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.

Some British TV Shows That I Like

800px-Union_flag_tv.svg

Oh hey there, how are you? I hope you’re doing well. Anyhow, I realized it’d been a while since I did some list-based content on this here blog. So I thought, “Why not make a list of stuff for once?”. And as I racked my brain for a topic to cover, it finally hit me… like a tea kettle dropped from a balcony. I talk a lot on this blog about how I love British TV, but besides regular reviews, I’ve never gone out of my way to just list a bunch of personal favorites… so I guess I could do that.

Let it be known that these are in no particular order. These are just various titles that I have a personal fondness for that I wanted to shout out. Who knows, maybe you’ll check out one or two you hadn’t heard of before. So let’s get into it.

Line of Duty (2012-2021)

This show follows the members of AC-12, an anti-corruption unit within the UK police, as they solve cases of potential corruption. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’d already know that this is a show I LOVE. Gripping personal drama, intense thriller narratives that put me so far on the edge of my seat that I started floating in the air, and amazing performances make this one of my favorite shows. We’re talking top 10 of all time here.

Friday Night Dinner (2011-2020)

“Friday Night Dinner” is a comedy series about the Goodman family as they meet every Friday for dinner. However, what should just be a nice, quiet family dinner quickly turns into chaos in one form of another. From their own bickering, to enigmatic neighbors, to crazy relatives, there is never a quiet Friday in the Goodman house. I only started watching this one a few years back after asking some friends about it, and boy, am I glad I did. It’s a deliriously funny, brilliantly performed, and endlessly watchable comedy that just clicked with me from the get-go. MVP in this series is Paul Ritter (may he rest in peace) as Martin, the oddball patriarch of the family. Just sheer brilliance in every delivery and mannerism. That said, everyone in this show is absolutely superb and I love it.

Shetland (2013-still going)

Based on a series of novels by Ann Cleaves, “Shetland” is about DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) as he, along with his colleagues, solve murders on Shetland, all while also dealing with their own personal drama from time to time. Does this at the offset sound like every police show ever? Yes, kinda. But “Shetland” manages to stand out thanks to its well-rounded characters, relatively unique setting, engaging plotlines, and spectacular cast. It’s just one of the better police dramas available at the moment.

Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)

Of course I had to include this show. The 12 episodes comedy series about hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his employees is a classic that goes on reruns over and over, and for good reason. Nearly 50 years since its inception, and it’s still making people (myself included) laugh. Don’t think I need to explain much more why this is here.

Peaky Blinders (2013-2022)

Much like with “Line of Duty” before it, if you’ve followed me for an extended period of time, then you’d know about my affection for this show. A gangster drama set in  early 1900s Birmingham, following Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family as they try to stay afloat amid political evolution and gang uprisings. Unpredictable, suspenseful, emotionally rich, masterfully performed, stunningly shot… what else do I need to say? It’s one of the most popular dramas of the last decade. If you’re one of the four people who somehow haven’t seen it yet… then what are you doing? GO!

Black Books (2000-2004)

“Black Books” follows Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), a drunken, cynical man who runs a bookshop. And we get to see how he, his employee Manny (Bill Bailey), and his “friend” Fran (Tamsin Greig) get into various misadventures. Now, it’s been a few years since last I watched this, but I still have such fond memories of “Black Books”, so I just had to mention it here. It’s a really funny comedy series about some people who aren’t very good.

Primeval (2007-2011)

Oh hey look, it’s Douglas Henshall again! Anyhow, “Primeval” is a sci-fi series about strange time portals (known in the show as anomalies) opening across the UK, unleashing all sorts of  prehistoric (and future) creatures, leading to Professor Nick Cutter (Henshall) along with his team having to capture these creatures and bring ’em back to their own time. I caught this on a random whim, just flipping through channels years ago, and being a lover of both sci-fi AND dinosaurs, of course I got instantly hooked. Revisiting a few years later, and I still really liked it. It’s a fun adventure series with a great cast, fun time travel adventures, surprisingly good CG for a mid-to-late 2000s tv show, and, as previously mentioned… dinosaurs. Really can’t wait to revisit this.

Endeavour (2012-still going)

Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as he, along with his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), solve various murders in and around Oxford. History lesson: Once upon a time there was a tv show called “Inspector Morse”, and this is a prequel to that. And while I never watched that original series, I can still say that I love “Endeavour”. Each episode is a sprawling 90 minute narrative, showing Morse, Thursday, and the other people in their department working tirelessly to solve the various crimes, all while they have to deal with their own personal situations. “Endeavour” is another one of those police dramas that manages to somehow be a cut above the rest, partly due to the intricate plots, but mainly due to the absolutely phenomenal cast. There’s not a weak link here, and it leads to a lot of spectacular performances that elevate the already solid writing.

Pointless (2009-still going)

Up until this point we’ve basically only talked about scripted television, so I thought we’d wrap up this post with something a bit different. “Pointless” is a game show hosted by Alexander Armstrong and, up until recently, Richard Osman, and is all about contestants trying to score as few points as possible by finding the most obscure answer in questions polled from 100 people. These questions can range from all sorts of topics, including films, music, geography, food, and fucking anything. It’s entertaining to watch for a few different reasons. First off, I love quiz shows, as I can sort of get involved from the safety of my own home to test my knowledge. But then there’s also the angle of trying to guess which of the answers might have the lowest score to it, partly due to my love of puzzles in general, but also because UK people are really unpredictable in their knowledge, often leading to frankly baffling results. But another reason why I love it are the two hosts, Armstrong and Osman, they are an absolute delight together, which makes it a shame that Osman has decided to step away from the show (though I respect his decision and wish him the best). Either way, “Pointless” is super fun to watch.

So those were some British shows that I love. I don’t know what else to say, I had fun talking about positive things for a bit… felt nice.
Anyhow, have a good one.

Series Review: Luther – Season 5 (2019)

My friends, we are finally here. My final review in this little series of mine. So let’s just get the phrase said one last time and then get into the review itself… Beware the Ides of Elba.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 5.

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is back for his hardest challenge yet, having to solve a complex and violent series of murders, all while having to deal with people from his past coming in and causing a lot of trouble for him. And I am happy to report that this season of “Luther” feels way better structured than the way too short season 4. Going back to the four episode structure of previous entries, it gives the story time to breathe, keeping it from feeling so crammed and overstuffed. As for the writing itself, it’s good. It doesn’t *quite* have the same terror and suspense of some of the previous seasons, and its relentless, actiony pace doesn’t always work to the show’s benefit, but generally it’s still solid. It still dabbles a lot with morals, the darkness of the human condition, and how one’s actions might affect your life. And it does all of that very well. But what I also really find interesting about the storytelling here is the sense of inevitability and finality, you can tell that this was the end of the show, with how it escalated and the overall tone of everything. And I think it makes the drama feel even more engaging. So yeah, I liked the story here.

In terms of characters, there’s not much I can say here that I haven’t touched on before. Both recurring characters and newcomers are interesting and have some interesting development in this story. And the performances are of course off the charts great again. Idris Elba, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Wunmi Mosaku, Paul McGann, Michael Obiora, Patrick Malahide, and Ruth Wilson, they’re all brilliant.

As per usual, Paul Englishby did the music, and he did a damn good job with it. Strings, brass, some electronics, the man has established a high quality soundscape for the show, and he keeps it going this go around as well. It’s just damn good stuff, y’all. The licensed songs used throughout work pretty well too.

As with its previous seasons, all episodes of “Luther” S5 were written by series creator Neil Cross, with Jamie Payne stepping in as director. And as with the other seasons, the craft here is impeccable. Nice shot composition, a really good flow to action scenes, a lot of decently length shots that let moments simmer and allow us to get really invested in what’s going on. I don’t know what to say, really. If you liked the way the show was shot, edited, and crafted before, and you’re willing to accept a faster pace and a bigger focus on action, then you’ll likely enjoy this too.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 64/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While not the show’s best entry, season 5 of “Luther” is still a major return to form and a good ending for the show. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Luther” season 5 is a 9.45/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 5 is completed.

And it’s finally over… *ring ring, ring ring* Hello? Yes? WAIT, THERE’S A MOVIE COMING!?

Series Review: Luther – Season 4 (2015)

BEWARE! THE IDES OF ELBA! Um… yeah, that’s all I got, let’s get into the review itself.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 4.

Following the traumatic events at the end of season 3, Luther (Idris Elba) has put himself into a self-imposed leave of absence. He’ll have to end this isolation however when a cannibalistic serial killer emerges, all while dealing with his own personal demons. I have mixed feelings on the storytelling this season. The procedural element is good in itself, there’s nothing inherently wrong done with it. It’s still dark, suspenseful, and really interesting, and it works well. Where the season struggles is with the character and overarching plot developments. The ideas in those departments are in themselves not bad, and they’re generally done pretty well. BUT, this season, compared to the other ones, is only two episodes, so they have to cram a full season’s worth of it into these two episodes, and it makes them feel a bit stuffed, which makes them really draining and wonkily paced. It’s still generally well written, but it does ultimately hurt the storytelling a little bit.

The characters in this are good. Any returning ones are once again well written and interesting, but now with an extra bit of world-weariness that adds a nice extra layer to them. As for newer ones, they work pretty well too. And in terms of acting, I got no real complaints here. Elba is once again fantastic, Dermot Crowley is great, Michael Smiley gets more to work with and is great, and new comers Patrick Malahide, Darren Boyd, Laura Haddock, John Heffernan, and Rose Leslie are all great too. It’s just a solid cast playing interesting characters.

As always, Paul Englishby composed the score for this season, and once again he did a really solid job with it. There’s really not much I can say that I haven’t covered in my other “Luther” reviews. It’s brooding, intense, emotional, and just generally good. The few licensed songs used this season also work pretty well.

Season 4 of “Luther” was, just like previous outings, completely written by series creator Neil Cross, with regular Sam Miller returning to direct. And while I did explain before that the writing within the story is a bit too much dough in too small a baking pan (which apparently was due to scheduling constraints), I can at least say that the craft once again is absolutely terrific. Scenes flow pretty nicely, more action-packed scenes have a great intensity to them, and they manage to wring so much suspense out of the season. I also want to take a second to compliment John Conroy’s cinematography, because it looks terrific and really adds a lot to the show. Once again, it’s just technically stellar.

This season/show has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 79% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

While it’s bogged down by trying to put A LOT of plot into just two episodes, season 4 of “Luther” is still another really enjoyable season of tv. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Luther” season 4 is an 8.95/10. So while flawed, it still is worth watching.

My review of “Luther” season 4 is now completed.

Only one more of these left… dread it, or look forward to it, it kind of depends if you’ve enjoyed seeing me ramble about this show.

Series Review: Luther – Season 3 (2013)

Beware the Ides of Elba, because they’re here… again… but not for the final time. Anyhow, let’s once again delve into this show.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 3!

DCI Luther (Idris Elba) is once again back to solve a series of dark and violent murders, all while some other officers are trying to dig up enough dirt on him to take him down. I loved the storytelling here in season 3, it’s arguably the strongest in the show so far. Starting with the overarching element, it actually broadens its scope a bit, not just focusing on John himself, but also goes wider to explore how other people, in particular his colleague Justin (Warren Brown), sees him, and what effect Luther’s actions have on people. And I found those elements of the story utterly compelling. And as far as the procedural elements go, those are amazing as well. Much like with season 2, not only are there only four episodes, but it’s also only two cases getting two episodes each, and it really helps them flourish and feel way more tense and nuanced. They also delve into even darker, more unsettling waters than before, even going full-blown horror at a point. And it helps make for some really intense and kinda scary storytelling that I absolutely loved.

In terms of characters, season 3 of “Luther” succeeds greatly in further developing ones from previous seasons, and then also giving us some compelling new ones too. Luther remains a really engaging lead, with Elba still giving us some truly powerhouse acting. And then there’s Justin, Luther’s colleague, who is given a lot more space and opportunities to shine here, developing him further into a truly interesting character, with Warren Brown giving a great performance in the role. The rest of the supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Michael Smiley, Dermot Crowley, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sienna Guillory, David O’Hara, Kevin Fuller, Lucian Msamati, and more. It’s a very well-rounded cast playing some really interesting characters.

Paul Englishby returned to once again do the music, and once again its great. Low, brooding hums, dramatic brass, some emotional piano, some eerie strings… it’s just a brilliant escalation of the kind of sound Englishby made for the first two seasons, and it really adds so much to the episodes. The few licensed songs used throughout also work really well.

“Luther” season 3 was written by series creator Neil Cross, with direction split between Sam Miller and Farren Blackburn. And the craft here is on another level. It feels more grandiose, while still managing to remain intimate with the characters, and even claustrophobic and incredibly tense at times. The directing, editing, and cinematography just feels way more cinematic than in previous outings, which makes it stand out and feel even stronger.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #249 on the “Top 20 TV” list.

Season 3 of “Luther” is my favorite one so far, giving us an intense, scary, and thematically rich experience that I enjoyed from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score fro “Luther” season 3 is a 9.92/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 3 is now completed.

I am having such a good time going through this show.

Series Review: Luther – Season 2 (2011)

Beware the Ides of Elba, for they resume… funnily enough smack dab in the middle of the month, I’ll be damned. Anyhow, let’s continue talking about this British crime show. Oh, and there will be a few spoilers for the end of season 1, as that leads into this… so you’ve been warned.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 2.

Still reeling from the death of his ex-wife, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) finds himself going back to work, once again having to solve a series of violent cases. His life gets even more complicated when he finds himself having to look after and protect a young woman from the darkness of her past. What’s interesting about season 2 of “Luther” is that it somehow manages to have this almost over-the-top/silly popcorn feeling to its crime stories, while still managing to retain a sense of suspense that somehow feels even darker and even more grim than what we got in season 1. And then we got John’s personal arc over the season, which delves into even more morally grey territories than the first season, which I found utterly compelling. And it all comes together in a really interesting set of episodes that I found absolutely riveting from start to end. Even the reduced episode count (going from 6 to 4) holds up, as it never feels like they’re actually skimping out on plot or character development, despite that being a very real risk when lowering the amount of episodes you produce. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s emotionally charged, it’s tense… yeah, season 2 of “Luther” has some great fucking storytelling.

The characters this season remain utterly compelling this season, with no one feeling like a weak link at any point. All of them have this nuanced to them that makes them deeply fascinating, and they all get some really interesting development. What also helps is the cast, who once again are all superb. Idris Elba is still amazing as our lead and Ruth Wilson is still electrifying as Alice Morgan. The rest of the supporting cast, containing people like Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley, Paul McGann, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Lee Ingleby, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Michael Smiley, Steven Robertson, and more, are all great. Just superb acting all around.

The score was once again composed by Paul Englishby, and I feel he really stepped up his game this time around. His score is a bit bigger, more grandiose, more emotional, while still being able to retain the brooding quality that was established in the first season, making for a dynamic and engaging score that just elevates each scene so much. The few licensed songs used throughout the season also work pretty well in their respective scenes.

Season 2 of “Luther” was written by series creator Neil Cross, with Sam Miller directing all four episodes. And once again, the craft here is absolutely superb. In slower, more character-driven scenes, the direction finds nice ways of feeling intimate, yet distant, giving us a surprisingly objective, yet really engaging look at the characters. And when things need to get intense, it does that insanely well too, keeping me on the edge of my seat for the entire scene(s). Basically it takes what was good about season 1’s craft and improves upon it.

This show/season has been really well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #248 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 2 of “Luther” takes what made season 1 great and further improves upon it, giving us four episodes of dark, morally complex police drama. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Luther” is a 9.77/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 2 is now completed.

Two down, three to go

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: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 7 (2002 – 2003)

My friends, after roughly two years, we’ve finally arrived. The end of my mom and I’s rewatch of this show is over. Which means that this will be the final review in this series. For some, that is a relief. For some, they’re neutral. And there may even be one or two goobers who are a little sad that they got no more Buffy reviews to look forward to from me. Well, either way… let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

Following the traumatic events at the end of season 6, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends seem to be finding themselves working through it, trying to heal and get by. This relative calm is about to get ruined however when a great evil, more powerful than anything they’ve faced before, starts emerging and causing carnage, forcing the gang to have to gather strength and allies in order to hopefully have a chance at stopping it. While the final season isn’t the highest point in the show’s run, I would still say the story is mostly successful at what it sets out to do. It escalates decently, and it has some nice, engaging bits of drama and payoff. And even some of the more one-off episodes are solid too. It doesn’t always succeed, as I do find the big bad of the season to be a bit underwhelming in the end, and there are times throughout the 22 episodes that just don’t *quite* hit the mark. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had, some decent mini-arcs, and a relatively satisfying conclusion to the show.

The characters in this are mostly interesting. Returning cast members (bar one) get some great arcs, and I do like how they sort of evolve over the season. And Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Marsters, Anthony Head, and Emma Caulfield all deliver top notch work. As for newcomers, we got people like D.B. Woodside (MVP), Iyari Lemon, Sarah Hagan, Nathan Fillion, Indigo, Felicia Day, and more, all delivering really good performances in their respective roles.

The score this season was partly composed by Robert Duncan and partly by Douglas Romayne, and I think the music here’s good. Some more subtle, emotional beats, as well as big, bold, brass for the more action-packed moments. Really, it sort of takes what’s come before and just continues doing it well. There’s also a bunch of licensed songs used throughout, and they work well too. Overall, the music’s good, there’s not much I can say that I haven’t touched on in previous seasons.

Season 7 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of different people (including one horrible man), and the craft here is generally good. Makeup and prosthetics are great as usual, some of the CG is a bit jank (but in a charming, forgiveable way), and generally direction is as solid as ever. The only thing that can feel slightly off at times is cinematography. Certain episodes have this weird, blurry quality, odd lighting… it just distracts in those few episodes. It isn’t super often it happens however, so it doesn’t completely fuck up the overall craft of the season for me. For the most part, the crew did a damn good job.

This show/season has been decently well received, with a few mixed reactions thrown in there. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a user score of 4.8/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

While it is a little rocky throughout, the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still another really enjoyable batch of episodes that I think sticks the landing for the show pretty well. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/craft. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 7 of “Buffy” is an 8.56/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 7 is now completed.

And that’s it, no more Buffy for this blog… until I inevitably cover the spin-off show, that is.

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”.