Monday, November 30, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Undoing (Series Finale)

The Undoing: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Bloody Truth” (B)

I think I was expecting a big surprise to happen here that would reveal an unknown culprit or something that we never would have thought to consider, but instead it just turned out that Jonathan snapped and was guilty. Grace offering to testify on his behalf felt like a trap from the start, and Haley was only concerned about her apathy rather than her deliberate self-sabotage so that she could be deemed unreliable and make Jonathan look guilty in the process. That came after Haley succeeded in triggering Fernando into exploding and looking like a suspect, but no one even had to go there since, after all, he didn’t do it, and he was just being fiercely protective of his own son. Both Haley and Catherine, the prosecutor, were cutthroat and happy to employ tricks to sway the jury, and Catherine obviously managed to get a better handle on the judge’s temperament and to have him continually side with her. Jonathan not showing up for court was a dramatic development, and I do like that he didn’t just become a completely different person now that it was clear that he was guilty, but that he instead presented a lack of connection with the reality of his circumstances, eager to spend time with his son when he knew that his fate was sealed. The scene on the bridge was indeed powerful, and an emphatic end to this show, but there wasn’t anything overly transformative that compelled me to think differently about these characters, which I had hoped for and to a degree expected. This was still a good effort featuring some very solid and memorable performances, and I suspect it will be a significant player during awards season.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead: World Beyond (Season Finale)

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 10 “In This Life” (B+)

This finale did exactly what I hoped it world: made me much more excited for season two than I think I may ever have been over the course of this first season. That’s not to say that it was bad, more just that I knew it always had the potential to be really great and that this cliffhanger ending made me feel like the content coming is going to be even more worthwhile, covering the more interesting side of this story that up until now has been so rarely featured. I would have expected to see Elizabeth more, but perhaps by keeping her mostly out of sight, that means her more frequent future appearances will be that much better. Opening with Leo and Lyla talking about the quality of her lentils was a classic season finale move, featuring a character we’ve barely gotten to know in a casual moment to help explain why it was that Huck was sent to get Hope. Huck didn’t do so well trying to convince first Hope and then Felix and Iris that she was doing the right thing, and Hope was smart to put a gun to her own head in order to save Felix’s life when Huck was about to kill him. Even though their plan isn’t clear, I like the idea that they’re going to prevail because everyone underestimates their power as sisters. I was happy to see Silas redeemed and even gladder that he was able to be the hero and enable Elton and Percy to get away. His parting message of “don’t be the monster” was great, and it’s also good to know that he’s not likely to die but instead going to end up in the custody of the CRM, which could put him back in contact with Hope. My favorite part of the episode – and likely the season – was Felix running into Will in the woods and learning that he happens to have an army of people with him who are actively resisting the CRM. I can’t wait to see more of that in season two.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Nicolas Cantu as Elton

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Deepest Cut” (B+)

I had expected this episode to focus much more on Huck and her past so that we could know her motivations for working with her mother to subvert this effort in whatever way she’s supposed to do it. Instead, the flashbacks had more to do with a sensitive and happily coupled Felix, whose partner Will wasn’t happy that he was constantly being loyal to Leo instead of prioritizing their relationship. Seeing him volunteer to go as part of the security detail was a huge blow for Felix, but that also explains why he feels it’s so important to protect Hope and Iris. In the present, he wasn’t nearly as fit and able as he’d like to think, falling and hurting himself when he tried to jump the fence, though Huck likely would have tried to leave him behind anyway since that appears to be part of her plan. Hope seemed almost offended that Iris suggested that Huck might be acting suspicious, but it turns out that she confirmed that and brought Felix’s gun with her to address it away from the rest of the group. I wasn’t sure what to make of Elton hallucinating Percy and going nuts on the empties, but that was also a setup for Percy to give us crucial information that serves to condemn Huck and absolve Silas of any wrongdoing. Percy and Tony weren’t supposed to be there, and they must have gotten in the way. I’m glad that, in this case, we don’t have to wait any time until the final episode, though I have a feeling that the conclusion of that hour is going to be quite a cliffhanger.

Take Three: Two Weeks to Live

Two Weeks to Live: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I’m very glad that Tina opted to turn around when Kim told her that she had left her fingerprints all over the scene, scolding her that “if you want to have fun, gloves and a gun.” Her presence is very entertaining, showing up first to shoot Ian with a crossbow and then terrifying Jay into submission when he offered himself up as Nicky before retreating since he didn’t want to sacrifice his life. She has some serious opinions about the way the world works, and suggesting that males not admitting that they like sweet drinks, musical theater, and something else I won’t write about here make up most of its problems is a humorous approach, and she obviously holds Kim to high standards, needlessly correcting her grammar in front of her new friends. Nicky bonded with Kim by introducing her to his beloved lonely tree, and he also laughed at her for thinking it was going to rain by looking at the clouds when his app told him otherwise before being proven very wrong. He also found the list, which is likely to change his perspective, and caused him to miss someone walking by the car. This crew is in trouble given the involvement of the police who are also definitely criminals, and I’m curious to see what this witness says. I still enjoy the small comedic moments most, like Nicky correcting Jay’s “bull in a Chinese shop” comments and Kim running into the glass door while she was in the bag.

What I’m Watching: Ratched

Ratched: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Bucket List” (B+)

This was a very eventful episode with numerous irreversible developments that set the stage for an extremely different setup going forward. Mildred is trying a new approach of honesty, telling Huck that she was a lesbian when he asked her out and not denying what Nurse Bucket surmised when she confronted her in the motel room. I was surprised to see that Bucket opted to be relatively cooperative with Mildred, forming an alliance that still involved Mildred withholding some important information from her so that she could present it straight to the funder for its full shock effect. They dismissed Dr. Hanover quickly and emphatically, and it’s possible that Mildred was fully aware of what could happen if he took Charlotte with her, which may have been what motivated her to allow them to leave together. Putting her in a closet was a bad idea, and Dr. Hanover paid for that mistake with his life. Mildred used that situation to her advantage to get paid by Lenore, who in turn ended up killed by her unforgiving son, whose own efforts to get his mother’s money failed when he found out he wasn’t in the will. I’m not sure if the remaining living characters will interact more in the season finale, but the notion of the nurses running the hospitals with no doctors is definitely intriguing, even if we know that it ultimately leads to the events of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Since the show was initially commissioned for two seasons, I’m sure the finale will set things in an interesting new direction.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit: Season 1, Episode 4 “Middle Game” (B+)

It’s so interesting to see how Beth responds to way her opponent acts and treats her. Girev was so kind and respectful, telling her what an honor it was to meet her, and she in turn purposely distracted him by walking around and pushing him to make a mistake. She heard Borgov talking about her in the elevator and referring to her as a drunk, but she should have had the upper hand due to her knowledge of the Russian language. She still managed to get thrown off during the match and resigned angrily, hardly the noble way in which Girev knocked over his king. Going upstairs to find her mother dead, something she didn’t realize until after she didn’t hear a reaction to her story, was a harrowing development that is clearly going to push her to self-medicate and take advantage of the surprising news from the doctor that a prescription isn’t needed for the pills she so likes in Mexico. Her father’s response to hearing that his wife was dead was so detached, and he didn’t seem to care at all that the girl he had adopted is now going to be living in a house all by herself with no one to support her. She’ll likely be spending all of her time in this chess world, indulging in alcohol and tranquilizers that she’ll use to try to keep herself focused. What she could use now is a friend, and hopefully she’ll grow closer with one of the many chess enthusiasts she’s met on the tournament circuit.

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 4, Episode 3 “Fairytale” (B+)

I feel like this show hasn’t typically proceeded along in a normal narrative fashion, instead introducing major events in the country or the world that have sought to disrupt what we’ve been watching and take us away from the featured characters. In this case, however, we stay firmly focused on Diana and the way in which she’s introduced to the royal lifestyle. Seeing them all make fun of her when she didn’t know who to bow to first was harsh, even worse than the treatment of Margaret Thatcher at Balmoral. I haven’t previously mentioned the presence of Emerald Fennell, a director who served as showrunner for “Killing Eve” and also made the best movie I’ve seen this year, the forthcoming “Promising Young Woman,” as Camilla, who was kinder than most of the royal types to Diana in training her on how to behave and follow the many rituals required. She realizes that Diana isn’t aware of much of what she needs to know, but she also didn’t pay quite as much attention as she should have to how the future princess acted at lunch, which could have clued her in to her eating disorder. It’s very true that the whirlwind romance everyone keeps talking about between Charles and Diana is something that the two of them don’t seem to feel nearly as strongly, which only Princess Margaret picked up on and sought to try to prevent since she doesn’t want prescribed marriages to continue causing heartbreak. They’re married now, and those of us born in the 1980s know that there’s plenty more of that coming.

What I’m Watching: The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 5 “Chapter 13: The Jedi” (B+)

I was curious to see a Jedi show up at the start of this episode with no additional context, and I had a feeling we had seen her before, otherwise her appearance might have been teased like many of the recent guest stars. It turns out I might have recognized her image from stills I’ve seen from animated Star Wars series, and I could tell who the actress was because of her voice. Rosario Dawson appeared in “Jane the Virgin” and was also a featured player on all of Netflix’s Marvel shows, most prominently in “Luke Cage.” She made an impression here as Ahsoka, who wields those two white lightsabers with style and used the darkness around her to slowly and methodically take out all of her opponents. It’s strange to think that the Mandalorian is primarily thought of as a criminal rather than as a hero, and therefore he easily gained passage into the city to meet with the Magistrate. I knew I recognized Lang from somewhere, and that’s because it was Michael Biehn from “The Terminator” and “Aliens,” still playing the same kind of role of the loyal soldier more than three decades later. The Mandalorian knew better than to think of him as honest, and fortunately he was able to fire off a shot before Lang reached for his other gun to take him out. It was disturbing to see the prisoners essentially hung right outside the gates, and of course this episode was a liberation story, continuing the work that the Mandalorian has done with his buddies on multiple planets. We learned Baby Yoda’s name – Grogo – and that the Mandalorian’s bond with him is so strong that Ahsoka won’t be able to train him. It’s no surprise that he has to travel to yet another world to find the next contact, and hopefully his knowledge of Grogo’s identity won’t stop him from referring to him as “kid.”

Friday, November 27, 2020

What I’m Watching: Valley of Tears

Valley of Tears: Season 1, Episode 6 “Rain on Us!” (B+)

Things don’t seem to be all that secure at HQ, better known as Tokyo, since Meni was able to just walk around, pick up a phone, and pose as a mysterious commander to give one unit an order to go pick up his son while no one was paying attention. We got to see more of the colonel played by Ohad Knoller, who I first encountered in his early roles in “The Bubble” and “Beaufort,” who was laying out the reality of the situation and seemed impressed by Dafna’s ability to focus on what was important even without the proper resources being available. She understands that, despite her desire to find Yoav, the safety and security of the entire military comes before one person since everyone deserves to be rescued. The group out on the hill managed to survive pretty well with the fire ordered by Caspi, but going back out to get the radio put them all at significant risk. Melahki was so casual and annoying on the radio with Dafna when he realized that Yoni was in his presence, and it was likely heartbreaking for Meni to hear that his son was alive and well but unwilling to speak to him. After Yoav got him through the minefield, Avinoam stepped up to save him, tying a tourniquet and dragging him an incredible distance. He wasn’t at all okay with the idea of shooting Yoav, and even worried about leaving a gun with him because he might do it himself. Survival doesn’t seem likely for either of them at this point, but I think they can prevail.

What I’m Watching: Valley of Tears

Valley of Tears: Season 1, Episode 5 “Stuck on the Hill” (B+)

Things are definitely serious now, with the joyride ended as Meni gave Melakhi some important advice about not trusting people – a notion he shouldn’t employ right now – before he went off to rejoin and rescue his friends. Telling the base that the pilot was still alive was a clever way to get help sent, but they ultimately decided to stay and defend the hill rather than go back and retreat. Hearing that the Syrians were at the Sea of Galilee was devastating news, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this is not an ordinary conflict. Dafna continues to remain calm under pressure, getting reserve drivers on the way so that they can be of help. It was strange to hear all about her from Yoav as he talked Avinoam down and kept him focused as they were navigating their way through the minefield. It was good to see Yoav acknowledge Avinoam’s skills and actually ask about him, and Avinoam gave him some decent advice about how to move forward with Dafna given the strong feelings he had towards her. While he did manage to get Avinoam through without incident, it was in a quiet moment immediately afterwards that Yoav set off a mine that appears to have killed him, which is going to strand Avinoam in the desert far from anyone else all by himself. He did fine when he came upon the Syrian soldier who Yoav then shot, but Avinoam could really use a friend to help him survive this.

Take Three: The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant: Season 1, Episode 3 “Funeralia” (B+)

It’s stressful watching this show because Cassie continues to do the worst possible thing at any given moment when there are so many other, better choices presenting themselves. She’s also never fully honest, telling Annie most of the truth but refusing to communicate with her when she went to Westchester (which she didn’t tell her) and only giving Shane part of the information so that he ended up freaking out at her when they walked into the dead passenger’s memorial. Why she thought that talking to Alex’s mom was a good idea is a mystery – though he did encourage it when she went into her memories/dreamworld to consult him – and that turned out to be much worse than she expected given her harsh reaction to the mere mention of Miranda’s name. At least she did get out of there alive and ran into Miranda on the train, prompting a response that suggests Miranda isn’t going to immediately kill her. I’m not sure what’s going on with Megan and her husband’s secret files, but that can’t end well and is likely going to be related to all this in a way that’s not yet clear. If Cassie makes bad choices, Annie deliberately ignores what she knows to be true, refusing to concede that her naked companion Max is her boyfriend and still asking him to do some hacking for her to help her out. Arguing when Max told her that Cassie couldn’t be her best friend was interesting, and shows the complexity of their relationship and the likely cyclical nature of Cassie never listening to Annie despite her legitimately trying to help.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Round Two: The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant: Season 1, Episode 2 “Rabbits” (B+)

This show is very frantic, and I mean that in a good way, since it taps into the panic that Cassie feels every time she realizes that another lie she had told is spiraling out of control. She’s definitely not making the right choices, and even her allies, like Megan, aren’t able to back her up since she can’t keep her story straight and is choosing to omit important things that then become suspicious as a result. The device that allows her to go back to memories and remembering conversations and facts is intriguing, and it’s a good way to keep Alex as part of the show, there as a figment of her imagination happy to give her as much attitude as necessary when she asks him questions that he can’t answer since he’s just an extension of her own consciousness. I’m very pleased with the casting of Zosia Mamet as her lawyer friend Annie since it’s an opportunity for the typically comedic actress to play the smart person in the room who can’t believe the way that Annie continues to make things worse by going out drinking, being late, and then not heeding her pre-agreed signals about what to say. I’m not sure I could have imagined a thriller starring Mamet and Kaley Cuoco, but they’re both doing great work. Cassie continues to be crafty in her pursuit of the truth, but she’s not the only one who’s taking steps to uncover what’s going on, which could put her in serious danger given the weapon we saw being brandished in the closing moments of this episode.

Pilot Review: The Flight Attendant

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: Saved by the Bell

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 25, 2020

Round Two: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 2 “Nowhere to Run” (B-)

I’ll admit that the first episode of this show surprised me, in part because I hadn’t read anything about it or seen more than a moment of the trailer to realize that it had to do with a cult or sex trafficking ring or whatever it is that most accurately describes what’s going on here. It was a bold decision, at the very least, to have Ryan Phillippe’s character get shot in the head at the end of the hour, though we’re obviously going to see him again in flashbacks so that he’s able to remain a credited part of the cast. Rick realizes that he can’t just go around shooting everyone who comes asking questions, but apparently his ex-wife doesn’t find him repugnant enough to know that warning him that Cassie is looking into him is going to put her in serious danger. This giant state of Montana feels a bit too small given that Jenny happens to know someone who might be the one person aware that Jerrie is missing, and that gave her a huge head start to go straight to the exact truck stop where security camera footage could be key to identifying Ronald. Danielle doesn’t seem too interested in doing anything but complaining, while Grace is coming up with active solutions that the equally clever Jerrie is able to support, like singing in a direct plot to appeal to their captor’s religious enthusiasm. Though I’m wary of the way some of these storylines are going, I’m still intrigued enough to see what comes next.

10 Foreign TV Shows (in English!) to Binge Now

Looking for your next great TV addiction? The pandemic has caused the production of many shows to be delayed, and one of the ways that networks and streaming services have responded is by bringing international fare to American audiences. Here are ten shows from other countries that you can enjoy without subtitles on U.S. channels.

The Capture (Peacock)
Watch this if you liked: Homeland or Bodyguard

This riveting thriller begins with someone witnessing a shocking event on CCTV and only gets more fascinating with every new revelation. Holliday Grainger (Animals) anchors a sleek, completely involving series that mixes technological advances with disconcerting conspiracies. Its already-commissioned second season can’t come soon enough. All six episodes of season one are available to stream on Peacock.

Stateless (Netflix)
Watch this if you want an intense combination of: Rectify and Orange is the New Black

This Australian drama is set at an immigration detention facility, looking at the experience from a number of perspectives including a guard, a refugee, a bureaucrat, and a woman running from her past. Strong performances from actors like Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) anchor a powerful story. All six episodes of this limited series are available to watch on Netflix.

Dead Pixels (CW)
Watch this if you liked: The League or iZombie

This half-hour comedy follows three friends who spend all of their time playing a beloved video game called Kingdom Scrolls whose routine is disrupted by the arrival of an overeager new player. It’s fun and probably more relatable now during the pandemic since most TV viewers find themselves in front of screens all day. Watch all six episodes on the CW, and hopefully the show will eventually return for the second season ordered last year by British network E4.

Five Bedrooms (Peacock)
Watch this if you liked: Friends or The Baker and the Beauty

This Australian series follows five acquaintances who decide to go in on a house together, getting to know each other much better as roommates. It’s a fun, light show that’s solid entertainment featuring great characters and performances. Watch all eight episodes of season one on Peacock, and get ready for season two, which resumed filming this June in Australia, to premiere sometime next year.

Normal People (Hulu)
Watch this for a serious show that combines elements of Master of None and The Affair

This Irish limited series premiered way back in April, but if you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time. I waited for months until I went back and realized just how incredible it is, featuring astonishing performances from actors Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as two friends who navigate a complicated and unstable romance over the course of a number of years. Watch all twelve half-hour episodes on Hulu.

Pure (HBO Max)
Watch this if you liked: Fleabag or Hello Ladies

This British dramedy focuses of Marnie, a 24-year-old woman who experiences constant debilitating sexual thoughts. It does incredible justice to its premise, ensuring that its graphic images and moments aren’t gratuitous. That’s thanks in large part to star Charly Clive and a terrific supporting cast whose characters have excellent storylines of their own. Watch all six half-hour episodes on HBO Max, which is sadly the entirety of this superb show since Channel 4 in the UK opted not to renew it for another round.

We Hunt Together (Showtime)
Watch this if you liked: Dexter or Killing Eve

This darkly funny drama features a cat-and-mouse game between criminals and the police, pitting two clever killers against two determined cops. All four actors are fantastic, especially Hermione Corfield (The Halcyon) and their backstories and subplots are rich with intrigue. British network Alibi recently picked up a second season, and all six episodes of season one can now be streamed on Showtime.

Roadkill (PBS)
Watch this if you liked: Babylon or The State Within

This very British political thriller is only four episodes long but has a tremendous number of excellent supporting characters with their own interwoven plotlines. Hugh Laurie (Avenue 5) is commanding as a flawed politician with a web of problems in his orbit, and the only disappointment to be found in this show is that there isn’t more of it. Watch all four episodes on PBS now.

Two Weeks to Live (HBO Max)
Watch this if you liked: The End of the F***ing World

Who knew that Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) was so funny? She’s a terrific fit for the role of a battle-trained young woman raised in isolation by her mother, played by Sian Clifford (Fleabag), acclimating to the real world. The comedy is formidably incorporated into a rather violent show. Watch all six episodes on HBO Max.

Quiz (AMC)
Watch this if you liked: A Very English Scandal or Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

This three-part limited series dramatizes the true story of a contestant, played by Matthew MacFadyen (Succession), accused of cheating during his appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? These three hours play out with the excitement of watching the live game show, featuring great performances by MacFadyen, Sian Clifford (Fleabag) and Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex). Watch all three parts on AMC.

You might also want to read: 
10 Terrific Movies You’ve Never Heard Of (And Where to Stream Them For Free)
25 Fantastic Foreign Films You Should Watch at Home Now

Want more? Read reviews of a number of episodes each week at and browse through over 250 one-minute video reviews of pilots from the past two years.

What I’m Watching: A Teacher

A Teacher: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

I called last week how I thought this was all going to come to light, and Claire’s confession to Kathryn at the end of this episode, coupled with her reaction and expression that she now has to report it, make I seem like a done deal. I was startled to see Claire and Eric away together at the start of the episode, mostly because renting a home somewhere feels like exactly the kind of “paper trail” that she would want to avoid creating since it would lead to her inevitably getting caught. But she was even letting Eric record videos of her on his phone before telling him to delete them, something he actually did but could just as easily have pretended to do without her knowing. She didn’t get that he wanted to think of this not as something fated to end but a long-term option, and he responded angrily – and forcefully – when she suggested that he would have sex with so many girls in college. Saying “I love you” to each other is a big deal only because that’s a step that indicates a seriousness to all this which is going to make its undoing all the more painful. Kathryn did prod Claire for information when she told her she knew she must be having an affair, but Claire could have gotten out of it by telling her that it was someone she didn’t know and throwing her off the scent. But instead she wanted to share it, because apparently she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable since Eric is eighteen. Unfortunately, he just turned eighteen, and so that safeguard which has enabled her to let her guard down is going to prove very unhelpful when it becomes very clear that this affair started before that age of consent.

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.