SciFi Weekend: Season Finales of Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, and Veep; Hannibal And Creating Monsters; Breaking Bad Cast News

Orphan Black Season 3 finale

Orphan Black concluded its third season with more answers, bigger questions, a cliff hanger, and several clones together. Last season ended with the clone dance party, and this season began with Helena’s dream baby shower. In the third season finale, History Yet To Be Written, several clones were together, seemingly out of danger for the moment, at Alison’s victory dinner. Afterwards Sarah was reunited with Kira.

The convoluted storyline has often had characters seem to change sides. For much of the finale it appeared there might be a peace between Dyad, Topside, and the Leda clones which included an agreement to share genetic material from Kendall Malone. Then the show suddenly reverted back to the conspiracies of the first season with the return of the Neolutionists, who are far scarier than when Dr. Leekie was around, with Susan Duncan apparently in charge.

This news ended any idea of sharing genetic material, and upset Ferdinand, who really hates “those genetically obsessed zealots.” He said they’re like ticks, quickly decided that his henchman accompanying him was one, and gave him a bath in sulfuric acid. Ferdinand, incidentally was finally informed that the “dirty clone” he was involved with earlier in the season really was Sarah pretending to be Rachel.

Rachel, meanwhile, spent most of the episode wondering where she was, until Charlotte (the younger clone with a leg brace) showed up, who for unexplained reasons is now with Susan Duncan with no evidence that  Marian is around. Rachel’s new eye appears robotic, while surprisingly Krystal not only came out of the coma, but still had two eyes. Most likely we will still see her next season but it remains to be seen how she will escape from Dyad, especially if Delphine is really dead.

Delphine was told she would be dead by morning, and spent the rest of the episode apparently saying her goodbyes, suggesting that she might really be leaving the show. In the episode’s cliff hanger, she was shot by an off-screen assailant. The episode was written as if it was a final one for Delphine, but on a show such as this we can never be certain a character is really dead.

For the moment it appear that obstacles between Shay and Cosima have been removed and Shay might very well be innocent. She does have a point that Cosima has not been all that honest with her either. Of course on Orphan Black, a person who seems innocent at one moment might be shown to have a connection to one of the conspiracies at any point in the future.

Helena got to both see her old boyfriend and fight Rudy under prison rules, “only one of us leaves alive.” Needless to say, Helena won.

The finale left many questions, including who shot Delphine, what the Neolutionists are up to, and what the robotic worm in Dr. Nealon’s mouth was.

Orphan-Black-season-3-finale-3

An interview with Graeme Manson at AV Club leaves the door open for Delphine to return at some point:

The A.V. Club: A lot happens in this finale. There are so many questions, but the first one has to be: Is Delphine really dead? It looks like yes, but there’s no body, and yours is a twisty show…

Graeme Manson: Um… yes. Yes, but. Orphan Black is a cliffhanger. For all intents and purposes, Evelyne [Brochu’s character] is dead. But there’s always a crack of hope in an actor’s busy schedule. They can reappear somehow. But we had to make a bold story choice, and it was a story choice that was very collaborative with Evelyne. It’s a role that we wrote for her. It’s hard to make those big story choices with co-workers that have become your friends, but you got to do it. You got to do it for the good of the show. It’s about the whole story; it’s not about anything else. I mean, we really went for the strongest choice. And Evelyne was up for dying! [Laughs.] Actors really respond to the strong choices. We had made this decision early on that this was the arc of this season, and that we would go for it with the character as an individual. Go out with a bang.

AVC: Speaking of significant deaths: There was Paul’s sacrifice earlier this season, and by the end of this season, every male clone but Mark is dead. You spent a large chunk of this season shading in the male clones’ background with Castor… so how finished do we think Castor is at this point? Does this mean Ari Millen won’t be back in as significant way next season?

GM: Well, it’s every male clone but Mark that we know of. It’s a big-picture story, and so obviously we left the door open for Mark to come back. I think we can all look forward to Ari Millen next year…

AVC: This season alone several factions were fighting for and against the clones: Dyad, Proletheans, Topside, Castor, and apparently, the Neolutionists behind all of it, as we found out in the finale. Do you ever feel penned in by the ever-complicating mythology?

GM: Well, I think this year was a lot about Sarah fighting her way toward an understanding through a conspiracy with a lot of factions. At the end of the season, she’s cut through that, and she’s got one main foe or focus now moving forward. We met Neolution in the beginning with the sort of “pop science” of Leekie. It’s been the fifth column this whole time. I think Sarah can move forward next year with a new understanding, and a new focus on a many-layered but single foe.

Manson was also interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

Kira (SKYLER WEXLER) and Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY)

Variety interviewed the co-creator John Fawcett:

First you killed Paul, then you shot Delphine — do you just hate happiness?

[Laughs.] I like happiness as much as the next person, but happiness sometimes isn’t as dramatic as tragic love stories.

Can you definitively confirm that Delphine is dead, or is there still hope?

I would love to say yes or no, but this is “Orphan Black” and I don’t want to say one way or the other … We wanted to leave it in a hanging cliffhanger, so is she dead? Is she alive? I want the audience asking those questions.

Aside from Delphine’s shooting, the season finale ended on an uncommonly hopeful note. Why did you want to go that route instead of ending with a cliffhanger this year?

It was really important for us in one of our most complex seasons to end with a lot of answers and feel like we’ve had some triumph and victory, and be in a place at the end of season three where we could go “now we can take a breather, we can reset.” We didn’t want to end the season in some giant cliffhanger that meant we were gonna have to start exactly where we left off. We wanted to feel resolution and have more of an emotional ending to season three, so that it gave us a chance to reset for the beginning of season four. We just wanted a very different feel.

On a related note, it’s been awesome to see Alison’s suburban subplot add some levity this season — how important was it for you to have that balance when the ongoing mythology has been so dark and complex?

One of the things that was fun about season three was the fact that Alison and Donnie became “Team Hendrix” and had their own storyline. It was a different way to approach Alison this season for us, and it was nice, just from a writing standpoint, having a clone character that we love have a very different story to tell that wasn’t necessarily linked to the main plot where everything has to be interwoven super intricately. It was nice to be able to use that as a breather and a little bit of lightness. Moving forward, most of the time, we’re using elements to set up things that we want to do, that we know are in our plan for season four and five, so that’s all I’ll say [about Alison’s storyline].

Was it always the plan to have the Neolutionists as the ultimate antagonist, or something you decided over the course of making the show?

When we put Neolution in season one, it was to pave the way for this later season. It was definitely part of the big picture. That was definitely premeditated.

What about Susan Duncan still being alive?

That was something that we always intended. That was part of the mystery of the past: the explosion in the lab, Dr. Leekie and the Duncans and young Rachel…

here’s been criticism from some viewers over the past couple of seasons that the show’s mythology is getting too convoluted, which I suppose depends on how much you appreciate serialized storytelling. Is that kind of critique something you pay attention to?

It always is — we don’t wanna confuse people but the deeper you go into a mystery, the more balls you’ve got to juggle. It’s a complicated story. I felt like it wasn’t that complicated, but I think the point of this conclusion, coming to the end of this season, was always to be able to go “okay, we got all these answers, so what’s next?” and leave the audience peeking into a brand new rabbit hole, and the nice thing about looking into a new rabbit hole is that you get a chance to begin again a little. There’s elements that I miss from season one too — Sarah not knowing, at all, what she’s facing or what any of this is about, and I think that’s a place we always intended to go at the beginning of season four.

How cognizant are you of the need to maintain the mystery but not withhold answers for too long? It seems like a lot of serialized shows have struggled with that ratio after “Lost,” where viewers become frustrated that mysteries are just piling on top of mysteries with no resolution in sight.

It was a real issue with “Lost” because it made people very grumpy, and it made me wonder whether the creators knew where the show was going or not. When Graeme and I first started on the show, it was like “let’s map out where we want to get to. What’s the endgame? What are the tentpoles for however many seasons we want to tell this story for?” And make sure that every step along the way, we’re giving enough answers. We may get more questions as we go, but we’re giving enough answers to the audience to keep them satisfied that they’re not just watching something that doesn’t have any conclusion.

Fawcett was also interviewed by Entertainment Weekly.

Game of Thrones Walk of Shame

Game of Thrones also ended its season with questions over the fate of major characters. Unlike previous seasons, the show has now caught up with the published books, so while the books might provide additional clues, there are no definite answers.

The biggest question is whether Jon Snow is dead, or whether he will come back from the dead. Many of the interviews suggest he is really dead, but they are not accepted as final. If something major happens to a character and then an excuse to return them to life is brought about later, it will often feel like a cheat. This can plausibly be done with Jon Snow based upon the world we have seen. There has been speculation from fans about multiple ways in which Snow could have survived, or be brought back by life, with many of them already foreshadowed in previous episodes. Going more meta, I wonder if he will return primarily because he has provided the major point of view of events at the wall. Some of the stories taking place there have been among the weaker story lines, but they would be even weaker without Jon Snow. It is hard to believe that events at the wall will not continue to be of major significance with winter coming.

Stannis Baratheon was not shown to actually be killed making it very plausible that he survived. Going meta with him, it sure looks like his storyline has been concluded. On the other hand, he does have one of the stronger claims to the Iron Throne, and he might still have a role in whatever end game is planned. Maybe he will wind up returning to the wall, although I don’t see replacing Jon Snow with Stannis as an improvement to the story.

Arya got to kill a  henchman for the Lanisters, but wound up going blind. Either she will have to regain her sight, or become like Daredevil. Otherwise it is questionable how significant her character can be.

Daenerys, after flying away on a dragon, wound up surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Depending on how they respond to her, and whether her dragon quickly recovers, she could either be in grave danger or have a new army at her disposal.

Cersci went from a hated villain to now having an opportunity to be cheered by fans when she inevitably takes revenge. She puts a whole new meaning on “walk of shame.” Those who filmed the scene apparently overlooked the problem of different lighting and on Lena Headey’s’s face and the  length of the neck and on her body double’s (Rebecca van Cleave) nude body, or else they assumed that nobody would be paying much attention to her neck and above. Margaery continues to be held by the religious fanatics. Natalie Dormer would probably have no qualms about filming her walk of shame, even if it also involved full frontal nudity, without a body double.

Veep finale

HBO’s also had two comedies end their current seasons last weekend. Silicon Valley’s second season was better than the first. The ending of Veep suggested where they are going next season, probably eliminating the minor issue that the show is named Veep but this season Julie Louis Dreyfus’ character played the president. The election ended with an electoral college tie and the characters desperately tried to figure out what that meant. One even questioned if they could look it up in a book. One scenario would be having the House also be tied, with the Senate picking Tom James as president. Presumably he would then chose Selina as his vice president, bringing the character back in line with the show’s title.

This would bring things partially back to how the show was first season, with some potential differences. First season the president was rarely seen, especially by his vice president, and Selena had no power or influence. Depending upon how much Hugh Laurie will be in next season, there could be an unseen president or a president with a major role. It would be plausible to have a President Tom James either ignore Selena or make use of her.

Jonah wound up the season looking more respectable, even if as the Testicle Man. It worked out well to temporarily have Dan and Amy play lobbyists and television talking heads (along with a Nate Silver type character), but I wonder if they will be brought back in to the administration next season. At least it certainly looked like Amy would return to the inner circle by the end of the finale.

HANNIBAL -- "Secondo" Episode 303 -- Pictured: -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Secundo, dealt with the making of monsters. This might winding up summing up Will Grahams’s entire story. This does not apply to Hannibal as we were told, “Nothing happened to me. I happened.” Will traveled to Hannibal’s family home in Lithuania where he encountered Chiyoh who is holding in a dungeon the man who apparently killed Hannibal’s sister Mischa and fed her to him. Conversations between Hannibal and Bedelia suggest that Hannibal was really to blame. Chiyoh was left to guard him when she would not allow Hannibal to kill him, but ultimately wound up killing him after Will set him free.

Chiyoh was not the only person manipulated into being a killer this episode. After Hannibal stuck an ice pick in a dinner guest’s head, Bedelia pulled out the ice pick to put him out of his misery. Hannibal made a point of stating, “Let the record show, you technically killed him.”  The two are definitely playing a dangerous game with each other, but their ultimate motivations are not clear. Bedelia noted how Hannibal is bringing everyone back together. This episode showed Jack also alive and  hunting Hannibal, and soon they will be joined by Chilton, Alana, and the Vergers. Bedelia warned Hannibal that he would be captured, and the two discussed how Hannibal must react when he encounters Will in order to forgive him: “I have to eat him.”

Besides playing Dr. Bedelia, Gillian Anderson is also reprising her role as Scully on the X-Files revival. Speakeasy interviewd Anderson about these roles:

It’s hard to tell whether Bedelia is Hannibal’s prisoner or if she’s actually playing him in a way. Where do you think his head is at once they settle into Florence and Hannibal has begun to kill again?

The trouble that I have in doing interviews about Bedelia is that part of what is interesting about her is what we don’t know and is about the lingering question marks. If I were to answer [about] my thought my process in it or what I feel is motivating her, where I think she’s standing or what Bryan has told me, it completely takes the joy out of it for the viewers. So, I often struggle in interviews to have anything of value to say … because I’m trying to protect the viewer in having a real-time and organic experience rather than being told what’s going on.

Everybody wants to know, but it’s almost better in not knowing, I think. I’ll say that she’s intrigued and she’s scared and she’s in way over her head. But I think where the question mark lies is still within that. Where lies her complicity? Where lies her power? Does she actually have the upper hand without him realizing it? Those are the multi-leveled question marks.

At the end of episode one, which everyone has seen already, Hannibal tells Bedelia she isn’t just observing, she’s participating. Do you think that’s true? How culpable is she especially in that instance?

I think it changes halfway through. Not that she would be able to do anything about the current moment and what is transpiring in front of her, but she recognizes, legally, in that moment, if she continues to live there that the longer she stays, the more she will seem to be complicit in what’s going on. I think that is partly why she then starts to do what she starts to do, which I can’t talk about. The question that he poses in that moment is a question she works out for herself in that moment. Her reaction to it is what then moves her storyline through the rest of the episodes. That’s potentially quite a big turning point...

Duchovny recently said the script for the new “X-Files” made him cry. How did it make you feel?

I think since I’ve come up to Vancouver [to shoot “The X-Files”], I’ve become more excited, emotional and embraced the journey we’re about to go on. I’m actually really excited. I don’t think it initially hit me in the first read, but it was more to do with my needing to compartmentalize and not really address the fact that it was all about to happen until I actually got up here because there were too many other things I have to think about.

Breaking Bad

We will be seeing more of the cast of Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan has said that Bryan Cranston will appearing on Better Call Saul, but not until after the second season. There are also reports that Cranston will be directing some episodes.

Aaron Paul will be returning to a regular episodic television in The Way which will appear on Hulu. It is a family drama about a a family involved in a controversial religious movement, produced by Jason Katims and written by Jessica Goldberg. Their past work on Friday Night Lights and Parentood provide promise for this show.

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Outlander; Roy Leaving Arrow; Oliva Munn, Super Hero; Gotham; Veep; Daredevil; The Americans; Sopranos Ending Explained; Jon Stewart On Why He Is Leaving The Daily Show

Orphan Black Helena Dream The Weight Of The Combination

Orphan Black returned on Saturday, beginning with a fun scene for the fans. It was another scene with Tatiana Maslany playing multiple seestas at once in Helena’s dream of perfect baby shower, reminiscent of  the clone dance party scene last season. The theme for the season is girl clones vs. boy clones, which sort of sounds like a season of Survivor. So far I have far less interest in the male clones. They didn’t get the chance to be introduced gradually as the girl clones were and, as most were raised in the military, there also probably is not as much difference these clones. One does have a mustache and one does have a scar to help tell them apart.

The conspiracy aspect continues to grow as once we learn about one group another turns out to be above them. Now we are dealing with Topside, who sent a “cleaner” named Ferdinand, who was secretly plotting with Rachel in a plan called Helsinki to kill all the female Project Leda clones.  After finding out about this I didn’t feel sorry at all for Rachel, who wasn’t recovering very well after Sarah poked a pencil through her eye and into her brain. She was also at the Mercy of Delphine, who is the new Rachel at Dyad, and can also be rather evil when necessary. Ferdinand’s arrival set up scenes where Sarah pretended to be Rachel, requiring Alison to pretend to be Sarah.

The New York Times Magazine looked at the filming of Orphan Black recently.

Outlander Devils Mark

The Devil’s Mark had major revelations on Outlander. Geillis revealed that she is a time traveler and this was the third show recently (besides The Americans and Game of Thrones) where someone apparently died by burning to death, although her death was not actually shown. I fear that this is an exception to the television rule that if you don’t see the body the character most likely didn’t really die, but maybe we will see her again. Hopefully Geillis’s confession won’t come back to harm Claire, and any other time travelers who might show up from the 20th century, after she claimed that her smallpox vaccine is the Devil’s mark.

Claire was saved by a combination of Jaime showing up and Gellis claiming to be true witch, followed by her telling Jaime. Surprisingly Jaime accepted it all, and even took her to the stones to make the decision as to which husband to be with. It appears she chose Jaime, although I imagine it is possible she tried to return home and failed. The possibility didn’t seem to come up that if she did travel in time again by touching the stones, there was no guarantee she would return to her original time. (It would have really been awesome if she turned up in the splinter facility on 12 Monkeys.)

Arrow Broken Arrow

On Arrow we learned that Roy’s sacrifice to save Oliver was part of a plan which left everyone alive and out of prison, but left with Roy needing to leave town to keep anyone else from realizing he is still alive.  While this leaves Oliver free, I still wonder how they are going to get the Arrow back openly in action. The moment the Arrow is spotted Detective Lance has new justification for following up on his knowledge that Oliver is really the Arrow.

Deadline spoke with  co-creators/executive producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim on Colton Haynes leaving the show as a regular (but will already be returning for an episode later this season).

DEADLINE: When did you know that Colton Haynes was leaving after Season 3?
BERLANTI: When we made the deal. We made a two-season deal that had a clock on it, we always knew that. When he was coming off Teen Wolf, we described the role to him, and we agreed to do it for a couple of years. At that particular moment, he had a lot of opportunities to do things, and we’re lucky he chose us. He brought a lot of notoriety and viewership to Arrow when we were growing, and the show wouldn’t be the show it is without him. He is such a talent and such a nice guy, everybody from the crew to the writers were so enthusiastic to have him for the time we had him. We are sad to see him go but excited to see what he does next.

DEADLINE: How and when did Roy’s Season 3 storyline came about?
BERLANTI: We knew based on what had happened last season. Roy has struggled with guilt after killing a policeman. In saving Oliver, he sees a chance to absolve himself. Hopefully it was surprising for the audience as some thought for a moment that he might die.
GUGGENHEIM: We were able to deign his arc for the season with the end point in mind. We always knew he would take a heroic stance and redeem himself for his actions. It’s always a blessing when you know where exactly you are going to end up.

DEADLINE: Did you consider killing off Roy?
BERLANTI: We wanted to do something different. These characters are so young, they represent the next generation of superheroes, and we love the idea of having them just out there. And as a person we like Colton so much, we all would love to see him back. Such a talented, great guy.
GUGGENHEIM: The hope is that he’ll continue to be part of the universe we are building. We love working with his so much. We’ve talked to him about returning to one of the three shows, and if available, he has expressed interest. He is gone but definitely not forever.

DEADLINE: What will the impact of Roy’s departure be on Team Arrow?
BERLANTI: It’s always affecting the show when one character is moving on to the great beyond. That allows the show to grow and change, with the state of loss providing high stakes. The end of this season is very much a punctuation mark on the first three seasons. Third season will feel like the end of a trilogy, with elements and pieces coming together. We are heading into a big, epic, climactic battle, and I’m not not going to give away who is going to make it. Everything will be changed after this season.
GUGGENHEIM: The third season finale is among our best episodes, with each twist more shocking and surprising than the next.

Olivia Munn Suck It Wonder Woman

Geek Olivia Munn finally gets to become a super hero character. She will play Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse

Jada Pinkett Smith’s charter, Fish Mooney, was a good addition to the Batman back story on Gotham, but they don’t seem to know what to do with her since Oswald Cobblepot got control of her nightclub. I am glad that they seem to have ended her recent storyline on the island, which seems pointless as it was totally unconnected to anything else going on. It doesn’t help matters that she escaped so easily (once setting up a distraction) thanks to a helicopter being unguarded and ready to go. Jada Pinkett Smith has said she will be leaving the show after her contract runs out this season but the producers have hinted that they might find reason to keep her around. It better be a better story line if they do.

HBO has renewed Veep and Silicon Valley just after their current seasons began and Netflix has renewed Orange Is The New Black for a fourth season before the third season has become available. Selina Meyer in now President on Veep and Hugh Laurie will be guest staring later this season. The Hollywood Reporter has interviewed Veep series creator Armando Iannucci about the current season.

There were complaints previously that blind people could not appreciate Daredevil, a show with a blind hero, because Netflix did not use audio description as some networks do. Netflix has  remedied the problem to make the show more accessible to the visually impaired.

The-Americans-I-Am-Abassin-Zadran-Season-3-Episode-12-08

The penultimate episode of The Americans, I Am Abassin Zadran, may have concluded one story line but leaves many story lines open. The producers have said they plan to carry some over to next season. The situation with Paige is pretty obviously ongoing. It is hard to believe they will wrap up Nina’s storyline in Russia. There has been very little of Kimmy recently and, while this conceivably could be wrapped up in the final episode, I suspect they are intentionally moving slowly on this to wait until next season.

Of course the big cliff hanger of the episode occurred when Phillip slowly removed his wig and revealed how he really looks to Martha, who was sitting on the bed with a suitcase, on the verge of leaving town. At least two quite different interpretations for this come to mind. Maybe he is revealing himself to her prior to giving her the Annelise treatment and packing her up in her own suitcase. Maybe he is thinking of how he came clean with Paige, and is also planning to tell Martha a variation of the truth in a last attempt to get her to trust him. This could be either to continue spying for him, or to get her to safety before the FBI figures out that she was the one to plant the bug. If that is his plan, he is taking a bigger risk. Previously if she was arrested she might have given the FBI a description of Phillip in disguise. Now there is the risk she will give a description of how he really looks, and just maybe Stan will recognize him.

It was also good to see Margo Martindale return in her scene in the diner with Gabriel as they discussed background information going back to last season when Jared killed his parents, along with how Americans have too many choices for their tastes. I was surprised to see that Gabriel was so sympathetic to Phillip’s desire to protect Paige.

Tony Soprano Finale

David Chase gave a fascinating description of what he planned scene by scene in the finale of The Soprano’s. Here are the descriptions of the final scene, but check out the full article for his description of the scenes leading up to this:

This is the last shot of the family, or the three of them anyway. Framing is extremely important. I think it makes you feel so much below the level of verbiage and words. What they’re talking about is how good those onion rings are. For me, food is always central to a feeling of family and to a feeling of security and happiness. A.J. had remembered a moment at the end of the final show of the first season when they were all sitting down, eating in Vesuvio’s Italian restaurant and Tony said, ‘Just remember … value the good times,’ the moments, there really aren’t that many of them. And this is one of the very good times. And yet there’s something wrong with it because Meadow is not there. So the family isn’t really together. I think on some subliminal level that raises the tension. We know the family should be together and they’re not.

I said to Gandolfini, the bell rings and you look up. That last shot of Tony ends on ‘don’t stop,’ it’s mid-song. I’m not going to go into [if that’s Tony’s POV]. I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people’s minds or maybe everybody’s mind that he was killed. He might have gotten shot three years ago in that situation. But he didn’t. Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us. Hopefully we’re not going to get shot by some rival gang mob or anything like that. I’m not saying that [happened]. But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation. All I know is the end is coming for all of us.

I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.

So apparently when Chase has said in some interviews that the final scene had a definite meaning, the meaning was more along the lines of “don’t stop believing” than whether Tony was killed here or at some other time.

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart spoke with The Guardian about why he is leaving The Daily Show:

“Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, ‘Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.”

He has a 10-year-old son, Nathan, and a nine-year-old daughter, Maggie; Stewart and his wife, Tracey, have been married for almost as long as he’s been doing the show, after Stewart proposed to her via a crossword puzzle.

If anything, it was the prospect of the upcoming US election that pushed him to leave the show. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he says.

Ah, but who could have anticipated the excitement over Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails?

“Anyone could, because that story is absolutely everything that it’s supposed to be about,” he says, with a groan; as a revelation, it managed to be at once depressing and completely unsurprising. “I also felt that, for the show, you don’t want to leave when the cupboard’s bare. So I think it’s a better introduction when you have something providing you with assisted fuel, like a presidential campaign. But really, the value of this show is so much deeper than my contribution,” he says.

This means he will no longer have to watch Fox, but he did answer a hypothetical question as to a situation in which he might watch again:

Now that he is leaving The Daily Show, is there any circumstance in which he would watch Fox News again? He takes a few seconds to ponder the question. “Umm… All right, let’s say that it’s a nuclear winter, and I have been wandering, and there appears to be a flickering light through what appears to be a radioactive cloud and I think that light might be a food source that could help my family. I might glance at it for a moment until I realise, that’s Fox News, and then I shut it off. That’s the circumstance.”

Dan Aykroyd told The Huffington Post that “America is flat-out gun crazy.”

SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

Youre-The-Worst-690

2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

the-americans-fx

The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.