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

Shield Go Dark

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

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

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

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

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

Person of Interest s04e01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under the Dome Season 2 Finale

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

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

Doctor Who The Caretaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrow Oliver and Felicity

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

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

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

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

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

Syfy has renewed both Defiance and Dominion.

CaptainKirkShatner_1

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

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

If Ayn Rand wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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SciFi Weekend: 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.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; Person of Interest; The Blacklist; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Revenge; Alison Brie; Emelia Clarke; Porn Stars in Game of Thrones; Billie Piper; Nebula and BAFTA Award Winners

Hannibal Mason Face

The penultimate episode of Hannibal for the season, Tome-wan, wrapped up the current Mason Verger storyline and set the stage for next week’s confrontation between Jack and Hannibal, already shown in the season premiere. The scene in which a drugged Mason Verger was feeding his own face to Will’s dogs was among the more gruesome of the series. The episode also included fantasies of Hannibal being fed to Mason’s pigs.

Last week we learned that Will was working with Jack and was not really a murderer under Hannibal’s spell. This week they walked this back a bit, leaving Jack not entirely clear as to whose side Will was really on. I suspect that Will is still interested in helping take Hannibal down, but is not above keeping things from Jack, and was willing to work with Hannibal to see Mason Verger receive the punishment he felt he deserved after what he did to Margot. I also wonder if questions over Will’s loyalties leads to Jack setting himself up as bait and is the reason the two wind up fighting, as opposed to an organized FBI arrest.

The episode also included the brief return of Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. Gillian Anderson managed to come in for six hour for filming between plains concluding Crisis and leaving to begin filming on The Fall. As a consequence, it was necessary to only briefly have her tell about her back story in which Hannibal persuaded her to kill a patient (partially in self-defense) as opposed to actually showing this, and it appears she has a much smaller role in the final take down of Hannibal than I previously predicted. While I wish we could see more of her on Hannibal, it was good news that she was finally going to film the second season of The Fall.

Fortunately Hannibal has been renewed for a third season and it won’t be necessary to shop the show around to other networks which might consider it, such as the Food Network.

Bryan Fuller discussed the conclusion of the Mason Verger storyline for this season, and the motivations of the characters involved:

Let’s talk about Mason’s drug trip. How was that conceived?
Fuller: 
It was directed by Michael Rymer, and it was fascinating to sit down and figure out how we were going to film this enhanced state of mind. Michael Pitt’s performance is so infectiously fun. I find it immensely enjoyable and very f—ed up in a thoroughly giddy way. I think the thing that Michael Rymer brought to the scene was a similar infectious sense of fun. He wanted it to be a carnival of sorts. He wanted to light sparklers in the room to create the things your retinas do when you’re under that much chemical oppression. He was the right guy to bring the drug trip to life and has the humor to make sure it is as fun onscreen as it can be.

Mason certainly seemed to be enjoying himself even though he was cutting off his own face!
Fuller:
 [Laughs] Michael Pitt was having the time of his life with this performance. And there’s something between Hannibal and Will in that moment that is very playful, which is perhaps a strange word to use in that context. But there’s a gamesmanship afoot because Hannibal essentially says, “I got him to cut off his face. Your turn.”

However, Will needs Hannibal to commit this murder so they can arrest him, but Hannibal only breaks Mason’s neck. Is Hannibal on to Will or is he keeping Mason alive because of Margot’s financial dilemma?
Fuller:
  Hannibal’s response is all of those things. It’s a gesture toward Margot to give her some control in her life. And also, he doesn’t kill him completely because, as he has said and will say again to Margot, the best therapy for her is to kill her brother.

And I assume Mason doesn’t tell Jack the truth because he too has some of his own twisted plans for Hannibal.
Fuller:
 Mason does not want Jack Crawford to deliver justice to Hannibal. He wants to deliver justice his own way. This is all now a very particular game for Mason, which I am hoping to explore much more of in Season 3. Episode 12 completes the Verger arc for Season 2 and sets up the Verger arc for Season 3.

Orphan Black Sarah Helena

Ipsa Scientia Potestas provided more information on the development of the clones and, as usual for an episode of Orphan Black, raised more questions than it answered. Rachel joined characters on shows including Agents of SHIELD, Revenge, and The Blacklist with presumed dead fathers who are or might be alive. We found that Rachel has a monitor just like the other clones, but she is in a special position giving her more power. Paul, after not being seen much this season, has become more important after Rachel chose him to replace Daniel as her monitor, among other things. While Orphan Black doesn’t compete with Game of Thrones in terms of rape scenes, the scene in which she forced Paul into having sex with her will remain one of the more memorable scenes of the series. Paul does now have three notches in his clone belt. I’m hoping they manage to find a way to get him involved with Alison next (who was totally absent from this week’s episode). Paul’s motivations remain unclear as he is being blackmailed into cooperating. This week he went along with the plan to frame Felix for murder in order to gain control over Sarah but in future episodes it would not be surprising to see him help Sarah against Rachel if the opportunity were to present itself.

You can never be certain as to which side a character is on. Helena has been transformed from crazy murder to crazy murderer who does care about her twin sister Sarah. Leekie looks far more like an ally for the Clone Club, even being at odds with Rachel over some matters, compared to last season. I suspect that he intentionally sent Delphine the email on the stem cell tests to help Cosima, contrary to Rachel’s view of Cosima as expendable. It has become clear that, as suspected, Cal is hiding something after we saw his stash of weapons, cash, and fake ID. However, for the moment I trust Kira’s intuition and if she trusts him I will assume for now that he can turn out to be helpful to Sarah.

On the other hand, the Proletheans are clearly evil. If there was any doubt, this was eliminated when they sewed Gracie’s mouth closed for telling a lie. Now it looks like Gracie will become the surrogate mother following Helena’s escape.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Bruce Dylan (Paul) about his character’s motivations and the sex scene with Rachel:

The episode’s big “wow” moment was Rachel and Paul’s sex scene.

When I read it on the page, I had never seen anything like this on television before. It’s amazing how quickly Tatiana [Maslany] jumps into all these different characters and how immersed she is in each character she’s playing. Our director for this last episode, Helen Shaver, she’s very good in the realm of sexuality. She knows how to bring the sexy out of her actors. A lot of the moving parts in that scene were added by her. It’s almost like Rachel’s inspecting Paul like he’s a derby horse — looking at his teeth, making sure that he’s clean and worthy of her. It seems like she has a lot of suppressed sexual energy and very kinky as well. I was anticipating that they’d have whips and chains in the room. (Laughs.) I called her Fifty Shadesof Rachel. I thought she would have some sort of sex room with a swing or something. That scene was absolutely brilliant. It’s very sexy on a completely different level than other sex scenes that I’ve seen on television. It’s weird and sexy at the same time.

How is Paul adjusting to his new role as Rachel’s monitor? Will he be taking advantage of his current position?

He’s in a situation right now where it’s definitely to his advantage. The fact that Daniel is out of the picture, Paul’s not a disposable asset anymore. Now he can become a usable force. That helps him out and helps him progress his own cause. It seems like he’s being blackmailed into doing this, but there is something much bigger that this guy is involved with. That’s about all I can say about that. He would want nothing more than to burn the Dyad corporation to the ground, I think.

There’s an interesting power struggle between Dr. Leekie and Rachel and Paul’s stuck in the middle of it. Out of the two, who does he have more allegiance to?

Neither. This is another great thing for him. He can answer to two masters. That allows him to play both of them at the same time, but it’s a slippery slope. He has to walk that tightrope between the two of them. It’s almost like he’s waiting to see who comes out on top. He’s maintaining that guise where he’s tied to both of them, but in reality, his allegiance is going to lie with the one who wins in the end. He’s not going to pick a losing team, that’s for sure.

Speaking more specifically about the Felix matter. Does Paul have any ounce of guilt over putting him in jail?

When I read [the scene], I thought “Oh my god, this is going to be really hard to play with Jordan [Gavaris]” because I love Jordan so much and I love the character of Felix. The way I was playing it, I was trying to show the least amount of emotion because Paul’s a pretty stoic character. [Paul] was not pleased at all with having to do what he had to do. That was a necessity to do that. When he takes the gun out of the bag and Felix is like “What are you doing Paul?” it was more like an air of disappointment. If Paul didn’t do it, [Rachel] would have gotten rid of him herself.

It was dropped in that Paul has slept with three clones: Beth, Sarah and now Rachel. Is that notable?

When he slept with Beth, he was blackmailed into being her monitor and her boyfriend, or he could have faced military trial or the death sentence or life in prison or who knows what. When he slept with Sarah, she initiated the intimacy and now he sleeps with Rachel, she again initiates the intimacy. So he’s definitely not a prude but he’s definitely not the aggressor in the situation. (Laughs.) I don’t know how much you can say “Paul gets around” because it seems these clones are the aggressor in these situations. It’s so empowering because we have a brilliant female lead and all these brilliant female characters, it’s almost like a role reversal.

You’ve hinted several times that Paul has an agenda. How soon before what he’s been plotting is revealed?

You’ll find out this season tidbits, just snippets of it. That will [lead] to the next season. He’s very mysterious, isn’t he?

Another interview with Bruce Dylan at TV Line gave more evidence of Tatiana Maslany’s acting talents:

TVLINE | What was it like to film that scene? You’ve worked with Tatiana [Maslany] before, but it was as Sarah. Now you’re working with her as Rachel, and she’s this completely different animal.
You’re absolutely right. We all know how brilliant Tatiana is and how great she is. But when she is in these characters, she is firmly immersed in that character. You don’t feel as an actor, acting opposite of her, that she’s Tatiana playing a different character. She is Rachel. She is Sarah. It’s very easy to act opposite her because she is 100 percent into her character at that time. It’s a wonderful thing for an actor to do, because she’s so easy to react off and she’s so spontaneous.

That scene, how it was written on the page was actually different than how we performed it. Our director, Helen Shaver, she’s wonderful and she’s very good at bringing the sexy out of her actors with wonderful notes and directions. There were a lot of moving parts to that scene that she added in for both Tatiana and me. It made the scene a lot creepier than how it was on the page. And it made it a lot steamier at the same time. I’ve never seen a scene like that on television before.

TVLINE | Is it bizarre having love scenes with the same actress, but as two different characters?
She’s so good – that’s the first time anybody’s asked me that question, which is amazing – that has never once entered my mind. She is so into that character, it’s so easy to differentiate between the two. I don’t feel like it’s Tatiana playing a character. I actually feel like “Oh, this is really a person. [Laughs] This is really Rachel.” It wasn’t hard at all.

While Tatiana Maslany deserves most of the credit for making each clone seem like a distinct character, she does get some help. Yahoo interviewed the makeup and hair stylists for Orphan Black who explained how they make each clone seem different. Rachel takes the longest, and they use the most expensive cosmetics on her. As I had expected, it is intentional that Helena’s dark roots show despite her bleached hair.

Deus Ex Machina

There were several season finales last week. Person of Interest has totally changed the character of the show. Instead of achieving a true victory, Root had to settle for creating seven blind spots in Samaritan for herself, Shaw, Reese, Finch, and the three tech nerds. They had to separate, but Samaritan could not identify them. Presumably some of them will find a way to reunite to work together in some way next season. It is more questionable if they will continue to have episodes based upon a number of the week received from the Machine. Carter was already killed off last season when the show became less of a police procedural, and there also appears to be less of a role for Fusco. He was at the center of the stories related to HR, but he is not even aware of the existence of the Machine which drove so many of the cases he was involved with.

I wasn’t completely surprised, but was somewhat disappointed, that Vigilance turned out to have been created by Decima to create a false crisis to convince the government to go ahead with Samaritan. Greer might be deceitful, and his actions dangerous, but his motivations are not totally evil. Rather than seeking power for himself, he seems to truly think that it would be a good thing to place a super computer in charge of humanity. At the end, rather than giving Samaritan his orders, he told Samaritan it was about what it commanded. Clearly nothing good could come out of this.

Over the course of the first few seasons of Person of Interest, the real world caught up with the show as we learned about NSA surveillance. Now the show has leaped ahead of where we currently are, enabling it to provide a warning about where we might wind up.

In an interview with IO9, Jonathan Nolan talked about plans for next season and explained why New York is actually a good place to avoid surveillance:

In the first two and a half seasons of the show, New York and the city’s politics were a big part of the narrative. We had HR and the deputy mayor, and Elias and the gangs. Are we ever going to circle back to that? Are we going to get back to the politics of New York in this new surveillance dystopia you’ve created? Is Elias going to be back?

JN: Absolutely. We’ve always — hopefully in a good way — vacillated back and forth between the more metropolitan storyline and the Machine, or kind of global, storyline. Because the great thing about New York is that it’s both. It’s the kind of center of the world, in so many ways. But it’s also its own rich kind of arena. And Finch and Reese and Shaw, and now Root, and Fusco, are going to continue to be inveigled into local politics, and certainly local crime, every bit as much as they have up to this point. The people they’re trying to save every week. That storyline continues. That Machine still spits out numbers. And it’s going to be spitting out even more of them. So we’re doubling down on both fronts. We’ve always taken with, and fascinated by, the idea that within New York City, you have a bounded infinity of stories. So we never want to step away from that. We just want to keep raising the stakes on both levels.

And in this new A.I.-enabled world, whoever rules the big cities like New York has more power, because the big cities are where the infrastructure and the intelligencia are. So it becomes even more of a microcosm of the global power struggle.

JN: Yeah, absolutely. And ironically, New York, which is the most heavily surveiled place in the world, becomes one of the few places in the world to hide from surveillance. There was this awful but fascinating story from three years ago, when we were shooting the pilot in New York. There was a serial killer operating out on Long Island — in fact, I think this was the same one who was dumping his bodies not far from where we were shooting a stunt sequence. And this is awful, but he was making phone calls to some of the victims’ relatives using their cellphones, but doing it from Times Square. Because he or she, or whoever this villain was, understood that Times Square is one of the few places in the whole wide world where you can make a phone call on a cell phone that’s being trace. And when the authorities try to match up that phone call to surveillance footage to see who made the call — and try to match a person to a phone call, essentially — it’s impossible. Times Square is filled with hundreds of thousands of people on any given afternoon, all of whom have a cellphone. So it’s that hiding in plain sight. New York ironically becomes the only place in the world where you can hide from the surveillance state, even while being the very epicenter of it. So for us, the perfect arena for this fight that’s going to take place.

I was less excited by the first season finale of The Blacklist as it essentially reset the show back to where we were, with a new villain. There was little drama in Lizzie saying she would no longer work with Reddington as I had no doubt that she would not hold to that. Besides, why was she so surprised to learn that Red is a monster when he was telling her that he is one all along? The show is entertaining and worth watching due to the terrific job done by James Spader, which more than makes up for the weak job done by Megan Boone. The scenes with Alan Alda are an additional plus, even if it is not clear who exactly he is and why he was able to order that Reddington be allowed to escape in the finale.

ARROW

Arrow had the spectacular comic book ending that was expected, managing to bring back many of the characters seen over the course of the series. They did add some questionable drama to an already difficult situation by having ARGUS threaten to blow up the city to contain Slade’s army. As there were only fifty of them, and Oliver did ultimately get the cure, it would have seemed more reasonable to guard the exits to prevent any from leaving, and then moving in with enough force to overpower them should the cure fail.

Previously when we learned that Oliver had a cure back on the island, there was speculation that Oliver’s decision to kill as opposed to try to cure Slade might have been the real motivation for his vendetta against Oliver. In the flashbacks it was clear that by the time this occurred Slade’s views were already set, and this really was all about Shado.

The cure did work on Roy in the present, leaving him in a situation to work with the Arrow next season. When he had super powers, even before going insane, I had questioned how it could have worked to have the sidekick be more powerful than the lead. This will no longer be a problem. Sarah left with the League of Assassins. She might return, but she also left her leather jacket with Laurel. Is this the first step in her becoming the Black Canary as in the comics? Their father was restored to the rank of Detective, but it is not clear if he will survive into next season.

The flashbacks on the island seemed to have concluded their story, but the episode ended by showing how this will be handled next season. Oliver woke up in Hong Kong to be greeted by Amanda Waller. This could provide for some interesting stories in flashbacks. Eventually we know that Oliver has to wind up alone on the island to be rescued as on the pilot. Perhaps he really became stranded there again, or perhaps this was set up to allow for him to be rescued without any ties to ARGUS.

Felicity has become a huge favorite among fans since she was added to the show during the first season. The two of them tricked Slade, taking advantage of the cameras he hid in the Queen mansion earlier in the season to have him see Oliver say that Felicity is the one he really loves. Both Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have told E! Online that they don’t think this was entirely an act. Of course there is little doubt that they will drag this out for a long time before ever having the two get together.

Agents-of-SHIELD-Season-1-Finale-Coulson-Writing-on-Wall

I was glad that there was no redemption scene for Ward, as many feared would occur in the season finale of Agents of SHIELD. While he couldn’t bring  himself to outright kill Fitz and Simmons last week, like he couldn’t kill the dog he was stranded with, he did leave them in a situation which Fitz may or may not survive from. My bet is that Fritz will survive considering how Coulson and Skye came back after being in even worse shape. Their rescue once they got off the bottom of the ocean was too simple, but I doubt that many viewers cared at that point once distracted by the appearance of Nick Fury. There was no explanation as to where Fury got that medical team.

I wonder where the show will go next season with SHIELD disbanded. Nick Fury did  make Coulson the new head with instructions to restore the organization, but it is not clear how much that really means with Fury no longer having any authority (and presumed dead). At least the group has a new base, already supplied with a new Koenig, played again by Patton Oswalt. Is he a twin or a Life Model Decoy?

Much of the back story about TAHATI has now been explained, but there are still mysteries with Marvel fans tying the alien blood into other areas of the Marvel universe including the Kree and Inhumans. We will have to wait until next season to learn the meaning of what Coulson was drawing. Syke’s back story should also be explored more, especially now that it appears her father is alive.

The Americas s02e12

On The Americans, it is not entirely clear why Larrick is after Jared but he is close to finding him. Most likely he knows that the last tie to Emmet and Leanne will either allow him to find those helping him or be useful bait for those he is really after. Regardless of Larrick’s plans, there is no doubt to Elizabeth and Phillp that Jared is in danger because of his parents, potentially placing their own children in the same type of danger.

It is rare to have a show where the storyline involving secondary characters can be every bit as interesting as when the leads are on screen. This is the case with Stan and Nina. Instead of turning to Stan to save her, we learned that Nina was still working with the Russians to trick Stan into turning over the Echo program. If Nina was smarter, and not currently as loyal to Russia, she might have immediately told Stan that he had to get her elsewhere to hide as opposed to allowing Arkady to put on his show. Contrary to how he initially appeared, Oleg has turned out to be the one most concerned with saving Nina. If Stan doesn’t turn over Echo, it is questionable if the Russians would give her an opportunity to get away with the money which Oleg gave her.

Other characters were very perceptive this week. Henry was right to be concerned about how The Wrath of Kahn would turn out after the first Star Trek movie, but he will learn there was nothing to worry about. Two other characters showed that they aren’t completely fooled. Paige questioned what type of emergency Elizabeth could have as a travel agent requiring her to run out at night. It is hard to believe that she won’t eventually figure out what is going on. Will she accept what her parents are doing as Jared has regarding his parents? Martha figured out that Clark wears a toupee, even if she is foolish enough to turn all those documents over to him. Perhaps she will ultimately take the blame for the documents which Stan gave to Oleg, helping Stan to remain above suspicion.

Revenge

Revenge did a reboot as major as that on Person of Interest. It was about time, as they had dragged out the storyline about Emily seeking revenge on the Graysons for framing her father for far too long. Reducing the number of characters should also help as things have become far too convoluted. It will take a good story to explain how Emily’s father has been alive all these years, and it will be interesting to see her reaction to finding that he is alive. He better have a good explanation for not contacting her before now. E! Online has an answer to the bigger question as to where the show is going next season:

That #Revenge finale was INSANITY! Is the show really going to be Victoria as the revenge-seeker now?
From what we know, yes. Emily will be living in Grayson Manor and Victoria will be the one narrating the show and out for revenge, wanting to take down Emily/Amanda and make her pay for everything she lost. Pretty big game-changer! And by the way, we hear another main character will be written out next season. Perhaps the biggest cast departure yet.

Of course Emily will still have reason to see revenge after the murder of Aiden, and it is hard to imagine a bigger departure than Conrad (assuming he is really dead). More on Revenge at The Hollywood Reporter.

Alison-Brie

There is a huge amount of other news this week regarding renewals, cancellations, and new shows in addition to all the finales. I’ll hold off on news related to next season for another week when there isn’t so much other material to write about and end with just a few briefs.

Unless they manage to revive Community for a sixth season on another network, it appears we will not see more of Alison Brie on television now that it appears that Pete Campbell moved on to California without her on Mad Men. Alison Brie will be staring with others better known for their television roles in an upcoming movie Sleeping With Other People:

Former “SNL” star Jason Sudeikis, “Community’s” Alison Brie and “Parks and Recreation’s” Adam Scott are assembling for the upcoming comedy from Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

Amanda Peet, Jason Mantzoukas and Natasha Lyonne will also star in the film from producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell.

“Sleeping” centers on two chronic cheaters — played by Sudeikis and Brie — who attempt a non-sexual relationship in order to conquer their lustful ways. The press release says it’s “in the vein of ‘When Harry Met Sally’…but with assholes.

Update: Pete Campbell made a trip to New York this week and Alison Brie did appear.

Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones and Nicholas Hoult of X-Men: Days of Future Past  will play Bonnie and Clyde in Go Down Together.

A former porn star writing at The Daily Beast gave some reasons why Game of Thrones might like to use porn stars:

1. A porn star is always willing to take off her clothes and there will never be a nudity clause in her contract.

2. They’ve put in their 10,000 hours and know how to fake passionate sex with the best of ‘em.

3. It’s sad but true: porn stars work cheap! Since nude is their norm, they won’t ask to be paid extra to be naked.

4. In a way that mainstream actresses sometimes fail to capture, porn stars always look very comfortable sitting around nude for the duration of a scene.

5. With all of that skin-on-skin action, things, well, pop up. Porn stars aren’t squeamish about their fellow actors getting aroused. They tend to be very understanding.

billie-piper-penny-dreadful-460x624

In somewhat related news from another premium cable network, former Doctor Who star Billie Piper promises “loads of sex” in Penny Dreadful.

The winners of the 2013 Nebula Award winners have been announced. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie won as best novel. Gravity won the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation. While Gravity beat The Day of the Doctor for this award, the episode of Doctor Who did win a BAFTA Television Award for Radio Times Audience Award (Voted For By Members Of The Public). Broadchurch won a BAFTA as Best Drama. Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson won awards for their roles in The IT Crowd.

Terra Nova was one of many science fiction shows which did not survive long on Fox (including Almost Human this season). Those interested in dinosaurs in the real world as opposed to the fictional world of Terra Nova might be interested in this report on the biggest dinosaur ever.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; The Americans; Agents of SHIELD; Community; Arrow; Continuum

Hannabal s02e11

Ko No Mono is the beginning of the end for Hannibal, now providing a clear path to the scene in the season premier with Jack and Hannibal fighting. Alana Bloom has been terribly under utilized this season but played a key role in this episode. She represented the audience, expressing the same questions I had from the perspective of a character on the show.

Last week’s episode left two possibilities. Either Will had killed Freddie Lounds and Hannibal has succeeded in turning him into a monster, or there is an elaborate scheme to expose and capture Hannibal. My view of the show would be forever changed if it turned out that Will has become like Hannibal and no longer a sympathetic protagonist.  Alana’s question was limited to wondering if Will had killed Freddie, and the answer to that would provide the viewer with the answer to what we were wondering.

It is a common axiom in reviewing genre shows that if there is no body the victim very well might still be alive. Bryan Fuller really played with the audience on that one.  We got funeral, and saw a burning body which could not be confirmed as Freddie’s visually by the audience, but which provided possible confirmation to those aware of her fate in the novels. Of course Fuller has displayed a tendency to take aspects from the novels but alter them or have them occur at different times to keep things interesting. Once Jack “verified” that the body was Freddie’s from dental records it became even more clear that Freddie was dead or there was a very elaborate scheme, which would have to include Jack along with Will, to fake Freddie’s death.

This question was answered with another question, with Freddie asking Alana, “How was my funeral?” Alena seemed so distraught over the situation that it was hard for Jack not to let her in on the secret, but this might be a big mistake. Even assuming that Alana doesn’t intentionally give away the secret, there is too great a risk that Hannibal will sense that something is wrong. Perhaps that is why the season ends in a fight as opposed to a more organized arrest.

The other theme of the episode was parenthood and surrogate parenthood. This included a look back at Abigail, Hannibal’s perception of fathering a new Will who has adopted his views on killing, and sadly Margot’s terminated pregnancy. Mason Verger is turning into the even bigger villain of the season.

Hannibal freddie-lounds1

Bryan Fuller discussed the revelation that Freddie was alive and Margot’s desire for children:

AVC: So the end of this episode reveals that Freddie’s alive. Jack is in on the plan somehow. How cognizant are you of not letting those story points stretch out too long?

BF: We had originally talked about, gosh, how long can we keep Freddie dead? Because we wanted to make sure that the audience felt that she was dead, and that’s why we used the flaming wheelchair. Those who are close to the material know that is how Freddie Lounds goes out, so we wanted to make sure that the audience felt that she was dead, and that the funeral was a real funeral. Also, telling the story through Alana’s eyes as she’s like, “What the hell is going on with everybody?! Everybody’s lost their minds!” and to really feel that kind of mounting panic and dread that she’s experiencing. We felt like to clear the path for episode 12 to really be the final episode with the arc between the triangle of Will, Mason, and Hannibal, we really needed to wrap that up by the end of 11 and put all of our cards on the table at that point. What I think is really fun about using the wheelchair death is it tells the audience that, oh gosh, Freddie very well may be dead, because they used the actual way that she dies. But in a fun way, I loved forecasting the moment between Hannibal Lecter and Francis Dolarhyde in the Red Dragon story where Hannibal Lecter is part of Freddie’s demise and says, “If you’re going to kill Freddie Lounds, this is exactly how she has to go out, because she faked it once and I’m not particularly happy with her for that.”

AVC: Why does Margot want to have a child with Will?

BF: That was a big element of the novel, was Margot’s desire to have a child and I thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be interesting if Will Graham became the device to achieve that goal?” That way, we had elements of the future story that we had recombined with other stories so they felt distinct from the novel but reflective of the novel at the same time. I think it goes back to that Thomas Harris mash-up DJ aesthetic that we have with this show, where we’re pulling elements that suit us for any given story and then mixing them in as needed. It also felt like a clever way for Margot to get back at her brother. We knew from the book that Margot had been cut out of her father’s will for being a lesbian and not being able to breed, and the stipulation had been put into the will that only an heir proven to be of the blood of the Verger clan would be deemed legitimate. So it set into motion a very crafty plan of Margot’s, “Well, I’ll get pregnant and once the baby is born I’ll kill my brother, and I will not have to deal with him anymore or his evil ways.” It felt like she was being very crafty, and she’s waving her uterus around like a loaded weapon. So that felt like it was part of the new Margot and part of her new agenda for dealing with her brother and also giving her a little bit more strength. Also, it puts her clearly on the chessboard as one of Hannibal Lecter’s pawns, and he is now influencing and moving her piece around to suit his greater agenda.

Fortunately Hannibal was renewed for another season. NBC sadly canceled Community, giving us the darkest timeline, with fans hoping someone else will pick up the show. SpoilerTV doesn’t think it is likely to happen. At least the show went out with an excellent season with Dan Harmon back. I think NBC did make the right move in deciding to permanently turn out the lights on Revolution. There is a lot of other news regarding cancellations, renewals, and new shows picked up, but being a holiday weekend I’ll hold off on most of the other news until a later post. I’ll also be brief in looking at the other shows this week.

ORPHAN-BLACK Helena

In other genre shows of the week, Orphan Black provided more information on Mrs. S. and Project Leda. Alison is in rehab, we learned whether Helena could have children, and there was a reunion of sisters. Orphan Black c0-creator Graeme Manson discussed the reunion scene:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with what has to be the creepiest sisterly reunion ever — one in a bloody white wedding dress and the other bleeding and in handcuffs in the bathroom. You’re a sicko, Graeme.
GRAEME MANSON: Homage to Carrie, all the way. The director did a great job with that scene and it’s right up the alley of what John Fawcett and I really like. It really slips into horror mode there and we like that the show has that elastic tone that we can do that. We expect a lot of Helenas in bloody wedding dresses at Comic-Con this year. It’s a truly freaky and wonderful scene, and just the fact that it has that horror and its broken by the sisterhood and by forgiveness is one of the great clone-on-clone scenes we’ve done, I think.

EW: You can feel and read the terror on Tatiana’s face as Sarah in that scene. Just an unbelievable job she does in that moment.
MANSON: It was. And it was a really hard scene for the crew to watch, because Tatiana really went there. It was scary. She was scaring the whole crew. And then you yell “Cut!” and everyone just has this ball in the pit of their stomach and Tatiana recovers immediately and is immediately smiling and laughing.

Americans Stealth

Larrick  has turned into the big bad for the season on The Americans, and is getting closer to Elizabeth and Phillip. With no progress finding out who murdered Emmet and Leanne, I wonder if Larrick’s earlier denial should be believed. Of course there are still two episodes in which to advance that storyline.

I was  sad to see Kate go, but she was clearly over her head. Now I wonder what the deal was with Jared, between Kate meeting him with no disguise and her encoded note to “Get Jared out.” I suspect he knows about his parents, and possibly realizes who Elizabeth is. Is he already working as a spy with Kate his handler?

Nina made the obvious move of turning to Stan for help in avoiding a forced return to Russia to stand trial. Will she take the next step in convincing him to get the information on Echo for her so that the two can remain together, as opposed to Nina going into hiding?

CLARK GREGG, MING-NA WEN

Agents of SHIELD presented Grant’s back story, and it was rather disappointing. Being left out in the woods was not the type of training I expected. Just because he spared the dog should not mean that he gets to be redeemed as a good guy in the end, but I suspect that that might be where the show is going. Sparing Fitz and Simmons is also not enough (and might be considered two points against him). Besides, evil Grant is a much more interesting character than the Grant we saw most of the season.

Skye has also improved as a character in recent episodes, actually showing that she has some skills. The story with Cybertek was also weak, but I suspect this was set up for the season finale, in which Nick Fury returns. After a run of excellent episodes I can forgive this one, although if they didn’t have a better back story for Grant it might have been better just to leave it out.

It looks like Arrow is getting ready for a comic book style big battle with Malcolm Merlin and the League of Assassins joining up with Team Arrow to take down Slade.

It also looks like Person of Interest and The Blacklist will have big season finales this week.

For those watching Continuum on Syfy, it might seem like things aren’t moving very fast this season, but big things happen on the next two episodes which have aired in Canada. No spoilers.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; The Americans; Fargo; The Big Bang Theory

Hannibal - Season 2

Nako-Choko began as an extension of last week’s episode of Hannibal in which Will Graham was placed in a position where he was forced to kill. There were other events including first seeing Mason Verger and viewing parallel sex scenes. One involved Will and Margot Verger and the other was between Hannibal and Alana Bloom, morphed into a threesome.

Freddie Lounds was convinced that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper and Chilton was framed, but Freddie saw too much. For a moment I thought she was better off to have been discovered by Will instead of Hannibal in a scene which reminded me of Grace’s final scene before she was killed. Instead it appears that Will has morphed into Hannibal, including bringing a part of her to be prepared by Hannibal for dinner.

There was a strong suggestion that this occurred but we did not actually see Will kill Freddie, raising some suspicion that she is actually alive and Will is engaged in a plan to trap Hannibal. Interviews with Bryan Fuller suggest that Will did kill Freddie, but it is possible the is engaging in misdirection to avoid spoiling future events on the show. First from TV Guide:

But he seems to be enjoying the killing. Is he still playing the long con?
Fuller:
 In order to really seduce Hannibal and also blur the lines between who Will is and what he needs to become in order to catch Hannibal, he’s sacrificing his humanity in some ways to get the truth. Up until the end of Episode 10, Hannibal has said nothing that is actionable and has not been demonstrative in any way with his own murders. He’s not going to put himself out there until Will makes it a safe bet. We needed Will to take a life. And of all the characters Will might want to kill, Freddie was the first one to get what was coming to her in Will’s mind.

Are Will and Hannibal definitely eating Freddie? I was hoping otherwise until Will referred to the meet as longpig, which is a phrase I wasn’t familiar with.
Fuller:
 [Laughs] I guess you’re not hanging around the right cannibals.

So, in your mind that makes it clear what Will has done to Freddie?
Fuller:
 It’s pretty clear. Will has gone to the dark side and we should be fearing for him. It is very much a slippery slope for Will Graham because he is taking lives and that changes the way you think and interact with the world. We set up the theme of rebirth in Episode 8, and in 10 and 11 we’re very much exploring the child that has been born out of this unholy union between Hannibal and Will. How are they going to foster and feed it?

They discussed the sex scene:

Let’s talk about that “foursome.” That has to be the weirdest sex scene I’ve seen on TV in some time.
Fuller:  
I wanted to have a Dead Ringers moment where you have two Jeremy Irons flanking Geneviève Bujold. And I wanted to have this triangle between two heterosexual men who are getting so intimate with each other, but because they’re heterosexual, they have to make love via proxy. I wanted Alana to be kissing Hannibal and the camera would follow her as she turned her head and she’d be kissing Will all in a single shot. The lines between the two sex scenes would blur. Our director, Vincenzo Natali, came to me a day before and said, ‘Can I put the Stag-Man in there or is that too weird?’ I said, ‘[Deadpans] Not too weird. Do it.’ [Laughs]

What did you want it to mean for the characters?
Fuller:
 I felt like it was an interesting opportunity for us to reestablish that Will was still pining for Alana [Caroline Dhavernas]. Even though he was having sex with Margot [Katherine Isabelle], he was still fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana. Intercutting that with Alana having sex with Hannibal, and the lines between those two sex scenes blurring so Hannibal and Will would be sharing a bed together, felt like it was representative of where we were psychologically with these three characters. Even though it’s primarily in Will’s head, it felt like it was where the characters needed to be to express the disturbing quality of their relationships.

What is behind Margo’s attraction to Will?
Fuller:
 She sees herself in Will and Will seems himself in her. We have two characters who are in similar situations finding themselves in need of a friend that is not Hannibal because neither of them trust that guy. With Margo and Will, there’s a trust. These are two characters who are keeping each other’s confidence from Hannibal.

Hannibal - Season 2

The other key aspect of the episode was the introduction of Mason Verger:

We finally met Michael Pitt’s Mason Verger in this episode. How did you approach creating that character?
Fuller:
 We wanted him to be the Joker to Hannibal Lecter’s Batman. With Michael Pitt, I found his take on Mason to be charming and despicable, and yet I liked him as a person. And I needed to like Mason in order to write him because I didn’t want to necessarily write the character in the book who raped his sister repeatedly her entire life. I can’t get excited about sitting down and writing that character if that’s the core of him. So, we changed his pedophilia and serial raping into a general sadism and curiosity of mankind that could more closely parallel Hannibal’s curiosity with mankind. Mason is constantly introducing choices for the people that he manipulates that hold a little more curiosity. He loves to push buttons and see how people will react to various stimuli in their lives.

The antagonism between Mason and Hannibal was almost instantaneous. Will you tell the story of their relationship fully this season, or do you expect to see Mason back in Season 3?
Fuller:
 The story line with Margot and Mason and Will and Hannibal crescendos in Episode 11, and it leaves way for Mason and Will and Hannibal to deal with each other more directly. These characters are outside of the psychobabble world that we’re usually contained in and give us this — I was going to say breath of fresh air, but it’s not exactly fresh;  it’s rotten — different energy for the second half of the season. We will deliver how Gary Oldman ended up looking the way he did in the Ridley Scott movie playing Mason Verger, but I would love, love, love to have more of Michael Pitt and Mason Verger in Season 3.

There were questions on Twitter regarding Will and Margot sleeping together considering that Margot is a lesbian. Bryan Fuller had no problem with this from Will’s perspective: “I asked straight men on the crew if they would sleep with a hot lesbian if she came knocking on their door and they said yes.”

Hannibal the-threesome-found-it

More on the sex scene in an interview with AV Club:

AVC: Where did the idea to throw Margot and Will together come from?

BF: Well, actually, the idea of throwing Margot and Will together came very early on. When we started talking about Margot’s character in the writers’ room, there was a faction of the writers’ room that was like, “She should be heterosexual, and we should write this stormy love affair with Will and Margot,” and I was like, “That is so diametrically opposed to who she is in the book.” You know, there’s a bit of an affair with Barney and a dalliance, so I got it in some way. But the pitch that kept on getting thrown around the writers’ room is that she was heterosexual, and this was an opportunity to get a lot of sex in the show between Will and Margot and I just thought, “I hear you on the sex part.” [Laughs.] “But let’s make it more in line with who the character is and what the character’s agenda is.”

One of her agendas in the novel Hannibal was to have a child. She couldn’t have a child, because her uterus was destroyed by steroids, and she was barren as a result, and that was all kind of a byproduct of her brother’s abuse of her, that she destroyed her femininity as a result of that. There was this miasma of elements between Margot wanting to have a child and the inability to have a child at that stage of the story that we were kind of combining in various ways. It also seemed like it was a good place to remind the audience of this rebirth and how Will Graham has been descending into this very dark place that has to do so much with death.

AVC: The sex scene takes up the bulk of an act of the show and seems to showcase how the boundaries are blurring between all of these people. What was the impetus behind that being a centerpiece of the episode?

BF: The first sex scene that we had in episode eight, the simple one between just two people, Hannibal and Alana, was something that I’d been wanting to do since episode six. We actually had a couple of directors who were terrified of it, because what I was describing was taking a sex scene that was as innovative as, say, the sex scene in Fight Club and finding a way to produce it on a television budget. Because the Fight Club sex scene, between Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt, was wackadoodle and a combination of CG naked bodies and all sorts of fantastic, elaborate controlled camera movements that I think took two or three weeks to shoot because of how detailed it was.

So every time I talked about the sex scene and how I wanted it to have that out-of-body, ethereal feel to it, one director flat-out [said], “I don’t know how to shoot that,” and another director was like, “That’s going to take forever to shoot the way you want it,” and then Vincenzo came along and was like, “I know how to shoot that.” And he did a beautiful job. Then, of course, coming around to episode 10, Vincenzo Natali was back up to bat and was so excited about doing an expansion of his Hannibal sex-scene vocabulary by just throwing more people into it.

I knew that I wanted the barriers between all of these characters to come down in a way that they are very intimately involved in the conspiracies that are afoot and that the sex scene is very much a psychological one. That was important to me: to have a deeply psychological sex scene that blurred the barriers between whose bedroom we were currently in. Also, it felt like Will Graham, in order to really engage Margot in sex, had to have some sort of ulterior motive, and him fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana felt like it was honest. I think it’s not uncommon to be in a sexual circumstance and be fantasizing about somebody who’s not in the room with you at that point, so it felt like it was an interesting use of Will’s imagination in a completely different way. And we get to have a five-way.

Orphan Black Sarah and Cal

Mingling Its Own Nature With It introduced both another clone and a new character to the Clone Club on Orphan Black. Cosima saw a video of a clone dying of the same illness she has and later assisted in the autopsy. Sarah hid out in a cabin owned by someone who is apparently Kira’s father. The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Michael Huisman, who played Cal, getting to some of the questions raised about this new character:

What did the producers tell you early on about who they wanted this guy to be?

He opens up a little about his past to Felix. Cal is a smart guy, who has a tech background and is a successful entrepreneur. He founded a company that started as a great cause creating mini drones and pollinators, but his partners sold out from underneath him to the military. That made him bitter. That made him more anti-corporation, maybe even more anti-government involvement than he already was. I always imagined that he was there [at the cabin] to get inspired for a new plan and a new adventure. I do think he made a lot of money but he wants to press the reset button. If it were up to him, he would start something else, but this crazy girl he met eight years ago, who he was in love with and left without any announcement, shows up again and completely messes up his life.

There were scenes where Sarah, Kira and Cal acted like a normal, happy family. Do you think they could ever achieve that?

Yes, I think so — if it was on another show with the three of them. (Laughs.) I think they could be a really happy family. But to be serious, although Cal is completely shocked when he finds Sarah there and when he finds out he [fathered] a daughter she never bothered telling him about, it’s this love-hate thing. He really cared so much for Sarah that even though she did this terrible [thing] to him, he finds it hard to kick her out right away especially since he’s finding out he has a daughter with her. Maybe for a split second after the initial shock has come down, maybe he thinks, “Wow, maybe this is something that would be an option for us to be some sort of family.” But of course, it turns out there’s a lot more going on. They’re not going to be a happy family any time soon.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Cal. Intentional?

It’s one of the main themes within Orphan Black. Who are these monitors, these people who have seemingly normal relationships with the clones but turn out to be working for Project LEDA or whatever? Without giving away too much, I can imagine the audience not accepting right away of Cal not being involved.

What is the road going to be like for Cal as he attempts to be a father to Kira?

First of all, he never really seems to doubt the fact that she is his daughter because the timing makes sense. But it doesn’t [confirm] 100 percent that she is his daughter. There’s something in her that he really connects with. Her instinct is stronger than his but he also has that [trait]. I wouldn’t call it a sixth sense or anything like that but that quality of reading people and being able to go by your gut, Kira has that so he easily feels connected to her. He’s convinced this is his child. At the same time though, he has no idea how to do this. I remember when my wife [Tara Elders] and I had our child [in 2007] I had no idea how to do anything, how to be a father, but at least I had time to grow into it and slowly ease into the role. I could totally imagine what a complete shock it is to all of a sudden be responsible for an eight-year-old girl who’s supposedly your daughter.

In other developments, Allison learned that pills and alcohol don’t mix, especially when in front of an audience. The police are going undercover, both Art and his partner. Allison saw through Angie, but thought she was a new monitor rather than police. Art is snooping around the Promethians, who held a very strange wedding and an even more disturbing wedding night for Helena.

agents-of-shield-season-1-episode-20-coulson-hill

There might be a lot of plot holes in Agents of SHIELD, but the show has become much more fun to watch, including the inclusion of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill this week. Everyone now knows that Ward is HYDRA, with next week going more into his back story. They managed to come up with a surprise revelation on TAHITI to keep this season long story line interesting.

Arrow is heading into what looks like a second season finale which places Starling City in peril. Felicity was great as the interrogator and Bitch with WiFi.

Amy Acker’s role has evolved considerably on Person of Interest, with her character Root almost becoming the new leader with Harold captured.

Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman continue to put on excellent performances as the leads on Fargo, with the supporting cast also doing a great job. Lester Nygaard is increasingly getting caught up in his lies. He would have been better off telling the truth while withholding some of the significant details as opposed to telling outright lies such as that his car was in the shop and denying that conversation in the hospital waiting room. How long can he hide that bullet?

Also on FX, The Americans continues to do an excellent job of mixing weekly stories with the season-long storyline on the murder of the agents (with Stan and the FBI now involved) along with multiple other story lines.  Bringing back Annelise from a season one episode added additional continuity. Besides the risk of the FBI closing in with their investigation, there is now Larrick to contend with, with Elizabeth and Philip also having to devote more time to dealing with Paige and her church.

Once again, Fox is not a safe place for science fiction. Almost Human has been canceled.

Big Bang Theory Professor Proton Star Wars Day

The Big Bang Theory combined the funeral of Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) with the celebration of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

FHM has named Jennifer Lawrence as the sexist woman in the world for 2014. Perhaps going around nude (but painted) in the X-Men movies as Mystique helps while falling at the Oscars doesn’t hurt.

Tricia Helfer will star in Ascension, a six hour series for Syfy.

Matt Smith will join Amelia Clarke in the upcoming Terminator movie.

Joel McHale of Community spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. More, including video and the top jokes from both McHale and President Obama, posted here.

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

Arrow Moira

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

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

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

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

arrow seeing-red-moira-dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orphan_Black_Episode_2_Donnie_Allison

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

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

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

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

Orphan Black henrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannibal - Season 2

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

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

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

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

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

SHIELD Skye Ward

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

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

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

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

Blacklist Lizzie Knows

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

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

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

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

Last Forever Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Captain America and Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Orphan Black; Continuum; Captain Janeway and Geocentrism; The Expanse

Hannibal Chilton

 Yakimono provided an excellent start for the second half of this season of Hannibal. The episode answered the question of how they continue for several more episodes between the release of Will Graham from prison and the ultimate revelation that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper. Chilton had an agenda, but his plans did not work out: “Yes, I have an agenda. Living.” We knew after Hannibal winked at Chilton last week that he was doomed, but had no idea how complex his (apparent) death would be, along with the role of Miriam Lass. We found out why Hannibal kept Miriam alive, brainwashing her so that she would identify Chilton as the one who kidnapped her instead of Hannibal, and then shooting Chilton. This should serve to take suspicion away from Hannibal for several episodes.

It did take some foolish decisions by Jack Crawford for this all to play out as it did. Is it really plausible that Chilton had the strength to pull off all these murders, or that after covering his tracks so well would suddenly leave evidence out in plain site? Jack should have believed Will. Things were obviously not as they seemed. It didn’t make sense for Jack to go after Chilton alone if he believed he had really killed the FBI agents left in his home, but at least this didn’t affect the outcome. It was especially foolish for Jack to ignore all the warnings about Hannibal and take Miriam to Hannibal for hypnosis to “recover” her memory. Perhaps Jack will put this all together by the end of the season, or maybe Will will provide additional evidence against Hannibal.

Will remains the only one alive who has any idea what is going on, and decided that he preferred to get all the answers as opposed to killing Hannibal when he had the chance this week. Ultimately he returned to therapy under Hannibal, knowing that Hannibal would be unable to resist this request, and it might provide more information.

Abel Gideon is now dead and it appears that Chilton is also dead, but this is not certain. His death, along with the death of Beverly Katz, represent differences from Red Dragon. After Beverly was last seen cornered by Hannibal, Bryan Fuller did verify that she was dead in interviews, but he is being more vague about Chilton:

AVC: Chilton, correct me if I’m wrong, is the first character from the literature that you’ve killed who’s still alive in later books. Do you feel that shakes things up, or do you worry about not having that character to play later?

BF: [Frank] Serpico survived a bullet to the face.

Fuller explained Will’s motivations:

AVC: This episode ends with Will resuming therapy, and getting out of the hospital. Why did you need to pull him out of the hospital, and what is his thinking behind going back to the devil’s lair?

BF: The idea—and it’ll become much clearer in episode eight where you understand exactly what Will is up to—but it felt like we had completed the arc of the institution. We had Will very actively investigating Hannibal in his own way by not only going interior to his mind, but also using those around him who can be his own avatars out in the world to dig up clues. It felt like because we had completed the arc of the Chesapeake Ripper in some sense, that it was good to exonerate Will, and since he was never convicted of anything, it’s easier to get them out, once proof has been discovered that they’re guilty or innocent. So we wanted Will back out in the world, because we needed to continue to shift the dynamic of what’s happening between Will and Hannibal, and as we end this episode, seven, with “Let’s resume therapy,” we were launching a whole new psychological arc where it is Will and Hannibal. Will now, of clear mind, is beginning his own seduction of Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has been working very hard to seduce Will, and now, it’s up to Will to seduce Hannibal and perhaps lull him into a false sense of security, so he can ultimately be exposed.

AVC: Why do you think Will doesn’t kill Hannibal when he has the chance?

BF: Because I think he honestly wants to know why. I think there has to be—and I talked with Hugh Dancy about this quite a bit—there has to be an element of honest reality to Will’s fascination with Hannibal Lecter. This man built him up and destroyed him in the first season, and then continued to manipulate him through the first half of the second season. When someone is so invasive to your psyche and has had such an impact, if you ended them, it’s like, Hannibal successfully bonded with Will and had Will bond to him, and it was probably more painful to kill Hannibal, because Will knows that he is started on this journey into a very dark place, and Hannibal Lecter may be the only one who can help him understand it.

He also explained how Hannibal accomplished some of his murders, along with the limitations imposed by a television budget:

AVC: How much do you sit around and figure out how he does all this stuff?

BF: Well, we had a lot of stuff that we cut out that we simply couldn’t afford to produce. The show has a very tight budget, and it’s very streamlined in its storytelling. We had scenes where Hannibal goes down into his basement kill room, where we saw Beverly Katz go, and he goes through a door, and he goes into a steam tunnel, and you see him following that steam tunnel, and he goes down for like miles and miles and miles. So we essentially established a way for Hannibal to get in and out of his house without anybody seeing him and use underground steam tunnels throughout Baltimore to get around the city. We simply couldn’t produce it and couldn’t find the time. In our minds, he goes down in the basement and goes out a secret door into the steam tunnels, and that’s how he got to Chilton’s house, and that’s how he got back into his house without anybody noticing, but we couldn’t produce it, so we lifted that element and have the rationale in our brains, if anybody asks the question—but we just weren’t able to show you.

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Agents of SHIELD is finally becoming the show we wanted it to be. It is never going to be a spy show of the quality of The Americans, and remains behind Arrow in ability to turn a comic book world into successful television, but it has now become important to watch for those interested in the Marvel cinematic universe. Turn, Turn, Turn does a far better job of tying into Captain America: The Winter Soldier than previous episodes did with the attempts to tie into Thor: The Dark World. If you have not seen the episode, this contains major spoilers for both SHIELD and Captain America. If you have not seen either yet, I advise watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier before watching any further episodes of Agents of SHIELD, but if for some reason this is not possible it will still be possible to enjoy the episodes of SHIELD.

It is now apparent that Agents of SHIELD had been limited by the need to wait until the latest Captain America movie came out. The story line about the Clairvoyant was a distraction, with information really coming out due to the infiltration of SHIELD by HYDRA and not due to clairvoyance. It came as no surprise that Agent May was not the spy despite the suggestion of this last week and that instead she was reporting directly to Director Fury. The development of Coulson’s entire team makes more sense after learning it was based upon having the ability to repair, or if necessary kill, Coulson should there be problems after bringing him back to life with the alien blood.

The biggest surprise was to find that Agent Ward was working with Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA. Considering what a boring character he has been so far, this can be a welcome change in the show. Of course it is possible that the shooting of Hand and others was all staged with a gun shooting blanks and fake blood so that Garrett would trust Ward, allowing Ward to infiltrate HYDRA. Otherwise it seemed strange for Hand to tell Ward to kill Garrett when he was already in custody, and we already have two major characters who have come back from death or apparent certain death. This preview from next week’s episode portrays Ward as the villain, but again we don’t know if this is real or if he is faking to infiltrate HYDRA.

As we have a long time to wait for further movies, Agents of SHIELD can now provide a look into the Marvel universe. Will SHIELD rebuild as a major organization or will they just be fighting to survive and later get revenge against HYDRA? Presumably the show will set up the plans for what is desired for SHIELD in The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the next Captain America movie.

Captain America ended with Maria Hill applying for a job at Stark Industries and Cobie Smulders will be reprising this role on an upcoming episode. Samuel L. Jackson will also be appearing in the season finale. With Maria Hill working for Tony Stark and Nick Fury in hiding after faking his death, these episodes may or may not pertain directly to SHIELD, but should give some clue as to where they are going.

Besides the obvious tie-in to Agents of SHIELD, James Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Guardians of the Galaxy will tie into The Avengers 3.

Arpanet-The-Americans-3

The Americans tied into the early development of the Internet on Arpanet. Elizabeth and Phillip concentrated on placing a rather large bug on Arpnet for the Russians. The subplot with children concentrated on Henry instead of Paige. I hope that Elizabeth and Phillip are proud of how he is developing an interest in spying on neighbors.

The storyline with Nina, Stan and Oleg overshadowed the usual main storyline with Elizabeth and Philip this week. The entire storyline with Oleg has turned out different from how it first appeared. Instead of working on his own, it turned out that his actions were planned with the KGB, and the initial fears that he presented to threat to Nina were probably a false alarm.

Nina had no difficulty fooling the polygraph thanks to coaching from Oleg. The Americans effectively leaves open questions in episodes and then often answers them with revelations of further information in subsequent episodes. The final scene with Oleg and Nina in bed together raises questions as to whether this was a new development, perhaps due to Nina’s gratitude for Oleg’s help, or if this had been occurring off screen for a longer period. In retrospect, Oleg’s coaching of Nina, including about squeezing her anus and imagining him in the room, might suggest a closer relationship between the two at the time.

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I have concentrated on coverage of Hannibal and The Americans since each started its second season this winter as these are two of the best shows on television. A third show of this caliber, Orphan Black, returns for its second season on April 19. Entertainment Weekly spoke with Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett about some of the new characters for the second season, and the fate of one of the characters from the first season:

EW: Obviously one of the big cliffhangers from season 1 was Cosima’s illness. What can you say about that?
FAWCETT: Cosima’s illness is a major, major storyline in season 2. It’s something that is life or death for Cosima and then for everyone else. When someone is sick, it really kind of brings people together. I think that’s what we see from this. Now, Delphine and Cosima are in love, but Delphine’s kind of trapped in the middle. She does some bad things. But she does good things. She’s in love, but she’s still doing bad things. And trying to discover if there is a cure for Cosima is a big plot issue with season 2. And it’s something that carries through from episode to episode — this journey to try to find some sort of way to cure her.

There are also other excellent shows which I don’t discuss as often here. I am reluctant to speculate on Game of Thrones as those who have read the novels have such a tremendous advantage. It is also so much work trying to keep up with the names of all the characters. This chart might help. Person of Interest does not have as large a cast, but it is another genre show which is adding an increasing number of characters while gradually revealing more details about their back stories.  This character relationship chart might help keep track of all of them.

Continuum is another excellent science fiction show, but it is harder to review here since I’m watching it a few weeks ahead of most in the United States by downloading from Showcase. Minute Man, the second episode which aired in the United States this week, showed how Kiera became a CPS agent. While I will avoid being specific to avoid spoilers, future episodes to air provide more information about Kiera’s background and beliefs, some of which might be seen as positive and some negative considering her support for the future system.

Janeway

Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager (as well as Red on Orange is the New Black), did voice over work for a “documentary” which claims that the earth is the center of the universe. Lawrence Krauss had already been tricked into participating. Kate Mulgrew explained on her Facebook page:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew

Mulgrew’s work on a project claiming that the earth is the center of the universe led to inevitable jokes as to this explaining why Voyager was lost for seven seasons, but the real joke is the perversion of science coming from the right wing, adding geocentrism to creationism.

Filming for The Fall season 2 finally began this month. Colin Morgan, who previously starred in Merlin, joins the cast. This is a high quality mini-series well worth watching.

Syfy has had a hard time coming up with a major science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica ended. Defiance looked more interesting in its first season finale, but still is limited in scope. They are now looking into doing a series based upon The Expanse novels which does sound really promising.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Sleepy Hollow; Arrow; SHIELD; DC Movie Plans; The Americans; The Blacklist; Scarlett Johansson Gets Superpowers; Groundhog Day;Death of the Rani; How I Met Your Mother Finale

Hannibal Murkozuke

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Mukozuke, had Jack Crawford viewing Beverly’s sliced body. Bryan Fuller described Hannibal breaking her down as being like how Beverly would break down a crime scene. Her murder had major effects on several characters, especially Will Graham who was driven to have Hannibal killed in revenge. He found a clever way to attempt this despite being incarcerated, finding his admirer who killed the bailiff (in an attempt to provide evidence that Will was not the Chesapeake Ripper) using Freddy Lounds.

This was a dangerous move on Will’s part as it could reinforce the idea held by others that Will is the murderer and Hannibal has been the victim of his slurs. I suspect that Will’s vision of dripping blood might represent realization that he was wrong to attempt murder. At least he was unsuccessful and does not actually have blood on his hands. Will didn’t even bother to tell others this week that Hannibal killed Grace, even when viewing her body in the restraints we were more accustomed to seeing Hannibal wearing in Silence of the Lambs,  presumably preferring that they figure it out for themselves. The preview from next week’s episode does suggest that Jack is starting to investigate Hannibal, and we saw in the season premiere how that will turn out.

I wonder if Hannibal will actually have more respect for Will for taking this action, and if he will take pride in being successful in driving Will to attempt murder (even if it had to be by proxy).

I was fearful that having Will in the asylum all season would limit his role, but episodes such as this show how he can remain fully part of the show. Having Abel Gideon as his asylum mate now presents yet another way for Jack to have significant dialog beyond being limited to FBI visitors.

There have been accusations of racism and sexism raised against Bryan Fuller due to the manner in which Beverly Katz was treated as an expendable character. Hetteinne Park, who played Beverly, defended Fuller here.

Sleepy Hollow Cast

News on the second season of Sleepy Hollow from PaleyFest can be found here. Among the news, it sounds like one of the cliff hangers at the end of the first season will not  be settled quickly:

There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Literally Orci teases, “There’s a new sheriff in town. Obviously, Irving has been discredited and now he’s been taken Upstate, so the Sleepy Hollow Police Department still has to be run by somebody and that person may not be as open as Irving was by the end of the season with Abbie and Crane. So somebody may be making their life very difficult.”

Orlando Jones is definitely not down with the new Sheriff, even making his own t-shirt, which said, “Free Frank Irving.” (Yes, he’s the best.)

There will also be fifteen or more episodes next season.

Arrow Birds of Prey

Jessica de Gouw returned as Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress on Arrow, tying up the storyline of the relationship between Helena and her father, leaving the character free to move in other directions. Caity Lotz was a second Bird of Prey as the Black Canary.

It appears that Laurel’s drug use has affected the powers of observation in Katie Cassidy’s character. Despite the two speaking while sitting as closely together as in the picture above, Laurel did not recognize that Black Canary is her sister Sara. It is a theme taken from the comics to have a tiny mask be enough to hide a superhero’s identity, but this was hard to believe in this scene. I also wonder if having the two meet is a first step towards Laurel ultimately becoming the Black Canary as in the comics, or if this something which the comics and television show will always differ on.

The episode also ended with quite a cliff hanger. More here, including why they killed off Helena’s father:

On why they killed Helena’s father:
Guggenheim: We definitely went into this with, “We’ve got to wrap up the whole Helena and her father storyline.” The one thing we were agreed upon in the writer’s room from the get-go was that Frank could not survive the episode. We had to end that story and close that chapter of Helena’s life so we could start a new chapter for her. … We definitely have an idea for a season 3 episode with the Huntress.

De Gouw: I think how this episode ends just puts her into a completely different headspace…and I think it’s opened up a whole new set of possibilities for her because she was so set on one path and now that it has been realized that that’s not what she wanted, it just frees her up for an entirely different life.

On whether The Huntress is redeemable:
De Gouw: I think most people are. And I think the place she’s at at the end of this episode, she’s certainly in a place where she can be redeemed…I think that it will be very interesting to explore her fighting for good or for very different reasons. But I think [she] definitely [is].

Amy Acker SHIELD The Cellist

The addition of Amy Acker as a regular has greatly strengthened Person of Interest, including on this week’s episode. Hopefully her presence, even if more limited, can also help Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. improve. Acker has been cast as Agent Coulson’s former cellist girlfriend, Audrey.

DC might have the best superhero television series on the air, but is far behind Marvel in big screen success. The New York Times interviewed Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who wants to be more aggressive in taking on Marvel:

The studio has been painfully slow to establish a slate of films based on DC Comics characters like Wonder Woman and the Flash, watching as Disney’s Marvel Entertainment churns out one superhero hit after another…

As for DC Entertainment, cross-studio collaboration to make better use of its comic book characters appears to have accelerated considerably since Mr. Tsujihara took over, in part because he eliminated some management layers. (He has not named a chief operating officer and did not replace Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Robinov, choosing instead to divide up their duties and assume some himself.) Two new television shows are coming to the CW and Fox, including one based on the Flash and another on a young Batman, and a film series will be announced in the near future, Mr. Tsujihara said. It is expected to include a “Justice League” movie.

Underscoring his aggressive approach to the DC Comics universe, Mr. Tsujihara and Dan Fellman, Warner’s domestic film distribution chief, recently moved the studio’s untitled Batman-Superman movie — a hotly anticipated follow-up to last year’s “Man of Steel” — to a release date in May 2016 previously claimed by Marvel for one of its own films. It created an industry dust-up, and Marvel retaliated with a date change of its own. But the move sent a blunt message: Warner takes a back seat to no one.

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In other notable television moments of the week, Philip seemed really evil on The Americans when he sent the poor physicist home while Elizabeth did a great job smoothing over things with Martha. I do think that Phillip and the Mossad agent did have mutual respect for each other as each did what they knew they would do if in the position of the other.

On The Blacklist I was glad to see that once they revealed to the audience what we already suspected about Tom, they didn’t wait long to have Lizzie also figure out the truth about him.

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson gets superpowers in Lucy. From Entertainment Weekly:

Don’t do drugs, kids…unless said drugs transform your neurological makeup to give you superhero-level mind powers. That’s what happens in Luc Besson’s action thriller 
Lucy (out Aug. 8), starring Scarlett Johansson as a young woman who turns the tables on those exploiting her when experimental drugs give her hyperpowered ass-kicking abilities. “I love to see a woman as a very strong character,” says Besson (The Professional and La Femme Nikita). “It’s like cooking: sugar with a 
 bit of salt, and Lucy definitely can get salty.” Keep your eyes peeled for the trailer, which is scheduled to hit iTunes on April 2.

Groundhog Day

I don’t agree with all of Charles Murray’s Advice For A Happy Life, but I do agree with watching Groundhog Day:

The movie “Groundhog Day” was made more than two decades ago, but it is still smart and funny. It is also a brilliant moral fable that deals with the most fundamental issues of virtue and happiness, done with such subtlety that you really need to watch it several times.

An egocentric TV weatherman played by Bill Murray is sent to Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover Groundhog Day. He hates the assignment, disdains the town and its people, and can’t wait to get back to Pittsburgh. But a snowstorm strikes, he’s stuck in Punxsutawney, and when he wakes up the next morning, it is Groundhog Day again. And again and again and again.

The director and co-writer Harold Ramis, whose death last month was mourned by his many fans, estimated that the movie has to represent at least 30 or 40 years’ worth of days. We see only a few dozen of them, ending when Bill Murray’s character has discovered the secrets of human happiness.

Without the slightest bit of preaching, the movie shows the bumpy, unplanned evolution of his protagonist from a jerk to a fully realized human being—a person who has learned to experience deep, lasting and justified satisfaction with life even though he has only one day to work with.

You could learn the same truths by studying Aristotle’s “Ethics” carefully, but watching “Groundhog Day” repeatedly is a lot more fun.

Kate O’Mara, The Rani, died today. There was no regeneration. Above is a scene from Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani from 1985. Besides her role on Doctor Who as a renegade Time Lady, she is also known for her roles on Dynasty and Absolutely Fabulous. She has had other cult television appearances on two British shows,  The Avengers and The Saint.

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Barney and Robin actually did get married last week and tomorrow we will find out if the fan theories about Ted and the Mother are true. I suspect we are in for a different surprise, which will be legendary. Above is the video of the cast of How I Met Your Mother on Inside The Actors Studio with the series finale airing tomorrow night.

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

Arrow Suicide Squad

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

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

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

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

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

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

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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

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

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

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

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

Hannibal Takiawase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person of Interest Root2

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

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

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

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

mad-men-season-6

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

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

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

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

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The Technological Power Of The Surveillance State

Person of Interest Surveillance

When material leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that NSA surveillance is far greater than previously known, and greater than authorized under current laws, I had quipped that the next revelation would be that the machine on Person of Interest is real. We haven’t reached quite that point yet, but two new reports demonstrates that  intelligence-gathering capabilities are getting quite close.

The Wall Street Journal reports on how the NSA’s surveillance systems can penetrate 75 percent of the internet traffic in the country, including content as well as metadata, using algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data.

Previous reports have indicated that the NSA’s surveillance of telecommunications lines in the U.S. focuses on international gateways and landing points. Other reports have indicated that surveillance of the U.S. telecom network was used to gather only metadata under a program that the NSA says ended in 2011.

The Journal reporting demonstrates that the NSA, in conjunction with telecommunications companies, has built a system that can reach deep into the U.S. Internet backbone and cover 75% of traffic in the country, including not only metadata but the content of online communications. The report also explains how the NSA relies on probabilities, algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data and find information related to foreign intelligence investigations.

The New York Times reports on facial recognition to scan crowds:

The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.

The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.

There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.

The automated matching of close-up photographs has improved greatly in recent years, and companies like Facebook have experimented with it using still pictures.

But even with advances in computer power, the technical hurdles involving crowd scans from a distance have proved to be far more challenging. Despite occasional much-hyped tests, including one as far back as the 2001 Super Bowl, technical specialists say crowd scanning is still too slow and unreliable.

This facial recognition technology appears to be five years off from being fully workable. Of course the real fear of the misuse of these programs doesn’t come from technology reminiscent of Person of Interest but the potential misuse of the technology more reminiscent of  works by George Orwell and Franz Kafka.

 

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