This weekend, SALEM wraps up it’s second season on WGN AMERICA (Sunday at 10pm/9pm Central). Series star Seth Gabel talks about the finale and what is ahead for season three, plus Moran Atias explains why you should be watching TYRANT on FX right now.
When we last saw the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, he watched from afar as John Watson beseeched, “Don’t be dead,” to a headstone bearing Sherlock’s name. Watson does this at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall” after seeing Sherlock seemingly leap to his demise, and I thought it bold of series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to tackle this update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” in their second series. A faked death on a show is as logistically tricky as a real one, and if there’s one thing that almost always creates a make or break moment for a TV show, it’s dealing with a major character’s death.
For a lot of shows, it’s a break moment. Perhaps some of the problem comes from the fact that a character’s death is often prompted by an actor’s exit from the show. When Dan Stevens decided to leave Downton Abbey at the end of his three year contract, his character Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash that struck me as a spiteful way to explain his forthcoming absence in series four. Aside from the fact that the crash itself didn’t look severe enough to be fatal (I mean, how fast was he going, 30 m.p.h.?), it also felt like an afterthought to the 2012 Christmas special, as if the episode had been scripted to end in the preceding scene and the death was tacked on once it was official Stevens wouldn’t re-up. This was particularly disappointing from a show that had so recently served up an amazing character death by killing off Sybil Crawley mid-season. Even if I hadn’t hated her character (we get it, you like irking daddy by playing blue-collar), I would still have been pleased with her demise because of the way it affected the other characters on the show. Watching her parents, sisters, and husband deal with their grief was more interesting than Sybil herself had ever been, yet asking viewers to watch the family hit the reset button at the top of series four to mourn Matthew is grating.
But perhaps worse than the character deaths that are forced are the ones I don’t believe even within the world of the show. When Peter Bishop stepped into the doomsday device at the end of season three of Fringe, I didn’t for a second buy him exiting the show. His character was too important, and the circumstances of his disappearance too obviously pointed to a return for me to believe I’d never see Peter on the show again, which seemed to be what the writers hoped I would assume. Instead, watching became a waiting game centered on his return, and one that wasn’t concluded quickly or satisfactorily enough to justify his unbelievable disappearance in the first place.
That’s not to say shows can’t kill important characters successfully. When Boardwalk Empire concluded its second season by offing Jimmy Darmody, the character who’d served as the audience’s entrance into the (under)world of the show, it was wonderfully stunning. Even though the drama had blossomed into a sizeable ensemble by the time Jimmy was eliminated, he was still the most frequent point of view character, which meant his death irrevocably changed the show’s direction. But Boardwalk Empire had managed to build to Jimmy’s death in such a way that it seemed inevitable, and created plot momentum that carried forward into even the most recent season finale.
Of course, the holy grail of TV character death is the surprise demise. Four episodes into its third season, Southland unceremoniously killed detective Nate Moretta on the job. The disturbingly quick and brutal death was shocking in and of itself, but it also demonstrated no character on the show was safe regardless of their rank, skill, or narrative importance. From that moment on, I watched Southland with my stomach in knots every time a character I liked was in peril because I truly didn’t know if they’d emerge from it unscathed, or at all.
Though the titular character of Sherlock didn’t actually die in the series two finale, his faked death was just as striking to me as the most successful of these actual TV character deaths. The charade has the same effect on Watson as the real thing would have, meaning the audience still gets the emotional payoff of a pivotal character death, while how Sherlock managed to pull it off is a mystery fans are as eager to solve as they are any of the eponymous detective’s cases. Which, of course, is precisely the point. American audiences will get their answers in the series three premiere on January 19, but having already seen it myself, I can say “The Empty Hearse” sated my curiosity and I’m very glad that, as this prequel minisode promises, #SherlockLives.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis
WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold
THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil
When I watched the recent season finale of Homeland, I was left speechless. If you’re not caught up on this Showtime thriller about the CIA and terrorism, don’t worry; I won’t give anything away. Confining myself to spoiler-free praise, I’ll just say it struck me as pitch perfect and was satisfying to a degree that television shows achieve rarely, if ever. I loved it so much, in fact, that as the credits rolled I found myself hoping the show would get canceled before any more episodes air.
It’s almost impossible for a TV show to stay great from pilot to series finale. I know, I know, Breaking Bad proved it can be done, but Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is the exception that underscores the rule. There are just too many things to ruin great shows, and an executive hitting the cancellation button even isn’t first on the list. Simply being left on the air too long is more than enough to take the wind out of the sails of something once lovable, whether it’s because the show starts stretching into weird new territory like on Fringe, or because intended end points keep being passed by in the hopes of squeezing out another lucrative ratings year, like with Dexter. And of course there’s the plot and punchline recycling that can occur when a show’s left lingering, making episode formulas uncomfortably obvious (*cough cough* Simpsons).
Outside circumstances rearing their heads can be damaging too. With many shows, a featured actor leaving would minimally rock the boat, and some end up capsizing altogether rather than recovering. Just hearing that Topher Grace was leaving That ’70s Show was enough to make me tune out, and leave me completely unsurprised when I heard the first Eric Foreman-less season was also the show’s last. The 2007 Writer’s Guild strike took down its fair share of TV, from amazing shows immediately unable to sustain themselves through it like The Riches, to shows that pushed through but hobbled on forever changed, like Heroes.
But while there have been plenty of shows that have gone downhill in front of my eyes, there are of course many others cancelled before their time. If you’ve never seen the 2008 BBC show Survivors, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an amazing yet little known sci-fi drama that follows a small group of people who lived through a widespread virus wiping out most of the population, and it’s the best treatment I’ve ever seen of the “band of survivors must start anew” premise. The caveat that comes along with this recommendation is the fact that the second season finale ends on a cliffhanger so amazing that I was literally yelling at my television when I realized the show hadn’t been renewed for a third series. Then again, maybe letting sleeping dogs lie is best; Arrested Development‘s fourth season didn’t live up to the first three by even the most generous standards.
Yet even on the rare occasion that a show manages to go out gracefully under the pall of cancellation, I still can’t help being sad for it. The writers for the criminally under-appreciated Terriers knew there was a strong possibility they’d never see a second season, and deftly handled their finale in such a way that viewers could interpret the episode as teeing up another major story arc if renewal did come through, or as a beautiful farewell if the hammer fell, which it sadly did. Going out so skillfully even though they hadn’t gotten their narrative due was impressive, but oxymoronically reinforced that they should’ve been given another season to find a bigger audience.
So if it’s so hard for shows on TV to stay great and for great shows to stay on TV, why do I want one of my favorites off the air? Because, intentionally or not, the writers served up a season finale to Homeland this year that put the perfect cap on the show. Yes, there are some signs about what season four will entail, and yes, the writers of this particular show have proven time and again that they’re capable of taking the story and characters into increasingly compelling territory even when it seems they’ve already struck a narrative critical mass. But the way this finale wrapped up a major story arc (again, no spoilers!) left me with the rarest of my potential reactions to a TV show: content. I could walk away from these characters now and be happy to leave them because I know they’re all right where they should be.
Of course, I realize I could preserve this feeling of contentment by choosing not to watch the fourth season of Homeland when it debuts. But I’d be lying to myself if I pretended to have the willpower for that. I mean, did you see how amazing the third season finale was?!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (maybe)
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold (definitely)
|Cover Art: Michael Youngblood|
Some random thoughts about Star Trek: Into Darkness.
I loved the original series when it started on NBC in 1966. It was around the time I started to read science fiction, so it felt incredibly reinforcing to see my newly beloved genre on a screen in my home. I thrilled to the smart plots, and didn’t care about the cheesy special effects. There weren’t any other kind on television at the time. I loved the banter among the leads, especially from my favorite character, “Bones” McCoy. I complained as loudly as a teenage girl can complain when it was cancelled. That said, I only watched it in syndication sporadically, and I never got into any of the sequels.
Not even the one with Scott Bakula, whom I adore.
So when J. J. Abrams was tasked with reinventing the franchise, I wasn’t too upset. If he took liberties, he took liberties. Either the movies would be good, or they wouldn’t. As someone who read all the Ian Fleming Bond books and has seen every James Bond movie, even the terrible later Roger Moore ones, I have a pretty strong stomach for filmmakers who take liberties with their source material.
Kirk is really a macho asshole, isn’t he? I mean, you could tell from the original series, but it was the 1960s, and macho assholes were all the rage. It was really obvious in this movie. Yeah, he learned a lesson, and grew as a human being, but I suspect he would still be really annoying to sit next to on an airplane.
Bones may still be my favorite. In this particular movie, he was stuck regurgitating all the catch phrases, and yet Karl Urban still manages to maintain his poise. Not easy. Just ask Joe Biden.
A few female characters were actually allowed to have story lines, or at least the inference that, if we looked at the story from another viewpoint, they would be the heroic characters. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is especially brave. It’s as if her life is about more than just being in a relationship with Spock.
I would hope this is an indication of the film makers’ perspectives. Fringe had a female protagonist, as do many other 21st century entertainments.
Certainly, the women on Game of Thrones are the most compelling characters, and that’s one of the top-ten highest rated programs on television. There is money to be made with giving women in the audience someone to admire. Yay, capitalism!
A lot of the reason I went to see this movie in the theater, instead of waiting for it to show up on cable, was Benedict Cumberbatch. He is a wonderful villain, just as he is a fantastic protagonist. And he’s a commanding presence on screen, except sometimes I get distracted because he reminds me of Neil Gaiman .
I am not the only person distracted, although not everyone thinks he looks like Neil. Some are reminded of others.
As the summer goes on, and more blockbuster movies open, you could do worse than spend a couple of hours on the Enterprise. Live long and prosper, my friends.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
Matt Bomer, star of USA Network’s hit series White Collar, has joined the panel for the World Premiere of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Superman: Unbound this Friday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m. as part of the WonderCon marquee evening event in the Anaheim Convention Center.
As the voice of Superman, Bomer will headline the post-screening panel discussion alongside Castle star Molly Quinn (the voice of Supergirl), producer/director James Tucker (Justice League), screenwriter Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and eight-time Emmy Award-winning dialogue director Andrea Romano (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). Moderator Gary Miereanu will guide the proceedings, offering glimpses into future DC Universe Animated Original Movies, and exclusive prizes for some lucky fans in attendance.
In Superman: Unbound, a destructive force is devastating planets across the galaxy – with Earth next in its sights – and even Superman may not be capable of halting the destruction alone. Based on the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank 2008 DC Comics release “Superman: Brainiac,” the film’s stellar voicecast also includes John Noble (Fringe, The Lord of the Rings films) as Brainiac, and Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Superman: Unbound will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and For Download on May 7, 2013.
Prior to the premiere, the Superman: Unbound panelists Quinn, Tucker, Goodman and Romano will sign WonderCon-exclusive mini-posters from 3:00-4:00 p.m. at the DC Entertainment booth.
This is the time of year when all manner of people and media post their best/worst selections of the year. The main purpose is to elicit outrage or agreement or bewilderment regarding the selections. Anyone can play. So I guess I will with these caveats. I’m not saying that what follows is the best of any the categories. It’s simply what I most enjoyed. Some books, TV shows, music, movies I simply didn’t experience (e.g. Argo and The Hobbit) or didn’t enjoy as much as those listed (i.e. the latest Dresden book, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man). I’m only touching on what was new in 2012 – not those things I’ve enjoyed from other years and enjoyed again in 2012.
Caveats away. Let’s get down to it.
Doctor Who: The mid-season finale didn’t please me as much as I hoped. The departure of long time companions Amy and Rory had me scratching my head. However, the Christmas Special – The Snowmen – made up for it, introducing an intriguing new companion for the time and space faring Doctor and a tantalizing mystery. Steven Moffat – show runner and head writer – remains in fine form.
Justified: Big tough ass series based on an Elmore Leonard character. This season was even better than the one last season, which is saying a lot. Star performances made the season starting with Timothy Olyphant as Marshall Raylan Givens, along with Walter Goggins, Nick Searcy, Neal McDonough as a truly scary bad guy from Detroit, and Mykelti Williamson as an equally scary local bad guy. It’s violent, sexual, badass, and Raylan Givens is so damn cool he should be illegal.
Fringe: It’s now on its final episodes and taking a whole different tack from the previous seasons. I’m hoping it all ties up and makes sense by the end but this was created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci who also did Lost and the ending of that got a little bit away from them. Still, John Noble’s Walter Bishop is a delight to watch and is reason enough to tune in.
The Daily Show/The Colbert Report: This got me through the freakin’ election. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are both geniuses. Stewart does the faux news show and Colbert does a faux conservative commentator ala Bill O’Reilly. Colbert’s may be the more brilliant show but I have to admit that Jon Stewart makes me laugh more. However, Colbert did perhaps the last interview that famed children’s book writer Maurice Sendak ever gave and its hysterical and touching. Both shows are must-see TV for me.
Suits: I would not have bet you that a series set in a high powered law firm with people I don’t especially like would keep me riveted, but this one sure does. Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams and Rick Hoffman are superb but for me the best characters are two women – Gina Torres (who you might recognize from Firefly) as the really tough head of the firm and especially Sarah Rafferty as Macht’s tart tongued, all knowing secretary who steals the show. Morally complex, suspenseful, and witty.
Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow: I’ve been a big Kate Bush fan for a long time and it becomes an event when she brings out a new CD. Kate Bush is one of the most influential female singer/songwriters in the music business. This is one of her best CDs in recent years and the duet she sings with Elton John, Snowed In At Wheeler Street, is haunting. I play it over and over again. It’s influencing a concept that I’m working on. I love this CD.
The Avengers: The most perfect cinema realization of the Marvel comics ethos. Joss Whedon (director and writer) rules. This made umpty gazillion dollars and you’ve probably seen it. One of the best moments: Hulk vs. Loki. ‘Nuff said.
Lincoln: I’ve talked about this in one of my other columns. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the great movie performances of all time but he’s not the only one. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrick, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has had a very good year), James Spader and so many others make the film an acting delight.
Skyfall: James Bond’s 50th Anniversary in films and this one is a knockout. Bond is not simply an icon in this film; he’s a character with a deeper story. We see a seedy Bond, we see a Bond off his game, we see an aging Bond who may be outdated in the modern espionage world and knows it. This is right up there with my other two all-time favorite Bond movies, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger and it may be my favorite of the three. A key to the film’s success was hiring noted director Sam Mendes who delivered not only the action set pieces we expect from a Bond film but visual style, pacing, and performances. Daniel Craig gives his best outing yet as Bond, Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the scariest all time Bond villains and Judy Dench – ah, Judy Dench. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about and, if you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you. It’s not just a good Bond film; Skyfall is a really good film – period.
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: One of the pleasures of series books is coming back and seeing characters that you’ve come to regard as friends in a setting, a world, that has become real to you. Alexander McCall Smith has done that for me with his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, a detective series set in Botswana, Africa, and starring his woman detective, Precious Ramotswe. This series is a long ways from a hardboiled noir detective. The stories are gentle and filled with characters I love. The challenge with series books is to give the reader everything they remember and want in the series while also covering new ground. It’s a tough trick to pull off; the books could become stale. This series progresses slightly with each book and stays fresh. I look forward to my next trip back to Botswana.
Favorite Person In the Whole Wide World: My Mary. Who else? Love you, cutie pie.
I’ll be back next year. Happy New Year to you all.
NEW YEAR’S EVE: Mindy Newell
As the nation continues with the healing process, we look again at THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. We talk with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale (and Anne Hathaway, of course) on the pressures they felt even before the first tickets were sold. Plus THE HOBBIT may be three movies, and an ill John Noble halts production on FRINGE.
Don’t miss a minute of pop culture news – The Point Radio – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.
While I like Sherlock Holmes, I am far from a scholar nor have I seen every film adaptation or read every pastiche written. Still, I love the concept and the characters and setting are certainly appealing. Holmes, as created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is etched in the public mind as one of the most brilliant consulting detectives ever imagined with no clue going unnoticed. His encyclopedic knowledge is legendary and his eccentricities make him nothing but fascinating, including the desire to have Dr. John Watson accompany him as companion and official biographer, a level of narcissism unique in the late 19th century.
As a result, when it was learned Guy Ritchie was to helm a new adaptation with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, eyebrows rose around the world. Then we saw the 2009 release, and were generally pleased with the bromance between Downey and Jude Law, the latest Watson. This was a more athletic and handsomer Holmes, even capable of expressing desire for Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). The film horrified some and enthralled the rest, earning big bucks and prompting Warner Bros. to fast-track a sequel.
A Game of Shadows opened in December and did quite well at the global box office and now it comes to home video and digital download from Warner Home Video. After the first film established Holmes, Watson, and London, the time had come to introduce audiences to the greatest criminal mind found in literature, Prof. James Moriarty. He was teased at the end of the first film and this time we waste little footage making it clear he’s the antagonist. We’ve already adored Jared Harris’ villainy as David Robert Jones on Fringe so were pleased to see him cast as the intellectual equal to Holmes.
Holmes has determined that a series of unconnected events points to Moriarty manipulating economic and political events in Europe to push the countries on an inevitable path to war. It falls to the detective to thwart the scheme but the key difference between the two is the professor’s willingness to callously murder and destroy while Holmes remains a moral individual. It doesn’t take Holmes long to convince Watson the sum of his equation is correct and despite his impending nuptials to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), the doctor agrees to assist. And we’re off.
Along the way, we briefly see Irene before she is killed by the villain and the participation of Mycroft Holmes (a delightful Stephen Fry). Additionally, Holmes becomes intertwined with the affairs of a gypsy clan including Simza (Noomi Rapace) while Watson more or less parallels that with his confrontations with a former military sharpshooter Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson).
This time around, there’s a lot of sound and fury but in the end it doesn’t signify a lot. Moriarty is correct that the countries are headed inevitably towards war, as happens 24 years later in our world, but the geopolitical issues are never brought up and audiences are left to take the man at his word. His intricate scheme for war profiteering shows a certain level of impatience, a trait Holmes never exploits. Instead, there’s fighting, running, shooting, and lots of talk. The film’s rhythm feels off-kilter as some characters impossibly escape death one time too many while others are dropped with ease. The final confrontation between the two masters, over the clichéd chess table, is well done but by then we’re feeling somewhat exhausted and not all that invested in the outcome.
What is nice is that we get more Holmesvision coupled at the end with Moriartyvision and their final battle is nicely imagined until the final solution, which echoes “The Final Problem” on which the movie is most loosely based.
In the end, the film was a mildly entertaining way to pass an evening but it doesn’t measure up to the first and felt somewhat bloated. If they really move ahead with a third installment, one hopes they find a stronger story.
The video looks and sounds great allowing you to luxuriate in the costumes, sets, and nicely integrated CGI backgrounds.
The Blu-ray comes with the Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Downey, who snarkily asks if we’re unwell or it’s rainy out, the only possible reasons people would watch the film a second time with the extras. He makes some nice comments about the production, how things were choreographer and shot so we get the usual assortment of behind-the-scenes material so yes, if you’re looking to kill two hours (less actually if you skip ahead to just Downey moments) and like this sort of material, it’s worth a look.
Additional material can be found on the Movie App with script-to-screen comparisons, maps, character bios and other material but that requires serious desire on your part and heralds a movie away from disc to the web for such content.