Monday, September 7, 2015

TV Review: Round Up!



So, we reach the final entry in our short "Round Up!" series, where I turn by somewhat behind gaze on the TV we've been watching in the last few months, yet not got around to writing up. It's a bit of a mixed bag, both in quality and content, but I guess it's pretty reflective of our TV habits these days. There is, in fairness, a huge amount of shows we are simply letting pass us by, as you just can't keep up with everthing, meaning I can feel guilty about the more popcorn stuff, but at the same time comfort blanket TV is as valid as any other form, and ultimately I make no apology for watching it.

Star Wars: Rebels: Season 1
Star Wars: Rebels: Siege of Lothal 
Against the odds, I became a huge fan of The Clone Wars, a series that managed to tell compelling, rich and interesting stories in the Star Wars Universe's "Fall of the Republic" era, and made a lot of the prequel movie characters work in a way that the actual films could not. It's cancellation due to the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney made me sad, and the fact that many of the team simply started on a new series, Rebels, wasn't much of a comfort. After all, it too Clone Wars a good couple of series to really get good, and initial setup of a small, Firefly-esque band of misfits felt a far cry away from the Galaxy-spanning joys I was used to. 

Rebels does slowly, too. The supposed entry character - a sort of Space Aladdin with nascent Force Powers - is pretty generic, and the lack of Clone War's longer arcs make many of the early episodes lean towards lighter hi-junks. There is, however, a higher purpose at work. Ezra may our eyes into the crew of the Ghost, but the first series is actually former Padawan Kanaan's story, following his decision to take up the lightsaber once again, mimicing, I think, a wider mood of the citizens of the Empire to stop putting up with this shit and fight back. 

The final few episodes are heavily serialised, and use Grand Moff Tarkin to great effect, with a heathly dose of Imperial Villiany to really thrust the heroes into the Light. The intra-series "special", Siege of Lothal, deserves special credit for remembering that Darth Vader is supposed to utterly terrifying, an encounter the crew of the Ghost are demonstrably lucky to even survive. Going into Series 2, Star Wars: Rebels is poised to open up it's story into one of formation of the wider Rebellion, promising returnng Clone Wars Characters as well as more early appearances of Classic Trilogy ones. We may be approaching another peak Star Wars moments, but if they're good, they're worth having.

Grimm, Season 3
Procedural supernatural show Grimm has become a steady "just before bed" show for us, and whilst I've continually had reservations about it, I've also always found it fine. It's third season shows a degree of introspection from the show that surprised me, and a gentle thread of firming up it's world and internal mythology runs through it. I'm still not sure that its a world that wholly makes sense, but this has allowed it to tell more interesting stories and feel less like a forgettable "case of the week" show. It's also given it's underused female cast a lot more to do, thankfully.

Black Butler, Season 1
There is tons of anime on Netflix, it turns out. This means that Z and I have been able to start looking at anime series for the first time in years, which means there is a huge backlog to get through. We've been assisted in this by Ewan, of all people, who has discovered the copious amounts of anime of YouTube, so at least in part we want to be sure of the sort of things he's watching. We started with Black Butler, which is a Victorian conspiracy thriller with a young boy and his Demon Butler, solving crimes for Queen Victoria and searching for revenge for the death of his parents. 

It's good to see the anime tradition of falling off the deep end of narrative sense towards the end of series still continues, at least.It's pacing is all over the place, and many of it's characters badly underused. I was greatly amused about an evil cult based in Preston, Lancashire. It's got a lot of violence that is best descriped as "anime splotchy"; obstensively gruesome but utterly ridiculous and cartooney, which explains what teenaged boys see in it. There is also a heavy subtext between Sebastian ("one hell of a butler") and Ciel, which is clearly designed to be uncomfortable (and is, in places), on the surface driven the demons ultimate desire to possess his master's soul. In the end, it was fine - but really sagged into near incoherence towards the finale.