Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Pilot Review: Black Narcissus

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Industry

Industry: Season 1, Episode 3 “Notting Hill” (B+)

I’m glad to see that the relationships on this show are transforming, and we’re starting to see some complexities coming out in problematic ways. Daria telling Yasmin and Harper that it was cute that they were living together but that they needed to keep things professional at work was the understatement of the hour, and it was actually relatively kind given what she was put through by Eric as a result of Yasmin’s actions. Harper wasn’t in a particularly good position with both Daria and Eric expecting things from her, but it’s that very ability to thrive in a high-pressure situation that helped get her this position. Eric chewed Daria out very publicly, and it’s never pleasant to see that kind of takedown happen, especially when Daria was just insisting that she wanted the respect she should be afforded. Yasmin did push to get herself into that meeting, and I thought things would be much worse after Harper brought home a date for some loud sex. Instead, they solved that problem with Harper getting to feel good about paying rent, something she advocated for even if she didn’t want it to be quite as high as Yasmin suggested. Though we are seeing some other relationship drama, I think that Yasmin and Harper’s storylines are the most engaging. Harper’s love life is certainly not simple, but that moment with Yasmin starting some excitement with a dishwashing glove was the awkward highlight of the episode that ended rather unfortunately when a cleanliness question ruined all the fun.

What I’m Watching: His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Cave” (B+)

All of the antics surrounding the magisterium are considerably more intense and a bit less engaging than everything else that’s going on, but it’s clear that the worlds are going to continue to collide, especially considering the destructive drive that the cardinals have to see their will exacted upon all worlds. Mrs. Coulter is doing a good job of remaining calm and determined, fiercely protective of Lyra even though her aims for her daughter aren’t necessarily any nicer. It’s strange to see Lyra out in a world where Will uses a smartphone and her Oxford looks different, a place that she seems to do well in even if she doesn’t understand the way that things work at all. Mary was pretty startled to see how Lyra operated and what she was able to achieve with her mind, and, as long as she doesn’t get killed by someone from the other world, she will end up being a good ally for Lyra and Will. It wasn’t a surprise that Will didn’t take being called the “good type of murder” very well, and his visits on behalf of his mother were also met with doubt and suspicion. I know they did fine meeting up and Lyra has chosen to trust Will completely, but it would make me feel a lot better if she had a smartphone too so that they could be sure to keep in contact. After all, this is the same show where kids used to get “gobbled up,” and it’s likely they could have been more easily located had they just been able to drop a pin. It’s an interesting choice to make this story set in the modern day since cell phones definitely were not in popular use when the books were first published in the late 1990s.

Monday, November 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 10 “Happy” (B)

It’s as if the previous episode didn’t really matter as we return back to Kansas City for the same antics we’ve been experiencing all season, which are certainly intriguing but also a little messy. I suppose it’s to be expected that most, if not all, of the characters are going to die by the end of the finale, and there are honestly only a few left at this point. I hadn’t really noticed the ghoulish figure in the background from the train station, and here it just served to startle Oraetta so that she was prevented the opportunity to kill one last victim before being apprehended by authorities who immediately recognized her Jerry Lundegaard-esque efforts to find a way out of an inescapable situation. The event that felt most likely to occur in the universe of this TV show and the film that preceded it was definitely Gaetano tripping after executing Odis and accidentally shooting himself in the head. Josto didn’t even seem to process what had happened, and that seemed like it could have been avoided in so many ways. The final scene of the episode represented a positive turn of events with Ethelrida negotiating with Loy and using the knowledge of Oraetta’s kleptomania as a bargaining chip. We’re almost down to just the two leaders at this point, and I’m curious to see if they’ll end up striking a deal rather than trying to kill each other with all of the other players like Odis, Deafy, Doctor, and Gaetano out of the way.

What I’m Watching: Roadkill (Series Finale)

Roadkill: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

This finale was strong because it followed a relatively expected trail of events but did so in a fitting and involving manner. Peter never acted as if he assumed he was going to end up as prime minister, but everyone seemed to want that since they knew what kind of man he was and how he would work to serve the interests of those who helped get him there. This episode painted him as far nobler than we knew him to be, and that I think was the main reason that the final scene showed Helen handing him the unsigned papers so that he would realize he hadn’t just gotten away with everything. Bella seemed most pleased with him out of the three women in his life, and Madeleine sent him packing quickly and emphatically. He and Rose did forge a good bond, one that appears to have bolstered him rather than held him back even though it shouldn’t have been a positive thing that he had a daughter in prison and another who had been photographed taking drugs. We didn’t get to hear the end of his conversation with Sydney, but the way that he dismissed Duncan was indication enough of how he treats those who are disloyal to him, interestingly not so removed from the way that Dawn would have dealt with him had she retained her position. I do wish this show was continuing, and it’s great that there was such a rich ensemble I hope will be honored come awards season. If you’re craving more of this, I highly recommend two past series, “Babylon” and “The State Within.”

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Hugh Laurie and the rest of the cast

What I’m Watching: The Undoing (Penultimate Episode)

The Undoing: Season 1, Episode 5 “Trial by Fury” (B)

A good twist only works if it makes sense, and especially since we don’t know all the information yet about just what it means. Henry has always been polite and sympathetic, aware enough of what adults do without having lost any of his innocence. Now, it seems that he might be the one who bludgeoned Elena to death, or at the very least that he hid the hammer his father used to protect him. I’m not sure I buy either of those theories since it would have made much more sense to, for instance, toss it into the river, though maybe if it was him, he wouldn’t have thought about that as a preteen without too much life experience. What’s abundantly clear is that Grace knew absolutely nothing about the man she married, and you’d think that the existence of a sister whose death happened on his watch at a young age would have come up at some point and not just casually years into their marriage at a restaurant. It also feels like this information should have come out during the prosecution’s research into the way they were trying to convict of murder since it’s likely available with minimal research and could have painted him in a negative light. The courtroom antics weren’t nearly as compelling as I might have expected from a David E. Kelley show, with lawyers hesitating to object and presenting gruesome images without any warning. I’m still intrigued but hopeful that the upcoming finale will be stronger and more even than some of this series has been so far.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead: World Beyond

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Sky is a Graveyard” (B+)

I’ll admit that I was curious this whole time about what exactly Silas had done to make everyone so afraid of him, and it seems that he inherited some violent rage instincts from his father that tend to kick in when he gets scared. Fortunately, he has a heart and a much kinder perspective, one that compelled him to choose to be left behind and to tell Iris that he did kill both his father and Tony even though he probably wasn’t entirely sure that he did. Iris was relatively understanding with him, coming to him to ask why he kept her drawings and not jumping to conclusions about the fact that it could be seen as obsessive behavior. I liked Elton’s display of friendship best, telling Silas that he didn’t believe his hypothesis. It’s good that he ultimately decided to break from the group too to go find Silas, though the music-addicted loner may not want company. Hope was also unfortunately compelled to confess that she killed Elton’s mother to him just as he decided to leave, which is sure to make him grow resentful as he has plenty of time to be alone with his thoughts. I was glad to see a glimpse of Elizabeth at the end of the episode and just at that moment had a feeling that Huck might walk through the door. I’m not sure I was as shocked as I should have been to find out that she’s Elizabeth’s daughter, but I’d at least like to think that her being a spy means that the wandering group is safe because they’ve been allowed to move freely and haven’t yet been touched. We’ll see if that’s true, especially now that the pack has splintered.

What I’m Watching: Ratched

Ratched: Season 1, Episode 6 “Got No Strings” (B+)

This episode really transported us away from the reality we’ve previously been experiencing, and I was almost surprised to see a scene that took place with a number of the regular characters at the mental hospital. After she shot Gwendolyn as they were making their escape, Dolly seemed infinitely more comfortable with the idea of killing and being on the run than Edmond did, partly because he realized that they couldn’t evade authorities forever and this jailbreak was just a fleeting bit of fun. It’s sad to see Dolly gunned down since she was a formidable and unexpectedly interesting character, but she made a clear choice that didn’t support Edmond’s efforts to surrender and take all the blame for everything. Going with Gwendolyn to the puppet show was a creative way to fill in the gaps about Mildred and Edmond’s pasts, which led to Mildred’s outburst and her telling Gwendolyn the truth about her relationship with Edmond, who isn’t actually her birth brother. Mildred got the power she’s been able to exert over so many people over the course of the show taken away from her by the chauvinistic and horrible governor, who tricked Dr. Hanover into affirming that Edmond could stand trial by falsely promising to keep the hospital open and then firing Gwendolyn for daring to be more than just a pretty face. I’m very intrigued to see how Gwendolyn, feeling scorned and betrayed, might now team up with Mildred to help her achieve what she wants as a way to get back at the governor who doesn’t realize just how much he’d rather have both of them as allies.

Round Two: Two Weeks to Live

Two Weeks to Live: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This second outing was extremely entertaining, making it clear that this show is well worth watching – I just have to find time to stream all the episodes, which I’d rather not rush through too quickly either. Maisie Williams is truly skilled at comedy, something I’m not sure I would have known from “Game of Thrones” even if Arya definitely had her witty moments and managed to outsmart most of the older characters. She’s also great at the physical scenes which involved simultaneous jokes, like darting away from the nonexistent trapdoor and debating about how someone might or might not fall while walking forward. She also got understandably angry with the man she was ready to kill because he said the wrong name for her father as if he was trying to do it on purpose. It’s probably a good thing that she discovered that the world isn’t actually about to end, though it did make her very upset with Nicky for lying to her. She won’t have much of a chance to do anything about it, however, since her mother managed to track her down and throw her in the back of the car presumably to take her back home. Ian seemed most disappointed by her early departure since he was really counting on that ride to the hospital, though he also didn’t end up getting the pillow Jay was very nicely bringing him to be more comfortable since he presumed that he wanted to smother him to death and instead just gave up thousands of dollars he had hidden away. I’m ready for episode three!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

What I’m Watching: Five Bedrooms (Season Finale)

Five Bedrooms: Season 1, Episode 8 “One Bid” (B+)

Here’s one show that I’m relieved to know will definitely be back for a second season since production was already underway in Australia before the pandemic hit and has apparently already resumed. It’s also been almost a year and a half since season one finished airing there, so that will still mark a considerable amount of time before it returns, presumably sometime next year. It seemed inevitable that the housemates would decide that they didn’t want to sell, though it probably would have helped if they had come to that realization just a minute or two earlier before someone made a pretty sizeable bid to buy it. I think that, even if they couldn’t keep the house, the characters are interesting enough here that I would gladly continue watching the show. I’m glad that Ainsley came to the decision not to stay with Lachlan romantically on her own since it was so glaringly obvious how out of touch with reality he was, and it was somehow worse that Melanie was pregnant than it would have been if Lachlan had just slept with her, which even Ainsley thought could be happening. It’s good to know that Heather wasn’t ever going to get on that plane, and now she’ll stay behind to be a protective aunt for Ainsley’s baby along with the rest of the housemates. It was funny to see Manju and Marty team up to approve of Pete after Harry had already embarrassed himself by nearly proposing to him before asking if he was dating anyone. Liz got a great offer in the form of a free luxury home from Edwina, but I think she’d rather complain and feel the connection to the housemates she sometimes likes. She also took plenty of heat for terming their situation a “debacle,” even from the usually forgiving Ben. I’m excited to see where this show goes next – it’s been a fun and highly enjoyable experience thus far.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: All five of them!

What I’m Watching: Pure (Series Finale)

Pure: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

I’m so sad. I didn’t realize that, long before this show was ever scheduled to come to American audiences via HBO Max, it was cancelled by British network Channel 4. I had hoped that, liked so many other series that have been imported on services like Peacock or the CW, a second season had already been ordered and was supposed to be in the works before the pandemic started. Unfortunately, it appears that this is the last we’ll see of this show, which concluded its original run in the UK way back in February of 2019, meaning that there is absolutely no chance of it being resurrected. Fortunately, this goodbye was fitting, showing the characters together again at a party where Marnie freaked out for different reasons after a surprisingly strong start. She was typically awkward around Amber, who couldn’t understand why she showed up a minute after the official time rather than fashionably later, and acted on the mutual connection she felt with Joe. His interest in understanding her condition was taken as a bad thing rather than a sympathetic notion, and that was enough to get her to leave and only answer Charlie’s calls when they were all trying to reach her. I’m glad that nothing happened between Marnie and Charlie since it seemed like it was going to, and ending with Shereen being much more open to exploring a positive relationship with her roommate was nice. I enjoyed the focus on Amber’s disaster of a love life, and I would have loved to see more of all of these characters. I liked the actors and want to watch their successive projects, even if I wasn’t overly impressed with seeing Joe Cole, who plays Charlie, in “Gangs of London,” or Niamh Algar, who plays Amber, in “Raised by Wolves.” I’ll miss this show – it really was great and did a spectacular job with its premise. I’ll be recommended it widely.

Series grade: A-
Series MVP: Charly Clive as Marnie

Take Two: Departure

Departure: Season 1, Episode 2 “Survivor” (B-)

It’s taken me a while to watch more of this show since I’ve been more focused on other series that have premiered in the past two months. Coming back to it, it’s clear that it’s formulaic and based around big reveals that happen right before each commercial break. There continue to be many mysteries that only become more unclear as more information is revealed, and none of it seems to be going over too well with the public. Kendra’s decision to tell Madelyn’s father that she was still alive was puzzling, and Howard didn’t react positively from his omniscient observation point. Holding a press conference to say that there was survivor but not identifying her should be enough to make all the family members anxiously awaiting news go crazy, and there’s of course the important fact that someone else was apparently on the raft who is now nowhere to be found. That he may well be a dead Iranian who was working with the Mossad only complicates things further, and I worry that this show is going to trip over its own logic with all of these twists. Having the diver who found the black box die a violent death was an unfortunate development, one that seemed to serve Janet’s purposes, whatever they are. I’m not sure what comes next but I’d love to get some more answers and fewer crowded hospital rooms with unrealistic interrogations. I think there’s something interesting here but I think the theatrics and need for bombshells are getting in the way.

Friday, November 20, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 4, Episode 2 “The Balmoral Test” (B+)

It’s nice to see so much of the ensemble together in an episode that dealt simultaneously with two characters: Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles. Gillian Anderson really is terrific as Thatcher, and I loved the way that she reacted to the notion of her husband’s bag being unpacked and them sleeping in separate beds. The royal family did not react well to her showing up over-dressed ahead of dinner and then her very deliberate attempt to play the game that they all knew considerably better than she did. While Princess Margaret, who I wish we’d see more of this season, was quite crass to the new prime minister, Elizabeth seemed to understand that her early departure was a sign that they hadn’t been at all welcoming or kind to someone with a completely different mentality and more important priorities. Their relationship is fascinating, and I look forward to seeing that featured more prominently over the course of the season. I was worried that Diana wouldn’t go over too well, but she impressed even Philip, who was not at all confident about her assessment of the wind but for some reason listened to her anyway. If only Charles seemed as excited about the idea of marrying her, and it was so interesting to hear him talk to his sister, who is most like her aunt in her direct bluntness, about his apparent disappointment that she fit so well when he wasn’t entirely sure that, despite her charms, she did for him.

What I’m Watching: The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 4 “Chapter 12: The Siege” (B+)

I wrote yesterday in my analysis of the Best Ensemble in a Drama Series race for AwardsWatch that this show might be a popular choice, but it would be a strange inclusion since most of the cast that is credited as regular players appears on such a sporadic and inconsistent basis. This episode was a welcome return to the people we know best, with Greef and Cara operating a pretty strong operation that seemed to be actively bettering their community. They were more than happy to have his ship fixed for free, but of course his visit would be timed to when they needed a big favor for which he was perfectly suited. There was a lot of exciting action most reminiscent of the original movies, with the Mandalorian showing up just in the nick of time to take out some of the TIE fighters after he jet-packed back to rescue Baby Yoda when it became clear that Moff Gideon was still alive. We also saw both Mythrol and Dr. Pershing again, with the latter likely to reappear in the future given his involvement in the project that has now advanced thanks to Gideon’s planting of a tracker. I’m starting to come around to more of the comedy featured in this show, specifically involving Baby Yoda, who didn’t listen to the Mandalorian’s instructions about red wires early on in the episode and then later got just what he wanted by using the Force to take the snack his new seatmate didn’t want to share with him.

Take Three: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 3 “Foreign Bodies” (B+)

In order to truly appreciate this show, it’s necessary to embrace the fact that it is a Chuck Lorre sitcom, one that might involve some unnecessary antics that make it considerably less sophisticated. Fortunately, both lead actors are especially skilled at slapstick comedy and do a marvelous job of working with the material. Gina making her way into the window after climbing up the side of the house and Drew failing to throw an apple were great examples, and it was fun to see Drew involved in her dance videos at the end in a perfect way, which in turn made Maddie forever embarrassed to have him as her father. I’m glad that Gina is being slowly and inadvertently introduced to elements of Drew’s life, with Julia showing up surprised to see her living there and then Maddie being surprisingly open to a woman living in her dad’s house. I’m also happy that Gina and Drew aren’t doing anything remotely romantic, which made it possible for Julia to accidentally kiss Drew and then make it weird even though he probably wasn’t reading anything into it. The best line of the episode – or at least the best delivery – was Gina’s “I prefer Gina with the boobs,” which wasn’t the most explicit dialogue. That was reserved for the older actors in the cast, namely Bernie Kopell, who, at age eighty-seven, matches his scene partner Linda Lavin with his firing off of some typically sexually-charged one-liners. They’re hardly the best part of the show, but all of the players, including Briga Heelan, continue to be used well.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

What I’m Watching: Valley of Tears

Valley of Tears: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

After they both experienced shock at the end of the previous episode, both Melakhi and Meni rallied to deal with the chaotic bureaucracy they encountered when they went in to ask questions about those important to them. Dafna wasn’t pleased to learn that there wasn’t help available and that she couldn’t get an answer about how Yoav was doing. On the battlefield, there was such joy that the exposed soldiers felt upon realizing that the plane was above them was friendly which was almost instantly taken away when it got down. Rallying to save the pilot was an affirming, and they’re definitely not out of harm’s way even though they managed to take out the Syrians who nearly got the ejected pilot back to their Jeep. Avinoam’s encounter with a Syrian soldier who just wanted water and even invited him to come visit in Damascus if they ever achieved peace was a poignant moment, but also one that was quickly replaced by a sense of dread that this kind of exchange was fleeting and unrealistic. There’s a good deal of discord between the strongest personalities who are facing difficult circumstances, and Caspi once again seemed like he was making reckless decisions that were going to get the rest of the unit killed. We also got confirmation on the identity of the shell-shocked soldier who has now snapped back to reality, and Yoni is now fully embroiled in everything that’s going on after being confronted with a life-or-death situation in which he reacted and saved the life of the pilot by shooting the Syrian soldier.

Take Three: Valley of Tears

Valley of Tears: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

There’s a stark difference in tone between the scenes featuring Melakhi, Meni, and Dafna having the time of their lives driving through checkpoints to music and the ones with Yoav and those in the tanks fighting to stay alive. The ending of the episode did serve to transition the three less serious elements into what’s truly going on, as both Melakhi and Meni began falling apart when they thought they had confirmed their loved ones for dead. Dafna kept a cool and level head, walking around to get the names of those who had died, though she likely would have been more upset if she had encountered what she thought to be her boyfriend. Yoav was doing a good job of keeping the troops united as they tried to descend to the lower levels in order to escape, and it wasn’t an easy task given the nearness of the Syrians who were casually executing their hostages. The idea of going further down into a base is far from comforting, but Avinoam seems sure that it leads to a way out, and given that they’re not sufficiently prepared to fight, retreat is the best option. That’s not the attitude expressed by Caspi, who is insistent on standing his ground and keeping his soldiers with him, despite the very clear confirmation that Israel no longer controls the area where they are and there aren’t going to be reinforcements coming to help them. Perhaps a cool car and its passionate passengers will be just what they need to rally some enthusiasm for a plan that’s otherwise not supported by Caspi’s concerned men.

Pilot Review: I Hate Suzie

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Take Three: The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit: Season 1, Episode 3 “Doubled Pawns” (B+)

This show couldn’t only feature Beth winning every game she played, and her response to her first loss was predictably unpleasant. Benny, played by Thomas Brodie Sangster of “Game of Thrones” and “Love Actually” fame, had already fractured her confidence when he met her and pointed out something she could have done something differently, and his cockiness felt different from, say, Beltik, who wasn’t even interested enough in his opponent to realize that he should be paying attention to the game. Townes was very happy to see her when they ran into each other, though she apparently had different ideas of what he would want other than the more literal opportunity to take pictures of her for the magazine. She seemed put off by the fact that he was gay mostly because she was interested in him and had thought that he would reflect those feelings back and give her another first experience. Having a friend who she can rely on who can help analyze her game play will be helpful, since she doesn’t seem to want to take the advice of someone who doesn’t understand the intricacies of chess: her mother. There are still troubling signs about the addictive parts of Beth’s personality, like her eagerness to drink beer and just rush through every new experience rather than try to digest it slowly so that she can get used to it. What will be most telling is how quickly – and responsibly – she bounces back from a crushing defeat and uses it to better both her strategy and her resilience.

Pilot Review: Big Sky

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 4 “Honestly” (B+)

I appreciate this show’s ability to mix humor with drama, and it was definitely very funny to see Randall dance on camera without realizing the livestream was still on and then become the subject of a few very true-to-life memes. It was nice also that he got to have a serious moment of bonding where Malik demonstrated himself to be very worthy of Deja and of the internship that he still managed to get even after failing to stop the video before Randall started stripping (which objectively he should have confirmed had happened before so readily taking off his clothes). Looking at role models was an effective framework for this episode, with Jack riding Kevin hard to take his commitments seriously in a way that ultimately prompted him to be friendlier to Randall and then still use that flashcard strategy when preparing for a role with a truly impossible director with the same style of encouragement. This show has always done a great job of casting Kevin’s costars, and it’s nice to see Jamie Chung, fresh off a very memorable part on “Lovecraft Country,” as his latest scene partner. Kate opening up to Toby about her abortion reveals a struggle she went through apparently all by herself, and it’s good for her to have a reliable support system who shouldn’t be scared away by this news. We still haven’t yet seen Randall’s mother in the present day, but his viral video was enough to make the man who seems to be her partner aware of his existence, though it’s still not clear whether she’s alive and how such an approach will hit a surely unprepared Randall.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What I’m Watching: A Teacher

A Teacher: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

This is playing out a bit like a horror movie, with regrettable decisions progressing this illicit relationship that continues to break the rules with flagrant disregard for anything other than getting caught from Claire. Channeling her feelings for Eric into manufactured passion for her clueless husband will likely only serve to alert him to the fact that something else is going on in her life, since nothing he’s doing should make her that excited. She has to realize that, even if people don’t suspect her of having an affair with a student, it would be immediately clear who it was if anyone got wind of that allegation since she makes no effort whatsoever to conceal the closeness of her relationship with him. If I’m correct, his mother is the only one who knows that she was tutoring him, and I have a feeling that she’s going to prohibit her son from going out anytime soon, which will surely upset Claire, who seems to get a joy from being able to tell him what to do. Every time that happens and he compromises his principles or plans, it makes this all the more troubling since she really does have the power in a way that he can’t. It’s also possible that she’ll choose to confide in her seemingly free-spirited friend and fellow teacher Kathryn, a strategy which I believe is what will ultimately lead to the affair being exposed. With six episodes left to go, I’m not sure how soon that will happen, but when it does, it’s going to be a brutal and devastating development.

Round Two: Industry

Industry: Season 1, Episode 2 “Quiet and Nice” (B)

I wasn’t sure what would be the focus of this second episode in the wake of Hari’s suicide. At first, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed since no one mentioned it, and then it became clear that the biggest impact it had was on encouraging the bank to protect itself against possible charges of wrongdoing. Gus, who was already setting his own boundaries, to a degree, absolutely crossed them by speaking brashly about where he did and didn’t want to work when Sara told him his division was being shut down. Harper continues to stand out, and Eric, who isn’t abusive and manipulative like Kenny, has noticed and even tried to recommend her to more important people. It seems that his record isn’t entirely clean, and his style might be just as offensive to some for other reasons. It’s good to see Yasmin and Harper finding support - and roommates - in each other, and maybe Harper’s more positive experience, however built on fabricated history it may be, can rub off on Yasmin as she faces constant demeaning harassment. Harper’s forged transcript is likely to catch up with her eventually, but what happened on the ride home in the previous episode seems like it would be more of a present threat. It seemed like Daria, played by actress Freya Mavor, a standout performer in the film “The Keeper,” would be a nemesis for Harper, but she may well be yet another ally given the supportive way she interacted with her in this hour.

What I’m Watching: His Dark Materials (Season Premiere)

His Dark Materials: Season 2, Episode 1 “The City of Magpies” (B+)

I was very excited when this show started last year – as I was when the 2007 film “The Golden Compass” was set to premiere – because I really liked the books when I read them as a teenager and I had high expectations. The first season got off to a strong start before becoming a bit less focused and interesting, and I think my enthusiasm was renewed first by a trailer I saw for season two and then by the extended “previously on” segment that made it feel like what I’ve always wanted it to be. The idea of the sky being open to a new world means that it’s something the Magisterium can no longer continue to deny as a reality, though they’re still trying to make only slow progress. Mrs. Coulter is asserting her usefulness, which she showed in her brutal interrogation of her witch captive, though ultimately it just led to the arrival of more witches and the deaths of a number of the higher-ups. Lee and Serafina are taking active steps to support Lyra even though she’s missing, and Mrs. Coulter wasn’t happy to hear her name mentioned as something more important that even her mother thought she was. I’m glad to see Lyra and Will together, learning about talking animals and how to make omelets while hearing frightening stories of Spectres and seeing them in action. Lyra doubting Will’s true intentions isn’t going to be productive, but at least it will show to her that he’s truly important to the whole picture.

Monday, November 16, 2020

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 9 “East/West” (B-)

While I can appreciate the focus on two strong characters from this season, I don’t love the idea of spending an entire hour away from the rest of the ensemble, especially knowing that there are only two installments remaining in this season. It wasn’t clear for the first few minutes exactly where or when we were, with only Omie and Constant there to give any indication of the general time. We saw Rabbi soon after with Satchel in tow, not doing a great job of blending in thanks to Rabbi’s thick Irish accent and the color of Satchel’s skin, which was not something anyone in town appreciated. Staying at a motel where the two owners weren’t so fond of people who looked like Satchel made them stand out a bit more, though that wasn’t what ended up being the problem. Instead, Satchel nearly got taken in – or worse – by a prying police officer and Rabbi didn’t have an easy time getting his money, which the bank owners had decided to go ahead and take for themselves because they found it in the walls. That scene with the tornado was decidedly intense, making it clear that this show takes place in the Midwest and reminiscent of “A Serious Man.” The final scene, which was presented in color, wasn’t all that emphatic, and I’d much rather know what’s going on back in Kansas City with the many characters we left behind there, including those we last saw potentially bleeding to death on the ground in a train station.

Take Three: Roadkill

Roadkill: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Peter walked away with nothing more than an exaggerated arm injury and Charmian got killed in what was deemed a hit and run. Peter got a whole lot of bad news in this hour, which also included Steff’s death, which prompted Rose to come forward and speak directly to Duncan about how insistent she was on meeting her father. Lily has proven herself to be very passionate about how she feels Peter has dictated her family’s life and determined to hold him to account for his misdeeds, a trial served with a side of uncooked chicken. I’m always pleased with any opportunity to see Ophelia Lovibond from “Trying” and “Elementary,” who showed up as second daughter Susan, who didn’t think much of her father but had plenty of points of disagreement with her sister too. Duncan was forceful in showing up and talking to his boss, who correctly deduced that he was sleeping with Julia and therefore not a reliable advisor. Julia herself was approached by elements clearly intent on bringing Dawn down as prime minister, and the idea that Peter might be put forward as a replacement candidate just before Charmian’s newspaper prints the latest allegations against him is enticing from a dramatic perspective. It’s a relief that Charmian’s last-minute research didn’t get destroyed and that Rochelle made what was a truly difficult decision to share it despite the near-certainty that it will undo the case she worked hard to win. The fury Madeleine expressed toward Peter when he showed up and tried to get her to stop throwing her own possessions at him is likely indicative of what most in his family and work circle think of him, and he’s going to have few friends advocating for him when he needs them most.

What I’m Watching: The Undoing

The Undoing: Season 1, Episode 4 “See No Evil” (B+)

I’m glad to see that this show is making strong use of its supporting cast, giving a superb spotlight in this episode to Donald Sutherland, who demonstrated his contempt for Jonathan, his unyielding support for his daughter, and his ability to make others understand how determined he is to have his will fulfilled. The look that he gave Jonathan when he showed up to the hospital to play affable doctor was extremely intense, and he was intent on making Grace understand that her image of her parents’ marriage as idyllic was deeply flawed. Grace was officially cleared as a suspect, but the fact that the police found the remarkably detailed oil painting of her that Elena made certainly serves to cast more doubt on them having no relationship. Haley is very good at her job, though her clients are making it very difficult. Going to see Fernando was a bold move on Jonathan’s part, and I forgot for a moment that they knew each other because Jonathan had been Miguel’s doctor. Bringing Jonathan on television was an even more daring and potentially reckless move, though Haley seemed to know what Jonathan was going to say, which absolutely creates the muck she promised she could deliver. The sadness he felt seemed forced, but Grace definitely did not expect him to say to the world that he should be viewed as a victim because he still felt like he was in love with a woman who wasn’t his wife. The second chance she was giving him is surely over now, and it’s hard to imagine that approach will play well with the public either.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead: World Beyond

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 7 “Truth or Dare” (B+)

One of the things that appealed to me most about “Fear the Walking Dead” when it started was the idea of seeing how life transitioned from normal to zombie apocalypse, and seeing how people’s behavior changed during that time. What’s most interesting, of course, is how the government works and what that structure looks like, which is why I’m hoping we’ll see more of Elizabeth and her organization in the remaining three episodes of this season or a good portion of the next one. Huck’s flashbacks started out positively, with her throwing darts blindfolded and enjoying the fulfillment of military service. But all that changed in a big way when she was ordered to shoot indiscriminately and kill anything that was moving, even if was a live person. After enduring a lot of difficulty during that time, she was cool and collected under considerable pressure when Walter had Hope as a hostage, and her ease killing him seemed to bother the usually unshakeable Hope. Confiding in Huck about killing Elton’s mom was a good decision since now she’s been able to share it with someone who wasn’t Elton, and hopefully the affection he feels for her won’t compel her to spontaneously confess. Percy pushing her to reveal the worst thing she’d ever done didn’t help matters at all, and Silas did not seem pleased that he was crushing on an apparently interested – if initially confused – Iris. Any of that romance is going to have to be put on hold given the unfortunate news that Tony has been killed (maybe it’s just stage makeup again?) and Silas seems to be the prime suspect.

What I’m Watching: The Crown (Season Premiere)

The Crown: Season 4, Episode 1 “Gold Stick” (B+)

This was my top drama series last season, and it’s nice to know that at least one of the shows I watch was able to finish filming its latest slate of episodes before the coronavirus pandemic hit. This episode was a strong and powerful introduction to new storylines and characters, as well as an emphatic goodbye to one regular player. I’ve seen intense cinematic depictions of the IRA in films like “’71,” and there was something about the serenity of Lord Mountbatten’s trip, which ended so violently with a purposeful attack. That his last conversation with Charles was not a pleasant one made his untimely death all the more painful, and that conversation between Charles and his father about their strained relationship was a formidable showcase for both Josh O’Connor and Tobias Menzies. Through all of this, Charles also met someone who we know is going to become a big part of his life. I’m not familiar with actress Emma Corrin, but she seems like a great fit to portray the legendary Diana. It’s also a delight to see Gillian Anderson, best known for roles in “The X-Files” and “Sex Education,” take on the role of Margaret Thatcher. She’s already been memorable and more than a match for Olivia Colman in their scenes together. I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of this season and will just have to figure out how often I’ll treat myself to another episode of this show since all ten installments are now available. Look out for new reviews at least once a week if not more frequently.

What I’m Watching: The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 3 “Chapter 11: The Heiress” (B+)

If there’s one undeniable compliment I can give this show, it’s that the casting is top-notch. I was thinking about how the ship almost burning up as it entered the atmosphere was reminiscent of an episode of “Battlestar Galactica,” and I was even more excited than I was to see Timothy Olyphant the last time a supposed Mandalorian took off a helmet to find that it was none other than Katee Sackhoff. Best known as Starbuck, the actress was also on the underrated crime series “Longmire” for a while, and she’s absolutely a perfect fit for this show and its universe. I like that she has her own theory about Mandalor and her aspirations to be ruler of the cursed planet, and that our Mandalorian respects her use of his familiar phrases like “This is the way.” On the note of recognizable faces, I was also pleased to see Titus Welliver from “Lost” and “Bosch,” though it’s disappointing that his appearance was so brief. We also got to see Moff Gideon again, and it’s nice to know that the storylines are connected and that, hopefully, we’ll encounter both Bo-Katan and Gideon again. The action in this episode was more enticing than usual, and just as fourteen-year-old me remembers the excitement of seeing a bunch of Jedi with lightsabers in “Attack of the Clones,” it’s always a delight to see multiple Mandalorians showing up to saving the day, especially when they’re actually Mandalorians and not just wearers of the armor. Now, let’s get some Jedi back in the picture!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Round Two: Valley of Tears

Valley of Tears: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This show really seems to fluctuate between the intensity of battle when the soldiers are suddenly under attack and a more casual attitude expressed by those who haven’t yet accepted the reality of what’s going on around them. The best example is Lior Ashkenazi’s Menny, who just wants to drive his nice car up to try to find his son and is happy to eat the food that his unexpected passenger has brought despite the fact that it’s Yom Kippur. It was jarring to see the nonchalant way in which the commanders told the soldiers to eat the fruit and vegetables that they had stockpiled to break their fast so that they would be ready even without a confirmed idea of what the engagement was going to be. Avinoam has been panicking since the first scene of the previous episode, and it’s clear that, even though his intelligence is good, his attitude isn’t too helpful. Yoav coming back to save him after locking him in resulted in a complicated reaction from Avinoam, whose knowledge of the base and the ways to either hide or escape it are going to be extremely crucial to everyone’s survival. It’s also clear that Dafna isn’t going to be told that she needs to leave just because she’s a woman, and she’s intent on having a more active role in whatever is to come. The final moment of this episode and the one before it was powerful, and the inclusion of real footage is a nice touch. I’ll look forward to watching the next two episodes when they premiere this coming Thursday.

Pilot Review: Valley of Tears

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Round Two: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 2 “Die Alysis” (B+)

It’s a fun experience watching this show with my in-laws since my mother-in-law gave my father-in-law a kidney, and therefore they’re particularly attuned to the plot points that speak to them as being realistic and others that seem much more far-fetched. Obviously, this is a comedy, as evidenced best by the absurd opening credits featuring the bloody organs singing gleefully. It sticks with the sitcom format, introducing the group of friends who all sit during dialysis together and complain about the various elements of their lives that aren’t great. Briga Heelan from “Ground Floor” and “Great News” is the standout from that crowd, instantly memorable and considerably more aggressive than the rest, to the point that she didn’t tell her employers about dialysis because she was determined not to lose her job. The other great new addition was Linda Lavin, last seen on another CBS sitcom, “9JKL,” who made a formidable impression offering unsolicited and unsubtle advice to Gina about taking Drew up on his offer to come live with him. Changing how she takes care of her body is going to be a major adjustment, and she seems ready to ensure that Drew is also affected by this new partnership. Reading a book instead of talking to her was never going to work well, and now he’s going to be forced to interact with the neighbors he’s spent so long avoiding. This setup may have been expected, but it’s going to lead to some good comedy, especially when Maddie meets the new woman living in her dad’s house without the context she might need.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 3 “Changes” (B+)

It’s going to be weird watching this show this year – and likely other series when they start to return – because I keep noticing the social distancing and mask-wearing safeguards the characters are taking and comparing them with what I do in my own life (like wearing a mask when I’m walking around outside, not just when people come up to me, and not offering anyone a ride). I did appreciate a bit of mask humor when Kate wanted to be funny and Toby wasn’t so sure, but fortunately that went well and Ellie was actually impressed with the way that she saw Kate and Toby fight. It’s a relief that Kevin went about apologizing to Madison for what he hadn’t realized he did wrong and that the truth about her eating disorder came out so that they can get to work on trying to find a path forward together since they really don’t know each other all that well. The flashbacks to Jack training Kevin while thinking about his own workouts with his father were very powerful. I’m impressed with Randall’s selection of a Black therapist played by Keith Powell, from “30 Rock” and the just-axed “Connecting,” and the fact that Dr. Vance isn’t going to go easy on him despite being casual and relatable. Having to discipline Tess right at that point was a great test of his ability to balance support for free expression while also trying to guide her in the right direction. I wasn’t sure what to think about the new Vietnamese characters introduced, and I definitely didn’t expect that they’d have a connection to Randall’s birth mother, though we still don’t know plenty, including what time period those scenes were set in, a typically ambiguous tease from this show.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Take Three: A Teacher

A Teacher: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

It’s always uncomfortable to watch lies spiral out of control, beginning with simple untruths that weren’t meant to cover anything significant and then turning into a far more problematic bit of damning evidence. Eric went ahead and invented an imaginary college girlfriend to cover for Claire’s extremely questionable decision not to identify herself as a teacher and instead escort her high school student to a college party. While he doesn’t act like a high schooler in many respects, choosing to just ignore Claire’s text messages when he ditched her for their latest study session was immature even if it did serve the typical purpose of such antics: push someone away so they only want you more. Claire was the one who was drinking at the dance with Kathryn, an idea that didn’t seem too good and likely resulted in her being more open to the possibility of something happening with Eric, which I was at least relieved to see didn’t take place on school property. It’s very likely that someone saw them leave together, but that’s a problem for another episode. What did seem to be confirmed in the final moments here was that the power dynamic was firmly shifted in Claire’s favor, with her as the one who could drive him and then telling him that they didn’t have to do anything before essentially ordering him to get in the backseat. I do believe they’ll be undone by someone else witnessing them rather than either of them sharing it since they’re both so wrapped up in their feelings for each other that they can’t see the potentially destructive nature of what they’ve now officially done.

Round Two: A Teacher

A Teacher: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

Much of this episode felt like a series of bad decisions, and it was somewhat of a relief to see Claire finally prevent a really bad situation from happening when Eric tried to kiss her at school. I’m not sure why she didn’t see that coming after how she acted with him, bringing him to an alcohol-fueled party when she could have easily avoided it and then accepting his Instagram request to follow her. His mom seems to believe it’s much more innocent than it is, and Claire’s brother wasn’t alarmed either when a kid he had just busted for drinking wanted to call his teacher to come pick him up. There’s no turning back now, and it’s a good thing that Eric hasn’t shared his affinity for her with his friends in any sort of bragging way since they’ll at least be able to unpack it without anyone else knowing what has transpired. There are evidently problems that exist in Claire’s marriage, since Matt’s band-related impulse buy didn’t seem to be the first instance of them not talking about things. He doesn’t appear interested enough in anything that his wife does to notice that she’s spending way too much time with a student, going to his house and having him call her by her first name. What she does after this will be particularly interesting, though presumably this show will showcase them having an affair even if it seems like a situation they’d both want to avoid because of the potential consequences for both of them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Pilot Review: A Teacher

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: Industry

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

What I’m Watching: Soulmates (Season Finale)

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 6 “The (Power) Ballad of Caitlin Jones” (B-)

This episode was even more peculiar and off-putting than any of the others this season, introducing a creepy storyline that never quite got resolved and then ended up ending on a much more haunting note that I had hoped or expected. While I think I originally saw Betsy Brandt on “Breaking Bad,” I found her considerably more endearing on “Life in Pieces,” which allowed her to show her comedic skills. This part found her once again portraying a miserable character with very little agency over her own life, including not being able to say no to an obnoxious coworker and failing to get her do-nothing boyfriend to move out of her apartment. J.J. Feild was undeniably creepy as Nathan, who was too charming at first and then revealed his fascination with hurting others that he wanted to share with Caitlin, and Tom Goodman-Hill portrayed a version of the useless husband he played on “Humans” here as the completely clueless Doug, whose ultimate fate was brutal but not surprising. I guess the message here is that the soul test can compel people to force themselves to be compatible, navigating what they don’t realize they might actually like or need in their lives. I had a feeling she was going to stab Nathan too at the end, though them kissing and proclaiming their love was a similarly dark and weird finish to last week’s vomiting partners. This is a peculiar and off-putting end to this first season which makes me moderately intrigued to see more but wondering what the need is for quite so much darkness.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Sarah Snook and David Costabile

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Nadir” (B)

Part of the appeal of having this be an anthology series is that every season features new characters, but it also means that any of them are vulnerable to being killed off at any time, which can be disappointing. It looked for a moment like the earliest casualty of this episode would be Josto after his brother was released, much to his surprise, but instead the two of them seemed to get along fine and be more resolved in their determination to move forward united. Deafy was bold as usual, marching in to show his gun and his badge and breaking down for Loy why it was that he didn’t believe criminals could hold to any set of principles because they thought of themselves as above the law. Though they managed to locate Zelmare and Swanee, there were many people caught in the crossfire, and Odis getting out of the car meant that Deafy was one of them, shot right before Swanee. Zelmare just charged forward and got out of there with her life, and it’s likely that many will pay for the fact that the woman she loved was just killed, surely at Loy’s behest since he didn’t want any loose ends after giving up two people he promised to protect. I’m not eager to see what Oraetta is planning as revenge after she got spooked by news that her poisoning act may well be uncovered, though I’d like to hope that, as the most moral voice on this show, Ethelrida might be able to outwit her malicious would-be killer.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Take Three: The Undoing

The Undoing: Season 1, Episode 3 “Do No Harm” (B)

While the story here continues to be interesting, I’m noting that much of the dialogue, particularly the interviews involving Detective Mendoza, feels clunky and less than realistic. I do like that there’s a focus on all aspects of this, including the lawyers involved. I would never have recognized actor Douglas Hodge, who played the Badger, from another role of his that I really enjoyed, as military commander General Velementov on “The Great.” His approach to his case was a relatively unfriendly one, but even though he indicated unhelpfulness with Jonathan, he nailed it with Grace, expressing that he didn’t think Jonathan had done it either but that he wasn’t terribly likeable, which wouldn’t be good for his case. Hayley Fitzgerald was just as direct, promising Grace that this trial wouldn’t help her marriage at all and would simply serve to create muck to cloud the prosecution’s case. Henry is experiencing a wave of complicated emotions, and his anger at his father when they went to go see him in jail was replaced by a sadness when he had to leave. Henry’s experience in prison isn’t going well at all, and his best hope is to be placed in solitary for his own protection given how little time it took for him to get into a serious fight. After being confronted by Fernando, Grace thought she was doing the right thing by going to talk to the police, but now she has an entirely new startling reality to contend with: that she may be a person of interest because she walked near the studio where Elena was murdered. It’s unlikely that she was indeed involved and is complicit in something that she’s repressed, but she’s sure to be tried in the court of public opinion before any of that is proven.

Round Two: Roadkill

Roadkill: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This show is only supposed to be four episodes, and there’s so much happening that it seems unlikely that it will all be able to be wrapped up in that short a time. It reminds me a bit of “Bodyguard” and how things moved on that show, constantly full of surprises that reverberated in terms of their lasting effects. We also saw not one but two main characters get into potentially deadly car accidents, though I think it’s a likelier bet that Charmian didn’t survive while Peter, who is the main character of this show, probably did. Charmian’s trip to the United States didn’t go particularly well since her BA contact appeared to be on to her as he plied her with drinks and she was followed in a sketchy neighborhood only to be hit by a car while running away. She didn’t say enough to Luke on the phone for her important breakthrough to survive if she doesn’t, and Peter has plenty of other problems he has to deal with at the moment. Duncan’s allegiance to his boss was clarified as he expressed displeasure at Julia having told the prime minister something he had shared in confidence, and his guerilla DNA testing was done strictly to protect Peter. His daughter’s decision to talk to her mother about the elephant in the room created some problems, and it’s not going to be good when it’s inevitably revealed that he has another daughter who happened to be at the center of a prison riot. This cast is sprawling and terrific, and I was pleased to see a new addition to it in this episode in the form of Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played a similar buttoned-up part in a much more comedic show, “Intelligence,” as Vanessa, who doesn’t have much patience for Peter’s antics and style.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead: World Beyond

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 6 “Shadow Puppets” (B+)

I appreciate the pivot that happened in this episode, changing the dynamic considerably by adding two new players. Percy definitely reminded me of many con artists from “The Walking Dead” who seemed harmless at first and then turned out to have nefarious intentions, but in this case it all turned out better than expected. The idea of someone having been killed by a gunshot rather than an empty made the threat much more intense, but of course it was actually just some stage makeup so that Tony could pop up and steal all of their stuff while no one even thought to watch to see if a dead body was going to move. What differentiates our main characters – and what made Percy come back for them – was that Hope decided to turn back after she heard the gunshot. It was refreshing to learn that Tony used to be an illusionist in Las Vegas, and that he uses the skills he learned there to put on a show so that they can steal without directly hurting people. Ted Sutherland, who plays Percy, appeared in a couple episodes of “Doom Patrol,” and I’m thrilled to see Scott Adsit, best known for “30 Rock,” in the role of Tony, using his comic abilities to portray a much more serious character. Talking adult-to-adult with Felix about the patch that might help them out at any refueling stations indicates a part of this world that I very much look forward to exploring soon. I don’t think that Iris’ enthusiasm for reading Elton’s mom’s script is going to work out well in the end, but maybe it will make her endearing enough that he’ll forgive her once he inevitably learns the truth. The closing light show was pretty cool, I’ll admit.

Pilot Review: Moonbase 8

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games (Season Finale)

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 10 “Open Season” (B+)

This season has been about bombs, the demonization of Richard Jewell, and the hunt for Eric Rudolph, but it has also been about relationships. Brennan was a stubborn character when he was first introduced, completely unwilling to hear anyone else’s opinion, and he managed to transform completely into someone able to admit his mistakes and partner with those he had previously ignored, namely his new friend Earl. Having the two of them meet for a low-key celebration following Eric’s conviction was a great way to end, especially after Brennan was fired for his autonomy and Earl had to aid in sparing Eric the death penalty by noting the importance of finding the 270 pounds of explosives that he had left in places that could endanger the lives of many. After he was last seen betraying Hannah’s trust, Eric proved himself to be even more despicable by proudly admitting to his mother that he bombed the Olympics when they went there together as a family and proclaiming himself a god. Richard arguing for his right to some opportunity given that he had never committed a crime was further evidence that this followed him for his entire life, even if he did end up with a job where people appeared to support him at the time of Eric’s conviction. It’s sad to know that both Kathy and Richard died before their case was settled, each irreparably affected by the way the story was reported. This season was just as well-done and involving as the first, and I hope that we’ll see a third installment coming out sometime in the future.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Cameron Britton as Richard and Arliss Howard as Earl

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 9 “Don’t Tread on Me” (B+)

This is the sort of episode that is great to watch but makes me wonder how true to what really happened it is. Things didn’t look good when both the militia and the FBI had their ranks questioning the authority and mindset of their leaders, and everyone had their guns drawn. Brennan and Earl kept their cool while they were being treated like hostages by the militia, and Brennan knew just what to say to put himself on equal footing with Big John rather than seem like he thought he was smarter or more educated. As Earl predicted, knowing that Eric was responsible for the Olympics bombing was enough to turn Big John and then all of his people, and the last straw was his cruel murder of the dog once he knew that he was out of options. It definitely seemed like the militia members were ready to kill him, but thanks to diplomatic efforts by both Brennan and Big John, they’re now working together in Brennan’s final official act to find the man who planted bombs all around the FBI base camp while pretending that he only wanted a way out to escape to safety. Earl was bold to try to defuse the bomb on his own, and he lucked out with the timing and that he didn’t get blown up in the process. This show certainly knows how to feature good speeches, even if, as I mentioned above, they likely didn’t play out exactly that way in real life.

Friday, November 6, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 2 “Chapter 10: The Passenger” (B-)

I can’t be the only one who finds this show repetitive and formulaic. Every episode is just another trip that barely goes okay with a different enemy and reason that the Mandalorian is in trouble. He did manage to get out of being knocked off his exploded speeder and robbed pretty well, responding in kind after giving away his jetpack for the life of the child by having it fly right back to him. Though he was initially grumbly about it, he didn’t seem to object all that much to the interplanetary errand that Peli gave him. This show’s inherently comic moments catch me off-guard sometimes, like Baby Yoda eating the eggs because he thought that they were food. It’s strange to think of the pilots in that classic orange gear as a potential threat since they’re the good guys (the Mandalorian isn’t, I suppose) and they seemed ready to let him go when he signed off with a friendly “May the force be with you.” As usual, he worked his way out of that one without too many issues, and his good deeds seem to have played out in his favor to balance out the clearly illegal things he’s done. This season appears to have a theme of creatures as the many villain, with those giant spiders representing a pretty intense threat that, as usual, he dealt with without getting too agitated, and thanks in part to help from those kind New Republic pilots who were still considering arresting him at that point.

Pilot Review: Two Weeks to Live

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pilot Review: B Positive

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Ratched

Ratched: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Dance” (B+)

This episode was a bit dizzying because of the focus on Charlotte, played by the always terrific Sophie Okonedo, and her multiple personalities. The stories she told about her harrowing experiences were extremely disturbing, continuing this show’s trend of featuring such gruesome content in every episode. Dr. Hanover was clearly losing whatever cool he had left before he came in to the restaurant to meet Mildred, and he reached a boiling point when he had to attend the dance with Nurse Bucket, something he truly couldn’t stand. It took a lot for Mildred to feel sympathy for her sworn enemy – who mirrored the same hateful feelings right back at her – but Dr. Hanover managed to accomplish that with his outburst. It was good to see the friendship between Bucket and Louise, who may not have it out for Mildred quite as much anymore after what happened, though I suspect that Mildred will be seeing red following the shooting of Gwendolyn, who she was just starting to see as more than a friend. Every part of the dance seemed like a bad idea, and it’s not easy to see what Mildred’s endgame was supposed to be since she is likely aware of how dangerous her brother is, even if she doesn’t want him to die. Dolly pulling out a gun changed the dynamic in a real way, and her eagerness to shoot Gwendolyn, which was hardly necessary, seemed to shake even Edmond. I’m not sure what happens next, but I don’t think it’s going to be good for anyone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Round Two: The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit: Season 1, Episode 2 “Exchanges” (B+)

I was very impressed by the first hour of this limited series and only took this long to continue with it because of other television episodes and film festival fare on my plate. This second installment took a bit of a different turn with Beth’s departure from the orphanage but maintained its pacing and intriguing content. It was jarring to see Beth so easily lifted out from her banal existence to an equally mediocre one, with a miserable mother and entirely absent father whose rare presence didn’t make things any better. Now that Anya Taylor-Joy has taken over the role of Beth, I want to take a moment to praise the performance of Isla Johnston, who made her very interesting as a young child. I’m also mesmerized by Marielle Heller as her adoptive mother Alma. I didn’t realize that she was played by Marielle Heller, best known as director of the Oscar-nominated films “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Though she was bullied frequently at school, in part because of her clothing, it was good to see Beth find a way to get into the chess scene, smartly making a deal with Mr. Shaibel to sponsor her first tournament entry because he was just as confident as she was that she would win. I immediately pegged her yawn-prone, obnoxious opponent Beltik from actor Harry Melling’s role as Sergeant Smythe in the recent film release “The Keeper” (he also apparently played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series). The excitement that Alma has now found for Beth’s abilities is great, but the lie they are perpetuating and Beth’s use of her medication are concerning elements that will surely come up again soon.

What I’m Watching: Soulmates

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 5 “Break On Through” (B)

I’ll give this show credit for having each of its anthology installments feel totally different, even if the results haven’t recently been completely fantastic. The concept here was intriguing but disturbing, especially because of just how much this suicide cult preyed on those who were grieving. It seemed far too obvious that they were taking their phones and then telling them to leave all of their money to the church rather than to anyone in their lives, but these people were at a point where they thought a reunion in heaven was their best chance at happiness, so they weren’t really concerned about their worldly possessions (aside from Travis, who spoke up and was suspiciously found dead a short time later). I try to wait to look up who actors are until after watching an episode, but I had to check to identify Kurt, who was played by Charlie Heaton, best known as Jonathan on “Stranger Things.” I recognized Malin Akerman from “Billions” as Martha, and I know I’ve seen Steven Mackintosh, who played Brother Samson, from something other than his recent performance in “Rocketman.” I didn’t know how this episode was going to end since death seemed likely for both main characters, but it was nice that, after such a creepy focus for most of the hour, things ended up being someone comedic, with them realizing that they should live and be with each other, something they might be able to focus on once they eventually stopped vomiting. It was a bit strange but also endearing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What I’m Watching: We Are Who We Are (Series Finale)

We Are Who We Are: Season 1, Episode 8 “Right here, right now #8” (B)

I’m always wary of getting into limited series because, unlike shows that may or may not be renewed for successive seasons, there exists a very low chance that the story will continue past its prescribed end. While the trend has recently been for more anthology or returning limited series, I think the best we can hope for when it comes to this is that the “Call Me By Your Name” sequel actually gets made so we see more of Luca Guadagnino’s cinematic vision. I was disappointed that we only saw two of the characters in this hour aside from a brief introduction to say goodbye to a few others. This show has been both fascinating and frustrating, presenting immensely intriguing characters and exploring some of them satisfactorily while ignoring others. Maggie telling Sarah that she had to have the Poythress family moved because of Richard’s behavior at the end of the last installment led to that being a set decision at the start of this one, something that neither of his children were happy about and weren’t trying to hide. Taking two trains to a concert was an odd ending for Fraser and Caitlin, and the experiences they had with other people that should have been wonderful and transformative then led to them making out, realizing that maybe they do feel romantically for each other, something they had previously denied. Britney’s expression of affection for Caitlin was also a surprise, and I suppose it’s just further evidence of this show’s title, showcasing characters who just want to be who they want to be, and may not even have any idea what that means just yet. I’ll definitely be watching these young actors to see what they do next, and wondering about what happens with all the supporting players and adults we didn’t get to see in this closing hour.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Jordan Kristine Seamón as Caitlin

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 7 “Lay Away” (B+)

One thing I truly appreciate is directness, even when it seems to stand in the face of logic and is clearly based on absolute lies. That was the case with Josto’s speech to Loy, telling him that Satchel was dead but that he wanted to grieve with them. Loy was smart to respond calmly and explicitly, asking to see the body to verify that the claim he was making was actually true. Both Josto and Loy have lost their tempers recently – Loy in this episode with the belt – and seeing them both acting in a calm manner was indicative of the wheels turning and scheming going on. Being offered Gaetano as a sacrificial lamb was enough to indicate to Loy that Josto probably wanted him dead, and that letting him go would both confuse and frustrate him. Constant’s would-be hit was fortunately prevented by a “mama lion” ready with a great cautionary tale about how she wasn’t in the cage for her protection. Deafy once again managed to surprise Odis and compel him to pretend to be offended at accusations of corruption, and the response to “I don’t get into your car, you get into mine” was hilarious since it was totally not what he expected. If Odis makes it out of this alive, unscathed, and still in his job, I’ll be truly shocked. As always, one of the most fascinating parts of the episode came at the very beginning with Oraetta’s deadly macaroon delivery. It won’t take much for her to figure out that it was Ethelrida who sent it, and she’ll likely have something far more elaborate planned to get her revenge.