TV Review – Stranger Things

Stranger Things (Netflix)
Created by Matt and Ross Duffer

strangerStranger Things is an 8 episode series released by Netflix. It tells the story of the disappearance of Will Byers in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana and the bizarre phenomena that begins to occur around those affected. The series features an ensemble cast with David Harbour (The Newsroom) leading the cast as Sheriff Jim Hopper. Alongside Harbour are Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, the mother of the missing boy, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Will’s best friend, and Millie Bobby Brown as a mysterious girl who know what happened to Will. The series is dripping in early 1980s nostalgia and plays out like a Stephen King novel or Spielberg film with a bit more darkness added.

The most noticeable aspect of the film is that it is firmly entrenched in creating an early 80s vibe. The title sequence’s music and visuals are tailored to mimic a dark synthy score of horror films and the font of a King novel cover. Because three of the series’ major characters are adolescent boys references to Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons abound. There’s more tonal and thematic touches that bring E.T., Poltergeist, Alien, and other period films to mind. In fact, this probably the show’s highest selling point, the recreation of the feeling of the childhood of many of its viewers. As a child of the 80s, I definitely felt it, probably not as much as someone who was a peer to the featured children would. I am curious how millennials view the series due to not having the nostalgic buy in. It’s also impossible not to think of Super 8, a very similar homage to the sci-fi/fantasy films of the day. Super 8 is definitely enamored with the Spielberg vein exclusively, while Stranger Things is willing to go to darker places and play with Stephen King and David Cronenberg territory.

The plot is not necessarily revolutionary. Because the show is a nostalgia trip, it weaves together ideas from a number of sources. I was pleasantly entertained by the twists and turns, and there are some predictable moments that don’t detract from the pleasure of watching. The key piece of the story, what took Will and where he is, were the most original parts. Thankfully, there is never a large chunk of exposition to explain away what is happening and the series requires the viewer to piece together segments of plot over time to have a full understanding. I appreciate that the show respected my intelligence enough not to have the central human antagonist sit down and lay out the plot to another character.

The characters and acting were a slightly mixed bag. First off, Millie Bobby Brown is going to be a major actress in the future, and honestly, already is in my opinion. I always say the best way to tell how good an actor is would be to watch them in a scene without dialogue and see how well they convey emotion without being over the top. Ms. Brown knocks every scene out of the park. She tells a rich, nuanced story through her face and her eyes. I learned she was part of a BBC America series called Intruders where her character is possessed by an older evil man and cannot wait to dig in and see how amazing she plays that. David Harbour does a better than expected job as Hopper. So often the role of town sheriff in these sorts of stories comes across as a paint by the numbers character. Hopper’s story adds a tragedy that is never played up too huge and is only highlighted at just the right moments. The character’s descent into paranoia as he comes closer to the truth is very entertaining and if a second season comes, I am interested to see how his character develops. Winona Ryder did not feel natural in many of her scenes. She basically plays one note, hysterical grieving mother for the majority of the series. That is what her character is going through but it would have been interesting so see some more of her. She definitely knows her character’s motivation and it guides her acting in every scene. The trio of young boys are wonderful and they each have a specific dynamic in the group that doesn’t come off as a checklist.

Stranger Things is a very fun series. I’ve enjoyed most of the 1980s nostalgia media and particularly like when it is done with an attention to tone over nitpicky details. It felt like watching a very long film from my childhood and it kept me hooked the whole way through. The series ends with a number of hooks for the second series but I won’t be disappointed if we don’t get another. These eight episodes are a complete, satisfying story, very much in the vein British television where each series attempts to close off its plot. Stranger Things is a perfect recreation of 1980s summer cinema that you can get lost in.

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TV Review – Orange is the New Black Season 4

Orange is the New Black: Season 4
Created by Jenji Kohan

orange 01I have fully embraced the power of Netflix at this point. While I have not watched every original series they have released, I love the ones I have. When season one of Orange is the New Black came out I wasn’t very keyed up about it. The selling point at the time was “from the creator of Weeds” a series I didn’t find that interesting. I had watched the first two seasons of Weeds and it didn’t compel me to keep going. And I didn’t find Orange too intriguing in the first and second seasons mostly due to one character: Piper Chapman.

Piper Chapman. I get it. She’s meant to be an audience surrogate, the fish out of water through whom we will learn the ins and outs of Litchfield Prison. And this is no slight to actress Taylor Schilling, the character is grating. Even more grating than just Chapman is her relationship with Vause (Laura Prepon). I have never bought the thing these two have and the directions their plots have gone don’t help either. Is it bad that I have started the last two seasons hoping Chapman would get shivved at some point and then the series could just go on without her? She became more interesting separate from Vause and getting caught up in her panty-smuggling ring in Season 3. In Season 4 she continued to be interesting by having to deal with her inflated ego and the fallout of that attitude. But when the season concluded with she and Vause getting back together I had sigh annoyedly.

When Season 3 rolled around, something about the show just completely hooked me and reeled me in. I think the de-emphasis on Chapman’s character and the spreading out of storylines to the characters in the prison who are actually interesting. There’s no way I could say a single character stands out as my favorite because I am so happy when so many of them pop up on screen and we explore their lives. I love the friendships between characters: Taystee and Suzanne, Flaca and Ramos, Red and Nichols, Pennsatucky and Boo. In many ways, the reason I love Orange is because I love Lost. The moments when Lost really clicked for me was when it explored pairings of characters and how they played off each other and then, over time how those relationships evolved. Funny enough my least favorite character in Lost would probably be Jack for the same reasons I dislike Piper, main characters seem to start out as such bland ciphers.

Season 4 is probably my favorite run of Orange to date. I am excited to see where these characters go next and the season asked some very tough questions but didn’t feel the need to answer them. I love when a television show brings up complicated topics, creates difficult situations where there is no clear villain, and then lets the audience live in that space. Breaking Bad and Mad Men did this often and it is what made me love them, especially the latter. In real life there aren’t clear lines that define hero and villain, it’s more complicated. The conflict between Pennsatucky, Boo, and Donuts is a perfect example.

orange 02I genuinely believe that Donuts didn’t have bad intentions when he began his sexual encounters with Pennsatucky in Season 3, and I believe that at the start she was into him. But things became very complicated and messed up quickly. Donuts has a duty as a prison guard so their relationship should never have even gone to that place. In many ways, this relationship was offered as a counterpoint to Daya and Bennett, which I felt was a very dangerous portrayal. When one person has clear, direct authority over another there are clear lines that should not be crossed. So, on the one hand, I felt bad for Donuts, but I also totally sympathized with Boo’s stance on what had happened to her friend and knew she was right. It’s that sort of complicated writing that makes me love this show. It’s not going to answer the moral quandary, it’s going to pose the question.

Another thing Orange does so well is to rotate the spotlight on its cast, and it has an even larger and growing cast than Lost could have imagined. Season 4’s spotlight on Ruiz was very interesting and her evolution into a leader has me interested to see the fallout between her and Mendoza, the acting “mother” of the Latina group. The release of Diaz was one of those moments I hope we see more of in the next few seasons. A show set in a prison allows lots of flexibility from a casting perspective, prisoners can be released and new prisoners can be incarcerated. I do hope the show refrains from showing too much of life after prison on the outside. Keeping the focus on life on the inside is more important. Having moments where someone leaves and both the audience and characters know they will likely never see them again helps convey what these relationships are truly like. Prisoners bond with each other out of survival and need for companionship, but the system they are living in can pull these bonds apart at any moment.

I find Caputo is one of the most infuriatingly fascinating characters in the series. I can never exactly pin him down and that is what makes him so interesting. I believe he genuinely wants to do good, he has pure intentions, but he is so easily undone by crises. It reminds a lot of seeing upper-level leadership in teaching who deep down truly care about the students but get so tangled up in the absurdity of administrative policy and thinking they instead make destructive choices.

In that same vein is Healy, one of the most tragic figures in the series, and that is saying a lot. Here is another instance of Jenji Kohan and writing staff refusing to make someone an easy villain. Healy is both a victim of life and an abuser of his position of authority. He is what I wish Ben Linus had been able to be developed into on Lost. Someone who comes across as the obvious bad guy but as we peel back the layers becomes more and more broken and sad. Healy’s relationship with Lolly and it’s heartbreaking conclusion was one of those pinnacle moments in a season with so many great plots. My hope from a narrative and character point of view is that we just never see Healy again, maybe a short cameo in the final season by someone who gets released. The moment where he checks himself into the mental health facility is a perfect period on his story. He’s going to hopefully get the help he needs, but the audience, just like the inmates, will never know exactly where he vanished to.

orange 03The moment everyone is going to remember of course will be the sudden death of Poussey. This was a very delicate moment and I think it was done in the right way. My only complaint was that a tragic ending for the character felt very telegraphed from about mid-season onwards. I suspected something would happen, I just didn’t know it would be so horrible. I’ve read a lot of criticism online about how the show dealt with Bayley, specifically that they made him too sympathetic. Much like I said earlier on how the show likes to raise difficult questions and present challenging situations, I believe that’s what this episode was about.

So often police brutality and murder is not the result of a malicious spirit but a frightened and improperly trained mindset. Bayley’s murder of Poussey was a result of leadership in the prison failing. Caputo kept leaving and not realizing things got worse when he did on top of Piscatella instituting a very cold, dispassionate policy of control in the prison. Add to that Suzanne’s trauma from being made to fight her ex by Humphreys and you had a confluence of people that could only end badly. If Bayley were a real person then I would expect he’d get charged with manslaughter, but he never wanted to kill Poussey. It’s a condemnation not of an individual but of corporations like MCC who cut corners on training and as a result, withdraw a sense of humanity from prisons. I think everyone’s grief and pain were touched on wonderfully and we saw the full spectrum of perspectives. What Bayley did was something we are all capable of, in a moment of extreme crisis if you can’t handle the pressure you can end up doing horrible things to another human being. You should be simultaneously held accountable to the full extent of the law but also shown compassion and love. Like a lot of the prisoners in Litchfield, Bayley had the worst day of his life and he’ll now pay for it. We could see that in the scene where he’s driven home by one of the army veteran guards and he looks genuinely broken when the man says he and Bayley are the same.

As a writer, it would have been extremely easy to make sadistic guard Humphreys the murderer. But that would not have had the emotional impact on the narrative that choosing Bayley did. Humphreys is easy to hate and he doesn’t challenge us. Including him as the focus of the final scene was a smart move. The dynamics in place bring up a lot of emotion. The audience truly hates Humphreys but does he deserve to die? Maybe you think he does. But Daya holding the gun not only gets her an extended sentence if she were to kill him she would also go to max and get life. She’ll never see her child on the outside if she does this. In the same way, Pennsatucky finds it in herself to forgive Donuts because *she* needs to do that, the audience has to find a way to let its hate go. Revenge killing a guard, even Humphreys, may satisfy a momentary emotional need for revenge but its long terms effects will be the destruction of Daya’s soul and her life. As in life, we don’t get to get back at those who have wronged us. Many times we don’t get proper justice is supposedly promised to us. What people have to do is find a way to forgive so that they can move on, so that they don’t have to live in that pain and hate for the rest of their lives.

I am very excited to see where Orange goes in its 5th season. I’d love for the opening to have let some time pass, to not show Daya or Humphreys right away. Slowly unfold those details, show the grieving process for Poussey continuing. Show Caputo facing the blame for what he is ultimately responsible for. Continue to tell these wonderful stories about these dynamic characters. And especially, I hope it continues to challenge the audience to think beyond black and white spectrums of morality, and be forced to face the fragile nuance of human existence.

On the Soul of Arya Stark

arya-stark

After posting my quick thoughts on HBO’s recently wrapped up shows I noticed a comment online referencing what I referred to as Arya Stark’s “dark path”. The comment mentioned how there was no critique of the bloodshed dealt by Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen. One note of clarification, Arya Stark has killed ten people so far in the television series. Walder Frey was not her first, but just the latest in her path of revenge. But it I think Arya Stark is a topic worth exploring in some more depth so let’s do this.

First, I want to speak about my personal perceptions of Arya. When we are introduced to the character in the television series the actress playing her was around 12/13 years old. My view of the timeline of the series is not as much time has passed in show as in real life. For instance, the end of Season 5 with the murder of Jon Snow is immediately continued with the start of Season 6 with maybe a few hours passing. There may be some reasonable fan timelines that work it all out, but from my own personal perception Arya is not far removed from when we first met her. The same goes for Bran, I still see him as the child he was when we met him.

Now, my teacher brain sort of takes over when it comes to Arya in certain instances. If I were to meet a child in their early teens who had these sorts of anger issues and had composed a revenge list I would be very worried for that child, and I hope you would be too. We recognize that as unhealthy behavior. Spending your life plotting revenge against people is no way to live. When I say “dark path” I am thinking about the emptiness of pure revenge as a goal. Once all the names are crossed off on that list, then what? I believe you’re left with the trauma of reliving those deaths in your mind over and over again and that is destructive. Game of Thrones is chock full of characters in that situation, not the least is Arya’s old pal The Hound. While he puts forth a sense of callous detachment, he has been scarred psychologically by what he has done.

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen have also killed their fair share. Jon, as leader of the Night’s Watch and leading the Battle of Winterfell, is responsible for the deaths of many. We don’t even have the time to get into the thousands of deaths Dany has personally ordered. Why do I perceive what they do as different from Arya? Jon Snow seems to be forced into almost every major action he takes and I view him as a character who should have a tragic ending. Everything about him so far sings of tragedy to me. I expect he’ll be given a heroic ending, which feels lazy. As for his actions, colored by his role as a military leader I have probably excused them. He didn’t kill for his personal benefit but out of duty. Now there is definitely a conversation to be had about the morality of that and as I have gotten older I have grown into more a pacifistic. Killing White Walkers is one thing, but killing anyone else should come with serious moral quandary. I would like to think the way the Battle of Winterfell was shown in the series highlighted how grotesquely chaotic being in the heart of battle was. The execution of Ramsay Bolton was also a moment that I felt very conflicted about. There is plenty of narrative justification to have him die a truly horrible death. Yet, I looked away from the screen as the dogs were set loose. It wasn’t because I’m uncomfortable with the gore, it’s just the larger moral implications as to what this does to Sansa. Yes, she murdered her rapist and he will never do that again. But as a person, I would think killing anyone is going to deeply damage parts of yourself. I think we can see that Jon Snow has shown lots of signs of a person with PTSD.

Dany seems to be the character we all cheer for when she goes about mass slaughtering. She’s killing slavers, right? So that makes it okay? No, they’re still people. People albeit who have probably killed lots of other and we know for sure have stolen the lives and freedoms of millions. More on this later. Dany’s goal can be summarized as “free the people of the known world and take back the throne of the Seven Kingdoms”. This goal lies somewhere between that of Jon Snow (duty) and Arya Stark (revenge). Freeing the slaves is a good thing. Taking back the throne of Westeros is a purely selfish thing. I’ve often thought why she shouldn’t be content to rule the lands where she is. The people love her, she seems happy among them. But there is this implied sense of the throne being a rightful honor. How has the Iron Throne been claimed throughout history: One ruling house is killed by another ruling house who is killed by another, so on. No one is actually entitled to the throne other than someone who is simply good at killing for it. I think Varys has had a number of moments where he enlightens Tyrion and us to that fact. Any King or Queen is inevitably going to end up dead for the next King or Queen. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, “It’s *not* good to be the king.”

Revenge has been one of the most common themes in literature through the ages. And it’s been handled in a number of ways. Hamlet ends with everyone dead, Carrie ends with our protagonist losing her humanity while getting revenge, and The Count of Monte Cristo may be one of the happiest revenge stories. I think my views on revenge were shaped by a World Lit class I took in college where we read a few of the plays in The Oresteia. I had to brush the cobwebs away and do a little googling to get my mind refreshed on the details of these works. The Oresteia were a trilogy of Greek dramas about the fall of the House of Atreus. If you’re interested in reading them the three plays are Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.

The dramas are about the cycle of blood vengeance. It begins with Clytemnestra plotting and carrying out the murder of her husband, Agamemnon when he returns from the Trojan War. From there it is one act of vengeance after another to “balance the scales”. The chorus of these plays are the Erinyes or Furies, the embodiment of revenge as justice. But as the story goes on the absurdity of this type of justice is highlighted. When the gods become involved, particularly Athena, it’s decided that man must develop a system of laws that take retribution out of the hands of the wronged and works to truly balance the scales. The Erinyes are transformed as a result and become the Semnai or Venerable Ones. This series of plays was focused around ideas of law and justice that were being developed in Athens. It was the birth of social progress and justice, stepping away from blood retribution and finding a better more humane way. So anytime I watch or read something where a protagonist is getting a violent style of personal justice I get a little uncomfortable. I understand the buttons it pressed in our brains of narrative satisfaction, but I appreciate when writers show the aftermath as well.

With my view as Arya as a child, I see her as the hope that the culture could move on from the old ways of blood vengeance. Narratively, it is very satisfying to see her scratch the evil bastards who harmed her family off the list, but I truly hope that we get story about what she does after. If you focus your entire life around revenge, then what happens when you get your revenge? Dany at least plans to rule Westeros, her methods are very questionable, but at least that goal has additional goals implied if she achieves it. What does Arya do when the last name is scratched off the list? The story of how she processes that and tries, or fails, to become someone beyond vengeance could be a fascinating story. Or, like the end of The Searchers, we could see her unable to enter the gates of Winterfell, changed into something else and wander off into the winter wastelands. There is temporary satisfaction in the moment of the kill for her, but if she is to feel like a real person, I want there to be contemplation on what it means for her as human being to travel this path. There have been moments where Dany has had to face the folly of her naive choices, that’s something I would like to see for Arya. I think I like Arya so much that I want that character to have a meaningful ending beyond simply just killing the bad guys.

TV Reviews – Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley

Game of Thrones: Season Six

game of thrones

I almost dropped Game of Thrones during seasons 4 and 5 but kept trucking along. I am incredibly glad I did. This season felt like the well needed payoff for the set up for the previous two years. We saw characters coming together who we had anticipated meeting. There was resolution to a number of plots, not the least of which was the wandering and pointless “Girl With No Name” antics in Davos. That particular story did bring something to the table for Arya but it took way too damn long to get to its point. But overall, I was incredibly satisfied with this season.

Continue reading “TV Reviews – Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley”

Origins 2016 – Primetime Adventures and Final Thoughts

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We’ve now come to the finale write up for Origins 2016. It was Saturday afternoon and I could feel myself running out of steam. I was going to just sit out the 2pm slot at Games on Demand, but our friend Mick Bradley encouraged me to take part in his Primetime Adventures game. I hemmed and hawed and with some prodding from my wife decided to go for it.

Primetime Adventures (Designed by Matt Wilson, Published by Dog-Eared Designs) allows a table of players to pitch, develop, and play out a television series of their own invention. The mechanics are there to simply create interesting outcomes from conflict in scenes. In a longer campaign, each character will get an amount of Screen Presence that determines how much influence they have over the events in episodes. For the purposes of the one-shot we played everyone had equal presence. Each scene is focused either on a personal Issue a character is dealing with or a more concrete plot related need. Cards a drawn and highest red card and highest total number of red cards determine how the rest of the scene should play itself out (Yes and, No and, Yes but, No but).

Mick presented the table with a number of series pitches, a good idea to save on time when running a convention game. The table collectively glommed onto a series Sojourn ‘66, an amalgamation of Deep Space 9, Babylon 5, and other various sci-fi media. A once proud hub of galactic diplomacy, now it was an outpost where planetary systems sent their rejects. The day to day operations were done by a couple series of clones, The Rogers and The Steves. The Rogers were the old model and The Steves were the shiny new ones. Player characters in our game consisted of one of the Rogers, a savvy barkeep, a scientist in charge of servicing clones that had gone awry, a past his prime diplomat, and the diplomat’s mysterious new assistant (really an exiled princess who refused to give into an arranged marriage). I played the past his prime diplomat, Tho Sint, who happened to come from the rival culture to our scientist (think Vulcans and Romulans).

The table has the right group of players who all listened closely and added to the story when it was their turn to set up a scene. By the end of the game, everyone would have signed up to continue this as a campaign if we were able. There was the right amount of humor and seriousness, so the game session never lagged. My particular favorite moment was when a bit of larping slipped into one of my scenes. Mick was played a black ops agent sent by my people, the Mox, to do some general nastiness. My character’s issue was always wanting to take control of every session so we played it as a character scene where I Thot was attempting to keep himself in check. The cards were dealt…and Thot was going to go off the handle. Mick and I both stood from the table and got in each other’s faces as our characters tried to chest bump and establish who was in charge. I’m sure we slightly frightened some of the other tables. But those are the moments that are magic when they happen in a tabletop game. Everyone is on the same page with the story and choices become very organic and fluid.


That night I played in an “off the books” game of Masks Brendan Conway ran. Once again, always fun, and the next game I planning on running for my own group.

I don’t have anything to really compare Origins to, I’ve never attended any other conventions. But I can say that the Games on Demand room has never been anything but the most inviting, kind space. The people who run GoD are always happy to welcome new faces and you’ll leave the convention with connections to a myriad number of people. There are people you can’t wait to have run a game for you and people you can’t wait to play alongside. You’ll leave having learned about a new, exciting game or with new ideas about how to run an old favorite. My wife and I had never attended a convention for any hobby until Origins 2015 and we now find ourselves reserving that time for every summer to come as long as we can.

For more information on Origins Game Fair – http://originsgamefair.com/

More importantly, for more information on Games on Demand – http://www.indiegamesondemand.org/

End of 2011 Part 2 – Favorite TV I Watched

I watched a lot of television this year. If you’d like to know my thoughts about the first half of the year, that’s right here. Here’s what I thought about what I saw during the second half.

5) Enlightened Season 1 (Created by Mike White and Laura Dern)

I started out more excited over Bored to Death’s return to HBO, but ended the year anticipating what came next in this Laura Dern-led dramedy. Enlightened is a very difficult concept and I completely understand viewers who might be turned off. However, I think staying with the show pays off. The set up is that Amy, a cosmetics company executive, has a totally nervous breakdown in the wake of an affair with her colleague. Amy is the sort of character that is mocked and put into the background of most shows, but here we follow her in the wake of the breakdown. Enlightened succeeds in present a balanced view of the self-help society we live in. Its comedy is subtle and its characters are nuanced, a nice change of pace overall.

4) Workaholics Seasons 1 & 2 (Created by Anders Holm, Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, and Kyle Newacheck)

I brushed this one off as another shitty Comedy Central attempt to appeal to the idiot demographic. Then I heard it mentioned by comedian Jimmy Dore in a favorable light and began to see friends online also praising it. That was enough to pique my curiosity and three days later I was kicking myself that I hadn’t been watching this from the beginning. Workaholics is the post-grad equivalent of Always Sunny or The Whitest Kids U Know with a plot and structure. Its not a work of comedic genius but it is a more enjoyable comedy than 99% of what is on the television these days. Despite what the ads would have you believe, this is a modern day Marx Brothers, three absurdist goofs becoming involved in ludicrous situations. Its surprisingly lacking in sexism as well, a VERY rare element in comedy these days.

3) American Horror Story Season 1 (Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk)

I hate Glee. I didn’t care for Nip/Tuck. So I was shocked that a new series from the men who created both of those was so damn enjoyable. Yes, the season had its moment of ludicrous behavior and some contrived ways to stretch the plot out. There were episodes where nothing of significance happened. But, when I stand back and look at the season as a whole, I see an amazingly ambitious project. The announcement that Season 2 will be a completely new cast, new locale, and new type of horror has me loving it even more. The series is essentially a season long anthology or expanded mini-series. Each season will be one complete and singular horror story. The story possibilities can’t help but make me drool for news on what is waiting for us in the Fall.

2) Boardwalk Empire Season 2 (Created by Terence Winter)

The first season was a slow burn, but season two seemed to aim higher from the start. We appeared to be seeing the rise of Jimmy Darmody and the American mafia, while Nucky Thompson fell from grace. All the while, Irish immigrant Margaret Schroeder had a crisis of the soul. When everything came to its conclusion, I was left stunned. While Game of Thrones feeds the high quality soap operatic side of me, Boardwalk Empire is there for the more ambiguous and literary side of me. The penultimate episode of the season, which focused on flashbacks to Jimmy’s short lived stint at university, was painfully devastating. Coupled with the events of the finale, the season overall is a bleak set up for what will come next.

1) Breaking Bad Season 4 (Created by Vince Gilligan)

Breaking Bad is still the strongest show out there. Its the perfect combination of great writing and solid acting. I had never really joined the Aaron Paul/Jesse fandom till this season, but I found the character to really grow as a complex person. Walt almost seemed to take a backseat for a lot of the episodes this season, which payed off in the final two of the season. The moment that stands out for me is not the season ending reveal, but the moment where Walt lays in the crawlspace, having just learned a devastating detail and laughing insanely as the camera zooms out. That single moment packed more of a dramatic punch than some whole seasons of television.

TV Review: American Horror Story

American Horror Story (created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk)
Starring Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange,  Frances Conroy, Jamie Brewer

Horror is tricky genre to tackle on television. It traditionally ends up in the anthology format and the few occasions it hasn’t been an anthology it hasn’t stayed pure horror, typically becoming a drama with a horror veneer (Dark Shadows, The Walking Dead). The minds behind Glee and Nip/Tuck have decided to create a new horror serial that actually cements its legs firmly in the tropes of the genre. I have to admit, during the promotions of the show during the late summer I wasn’t really sold. However, after viewing the opening five minutes of the pilot I was hooked. Murphy and Falchuk have managed to create an ongoing series that actually gets what makes horror so horrific.

Continue reading “TV Review: American Horror Story”