The Last Ship: Lost and Found

Episode 2.03: Unreal City
Written by: Hank Steinberg
Directed by:  Tim Matheson
Original airdate: June 28, 2015

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers.

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The USS Nathan James makes it way to its home port of Norfolk, VA, where there’s good news and bad news for some of the crew hoping to be reunited with their families. Patient Zero survived the Russian ship, and has made his way into a group of zealots. The crew is also able to contact bases around the globe and begins getting the cure out to those who need it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. Rather than dragging the cure plot out into second season, they solved that problem, and now it looks like they’ll delve into world building as the globe attempts to recover from the pandemic. They start out in Washington, DC, going through the White House, which I thought was a neat scene, the fact that they could just search through that place, including the situation room, at their leisure. There’s a big anvil about the bunker, and how they couldn’t get in and there was no answer. Someone is probably in there, and we’ll find out soon enough. They also recover a hard drive while there with vital information on labs that had been set up to mass produce the vaccine. So that little problem is solved, now.

Making their way to Norfolk, which is the USS Nathan James’ home port, the crew is eager to begin the search for their loved ones. Chandler has already been reunited with his family, but is now in the awkward position of having his family on board, while the rest of the crew is forced to leave the service to care for their families. This spurs him to decide to remain with his children, but his daughter and his father convince him that he is still needed at his command, and he reluctantly agrees. For what it’s worth, I know we wouldn’t have a show without Chandler in command, but I thought he made the right decision. There is much he could accomplish on land helping the country rebuild while taking care of his family. The ship may or may not be important, but it’s just one ship, and Chandler made the point many times last season that he’s but one cog in a well-oiled machine that could run without him if needed. Chandler had the chance to make a huge and direct difference to people on the ground. There’s no other way this could’ve been resolved, and of course his family is all about him going off again, but he was right to want to stay.

Slattery, Foster, and Garnett (my fav) set about returning to their homes, to mixed results. Foster is reunited with her alcoholic mother who has undergone a complete transformation thanks to the end of the world and now runs a bowling alley. OK, it’s a little more serious than that, but they did beat us a bit over the head with the notion that disaster made her set up and get her shit together. Despite being pregnant, Foster opts to remain with her ship. Slattery and Garnett have no joy, however. Slattery’s family bugged out and nobody seems to know where they are. Beard tries to convince him to go look for them, but Chandler is obviously too great a role model, and so he returns to the ship. Garnett finds her home long abandoned, and discovers that they are among the dead via records from a nearby hospital. There’s this lovely scene between her and Chandler in her cabin on the ship where she tearfully tells him this. Chandler clearly doesn’t know what to say, but simply moves to stand next to her, and she rests her head on his shoulder as she cries. I thought it was a nicely understated scene–he didn’t go in for a hug or anything like that, which wouldn’t have been appropriate, but is just there to offer her solid and quiet comfort. Really nicely done.

Scott and Beard are also the subject of obvious future plot points. Scott has a chat with her mentor at Yale, who is down in Florida, who tells her that her boyfriend was last seen in China, where things were terrible, a few months ago. That’s a dangling plot point if I ever saw one–I’m sure we’ll run into her boyfriend at some point soon. Beard reveals he has a 14-year-old daughter out there somewhere that he’d like to find. THere’s obviously some seeds being sown for later.

The final interesting thing in the episode, one I saw coming a mile away, centers on Patient Zero from the Russian ship, the creepy Norwegian or Swedish guy who added one of his own genes to the virus and weaponized it. He’s a carrier, and we see him wash up on a beach filled with refugees, only to infect them all with the virus. Later, he hooks up with another group who are suspicious of the fact that he hasn’t gotten sick, despite sleeping in a diseased sleeping bag for several days. At this point, he’s taken to a town-hall style meeting where an Irish guy gives a rousing speech about how special they all are. Nothing good can come of this. The question is, since Chandler and the crew of the USS Nathan James are going to be off on their ship sailing around, how is this land-based cult going to intersect with them on a regular basis. The Russian plot worked pretty well in that regard, since they were both on ships. But I find it hard to believe this new cult full of special people will set sail and enjoy mustache-twirling plots on the high seas. They do seem to have some information about the ship, at least the guy with the unconvincing Irish accent, does, so there’s more here than meets the eye. They’re clearly there to threaten the land population in some way. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops, but it should be good for some extremely cheesy dialog and encounters, if the bit of them we saw in this episode was any indication.

The show is still filled with awful trappings related to militarism, sexism, nationality, etc. But it is managing to hit some sincere notes here and there about what this loss means, and how, psychologically, this crew needs to stick to their duty to hold it all together. That’s never overtly dealt with, but this episode does drive that point home. The ship may be the one familiar thing some of these people have left, and while the show doesn’t belabor that point, it’s there. It’s turning into an interesting mix of cheese and melodrama that I’m finding quite enjoyable. We’ll see if this season is a little less sexist. If nothing else, Danny seems to be on his meds, and I can’t decide if I’m sad about that or not, because his histrionics were so entertaining last season.

The Last Ship: Apocalypse Now

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I mocked this show rather mercilessly in my write-ups of the first four episodes of the first season last summer. But a funny thing happened as I was catching up on The Last Ship over the last couple of days. God help me, I started to enjoy this show, starting at about the halfway point. I did watch the episodes as they aired last year, but found myself often reaching for the iPad to check email (always a bad sign). But I did a mini-marathon of episodes 5-10 from season 1, and the first two episodes of season 2 over the last couple of evenings, and really enjoyed the show. It’s still 80s sexist and military rah rah as all hell, but all those elements actually came together and began to work entertainingly. It shows you should never judge a series by its first couple of episodes.

The middle of season one deals with the ongoing scramble to find the cure and the persistent threat presented by the Russians, with a side-trip to collect monkeys and deal with a stranded drug lord tormenting a village in Central America. I was pleased to see that they’d used New World monkeys for this. TV often gets that wrong. They looked like capuchin monkeys to me, and while they are ubiquitous enough that they could have been chosen by production to represent Old World monkeys, I’ll give the show credit for getting it right anyway.

So monkeys and an apparently immune teenager named Bertrice, whom the crew picks up in their travels (and who mysteriously disappears during the action for the season one finale and the season two opener). Dr. Scott, who had to prove herself over and over and over and over and over again to the crew to win their trust, uses Beatrice’s blood to concoct a vaccine. They test it on some crew members, who get sick and begin dying off, until Dr. Scott remembers the bird poo, otherwise known as the Primordial Strain, from the arctic. I found myself wondering, when Granderson’s goons were tearing the medical bay and Scott’s quarters apart searching for it how they would know what it looked like. Did it have a big label on it saying Primordial Bird Poo?

Anyway, they find the cure, dispatch the drug lord, blow up the Russians, and make their way to Baltimore and an enclave of human civilization run by Alfre Woodard as Lt. Granderson’s mother. She has set herself up in the eugenics business with a side company that burns bodies to keep the power on. I can’t even with that last bit. Whatever, just go with it. This is the show that talked about a virus evolving to gain an extra gene (granted, that’s not what happened as we found out later, but Scott talking about it as an actual possibility was hilarious). At the end of season one we’re also left thinking there are two bad guys running Baltimore, or trying to. Grandson, and another guy who used to be a police officer. Well, it turns out woman politician bad, former police officer good. Did we expect anything less from this show? Of course not.

Chandler is reunited with his family. Well, I should say with most of his family. He conveniently finds them in the SuperDome where they have succumbed to Captain Tripps and are dying.  His wife has already died, but Chandler manages to get the vaccine to his son, daughter, and crusty old dad (played by one of my favorites, Bill Smitrovitch). The rest of the opener is spent trying to get the ship back from Granderson’s thugs who have taken it over, take down Alfre Woodard, and rescue Scott, Granderson, and the pregnant Foster whose immune baby is now a very important plot device. I knew that was going to happen the second they said she was pregnant–that’s her whole storyline now, a womb with legs. Did we expect anything less from this show? Of course not.

Needless to say, they succeed on all counts, because the crew of the good ship USS Nathan James could not do anything less. Alfre Woodard commits suicide after killing the good cop and telling her people to stand down. Chandlers’ XO spends the entire episode locked in a room with monitors dancing around as his crew takes out the thugs. Really, that was pointless. I am digging the Chief Engineer, though. More of her, please. I think now the race will be to find a place to mass produce the vaccine and get it to the people as quickly as possible. The land-based post-apocalypse landscape should be fun this season, with fewer tropical locals.

Beard and Chandler continue to play out their romance via Scott. At least, that’s how I see it.  When Beard got jealous over Scott kissing Chandler to slip him a note, it’s really because he wants to be the one kissing Chandler. OK, probably not. Beard, though a stereotype, is kind of charming. I was certain when they killed off Chandler’s wife that he and Scott would hook up. In fact, I do smell a triangle now that I think about it. But there is always the now dead Quincy’s wife.

The bottom line is I’m clearly a sucker for a good apocalypse story. And this certainly kept me entertained during my mini-marathon, so I’m on board for now.

Under the Dome: One Toke Over the Line

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I watched all of season 2 of this series last summer, even though I eventually stopped blogging about it because it just got too weird and convoluted. I remember they found a magical way out of the dome, to the land where Sherry Stringfield lives, and that Barbie’s dad had the egg. Big Jim and Junior also continued their game of Good Guy, Bad Guy, Betcha Didn’t See That Coming. I think Julia died at one point, too, but came back to life in a diner. Yes? No?

It returned this past week for a third season, and I watched the first two episodes of season 3 last night. It was a demented acid trip! I just sat there in slack-jawed wonder at just how off-the-rails this show is now. It was truly a spectacle to behold.

The first clue that something is about to go seriously sideways is the voice-over narration recapping the season. Barbie reminds the viewer that the people of Chester’s Mills have found a way out of the dome. And then adds “Or to an alternate reality.” What the what? That wasn’t discussed last season, as far as I can remember, so I smell a retcon. Anyway, their alternate reality/dreamscape picks up one year after the dome basically imploded, killing Big Jim, Julia, and Junior, who were still inside. They are all gathering for the dedication of a memorial to those lost in the dome incident. Marg Helgenberger plays a perky trauma specialist who seems particularly fixated on the memorial ceremony, cajoling everyone who crosses her path to attend it and say something meaningful. Barbie is with another woman, but still mourning Julia; Little Joe and Uncle Sam are still mourning Angie, Norrie is trying to be a grown-up sorority girl if such a thing exists. All this starts to slowly unravel when Skateboard Dude tells Barbie something is seriously amiss, and gets a lethal asthma attack for his troubles. But now the cat’s out of the bag, and Barbie begins to notice the same guy showing up over and over again as different people, as if the agency didn’t send enough extras over that day for shooting.

That’s not a bad analogy, because we discover, in the real world where Julia and Junior and Big Jim are, that Dead Melanie has everyone cocooned and linked together by thick, pulsating pinkish purple veins, as they feed some mysterious podded entity. Kind of like The Matrix. But she needs the egg, and she convinces Julia to help her get it. Which Julia does, because that’s what Julia does. She and Big Jim do get to trade insults during all this, so it wasn’t a total wash. Who or what Dead Melanie is remains to be seen, but Julia and Big Jim manage to foil her plan at the end of the episode. It looks like Marg is here to stay, along with Barbie’s new girlfriend (I smell a triangle coming).

The whole episode was just really bizarre. I’ve read the novel, so I know what was behind the dome, and it seems as though they’re certainly going to play with that element here. I’m really curious to see what happens in the third episode, where it picks up after all this. It seems like a show that has basically said “Ah, fuck it,” and pulled out all the stops on a coherent narrative. It’ll be fun.

Killjoys: Beyond Thunderdome

Episode 1.02:  Sugar Point Run
Written by:  Jeremy Boxen
Directed by: Chris Grismer
Original airdate:  June 26, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: Spoilers, ho!

Where to begin…

Watching this episode was like watching Mad Max with ADHD. It was really an assault on the senses, and not in a good way. Very busy, very noisy episode. Dutch and her team are hired to rescue a politician’s kidnapped daughter. As Dutch and D’Avin discover the real plot, Johnny deals with troubles of his own on the ship.

The second episode of this series hits the ground running, or tries to. I will give the show credit for having a lot of energy, an almost manic amount, it seems to me, that made me want to back away from it slowly a few times. It really stands in stark contrast to its quieter counterpart, Dark Matter.  I do continue to also be impressed by the variety of locations, and how crowded the world seems.

Dutch

Dutch doesn’t seem particularly taken with D’Avin, and certainly doesn’t like having him moping about on her ship having nightmares. But when they’re in a difficult spot on the mission, she decides to trust him to get her out of it. Which he does. The two of them bicker and banter this entire episode, and the groundwork for a future romance is obviously being laid. Fortunately, they don’t seem in any huge hurry, and by the end of the episode, Dutch convinces D’Avin to become a Killjoy and join her team, something Johnny clearly has mixed feelings about.

Also, we see a bit more about Dutch’s backstory via flashback, and learn what the red box she was given in the last episode meant. The question of her training is mentioned a few time, so it’s obviously very elite. And it, of course, helps her escape getting sliced and diced for body parts.

D’Avin

D’Avin has nightmares. And he doesn’t want a boring nine to five job. That’s probably why he joined the military, to travel the universe, do something meaningful with his life.And that seems to have all gone horribly wrong for him, hence the nightmares. Other than that, I find him very nondescript. He’s your typical tortured military guy with secrets, but he’s really pretty bland. Maybe he’ll get interesting when we see what his dreams are about.

Johnny

Still enjoying Johnny. He’s relegated to the ship for this episode, so Dutch and D’Avin can have their adventure in bickering together. He manages to outsmart some extras from the Mad Max movies to save the ship from getting scavenged, which is a good thing. At the end, when Dutch convinces D’Avin to join their team, he looks very conflicted. There does seem to be a part of him that wants D’Avin to stick around, since he’s his brother. But there’s another part of him that isn’t so sure about it. If I hadn’t read an interview with Lovretta about the Dutch-Johnny friendship, I’d have read that as him having an unrequited thing for Dutch (please don’t go there, show). For now, I’ll take it up to sibling rivalry, as Johnny looks into his future and sees a lot of taking care of the ship in his future while Dutch and D’Avin go off on their adventures in bickering.

General

There’s some awesomely over-the-top dialog from the weekly bad guy, a woman named Rio, in this one.  Her whole deal is that she wants to stick it to the man, or, in this case, the corporations that ruined her life and forced her to live in a warehouse. In fact, she’s hilarious, and I was sorry they blew her up. They’re trying for the same thing with the Obviously Gay Bartender, but he’s not working as well, and treads dangerously close to offensive territory.

The show will likely settle down now, into bounty-of-the week stories, which will work pretty well given what they’ve set up. I hope it comes down just a skosh in terms of the energy level, the lights, and the noise. If it doesn’t, it’ll definitely be a show to watch every week, or in small doses, rather than binge watch.

Dark Matter: Walk on the Wild Side

Episode 1.03:  Episode 3
Written by:  Martin Gero
Directed by: Paolo Barzman
Original airdate:  June 26, 2015

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Spoilers. You know the drill.

It’s always a good sign when I find myself thinking about something while my brain is idle. The other morning I was thinking about the ship on Dark Matter. The Raza. Rasa… Oh, tabula rasa!. It probably would’ve been too obvious to actually name the ship The Tabula Rasa, so this is a fun play on words. It evokes images of razors and cutting edges first and implies danger, but also suggests the idea of the tabula rasa, or the blank slate. For the “you think too much about this, you should go outside for awhile” file, it’s neat that it’s only half the phrase, because they’re really only half blank slates. Their memories may be wiped, but nobody else’s is, if what we saw in the second episode is true (and it may or may not be). So everyone around them knows who they are, or thinks they know who they are, even if they don’t, and will act accordingly.

A brief visit to some of the discussion boards for this show remind me that TV needs more female authority figures, commanders, and captains. Badly. Some of the posters seem downright resentful that a woman can be in charge. I know I made the comment in my first blog about her bare midriff being a problem. I’m so conflicted on that now that I’ve thought about it some more. Honestly, if that’s what she wants to wear what does that have to do with her ability to command or fight or think? The answer is nothing. At the same time, it just seems so unnecessary, particularly since I don’t think we would see a male commander prancing around with a bare midriff, so it seems like that’s there so the men can ogle her with impunity because hey, look what she chooses to wear, it’s an invitation! It feels like it undermines her, even though it shouldn’t, and even if that’s not the intent. I don’t know. I have really mixed feelings about it. And no, I wouldn’t suddenly feel better about it if the guys took off their shirts for no reason. Definitely not! ;) There is also the reality of TV, too, which is that people tune in for the pretty, whether it’s male pretty or female pretty. It’s the same reason why we have to have long gun battles in lieu of lease negotiations, because there has to be action.

Some have also apparently taken issue with Two being able to take One down physically in the first episode. I didn’t have a problem with that at all.  Plenty of TV shows and movies show the same thing (Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD), so why is this even a thing here? I did mention in my first review that I thought it was unnecessary, but now that I think about it more I realize it was an expedient way to to show that One can’t fight or do computers, and doesn’t seem to have any skillset to speak of, unlike the rest. It’s easy to forget that these folks have thirteen 42-minute episodes in which to tell their story, so there has to be some shorthand. What would happen to a story if the novelist was limited to thirteen chapters of 2000 words each?

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Another fun little touch I noticed in Episode 1 is another subtle clue that Five may not be part of the regular crew. There are only five lockers. It looks like Five opens the fifth locker (last on the right), and discovers Six’s coat. Six finds Five’s coat laying across one of the cargo boxes. Yet Five is in stasis with them, and is woken up before Six. (I already feel like I have to add “presumably” to every statement with this show, even this early on.)  Whoever did this to them may have awoken them in a particular order, with One, Two, and Three coming around first, though Three is the only one we don’t see come out of stasis (hmmm…). And they obviously wanted the crew to find and activate the Android, or she’d have been the first one up when the damage occurred. Was that deliberate? Were the rest woken up by the first three or was their wake-up sequence automatically timed to follow/produce the order? Is Six really Five? Is Five the reason this all is happening to them?

Interesting questions, but on to this week’s episode before this gets too long.

I love bottle episodes, and they were smart to do one so early in the season. The financial reasons to do them aside, bottle episodes also provide an opportunity for character development between the regular and recurring characters, which is the case here. The ship mysteriously drops out of FTL near a dangerous source of radiation. This group is already starting to fracture at the seams after only five days, but this situation ups the ante significantly as paranoia sets in and they begin to turn on each other.

One

He was less boy scout here, and has a very good idea to use the Android as a lie detector to help them figure out who might have wiped their memories once that information is made public. The answer was probably not what they wanted, since the Android concluded, assuming she was being truthful, that none of them were lying. He is a thinker, rather than a doer, I believe, and makes me think about people whose job it is to go into a situation, analyze it, and find ways to improve efficiency. That seems to be his skill set even though nobody has, as yet, recognized it. He does know how to handle a gun, so he’s obviously had some training somewhere, but he’s not a physical fighter. But he doesn’t know the first thing about CPR!

One is also the subject of the episode’s big reveal at the end, as we see another Jace Corso at a bar in a space station looking for the Raza. This Jace Corso has a harder look and feel to him than One does. This was the ending of the fourth comic, so it’s obviously part of the ongoing plot of the season. Who is One, really? Clone or sibling? Is he posing as Jace Corso? Corporate spy? Government agent? Grifter? Is he the only one of the crew who has a double?

There’s an awkward scene at the end of the episode between Two and One, in which he makes a move on her, then backs off. I have no idea where they’re going with that. Truthfully, I’m not at all interested in it, so hopefully it won’t take up too much time, or will be something interesting instead of just a side romance plot.

Two

Two seemed more emotional throughout this episode, a fact noted by Three.  She’s pretty calm and decisive at breakfast, when she informs Three they aren’t selling the ship. Once Five finds the body, however, she’s rattled. Her unease is further compounded by the Android confirming Five’s story about someone from the ship wiping their memories. Having Six discover that fact on his own and demand answers probably didn’t help matters, and from that point onward throughout the episode, Two is clearly unsettled.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when it looks like they might lose the Android, and there’s an interesting, emotionally charged exchange between them at the airlock. It strongly hinted that there’s probably way more history there, like they’ve known each other much, much longer than just their time on The Raza. Retrograde amnesia, in which episodic memory prior to some brain trauma is lost, is a very strange and little understood phenomenon. As One notes in the first episode, the facts of their lives are gone, but they still know what a stasis pod is, and can communicate. They also, very quickly, fall into particular behavioral patterns that speak of their roles and capabilities prior to the memory loss. Emotional responses are very basic physiological and psychological processes easily associated with external events or objects. In fact, memories that are tagged with strong emotion are recalled with more detail, such as people being able to tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard that the space shuttle had exploded, or the World Trade Center was hit by planes. It is unclear whether people suffering from retrograde amnesia experience emotional responses to people or things they don’t remember, but I think it’s very possible, in which case, Two’s emotional attachment to the Android is a big clue to something to come.

Related to this is Two’s theory that Five has all their memories stored in her subconscious. That did seem to come out of nowhere, but it’s an interesting idea. My working theory would’ve been that those memories were planted by some agency or individual as part of whatever this whole plot is to make the crew believe certain things. However, Five also appears to have an intense emotional attachment to the Android, too, and despite their exchange in Episode 2, I thought it was out of place. Unless she feels this way because she actually does have Two’s memories stored somewhere in her subconscious and they’re leaking out.

Three

After the first episode, I thought I’d hate this character. Instead, I love this guy! For one thing, he drives the plot in a major way, and brings some much-needed humor to the series. Also, he was right in this episode, even if his methods were abrasive. While the majority of the crew were being ruled by their emotions, he was busy looking out for the welfare of the ship and crew. Starting with himself. The Android is expendable, and saved them, and he had the right idea that they shouldn’t risk their lives to retrieve her. He also had a point about wanting to sell the ship and split up. If it were me, I’d be like Four and stay to get answers, but I can see his point as well.

Yet, for all the ways Three claims he wants to just be left alone, he’s spent most a lot of time trying to recruit allies. That plays a big part in the first episode, not only when trying to convince Six to be his second-in-command, but also when they try to decide what to do with the miners. Here, he’s apparently given up on Six, and now sets out to recruit Four to his side. As a way to gain Four’s trust, he shows him the door (though, since the ship is an enclosed space, couldn’t anyone find the door? Isn’t anyone curious about exploring the rest of the ship? This drove me crazy in SGU, I’d be all over that ship exploring if it were me).

Three also undergoes the lie detector test under duress, largely due to his mistrust of the Android, which manifests as annoyance with her most of the time. But unlike the majority of the crew, the Android is a thing to him, a useful tool, but one that’s expendable, and I hope they keep it that way and not have him have an epiphany about her at some point. It’s unclear if he feels the same way about the rest of the crew, but the test shows he has no desire to harm any of them. And, as Two points out, he was looking out for them by taking over the bridge to get them out of there.

I enjoyed him a lot in this episode. He’s selfish, but not entirely mean about it, and while that could potentially be dangerous for some on the crew, I don’t genuinely feel he’s a threat. Five does, however, so we’ll see where that goes. Laughed when all the guys piled their trays onto his at breakfast (but notice the ladies bused their own trays). But so far, loving Three and I honestly thought I wouldn’t, so kudos to Anthony Lemke and the writers there.

Four

Four continues to be silent and mysterious. I do have to admire Alex Mallari’s moves–he really does sell the martial arts aspect of the character, even if we haven’t seen him in much actual fighting action. We got a major insight into his character when Three tries to recruit him. He tells Three he’d just take the ship when he was ready to leave. That’s an important piece of information for Three to have, I think, and I expect he’ll try to keep Four as an ally as much as he can for when that time comes. Showing him the door was an attempt to gain his trust. I can’t decide if Four had some unconscious response to the door or not–he suddenly seemed in a hurry to get out of there.

I like the fact that he’s clearly not interested in socializing with the rest of the crew. At all. He’ll find his answers in his own way and his own time, and is obviously very patient. Of all the people on the ship, he’s the one most likely to set off on his own with no explanations or clear motives, regardless of the rest of the crew. For now, he’s staying because it’s in his interests to stay; I definitely don’t think that will be permanent.

Five

There’s more evidence that Five was a stowaway, or at least pretended to be a stowaway to get onto the ship. Who knows what her real deal is. Bored, she goes back to crawling through the vents, and is drawn to a room that contains the body of a teenage boy who has been shot in the kidney. Five obviously thinks she’s the one who killed him, and definitely feels a connection to him because she simply knew where he was once she was up in the vents. Later, she finds a keycard and a gun. (Was that in the same room with the body? Why did nobody think to go and actually search that area for more clues? It’s obvious none of these people are CSIs)

More bonding between Five and Six, which I really enjoy. He’s very quick to comfort her when she’s upset about the body, and about the Android, which was nice. I really enjoy watching the two of them interact with each other.

And, as much as I enjoy Three, I have to admit I did enjoy Five getting the drop on him (and him subsequently welding the vent to his quarters shut because of it). While I’m normally a big proponent of showing rather than telling, telling worked for me her as a “gotcha.” We’d already seen Five crawling around in the vents and after Three accused her of wiping their memories, her concerns were justified.  It’s not going to toward any trust building between Three and Five, but that’s all right with me.

Six

As I mentioned, we get more bonding between Five and Six. But we also get his protective streak, too, I think. He tells Two that Five shouldn’t be on the ship with them because they’re bad people. He seems to think that, even without her memories, she’d be safer away from them. Two tells him that she might have their memories, and Six is rather nonplussed at that. He clearly does not believe that Five killed the boy.

Later, he goes on the EVA to rescue the Android, and is nearly killed in the process. He, too, displays a curious and seemingly out-of-place affection for the Android, which he verbalizes to Five. And he definitely sides with the group that argues that they need to rescue the Android after she is taken offline by the electricity on the hull. There are some signs that Two, Five, Six, and the Android, and possibly One, are an emotionally tied unit of some sort, with Three and Four the outsiders.

The Android

This episode clearly belongs to Three and The Android, as the two of them provide most of the driving force for the plot. I’m still struggling with Zoie Palmer’s take on the character, but I’m liking her more with each episode. Here, she plays a key role in helping the crew sort out who is and who isn’t telling the truth, assuming the Android is entirely truthful, of course (we don’t know what sorts of parameters she’s been programmed with). She also undertakes a perilous EVA to repair the damaged coupling, and is nearly destroyed in the process. She executes this plan with machine-like efficiency and a seeming lack of emotion, but Palmer is imbuing The Android with flashes of emotion here and there, or at least setting it up so that the audience can project that onto her a little bit. There’s a very brief reaction to being called a thing, and an almost childlike delight in being complimented. She also gets some of the most genuinely funny lines.

One thing I noted was that the Android says the boy has been dead “a while.” A while? From the Android who was telling them, to the second, when they’d reach their destination?  That struck me as wildly imprecise for the Android, even at this stage of the game. Which means there’s obviously much more to this dead body than it appears.

General notes

Another Bechdel Test pass for this episode. So far Mallozzi’s three for three on that.

I sometimes wonder why ship designers put vital parts of the ship on the outside. But then I remember that you wouldn’t get exciting and dangerous EVA action without that. Plus, maybe putting them on the outside was safer on some way, because they had to be shielded or something. Who knows. This was an EVA on a budget here, but this was an episode less about action and more about characters.

So far, I don’t think they are breaking any new ground for the genre, but it’s been pretty solid and enjoyable. The series excels at raising more questions than it answers at this point, but that’s all right for now. I have no idea if any of my speculations are correct or not, so it’ll be fun to find out. Mallozzi has promised answers, which is good. A series just about questions, or one that throws out a bunch of things without follow-through, would be no fun to watch. I want this show to be definitive about some things, take some risks instead of leaving things open to interpretation. Too many shows are afraid of rocking the boat, or alienating segments of their fanbase, which I don’t want to see happen here. So far, I have liked each episode more than the last. The fourth episode, directed by Amanda Tapping, sounds like a big episode, with some important stuff for Five, so I’m looking forward to that as well.

Dark Matter: We Gotta Get Out of this Place

Episode 1.02:  Pilot, Part 2
Written by:  Joseph Mallozzi
Directed by: T.J. Scott
Original airdate:  June 19, 2015

DISCLAIMER: There are spoilers herein, if you haven’t seen the episode yet.

dark-matter-headerIn the second half of the pilot episode for the series, the crew must deal with the big reveal, the fate of the colonists they were sent to kill, and warfare of all kinds between corporations.

The overall structure of this episode mirrored the first episode: crew scrambling to figure out who they are and relate to each other before splitting off into the menfolk down on the planet taking care of business and the womenfolk up on the ship taking care of business. There was even a nice scene between the Android and Five to compliment the scene between Two and Five from the first episode, which is only fitting because aside from the Android, Five is the only one we know nothing about except that she is a bit creepy.

One

This episode made it hard to like One. Last week, I enjoyed his nervous babbling, and genuine discomfort at his predicament. He’s still driven by that discomfort, probably moreso than any of the other characters, particularly after the reveal at the end of the first episode. The problem is he goes into overcompensation mode, and in so doing, becomes really needy and really annoying. One has been referred to as the group’s “moral compass,” and that’s fine, because I think this group probably needs someone to point North when Three points in some direction other than North. Instead, he spends the entire episode kind of whiny and on the verge of going rogue the entire time they’re down on the planet. And, he finally does, stepping into the initial confrontation hoping to scare the corporate troops away, thereby formally committing the team to helping the colonists whether the rest wanted to or not.

I think we’re supposed to side with One on this. At least, that’s typically the rule in these situations. You have the group trying to stick to practicalities, and one lone voice demanding that they be better than that and do the right thing. In this case, you have to ask yourself if he genuinely wants to save these people, or if he really wants to just save himself, prove that he isn’t this horrible murderer that he denies he is so vehemently. Of course, he does this by committing murder (he’s a very good shot), nearly getting his teammates killed, and getting a few colonists killed in the process. Gee, what a nice guy. He came across as single-minded and selfish to me, not noble, but I thought that was an interesting contrast. The group is headed for a heap of trouble if he doesn’t get himself sorted out soon.

Two

There are a couple of interesting confrontations between Two and One in this episode. He comes close to openly challenging her leadership, and I sensed that he actually did feel he could do better, but was too chicken shit to actually say it to her face. At the end of the episode there was some awful telegraphing that she was interested in One. I literally rolled my eyes. I’m hoping they just get it out of the way as they discover they don’t really like each other very much. One can hope anyway.

Other than that, Two negotiates a solution to the problem at hand and saves the day (and the menfolk down on the planet). She basically plays the corporations off each other. I wish we could’ve seen that negotiation, especially since we saw her conversation with the guy from the Ferrous Corp (or however you spell it), who offered her a deal to cut and run. Why he would do that is unclear, except maybe he wanted her out of the way while they executed Plan B. I felt a little cheated that we didn’t see Two work that deal, and we got that overly long and rather cheap looking gunfight instead. I think that could’ve been trimmed by a minute or two to show Two doing her thing. But I suppose they were hoping we’d think she was legitimately going to abandon the menfolk to their fate on the planet surface, to create some suspense. It didn’t work, but I can see why they made that narrative choice. This early on character building is a little more important than cheap suspense beats, IMO, particularly since she’s the leader. So far, her leadership consists of the men sort of doing what she says while they stare at her ass. It’s unfortunate.

Two and Five know that someone deliberately erased their memories. Do they tell the others? Because they all think it was just a freak accident.

Three

Well, what do you know, I really liked Three this time out. I wonder if that’s going to be be a thing for me, finding a different character to really like in each episode. Here, Three’s laissez faire attitude was the perfect counterpoint to One’s overly earnest morality. I had the sense he was just as fine with fighting it out with the corporate troops as he was leaving the colonists to fend for themselves. And I never once felt like Three was driven by selfishness, or anything but a “let the chips fall where they may” attitude. It wasn’t the petulant and somewhat disingenuous morality of One, it wasn’t selfishness, or meanness. It was just…cheerful indifference, and I found it refreshing.

I absolutely loved the scene where we find out the name of his guns, and that he thinks naming swords is psychotic. Lets hope Four doesn’t have pet names for his swords. Also very good delivery from Marc Bendavid on that tremulous “No!” I also liked his humor during the reveal of their identities. His comment about defense mechanisms revealed he was at least a little bothered by it all. He’s also becoming like John Locke trying to get that damn hatch open!

Four

Four finally shows some signs of life. His speech after they find out who they are was the height of cheesy dialog but I think Alex Mallari did the best he could with it, and mostly sold it. In fact, Four seems generally a little more relaxed here than he did in the pilot, as if some part of him was secretly relieved to discover who he was, even if he dismissed its importance.

The scene where he went in to torture the corporate goon was interesting. I didn’t find him all that threatening, or the scene chilling, and I’m not sure why. I didn’t have any doubts that Four would torture the guy, and that didn’t bother me. But I guess, now that I think about it, it was interesting, coming on top of his comments at the start about leaving all that death and chaos and destruction behind, and yet here he is, getting ready to engage in death and chaos and destruction. It didn’t connect, and yet I only now realized it didn’t as I was writing this. He might’ve resorted to torture as an act of self-preservation, since that happened after they were committed to staying for the fight. I still don’t quite know what to make of Four. I need to see more of him to begin teasing him apart.

The box he found in the first episode contains a ring. Five was kind enough to open it for him when she found it while snooping in his quarters. The ring has a knot-like design on it. No idea what it could be, but I’m sure we’ll find out.

Five

More reveals with Five this week. The big one, of course, is that she knows someone erased their memories, it wasn’t an accident. And they reminded us that she sees other people’s memories. So I guess we’re to believe someone on the ship loaded a virus that took away their memories while they were in stasis. While she’s saying that, we see Two, Four, Six, the Android, Three, and One, in that order. I guess they’re the usual suspects. Does this rule out Five as the one who wiped their memories? Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly implies that one of them is behind this. And did they wipe their own memory, or are they faking it? So far I’m pretty convinced none of them remember, which means whoever did it is someone we haven’t met, or it’s one of them who went in whole hog. I bet the reveal is that they all agreed to it for some reason, and we’ll find out at some point during the season.

There’s also the question of how Five can know these things. She seems certain they are memories that belong to people other than herself, but how do we really know that? And if they are, how can she do that? Does she have to be close to them to recall it? If so, who was she with when she “remembered” that someone had wiped their memories? Who was she with when she remembered someone’s dream of cutting out someone’s eyeballs? There, I think she was with Six and Two.

When the Ferrous Corp shows up, Two rather urgently tells her to hide and not come out until they tell her its safe. I thought that was interesting. Two instinctively senses Five isn’t supposed to be there, and needs to be hidden? While Five was crawling around in the ducts I had sudden thought that she was a stowaway, which is why her name isn’t in the crew list. Not sure if that really fits, since she was in stasis with them, though. And it seems rather obvious, and one thing I hope this show isn’t is obvious.

Six

I continue to really like Six, but man is he dumb. He lets One get away from him after Two gives him explicit instructions to keep him in line. He decides on some weird suicide mission to save everyone, and forgets to close the door to the shuttle as he preps it with hostiles lurking everywhere. I guess that scene in the reactor room, with him watching everyone set up their sightlines for the coming battle was him coming up with this plan to take out the Ferrous Corp ship, but it was edited badly, and the music was strange. It looked like it was supposed to be some montage sequence, but it just looked clumsy with close-ups of Six just stuck in there. Weird, weird sequence–I blame the editing more than the directing on that one. It really stuck out like a sore thumb in the episode for me since it was another one of those places where the energy just got drained away for no reason.

So anyway, Six comes up with this daring plan, never makes it off the planet, and ends up a hostage instead. And then, when the corporate goons high-tail it out of there, doesn’t even have the presence of mind to give the all clear. I’m just shaking my head. Is this deliberate? I guess it must’ve been, so One, Four, and Three could have their Dirty Dozen, Alamo moment and decide to go out together in a blaze of glory. Kind of a cheap way to get it, IMO.

The Android

I was less annoyed by the Android this time around, but I really don’t like the way Zoie Palmer is delivering her lines as this character. She needs to at least slow it down just a touch, I think, and not come across with such conscious affect. It’s really distracting. It has to come down a notch. It reminds me of Speed Racer, where everyone talked very fast because they were dubbing English onto the Japanese lip movements.

That said, her scene with Five was really rather nice. I liked the scene overall, particularly the Android sitting like Five during their conversation. The “But I can smell them,” line was delivered well, with just the right amount of being perplexed that this is a problem. Her comment about Five being glad she’s not a member of the crew was interesting–does the Android know more than she’s saying? Or was this just a general comment on the crew’s seeming predilection for violence, which the Android catalogs? Also, the Android is stealthy. Big anvil there, I think, but to whose benefit?

On the Bechdel Test front, I give this episode a passing grade. The only conversations the crew have about each other are either between the men, or in mixed company, and while Two seems to make eyes at One toward the end, they don’t really discuss it beyond that.  Five and The Android (and I’m counting the Android as female here, though I suppose she’s technically neither male nor female), and Five and Two covered important general exposition in their conversations.

The next episode, the first away from the comic, will be important in terms of where this series is heading, as we will get to see aspects of the characters we haven’t had a chance to see so far. I read the comics, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect for the first two episodes, and now I’m genuinely excited to see what they have in store for us for the third episode and beyond. Hopefully they’ll pair the crew off in interesting ways as the season progresses, and I don’t mean romantically.  In my opinion, romance/shipping is not Mallozzi or Mullie’s forte as writers, and Firestone and Piazza made a right mess of it on Lost Girl, so I’d just as soon they stayed away from that altogether, aside from a the odd…ahem…recreational activities here and there. Farscape, in its first two seasons, was absolutely brilliant at teaming up different characters across episodes so the audience could get to know them better, so I’m hoping for the same here going forward.

In general, I liked this hour better than the first. I really rather love the fact that I have so many questions about the crew even this early in the game. I hope the series lives up to what it’s set up and stays away from the obvious. I think that’s where my mind tends to go, to the obvious places, because the show is still a little filled with tropes. But I’m hoping for some pleasant surprises on that front as we continue. In a perfect world, this will be the kind of show that, at the end of the season, you say “Damn!” then go back and immediately rewatch the whole thing from the beginning.

Killjoys: Have Gun, Will Travel

Episode 1.01:  Bangarang
Written by:  Michelle Lovretta
Directed by: Chris Grismer
Original airdate:  June 19, 2015

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers, ho!

killjoys

SyFy’s second entry in their return to their roots is another production with Canada’s Space channel. Like its partner Dark Matter, Killjoys is based on a graphic novel of the same name. It’s brought to you by the same company that produces Orphan Black. Michelle Lovretta, who created and was the showrunner for Lost Girl‘s first season, also created and runs this show. There are also a few other familiar names from the Lost Girl writers room and production team. Killjoys centers on a team of bounty hunters, or reclamation specialists, named Dutch (the leader) and Johnny, her friend and partner. They fly around in a talking spaceship named Lucy, and in the pilot episode, Johnny discovers that there is a warrant for his estranged brother, D’Avin, so he sets out on his own to rescue him.

Killjoys starts with Dutch infiltrating the bad guy’s headquarters disguised as a hapless female there to rescue her “boyfriend” Johnny who is being tortured. But it’s all part of the plan, and soon enough Dutch whips out a crotch gun and shoots the dude who is about to rape her. I guess the new trope in female empowerment is to set up a scenario where the woman is sexually objectified and then have her turn the tables on her would-be rapists and kick their asses.  Lost Girl started the season with it, and so does Killjoys (and there are elements of it in Dark Matter, too, though they don’t take it as far). It’s certainly better than merely objectifying women as sex objects, and hopefully this trend is just a path toward being able to have kick-ass female characters who don’t need to provide a violent object lesson for men who try to objectify them.

One thing I very much appreciated about early Lost Girl was the world-building that Michelle Lovretta did. She seemed fairly invested in creating a sense of fae history and culture and infusing it throughout her urban drama. The first two seasons of that show were the best in that respect, with a rich backdrop for Bo’s unfolding drama to take place against. It looks like Lovretta is doing the same thing here. The worlds of Killjoys felt big and populated. There were people everywhere. The Old Town slums were crowded, dank and dreary, the Leith Bazaar was seedy and colorful, the bar vibrant and filled with throngs of dancers. When the series was more darkly lit it looked a lot better. The high society party they attended toward the end of the episode looked cheap in contrast to the rest of the settings. The interior of the ship wasn’t anything special, either. A mixed bag, but I can appreciate world-building, even if it’s on a limited budget, so I’m happy to go along with it for now.

The characters, however, fell largely flat for me. And the show unfortunately stuck them into a few overly-long action sequences that didn’t help.

  • Dutch. The actress who plays Dutch simply did not sell me on the character, though she is certainly very beautiful. Her story has potential to be very interesting–she apparently has special training that at least a few people in the company she works for know about. The brief childhood flashback was quite intriguing, particularly since her mentor shows up at the party to rescue her from dying of poison, and leaves her another mysterious red box like the one from the flashback, which we are told is a weapon.
  • Johnny. It’s funny, but when I looked at the press leading up to the premiere I thought Aaron Ashmore, who plays Johnny, was going to be the weak link. He was a snoozefest as Nate on Lost Girl, but I liked him well enough on Warehouse 13 as Steve. But he’s kind of bland. Having said that, of the three main characters, I think I liked Johnny the best. He wasn’t too snarky (my biggest fear with Emily Andras on board as a producer–I sometimes think snark is the only thing she knows how to write and it gets to be a bit much after awhile), which was good. And he seemed to have a brain, and be a genuinely nice guy. He’s still kind of bland, but a likable bland for me.
  • D’Avin. He’s Johnny’s brother, and kind of a bland douchebag. He reminded me of Dyson from Lost Girl, a character with a ton of potential that got turned into a cardboard cutout. Hopefully D’Avin will fare better than Dyson has.

What I think is going to particularly interest me are some comments about the show that Lovretta recently made. In particular, I was a little excited to see that she has no plans for a romance triangle, and plans to keep Dutch and Johnny as friends. I am totally on board with that idea–television so very rarely tries for male-female friendship, and even less often succeeds. Nothing turns me off a show faster than taking what looks like a great male-female friendship and turning it into romance. Jack and Sam on Stargate SG1, Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, to name two examples. I have never bought into the idea that men and women cannot be just friends. That’s ridiculous, because of course we can, and it would be nice if television could reflect that more often. It would go a long way toward not having to do the trope I mentioned at the start of this blog. So I will definitely keep on watching Killjoys to see if they manage to pull it off. I think Lovretta can do it.

So, an interesting start, but I hope the characters become a little more engaging. Oddly enough, even though Dark Matter is filled with stereotypes so far, I find I’m more engaged in where they’re going than I was at the end of the pilot for Killjoys. But, it did have more energy than Dark Matter. I’m happy to see Lovretta back, and I’m on board for the Dutch-Johnny friendship all the way!