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Posts Tagged ‘tv’

Recent TV: The Witcher

Like many people, I recently inhaled the first season of The Witcher. I enjoyed it a lot, even if in some ways I think it’s a bit of a mess?

One part of the messiness is that the show does not do an excellent job of communicating to you off the bat that the various plotlines are not all happening at the same time. I found that out because I looked at a summary of the first episode after I watched it (which I did because often either the actors are not great at enunciating the names, or the sound editor is not great at making sure those moments are loud enough, so I was having trouble figuring out what anybody or anywhere was called), and there are a few hints here and there about the non-simultaneity, but I think it’s entirely possible not to realize what’s going on until Geralt meets up with some characters you saw die several episodes ago in someone else’s plotline.

And the structure is kind of choppy in general. Lots of Geralt’s plots are basically monster-of-the-week deals which appear to be drawn from short stories, and while they do end up echoing forward in a few places, it means he doesn’t have a lot of through-line except “I’m a monster hunter and I wander around being paid to kill monsters.” I’m told the second season and onward will be more cohesive, with the central characters interacting more frequently, so that will probably help.

Finally, the ending . . . kind of isn’t. An ending, I mean. It’s a stopping point with some amount of cliffhanger, but — if you’ve watched Nirvana in Fire, you know how the episodes there often seem to go to the credits at absolutely arbitrary points? It feels a bit like that. There’s not no payoff, but if you’re expecting a clear narrative shape to the season (as I was), you won’t really find it here.

But! Having said that, I still enjoyed the heck out of it, and that is about 98% due to the characters, dialogue, and performances. I am much more willing to put up with a main character who is stoic, grim, and frequently cynical when there’s no shortage of other characters ready and willing to take the piss out of him at every opportunity — and many of those characters are women. My impression (from those who know the source fiction and/or the games) is that this is largely an innovation of the TV show; certainly the presence of characters of color fits under that header. I’m glad of both things. The first episode alone has four women playing significant roles in the plot, and that’s before Yennefer shows up to be a protagonist. And while there’s a lot of nudity, most of it female, the show (mostly) isn’t nearly as exploitative about that as it could be — I could have done without Stregebor’s illusion of naked women wandering around his garden. They do put Geralt naked in a bathtub not once but twice, though, plus a number of shirtless scenes.

Also, Jaskier is hilarious. Geralt’s “rarr I don’t have friends rarrr” attitude means we don’t get as much of him as we might otherwise; hopefully he’s returning for season two. Even if he has earwormed us all with “Toss a coin to your Witcher.” 😛

Fair warning: do not start a drinking game that involves taking shots when somebody says “destiny” or when Geralt says “hmmm.” Not unless you want to court liver failure. Taking a shot when Geralt looks at something for a moment and then delivers a deadpan evaluation of “fuck,” though, might be entertaining.

The show is very violent, and like I said, the overall narrative structure isn’t all that hot. But I find it very pretty — the costumes are way better than on Game of Thrones — and fun on the level of smaller plots, and I’m looking forward to what future seasons do now that the component pieces are in place.

A Tale of Two Nancy Drews

The general process of “what old, well-established properties can we adapt for movies and TV?” has recently swung around to Nancy Drew — not once, but twice. We’ve got the movie Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, and the CW’s Nancy Drew TV series.

As someone who used to inhale the Nancy Drew mysteries by the linear foot — the original novels, the 1980s continuations, and the Nancy Drew Case Files — I have . . . opinions.

The movie is surprisingly charming, and preserves what I remember of the feel of the original books, while updating things to the modern day. Nancy gets involved with George and Bess after a boy at their school posts a humiliating video of Bess, getting revenge for his cyber-bullying and landing herself in community service as punishment. From there she winds up helping an older woman solve the mystery of her apparently haunted house (generally following the plot of the book).

The actress playing Nancy is quite engaging, and has a fair number of witty lines. Bess is an adorable science nerd, and they cast a black actress as George. The evolution toward friendship with Helen is also pleasing. And while the movie as a whole is lightweight, not attempting to tackle any particularly weighty issues, that feels about right to me. I’m sad that there seems to be no news of them considering a sequel, because I’d happily watch another one.

The TV show is . . . hrm. For one thing, it centers on a murder — two of them, in fact, one twenty years in the past, but apparently connected to the present day. Nancy and all the rest have recently graduated from high school, but Nancy’s mother’s death from pancreatic cancer has left her family with crippling medical debt that has scotched Nancy’s dream of going to Columbia, and kind of wrecked her relationship with her father to boot. She’s in a relationship with Ned Nickerson (here called “Nick” instead of “Ned”), but his own dream of a football career crashed and burned when he spent a few years in jail for manslaughter, and their relationship proceeded from “acquaintance” to “sex” without passing through much of a “get to know one another better” stage (that comes later on). George is both Nancy’s and Bess’ employer at the restaurant she runs, and she is not a fan of Nancy, who didn’t do anything to defend her at school when her own reputation got trashed by rumors — true ones, as it happens — that she was having an affair with an older, married man. And you rapidly find out that Bess, who claims to be rich, is living in a van on the edge of town.

If you are looking for the tone you remember from the novels, you will not find it here.

In fact, it feels a lot like Veronica Mars, but with much less snappy dialogue. Which might explain another aspect of the show — because it feels like the writers were fishing around for a way to distinguish their show when the territory of “Nancy Drew, but noir” has already been so thoroughly explored, and consequently took a flying headfirst dive into urban fantasy.

I mean “somebody call the Winchester brothers” level of supernatural material. For the first few episodes, I was waiting for it to be revealed that somebody in town was leveraging the folklore about how the ghost “Dead Lucy” haunts the town — because that’s how things usually go in a Nancy Drew story! Round about the point where one of the characters gets possessed by the ghost of the more recent victim, I gave up on that interpretation. Not long after that, I gave up on trying to keep track of how many different ghosts and spirits are running around interfering with the plot. Half the clues come from the dead, rather than from investigation; George’s mother turns out to be a spiritualist (much to the disgust and embarassment of her daughter), and another character busts out with a full panoply for sending somebody on an astral quest to fetch back the spirit of a third character that’s gone wandering.

What. The.

It isn’t bad. I wouldn’t call it especially memorable — see above re: not having the snappy dialogue of a Veronica Mars — but it’s perfectly competent urban fantasy. It’s just that urban fantasy is not what I expect out of a Nancy Drew adaptation. I can’t remember if there was ever real magic in the novels (and I wouldn’t trust my memory even if I did; it’s been probably twenty-five years or more since I read any of them, and back then my ability to read fantasy into a story on the thinnest grounds was pretty impressive), but I’m certain they did not routinely feature Nancy insisting she needs to steal the cursed Roman coins so she can use their dark power to communicate with the ghost of the murder victim and ask who killed her.

But since I mentioned the casting of the movie, it’s worth noting that this version of George is surnamed Fan instead of Fayne and is Chinese-American, Bess’ actress is British-Iranian and the character is a lesbian, Nick is black, and the police chief is Native American. It reminds me of the line from a Supergirl episode where Cat eyes the characters who have come to talk to her and says, “You look like the attractive yet non-threatening, racially diverse cast of a CW show.” As pro forma as this approach can sometimes be, I do prefer it to the alternative. It’s certainly a lot less jarring to me than the ghosts.

Like I said, the show isn’t bad. I only wish I could go somewhere to get another dose of the more authentic Nancy Drew flavor: a heroine who’s plucky instead of bitter, a mystery that isn’t about death, and a haunting that turns out to just be someone playing tricks.

further thoughts on The Mandalorian

Yyyyyyyeah. I’m not going to bother watching any more, and I can’t find any particularly good reason to recommend that anybody else start.

It isn’t actively bad. The music (done by Ludwig Göransson, same guy who scored Black Panther) is great. But the second episode — of eight — had zero screen time with female characters, leaving us at a mere two minutes in over an hour of TV, and a quarter of the season. And furthermore, the pacing is glacial: the second ep, which is thirty-two minutes long, spent most of that time on a series of fight scenes. I can sum up the entirety of the meaningful plot by saying “he finds out that the bounty he’s been hired to bring back can use the Force, and then they leave the planet.” Everything else? It’s filler. Spectacle. Re-iteration of stuff we already know (like “there are other bounty hunters on the trail”) or else stuff that does absolutely nothing to forward the narrative. It just gives our nameless Clint Eastwood expy more reasons to be a badass and fight things. However well-executed the filler may be, at the end of the second episode I had even less interest and less reason to care than I did at the end of the first.

The Mandalorian

Last night we watched the first episode of the new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. So far, color me . . . profoundly unimpressed.

The thought that kept running through my head as I watched it was, “This feels like it’s trying to soothe all the guys who are upset that somebody’s gotten girl cooties all over their Star Wars.” The episode is thirty-nine minutes long; two of those involve a female character. I guess it never occurred to Jon Favreau that this might be a problem? I know Gina Carano’s been cast in a major role, but a) we haven’t seen her yet and b) uh, this is 2019. Having a Smurfette does not really solve anything. Why wasn’t the guild official our title character is working with written as a woman instead? Or the mysterious person who hires him? Or the alien who guides him to where his target is? (That alien points out that the creatures they’re riding are all female. Maybe I was supposed to count that as representation.)

Meanwhile, the nameless protagonist is a full-on Clint Eastwood expy, now with bonus helmet so you can’t even see his facial expressions. (I pity Pedro Pascal; even the best actor in the world is going to have a hard time making a character interesting through a sheet of steel.) He is laconic and badass, and with those five words I’ve basically summed up his entire personality thus far. He shoots people a lot. A quote from an Entertainment Weekly article describes him as having “questionable moral character” — because yeah, that’s what I need more of in my life right now. Maybe he’ll grow and change over the course of the series, becoming a better person . . . but see above re: feeling like the mission here is to reassure Star Wars dudes that they need not fear being contaminated with any girl cooties.

I will give it this much credit: of the eight episodes in the first season, three are directed by women, and five by people of color. But since none of the scripts are written by women, and six of the eight are Favreau’s work — well, if this is a sample of what I should expect, then I’m not at all sure I care to continue.

Too little, too late

I’ve been watching a little of the ITV Agatha Christie’s Marple series, and enjoying Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple quite a lot — she does a lovely job contrasting her mild manner and soft voice with her sharp awareness of murder and what drives people to it. But I’m burning out very rapidly, and not for any reasons to do with the show itself. Instead it’s a matter of genre — and my fundamental problem with murder mysteries.

They are, a priori, about a bad thing having already happened. The best the protagonists can do is to try and deliver justice after the fact.

In a few cases they may forestall a subsequent murder, e.g. in the case of a serial killer going after their next victim. But in many cases shows try to raise the stakes by whacking a second person along the way, so now the detective or cop or whoever is playing cleanup to two horrible crimes. Sometimes more.

I’ve been re-watching Veronica Mars with my husband (who’s never seen most of it before), and while the metaplot of season one is indeed about a murder, the individual episode mysteries are about other crimes. Somebody has been conned out of their money, or a car’s been stolen, or a father has gone missing. I think that’s a large part of why I’m able to take the show in larger doses than I can take murder mysteries these days. In those plots, it’s possible to make people whole — to not just get justice, but to undo or at least significantly mitigate the harm.

These days, I think I need that. I mean, it’s not to say that non-mystery novels don’t frequently involve bad things happening that can’t be put right; obviously they do. But it feels different to me when the entire raison d’etre of the series is to have people die, again and again, with the heroes only taking action after that’s happened.

That mode wears on me after a while, even when counterbalanced by a charming old lady. Which is why I think I’ll be turning to something else soon, no matter how adorable Geraldine McEwan is as Miss Marple.

Miss Sherlock

You remember some years ago, when Elementary premiered and people were so excited about the casting of Watson as an Asian-American woman?

Meet Miss Sherlock.

It’s a Japanese adaptation — live-action, not anime — where both leads are women. Even now, it’s still vanishingly rare to watch a woman get to be the character so brilliant everybody puts up with her complete lack of manners; add the layer that it’s a Japanese woman, and the effect is kind of startling. She barges into someone’s apartment with Watson (or rather, Wato-san) chasing after her wailing “SHOES!!!!”; after Sherlock, with clear irritation, takes her shoes off like a civilized human being should, she winds up storming out barefoot while Wato-san chases her again yelling “SHOES!!!!”, this time for the opposite reason.

There are so many mystery shows on TV these days that any given one tends to live and die not by its clever plots, but by its characters and their dynamics. I really like both of the main actresses here. Wato-san is adorable, and though she doesn’t measure up to Sherlock’s genius, she gets to have a personal life outside of being Sherlock’s designated apologizer. And Sherlock herself is elegant and sharp, with a ferocious smile. But when a villain starts monologuing about their reasons for the crime, Sherlock collapses onto the nearest couch with her hands over her ears and an expression that says “poke me when they’re done.”

I also like several of the side characters. Inspector Reimon, the Lestrade stand-in, is nice but not all that memorable, but my sister and I instantly shipped with Wato-san with his sidekick, Shibata, who is perfectly competent and has no patience with Sherlock’s b.s. — quite understandable given that he often takes the brunt of it. By contrast, Hatano-san, aka Mrs. Hudson, manages Sherlock quite nicely. Mycroft isn’t notably Mycroft-y — he’s fine, but not more brilliant than his sister — and, well, I won’t say anything about Moriarty, because spoilers.

The plots themselves range around a bit in terms of quality. Mostly good, but toward the end of the season it falls down a bit; Sherlock commits one unforgivably stupid mistake, and the villain’s ability to mess with people gets cranked up beyond plausiblity. Also, it is occasionally more gruesome than I expected, so if that’s an issue for you, be warned. (Not slasher porn levels of gruesome, just “wow, I didn’t expect you to show that wound directly and then shove somebody’s hand in it.”) But I very much hope they get a second season, because I would happily watch another eight episodes of this.

We watched it on HBO’s app; not sure where else it might be available. For those who are interested. 🙂

Star Trek: Discovery (no spoilers)

My husband and sister and I watched the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery when it aired, but declined to subscribe to CBS’s streaming service to get the rest of it. I was uncertain whether I wanted to watch the rest anyway, because on the basis of that first ep, I had a bad feeling the show was basically Star Trek: Grimdark. But my husband went ahead and bought the discs when they became available, and I figured, fine, I’ll give it more of a chance.

It is not Star Trek: Grimdark. It is, in fact, an active and wholehearted rejection of that concept.

Now, it would be fair to say that it’s Star Trek: Gritty. There is a lot more blood and gore and sex here than I expected, a lot more characters making morally questionable choices or getting into conflicts that cut all the way to the bone instead of being resolved in a scene. There is a war on, and it feels a lot more like a real war than anything else I’ve seen in Star Trek (full disclosure: I haven’t seen a lot of it, precisely because the surface-y nature of a lot of its conflicts has left me unengaged). But in the long term, the first season is about being put in situations where it feels like you’ve got to compromise your principles in order to achieve your goal, and saying: No. I will find a better way.

Which I really, really appreciate.

The show also has much better long-term plotting than I expected out of a Star Trek offering — most of their previous shows being heavily episodic in their structure. This one is Arc-Plot Ahoy!, which lets it pull off some narrative stunts toward the end of the season that genuinely impressed me. Mind you, that’s coupled with a number of premises that are pure grade-A Science Cheese, to an extent that made me roll my eyes even though I knew coming in that Star Trek is not the place to look for anything resembling actual science . . . but I can forgive that for conflicts and characters I’m invested in.

Its other flaw is that I just really don’t care about the Klingons. Which is a problem when they’re a goodly chunk of the plot. But every time the scene cut to their internal politicking, I felt myself tuning out. I don’t find their society interesting, and I think the extensive use of the Klingon language contributed to the problem; because it was designed to sound weird, it contains a high density of difficult-to-pronounce sounds, which means that every single Klingon actor delivered their lines in essentially the same ponderous tone. Combine that with massive prosthetics, and you have a recipe for flattening their ability to act into a pancake of boredom.

But whenever it got back to the Federation characters or the people around them, I checked right back in. And I especially liked the sheer number of women and people of color — many of them human women and people of color, rather than using aliens as proxies for real-world diversity. I loved the fact that Admiral Cornwell is a woman over the age of thirty who actually looks like she’s over the age of thirty: she’s not cover-model beautiful and botoxed to hell and gone, she’s an ordinary-looking middle-aged woman just like all the ordinary-looking middle-aged men who manage to get jobs on shows like this. I loved Tilly being socially awkward and fantastic. I loved that when we get to the Orions, there are scantily clad male dancers as well as female.

I have no idea what they’re doing with the plot of the second season, but I am definitely interested in watching it.

Ridiculous Legends of Monkey

Just inhaled the first season of The New Legends of Monkey on Netflix, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

It’s loosely based on Journey to the West, insofar as it has the recognizable characters of Tripitaka, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy, and characters heading vaguely west in search of some kind of important written thing — and that’s about where it ends. The setting makes no attempt to be Ancient China; it’s best described as “vaguely post-demon-apocalyptic wherever.” The show was filmed in Australia, and about half the characters have distinct Australian accents. The main actress (because Tripitaka is female here) is of Tongan ancestry; Monkey’s actor is of Thai ancestry. The cast overall is mixed enough that I’m pretty sure the show’s creators had no pre-set notions of what ethnicities they wanted in which roles, and just cast whomever appealed to them.

If so, it was a good decision. The central characters are mostly great (the exception being the villains, who are a little weak) — I particularly adore Sandy, likewise female, who strikes the note of being a little off-kilter without obxiously “look at how crazy I am!” The setting is 500 years after the gods disappeared; demons rule the earth now, and humanity’s only hope is to find and free Monkey, and then get him to show them where he hid the seven sacred scrolls. But the way Monkey is remembered may not be exactly what he’s like in reality . . .

The show is ten episodes, each less than half an hour. You can watch the whole thing in a long evening — I know because that’s what we did. It’s fun and good-hearted, and I hope they do more!

More TV

Since a number of people seemed to like my previous post about TV shows I’ve been watching, I thought I might as well do a second one. This isn’t all stuff I’ve watched in the interim; quite a lot of it is stuff I watched before, and didn’t remember when I made that first post.

Powerless — another exhibit for the display case of “things I like get canceled,” this was a short-lived show about ordinary people in the DC world, set at a division of Wayne Enterprises responsible for making products to protect people against the fallout of the superheroic battles all around them. I’m a sucker for that kind of premise, and the characters were reasonably engaging; I enjoyed this even though the half-hour comedy format is one I often bounce off. But they didn’t even get to air all of their filmed episodes before the network pulled the plug.

Emerald City — speaking of things that got cancelled . . . man, this one was weird. I’m not even sure what I think of it. Is it good? Is it bad? All I know is, it had me intrigued. I initially dismissed it as “let’s grimdark up Oz,” but that sells the show short. There’s some fascinating worldbuilding around how witches fit into the setting, with the Wizard trying to suppress and control magic in favor of science, and I think I’d have to watch the show again to say for sure whether I think it did an interesting job delving into the complexity of a conflict where both sides have their points, or was just so muddled it couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say. Lots of great visuals, though, and I really liked the actress playing Mistress West.

The OA — speaking of weird-ass things . . . I really liked this one until very near to the end. Then it fell into one of my least favorite pits, which is the trick of going “is this stuff real or is the character just crazy?” And then it tried to waffle back from that edge, and bah, it kind of fell apart. But they’re apparently doing a second season? So I may give it a try. The premise is that a blind girl reappeared after going missing for years, and now she has her sight; she will barely talk to her family about what happened, but she gathers a group of random people together and tells them her story over a period of many nights, saying that she needs their help to rescue someone. I found all the flashback stuff about her absence surprisingly compelling, which is part of why I was annoyed when the show tried to pull that rug out from under me. It also didn’t help that the climactic bit of the final episode wound up looking a bit too much like a flash mob performance — I just couldn’t take it seriously, even though I’d liked that element before.

Travelers — like The OA, this is a Netflix show. People are sent back in time to try and prevent the calamity that created their future; it’s a common premise, but this one has several twists. To begin with, only their spirits are sent back, and they can only occupy the bodies of people who are about to die. Also, there are quite a lot of them, being inserted into the timeline in different positions where they might be able to influence events, receiving orders sent from the future . . . which sometimes conflict or change without warning, because the future has its own politics going on, complicating the lives of the “travelers.” I liked the dynamics that created, and I liked that the historical records used to decide where to send the travelers are not always accurate; one of the main characters finds himself in the body of a heroin addict, with all the associated complications, and another discovers that the entire known persona of her host body was pure invention, made up as part of a social therapy exercise. This also will have a second season.

People of Earth — haven’t seen the second season of this one yet. Another half-hour comedy show, this one about a support group for people who believe they’ve been kidnapped by aliens. It’s frequently surreal, but does a great job with the social dynamics of the group — and with the social dynamics of the aliens, who are in fact 100% real, and have their own workplace woes. It got surprisingly dramatic in a few places, which is part of why I liked it.

Riverdale — ALL THE DRAMA. Initially this looked like they grimdarked the Archie comics, and they sort of did, but the better comparison might be Veronica Mars. It starts with a murder and revolves around the characters trying to figure out whodunnit, with several heaping shovelfuls of over-the-top family twistedness — seriously, the Blossoms read like something straight out of V.C. Andrews. Competition for the title of Worst Parent in Riverdale is fierce, yo. But kudos for the writers apparently deciding that they really aren’t interested in the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, and especially aren’t interested in making Betty and Veronica catfight over Archie. In fact, the younger generation are overall much better people than their parents are.

The Gifted — just started this one. Dystopian end of the X-Men universe, with the actual X-Men gone and mutants subject to horrific laws. It feels more than just a wee bit topical these days, especially since a number of the leading mutants in the story are people of color, and then you’ve got the white family whose father used to be on the enforcement side of that divide until his own kids turned out to be mutants, so now they’re finding out how the other half lives, so to speak. Not a cheery show, but I like the characters so far (three eps in).

Stitchers — watched more than a season of this, but drifted away when I realized I wasn’t all that invested. Core premise is silly SFnal cheese: a secret government agency has figured out how to hack into the brains of recently-deceased people and read their memories (in fragments) to solve their murders. But other than that it’s basically a police procedural with a layer of metaplot on top. It was fine to put on in the background while I did other things, but eventually I decided that if I wasn’t going to pay attention to it, I might as well stop.

Continuum — ditto this one, though I didn’t get in as far (I think only four or five eps), and might give it another shot, especially if anybody here recommends it. More time travel, but the characters didn’t engage me as much as the ones on Travelers did.

Once Upon a Time — this was my background show for a good long while. It’s . . . not actually good? And continually frustrated me by its common failure to actually get full value out of even its good ideas? I was basically there just for Hook, and that mostly because Alyc used him as the casting for an NPC in the game she’s running. But even with him, there was so much narrative potential left on the table — in part because this is the show that made me realize I’m getting very tired of the “dual timeline” format, flashing back and forth between Then and Now. Not only does it produce weird constraints on account of the writers trying to cram more and more into the backstory, but it means that any given episode can only devote half of its attention to either Then or Now, with the result that they’re both underdeveloped.

Quantico — speaking of the current ubiquity of the dual-timeline format. This show can be summed up to L5R fans as “what if the Kitsuki Investigator school was actually run by the Scorpion?” Toward the end of season one it got too over the top for my taste, and of course I doubt this bears any resemblance to actual FBI training. On the other hand, I loved how many women of color were in it, so if that’s a selling point to you and you don’t mind recrackulously over-the-top drama, check it out.

So. much. TV.

I watch a surprisingly large amount of TV these days, because there is so much out there, and so much of it good. But I wind up almost never posting about any of it, because I have all these thoughts and then I don’t get around to writing the big long in-depth post. In lieu of that, have scattershot thoughts about things I’ve watched in the last year.

* I didn’t like the second season of Supergirl quite as well, due in part to me having zero interest in Mon-El. But man, that show is not remotely shy about wearing its politics on its sleeve, with episode titles like “Resist” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted” and plots about protecting resident aliens from attempts to deport them. So even though they have the occasional episode where everybody is phenomenally stupid in order to give Mon-El a chance to look smart (seriously, that one was so bad), it is balm to my soul.

* Frequency has hooked me surprisingly fast, with some good dialogue and a clever twist on what might otherwise be a bog-standard serial killer investigation plot: because the SFnal conceit is that the cop heroine is in communication with her cop father twenty years in the past, when she has him follow up on a lead, half the time she winds up changing the evidence out from under her own feet, e.g. going to a suspect’s house only to find out that in the new timeline he moved away nineteen years ago. Also, it turns out to be based on a film — but among other changes, they turned the father/son setup into father/daughter instead. Woot! Sadly, because everything I like gets canceled, there’s only thirteen episodes of it. (Currently we’re seven in.)

* The Defenders was decent, but distinctly uneven, in no small part because my god Danny Rand is just. not. interesting. (As I said on Twitter a while back, Iron Fist bored me so intensely that I didn’t even get far enough in to hit the unfortunate racism.) And unfortunately, he’s kind of at the center of the plot. On the other hand, watching the script take the piss out of him at absolutely every opportunity was kind of entertaining. And you could make a fabulous montage just of the reaction shots from Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

* I have no idea what they’ll do with the second season of The Good Place, but dude, somebody made a comedy show ABOUT ETHICS. Like, actual philosophical discussions of what constitutes ethical behavior and how the various models of that differ. I am so there. Again. (I can’t believe it got a second season.)

* The Musketeers is far more entertaining than I expected it to be (though admittedly, my expectations went up when the opening credits told me it had Peter Capaldi). Of course it bears only a general relationship to the novel, being an episodic TV series, but it doesn’t have to warp the concept too far out of shape to work; the basic engine is the running political conflicts between the King’s Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards, with invented incidents to keep that rolling along. Capaldi is an excellent Richelieu, obviously scheming and ambitious without being a one-note villain (sometimes he and the Captain of the Musketeers work together). And the episodic format gives them some time to explore the individual characters. Much to my surprise, Porthos — usually my least favorite of the set — is really good here, in part because the actor is black and that is relevant to the character’s life story. A Porthos with depth, rather than just being the drunken comic relief? What is this madness??? Also, it’s doing reasonably well by its female characters, including making sure that the invented incidents have women in them, so you’re not limited to the recurring trio of Constance, Milady, and the queen. Yeah, okay, so I’m pretty sure Constance bears only the most passing resemblance to her novel incarnation — but since I like this version of her and have no particular attachment to the novel incarnation, I’m fine with that.

* Ascension was interesting, but flawed. Basic concept: A generation ship got sent out in the ’60s and is now halfway through its 100-year-journey, with tensions rising. The worldbuilding was intriguing, even as I wanted to beat characters about the head for some parts of it (seriously, who thought class stratification in a society that small and enclosed was a good idea?), but the end felt like it was a cliffhanger for a season 2 that, as near as I can tell, not only doesn’t exist but was never intended to.

* I feel like the seventh season of Game of Thrones was distinctly better than the sixth, transit time silliness notwithstanding. It registered on me as a better balance of major plot movement and the little dyadic interactions, which have always been one of the show’s strong points: the writers’ ability to put two characters together and have a fabulous scene happen, whether the flavor is hilarious banter or a flaming train wreck. Plus, Olenna Tyrell may have claimed the title of Most Badass Moment for the entire series. I mean, it was horrible. But it was also this phenomenally powerful, vicious interaction that played out as a quiet conversation between two people alone in a room, without any action spectacle whatsoever. Kudos.

* I enjoyed the first season of Lucifer, but the second took off like a rocket. Seriously, were the writers on a sugar high all season long? They just cranked everything up to eleven, and the result came to life for me in a way the earlier episodes hadn’t. I’m sad they lopped off the last couple of episodes to put them on the beginning of season three, because it meant I got less of what I was enjoying last spring, but from a narrative standpoint I can absolutely see why they did. That comes back in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to it.

* Also, more of The Librarians. One of the few things I fell in love with that hasn’t gotten canceled, even if I don’t think the third season was quite as good.

Has anybody else been watching these? Any recs for shows you’ve been enjoying? I’m primarily interested in stuff that is either SF/F or historical, and skewed more toward the “fun” end of the spectrum than gritty greasy grimdark. I am almost completely burned out on police procedurals, unless they’ve got a strong metaplot or a substantial twist from the usual model.