Season 4 of 'Better Call Saul' Premieres August 6th

Having recently caught up with Better Call Saul, I can attest that the show really is pretty great, just as intriguing as Breaking Bad, but separate from it in its own way. Even more character driven. After a longer delay between seasons 3 and 4, you can see that the two worlds (the Breaking Bad world of Jonathan Banks's Mike and the legal drama world of Jimmy McGill) are probably going to start merging pretty quickly now. More BB characters started to show up last season (Gus, Lydia) and now that Jimmy can't be a lawyer for ten months, his Saul persona is going to start coming out in the interim, I bet. Have a bad feeling about non-BB character Kim (Rhea Seehorn) though, who must necessarily be doomed, right? But doomed how, from death or separation? That's kinda the biggest question of the prequel series for me.

Final Season of 'Casual' Drops on July 31st

Hulu's Casual was a great, highly underrated show that very few people watched, but oh well. I'll remember it fondly, as the fourth and final season comes out all at once on July 31st, giving us eight episodes to say goodbye to the unconventional family unit of Alex, Valerie and Laura. I will say I was expecting it'd pick up where it left off, so the two year time jump is somewhat of a surprise. Sometimes those work, other times they're annoying. I'm glad it gets a chance to finish its story though, and I hope it goes out on a high note.

New Prison Settings in 'Orange is the New Black' Season 6

Finally, the trailer for the new season (dropping July 27th) is here. Orange is the New Black may seem like old news these days, especially in light of the recent success of GLOW (which does have similarities to it and is also produced by Jenji Kohan) and the adverse reaction from fans to the last season, but moving most of the main cast over to a new prison should give it some fresh material for this year. It may be on its last legs, with perhaps one more season to go, but I still like it and will stick with it til the end.

REVIEW: "Black Mirror" Season 4

The best way to dissect a season of Black Mirror (which is my generation’s Twilight Zone) is to simply go over each episode and rank them, so even though this is a pretty late review (the season dropped last New Year’s Eve), here’s what I thought of the latest batch of mindbending tales from the mind of Charlie Brooker:

USS CALLISTER

 A premiere for the ages

A premiere for the ages

An instant series classic kicks off the fourth season, as a resentful gaming company co-founder (Jesse Plemons) traps the consciousness of his co-workers inside his virtual simulation of a Star Trek-esque spaceship, where he torments them every night to assuage his own ego as the greatest of all captains. When Nanette (Cristin Miliot) comes into the game she rallies the others to get revenge and escape his scenario. The Star Trek parallels and misogynist, bullying tendencies of guys like Plemons make the episode relevant to real world parallels and unlike most Black Mirror episodes, this one has a great mix of comedy and adventure, as well as horror and despair. It’s not hard to see why fans clamored for a spinoff series based on the premise of this episode alone. 

Grade: A

 

ARKANGEL

 Parental monitoring taken to the extreme

Parental monitoring taken to the extreme

Jodie Foster unfortunately directs one of the show’s worst episodes, as a mom (Rosemarie DeWitt) consents to implant a chip in her daughter’s head in order to monitor her awareness of any violence or “adult content” she might come across in her actual life, akin to parental controls on television or computers, but for the mind. As the girl grows up she falls in with some bad influences as her mother attempts to use the chip to control her life even into her teenage years. The premise isn’t bad here, but I think since nothing the daughter gets into is quite as shocking as Black Mirror can sometimes get (anyone remember “Shut Up and Dance” from last season?) everything that actually happens to her feels a little anticlimactic, as does the ending.

Grade: C

 

CROCODILE

 Andrea Riseborough slowly loses it

Andrea Riseborough slowly loses it

This is another one with an interesting concept (an insurance investigator tracks down witnesses to an accident and peers into their real memories of events using a scanner on the brain) but a terrible main character ruins the episode. Andrea Riseborough plays a woman who committed one crime in the past, which leads her to commit more and more to save herself, and then to get rid of anyone who might have seen her do it, but her completely passive, almost bored performance leaves you mystified by her inexplicable actions, rather than intrigued by them. Maybe if she had chewed the scenery a little more or grown to sadistically enjoy her evil deeds, this would have been more entertaining to sit through.

Grade: C-

 

HANG THE DJ

 The perfect blind date

The perfect blind date

Right up there with the best of the series again, this episode sees two people using what appears at first to be a dating app to meet someone, but then turns out to be part of a system in the society they live in that mandates calculated “relationships” with different people in order to find your statistical match. Frank and Amy want to buck the system when they realize they actually like and want to be with each other instead of who their actual match might be, but there’s a couple of plot twists yet to unfold. I loved this episode, in its way a kind of companion to the classic “San Junipero” from last season and one of the more romantic and satisfying episodes of the entire series.

Grade: A

 

METALHEAD

 Surviving the killer pups

Surviving the killer pups

Set in a black and white, seemingly post-apocalyptic hellscape where tiny robot dogs have taken over the world and destroyed most of humankind, this is one of the simpler premises Brooker’s come up with. There’s no backstory on the dogs or the protagonist in this one, as Bella (Maxine Peaks) simply tries to outrun the metal dog that’s spotted her, which will not rest until it destroys its target. Filmed in a brisk, punkish fashion, director David Slade renders the inherently silly concept (the dog looks like Terminator’s puppy) brutally effective.

Grade: B+

 

BLACK MUSEUM

 Museum tour of nightmares

Museum tour of nightmares

The finale of Season 4 is sort of a combination of mini-sketches, ideas for Black Mirror that never made it to full length episodes. Letitia Wright leads this one as a girl who stops at the famous “Black Museum” in Utah and is given a tour by the creepy manager, whose history of scientific experiments on people has rendered some very dark, disturbing results. Wright’s given the full play by play of these experiments and shown the remnants of them before turning the tables on the manager to give him the ultimate taste of his own medicine. If you prefer the darker, more twisted Black Mirror episodes, this one’s more in that vein. A satisfying, grim revenge story (but very grim indeed).

Grade: B+

Full Ranking:

  1. USS Callister
  2. Hang the DJ
  3. Metalhead
  4. Black Museum
  5. Crocodile
  6. Arkangel

REVIEW: "iZombie" Season 4 / "Supergirl" Season 3

IZOMBIE Season 4

 Another miscalculation: Liv spent a lot of the season in plainclothes, outside of her normal zombie look- who wants to see that?

Another miscalculation: Liv spent a lot of the season in plainclothes, outside of her normal zombie look- who wants to see that?

Ooof. Not since Orphan Black’s third season has a show I once loved fallen so low. And yet, here we are. iZombie was such a fun show, with a great cast and some of the cleverest dialogue on TV for its first three seasons. What the hell happened here? Well, I guess it starts with the audacious ending to Season 3, which launched a new status quo in turning half of Seattle’s populace into zombies and outing the secret to the whole world. In universe, it seemed like a way to reboot the series and try some new things, but in practice? That didn’t go so well. First of all, the inherent setup of the show is nearly procedural, with Liv (Rose McIver) eating the brains of human murder victims, inhabiting their personalities and memories, and using her gift to solve murders with partner Clive (Malcolm Goodwin). With zombies outed, you’d think Seattle PD would have bigger fish to fry now, but the show did not want to jettison its basic premise, so Liv and Clive are still solving human murders, but now it all seems particularly irrelevant, and the cases get sillier and sillier, as the well seems to have just about run dry in terms of funny personalities for Liv to possess. This is the first season I’ve found McIver’s performance bordering on grating. The show has always had intersecting subplots running throughout the season, and now that all has to do with Fillmore Graves, the private contractor army set up last year that runs Seattle, and just about every scene involving them is unbearable. Jason Dohring (once so good on Veronica Mars) is saddled with a terrible, dull character in Chase Graves, the sleepiest villain in history, while Major is highly irritating in his role as Fillmore Graves foot soldier/ true believer, and the endless scenes involving these soldiers feel pointless and stupid. Then there’s Blaine and Don E (the latter of whom was such a scene stealer in past seasons that he’s now implausibly become Blaine’s BFF), whose shenanigans on the side are also boring and stupid (Blaine inexplicably reconciles with his father this season, who even more inexplicably has become a crazy preacher man- wtf, indeed). The season was so terrible that I can’t think of a single subplot or arc that worked at all. Liv’s new boyfriend Levon? A dud. The human smuggling ring she becomes involved in? Terrible and uninteresting. Ravi and Peyton’s romantic reconciliation? I never cared about them in the first place. The dying teen Ravi and Liv befriend? Don’t care. Clive and Dale’s struggle with human/zombie relations? I thought they were cute before, in fact they were the only romance on this show I’ve ever liked. But Dale became a complete non-entity this season (she basically disappeared) while every obstacle they face is one experienced and told to the audience through Clive only, so how are we supposed to invest? For a show I loved so much to fall off a cliff this badly, this late in its run (next season will be the last) is quite an achievement of a certain kind. But it’s so far underwater that I question whether the ship can even be righted at this point. What a mess. 

Grade: F (yeah, I went harder on it than Riverdale because the bar was a lot higher to begin with)

SUPERGIRL Season 3

 'Supergirl's third season is one of uneven fits and starts

'Supergirl's third season is one of uneven fits and starts

Well, if shows are graded on a scale from "bad" to "decent" to "good" to "great," Supergirl hasn’t been able to make much upward progress. It was never bad, but it definitely started out shaky, proceeded to decent and then…stopped there. Not that it didn’t have potential. In fact, it still has it. Melissa Benoist’s Kara/Supergirl has always been a solid, lovable lead, and some characters, like David Harewood’s Jonn J’onze, aka Martian Manhunter, Jeremy Jordan’s tech sidekick Wynn, and Chyler Leigh as Kara’s sister Alex, have helped to bolster the supporting cast, but for some reason the show has never really made it to that next level. Possibly because it hasn’t had a great villain for any season so far, or maybe because the show struggles mightily with drawing out personal relationship plots for what seems like an endless amount of episodes. But I stick with it because I feel like the show is constantly circling around coming together for a really good season…only to not come through in the end. This year started off with Kara being mopey over the apparent death of the bland Mon-El (Christopher Wood) last season, only for him to make his dramatic reappearance as a Legionnaire from thousands years in the future. Oh, and he’s got a wife now. So the season is spent with endless angst over whether the two will get back together despite the Imra obstacle, but the show is too afraid to pull the trigger on the “a” word (affair) and the resolution is so fruitless as to make the entire storyline superfluous. Why did he even come back at all? The season’s villain is set up more painstakingly with the introduction of Lena's employee Sam and her daughter Ruby, but Sam’s split personality, the worldkiller Reign, simultaneously wears out her welcome and yet somehow isn’t used enough. The characters I mentioned as the good supporting characters are given little to do- Wynn is all but ignored entirely this year, Jonn is saddled with a dying father arc that seems to go on forever, and Alex at first gets a good breakup subplot with Maggie (Floriana Lima, who left the show early in the season), but again, her depression over it goes on way, way, way too long and doesn’t lead to anything concrete aside from her determination to become a mother. Katie McGrath’s Lena Luthor remains in a sort of grey area- once more, the show seems afraid to push her into villain territory, despite the fact that she’d make a great one (McGrath has a cold, intimidating presence that would work wonders as a manipulative villainess), so instead they give her a flat romance with James Olsen, who remains the show’s most useless and boring character. There are some cast shakeups and comic book hints in the season finale that point to some potentially intriguing new directions, but knowing this show, I’m left to wonder if that’s all it can ever really promise- potential. Will all these ingredients ever manage to leave the frying pan?

Grade: C

The Ladies Are Back in 'GLOW' Season 2

Yes!!! One of my favorite shows of last year (which will hopefully be showered with Emmy nominations in a few weeks) is back for a second season on June 29th, and I can't wait. It was such a fun show, yet the kind of comedy that's set in the real world (albeit the one of ladies wrestling in the 1980's) much more than the nutty cartoon antics of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Arrested Development. Hope the sophomore season lives up to the first.