What have you been watching? Including Hawkeye, Hot Zone: Anthrax, Titans and Lost in Space

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

I’ve been goaded. Well, prodded really. There were some actual movie reviews last week, so I guess I’d better do some TV reviews. Apparently, that’s what TMINE’s supposed to be for. Tarnation.

Fortunately, I’ve been watching a decent amount of TV, so I won’t simply be doing shadow puppets for you and pretending that it’s a review for this last WHYBW of 2021.

First up, the return of two regulars, and then after the jump, we can talk about two new shows: Hawkeye (Disney+) and Hot Zone: Anthrax (Disney+)

Lost in Space (season 3) (Netflix)

Lost in Space (Netflix) is back for its third and final season… and I’m confused. Every season more or less is a build up to showing us how the Space Family Robinson got ‘lost in space’ with the evil Doctor Smith (Parker Posey). It then ends with them… ‘lost in space’. And then with the next season, it resets and we have to watch them get lost in space all over again.

Season two ended especially well in that regard. They’re on the spaceship, they’re there with the robot and evil Dr Smith, they don’t know where they are but they are in the middle of space, nowhere near anyone else or a planet that looks a lot like Canada.

Good build-up. Surely they’re not going to reset again are they?

Well, hot damn. Guess what? Season three starts with them all stuck on yet another planet that looks like Canada with all the other kids. Again. What the hell? Even if we hadn’t already had a show that’s almost exactly the same as that (The 100), why are we doing it for the third season in a row for Lost in Space?

I managed to watch about two episodes before I just gave up. I’ve now seen this story twice – I don’t need to see it for a third time. And can’t the whole family actually be in the same place together for so much as an entire episode?

Titans (US: HBO Max; UK: Netflix)

You probably won’t remember this – why would you? – but I made it through the first four episodes of season three of Titans back in September, then gave up as it was so horrid and all the characters I cared about got killed off.

Well, it’s comics, so guess what? One of them came back from the dead, it turned out, something I discovered this weekend, so I figured that as this was now on Netflix in the UK, I’d give it a rewatch from the point from when said character returns.

So… episodes nine through 13 of Titans are bad. Not outright terrible, but pretty close. It’s all meaningless, inconsequential namechecking of comic characters but none of the characters act like either themselves or even slightly coherently thought-out human beings (or aliens). The acting seems to have got a lot worse, too, and the fights don’t have that grittiness to them that they used to. What it does have is trite teen romances and outright sadism.

I would say that if I was looking for positives, seeing (spoiler alert) the Amazons, as well as Donna Troy and Raven again was great, as they were by far the most interesting characters and interpretations of DC lore. But it’s all just so comic-strippy, so lacking in any real depth, and actually downright silly at times that it just felt like I was losing IQ points watching it.

Plus how high-stake are your perils when at least half the cast have died and come back?

Hawkeye (Disney+)

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop shoot a few arrows and try to avoid becoming the target themselves.

Rob says: ‘The best Disney+ Marvel show so far’

I think it’s fair to say that the Disney+ Marvel shows have been variable in quality and intent. WandaVision was a hugely enjoyable romp through US TV sitcom history, as well as Marvel Cinematic University history, with the firm intent of setting up existing and new characters for later movies. It tried a few people’s patience, but had some genuinely brilliant moments. Falcon and the Winter Soldier, meanwhile, seemed just to exist for no good reason other than to launch some also-ran secondary characters, while Loki was funny, but very unnecessary and little more than a knock-off of Doctor Who.

Hawkeye, for the most part, is no different from its predecessors. Based on Matt Fraction’s comic book run, it takes Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye character and finally gives him some depth. If you’ve watched the movies, you’ll know that largely, he’s there, he shoots arrows, he’s got a family, he’s blue collar… but that’s about it. Here, we learn a bit more about him and his background, his relationship with his family. He’s now canonically deaf to match the comics, thanks to his frequent encounter with explosions and loud noises, although it’s a little unclear why he wears only one hearing aid.

And he’s not rich. He leads a normal life, albeit the normal life of someone whom almost everyone regards as a hero for saving the world. He tries to go to restaurants like a normal working class guy, but everyone wants to pay for him and take selfies with him. And he’s not happy with that, because he doesn’t think of himself as a hero.

However, as with its predecessors – and most of Marvel’s other Phase IV projects, as it begins the process of handing the ageing Avengers baton to a next generation of superheroes – a lot of the focus is on Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a would-be superhero who’s good at archery and wants to be just like Hawkeye. Their paths intersect one Christmas in New York for various reasons and soon, Hawkeye is having to look after her while hunting down a bunch of bad guys who are also trying to hunt them both down.

The first two episodes are largely Bishop-centric, as well as weirdly action-free. After that, things get a bit more fun, but this is more a character piece than an action-fest. Indeed, for the most part, this is a requiem to Black Widow, whose death in Avengers: Endgame was given perfunctory treatment and whose own solo movie never really explored her importance to the world

It’s actually quite touching how much of what is supposedly Hawkeye is instead about Clint’s feelings of guilt and loss over the death of his best friend Black Widow (how nice is it, BTW, to have a non-sexualised male-female best friend relationship with real depth for a change?). And, the arrival of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) – the next generation would-be Black Widow – only magnifies that and gives us a chance to see her feelings about the death of Natasha, too, giving us a truly marvellous, partly improvised scene in episode five between Pugh and Steinfeld.

Of course, the Internet exploded with the ending of the latest episode, which finally linked the MCU with the Netflix Marvel shows, with episode six promising to be an even more brain-blowing conclusion. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it ends and six episodes is already feeling like too few, even with an episode more or less entirely dedicated to LARPing.

But I’ll admit it’s not brilliant. Renner is somewhat sleepwalking through this and we don’t really get to learn that much about Clint’s background. The lack of good action scenes is disappointing and everything’s a bit too glib and trite.

However, it is genuinely affecting at times, there’s a fine supporting cast (including Vera Farmiga) and of all the Disney+ MCU shows, it’s the one that feels most properly connected, the least like a spin-off, the most like an integral part.

The Hot Zone: Anthrax (Disney+)

The terrorist attack on 9/11 will always overshadow the year 2001, but it was immediately followed by another form of terrorism. A week after planes crashed into the World Trade Center and brought the towers to the ground, politicians and media outlets began to receive mail containing anthrax spores. Nat Geo examines the events around the anthrax attacks and the race to find the perpetrator in The Hot Zone: Anthrax.

Rob says: ‘Absolutely brilliant… until the very final moment’

As ideas for shows go, an anthology series about virus-related real-life incidents is an odd one. The first season was a relatively simple thread to follow: the first incident of Ebola on US soil. But if you were expecting the second season to be about, say, the Spanish Flu or some other deadly disease, you’d be wrong, since the producers have instead made this more of a crime show, giving us the deadly anthrax mailings that occurred shortly after 9/11.

Here, we have FBI agent Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Hawaii Five-O) trying to find out who’s been mailing anthrax spores to members of the media. The first two episodes are a little evasive about who that might be, although there are hints, with the final episodes then revealing for sure who it is and how the FBI then tracked him down.

And it’s hugely exciting stuff. I had very little memory of the incident (as the poster for the show suggests, that’s not uncommon) and the show itself is something of a timely reminiscence about 9/11 itself, in the 20th anniversary year – reminding us of the paranoia, what New York was like at the time, the tech, the investigative techniques, the politics, the politicians and more.

The painting of the culprit is also intriguing, delving deep into his psychology and showing us that yet again, if you want to spot someone dodgy, ask women what they know and have experienced.

I was gripped for all six episodes. I thought it was absolutely brilliant, even if it had very little to do with viruses and biology. And who knew Harry Hamlin could do such a great Tom Brokaw impression?!

…right up until the literal final frame of the final episode, where it’s revealed that the culprit was only ‘caught’ in 2009. That tense chase that seemed to take a few months? More like eight years.

It’s at that point that everything started to feel a bit dodgy. So I started digging around. And it turns out you can trust literally nothing you watch in the season. Daniel Dae Kim’s character didn’t exist: he’s a composite of a team of about 100 agents. No one’s even 100% sure that the guy fingered for the job actually did it, with his ‘locked fridge’ accessible to more than 400 people and the science of all things, given this is supposedly a science show, making it look unlikely he could have acted alone. That searing psychological profile? At least partially made up.

All of which somewhat ruined this for me. It’s brilliant TV. But it’s not trustworthy TV and it’s on National Geographic, supposedly a documentary channel.

So watch it for what it is: a really, really good bit of crime fiction that’s based on a real-world event and might be partially true, as well as a period drama (Oh. My. God) that reminds you of what life was like just after 9/11. But don’t mistake this for a documentary, by any means.

Author

  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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