jessica Jones, has been cast to play Ray Palmer’s mother on Legends of Tomorrow. The episode goes back to Ray’s childhood in the 1980’s

Last week I noted that Lana Wachowski is writing a third season of Sense8 in the hopes that it will be picked up somewhere. The porn site xHamster has made an offer to continue the series in a letter posted here. I have my doubts as to whether having fans go to a porn site will be an acceptable option, but maybe that would mean that the annual orgy scenes would be more explicit.

Two comedians who were otherwise quite different now have one thing in common–having died this weekend. Dick Gregory died yesterday. The Washington Post reports:

The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

“A Southern liberal?” he once said. “That’s a guy that’ll lynch you from a low tree.” Another: “When I get drunk, I think I’m Polish. One night I got so drunk I moved out of my own neighborhood.” On segregation: “I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night.”

Mr. Gregory, 84, died Aug. 19 in Washington. His son, Christian Gregory, announced the death on Mr. Gregory’s official social media accounts. The cause was not reported.

Jerry Lewis died this morning. Variety reports:

Jerry Lewis, the brash slapstick comic who became a pop culture sensation in his partnership with Dean Martin and then transformed himself into an auteur filmmaker of such comedic classics as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy,” has died in Las Vegas. He was 91.

Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning, his agent confirmed.

For most of his career, Lewis was a complicated and sometimes polarizing figure. An undeniable comedic genius, he pursued a singular vision and commanded a rare amount of creative control over his work with Paramount Pictures and other studios. He legacy also includes more than $2.5 billion raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the annual Labor Day telethon that he made an end-of-summer ritual for decades until he was relieved of the hosting job in 2011.

But Lewis’ brand of humor did not always wear well as times and attitudes changed. Over the last 10 years of his life, his reputation soured slightly as he was forced to apologize for making a gay slur on camera during the 2007 telethon, continued to make racist and misogynistic jokes, and didn’t hesitate to share his right-wing political views.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Americans; American Gods

I looked at the regular season finale of Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls, last week. The episode ended with Peter Capaldi fighting his inevitable regeneration. Peter Capaldi discussed why he is leaving the show with Radio Times:

Why make this your final series?

I love this show, but I’ve never done anything where you turn up every day for ten months. I want to always be giving it my best and I don’t think if I stayed on I’d be able to do that. I can’t think of another way to say, “This could be the end of civilisation as we know it.”

With episodic television of any genre, the audience wants the same thing all the time – but the instinct that leads the actor is not about being in a groove…

What’s the hardest part of being the Doctor?

Doctor Who is a hugely challenging show to write and to act in. It has to turn on a dime from comedy to terror to tragedy. It’s a children’s show that developed into something more complex, a bit more adult-orientated, but we have a duty to play to the seven-year-old as well as the 42-year-old. Sometimes you have to be more comic than you’d normally be comfortable with, but it’s important.

How would you describe your Doctor?

The Doctor is deeply sad – I think he always has been. When you’re wise and you’ve lived a very long time, that’s how you’d be. Although you have to be careful with very human emotions and the Doctor because he’s an alien. It’s more straightforward to play the human elements, but then it might as well be a cop show…

What can you say about your regeneration?

I can’t go into the details. I know what happens, but I don’t know how it happens. Certainly it’s not straightforward. It’s more complicated than recent ones. That’s one of the appeals of being in the show – it has death at the heart of it. He’s the only hero on TV who dies again and again.

The article also includes interviews with Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. From the interview with Steven Moffat:

How would you describe your Doctors?

He is someone who’s running towards everything at once because he might miss it. He doesn’t understand why anyone would do the same thing every day or sit in the same room every day. He doesn’t understand why you would live a life in safety when you could be running from fires and explosions. He doesn’t understand why we volunteer to be dull – he needs to be out there and experiencing everything at once.

Along the way, of course, he helps people and people start to think of him as this great hero, but he doesn’t understand that – he’s just running past people and seeing that they need help, so he helps. Actors either have it or they don’t. The first time I saw Matt Smith – only the second person to audition for the role – you could instantly tell that he was Doctor Who. There was nothing clever about saying, “Well, obviously it’s him.”

In another interview, Moffat discussed possibly leaving a cliffhanger for Chris Chibnall, and the problem with gender pronouns when dealing with Missy and the Master:

After talking about the — incestuous? masturbatory? — vibes between Missy and The Master, something previous Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies wanted more of when Moffat told him about his plans to bring back Simm, Moffat revealed that he thought about ending his tenure as showrunner with a cliffhanger that incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall would have to resolve.

“We concocted this whole scheme that I’d cliffhanger out of my era of Doctor Whoand hand over to Chris with Missy telling the Master and the Doctor that she’s pregnant,” Moffat revealed. “I decided not to do that. Over to you, Chibs. Sort that one out, mate.”

While Moffat admitted that the idea was just “email lunacy,” he also called for a societal change as a result of his experience talking about the character’s gender.

“We have to ban gender pronouns. I can no longer talk about the character of the Master ‘slash’ Missy without having to go ‘slash.’ It’s exhausting,” Moffat complained. “Let’s just rid of them. It’s a stupid idea in the first place. What do we need them for?”

We still have the Christmas episode to look forward to. The Doctor has sometimes seen previous companions at the time of his regeneration, and it has been reported that Jenna Coleman will be appearing in the episode. There is no information as to whether this will show what has happened since she went off to explore the universe, or if this will be a visit with Clara Oswald from earlier in her life, or perhaps just something in the Doctor’s head. Jenna Coleman currently stars on Victoria.

Of course leaving Doctor Who won’t be the end for Steven Moffat. In a recent radio interview, he left open the possibility of Sherlock returning for another season. Variety reports that Steven Moffat and Marc Gatiss are working on an adaptation of Dracula. Like Sherlock, it will consist of short seasons of feature length episodes. No word as to where and when this will be set.

Besides last week’s finale of Doctor Who, other shows have had season finales worth noting. I have recently discussed iZombie here, and The Leftovers and Fargo here. Due to traveling and other distractions, I have fallen behind on other finales and will catch up on a couple more today–The Americans and American Gods. In the near future I also hope to look back at the finales of additional shows including The Handmaid’s Tale, Gotham, Veep, and Better Call Saul. Plus there should be a lot more news on next season’s shows as we get into Comic Con.

The Americans has been one of the best dramas on television the last several years. Much of this season was to set up the final season next year, and the ending this year felt somewhat like a tease. It looked like Philip and Elizabeth might return home, but obviously that could not happen until the end of next season, if it ever does happen. Instead they were given a reason to remain at the last minute. Stan also suggested he might leave his position at the FBI, but Renee quickly argued that he should not. That is also a tease for the viewers who have been wondering (along with Elizabeth and Philip) if Renee is a Russian spy who wanted Stan to remain where he is for her own reasons. Of course Stan had no such thoughts. TV Line interviewed the producers and asked about this scene:

TVLINE | In the finale, we also saw Renee try to talk Stan into staying with the FBI. Is he starting to get suspicious of her? And will Laurie Holden be back next season?
WEISBERG | [Laughs] No comment on the latter. Nice try! But on the former, we don’t particularly think so. Stan would have no more reason to be suspicious of the woman he’s dating than he does the neighbors across the street.

Deadline also discussed the finale with Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Topics included where the show will be going in the final season, whether it will lead into the collapse of the Soviet Union, and whether Donald Trump will appear. Here are some excepts:

DEADLINE: So, after all that anticipation this season, a big CIA catch means Philip and Elizabeth are not heading home to the Soviet Union. So what’s next?

WEISBERG: Still not going home. They still can’t get home. It was so close though, so close. They’re not only not going home, but it sure sounds like Philip is quitting his job — at least his spy job. It sounds like he’s going to work at the travel agency full time.

DEADLINE: Well, I doubt you mean that, but it did seem like you had Keri’s character looking for a reason not to return home, which, of course, is a real turn for her from her contempt for the West that has fueled much of the series.

WEISBERG: We think that she was being sincere in what she told Philip about why she couldn’t go back. Whether she was dying to go back, having second thoughts about going back, whatever it was, it felt to us like that was classical Elizabeth Jennings that when duty calls she had to answer the call. It was certain she couldn’t go home when she and Philip now have their hooks in the new head of the Soviet division at the CIA.

DEADLINE: Which brings us to the sixth and final season for next year. With history catching up to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, will we see Season 6 pick up from the Season 5 events of 1984 or move ahead in time toward a real resolution?

FIELDS: Dominic, you know we don’t like to give away really anything, but probably one thing we’re willing to say is that there’s going to be a resolution. Sometimes people will ask about The Americans. Is it moving slowly? Is anything happening? I think we are all willing to give away that there is something that most people who speak the English language would be willing to call a real ending…

DEADLINE: For a show so authentically drenched in the 1980s, there is one real-life character I’ve always been sure we would see one day on The Americans, a certain Art Of The Deal author who really became known back in the Reagan Era. So why hasn’t Donald Trump appeared on The Americans, even in the background or as an aside?

FIELDS: You know, it’s a funny thing. Had Donald Trump not become such a prominent part of our lives today, he certainly could have appeared in the background of the show (both laugh). Joking aside, that’s exactly the sort of reference we feel we could never make in the show, because it would have a self-conscious link. We feel would take the audience out of the experience of being immersed in the show and yank them back into today, and really isn’t the whole point of watching TV today to not have to think about today?

DEADLINE: So, going into Season 6, we’ll never see Donald Trump on The Americans?

FIELDS: I think as much as we try to prevent spoilers I am confident in saying we won’t. Joe, are you OK with that spoiler?

WEISBERG: I think we can say he’s not going to be in the show. Although, if you print that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a call from him asking to be in the show.

The Hollywood Reporter looked at the final minutes of the finale of American Gods and how they are likely to lead into the second season:

While Wednesday’s true identity is certainly an important revelation for the series, it’s not the stopping point most fans of the Gaiman novel would have expected for the season. Instead, those fans were likely expecting to see Wednesday, Shadow and some of the other deities — including Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy and Peter Stormare as Czernobog — arriving at the The House on the Rock, the site of what’s easily the single most iconic moment from the source material.

Based on the real-life Wisconsin tourist attraction of the same name, the House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly designed by Alex Jordan Jr. and originally opened in 1959. For those unfamiliar, the YouTube channel Atlas Obscura has an excellent breakdown of the “mind-tripping brain warp” nature of this extremely unusual location, which you can watch below.

In the fifth chapter of Gaiman’s book, Wednesday takes Shadow to the House on the Rock, and he explains it as “a place of power,” due to its nature as a roadside attraction. He says: “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples, or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”

…Shadow finally speaks Odin’s true name, and once he does, the whisper becomes louder and louder until it’s an undeniable echo, bellowing within a great hall in which Wednesday conducts his meeting with the other gods. From this point forward, Shadow knows that the oddities he’s experienced during his travels with Wednesday are more real than he could have ever imagined.

It’s a massive turning point in Gaiman’s novel, and given that the climactic scene occurs little more than 100 pages into the book, many fans expected to see the House on the Rock sequence in the season one finale. Instead, what they saw was Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) driving on a bus past a sign for the House on the Rock in the final scene of the season — a promise that the sequence is very much still ahead, albeit a bit further down the line than expected.

While the House on the Rock’s veritable absence from the finale is certainly disappointing for the book-reading faithful, it wasn’t without some warning. Fuller told THR before the season’s launch that due to some episode restructuring, budget that would have gone toward the House on the Rock sequence was instead repurposed to streamline the show’s narrative. What’s more, given that the first season of American Gods didn’t quite crack the first 100 pages of the book (with a total count of 541 pages in the updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, including forewords and afterwards), fans can rest assured that the show will adapt almost every granular detail of the novel — eventually, anyway.

Deadline interviewed Michael Green and Bryan Fuller about the finale. Here are some excerpts, beginning with a question about House on the Rock:

DEADLINE: Where does the end of this season leave us, going into Season 2 and going into the rest of Neil’s book?

GREEN: Precariously. We always knew we wanted to end the season with our weight tilted towards House on the Rock. We talked a lot, early on about wanting to get there and even starting that story, then advancing the narrative that far. But we enjoyed our time with our characters so much and were doing so many things that took so much time and resources that we realized that we had a very interesting and satisfying ending with Wednesday taking his first real aggressive stance against the new gods. With him saying, ‘You were very, very unwise to count me out and to speak in those tones to me.’ So Wednesday has the upper hand in two ways, he is taking a shot across the bow that’s going to hurt the new gods and he has a believer in Shadow Moon. Those are two things that are not without significance.

DEADLINE: With where we are in terms of Neil’s book, will that play a big part in the consequences of Season 2?

FULLER: I think the bigger interpersonal dramas that are waiting for us in Season two that excites us greatly is the notion of Laura Moon versus Mr. Wednesday. We see, by the end of the season, that Laura understands that Wednesday had her assassinated, specifically, to put Shadow in this situation. We always talked about Laura becoming that metaphor for the last Catholic who can, you know, shake her fist at the sky, and say, “Fuck you, God.” But now she actually gets to say it to a real god and she’s a god that she can get her hands on so what is she going to do next?

DEADLINE: You strode into some sprawling themes in Season 1–faith, obviously, but also immigration, gun violence, race, sexism. From the reaction online and elsewhere, it felt like the audience was very receptive to those conversations and those discussions. Did that surprise you?

GREEN: I feel like the people who wouldn’t be receptive to those conversations aren’t watching the show…

DEADLINE: Speaking of anger, one of the new characters invented for the series was Corbin Bernsen’s god Vulcan. He appeared to meet a fiery end but are we going to see more newly created characters for Season 2?

FULLER: Yes but you know, there’s lots of new characters to come into this world that were part of this story in the book as well as some that weren’t that we want to include. We’re excited about Mama-Ji and we’re excited about Sam Black Crow. There were a lot of characters that we want to start weaving into the mythology of the television series, and we’re really excited about seeing characters from the first season, again, that you may not expect to see again.

DEADLINE: Obviously, a character we fully expect to see more of is Shadow Moon. Over Season 1, we’ve seen him go from a very closed, almost one-dimensional character, who is trying to find his way to someone or something, who now at the finale, has literally and figuratively seen the world open up in front of him and maybe some sense of who he really is becoming close to home now. How is that arc moving forward in Season 2?

FULLER: Well, it has to move forward in a proactive way for his character. So much of what we had in the first season was Shadow as passenger to the narrative He was in a situation where he had everything removed from him, so he didn’t know what he wanted as a character. He just knew that he had to fill his days. Now that he understands a little bit more about the world and the world of gods, we get to witness him as an apostle of sorts – and see what kind of apostle he could be.

The Wrap has more with Bryan Fuller. The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Neil Gaiman.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Knock Knock; American Gods; Sense8; The Flash; Ranking The Rolling Stones Songs

Knock Knock had some good moments but did not really work. Possibly the problem was timing. It attempted to be a plot-driven episode of Doctor Who and depended less on the interplay between the Doctor and Bill, but in doing so partially lost the strongest aspect of the season so far, while still having a plot which was rushed to the point of making little sense.

The story jumped too quickly from students looking for an affordable place to live to the first death. While the general premise of housing being too expensive was realistic, why did Bill suddenly need to find somewhere new to live, and why with these six people she barely knew? I’m sure students don’t read their housing contracts that closely, but I wonder if even a cursory reading might have tipped them off to what they were agreeing to. It is less plausible that not a single student would have looked into cell or internet access before quickly moving in. While I did like how they went from one student joking around to really being killed, it all felt too rushed. The student who hit on Bill this quickly was also acting in too much of a rushed manner.

There were some good scenes, but overall the threat from the bugs and the wood made little sense. Why did they keep Eliza alive, eat some students, and incorporate others into the woodwork? Things just happened without any real answers, or anyone figuring out much. While they did figure out that the Landlord must Eliza’s son and not father, this was not all that tremendous, and had little bearing on the outcome. Suddenly Eliza intervened to help, was able to control the bugs, and opened the shutters in time for the fire works. I was waiting to hear When You Wish Upon A Star as if it was the Magic Kingdom. Everyone turned out to be alive, but why did the insects release them? Presumably those eaten in previous years were too far gone, but it might have been an amusing scene to have groups of students from the past suddenly appear if they were going to show any victims come back to life.

Perhaps more time on the plot could have solved some of these problems, but that would have taken away even more time from Bill and the Doctor. The Doctor did mention regeneration, foreshadowing what we know will come later this season. He also mentioned the Time Lords. It was amusing to see the Doctor use the TARDIS to help Bill move in, but I don’t understand why Bill seemed to be embarrassed to let the others know about her relationship with the Doctor. She did claim he was her Grandfather. Is this somehow related to the pictures of Susan on the Doctor’s desk?

I’m surprised that they did not bring up the inability of the sonic screwdriver to work on wood, or make more use of its sonic abilities considering the importance of sound in controlling the bugs. Of course I don’t blame the Doctor for not being clear as to how that worked as I’m not too clear on it either after watching the episode.

At least the show sort of gets the history right, including Harriet Jones among the Prime Ministers of Great Britain.

This season we have seen a reflection and failing to smile become things to fear, and I wonder if the intent was to do the same with knocking, considering the title. If so, it didn’t work. Of course the classic example of Doctor Who creating fear is Blink, and this episode was filmed on the same property, but in a different house, as where Blink was filmed.

The episode concluded with the Doctor going inside to visit the person in the vault. The interaction we did hear has strengthened suspicion that it is The Master (very likely as Missy) inside. For that matter, is the vault the Master’s TARDIS and how big will it be on the inside?

In other Doctor Who universe news, there is a new design for K-9. There will also be a series five of Torchwood, taking place after Miracle Day, but it will be released as an audio series.

American Gods premiered last week. I wonder if this is the right format. The show is apparently very faithful to the book, while expanding on situations and characters. One review said that the entire first season covers only the first one hundred pages of the book. The show is basically set up for at least the first four episodes, making me wonder if television viewers who aren’t familiar with the book will understand what is going on and stick it out. This could be a situation in which it might not be best to be so faithful to the book. Otherwise it might be better to release this Netflix style and have it available all at once, so people can go through it more like reading a book, as opposed to watching the first episode, being confused, and possibly not returning. At very least it might have been better to release the first few episodes at once, as Hulu did with The Handmaid’s Tale.

Whether or not they understand what is going on, fans of  Bryan Fuller’s work will feel right at home with the visual. The lynching scene at the end felt like something right out of Hannibal. Fuller discussed the scene with TV Guide.

Neil Gaiman explained what the book and series is all about in an interview with Recode:

Many of you who are listening to this know what “American Gods” is because it’s a very popular book. Some of you have not read the book, so Neil, tell us what the book and the show are about.

The book — which was written in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and published in June 2001 — and the show, which is coming up, are both about America. They’re both about a man named Shadow, who is in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit and has been looking forward to getting out and getting back together with his wife, Laura, who he loves very, very much. In a one-two sucker punch, he learns that he’s being let out a few days early, and he is being let out a few days early because his wife was killed in a car crash. He’s on his way back to his wife’s funeral when he meets a peculiar old grifter on a plane, who offers him a job.

The job, which he winds up taking, throws Shadow into the middle of a battle, an oncoming battle, between all of the old gods, all of the things that people who have come to America over the years have brought with them and abandoned, whether it’s leprechauns, or the Golem, or things that people have believed in, come to America, as all of the people who are in America are the descendants of people who came here, or are people who came here, and also the new gods. The new gods are the things that demand our attention, that we give our time and our love and our attention to, whether it be the gods of podcast, or of those small glass and metal and plastic objects that we all stare at in rapt devotion…

This is a book you started writing in the late ’90s. You started making the TV show a couple of years ago, it comes out now, and it is about immigration, in large part?

Yeah.

Race is forefront. There is a lynching scene at the end of the first episode. The beginning of the second episode, it starts off on a slave ship, so obviously there is some timely stuff going on here. Do you figure that would’ve been timely no matter what?

The weird thing for me is that when I wrote the book, I did not see any of this stuff as controversial. When I wrote the book, I thought, okay, this is an immigrant country. Some of the people came here, their ancestors came here 20,000 years ago from Siberia, crossing the Bering Straights and stuff. Some people came here 400 years ago, and some people wanted to come here, and some people were sent as prisoners, sent as slaves …

Right, there’s no question mark at the end of it, it’s a full stop.

That one’s a full stop. This is an immigrant country, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s contentious or controversial to be pro Statue of Liberty, and the poem thereon. You’re going, “I think that is part of the American psyche, the American dream,” nor did it think it was, in any way, controversial or laudable to go, “I am writing a novel about immigration in America, therefore I am going to have a lot of people in my book of different races because there are a lot of different races in America. I will make a mixed-race hero, A) for plot reasons and B) because he embodies America.” That all seemed to me to be very …

Table stakes.

Yeah. It’s not controversial, and I don’t think we thought it was controversial when we were writing the scripts, and I don’t think anybody thought it was really controversial when we were shooting it.

Cut to 2017.

Suddenly, I’m describing the show … There was a point where I was describing the show to … I was on the Empire Film Awards red carpet and somebody put a microphone in my face, and I told them a little bit about the show, and I said, “You know, things have changed. We did not think this stuff was controversial, but now we seem to be occupying political territory. We’re willing to take that, but we didn’t choose it to be.” The headline, when it was published was, “Neil Gaiman, author of ‘American Gods,’ slams Donald Trump.”

I thought, “I didn’t slam Donald Trump.” If I wanted to slam Donald Trump and talk about what a peculiar, narcissistic, ineffectual joke he is, I could’ve done, but I didn’t. I don’t even think I mentioned the poor man’s name.

Empire On Line discussed the making of the show with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green:

So, what’s the story here? Do you guys go out of your way to just get weird with this stuff? Bryan, you did Hannibal, obviously, and that had its own surreal quality to it. It almost seems like you sit there saying, “How can we fuck with the audience’s mind?”

Fuller: No, not really [laughs]. I think our imaginations are fairly vivid and when we’re reading something that is as inspiring as Neil’s novel, it’s hard not to grab the baton and run. If anything, we’ve checked each other a couple of times where it’s, like, “Uh, that may be too big and too weird,” and for us to say that to each other, you know it’s big and weird.

Is this just the way your minds work?

Green: It’s more where we live and we have the opportunity to do it, but it’s also why we were drawn to Neil’s writing and specifically this book is that it allowed us to bring imagination to life, even if it was going to be lavish, difficult, expensive.

Michael, is that something that you’re naturally drawn to, that type of storytelling?

Green: Bryan and I share a lot of taste and style, but I will say as a fan of Hannibal and of Bryan’s in the intervening years when we weren’t working together, I would often get together with him and just ask him, “How do you accomplish these things?” Bryan as a producer has an incredible and enviable track record of taking the ideas in his mind and being able to share them with other people by actualizing them. That is as good a definition of producing as I can muster, where it’s one thing as a writer to take an idea in your head and get it on the page clearly so other people can experience that idea. It’s another thing to be able to do that with visual images.

There were images on the show, sequences on the show, that Bryan described to me when we were in the writing phases and I could imagine very vividly, but the process of being able to actually put that on the screen takes an incredible amount of work, dedication, clarity of purpose. Every idea can continue to get better as more time goes on. I’ve been very much enjoying working with Bryan and learning how he manages to extract from his own mind the best idea and extract from the talented artists we work with the visual representation of those ideas.

Fuller: One of the things that we’ve learned on the show is we needed a long runway, because a lot of these ideas that we’re working on required a certain amount of experimentation to get right, and there were alleys that we went down regarding some visual effects. When we got to the end, we’re, like, “This doesn’t work. We need to back up and try something else, because it’s not holding up to the standards that we have.” Or it was an ambitious idea that we thought we could pull off, but we couldn’t quite, so we had to do something that we could achieve. A lot of our conversations with the visual effects team are about, “What can we pull off? What’s too big for us to achieve in our time and budget?”

The interview went on to discuss several of the characters.

Netflix released season two of Sense8. (Technically the Christmas episode was the first episode of the season). I have a few episodes to go, which might affect my opinion, and I don’t want to say very much to avoid spoilers as this has only been available for a couple of days. Now that the first season established the back story, the plot so far does seem more coherent than in the first season, but that doesn’t matter all that much. I’d enjoy the show even if there was no real plot and we were just seeing that world for several hours. My suspicion is that the Wachowskis come up with great scenes and then J. Michael Straczynski figures out how they can be fit together into a fairly coherent plot. (Maybe the Wachowskis should have brought someone like JMS in to give a better storyline for the Matrix sequels). Like with American Gods and Hannibal, the imagery is important–with a totally different type of imagery here.

Again, avoiding spoilers, the conspiracy element reminds me a bit of Orphan Black. There is the return of Mr. Whispers, and the BPO (Biologic Preservation Organization), with more layers than in the first season, similar to how the conspiracy expanded on Orphan Black. There is more of a biological background given, and there are other clusters. While new characters are introduced, the story does continue to concentrate on the cluster seen in the first season, with their individual stories, both alone and when connected with others, continuing to be the strength of the show.

In other entertainment news, it was announced that both The Handmaid’s Tale and 13 Reasons Why have both been renewed for a second season.

Comicbook.com explains how the reveal of Savatar’s identity on last week’s episode of The Flash plays into the 2056 warning from the Flash previously played on Legends of Tomorrow. They are going to have to do a lot more to convince me that it is plausible to have a future Barry come back in time and kill Iris.

In a really ambitious project, Vulture ranked all 373 songs by the Rolling Stones. Number one is You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Lawyers, Guns & Money wants to argue over it. Vulture did point out some areas of potential controversy beyond the ranking of the songs:

The Rolling Stones have multiple songs that are lyrically reprehensible to women and people of color — often both at the same time. If I were questioned about this topic at the Pearly Gates, I’d suggest that the Stones’ offensive attitudes had more to do with a craven desire to be provocative than any fundamental malignant worldview, but maybe I’m a fool. Whatever the true motivation behind them, a handful of the band’s songs have been tarred by Jagger and Richards’s sex and race insensitivity. There’s no getting around it. Then there’s the matter of appropriation. Excepting perhaps Elvis, there is no rock act that benefited more from drawing on black music than the Rolling Stones, who have repeatedly talked with respect and deference about how much they’ve taken from their musical idols. I do think that once the band took flight, its music represents a synthesis of their influences, rather than mere mimicry or theft. That said, I don’t know what you do with all these issues other than acknowledge that they’re a problem.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Thin Ice; The Handmaid’s Tale; Catastrophe; American Gods

Thin Ice had the most complete story so far this season, but the highlight of the episode remained the relationship between Bill and The Doctor. The episode dealt serious matters including racism and class, but it was the meta discussion of time travel and the Doctor which was most interesting.

The Doctor and Bill continued in their rules of tutor and pupil with Bill asking questions throughout the episode, also providing an opportunity to give some comments on the show in Moffat’s final season. This was Bill’s first real trip into the past and, being well-aware of science fiction tropes, Bill asked what the “rules” are. “You travel into the past. There’s got to be rules. If I step on a butterfly it could send ripples through time that mean I’m not even born in the first place and I could just disappear.” Her concern was that, “Every choice I make in this moment here and now could change the whole future.” The Doctor replied with justification for the often careless manner in which he interacts with the past in pointing out that this is, “Exactly like every other day of your life. The only thing to do is to stop worrying about it.”

Except for poor Pete, written out of history, and even deleted from the memories of viewers and from recordings of the last two episodes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cold Blood in which Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from history. Perhaps Pete will return, possibly as another Auton duplicate, as Rory later did.

There was also repetition of the Doctor being a bit of a thief, along with his his limited control over the TARDIS: “I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You reason with it… and successfully most of the time… She’s a bad girl this one. Always looking for trouble.”

Bill had more serious questions and observations. She noted that “Regency England, a bit more black than they show in the movies.” The Doctor replied, “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

She realized that there was a lot more to the Doctor than a university professor after seeing his lack of a response to the death of a child. She asked him how many people he has seen die, and then how many he has killed. He had no specific answers. He did say, “I’m 2,000-years-old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.” I wondered how long it would be until Bill saw through that lie, and it occurred later in the same episode.

The Doctor had fun with Bill beyond his reference to Pete. He allowed her to watch the lights because she was having fun, and then mentioned seeing lights as a side effect of time travel. Later he told her to let him do the talking because she has a temper. Moments later he slugged  Lord Sutcliffe (also showing his capacity for outrage).

Of course the Doctor wasn’t entirely cold about the death of the boy. He just has seen enough to know when he can and cannot do something. His overall view was more humane: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

The episode took place in the Frost Fair of 1814, the last in a series of actual events when the the River Thames froze over. Being 2000 years old (or actually older if the events of past seasons are taken into consideration), and prone to hanging out on earth, it is no surprise that the Doctor was there before. A Good Man Goes to War reveals that he was there with River Song, with Stevie Wonder performing:

River: It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great Frost Fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.
Rory: Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?
River: Yes, he did, but you must never tell him.

(As a totally irrelevant aside, Stevie Wonder was once dining at the same restaurant I was at while traveling to Washington, D.C.)

There was an old Companion Chronicle audio story in which the first Doctor, Vicki and Steven visited the Frost Fair of 1814. The Doctor also promised to take Clara to the Frost Fair in The Caretaker (and actually did in a novel) The Doctor’s lack of interest in rules of time travel in his discussion with Bill is consistent with his lack of concern for returning to the same place–which would be forbidden in other time travel stories. This includes the breaking of time in the Legends of Tomorrow season two finale.

Bill did verify that her trip did not brake time, and Doctor Who has already established that humans have an incredible tendency to forget the extraordinary events depicted on the show. Bill used Search-wise.net for her research–a site which actually exists for television purposes.

The Doctor and Bill returned to the Doctor’s office in time for tea, but Nardole figured out that they had been traveling in time when he saw their change of clothing. He did not appear to figure out out that he had no chance to win the coin toss. For the sake of continuity, he did make reference to how he was reassembled between The Husbands Of River Song when he was decapitated and The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. He returned to the vault where we learned that someone or something inside was knocking, perhaps the Master, except that he knocks four times. Knocking also foreshadowed a past regeneration.

The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu, with the first three episodes being released. The show displayed a very bleak future in which Christian fundamentalists have established a dictatorship. This would be more plausible in a Muslim country, especially considering recent events in Turkey. It seems more plausible here, and  especially timely, after the election of Donald Trump, with the lack of respect for reproductive right’s and a woman’s right to control her own body taken to even more horrifying extremes. (To be objective and nonpartisan, Democrats cannot totally place the blame on Donald Trump and Republicans for rightward movement in this country considering their lack of concern in nominating a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, including separation of church and state. While obviously Clinton would never support the mistreatment of women in this manner, her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate did help facilitate the goals of the religious right in increasing the role of religion in public policy.)

Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job as Offred (presumably given this name as she belongs to Fred), who is forced to conform outwardly. The totalitarian society shows how those without power being under constant surveillance, appearing to have no chance to rebel, or even safely be themselves with others. Inwardly it is a different story: “My name is Offred, and I intend to survive.” Her internal thoughts provide necessary relief from the overall story. There are also breaks from the main narrative to see how America went in that direction. Martial law was initiated, supposedly on a temporary nature in response to a terrorist attack, and later women were prohibited from having money or holding jobs.

The supporting cast also does an excellent job, especially Alexis Bledel (renamed Ofglen, following the same pattern), who managed to portray with her eyes alone the horrors of what she was exposed to in the third episode. Yvonne Strahovski is also excellent. 

Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed changes in the television show from the novel, including what happened to Ofglen (with spoilers for the third episode):

You take the character of Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in a different direction very early on in the series. Can you talk about the decision to have Ofglen forcibly undergo genital mutilation surgery and how that changes things for her character moving forward?
Miller:
In the book, Ofglen just disappears and we hear that she killed herself. There’s no real way to confirm that. This was just one of those cases where you just follow your curiosity and you say, well, what happened to her? And I was fascinated by the idea, personally, of seeing how some of the institutions were being reproduced in Gilead. And the institution of the criminal justice system seemed fascinating in a world with institutionalized sexism and misogyny and biblical laws that were being taken literally. So that kind of lead us down a path of, OK, if I want to see how all of those things go, it would be very interesting to follow those things to the end. And making the decision about the female genital mutilation was really just kind of a practical discussion. A world that happened by accident is different than a world people created on purpose and here, Gilead is a world they created on purpose. There’s motive behind it, human motive. So what we’re trying to do is say, OK, what would they do to someone like Ofglen? They don’t want to kill her or send her away. They want to maintain her fertility as part of their reproductive system and their focus on that. So how would they try to control her?

And also taking into account, Margaret Atwood has said many times and we’ve certainly took on this adage, that nothing should happen in the show that doesn’t happen in the world. We don’t want to make up cruelties just for the sake of doing it. Then it turns into pornography. It turns into violence. It’s commentary and it helps you understand the world if you take things that happened in the world. Female genital mutilation is certainly something that happens all over the world. The difference here is that it doesn’t usually happen to white girls, but it does happen all over the world. We spoke to the U.N. and we spoke to the councils they sent us to about how it happens and why it happens and what it’s used for and how it’s done. We took it really seriously. We didn’t want to do it for shock value, even though it’s very shocking. You want to do it because it seems like the thing that Gilead would do. It’s a difference in the book, but it’s also something that takes place out of Offred’s point of view, at least in the show and also in the book. So we felt like we weren’t straying so far because it was something that could have happened in the world of the book and could have happened to somebody else. But anything we did that was not in the book or anything we changed, we were incredibly serious in those discussions about why to change things.

He also discussed how timely the series is:

A lot has been said about how timely the series is. Do you feel any concern that, given the current state of our society, The Handmaid’s Tale might hit a little too close to home for many viewers who would rather avoid facing these ideas head-on?
Miller:
I’m not worried. I hope it hits a little too close to home for viewers who are feeling anxious, because I think there are some great lessons to be learned, which is that the world can change in big ways and we should be very mindful of keeping an eye on our freedoms. As in the show, we see in the flashbacks, how in big and small ways the world can change and the things that we say and the things people say, they’re going to end up mattering in people’s personal lives and that we live in a country where we enjoy lots of freedoms and that those freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

The other thing is that if it does hit close to home, it also offers some really good examples of what to do. Offred is in an incredibly difficult circumstance, and yet she finds ways to express herself, she keeps her sanity, she keeps her heart alive. She also pulls levers of power. She manipulates the people around her to both increase her chances of survival, but also to build some sort of life. She makes connections with people even when they’re scary. I think in a way that’s inspiring. If Offred can do that in that situation, maybe we can do something in this situation. I think Margaret said it in the book, which is, “just do something.” And hopefully you walk away with that. And the other part is that there is a part of doe-eyed optimism on my part, when you look in the flashbacks, the world is so jarringly different. Our messy, noisy world where people are kissing in public and on their iPhones and stuff, you learn to appreciate it, or at least I did. Spending so much time in the fictional world of Gilead, you learn to appreciate how nice it is to have a messy, noisy world and what a pleasure that is. So if you walk out of there going boy, we actually have a good thing going even though it annoys us sometimes, that’s the nerve you want to hit, which is people saying, “Oh, actually there are some good things. Let’s fight to preserve them.” As opposed to, “Things are sh–ty, let’s just throw up our hands and abandon them.

While there were changes from the book, he also discussed how he consulted Margaret Atwood in an interview with Time:

The show definitely expands on what’s happened in the book. You get more backstory. You get to see what happens from the perspective of other characters. How did you decide what to expand and why, and did you discuss those decisions with Margaret Atwood at all?

Everything’s been a conversation with Margaret. It’s very unusual with something this iconic that you would have the author still living. Margaret is an expert in her own way of seeing this particular piece of work adapted: It’s been a play, opera, movie. So she had a lot of experience with what things need to change for different forms for this story. Where I might have had trepidation changing things because of my affection for the book, she certainly did not.

If we changed something, we did it thoughtfully and for a reason. We discussed the repercussions of each change with Margaret. It’s been a very active conversation back and forth. And I’ve been through the story a lot. We’ve picked it apart in the writers’ room. Elisabeth, in particular, has been through the book and educated herself to the nth degree. She’s memorized whole sections of it. So we took great care, and most of the changes we’ve made were actually extrapolations: Taking a thing that was a sentence in the book and turning it into a whole episode.

While Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see show this season, it is disturbing and bleak. My wife and I found that comic relief was necessary after watching three episodes. Fortunately Amazon has released the third season of Catastrophe. If  you haven’t seen this, I recommend going back to the start. Each season takes under three hours to watch. It is sort of like doing You’re The Worst with older, but still highly flawed people, and setting it in the U.K.

For the benefit of those who watched the second season, the events at the end of the final episode have considerable impact as the third season began. A similar formula was used, with an event at the tend of the final episode of the third season likely to have further ramifications in the fourth. Fortunately the series was renewed for both a third and fourth season at the same time, so we will see where this goes.

Sadly, the series has become of significance for science fiction. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Rob’s mother in an episode which ironically dealt with death and loss. This was the role she was filming before flying from London to Los Angeles the day she had her fatal heart attack. A tribute to Carrie Fisher was attacked to the episode.

The highly anticipated premiere of American Gods is on tonight. (Gillian Anderson in the above picture.) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discussed the show with Uproxx:

The novel tackles just about every Big Theme there is: politics, religion, modernity, sexuality. Do you two think about America in these grand terms as well?

Fuller: It’s hard not to think of America in grand terms in the current political climate because the country has shit the bad. We’re facing a violent time of great crisis, and that calls into question what we believe in, where we’ve placed our faith, how we navigate the secular and the search for something more meaningful. Then there are those who are not searching, because they’ve made up their minds that they’ve experienced the extent of the world that they need to, and have no cause to look further. That’s so limited and narrow of an approach to living, so you’ve got to challenge people on what they believe. Challenge the conservative Christians who don’t understand the concept of Christianity, or else they’d never pair those two words together.

Green: The book is sexual, and that’s nothing we’d ever shy away from, but we wanted to make sure our depiction of sexuality would be relevant to the show. Where nudity becomes dicy for me, as a viewer, is when it’s cuttable. That’s the definition of ‘gratuitous,’ when it doesn’t need to be there to enhance enjoyment of the show. And that’s not the show we set out to make. We wanted all the sexuality to be grounded in character, so you can’t tell Bilquis’ story without the scene. We wanted to do the scene between Salim and the djinn with fidelity to the book, but also give a graphic depiction of gay sex that no one could say wasn’t beautiful. We wanted to show the majesty of this religious experience mediated by sex, and put it beyond judgement from those viewers who usually feel uncomfortable with same-sex depiction.

American Gods is a finite work, but the nature of TV is that when something’s going well, people want more of it. What do you think about the future of this project? American Gods has an end; does the show have one as well?

Fuller: I think the show should have an end, but that does not mean the show cannot spawn other shows that live on beyond the scope of American Gods. If we were to secure the rights to Anansi Boys, that would be our first choice for a spinoff. We love Orlando Jones and what he brings to the mythology of this series, and we love the story of that book. We’d love to get our hooks into that and branch that off if this show ends up being successful.

Den of Geek also has an interview with Bryan Fuller which tied it into contemporary politics:

Thinking about Mr Wednesday, the figure of the con man has scarcely felt more relevant to US politics.

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

Well, you have a con man who is saying ‘let’s make the gods great again’.  There is a certain angle of that story that is much more resonant and relevant now than it was prior to the election in November. Being in post and watching those episodes as we’re cutting and putting them together was an interesting experience – to be watching the show before the election and then watching the show after the election and realising just how resonant it has the potential to be in that climate. Particularly as an immigration story, since both the Trump election and Brexit were platforms of anti-immigration and fear of the other and exploiting that fear in citizens, it feels like we are inadvertently tapping into a conversation that we need to have and continue to have as we figure out a way to celebrate differences and not condemn them.

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

In particular the idea of people being whipped up into a war whose only purpose is to further the power of a couple of individuals…

It’s tragic on one level and then on another level it’s an opportunity to take a look at where we are. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. It feels like with both Brexit and the Trump election, we’re two nations taking a step backwards. As disappointing as it was to see hatred and fear rule the day for both of us, it was a great disappointment to say the least, it makes it even more vital and important for us to encourage conversations and also to encourage the fundamentals of listening to somebody. That’s the biggest issue, certainly what’s happening in America, is the unwillingness to listen to somebody else’s point of view.

That’s something that I love to do, even if I violently disagree with somebody, I’m fascinated with how they’ve come to their decisions. Talking to people in the States who voted for Trump, and not wanting to shut them down, like, oh my gosh, you are supporting somebody who has bragged about sexual assaults and has a clear disdain for many groups of people, but instead wanting to find a common ground because what I think all of us found in both of our situations was that everybody made up their mind and there was nothing that was going to change them regardless.

SciFi Weekend: The Flash/ Supergirl Duet; Felicty Smoak, Superhero; The Magicians; Star Trek Discovery Cast; Justice League Trailer; Doctor Who At Comic Relief; American Gods; Riverdale

The DC based shows on CW are beyond their prime, suffering from attempting to have four season-long series simultaneously. I found it to be a welcome break to get away from the usual narrative on The Flash and have the musical cross-over with Supergirl last week. The episode was well received. Synopsis and review at Geeks of Doom. Another review at I09.

The story was briefly introduced at the end of Supergirl, and continued on The Flash, with Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) in a dream-like state, first seeing Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) singing Moon River (video above).

Other musical numbers included The Flash and Supergirl singing, of course, Super Friend in the above video, with amusing references to each series. Characters from both Supergirl and The Flash were included playing different roles, along with other CW characters such as John Barrowman and Victor Garber, both now appearing on Legends of Tomorrow.

Cast and crew discussed the episode in the video above.

Elsewhere in the Belantiverse, Felicty Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) will be seen in a super hero costume, but it will be on Legends of Tomorrow as opposed to Arrow.

Marc Guggenheim has said that we will not learn the identity of Prometheus, one of the big bads on Arrow, until season six, but it will be someone we already know. He also teased how the season finale will be different from previous seasons in not destroying Star City once again:

As the season heads toward the ultimate showdown between Oliver and Chase, we’re going to be seeing a very different season finale this year. “We’re not going to destroy the city,” EP Marc Guggenheim teases. “We’re not even going to threaten the city. In fact, I can also tell you the finale doesn’t even take place in the city. Finally, the citizens of Star City can breathe easily in May.” Wherever the finale takes place, Guggenheim adds, “You can expect a good number of returning characters, characters you haven’t seen in a while, back in the episode.”

The Magicians also had a major musical number in last week’s episode (video above). Margot once looked like just a sidekick for Eliot, but in recent episodes she has turned into quite a strong character. She is often the most sensible one, who can figure out what to do in a crisis. She had a unique way to prepare Eliot for battle, as described by IndieWire:

“The Magicians” went into battle on Wednesday night and pulled out the ultimate weapon: a Broadway musical song.

In the episode, Fillory’s High King Eliot (Hale Appleman) is about to enter into mortal combat with the King of Lauria, who has never been defeated. Eliot’s right-hand magician and partner in every crime imaginable Margo (Summer Bishil) gives him a pep talk and reminisces about how well he did in a production of “Les Miserables.” Inspired by that success, she used magic to force him and others to perform the number “One Day More” from the musical in order to get him pumped up for his duel.

For the benefit of anyone who might have read Lev Grossman’s novels but haven’t seen the television series, Margo’s character was  named Janet in the books.

Screener interviewed the show runners about this scene, and other aspects of the show. Screener also has an interview with Christopher Gorham about his newly introduced character, John Gains.

Star Trek: Discovery is now in production, with release expected late summer or early fall. Above is the first picture of the cast, via Empire On Line:

From left to right are Jason Isaacs (Discovery’s captain, Lorca), Michelle Yeoh (Captain Georgiou, whose ship is the Shenzhou), Chris Obi (the Klingon T’Kuvma, who is determined to bring together the various Klingon houses), Sonequa Martin-Green (Rainsford, also known as Number One, a lieutenant commander who serves as Discovery’s first officer and the show’s main character); Kenric Green (not actually on the show, but definitely serving as Sonequa’s husband), Doug Jones (an alien science officer aboard Discovery), James Frain (the Vulcan father of Mr. Spock, Sarek), and Shazad Latif(Kol, a commanding officer of the Klingons).

Other cast members of the show not featured in this image are Terry Serpico as Starfleet Admiral Anderson, Maulik Pancholy as the Shenzhou’s chief medical officer, Nambue; Sam Vartholomeos as junior officer Connor, assigned to the Shenzhou; Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, a Klingon battle deck commander; Mary Wiseman as Starfleet cadet Tilly, who is assigned the Discovery, and Anthony Rapp as science officer Stamets.

The Justice League official trailer has been released (video above).  Learn what Bruce Wayne’s superpower is, and how he feels about playing well with others. Here is the synopsis of the movie:

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Further discussion here.

The BBC released the above video last week:  “To celebrate Red Nose Day today we present the full 1999 Doctor Who Comic Relief special The Curse of Fatal Death. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley as the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat.” I09 wrote how this has forshadowed the Moffet era:

One of the other truly fascinating things about 1999’s “The Curse of Fatal Death” is how it previews a number of things from the show’s revival years later: the tried and weary Doctor, the Doctor and Master’s complicated one-upmanship, making the romantic love between the Master and Companion explicit, same for that between the Master and the Doctor (although, it’s the Doctor who is female in this, and not the Master), etc. I’m actually most disturbed by the idea of the Dalek-Time Lord hybridization, since it reminds me of the horrible Dalek plot in “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.”

The other thing that makes this short more relevant than before is the flurry of regenerations at the end. Both Moffat’s time as showrunner and Peter Capaldi’s time as the Doctor are coming to an end soon, and people really want a Doctor who isn’t a white man. For proof that it would work fine, check out Joanna Lumley at the end of this. She’s great!

Starz has released the above trailer of American Gods. Nerdist interviewed the cast at South By Southwest.

The Big Bang Theory has been renewed for two additional seasons.

Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa spoke with Entertainment Weekly, teasing further genre elements in the show. There was no definite answer regarding fan theories that zombies will be involved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at TVLine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2016 Nebulla Award nominees have been announced.

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: CW Superhero Crossovers; Celebrities on The Election; Luke Cage; American Gods; Doctor Who; Class

Digital Spy reports on the threat which brings together the heroes of the four Berlantiverse DC shows on CW. Trailer above.

There’s only one army in the DC Comics universe terrifying enough to unite Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Turns out that the threat of meta-humans running wild has raised the ire of planets across the galaxy, causing an alien race to form its own coalition in order to conquer and subjugate earth’s superheroes.

“This year, for our mega Arrowverse crossover, we’re taking inspiration from a DC crossover from the late 1980s known as Invasion!, which featured an alien race called the Dominators, who’d previously vexed the Legion of Superheroes,” Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow producer Marc Guggenheim revealed in a statement.

“We’re using cutting edge prosthetics and computer effects to achieve a feature film-quality look which is faithful to Invasion! artist Todd McFarlane’s interpretation of the characters.”

The Dominators made their first appearance in the pages of DC Comics all the way back in 1967, and have continued to cause trouble for the Legion of Super-Heroes and others within the DC Universe ever since.

This autumn’s four-night event will be the first of two major DC crossovers. Supergirl and The Flash will also be meeting up for a musical episode that’s sure to be interesting.

Supergirl also teams up with her cousin in the above trailer.

The Mary Sue reports that Lynda Carter Used Hillary Clinton As Inspiration For Her Upcoming Role on Supergirl. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the president on Supergirl will engage in regime change in other countries based upon dubious arguments and sell influence from the White House.

Related story at Paste: Whitewashing Hillary: When Lena Dunham and Her Celebrity Ilk Become Dangerous. Obviously celebrities are hardly the people who we should trust with political analysis, but of course they are going to give their opinion. J.J. Abrams and many a long list of people involved in Star Trek have taken a stand against Donald Trump in a long open letter on Facebook. Unfortunately they also have fallen for the whitewashing of Hillary, and fail to recognize the importance of third party options. Trump is a celebrity in his own right, including The Apprentice and the recent revelation of his appearance in a softcore porn Playboy video.

Netflix has released Luke Cage. There is some background information in the Marvel 101 video above. I haven’t had time to watch it yet and hope to start next weekend. Speakeasy has some information on the series:

Showrunner and writer Cheo Hodari Coker (“Ray Donovan,” “Southland”) talked to Speakeasy about the show and shared some key details that will make “Luke Cage” different than “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” its Marvel predecessors on Netflix.

It takes place after “Jessica Jones,” but it’s all about Luke’s perspective.

The super-strong, nearly indestructible Luke Cage showed up as a butt-kicker and love interest during the first season of “Jessica Jones,” alongside series star Krysten Ritter. Yet, while “Luke Cage” will build on that foundation, it will be told through his perspective. “It doesn’t take away from the Luke you meet in Jessica Jones, but we’re telling a different story,” Coker says. “At the same time, I’m hoping people who see the show that like Luke from ‘Jessica Jones’ like what we’ve done in expanding the character.”

It aims to be the Tribe Called Quest of superhero shows.

The show’s cast is mostly made up of black actors, but Coker, who is also black, wanted to make sure it’s also representative of black culture, while keeping it relatable to all audiences. “I wanted to show it was possible that it had a deeply African-American context but do it in such a way that people who weren’t necessarily from hip-hop culture, or from black culture, and watch the show feel as though they’re part of the conversation,” he says. Coker points to A Tribe Called Quest’s albums as examples of art that both maintained its integrity within the context of black culture and still registered crossover success.

It draws on all sorts of Marvel Comics traditions.

Coker says Brian Michael Bendis‘s “Alias” comics have inspired the look of this Luke Cage, while much of the character’s origin story on the show comes directly from the 1972 comic “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire” No. 1. The showrunner, though, says a variety of Marvel Comics — from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller‘s Wolverine to X-Men comics in general — helped him develop his skills as a writer and dramatist in the televsion world. He says the issue-by-issue run in a comic book story line works well for TV. “That’s kind of the way you structure the season,” Coker says.

More information at TV Guide for before viewing. This article at TV Guide looks like it will be of interest after viewing.

the-tick

Amazon recently began showing a pilot for The Tick, which started as a comic and was also briefly on television in the past. It has been picked up for to start as a series in 2017.  CBR,com interviewed creator Ben Edlund:

CBR News: Ben, the new “Tick” pilot is something of an outlier as it’s rare for creator-owned comics to get a second big media adaptation let alone a third one. And I know this particular project took a long time to come together and had many twists and turns along the way. What was it like for you to go through that process of bringing the character to TV over a decade since the last go round?

Ben Edlund: It was, I would say, some of the scarier work I’ve done recently. [Laughs] This is a very specific character for me. I have a lifelong relationship with this creature, and so to engage with another expression of it and take the chances of messing it up or what have you, it makes you feel like it’d be pretty nice to just let it sit there. This is something I take very seriously, and I didn’t want to do this if it didn’t have a new reason for being and if it wasn’t something that wasn’t its own new thing on top of being another respectful chapter in the existence of this blue creature.

So that put the stakes up pretty high for me. And working with Amazon, we kind of started in a place that was quite distant from where we ended up. There was a lot of growth over the drafts we did, and I had to take time to figure out how to engineer a superhero live-action comedy in a way that would not be immediately ephemeral. It had to be something you could care about. So it was a very daunting bit of work for me.

I was very much the beneficiary of the 13 years I’ve spent working in live-action television. When I first did this, I had no experience other than some film school experience and cartoon experience. Now I’ve been doing this for a long time and working almost exclusively in this hybrid between drama and comedy. That started with “Firefly” and “Angel,” but with “Supernatural” and even “Gotham” and “Powers” – all of them incorporate elements of other things. That’s been a craft I’ve been drawing from and trying to learn about because I did actually feel like eventually it would be appropriate to look at Tick again and try to do something new with it.

And I didn’t know where that would be or when it would take shape. I didn’t even initiate the first ripple that led to this series. That was actually Patrick Warburton and Barry Josephson and others. It just kind of encompassed me, and it was time. It was ready to happen again. So when they came to me and asked if how I could conceive of it being doable in live-action, it took a long time to get my head around it.

Aside from your place as the creator coming back to his creation, the really interesting thing about the new Tick is that the superhero media landscape is vastly different than it was 15 years ago. For a long time, comics was the landscape where you could do anything and get deeper and weirder, while TV was much more restrictive. Now mass superhero media is bigger and weirder than it’s ever been. How has that changed your approach?

I think #1 right now is we’re at a point of superhero saturation. No one could have predicted how comprehensive it would be and how pervasive it would be. And so the level of education per capita [that the audience has] on the minutia of a superhero universe offers a lot more latitude in terms of joke material – because there’s just more to reference. That’s one part of it. The other part is that we’re the beneficiaries of technology. Big effects are a lot more achievable now, and so our vision is wider. That’s a great tool to have.

But I think the thing that’s most intriguing and interesting is that the whole complexion of television has changed. It’s gone from where we sort of anti-serialized stories and promoted the stand-alone ones to where things are completely engaged with the experience of serialization. People want that from these “binge vehicles.” What they want is a novel in televised form which is shaped and conceived as novels are. Those are not things that are free jazz improvisations as a general rule. They’re stories. It’s a demand that’s increasing with our appetite, and I’m happy about that because that’s the thing I want to do. I don’t want it to just be jokes. And nobody else wants that either, which is weird. The conventional wisdom of almost any other era of television was that we’d reduce things to just jokes. But this is a very different organism, and I’m intrigued by the experiment.

american-gods

Nerdist has a video report providing information on the television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. Screenrant summarized some of the key points,  including:

Nerdist News went deep with the cast and crew of American Gods and discovered that the series will follow a path somewhat different from the novel that inspired it. Far from being a true diverging, however, Nerdist reports that the series will not only cull from the near 600-page edition of Gaiman’s text, but also from the author’s character and plot notes, many of which either didn’t make it in, or were merely alluded, to in the novel.

According to Nerdist, much of the expanded story will follow the tales of how the Old Gods came to dwell on American soil. While the novel does tell the stories of how gods like Kristin Chenowith’s Easter and Orlando Jones’ Mr. Nancy left their original homes for our shores, the series is expected to dive even deeper into these character backstories to create a richer, more full universe.

Considering how well Bryan Fuller re-imagined the Hannibal books and movies, I am optimistic he will do a good job with American Gods, especially he will be working with ideas also created by Neil Gaiman.

NBC has picked up This is US for a full eighteen-episode season.

FX reports that The Strain will conclude with season four. FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a fourth season.

There reportedly will be a  a superhero character appearing in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special.

DigitalSpy held a contest in which David Tennant’s 10th Doctor was voted the best TV character of the 21st century

ScreenRant has some videos to introduce the Doctor Who spinoff Class.

 

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SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; X-Files; Orphan Black; Jennifer Lawrence on Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton on SNL

Continuum s04e04

Zero Hour, the fourth episode of the final season of Continuum, was by far the most significant episode so far this season. After my teasers last week, I will go ahead with a more detailed discussion now that it has aired in the United States. The episode answered some questions going back to the first season, while suggesting where the final episodes are headed. I suspect that a lot was crammed into this episode due to the cancellation of the series and need to compress everything planned into only six episodes. Considering these limitation, they did an excellent job of providing a tremendous amount of information while keeping the story flowing well.

The Traveler was introduced last season and I suspect that little more has been done with the character due to the limited time left. The episode revealed both the role of The Traveler and how Curtis was bought back. The Traveler had apparently meddled in time, causing his future timeline to be eliminated. In some ways The Traveler is much like Kiera, trying to find a way back their own timeline.

The question of whether Kiera can go back to her timeline has not only been raised by fans over the course of the season, but even characters on the show have suggested to her that she cannot go home because her future no longer exists. Knowing about The Traveler provides contradictory arguments. On the on hand, if even the Traveler is having trouble making things right, wouldn’t this suggest that there is nothing which can be done for Kiera unless the timeline is fixed?

This matter changed entirely when The Traveler created a paradox during this episode in which both young and old Alec met together.  The original timeline with old Alec must still exist in some form in order for this meeting to occur. While the Freelancers worked to stop time travelers like Liber8 and Kiera, by arranging this meeting it appears that The Traveler was now working to ensure that they were sent back in time by old Alec. Even if he previously objected to meddling in time by others, does this now mean that the presence of the time travelers is necessary for The Traveler to fix the timeline? The contradiction might be another effect of having to speed up the ending of the show. If there was more time, it might have been possible to provide an explanation for The Traveler appearing to change his agenda.

At this meeting we learned that old Alec was considering sending the prisoners from Liber8 back in time but had not yet decided, or put any plan into effect yet. It was young Alec who actually encouraged his older self to proceed. This also excludes the possibility of a single timeline in which this always happened, and old Alec was sending people back in time with memories of having encountered Kiera and Liber8 when young (although this theory had already been contradicted by other events on the show).

Another question raised previously came up when old Alec recognized Kiera’s name in an early flash forward scene taking place before they were sent back in time. We now know that old Alec recognized her name not because sending her was part of his original plan, but because young Alec mentioned Kiera.

Continuum Zero Hour

When Alec lost Emily in season two, he wound up going back in time to try to save her, causing the destruction of an entire timeline. This time when Emily left him, his actions were not as destructive. After Alec demanded it, Jason took Alec to see his mother (and Alec’s future wife) Annie, but said she had died in Jason’s past. Alec received a different explanation from his future self, who said Annie committed suicide to get away from the monster he became. Young Alec could prevent this by staying away from Annie. I wonder if instead Alec will decide he can still meet Annie, and could change her fate by not becoming that monster. This might also be a storyline which would have a better chance of playing out if there were more episodes left.

In this episode both viewers and Kellogg learned what the Time Marines were up to, and learned he better not trust his future self. As expected, they are building a time portal which more people from the future could use to escape. This includes relatives of Brad, if we can trust Zhorin–a big if. Brad thought the relatives were already dead but Zhorin stated they were on the list to come back. Maybe Brad was mistaken about their deaths, maybe Zhorin is lying, or maybe when Brad came back in time, his actions changed the timeline which led to his relatives not being killed as he remembered. This does complicate any decisions by Brad as to which side to take.

Things are more ominous for Kellogg. Vasquez revealed that future Kellogg has renal failure, which can be cured. Presumably the cure is the transplantation of one or both of young Kellogg’s kidneys. It has already been established that time travel on Continuum is not like time travel in the movie version of 12 Monkeys. The removal of younger Kellogg’s kidneys will not cause them to disappear in old Kellogg, and the death of young Kellogg will not affect old Kellogg. Continuum has always been a show with changing alliances, and this discovery led Kellogg to reach out to Kiera to join forces.

The other question about alliances involves Dillon, who has qualms about acts he is being asked to perform as the new security chief for Piron. Will this lead to him changing sides again, and what exactly would this mean should Kellogg and Kiera wind up on the same side?

I will avoid any spoilers on episode 5, The Desperate Hour but the name does fit the episode. There are not the same sort of major revelations as in Zero Hour, but there are major advances seen in the storyline based upon what we learned the previous week, and  some of the questions I raised above are at least partially answered.

Doctor Who Under-the-Lake-1

Under The Lake is reminiscent of older Doctor Who stories featuring a monster of the week, except that it is a two-part story with a real cliffhanger. The full story, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse,  cannot be judged yet, but like the first two episodes of this season was enjoyable regardless of whether the full plot ultimately holds up well.

As is usual with many episodes of Doctor Who, it is all the little moments  which make the episode enjoyable. After leaving a planet which has been celebrating New Year’s for two centuries (I’m not sure if this is fun or a real horror), the TARDIS brought the Doctor and Clara to an  underwater mining facility in Scotland of 2119 where there appear to be real ghosts. The ghosts disturb the TARDIS, and the Doctor wonders why the TARDIS brought them here. This reminds us of The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman, in which the TARDIS said that while she didn’t always take the Doctor where he wanted to go, she always took him to where he needed to be.

The Doctor saved time by not having to earn the trust of those on the mining facility by saying he was with UNIT. He did continue to have other problems relating with humans, which have been present since his last regeneration. Clara tried to help him by writing out index cards with things for the Doctor to say in certain circumstances, but his delivery was a problem. Some examples:

“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”

“No one is going to get eaten slash vaporized slash exterminated slash upgraded slash possessed slash  mortally wounded slash turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”

Well, not everybody got out of this unharmed. It was obvious from the moment we met him that Pritchard, the  corporate lackey who was looking for ways to  profit from the situation, would be one of the first to die.

The index cards also did not prevent the Doctor from saying other things which some might be offensive, even if viewers might have sympathized with the first of these two examples:

“So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”

“Surely just being around me makes you cleverer by osmosis”

The episode did address the question of why characters stick around when it is getting dangerous by giving reasons why they couldn’t leave. Before it turned out they could not leave, their options were considered: “You can stay and do the whole Cabin In The Woods thing…”

The episode had a couple of things in common with the initial two parter of the season, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witches Familiar. Both raised the prospect of the death of the Doctor–in this case seen in the ghost Doctor at the end of the episode. Both also used going back in time as a plot point. It certainly makes sense for the Doctor to use the TARDIS to go back into time to change things or find out information when he is in trouble, but this very rarely occurs. I wonder if this is coincidence or a plan to make this season more timey wimey.

Use of time travel does complicate story telling as it then becomes necessary to create reasons why time travel cannot be used. Otherwise the Doctor could go back in time and rescue himself before he ever gets in trouble. There must be rules which are only understandable to Time Lords. The most notable example in recent years were the rules which prevented him from rescuing Amy and Rory after the Weeping Angels sent them back in time in The Angels Take Manhattan.

In other Doctor Who news, a young adult spin off to Doctor Who taking place in Coal Hill School, entitled Class, has been announced.

Agents of SHIELD Simmons Planet

Agents of SHIELD was off to a good start this season, turning to concentrating on the Inhumans. There were also references to other aspects of the Marvel universe. Bobbi both mentioned when”Sokavia fell out of the sky” in Age of Ultron and used her PhD which was established in the comics. Coulson mentioned Pym Technologies from Ant-Man. In a recent interview, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige did also say that events on television shows such as Daredevil  will be mentioned in the movies. This is in line with the usual Disney synergy between its various products as television shows, movies, theme parks, and merchandise all help sell each other.

The biggest surprise of the season premiere was to find that Simmons is now on another planet. Jed Whedon discussed this with Entertainment Weekly:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time in revealing exactly where Simmons is during Tuesday’s season premiere — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be reuniting with the team anytime soon.

Missing in action for most of the premiere, Simmons was finally revealed to be in the desert … on another planet, that is, and definitely not in our solar system. “It can’t be because of the terrain and what you see,” executive producer Jed Whedon tells EW. “There’s very few planets that have that configuration that she would not be dead if she were there.”

During the season 2 finale, the recently discovered Kree monolith suddenly turned into liquid form, absorbing Simmons before reforming as if nothing ever happened — causing S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to spend the summer pondering what happened to the intrepid scientist. “It was so cool,” Elizabeth Henstridge says of her first reaction to the planet reveal. “I hadn’t thought of that. Everything that happens, I hadn’t thought of that as an option.”

Because she’s been stranded there for six months, executive producer Jeffrey Bell says this is a “profoundly different” Simmons than the one we last saw in the finale. “She’s definitely still her essence — she doesn’t just completely change,” Henstridge says. “But she’s been through so much. She’s hardened. She’s had to face things that she never would’ve imagined, also by herself without Fitz [Iain de Caestecker], so she’s definitely changed, stronger and kind of damaged.”

Finding out how Simmons landed in a galaxy far, far away won’t be revealed right away, though. “There will be some breadcrumbs, and then at some point we will fully explore what’s happened to her in a way that is maybe the craziest thing we’ve done,” Bell says. “We’ve very excited. It’s a different kind of episode for us — to give Elizabeth and Simmons the chance to really show what she went through seems really cool.”

The interview also notes that Simmons is running from something suggesting “She thinks she’s not alone.” There will be more on the planet in future episodes.


The above trailer was released last week for the six episode revival of The X-Files.

The BBC has started filming on season 4 of Orphan Black and have released this summary:

Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

Returning this season is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s battle-worn foster brother Felix; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Sarah and Felix’s foster mother Mrs. S; Kristian Bruun as Donnie, Alison’s partner-in-crime and husband; Kevin Hanchard as Art, Beth’s detective partner who’s torn between his job and his loyalty to the clones; Skyler Wexler as Sarah’s long-suffering daughter Kira; Ari Millen as a mysterious new Castor clone, the likes of which we’ve never seen before; and Josh Vokey as Scott, Cosima’s lab partner. Also returning this season is James Frain as Ferdinand, an intimidating “cleaner” for shadowy organization, Topside; Allison Steadman as Kendall Malone, “the original”; and Rosemary Dunsmore as Susan Duncan, Rachel’s adoptive mother and one of the leading scientists of Project Leda. Joining the Orphan Black cast this season is Joel Thomas Hynes as Dizzy, an edgy, self-reliant hacker who doesn’t conform to group mentality. Additional casting for the series will be announced in the coming weeks.

Jennifer Lawrence warns that if Donald Trump becomes president, “that will be the end of the world.”

It seems Jennifer Lawrence’s thoughts on Donald Trump echo Katniss Everdeen’s feelings toward President Snow. For the uninitiated, that means she’s not a fan. During a lively conversation with the three leads of the final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay — Part 2, the Republican presidential candidate became the topic of conversation.

“If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” says Lawrence.

Her co-star Liam Hemsworth feels the same: “I’ll back you up on that,” he adds.

Josh Hutcherson, the third lead in the massive franchise, can’t quite believe Trump’s run for the presidency is legitimate. “It’s a publicity stunt,” he says. “It can’t be real.”

Lawrence doesn’t seem quite sure of his validity either. “I genuinely believe that reality television has reached the ultimate place where now even things like this might just be for entertainment,” she says. “It’s either that or it’s Hillary’s brilliant idea.”

Hillary Clinton appeared on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live opposite Kate McKinnon, doing her Clinton impersonation. The skit made fun of Clinton’s delay in supporting gay rights ( “I could’ve supported it sooner”), and Hillary did an impersonation of Donald Trump.

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

Person of Interest Simulations

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

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

Reese: “Coolly delivered sadistic warning.”

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

Root: “Funny, yet insightful retort.”

Finch: “Mildly agitated declaration of mission completion.”

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

Person of Interest Shaw Kiss Root

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

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

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

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

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

Person of Interest Root Elevator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flash-TV-Reverse-Flash-Theories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Carter Poster

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

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

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

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

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

Mad Men Bar

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

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

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

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

neil-gaiman-trigger-warning

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

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

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

American cartoonist Robert Crumb gives a

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hugo and Emmy Awards; Tony Soprano’s Fate; Next Season on Arrow and Fargo; Finales of Falling Skies, True Blood, Defiance, and The Last Ship; Karen Gillan’s Hair; Rebooting Fox Genre Shows; Libby Masters vs. Betty Draper; American Gods; Jennifer Lawrence, and much more

Doctor-Who--Into-the-Dalek

Peter Capaldi’s second episode of Doctor Who was much better than the first. Into the Dalek was literally about going into a Dalek, Fantastic Voyage style. Once the reference was made, and we saw antibodies within the Dalek (for an unclear reason), I was surprised that Steven Moffat didn’t take the opportunity to recreate the attack of antibodies on Rachel Welch’s body with Jenna Coleman. Despite the Doctor’s strange criticism of Clara’s body at one  point in the episode, Clara did serve an important role as the Doctor’s moral compass, which was disrupted by the shock of seeing a good Dalek. The episode also served as the introduction of the next companion, and romantic interest for Clara, Danny Pink. There is no doubt that Clara and Danny will overcome the Doctor’s newfound objection to having a soldier join him, which certainly contradicts all the time he spent with UNIT.

While I knew the phrase was coming from advanced review, I was surprised by the context in which Resistance is Futile was used by the Dalek. There are certainly many comparisons to be made to the Borg, and I think Doctor Who did a better job than Star Trek The Next Generation with an episode about a good Dalek or Borg. Into the Dalek was a strong stand-alone episode, and now there is no doubt that Missy and “Heaven” will be a recurring storyline for the season. This time, instead of the person who the Doctor was fighting (and possibly pushed to his death), it was someone fighting with the Doctor who was seen in “Heaven.” My suspicion is that this will turn out to be something such as Missy saving people just before imminent death who are in the vicinity of the Doctor as opposed to actual “Heaven,” but even if I am right on this a lot of questions remain.

Doctor Who Extra (video above) gives behind the scenes information on the filming of Into The Dalek.

There have been two major sets of awards in the past couple of weeks, the Hugo Awards and the Emmy Awards. Doctor Who had five nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) but an episode of Game of Thrones won the award:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

Gravity won for long form among these nominees:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
  • Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

The full list of nominees can be found here, with the winners listed here.

While the Emmy Awards generally goes with the safe bet, such as repeatedly giving the award for best comedy to Modern Family, there is at least some realization that genre is ignored. While Tatiana Maslany was snubbed for a second year for her work on Orphan Black, the snub was at least acknowledged in a skit. They finally discovered Sherlock, even if it meant awarding Emmys for the weakest of its three seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to see Steven Moffat up on stage, and he also provided some vague hints about season four in post-award interviews:

Sherlock was a big winner at the 66th Primetime Emmys, taking home three awards (to go with the four the show earned at last week’s Creative Arts ceremony), including trophies for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

In celebrating his win for writing for a miniseries/movie or dramatic special, executive producer Steven Moffat dropped some hints backstage about the British drama’s anticipated fourth season, which begins production in January 2015 — the same time Doctor Who will also start filming.

Moffat was confident that the new season would be even more gasp-inducing than the previous year, which ended with an unexpected resurrection of a character presumed dead.

“We have a plan to top it — and actually I do think our plan is devastating,” he teased. “We practically reduced our cast to tears by telling them the plan. Honestly, Mark [Gatiss] and myself are so excited with what we’ve got coming up, probably more excited than we’ve ever been about Sherlock. … Honestly I think we can [top the last season].”

Moffat spoke of the surge of Emmy recognition the show has received in its third year.

“We’ve won outside of America, which is a place,” Moffat deadpanned. “We were just starting to think that that phase of our lives was dying down because as shows get older they don’t win as often — just like people. We’re delighted that we’ve made it here and hopefully this gets more people watching. That’d be great.”

He remained mum on when the new episodes would be premiering. “When they go out is up to the BBC,” he said. “And I am their loyal servant. I simply do what they ask me.”

Moffat reassured that the creative team behind the show will continue returning to Sherlock, no matter how busy they may be with other projects. “What’s happening with Sherlock is unusual,” he admitted. “We will keep coming back to it.”

sopranos2

I am thankful to Vox for finally settling in my mind how The Sopranos ended, even if they totally botched the story. When the finale first aired, after I realized that my cable hadn’t gone out, I interpreted it as an intentionally ambiguous ending. Sure, going to black could be what happens to Tony if shot, but I didn’t accept this interpretation as the scene was not from Tony’s perspective. The scene concentrated on many things Tony did not see, from the actions of others in in the coffee shop to Meadow attempting to park the car outside. If I wanted to think that they finished the meal and then Tony showed Meadow how to parallel park, this interpretation was as valid as any other. I saw the real meaning as that Tony would always face threats to his life. One of the people in the coffee shop might have shot him, or he could have been suddenly killed at some other time in the future. There was even a chance he could remain alive despite all the threats.

I was satisfied with this interpretation until I heard a report that David Chase had said that there was a definitive meaning to the finale. Perhaps, as happened again this week, the person reporting put too much meaning into what he said during an interview. However, if there was an answer to the question as to whether Tony Soprano lived in the ending, then I could only see this as meaning I was wrong. If limited to Tony living or dying, I thought it would be easier to making an argument that the ending meant that Tony had died.

Then Vox had an interview with David Chase last week in which it reported that Chase said that Tony had lived. I actually found this to be very unsatisfying as it lacked any further explanation. Soon afterwards, David Chase issued a statement that what he said in the interview was misconstrued:

A statement issued by Mr. Chase’s publicist, Leslee Dart, said that the Vox.com writer “misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview.”

“To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate,” the statement continued. “There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.”

The statement added that Mr. Chase had said “numerous times on the record” that answering the question of whether “Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.”

“To continue to search for this answer is fruitless,” the statement said. “The final scene of ‘The Sopranos’ raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

This leaves me comfortable in returning to my original interpretation, more confident than in the past that I’m just not in denial over a scene intended to show Tony Soprano as getting killed.

The new promo for season three of Arrow above will make Oliver/Felicity fans happy. A digital comic will fill the gap between the second and third seasons.

Fargo season two will concentrate on strong women characters.

Falling Skies showrunner David Eick answered questions on the season four finale.

The series finale of True Blood really isn’t worth talking about. It is a shame that they couldn’t put together something more meaningful to end the series with.

The writers on Defiance did try harder. They used a formula which often works in combining elements of a season-long story in each individual stand-alone stories. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well. It just didn’t work for me to have an alien girl being used by a supercomputer intelligence to destroy New York City and the rest of the planet, and then end the crisis by having her kiss a boy who was a minor character during the season. When the show runners previously talked about expanding the show to New York and space I expected something more sensible, and more than a quick scene at the end of the season.

I was more impressed with The Last Ship. While not an A-list, must-see show, they did a good job of keeping the show entertaining. When I heard that they had renewed the show for a second season, my immediate impression was that this would mean they would not find a cure no matter how many episodes gave them a lead. I am glad I was wrong on that. If the first few episodes reminded me of Battlestar Galactica at sea, the return home to a country destroyed by plague now makes me see the show more like Revolution or Jericho (hopefully doing a better job than Revolution). So far there is nothing ground breaking. Who didn’t see the remnants of the Unites States government as being the enemy and realize they were walking into a trap? Still the show does provide solid entertainment.

Last week’s episode made my happy I stuck with The Leftovers. The episode was a flashback which explained key points, such as why a family which did not appear to have lost anyone was affected so much by the rapture-like event.

Karen Gillan filmed the shaving of her hair for Guardians of the Galaxy (video above)

Joe and Anthony Russo will be directing the sixth season premiere of Community. The Russo brothers are also working on Captain America and say the third movie will be more like Winter Soldier than the first installment (which is a good thing).

What Culture gives five reasons Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For was a huge flop.

The video above provides a synopsis of last season of Person of Interest.

I’m not sure why, but Fox plans to reboot The Greatest American Hero. Amazon plans to return Patrick Warburton as The Tick. Fox provides plenty of material for anyone who desires to bring back a genre show canceled on the network. How about Firefly? I also wouldn’t mind seeing what happened after the cliff hanger on the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Scribbler includes several genre actresses including Katie Cassidy of Arrow. Trailer above (NSFW–contains nudity)

…it’s a comic book adaptation that stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Imperioli and Billy Campbell, which is to say director John Suits has compiled an ensemble filled of “been there, done that” names, but they are recognizable names at least.

The film follows Suki (Cassidy), a young woman confronting her destructive mental illness using “The Siamese Burn,” an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. The closer Suki comes to being “cured,” she’s haunted by a thought… what if the last unwanted identity turns out to be her?

Speaking of nudity by genre actresses, there has been more interest this week in the nude picture I posted of Jennifer Lawrence last year. That was a picture of her in her role as Mystique which was used as a publicity photo, and distribution of that is far different from hacking her phone or iCloud account, among with pictures of several other actresses, to obtain nude pictures which were privately stored with expectations that they remain private. As Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesperson said, “This is a flagrant violation of privacy.”

Bryan Fuller has ambitious plans for his adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Syfy has not renewed the Wil Wheaton Project. No big loss.

Assignment X has an interview with Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Libby Masters on Masters of Sex. I’ve always been impressed with FitzGerald, who has done a lot of work in indy films. In her role as a late 50’s housewife she faces many of the same problems as Betty Draper on Mad Men. I wonder how much better Betty Draper’s role could have been if cast with someone with FitzGerald’s talent as opposed to January Jones. On the other hand, perhaps a less talented but more beautiful model is exactly who Don Draper would have married.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand provides a model for how the world should be for many libertarians. Wendy McElroy, who has strong libertarian credentials, found that the real world attempt at making Galt’s Gulch hasn’t worked out very well.