What have you been watching? Including Mr Robot, Travelers and Halt and Catch Fire

Mr Robot - Season 3
Mr Robot (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z

The wave of new US shows is dying down at last, so WHYBW has returned to its usual day of Tuesday. In the past week, I’ve reviewed the whole of season 1 of Mindhunter (Netflix), as well as the first episodes of Valor (US: The CW) and Ghost Wars (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix), and passed third-episode verdicts on SEAL Team (US: CBS) and Wisdom of the Crowd (US: CBS).

There have been a couple of other new shows, though. The reboot of Dynasty (US: The CW; UK: Netflix) has just started, but you can work out for yourselves if you like that, since I’m not touching it. However, I will be reviewing Superstition (US: Syfy) tomorrow, you lucky people, as well as passing a third-episode verdict on The Gifted (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK).

Now I did promise you all a review of Alias Grace (Canada: CBC; UK: Netflix). However, I got about 15 minutes into the episode, before the various attempts at Irish and American accents proved so grating that I couldn’t get any further. Sorry about that. Hopefully you can get over it to enjoy this somewhat cheap looking adaptation.

After the jump, the usual regulars: The Brave, Great News, Marvel’s Inhumans, Me, Myself and I, Professor T, Star Trek: Discovery and Will & Grace. We’ll also be talking about the return of both Mr Robot and Travelers, as well as the final ever episodes of Halt and Catch Fire. I couldn’t be bothered watching any more Valor though.

See you in a mo.

TV shows

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

The Brave (US: NBC)

1×4 – The Break Out

A surprisingly decent marrying of the usual skulking around with SEAL Team shoot-outs, and even Anne Heche gets to go into the field. All a bit lit easy and forced, but exciting all the same.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Great News (US: NBC)

2×3 – Honey Pot

A suspiciously well timed episode in which Tina Fey’s character is accused of sexually harassing members of staff. Oodles of silliness, plenty of jokes and laughs, but not much actual work done.

Episode reviews: First two episodes

Marvel’s Inhumans (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)

1×4 – Make Way For… Medusa

 

A show I wouldn’t be sticking with, were my wife not watching it, too, since it’s so bad. Episode 4 is possibly the worst so far, but also the first obviously aimed at a younger audience. Nothing makes sense, everything’s just nonsense, there’s no real tension or excitement. You basically have to love Hawaiian trees to be able to endure it. I do like a nice tree, mind.

Episode reviews: 1

Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)

1×5 – Choose Your Pain

Finally, the first episode of the series since the first one that was enjoyable, not just endurable. Also the most Star Trek episode so far, despite the actual, honest to goodness swearing and the first two openly gay male characters to grace the franchise. The characters are all coming together, there’s a marvellously bonkers final shot and the Klingons only spoke English. Hello to Jason Isaacs got some development and some kick ass scenes to do. There were even a few laughs thanks to the arrival of a TOS character (spoiler: Harry Mudd), whom my wife cunningly identified after a mere two lines of dialogue.

More of this and I might actually start looking forward to each week’s episode.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Recommended shows

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon)

4×9 – Search – 4×10 – Ten of Swords

And thus it ends, a very different show from when it began. When it started, it was a simple look at the somewhat obscure history of the PC cloning business in the 80s. By the end, as well as being a whistle stop tour of all computing history of the past few decades, taking in computer viruses and the creation of the web browser along the way, it’s become possibly the greatest TV show about failure that’s ever been made.

Almost as forensically as The Wire did with its concerns, it’s taken apart the reasons why businesses, particularly tech businesses, start and then fail, whether it’s been legal, human, timing, competition or finance.  It’s also been about ageing, as we’ve followed our characters from young firebrands into middle age and even grandparenting, looking back at their regrets, at how people enter our lives and then leave them, and at how some mistakes are unrectifiable – while others aren’t, given enough time.

But as the final episode title should hint, it’s been about ‘creative destruction’ and how failure helps, as well as how it brings us together and changes us. Ultimately, no one ended up where you could have predicted, even with numerous nods to the very first episode, including a returning character and some repeated scenes. I think Joe’s is probably the most interesting, but all the characters have been on big journeys.

Often times, it was genuinely moving and visually innovative, with many lovely theatrical scenes this season (‘Phoenix’ was nice, but I still think the temporal walkthrough in the first episode was better).

An ending that will make you think long afterwards to a great series. And I do feel I should kick myself for not realising that the soundtrack was by Tangerine Dream’s Paul Haslinger. I knew there was a reason I loved it so much.

It will be much missed.

Episode reviews1, 3

Me, Myself and I (US: CBS)

1×4 – Star Wars

A quick promotion for a show that just makes me smile happily from beginning to end. This week, our hero gets to see Star Wars for the first time, gets to show it to his daughter for the first time… and goes into space. In each time zone, no one else (including me) can understand why he loves the movie so much. Oh well.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

3×1 – eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h

So at this point, I’m wondering if maybe it’s time for me and Mr Robot to part ways. There was a genuine excitement to the first two seasons, as we grappled with the idea of what reality was, given everything we saw was filtered through the eyes and mind of a very unreliable narrator who was potentially also happy to lie to us. That kind of intellectual fun, coupled with a genuine attempt to do technology and hacking accurately, made Mr Robot just such a joy to watch.

Now, obviously we might be in the same territory here, but… season 3 changes that paradigm. We’re potentially entering science fiction here as we discover half the ‘Dark Army’s’ reason for the hack of the previous two seasons was to gain access to a (spoiler)particle accelerator that might be able to change reality/the universe. And that makes it a very different kind of show, one that loses its import and ability to properly commentate on our reality.

The series often saves its twists for quite late in the day, though, so I’m figuring it’s now or never, since once I start this season, I’ll have to stick with it. But I’m a bit disappointed by this. Assuming it’s true.

Bobby Cannavale’s turned up now, by the way. He’s not irritating. That’s new.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Professor T (Belgium: Eén; UK: More4)

1×9

An episode in which the Professor has little to do, beyond muck around at college with writers’ block (oh, how I know the pain). But probably the first really interesting crime of the series and I like how there’s a new dynamic with the head cop, following the Professor’s help in the previous episode.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

2×1 – Ave Machina

A low-key return for a low-key show that manages to show off all the traits we loved it for in the first season. However, because this is Canada (there’s a knowing nod to this fact in the episode), we naturally couldn’t last for long without Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint, Remedy) turning up; and as it’s Canadian sci-fi, it was only a matter of time before Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1, Sanctuary) showed up, too, with a big chunk of the cast of Continuum, too.

As an episode, a fun reintroduction to the show, as well as a minor reboot that looks promising and suggests it’s not going to kill off all the things we did like, such as its humanity, humour and love of temporal paradoxes.

PS Gutsy move to have the 9/11 scenes. I wonder how that’ll play in the US…

Episode reviews: First episodethird episode

Will & Grace (US: NBC)

9×3 – Emergency Contact

In case you were worried Will and Jack were going to get all the meaty storylines, this time it’s Grace’s turn as ex-husband Harry Connick Jr returns to the scene and they look at why their marriage failed. Funnier than it sounds, but a bit more old school than the previous two episodes.

Episode reviews: 1




  • Mark Carroll

    Huh, Netflix for me doesn’t yet have more “Travelers”. Maybe soon.

    I finished season two of “The Bureau”. I think I enjoyed it more than season one, especially earlier in the season. Not sure about where it’s now gone but we’ll see. Of course, somewhat romantically tragic, but that’s the French for you.

    “Samurai Gourmet” does turn out to be lovely. It doesn’t exactly have “Star Trek”‘s production values or even acting talent but the lack of pretention and simple variety more than make up for it. Strange but charming; nicely authentic. Though, judging by ratings, IMDb people love it and Netflix people hate it.

    Speaking of “Star Trek”, this latest wasn’t as much of an improvement for me but I liked it enough despite their continuing to attempt to veer into science. Goodness, it’s easy for a pair of beaten, starved prisoners to overcome a number of armed Klingon warriors though and what’s with the enormous back-of-skulls of some of the Klingons?

    I’ll stick with “Mr Robot”. This initial episode disappointed me in a couple of small ways that I’ll not take as augury. I didn’t quite get the thing you protected with spoiler tags but that helps make it make more sense so thank you, maybe I was distracted at the wrong moment, though it turns out that my wife didn’t get it either. I suspect that it nonetheless retains sufficient ability to properly commentate for us but I am very much hoping that it actually enlightens somewhat rather than, as is so much easier, being a promising pretender. We will see. I am hoping to see some sign that Elliot retains some wiliness of his own.

    I watched some more “Colditz”. It continues to manage some variety though already now with very little tension over if any regulars will make a lasting escape; it’s getting to be somewhat routine. I am sensing that by the time I run out of episodes it will be about time for it to finish anyway.

    I also started “The Tick”. As the mirror of “Star Trek” not having greatly improved for me, I didn’t find the first parts much worse than the rest so far. A few episodes in it is settling somewhat nicely though I mostly find Arthur annoying and, while Peter Serafinowicz does a fine job, I find myself thinking I enjoyed the previous live action adaptation more, probably because of the look and the writing.

    Did I mention Simon Reeve’s “Russia” miniseries? I think so. Well, I finished that, it was okay. Interesting glimpses of various parts of Russia though with a fairly clear theme of Putin being like a new Tsar.

    We did rewatch “Blade Runner”. I’d forgotten how fundamentally simple the plot is over much of the movie. The music certainly helps. I’d also forgotten how well Rutger Hauer plays his role.

    • bob

      Travellers is back! Great.

      I assume it is on Netflix in December after the season fully airs.

    • “Goodness, it’s easy for a pair of beaten, starved prisoners to overcome a number of armed Klingon warriors though”

      Possible explanation: There are suggestions they got away easily so that fellow prisoner can get onto Discovery cos he’s a spy

      “I didn’t quite get the thing you protected with spoiler tags but that helps make it make more sense so thank you”

      All the talk of being able to reset everything; there’s also the speech by the guy in the white coat at the power station. Interview with Sam Esmail about it all here if you’re interested:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/arts/television/mr-robot-season-3-premiere-sam-esmail.html?_r=0

      “We did rewatch “Blade Runner”.”

      Yes, it’s more something to be loved for its aesthetics than for its great plot. I was going to review Blade Runner 2049 this week, wasn’t I? Oh well. Next week, then.

      • JustStark

        One thing that confuses me is that people are apparently saying that audiences couldn’t follow Blade Runner 2049.

        But it only has slightly more story than the original, and what story it has is incredibly linear. He starts off with a mission, and after that every thing that happens sends him directly to the next thing that happens.

        What is there to not follow?

        • Not understanding, I can understand. Not following, I don’t follow.

    • JustStark

      I’d forgotten how fundamentally simple the plot is over much of the movie.

      For an ace robot detective [gasp ambiguity], he does almost no robot detecting.

      I love the way the climax is set up by the voicemail from his boss: ‘While you were shagging Sean Young instead of doing your job, the guy you were supposed to protect got killed, and we tracked the culprit down, like you are being paid to do. Go and pick him up.’

      But who else would hire one of the hottest stars of the moment, and have him spend most of the film in silhouette?

  • JustStark

    I dropped out of Mr Robot after the first few episodes of series two. I discovered I just… didn’t care about it and its ‘oh look at me aren’t I so weird’ performativeness any more. And for me with my completist pathology, that’s really weird. but I guess that’s the danger of holding all your interesting twists until late in the series: people can get bored early on and never reach them.

    I’ve worked out what Dark Matter reminds me of (other than, you know, every sci-fi cliché ever): it’s like The Last Ship in its blatant chutzpah of simply going with the story it wants to tell, whether or not it makes any sense whatsoever. So about halfway through the third series they are testing their broken Magic Spacedrive… and they get zapped back into the past so they can do the ‘a visit to present-day Earth’ episode so beloved of Star Trek and every Star Trek knockoff. And then they knock about in the past for the requisite number of ‘fish out of water’ jokes, until the running time is almost over, and then the story suddenly resolves for no reason or rhyme and they’re back in the future, exactly where they were (it’s nice how accurate Magic Spacedrive can be) and ready for next week’s cliché. Oh and it’s also nice that they seem to realise their ‘the future is dominated by corporations, not empires’ setting is not in fact biting social satire and treat it mainly as something they have to pay lip service to in order to generate conflict: The Expanse gets a bit tiresome when it continually tries to do Space Marxism (Sparxism?) instead of just being cloak-and-dagger intrigue in the asteroid belt.

    American Horror Story: the wacky madness continues!

    In comedy, having finished Archer: Dreamland (you know those episodes of Archer that have too much plot to fit in enough jokes? Why would they do a whole series like that?) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which remained good to the end (nice to see Tiny Fey again: ‘to quote Elsa, Let it go! Elsa is my boyfriend’s wife, I grabbed her hair at a high-school basketball game’), I moved on the the first episode of The Good Place

    And it’s quite interesting, given our recent conversation on Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. Because while most British TV promotes secular liberalism with all the subtlety of Peter Singer on a tour of an ICU for brain-damaged infants, and US TV simply assumes MTD as A Fact and proceeds from there, The Good Place actually takes a self-reflective look at its assumptions. So, tenet 5 of MTD is ‘good people go to Heaven’ and The Good Place asks, well, how good is good? Do medium people deserve a medium heaven?

    It’s like a theological summa for MTD. Of couse as MTD is a philosophy only suitable for infants and other Americans with arrested intellectual development, instead of, say, Thomas Aquinas it has Ted Danson in a bumblebee suit. Still, I’m curious as to whether it has the self-awareness to be any more complicated than just to give the obvious MTD answer (‘of course medium people deserve a medium heaven — God wants everybody to be happy, after all, even people who are maybe a bit naughty, as long as they are, you know, basically nice!’) .

    [It’s an interesting one, this, because it’s a series that people whose opinion I respect have said is good — but then so have a bunch of idiots who are wrong about everything.]

    • The Good Place I gave up on after a few episodes as I found it started to get repetitive. I, too, know loads of people who rate it, though. I also know something I can’t reveal. Let’s just say everything gets a bit more Sartre-esque at the end of the first season.

      • bob

        It’s weird… I am still watching it (second season) but I am not really sure why. It’s high concept… And that’s about all it has going for it. I don’t care about the characters and there isn’t a plot. I just wonder what turn of the imagination there will be each week. (I find Janet at least a constant joy). It has yet to rock my world but it’s so little commitment, it still gets watched.

        • JustStark

          Just watched the second episode. An American TV programme doing moral philosophy is like the proverbial dog walking on its hind legs: obviously it’s not done well, one is just surprised to find it done at all.