SciFi Weekend: Twin Peaks Finale; Star Trek Discovery Tackles The Trump Era; The Orville; Doctor Who News

As Damon Lindelof said during the Twin Peaks panel at Comic-Con, “Without Twin Peaks, there would be no Sopranos, no X-Files, no True Detective, no Fargo, no Lost…” continuing to list the shows which have changed television.  Twin Peaks: The Return went beyond these in being unusual and something we have never seen before on television. We saw exactly what David Lynch would do with eighteen hours in which he could do whatever he desired, unedited. Some who are huge fans of David Lynch had great reviews. Television reviewers, probably along with most viewers, were more negative, expecting something more like television, and seeing a need for at least some boundaries on the imagination of David Lynch.

It is difficult to truly recap what occurred in either the series or two-hour finale last week. The series was slow, and often confusing. It included fake versions of major characters, including three different versions of Dale Cooper (or at least those who looked like him), and time travel. We also saw Diane, the off screen secretary from the original series, but of course things were not as they seemed with her. Perhaps most disappointing was how little there was of Audrey Horne, and with major questions about her left unanswered. An earlier disappointment was that Madeline Zima’s character, who I initially thought might be the Audrey Horne of the revival, was killed shortly after she took her clothes off.  Many things throughout the series seemed to make no sense, but to criticize the show for this would miss the point in a David Lynch creation.

In the finale, Cooper went back in time to prevent the murder of Laura Palmer, and was as almost as confused as the viewers when the series ended with him asking, “What year is this?” This was followed by a scream from Laura Palmer, who perhaps was recalling her murder in another time. If the interpretation at IndieWire is correct, the better question for Cooper to ask might have been whether he was in an entirely new time line (perhaps created when he attempted to save Laura). The episode then ended, leaving many questions open. Kyle MacLachlan has said there have been no discussions related to another season, and I wonder how many of those of us who made it through eighteen episodes of this series would do so again.

We also might ask, as Dale Cooper, did, what year this is when watching television. Just as we recently returned to Twin Peaks, soon we will be watching Star Trek once again. In the original series, produced during the Cold War, the Klingons represented the Soviet Union. Entertainment Weekly reports that Star Trek Discovery will tackle the political divide in the Trump era:

Star Trek: Discovery will continue the venerated sci-fi tradition of using a fantastic setting to tackle real-world issues — only in a bigger way than any Trekseries has done before.

The upcoming CBS All Access drama tells the serialized story of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The show is set a decade before 1966’s original series — which premiered 51 years ago today — during which the Federation and Klingons were in a Cold War standoff that reflected yesteryear’s U.S.-Soviet relations. In Discovery, war breaks out and the Klingons leading the charge have some ideological ideas inspired by the 2016 electoral divide.

“The allegory is that we really started working on the show in earnest around the time the election was happening,” showrunner Aaron Harberts says. “The Klingons are going to help us really look at certain sides of ourselves and our country. Isolationism is a big theme. Racial purity is a big theme. The Klingons are not the enemy, but they do have a different view on things. It raises big questions: Should we let people in? Do we want to change? There’s also the question of just because you reach your hand out to someone, do they have to take it? Sometimes, they don’t want to take it. It’s been interesting to see how the times have become more of a mirror than we even thought they were going to be.”

Of course we have already seen another genre show deal with a Trump presidency–Game of Thrones with King Joffrey.

Discovery only takes place ten years before the events of the original show, meaning that we already know what some of the characters were doing at the time. TrekMovie.com reviewed where the TOS characters were.

There will be another show paying homage to Star Trek premiering tonight, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. It was originally billed as a spoof, but many reviews are negative, along with saying it is neither a true drama or comedy. Vox compares it (negatively) to fan fiction. I had planned to summarize some of the other reviews, but now see that The Mary Sue has already posted excerpts from several.

Once I heard that Jodie Whittaker was to become the thirteenth Doctor, I had hoped that River Song would get a chance to meet her. Alex Kingston also expressed interest in returning to Doctor Who for such a meeting a Dragon Con:

…she also mentioned that she was going to “call the BBC and let them know River is ready to meet her second wife.” To which, of course, the audience exploded. “Why not?  She (River) said it!”

Billie Piper also says that Rose would be in love with the thirteenth doctor.

It was previously announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class would not be renewed for a second season, but the possibility was left open that it might continue if it did well in the United States, where it did not air for several months after on in the UK. The cancellation is now official.

Sian Brooke, who played Eurus in season four of Sherlock, teases the possibility of a fifth season. Hopefully it really is made.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, World Enough and Time; Carrie Coon In Ambiguous Finales On The Leftovers & Fargo

World Enough and Time was an excellent way to move into the season finale of Doctor Who, and a near final chance for Steven Moffat to go meta. The episode began with a scene of the Doctor regenerating, which presumably will be continued next week. The actual story got underway with Missy exiting the TARDIS saying, “Hello. I’m Doctor Who.”  Moffat has often liked to play with the show’s title by setting up situations where people ask “Doctor Who?” as a question. Missy said she was “cutting to the chase,” saving time from having to go through the introduction and follow up question, but then went on to claim it is his real name.

Bill had struggled with this issue in Pilot arguing that, “The Doctor’s not a name. I can’t just call you Doctor. Doctor what?”

In recent years you could often tell that people talking about the show were not actual viewers when they made reference to the lead as Doctor Who as opposed to the Doctor. Now we have Bill questioning why Missy called herself Doctor Who. Missy claimed it was his real name and the Doctor did not deny this. DoctorWho TV says that Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Eccleston, and Tennant were all credited as “Dr. Who” or “Doctor Who.”

Moffat also played with the role of the companion. Missy called them her assistants, which was more common in the classic shows. When Bill objected to being called Missy’s “plucky assistants,” she asked what he does call them, “companions, pets, snacks?” Neither the words “assistant” or “companion” are actually used very often on the show and Bill said that the Doctor called them friends. Missy claimed that only Time Lords can be friends to each other and “anything else is cradle snatching.” Missy also saw them as “disposable” with their names not mattering. Instead they had their roles, “exposition and comic relief.”

We learned via flashbacks that this was all a test for Missy. The Doctor not only wanted Missy to be good, he has unrealistically wanted her to be like him. While Bill objected that Missy is a murderer, the Doctor showed a different moral code, noting that Bill could similarly be seen as a murderer from the perspective of the pig who died for her bacon sandwich. The Doctor decided to graze for distress calls and look for a good one, like their usual Saturday. This might also refer to how the show airs on Saturdays. The Doctor explained how Missy is “the only person I’ve met who is only remotely like me.” This could refer to them not only being Time Lords, but also both being renegades in their own way. After all, the Doctor did steal the TARDIS and has often been at odds with the Timelords.

The Doctor spoke about Missy as having been his best friend from when they first met at the Academy. “She was my man-crush.” He further explained, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure I was one too. It was a long time ago, though.” He also told Bill, “We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and associated stereotypes.” Bill noted that despite this, they still call themselves Time Lords She hasn’t had the experience with them to also question how advanced the Time Lords really are.”

This might be Moffat’s answer to the controversy over whether there will be a woman playing the Doctor. The actual decision is no longer in his hands but if the regeneration of the Master as Missy was not enough, this scene firmly sets in cannon that it is possible to have a woman Doctor. It is not actually possible that the Doctor could have been anything but a man at the Academy unless he had another regeneration which we are aware of, and has not been counted like the War Doctor. While there were questions in the past whether William Hartnell played the first Doctor, the count was established during the Matt Smith era (with the War Doctor creating some wiggle room). While it is unlikely the Doctor was ever a woman, we have seen other woman in a near-Doctor role. This includes Moffat having River Song, Clara Oswald, and Ashildr (the guest role played by Maisie Williams) all pilot a TARDIS.

Bill did not feel safe playing Missy’s companion, and asked the Doctor to “promise you won’t get me killed.” He could not do that, with this flashback scene played right Missy was shot.

The first sixteen minutes of this episode were a great opening sequence. Unfortunately the ending of the show suffered because the realities of the modern world. It would be impossible for them to have filmed scenes with the Cybermen without this news getting out and spreading rapidly on line. Therefore they made no attempts to keep this a secret, announcing that both the original Mondasian Cybermen and the John Simm Master would be present. Stephen Moffat had also warned that one of the trailers would give away a lot.

The episode certainly would have been even greater when watching if we were not aware that the Cybermen were present. The episode set up a fascinating scenario in which a four hundred mile colony ship caught by a black hole had time pass at a far greater speed at the far end than at the other.  Again going meta, this later allowed Bill to view the Doctor in slow motion on a monitor and explain his actions. It also led to a situation in which people trapped on the ship were driven to drastic measures, giving a new explanation for the genesis of the Cybermen.

There were many clues throughout the episode that Cybermen were involved. The hole in Bill’s chest was fixed, with the surgeon saying, “full conversion wasn’t necessary.” Words such as “conversion” and people being “upgraded” provided clues, along with people partially through the process with Mummy-like facial covering like the original Mondasian Cyberman. Later Missy found that the ship was not from earth but from Mondas. It became increasingly obvious when the rod-like headgear was shown to be added to those converted so they would not care about the pain. If someone had not known going into the episode that it was about Cybermen, I wonder how long it took to figure it out.

The other surprise which was tipped off was that Razor turned out to be the Master in disguise. In the past, the Master has used names which were anagrams. In this case, presumably the destructive nature of razors has some meaning in the choosing of the name.

On a personal level this could be one of the most evil acts by the Master–facilitating the conversion of Bill while the Doctor was on his way to save her. She had listened to him and waited, like a tragic variation of The Girl Who Waited. This betrayal seems even more evil  on the part of the Master considering that, due to the effects of the black hole, Bill had spent years with the Master before the Doctor could make it down the elevator to come after her.

The John Simm version of the Master was certainly playing a long game here, but I imagine that is no different than Matt Smith defending a planet before his regeneration or Peter Capaldi agreeing to guard the tomb (even if he didn’t follow through with that). The Master has a lot at stake: “I’m very worried about my future.” Missy does not recall being on the ship previously. While difficult to understand, there have been similar memory issues on episodes involving multiple versions of the Doctor.

We have a certain symmetry here. Steven Moffat has seen Peter Capaldi, an older actor, as being like William Hartnell. Harnell played the first Doctor, while Capaldi is the first of the new regenerations granted to Matt Smith. There have been references to the first Doctor, such as with the picture of Susan on the Doctor’s desk at the university. The Mondasian Cybermen were introduced in the 1966 episode, The Tenth Planet, in which the first doctor died and regenerated.

A big question here is whether the Doctor dies next week, or if this is to occur in the Christmas episode. In some interviews Moffat has suggested he is going to handle the regeneration differently, and questioned if Christmas is the best time for a death. We already know that the first Doctor will be appearing in the Christmas episode, to be played by David Bradley who played William Hartnell in the documentary An Adventure In Space In Time.

It is just a guess, but I’m speculating that the Doctor really does die and go into a regeneration cycle next week. This could have his meeting with the first Doctor as an adventure inside  his own head, comparable to one’s life passing before their eyes. It could be like a longer version of Peter Davison’s regeneration scene in which his companions appear in his head begging him not to die, while the Master encouraged him to do so. Alternatively it could be a final trip through time for the Doctor in his final moments, just as David Tennant visited his past.

We also do not know for certain if Bill will be returning, but it is believed that Chris Chibnall will be starting with a clean slate. Pearl Mackie stated in a radio show that she has met with Chris Chibnall and gave no indication that her status was final, but she might have just been avoiding spoiling the season finale. Her conversion to a Cyberman could very well be Bill’s fate, although this still would not prevent her from helping the Doctor next week. On the other hand, Steven Moffat has avoided killing companions who are leaving, and also might not want a fate like this for her. Amy Pond went into the past and Clara Oswald went on to explore the universe with Ashildr despite being on her last heartbeat. River Song not only escaped death, but appeared multiple times afterwards (at earlier times in her timeline). Perhaps the conversion isn’t final for Bill. Even if she cannot become human again, maybe she can go off and travel through space and time with her friend from Pilot.

There have been multiple season finales to discuss recently, including American Gods, Gotham, and Better Call Saul. I’m going to begin with two this week, The Leftovers and Fargo, as they both have something in common. Both end with Carrie Coon sitting at a table and telling a story to a male lead on the show, with the episode ending in ambiguity. Both are in the tradition of The Sopranos in having an ending which people might be talking about for a long time afterwards.

The finale of any show by Damon Lindelof is going to be compared to the conclusion of Lost. Lindelof handled matters much better with The Leftovers. Neither series could ever have a finale which tied things up. While The Leftovers did not have anywhere near as many episodes and mysteries to tie up, it is based upon a novel which specifically avoided giving any answer for its central event–the rapture-like disappearance of two percent of the world’s population. The episode actually gave more of an explanation than I ever expected, even if not clear if true, leaving me more satisfied than after Lost, while still leaving plenty to wonder about.

For a while the series finale of The Leftovers  was very hard to figure out. After Kevin found Nora he acted as if most of what the two had gone through together on the series never occurred. Was this yet another reality, or perhaps she had gone over and there was another version of Kevin there. Were they in purgatory? Later it became clear that this was our earth when Nora spoke with Laurie on the phone. Ultimately this was explained as Kevin telling a story as a way for them to start over after being apart for several years.

The episode ended with Carrie Coon’s character, Nora, telling a remarkable story to Kevin, but not necessarily any stranger than what we have seen on the show. Two things make it hard to tell if the story is true. She went into a chamber which supposedly was going to send her to where the missing two percent were. At the final moment, as the chamber was filling up with a fluid, she opened her mouth. Was she gasping to hold her breath as instructed, or was she exercising the option of telling them to stop? Those controlling the device had made a point of saying they could hear her the whole time.

It is also not possible to determine if the story was true because we never saw any of the adventure described. All we know is what Nora said.

The description of the episode was “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.” This is exactly what happened with an answer which felt good at the time but which actually left key matters unexplained, and which may or may not be true.

Nora told a story of going to another place which was exactly like our world, except that to the people there ninety-eight percent of the world had disappeared, instead of two percent like in our world. Naturally their world was changed far more.

If her story was true, we know nothing about how this happened, or about events such as the world Kevin seemed to go to in two episodes when he died and returned. However, we would know that there is a physical explanation for reality being divided in two, with a physicist even developing a way to travel between the two realities. Instead of a religious rapture, people were not divided into those taken and left behind. They just wound up in one of two possible places.

Damon Lindelof had even spoken in interviews of filming such a scene in the pilot showing everyone else disappearing from the perspective of one who disappeared from our earth, giving some plausibility to Nora’s story on a meta level. Within the episode, there are arguments both for believing and disbelieving Nora. She even seemed surprised that Kevin believed her. She said, “You do?” He responded,”Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.”

In various interviews Lindelof discussed how this was written to leave things open for interpretation, how those on set changed their minds about whether Nora was telling the truth, and also claims there was a clear intention as to whether she was telling the truth–which he will not reveal. From USA Today:

…Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

What matters at the end of the day? That Kevin is just glad to be in the same room again with a tearful Nora telling him, “I’m here.”

“Whether he actually believes her or he wants to believe her because this will allow them to be together, that’s the $64,000 question,” Lindelof says. “But what is very clear at the end of the series is that these two people are going to be together and they’ve suffered enough. I hope.”

However, Lindelof reveals the episode was designed in such a way that left the truth open to interpretation — one last mystery for fans to chew over. “We all came to the conclusion that Nora telling the story of where everybody went was going to be the best ending, as long as we didn’t show it. And then the audience would get to decide whether they believed her story. We have a clear intention as storytellers as to whether or not the story is true, and if you watch the episode or the season again, perhaps that intention becomes more clear.”

Watching the show I thought it is possible that Kevin only said he believed her because he wanted to be together and didn’t really care what had  happened. An interview with Lindelof at The Daily Beast  does confirm that Kevin does believe her:

They’re together, but Nora never actually reunited with her kids.

There’s a number of different ways of looking at that. One potential interpretation is that that didn’t happen at all. That she chickened out and got out of the voice and put herself in self-induced exile and made the story up because it was the story that she needed to tell herself and the story that Kevin needed to hear for them to be together. That’s a cynical interpretation, but it’s one that I’ve heard.

Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who think she made it all up.

Another interpretation is that when she saw her children and they were happy that she suddenly realized, “Who am I to come jamming into their happiness after seven years. There’s not a place for me in this unit anymore.” Not to mention that her husband has been cheating on her and he’s with another woman and her children have learned to be without her. So she must learn, too.

But if you take her story at face value, there’s nobility in her gesture. I think Nora is an incredibly brave and stoic character, and the idea that she went all the way to the top of Everest and then just didn’t plant her flag there. She realized, “Oh. Why did I need to climb Everest again? I think it’s time for me to go back down to the mountain and reevaluate things.” I think there’s nobility in that, too.

Kevin says he believes her. Does he?

Yeah!

Should we believe her?

I can’t tell you what to believe and what not to believe in a show that is based on people telling insane stories. I think that Kevin does believe her and he is the audience’s proxy. Nora is surprised. She’s like, “You do?” Because the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back. But hopefully it becomes, over time, less and less important whether it is literally true and more and more important that it was emotionally true. I’ve learned the hard way not to tell the audience what to believe and what to think and what to feel.

Lindelof had this explanation in Esquire:

We don’t know if Nora’s story was true.

If we showed it, you would know that it was true. By not showing it, you have to believe that it’s true, if that makes any sense. I think that what’s important is Kevin says that he believes her, and she seems surprised by that. She says, “You do?” And he says, “Why wouldn’t I? You’re here.” That’s kind of everything we have to say about how relevant the truth is, because if a belief system works for you, if it brings you together with the people that you love, it’s actual veracity is secondary to what that belief system basically gets you. That’s not like self-help guru promise bullshit, that’s the way that I think things work. I think that this finale and this season and this series is packed with people who are telling stories. Part of the territory, the very rich territory that we wanted to explore was: Are any of these stories true? Or do these stories have an added veracity because they’re told in a world where this crazy supernatural event happened? Or are they all bullshit? We want the audience to be thinking and feeling and wrestling with all of those questions.

What our intention was in writing the scene is 100 percent clear. I would never be like, “Well, that’s up to you to decide. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.” No. The writers had a clear intention. I will bring with me to my dying day exactly what our intention was in whether or not Nora’s story is true by the metric of “did it actually happen.” That said, Carrie Coon and I never talked about that. She just read the script and then played it. Mimi Leder and I never talked about whether or not it was true. She just read the script and directed it. And so the more interesting question is: When the same scene is basically interpreted by multiple artists, what is the truth, even? I think it is sort of a fascinating Rorschach test in a sense that if you’re an agnostic or an atheist and you didn’t want an answer to where all the departed people went, you’re probably not going to believe Nora’s story. Even if you had been multiple times that you weren’t going to get the answer, but when Nora gave it to you and you felt relief, you’re probably going to want to believe her story. Again, all that matters to us is that Kevin really does believe it. There’s no ambiguity about that. And his belief in her story is going to allow them to be together, because now they’re both present, probably for the first time.

There are arguments both for and against believing Nora. She certainly had this story down and was ready to tell it when Kevin arrived. At one point during this episode Nora had even said, “I never lie.” She left Kevin at the wedding after she couldn’t handle the story Kevin was making up, appearing to be opposed to dishonesty. However we have seen her lie, such as in initially denying that she knew Kevin when she was told he was looking for her. Much of the series has been about the stories people tell themselves to explain events.

I wonder if Lindelof was giving away the answer when he said in the interview from The Daily Beast that, “the story is so incredible, if you really sit and listen to what she says happened to her and, more importantly, how she says she got back.” There were  points in the story when I did question it. It is a little hard to understand how she could arrive in the other place naked and with no money, but ultimately make it from Australia to the United States, but this felt more like the type of suspension of disbelief which is commonplace in genre stories. It was a realistic touch that, with only two percent of the world’s population left, it was not possible to support an airline industry.

I found it more surprising when Nora described returning to her old house. While it was no surprise that her husband and family had moved on and were involved with someone else, it is questionable that in such a world, with its infrastructure destroyed by the loss of so many people, her family would still be living in the same house. Most likely there would be a tendency for those remaining to join up into communities with others. It is also hard to believe that the physicist would, and could in this world, remake the machine just to send her back. If two-way travel had been developed, it is also hard to believe that there would not be others coming back here and word getting out.

Many arguments can be made for whether Nora was telling the truth, and my answer would probably be that there is no answer if Lindelof hadn’t messed with our heads by claiming there is an answer.

Fargo typically ends each season, which tell an independent story, with characters receiving punishment in some form. This was more ambiguous this season, and also ended with Carrie Coon sitting at a table saying something which may or may not be true. In this case her character believed what she was saying, but we were then given reason to question if she was right.

The beginning of the end occurred when Nikki confronted Emmit Stussy and it appeared that she was going to kill him to get revenge for Emmit having killed his brother (and Nikki’s boyfriend). Instead there was a freak shoot out between Nikki and a police officer who came along, with both killing the other. This is definitely believable in the world of Fargo. Emmitt appeared to have a happy ending, until years later when he was shot in the head

This left Varga, the real villain of the story, at large. In the jump forward, Carrie Coon had moved on to another job at the Department of Homeland Security. Varga was identified at an airport and pulled into a room by Coon’s character, Gloria Burgle. Her talk with him led up to her telling him what was going to happen next:

Let me tell you what’s going to happen next. Three agents from homeland security are going to put handcuffs on you and take you to Rikers and then we’re going to charge you with felony money laundering and six counts of conspiracy to commit murder. And then I’m going to go home to my son — it’s his birthday tomorrow. I promise I’d take him to the state fair.

It appeared that justice would prevail. Then Varga responded:

No. That’s not what’s going to happen next. What’s going to happen next is this. In five minutes that door is going to open and a man you can’t argue with will tell me I’m free to go. And I will stand from this chair and disappear into the world, so help me god. Trust me the future is certain. And when he comes you will know without question your place in the world.

The camera then looked at the door and the episode ended, like The Sopranos ending by going to black without revealing what happened. We never saw whether three agents from homeland security came through next and put him in handcuffs, or if a lone man came through and ordered him to be released. Varga was right so many times during the season, and appeared to be in control. It is impossible to ignore the possibility that he could be right.

There is no correct answer here, and perhaps it does not matter. Whether or not Varga gets away with his crimes, there will always be those who do.

Deadline had this information on Noah Hawley and the finale:

Hawley said it was always his intention to leave the ending open-ended for us to decide. Typically the tragedies in Fargo have happy endings: Marge gets in bed with her husband in the movie, Molly (Allison Tolman) gets to be police chief at the end of Season 1, and Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson takes his daughter (the younger Molly) fishing. But for Hawley, the cliffhanger ending tonight stems from “Our living in a complicated moment in time,” he says, referring to the President Donald Trump era.

“If I present you with a choice, you have to decide how that door is going to open and if it’s going to end well. It still has a happy ending if you’re an optimist. It just becomes a more active process. It’s an allegory to the conversation we’re having at this moment. How will we treat each other? Is it American carnage?” adds the EP.

But poor Nikki. Did she really have to die? “There was a degree of playing that by ear,” explains Hawley. “I wanted to save her, but I also didn’t want it to feel like a movie twist. At the end of the day, Fargo is a tragedy.”

In regards to Emmit, he’s a standard Fargo archetype; the guy in the middle, a la Martin Freeman’s Lester or William H. Macy’s Jerry, who always has to choose between right and wrong. The accidental murder of Emmit’s criminal-like brother Ray (also portrayed by McGregor) early on urged viewers to have an ironic respect for Emmit. We only sympathize with him further as the underdog as he remains under Varga’s thumb. But with Nikki dead, Hawley relied on Mr. Wrench, a deaf henchman from Season 1, “as the final arbiter of justice. He’s not in their story, he’s an outsider, and he can dispense the cosmic justice that Nikki tried and failed.”

“There aren’t any real heroes and villains, especially if I can make you empathize with these people,” Hawley says of his storytelling technique. “It complicates the violence that’s going to come, and I don’t want people cheering for the violence.”

The article also reports that it is undetermined whether there will be a fourth season:

“I always agreed with FX that the only reason to do another Fargo is if the creative is there,” says Hawley, who at the moment is drawing a blank in regards to what Season 4 would center around.

“It took 15 months to get Season 2 off the ground, and 18 months to get Season 3 on the air. I have to turn my attention to the second season of Legion and a film potentially the winter after next. We’re looking at three years from now,” the EP about a rough timeline for a Fargo Season 4.

It  makes sense that any decision on a fourth season be based upon whether there is a story idea good enough to justify it. Many shows have been continued far longer than they should be. It  is also a good thing that there is no pressure on FX to make a decision by next season. It is better to wait until any future seasons can be done right.

The article also reveals that, in addition to his work on Legion, Hawley will be doing a limited series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963  novel Cat’s Cradle.

SciFi Weekend: Mad Men Ends In Perfect Harmony; The Flash Season Finale; Orphan Black; David Letterman’s Final Show; Gilmore Girls Reunion; Community’s Homage To The Captain America Elevator Scene; John Nash

Mad Men Don Meditating

 Mad Men really did end somewhat like I discussed last week–Don Draper on the California coast, analogous to the season finale of Arrow with Oliver and Felicity driving up the coast.  Don even traveled with a woman from Arrow–Caity Lotz, the Black Canary. In this case she played Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece. The choice was probably because of Stephanie knowing Don as Dick Whitman. Spending the episode being called Dick culminated the trend of the last few episodes with Don symbolically as the falling man in the opening titles. By this time Don had given up virtually everything involved with this identity. During the finale he was rejected by his family, who thought that others should raise his sons after Betty dies, and hit rock bottom after talking with Peggy.

In the end Mad Men might be called an eight-year anti-smoking public service announcement and coke ad. Don was moved when he heard Leonard speak. While not as bad off, Leonard’s talk of being the person nobody wanted to take out of the refrigerator resonated with Don. In the final scene Don was meditating on a cliff and came up with the idea for the classic coke ad, which even included two girls who looked  like the receptionist at the retreat. Up until this point I had one complaint about how the series appeared to be ending. The first half of the final season was all about Don losing his position in advertising  and then moving back to the top. It seemed strange to then have Don walk out on it all, even if not comfortable with how the larger company does business, along with being wrong about the future of light beer.

Don’s return to advertising was foreshadowed, as was Betty’s development of cigarette cancer. The promos showed a previous scene of Roger shrugging off Don’s disappearance by saying simply that, “He does that.” Stan reassured Peggy by pointing out that “He always does this, and he always comes back.” Peggy told Don that he could return and that McCann Erickson would take him back. She even asked, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?”  Don was asked to fix a coke machine in another recent episode. The coke ad also was the culmination of Don’s difficulties over the years understanding hippy subculture. He may or may not really get it at the end, but he understood enough of the philosophy to develop the message of the ad. It clicked with him while meditating. While the message of a coke ad might on one level be somewhat superficial, this was a series which revolved around the advertising industry after all.

While Matthew Weiner has given support to the interpretation that the ending does mean Don returned to do the coke ad, while watching the show it does appear valid to come to other conclusions, such as that Don reached a spiritual awakening which was analogous to the message of the ad, giving him the strength to do other things, as opposed to actually writing the ad. If the show is seen as ending with an open ended question as to whether Don did create the ad, then in some ways the ending could be even more ambiguous than the ending of The Sopranos. With The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was either killed in the diner or lived to continue as he had previously lived. If Don did not create the coke ad, then things were left wide open. He could have returned to advertising, possibly return to raise his children, take a new job elsewhere, or just remain on the road for an indefinite period of time.

Mad Men ended with a happy ending for almost everybody. Pete Campbell wound up far better than expected after he realized he did not have to be a philanderer like his father, and convinced his wife to return to him. (Perhaps they have a daughter who grows up to attend Greendale Community College who looks just like her mother). Joan, who was never the type to live off someone’s money to use cocaine in the Florida Keys, returned to work. Her company may or may not succeed, but if Mad Men were to continue we know that Joan would be working somewhere regardless of how long it were to run. While providing an ending, the show also left things open for the characters to move on in other ways in the future. Joan’s business may or may not succeed, and things may or may not work out for Roger and Marie in long term.

Two characters who might have the most interesting futures should we see them on a sequel such as Better Call Sally are Sally and Peggy. Sally’s future is most in question due to her age. Short term she will help care for her younger brothers while her mother is dying, but we know she will accomplish more long term. A couple of scenarios were already outlined by others for Peggy. She might succeed in becoming Creative Director by 1980, or she might take the route suggested by the head hunter in a previous episode and move on to a great job in a few years after having McCann Erickson on her resume.

In a way even Betty wound up with a good ending for her character. After being disliked by many viewers over the years, she became far more sympathetic after we learned on Mother’s Day that she is dying of  lung cancer. She is also dying on her own terms, rejecting treatment which in 1970 was probably of little value.

The final moments of Mad Men, which includes where the key characters were at the time, can be seen in the video above, which concludes with the classic coke commercial after Don smiled and a bell went off in his head.

Matthew Weiner discussed the finale at the New York Public Library a few days after it aired. Here are some excerpts from a report on the event from The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, Don Draper created the Coke ad. The last scenes of the series features Don hugging a stranger at a retreat and meditating with hippies before the episode cuts to the 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial. Viewers can infer that Don returns to McCann-Erickson and creates that ad. “I have never been clear, and I have always been able to live with ambiguities,” said Weiner. “In the abstract, I did think, why not end this show with the greatest commercial ever made? In terms of what it means to people and everything, I am not ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake. But it was nice to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of what is advertising, who is Don and what is that thing?”

That commercial shouldn’t be read cynically. “I did hear rumblings of people talking about the ad being corny. It’s a little bit disturbing to me, that cynicism. I’m not saying advertising’s not corny, but I’m saying that the people who find that ad corny, they’re probably experiencing a lot of life that way, and they’re missing out on something. Five years before that, black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together! And the idea that someone in an enlightened state might have created something that’s very pure — yeah, there’s soda in there with a good feeling, but that ad to me is the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place. … That ad in particular is so much of its time, so beautiful and, I don’t think, as — I don’t know what the word is — villainous as the snark of today.”

Leonard was “probably the most important role in the series.” The post-war period in which the beginning of the show is set, “the word ‘depressed’ was not part of the vocabulary except for doctors, and men certainly didn’t express their feelings other than in bar fights,” Weiner explained. In casting Evan Arnold, “I needed someone who’s not famous and can cry, and really do it. … We believe it right away that he’s invisible.” He played the role of the everyman, “even if they’re not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology — which is, I think, what’s happening right now — the isolation, these guys, they’re gonna crack. … I don’t think there’s enough empathy right now in the world.”

That hug between Don and Leonard had two meanings. “I hope the audience would feel either that he was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard. I don’t want to put it into words more than that. … I liked the idea where he’d come to this place, and it’d be about other people and a moment of recognition. I don’t think I can put it into words, but I knew.”

Don’s road trip was inspired by The Fugitive. “I thought, ‘I want to see Don on his own. I want to do an episode of The Fugitive where Don comes into town and can be anyone,'” Weiner said, pointing to the ’60s series. “That netherworld of being on the run — I don’t know about you, but I think everyone has dreams of committing a crime and being on the run. Am I the only one? I think it’s very common. You’re lying!” he told the audience with a smile.

In the history of television, Mad Men is the real thing.

The_Flash_S01_finale_TVGM-1431462169

The season finale of The Flash left many things open due to the effects of time travel. Barry went back in time with the intent to save his mother but was quickly waived off by his future self, and he decided not to change the events which led to him becoming the Flash. I was disappointed by this aspect of the episode as presumably Barry gave a lot of thought to this decision. Considering the risks which he had accepted, I would think it would have taken more to convince him to change his mind. Regardless, he decided against changing history at this time, but after he returned history was changed by another event. Eddy shot himself, making his descendant, appear to cease to exist. (It is a shame that Eddy hadn’t previously thought to get a vasectomy instead.)

As far as we could see, after Eddy shot himself and Thawne faded away everything seemed the same, other than for the time travel having caused the development of  a singularity which threatens to destroy the planet. The annual threats to Starling City which culminate every season of Arrow now seem so trivial. Theoretically once Thawne disappeared everything should have been different and the group wouldn’t have been together at Star Labs, but this timey whimy stuff can be unpredictable. We did see a brief image of an alternate Earth Flash helmet from the DC comics and Kaitlin as Killer Frost. Both or neither might ever be seen in the timeline of the television show. There was also an homage to Douglas Adams with Cisco saying, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Plus his memories of the alternate timeline were explained as being a power he gained when the particle accelerator exploded, possibly foreshadowing him turning into the Vibe as in the comics.

One consequence of this could be that the real Harrison Wells is still alive, never having been killed and having his body snatched by Thawne. Plus should the Reverse Flash return (and does anyone really doubt this will happen) instead of Wells under the mask it might be the face we say before he disappeared.

The Flash Jay Helmet

Andrew Kreisberg discussed the season finale with The Hollywood Reporter:

When did you know Eddie would make this sacrifice?

When we decided to name him Thawne, we hoped the audience would suspect Eddie was the Reverse-Flash because of his last name. We always knew Eddie would be his ancestor, but we weren’t quite sure how we would end the season. The way things were moving forward, it felt like it was the best thing to do for his character. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in Arrow‘s season one finale], it was literally the worst thing we could do to ourselves as writers, producers and friends, because we all love Rick so much both personally and professionally, and we think he’s crushed it as Eddie all season. We’ve all become very close. It’s one of those terrible things. The story sort of tells you what it wants to be and as much as it broke our hearts, we knew this was the way the season needed to end…

Will Eddie be back?

The great thing with our show — you saw it with Colin Donnell and with Caity Lotz [whose deceased Sara is returning for spinoff Legends of Tomorrow] — is just because you are dead doesn’t mean you’re not coming back. Especially in the world of The Flash, which involves time travel and real hardcore science fiction, there’s always a way for Eddie to return, and we hope Rick will.

How does Eddie’s sacrifice work? Eobard disappears — but everything he did up until the finale still happened?

Our time travel hopefully holds together as much as it can. It doesn’t completely obliterate all of their memories of Eddie and everything, but it has the desired effect of “harm to Eddie means harm to Tom Cavanagh’s character.”

How did you lay the groundwork for Eddie to make this choice?

Eddie has been struggling these last few weeks, hearing about the future and about how there is no place for him in the future. He wasn’t going to believe in Wells’ interpretation of the future. He was going to make his own decision and he basically decided to recommit to Iris, which only makes his sacrifice that much more heartbreaking. He didn’t do it because he didn’t have anything to live for. He did it because he had everything to live for.

What does this mean for Tom Cavanagh’s future on the show?

Tom Cavanagh will be back. That is not in question. Tom Cavanagh will continue to be a regular…

You’ve said season two will introduce more Speedsters. Is that going to be a major theme akin to the Rogues in this season?

Yeah. We are going to introduce a few more speedsters next year and a bunch more villains. How they and those villains come about is part of the surprise of season two. We’re really excited. [Executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] and myself and [executive producer] Geoff Johns and the writers, the cast, the crew, the directors — we are so proud of this season of television. It really is a high mark for all of us, and we feel a great deal of pressure and anxiety to live up to it because it’s been so well received. As proud as excited as we are about everything we’ve done this year, we really are just as proud and excited for all the things we are planning coming up. Hopefully people will continue to take this ride with us.

Alison (TATIANA MASLANY) and Donnie (KRISTIAN BRUUN)

This week’s episode of Orphan Black, Certain Agony Of The Battlefield, gave viewers the pay off for the set up of the previous couple of episodes which had many slow moments. This included two deaths, Paul and Pupok the Scorpion. Paul’s death was foreshadowed in television logic by the manner in which the episode returned to his role in the first season, along with the dream sequence which brought Sarah face to face with Beth. After having ambiguous motives for much of the series, Paul was shown as the good guy. If that wasn’t enough to foreshadow his death, the clincher was his admission to Sarah that, “It was never Beth I loved.”

In other key developments, Helena returned to help Sarah, after eating the scorpion. Rachel has the key to decoding Duncan’s code in the margins of The Island of Dr. Moreau (poroviding references to H.G. Wells in two of the shows I am reviewing this week). Allison and Donnie have gone Breaking Bad-lite, with their daughter walking in on their bedroom celebration in a scene reminiscent of Paige walking in on Elizabeth and Phillip in the 69 position on The Americans (picture here). There will be a longer version of the sequence on the DVD.

John Fawcett discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

  1. The loss of Paul is one of the more significant character deaths the show has done. What made the timing right now, and is there anything you’d like to tell fans about making that decision?That’s what drama’s about — having characters that can sacrifice themselves, and open new doors, and throw themselves on bombs, and reveal themselves emotionally, and elicit big reactions from people. That’s what makes great storytelling, and what Graeme and I have strived to do. Also, [to] keep people off-guard, and never certain. I don’t like people getting too comfortable. We like that people tune in to our show, and they don’t know what they’re going to get. They don’t know where we’re going to take them. That’s part of the fun of the show, and something we can continue to do. Because I really do think people get all tense and excited about watching the show, and what’s going to happen. This is an element of the way we tell stories on Orphan Black. … Was it necessary we kill a character? I don’t know. But what it does is it’s such a big emotional explosion for Sarah, and it sends her on a different course. This teamed with the fact that she’s had this strange vision of Beth, this is pushing her towards the end of the season. It means big things to help push her towards the drama of the finale.Up until now, viewers were left to draw their own conclusions about Paul’s feelings for Beth and Sarah. What discussions were there about him saying, pre-death, so concretely that he didn’t love Beth, but he did love Sarah?We talked about so many different aspects of that. I was always a little worried about introducing a dream sequence into the show. But it kind of worked so well with Paul, and Paul’s departure from the show, and [resolving] the thread we left kind of hanging a little bit. Does Paul actually have feelings for Sarah? Does Sarah actually have feelings for Paul? It was nice to hear him voice it. It was just one of those big epic lines, where you get some clarity before he dies.Paul sacrificed himself with the intention of taking down as much of Castor as possible. How successful was he in destroying the samples, etc.?

    The point of it was to corral all of the Castor [operatives], all of the DNA, all of their research into one room and blow the f—ing shit out of it. So that was his point. Beyond that, you have to see the remainder of the season.

Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY) and Paul (DYLAN BRUCE)

More in that interview, as well as in an interview at TV Line:

TVLINE | Is Paul definitely dead?
I don’t know, man… [Laughs] He blew himself up. I think that’s cool. I like the fact that Paul is a character that we have not really been able to trust. We never knew where we stood with him. Was he a good guy? Was he a bad guy? Why is he doing the things he’s doing? And we’ve come through the last bunch of episodes to realize why he’s making the decisions he’s making. And, at the end of the day, he makes the right choice and heroically throws himself on the bomb. Literally. It was the way we wanted to see that character depart.

TVLINE | This is the first series regular character to be killed off. What was it like deciding to say goodbye to Paul and Dylan?
[This] was our plan from the beginning [of] plotting out Season 3. We knew. Dylan knew. It was a bit sad on set, though, I have to say. It was a little sad to see him go. [There were] a lot of feels on set, if you know what I mean.

TVLINE | Should we be questioning whether Dr. Cody and Rudy were actually taken out by that grenade? ‘Cause we didn’t see any bodies…
[Laughs] Yeah, you should question everything, of course.

TVLINE | Now more than ever, Sarah has so much information about herself and her sisters. What does that mean for her going forward? I felt like Beth, in a way, was telling her to step back. But does knowing all this just make her want to look for answers even more?
Absolutely. It’s more important than ever that Sarah gets to the bottom of this — and not just for herself and for the safety of her immediate family. The driving force with Sarah is that she’s really had to step up and become the leader. She’s gone from being a teenage-runaway-reluctant mother, to having to be not just a responsible mother, but a leader. The one who is keeping the sisters together, and the driving force behind trying to find a cure for Cosima.

TVLINE | There was another death in this episode. Have we seen the last of Pupok the Scorpion?
I can’t say that. Listen, Pupok’s not really real. Pupok’s a spirit animal. Can you really kill a spirit animal? I don’t know.

This has been a big year for saying good-by. Not only was it the end for the world of Mad Men, it was the end for Pawnee, the Bravermans, and last week was the final show of Late Night With David Letterman. I’m not giving up hope of seeing Dave on television again–I remain hopeful that he will still get The Tonight Show.  He probably will not be hosting the Oscars, but now he does have more free time to hang out with Oprah, and maybe Uma. So far since the finale I have been watching some of the great interviews and Top Ten lists he did in his last month on You Tube. Terry Gross had an excellent interview with his producer Rob Burnett on Fresh Air. You can read highlights or listen to the interview here. I heard it on a downloaded podcast which had an extra not present on the show–an interview with David Letterman from 1981. Among the highlights was Letterman talking about the great comedians of the time as well as new comedians who showed promise, including Jay Leno. David Letterman’s last sign off is in the video above, followed by highlights of the show which were aired as the Foo Fighters performed Everlong after David Letterman said good night for the last time on a television program.

While we will not see Pawnee, the Barvermans, the various manifestations of Sterling Cooper, or David Letterman, Scott Patterson has hinted that we might be able to return to another place which is missed–Stars Hollow. A Girlmore Girl reunion remains possible.

Community featured an homage to the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both scenes above.

A Beautiful Mind

There was one unexpected additional farewell this week. John Nash, whose life inspired the movie, A Beautiful Mind, along with his wife were killed in a traffic accident. The New York Times reports:

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a 2001 film, both titled “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed, along with his wife, in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86.

Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.

Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash and Russell Crowe as John Nash are in the picture above from the movie.

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

Orphan Black Helena Dream The Weight Of The Combination

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

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

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

Outlander Devils Mark

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

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

Arrow Broken Arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia Munn Suck It Wonder Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Soprano Finale

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Podesta Believes The Truth Is Out There

The most curious headline of the day was Obama adviser John Podesta’s biggest regret: Keeping America in dark about UFOs. The story came in response to this tweet:

The mention of Maureen Dowd in the tweet is presumably due to her interest in UFO’s, expressed in a column from 1997.

This is not the first time Podesta has raised this question the question of whether UFO’s are out there. This exchange was from 2002. Podesta said, “It’s time to find out what the truth really is that’s out there. We ought to do it, really, because it’s right. We ought to do it, quite frankly, because the American people can handle the truth. And we ought to do it because it’s the law.”

Karen Tumulty had once asked Podesta about reports that the Clinton Library was inundated with Freedom of Information Act requests for email with with subject lines like “X-Files” and “Area 51.” Podesta’s response was the tag-line to The X-Files, “The truth is out there.” Podesta also wrote an introduction to the 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.

The news reports do not answer the real questions I had when reading. Does Podesta claim to have inside information which he knows is being kept secret, or is he just like many others who suspect the government knows more than it is telling but has no evidence? Is he basing this on real inside information or episodes of The X-Files?

This also raises the question of whether the government is keeping other things from us. For example, do they know more about the Kennedy assassination than has been made public? Do they know whether Tony Soprano lived and how Game of Thrones will end? With Podesta giving reason to speculate but zero information, this sure could set off conspiracy theorists, who don’t need actual facts to back up their views.

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.

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

Doctor-Who--Into-the-Dalek

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

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

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

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

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

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

Gravity won for long form among these nominees:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sopranos2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fargo season two will concentrate on strong women characters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Christie Distorts Democratic Views On Income Inequality

Pinoccio

As Chris Christie’s popularity has fallen following recent scandals, his popularity has picked up to a degree on the far right now that they see him as a “victim” of the liberal media. There’s almost nothing the far right loves better than to see themselves as victims.

In return Christie is pandering to the Tea Party  and far right, using their tactic of distorting the views of the left. I was listening to an excerpt of a speech by Chris Christie over XM earlier. While I cannot find a full transcript, this report from The Guardian provides the gist of what I objected to:

“You want income equality? That’s mediocrity,” said Christie, in an apparent attempt to bolster his conservative credentials during a discussion at the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday. “Everybody can have an equal mediocre salary. That’s what we can afford.”

He argued that by pursuing income equality, left-leaning Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio misjudged the American spirit, which he defined as: “How do I get a little more?”

“I don’t think the American people want income equality. What they want is income opportunity,” said Christie, who also used the talk to heap praise on former president George W Bush. He added: “I grew up in an America that said life isn’t fair – but opportunity is.”

He is making two major errors here. First, Democrats do not believe everyone should have equal incomes. When speaking of income inequality they are speaking of the unprecedented concentration of wealth by the top one tenth of one percent and how this is damaging to the middle class and the economy. Secondly, they object to the system being rigged for the benefit of the top one tenth of one percent and it is the Democrats who support greater opportunity.

It is also interesting that Christie thinks it would help himself to bring up George Bush.

In related items, The Hill looks at Bill de Blasio.  Alec McGillis writes that Chris Christie’s entire career reeks. You can read all the details, but he says it all with this picture:

Chris Christie Tony Soprano

The article concludes:

What Bridgegate has laid bare is the skill and audacity with which Christie constructed his public image. “It’s almost like people were in a trance,” Buono told me. Christie may have been misunderstood for so long because his transactionalism diverted from the standard New Jersey model. He wasn’t out to line his own pockets, or build a business empire. He wasn’t even seeking to advance a partisan agenda. And yet it was transactionalism all the same. Christie used a corrupt system to expand his own power and burnish his own image, and he did it so artfully that he nearly came within striking distance of the White House. When he got cozy with Democratic bosses, people only saw a man willing to work across the aisle. When he bullied his opponents, they only saw a truth-teller. It was one of the most effective optical illusions in American politics—until it wasn’t.

Christie May Not Survive Impact Of Email Saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”

As The Rachel Maddow Show, and Maddow Blog writer Steve Benen have been vigorously covering the Chris Christie Bridge scandal for a month, I have been uncertain as to whether this would amount to enough to seriously impact Christie’s until-now rising political career. The new revelations released today, based upon email and text messages directly linking Christie’s top aides to the scandal, now suggest that this will be important:

Private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee” by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock.

The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor — who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election — and they chronicle how he tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000, which sits in the shadow of the world’s busiest bridge.

The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta—a notion that Christie has publicly denied.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”

I’m not sure we have had such clear documentation implicating a major politician in a scandal since the Watergate tapes ended the career of Richard Nixon. Of course in this day and age it is email and text messages (raising the question as to why they would think that such a clear trail would not be revealed.) The documents both display an abuse of power and contradict previous denials that Christie was involved. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” is likely to become a phrase which will haunt Chris Christie for the rest of his career, and might very likely end his presidential ambitions. As Chris Cillizza points out, “Molehills can grow into mountains in politics. This is now a serious problem for Christie.”

Jonathan Chait pointed out why this scandal can be particularly harmful for Christie, both being easy for voters to understand and reinforcing previous questions about Christie:

Several things come together to make this scandal especially devastating to Christie. One is that it’s very easy for voters to understand: He punished a town because its mayor endorsed his rival. There are no complex financial transfers or legal maneuverings to parse. Second, it fits into a broader pattern of behavior, documented by the New York Times, of taking retribution against politicians who cross him in any way. There is, in all likelihood, much more. Mark Halperin and my colleague John Heilemann reported in their book about the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney wanted to put Christie on his ticket, but his staff was “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record”:

“There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official — and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.”

The investigations also “raised questions for the vetters about Christie’s relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many of the trips.”

Josh Marshall says essentially the same thing, but a little more bluntly with his comparison of Chris Christie to Tony Soprano:

As I’ve written several times, this Christie Bridge Scandal is far more potentially damaging for Christie that it might seem on its face because its fits so perfectly with the negative view (as opposed to the positive view) of Chris Christie. That is, that he and his crew are thugs and bullies. We have basically demonstrable evidence that one of Christie’s top aides instructed Christie’s crony at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, to create the series of massive traffic jams in the city whose Mayor wouldn’t endorse the Governor.

Put into a mix that a good part of the country has the Sopranos as their primary prism for viewing New Jersey. (And, hey, I’m a former New Jersey resident!) And these emails sound very Sopranos-esque. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly told David Wildstein, according to emails obtained by TPM. “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

This isn’t some low level aide. This is part of his inner circle. And unless there’s some wildly unexpected explanation, it’s pretty clear that we’ve got the worst case scenario for the Governor in terms of the political damage. I doubted very much that we’d see any email smoking gun. And it’s still not from Christie himself. But it came from the Governor’s office and I think the weight of logic (though as yet no direct evidence) at least says that Christie himself knew about the order and may have ordered it himself.

SciFi Weekend: New Director For Star Wars; JJ Abrams Book Out This Week; Doctor Who News; X-Men; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Thor

jj_abrams_star_wars_star_trek_crossovers

With J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars, a replacement is needed for the next Star Trek movie. I see this as a good thing. Abrams can make a slick blockbuster movie, but I think that Star Wars is a much better fit for him than Star Trek. There is certainly value in how Abrams has revived interest in Star Trek, but he does not really get Star Trek. Perhaps new blood can help revive the best of Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the show. Deadline reports on a possible replacement:

We know that Paramount and Skydance Productions lost JJ Abrams as the director of the third installment of Star Trek when Abrams took on Star Wars. I’m hearing the studio is sweet on Joe Cornish to direct the next film. Cornish made his feature directorial debut on Attack The Block, the saga of a group of British youths who stave off an alien invasion in their rough neighborhood.

Cornish followed by being one of the writers on The Adventures Of Tin Tin, and he and Edgar Wright wrote the script for Ant-Man, the Marvel Studios film that Wright is going to direct. Long story short, he’s gotten exposure to bigger scale projects than Attack The Block, in which he admirably depicted a full scale alien invasion on a relatively small budget. Doing a movie like this would certainly put his career on a warp speed path. He’s already working with Paramount on the novel adaptation Snow Crash which he’s prepping to present to the studio. It’s early days on this, but stay tuned. Paramount is readying the movie to shoot in summer, 2014.

I don’t know anything more about Cornish than this, but I would like someone else to get a chance at Star Trek in place of Abrams. This does not mean I don’t like other works by  J.J. Abrams. Again, I just think that Star Trek was not a good fit for him. I have ordered his upcoming novel S. Wired says this is like downloading Lost to your brain:

S by Abrams

Let’s get the tl;dr version out of the way first: If you were a fan of Lost — and especially the speculation and theorizing that surrounded the show itself — then S., the novel/meta-narrative by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, is pretty much written for you. At times, it feels as if reading the book is like having the entirety of Lost (the television series and the fandom alike) downloaded into your head simultaneously.

As much S. is, as the slipcover helpfully describes, a “love letter to the written word” (which it is, but we’ll get to that later), it’s also very much a love letter to Abrams’ career to date. There are oblique references to almost all of Abrams’ past projects throughout the book: the romance tales of Felicity; the constantly-revised concepts of identity in Alias; the supernatural existentialism of Lost; the genre pastiche of Super 8; the found object storytelling of Cloverfield. All we needed was an appearance from the Starship Enterprise as commanded by Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible movies and we’d practically have a full set.

Despite that, though, S. – a fictional artifact, much like the found film of Cloverfield – hangs together surprisingly well. That’s an odd thing to say about something that has at least four different interconnected narratives unfolding at the same time, although not necessarily in chronological order, a la Lost‘s signature flashback-flashforward storytelling. Perhaps you remember the original video tease for S., which appeared online this summer without any explanation:

The video connects to and contains Ship of Theseus, a novel written by a mysterious political dissident known as “V.M. Straka.” Little is known about Straka,  even by “F.X. Caldeira,” the translator of his works and publisher of this final novel, published after Straka’s disappearance and assumed death. Ship is one of the texts of S., with Caldeira’s footnotes for the novel offering a second text that seemingly gives context into Straka’s life and identity.

And then there is a third layer: The copy of Ship that exists in S. has been heavily annotated by a scholar researching Straka’s identity who doesn’t quite agree with Caldeira’s footnotes. His notes soon become a conversation with Jen, a grad student with too much time on her hands, as well as a chip on her shoulder and numerous secrets in her past. That conversation becomes the fourth text, another thread to follow…

Doctor-Who-Day-of-The-Doctor-Teaser-Trailer

It appears there will be a mini-episode released, perhaps prior to The Day of the Doctor:

The British Board of Film Classification have announced today that a minisode has been made for The Day of the Doctor, entitled The Night of the Doctor. The BBFC passed the material for release in the UK. The minisode has a running length of six minutes and fifty-four seconds, and stars David Tennant and Matt Smith.

While, as far as we know, Peter Davison does not appear in The Day of The Doctor, he will have a role in the 50th Anniversary celebration of Doctor Who.

Cory Doctorow discussed Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime, a physics paper on “the spacetime through which Doctor Who’s Tardis travels.” Note the acronym. There is also a version for non-physicists, The Blue Box White Paper,

What Culture! gives a detailed analysis of the trailer to X-Men: Days of Futures Past (trailer above)

Deadline reports that Paramount is fast tracking an upcoming movie written by David Chase:

In a big spec deal, Paramount Pictures has acquired Little Black Dress, a script by The Sopranos creator David Chase that will be fast-tracked to be the next film Chase directs. I’m told that this is a character-driven film about a twentysomething female war veteran who comes back from Afghanistan grappling with a disability. While working a potentially lethal investigation at a post-war job, she gets involved with a superstitious NYPD detective who helps bring her back from a personal precipice.

Arrow Crucible Black Canary

Arrow remains the better of the two prime time shows which tie into the DC and Marvel comic universes. This week, not only was Black Canary’s identify revealed, but it tied into Oliver’s back story both at home and to the flash backs on the boat (or both boats). Next week: The League of Assassins.

There was not a new episode of Agents of SHIELD this week. The previous week there was a rather lame explanation as to what Sky is looking for–information on her parents. I suspect they are working towards a parallel between Sky and Agent Coulson both looking for secrets which SHIELD is hiding from them–once Coulson realizes that there is a secret about “magical Tahiti” and his return from the dead. Still, they might have come up with something a little more creative for Sky.

The November 19 episode of SHIELD, entitled The Well will be a cross-over, taking place after the events of Thor: The Dark World. The episode will be directed by Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, sort of making this a three-way cross over.

The official synopsis reads: “In the aftermath of the events chronicled in the feature film Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, Coulson and the Agents of SHIELD pick up the pieces – one of which threatens to destroy a member of the team.”

Thor Agent Coulson