Series Review: Angel – Season 1 (1999 – 2000)

Hi. So as some of you may be aware of, from 2020 to earlier this year (2022, for future readers) I reviewed every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as I was rewatching it with my mom. It was a fun experience for me, and at the end of my review of the final season I made a tease that I might cover its spin-off. Well, now it’s happening. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Angel” season 1.

Following the end of “Buffy” season 3, the vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) moves away from Sunnydale and finds himself a new home in Los Angeles. And shortly after settling in, he meets friends new and old, which prompts him to become a private investigator, helping the people of L.A. fight the supernatural problems that haunt them. I  generally enjoyed the story/ies here. It’s nowhere near as rough as the first season of its older sister series, which likely comes from the extra experience gained between the two. The overarching elements are solid, further developing this already interesting world and lore, while also giving us some interesting present drama for our characters. That said, the overarching stuff is generally taking a backseat to mostly being monster-of-the-week stories, which is where it falls apart a little bit. Not only because it means there’s little to no central hook, but also because, as with most of these types of shows, not all episodes are created equal. For every “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, you got a “She”. What I will say is that even some of the lesser episodes here are nowhere near the lows of some of the lesser episodes in “Buffy”, so even at its lowest, it’s still decently watchable. And when an episode is good, it is GOOD, just quality TV. So on the whole the storytelling here is pretty solid.

The characters in this are just great, all bring their own unique flavor to the buffet that is the cast, and make for a vital part of the ensemble. First up is of course our titular 90 degree, Angle… I will not apologize for my dumb jokes. Anyhow, Angel, the vampire with a soul, his dreams and conscience haunted by the crimes he committed when he was evil. He’s trying to redeem himself, and he’s an interesting protagonist. At first he might just seem like a moody broody bitch, but we’ll soon see more sides to him, making for quite a fun and dynamic character. And David Boreanaz is really good in the role. Next we have Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, a former mean girl from Sunnydale that Angel runs into early on. Cordy already saw some interesting development in the other show, and here we see that further fleshed out through some of the shit that happens throughout this season, and I quite like it. Plus, her very blunt personality provides a lot of laughter throughout, which is fun. And Carpenter does a damn good job in the role. Next we have Glenn Quinn (R.I.P) as Doyle, a half demon who gets visions of the future to help Angel in his quest to help people. He’s a bit of a cowardly shyster with a surprising amount of heart, and he’s a fun character, with Quinn giving a really good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Alexis Denisof, Christian Kane, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephanie Romanov, and more, all delivering solid performances.

The score for the season was composed by Robert J. Kral and Christophe Beck, and they did a great job. Big bold brass for action scenes and spooky scares, but also quieter string and piano pieces when they want to be eerie or heart-wrenching. It’s not necessarily the most original score out there, but it’s very well composed and I highly enjoyed listening to it and thought it worked great for the show.

“Angel” was created by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. And before we continue, the elephant in the room: We all know by now that the latter person is a turd of a man, just a horrible piece of shit. I am not condoning what he did, and he’s rightfully getting pushed away from Hollywood. I will have positive things to say about the craft here, but I want to be clear that I am not saying it made any of his actions acceptable. Alright? So let’s talk about the craft of this show, which was handled by many different, very talented people.
It’s well made, has a fun noir atmosphere to it in tandem with the darkly whimsical tone that “Buffy” established, making the vibe of this show familiar, yet unique. It sets it apart from its sister show, without straying too far and making it completely separate. And I dig that about it. And generally speaking the direction here is really good. Some fight scenes can be a bit too closely shot and quickly cut, but generally the direction in the show is good. Effects for the time are great too, love seeing a lot of the creature makeup here. But yeah, aside from a few minor snafus, it’s well put together.

This show/season has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has no critic score, but at least an audience rating of 94%. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.9/10.

While its storytelling doesn’t quite reach its potential, season 1 of “Angel” is still a damn good season of TV. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Angel” is an 8.88/10. So it’s definitely worth watching.

My review of “Angel” season 1 is now completed.

One down, four to go.

Series Review: Bodyguard – Season 1 (2018)

I may be four years behind everyone else, but I’m finally caught up on this show… so let’s talk about it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Bodyguard”.

The story follows police sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) who in the wake of increased terror presence gets assigned to protect highly controversial politician Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And throughout the season we get to see David try to balance a rocky home life and his duty to protect Montague, who seems to have more enemies than allies. I found the story here to be quite riveting, it’s six episodes of unrelenting tension, a grey as hell and thematically complex conspiracy thriller that constantly made me question who was on the side of whom, who can be trusted, and why certain events happen. And while it generally tries to put David and his plight as the element we’re supposed to root for, the writing does a good job of still making that feel layered and make it clear that it’s not all black and white, even for our supposed hero. And even when the show gets a little less murky about what’s going on, it still found ways of keeping me in suspense, making my heart race and stomach churn at many points. It’s a damn good suspense thriller narrative.

The characters in this are all very layered, flawed, and have a certain wornness to them, like they feel like they’ve actually been around for a while and didn’t just pop into existence when the camera first shows them. First off we have David Budd, the titular bodyguard, a former soldier and current policeman who gets put through the absolute wringer in this show, getting some of the most interesting development I’ve seen from a protagonist in a while. He’s an engaging character, with Richard Madden delivering an absolutely fantastic performance. Next is Keeley Hawes as Home Secretary Julia Montague, a brash, no-shit-taking, kinda manipulative politician. She has a really interesting thematic presence within the show and the way her relationship to David evolves is always interesting, which leads to a lot of the grey area I mentioned earlier. And Hawes does a great job with the role. And we also get supporting work from people like Sophie Rundle, Stuart Bowman, Ash Tandon, Tom Brooke, Nina Toussaint-White, Anjli Mohindra, and many more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, and it is great. Utilizing a mix of classic orchestration and complexly woven electronics, the pair create a score that manages to perfectly nail home the uneasiness of every situation David finds himself on. It also has its own weird quirks at times that’ll stick in my mind for a while. For example, in one track there was this one faint ringing sound that I at first thought was a nearby car alarm, but turns out it was just the score doing something odd to ratchet up tension. So that’ll stick in my noggin for the foreseeable future. But yeah, the music here’s great.

“Bodyguard” was written and created by Jed Mercurio, with directing duties divided between Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, and cinematography handled by John Lee. And the craft here is absolutely superb, with every piece coming together to a show that somehow manages to feel both grand and claustrophobic at the same time, making the conspiracy and situation feel huge while still allowing the tension to always feel near, always in the room with you, smothering you, never really allowing you to breathe properly. It’s just some of the most chest-tensing tv craft I’ve ever experienced. Mercurio and Strickland are no strangers to this, having worked together on the anxiety-inducing “Line of Duty” before (and after) this, but it really feels like they were allowed to really ratchet up the intensity and stakes here to a scope and degree that “Line of Duty” never really seems to have had the chance to. I still adore that show, don’t get me wrong. Just saying, this just seems… bigger in a way, and it allowed them to play around more with what kinds of suspense they could craft.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, “Bodyguard” is a fantastic bit of suspense television. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Bodyguard” is a 9.56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Bodyguard” is now completed.

Apparently they’re gonna make a second season, but I have no god damn clue how they’d be able to follow on from this.

Series Review: The Responder – Season 1 (2022)

Sorry about the lack of posts in the last few weeks. Been running into various issues, including my laptop being dumb, the summer heat making things unbearable, and even catching the ‘rona. But here I am again, ready to share my terrible opinions with y’all again. I actually intended to get this review out a little over a week ago, but you know… aforementioned conundrums. Anyhow, British TV.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Responder” season 1.

Set in Liverpool, the story follows first responder Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) as he works the night shift, trying to uphold order in the city, all while his own life starts to crumble. I thought the story here was absolutely fantastic, giving us a very tense and nuanced take on some familiar cop show elements. It manages to give us this dark and nuanced crime-drama, presenting plenty of suspenseful twists and developments, while also blending in elements of real police work. It’s not a glamorous, action-packed crime solving fest, and the show gains so much by showing the less clean (for lack of a better word) side of the job. And then it also does one hell of a job in developing the personal plights of Chris and the other characters, tackling things such as PTSD, addiction, and abuse, building an emotionally rich and deeply engaging web of drama. So yeah, the narrative here is great.

The characters in this are all very flawed, layered, and all feel very real. They are written with an incredible amount of nuance, that make them very compelling, and surprisingly real-feeling. First up is our main man, Chris Carson. He’s a good-hearted man who cares about people way more than he may let on, all while also being very bent, and dealing with a lot of psychological trauma from shit that’s happened to him in the past. He’s a deeply fascinating protagonist, played to perfection by Martin Freeman, who gives what might be the best performance of his career. Next up we have Rachel, a young officer who works alongside Chris. I don’t wanna say too much about her, but she has two arcs, one involving her work with Chris, and one on a more personal level, and they intertwine really nicely, making her a really interesting character. And Adelayo Adedayo who plays her is fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Ian Hart, MyAnna Buring, Josh Finan, Emily Fairn, Warren Brown, Philip Barantini, David Bradley, and more, all delivering top tier work.

The score for the show was composed by Matthew Herbert, and I think it’s really good. Low percussion, droning synths, some light stringwork, it’s this moody score that really helps emphasize the darkness of not only Chris’ situation, but also the darker side of Liverpool that we get to see. But at times it also brings out this beautifully tragic side that helps the soundscape feel even richer. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they work well in their respective scenes.

“The Responder” was created and written by Tony Schumacher, with directing duties split between Tim Mielants, Fien Troch, and Philip Barantini, and I loved the craft behind this show. It manages to feel very cinematic (and not just because of the letterboxing) while also having a very fly-on-the-wall quality to it. It somehow rides that line marvelously, having this sweeping feel without feeling flashy, giving us some of the most engaging filmmaking of this year. It’s just wonderfully crafted television.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.4/10.

So yeah, season 1 of “The Responder” is an absolutely fantastic bit of television. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Responder” season 1 is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Responder” season 1 is now completed.

*Ted Hastings voice* Bent coppers.

Series Review: We Own This City (2022)

*Ted Hastings voice*. Bent coppers.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “We Own This City”.

Baltimore, Maryland, 2017. Within this city exists the Gun Trace Task Force, a special squad created to try to find illegal guns and drugs. We soon find out however that things aren’t quite so black and white, as the members within it are investigated for corruption. And so we jump back and forth between the main investigation of the present, and the past events that led to it. “We Own This City” is a compelling true crime sort of series, weaving a complex and compelling drama about the corruption within Baltimore’s law enforcement, and how that creates mistrust from and fraught relationships with the public. Now, while the drama in itself is compelling, I do have my issues with the overall structure of the storytelling. This show has to cover A LOT of ground in only six episodes, and when combined with the jumping back and forth within the timeline, it can make it feel a bit choppy and overly bullet-pointy (for lack of a better word). It’s not necessarily bad, as I do still find the situations really interesting and engaging, but I do think the overall structure does remove some of the impact. But despite it being a little let down by that, it’s still a really well written story.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and overall really interesting, all feeling very believable and natural. There’s this lived-in feel to them, and their interactions and relationships work really well in creating engaging drama, and at times even a little bit of humor. What also helps is the cast, all of which are fucking superb, featuring people like Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, David Corenswet, Delaney Williams, Dagmara Dominczyk, and many more.

The score for the show was composed by Kris Bowers, and it was fine. Nothing stood out as really good or bad, it was just kinda there. A perfectly passable score. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and those work well in their respective scenes.

Based on a book by Justin Fenton, “We Own This City” was developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, with writing by them and a few other cool people, and directing handled by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I would like to say that Green’s direction is really good. His directing isn’t very flashy, but he has this uncanny ability of giving scenes this subtly crackling energy, even during more quiet moments, which keeps each moment really engaging. It’s just really well crafted.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

While its structure lets down some of its impact, “We Own This City” is still a compelling and engaging drama about the darker side of Baltimore law enforcement. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, alright music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Own This City” is an 8.56/10. So even if it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “We Own This City” is now completed.

Shoulda sent AC-12

Series Review: StartUp – Season 1 (2016)

Before we get started with the review itself, I just want to take a second to mention that I think crypto seems like complete fucking bogus. Aaaaand that is all, let’s get into the main thing.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “StartUp” season 1.

When they happen to cross paths for various reasons, a timid banker (Adam Brody), a struggling entrepreneur (Otmara Marrero), and a gangster (Edi Gathegi) team up to try to launch a new form of digital currency, all while a corrupt federal agent (Martin Freeman) lurks around, causing trouble. I found the story of “StartUp” to be pretty enjoyable… but seldom did it go beyond that. There’s a few moments where it perked up a bit more, a few dramatic turns where I was like “Hey… a bit of drama!”. Otherwise it’s sort of just another perfectly enjoyable crime-drama featuring good people and bad people crossing paths in various ways. It’s kinda hard to describe how I felt about the storytelling here, because it doesn’t stick out that much. It’s just sort of there, serving up 10 episodes of not-bad-but-also-not-great story. I wasn’t ever bored, but never did I find myself super engaged either. Like I said, it’s roughly seven hours of alright crime-drama storytelling.

The characters in this are all decently interesting. Not necessarily the deepest ever, but they had enough going on to the point where I found them quite engaging. First off is Nick Talman, a kind-hearted banker who decides to help another one of our leads with her project. He’s arguably one of the blander characters in our cast, but he works as a good buffer to balance out the cast. Plus, Adam Brody gives a really nuanced performance, which does add another layer of depth. Next we have Ronald Dacey, a family man and gangster. He is my favorite character in the show, because he shows a lot of interesting layers, all while having one of the more substantial arcs of the season. And Edi Gathegi is absolutely fantastic in the role. Next we have Izzy Morales, the entrepreneur and hacker who sort of gets the ball rolling on that new digital currency thing. She’s driven, she’s flawed, she’s layered, and she’s just generally a really interesting character, with Otmara Marrero giving a damn good performance. And then we have Phil Rask, our resident bent federal agent. He’s an interesting fella, works really well in terms of writing… so let’s talk performance. Rask is played by Martin Freeman, an actor I like a lot. And when he has to be a little quiet, friendly, vulnerable, that sort of stuff, Freeman’s good, that’s the type of stuff he works for. But he also has a good amount of moments where he has to be menacing and a bit of tough guy, aaaaaand I just don’t believe Freeman in those moments. He is acting his heart out in those moments, which I do have to give kudos to. But he really feels a bit miscast in this role. Like I said, I like Freeman a lot, and he has his moments in this, but on the whole he feels a little off for the part. As for supporting cast, we got people like Tony Plana, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Jared Wofford, Aarony Yoo, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Chris Hajian, and I think he did a good job with it. The score’s mostly based in an electronic, synthesized sound to sort of fit with the whole tech, start-up type setting/story we got, and while it doesn’t necessarily stick out in my mind, I did think it worked well enough for the show. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout the season, and they all work well for their respective scenes.

“StartUp” was created by Ben Ketai, with writing and directing over the season being done by him and various other people. And I think the direction on display here is alright. It does everything it’s supposed to, but never sticks out that much in my mind. Shots are well done and well paced, action beats are handled just fine, it’s just fairly solid craft on the crew’s part. Again, much like the story, it’s well done, but also doesn’t go above and beyond. It’s good.

This show/season has gotten a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 36% positive rating.  On Metacritic the season has a score of 52/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 7.8/10.

While it does stumble a little bit in some regards, season 1 of “StartUp” is still a solid enough crime-drama. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, and good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “StartUp” is a 7.66/10. So I’d say it’s worth watching.

My review of “StartUp” season 1 is now completed.

“The future of currency”, my ass.

Series Review: Luther – Season 1 (2010)

This is a show I’ve only seen an episode or two of over the years. So when I saw that it was leaving Netflix at the end of the month, I felt that it was the perfect time to catch up on the entirety of it over the next few weeks. So look forward to more reviews coming in this little project I’ve decided to call “The Ides of Elba”.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 1.

John Luther (Idris Elba) is a brilliant but rough-around-the-edges police detective as he’s reinstated after an extended absence following a horrible and traumatic case. And we follow him as he works to solve various dark and horrific crimes, all while struggling to keep his personal life together, along with developing an uncomfortable kinship with a deranged young woman (Ruth Wilson). At first glance, “Luther” might have the air of a typical police drama, it manages to stand out partly thanks to a gritty and dark tone, exploring much darker and heavier crime stories. But it also works thanks to the overarching storylines, involving Luther’s past, his tense relationship with his estranged wife (Indira Varma), and his newfound “friendship” with the aforementioned deranged young woman. Yes, there is a lot going on, and it can make the episodes feel slightly long in the tooth at times, but it’s all written with so much nuance and suspense that I can forgive some of the slower and more feet-draggy (that is now a word, shut up) moments. So yeah, the story here’s good.

What I love about the characters of Luther is that none of them are really written in a perfect black and white manner. Everyone’s written with a lot of ambiguity and nuance. Be they “hero”, support, or villain, all of them have many layers to them that make them deeply fascinating. Even our main character, while a policeman who tries to do good and save the day, is written incredibly grey, and it makes him an incredibly compelling character to follow. It also helps that Idris Elba is fucking incredible in the role. The supporting cast is great too. Ruth Wilson, Indira Varma, Steven Mackintosh, Warren Brown, Saskia Reeves, Paul McGann, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score was composed by Paul Englishby, and I think he did a really good job with it. Very brooding, very eerie, really helps maintain the gritty vibe that the writing goes for, often elevating the suspense of certain scenes. They also use licensed songs on occasion, and they work really well in their respective scenes. Overall, there’s good music here.

“Luther” was created and written for the BBC by Neil Cross, with direction by various cool people. And I think the craft here is superb. The scenes have a very deliberate pace to them, shots willing to linger for a while, slowly building this creeping suspense that often culminates in really intense and at times even brutal payoffs. It helps bring the material to life in a fresh and exciting way that wasn’t seen that much on tv back in 2010.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #247 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Luther” makes one hell of a first impression, giving us a dark and captivating six episodes that had me (mostly) enraptured from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Luther” is a 9.44/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 1 is now completed.

Beware the Ides of Elba, for there’s more coming your way…

Series Review: The Journalist – Season 1 (2022)

Journalism! I got nothing else, I thought that excited expression might inspire a more nuanced intro on the importance of journalism, but I got jack shit. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Journalist” season 1.

Japan, 2019. We follow journalist Anna Matsuda (Ryoko Yonekura) as she doggedly investigates suspicions of government corruption. At the same time, we follow a few of the people working within said government, seeing their personal conflicts as they deal with covering of said corruption. I found the story here to be kind of a mixed bag. It’s a slow burn investigative drama, happily showing you the tedium that comes with both the journalism and the governmental bureaucracy. And at times I do like that, for a good chunk of the show (mainly episodes 2-5) it is decently engaging. Even the melodrama in those episodes can be pretty enjoyable. First and final episodes however feel like they drag a bit, and even the better middle episodes never do anything particularly outstanding. It’s one of those narratives that shows great potential, and even does engage for a fair bit of the runtime, but never quite hits the heights it reaches for. So for the most part I enjoyed the story here, despite some of its flaws.

The characters in this are all decently interesting, working well to make the show a little more engaging. I think some of my favorite ones here are the ones who work within the government, as the show actually does an alright job of exploring their inner conflict with having to deal with some shady shit. I can also happily say that the cast in this are all great, featuring people like Ryoko Yonekura, Go Ayano, Ren Hanami, Keisuke Hoashi, Ryusei Yokohama, Shinobu Terajima, and more, all delivering damn good performances.

The score for the show was composed by Taro Iwashiro, and I think he did a really good job with it. For the most part it relies on a melancholic piano to create this serious and emotional tone that I think works really well for the show. There are also occasional strings, guitars, and percussion used for extra impact in certain scenes, and I think that works pretty well too.

Based on a movie of the same name, “The Journalist” was written and directed for Netflix by Michihito Fujii, who I think did a really solid job here. His direction has this cold, slow burn feel to it, which complements the story quite well, and even adds a surprising amount of suspense to it at times. Even in the moments where the writing doesn’t fully engage, Fujii’s direction has a way of keeping me at least somewhat interested in the scene. So yeah, he did a good job with that.

The show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic the general consensus seems to be a 60/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/10.

While it never quite reaches the heights of its ambition, and even drags at times, season 1 of “The Journalist” is still a pretty solid political/investigative drama. It has a pretty good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Journalist” is a 7.21/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “The Journalist” season 1 is now completed.

Come for Go Ayano, stay for… I don’t know, stuff being pretty good, I guess.

Series Review: The North Water (2021)

I love British TV. I mean, most countries tend to have good TV, but British programming just has something special about them that makes them infinitely watchable and/or interesting. So with that said, let’s talk about one.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The North Water”.

The year is 1859. Former army surgeon Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) finds himself taking a job on a whaling ship heading towards the arctic. And we follow him as he deals with working on this ship, struggling not just the elements, but his fellow crewmates as well. What I do find quite interesting about “The North Water” is that it’s not the most plot-driven show. It’s not about a MacGuffin, there’s no real goal to this journey. Instead it’s a dark exploration of how the trauma of a man’s past and present can change you, bring you closer to the darkness. It’s a somber, moody, and often disturbing deep dive into the damaged psyche of Patrick and a few of his fellow crewmates, and I found it absolutely riveting from start to end. The deliberately glacial (HA!) pace may throw some people off, but I personally think it added to the atmosphere, making any suspense and general sense of unease even greater, which helped make for one hell of an engaging narrative.

As I kind of implied, this show is very much more character-driven. And lucky for us, the characters in this are spectacular. All of them clearly damaged in some way, hiding either intentions or their own trauma, which led to me not really knowing who to trust, which adds a lot to the vibe of the show. What also helps is that there’s not a weak link in the cast. Jack O’Connell is fantastic as our lead, Sumner. Colin Farrell is unsettlingly fantastic as the enigmatic Henry Drax. Stephen Graham is terrific as the ship’s captain. And the rest of the cast, contining people like Roland Møller, Sam Spruell, Gary Lamont, Philip Hill-Pearson, Kieran Urquhart, and more, all delivering top notch work.

The score for the show was composed by Tim Hecker, and I think he did a terrific job with it. It’s a low-key, moody, almost horror-esque score, relying heavily rumbling strings, some subtle piano, and even occasional bit of synths to create an unsettling sound that fits really well with the setting and characters. It’s great stuff.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ian McGuire, all episodes of “The North Water” were written and directed by Andrew Haigh, and the man has just absolutely outdone himself. His direction really captures the feeling of helplessness and isolation that one might feel while going on this type of journey, making every moment of the journey feel uneasy. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a regular conversation, a flashback, or a scene of hunting being done, Haigh’s direction is tense and terrific. He also doesn’t shy away from showing us some grisly fucking stuff. The blood and violence in this show is quite disturbing, and at times even quite disgusting, and while I do think it works for the show and adds to the storytelling, I do think it could put some people off. So if you got a weak stomach or you generally just don’t like gruesome content… you have been warned. On a less icky note, the cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc is absolutely spectacular. The angles, the lighting, the colors, it all looks spectacular and works really well to elevate the storytelling even further. This show is just immaculately crafted.

This show’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“The North Water” is one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The North Water” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The North Water” is now completed.

Interesting to think that something so dark and disturbing can come from the same director as the tender and warm “Weekend”.

Series Review: Demon Slayer – Season 1 (2019)

I really don’t talk enough about anime on this blog, which is kinda funny, because some of my first (and worst) reviews I did way back in 2014 were anime-related. But since then I haven’t really done much in that realm of entertainment. So maybe it’s time to try to remedy that.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Demon Slayer” season 1.

After most of his family gets killed by demons, Tanjiro Kamado (Natsuki Hanae) vows to become a demon slayer in order to avenge his dead family, while also trying to cure his sister (Akari Kito) who’s been turned into a demon. And thus we follow Tanjiro as he goes on this journey, training to get stronger, attempting to save people, and meeting all sorts of colorful characters along the way. At first glance, it may seem like typical action-fantasy anime fare, and in a lot of ways, that is what it is. But then we also get a lot of moments that show something deeper, something… humane. For all the magic and monsters and over the top comedy, the show’s story grounds itself by often taking the time to let dramatic beats breathe and simmer, giving a very humane and emotionally charged perspective to the predicaments and stories that Tanjiro finds himself involved in throughout the 26 episode season. And this gives the show a weight that really makes the story of “Demon Slayer” something special. Admittedly I wouldn’t call myself “hooked” by the first few episodes. They’re still quite entertaining, but since they consist of a lot of setup, they do suffer from a tiny bit of good ol’ premiere sickness. Again, they’re still really solid, so it’s not a dealbreaker, just a slight hiccup in what is otherwise a great story.

The characters in this are all fun, colorful, entertaining, and overall just insanely compelling. Much like the story, at first glance they might all cover the typical archetypes found within this kind of anime, but given a bit of time, they start to show more depth, while still being able to embrace some of those classic tropes when needed. I also think the performances in here are spectacular. The cast consists of people like Natsuki Hanae, Akari Kito, Hiro Shimono, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (who plays my favorite character), Takahiro Sakurai, Takumi Yamazaki, and many more, all doing amazingly well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina, and my god, they did an amazing job with it. Sweeping orchestrations, moody strings and pianos, some horror stings, even a bit of rock and techno-infused stuff slips in, and it’s all terrific, adding so much to the show. The opening and ending themes by LiSA (god, that stage name really hates SEO) are also really solid. The music in this show’s just all round great.

Based on the hit manga by Koyoharu Gotouge, “Demon Slayer” was brought to us by the studio Ufotable, and they just knocked it out of the fucking park here. The art pops beautifully, the movement is smooth, the colors look super crisp, and everything just has an insane level of polish that is an absolute joy to behold from start to end. The animation especially comes alive during the action scenes, all of which are dynamic, breathtaking, and very creative. Long story short: This show looks fucking amazing.

This show/season’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.7/10, and is ranked #128 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a wonderful fantasy-action anime with plenty of heart. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and amazing animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Demon Slayer” is a 9.65/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Demon Slayer” season 1 is now completed.

I should try to cover more anime in the future. Get the original intentions back on track… albeit with less terrible writing.

Series Review: Vigil (2021)

I’ve talked about my fair share of British tv shows over the years. And now it’s time to talk about yet another one, let’s gooooo!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Vigil”.

Following a death on board the submarine HMS Vigil, DSI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) gets sent aboard to investigate it. But what starts out as a somewhat death investigation soon turns into a much larger conspiracy involving the Royal Navy and potentially various other, high level sectors. So it’s part mystery, part conspiracy thriller, and then also part melodrama. So let’s break things down a little, starting with the mystery and conspiracy angle. At the off-set it feels fairly grounded, just a standard Beeb cop drama of a death being investigated, and as it goes on it becomes more complex, more improbable, and even a bit silly… and I liked that. It’s a conspiracy thriller right out of Robert Ludlum or or Tom Clancy’s typewriter, and there’s something about those kinds of stories I find quite compelling. It keeps it fun and engaging. Now let’s talk about the third part I alluded to earlier… the melodrama. Interspersed throughout is a backstory involving Amy and her relationship to fellow policewoman Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie). And while a bit of personal drama can add some nice weight to a show like this, it didn’t feel super well implemented in this. There are a few moments involving the two that I don’t mind, but a lot of these scenes of romantic melodrama just don’t feel as naturally baked into the show as they could be. So yeah, the story here is a little bit mixed. Mostly good, but has some things that let it down.

The characters in this are all decently interesting, sporting interesting personalities and mostly having interesting dynamics between each other. But what really makes them stand out is the cast. Every actor in this cast is at the top of their game, bringing the characters to life beautifully. Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans (my personal standout), Paterson Joseph, Stephen Dillane, Daniel Portman, Martin Compston, Adam James, Anjili Mohindra, and more, are all fantastic in this show.

The score for the show was composed by Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory, and I think it was pretty good. It’s a mostly ambient affair, taking a low-key and almost sneaky approach  to build creeping tension or have you more invested in the personal drama. And I think it works fine, it’s a decent score that works well for the show.

“Vigil” was created for the BBC by Tom Edge, with writing by him, Chandni Lakhani, and Ed Macdonald, and with directing duties split between Isabelle Sieb and James Strong. And I think this show has some strong direction. While the submarine seems waaaay bigger than an actual sub, they still find good ways of making it feel claustrophobic, which adds a little to the suspense in the scenes set down there. But even the ones set on the surface, following the investigations up there are really well helmed with good shots and editing. It’s just a well crafted show.

This show has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 75% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

While its melodramatic bits drag it down at times, “Vigil” is still a highly enjoyable, if ludicrous, conspiratorial police thriller. It has a fun plot, good characters, fantastic performances, pretty good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Vigil” is a 7.98/10. So while it’s far from perfect, I’d still say it’s worth watching.

My review of “Vigil” is now completed.

We all live in a Vigil submarine…