Monday, May 25, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 2 Review - How Is Lady Pole?

My review of last week's episode: The Friends of English Magic 

One of the best things about magic in the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that it doesn't fix things as if...well, as if by magic. It is a tool like any other, and usually less helpful than most. The mechanics are kept vague for most of the story (as I recall from the book: when there are any specifics, they're wrapped in a semi-scholarly debate about something which sounds a little like HTML code.) Magic doesn't exist in a vacuum. It neither creates nor destroys matter, but merely rearranges it, in the process staying true to Newton's third law: creating an equal and opposite reaction.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Son of a Gun

My review of last week's episode: Gently Among Friends

Perhaps the greatest irony of Inspector George Gently is that its tragedy always stems from its basic conservatism. To quote C.S. Lewis: "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line." This show has always remembered what a straight line looked like. I remember that Gently Upside Down, an episode back in series 4, ends with a young woman, Hazel, berating a failed authority figure. He was meant "to take care of us, not use us." She acts like that should be the natural state of the world.

George Gently has spanned most of the 1960s and Hazel was hardly the only iconoclast. But these children railing against their fathers are never righteous heroes. They're always broken, and even if they wish to transcend "the system," they still display a tangible hunger for the world before it was fallen. They hate their fathers, but want to impress them. They are not men but stunted children desiring attention.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 1 Review - The Friends of English Magic

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
It's 1806, and magic has been dead in England for hundreds of years. So says the estimable Learned Society of York Magicians, but this declaration is turned on its head by the arrival of a powerful, fearsome practical magician, Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan). He offers them a deal: if he can make good on his claims to do real magic, then they must relinquish any right to study magic themselves. The ultimatum is a massive piece of foreshadowing. Norrell's success does not allow for sharing. He's not interested in democracy (of course not, he isn't one of those blasted French Republicans, is he?)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Gently Among Friends

My review of last week's episode: Breathe In the Air

Two weeks ago my dad bought half a dozen Lyle Lovett CDs from a sales rack. For the last few days, my listening library has consisted mostly of Lovett and Johnny Cash. Pondering over the previous episode of George Gently while listening to That's Right (You're Not From Texas) made me think of odd things. What if our heroes were transported abroad (a la Inspector Morse, in two episodes), to investigate crime in the Lone Star State?

Imagine my amusement when I found Gently and Bacchus dropped into a flashy American club with Johnny Cash playing in the background (Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Ring of Fire, to be specific). They're looking into the death of Scott Parker, a visionary who wanted to be "Mr. Newcastle" (wait, I thought this was Durham?). It looks like suicide at first: he threw himself off a bridge onto a pile of trash - but it's soon seen that he was dead before he fell. It's looking like murder.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Review

The second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is almost the exact opposite of the first season. Season one was founded on a good idea, drawing its setting from the Marvel universe and its dynamic from Firefly. But Firefly it was not. While that show could leap from genre to genre and tone to tone with ease, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't settle on anything. One minute it was so campy that it felt like a kids' show, the next the characters personal lives were right out of a soap opera. All of this compounded by the fact that there was no real sense of danger.

But then, suddenly, Danger! Intrigue! Character development!

The show pivoted off the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to become a surprisingly engaging and tense story. The team were now lovable outlaws rather than benevolent civil servants. There were enemies under every face-altering mask. Things mattered.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Breathe In the Air

My review of last week's episode: Gently With the Women

It's not really a proper George Gently series until George battles evil in high places (last week, it was only mid-places). Now he must cope not only (as per usual) with corruption in the ranks, but the vast bulk of corporate crime, as well as his bickering subordinates.

After a brisk morning run, George dashes off to investigate the suspicious suicide of Valerie Cullen. All seems straightforward, but George isn't convinced. He starts to delve into her past. She's a doctor, suffered from depression, and was estranged from her smarmy husband - also a doctor. Eventually, it becomes apparent that Valerie had been investigating health violations at an old factory - a fact which many people resented.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Gently With the Women

The new series starts off on a somber note as a woman is violently attacked in the shadows beneath Durham Cathedral. It is pitch dark in the alleys by the river, but the glowing face of the enormous edifice looms against the night sky, passive, silent, immovable, uncaring, unhearing.

Meanwhile, George Gently is in the ring, attempting to keep up with a younger colleague. Martin Shaw, at 70, still looks like he can throw a mean punch, but George's age is catching up with him. He is suddenly KO’d, letting a punch fly right past his guard, and wakes up in the doctor’s office. He's none too happy about the fuss, but she is insistent that this may be more than a mere fluke.