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 #61



TV

The Expanse – Episode 1, season 2 Grade: A-

I won’t talk much about The Expanse on SyFy since I just published a feature-length article on the series a few weeks ago except to say that the second season, which premiered as two episodes back-to-back, kicks off with a bang right where the first ended. That season of The Expanse generally followed the first half of the book Leviathan Wakes with, I’m assuming, the second season covering the back-half of the book. Which should mean for some seriously good TV with ships zooming around the solar system, Mars and Earth at the brink of war along with an out of control city-sized asteroid with its sights set on the Earth.

Powerless – Episode 1 Grade B

Have we reached peak superhero yet? The creators of the new Powerless TV series sure hope we haven’t as they launch their new series on NBC that is “the first comedy series set in the DC universe.” Starring Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk and Danny Pudi, Powerless follows the staff of Wayne Security, yes it’s owned by Bruce Wayne, who try to invent products that will help the common person might someday be caught in the middle of a superhero battle with no place to go. Things like a device that alerts the wearer whenever villains are near or a suit that acts like an airbag when they’re about to be hit.

In many ways, Powerless seems like a cross between the series Better off Ted (2009–2010) that too was about the employees of a corporation trying to invent wild and wacky things along with the beginning of the comic series Kingdom Come (1996) that takes place in a world so overrun with superheroes and the battles that people aren’t even pawns in these “good guy” vs “bad guy” little wars, they’re completely ignored and expendable.

But whereas Kingdom Come was deep and brooding and Better off Ted wild and zany, Powerless is more of a mainstream comedy.

In Powerless, Emily Locke (Hudgens) arrives at her job at Wayne Security in Charm City from having grown up in a “flyover state” — or a place so insignificant the heroes literally flyover and ignore it. She’s got to lead her team of scientists and inventors to come up with something before Bruce Wayne shuts the company down. Which is pretty much a foregone conclusion since if they don’t succeed there wouldn’t be a Powerless series.

The first episode was a little light on comedy — I think I chuckled once or twice. But I think Powerless did have enough going for it and enough subtle insider DC humor, from “Shazam” to an interesting twist ending, that I can see myself sticking around with the series to see where it goes.

Santa Clarita Diet – Episode 1 Grade B

And speaking of Better off Ted — the new Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet, of which all episode are currently available to stream, was created by Victor Fresco who is also the creator of Better off Ted. Santa Clarita Diet follows married realtor couple Shelia and Joel, Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, who’s life take a turn for the weird when one day Shelia literally pukes her guts out during the showing of a home and apparently dies. Except that even without a heartbeat she still seems quite alive and mostly normal except for a few changes. For one thing Shelia’s gone from being slightly timid to more open and adventurous. Oh, and she has this need to eat raw meat and whenever she doesn’t feed that need bad things happen.

This isn’t The Walking Dead, there are no hoards of zombies threatening civilization as Shelia seems to be the only affected by this. In many ways, Santa Clarita Diet feels like a sitcom version of the serial-killer TV series Dexter. In that show, Dexter would only murder people who deserved it, a lot of times other serial killers. And In Santa Clarita Diet Shelia only wants to eat people who’ve done bad things.

Well, mostly bad things.

In the first episode the person she eats isn’t someone who’s killed or harmed anyone. He’s a dork who tries to have his way with Shelia and ends up, well, “feeding her need.”

Santa Clarita Diet joins a few other horror-comedy series like the successful Ash vs Evil Dead and the less-successful Stan Against Evil and on the whole Santa Clarita Diet is mostly successful. The first episode does wax and wane between feeling mostly real one minute to wild and wacky the next, which I’m not quite sure works just yet. I do give the series creators a lot of credit, though, for going for gore and gross-out humor in Santa Clarita Diet. They don’t shy away from thing like disgusting green vomit or showing the dismembered, twitching corpse of Shelia’a meal in the first episode.

And, much like with Powerless, I’m interested in seeing where Santa Clarita Diet goes and will be sticking with this one for at least a season or two.

Training Day – Episode 1 Grade D

The new CBS show Training Day is the latest movie turned series to turn up on TV this season joining the likes of Lethal Weapon, Frequency and the upcoming Time After Time. This Training Day is based on the 2001 Denzel Washington movie with Bill Paxton filling in as the corrupt cop Det. Frank Rourke with new officer Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) taking on the Ethan Hawke role from the film.

Essentially, the 2001 version follows relatively new officer, Hawke, being evaluated by a tough, grizzled street veteran cop played by Washington. Except that the grizzled cop is very dirty and when the new officer decides to expose the corruption he puts his life in danger. Early episodes of the series The Shield would borrow from the corrupt street cop Training Day plot before taking its own path for six seasons. Which makes me wonder about this new Training Day TV series, is there any new ground this show can cover? Especially being a CBS drama?

After the first episode at least it doesn’t seem that way. Training Day is basically a high octane version of The Shield with Craig leaping out of the window of an exploding apartment within the first sixty seconds of the show with a shootout on the streets of LA that’s reminiscent of the big shootout in the movie Heat (1995) abet smaller all within the first half. There’s also a few kidnappings and a house burned down that all happens in episode one.

I was really looking for something in Training Day to latch onto but, honestly, there just wasn’t much here. Paxton is interesting in his role but they make him a bit too Robin Hood in the first episode. Sure, he’s a corrupt cop who’ll shoot the bad guys and steal their money one minute, but it’s only because he’s trying to get them to stop targeting a kid who’ll end up getting the money in a trust fund when he turns 18. It’s like the creators of Training Day want there to be an edge to the Rourke character but do their best to make sure any edges are neatly sanded down.

It seems like the first season of Training Day will focus on the murder of Craig’s father when he was a boy and how Rourke, his father’s ex-partner, ties into it. But for me Training Day is a one and done show, so whatever happens in future episodes I won’t be there to see it.

Cool Sites

Made for TV Mayhem: A site that reviews 1970s and 1980s made for TV movies.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1940: George A. Romero, creator of the modern zombie movie is born
  • 1960: Jenette Goldstein of Aliens, Near Dark and Terminator 2 is born
  • 1965: Michelle Forbes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Admiral Cain of Battlestar Galactica is born
  • 1974: Elizabeth Banks, Effie of The Hunger Games is born
  • 1983: Videodrome permiers
  • 2000: The last episode of the TV series Sliders airs
  • 2000: The TV series The Others premiers



The Expanse season 2 poster



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Opening credits Sunday: The Expanse



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The Expanse – The future will still kind’a suck



Most sci-fi things that take place in the future focus on how the future’s going to be different then today. If that future is Star Trek, then it’s this wonderful place where mankind zooms around the cosmos in great ships meeting exciting alien species and having wonderful adventures. If it’s the future of something like Blade Runner, then it’s a dark and dreary place where it always rains, everyone smokes and life is terrible.

Most sci-fi futures are in place to contrast our own. That’s why I think the future depicted in the SyFy series The Expanse is so interesting — unlike the rest of sci-fi the future in that show is much like our present. It’s almost like the message of The Expanse is, “The future will be exactly like the present which means things will still kind’a suck.”

Based on the series of Leviathan Wakes novels by James S. A. Corey, in The Expanse, it’s the near-future where we’ve moved off the Earth and have colonized Mars and most of the near-Earth asteroids. Those who live on Earth have the most power, Mars the second and the asteroids a distant third if any at all. But, without spoiling things, something happens in the depths of space that threatens the future of mankind and it’s up to the “Belters” who live on the asteroids to stop this threat before it gets to the Earth and ends everything. Which, admittedly, sounds like something that’s been done many times before. But I think how it’s done on The Expanse that makes this series so unique.

The crew of the Rocinante

These three groups are represented by the crew of the ship the Rocinante captained by Jim Holden (Steven Strait) who have proof that something’s going on in the dark depths of the solar system if only anyone would listen. UN Ambassador Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) on Earth who’s trying to avert a war with Mars as ships begin disappearing and each blames the other. Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) who works on asteroid Eros and is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young woman and finds more than he bargained for. And a space station chief Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) who represents the interests of the Belters even if he’s got a dark secret in his past he’s trying to make amends for.

Except for the Avasarala character, these people aren’t the best and brightest. They’re not the special forces, aren’t Sherlock Holmes and for the most part have low-level jobs without a lot of responsibilities just like most people today. But they’re all thrown into this conflict where regardless of their status, they all have to step up and do their best and stop this greater threat while trying to overcome their limitations.

Ships of the Expanse

The interesting thing about all these characters and stories is that while there’s this overarching storyline in The Expanse, for the most part the paths of these characters don’t really cross until the end of the season. It’s almost like each of them all are working at different parts of the plot and really don’t know what any other group is doing and it’s not until the end of the first season when characters stories begin crashing into one and other that they get this fuller picture of what’s been going on the whole season.

The characters of The Expanse don’t live in this wonderland among the stars, they live in a place where what separates them from instant, boiling death is sometimes just a few millimeters of plastic. A place where the air can, and sometimes does, literally run out. And in a place where if something breaks and you don’t have a spare or can’t fix it yourself…well, you get the picture. But what’s so different here is that the characters of The Expanse aren’t frightened of all this. To them, their reality is a horrific banality that comes from living in space.

It’s like someone of today who’s house is next to a busy intersection. They know that at any moment an accident outside might send a truck careening through their home. And they might think about this when they first move in but later on they don’t think about it whatsoever. And the same holds true for the people of The Expanse who just accept that their day to day lives might at any moment be interrupted by something that might end everything.

The second season of The Expanse premiers February 1 on SyFy.

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