It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Oops. Friday was busier than expected, which means last week lost out on having a WHYBW altogether. Sorry about that.
I also made a start on the third, final season of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude. However, since that’s gone both full-on horror and also become quite silly, with vampiric Californians doing live trepanning to achieve eternal youth, I decided to give up on it about three-quarters through the first episode – at the point when Detective Dan starts hugging and chatting to dead bodies, in fact.
I know it’s only four episodes long, so I might tune in for the final episode at some point, but The Killing Times is doing episodic reviews and since I’d rather not actually watch wasps stinging people’s eyeballs and ‘stabby shamanic sex’, I might just read those instead of watching it.
The Shape of Things To Come
With Christmas nearly upon us, most shows are winding up for the holidays, but last Thursday and Friday saw the unleashing of the third season of Travelers on Netflix, the second season of 4 Blocks on Amazon and the Christmas special of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty for me to chat about this week – perhaps for another WHYBW. I’m already up to the third episode of Travelers, so that’s promising at least. Boxset Thursday, anyone?
Counterpart also made its return last Sunday, so I’ll be chatting about the first two episodes of that after the jump, as well.
And the regulars…
Also after the jump are my thoughts on the latest episodes of the few remaining regulars: Black Lightning, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Happy Together, Magnum P.I. and Titans. I watched the second half of the first season of Nightflyers, so I’ll chat about that, too. And since the schedules were a little light last week, I thought I’d tune in for the annual crossover of a few of TMINE’s old regulars – Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, which took a trip to some Elseworlds. More about that after the jump, too.
But no, I’ve still not watched Doctor Who. Maybe over Christmas.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Arrowverse crossover (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
The Flash 5×9 – Arrow 7×9 – Supergirl 4×9
Every year, The CW’s main superhero shows have a huge crossover week, with all the characters from each show getting to show up in all the others. While Black Lightning never gets an invite and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow was off doing its own thing (bar one cameo in Supergirl),The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl all joined in this year for an event that promised much but ultimately provided little for any but the most dedicated fans.
Despite all the potential that an ‘Elseworlds’ episode could have, this year was largely of interest mainly for two things: the return of Tyler Hoechlin as Superman, this time with Lois Lane along for the ride; and the use of the Arrow episode as a backdoor pilot for 2019’s Batwoman episode. The former gave us both a black-suited evil Superman fighting a good Superman, and a whole bunch of Smallville references, with that show’s theme tune getting an outing and the original Kent farm showing up, too. Hoechlin is perfect once again as Superman, and is now my favourite incarnation in any TV or film medium, capturing the character’s inherent sunniness and all-American charms more than Christopher Reeve’s more fake Clark Kent. Copious nods to the Reeve Superman movies helped, too.
Batwoman also proved promising, with Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane a suitably gravel-voiced heroine who gets to basically do all the things you’d like a Batman TV show to do, just without a billionaire objectivist behind the mask.
Those two strong features of the crossover to one side, beyond an appearance by John Wesley Shipp as the 90s TV Flash, this story didn’t really give us much to enjoy, unless you happen to quite like the idea of the Arrow and Flash swapping powers for three episodes and generally making snarky comments about each other. Watching them, as per last year, I’m reminded why I gave up on both shows, too, although seeing a Brainiac fight an Amazo did make me have second thoughts on giving up on Supergirl.
Indeed, perhaps the most interesting thing about this crossover is that it was but a harbinger of next year‘s crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which as the name suggests, offers the possibility of collapsing the different multiverses into one and making Supergirl (and perhaps even Black Lightning) part of the main DC multiverse. Perhaps even with the DCEU, Gotham, Krypton and the DC Universe streaming shows. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
2×9 – The Book Of Rebellion: Chapter Two – Gift Of The Magi
And I think I’m out. Sure, the arrival of Lightning (not to be confused with Black Lightning) is just around the corner, but we’ve just reached the ‘mid-season finale’ and thrills, coherent plotting, character development, narrative thrust and all social relevance have all been chucked out the window this season in favour of lots of arguments and soapiness. I couldn’t even really tell you what this season has been about so far. It’s what usually happens with Greg Berlanti CW superhero shows, but to have happened midway through the second season is unexpectedly early.
Anyway, that’s my cue to exit stage right, pursued by a bear.
Nightflyers (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix)
1×6 – The Sacred Gift – 1×10 – All That We Have Found
Oh dear. So the less said about The Sacred Gift, the better, as it’s a strange, standalone episode that’s basically a cross between Cat-Women of the Moon and Cannibal Holocaust. After that, though things return more or less back to normal for the final few episodes. The hope that it would all make sense and lead to an impressive ending were, unfortunately, dashed in the final episode, which suggested either that the producers were hoping they could put off explaining what they’d been teasing until getting a hypothetical second season or that they’d watched the end of 2001 and Solaris and understood neither of them – surely just having an empty floating lifepod in space is enough, hey?
Along the way to that underwhelming conclusion, there is at least a decent dripping out of information and a lot of the mysteries are answered, with often clever revelations that push the sci-fi envelope more than usual. Arguably, the entire season could be taken as a commentary on what happens when biology becomes abstract, particularly for women, and biological creation isn’t something inherent to the body any more. It’s a moderate inversion of the Frankenstein/Terminator 2 critique of men’s relationship with procreation and their inability to create life within themselves. I’m not sure it’s a great commentary, but it is novel for TV.
Slightly less impressively, a lot of new mysteries are created for no good reason (why give ‘Tekes’ the ability to astrally project if you’re never going to do anything with it?) and characterisation skips around, with people going on murder sprees for no good reason, then everyone forgiving them in the next episode. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.
All in all then, I’d advise not bothering with Nightflyers, if you’ve not started it already, particularly if you’re not a big fan of horror movies.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Counterpart (US: Starz; UK: StarzPlay)
2×1 – Inside Out – 2×2 – Outside In
It’s actually quite a good thing that WHYBW wasn’t out on Friday, instead of today, since I’d have been slightly less complimentary about it otherwise. Instead, as the episode titles suggest, this is effectively a mirror two-parter that shows us what’s been happening to both Howards in both universes, now that the doors have closed.
The first episode is less interesting, being more or less just a picking up of the plot threads to get things going for the season, although we do at last get our first glimpses at Management and the introduction of at least one new character (Betty Gabriel’s new investigator).
However, the second episode gives us some real tour de force performances from both JK Simmons and Olivia Williams, as both explore their feelings towards their husbands and wives (yes, that makes sense in context). And I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but the guy who played Gorgon in Marvel’s Inhumans turns out to be a really good actor. I hope he’s in it more, too.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×8 – Legends Of To-Meow-Meow
The Legends missed out on being part of the Arrowverse crossover this year, since they were too busy… being evil, apparently. Still, that does give the show an excuse to have a lot of fun, from the standard meta comments (“That’s a lot of messages… sounds like the annual crossover”) through a chance to pastiche 70s and 80s TV shows including a brief nod to Airwolf to a revisit of every episode this season in an effort to rewrite history that never works out quite as well as they’d like.
Perhaps a bit too silly, but more than funny enough for that to be forgivable.
Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)
1×10 – Home Insecurity
A stalker sneaks in and everyone starts worrying about security. Not the most memorable of episodes and even the regulars can’t really lift what is essentially a bog standard episode. The discussion about Australian accents in the middle does save it from being a complete waste of time, however.
Magnum P.I. (US: CBS; UK: Sky 1)
1×10 – Bad Day to be a Hero
Yawn. A very generic episode that focuses way too much on Rick, with even Corbin Bernsen’s presence not being able to give the show any real oomph. But Perdita Weeks managed to sport an impressive US accent at one point, which made it moderately worth watching, at least.
Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)
1×9 – Hank and Dawn – 1×10 – Koriand’r
Oh dear. It’s Hawk and Dove again in yet another standalone episode. It’s also written by Geoff Johns. Except… it’s actually quite good. That was unexpected. A deconstruction of why ‘unpowered’ people, lovers in particular, might become superheroes, it’s a good counterpart to Hawk and Dove that’s far more realistic and interesting, particularly since it features some of the earlier Hawk and Dove mythos involving Hank’s brother, as well as some much darker takes on both child abuse and alcoholism. And not the costumes. Both Minka Kelly and Alan Richardson surprise with some nuanced performance and Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Marina Sirtis shows up as Kelly’s mum, too.
But it’s back to the main plot for Koriand’r, as our alien princess’ mission is revealed as she gets her memories back. Obviously the highpoint for me was surrogate Wonder Woman Donna Troy getting to kick ass and whirl her lasso – fingers crossed she gets to become a series regular next year – but this one really pushed the plot along as well, with the final arrival of Trigon, not looking quite like you’d expect.
At this point, I should mention that I’ve forgotten for several episodes now to point out that Continuum‘s Rachel Nichols has been hanging around – no surprise once you recognise her to learn that’s she more important than she first appeared. I’ve also neglected all season to point out that the theme tune is by the marvellous Clint Mansell. Yet more reasons for you to watch, including the fact Batman’s showing up next week for the season finale…