Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vera - Series 1 - Review

Vera starts out slow. She's a hard sell is Vera Stanhope - tough, insecure, fearfully intelligent, and afraid of placing confidence in others. Joe Ashworth, the dishy sergeant to end all dishy sergeants (sorry, Hathaway), is, however, a patient man. He's prepared to wait, to chip away at her walls, to take her moods and temper. I think they're my favorite detective duo of all time.

What I offer here are the impressions I jotted down after each episode - minireviews, if you like, and more of a rough diary than anything, but here they are. You can watch the first three seasons free here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top Books of 2015

Neil Gaiman's simply one of the best storytellers in the market right now. Mixing the whimsical and macabre, he uses an uncomplicated story to convey a powerful, understated effect. My dad described his writing thus: "It's like you're walking down an ordinary street and then you take a left turn and there's Faerie." The Graveyard Book is close to my favorite of his novels (Coraline might be the winner), and in it he sets us into a small world with a supernatural twist. Bod is an ordinary boy, raised by ordinary parents, who just happen to be ghosts. 

I read My Antonia once before in what was probably Middle School, but I obviously didn't get it. This was the time it finally clicked: the atmosphere, the untamed prairie, the romantic realism of it all. Also, that epilogue was about the most winsome portrait of a huge family that I've ever read.

Endeavour Season 3 - Coda - Episode Review

 My review of last week's episode: Prey

After last week's hijinks, Coda returns to more familiar territory. In many ways, this has been a wildly different series of Endeavour - so much so that it's been difficult to establish a status quo. Coda suffers from this, but in all the chaos, there are moments of pathos.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

Endeavour Season 3 - Prey - Episode Review

 My review of last week's episode: Arcadia

The first Inspector Morse episode aired in 1987. Over the last twenty-nine years, we've seen death in many shapes and forms, from run-of-the-mill stranglings to murder as performance art in a recent Lewis. But don't expect anything like that in Prey: this episode, Morse goes on Safari.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Endeavour Season 3 - Arcadia - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: Ride

I don't suppose we could have plausibly continued the Morse-as-tourist-in-great-literature trend into the rest of the series, but I'm a little sad that this week doesn't find Morse as the mild-mannered Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited (I had my hopes: after all, this episode is called Arcadia) or snobbish Pip in Great Expectations, or any number of other literary middle-class hangers-on observing the enchanting world of the upper classes.

Of course, I kid. Morse in The Great Gatsby was a neat gimmick episode, but not a sustainable conceit. Even so, Morse as a character has always found himself an interloper in the world of others, and never more so than in Arcadia, an overstuffed episode which rather clumsily tries to get back into its usual groove.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Endeavour Season 3 - Ride - Episode Review

My review of last season's finale: Neverland

Well, that was unexpected.

After a few seasons, TV shows tend to sink into a comfortable rut, doing what they do best, refusing to stretch their limits. Endeavour did the impossible by pleasing fans of Inspector Morse with a nostalgic but courageously new pilot and first season. In season two, they tried to deepen the story a bit by hinting at the darkness creeping into Morse's life, and while the finale was gripping, the season as a whole lacked the freshness and verve of the early episodes. But Ride, the first episode of season three, gives the entire show a rehaul, both thematically and aesthetically. Endeavour is back, and it's better than ever.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sherlock - The Abominable Bride - Review

My review of the season 3 finale

Objectively speaking, The Abominable Bride is quite bad. It’s the sort of mess of fan service, self-indulgence, and petty delay which has become a hallmark of Sherlock since The Empty Hearse. But that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable, in all its illogical absurdity.

The episode begins with a lightning recap of the first three seasons which reminds long-time viewers of a few series high points but does little to enlighten new fans. It then gives us a “what if” transition into an alternate universe. It’s 1895, post-Reichenbach, and Watson and Holmes are returning to 221B from a case. They’re just in time to meet Lestrade, who needs Holmes’s assistance on a murder.

It all began (he informs them) when the titular bride, Emelia Ricoletti, went mad and started taking potshots from her balcony at passersby, before blowing a hole in the back of her head. Later that evening, on his way to identify her corpse, her husband was stopped in the street by a creepy-looking woman in a wedding dress.

You can see where this is going. Emelia removes her veil and plugs her husband full of lead before evaporating into the mist. A series of similar murders crop up around the country, meaning Lestrade and Watson immediately think ghost rather than copycat murderer. Thankfully, Holmes is here to remind us several times ghosts don’t exist, and poetry is never true unless you’re an idiot. Hashtag the Enlightenment. Neil deGrasse Tyson would be proud.

Coroner Hooper (Louise Brealey with a stache) confirms that the Bride is most certainly dead, so it’s even more puzzling when Holmes and Watson are referred by Mycroft (satisfying canon with extreme girth), months later, to a wife who reports her husband, Sir Eustace Carmichael, is seeing the Bride. First of all, he receives orange pips in the mail, obviously a threat (Sherlockians will recognize the reference to The Five Orange Pips), and then begins to ramble on about seeing the Bride, who has come to exact revenge for some secret sin. When Holmes and Watson visit Sir Eustace, however, he denies the accusations, dismissing his wife’s story as female hysteria (hashtag misogyny).