“Timeless” Season 1 – An Amazing Character Driven and Time Travel Show Well Worth Your Time

timeless

      “Timeless” is the best Time Travel show out right now. I feel comfortable saying this because “Legends of Tomorrow” is fun but it is mostly just good and “Doctor Who” has been going through the Moffat death so the less said about that show the better, unless he manages to not make the same mistakes he’s made during his run of Showrunner of the show…this show is counter to both of those.

       The narrative is tight, the characters have arcs, the history at least tries to be accurate and the tension is always high and the story is always moving. These are the non-spoiler reasons why you should really check this show out. This is the best show to come out of NBC since “Hannibal” though I have yet to finish “The Good Place” which could possibly beat this show in quality.

   The show was created by Eric Krypke and Shawn Ryan.

     The premise involves the adventures Lucy (Abigail Spencer) who is brought in by the government to hunt down a terrorist and former government agent named Flynn (Goran Visinjic) who stole their main Time Machine and is seeking to change history. Lucy (a history professor) must work with Wyatt (Matt Lanter) (a soldier) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) (one of the inventors and the pilot) to stop Flynn in the prototype Time Machine that still remains.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of trying to save the past or at least stop the past from changing too much by chasing another through time is fascinating, especially as it gives the writers a chance to interpret large events and what they mean in the context of American History and what might change if they hadn’t happened. It was this core premise that drew me into the show in the first place.

The Locations – We have DC during the Red Scares, the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the crashing of the Hindenburg, the Fall of the Alamo and others to name a few.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this show, even the minor characters get some good exploration where their motivations are explored and we see why it is they fight.

Anthony Bruhl – Matt Frewer plays Bruhl, one of the scientists working with Flynn to stop Rittenhouse but who changes when he sees how Flynn’s actions are putting Rufus in danger. His arc is one of redemption as in the end he is helping the team stop Flynn from killing people through time.

 Special Agent Denise Christopher- Sakina Jaffrey has been in a lot of shows I like, from “Sleepy Hollow” to “House of Cards” she really owns the roles she is in and in this she is the government agent who learns the truth from the team and helps them fight Rittenhouse. The one way she is used by Rittenhouse is she brings in Flynn at the end.

Connor Mason – Mason is the inventor of the Time Machine and the organization Mason Industries that owns it. He is presented as an antagonist through most of the show because he is being blackmailed by Rittenhouse. Luckily he plays Rittenhouse and reveals their organization and we learn he knows that he is going to die but wants a good future for Rufus. Paterson Joseph is great in the role.

Jiya – Jiya is one of the scientists who is being trained to take Rufus’s place after Rittenhouse kills him. She is a great character who we see resist Rittenhouse when the team isn’t around and workis with Special Agent Christopher to do so. She is in love with Rufus and we see that they are partners at the end as she is not only helping them in enemy territory but she goes with them and pays the price (sees possible futures) when she is the fourth person on the ship. She survives but we don’t know the full consequences yet.

Wyatt -Wyatt is the soldier who learns that personal only causes more problems as his desire to bring his wife back only leads to him having trouble in the present and the war against Rittenhouse becoming all the more difficult. He is an honorable soldier who by the end has been shaped by his losses. Matt Lanter is great.

Rufus – Rufus is great, he brings perspective to history as there really isn’t any time in American History where things were good for African Americans. His cynicism to this helps bring down Lucy’s idealistic view of history and we see that he is great thinking on his feet and solving problems related to the ship, for example when they are stuck with the lifeboat broken he gives the equation through history for Jiya and the others to find them and bring them back. Malcolm Barrett is one of the strongest actors on a show of greats.

Lucy – Lucy is the main character and is tied to everything as we see it is her diary Flynn is using to target Rittenhouse (which makes more sense at the end) and we see her come to agree with Flynn’s aims by the end as in the present Rittenhouse is hurting those around her and upholding the worst parts of history. She also finds that her parents are both high up in Rittenhouse and that all her team did to fight them is for not. Abigail Spencer is amazing.

Flynn – Flynn is the antagonist through the series, who by the end we see was right all along. His sole goal is the destruction of Rittenhouse in all time and places in order to bring back his family they killed. In the end Lucy convinces him of nobility and to trust her grandfather to work from within to bring down the organization, but it fails as even though so many get taken out Rittenhouse no controls the Time Machine and Flynn is arrested by Agent Christopher for terrorism leaving Rittenhouse with no one to stand against them.

Rittenhouse – Rittenhouse is a fascist organization that is bound by blood that seeks to control the past, present and future. They are the primary antagonists

Time as Malleable – Events change when the teams go back in time. At one point Lucy loses her sister and her mom is no longer sick and she is married, the three of them show up in time under the names they gave and historical figures die who did not. Time always changes and can never be put back to how it was.

The Ending – We discover that Rittenhouse has the time machine when Lucy’s mom reveals that she is part of Rittenhouse too, all this after so many from Rittenhouse have been brought in from Lucy’s grandfather and Mason’s actions…The win ends up ringing hollow as Rittenhouse was the one playing them all.

Okay: Lucy’s Parents – Lucy’s parents are the least explored of the characters. We learn that they are both with Rittenhouse, but there reasons for choosing it beyond power aren’t really explored. This was a major missed opportunities, but the actors do a good job with what they are given.

    This is a series well worth your time if you have any passion for science fiction or time travel shows. The cast is solid and it does a good job of turning the expectations of the show on it’s head by the end setting up the rest of the season, but also how the show could have started in the first place as now Flynn is shown to be right as Rittenhouse has won. I’m curious to see how they deal with this and how our Team will fight back. The story ends with a dark twist, whether it is Jiya seeing a destroyed San Francisco in a vision, the arrest of Flynn and the reveal that Lucy’s parents are high up in Rittenhouse. Can’t wait to see what they do with this show in Season 2.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

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“Constantine” Season 1 – A Procedural Show That Could Have Been So Much More

Constantine Show

     “Constantine” was a show that could have been so much more, and really should have been brought back by the CW given that they’ve saved “Supergirl” and shown they are really good with DC properties (though I can’t stand “Arrow”). Hell, Constantine was even a guest star on “Arrow” so I hope they bring him back for a mini-series as this series is very incomplete. With only 13 episodes, this is a show that never really found it’s footing, even if the main cast were pretty great.

    The show was created by David Goyer and Daniel Cerone and based off the DC comics of the same name.

    The premise of the show is Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a part time practitioner of the Dark Arts and master of all forms of magic who is commissioned by Manny (Harold Perinneau), an Angel to help in the fight against the rising Darkness, as Constantine’s soul is already condemned to Hell and this is chance for redemption and doing some good in the fight.

The Pros: The World – The World of “Constantine” is an amazing one in which so much more could have been done. We introduced to different types of demons, magic and spirits…and I wanted to know and see more.

The Premise – The premise of the condemned man trying to redeem himself is one that has always intrigued me, especially when they are bitter and fed up with everything they’ve been through like Constantine is. It gives room for them to grow and to critique what they are being asked to do.

The Cinematography – I liked the cinematography. It clearly looks like effort went into creating a world that felt like a comic book, though I think the look of the comics is better and darker, this at least captured some of the spirit for network television. Romeo Tirone did a good job.

The Characters – The main characters kept me interested and coming back for more, even as the procedural nature of the show was grating on me and my attachment to the overall story.

Chas – Chas is from Constantine’s original crew where Constantine first got his soul condemned to Hell when he let a girl be taken to Hell. Chas took in all the souls around and is near immortal in his own way. He is really cool as he is alien because of what was done to him but still holds his humanity and keeps Constantine grounded. He also is a father. Charles Halford is good in the role.

Papa Midnite – Midnite is one of my favorite characters in the comics and was in the Keanu Reeves “Constantine” film as well. In this he is an antagonist up until the end as he is traditionalist practitioner of voodoo and honoring the Spirits and Lao and Constantine respects nothing and dishonors his traditions, leading to him trying to kill Constantine until he is called off at the end. I wanted to see their relationship develop as it is an intriguing one in the comics. Michael James Shaw added so much power to this role.

Zed – Zed sees visions and is our audience stand in at first as her mysterious backstory is slowly revealed, as well as the price she pays for sight, given that she has a tumor in her brain. Angelica Celaya gives this role both strength and compassion as she is also one of the people who grounds Constantine and helps him see beyond himself. Like Chas, she is his humanity he tries to push away.

Manny – Manny is the Angel who is using Constantine to his own ends as we see him call off the hit from the organization Papa Midnite serves as we learn Manny is the one calling the shots and maybe the one bringing the Darkness. He has a complex relationship with Constantine as we see him stay out of things but help in his own ways, at one point even being put into a host’s body and having to experience humanity and mortality. Harold Perrineau gave this role so much and if they bring back the series, he is the character I don’t want recast.

Constantine – Matt Ryan nails Constantine’s cynicism so well, as well as him being the deal maker who walks to line between good and bad and does everything he can to survive…but try to do the right thing. His arc is really that of getting invested in the bigger fight against the Darkness and finding his humanity through past members of his crew who got him into magic in the first place (and usually losing them) or finding his humanity in their acts of valor and in the actions of his friends. He really is a great anti-hero. Matt Ryan captures the man from the comics better than Keanu Reeves which is partially due to look but also in how he speaks and interacts with others.

Okay: Jim Corrigan – Minor character in the show who is a doubter who later joins Team Constantine against the Darkness. More could have been done with him so he felt unfinished. His comic book history is rather large and I didn’t get any of that from the show.

Okay/Con: The Ending – Manny is manipulating everything is the most interesting part but it feels unfinished and you can tell the show got canceled. The Finale felt rushed and we still really knew nothing about the coming threat or how it related to Manny.

The Cons: Inconsistent Tone – The tone was all over the place…some days Constantine would lose a friend, another episode they’d try to do comedy that wasn’t quite dark enough to fit the tone. It felt like a “Monster of the Week” when there are great arcs in Constantine they could have done in full.

Procedural When Could Have Been More – The show in the end felt like procedural that wasn’t going anywhere and I think that is why it got canceled. We learn nothing about the Darkness really and for a huge world full of demons, angels and monsters…we don’t actually learn all that much about it. It is a glimpse into a world that could have been so much more if it had taken advantage of the amazing source material it was pulling from. Sadly it became like any other “Mystery of the Week/Monster of the Week” Procedural and I think that led to it being canceled.

     This is a show where I enjoyed the characters and premise but felt that it never lived up to the potential of the source material. I’d still recommend it at this point as this is sadly the best adaptation I’ve seen of the character “Constantine” and I hope he gets a second chance, as Matt Ryan does a great job capturing this amazing character from DC comics. If you like the comics, it is worth watching just for Ryan’s performance…beyond that there are better supernatural, procedural and shows adapted from DC comics out there. I’d like to see the CW bring back the character for a mini-series and either do something cool with the Darkness from this show or give us a full fledged adaptation of one of his best comic arcs. Constantine deserves that, and this show sadly couldn’t give us that.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964): When Outcasts Find Acceptance

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

     This is a film that is nolstalgia from my childhood. When I was a little kid the Abominable Snow Monster (as well as the Wampa in “The Empire Strikes Back”) gave me nightmares as a child. Seeing it later I certainly see the cons of the era (Why aren’t there any female Reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh?) but it’s pros too as the outcasts being accepted is a major theme and that is something that makes sense as difference is part of what defines us as human beings.

    The film was directed by Larry Roemer and written by Romeo Muller and Robert May.

     The story is the classic tale of how Rudolph went down in history after saving Christmas during the worst snowstorms.

The Pros: The Animation – The Stop Motion animation is absolutely beautiful. Rankin/Bass really did create a unique style that is worth checking out at least once, if only for how there is nothing like it. It has a distinct cartoonish character to it.

The Abominable Snow Monster – The fact that as a small child this guy freaked me out is a testament to this beast. It’s also cool how after it loses it’s teeth it becomes a good creature. Props to Yukon Cornelius for reforming it.

Hermey – The Elf who wants to be a dentist and has a rebellious streak. He talks about quitting and finally does. He also saves Rudolph from the Abominable Snow Monster with the his dentistry skills when he pulls out all it’s teeth.

Yukon Cornelius – Yukon is all ham and it is glorious! He’s over the top and obsesses over mining everything from gold, silver and finally deciding on peppermint. I’d watch a film of this guy going on crazy adventures. He doesn’t need a team, he’s zany enough on his own.

Island of Misfit Toys – The Island is a lot of fun and the outcast toys show how Santa has dropped the ball as he forgot all about them. Santa dropping the ball is a big theme as well as Santa being a dick. The Island is cool and the Lion with Wings who is King is a pretty great character too.

Rudolph – Rudolph is a great character. He conforms to the fullest degree and loses it all when he is revealed except for Clarice. He finds acceptance among the outcasts though. He comes into his own and ends up saving the day per the song. He’s the standard hero but he’s empathetic and the best of the reindeer.

Okay: Clarice – She’s a bit of a blank slate. She likes Rudolph because he’s different but she never gets to know his personality all that much. For this reason she is a bit of a cipher. She has agency though as she is the one with Rudolph’s Mom and Donner who goes looking for him after he runs away. Ashame she needs rescuing in the end, but all the Reindeer and the North Pole do.

Mrs. Claus – Another cipher. We never know her motivation beyond making Santa fat for Christmas.

The Cons: Santa – Santa is horrible to everyone around him. To the elves he acts bored and he refuses the even let Rudolph get training because he has a red nose. Rudolph has to save him and do all the work for him to finally become a decent human being. Way to go Santa.

Boss Elf – Same problem as Santa. All about conformity with no purpose beyond ritual. I like the Hermey got to show him up in the end.

   This was an enjoyable special, though I wouldn’t go so far as to calling it great. That is largely a limitation of time and some of the story choices. Clarice could have done much more and Santa being unsympathetic and a horrible person generally to those around him doesn’t help his case, just like the Boss Elf. The outcasts are the most sympathetic and the reason to watch this unique Christmas Special.

Final Score: 7 / 10

“The Blacklist” Season 1 Retrospect – A High Stakes Crime Drama With Consequences and Loss

The-Blacklist

     “The Blacklist” is a show that quite a few friends have recommended to me, and after finishing Season 1 I find that recommendation well worth it. I’m curious to see where future stories go, I felt for the characters we lost…and we got many compelling one-off villains as well as some good overarching game players too.

     Jon Bokencamp created the show in 2013 and he clearly has an idea where things are going as we get a good arc throughout Season 1 and even all the villains of the week are connected in such a way that we get an overall narrative arc which is a difficult thing to pull off in a 22 episode structure. It is for this reason that after I finish this series when it has finally ended I’ll look at doing individual episode reviews.

    The story involved Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) turning himself into the FBI in order to bring down a mysterious organization that is at war with him. He does this through the rookie FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) who he is connected to in some way as he provides her and the Special Task Force with a list of names of the Blacklist.

This review does contain spoilers.

The Pros: The Villains – This is a show with a lot of complicated villains, which is why I’m giving them their own section. These were the villains who stood out the most on the Blacklist who weren’t game changers or players in a larger game.

The Courier – This is a guy who doesn’t feel pain and is introduced wearing a mask. He is the one criminals use since they don’t trust each other as if either goes back on the deal he will kill them both. He is also still human too as he ends up opening up about who hired him and who he works for in order to lessen his brother’s sentence in prison. He also grew up in a family of abuse.

General Ludd – Ludd is an organization that is trying to bring down Capitalism and has a very V for Vendetta feel to them. They succeed in their attacks and it is only at the very end that their leader is finally caught and killed.

Anslo Garrick – Garrick was betrayed by Red and gets revenge by killing Zheng and nearly killing Zuma. He’s ruthless and is only a tool of the larger players but he is a good Dragon as he and the Wild Boys easily take out the Task Force.

The Good Samaritan – This is a killer who targets abusers and kills them the way they abused their spouse or child. He was a complex villain who was at the end of the day a vigilante and his way of dealing with abuse showed how he had become the abuser.

The Judge – The Judge like the Good Samaritan targets corrupt officials who put away innocent people. She is a fascinating character as she does have some semblance of justice and is celebrated by the criminals when she is brought in as she was one of their only advocates. She’s a character I’d like to see again.

Support – The support I’m speaking of is that they are Red’s bodyguards with Zheng in charge of finances while Dembe is the contact and deliver of information. They are both fascinating characters who I wish we had more time with this season.

Luli Zheng – Deborah Craig is awesome as Zheng who is one of Red’s bodyguards and in charge of his finances. We get a lot of small moments with her as she helps Red destroy his past and plan for the future. Sadly Garrick is the one who kills her in the end.

Dembe Zuma – Dembe manages to escape Garrick and is Red’s shadow following leads to unravel Berlin’s organization and bring him out into the light. He is tough and it is great whenever he’s around. Tawfiq does a wonderful job in the role.

The Special Task Force – The Special Task Force involves both the CIA, FBI and Reddington in order to bring down the names on the Blacklist. All the characters are interesting, even the ones who are weak (the closer they are to a main character basically a la Ressler and Keen).

Agent Aram Mojtabai – Aram is the hacker and tech. and is the one who helps them find the members on the Blacklist. He also has a close relationship with Elizabeth and works with her one on one often times behind the Task Force’s back. Amir Arison gives great sensitivity to the role as we see him have to use his training for the first time during Garrick’s assault when he kills his first person. We also see him stand up to Reddington when he is framed and work to catch the real mole in the agency.

Harold Cooper – Cooper leads the Task Force and has to walk a fine line in all he does as the Task Force could be destroyed at any point by the government or all the different forces that want it destroyed. He keeps others at arms length while advocating for the existence of the organization. When the season ends he is in critical condition from Berlin’s attack. Harry Lennix is fantastic!

Agent Donald Ressler – Ressler is one of the weaker agents as he is all about revenge and lives only for the job. He is a stock character but he is still compelling in his own way even though he is the least interesting member on the Task Force. He is saved by Reddington at one point and was the man sent to hunt him down back when the search for Reddington began before Red turned himself in.

Agent Meera Malik  – Parminder Nagra is my favorite member of the Task Force and the CIA representative. She is sadly killed in the finale but before that we see her help take down or take down many members of the blacklist as well as learning about her balancing her role as a mother and how her clear conscience is why Reddington trusts her. She also has a darker side too being CIA she’s tortured and we see her do so on the show.

Elizabeth Keen – Keen is our protagonist who is being used by Berlin’s organization via her fake husband Tom and by Reddington trying to bring Berlin out and protect her and of course the FBI who is her boss. Her arc is finding balance and eventually committing again to the fight and her relationship with Red after she forgives him for putting her adopted father out of his misery. She isn’t bad and is good, but she was never as interesting as Red or Malik to me.

The Manipulators – These are the game changers and manipulators whose names we receive and who we see easily walk over the Task Force at different points this season. Some are connected I think but more on that next season I think.

Diane Fowler – Fowler was the mole and Red ends up killing her even though she knows things about the past that he seeks. She is a smooth operator and the Task Force trusts her even up until the end since she covered her tracks so well.

Alan Fitch – Alan Alda is awesome as Fitch! He is the one who sets the Wild Boys and Garrick on Reddington to make a point that you don’t double cross him and the organization he is a part of. He also has an Alliance with Reddington still though and advocated his organization helping when it looks like Berlin will be on the scenes. Sadly he isn’t able to which means when Berlin comes for him and his organization he won’t have Red’s help.

“Berlin” – Berlin is the one who was using everyone on the Blacklist to his own ends. It is when they are killed that he finally comes out of hiding and reeks havoc on the city and Task Force. He is free at the end having cut off his own hand to escape and letting another be his stand in as he goes underground to plot his revenge against Red. How he knows Red is still a mystery as Red does not know him as far as we know.

Raymond “Red” Reddington – James Spader does an amazing job as Red and is the Moriarty character driving the plot as he prepares for war against Berlin and whomever Berlin maybe working for. In this we see he is a sociopath but also cares deeply about some people, whether they are Dembe, Zheng or Elizabeth and that he will go to any length to avenge those who have wronged him or the people he cares about. He is still a criminal but he is complicated as his hiding information is usually for a reason and he ends up being right about most things. I’m curious to see how he uses the tools at his disposal in the war against Berlin. He is most likely Elizabeth’s dad.

The Reveals – There are quite a few reveals. From Tom being a fake and working for Berlin to Red most likely being Elizabeth’s father as we see burn marks on his back and the one memory Elizabeth has of her father is him pulling her out of the fire. The fact that her adopted father was a criminal connected to Berlin is also another reveal.

The Cons: Fridging  – Both Zheng, Malik and Ressler’s ex were all killed over the course of the show. This very blatant fridging, especially of some of the more compelling characters is a con I can’t ignore, especially since the kills in many cases came out of nowhere from villains of the week. For characters of such importance, they deserved more than that if they had to be killed off.

   I can’t wait to keep on watching and I do plan on reviewing individual episodes in the future. Tom wasn’t on here as he was kind a plot device in my opinion and never felt like a full character. Everyone else on the other hand had great motivations for the things they did which made them compelling to watch as the world of the “The Blacklist” is a grey world where friends can be enemies and vise versa and you never know who is pulling the strings in the end or who will live and die.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.