Series Review: The Good Lord Bird (2020)

We all agree that slavery was one of the worst things in human history, right? Alright, good. At least we’re on the same page on that.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Good Lord Bird”.

The story follows Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a young slave who gets freed by abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and then joins his merry band of freedom fighters. And we follow Onion as he follows along on Brown’s crusade to free the slaves. What I found fascinating about “The Good Lord Bird” is the interesting use of of tonal shifts to tell its story. While at its core it’s a serious drama about the liberation of shackled people, the writers use a surprising amount of comedy throughout, which adds quite a bit of nuance to proceedings. But it’s not just a tonally unique slavery drama, but it’s also largely a coming of age story, since we get to see how this young boy gets to evolve while following along with Brown’s crusade. And while this sounds like it could be quite messy, it really isn’t. I found the story here to be utterly engrossing and entertaining, having me utterly engaged throughout the seven episodes.

The characters in this are colorful, flawed, surprisingly layered (like an onion, HA!), and really entertaining. Joshua Caleb Johnson plays Onion, the young slave who becomes part of Brown’s gang. He has quite an interesting and highly enjoyable personal arc in this, while also serving as the audience in this story, being our look at Brown and his antics. And I think Onion is a really fun protagonist, with Johnson giving a great performance. Next we have Ethan Hawke as John Brown, preacher and abolitionist. He is a fascinating individual, being really passionate about the emancipation of the slaves. And when I say passionate, I mean PASSIONATE, borderline fanatic. His heart is of course in the right place, it’s just that he’s maybe also a bit gung ho about it all, making his methods seem a little insane at times. But that’s what makes him such a fascinating character. And Ethan Hawke is terrific in the role, selling every bit of Brown’s eccentric personality wonderfully. We also get supporting work from people like Beau Knapp, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Ellar Coltrane, Mo Brings Plenty, Nick Eversman Daveed Diggs, and many more, all giving top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jamison Hollister, and I thought it was really good. If you’ve heard a western score in the lat 30 years, you probably know what you’re getting. A fair bit of strings, high energy, and just a vibe that says “this is a fun western”. There’s also a fair amount of licensed songs used throughout, and they work surprisingly well in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird” was developed for Showtime by Mark Richard and Ethan Hawke, with writing and directing by a whole load of cool people. And the craft on display here is superb. Usually when I watched a tv show, even ones on high budgets with super talented crews, I can still usually tell by how it’s shot that it’s a tv project. But I don’t really get that feel here. They’ve taken careful steps to make sure it blurs the line between cinema and television with their shots and camera movements here. This comes partly from Peter Deming’s beautiful cinematography, and partly from the directing which crackles with energy and feels so lively. This doesn’t mean that anything feels rushed, because the crew really know when to slow down and let moments simmer, creating a perfect balance between the fun, the emotionally charged, and the exciting.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“The Good Lord Bird” is a highly entertaining, fascinating, and unique take on slavery-themed drama, and is one of the best shows of 2020. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Good Lord Bird” is a 9.91/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Good Lord Bird” is now completed.

Ethan Hawke has two modes in this show: Low grumbly growling and PASSIONATE, THROAT-RUINING SCREAMING.

Series Review: The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1 (2017)

Shit. I thought tv was a form of escapism, not a look at how the world was, is, and will be at its most shit states.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 1.

America has turned its back on human decency… oh sorry, I’m reading the news, not the show’s plot synopsis. *Gets slapped*. Okay fine, I’ll do it properly! Topical jokes aside, in the not too distant future, America has become a society where women are considered lesser creatures and then get forced into sexual slavery under high ranking commanders. Through the show we follow a young woman named June (Elisabeth Moss) as she on a day to day basis lives as a handmaid. So now we have our dystopian drama. And I must say that the plot here is incredibly compelling. We get good looks into both the show’s present time as well as flashbacks to what June’s life was like prior to everything going to shit. The drama is harrowing and disturbing, but there’s always also a sense of hope throughout, making it all a bit more watchable than if everything was just bleak and sad. That said, it’s not exactly a happy show. The plot is dramatic, compelling, well paced, and endlessly interesting.

The characters here are layered, compelling, and just overall very interesting. First up we have Elisabeth Moss as June (also known as Offred). She’s a determined a clever woman who falls in line with this horrible reality that she’s part of so she can survive. But we do also see her get some really solid character development throughout, and that’s where I’m leaving it as I don’t wanna ruin most of it for you. And Moss is fantastic in the role. Next up we have Joseph Fiennes as Fred Waterford, the commander that June slaves under. He’s quite the interesting figure, as he clearly is all in favor of this horrible world, but he also shows respect towards anyone under him. He’s a really intriguing character. And Fiennes is great in the role. Next we have Yvonne Strahovski as Serena, the wife of commander Waterford. She’s quite an ice cold bitch, but does show a more vulnerable side at times which makes her quite an interesting character. And Strahovski is great in the role. The final one I’ll go into some detail with is Nick, who’s played by Max Minghella. He’s basically a driver and such under Waterford, and becomes a bit of an ally of June’s over the show. He is quite the interesting guy. And Minghella is really good in the role. Through the show we also get supporting performances from people like Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel, O-T Fagbenle, Amanda Brugel, Samira Wiley, Nina Kiri, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Adam Taylor who I think did a great job. His music has a very eerie feel to it, highlighting just how disturbing and fucked up this world is. But it’s also emotional, suspenseful, and overall just well composed. There’s also a good amount of licensed tracks used throughout, and they all work quite well within their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by Margaret Atwood, the show was created by Bruce Miller, and written/directed by a whole bunch of people. And all this comes together to make one suspenseful and tightly directed show. And the cinematography by Colin Watkinson is absolutely stunning, some of the best I’ve ever seen in a tv show. What is also great about it is that none of the shots feel out of place. A lot of times pretty shots are added to a movie or show just to have a pretty shot with no actual purpose, but here all the gorgeous shots have a reason to be there.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 92/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,6/10 and is ranked #148 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a harrowing but also beautiful show. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 1 is a 9,80/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 1 is now completed.

I got nothing clever to put here. I used up my topical joke at the beginning.