Category Archives: series

American Horror Story Freak Show (series) * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 4 2015)

The fourth season of “American Horror Story” is of the same level as the first. Nice, but not really more than that. After the great season 2 and the good season 3, follows another ‘alright’ season. And there appear to be 9 seasons planned! I wonder if the makers keep going up and down. That would make quite an ordeal deciding if I want to see them all.

As the title suggests we follow a “freak show”, a circus of people with physical deformities. The story is mostly a drama (soap) with people making friends and arguing. Shorter and longer extra stories bring horror elements. It is indeed fun to see actors from other seasons in wholly different, or rather very comparative roles.
The main character is again played by Jessica Lange and her part is not unlike the previous series. Other actors have larger or smaller parts, but most actors return to “Freak Show” at some point. There are a few big parts played by actors that do not seem to return to the series though.

Perhaps, should you not have seen the series, it could be an idea to not just watch them in chronological order. The stories of each season has nothing to do with the other, so you could also just pick the good seasons. Not that the first and fourth season are bad or boring, but they are nothing compared the second. Season 4 does have great opening titles though.

Hannibal (series, season 1) * Bryan Fuller (2013)

And again we have a highly acclaimed series (8.6 on IMDb) of which the first season did not convince me enough to want to watch the second, but people keep saying it gets better. Why would the creator of a series make an unconvincing first season only to improve afterwards? Just as with “Breaking Bad“, “Vikings“, “Dexter” or “Lost” the first season of “Hannibal” may not be bad or boring, but not interesting enough to interest me to continue with season two. Of the earlier mentioned series I sometimes did watch another season later on, but still did not like the series. The only exception to the ‘rule’ is “American Horror Story“. The first season was only so-so, but the second and third are great. The next series to watch will be season four. Continue reading

Vikings (series, season 2) * Michael Hirst (2014)

Season 1 did not really convince me, but a year and a half after I saw it, I still got myself season 2.

Well, season 2 is not really much better than I remember number 1, but I would not rate it 1,5 stars. Season 2 is more historical and less based on myths and sagas. It mostly tells the story of Lothbrok raising in power, travelling to England and making friends and enemies. Story-wise season 2 is more of a soap opera with more focus on the relations between people.

I still cannot say that I really like the series. I still might some day watch the third series, but they did not come high up my list after watching the first two.

American Horror Story Coven * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 3 2013)

The second season of “American Horror Story” was great, so I was curious what the third season would be like. The story this time is about a home for young witches. Jessica Lange has a part comparable to the previous season. Fitting with the ‘concept’ of the series, there are other actors from previous seasons that return, such as Evan Peters, Sarah Poulson and Frances Conroy.

Cordelia Foxx runs a school for young witches because she fears that witches will die out on current times so she wants to bring them together and train them. Her school is not big, just a few young ladies. Cordelia’s mother (Fiona, played by Lange) is “the supreme” and pretty much a despot. The whole series circle around “the next supreme”. Who will it be?
Then there are a few story lines. There is a competitive group of witches, a voodoo-group around Marie Laveau.
Laveau took revenge on Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a brutal Renaissance landlady whose character brings the topic of racism violently into the story. LaLaurie makes a wonderfully weird element to the story that allowed the creators of the series some grim humor.
The series contain brilliant and weird episodes not unlike “Asylum”, but also teeny-witchy epioses. Especially the final episode is awful.

Overall I think that this third season is fairly good, but it has too many weak episodes to be as good as season 2. It is weirder than season 1, but that season is more ‘consistent in level’. Season 3 has more highs and lows and the highs make this season more ‘watch-worthy’ than the opening season in my opinion.

Breaking Bad (series, season 2) * Vince Gilligan (2012)

Late 2013, early 2014 I saw the first season of “Breaking Bad”. I did not like it enough to review it. It was not like I totally disliked the series. I just did not like it enough to continue watching. Still people kept telling me the series get better and become brilliant. When I ran into season 2 cheaply a while ago, I decided to see if it is any better than season 1.

Not really actually…

In season 2 we still follow the highschool science-teacher Walter White who got the diagnosis cancer in season 1. He comes up with the plan to make money for his treatment and his family by using his skills in science to make the best “crystal meth” in town and thus he becomes a drug-producer and a dealer. He works together with his former student (the drop-out) Jesse Pinkman who has experience ‘in the field’. “Walt” does not want to tell his wife about his money-raising efforts and especially not her sister and the sister’s husband who works for the DEA.

That is actually all there is to “Breaking Bad”. Walter and Jesse have to find ways to cover up their work, but also ways to sell their product. Things do not go as they want. Tons of pretexts have to come up with to cover their tracks. Also deals go wrong, there are problems in the family, actually “Breaking Bad” is but a soap with a hardly interesting story.

After watching two seasons, I still wonder when exactly the series is going to get somewhere which lives up to anything near the 9.5 the series get on IMDb. There are some amusing scenes here and there, but I really cannot rate this any higher than a 5 out of 10. Again I doubt whether season 3 will ever find its way to my DVD player. Perhaps the disappointment wears away a bit in time again and I run into the third season cheaply, but as of now I see no argument to watch it.

American Horror Story Asylum (series) * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 2 2012/3)

In 2013/4 I watched the first season of “American Horror Story”. However I enjoyed that season, I did not like it enough to continue with season 2. A while ago I ran into the season 2 box in Germany for a few euros and decided to take it and put it somewhere for when I would not have a series to watch. So it happened that in the last weeks I have been watching season 2 afterall. I must say: it is great!.

I wrote about the first season that it is not so much of a horror, but a drama with horror elements. This can still be said about “Asylum”, but whereas the first season was relatively light-footed and funny, this second season is weird, dark and troubling. The way I like my TV experience!

The asylum from the title is Briarcliff, an institution for the mentally unfortunate, hard-handedly run by Sister Jude. Not all inhabitents of Briarcliff really belong there. Sister Jude herself admits people who she think need treatment. Other people are sent to Briarcliff by the state or by a judge. The inhabitents make a motley crew of the insane, criminals and victims of the system. After a while under the ‘care’ of Sister Jude, everybody becomes a drooling nutcase.

Working in a wing of the institution is Dr. Arden, a cruel doctor using patients as test-subjects. His relation with Sister Jude is not one of mutual respect. This element makes an easy bridge for typical horror elements.

The series could be seen as a soap in a few ways. Several of the characters develop as the 13 episodes pass by. Sometimes the changes are sudden and extraordinary sharp. At other times the changes are more subtle. It is obvious that the story has again been well thought through and the season contains horror, fright, disgust, but also well placed drama and has lost almost all of the light-footedness and humour of the first season. I did not see a whole lot of ‘deeper meanings’ (except criticism on the system of mental health and on the Church), so I am not going to use David Lynch as a comparison, but maybe I can recommend this season to people who like David Cronenberg’s older films for example.

I certainly like “Asylum”, so the next season could well raise a few places on my wishlist.

True Detective (series, season 2) (2016)

I already knew that the second season was going to be different from the first, but this different? Perhaps the novelty is off, the new directors could not uphold the level of Cary Fukunaga or the creators wanted to do something different, but season 2 is by and far not as interesting as the first.

Season 1 was directed by one director, Cary Fukunaga. Season 2 by no less than 6. I had pretty high expectations after the moody first season. Initially the new one was promising too. The opening credits are great with a magnificent song of Leonard Cohen (a bit long though for an intro). The first two episodes are great, they remind of the first season with their slow pace, rumbling soundtrack and brownish colours. The next four episodes are simply police/crime/thiller type of episodes. Actually, they remind of a lot “Intelligence“, but not as good. You get different views of the same story. Three different kinds of (unpopular) investigators work together on a high profile case that turns out to be a snakepit. Each has his/her past and personal and professional problems. The same goes for the other parties involved. This is worked out extensively during the series, so you get not only the solving of a case, but also the ‘soap’ of the opening personalities, especially the darker sides. The last two of the eight episodes are again great with again the slow pace, brownish colours and a hard pressing tension. The lengthy final episode is quite depressing too.

I think in the above you can read that I am slightly disappointed in the second season. Did the creators perhaps target a larger audience? Did Fukunaga make such a big mark that could not be reproduced? New insights? In any case, after a promising start, season 2 is but a descent police thriller series. The two final episodes make up a lot though, but I hope a possible third season will keep the atmosphere throughout the series, not just in the beginning and the end.

Firefly (series) * Joss Whedon (2002/3)

A science fiction series with a country song as soundtrack. That sounds like something different, not? I found these series on IMDb’s highest rated series list. 9.1 and a 12th place of 50. Just one season, so I gave it a try. “Firefly” sure is not a 9.1, but it is an amusing watch nonetheless. There is a strange story to the series too by the way.

The series in this box just stop like it was not finished. It appears that this is indeed the case. 14 Episodes have been filmed, 11 of them have been broadcasted. I supposed more were planned. Oddly enough the order in the box is very different from the order that IMDb has the episodes listed; probably the order in which they were broadcasted. What is strange too is that the series seem not to have had the success that was intended, a few years later, a full length film was made of it.

The series then.
A few centuries ahead a galaxial war is fought which is won by “the alliance”. Resistence veterans Mal(colm) and Zoë get themselves a spaceship (a “Firefly”) to make their living outside regular chanels. They smuggle and steal, but Mal and his crew are portrayed as good crooks. The crew is a varried bunch. A few episodes shed some light on the background of characters and how they got to work for Mal. For the rest there is little character development in the series, even though it watches a bit like a soap.

All planets and moons that spaceship “Serenity” flies to, look a lot like our own earth. Besides the inside of the ship and some cheap-looking space shots, there is not all that much scifi about the series. Often the crew just finds itself in some American looking desert with horses and cows. Hence the country music soundtrack I suppose and the description “Sci-fi Western” that you may find here and there.

There is not really a red thread through the series. The episodes stand more or less on their own, but there are episodes that give the viewer some background information. The episodes themselves can be amusing or somewhat standard, but most have some witty dialogues that are amusing. There are also some pretty ladies and good findings.

“Firefly” makes alright series. Not a waste of time, but not really a must-see either.

Utopia (series) * Dennis Kelly (2013)

I was looking for new series and ran into IMDb’s highest rated series list. Utopia is good for an 8.5. The series seem to be ended (I find running series often vastly overrated) and there are only two seasons (I am no fond of many-season-series). The box promises “[…] a riotous fusion of Twin Peaks, No Country For Old Men and The Killing”. That is bound to be untrue, but I got myself the two season box anyway.

The two seasons tell a continuous story (and has a end that would make a step to a new season very easy), but on the other hand, they tell two stories as well. We start following a few internet geeks who stumble upon a big conspiracy surrounding a “graphic novel”. They meet up and set out to find the book that will answer all their questions. In doing so, Becky, Ian, Wilson and Grant run in something much bigger than they anticipated. Followed by two cold blooded killers and finding the person that everybody seems to be after, “Utopia” develops into a descent thriller series with thick Welsh accents, black humour, extreme and bloody violence. They find their “graphic novel” and loose it again.
Season two starts with some ‘prequel’ scenes, but quickly jumps a bit ahead in time when the issue that seemed to be solved in season one, pops up again, but worse than ever. The characters are shuffled around a bit making season two another nice watch.

I can understand the reference to No Country For Old Men, but I do not know The Killing, but Twin Peaks?? Or “a brain-bender of a show”? That is a bit too much credit in my opinion and both references seem to imply that Utopia is somehow strange or ‘difficult’, but in comparison to modern cinema and especially in comparison to Twin Peaks that is not really the case. I think the series are better compared to some work of Quentin Tarantino or (indeed) the Coen brothers, especially because of the suddent and very violent outbursts, icecold characters and weird dialogues. There is also some funny camera work and (as the box suggests) nice use of colours, probably to give the series a bit of a ‘comic-feeling’.
The series do have a very, very heavy message. The conspiracy is certainly not one of the corny ‘good vs bad’ plots in which you do not have to think whose side you are on. This may perhaps be the best part of the series.

I might not find Utopia brilliant and the 8.5 on IMDb is a bit overrated, but not that much really. I would still give it something just below 8.0 which is really not bad for a contemporary series and higher than I rated Fargo actually, which I also liked.

Fargo (season 1) (2014)

Running series have a strange habbit of getting preposterously high IMDb rates recently. “Breaking Bad” now stands at 9.5, “Game Of Thrones” too. “Dexter” 8.9. “True Detective” 9.3. “Mad Men” 8.7. Most of these series are not good enough for me to watch all seasons, or even the next. I do like series though, but they are seldom really good. Then I heard that a series was made of the film “Fargo”. The film (1996) is good for a 8.2, which is deserved. The series currently stands at 9.0.

Initially I thought that the film would have been made into a series. When watching the series this proved to be incorrect and it seems that the true events that the series show are a story that Coen brothers only took a part from for their film. This neither can be true. What is true that both the series and the film play in the snowy landscape of Minnosata and things do not go as the main character had in mind. The characters are alike, the names differ. What also differs is what happens. When you know the film, you still will not be able to foretell events in the series. It is even hard to figure out which character in the series is which in the film sometimes. The atmosphere is comparable. Drama with black humour and violent outbursts. Enough of the comparing though.

The major character in the series is hired killer Lorne Malvo, brilliantly played by Billy Bob Thornton. The icecold Malvo leaves a trail of blood and violence. What is worse, he is also followed by a trail of violence. Malvo accidentally gets acquainted with Lester Nygaard, who -much more than Jerry Lundegaard in the film- proves to be a selfish bastard.

The series make a nice watch, but they by and far do not reach the heights of the film. Also, especially towards the end, the series become more of a drama. Not a cry-baby kind of drama, but the humour slowly flows away, leaving a grim story. The two closing episodes are downright thrillers. This is well done and it all nicely tumbles over the estimation of the characters involved.

So, if you have not seen the series yet, try not to think of the film deciding if you will watch it. The resemblances are vague at best. Like I said, the series make a nice watch, but that 9.0 at IMDb.com is overrated in my opinion. Also, should I have known that more seasons are in the make (2 is announced when I write this), it might have dropped down on my list. I do not like most 3+ season series so I usually wait until a series is wrung out before I decide whether or not I will watch it.