Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #72



TV

Fargo – Installment 3, episode 1 Grade: A-

Fargo doesn’t seem like it’s a TV series that originates from the US. Though the third season of Fargo stared last week on FX, it’s really not a third season in the traditional sense of a regular show that would be continuing with stories and characters from the first two seasons. In Fargo, each season has a completely different story from what’s come before with a brand new cast.

And since the characters change season to season it means that in Fargo there can be unexpected twists with major characters being unexpectedly knocked off in any episode. If anything, Fargo feels like a series out of the UK that isn’t beholden to the “rules” of US TV but which makes for some interesting TV.

But there in lies the rub in reviewing Fargo; interesting or not each season is like a brand new show without the continuation of the story from previous years. And since a season of Fargo plays out like one continuous story from first episode to last, early episodes can drag a bit as story is being setup and characters introduced.

That being said, the first two seasons of Fargo were wonderful, so I’ll take that into consideration with this new third installment.

The first season of Fargo was set in 2006 and was kind’a sort’a a TV version of the 1996 Fargo film. The TV series followed many of the same plot-points of the movie and had many of the same character types, but in the end played out differently. The second season took place in the late 1970s and had a few characters from the first season carryover as younger versions, but that was really the only link with the first season. And now this third installment takes place after both the previous seasons in 2010 and doesn’t seem to have any ties with what’s come before.

Each season of Fargo seems to focus on a character, or set of characters, who make the worst decision(s) of their lives and spend the rest of the season trying to cover their tracks and shift the blame to someone else. Or, worst of all, the characters around the doer of the deed end up paying the ramifications for someone else’s bad decision.

And the third installment of Fargo is no different. This time, parking-lot magnate Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) makes a deal with some shady figures for a short-term loan that has some seriously long-term strings attached and down on his luck twin brother Ray (also McGregor) thinks that a stamp Emmit has belongs to him and sends someone to Emmit’s house to steal it back. Except he goes to the wrong house where very bad things happen throwing police officer Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) into the mix.

Slow to start or not, one episode in and Fargo has me hooked and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

The Expanse – Season 2 Grade: A

We might live in a time of a lot of great sci-fi on TV, but ironically not much of this TV is traditional sci-fi in nature. What’s “traditional sci-fi?” Well, that would be people living and working in space in some far-off future. Think Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. Most TV sci-fi nowadays is super-hero in nature, or stories that take place in the near-future like Legion or Westworld. One series that I think fits in squarely in the realm of “traditional sci-fi” is the series The Expanse and just so happens to be one of the great series of 2017.

Frankie Adams as
Roberta ‘Bobbie’ W. Draper

I think the main theme of the second season of The Expanse is of mankind trying to control the uncontrollable — which we have a tendency to do. Much of the story this year dealt with the three main factions of people living in the several hundreds of years in the future in The Expanse; those from the Earth, those from Mars and those living in the “belt” on asteroids, who are all simultaneously trying to stop what’s known as the Protomolecule discovered in the first season from destroying all life in the solar system while at the same time trying to get a piece of it for themselves so they’ll be prepared if any of the other factions get it and try and use it on someone else.

It’s the classic, “we can control it even if we don’t think you can” scenario that’s played out time after time over the course of history.

And this Protomolecule is dangerous. In the first season a shadowy organization released it inside an asteroid station and this “thing” killed every living person there. Well, mostly killed in that it used all the living biomass to create a great glowing something that practically filled the station. A “something” that wanted to fly off and infect all of the Earth and create an even bigger biomass for unknown ends.

So it goes without saying that when even a piece of the Protomolecule is the most dangerous thing in the solar system everyone wants their piece of it.

Worst of all, with all these factions racing around the solar system trying to get their own sample the, until then, mostly stable political structure of the solar system is thrown into disarray. The Earth and Mars who have spent generations waging a cold war with one and other are now on the verge of a real one and the people living in the belt who’ve spend decades as third-class citizens have started to actively fight against Mars and Earth which causes more and more tension with every move they make.

The show that I think most closely matches The Expanse is the Battlestar Galactica reboot of a few years ago. Both shows are good at being mirrors to the real times that we live in. If Battlestar Galactica was about the fear of suicide bombings and of being attacked from the outside, then The Expanse is about what it’s like to live in a time when things we’d assumed were stable and unchanging suddenly shifting revealing a different, bleaker reality than the one we thought we were living in.

I feel like with The Expanse that with ever episode I think I’m seeing the big picture as to what’s all going on, until a few episodes later when something else happens I realize that I’ve only been seeing a tiny piece of a larger canvas.

Cloak & Dagger TV spot

Comics

Aliens: The Original Comics Series Volume 2 HC

Out this week is a hardcover collected edition of the second and third Dark Horse Aliens comic series from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first of the collected series, which has become known as “Nightmare Asylum,” chronicles the loss of the Earth to the Alien baddies from the first series where Newt and Hicks must fight to escape a mad General and return to fight for the Earth. The third series known as “Female War” shows this battle on the Earth with Ripley having returned to the fold.

“Nightmare Asylum” was illustrated via airbrush by Den Beauvais and to me is the best looking comic series ever and “Female War” by a young Sam Keith who was just coming off his influential run on the then new Sandman and would later go on to create the The Maxx character is pretty spectacular too.

From Dark Horse:

Long before Alien3 was even a glint in director David Fincher’s eye, Dark Horse Comics was already crafting a terrifying post-Aliens continuity for Ripley, Hicks, and Newt. These are the original stories that took the comics market by storm in a prestige collection of the unabridged and unadulterated series. Collects Aliens: Nightmare Asylum #1–#4 and Aliens: Female War #1–#4.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1947: Jeffrey DeMunn of The Mist, The X-Files and Dale of The Walking Dead is born
  • 1951: The Thing from Another World premiers in theaters
  • 1955: Kate Mulgrew, Captain Jainway of Star Trek:Voyager is born
  • 1956: Godzilla opens in the US
  • 1975: Death Race 2000 premiers
  • 1999: Existenz permiers



Direct Beam Comms #69



TV

Legion season 1 Grade: A

We live in a golden age of TV where there are literally hours and hours and hours of good TV series to watch each week. So much so that even “good” TV shows nowadays seem to be average. Still, every once in a while there’s a really great TV show, something so good it stands out from the rest of the pack. The first great new TV series of 2017 is Legion that just wrapped up its first spectacular season on FX.

Legion might also be the best comic book TV series ever as well. It’s certainly the first comic book TV series that doesn’t seem to be constantly embarrassed that its source material is a comic book.

The first season story of Legion was of psychiatric patient David Haller (Dan Stevens) who slowly discovers that the voices in his head might be something more than mental illness, they’re something much worse than mental illness. So David and another patient Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) go on the run, find others like them who want to help while also running from a quasi-government agency who sees David as a threat to global security, at one point his powers are referred to as being a “world-breaker,” as they all get to the bottom of what’s going on inside David’s head. And what’s going on isn’t nice — in fact it’s a lot evil.

Too many comic book TV series (and movies too) seem to take great shame in the fact that they’re based on comic books. How many of them are too embarrassed to say, “Based on a comic book” but instead go with the term “graphic novel” instead, of which none of the modern TV series or movies are. Worst of all these tend to either focus only on the dour, depressing parts of the comic books or trying to put them in a world so realistic that the superhero elements don’t quite fit. The creators of the TV series seem embarrassed that the source material might contain bright colors or goofy storylines and instead focus on gritty realism and gigantic city-spanning fight scenes. All of which are a part of the comics, but are not exclusively what makes up all comic stories.

I think the creators of Legion have actually done a great job of capturing a true comic book spirit with their TV show, ironically in a show that looks nothing like a comic book source material. The main characters of the show don’t wear standard uniforms, except sometimes they kind’a do in that they wear the uniforms of the psychiatric institution they were in. There are bright colors, devious villains with creepy names like “The Eye” and even allusions to the comic book source material with lots of instances of the letter “X” turning up in things like windows since Legion takes place in the X-Men universe. There’s also talk of backstory that readers of the comics would pick up on but aren’t so inside that it spoils the overall story for everyone else watching the show.

Let’s not forget the crazy dance numbers of Legion, no joke, episode arcs that take place entirely within the mind and unique characters I don’t think I’ve seen in any other show before.

At times Legion does move at a leisurely pace. Which, at the time I was watching them, seemed like a drag but looking back I realize was building up to something more.

Just like how comic book story arcs work.

Imaginary Mary Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B+

Starring Jenna Elfman as Alice, the new ABC series Imaginary Mary is a sort of cross between the classic 1980s TV series ALF and the 1991 movie Drop Dead Fred. Alice is a super-successful business woman who as a young child in a time of stress created an imaginary friend she called “Imaginary Mary” (a computer animated character but voiced by Rachel Dratch) who vanished as Alice became older. But when Alice falls for single dad Ben (Stephen Schneider) and gets stressed out when she’s going to meet his three kids, Imaginary Mary unexpectedly returns to try and get Alice out of this relationship and back to the life of partying and having fun.

It doesn’t help matter’s that Ben’s kids are the standard sitcom “kids from hell” who seem to have it out for Alice. But by the end of the first episode Alice has come to terms with her and Ben’s family, even if it seems that Imaginary Mary is here to stay.

Imaginary Mary is and undeniably cute show, the problem with it is that I’m not sure where the series goes from here? I enjoyed the first episode a great deal and thought that the idea of an adult still having their childhood imaginary friend, though not totally unique, was handled interestingly here. Alice is scared to grow up and latches onto something from her past to help get through a stressful time in her life. And while Imaginary Mary just wants her and Alice to have fun it’s not like she’s evil. In fact she sometimes has good ideas on how Alice can better get along with Ben’s kids.

My concern about Imaginary Mary is that while the first episode was interesting, I can see the series devolving into a standard sitcom — SINGLE MOM DATES A DAD WITH THREE KIDS AND WACKINESS ENSUES! — with the addition of the Imaginary Mary character. I could be wrong but to me it seems like Imaginary Mary would work best as a limited-run series or something on a cable channel that could push some boundaries. I’m not sold that Imaginary Mary will work as an ABC show, but I’d be happy to be surprised otherwise.

Fargo installment 3 TV commercial

Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

IT trailer

War for the Planet of the Apes trailer

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1933: King Kong opens in theaters
  • 1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey premiers
  • 1970: Colossus: The Forbin Project is released
  • 1977: Michael Fassbender, David of Prometheus and Magneto of X-Men: First Class is born
  • 1978: The TV series The Amazing Spider-Man debuts
  • 1990: The TV series Twin Peaks debuts
  • 1998: The movie Lost in Space premiers in theaters



Direct Beam Comms #68



TV

Oasis Episode 1 Grade: B+

Last week Amazon Prime launched “pilot season” where they debut the first episode of new original TV series, of which the most viewed will be picked up with full seasons that will be available sometime in the future. The first one I checked out was a sci-fi series called Oasis.

In Oasis, it’s 20 years in the future and the environment of the Earth has started to collapse under the weight of centuries of neglect, overpopulation and pollution. But all hope isn’t lost, in another part of the galaxy lies a newly discovered planet called Oasis that mankind has just started to colonize. And while it seems like Oasis will one day be a home to the 1%ers with the rest of of humanity stuck on a dying Earth, in Oasis there’s just a few dozen scientists, engineers and workers living there trying to setup this colony. Back on Earth priest Peter Leigh (Richard Madden) is called to the planet by his friend and colony manager who tells him his spiritual services are needed. But when Leigh arrives on Oasis he finds a desolate place with workers mysteriously dying and the living experiencing disturbing visions of things they once knew.

If you think Oasis is something like Solaris (people in a far off part of the galaxy experiencing weird visions) mixed with the likes of Earth 2 or Terra Nova (colonists trying to escape a sick and dying planet who find that the place they escape to might be just as dangerous as home) you wouldn’t be far off. But even though Oasis borrows the themes of other movies and series I wouldn’t consider it to be derivative. The creators of Oasis come at those story elements in their own unique way.

One thing I found interesting about Oasis; it’s yet another return to sci-fi based in reality. Or, at least as a believable sci-fi reality that’s possible where people are zipping around the cosmos in spaceships. I guess I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this kind of storytelling until series like Oasis showed me it had gone. Other than shows like The Expanse most sci-fi series of the last decade were space-opera in nature — big bombastic shows that are mostly adventure related. Which is fine, I’m just generally not a fan of those series. I’m more interested in shows that tell stories about people than ones that are all about story. But with both The Expanse and now, hopefully with Oasis, it might mark the return of a more hard-edged realistic sci-fi series to TV.

My one quibble about Oasis is that it’s a sci-fi show about people living on far-off planets which should be every exciting but instead was very slow. A lot happens in the first episode but I wouldn’t say a lot of story is told. In fact, I’m not even totally sure where a season of Oasis might be headed which isn’t a great sign. Still, I was intrigued enough in Oasis that I’m interested to see where it goes. That is if it does get picked up for a full season.

Fargo not season installment 3 promo

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Netflix new season promo

Movies

Justice League trailer

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1931: Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek is born
  • 1952: Annette O’Toole, Lana Lang of Superman III and the TV mini-series IT is born
  • 1955: Marina Sirtis, Deanna Troi of Star Trek: The Next Generation is born
  • 1979: Phantasm premiers
  • 1989: The TV series Quantum Leap premiers
  • 1995: The TV series The Outer Limits premiers
  • 2005: The first episode of the new Doctor Who airs
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