Unexplained pools of blood, assassins, break-ins, and sexcapades mark the opening of The Bridge‘s second season, an uncomfortably scattered hour that only seems to prove this show still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be. A jumbled mess of familiar and new faces dealing with both new and familiar problems, “Yankee” is an hour that ignores major plot threads from last season (if only for the time being) in order to introduce a plethora of new ideas, without giving the audience much sense of direction as to what this seemingly random collection of scenes actually means. Is it intriguing? Sure, there are parts of “Yankee” that suggest this season of The Bridge could head in some interesting directions: but surrounded by so many other plots and characters, it’s unclear what this season actually wants to be about.
The Leftovers, Ep. 1.02, “Penguin One, Us Zero,” makes the show’s true origins known, by hiding everything
While the pilot was almost pure set up, and in this mostly disappointing second episode we have a further muddling of that set-up, what has at least become clearer now is that despite its literary origins, The Leftovers is definitely shaping up to be, for better or worse, Lost’s direct successor.
There are no extended flashbacks (although there are flashbacks), no smoke monster, no strangers in an isolated setting, but the structure of a supernatural mystery, and tiny character advancements while interacting sideways with that mystery, is still intact. Also, in a way, people in The Leftovers—neighbors, whole families—have become strangers to each other, even if they weren’t before. Characters like Laurie and Tom have taken on new personae in this brave new, post-incident world, and everyone must re-learn who it is they are, while we meet them for the first time, too. In this sense as well, the vibe is strong.
Whether it be feelings, traumatic life events, or relationships that forever haunt us, there’s always forces we can’t see constantly trying to deform and reshape who we are as human beings. In fact, our strength of character is often defined by how well we can stand up to these forces, like a tree branch unwilling to fall, even in the strongest of storms. And as every character in Rectify finds themselves fighting against events and ideas almost completely out of their control, “Charlie Darwin” is a story of resilience, of keeping hope in these dark, modern times, where the definitions of everything in the world (right down to “bad” and “good”) have become curved like the instruments in the Holden family vehicle, slippery, hard-to-define shapes missing the definitive angles they may once have had.
While Wilfred doesn’t always take its titles head-on and through to their natural conclusions in the space of 20 minutes, “Loyalty” is an episode that manages to balance the ongoing mystery plot of the series’ final season with strikingly honest commentary on the concept of loyalty. This is done, of course, in a very Wilfred way, so as to not come off heavy-handed or preachy. Thus, we also get a running C-plot like Wilfred’s addiction to cuddling and his relationship with a certain toy that he eventually uses not in the way it is meant to be. This is probably the kind of stuff viewers who occasionally tune into to Wilfred enjoy seeing instead of the Wilfred mythology, which is fair enough. It’s certainly grotesquely funny (and has tons of cultural references that can be easy to miss, which is a quality it shares with its former FX brother, Archer; the most…enjoyable?…of these in “Loyalty” for me is the re-enactment of an infamous Requiem for a Dream sequence, which adds all kinds of gross layers to the event). But this, really, isn’t what Wilfred is best at. The series is best at testing Ryan with real, significant problems that most viewers can probably relate to, and “Loyalty” doesn’t lose sight of this at all.
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy The Strain has captured the imagination of horror fans since its 2009 release. Adapted as a comic by writer David Lapham (Stray Bullets) and artist Mike Huddleston, Dark Horse has just released the hardcover collection of the first 11 issues comprosing the first part of the trilogy. Working in close collaboration with Del Toro and Hogan, the comic book is not merely an illustrated novel but rather a visualization that captures the spirit and content of the book. This is an adaptation in the true sense of the word, building off the existing material and adjusting it to fit an entirely new medium.
The best thing about The Leftovers is its premise, and not because it’s really that ingenious, or cool. Its rapture-based concept is ground that has been covered before in other series and books, but the scale of it is just right here for nuanced material, the incident being big enough to be a personal catastrophe, yet small enough to keep it from being a global one (like say, all the males dying was in Y: The Last Man). With no rhyme or reason to who was picked, on top of a three-year gap from the event itself, what we’re left with instead of the typical action plot or mystery, is basically the perfect, world-wide existential crisis.
It’s possible that my expectations have been lowered significantly after five weeks of watching Halt and Catch Fire, but this episodeis really entertaining. In the last decade, AMC has built its brand on “quality” television, producing shows dealing with difficult characters and complicated themes. But what if this show is actually a soap opera and everybody involved is starting to figure that out? And I’m not trying to disparage Halt and Catch Fire by labeling it that way. I just mean that the joy of this kind of show relies on anticipating what the characters do, not exploring why they do it. With skilled writers and charismatic actors, this type of TV can be compelling, even addictive. I fell in love with television on Monday nights after middle school watching Melrose Place. I delighted in watching those characters fight and sleep with and backstab each other every week. In its best moments, “Adventure” captures some of that excitement.