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Archive 81 (series) – Rebecca Sonnenshine (2022)

My girlfriend read something about these new Netflix series. When I heard about involvement of the “Saw” crew, my interest dropped even further than after the initial comment that it is a horror series. But we did watch it.

In eight episodes we follow the story of Dan who restores video material. He is assigned to a job to restore material that survived the fire in an appartement building. For that job he is transferred to a remote building. So, video, a comparison to “Ringu” a remote building and a reference to “The Shining” and did somebody say “Blair Witch Project“? We all know where this is going to. Or do we?

During his restoration work, Dan becomes acquainted with Melody, a film student who goes to an appartement building to make a documentary about its inhabitants. These inhabitants are said to be a close knit group. This is pretty clear from the beginning.

Melody is actually looking for her mother and while poking around in the building and the people who live there, something uncanny starts to rise to the surface. We follow the story by Melody’s film material and Dan watching it all with a friend as backup to find background information.

As we continue, everything seems to be connected in some odd way. Dan did not get the job by accident. The material did not pop up many years after the fire by accident. The fire in the building was not an accident.

The series have an alright atmosphere. It is by far not as scary as some want us to believe. The story is worked out fairly well. The last episode is somewhat weak.

In my opinion not the instant classic that some people make of it, just an alright thriller series with some horror elements.

Knightfall (series) – Handfield & Rayner (2017-2019)

The story of the Knights Templar in a somewhat historical manner.

We mostly follow Landry who quite against his own will, becomes the master Templar of the Paris temple when his predecessor dies. The first season is mostly about Landry looking for the Holy Grail that the Templars lost during a lost battle at Akko in 1291. During that battle the grail was lost, but it appears to have resurfaced in France.

Landry is a friend to the King of France (Philip IV 1268-1314), but also the lover the the king’s wife (Joan I of Navarre (1273-1305) which is basically the start of a lot of problems.

In spite of the lost battle of Akko, the Templar Knights thrive under the protection of the Pope and the King of France, but raptures start to appear in the relationship. First, the King of France is after the Grail as well, thinking it would increase his power. To obtain that power, he first sets up the Pope (Boniface III 1230-1303) against the Templar Knights and then even replaces the Pope with Clement V (1264-1314). Both Popes, especially the former, have their own agendas of course.

The series make a drama with love, drama, brotherhood, honour, fighting and battle scenes and a lot of intrigue. Here and there there are historical elements, but do not see the series as a history lesson.

Of course the Templar Knights eventually loose their organisation and their lives, but not without a fight.

Not boring, but not great either.

Travelers (series) – Brad Wright (3 seasons 2016-2018)

And yet another Netflix series that is just not boring enough to end watching prematurely. By the time I thought to cut if off, I noticed there were only six episodes left, so I sat it out.

“Travelers” is not really bad or boring, but it is not really good either. Story wise it is at least different from all the serial killer thriller series that have been put out for decades. Mankind caused its own demise and in the future a way of sending consciousness back in time has been discovered. “Travelers” are sent back to try to give history a push in a better direction.

In the future, every detail of our current time is known, so also when somebody historically dies. It is at that moment that a “traveler” consciousness takes over the body of the “host”. Travelers working in teams get missions from “the director”, usually to prevent some sort of disaster.

These travelers -of course- fall in the life of a person who used to live, so they have to try to live with a partner, work, etc. of somebody else and at the same time perform the missions as are given.

So we have the drama of partners not recognising their spouses, the events of the life of the ‘host’, partners from the future whose lives are more or less separated in “the twenty first” and then of course action because of the missions. Also future technology employed in the present. The characters develop somewhat, both the ‘host’ character as the ‘future’ character. There is an underlying story that is worked out a bit. There are also less logical elements. How does the prevention of the collaps of a bridge that would have killed some people help the demise of humanity in the future? You get it, there are ‘filler episodes’.

“Travelers” has a couple of beautiful women, amusing characters, an alright story. All in all just not boring enough to end watching.

Gotham (series) – Bruno Heller (2014-2019)

This has been long ‘in the watching’. Some years ago I was looking for a ‘filler up series’. Something to watch when I had 45 minutes to spare. I figured a “Batman” theme series would be nicely gloomy.

“Gotham” is a ‘prequel’ to the Batman franchise. The main character in the five seasons is not really Bruce Wayne, but rather “GCPD” officer James/Jim Gordon. Gordon wants to do everything correct, but this makes him both a hero as an enemy to many. All this shifting between him being the good guy and the bad guy is not really worked out that well in my opinion.

Of course there is Bruce Wayne. Just as in the movies, he is usually accompanied by his “butler” Alfred Pennyworth. In the first seasons, Wayne is a winy little brat, a bit of a drama queen. Actually this remains mostly so as the series continue. In general, his character is not worked out well enough to carry the series.

The series have characters that you will know from the films. The “catwoman” actually has a name in the series: Selina Kyle who develops a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wayne.

The series contain some themes that are (somewhat) familiar. The authors have tried to ‘foreshadow’ elements from the films. To fill up the episodes there are also a whole range of fairly boring bad guys who want James Gordon dead. These storylines are as unlikely or thin as the next and sometimes they appear and disappear when enough episodes have been filled.

A few characters undergo massive character changes, especially Gordons first girlfriend Barbara Kean, which is not always wildly interesting, but which sure brings a red thread to the series. Worked out better is “Penguin” (Oswald Cobblepot). Quite overdone, but sometimes nicely so, “The Riddler” (Edward Nygma).

In any case, way towards the end, the bridge to Batman is made. “Gotham” as a series is about the city where Batman rose before he did. The series are not great, but not bad enough to stop watching either.

Stranger Things – Matt & Ross Duffer (series, season 1-3 2016-2018)

These Netflix series are so popular that I was in doubt whether or not to watch them. So in the end I did and I really enjoyed the first season. The series have a total 1980’ies vibe with a 1980’ies soundtrack, old cars, outdated haircuts and terrible cloths.

Big roles are for children (nerdy kids and adolescents), but in spite of that, season one is nice, gloomy, fairly dark and weird. The story is about the small town of Hawkins which houses an institute in which strange experiments are held. And so a story unfolds of a girl with strange powers, men trying to get her and something evil that lurks in the woods.
There are nice 1980’ies details, the story unfolds nicely, the atmosphere is good and even the child humour and child drama works to a certain degree.

The second season puts more focus on ‘the evil’ with again a well-written story and more of a horror approach to the series. Characters develop, unexpected alliances are forged. Also the second season is pretty good.

The ‘other worldliness’ is mostly gone in the third season which became more of a Stephen King type horror/thriller. The kids really are the main characters this time and the story is a lot less interesting.

Season 4 is announced. I suppose I will watch it when it is there, but I hope the creators will not continue the way down.

The Umbrella Academy (series, season 1+2) – Blackman & Slater (2019/20)

I expected this Netflix series to be a quirky comedy. In a way it is, but it also has many elements of the popular overly violent action and superpower heroes.

On the same day, all over the world, children are born which were not conceived. These children all prove to have some sort of power and a millionaire adopts seven of these children and trains them to be a group of heroes solving the world’s problems.

By the time we meet the characters the father has passed and the adoptive brothers and sisters return after having been scattered over the globe.

In the first season one brother comes back from the future and tries to convince his siblings that they have to prevent a forthcoming apocalypse that he had already experienced. Other people from the future try to prevent “five” from achieving his goal and is slowly becomes clear how things came about.

In the second season the family has travelled back to 1963 allowing the creators to portray the characters that we know by now with different looks. A not uncommon trick nowadays. The apocalypse has travelled back in time with the “umbrella academy”, so they have to once more try to prevent is.

The series indeed are somewhat quirky. It has a talking monkey, a stern dad, a sexy “handler” with an odd sense of humour, black and violent humour, a fish with a human body, etc. Every episode has a few things to laugh and the story is somewhat interesting.

“The Umbrella Academy” is an alright series. Season 3 is already announced. It is not high up my list, but perhaps I will watch it again some time.

The Valhalla Murders – Thordur Palsson (series 2019)

A Netflix Scandinavian crime from Iceland. “The Valhalla Murders” is quite a typical Scandinavian crime too.

In a not unseen story, recent killings can be traced back to maltreatment of children in an institute in the past. The small Reykjavik police force, later joined by even smaller force from in other Icelandic towns, set out to catch a killer on the loose. The story unfolds, has a few obligatory plot twists and new suspects and a wee bit of violence.

The series are shot in the snowy season, so Iceland really looks like an icy land. The acting, as the story, is alright.

Not a high-flyer, but a descent and moody Scandinavian crime series.

Watchmen (series) – Damon Lindelof (2019)

A quite original mini series this is. It is based on a graphic novel of the same name which has been turned into a film by Zack Snyder 10 years earlier.

“Watchmen” plays in an ‘alternative’ past and present. The Ku Klux Klan has mutated into the Seventh Kavalry and they are so powerful and dangerous that the police started wearing masks to prevent their identities becoming known and the Kavelry attacking them in their private lives. These masks became action-hero type clothing giving the series the action-comic feel.

Initially we follow a few of these police officers fighting the bad guys, but as the series continue, the focus shifts to a larger story that becomes increasingly strange. There are ‘off-elements’ such as a guy playing with clones, stories of a “Mr. Manhattan” that for a long time remain but stories.

Towards the end the series become pretty vague, yet interesting. The pre-last episodes brings a lot together. Unfortunately the very last episode is too explanatory and sentimental.

“Watchmen” make a very interesting series which brutally displays the racism of the imaginary and real past and present.

The Defenders (series) – Petrie & Ramirez (2017)

A while ago I felt like watching a bit of a gritty action series and ran into “Gotham”. As the title suggests, this is a “Batman” series. Well actually the series are from before Bruce Wayne became Batman. The series are alright, but there is a lot of drama, little action, soap and Hollywood moralism (like in the films). I wanted something with more action and started looking for Marvel series. Something amusing, action, superheroes. I found “The Defenders”.

Extra plus: there is but one season (Netflix does have a season two trailer). I had hoped for more over-the-top action with humor and funny villains. That did not entirely work out.

There are four people with “abilities” all working to make the city of New York safer on themselves. Circumstances bring the four together to fight a common enemy.

After a while it started to dawn on me that the four characters are action heroes in their own right. Indeed, each has a series of his/her own. “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”.

There is a lot of ‘kong fu fighting’, but it all remains a bit ‘teen’. The story is a bit thin, but there is something to laugh here and there. No superheroes flying from one building tot the next, running up and down walls, but there is the Matrix-like action and the occasional dress-up party.

Not boring, but not what I hoped to find.

Game Of Thrones – Benioff & Weiss (series 2011-2019)

I doubt that there is anybody who does not know the biggest hype of the past millennium. I do not remember exactly when I started watching GOT. When something is popular, it usually drops on my priority list. At some point I probably ran into a not too expensive DVD box of the first season and decided to see what all the fuss is about.

From the beginning I found GOT alright, but not too interesting. After finishing the first season, I doubted I would watch the second, which I obviously did some day and so on.

I do not get the 9.3 rating on IMDb.com. After almost a decade of watching the eight seasons, I think think GOT is alright, but nothing too great.

Anyway, should you have lived under a rock, the known world is divided over seven kingdoms ruled by families. There are friendships, but mostly feuds and a lot of intrigue. GOT shows how politics work where the people in charge are not necessarily the most powerful, while others want to expand their might. The “iron throne” is the desired seat for the ruler of all seven kingdoms.

This leads to a massive amount of plots, subplots, etc. which makes it quite hard to keep up with who is who and what was what. A red line is a thread coming from more Northern that the Northernmost part of the realm, the “winter” that is coming.

A massive soap opera with interesting and less interesting characters around which interesting and less interesting stories are woven, a massive budget which shows of. Indeed, GOT is the contemporary version of Tolkien books.

Like I said, not boring, but not 9.3 on a scale of 10 either.