Category Archives: series

X-Files (series season 11) – Chris Carter (2018)

So did I fail hearing of season 11 or did it end up somewhere low on my watch-list?

Season 11 is very similar to season 10. There are pomp episodes bringing you up to speed on the ‘big story’ and trying to knit yet another angle to it and there are more comedy like episodes or general X-Files experimentation so to say.

Just like with season 10 this is done with limited success. The ‘big story’ now involves Mulder and Skully’s son, of course there is the “CSM” (“cigarette smoking man”, but I still prefer the description “cancer man”) who is portrayed as the most powerful man in the world. Especially the drama / romance in these episodes is pretty damn boring.

Then we have weird episodes with aliens, episodes about technology, boring vampires and a very amusing episode in which a new character has been montaged into early episodes, which made a good laugh.

That last episode is probably a lot more funny when you know the old series. For the rest, oh well, it is just Carter and co working on some themes and ideas that are familiar to people who have seen the X-Files before, but there is hardly need to know all the previous seasons in detail. Just a few episodes, some are nice, some less so.

Mindhunter (series) – Joe Penhall (2017/9)

I guess I missed why these series are so lauded. 8.6 At IMDb.com? Not by far in my opinion. Not that “Mindhunter” is boring, but neither did it live up much to my expectations.

We mostly follow Holden Ford, a young FBI agent who in the 1970’ies wants to use psychology to profile delinquents in order to be able to catch them faster. This is completely new in the time. He teams up with Bill Tench who has been doing something similar in the Behavioral Science Unit. Through Tench they come in contact with psychologist Wendy Carr who eventually joins the team.

In order to create profiles, Ford decides that he is going to interview convicted people who have committed multiple crimes (not yet called serial killers then). They start with Edmund Kemper, immediately a success as Kemper is a very talkative person. With Richard Speck things do not go as smooth and when the star of the team rises they even talk to Charles Manson.

The team records the interviews and starts to categorize the perpetrators adding new categories as they go along. Slowly but surely they are able to use the knowledge in running investigations.

The main part of the series is interesting. The first season has some unnecessary drama. Holden has a girlfriend who studies sociology so I expected her to get involved in his work somehow, but she does not and that storyline is pretty superfluous. In the second series a new angle is brought in when Carr proves to fancy women rather than man. The series put a magnifying class on a few elements of society of the 1970’ies. Homosexuality was still taboo and through an investigation also the treatment of blacks in American society is dealt with.

Actually, both these extra storylines again do not add much to the series which also suddenly stop. I expect work is done on a third season.

“Mindhunter” is alright, but not more than that.

American Gods – Bryan Fuller & Michael Green (series, season 2) 2019

The first season had its flaws, but I liked it a lot. I looked forward to seeing seaon 2, but it took a long time before I found a reasonably priced DVD box.

The flaws of season one are still there. There are again only 8 episodes and again the story suddenly ends. Indeed, season 3 is already announced.

Perhaps the novelty is gone, but even though season 2 is very similar to season 1, I liked it a lot less. In fact, I do not even know if I want to watch season 3. Perhaps I will wait to see if after 3 comes a 4 and…

Anyway, in season 2 it is obvious who “Mr. Wednesday” is. He is gathering “old Gods” to wage war against the new Gods, particularly “Mr. World” and “Media” (the latter is not played by Gilian Anderson this time). Mr. World is quite annoying. Wednesday is a fun as he was and he is a very ambivalent character just as the God he was styled after.

Again there are all kinds of known and unknown Gods and other spiritual beings, many references to known and unknown myths and stories with sometimes great dialogues if you understand the pun. There are also ‘intelligent’ dialogues and monologues and also critique on the modern way of living.

As I said, I liked season 2 less than I did season 1. There are some great scenes, amusing situations and weird characters, but nothing really ‘happens’ and the story about Shadow Moon and his dead wife is not really interesting.

Just alright.

Peaky Blinders (series) Steven Knight (2013-)

When the series were first shown in 2013 it sounded like everybody was watching “Peaky Blinders”. I am never so quick with watching a series. First I need to know it does not become one of these milked out 10 season series. Also I often wait to see if people still think it is so great after a couple of years.

So a while ago I was looking for a new series to watch and ran into a note saying “Peaky Blinders”, so I watched the first episode. I must say: that was great!

The series are somewhat gloomy, play in the interbellum (the time between the World Wars) mostly in Birmingham, UK. There are lengthy scenes with nothing but shots of industrial workers, exploding fires from metal workers, etc. and the series have great music which does totally not fit the 1920’ies setting, but which fits the atmosphere of the series well. Especially the great opening tune of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds is great and often wonderfully incorporated into the opening scene.

We follow the family Shelby who own the factories in Birmingham, but who also form some sort of maffia with a gambling house. There are a couple of brothers and other relatives. After a while it becomes clear that not the oldest brother Arthur runs things, but the next in line Thomas/Tommy.

The first season is great. The characters develop, they run into amusing situations when they try to slowly convert from illegal business to legal businesses. Of course they keep running into old and new enemies, local authorities, etc.

The second season is enjoyable too, but from then on the story-writing goes down rapidly. Quite silly new characters are introduced for the next tension arc, story-lines that are suddenly wrapped up in half an episode to make room for something else. Jumps in time to not have to show how kids grow up or how Shelby’s move to the USA and back, dead and not dead and more and more it is all about Thomas… Somewhere in the beginning of the fourth season I started to slow down watching and I am not sure if I am going to finish even this season, let alone the next three (and probably running).

Yep, this is one of these milked-out series that should have stopped after two good seasons.

Aquarius (series 1,2) – John McNamara (2015, 2016)

On Netflix I noticed the face of David Duchovny. Back in the days I was a fervent X-Files watcher, but I have not really followed Duchovny after. The cover seems to suggest that “Aquarius” is some sort of “Californication”-type series which I never watched.

Actually, “Aquarius” is a very descent crime/drama kind of series. A wonderfully acting Duchovny plays Sam Hodiak, an old and cynical detective who has been on the police force way too long. His temporary boss is a long time friend and Hodiak has two young colleagues, but he prefers to work alone.

The series play in the 1960’ies and like Tarantino’s latest, it combines a few of the interesting storylines of the period. The Kennedy assassination, the campaign of Nixon, the hippy movement including Charles Manson and the rise of (militant) black movements.

The series are based on true events, but in some cases I wonder if it was smart to use the real names, like in the case of Manson. Especially in the first season he is portrayed as a pimp with musical ambitions. That first season is in most ways the better. Duchovny is great as the blunt Hodiak who also proves to have a social antenna and even emotions. The pace is nice and slow, the storyline is somewhat interesting.

In the second season things become less interesting. ‘Juicy’ elements are added and the series become more typical for an American crime series. Season two ends suddenly as if there were plans for another season that was never made.

Not bad, not great. Duchovky is a great actor though.

Altered Carbon – Laeta Kalogridis (series) (season 1) (2018)

This interesting-looking Netflix series is rated 8.1 on IMDb.com. So far I have had more luck with series on Netflix than with films. To me, “Altered Carbon” is by and far no 8.1 though.

The story is a bit thin. At some point humanity found a way to put a personality (or consciousness) on a disc (“stack”) that can be put in the neck of any body (“sleeve”).

Takeshi Kovacs is an “envoy”, a rebel soldier, who had been in “cryosleep” for 250 years (“put on ice”) after which he wakes up in a different body. As ‘the last envoy’ he draws attention. Then he is hired by an extremely wealthy man for a job in trade for his freedom. The case: the man has been killed, but fortunately he keeps a backup of his “stack” on a satelite, so he can just download himself and put himself in a new (newly cloned) “sleeve” when the old one perishes.

All good and well. Muscle-body Kovacs sets out to investigate. He is constantely followed by police-woman Kristin Ortega. Of course they run into all kinds of situations that make some action, romance or drama. The story gets less and less interesting as we go along. The series have some nice findings here and there, but overall, it is amusing at best. I doubt I will ever watch the second season.

Godless (series) (2017)

Not entirely what I expected. “Godless” is a Netflix series, or mini series perhaps, as there are only seven episodes. It is ‘but’ a Western.

Basically there are two stories. There is a small town of La Belle which in the 1880’ies USA lost almost all their men in an accident in the local mine.

Then we have a group of lawless men who are looking for one of them who escaped with their money. The escaped man of course ends up in La Belle.

The lawless men are led by Frank Griffin who is magnificently played by Jeff Daniels. In spite of Daniels’ friendly face, he manages to set Griffin as a scary maniac.

The series are slow paced, have some cold humour, romance and tension. Not bad at all, but as I said, it is mostly ‘but’ a Western.

Dark (seasons 1, 2, 3) – Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese (2017-20)

IMDB.com

I do not have much luck with films on Netflix, especially not “Netflix original” films. This “Netflix original” series are excellent though.

In spite of the English title, “Dark” is spoken in German (you can watch it in English though). The first season starts with the mysterious disappearance of a boy. We learn that 33 years before something quite similar happened.

Initially there are some (torture) horror elements which are quite unnecessary and do not really have a function in the story either. I guess it is to raise an atmosphere in which the ‘bad guy’ can be pinpointed so that the viewer can be put on the wrong foot later on. Especially the first season is moody and fairly dark. The mystery that surrounds the village of Winden with its nuclear power plant slowly becomes clear. From then on, and particularly in the second season, this red thread is constantly twisted and turned.

The characters of the series get new faces often, which in some way makes clear what is going on and makes you ponder the underlying idea of the series. Scenes go from surprising to unlikely, but the atmosphere remains very strong. There is a minimalist soundtrack that consists mostly of just low noises and drones. Here and there is a scene with wonderfully surprising use of music.

The second series mostly stretches what we already know and at the end a new angle to the story is given with a massive cliffhanger. Indeed, in the third season, a whole new perspective to the central theme is given and within this season, new approaches are presented constantly. This gets a bit weary along the way.

The style of the series shifts somewhat as you go along. There is less and less use of music, the atmosphere gets less dark and there is more focus on drama of the tragic romantic type. The series certainly are not feel-good!

Initially the last series seem to be a bit of ‘a third leg’, but elements of the first two seasons only become clear here, so perhaps the whole show is written as one piece. The last two episodes bring you back up to speed about the first seasons (there are so many twists that I forget many details) and ends with a conclusion, so this seems to wrap it up.

So we have a very good, German series, mysterious, dramatic, philosophical, not too long (if this is indeed it). It could well be a modern day classic.

Taboo (series) (season 1) 2017

IMDb.com

In the rough early 1800’s London, the supposed dead James Delaney unexpectedly returns when his father dies. Delaney proves to have an elaborate plan to take over his father’s trafficking business.

From the beginning it is clear that there is ‘something about Delaney’, but it is not really explained what. He spent time in Africa and appears to have taken on some of the dark magic of the Africans.

Besides that Delaney is highly intelligent and appears to have some sort of second sight knowing all that is going on in London. His claims to his father’s inheritance brings problems with the allmighty East India Company and even the King, who go to great lengths to protect their own interests.

Along the line it seems that Delaney (also) has two very personal reasons for his actions: getting back on the EIC and obtaining the birth-land of his mother.

“Taboo” (I am not sure what the title refers to) is a nicely gloomy and gritty series with a story that slowly unfolds.

The end is quite open and indeed, a second season is announced for 2020.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

IMDb.com

These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.