That was the TMINE Netflix TV Christmas that was

Messiah

We’ve already got down to talking about 2019’s UK TV Christmas, we’ll be talking about all the usual regulars tomorrow but now, TMINE is turning its attention to what Netflix had to offer over Christmas.

This year, I managed to make my way through two complete seasons of TV: season 2 of You and season 2 of Lost in Space. On top of that, I’ve watched a couple of episodes of both The Witcher and Messiah.

Let’s chat about them after the jump.

Penn Badgley in You

You (season two)

You was something of a surprise hit when it arrived. Originally a Lifetime TV production, it really hit the big time when Netflix picked it up – and then rescued it, once Lifetime cancelled it.

The reasons for this can be surmised. A smart takedown of the tropes of rom-coms, it gave us a serial killer’s eye view of romance, in which he’s the hero of the movie doing all those things male rom-com leads do to win the hearts of female rom-com leads – but which we can see are actually toxic masculinity personified. The show pulled off a neat trick of making us constantly want our hero to win the heroine’s heart, while simultaneously always making us realise what a decidedly evil soul he is.

Would that something similar could be said about season two. It starts off well enough, relocating the action to Los Angeles, where Joe the romantic serial killer from New York gets to roll his eyes a lot at Californians and their ways. But just as the show gradually forces to Joe to grow to like their excesses, so the show starts to love its own excesses, too.

The first warning signs are at the end of the first episode, where we get a twist with an explanatory montage scene so swift, you wonder if they’re hoping to distract you with its speed into not realising it’s utter nonsense. Thankfully, the show then pieces things back together again. But that’s not the only such piece of lunacy to distort the narrative. We even have an initial story arc that’s so Dexter the show actually mentions Dexter.

I’d like to hope the show was trying to parody erotic thrillers of the 80s, but I feel that’s a bit of a stretch. The cast do their very, very best and You‘s analysis of Los Angeles and Los Angelians is razor sharp. The best that could be said for it is that it’s embraced black comedy in a big, big way – unfortunately at the expense of both plausibility and having anything much important to say.

Crash landing

Lost in Space (season two)

Seen season one of Lost in Space? Then you’ve seen season two as well. They end up at almost exactly the same point. It’s a very strange decision but there you go.

Indeed, season two starts off almost as a “F*ck you” to anyone who’d wanted the show to be more like the original 1960s show. The first two episodes see the Robinson family genuinely ‘lost in space’ – marooned on a planet by themselves. But rather than meeting shiny aliens that turn them into giant carrots, this is more like Interstellar and The Martian, with a hostile environment that wants to kill them.

“Phew, they’ll be so traumatised after that, they’ll be glad when we return to the space station and everything carries on like it did before,” you can almost hear the showrunners thinking.

Instead, I actually thought that was pretty good and Parker Posey’s continuing exploration of ‘Dr Smith’s’ sociopathy was marvellously chilling, too. Except then we end up having to deal with the “can we help the colonists? Can we trust the robot? How do we get to Alpha Centauri?” problems of the first season again.

The Macgyvering of this season is slightly better than the first season, since it involves actual real-world problems, rather than randomly chosen sci-fi problems. But we still have the same issue that the show is just a big run round the place, trying to escape from either humans or robots. So while it’s often exciting, we end up going in so many circles, we’re back where we started by the end.

It’s not terrible by any means and there are enough good points about it that I don’t feel my time was wasted. But fingers crossed, if there’s a third season, they might actually do something different next time – you can skip this one and go straight into it, if they do.

The Witcher

The Witcher

Netflix’s efforts to come up with its own Game of Thrones is truly awful. Based on a video game, the show thinks that massively complicated, arbitrary world building is a great basis for a TV show, rather than a video game plot with the occasional interstitial movie.

I couldn’t even try to summarise the plot in a paragraph, but the basic jist is that we’re in some sort of magical world with lots of mutations. Some of these mutations are monsters. Some of these mutations are little girls, who often end up being princesses. Some of these mutations are Henry Cavill putting on the stupidest Christian Bale Batman impression you’ve ever heard.

Cavill spends his time alternating between stabbing monsters, stabbing little girls, shagging monsters and shagging women, while muttering various lines about only being in it for the money. These may be supertextual comments on Cavill’s part, not the actual plot.

On the plus side, it doesn’t take itself entirely seriously. It also has some really rather good sword fights. On the minus side, it is absolute, painful nonsense to behold and even trying to understand the plot will get you consigned to the observation wing of a luxurious hospital somewhere.

If the fact the show’s creator has taken ‘professional critics’ to task for disliking The Witcher it’s ‘the real fans’ wot count – doesn’t give you a massive clue this is obvious excrement, I hope you’ve got the message now.

Messiah

There have been various attempts before to answer the question “what if Jesus came back to Earth now?”, ranging from Second Coming to The Next One. However, they’ve all been a bit parochial.

Messiah is a bit more interesting in that it asks what would happen if Jesus Christ (or someone rather similar to both him and Mohammed) came to Earth in the Middle East now and started preaching some controversial rhetoric. How would the Roman Empire of our day (the US) take it? How would established religions and believers? What if he started performing miracles – would we even believe them or would we assume there was a trick?

The first two episodes treat the subject with due respect and complexity. This isn’t a straight Christian parable and indeed the show does more to address the concerns of Judaism and Islam and quotes more from the Qur’an than it does the New Testament. Most of the dialogue is in Hebrew and Arabic, with most of the English coming from concerned CIA agent Michelle Monaghan – although she speaks a fair bit of Hebrew, too. But again, it’s not content merely to parrot scripture, but instead come up with its own more radical changes and morals for our day.

The show is nicely ambiguous at this stage, but clearly erring on the side of second coming rather than elaborate (and nonsensical) con. I’m going to stick with it for the rest of the season, and hopefully report back good things to you next week.

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