SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; The Americans; Community; Two SHIELDs; Victorian Sherlock; X-Files Closer To Returning; Sleepy Hollow Renewed; True Detective Hires Porn Stars

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Arrow and The Flash returned on CW (now the leading genre network), along with the premiere of iZombie. We don’t know all that much more about where they are heading with Ra’s al Ghul‘s offer to Oliver other than it will be difficult to refuse. The big surprise of the episode was of the apparent appearance of Shado in the flashback. If this is really her, maybe she dies again because of Oliver, giving Slade a better reason for blaming Oliver for her death than what we saw before.

The Flash did more to advance their storyline this week than Arrow in showing that, as has already been hinted, Barry can travel in time. We also learned the actual identity of Harrison Wells–a time traveler named Eobard Thawne. Major events of the episode included  Wells/Thawne killing Cisco plus Barry kissing Iris and revealing his secret identity to her. However, as we also saw that Barry went back in time to events earlier in the episode, either or both events could wind up being changed–especially likely as Cisco does appear in trailers for future episodes.

Screen Rant looked at events of the episode and how they related to the Flash’s powers in the comics.

The-Flash-Barry-Time-Travel-Discussion

The Hollywood Reporter  reported on a press screening in which  executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, Tom Cavanagh(Wells/Thawne)  and Candice Patton (Iris) answered questions:

How much will Barry fix?

Kreisberg teased that “the fun” of next week is seeing the ramifications of Barry’s actions and how they will change what viewers have already seen. Not everything will be undone by the time travel (though it’s safe to assume Cisco will be saved, as he’s been shown in previews for future episodes).

“This episode allowed us to sort of give people a tease and a taste and make some big reveals,” said Kreisberg.

Who is Eobard Thawne?

Wells confessed to Cisco that his real name was Eobard Thawne, and that he’d been stuck in the past for fifteen years. He called Iris’ boyfriend Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) a “distant” relative, which Kreisberg confirms was not a lie.

“There’s some great scenes coming up between Tom and Rick, that starts to become a storyline,” said Kreisberg.

The revelation puts to rest a fan theory that Eddie might actually be Eobard Thawne (AKA Reverse-Flash and Professor Zoom), who in comic book lore is a man from the 25th century who gets stuck in our era.

What does Wells want?

Wells killed Barry’s mother, but as he told Cisco, he actually wanted to kill Barry that night 15 years ago. Viewers do not know why Wells wanted to kill Barry, but at this point, all he cares about his getting home, though if he can kill Barry in the process that’s a bonus.

“Imagine if one of us was transported back into the past with no antibiotics and no internet and no indoor plumbing,’ said Kreisberg. “Every day in this time is an assault on him.”

Is Wells evil?

Kreisberg said Wells is not an “evil man” and that he even has reason to see “himself as a hero.”

“There’s nothing he says in that scene with Cisco that isn’t the truth,” said Kreisberg. “He’s sorry he found out. He’s sorry it has to happen, but it does have to happen and there’s a scene in episode 16 which kind of mirrors this scene, that I think really speaks to that.”

Cavanagh sees Wells as a man is just “trying to get home.” He has genuine affection for the STAR Labs team and their mission — at least while it serves his own purposes.

“As we see in this episode, it makes it a little more heartbreaking when the next phase of the plan starts to happen,” said Cavanaugh.

Will Iris uncover Wells’ secret?

Iris’ journalism mentor Mason (Roger Howarth) is poised to publish an expose on Wells, connecting him to a number of murders around town.

“For Barry, the wheels are turning for him, as far as what’s going on with Dr. Wells. Iris is going to continue to go after that story because Mason has piqued her interest,” said Patton. “For Barry, he wants to keep her out of harm’s way and this is directly putting her back into harm’s way by going into a situation with Dr. Wells that he’s not even quite clear about.”

What’s next?

Wells had future knowledge about these characters, and will start to share some of that knowledge. Episode 17 will also flashback to the beginning of the series, and show it from different perspectives, including Wells’.

“Toward the ends of the season, a whole bunch of new questions will pop up and that will drive the series forward. Most of the questions that we proffered at the beginning of the season will be paid off,” said Kreisberg.

If Thawne was really trying to kill Barry, was it young Barry or the Barry in our present?

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More at TV Line:

BREAKING THE TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM | Now that Barry has gone back in time, next week’s episode will deal with “how much of [what took place in Episode 15] still happens and how much of it might possibly change,” Kreisberg previews. As Dr. Wells pointed out previously, “there’s different versions of time travel. There’s the fixed loop and then there’s the version where time is more plastic and mutable. One of the fun things is discovering, like on Doctor Who, what’s a fixed point in time and what can’t be changed, what things always have to happen, and then what things are changeable and mutable. It’s a mixture of both.” That could spell bad news for Cisco — or good, if you look at it from the point of view of “Yay! He gets to live!” — because the episode explores “how certain events occur that prevent Cisco from following along the same trajectory” in his suspicions about Dr. Wells. Then there’s this question: Is there now a parallel universe with no Flash? “Is there?” Kreisberg replies coyly.

The Americans Divestment

While CW has become the leading broadcast network in terms of quantity of genre shows, FX leads as best non-premium cable channel with regards to quality shows. The Americans once again balanced several distinct plot lines going. While I would be perfectly happy watching any episode with Nina, there has been come complaints that her storyline back in the Soviet Union is no longer connected to any of the show’s other characters (other than for the indirect involvement with Arkady due to his family’s connections.) Fans of The Americans should realize by now that plot threads from past episodes can be picked up at anytime, with Nina suddenly involved with two characters from past episodes. Not only is she assigned to spy on Anton Baklanov, a scientist who was sent back to the Soviet Union in a previous episode, but she is working under Vasili, her former superior who she once framed. Best lines of the episode: “He’s the Minister of Railways.” “So next time I’m home I won’t be able to ride the train?”

The storyline involving apartheid in South Africa led to the third unforgettable scene of the series (after packing up Annelise’s body in a suitcase and home dental work on Elizabeth). However, while The 100, which also doesn’t hesitate to show death, would have killed off every character they could have plausibly kill off, outcomes on The Americans are less predictable, with Todd being spared. The possible recruitment of Paige moved ahead slowly, with Elizabeth explaining that activism is not as simple as being a criminal or not after Paige questioned Gregory’s history. The same complexity could apply to her profession.

Philip’s use of Martha has been a long-running storyline, but it has suddenly become much more interesting. In recent episodes there has finally been payoff on an event from the first season. Phillip, pretending to be Clark, tricked Martha into planting a bug in Gaad’s office. Now the bug has been found and Martha learns sees Walter Taffet, the actual person from the Office of Professional Responsibility who Clark is pretending to be. She has started asking questions, but Philip was prepared, such as with an apartment to take her to when Martha asked to see it. In this week’s episode, Divestment, Phillip was ready with a line about their relationship being real. At the moment this might be all Martha has to cling to, as opposed to prison or a death sentence for treason if it is discovered she placed the bug. If she is not careful she could wind up like Annelise, but she does present a real risk to Phillip. There probably was a reason for those scenes of her learning to use a gun earlier in the season.

Community Yahoo Premiere

Community returned with the first two episodes released on Yahoo Screen. As they were used to introduce two new characters, the stories were not among the best in the show’s history, but there were enough elements of the shows genius coming through. Abed went meta and assumed that Shirley was gone because of moving to a spin-off show. As NBC no longer does comedy, it is a crime show, and in a way he was right as we saw a glimpse of The Butcher and the Baker at the end of the episode. While it is a shame to lose another member of the original cast, the loss of Shirley, and earlier Pierce, is far less of a loss than the previous loss of Troy. Other highlights of the episode include the speakeasy and a rip off trailer of Gremlins, Knee-High Mischief from “Martelo Estrada Filme..”

In other major genre events of the week, things got even more complicated for Cole and Ramse on 12 Monkeys now that Ramse wants to preserve the timeline after finding he has a son. Tom Keene returned to The Blacklist. It was revealed that there are two SHIELDs. Is this for real, or a HYDRA trick? The other SHIELD is led by Edward James Olmos. Are Tony Stark and/or Maria Hill also involved? Perhaps they are real SHIELD agents, but Colson was chosen by Nick Fury himself.

Sherlock Victorian England

Teaser pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in 19th century clothes have been floating around for a while. Steven Moffat has confirmed that a stand-alone Christmas special of Sherlock will take place in Victorian England.

Fox is getting closer to going ahead with a limited run of The X-Files to tie up the threads left open. Making sense of that series by the end will be a huge challenge.

Sleepy Hollow was renewed for a third season, with a new show runner, Clifton Campbell. No word as to how many episodes.

True Detective has brought in a couple of porn stars, Amia Miley and Peta Jensen, for a major orgy scene. HBO already learned the benefits of using porn stars on Game of Thrones.

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; DC vs. Marvel Movies; SHIELD; Why You Should Watch The Americans; Big Bang Theory On Leonard Nimoy; The Last Man On Earth; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; House of Cards and Hillary Clinton

The Orphan Black Season 3 trailer is above. Following is the official season synopsis for the third season, which starts April 18:

No sooner has Sarah caught her breath after a stealthy escape from DYAD and the ruthless clone Rachel (Maslany), she is called upon to face the crazed, captive Castor clone, Rudy (Millen). But it is the discovery of Helena’s disappearance that spurs Sarah into action, rallying her sisters in the quest to reunite their clone family, and find peace once and for all.

Their greatest threat is a band of highly trained soldiers – identical brothers dubbed Project Castor. Unlike the sisterhood, Mark, Rudy, Seth, Miller and others (Millen) grew up together, fully aware of who and what they are. Developed by the military, this wolf pack was raised as regimented clones – singular in thought, movement and allegiance. Hell-bent on kicking up dirt, they’re dispatched to tackle their mission from all sides. But differences in approach betray cracks in their armor, and may be the very thing the sisters need to escape their clutches.

The sisters will need all the help they can get. With Cosima’s fluctuating health and no known cure for the mystery illness that ails her, she is holding onto life by a thread while nursing a broken heart left by her scientist lover Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).  Can she find a cure in time to save herself and her sisters? As the turbulent world of Alison turns, she faces fresh suburban woes and new marital challenges with lovable oaf of a husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun). How far will Alison go to keep up the façade of her cookie cutter life?  Sarah’s torn between her desire for a life with daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Kira’s father Cal (Michiel Huisman) and the urge to protect her foster family – loyal and feisty brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). But Mrs. S’s betrayal may cause her to turn her back on the only mother she’s known.

The hits keep coming for the girls but their commitment to this new family is as important as ever. No clone can do it alone, and Sarah must align with unlikely bedfellows in order to take on what is yet to come… and hopefully, discover the truth – her truth – along the way. How far are they willing to go to save each other and protect their families?

More on the upcoming season at The Mary Sue

Superman Warner CEO Interview

There are a lot of superhero movies planned making some wonder if viewers will have sufficient interest.  Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara says that the DC movies will be edgier and more steeped in realism compared to Marvel’s movies:

“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” said Tsujihara.

Not everyone seems to agree. The comic book movie pile-up was the subject of numerous jokes at this year’s Oscar ceremony, and the eventual best picture winner, “Birdman,” is a satire of the craze for superhero films.

However, Warner Bros. is making a big bet that the comic book phenomenon won’t fizzle out just as the craze for disaster movies, biblical epics and other once-hot genres cooled off. The studio is using sister company DC Comics’ stable of masked vigilantes and villains to make roughly two superhero movies a year beginning in 2016 with the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Other films include bigscreen adaptations of “The Flash,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam.”

The idea is to create a connected cinematic universe in which characters from one film interact with those from another, partnering, warring and creating super-teams such as the Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” It’s a strategy that owes a lot to Marvel, but Warner Bros. chief Tsujihara stressed that characters like Batman and Deadshot are very different from that company’s signature Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America brands.

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

The major DC comics programs were on hiatus last week and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returned. While Agent Carter was well-received, and people thought it was a good idea to use it to fill a hiatus in SHIELD if there is a hiatus, there have also been a lot of complaints that the hiatus destroyed the momentum of the show. It was also a bit confusing for those who were forgetting the events of two months ago, and haven’t been reading up on the significance of adding the Inhumans. Bleeding Cool has a good summary of six key events from the return of SHIELD, which might be especially helpful if anyone is a bit lost.

Saturday Night Live has coverage in the video above of the Avengers beating Ultron.

Chris Evans spoke with Collider about Captain America in Avengers: Age of Ultron. ComicBookMovie.com has more on the movie from Joss Whedon.

The Americans 69 Scene

The Americans continues to have excellent episodes week after week. Many critics agree that it is the best scripted drama which continues with the same cast from season to season, but very few people are actually watching. Many reviewers have pointed out that more should watch. Uproxx presents a good argument for watching which might get more attention than favorable critical reviews abut its smart story telling:

It’s a show about sexy spies doing sexy things, with wigs and intrigue and great music and a teenage daughter who isn’t Dana Brody and violence and 69’ing. Maybe that’s the problem. The Americans is too vague a title. For the rest of Season 3, and hopefully into Season 4, FX should start promoting the series as The Show Where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys 69.

There really was such a scene–see picture above. Plus their daughter walked in on it. Maybe that is what drove her to going to church. Paige is still a much better television daughter than Dana Brody.

I have mocked NBC for trying to copy The Americans with Allegiance. It has been canceled after only five episodes.

Big Bang Theory Nimoy Tribute

The Big Bang Theory ended with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy last week. I couldn’t read the text as my DVR popped up the window asking if I wanted to save or delete at the end of the show. In case anyone missed it, I have obtained and posted a screen grab above.

NBC has announced that Hannibal will return on June 4. Zachary Quinto will be guest staring on an episode. I hope someone Slaps him.

There was a reason for all those rumors that Jenna Coleman was going to leave Doctor Who after last season, along with all those hints in various episodes. Steven Moffat has confirmed that Coleman did plan to leave after last season but was persuaded to stay.

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It feels like the number of quality sit-coms had dropped tremendously by last season. Then last summer we got You’re The Worst, one of the best ever. Three new sit-coms worth watching have premiered recently. I discussed The Last Man on Earth in a separate post here. Also worthwhile are Fresh Off The Boat on ABC and Netflix released the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Friday. The last was developed by Tina Fey, originally to air on NBC. It would have fit well on Thursday night on NBC with shows such as Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. Now that all of the shows of this type are gone from NBC’s lineup, it is far more likely to survive on Netflix. Netflix also plans a second season, which will be produced without concern for the standards of network television. Tina Fey has claimed it primarily consist of shower sex.

Some have criticized The Last Man on Earth for being totally unrealistic, but the same can be said about many events in other shows such as House of Cards (as I’ll discuss in the future). If all the unrealistic aspects of Last Man On Earth bother you, pretend it is just a bizarre dream. Who knows, maybe that will be the explanation in the end. Regardless, it is funny enough to get away with an unrealistic view of how things would be after most people die of a plague.

As people are watching at different rates, I’ll wait a little longer to discuss Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt along with the third season of House of Cards. While avoiding any spoilers, I will mention that watching House of Cards did have me wondering who would make the worse Democratic president–Frank Underwood or Hillary Clinton. Saturday Night Live also tied Hillary Clinton to House of Cards in this skit, following her Nixonian email problems.

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SciFi Weekend: The Americans; The Flash; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who (The Doctor Dates Cinderella); 12 Monkeys; Big Bang Theory; Two And A Half Men Finale; Mad Men In The 70’s; Orphan Black; Kristen Bell; If Ayn Rand Wrote Harry Potter; Birdman Parody; Politics And The Oscars

The Americans Nina Gulag

One of the things which makes The Americans one of the top television shows now on is the manner in which several story lines involving different characters are carried out so well. Whether or not the different story lines become intertwined, one storyline often has lessons for another. On Dimebag, while Elizabeth and Phillip fought over whether Paige should become a spy, neither seemed to have thought that if Paige had been trained they could have used her to get information from Kimberly, the young daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group, instead of Phillip seducing her. Neither realized initially the degree to which they were in danger of losing Paige to her church–hardly acceptable if she were to be a good Communist. There is some similarity to how Pastor Tim is “recruiting” Paige to how Phillip is using Kimberly and the Russians want them to recruit Paige. Meanwhile in Russian, Nina might be saved due to Oleg’s family relationship to the future Russian oligarchs, and she went to work on her cell mate as Elizabeth would work on getting information. On top of this, the episode included a defector who might be double crossing them, an EST meeting, and a visit with an AA sponsor.

Keri Russell discussed the relationships with her character’s daughter and mother this season, and described the scene earlier this season in which Annelise’s body was packed into a suitcase:

IGN: I have to ask about that second episode and the scene of having to get rid of the body in that hotel room. First of all, there’s the “Oh my god!” of it all. And then also is it interesting for you to play a character who already had to compartmentalize everything, but this is a woman that her husband was sleeping with as a part of the job, and now she has the reality of that in front of her?

Russell: All I have to say is so many naked girls! Naked, beautiful actress, naked beautiful contortionist, yeah. Then on a second unit day of reshoots, a second naked beautiful girl. I was like, “There’s a lot of pretty, naked girls on this show!” Yeah, so bizarre! Really gruesome. I haven’t seen it. Does it play?

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

Last week The Flash was both a back door pilot for Firestorm and further advanced the idea of time travel for Barry Allen. We saw once again how far Harrison Wells is willing to go, and his motives remain unclear. We should be learning more when the show returns in March.

Also on CW, we saw a reversal on Arrow, as the flashback took place in Starling City while the present day action took place back on the island. It was strange to see Oliver from the period when he was missing back around his home. Seeing Oliver snooping around Queen Consolidated gave the feeling of a time travel story in which a character is in their past but cannot risk being seen.  Meanwhile, on the island, there was a deliberate reference to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn with Slade’s comment, “I’m going to leave you as you left me.”

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Marvel has released this synopsis of the episode:

After discovering an alien city with ties to his resurrection, Coulson and his team destroyed it before the forces of Hydra could claim its secrets, eliminating the villainous Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the process. But new threats to the world have arisen, including Skye’s father, Cal (Kyle McLachlan), who now seeks retribution against Coulson for stealing his revenge against Whitehall; a disturbing alliance between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33; the enigmatic Raina (Ruth Negga), who struggles with her transformation into something inhuman by the alien Obelisk and seeks vengeance; and Skye (Chloe Bennet), who developed mysterious new powers from the Obelisk but whose lack of experience with her new abilities may threaten the safety of those she loves.

Meanwhile, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) begin the next phase of a plan which seems to have grave repercussions for Coulson and his team, who are unaware that there’s another mysterious force moving against them. And as Hunter (Nick Blood) is forced to make the biggest choice of his life, Coulson will find his mission threatened by this shocking endgame.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks,” Coulson’s team must deal with the consequences of their war with Hydra as shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, and Hydra makes a dangerous move that may involve a traitor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst.

Adrianne Palicki has been promoted to a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, which probably means that Will will not be getting back together with Doctor Sam on About a Boy anytime soon.

Lily James Matt Smith

The Doctor is dating Cinderella–Matt Smith has confirmed that he is dating Lily James. I don’t know if it has occurred yet in the US broadcasts of Downton Abbey so I won’t give any specifics, but I did like her character’s triumph in a late season episode. Of course anything is better than revisiting certain past events yet once again.

In other Doctor Who and related news, The BBC has announced that Michelle Gomez will return as Missy in a two part episode to open the next season of Doctor Who. Add Eve Myles to the list of those interested in another season of Torchwood.

Speaking of Lily James in Cinderella, Ellen DeGeneres has presented a mash-up of Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey. Video above.

I thought there was a chance that 12 Monkeys might be able to make it into the upper tier of genre shows with The Night Room last week but The Red Forest couldn’t keep up the same quality this week. Not that it was a bad episode, but it was too easy to fix the timeline when it simply came down to Cassie getting captured in our present, and saving her would fix things. There are still a number of questions raised last week which could provide interesting episodes. Plus they now know how important Cassie’s role is and will make sure that they do not change history involving her, ensuring that she can deliver the message for Cole before she dies.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle (which I recommend watching, now about half way through the first season) and is going ahead with the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have intentionally held off on watching the pilot, preferring to wait until Amazon shows are released in full as opposed to watching the pilot months earlier, but reviews have been excellent for the pilot.

Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to throw far too much into a single episode, including the reopening of Stuart’s comic book store, a cameo by Nathan Fillion, and (the most amusing part of the show), Sheldon telling Penny how Amy was doing experiments on her. Then we learned what the episode was really about–a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz, who died in November. There is a toast to her in the video above, and there is an unseen tribute to her in every episode:

After we had that impromptu memorial the morning she passed away, Johnny and I were hugging—like everybody was—and right then we found our prop person and asked to get a little picture of Carol Ann and we put it on the refrigerator [in Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen] so she’s there in every episode now. It’s so small you wouldn’t even see it, but on the fridge is this tiny little wallet-size picture of Carol Ann that’s been there since the day she passed away.

It also appears that The Big Bang Theory is so subversive that China doesn’t want its citizens to be able to watch the show.

We are going into the final week of one of the best network sit-coms in recent years, Parks and Recreation. Last week we had the finale of Two And A Half Men, a multi-cam sit-com which over the last twelve years has shown everything wrong with the format. If anyone cares, Chuck Lorre explained his intentions for the finale. There were no apologies to the nation, but at least our great national nightmare is over.

Mad Men 70's

Mad Men enters the 1970’s for its final half-season, and from the music playing in the trailer it might even be doing a time jump to the mid 70’s. After that, I’m looking forward to the inevitable spin-off. Better Call Sally. Just kidding but considering how good Better Call Saul has been so far as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if AMC went that route again.

AMC purchased 49 percent of BBC America, and this has implications for the promotion of the third season of Orphan Black. The show probably has many less viewers than a show of this quality might otherwise have due to not being seen on BBC America. In the hopes of increasing exposure, the third season premiere will be shown on all of AMC’s channels, including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV. The one problem with this strategy is that Orphan Black is not a good show to come into late. Perhaps they should have been rerunning the first two seasons on some other channels prior to the start of the third season.

Forget any thoughts of John Oliver taking over for Jon Stewart. HBO, perhaps thinking along those lines and wanting to lock him in, has signed Oliver for two more seasons of This Week Tonight, with 35 episodes a year. Meanwhile Jon Stewart, after having to put out new shows daily, near year round, might envy Oliver’s deal.

Kristen Bell has no tolerance for anti-vaxxers, and won’t let them around her children. “It’s a very simple logic: I believe in trusting doctors, not know-it-alls.”

morena_baccarin
Morena Baccarin (of Gotham, Firefly, V, and Homeland) has been cast as the female lead in another superhero adaptation, this time the movie version of Deadpool. I don’t know if this will impact her work on Gotham, but we know that sooner or later Jim Gordon has to get back with Barbara, or else Batgirl will never be born.

BoingBoing has pointed out an example of Harry Potter fan fiction by Mallory Ortberg, written as if it was written by Ayn Rand. Thus there are passages such as, “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”  Plus don’t miss the link to Mallory Ortberg’s reviews of children’s movies as if they were written by Ayn Rand. For example:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“101 Dalmatians”A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

Big Bird meets Birdman in the video spoof above. Birdman is considered a heavy favorite to win an Oscar for best movie.

When actors go on stage to accept Oscars tonight, many of them are contributing to the Democrats, and some to the Republicans. The Hill reports:

Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.

Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper, and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.

Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donor…

Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She’s also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-breaking movie.

The article later discusses how Democrats often use celebrities in fund raising campaigns while “Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.”

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SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys; Arrow; The Atom; Spider-Man Joins MCU; X-Men; The Black Widow Project; A Female Thor; Orphan Black; Constantine; How Not To Get Away With Murder; The Americans; The Casual Vacancy; The IT Crowd In Space

12 Monkeys Decaying Body

I had fears that 12 Monkeys could settle on a simple formula of searching for the Night Room and the Army of the 12 Monkeys in our present, and a battle for the facility in the future. I no longer have such concerns about the direction of the show after this week’s episode, The Night Room. Major spoilers ahead for those who might be a week behind. The location of the Night Room was found (mostly off screen last week) and this week’s episode primarily took place there. The relationships between the main characters will not be exactly the same, especially after The Pallid Man told Cassandra that Cole killed Dr. Henri Toussaint in Haiti. There are also questions raised about Jones.

The episode was really interesting when the time travel implications of the virus are considered. Is the skeleton with the virus really Cole’s? Does he eventually develop the plague, despite his current immunity, or is he just a carrier? Does the repeated time travel play a part? Did Jones send his rotting body back in time, and for what reason? Did Jones (inadvertently?) cause the plague? If the answers are in the future which Cole came from, he won’t find them immediately. Although he failed in preventing the plague, he did enough to change the future. With West 7 and not Jones now in control of the time travel facility in the altered future, and with Cassie kidnapped in the past, Cole starts out next week with no allies in either time period beyond an insane girl.

12-monkeys Cassie Night Room

The shows’s executive producers Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett discussed the impact on the mythology with The Hollywood Reporter:

The Night Room is a big return to our mythology and the next big step in learning more not only about the virus, but the origin of this conspiracy,” Matalas says. “We learn quite a bit about the future, too. There is a very big storyline regarding Jones (Barbara Sukowa) in the Night Room. We get to learn what it took to get this time travel project up and running and the sacrifices she made. This episode is the one where we inhibit our skin a little bit more. The show gets a little bit more unique and a little more off-beat from what you may expect. We bring the weird a little bit here in a good way. It’s what makes it 12 Monkeys.

The two creators have a bigger plan in mind for Jones, which began with the early and rare moment of levity from the character at the beginning of “The Night Room.” “It’s definitely building up to something. Jones becomes from here on out a more prominent character with more screen time. That is something we wanted to see, her among the other characters, but also her backstory is really important to the mythology of the show and that is the first hint of it,” Fickett said. “When Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) goes into her room and opens up that chest you see the baby blanket with the name Hannah on it. Suddenly we know there is a whole lot more to this woman and maybe she has deeply personal reasons for changing time as well.”

Matalas, however, notes that messing with time has its consequences both to Cole and time itself. Throughout the Night Room, Cole starts to experience debilitating headaches. “Keep in mind, this is a new process. Cole is the pilot program for this. No one has traveled as much as him. He does have a time clock on himself,” Matalas said.

The changes brought about from the destruction of the Precursor are a major according to Matalas. It’s big enough to break time. “We are not talking about multiple universes. We are talking about one singular timeline. Jones, in [episode] six, explains the difference between loops, or what’s called a jinn, and that’s basically the Sarah Connor. … How Reese had to come back in time to pregnate Sarah Connor so that she can give birth to John Connor who will send his father back in time. It’s one of the infinite loops. That’s called a jinn,” Matalas explains.  “When there are more traumatic changes to the timeline, then you can break the change and that’s what happens in episode six.”

Among the big changes was The Pallid Man’s first mention of hierarchy within the Army of the 12 Monkeys by naming dropping someone called The Witness. When questioned about the character, Matalas and Fickett remained tight-lipped, promising only that the answer will not be what viewers expect.  “It’s not the answer Cole is expecting either,” Matalas said. “Or any of our characters,” Fickett added.

“There is a lot going on with the Army of the 12 Monkeys and by episode eleven you’ll learn a lot more about them. Enough to make your brain explode,” Matalas said. “Releasing the virus could be one of their intended goals, but the end result may not be what you expect it to be. With time travel you’re playing the long game and if you’re dealing with the fate of the entire planet, destruction can be creative in the long run.”

Arrow Ray Palmer Atom Suit

Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim is not one of those who subscribe to the theory (mentioned last week) that John Diggle might be John Stewart, who succeeds Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. I do think that Diggle plays such a key role on Arrow that it makes sense to keep him as he is, although it might be a way to give him a spin-off series in the future after Arrow ends.

We do know that Arrow is on the verge of introducing another superhero. Ray Palmer will put on the Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism (A.T.O.M.) suit, which so far we have only seen as a holograph,  in episode 15, Nanda Parbat. His course as a superhero sounds a lot like Laurel’s. Guggenheim said, “He’s definitely a sloppy superhero in the sense of all of our characters don’t immediately have the easiest time fighting crime. I would say episode 19 really digs underneath what does it mean for Ray to be a hero. Is he a hero because of who he is? Or is he a hero because of the suit that he’s made?” He will not be shrinking initially but will fly:

For me, the most satisfying thing about the costume is, it looks like Brandon walked off of a movie set. I’ve never seen a TV show do a costume of this level of ambition before. He’s got a lot of cool tricks up his sleeve. People who are immediately expecting him to shrink are going to be disappointed. I will say that upfront.

We always say, we’re doing the “Arrow” version of The Atom. That said, there will be some flying involved, which looks remarkably amazing. He has a lot of little gadgets and tricks and abilities built into that suit. I don’t want to spoil exactly what they are, because I think part of the fun of watching is seeing what that suit’s going to do next.

A Felicity Smoak action figure is being released. I won’t discuss this further to avoid getting into Lars And The Real Girl territory.

Spider-Man and Avengers

After several weeks of rumors, it has now been announced that   Spider-Man will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe. It is believed that this means that The Amazing Spider-Man trilogy will not be completed and Andrew Garfield is out as Spider-Man. The deal will allow Spider-Man to appear in an upcoming Marvel Studios movie, assumed to be the upcoming Captain America movie considering that in the comics Spider-Man played a role in the civil war storyline. Afterwards, while Sony will retain ownership and handle distribution, Marvel Studies will collaborate with Sony on the creative end. Considering that Sony has failed in two different attempts at a Spider-Man trilogy, this deal should help both Sony and Marvel. There is also talk of future Marvel cross overs in future Spider-Man movies.

While most fans seem to have been rooting for Marvel Studies to get creative control of Spider-Man, I recently discussed a contrary opinion that this would reduce exposure for some of the lesser comics characters which Marvel Studies has done an excellent job with. I think that, if necessary, it would be worth reducing the number of other Marvel movies in order to have a quality Spider-Man movie series. So far it appears that the only consequence will be to move back the releases dates of four of the planned phase 3 movies. The updated release schedule can be found here.

Wolverine-3-Hugh-Jackman-and-Patrick-Stewart

Hugh Jackman discussed future Wolverine and X-Men movies and the possibility of an X-Men cross-over with the Marvel cinematic universe.

“I like to think there’s that possibility for all of it, and I would even like to think more that it doesn’t happen out of necessity, y’know, when someone’s run it into the ground or something. I optimistically love the idea of “What the hell, Batman versus Iron Man versus Wolverine!” Let’s just chuck ‘em in.

We’ll see what happens, but maybe as these things go on more and more they’ll want to and need to do all that stuff. I’m optimistic, I’d think it’d be great, but hey, it’s not my billions of dollars behind this promise. [laughs] It’s easy for us to speculate, “Why did they do that?!”

Agent Carter has primarily tied into the Marvel cinematic universe with connections to Captain America and SHIELD. Another connection has been the revelation that Carter’s former neighbor Dottie was trained in the Black Widow program. Bridget Regan discussed her role with Comic Book Resources.

Thor Female
I was a bit skeptical when I first heard that the Thor comic was to change to feature a female version of the character, but I saw it more as an attempt to bring in female readers as opposed to anything political. As I do not read it I cannot judge it myself but it does seem from the blogs that comic fans are receiving this favorably. Some conservative see it differently, both disliking the comic and turning it into a political argument. An article on the comic at Breitbart has the title, Female Thor Is What Happens When Progressive Hand-Wringing And Misandry Ruin A Cherished Art-Form. Vox Populi says it is  “exactly the same thing as a communist government taking over a capitalist society.”

BBC America has released a set of teasers for the upcoming season of Orphan Black, which returns on April 18.

Many people were predicting that Constantine would never make it to a second season after the decision to limit it to the first thirteen episodes this season. Now there are rumors that NBC might keep it alive, except move it to the Syfy network and renaming it Hellblazer. This would help with the goal of increasing the number of origianl shows on Syfy, and ratings expectations would be far lower. It is expected that if it does move to Syfy, it would also be able to concentrate more on the horror elements as opposed to trying to be a network procedural.

How To Get Away With Murder is really getting wild as it approaches its season finale. Despite all the flash backs earlier in the season regarding the attempts to burn Sam’s body, they now appear to be in serious danger of getting caught due to portions of his body being found. Didn’t any of them watch the first season of Breaking Bad? Knowing that the show will be coming back for a second season has major implications for any speculation as to how the season will end. Any of the students could conceivably get arrested but Annalise will have to continue with the show. Either she gets off, the mystery is dragged into next season, or perhaps they do a variation on the second season of Broadchurch in which she is arrested and next season deals with her trial. That would also spare them from having to either come up with a new season-long mystery or settle for case of the week episodes.

The Blacklist shows how great acting can save what otherwise would probably be a weak show. Repeatedly we get hope of really learning something and it turns out to be very little. We saw Elizabeth’s memories from the night of the fire, and then were told her memories might have been tampered with and are not accurate. There was more talk about the Fulcrum and it was ultimately found in Elizabeth’s bunny, but it is really just a McGuffin. I just could not imagine watching this show without James Spader.

The Americans remains the best drama which continues a story from season to season on television. (I used this awkward description to exclude Fargo and True Detective, two shows which some critics ranked above The Americans last season.) Personally I didn’t find packing Annelise into the suitcase all that cringe-worthy, but Elizabeth’s tooth-extractions were a different matter. Executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg discussed the creation of the scene in the video above, from Slate.

Frank Langella is also an excellent addition to the cast as their former and current handler Gabriel. Among the many history lessons from the series, the episode also showed today’s kids how television stations did not stay on around the clock, signing off for the night by playing The National Anthem and then running a test signal.  I haven’t bothered to watch, but I hear that the NBC rip-off, Allegiance, is doing terribly in both reviews and ratings and is not expected to last very long.

A television version of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling airs tonight on BBC One. The Guardian has a review.

The Guardian reports that the creators of The IT Crowd are working on a sitcom set in space for Channel 4. Shows from Channel 4 have sometimes been made available in the United States over Hulu.

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SciFi Weekend: Parenthood Finale; The Marvel Cinematic Universe; The 100; Arrow; Allegiance; The Americans

Parenthood Finale Table

Parenthood concluded with one of the best television finales of all time. This was an easier show to conclude than some others. It did not have the problem of shows such as The X-Files and Lost, which became so burdened by its mythology that it was impossible for the finale to be satisfying without giving up hope that it would really make sense. The Parenthood finale remained true to the stories to date, not tempted to throw in a surprise which did not fit the series, like with How I Met Your Mother or Dexter.

The final episode concluded the major story lines of the season. Most were handled well, but the solution to Adam search for the job of his dreams was the most contrived, with Kristina suddenly having an opportunity at a non-profit which left the position of headmaster at Chamber’s Academy open for Adam. It made sense for Crosby to run The Luncheonette without Adam. Accountants and attorneys could provide some of the business advice he received when Adam was there full time, even if it didn’t make any sense when Crosby said he would be Adam and Amber would be Crosby. It was rather sudden for Julia and Joel to be offered the chance to adopt Victor’s sister, but such an offer coming suddenly did not seem as unnatural as Kristina’s sudden job opportunity.

There were two other story lines which were more important during the season, and which dominated the finale. Sarah’s wedding turned out to be a perfect way to end the series. Besides being a major event for Sarah, the wedding provided a way to get all the characters together as budget limitations required the absence of characters for parts of the season. Besides being the obvious ending for Sarah’s storyline, it provided a good end point for Max, who got the job as wedding photographer and was also “in the picture.” He even got to dance with a girl. Plus the scenes of Max taking the family pictures was a good way to just get a look at the cast members.

The other major storyline of the season was Zeek’s heart problems which, no matter how much fans tried to deny it, was inevitably going to lead to his death. Any lingering doubt that this would occur were eliminated when I read that it would jump ahead to show the Bravermans in the future. It would have been dishonest to not have Zeek die at some point. His death was handled well as he died peacefully at home a few months after he walked Sarah down the aisle, as can be seen in the video above.

Instead of a sad funeral we jumped ahead to see Zeek’s ashes spread at a baseball diamond, and then the Bravermans did what Zeke would have wanted them to do–play baseball, with the series theme song, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young playing. Then, in one of the greatest endings in television history, we had a combination of how Jason Katims ended his previous show, Friday Night Lights with the ending of Peter Krause’s previous show, Six Feet Under.

The show jumped ahead, also in the video above to show the broad outlines of what happens to the Bravermans. There was no ambiguity as in The Sopranos. Adam does become headmaster, eventually handing Max his high school diploma. Crosby does run The Luncheonette. Besides adopting a third child, Julia winds up becoming pregnant with a fourth, and even gets a puppy. Julia and  Joel recreat the original structure of the Braverman family with a younger brother and sister and an older brother and sister. Camille makes it to to inn in France which Zeek had wanted to take her to.

Parenthood - Season 6

Amber’s future is the most exciting. After having her child with Ryan, aka Luke Cafferty of Friday Night  Lights (Matt Lauria), Amber winds up marrying Jason Street (Scott Porter). Ryan even gets his act together and is part of their lives. Scenes with their courtship were shot but got cut from the finale, with Scott Porter’s character named Peter:

“There’s a scene where they meet. Peter and his daughter are at what amounts to a Kidtown, like an indoor jungle gym playtime place. Peter has his daughter and Amber has Zeek. Zeek [named after his grandfather] gets lost in the ball pit and Peter goes bravely in to save him and brings him back to Amber.”

They clicked right away. “They have similar kinds of pasts,” Porter explains. “Both were a little bit wild at one point, and both have kids they maybe weren’t expecting but that were perfectly timed for them. They’re single parents who met and were immediately drawn together.”

While no wedding was actually shot, Porter had no problem imagining the nuptials.

“I imagine it was a very small, intimate wedding. These are two people who are very protective of their families. So pretty small, except for the Braverman side — they come in numbers that most families don’t come in anymore.”

This and other deleted scenes are bound to show up on the DVD set, and some deleted scenes can be found online here.

Matt Lauria and Scott Porter were just two of many former stars of Friday Night Lights who appeared on Parenthood over the years. Yahoo has a slide show, starting with Minka Kelly who both tutored Max and slept with Crosby.

Parenthood - Season 6

This very well might be the end for quality dramas such as Friday Night Lights and Parenthood on network television as I discussed last week. Fortunately cable and streaming networks are doing more quality shows. This topic came up in an interview with Jason Katims at Variety:

It’s unique as a family drama on TV right now. Can you imagine trying to sell it today?

It would be a hard sell to go out and sell a family drama that doesn’t have some sort of twist. There are lot of shows about family, but they’re all couched in other things. This is a straight family drama. It’s unusual in that way. But honestly it was not easy to sell it five years ago. It’s not like anyone was saying let’s have it then. But the TV landscape is changing so rapidly. There’s so much opportunity now, so many different types of outlets — you never know. I’m hoping that there’ll still be a place for shows like this.

The finale provided a broad outline, but also leaves things open to return to their story in the future, either during the period seen or afterwards. Katims is interested, and the new outlets make this more likely in the future.

Given the wealth of platforms on the TV landscape, could you imagine ever revisiting the Bravermans down the road?

Yes, absolutely. Everyone who is doing the show — our writers, our actors, our directors, our producers — we all love doing the show. Everyone would want to do more. There is no one who is angling to get out of doing this thing. I personally would be interested in seeing what happens a few years down the road. I want to know what happens to these people, these characters. If you asked me three years ago, I would say it’s not going to happen. But now there are so many ways of doing things that it’s possible. I would very much be open to that.

Parenthood - Season 6

He also discussed this with E! saying, “I love the idea of doing a reunion movie like Boyhood, where every year, everybody commits a week to doing this project.,” he said. “Maybe it’s not that crazy to think that we could pull something like that off.”

Of course the old episodes are all easily available, both on Netflix and Amazon. I rewatched the pilot later on Thursday night, and this provided a real feeling of going full circle in an episode which introduced the characters. The pilot both had major life events for members of Team Braverman and featured the family at baseball games.

The Bravermans are a fantasy family. It is a family nobody actually has, and it is hard to imagine how Adam and Kristina could have afforded to live in Berkeley, hire private tutors for Max, and afford to send Haddie to Cornell. This universe is still more grounded in reality than the Marvel cinematic universe, with both types of fantasy enjoyable to watch. Digital Spy has some spoilers regarding Avengers: Age of Ultron (trailer above) with more in the full post.

We won’t see the Avengers assemble again (which hopefully also means we’ll be spared a silly alternative UK title). “This movie starts off and the team is together, on a mission, they’re working in tandem, and there are new relationships between them,” explains producer Jeremy Latcham. “Time has passed, so you pick up right in the middle of an action sequence and start trying to catch up.

“I think that’s fun for an audience, to try and figure out, ‘Wait, those two are funny together now, there’s something going on with them, maybe there’s a little tension over there’. You’re showing up at a party when it’s already a little bit started.”

“Bigger” and “darker” are two of the most clichéd terms you can apply to a franchise sequel, but Age of Ultron looks set to earn both – according to Ruffalo, it “makes the first Avengers look like Waiting for Guffman“.

Latcham expands on this by reminding us that much of The Avengers was shot on a small soundstage in Albuquerque, and that its New York City was created “in an old abandoned train station where we’d hung green screen and built part of a bridge.”

Not only are the locations real this time – they’re also global. “The Avengers saved New York, but the Avengers aren’t just about America,” Latcham says. “They’re here to protect this blue rock that we all live on.”

Hence Age of Ultron‘s globe-trotting remit, which sees various strands of the gang show up in South Africa, Northern Italy (playing as Eastern Europe) and South Korea among other places. In preparation for one particularly spectacular set piece, producers asked the South Korean government for permission to shut down Seoul’s equivalent of the M1 for two weeks. They complied.

avengers-age-of-ultron-quicksilver-scarlett-witch

The movie adds Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to the Avengers, but they start out on Ultron’s side.

New recruits Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) initially join forces with James Spader’s Ultron against the Avengers, creating a very different balance of power than solo villain Loki. “Instead of Ultron giving a lot of speeches so everybody knows what he’s thinking, it’d be nice if he had some allies,” Latcham explains.

“The story that Joss put together with these two kids is really sweet and poignant, and you really understand why they would start on this side of the line. It’s a great journey that they go on, from being these rough and tumble kids in Eastern Europe who blame the West, and the Avengers for the plight, the power structure of the world that keeps kids like them down. Over the course of it they realize maybe the Avengers are here for good reason.”

But the brother-sister duo have legitimate beef with one Avenger in particular. “Our characters have a lot of anger, especially towards Tony Stark, and we want revenge,” says Olsen. “We meet Ultron, and he’s someone who preaches peace and… believes what we believe, which is that the Avengers create destruction and that Tony Stark’s bomb is responsible for killing our parents.”

Unsurprisingly, their alliance with Ultron ends up turning sour, and Olsen reveals that “my character ends up really having to deal with her ignorance. A lot of problems that happen towards the end of the film are her responsibility.”

Age of Ultron also leads into the next Captain America movie and the situation leading to the upcoming civil war is explained:

Much of the Avengers’ problem boils down to their lack of a clear leader post-Winter Soldier. “SHIELD has fallen apart, so this movie becomes Tony Stark and Steve Rogers trying to put the Avengers together without a parental unit like Nick Fury hovering over them,” explains Latcham. “What you realize is that these are guys who work best with rules, and probably do need some adult supervision.”And as anybody who watched the first film can guess, Tony and Cap aren’t an ideal leadership pairing. “Tony has been paying for everything, designing stuff, building new toys, he’s the benefactor of the whole thing. But Steve Rogers is very much in charge of operations and missions, he’s the moral compass,” Latcham goes on. “But how long can Tony Stark have someone else be in charge?” In other words, groundwork is being distinctly laid for the Stark vs Rogers core of Civil War.

Avengers Age of Ultron Spoilers

Joss Whedon has helped create a fantastic universe with the Marvel characters but has been talking about moving on, and creating a new universe:

“I would never rule anything out, because I like working here. By the same token, the biggest thing for me is that I need to do something that I create myself. It’s been way too long since I created a universe. The last thing I did before The Avengers was [directing an episode of] Glee, and in between I did Much Ado About Nothing. So I haven’t created my own universe for over five years. That feels wrong.”

The Marvel universe is not limited to the Avengers and other movie series from Marvel Studios as other studios have the rights to some of the Marvel characters. Fox has the rights to X-Men and the Fantastic Four, and there is talk that their worlds will ultimately intersect. Information on the upcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four movies here and here respectively.

Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and we learned during the recent leaks of their email that there was talk of Marvel Studios getting partial rights to the character. Blastr argues that it might have actually been a good thing that Marvel Studios did not own the rights to all of the Marvel characters:

It’s easy to forget that back in the mid-2000s, Marvel Studios was one heck of a risky proposition. After partnering with outside studios for years, the company finally decided that, if they wanted good movies based on their comics (and the winner’s share of the box-office bucks that come with them), they’d have to make ‘em themselves. There was just one problem: They’d already sold off any franchise with obvious big-screen potential, most notably Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

So Marvel decided to dig deep. The comic universe has always thrived on variety and a world populated with extremely interesting and damaged heroes, so they decided to apply that model to film. Iron Man and Hulk were arguably the most bankable heroes left on the bench, so Marvel pumped every dime it had into those two projects and prayed for a hit. Luckily for all of us, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau caught lighting in a bottle with Iron Man in 2008. More than $585 million later, we were well on our way toward The Avengers.

Since Marvel didn’t have the luxury of a sure-fire star like Spider-Man — who is currently the most lucrative comic-book character in existence, with more than $1.3 billion in licensing revenue in 2013 alone — they had to work with characters who might not have ever gotten a shot otherwise. Just think: If Marvel could have made splashy Spider-Man and X-Men movies, do you think we’d have ever gotten something as creatively quirky as Guardians of the Galaxy (or Ant-Man), or the risky period-set romp that was Captain America: The First Avenger? Maybe somewhere down the line, but a lot of the limited focus (and release slots) would almost certainly be eaten up by those larger properties. 

Yes, Marvel would probably be making better movies than what’s out there now (especially on the Spider-Man front), but for me, I wouldn’t trade the epic Marvel Universe we have now for the chance at some better Spider-Man movies. Not by a long shot. The fact that Marvel didn’t have Spider-Man in its stable was the catalyst to bring characters like Iron Man and Thor to life, and gave Marvel the confidence to try something as seemingly insane as a film starring Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The only thing they could control was making the best movies possible, and since the characters were mid-tier, they had to be extremely good.

He has a good point that the way Marvel built the Avengers with characters starting with lesser characters like Iron Man worked out well. However, now that this has been established, Marvel Studios (as part of Disney) is probably big enough to hire the crew to put out an even larger number of movies. Plus it would be worth sacrificing some of the planned movies with minor characters if it meant having Spider-Man movies of the quality of other movies from Marvel Studios.

100-1

Briefly looking at other shows on last week, I was glad to see that the cast and crew of The 100 agree that the plan for Bellamy to infiltrate Mt. Weather “sucked.” I can accept writing a script with characters doing foolish things, as people do foolish things, as long as the writers are doing this intentionally. More on upcoming plans for The 100 in the linked interview.

arrow-katie-cassidy-black-canary

I am also glad that it was intentional that Team Arrow was so weak without Oliver. It would be especially unrealistic if Laurel was suddenly an effective crime fighter like her sister, who had years of training. Marc Guggenheim discussed Arrow and The Flash in an interview with Assignment X. Guggenheim also tied Arrow into contemporary politics:

AX: How much do you weigh referencing ARROW as a modern-day Robin Hood?

GUGGENHEIM: There’s an interesting thing that’s happening in the country right now, where you’re talking about one percent versus ninety-nine percent, haves versus have-nots. Poverty and whatnot has become a political issue, which is interesting, because to me, it was always an issue on both sides of the aisle, how we distribute wealth in this country. It’s a little scary to me that it’s become this polarizing political thing. That’s not the country I grew up in, so it’s weird also to be writing on a show that’s clearly dealing with that issue head-on. Obviously, GREEN ARROW is inspired by Robin Hood and we’re playing around with those elements, but you go it’s more about social justice than it is about politics. At least, that’s what the show should be about.

AX: Aren’t social justice and politics sort of the same thing?

GUGGENHEIM: Well, the point I’m making actually is that social justice has become a political issue in a way that it never has been in this country. Obviously, yes, there’s always been a political divide, we’ve always had disagreements in terms of how to address these issues, but it just feels like the disagreements have become so vitriolic and the differences have become so severe that it’s taken on a different cast than it used to have.

NBC plans to air Allegiance on Thursday nights in place of Parenthood. It sure sounds like a rip off of The Americans, even if its producers deny it. I’m sure there will be differences, like on The Americans the Russians are after the daughter, but on Allegiance they want to turn the son into a spy. It seems better to place such a scenario with undercover Russian spies in the 1980’s, like The Americans, as opposed to present day.

The Americans started its season with another excellent episode, and is ranked by may critics as the top show currently on television. I doubt that Allegiance will be anywhere as good, either as a spy show or as a family drama. If you haven’t seen it, call in sick for the next two days and binge on the first two seasons on Amazon Prime to catch up.

And, finally, a nine year-old in Texas was suspended from school for threatening to make a classmate disappear. He had just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and claimed to have the one ring to rule them all.

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SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; The 100; Supergirl; Person of Interest; The End of Parenthood and Parks and Recreation & The Decline of NBC; 12 Monkeys; Netflix Marvel Series; The Americans; Sleepy Hollow; The End of The Marvel Universe; The Humor Of Sarah Palin; Mellisa Raunch Sex Scene

Agents of Shield Coulson Skye

Agents of SHIELD has come a long way from the first season. While they always hinted there was something special about Skye, they didn’t have the payoff on this plotline until the midseason finale with her conversion to an Inhuman. This might have major ramifications for her relationship with Coulson:

Executive producer Jeph Loeb says that the current Inhumans plotline has always been the plan for “Agents of SHIELD.” Like they always knew that Grant Ward was going to be HYDRA in Season 1, the seeds of Skye being something other were planned in the pilot.

“Once we started down that road hopefully you were coming along for the adventure, and now that you’ve come along for the adventure one of the things that’s so amazing about what’s happening on that show is so now we know she has gone through a transformation,” he says. “How is everyone going to react to that? And in the same kind of way you’re asking as an audience member, one of the things that I think is really valuable and one of the things that I think Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell and the writing staff really do have a great feeling for is they are audience members. The writers room sits around and tries to come up with, ‘What is it that you think we’re going to do and how can we then turn that on its ear in a way that makes it feel like it’s fun and valuable?'”

Blood says “SHIELD” has often gone in a different ways from what he expected. He says the latest script he read “just turned another corner,” and that audiences will “be surprised of a lot of stuff that’s coming up.” Because the SHIELD team doesn’t know about the term “Inhumans” like audiences do, Blood says “it’s going to be something that is unraveled.” He has yet to find out where the storyline is going.

The obvious turn would be that Coulson helps Skye — someone Gregg says is the “the person he cares about most” — through her transformation into an Inhuman. But what if he views her as a threat instead of an ally because of her new powers?

“His no. 1 job is to be responsible for SHIELD, which he views as being responsible for the safety of billions of people from things they don’t know about. That’s what SHIELD is. No matter how much he loves Skye — and it’s as much as you can love somebody — it’s the closest thing to a daughter he has. That’s a sacred trust,” Gregg says. “I hope he doesn’t get put in that situation [where she is a threat] because it would mess him up.”

He teases there will be trouble within SHIELD in the aftermath of Trip’s death and Skye’s transformation. “I don’t think the whole team is going to be unified behind what just went on, and it’s hard to blame them. He’s got a couple of people that he’s come to really trust,” Gregg says. “One of my favorite things about this season is that everybody comes up to me on the street really worried about Fitz and these new characters we introduced this year. Coulson also has these new people … he doesn’t have the same type of history with those people. It’s going to be hard to hold the baby brand new, on the run SHIELD together in the wake of what just happened.”

There’s also the question of Bobbi’s secret, which Blood says is as big a mystery in the second half of Season 2 as who the man with no eyes is. “I honestly think people are going to freak when they see some of the stuff we’ve been filming recently,” he says.

The 100
The 100 returned last week and the events of the fall finale continued to have a major impact on the characters. While I originally did not watch this show, thinking it was another CW show putting attractive young people in a sci-fi scenario which has been done before, I found that this was far better done than I anticipated.

Yes, it does have its attractive young cast members, led by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who does an excellent job in the role. (Having binged on the first one and one-half seasons over a weekend, I did notice that Eliza Taylor does show less cleavage in the second season, which must have been a conscious decision by the producers considering that the characters couldn’t just run out to clothing stores in this post-apocalyptic world to change their wardrobe). There are also the CW love triangles, but they do not distract from the stories. Both the characterization and plot lines have been strong, even when going where other shows have gone before. Bustle and The Mary Sue both have posts on why you should watch the show.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

CBS has chosen Melissa Benoist to play the lead role on Supergirl. Previous reports on the show have described it as more of a CBS procedural with Supergirl as a feminist investigating crimes, but with cross overs possible with the CW shows Arrow and The Flash.

CBS is showing success with another mixture between procedural and genre with Person of Interest. The show started out as a procedural show with a science fiction gimmick to propel it, and has evolved to what might be seen in the future as “a modern sci-fi epic that is considered a must-see show along the lines of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica…”

Many blogs and podcasts, along with this thread on Reddit, have looked at the question of how someone could get caught up with the show without watching all the old episodes. The purely procedural episodes of the first two seasons are mostly unnecessary to appreciate the more recent episodes since the show evolved into a more significant science fiction series, but it is hard to say exactly what can be skipped and must be watched as often early episodes would have a few minute segment towards the end to slowly develop the mythology in addition to the number of the week story.

There have been some posts, such as here and here, which might help in listing some of the more essential episodes. It would really be helpful if some of the other mythology segments which are only small parts of other episodes could be accumulated in a video.

Parks and Recreation

Time looked at the politics of Parks and Recreation, which is concluding its run on NBC.

But there’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”) Leslie is comically tenacious–Poehler plays her as a cheerfully overprepared super-wonk–but she’s good at what she does and is driven by a fierce love for her hometown as well as its famous waffles…

Leslie can’t do it alone, though: she’s assisted by a network of co-workers and friends (played by a comedy-powerhouse cast, many of whom–like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari–have deservingly become stars). Even her former supervisor Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) admires Leslie’s commitment, even though he’s so libertarian, he once illustrated the evils of taxation to a fourth grader by eating 40% of her lunch. Parks argues not only that we need our neighbors’ help but that helping makes us better ourselves; it’s in the small-town, populist tradition of Friday Night Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Parenthood Series Finale

When I recently posted my list of top television shows of the year, I noted how little representation the major broadcast networks had on the list. Perhaps the biggest decline is being seen at NBC. They will soon be without two of their highest quality returning shows. Besides trying to run through Parks and Recreation as quickly as possible,  Parenthood concludes this week, apparently with Lorelei Gilmore marrying Ray Romano. If it ends with Zeke dying, I’m imaging angry mobs storming Rockefeller Center. After these are gone they will still have some shows worth watching, most notably Hannibal, which I’m amazed a network is broadcasting, but the lineup of quality shows will sure be thin. Their announcements of upcoming shows is being greeted with far more snark than interest.

In the past NBC would often be the home of some of the highest quality drama shows on television, such as The West WingFriday Night Lights, I’ll Fly Away, and St. Elsewhere. They probably had better ratings success with some, but not all of their sitcoms, which included shows such as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Community, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace. Going further back, it was also the home of some classic genre shows such as the original Star Trek and The Man From UNCLE. (We won’t talk about some of their more recent attempts at genre such as Revolution, The Cape and Heroes after the first season.)

So, what happened to NBC? I suspect that that it is a victim of otherwise good changes in television. Writers and producers for many high quality shows are now going to cable and streaming networks, where they can develop an audience without the need for netw0rk-level ratings. (In the case of Community, it is moving directly from NBC following cancellation by NBC, with the first two episodes to be streamed by Yahoo! on March 17.) It will be a challenge for NBC to attract this type of quality show in the future, and it is questionable as to whether they even care considering that lower quality shows will probably deliver higher ratings.

Increasingly cable or smaller networks owned by the major networks are offering higher quality shows than the major networks. FX and FXX are offering some of the best shows on basic cable. CBS has Showtime and CW, with The CW Network  turning into one of the strongest networks, especially for genre, as it attracts a totally different audience than CBS. NBC/Universal have even lagged behind other cable networks which have produced better science fiction than its Syfy Network.

12Monkeys_gallery_102Recap_04

Syfy is finally trying to compete with hard science fiction. 12 Monkeys remains promising after the second episode, which aired Friday and was available for streaming last week. With Leland Goines dead, his daughter Jennifer becomes a major character. Her character in an insane asylum serves as an alternate version of the Brad Pitt character in the movie. As discussed previously, the television show can cover far more ground with changes such as having the ability to change time and with the Army of the 12 Monkeys playing a more significant role.

I saw a posted link here which supposedly allows streaming of the third episode for cable subscribers in the United States but it would not allow viewing through either my Charter or Xfinity account. I’m posting the link in case it works for other cable systems, or if it becomes active later. The first two episodes are available for streaming there.

the_defenders_poster___marvel_netflix_series_by_tchallacbm-d78ic4v

Netflix has released a brief synopsis for their upcoming Marvel shows. While previous reports suggested that we might have to wait a year between shows, it looks like the Jessica Jones show (staring Krysten Ritter) will be out sometime later this year.

Daredevil
“Marvel’s Daredevil” is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night. Coming April 10

A.K.A. Jessica Jones
Working as a private investigator in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a troubled ex-superhero’s past comes back to haunt her in the live-action series, “Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” Coming 2015

Iron Fist
“Marvel’s Iron Fist” follows superhero and martial arts master Danny Rand in the upcoming live-action series. Coming soon

Luke Cage
In this Marvel live-action series, a street-fighting ex-con battles crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as the superhero Luke Cage. Coming soon

The Defenders
“Marvel’s The Defenders” brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an epic superhero team-up in New York City. Coming soon

The Americans returns this week. Unreality Primetime has a couple spoilers on upcoming episodes. The season three trailer is above.

Can Henry be redeemed? The cast of Sleepy Hollow answer questions such as this in videos available here.

The Marvel universe ends as we know it in the comics this spring.

Who needs Tina Fey to mock Sarah Palin? Her own words are ridiculous enough. Check out the reaction to her latest speech from Twitter.

bronze

Melissa Raunch of The Big Bang Theory has received a lot of attention at Sundance for her raunchy sex scene in The Bronze.

“The Bronze” kicked off the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival on a foul-mouthed note Thursday, sticking a dagger through the concept of hometown heroes and providing one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history.

The scene in question, one that involves pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes, was a constant source of amusement during a question and answer period immediately following the film’s premiere at the Eccles Theater.

“Right after this there’s going to be an audition for the sex scene in the sequel,” joked director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa Rauch, the star of the film and its cowriter along with husband Winston Rauch, said, “As for the sex scene, you write what you know.”

Her husband added that it gave the couple a chance to “show you what we do in our bedroom.”

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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.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; Doctor Who; The Fall; More Genre Novels Receiving TV Adapatations; Ascension; Community; Mrs. Wolowitz Dies; Porn Stars Explain Net Neutrality; Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

Arrow Black Canary Katie Cassidy

By now  most fans must have figured out that Katie Cassidy’s character is training to replace her sister Sara as the Black Canary, so there is no point in keeping this a secret. Publicity pictures have been released of Cassidy as the Black Canary. Marc Guggenheim has answered questions about when we will find out who killed Sara and has shot down another fan theory in a recent interview. The mystery over Sara’s killer won’t be dragged out over the entire season, but he is not telling exactly when we will find out.

The CW Network has released the synopsis of the cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow, which will air on December 2 and 3.

Part 1: “Flash vs. Arrow”

“Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Excited about teaming up with his friend, Barry asks Oliver if he’d like to help him stop Ray Bivolo (guest star Patrick Sabongui), the meta-human Barry is currently tracking. Bivolo causes people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Unfortunately, the superhero partnership doesn’t go as smoothly as Barry expected. When Oliver tells Barry he still has a lot to learn, Barry sets out to prove him wrong by attempting to stop Bivolo alone. However, when Bivolo infects Barry and sets him on a rage rampage, everyone is in danger, and the only one who can stop him is the Arrow. Meanwhile, Iris is furious when Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash, Joe and Dr. Wells agree the Arrow is a bad influence on Barry, and Caitlin and Cisco deal with a new team in S.T.A.R. Labs.”

Part 2: “The Brave and The Bold”

“Oliver, Arsenal and Diggle track down the location of a boomerang-wielding killer named Digger Harkness (guest star Nick Tarabay) but are surprised when they come face to face with an A.R.G.U.S. team. Diggle asks Lyla why A.R.G.U.S. is involved but she defers until Harkness attacks the building, killing several agents and targeting Lyla. The Arrow joins the fight and gets help from an old friend – The Flash. Harkness manages to get away and Oliver teams up with Barry again to find him before he can get to Lyla. When Harkness plants five bombs in the city that are timed to explode at the same time, both teams must come together to save the city.”

The above clip from this year’s upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special was played at Friday’s Children in Need special. Jenna Coleman is shown appearing again as Clara, and we do not know if this means whether Clara is continuing with the show next season or exiting the series as previously rumored.

Steven Moffat has discussed the past season of Doctor Who. With it uncertain as to whether there will be a new companion coming, there has been a lot of attention paid to his discussion of “changing it up with the companion.”

We actually have changed it up quite a lot, look how different those girls have been. Wait and see.

What we have is probably the most enduring form of the show and I think will always tend back to it for whatever reason, but there’s no reason you couldn’t tend away from it and there’s no diktat or special rule book left by Verity Lambert or something.

We absolutely could vary it. The times they’ve varied it, it makes them work hard – you can see them struggling with Leela. She was a great character but they had to civilize her fast because it was getting hard to fit her into stories – but it’s not a hard and fast rule at all.

Some of the bloggers at The Mary Sue disagree that they have changed it up all that much. Comments included, ” I know! Amy’s hair was red, and Clara’s was dark brown! So different“followed by, “And they were played by different women and it wasn’t the same actress in a wig so, right there.” Other comments included, ““And one wasn’t in love with the Doctor” followed by “Yes. One of them only flirted with the doctor. The others flirted and had feelings!” Maybe we’ll see “something really, really different” such as “curly hair.” On the other hand, the current formula works, so why be concerned about changing anything up?

The past season has received mixed reviews from fans, with more criticism of the plot holes in Moffat stories. What Culture has compiled a list of their top “face palm” moments in Doctor Who. While some fans are swearing that Moffat is destroying the show, to be fair to Moffat there were plenty of plot holes in stories before he took over. Examples can be found here, here, and here. Similarly, plot holes can be found during any typical evening of watching television. The nature of the show increases the risk of some plot holes on a show such as Doctor Who, but I also think the number is increased because Moffat often throws far too many clever ideas into some episodes, as he did in Death in Heaven. I feel he did a better job on episodes such as Blink in which he devoted the episode to just one clever idea and fully developed the story around it.

Michelle Gomez is hinting she will return to Doctor Who next season. She did too good a job as Missy to not consider using her again.

The Fall has started its second season, receiving excellent reviews, and Gillian Anderson hints there might be a third season. Netflix, which has the first season of this British series, will release all six episodes of the second season on January 16. The trailer is above.

There seems to be quite a few genre novels being turned into television series. Jonathan Nolan, creator of Person if Interest, is doing an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. I could see this working as either adaptations of the books or as stories set in the universe Asimov created. Amazon has announced their planned pilots for 2015 and the list includes a series based upon The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The alternative history creates a world twenty years after World War II in which the allies have lost. This could be another example of a series which might work by either adapting the novel or writing original stories in the universe created by the novel.

Ascension, a three night mini-series starting on Syfy on December 15 sounds like it could be awesome. Trailer above. From what I’ve read at various sources, the premise is that during the Kennedy years there were fears that humanity would not survive so an interstellar life boat was sent into space with a wide variety of people. The series takes place in the present, but the culture has not changed from the 1960’s, sort of giving us Mad Men in space. The mini-series reportedly deals with problems ranging from a murder to reaching the point of no return and having to decide whether to go on or to return to earth. Cast includes Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica as the scheming wife of the Captain.

Paget Brewster

Community finally starts production next week and will be adding two new cast members following the loss of some regulars over the years. The new members of the cast will be Paget Brewster (above) and Keith David.

Carol Ann Susi, who provided the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, died last Tuesday. No word yet as to how this will be handled on the show.

Glen A. Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,  Magnum P.I., and multiple other shows has died.

Karen Gillan’s new series Selfie has apparently not received enough “likes” and has been canceled by ABC. CBS has canceled The Millers, which means that Margo Martindale might now have more time to reprise her role as Claudia on The Americans.

If you heard the rumors last week about Spider-Man’s Aunt May getting her own movie, they aren’t true. The biggest problem with the rumored concept was that the movie was going to take place when she was younger. If the concept had any chance of succeeding, they’d be better sticking with Sally Field, who just  might be able to pull it off.


Funny or Die used porn stars to explain net neutrality in the video above. Consumerist summarizes:

…three adult actresses — Alex Chance, Mercedes Carrera, and Nadia Styles — explain what it would mean if the FCC passes compromised neutrality rules.

“Without net neutrality, Internet service providers could create special fast lanes for content providers willing to pay more,” says Carrera.

Adds Chance, “That means slow streaming, slow social networking, and yes, slow porn.”

Ms. Styles slam neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, saying he “doesn’t want me to get naked for you.”

She also points out that the anti-neutrality drive is being led by wealthy older men and says that doesn’t make any sense since, “Old rich guys watch the weirdest porn.”

Ms. Chance compares the current, neutral state of the Internet to “a giant sex party where everyone gets to have sex with anyone they want,” but Ms. Carrera contends that, “Without net neutrality, that sex party is only for rich people.”

 Bill Cosby’s attorney has issued a statement regarding the recent rape allegations:

Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.

Response from The Washington Monthly:

As I’ve previously noted, I certainly hope the allegations—some of which date back years—against Cosby turn out to be false; if true, every bigot who thinks African-American men, regardless of accomplishments, are sex fiends at heart will say, “See! I told you so!” However, as Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham notes, Cosby’s credibility appears to be compromised:

“Cosby settled a lawsuit in 2006 filed by a woman who claimed the comedian drugged and raped her in 2004, and he has never been charged with any crime connected to the allegations. Yet from comedian Hannibal Buress, who straight up called him “a rapist,” to countless slings and arrows on Twitter, there’s a sense that Cosby won’t emerge from this mess unscathed…

“Howard Bragman, a longtime celebrity public relations consultant, insisted on CNN that Cosby has “got to be willing to go on the air and go on the record, and say ‘These charges are not true, this is nothing I would do.’ ” So far, Cosby has done no such thing, perhaps already realizing his reputation is a lost cause.”

Cosby’s attorney says his client’s lips will remain sealed. We’ll see about that. Meanwhile, I don’t quite get why Rush Limbaugh is leaping to Cosby’s defense; does he think Cosby is a Republican? (By the way, remember when the right went after Cosby’s wife Camille in 1998 after she claimed that American racism played a role in the 1997 murder of their son Ennis?)

Again, I hope these allegations against Cosby turn out not to be true. However, if these allegations are meritorious, I think the lesson to be learned is: stop making celebrities out to be heroes.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal, The Americans, Orphan Black

Hannibal Mizumono

The second season of Hannibal ended with Mizumono exactly as shown at the start of the season with a fight between Hannibal and Jack Crawford. The fight scene, which left four characters potentially bleeding to death, lasted eighteen minutes. It was preceded by a set up to attempt to make sense out of Jack  being in Hannibal’s home with no back up, along with plenty of dialog to raise questions about Will’s exact intentions.

Jack had intended to have people with guns pointing in every window when he accepted Hannibal dinner invitation, but Kade Purnell shut down his plan as entrapment. This left Jack with the choice of going in alone versus giving up on the plan. While I found it a little unrealistic when Jack went after Chilton alone earlier in the season, this provides some consistency with Jack deciding to go after Hannibal alone as opposed to giving up in the finale.

Jack summed up Will’s position in telling him, “Hannibal thinks you are his man. I think you are mine.” Except that Hannibal noticed the scent of Freddie Lounds on Will (an ability in Hannibal which we accept without question), tipping him off that she was still alive and that Will was deceiving him. In the end Will did call Hannibal to warn him, but was it because deep down he wanted Hannibal to escape or did he hope this would lead to Hannibal leaving before dinner, keeping Jack out of danger?

Freddie Lounds was one of three characters this season who appeared to be dead but turned out to be alive. This happened with Miriam Lass earlier this season and again with the unexpected appearance of Abigail in the finale. I imagine that this might have been predicted by her mention in a recent episode but the discussion seemed so natural that it did not raise suspicions. When I first saw her alive I wondered if the episode would end with Hannibal fleeing with Abigail, and this was originally considered by the writers, but instead we got an apparent on screen death for Abigail with Hannibal later flying off with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier an a Marvel movie like final scene.

While the second season of Hannibal overall was excellent, there were some things happening off screen which ideally should have been shown. After Jack was first convinced that Will and then Chilton was the Chesapeake Ripper, we never did see how he was convinced to believe Will and set up a situation to trap Hannibal. It was necessary to keep the fact that Will was working with Jack to lead up to the surprise that Freddie was still alive, but a flashback might have been helpful at that point. Similarly, while we would expect to Alana to drop her suspicions about Will once seeing Freddie alive, it would have taken more to convince her that Hannibal was guilty. I also hope we get a good explanation as to why Dr. Du Maurier was with Hannibal in the final scene.

The next season will be dramatically different from the first two seasons. Going into the finale one question was whether next season would begin with Hannibal on the run versus Hannibal on trial. That much was answered. We don’t know the fate of Will, Jack, Alana, or Abigail, who I have listed in order of  my guess as to likelihood of survival.

Hannibal - Season 2

Bryan Fuller gave some clues as to these questions and where the next season is going in interviews. First from TV Guide (as usual, selected questions only from each of these interviews):

And yet, it seemed that Will tried to warn Hannibal that Jack was coming. Had Will truly betrayed Hannibal?
Fuller:
  Honestly, Will did not know what he was going to do next in terms of who he was going to betray and who he was going to save. I think he could see a world in which he allowed Hannibal to get away, and there’s a world where he could see him incarcerated. When Will calls Hannibal to say, “They know,” part of it was to bring the series full circle back to that very first episode and create moments to parallel that. But also for Will, it could mean two things, [which] we won’t really understand with absolute clarity until Season 3. On one level, it could be exactly as it appears with him calling his friend and warning him that trouble’s coming. Or it could be Will calling and telling Hannibal, “They know,” because he wants Hannibal to get out of there before Jack arrives because he’s worried about Jack’s safety. We really wanted to embrace the idea that the audience should not know at this stage what Will Graham’s intentions are because we have a few more punches to be pulled — and not pulled — in Season 3.

The first huge shock in the episode is the reveal that Abigail is still alive!
Fuller:
 Originally, we were going to have Hannibal flying away with Abigail Hobbs. When we started talking about it, we said, “Oh, gosh, we brought Miriam back and we’re brining Dr. Chilton back — does that seem like too much?” So we just thought, “Well, let’s just bring her back and kill her on-screen!” [Laughs]

Is this truly the end of the relationship between them? Will does see the stag die…
Fuller:
 The stag always represented the connection between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. He started seeing the stag after he was first exposed to Hannibal’s murder of Cassie Boyle impaled on the stag head in the field. It felt like, at that moment, the relationship that they had has died. Whatever comes next between them will be a fresh new hell. …  In any relationship, when you throw a fit and end a relationship in dramatic fashion, later you might be going, “Oh, I do sort of miss them.” [Laughs] The obsession is going to always work both ways between these two gentlemen.

That’s assuming that Will survives!
Fuller:
 We are staying very true to in the incident in the novel with Will and Hannibal and it’s very basic outcome.

What about the others? Will they make it as well?
Fuller:
 There’s going to be an impact from what’s happened here. It’s safe to say that not everybody survives. Everyone that’s laying their breathing could be breathing their last breaths. It doesn’t go well for all of them.

Meanwhile Hannibal escapes to France … with Dr. Du Maurier! Has she been in on this the whole time?
Fuller:
 The answers to exactly why Bedelia Du Maurier is on a plane to France with Hannibal Lecter is all part of the first episode of Season 3, which will essentially function as a new pilot for a new series because everything’s different.

Will we be seeing much more of Bedelia next season now that Gillian Anderson’s other NBC show was canceled?
Fuller:
 She’s a very busy lady. But if I had my druthers, she’d be a series regular in Season 3.

You said next season will be different. Does that mean you’re shifting the point of view to be more squarely about Hannibal?
Fuller:
 Season 3 is going to be a lot of fun because it’s going to be taking a lot of disparate elements from the novel Hannibal Rising and the novel Hannibal and mashing them up together as part of the thrust of the season. It’s going to be fun to bastardize two novels into one sort of Frankenstein season. I will brace everybody right now: We’re significantly changing the Hannibal origin story from Hannibal Rising.

You originally had mapped out certain seasons to follow certain books. Is that still your plan, or have you abandoned that timeline?
Fuller:
 The books won’t necessarily be in sequential order. We’ll be hitting elements of each of them except Silence of the Lambs in the next season. My hope is that not only do we have a completely different Hannibal Lecter story in Season 3, but we will meet some of those great characters like Francis Dolarhyde and  Lady Murasaki and weave them into the world in a unique way.

What parts of the structure will change the most? The setting? The case-of-the-week format?
Fuller:
 The basic structure revolving around the FBI will be less prominent in Season 3 — at least for the first half of the season.

That doesn’t sound good for Jack’s survival! And Laurence Fishburne does recur on a new ABC sitcom.
Fuller:
 Laurence is also a very busy man. One of the wonders of this season is: Will Alana survive and will Jack Crawford survive? Will Abigail Hobbs survive? Those are things that are going to be revealed very slowly at the beginning of Season 3.

So, when you said before that somebody doesn’t make it, you were including Abigail in that? I assumed she was already gone.
Fuller:
  I’m speaking of everybody in that house that was dying. And it doesn’t just mean that only one person could be dead.

Hanibal Finale Laurence-Fishburne

It does sound from this that most likely Will does survive and Abigail does not, with the fate of Jack and Alana more uncertain. Many similar questions were addressed in the weekly interview with AV Club, plus there was discussion regarding the surprise return of Abigail:

AVC: Are we supposed to believe that what Beverly saw in Hannibal’s basement that shocked her so much was Abigail?

BF: That was the idea that we had always talked about. Did she see this poor girl down in the basement, and was like, oh my God, he’s been holding her captive like an animal this entire time, and she turns around in a rage of “you monster!”? That was something we had talked about. What exactly did Beverly see? In my mind it was always Abigail Hobbs down there in some way, caught with her hand in the candy jar. That felt like it was the genuine surprise.

And also, we didn’t know, because we cut away, and we see the bullet go through the ceiling of the basement into the dining room, we didn’t necessarily know: Was that a dogpile on Beverly Katz with both Abigail and Hannibal? Although, I don’t think Abigail would have attacked Beverly in that moment. I think she was very reluctant to attack Alana, which is why she was so confused and upset when Will finally sees her, because she’s like, “This is not the plan that we had discussed.”

AVC: There’s a lot information thats being withheld from the audience this season. Were you, as writers, discussing that this is what Hannibal is doing with Abigail, this is what Will is talking about with Jack?

BF: Yes, absolutely. I think in those scenes, we wanted to make sure that there was someone present that couldn’t know the entire story in some way, so it made sense for the characters to not discuss certain aspects. And with Abigail and her resurfacing, there is something very intentional in all of the rebirthing—fatherhood thematics of eight and nine and 10 and 11 that were really all about setting up the Abigail reveal. We wanted to remind the audience of these paternal feelings that Will had for Abigail. We wanted to remind them of her place in the story, so when she steps out of the shadows, it feels like we prepared them for that eventuality and weren’t withholding all of the information. Because I felt like if we hadn’t reminded the audience of Abigail and her importance to Will Graham and she just stepped out of the shadows without any of that parenthood thematic exploration, then I felt like we would have been inappropriately withholding from the audience.

Later the discussion turned to Freddie Lounds and Bedelia:

AVC: This episode is almost heartbreaking in a way when the Hannibal and Will relationship finally ruptures at the end. How did you get that balance—of having these genuine emotional moments amid all the carnage—right ?

BF: For me, when Hannibal smells Freddie Lounds on Will Graham and realizes he’s been duped, the heartbreak of that is one thing. You see him sort of go quiet and interior after he gets a whiff of Freddie, and then that dinner scene afterward, where he essentially is telling Will, his best friend in the world that he has ever had, “I will forgive you if you come clean right now. All will be forgiven.” And Will doesn’t take it. Will continues to move forward with his betrayal, and it’s a very quiet, solemn, sad scene for me, watching Hannibal. And I did empathize with him, because regardless of what he’s done as a monster, we all relate to the intensity of a friendship that feels so unique, and when that falls apart, it is heartbreaking. Because that someone who once had the ability to understand you and accept you was all a falsehood is devastating. So I felt like we were doing our jobs and making it feel appropriately impactful for Hannibal to suffer this loss.

AVC: What did you see as Bedelia’s role in the story of the finale and the season as a whole?

BF: For me it was an interesting way to have this woman—who I would argue is the most intelligent person on the show—and she was the one who figured things out without the overwhelming evidence that Will Graham had. She was smart enough to get the hell out of Dodge, and then got scooped up by Jack Crawford later on, and when she’s telling him that Hannibal is in control of this situation, I think what is happening there is she really is actually embracing her awe of this man, who is unlike any other that she’s encountered as a specialist in the psychology of humankind.

That is part of her role in season three is what does she expect to be getting out of this situation that continues to keep her intelligent and not just a dummy that is going along with the sexy, serial killer for reasons that are carnal. That’s not what we want. This is an opportunity, actually, for her to study something so wholly unique in the lexicon of humanity out in the wild. Out in its natural environment. So I think those first episodes of season three will go a long way in rationalizing and explaining exactly what Bedelia wants and expects out of the situation and how she’s going to continue to be as smart, if not smarter, than Hannibal Lecter.

AVC: Where are you in the process on season three? With Hannibal and Bedelia escaping to Europe, are there any chances to film there?

BF: We are absolutely exploring it. That was one of the things that I said was very important to me. If we have to even get a unit that shoots somewhere abroad for exteriors to help us sell the Silence On The Lam through-line of season three. So yes, our plan is right now to shoot abroad anywhere from three to five weeks to help create that world of them on the run in a different environment, in a different country and right now we’re looking at what our tax incentives are in various countries to be able to pull that off.

So you were thrown by the Bedelia reveal?

AVC: You know, a little bit. I was trying to figure out who would be sitting next to Hannibal, and then, oh, it was Bedelia.

BF: Well, our original intention was for it to be Abigail sitting next to him. And then it felt like, with where we were going in the story with all of the parenthood thematics, that if Hannibal had plotted this escape for all three of them, and then Will had betrayed him, it’s basically like a violent breakup: This is where we were going, but you screwed it up, so I’m going to make sure that all of the happiness that was planned for us can never happen, because you betrayed me. And it is such a brutal, spiteful, vengeful, vicious act to spare this girl’s life, and then, everything that she meant to Hannibal was so intrinsically tied to Will Graham that he just had to raze the Earth of their relationship. Unfortunately, that included poor Abigail.

Hannibal Mizumono12

In an interview with IGN, Bryan Fuller did reveal that the first episode of season three will deal with Hannibal and Bedelia and we won’t know who survived the finale until the second episode. Fuller also spoke more on how his show is varying from the books it is based upon, and how he is condensing his planned seven season arc down to six.

IGN: Then of course, the Vergers were a big part of the second half of this season. We did get an ending to their story for now, but obviously anyone who knows the books and the mythos will be wondering when that might percolate back up. And that’s one of those things where it feels like it could be a couple of seasons from now, or it could be sooner.

Fuller: I would love to continue telling the Vergers’ story in Season 3, because we shifted the paradigm significantly from the books, in that, in the books, when Hannibal is fingered, as it were, he’s caught. He guts Will with a linoleum knife — which is exactly why the knife that we had him gut Will with is in the television show — and as he’s leaving, he’s caught. So he goes right into incarceration. We don’t have the fugitive stage. So, in, in some ways, we are doing the novel Hannibal mashed up with the novel Hannibal Rising for a big chunk of season 3.

IGN: As far as the long-term of the show, I’ve spoken to you in the past about your broader ideas for seven seasons, and where they might be as far as each of the books are concerned. Is that still in place in your mind, as the ideal?

Fuller: Well, as we’ve gotten further into this series, I’ve collapsed a couple of seasons in my mind now. As in, “I don’t think we would be able to sustain the 13 episodes for that arc that I thought we would have” and “perhaps it’s better to collapse this season and this season into one.” So, I’m really thinking a six-season arc, and that really keeps us from treading water.

IGN: As far as I know – and correct me if I’m wrong – but nothing’s really changed as far as the legal entanglements with Silence of the Lambs and those characters being at another studio, as we get a bit closer to that time period. Though you likely still have a couple of years, have you thought more about what you would do in place of Clarice Starling?

Fuller: Well, I think it would just be we would introduce a character that would probably be “Schmarice Schmarling” and do something very similar – that is a character in the FBI going through the trials and tribulations that we saw Clarice Starling go through. She probably wouldn’t be dealing with Buffalo Bill, but it would be someone as devastatingly creepy and hypnotic in their evil.

IGN: Schmuffalo Phil.

Fuller: Yeah, Schmuffalo Phil. [Laughs]

Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), in an interview with The Daily Beast, did confirm that he will be returning and Laurence Fishburne (Jack Crawford) will be back depending upon availability as he is involved in other projects next season. He also speculates that, with Hannibal on the run as at the end of Silence of the Lambs, the next season could involve both the FBI and people working for Mason Verger chasing after him. He also discussed the strange standards of network television where graphic violence can be shown but not nudity:

It is pretty nuts that you can show a guy getting sliced open but can’t show a hint of nudity.

My feeling at this point, and I think this is actually true, is that there are body parts—particularly female ones—that you can never show on TV, but if you show a corpse where those particular parts had been cut off, then that would be all right. Now that is mind-boggling to me.

the-americans-recap-echo-Keri-Russell-Margo-Martindale-Matthew-Rhys

Hannibal showed us where the season was heading in the first episode of the season. The first episode of The Americans began with the killing of Emmett and Leanne, but we didn’t know for certain where they were heading until major events of the season were tied together in the final moments of Echo. As we were no closer to discovering the identity of the killer last week, I had assumed that it would have to be a character we already knew, but never suspected that it would be Jared. That was far more satisfying than ending with a revelation that Larrick was lying in his previous denial.

We knew from the start that the season would be about family, with the death of Emmett and Leanne causing Philip and Elizabeth to consider the danger that their own children were placed in. They did not discover until the finale that the danger could be coming from the Russians they worked for. Supporting Communism in the abstract is one thing, but different when hearing from Claudia, “Paige is your daughter, but she’s not just yours. She belongs to the cause.”

Hannibal had to have some action take place off screen for the surprise that Jack and Will had faked Freddie Lounds’ death to work. Similarly, key events which occurred this season on The Americans were not revealed until Jared’s confession as he was dying. While his recruitment by Kate was off screen, we have seen enough of how Elizabeth works to easily imagine Kate seducing him, with Jared’s loyalty more likely to her than to the Communist cause, despite hearing Jared claim “it’s for something greater than ourselves.” The second big reveal, which by now was no surprise as it made perfect sense out of Paige’s storyline, was that she was the one who the Russians wanted to recruit next as a second generation spy, better able to fool the Americans and allow her to infiltrate deeper than plants such as Elizabeth and Philip ever could.

This leads to one of the big questions for the third season. While the immediate reaction was to protect Paige from becoming involved, the second season has shown that she just might make a good spy. She has also shown a need to do something great. Her protests against American policies might lead her to accept her parents’ views, although such protest (contrary to the views of many on the right) do not necessarily indicate a willingness to betray this country. Recruiting Paige as a spy could bring some satisfaction to her parents, who were frustrated by Paige’s respect for the church protests which were so insignificant compared to what they do. As Elizabeth pointed out, “She does need something. She’s looking for something in her life. What if this is it?” Phillip didn’t go along, fearing, “It would destroy her,” Elizabeth countered by asking, “To be like us?” Next season could be about Paige becoming more like them, or it could be about fighting the Russians to protect their daughter.

The second season of The Americans, along with Hannibal, rank amount the best-written television of all time. This includes not only how everything was so well tied together in the finale, but how well they handled the teenage daughter (often a weak point in may series) along with secondary characters, especially Stan and Nina. We could not be certain as to whether Stan would betray his country to save Nina until the end. His subconscious would not allow him to change from the comic book FBI hero he had envisioned himself as in a conversation with Henry Jennings to the man who betrayed his country. This was partially conveyed in a dream sequence which also showed that his subconscious mind realized that Martha was taking documents, although this was behind his back in the dream. Philip found that he must be more careful around Martha now that she has a gun. It might be unrealistic for Nina to survive, but we have already seen one suspected mole (framed by Nina on Stan’s instructions) be spared, and Oleg’s family connections, or that big envelope of money Oleg gave her, might be of value.

The Americans Echo Larrick

Vulture spoke about the finale with Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields:

How long have you had this idea of second-generation KGB spies in your back pocket? Have you always known you were going to make it a part of the story?
Weisberg: There were a couple different pieces to it. When we broke the story of that other [spy] family getting killed, we very quickly and immediately knew we wanted it to be their own son who did it. Thematically in so many ways it fit with the rest of our story. That came very early in the season, the idea that we wanted Jared’s motivation to be that he was being developed as a second-generation illegal [against his parents’ wishes]. It was a little bit later that we linked it to The Center wanting to recruit Paige, but all of this was brewed out of an actual history of the KGB being interested in having their kids be second-generation illegals. There are a couple of actual historical precedents of that that we worked from.
Fields: We’re lucky, in that we have child actors who can handle anything.

In response to other questions they addressed issues such as whether the dream sequence really means that Stan subconsciously knows what Martha is doing, and whether Nina and Claudia will return next season:

Having said that, we very clearly see Martha taking files. Does that mean that somewhere in Stan’s subconscious he senses something going on with Martha?
Weisberg: His subconscious knows! His subconscious knows! Everybody’s keeps saying, he’s such a good detective, and now that he’s in love he’s being a lousy detective. But that side of him doesn’t totally get turned off just because he’s in love.

Nina has been our main link to the Rezidentura, and presumably she is on her way to stand trial. Do we continue to follow her even if her story takes her to Russia? The story of Anton and Vasili took place there, so I’m assuming it’s not out of the question.
Weisberg: We are deeply invested in her story, and very interested in that character and what her future holds. Most of what you just said about her future does — that car seems to be heading to the airport!
Fields: That car is headed to the airport and we’re not done with her story.

It was great seeing Margo Martindale back for the finale. What kind of arrangement have you worked out with her going forward? Have you locked her down for a specific number of episodes?
Fields: We haven’t been that specific, but [The Millers executive producer] Greg Garcia, CBS, and Leslie Moonves were extremely generous this year. We hope they’ll continue to be. We love that character and we love Margo. We definitely want her back.

The Americans Nina

There was discussion on the second season and finale with TV Guide:

Phillip has already threatened the Rezidentura to stay away from Paige. The Americans started off with him considering leaving the KGB. Could this be the catalyst for him to once again consider that?
Weisberg:
We don’t want to tip what’s going to come, so I’m going to say that there are so many potential and possible extreme and intense emotional reactions to that storyline. Honestly, I don’t think we even know what they all could be.
Fields: I would just add that during the first season the show explored the sense of a fake marriage and how the people in the fake marriage were coming to terms with whether or not they wanted to have a real marriage. The second season has really been about how they chose a real marriage and dealing with family together. Going forward now, there’s an opportunity to explore what happens when there is genuine conflict between individuals who are truly married and want to be married. That’s a very universal story. As often is the case on this show, the stakes are much, much higher than they are for the average married person.

You’ve been building up to Paige really fighting for what she believes in, to the point where she often got annoying this season. Thank you for even having Phillip mention that he wanted to punch her in the face. Was this all so she could feasibly accept her parents being spies?
Fields:
Anything is possible.
Weisberg: Yeah, from the end of the first season in that laundry room scene, that was going to be a big part of the story moving forward with her getting more suspicious of them and questioning them. She has a combination of angst and anger at her parents that any teenager has, but with this very unusual twist that the secret that her parents are keeping from her is a one-in-a-billion secret, which she has no way of knowing. Where that’s going to go next season, [will we] take the further steps of her getting closer to the truth, or will [Philip and Elizabeth] get out of it? That’s now up for grabs in a way that we think is very exciting.

Over the last two seasons, the enemy has been an outside force, like the FBI or Larrick this season. Will next season be more about the inside force of the Rezidentura since they want Paige?
Weisberg:
Our way of looking at it is there has usually been both. There’s also been inside conflict in the marriage and the threat that you can bring the walls down by yourself in so many different ways, like when they split up in that first season. The relationship between internal and external threats is one of the interesting things in the life of spies.

The FBI seemed to get a little bit closer this season. How long can you feasibly keep them from discovering the truth about Phillip and Elizabeth?
Weisberg:
Well, they’re pretty well-hidden, so how could they possibly be found? That’s part of the genius of an illegal. They’re hidden in plain sight. There’s no reason to even look at them.

What challenges lie ahead for Phillip in this balancing act that he has with Martha (Allison Wright)?
Weisberg:
Now he has to not get shot by her. That’s new. It’s always scary when your wife gets a gun, but when you’re playing a long con on her, it’s really bad news. I’m a lot more worried about him now. It does seem like things have gotten a little harder for him to manage.

Nina (Annet Mahendru) was on the way to being taken back to Russia, but Oleg (Costa Ronin) had given her money, leaving open the possibility that she could escape. Is that a possibility? Are we going to see what ended up happening to her?
Fields:
We’re not letting go of Nina’s story. She’s really become an important part of the show. We will see what’s going to happen to her.
Weisberg: I think that was a very wordy yes. [Laughs]

There’s far more at AV Club, including this background on women in a position such as Martha who were fooled into marrying a Russian spy in order to get information:

AVC: Of all the characters on the show, she’s the one that’s treated the most poorly by Philip and Elizabeth. How far can you push that, without them pushing too far and making them too horrible to consider?

JW: [Laughs.] That’s a good question. If they haven’t crossed that line yet, I wonder if it’s crossable. I’m sure, Todd, I’ve probably said this to you. I’m positive I’ve said it to you a couple times. I may have said it to you a hundred times, but this is based on real cases where illegals married unsuspecting women. I think there’s three reported cases where we know about what happened at the end, when the truth finally came out, in each of these three cases after many years of marriage. In one of the cases, the woman absolutely refused to believe it. Even when the police were presenting her with irrefutable evidence, she was in denial. There was nothing you could say; she just never believed it. In another case, the woman got up from her chair, walked over to a window and jumped out the window. Just immediately killed herself within five seconds of being told. And in another case, the woman hung herself an hour later. So you have two out of three suicides. I’m not suggesting that’s where our story is going because who knows where our story will go. But how horrible what they’re doing is, to me, it’s already at peak horror. I don’t know. What twist could it take to get any worse?

Orphan Black Seestra Bonding

It was inevitable that the season finales of such excellent shows as Hannibal and The Americans would dominate discussion this week, and there is also at least one science fiction show currently running which is of comparable quality. Ipsa Scientia Potestas once again answered some questions on Orphan Black but raised others. The episode began with singing a mangled version of Sugar, Sugar and some seestra bonding. Unfortunately Sarah later left Helena alone, leading her to going into a bar, getting some action, getting into a fight, and ultimately going home with a different sister (in this case Gracie). It was also amusing to see Paul and Mark easily agree that each would take the clone they came for as opposed to the representatives of opposing factions battling it out between them. Besides, Paul has his own agenda, leaving him with no great desire to do more than what he is being ordered to do by his blackmailer.

Meanwhile Alison was having a tough time in rehab, and once again did a poor job of realizing it when someone (in this case Sarah’s old boyfriend Vic) is there to spy on her. Cosima was reunited with Scott, who knows that there are clones, but not that Cosima is one of them. Scott told Delphine that the stem cells are coming from a female relative, presumably Kira, with Delphine deciding it would be best to withhold this information from Cosima. So many secrets on this show.

Sarah made the big discovery of the week, meeting Rachel’s adoptive father Duncan. His story casts doubt on last week’s suggestion that maybe Leekie is a good guy after all. He also revealed that “we weren’t the only implant team.” There might be more clones, but could they ever find another actress who could do as great a job as Tatiana Maslany at portraying several of them? Mrs. S went outside to either blackmail or plot a new alliance with Paul, telling him that Dyad is a hydra. Calling agent Coulson?

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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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