Don’t Quit On Daredevil: Season 3

ScreenRant.com is saying that a lot of people gave up on Daredevil: Season 3.  If you’re one of those viewers, give it another try.  I finished this latest season about a week ago, and I have to tell you that after reflecting on it, I think this season is my favorite of all the Netflix Marvel shows.

First of all, the smartest of all the Marvel shows got even smarter.  Everyone in this series has actual motivation.  The plot unfolds organically and without any abrupt shifts in direction or tone.  Almost everything in this season actually makes sense.  One event leads to the next, which leads to the next, which leads to the next.

Consequently, the pacing is what actually makes this season my favorite.  The Netflix Marvel shows have had disastrous pacing issues–particularly in regards to Luke Cage and Iron FistDaredevil: Season 3 moves at a quick pace, and the story keeps developing from episode to episode to episode.  Other Marvel series have felt like three or four different story arcs within a single season.  Oftentimes they have an out-of-the-blue event occur around episode 7 or 8 that changes everything.  Not so with this one.  In fact, it’s the first time I didn’t tell myself (regarding a Netflix Marvel show) that thirteen episodes was too long.  I wanted more!

I groaned a bit when I heard Bullseye would be the villain of this season because he’s about as cliched a villain as you can get.  Fortunately, they grew “Dex” Poindexter into an antagonist only as the show progressed.  Getting him to that point was a slow burn.  Best of all, they never actually called him “Bullseye.”  Dex got more and more interesting as the show moved along in large part due to his mental torment.  I won’t spoil it for you, but they were quite creative in displaying this anguish.  Poindexter does awful things in this season, yet he is not entirely unlikable.  You can’t help but empathize with his plight a bit, especially because he can turn on the charm when he wants to.  I felt his frustration at being a hero when his talent for killing was done on behalf of the government, yet, when not working on behalf of his country, he was deemed a criminal.

Of course, I love Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk.  He, too, while certainly a villain, is a complicated man who is actually worthy of sympathy from time to time.  D’Onofrio plays him with such repression–it’s something to behold.  I love that Fisk is constantly flexing his fingers or working his hands.  He always seems as though he’s just barely constraining himself.  I’ve heard some say that D’Onofrio plays him too over the top, but I think it’s perfect.  Fisks merciless intellect always makes him a formidable opponent.

Jay Ali proved a welcome addition to the cast.  He played FBI agent Ray Nadeem.  Nadeem found himself at the center of everything in this season, and suffered as a result.  Ali delivered an average man just trying to do the right thing, and he showed us just how convoluted the “right thing” can be.  Nadeem provided a necessary emotional tether to the season that helped me to invest in the entire story as a whole.

Charlie Cox, though, is what makes this season something special.  This man is the perfect embodiment of Matt Murdock.  I think leaving the costume behind, having Murdock go back to the black shirt and pants really brought this series back to it’s street-level grittiness.  Murdock’s crisis of conscience, his battle with this faith, and his obsession with Fisk drove this season forward.  Cox benefited from getting to be the star of the show again.  He didn’t have to compete with an Electra or a Punisher taking up his screen time.  He didn’t have a gang of mystical ninjas to defeat.  He just had to outsmart Wilson Fisk, which is awfully hard to do, especially when you’ve got a man throwing items in your direction at terminal velocity.  The simplicity of this intricate plot made this season very entertaining.  It never got too big, but it never felt small, either.

Is this season perfect?  No, it’s not.  I think they don’t quite know what to do with Foggy Nelson, and I personally believe that Elden Henson is playing him more and more as a type rather than as a person.  Deborah Ann Woll, conversely, has gotten better and better as Karen Page.  The only misstep they had with her character involved an entire episode devoted to her background which was completely unneeded.  I’m also not a fan of a hero fighting an evil version of himself or herself.  If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Dex himself dons the Daredevil costume.  They have a good reason for it that serves the story very well, but it’s still a pet peeve of mine.  I guess I should be glad they didn’t put him in the comic book version of the Bullseye costume.

As always, the fight scenes were incredible.  These feel like real brawls–everyone looks exhausted by the end of them.  There’s a prison fight and a fight in a church that are just flat-out amazing.

Because of Murdock’s complex identity issues regarding his alias, his faith, and even his morals, and because of the well-paced, methodical character development regarding Poindexter, Fisk, and Nadeem, I found this season extremely satisfying.  I was hooked on Season 3 by the first episode, but if you gave up on it for some reason, I hope you’ll give it another chance.  I think you’ll end up loving it as much as I did.

Image result for daredevil season 3 poster let the devil out

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Ruby Rose Is Batwoman In All Her Glory

Perhaps you heard the news several months ago that Ruby Rose had been cast to play Batwoman in a crossover event on the CW.  She will appear on The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl as the three shows dive into a combined story line that introduces us to a Gotham City presumably without a Batman.

Believe it or not, Batwoman has been around since 1956, but this current iteration debuted in 2006 and has been wildly popular from that moment on.  She’s regularly carried her own title off and on during the last eight years!

Today, the CW released an official look at Ruby Rose in the Batwoman costume, and it is exceptional.  Generally speaking, the CW costumes are breathtaking, but this one in particular is already by far my favorite.  That’s probably because it’s also the most accurate to the comic book depiction.  They even got the red wig just right!  (Yes, it’s a wig in the comics, too.)

I love that they really seem to be honoring the character.  In the source material, Batwoman is a former member of the armed forces who received a dishonorable discharge due to her homosexuality.  Feeling purposeless, while wandering Gotham City, Batman inadvertently inspired her to take control of her life by becoming Batwoman.

Interestingly enough, judging from the photograph, Batwoman may be Gotham City’s only bat-themed vigilante.  The bat-signal mimics her emblem, not Batman’s.  The CW has been hesitant to use Batman in any capacity, though they did go ahead and include Superman during a few episodes of Supergirl.  If they want to put all of their chips on Batwoman, that’s fine with me!  She’s a rich character full of story potential.

Of course, to be totally honest with you, I’ve quit watching all of the CW/DC Comics shows.  I loved them all in the beginning, especially The Flash.  Unfortunately, because it’s the CW, they got a bit too melodramatic for my taste.  When Arrow devolved into Felicity crying every episode with Oliver endlessly proclaiming everything is his fault, it got to be too much for me.  The Flash fell victim to similar tropes.

I will definitely come back for Batwoman, though.  The costume alone has piqued my curiosity in this crossover event.  I wish Ruby Rose and the CW the best of luck!

If you’d like to learn more about Batwoman, click HERE.

To learn more about Ruby Rose and the controversy surrounding her casting as Batwoman, click HERE.

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

GLOW: Season 2 — Even Better Than the First

GLOW: Season 2 outshines the first for the very simple reason that much of the groundwork for this ensemble cast has already been laid.  Season 1 entertained and impressed in many unexpected ways, but it still had the task of introducing us to the characters and getting them onto the mat.  Season 2 benefits in that it can build on what came before and really explore these interesting people.

Make no mistake–these are wonderful characters.  Yes, it’s a program about an all-female wrestling show set in the early 80s and much of the comedy centers around that scenario, but these are very real people being portrayed.  All of them are lovable in their own way, and all of them are awful in their own way.  They each have their victories, but they all suffer their indignities as well.  The magic is that the actors have managed to make us care about each and every one of them.

What I like best about this second season is the writing.  Many of the supporting characters get fleshed out this time around.  It’s intriguing to learn about who they are, what makes them tick, and why in the world they got involved with this crazy show!  We become much better acquainted particularly with Kia Stevens’ character named Tamme Dawson.  It would not be easy to be a black woman playing a character named Welfare Queen, and both Stevens and the writers do a magnificent job of exploring that conflict.

Even better than the characterization, though, is the tight–so tight!–plot.  Little moments in the early episodes are hugely important later.  Yet it all feels natural and organic.  The plot isn’t forced, but it all ties together so nicely.  I could be wrong, but I got the feeling that the writers had this entire season perfectly laid out before they even started shooting the first episode.

Furthermore, the main characters became even more complex.  Debbie Eagon (played by Betty Gilpin) evolves as a businesswoman taking control of her own professional life, yet her personal life is falling apart as she struggles with divorce.  She also teeters precariously close to becoming the show’s villain which is an interesting development considering that she’s the star all-American wrestler on the roster.  It would be so easy to make her the obvious heel, but they don’t.  They instead present her as a woman who makes a few bad decisions but ultimately tries to make good even as she keeps her own self-interests at the forefront of her mind.  See what I mean?  Wonderfully complicated.

Allison Brie’s character, Ruth Wilder, is just as enthusiastic and positive as ever, yet she can get very close to annoying.  She never quite crosses that line, but there are moments when you can understand Debbie’s frustrations with her.  Debbie and Ruth are so charismatic because they are utterly realistic.  Like all of us, they have moments where they are at their best, but also moments where they are at their worst.  Ruth is also far from perfect, but she’s learned from her mistakes during the first season.  Amid the first season, her adultery always cast a shadow over her.  That shadow disperses this second season and they seem to have opted to give her some time in the light to make up for the first season.

Marc Maron’s character, Sam Sylvia, started out the season as an absolute jerk who couldn’t care less about his wrestlers, but by the season’s end–well, he’s still a jerk–but he becomes someone we can’t help but love.  There are moments when he finally reaches self-awareness and owns his shortcomings.  Sometimes he just flat-out admits why he’s being so crass.  Those instances really touched me.  I wish I could just say why I’m being so difficult like he finally does.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but watching his evolution as a father, a director, a friend, and a person really brought me joy.  He’s still a cranky old man, don’t worry, but now he’s the kind you want to hang out with anyway.

I’d finally like to touch on Bash Howard, played by Chris Lowell.  Bash originally seemed to be the dim-witted millionaire producer–an ardent wrestling fan with the means to make the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling a reality.  In this second season, Bash is still a little naive, yet his simple innocence really pays off regarding his friend and butler, Florian.  Florian is missing the entire season with Bash doing his best to locate him.  Florian’s whereabouts are finally revealed, and Bash is absolutely stunned.  It seems he didn’t really know his friend at all, and it’s heavily hinted that Bash may not fully even know himself.  Lowell plays Bash with such unassuming charm that it’s hard not to love the guy.  He could have come off as a rich, pampered moron, but instead he’s written and performed as someone just trying to make dreams come true.  Again, isn’t that all of us?

I’d also like to commend the cast on introducing some serious wrestling moves in Season 2.  I can’t say for sure, but it looks to me like Brie and Gilpin are doing a lot of their own wrestling, and these are more than simple headlocks.  For actors, especially Gilpin, to execute some technically difficult wrestling maneuvers really speaks to their dedication to the characters.  I appreciate the symmetry of it because, ironically, their characters are just mastering the moves as well since they are new to wrestling.  It’s an interesting learning curve to behold both on the show and in reality.

Finally, GLOW captures the 80s perfectly.  The hair, the fashion, the cars, the food, the music–everything!  My wife and I feel like we’ve stepped into a time machine when we watch it.  There is one episode during Season 2 in which it is made to look like an actual episode of the show on your TV during the 80s.  It’s got the square screen, the locally made commercials–it’s perfect.  It looks exactly like I remember TV from the early 80s.  They really outdid themselves.

If you’re looking for a show with short episodes, magnetic characters, great writing, and funny comedy mixed in with an actual story about real people, GLOW is for you.  There really isn’t anything else like it on TV.

Image result for glow season 2 poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Jessica Jones: Season 2 – A Netflix Review

I really enjoyed the first season of Jessica Jones.  The series had such a strong concept.  It definitely wasn’t a super hero show, yet it featured a character with super human strength … who didn’t necessarily want her powers.  She mostly just wanted to be left alone.  The series felt far more like a thriller than an action-adventure.  With David Tenant’s Kilgrave, the series also struck a deeply disturbing psychological note.  Krysten Ritter’s Jones wanted to forget about her past by drinking herself silly, wasn’t interested in being nice, and certainly wasn’t out to save the day.  I believe, overall, it may be the strongest of Netflix’s Marvel series due to excellent pacing, interesting characterization, a consistent tone, and a cohesive plot.

So, as you have probably guessed, I very much looked forward to the second season.  Unfortunately, I knew by the first episode that this season would be different.

At the risk of sounding too harsh, all thirteen episodes of season two disappointed me.

Jessica Jones: Season Two is cliched, boring, and a disservice to the first season.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but Jessica Jones herself has gone from being charmingly cranky to just annoying.  The huffs, the sighs, the eye rolls, the monotone vocal delivery — she’s become one-dimensional.  All of those things seemed appropriate in the first season.  Combine those things with the second season’s primary antagonist and she’s comes off as, well … a brat.

And that pretty much describes everyone in the second season.  Trish Walker, who was pretty interesting in the first season, is now a shadow of her former self and incredibly unlikable.  Malcom is all over the place — a doormat one minute, a boy toy the next, and then a ruthless businessman?  Wasn’t that Foggy’s character arc?  Hogarth, the heartless lawyer, actually turns out to be the most sympathetic of all, but in doing so utterly contradicts every other previous appearance of the character.  Luke Cage makes no appearance at all, which is a shame because Colter and Ritter had great chemistry and made season one very enjoyable.  Kilgrave appears for five minutes, and those five minutes were a delight.  Ritter and Tennant are amazing on screen together, which is partly why season one succeeded so well.

Season two lacks any plot in which the audience can invest.  Season one featured a real mystery and characters that were truly opposite of Jones that allowed her to shine all the more.  In season two, everyone is kind of like Jones, which is, frankly, depressing.  Everyone is damaged goods.  There is no character representing hope, or nobility, or morality.  When Jones is forced to be these things, it doesn’t work.  She’s not especially hopeful, or noble, or moral.  She’s fun when she gets to be the “bad cop” working off of others serving as her foil.  It’s not fun when an entire show drowns in hopelessness, immorality, and dreariness.

The show also falls prey to the worse of the genre’s cliches.  Unresolved family issues that create arrested development — check.  Evil version of protagonist with the same basic power set — check.  Clandestine corporate entity that creates protagonist and antagonist for murky reasons at best — check.  Misjudgment of audience’s interest in “origin story” — check.  Mommy issues — check.

In my opinion, the first season of Jessica Jones may be the best of all the Netflix Marvel shows.  The second season, unquestionably, is the worst.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

My Reaction To the First Episode Of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

My wife and I have been meaning to watch this Amazon original for several weeks now, and last night we finally got around to the first episode.

In a word, we would describe it as “charming.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, an upper-class Jewish housewife becomes a stand-up comic after her would-be comedian husband leaves her and the kids.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about it.  Midge Maisel seemed a little too perfect, a little too flamboyant, a little too entitled.  The dialogue struck me as a little too fanciful, and the characters’ circumstances were just a bit too ideal.

However, before too long, her husband began to grate on the nerves and disaster lurked in the shadows.  When he finally revealed himself as the shallow jerk we suspected, the show took on a new angle — a far more satisfying angle.

It sounds terrible to say the show didn’t get interesting until Midge got the rug pulled out from under her, but it’s the truth.  I would not have continued watching the perfect wife living the perfect life, but watching Midge fall apart while inadvertently excelling at something on a whim (stand-up comedy) that her husband couldn’t do on his best day — that was so gratifying.

By the time the first episode ended, my wife and I were won over and excited for the next installment.

Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel, and I found myself enamored by her performance.  At times she came dangerously close to being annoying, but somehow she always managed to reign her character in enough to make her instead charming.  Best of all?  Brosnahan is actually really funny.  She’s got great timing, fun facial expressions, and fantastic inflection.  If the actress seems familiar to you, she played Rachel on House of Cards, which makes Brosnhan’s performance all the more amazing.   Midge is as different from Rachel as you can possibly imagine, especially in general body language and mood.  What a testament to Brosnahan’s range!

If you’re looking for a charming new show with a bit of drama but mostly comedy, this is the one for you.  Be aware, though, that it’s aimed at adults.  While the first episode is mostly light and fun, there are occasional swear words and flashes of nudity.

 

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

A Review of Netflix’s Easy

My wife and I were between shows, so when I saw the addition of Easy to Netflix and read the description, I thought we’d try it, especially because it’s only eight episodes and less than thirty minutes per episode.

It’s an anthology series with the city of Chicago as the common setting of the characters.  Each episode, for the most part, focuses on different people.  Some of these men and women bleed into other characters’ stories, some appear only once.  Some are married, some are lovers, some are family, and some aren’t initially connected at all.

This show is absolutely character and relationship driven.  I personally found the complexities of the relationships authentic, and that’s where much of the comedy derives. People, especially couples, are strange, and this show has no fear exploring the characters’ singularities.

Because each installment ends on an ambiguous note, I think short story lovers will particularly enjoy Easy.  There is a great deal of interpretation required.  In fact, each episode is very much like a short story in that characters are introduced quickly, conflicts arise, change occurs, and then the plot is mostly, if not always clearly, concluded.  And though lots of information is conveyed in a brief amount of time, the episodes always feel evenly paced, organic, and patient.

I particularly appreciated how honest many of the scenes felt.  To some of them my wife and I could very much relate, others made us gasp in horror.  All of it felt well within the realm of possibility, even if not always our reality.  The characters in Easy are very real … I’m willing to bet you know a few of them.

It’s not all perfect, though.  I haven’t researched how much of this show is scripted and how much is improvisation, but there were many times when the actors rambled and seemed unsure of what they were supposed to say next.  If they were going for a realistic, conversational tone, they missed the mark.  When this occurred the actors appeared as though they either didn’t know what they should say next, or that they were trying too hard to convey that they didn’t know what to say next.

Easy is poorly rated on Netflix, which I don’t understand.  I rate it very highly.  The emotional resonance, character authenticity, humor, and loosely related episodes drew me in and kept me interested.

Just be aware that some of the episodes get a little naughty, especially the Orlando Bloom piece.  Put the kids to bed before you make it Easy.

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My New Favorite TV Shows

Note: Originally Posted 10-18-06

If you know me personally, you already know I’m perpetually behind the curve when it comes to all things, “cool” in the world of television and music.  Because I don’t have time to write a twenty-page entry, we’ll focus on TV today. Take LOST for instance.  It was well into its second season before I got hooked.  Same thing with Arrested Development

Well, keeping with my trend, I’ve recently discovered two new shows that I LOVE (new to me, that is).

The first is the HBO original series, Rome.  I love Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so this one is right up my alley.  My wife is a big history nut, so it fits nicely into her tastes as well.  The show highlights Caesar’s rise to power while focusing on all the power players of the time period as well as the daily lives of two Roman soldiers.  It truly is a fascinating show as it gives us glimpses into what history may have been and the drama of lives purely imagined.  As you may have heard, the costumes are incredible, the acting is very well done, and each episode feels like a mini-movie, which makes sense on a network called Home Box Office.  My wife and I were stunned at the level of nudity and sex in the first two episodes (even for HBO, it was very graphic), but that quickly tapered off and the meat of the storyline got rolling with episodes three through five.  I personally think that they included all the sex and full frontal for the causal viewer who couldn’t care less about Caesar or Rome in order to get them hooked on the actual story as it took place between sex scenes.  We haven’t finished the entire season yet on DVD so I can’t comment on how it ends.  I don’t believe the second season has started yet.  It will be interesting to see if they merely take it up to Caesar’s assassination (don’t tell me I spoiled it for you, you’ve been in World History), or if they will take it all the way through the aftermath of his murder as did Shakespeare.

My other new favorite show that I’m way behind the curve on is Entourage.  It’s just plain funny.  There’s no other way to say it.  The characters are completely hilarious and charismatic.  The show has that something that makes it hard to resist.  If you’re not familiar with it, it is also a show on HBO that follows a young up-and-coming actor in Hollywood with his two friends and older brother.  One of his friends is the responsible pseudo-manager, the other friend is the wanna-be ladies man gopher, and the older brother (my favorite character) is a washed-up actor living vicariously through his younger brother and picking up any scrap parts he can manage.  The young actor’s agent is completely a scum sucking jerk and side-splittingly funny.  I’ll admit it, this show is kind of a guilty pleasure.  If you give it a shot, beware.  The F-Bombs drop like they’re going out of style. 

So there you go.  My new favorite shows.  I’m well on my way to becoming a TV junkie.  Crap.