Category Archives: Favorite Episodes

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 5 – “Oxygen” – A Heavy Handed Enjoyable Space Thriller

   “Oxygen” is a flawed and amazing episode that is heavy handed with it’s message but is powerful in how it tells it’s story. This is one of my favorite episodes of the new series, even with all of the flaws. It changes things in a way that looks like it may last and we get to see more of the negative in humanity which we largely only got with the 9th and 10th Doctor. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers…I recommend this episode.

  The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and directed by Jamie Mathieson.

   The story involves the Doctor, Bill and Nardole becoming trapped on a mining space station where they have limited oxygen and are being hunted by A.I. suits as they rush to save the survivors and themselves.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise -The idea of a space station run off oxygen workers by is so wonderfully dsytopian I can’t help but appreciate it. It also gives tension and consequence immediately as the limited oxygen creates a ticking clock.

The Tension – The station expels all excess oxygen added to the station, which forces our heroes to get the suits where they only have a certain amount of breaths, on top of this the suits are controlling the dead who died from lack of oxygen and the survivors are fearful and angry. If any one of these goes over the edge, everything is over for our heroes.

The Miners – The miners are great, we get to see the politics and relationships between them and how they are survivors. They are the characters ready to do anything to get off the station which adds another level of tension to our main characters predicament.

The Doctor, Nardole and Bill – The dynamic between these 3 is wonderful. Nardole is the responsible worry wort holding the Doctor to his promise that he made Nardole make of keeping an eye of the Vault, Bill is the new adventurer who doesn’t have the Doctor’s recklessness the Doctor is the wizard, manipulating and planning his way through every situation even when it looks like he’s lost his mind and lost everything.

Consequences – The Doctor saves Bill but goes blind in the process from the vacuum of space. This is still true at the end of the episode and we see how powerless he feels as so much of what he does it tied to his ability to read what something by seeing it. I hope we have him this way for a while as even TARDIS tech could not heal his eyes.

Okay/Con – Execution of the Message – The message of the episode is that capitalism is bad and eventually people will be exploited for the very oxygen they breathe. I put this as okay because “Doctor Who” has always been a message show, the problem was this wasn’t done with enough “show” there was a good amount of “tell” even though we were witnessing the very premise and didn’t need to be told it. I won’t put it as a complete con but it was the weakest part of the episode.

  This is a flawed and amazing episode that is worth checking out. The tension is strong throughout the entire episode, Nardole and Bill clash with the Doctor while the Doctor has moments where even he loses hope. We also have minor characters we care about and perfect tension through the entire episode. This is an episode that I highly recommend. Can’t wait to see how the consequences of the Doctor’s blindness unfold.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Black Mirror – Season 1, Episode 1 – “The National Anthem” – A Political Nightmare in the Digital Age

  “The National Anthem” is at this point, my favorite episode of “Black Mirror.” This is an episode that shows the strength of public pressure in the media age as well as how the actions a person can take can lead to people turning against them and in turn forcing them to do the thing they least want to do. The episode is a political nightmare that shows both how quickly people move on from media events, but how when their is an ongoing crisis, how it can grab the attention of a nation and the world.

     The episode was directed by Otto Bathurst and written by Charlie Brooker.

       The story involves the unfolding of a political crisis when a young and popular Duchess is kidnapped, with the only demands for her release being, that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig on live television. From here the crisis unfolds as the Prime Minister deals with the public and private fallout of the threat as they try to find the missing Duchess.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are really well written in this and don’t feel like archetypes, which is often a problem in short one episode stories like this. Every character is facing decision and choice. We have the Home Secretary trying to get an actor so the event can still take place and so they can get around it, you have the Prime Minister doing everything he can with the police and you have the wife doing all she can to keep her husband from doing the act. In the end it all comes to a head and no one really wins in the end except for the artist who created the event in the first place. Rory Kinnear as the Prime Minister and Lindsay Duncan’s Home Secretary stole the show.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark and isolating, which captures the different levels of terror the government officials are going through. Everything is connected and as the media and gossip grows around the event we see further isolation of the characters from one another, forcing the event to happen.

The Power of Social Media and the Power of Public Pressure – The threat is done over youtube and the Prime Minister putting a gag order on the press just makes people question it as a cover-up and distrust the Prime Minister more. When the story is finally broke it goes out of control as we see his attempts to find the Duchess lead to the people turning against him as his use of an actor made him look like a coward and a press agent getting shot made him look like a dictator. At one point the Home Secretary even warns that his wife and family will be at risk if he doesn’t go forward with the act since he alienated the public so much. When he’s made his decision he doesn’t answer his phone when his wife is trying to reach him and we see how his duty as the Prime Minister was more important than alienating and destroying his relationship with his wife.

Social Media and Moving On – A year later the Prime Minister is popular and the press is just business as usual again. This was amazing that the public had already moved on from the horrendous act that the Prime Minister was forced to do…on the other side we see that things may appear peaceful in the public eye but his marriage is destroyed. He kept power and positive public perception but lost his soul.

  This episode achieved all it set out to do, had a great cast and fully explored the premise of how a nightmarish strange crisis would unfold in the digital age where public pressure can make a person capable of horrible things, since all it took was the threat of a person who was loved by the public to be under threat for the crisis to happen. I felt for all government officials in this, as well as the wife as in the end the choices they made were shaped by how others viewed and talked about them. In a way their agency was lost to the public will, which is in a way, what we ask of our public servants, as they represent us and our interests. I think this is a big reason why, a year after the event the Prime Minister was loved again. He’d done his duty to look out for the public good, and save a life, even though the act was nightmarish, immoral and wrong…and the cost was his family.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 2 – “The Lying Detective” – Character Development and Confession…This was Needed and Succeeded

the-lying-detective-1

“The Lying Detective” is up there with one of my favorite episodes in “Sherlock.” This is an episode that captures the best parts of what made so much of Series 2 work. What drives this story is the core relationship between John and Sherlock, especially as it relates to family aka Mycroft and Mary. This gives it power as there is an underpinning of vulnerability that pervades the entire episode.

The episode was directed by Nick Hurran and written by Steven Moffat and produced by Sue Vertue.

The story involves Sherlock regressing back into addiction as he seeks to take down a man he suspects of being a serial killer (Culverton Smith). John hasn’t seen him for weeks but finds himself pulled back into Sherlock’s game as the plot to take down Culverton unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Set-up – The episode starts out with Culverton confessing to his friends he’s a killer and wiping their memories of the incident. Immediately he is established as a powerful antagonist and we get Sherlock’s obsession with him.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is once again beautiful, it continues to be one of the strongest aspects of this show.

The Action – This is an action heavy episode and the tension stays high through everything. I honestly didn’t know what would happen at times and that made the narrative stronger.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price’s score is really on display this episode as we get the haunting terror of Culverton the drug fueled isolation of Sherlock and John’s loneliness. The music feeds the narrative and strengthens it.

The Characters – The characters have always been the best part of the show and thankfully Moffat manages to develop many of them this episode, rather than keeping them static.

Molly – Molly appears briefly and does a good job at balancing out John as she is the second Doctor who John requests before he’ll help Sherlock take down Culverton.

Culverton Smith – Toby Jones is so good at playing creeps. In this we see his obsession and safety in being a billionaire and tied to politicians and businesses. It takes Sherlock entering Hell for him to confess what he’s done though when he is caught he shows that he’s been holding all this in and still feels happy as he’ll be even more famous once him being a killer comes out. He’s a sick individual and it makes for an interesting character.

Mrs. Hudson – Mrs. Hudson helps bring John and Sherlock together as we see she has a nice car (her drug lord husband) and that she doesn’t take crap from anyone. This is a great Mrs. Hudson episode as we see how she notices things and knows Sherlock and Mycroft better than anyone. It was a nice twist and it added a lot of depth to her character.

Mycroft – Mycroft is a lizard for most of this episode when he isn’t looking after Sherlock and trying to be a good brother. We also see that he’s trying to protect his sister, which John first figures out in the episode. There is more to this reveal than anyone knows though as shown by the final reveal.

Sherlock – Sherlock goes into Hell to take down a killer and to seek out John again as we see that he really does act from emotion and isn’t detached from it. This instability is explored deeply in the episode as we see him question reality even as he is getting more connected to other aspects of reality. It’s tragic in many ways and I felt for him when he finally starts dealing with his addiction and John forgives him. Sherlock finally shows affection which we see he’s always wanted to some degree (whether from Irene or John).

John Watson – John is dealing with loss this episode as he sees Mary in his mind’s eye and talks to her. He is dealing with anger, denial and sadness and also shame and regret for the affair he had. After he confesses this to Sherlock mind Mary leaves and we see him begin to heal as it is also only from him arriving that he saves Sherlock from Culverton (a callback to the first episode of the series when he stops another killer).

Eurus – Eurus is the other Holmes and has embraced the mind fully as we see her as John’s therapist at the episode’s start. We don’t know her motivations yet but she helped take down Culverton and at the end of the episode is about to shoot John. There are Moriarity aspects to her and I really want to know her more as she is a villain with a lot of potential.

The Reveal – Eurus is Mycroft and Sherlock’s sister! This was cool as she’s John’s therapist and we see that she was playing everyone. We don’t know her motivation yet but the hints that she might not be all together there and Mycroft’s fear of her leave a lot to hope for. Moffat writing her helps mellow out the hype though. He’s set up a lot of badass female antagonists and failed to have them payoff.

Confession and Healing – A core part of this episode is confession and healing. Culverton’s confession to his friends is what leads to his demise as it gives Sherlock what he needs to take him down, John and Sherlock confessing to one another leads to healing with them both feeling the loss of Mary and helps reestablish their friendship and gives us the heart and theme of the episode.

Okay/Con: Everybody is Getting Together – Lady Smallwood gets together with Mycroft and it implies it could be serious someday, John wants Sherlock to get together with Irene when he learns that she texts him. This is cute in some ways but having everyone hook up had romantic comedy aspects to it that took me out of the episode.

The Cons: Pacing – There are some pacing issues, it starts out strong has great rising action but sort of teeters off when John sees the confession tape from Mary and when Eurus reveals herself to John to shoot him. If this had been a bit smoother the episode could have been perfect.

This was Moffat once again at the head of his game. Every major character gets development and Sherlock’s psychology is explored and isn’t justified. This is a story that wants to explore the darker parts of human nature and what humans are capable of, and it succeeds. It isn’t a perfect episode as the romances that get set-up through the episode feel a little off sometimes and it does have pacing issues, but that doesn’t take away from the core power of the narrative and character development that takes place. This was such a great episode that really captured the core relationships and mystery, which made this show so great in the first place.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episodes 19-20 – “Twilight of the Apprentice” – The Many Faces of the Force

Twilight of the Apprentice

    This was a Season Finale that was powerful in a lot of ways, could have done with more setup but at the end of the day gave us a glimpse into the many faces of the force and how it isn’t as simple Jedi versus Sith…that within the force there are many identities that can be taken and forged as well as showing us the galaxies past is still informing the future that  may come.

     “Twilight of Apprentice” was a 2 part episode directed by Dave Filoni and written by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Steven Melching.

    The story involves Ezra, Kanan and Ahsoka traveling to the Sith Temple on Malachor to learn how to fight the Inquisitors. All as not as it appears to be as the Inquisitors are already there hunting another and Ezra finds himself drawn to this mysterious “Old Master” who is not all he appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Malachor – Malachor has a really cool look. The Sith Temple is underground and looks like a giant pyramid and around the Temple are dead Jedi and Sith turned to ash by some unknown force. It is creepy and establishes how dangerous this place is quickly.

The Inquisitors – The Inquisitors have a great look as we have the Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother return and are introduced to the Eighth Brother who was hunting Maul. They manage to harass our heroes but when Maul allies with them they are killed by him.

The Action – There are so many great duels this episode! From our Heroes and Maul against the Inquisitors, to Maul versus Ahsoka and Kanan and Ahsoka against Darth Vader. Each duel means something and helps our characters advance in some way.

The Old Master / Maul – Maul is the anti-Yoda in this as he comes off as weak and more intellect when helping Ezra as they enter the heart of the Temple using the power of the Dark Side. He saves Ezra at least once and we see he wants Ezra as his apprentice and to use the Temple as a weapon against all his enemies as the Sith destroyed his people, family and everything he had. Maul is hate and also a smart manipulator too. He survives the destruction of the Temple and we see him flying off hinting that he may return to finish Ezra’s training and corruption.

Kanan – Kanan is the protector in this and we see how unprepared he has been to teach Ezra as Maul is able to do what Kanan has been unable, from protecting Ezra from threats, to getting inside the Temple and countless other things. In the end he is still the protector though as even after he is blinded by Maul he is able to knock Maul off the Temple and return to Ezra at the top.

Ezra – Ezra is going to the dark side as we see him learn the power of his anger in this and how his training has left unable to protect the ones he loves. From Ahsoka being defeated by Vader and Kanan losing his eyes to Maul. It is all of this that leads him to using the dark side to open the Sith Holocron at episode’s end showing that he is ready to embrace that side of himself fully.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is amazing! This is the episode where we see how she isn’t a Jedi and that in leaving the order she shaped her own identity as one who is comfortable with Revenge for those she loves (she says she will kill Darth Vader for killing her Master) and we see it has given her great power as she cuts Vader’s mask. In the end her fate is left unknown as she chooses to stay with Vader in the exploding temple. I hope she got defeated and became a force ghost as she chose not to leave Vader, which means her death, just like it did for another character “The Force Awakens” when he chose to stay with someone who had gone dark side.

Darth Vader – Darth Vader is a force of nature in this. Maul fears him and will not face him alone, Ezra is beaten down easily by him and the only one who stands any chance is Ahsoka who matches him but also is broken down and is only able to injure Vader when he distracted in trying to get the Holocron from Ezra using the force. In the end he defeats Ahsoka (I hope defeats means kills) and we see him limp from the Temple ruins, the only characters still standing tall and unbroken.

The Faces of the Force – In this we have Maul, a dark side user who isn’t a Sith, the Inquisitors who are tools of the Sith, Vader who is a Sith Lord, Kanan who is a Jedi, Ezra his apprentice and Ahsoka who is a light side wielder but not a Jedi, rather a force user who lives by her own code.

Okay: Ambiguous End – We don’t know if Ahsoka is dead or alive as one of the final scenes is her saying she will stay with her Master as they fight one another and the Temple has a Force explosion. The final scenes have Vader limping away and Ahsoka or he ghost entering the Sith Temple. It looked cool but I really wanted a clear victory by Vader, I hope it is Ahsoka’s Force Ghost as Vader would have never left her alive.

Okay/Con: – The Story of the Inquisitors – We don’t know who the Eighth Brother, Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother were and now they are dead. They had great looks at least and they put up a good fight in this episode.

The Cons: Not Enough Setup – The Inquisitors hunting Maul was never setup, Malachor as a place to go was only vaguely hinted at and Maul came out of nowhere. These were all things that could have easily been established in past episodes rather than us getting filler Space Whale ones.

  This two-parter is one I highly recommend. It is some of the best from our heroes and writers and we get to see just how diverse identities are within the use of the force. Bringing Maul back worked really well here too, with the only underutilized folks being the Inquisitors whose backstories we never learned, just like their motivations. What really sales this episode though is that exploration of the force and the core relationships between Kanan and Ezra, their relationship to Ahsoka and her relationship to Vader. This core drama drives the story and makes it a favorite episode for me in the end. This a show that has always been about the characters and these episodes are a beautiful illustration of that.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Return to Spider-Skull Island” – Family and an Unexpected End

Return to Spider-Skull Island

      This is an episode that I consider a favorite, not for the overall story narrative, which is inconsistent, but for the Monarch scenes and for the unexpected ending that leads to great introduction to Season 2. It does have problems but these elements help elevate into an episode that is worth seeing again.

      “Return to Spider-Skull Island” was directed and written by Jackson Publick, with Doc Hammer as a co-writer.

    The story involves the brothers running away and ending up in prison with the Monarch while Dr. Venture must face his younger brother he hate in the womb who has escaped from him fully grown and wants revenge.

The Pros: Jonas Venture Jr. – The character is a super genius whose body never grew beyond that of a baby, even though he aged. He’s a great antagonist and when Dr. Venture finally apologizes and gives him the the old Venture Compound on Spider-Skull Island, it is pretty sweet. I like the character.

Dr. Venture – Dr. Venture once again shows he can be a good guy as he atones for something he only remembers in dreams, of eating his twin in the womb. This episode humanizes him a lot, including the ending.

The Minions / Henchmen – I really like these two guys as they are the only ones still following the Monarch and even manage to succeed in killing the Venture Bros. that he asked them to do (though it was an accident). I’m glad these two stuck around.

Hank and Dean Venture – These two run away from home when they think Dr. Venture having a baby will replace them. It’s funny and sad that they think that and it is great to see them end up with the Monarch who actually likes the two of them and gets them out of prison.

the Monarch – The Monarch’s human side is revealed a lot in this as we see him teach kids to not end up in prison as well as doing his schemes via his minions/henchmen. He actually wins in one of the schemes too, though I think he’d regret it if he knew as he came to like Hank and Dean.

Accident Competency / Tragedy – The Monarch ends The Venture Bros. Though it is after he made peace them and came to like them. He’s still in prison and he only did it because Dr. Girlfriend mind controlled him to blame them. Tragedy all around.

The Cons: Narrative Structure – The episode feels all over the place, and the brothers running away doesn’t completely mesh with the Jonas Venture jr. plotline. Each feels like it could have been it’s own story and that they should have remained separated.

 This is an episode worth seeing, though it isn’t as strong as it could have been. Both plots deserved their own episode really and doing it all at once ends up bringing both stories down as we never get to explore the different brother relationships or the Monarch’s life in prison.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Trial of the Monarch” – Taking Down the Monarch

The Trial of the Monarch

    Any episode with “the Monarch” is usually gold. This is once again the case for “The Trial of the Monarch” and manages to flesh out the Universe more fully as well as show the darker and tragic sides to our characters.

     The episode was directed directed by Jackson Publick and written by Doc Hammer.

    The story involves the trial of the Monarch when he is tried for the death of a cop. Things aren’t as they seem though as Guild of Calamity is soon revealed as well as the falling out leading to the trial.

The Pros: Hank and Dean Venture – The brothers turn into a Shiva-Mech in an Indiana Jones-type Adventure at the beginning and are saved from being hurt by the Guild by Brock. They are naive and it adds a nice contrast to the drama.

Brock Samson – Brock respects the Guild for just how good they are at getting the job done and lets the Monarch take the fall for what he’s done in the past. It is interesting see his relationship with them as there is a mutual respect.

Dr. Orpheus – The Guild makes a deal with him that he’ll get a nemesis if he lies to implicate the Monarch. He does and it is so happy to see him celebrate at finally having someone he can face. This character is always fun.

Dr. Girlfriend – Dr. Girlfriend is shamed by the Monarch and goes back to a past love Phantom Limb but is ashamed of betraying him by joining the Guild that she mind controls the Monarch to blame the Venture Bros. She is great in this, you get why she leaves the Monarch.

The Minions – These guys make an appearance too and one of them dresses up as Dr. Girlfriend so that the Monarch can send his last wishes of what to do now that he’s in prison. It’s funny and sad. Oh the life of a minion.

the Monarch – The Monarch is shown to be both an ass (blaming Dr. Girlfriend for past loves, etc.) but in the end shows he is capable of being good. I wish he’d apologized but the guy is a child and that is kind of the point. All the antagonists and protagonists are children in maturity, so it makes things interesting since they can grow but it is difficult to get there.

Okay: The Guild of Calamity – They have a great look, but we don’t have the chance to really get to know how they work. They have a great look though, lots of spikes and leather to really show they are bad.

The Cons: Phantom Limb – I don’t really get his obsession with getting rid of the Monarch outside of jealousy. I wanted to know more about him, but he just comes off as a creeper.

This was a great episode but not the best episode of the series. Truly that goes for any episode with the Monarch though. He adds so much to everything he is in since he does everything to the fullest. He is a villain you have to admire, and the tragic element of his character makes him interesting. I got a feeling he isn’t out yet.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 11 – “Past Tense” – Where Everything Began

Past Tense Venture Bros.

     “Past Tense” is a great episode. This is the episode where we see more innocent versions of our characters before they became the broken people they are today. It’s really well done how they do it too, as well as including the Old Team Venture into the story as well.

   The episode was directed and written by Jackson Publick.

    The episode involves Pete White, Dr. Venture, Baron Underbheit and Brock going to the funeral of their friend Sorayama, but all is not as it appears to be when they find themselves kidnapped and it is up to Hank and Dean to call the old Team Venture into action to save them from a mysterious foe.

The Pros: The College Years – The college years and how the show presents them are pretty amazing. From the roommates and them all hanging out and playing D and D, from Pete White as a DJ and Underbheit bringing a slave with him when he is studying abroad. The characters and their personalities are captured beautifully.

Pete White – Pete White is the devil may care DJ and when they find out Sorayama captured them he is one of the first to try and reason with him. He’s always been a side character so I hope we get more development of him in the future. In the flashbacks he appeared to be Thaddeus Venture’s closest friend.

Underbheit – Underbheit brings a slave with him to college from his home country and makes friends with Pete White, Sorayama and Venture. I didn’t expect him to show up at the funeral but it was good to see him and see the better side of him.

Sorayama – Sorayama was obsessed with Leslie and we see that in any way the four were connected to her lead to his revenge plan. I wanted him to be more than just obsessed but his creation of A.I. was pretty cool.

Dr. Venture / Thaddeus Venture – Dr. Venture shows his good side again as we learn he didn’t sleep with Leslie (Brock did) and that he didn’t lose his virginity until after college. We also get echoes of what broke him as at the end of the episode in the flashback we find out his father was killed. I felt a lot for his character and he struck me as someone I would have played D and D with in college.

Brock Samson – Brock is the jock who is unstable as he gets kicked off the football team after he accidentally kills a player. This leads to him beating up his roommates. He later apologizes and ends up joining the military to try and atone for what he did. He’s just as much a womanizer as before and from all we see, just as dangerous. At one point he takes out the old team too when he mistakes them for the androids.

The Old Team – The Old Team is fantastic. Colonel Gentlemen is the best, Otto is super religious and trying to convert everyone he meets while Action Man is a has-been who has flatulent issues. Seeing them assemble is pretty fantastic though, even if they lose to Brock easily.

   This was a great mixture of old and new as we get to see the old guard reassemble as well as see that many of our characters were normal people once before all the crap that went down in their lives brought them down to the shells of their former selves they are today (in regards to both the old guard with old age and the current team with their emotional wounds). I highly recommend this episode, it is easily one of the best of the series.

Final Score: 10 / 10