Few shows are returning this fall with higher expectations than Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. What appeared last year to be an inexplicable pickup turned into the season’s most engaging new series, managing to successfully balance its utterly ridiculous concept with strong character work and a clever sense of humor. It was a win for quality that also translated into a ratings win for Fox, who made the interesting choice of bypassing a back-nine and ordering a second season right away. All of this was encouraging, but continued to raise the question of how long its brand of lunacy could be sustained, or if whatever energy the writers had grappled onto would dim in between seasons.
Gotham, Ep. 1.01, “Pilot” gives Gordon the spotlight in neo-noir retelling of legendary origin story
Batman is one of the most iconic comic book superheroes of all time and has been amongst the pop culture zeitgeist for, at most, three quarters of a century, being adapted into all kinds of media, from novels to video games and of course, to film and television. Strangely enough, as popular as the hero has been throughout the decades, the character has had very little time on the live action small screen. Even now, in this newest retelling of his origin story, Batman himself is not expected to make a full costumed appearance. Instead we are introduced to all the tangential characters that surround the Batman mythology and formulate Batman’s allies and foes.
Let’s start this week by talking about Eph. No one particularly wants to, but he’s still our ostensible hero, and that has become The Strain‘s most consistent and scarring flaw. The first mistake the writers make this episode is to spend it pitting Eph against Fet in something that isn’t much more than a dick measuring contest, and one in which everyone is undoubtedly on Fet’s side. And it’s a colossal hindrance to the show that we can’t tell whose side we’re supposed to be on. We can’t tell if we’re supposed to see Eph as our great hero, or if this is some subtle takedown of the arrogant straight white male leader trope.
Even to someone who’s bad at taking notice of a lot of production design in film and TV, Bill Masters looks wrong with a regular tie instead of a bow tie. Of course, when he’s put in front of a camera, everything about him feels off. The man’s already extremely uncomfortable in his own skin, and the task of explaining his work to an audience of millions is daunting, to say the least. And that’s before the considerations of national television come into play — censorship (and lots of it), having to “dumb down” his talk without sounding prurient, and most troubling, having to use “creative reenactment” to fill out the story. Bill is obsessed with even the most minute details of how the study is perceived, to the point where even the slightest chance that the public could be misled about it sets him off.
“Elam Ferguson”, the seventh episode of Hell on Wheels season four changed the course of the series. Losing one of the original main characters, Elam (Common), at the hands of Cullen (Anson Mount) was shocking, devastating, and redefining for Cullen.
Five full seasons and over 100 episodes in, and The Good Wife is managing the unthinkable: it’s accelerating. The sixth-season premiere, “The Line,” teases business as usual, picking up immediately following season five’s final moments, before totally changing course with one swift motion, propelling the episode into a dozen unexpected directions with reckless abandon. For Robert and Michelle King, the series’ reliably canny showrunners (and the co-authors of the episode), contradicting the usual trajectory of veteran drama series is just business as usual.
After weeks of memorable episodes, series eight of Doctor Who has its first dip with “Time Heist”, which sees the Doctor and Clara embroiled in a bank heist. Despite some fun visual flourishes and production elements, the story itself is underwhelming, failing to commit to or fully explore its promising premise. A trio of new characters are introduced, but none of them manage to rise above type: the untouchable outsider who longs to feel love, the mournful man with no past, the efficient monster capable of atrocities in the name of security. Saibra and Psi are pleasant enough, but neither is used in any surprising or meaningful way, utterly wasting the characters and their abilities. Keeley Hawes is more successful, chewing scenery first as Ms Delphox and then Madame Karabraxos, but even by the end of the episode, the most memorable aspect of either Delphox or Karabraxos is Delphox’s glasses (which are slightly cooler than Karabraxos’).
Several network series return this week, but the fall season starts in earnest next week. Before the premieres kick off, here are SoS TV Editor Kate Kulzick, SoS Managing TV Editor Deepayan Sengupta, and SoS contributor Randy Dankevitch’s initial impressions of the networks’ new offerings.
Co-creator of The CW’s Arrow and The Flash, Greg Berlanti, will be teaming with Chuck and No Ordinary Family producer Ali Adlerto to develop Supergirl for CBS
When it comes to zombie fiction in the recent couple of years, there has been a tendency for projects to bite off more than they can chew. With so many heavy themes being interwoven, such as morality in a society broken down to its core, the shows or films can become hyper-serious to the point of self parody and lose any sort of palatability. Z Nation still presents serious themes, such as the stress of the scenario making characters consider death as a viable solution, but due to its simultaneous reliance on mindless action, it is an enjoyable piece of mental chewing gum.
This week’s episode begins with Thackery living up to his more whacky reputation, calling Bertie into work in the middle of the night to ramble on about his new coke-induced placenta surgery ideas. Oh, and he’s got two high-priced sex workers there to keep him company for the past two days while he experiments on them: “Our budget won’t allow for pregnant prostitutes, so we’ll just have to make due with what we have here.” It’s absolutely bonkers, but the amazing thing is how easily the audience can buy into it. Of course Thackery would do this. The previous five episodes have been insisting how “renegade” Thackery is by referring to his antics – his coke addiction and radical ideas – but this is the first time the show really delivers on how insane yet brilliant Thackery is. Now this is how you open an episode. Naturally the episode doesn’t stay at that height of ludicrous antics, as not everyone at the hospital is spending their time testing revolutionary placenta surgery methods on sex workers, but what a great moment of triumph it is to see Thackery and Chickering’s surgery actually work! It’s completely predictable, but in the moment the success of their new approach, the fact that they finally pull it off, is astonishing.