SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Daredevil; Terminator And Other Dangers of Artificial Intelligence; Orphan Black; Continuum; Doctor Who; Veronica Mars; Superman; Batman; Wonder Woman and More

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Arrow is in the middle of a two-part story which introduces Barry Allen, who will later become The Flash. The steady introduction of new characters, who then leave before they have overstayed their welcome, has been a strong point of the series. There is also a potential reversal in Oliver’s relationship with Felicity. I just hope they don’t turn this into another Laurel storyline. There are some pictures and minor spoilers from next week’s episode posted here.

While the show is far from perfect, and sometimes lapses into CW-style soap opera, it has been an admirable attempt to portray a super hero story in live action. The show has received considerable notice this season, including a recent article in The New York Times which refers back to another excellent review which I mentioned in a previous post:

There is a consensus, among fans, critics and network executives that with “Arrow,” Mr. Berlanti seems to have found the right formula for making a comic book hero work as a television protagonist. (A headline in The Hollywood Reporter asked, “Is Arrow the Best Live-Action Superhero Show Ever?”) The episodes are peppered with references from the comic books — adversaries with names like Deathstroke and Count Vertigo — but not so many as to confuse viewers who might not know the source material.

“Greg does not tend to do projects he does not really believe in,” said the CW president, Mark Pedowitz. “‘Arrow,’ in a way, was contrary. It’s not ‘Smallville.’ It’s a much darker, grittier version of a comic book character. That was not normal CW programming.”

When he pitched “Arrow” two years ago, Mr. Berlanti, who got involved with DC in 2007, when he wrote the original draft of the “Green Lantern” feature film, said he envisioned the series less as a superhero tale than a “Bourne Identity” type thriller: a continuing story of a privileged playboy who finds himself shipwrecked, held captive and tortured on a remote island, where he must acquire new skills — and a new sense of himself — to survive. That playboy, Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) returns to Starling City five years later a different, better but still in some ways tortured man. And he’s become really good with a bow and arrow.

“The story of that transformation” — told through flashbacks to the island — “will continue through the whole series,” Mr. Berlanti said. “The beginning of the show (Oliver being rescued and returning to civilization) will be the end of the show as well. That was always the pitch.”

The article also compares the show to Agents of SHIELD, with The Guardian being clearer in the difference between the two with an article under the headline: Superhero TV: Agents of SHIELD could learn a lot from Arrow.

Agents of SHIELD will be introducing two new characters:

Episode 14 will introduce two recurring characters: an African-American agent who specializes in combat/weapons, and a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/munitions expert who has past ties to both Coulson and Ward.

Any hope that this means they will be eliminating two (or more) of the current weak characters?

While the Daredevil movie had terrible reviews, Blastr provides considerable hope that the Daredevil television show will be far better:

The pattern of Whedon-adjacent creators taking on Marvel properties continues. Not that we’re complaining.

Daredevil is slated to be the first Marvel character that Netflix will be releasing into the wild world of instant streaming sometime in 2015. If you were wondering who the boss is going to be, wonder no more — it’s Drew Goddard.

Just in case the name doesn’t immediately fire off all your geeky synapses, let’s run through his credits — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias, Lost, Cabin in the Woods, World War Z, and the list goes on. Goddard is the one-man link between the two most powerful men in sci-fi — Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. And now he’ll be writing and directing the Daredevil pilot in addition to executive-producing it.

As choices go, that’s about as good as both Netflix and we can hope for. What his vision is? That remains to be seen.

Based on his body of work, though, we’d say Daredevil is in good hands.

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Not only is there planned reboot of the Terminator movies. The Hollywood Reporter has a story on a planned television series based upon the upcoming movie:

The producers behind the upcoming fifth installment have tapped Thor and X-Men: First Class writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller to write and executive produce a new Terminator television series that will be a companion piece to the rebooted trilogy.

The TV series will follow a critical moment from the first Terminator film (1984), and where the film’s story goes one way, the upcoming series will take the same moment in a completely different direction. As the rebooted film trilogy and the new TV series progress, the two narratives will intersect with each other in surprising and dramatic ways.

I wish they would have produced a conclusion for the cliffhanger which ended The Sarah Connor Chronicles before going on to a new series. Still, the idea of following different time lines in the continuation of the series does sound intriguing if done well.

The Drudge Retort has an interesting discussion on the potential risk of artificial intelligence:

Documentarian James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, is worried about robots too. Only he’s not worried about them taking our jobs. He’s worried about them exterminating the human race. In Barrat’s telling, we are on the brink of creating machines that will be as intelligent as humans. Specific timelines vary, but the broad-brush estimates place the emergence of human-level AI at between 2020 and 2050. “intelligence explosion” — an onrushing feedback loop where an intelligence makes itself smarter thereby getting even better at making itself smarter. This is, to be sure, a theoretical concept, but it is one that many AI researchers see as plausible, if not inevitable. Through a relentless process of debugging and rewriting its code, our self-learning, self-programming AGI experiences a “hard take off” and rockets past what mere flesh and blood brains are capable of.

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The first new picture from season 2 of Orphan Black teases us with some girl on girl action, with Tatiana Maslany in both positions. Entertainment Weekly spoke with show’s creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson about the second season and the pictured conflict between Sarah Manning and Rachel Duncan, the clone seen at the end of season one who was working with the Neolutionists:

EW: What else, if anything, can you tell us about this image here and what it means for season 2?
MANSON: Probably that if Rachel launched the first volley in this war, this is one of Sarah’s steps in this war.

FAWCETT: Our launching framework for season 2 is really the war between Sarah and Rachel.

EW: You guys just scratched the surface with what we saw with Rachel last season. She’s clearly not a clone we’re not rooting for at this point, nor are we really sympathetic toward her, as we became somewhat sympathetic to Helena over the course of season 1. Where are you planning to go with her in season 2?
FAWCETT: For us, using Helena as an example, it was very interesting to draw a character that began really as one thing — for example, a serial killer — and then through the course of a few episodes become able to add layers and add flesh to the point where you could understand her and be sympathetic to her. So, to me, that was about creating a really dynamic deep interesting character that wasn’t just a cartoon. And I think we feel the same about Rachel. I think you could probably tell from the end of season 1 that Rachel’s got a little bit of heavy to her. And I think what’s interesting to us is that we’re having fun creating a new character this season who isn’t just a heavy. There’s other aspects to her. And that’s been a really fun developing a new girl.

MANSON: No one is just who they seem on Orphan Black. That’s the most important thing. Maybe things get set up as kind of a cliché or as one thing, but we’re always trying to bend it and find the layers to keep it fresh and original.

FAWCETT: Even as a villain, Rachel is going to hold a lot of surprises for us. She’s been a really fun nemesis for Sarah.

EW: Season 1 on any show is all about introducing the story and the characters, and it’s essentially setting the table. And if you do it right, a lot people want to come sit down at that table. But now, in season 2 what do you do to keep them sitting there?
MANSON: Right off the bat we’ve really hit the ground running. We left a lot up in the air, so it’s been a lot of fun figuring out how and when and where those balls land and how they land in unexpected ways. As for Rachel, we did leave last season knowing that Rachel was a child of Neolution, therefore much connected to the origins of the experiment. So I think Rachel is going to help to open a window for us and we ’re going to begin to understand a lot more about the conspiracy.

FAWCETT: Plus, I also think one of the big things we’re going to have to deal with in season 2, which is finding its own twists and turns, is Cosima’s illness. And that is a very pressing bit of drama that is not just straight ahead. It’s got a lot of mystery to it. It’s got a lot of twists and turns to it and it is thematically a big part of season 2 also.

MANSON: It’s a genetic mystery. It’s a genetic biological mystery and it feeds into some of our body horror and it feeds into our science mystery.

Season two of Orphan Black returns on BBC America and on Space on April 19, 2014.

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Showcase has announced that filming has begun and they will air the third season of Contiuum starting in March, 2014. More from their press release:

In season three of Continuum, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols; Criminal Minds, Alias) faces the immediate consequences of Alec Sadler’s (Erik Knudsen; Jericho, Scream 4) betrayal at the end of season two – when he disappeared in a flash of light with the time travel device Kiera hoped might send her home. Alec’s impulsive decision sets in motion a chain of events, which pushes Kiera into a shocking alliance with a former enemy.

Kiera must also contend with a newly strategic Liber8 organization, and a growing darkness in her police partner, Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster; Castle, MelrosePlace). Ultimately, all roads lead through young Alec Sadler, and with his genius never having been more tested, his choices force Kiera – and everyone – to examine all they hold dear.

“Season three of Continuum will raise the stakes and expand the universe of our show in ways that will surprise and engage our fans,” said creator/executive producer Simon Barry. “Kiera’s journey brings her experiences that test her beliefs and challenge her resolve. The future is not what it used to be.”

“We could not be happier about the phenomenal success of the show over the first two seasons, with a very loyal and enthusiastic fan base that continues to expand worldwide,” said Reunion Pictures’ Tom Rowe.  “The third season, under the creative direction of Simon Barry, along with fellow Executive Producer/Director Patrick Williams, the first-rate writing team and our exceptional cast, again promises to exceed all expectations.”

New to the cast this season is Rachael Crawford (Alphas,The Firm) who joins as a guest star in a multiple episode arc. Returning cast include Stephen Lobo (Smallville, Little Mosque On The Prairie), Lexa Doig (V, Stargate SG-I), Omari Newton (Blue Mountain State, Sophie), Luvia Petersen (The L Word) and Terry Chen (Bates Motel, Combat Hospital).

SyFy has the rights to air the show in the United States. An air date has not been announced. I hope that they start when Showcase does in Canada. However, SyFy has several shows starting in mid-January and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wait until their thirteen-week runs end before starting another series. Such delays cause a real problem with blogging about shows after downloading upon airing when most US fans have not viewed the show yet.

Disney has bought the rights to Indiana Jones, with a fifth movie now planned. Disney has already been using Indiana Jones themed exhibits in their theme parks and we can assume there will be far more synergistic use of the characters with other Disney marketing.

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Jenna Coleman seen above as Lydia Wickham in Death Comes to Pemberley  “BBC One’s Pride and Prejudice follow-up – based on the novel by PD James – is a murder mystery set six years after the events of Jane Austen’s classic.” It will air in the UK later this month with US air date not set yet.

Moffat and Gatiss plan to release a mini-episode of Sherlock on December 25, taking place two years after Sherlock’s “death” in The Reichenbach Fall. The series returns in the UK on New Year’s Day and later in January in the US.

The BBC has announced the air time for the Doctor Who Christmas Special–The Time of the Doctor. It will be on at 7:30 pm. BBC America won’t be airing it until 9 pm in the US, meaning that with the difference in time zones it will be available for download several hours before it airs in the US.

Rebecca Mader, Charlotte on Lost, will join other former actors from Lost as the new villain on Once Upon A Time. Unfortunately they dragged on the Peter Pan plot line for too long. Meanwhile, there sure were a lot of daddy issues this week on Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (which I currently find to be the better of the two).


The Veronica Mars movie will be released on March 14, 2014, about a year after the Kickstart campaign made it a reality. The above video shows the ten-year reunion at Neptune High.

NBC has renewed The Blacklist for a second season.

Netflix has announced that they will be releasing season two of House of Cards on February 14.

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ComicBookMovie.com looks at various designs for the three-breasted hooker from Total Recall.

Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, will be appearing in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, scheduled for release in 2015.

I have questioned whether there was any point in having a show about Gotham City before Batman but Fox apparently is interested in airing Gotham, a show about “the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains that made Gotham famous.” Now there are reports that Bruce Wayne will appear–but as a ten-year-old.

Is Superman a Fascist? Andrew Sullivan posted all sides of the debate.

***STRICTLY EMBARGOED FOR ALL USAGE IN PRINT AND ONLINE UNTIL 00.01 ON 5 DECEMBER, 2013, GMT*** DOCTOR WHO XMAS 2013

And, finally, another tease for the upcoming Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Arrow; More Marvel on TV; Almost Human; S.; Batman vs. Superman; Better Call Saul; Downton Abbey

The BBC has released two trailers for The Day of the Doctor, with the longer version above. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be simulcast internationally, starting at 2:50 EST in the United States on BBC America. (From my point of view, this is an awful time, interfering with both noon and 3:30 football games.) There is discussion of the trailers and images here and here. The official synopsis has also been released: “In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

The BBC America Trailer is above.

Steven Moffat has some major teases as to the meaning of the episode:

Moffat’s previous comments that the episode “will change the narrative in a big way” encouraged speculation that writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has now further added to this by saying, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

He said: “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Jenna Coleman has been doing some modeling. The Guardian has more pictures.

Joanna Page (Stacey of the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey) will play Queen Elizabeth. She discussed kissing David Tennant.

BBC America has released their schedule of shows for the 50th anniversary (via TV Addict). Beyond Day of the Doctor, highlights include An Adventure in Space and Time about the initial development of Doctor Who. The cast includes Jessica Raine of Call the Midwife as producer Verity Lambert.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited Marathon – 9:00am – 9:00pm ET
The First through Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS – 9:00 –10:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, features the series’ actors and producers sharing their experiences and memories of the world’s longest-running sci-fi show. The special features exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison, actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, and William Russell, as well as the current lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. The discussion includes how the actors got cast, how the roles changed their lives, how a ‘regeneration’ is recorded, and how filming the show in the 60′s compares to today.

The Science of Doctor Who with Brian Cox – 10:00–11:00pm ET
A former rock star and Britain’s popular TV physicist, Professor Brian Cox explores the universe of the world’s favorite Time Lord when he takes the audience on a journey into the wonderful universe of Doctor Who, with the help of celebrity guests. In this exclusively recorded special from the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Brian reveals the science behind the spectacle and explains the physics that allows Doctor Who to travel through space and time. Fun, but filled with real science, it’s a special night for Who fans and anyone with a thirst for understanding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Marathon – 10:00am –11:00pm ET

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Marathon – 2:00am –11:00pm ET

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part I – 9:00am – 11:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 2 – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET

Doctor Who Explained – 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who Explained, explores the mysterious and two-hearted alien who is the Doctor. Through exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker as well as actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, and Freema Agyeman, viewers get an insight to what happens behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sci-fi show.

An Adventure in Space and Time – 9:00pm ET
What do you get when you mix C.S. Lewis with H.G. Wells, and sprinkle in a bit of Father Christmas? An alien Time Lord exploring space and time in a Police Box spaceship called the “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension in Space). Written by Mark Gatiss, the BBC AMERICA co-production, the film stars David Bradley (the First Doctor, William Hartnell), Brian Cox (BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman), Jessica Raine (Producer, Verity Lambert) and Sacha Dhawan (Director, Waris Hussein). An unlikely trio of misfits set out to create a genre series that all ages would love. William ‘Bill’ Hartnell, displeased with his career, was presented with a chance to break out of the hard-man roles he’d become known for. And with the instincts of first time producer, Verity Lambert and first time director, Waris Hussein, the Doctor was born. As the success of the show grew, William went from unhappy curmudgeon to beloved television star who relished his career resurgence and found a new lease on life. But all good things come to an end. How will Bill face leaving behind the part that has made him a hero to millions of children? And can the show survive without him? Journey back fifty years through space and time to witness the exciting beginning and untimely end of the First Doctor in this touching drama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 3 – 1:00am – 2:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – Global Simulcast – 2:50pm ET
The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations is the global simulcast of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat. The Doctors (Matt Smith and David Tennant) embark on their greatest adventure across space and time. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, with Billie Piper and John Hurt. Last seen as the Doctor on January 1, 2010, this will be the first time David Tennant has reprised his role as the Tenth Doctor. During his reign as the Time Lord, Tennant appeared in three seasons as well as several specials. He was first revealed as the Doctor in the 2005 season finale, The Parting of the Ways. Meanwhile Billie Piper, who played companion Rose Tyler for two seasons following the reboot in 2005, will appear in the show for the first time since featuring in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time in 2010. The special is directed by Nick Hurran, executive produced by Steven Moffat, Faith Penhale and produced by Marcus Wilson.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor encore primetime broadcast – 7:00pm ET.
BBC AMERICA will premiere exclusive Inside Look interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant during the broadcast. The special will be followed by the premiere of new fantasy-adventure series Atlantis at 9:00pm ET.

The Graham Norton Show with guests Matt Smith and David Tennant – 10:00pm ET
Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and David Tennant make their first appearance together on BBC AMERICA’s hit talk show The Graham Norton Show. Emma Thompson, singer Robbie Williams and comedian Jimmy Carr will also be guests.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Doctor Who – Matt Smith Countdown – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET
BBC AMERICA counts down the top 11 episodes from the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as voted on by fans.

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited –The Eleventh Doctor – 8:00pm –10:30pm ET
BBC AMERICA celebrates the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in a new special of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. Matt Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and, after starring in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, will regenerate in the Christmas special. The Doctors Revisited begins with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald), Karen Gillan (companion Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (companion Rory Williams), lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, among others, examining the human side of this Doctor and taking a look at how his extraordinarily long life has affected him. The special is followed by the Eleventh Doctor two-part story, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, in which a strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston) in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him. These were the first Doctor Who episodes to be filmed in the U.S

 

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I’ve frequently said that Arrow is far better than SHIELD, regardless of any comparisons of the DC versus Marvel lines. After an especially strong episode this week, League of Assassins, I’ve seen reviews (including at The Hollywood Reporter) calling Arrow the best live action superhero television series ever. Considering the competition, and poor translation of superheroes to television, this is a fairly low bar. The question then is whether it is compared to Heroes season one, which was excellent, versus the entire run of Heroes.

There is criticism of the current story lines on Arrow which everyone seems to agree with. It is not plausible that Laurel would be involved in the prosecution considering the conflict of interest. We know we have to accept unrealistic sequences when a man with an bow and arrow can regularly win out against guns. We also must ignore how people do not see though secret identities of people they know well. While this is necessary for the show to exist, they should avoid unrealistic scenarios unnecessary for superhero shows such as Laurel being involved with the prosecution in this situation.

There is more Marvel coming to television (besides a second rumored show on ABC about Agent Carter). They are planning for a set of thirteen episode series on Netflix of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Just as the movies led to a joint movie in The Avengers, these Netflix individual series will be followed by a joint mini-series entitled The Defenders. Considering that they have not done all that great a job with Agents of SHIELD, I wonder if it is a good idea to go ahead with four more series. Maybe, not being limited by the constraints of a prime time network television series these could be better for genre fans.

SHIELD really teased viewers last week. How many others were hoping that Simmons was not rescued when she jumped off the plan, and Fitz would follow her?

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Spoiler TV has a lot of information on the upcoming television show, Almost Human in an interview with J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman:

The series is set in the year 2048 and stars Karl Urban as John Kennex, a cop who is forced to partner with an android (named Dorian) played by Michael Ealy after an increase in crime leads to all human law officers being accompanied by robots. J.J says that “The idea when Joel pitched it was that Dorian, who is a synthetic, was in some ways more human than his partner.” Wyman told reporters that Ealy heightened what was already on the page with “an incredible sense of thoughtfulness and compassion. He’s playing a character who is by design, literally, as brave and as knowledgeable and as strategic as you’d want your partner to be if you were riding along as a cop, but he’s also as sympathetic as you’d want. What Michael brings is that kind of depth and humanity.” His dubious partner, in turn, is “forced to kind of deal with the idea that his well-being now relies on this technology which he sort of holds in contempt.”

So what sets this latest series apart from the increasingly present action and sci-fi shows on networks today, let alone from the duo’s previous work in the genre? First of all, Wyman began, he wasn’t interested in presenting another dystopian vision of Earth’s future. “I hope that we’re not really in that territory and that we’re successful in that.” Often in the genre, the writer says, the outlook seems to be “‘Look what you humans have done!’ whereas what we’re talking about, I think, is a little more hopeful. There’s a sense of going forward. We’re resilient, we’re going to succeed.”

Abrams mentioned that unlike many of his past efforts this series has much less of an emphasis on mythology and will instead focus on a procedural case-of-the-week type format that will allow us to explore the characters as well as the unique complexities of navigating in an increasingly technology-reliant world. He also promised “a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before” which backs up his partners talk of the series leaning towards a more ‘popcorn’ movie vibe than their previous collaboration. That’s not to say the show is all-action-all-the-time, as Wyman went on to explain his hopes to create a conversation about what these human-computers are at their core and how we should interact with them. “They’re thinking beings, so what are their rights? And where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are sort of examined in our later stories: What is a robot? What is an android? What is a being?” Wyman, to be sure, did his homework. “J.J had set us up with some very brilliant people from MIT and one was a woman who studied robot ethics, which is pretty amazing, that they’re actually… real.”

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

I haven’t had a chance to read J.J. Abrams’ new book, S., yet, but it looks intriguing. Besides a conversation in margin notes going along with the narrative of the book, there are many postcards, maps, and letters at various points in the book. Librarians are not very happy about this.

Alan Alda will be going up against James Spader’s character on The Blacklist later this season. I’m hoping for a reunion with William Shatner.

Adam Driver of Girls is being considered for the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. It is scheduled for release July 17, 2015.

When news came out about plans for Better Call Saul it was being called a prequel to Breaking Bad. There remains interest in what will happen to Saul after going to Nebraska, and now Bob Odenkirk says the show might be both a prequel and sequel.  There has been speculation that the show might be more of a comedy but Odenkirk says, “It’s going to be 70% drama and 30% comedy.” He also played down the speculation that characters from Breaking Bad will pay a major role in Better Call Saul. If it is a sequel, they should at least work in Gus and Mike. It is also feasible that Saul would cross path with a certain DEA agent, and a high school science teacher could briefly appear as long as any contact with Saul is minimal.

With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and other books by Stieg Larsson in the United States, HBO is planning an hour-long series based upon the works of another Scandinavian author, Jo Nesbø. They are planning an adaptation of his 2008 novel, The Headhunters.

Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey will play Lancelot in Night at the Museum 3. It is hard to believe that the season finale already aired tonight on ITV. I haven’t watched today’s season finale yet, but as of last week there were several loose ends. I wonder how many were tied up tonight, and how many will be extended to the Christmas episode. Thanks to British television, Christmas has become a big television day with episodes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Call the Midwife. Update: News came in shortly after this was posted that Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fifth season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moffat has also discussed the return of the Zygons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black canary arrow

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

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

Anastasia and Will Wonderland

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

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

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

Episode 304

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will Brody figure in to all of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter; Hannibal; The Blacklist; Sleepy Hollow; The Americans; Community; True Blood; Broadchurch; Doctor Who

Breaking Bad Series Finale Elliot and Gretchen 1

Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad just as most would have predicted if not for feeling that this was too obvious and trying to throw in a twist. In the end, Walt killed the Nazis, rescued Jesse and then died. Jesse escaped, Lydia was killed, and plans were made to get money to Walt’s family. Realistically Walt’s death was the most probable end-point for the series since the first episode. Initially it might have been from the cancer. Events since then changed how it most likely to occur. It became inevitable that he would face a violent death, but also achieve some measure of victory.

The only surprises in the finale were the details in how everything would be accomplished, such as threatening Elliott and Gretchen with assassination by “the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi” who were really Skinny Pete and Badger armed only with laser pointers. There was no need for a surprise ending, and certainly not a gimmick such as a dream or fading to black. Breaking Bad feels more like a continuous story in a novel, leading to the most likely conclusion. The finale has received universal praise, showing that no gimmicks were needed. Hopefully writers of future series will learn from this.

The success of the finale of Breaking Bad led to inevitable comparisons to other finales. To be fair to other show runners who fell short, the structure of Breaking Bad lent itself to coming to such a definite and obvious conclusion. While I was not satisfied with the ending to The Sopranos, an ambiguous ending was more in line with that show than Breaking Bad. After the full run of the series, it was realistic that Tony Soprano had made enough enemies that one would just walk up to him and shoot him in a diner. It would similarly be realistic to interpret this otherwise and see Tony Soprano continuing as he had for years, as with Sam Malone on Cheers. Breaking Bad had a clear storyline leading to an inevitable conclusion.

Damon Lindelof was blasted on Twitter during the Breaking Bad finale for not providing such a satisfactory conclusion to Lost. While I think they could have done better with Lost, a key difference here is that Lost had developed such a complex mythology that there was no realistic way to end the series. Lindelof defended his ending in The Hollywood Reporter, which was more a plea for everyone to stop talking about it.

The remaining questions are trivial compared to the questions raised by Lost. There was no question to the motivations of the main character. Walt revealed to Skyler that he was doing this all for himself. Did Walt initially plan to kill Jesse, and then change his mind when he saw how he was enslaved? That change in motivation is suggested in several interviews where Vince Gilligan compared the ending to The Searchers:

On the story inspiration for Walt, who was hellbent on killing Jesse, saving his ex-partner out of sudden instinct 
“A lot of astute viewers who know their film history are going to say, ‘It’s the ending to The Searchers.’ And indeed it is. The wonderful western The Searchers has John Wayne looking for Natalie Wood for the entire three-hour length of the movie. She’s been kidnapped by Indians and raised as one of their own, and throughout the whole movie, John Wayne says, ‘I need to put her out of her misery. As soon as I find her, I’m going to kill her.’ The whole movie Jeffrey Hunter is saying, ‘No, we’re not — she’s my blood kin, we’re saving her,’ and he says, ‘We’re killing her.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh my god, John Wayne is a monster and he’s going to do it. You know for the whole movie that this is the major drama between these two characters looking for Natalie Wood. And then at the end of the movie, on impulse, you think he’s riding toward her to shoot her, and instead he sweeps her up off her feet and he carries her away and he says, ‘Let’s go home.’ It just gets me every time — the ending of that movie just chokes you up, it’s wonderful. In the writers room, we said, ‘Hey, what about the Searchers ending?’ So, it’s always a matter of stealing from the best. [Laughs]“

Did Walt have any plan for after he killed the neo-Nazis if he survived? It did not appear that he did. If not for the last-second decision to save Jesse, I wonder if he had planned to jump to the floor, or remain standing and die with everyone else in the room.

We know Jesse is free but from there it is all speculation:

“We always felt like the viewers desired Jesse to get away. And it’s up to the individual viewer to decide what happens next for Jesse. Some people might think, ‘Well, he probably got two miles down the road before the cops nailed him.’ But I prefer to believe that he got away, and he’s got a long road to recovery ahead, in a sense of being held prisoner in a dungeon for the last six months and being beaten to within an inch of his life and watching Andrea be shot. All these terrible things he’s witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature.”

Unfortunately it wasn’t realistic to have Jesse wind up raising Brock, providing him with a true happy ending.

What was going through Jesse’s mind when he didn’t shoot Walt? Was this the outcome of Jesse previously saying he would never do what Walt told him to do again, a desire to be done with killing, or did a remnant of his old respect for Walt prevent him from pulling the trigger? Would he have shot Walt if he didn’t see that Walt already had a gunshot wound?

Will Walt’s scheme work and will Gretchen and Elliott really get the money to Walt, Jr.? There’s no way to know. On this show many elaborate schemes have worked well. It was quite fortunate for Walt that Lydia kept to her old schedule and was the one to take the pack of poisoned Stevia. Everything also had to go right for his plan to kill the neo-Nazis to succeed. While throughout the series many elaborate plans were successful, not everything went right for Walt. Most notably, Walt ruined his plans by leaving the Walt Whitman book out in his bathroom, and easily fell for Jesse’s plan to lead the DEA to the money. We also do not know if his plan for Skyler to negotiate with the coordinates of  Hank and Gomez’s bodies will save her, with his previous phone call not appearing to have helped her very much.

In comparing the recent finales of Breaking Bad and Dexter, it seems like the Breaking Bad finale was planned from the start while Dexter‘s finale decided late in the series. The opposite turns out to be true. Vince Gilligan had no idea about some major aspects of the ending, and has revealed other endings under consideration.

Dexter and Hannah

It was the opposite for Dexter. While Clyde Phillips, the original show runner, had a different idea, current show runner Scott Buck and longtime executive producer Sara Colleton told Entertainment Weekly that this ending had been planned for years:

Before the season started, you said the core idea behind this finale has been in the works for years. What was the original concept?
BUCK: The kernel idea were the last few scenes. They were what I pitched a few years ago. The main idea was Dexter is forced to kill Debra. And there are many ways that could happen. But those final scenes were pretty much unchanged.
SARA COLLETON: From the very beginning the paradox was here’s a guy who doesn’t feel he’s a human being, who has to fake it. But in faking it, he’s a better brother, boyfriend, colleague that most real people. People think of him as a monster, but he yearns to be human. We’ve seen him go forward on this journey every year. Now we found out what the final price was. What sums up the entire journey was the scene on balcony of his apartment before going on the boat to put Deb down — that’s horrible to say aloud. The voiceover: “For so long all I wanted was to feel like other people … now that I do just want it to stop.” It’s the horrible awareness of what it was to be a human being and how overwhelming that is for him. His punishment is banishment. He sends himself into exile. Killing himself is too easy. When he turns and looks into the camera at the end he’s stripped everything away.

Were there any other versions of the ending that you rejected?
BUCK: The only real variation was what he would be doing. I knew he would be in a self-imposed prison that would be as far from Miami as possible. We’d find him working in some solitary environment where even if other people were around he would make no contact and not talk to anyone. We would follow him home and he would have no human contact.

In a way that’s his new code — avoiding human contact.
BUCK: Yes. For us, that’s the tragedy. The one thing we felt Dexter wanted more than anything was human connections. Even in the first season we see him trying to get with Rudy. Now that he’s finally made that journey and he’s almost poised to have a real human life, he has to give all that up to save Harrison and Hannah.
COLLETON: He went into an absolute shutdown. He no longer has even his voiceover.

 Hannibal Season 2

The above poster was released for the second season of Hannibal. Bryan Fuller explains: “After a horrifying descent into madness in season 1, this image ironically represents the perspective of a scrappier, clearer-minded Will Graham in season 2.  The scales have fallen from his eyes and he finally sees Hannibal Lecter for the monster he is.”

The Blacklist remains the best new network show so far, and has become the first to receive a full 22-episode pick-up.

Sleepy Hollow will remain with a thirteen episode run this year, and has been renewed for a second 13-episode season.

The Americans was one of the best new shows last year. Creator/executive Joe Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields discussed the show at PaleyFest.

Nathan Fillion will guest star on Community, making Firefly references inevitable.

Rob Kazinsky says True Blood “kind of ran out of ideas and now they’ve got an idea again and they’re trying to finish stronger than ever… which they’re going to do next season!”

David Tennant will reprise his role as star of Broadchurch for a US adaptation from Fox. It was an excellent show, but I’m not sure why we need a second version. I imagine that many US viewers neither have a way to  pick up British shows and don’t watch BBC America, leaving an untapped audience for Fox.

David Tennant will also be staring in Day of the Doctor, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. Current plans include simulcasting the show in 75 countries.  Steven Moffat has also discussed the upcoming regeneration from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi:

If you haven’t seen it, there is a particularly fine interview Steven Moffat has given to Nerd3 in which he discusses, well, a lot of things you don’t often hear Steven Moffat discuss.

One section is devoted to regeneration, and the fact that it would not be a break with Whovian tradition for the Twelfth Doctor to look a lot like someone the Doctor has already met. In fact Peter Capaldi has been in Doctor Who (as Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii”) and Torchwood: Children of Earth, and Steven has already had a chat with Russell T Davies over how this will all work.

He said: “We are aware that Peter Capaldi’s played a part in Doctor Who before and we’re not going to ignore the fact. I’ll let you in on this. I remember Russell told me he had a big old plan as to why there were two Peter Capaldis in the Who universe, one in Pompeii and one in Torchwood. When I cast Peter, [Russell] got in touch to say how pleased he was, I said ‘Okay, what was your theory and does it still work?’ and he said ‘Yes it does, here it is’. So I don’t know if we’ll get to it… we’ll play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.”

If they try to be too clever I  suspect they might run into problems analogous to explaining why the Klingons look different in different versions of Star Trek. There’s a simple explanation–the same actor played three different roles. Sure, you could come up with an explanation which includes the Doctor taking the form of people he encountered in the past when regenerating. Then how do we explain Karen Gillan’s appearance, as she also appeared in The Fires of Pompeii as a different character before playing Amy Pond?

J.J. Abrams has apologized for all the lens flairs in Star Trek Into Darkness.

And finally, this video on the finale and a farewell video from the cast of Breaking Bad:

SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter Finale; Sleepy Hollow; The Blacklist; Agents of SHIELD; Orphan Black; How I Met Your Mother

breaking bad granite state

If the television shows I watched this week really reflected reality, many of the characters would be talking about the Breaking Bad finale, with some catching up on Netflix and the AMC marathon. Breaking Bad has done what few shows can do in increasing interest, and ratings, as it approached its finale. Breaking Bad has succeeded against its rivals the same way that Walter’s blue meth has–being superior to the competition. The show has also become as addictive as blue meth. This is primarily due to basics such as high quality acting and writing, but Breaking Bad has also been assisted by modern technology. The ability of many people to catch up at no additional cost on streaming services such as Netflix has helped increase the audience over past years. High definition big screen televisions are necessary to fully appreciate the camera work.

Things appeared to be as bad as possible for Walt and Jesse at the end of Ozymandias. Matters got even worse in Granite State. Walt lived alone in isolation in New Hampshire, unable to spend his money on anything other than supplies from Ed, along with an extra hour of his company for $10,000. Couldn’t they at least give him a pile of good novels and a radio to listen to? Ed even provided chemotherapy. I wouldn’t expect such intermittent doses with no monitoring to be the best way to treat his cancer, but Walt did appear far stronger when he returned home than on his first attempt to walk into town, even if he became so thin that his wedding ring slipped off his finger. Walt’s attempts to save his family have failed, and he hit bottom with the the total rejection from his son, who wished he was dead. This was enough to get Walt to decide to surrender, until his pride took over when he heard Gretchen and Elliot deny him credit for his work creating Gray Matter Technologies on television.

Meanwhile things were so bad for Jesse that he wished Todd and the neo-Nazis had killed him rather than keeping him alive as a slave to cook blue meth. At points Todd appeared to be less than 100 percent evil when he spared Skyler’s life and gave Jesse some Ben and Jerry’s but showed what a psychopath he really is by so coldly killing Andrea (nothing personal).

This brought us to the scenes which started both halves of Season 5. So far we have seen a couple of possible endings–Walt living happy and retired from the meth business at the start of Season 5, and more recently exposed and arrested by Hank. Now we will see a third, and final, ending. We know Walt is well-armed and has retrieved the ricin from his old home. There are many predictions as to what will happen. The overall arc of the show has been for Walt to become increasingly evil, but some signs of goodness have remained from trying to save Hank to his continued concern for his family.  Will Walt be punished for his crimes, or will he survive? Vince Gilligan left us to wonder with comments on the ending such as “I feel like this ending represents on some level, however small, something of a victory for Walter White.”

Beyond coming out of this alive, the biggest potential victory for Walt would be to find a way for his family to be cared for and Skyler to escape prosecution. Perhaps he will force Gretchen and Elliot to give his family the money from Gray Matter which he believe should have been his (although he certainly was not interested in their money back in the first season).

Presumably Walt will get his revenge over Uncle Jack and Todd. The neo-Nazis must be punished. However, as this is so predictable, either it will occur quickly and the finale will concentrate on other things, it or the outcome will include an unexpected element. How Jesse and Walt will react to each other remains a big question. Perhaps Todd’s demise will involve Lydia as opposed to Walt or Jesse. Unlike on his role of Landry on Friday Night Lights, Jesse Plemon’s character is unlikely to get the girl this time. It would come as no surprise if either winds up killing the other.

What is Walt planning to do with the ricin? Perhaps it is intended for Gretchen and Elliot. Maybe we will even see a flashback which more clearly shows what happened between them and Walt. If a flashback does show them screwing Walt out of what should have been his share of the company and a fortune, I would assume that the two wind up dead.

The ricin might also be for Lydia, should Walt want to undo what he has done and shut down the distribution of blue meth. Yet another possibility is that Walt saved it for himself to ensure that he will not wind up living in prison, after being in a situation as bad as imprisonment in New Hampshire. Maybe he will take the ricin, and then arrange a deal where he goes to prison in return for a deal not to prosecute Skyler. There are also several other characters who might knock off Walt sparing him from going to prison beyond the obvious ones, including Skyler, Marie, and perhaps even Walt, Jr. Perhaps Marie deserves the honors, considering how much she was hurt by Walt while never becoming tainted as was the case with Skyler.

At this point I suspect viewers are mixed regarding their hopes for Walt. If the evil characters are punished, this should include Walt, but the show has always been about rooting for Walt to triumph. Jesse wasn’t initially intended to survive past the first season, and now having Jesse survive would be welcomed by fans. Jesse’s survival could also provide an answer to Brock’s fate. There are lots of other characters to wonder about. Will Saul return from Nebraska? At least we know why Better Call Saul will have to be a prequel show. Did Huell ever get out of that room? Is Baby Holly fated to one day take up chemistry?

While we won’t know what happens to Walt and Jesse until Sunday night, we do know what is next for Vince Gilligan. He will be doing a crime series for CBS next season taking place in Battle Creek. I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed that he will be on network television or that it takes place in Battle Creek, but most likely Gilligan will exceed expectations for such a scenario.

Dexter Ending

While most have high hopes for a satisfactory ending to Beaking Bad, the series finale of Dexter was a disappointment–as was much of  the final season. The two problems are interconnected. A better ending would have meant a better lead up during the season. There were two possible satisfactory scenarios. Dexter could have been caught at the end and the final season could have been about Dexter desperately trying to cover his tracks while at risk of being uncovered. Alternately we could have had a big bad who eventually killed Dexter, but there was nobody this season who was big enough to provide a satisfactory conclusion in this manner. A variation of this would be Hannah being the enemy who kills Dexter, but the season did not play out in a way to make that plausible. Instead we saw a number of potential menaces pop up during the season, but none provided a compelling enough story to justify them being the one who beat Dexter.

The finale was disappointing on a couple additional levels. Having Dexter survive at all seemed implausible until we were reminded that Dexter did have a small life boat available on the Slice of Life. While the final episode did blatantly foreshadow the fact that Dexter would never see his son again and that Hannah would be raising him, they might have given a small clue that the life boat existed nearer the conclusion.

The big disappointment is that Dexter’s decision just made no sense. He has brought doom to some people around him, especially Deb, but Deb died because he changed and did not kill Saxon, not because of his dark passenger. His decision would have made more sense if Dexter’s killing someone is what had led to Deb’s death. Besides, leaving the country with Hannah and getting a fresh start would seem to be a reasonable solution, while still allowing him to be with his son. Even after having Dexter fake his death, it would have been more satisfactory if the ending was like The Dark Knight Rises and Dexter was eating with Hannah and Harrison in an outdoor café in Buenos Aires.

There were so many implausible elements in the finale beyond Dexter’s decision to lead a solitary life. He spared Saxon, leaving him to be killed by the state, and then risked everything to kill him. There was no guarantee his connections with the police would lead to those viewing the film to so easily go along with Dexter’s story. I predicted that Saxon would cut off the guy’s tongue after he said he knew he would not speak, but how did Saxon avoid getting covered in blood? A hospital might be in chaos during an evacuation, but not likely to the point where Dexter could turn off Deb’s life support and carry her out of the hospital. Is it really wise to trust that Hannah will give up killing forever and make a good mother for Harrison?

Scott Buck defended his idea for the finale in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Clyde Phillips, show runner in earlier seasons, had a better idea as to how the show should end:

“In the very last scene of the series,” Philips explained, “Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.”

And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.

“That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies.  Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”

Phillips further explained that his idea for the ending was inspired by An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, the 1890 story by Ambrose Pierce about a Confederate soldier that is famous for its time-altering, plot-twisting ending. When the soldier is hanged, the rope breaks, he falls into the river, swims to shore, runs toward his family, see his wife and children and right before they are reunited, the rope catches and he dies. It turns out that the entire story takes place in the two to three seconds between the soldier’s initial drop and his neck snapping.

As SciFi Weekend is supposed to be about science fiction (even though I frequently cover other show) it is time I returned to science fiction in the video above. It is an animated version of Badger’s idea for an episode of Star Trek as presented at the start of the second half of the final season of Breaking Bad. The humor as well as the drama of Breaking Bad will be missed.

I will wait a while longer to come to any conclusions about the new season. Sleepy Hollow showed promise in the first episode, but after the second I’m not sure that I really want to devote an hour a week to it. One thing which might keep me interested is that John Noble will have a recurring role. Nicole Beharie answered questions about the show here.

So far The Blacklist looks like the best new show, with all the twists providing a perfect vehicle for the talents of James Spader. The show does remind me in some ways of Hannibal. A key difference is that with Hannibal we know the broad outline of where the show is going. We were left with lots of questions on The Blacklist.

SHIELD premiere

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a recurring mystery of its own regarding what really happened to Agent Coulson. In some ways it is a light, Disneyized version of Torchwood. Torchwood, in the early seasons, dealt with a team working in a universe where people knew about the Doctor and experienced alien invasions, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a team working after the events of The Avengers. Both introduced their agents by recruiting from the outside–Gwen on Torchwood and Sky on SHIELD. Both pilots even used a sci-fi serum at a pivotal point but in far different ways–Retcon to cause amnesia on Torchwood and a truth serum on SHIELD.

I do have one nitpick about the pilot for SHIELD. (Two if I mention how obnoxious Fitz is). I realize that we must accept a lot of implausible things related to fictitious science and superheroes. There are things which none of this should change from our reality. I have been in many hospitals and have never seen one with big open windows in patient rooms which would allow someone with superpowers to leap out and jump to the ground.

orphan-black-season-2-production-bbc-america

Orphan Black has started filming for the second season, with Sarah once again trying to get reunited with her daughter.

Lilly met the mother on  How I Met Your Mother and we got a scene from a year later showing her with Ted. She does look like the right woman for Ted to wind up with, and now that it has started I think that a season long wedding will work out fine.

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

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

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

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

Atlantis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Carter

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

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

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

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

Michelle Dockery

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

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

Trailer for the second season of Revolution above.

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