“The Long Bright Dark” – True Detective

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 21.11.38With its pilot, True Detective presented us with one of the strongest openings we’ve seen this season. We were fully prepared to be disappointed – HBO can, quite often, in aiming for drama and gravitas, leave its viewers with only a sense of what a show could be like and an almost bitter taste in their mouths (Boardwalk Empire, for instance, was perpetually building itself up to be a show it never became, constantly making promises it didn’t or couldn’t keep). Not so with this one. Despite a slow start, and some early trepidation on our part, True Detective showed its true colors in ample time.

A brief summary to get you up to speed: the series will take place largely in flash-back mode, with modern-day police (played by Michael Potts and Tory Kittles) interviewing veteran detectives Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson, Cheers, Now You See Me) and Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike) about the first big case they worked together – the apparent occult murder of a hooker – which took place in a small town populated by former cast members of Treme. Hart and Rust have been brought in and that old case has been dragged up because of the discovery of the victim in an eerily similar crime. The problem? Rust and Hart supposedly caught the killer the first time ‘round. That original case will obviously form the basis of the series (we’re assuming that this will be a one-season-only type show, although, if it goes the way we think it might, there is possibility for follow-up seasons with a drastically different format).

Other things you need to know: Continue reading

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“Erlkönig” – Boardwalk Empire

kessler-death-650x364Goodbye, Eddie. The phrase “we hardly knew ye” is too appropriate. Last week, I noted that Eddie explained how he figured he could make a fresh start for himself in America following his wife’s death, leaving behind two grown and stable sons. The actual reason isn’t nearly that pleasant, though. He worked at a German department store and fled with the company’s funds, along with a woman from another section, leaving behind his wife and sons. The woman abandoned him soon after, and his sons have changed their names to help them forget their father.

Warren Knox uses this information to break Eddie, weakening him so Knox can get to Nucky. He deprives Eddie of the outside world, giving the Feds enough time to uncover the weak link’s background. Eddie’s loyalty has always been his greatest trait, which Knox realizes. He has Eddie point this out himself – “I strive”, Eddie tells his interrogator. An old German poem (Der Erlkönig, after which the episode is named) is used to remind Eddie of the devotion a father owes his sons and, by extension, his whole family. Finally, the knife is twisted when Knox puts a simple question to Eddie: would Nucky show his devoted assistant the same loyalty Eddie proffers? Eddie knows the answer, as do we.

Eddie gives up Ralph Capone’s name and is released, with the promise that Knox will be speaking with him again soon. When he finally returns to Nucky’s, he sees that his master’s only struggle during the period of interrogation was Continue reading

“All In” – Boardwalk Empire

boardwalk-empire-all-inWith the large numbers of first generation immigrants in America, circa 1924, it’s not a surprise that the writers on Boardwalk Empire decided to focus their pens on the various ethnic identities of the characters. We’ve had Jews, African-Americans and Italian-Americans, primarily, with a smattering of time spent exploring the Celtic connections in Atlantic City (in Season 1’s “Nights in Ballygran”). In “All In”, we’re privy to a brief look at another ethnic group – German Americans – of which Eddie Kessler is a part.

He’s sent on a routine pick up by Nucky, only for it to devolve into him leading Ralph Capone around AC before finishing up in a pub. We learn interesting details about Eddie along the way, most importantly that he’s not a typical immigrant. He came to America relatively late in life – after his sons had achieved job security and his wife had died – figuring he’d find a vibrant career. Working as an assistant to Enoch Thompson has certainly provided that. Eddie is an educated man who’s fallen in with some bad eggs, and he doesn’t seem to regret it one bit. When he’s telling his immigrant buddies that his promotion means he now deals in the more nefarious side of Nucky’s operation, he’s delighted. And Anthony Laciura hilariously imbues his character (Eddie, of course) with such a gleeful beam while his friends fire off their pretend Tommies that it’s hard not to feel happy for him, too.

When Ralph enquires about the gang war between Gyp Rosetti and Nucky (and Al), it’s Continue reading

“Acres of Diamonds” – Boardwalk Empire

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 6.09.35 PMOh, Dr Narcisse, you sneaky dog. Fresh from muscling in on Chalky’s business (without having to use muscle), he’s now gauging Dunn Purnsley’s allegiance to his master as preparation for flooding Atlantic City’s black community with heroin. Purnsley is still in Chalky’s dog house for the murder of Dickie Pastor. Chalky isn’t too pleased that Dunn’s libido has brought Dr Narcisse into his life. If Dunn continues as the rope in Narcisse and Chalky’s tug of war, then his days are likely numbered in AC. If TV has taught us anything, it’s that the treacherous lieutenant rarely survives.

And from where is Narcisse getting the heroin? Arnold Rothstein, of course. There have been some wonderful combinations of actors in the show already, and Jeffrey Wright and Michael Stuhlbarg look to be the latest. Both characters deal primarily in verbals, leaving the bloodier side to their underlings. However, both also realize the power inherent in subtly gaining advantages through mere conversation. Witness how Narcisse has already done this with Nucky, endeavoring to show himself as Nucky’s equal by describing him (among other things) as a “king, pretending to be a servant”. I hope we see more of Narcisse and Rothstein alone together. It’s already clear that Narcisse is as dangerous as Rothstein ever was, so having them team up should make things interesting for Nucky when he returns from Florida.

An interesting aside here relates to Continue reading

“Resignation” – Boardwalk Empire

boardwalk-empire-resignation-michael-shannon-1Often on Boardwalk Empire, characters become resigned to the less agreeable aspects of their situation, even if they’ve otherwise acquired positions of power. Jimmy Darmody was a prime example, as he never fought his depraved mother’s presence in his life. Richard Harrow has followed this example with his heavy involvement (almost reliance) in violence since the war. And we see in (the not coincidentally titled) “Resignation” that Chalky White has succumbed to this trope, playing the part of subservient black man to his white customers.

Here is a man who personally brutalized the local Grand Cyclops of the Klan in Season 1, and who now controls the biggest club in Atlantic City – in “New York Sour”, he comfortably and authoritatively called in the Thompsons to help clean up Dunn’s killing of the booking agent. But when we see him tending to his guests in the Onyx during the early scenes of “Resignation”, he just stands there while a white customer condescendingly rubs his head. It clearly bothers him, yet he says nothing and walks away. After all the progress he’s made, he still views himself as the “field nigger” he described to his family in Season 2.

This is noticed, too, by Dr Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright, Casino Royale). Narcisse is looking for reparations after the death of the booking agent, Dickie Pastor, and observes that Chalky is “a servant, pretending to be a king”. It clearly rankles the modest Chalky. It gets worse, too – Mrs Pastor Continue reading

“New York Sour” – Boardwalk Empire

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 11.32.06 AMWe’re back for another season on the Boardwalk, where the showgirls are underdressed, the government agents are crooked, and Mickey Doyle continues to giggle. Quite a bit has changed since our last time in Atlantic City. Nucky has followed through on last year’s promise to Chalky, so Babette’s is now the Onyx and is in Chalky’s control. It also appears as though Nucky is trying to stick with last season’s decision to stay under the radar. He’s a disgraced politician and is known by the government to be heavily involved with bootlegging, so it’s the wise course for now.

When we see him in the Onyx, he’s keeping far back from the action, standing in a darkened room observing Chalky running the club. This is a stark example of how far he’s withdrawn his reach. Apparently gone is the Nucky with his fingers in every pot. In his place is a more cautious man. It turns out he’s awaiting the New York boys, who are still a little touchy about the dozen or so corpses last season’s activities left near the Commodore’s old mansion. A peace is offered – one which it seems Joe Masseria and Arnold Rothstein will accept. Rothstein, in particular, comes off as worried about Nucky’s capabilities. Considering how Nucky dealt with him through some ingenious trickery (instead of brute force, as he used with Masseria’s men), that’s understandable. Nucky may be a “bread stick in a bow-tie”, but he’s damn fearsome in an understated way.

When he’s not worrying about Continue reading

“The Rains of Castamere” – Game of Thrones

WARNING! The following reviewing contains many fairly large spoilers. Please, DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

red2It’s not often that you see a look of utter betrayal. I saw that look three times before breakfast this morning. Once on Jorah Mormont’s face when he realized Daenerys cared more about Daario than him, once more on Catelyn Stark’s face as she discovered the chainmail onesie on Roose Bolton, and then once more staring back from the mirror as I looked up after the screen silently faded to black.

I knew the Red Wedding was coming, I knew all this would happen, but I still wasn’t prepared. How am I expected to go on with my life now? How can I keep going with this emotional trauma weighing me down? And did they really have to kill another direwolf? That was just the icing on the cake of cruelty that the good people at HBO have shoved down our collective throats.

But then, at least, I did smile once during this new episode.

Remember when Hodor (of House Hodor, first of his Hodor) was freaking out about the thunder and right before Bran warg’d him into a nice deep coma? Not sure if everyone else twigged this but Bran says, and I shit you not, “Hush Hodor, no more Hodoring.” How in seven hells does a child actor keep a straight face while saying that? I mean they verbed him. Comedy gold. Not to mention Walder Frey’s crass (but rather smirk-inducing) monologue relating to the lovely Lady (Queen?) Talisa (Quoteworthy). That said, Continue reading

“Second Sons” – Game of Thrones

game-of-thrones-season-3-sansa-tyrion-weddingTen thousand men is impressive by any standard. So, with two thousand mounted and armored men and eight thousand in light infantry, not to mention three growing dragons, I’m backing Daenerys Stormborn for Queen of Westeros. I mean, I always have been, but now it looks like it could actually happen. It’s a bad time to be from Yunkai.

“Second Sons” wasn’t great in comparison to the rest of the season. Heavy on drama, light on action and only so-so on wit. That said, we did at least get our fix of Tyrion, drunk and furious at his own wedding, noble as always, if a bit reckless. It’s generally not a good idea to threaten castration to your King, even if he is being the world’s most irritating, step stool moving little pissant. But I have to hand it to Peter Dinklage – Tyrion is almost everyone’s favorite character in the series, and how he played the imp in this outing of Game of Thrones is simply phenomenal. It’s not easy to act convincingly drunk, and even harder, I imagine, to act as a drunk, pretending to be even drunker, but I was lost in his scenes, almost forgetting that it’s all fiction. That happens a lot with me and this show.

Now what I did have something of a problem believing (pretty rich coming from a man reviewing a fantasy TV series, huh?) was Sam and his magic dagger. Which he just so happened to be carrying. And it just so happens to be made of White Walker kryptonite. And of course he just has to remember he has it right before the ice-zombie eats his girlfriends’ baby. I hesitate to use the world girlfriend, but she’s a bit more than his friend, or at least Sam wants her to be. Shit, she wanted to name Craster’s boy after Sam’s dad. I actually liked that scene a lot. I think it shows for the first time that Sam and Gilly might have something in common after all. Even if it is just having pricks for fathers.

As for new characters, there are only a couple worth mentioning. First up Continue reading

“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” – Game of Thrones

game-of-thrones-the-bear-and-the-maiden-fairAmazing how 8,000 soldiers and three dragons can transform a slender young woman into one of the most intimidating sights we’ve ever seen on Game of Thrones. And this latest offering to the die-hard fans was more than full of intimidating characters. Tywin, fierce and brutal,staring down the boy-king Joffery. Brienne, fending off a wild beast with nothing more than a wooden waster. Jaime, who, even bereft of limb, is still capable of inducing fear in the hearts of men. In the Seven Kingdoms, such a horrifying universe to start with, fear is what gives men the right to rule. And so we have this week’s theme – fear. Aspiring CEOs could learn so much. Wall Street, here I come. (Just for giggles, try picturing Tywin Lannister as Gordon Gecko.)

Nah, I’d never be able to pull myself away from .gifs of the lovely Rose Leslie. Or my couch. And it was on this couch I sat bleary-eyed yesterday morning, watching GoT and dreading finals (for they are dark, and full of terror), thoroughly enjoying every last second. The things I do for you people. Now I’m more than willing to admit I was horrified, but that was part of the appeal. This show shocks you, makes you twinge and flinch and watch breathlessly from the edge of your seat half the time. It’s like a really awesome soap opera. No, really. Pregnancy scares, backstabbing, forced marriages… all we need is a few comas and GoT turns into Days of Our Lives: Westeros.

But then we all know that this is a serious show, and no amount of dry, witty humor (I’m looking at Jaime and Tyrion) can distract us from the sheer human drama (or occasional animal drama, if you count dragons).

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Continue reading

“The Climb” – Game of Thrones

photo-5-1024x768Things haven’t gone well for Theon Greyjoy, have they? I mean, it’s one thing to be tortured and then tricked into thinking he had escaped, but not knowing the name of his captor? That really is torture. But, like I’ve said for weeks on end, it’s Ramsay fucking Bolton. This proves it, what with the sadism and all. (Retroactive Spoilers!)

I liked this week’s instalment.  Nowhere near as boring as the first of the season and, overall, rather fun. A little action, a little intrigue, and plenty of the kind of human drama we all watch this show for. It’s good to finally see some characters cross into the story arcs of others. Case in point, Melisandre finally showing up and actually doing something. Though what she wants with Gendry escapes me, I suspect that those who’ve read the books will know all too well. I really hope he won’t be raped by those Baratheon soldiers, but we all know that bad things happen to pretty boys deep in the woods. Even though that goatee is really off-putting, at least for me. But, then again, guys aren’t really my target demographic.

Speaking of casual buggery, I’m a bit disappointed at how stereotyped the only gay character left in the show, Loras Tyrell, is. I mean he’s gay, but does he really have to be that gay? The fastidiousness and femininity we saw in this episode seem out of character for Loras. Fine, he’s gay. Let’s not be clichéd about it.

Olenna Redwyne has secured her place as my favourite character after Continue reading