Monday, 30 November 2015

The Man In The High Castle: Season 1 Review

The Man In The High Castle
Season One
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

In A Nutshell


Having watched the pilot episode several months ago, I was quietly awaiting the start of the series to be streamed on Amazon. I wasn't OTT with salivating eagerless, but the pilot was undoubtedly very good and well put together. Seeing where this show would go, and if it could possibly keep up the standard, was going to be worth my time I hoped.

So, has it maintained standards?

Almost.

Episode 2 was right up there with the opening one, as Frank Frink (try saying that ten times quickly) was tortured by the Japanese and his sister's family gassed, in order to get information out of him about his girlfriend Juliana's disappearance. This was a tense and horrific episode on emotional levels, what with Frank's sister knowing exactly what was "going down" and reassuring the kids anyway. Frank's emotions in the jail were about as award winning as things get, not least the aborted firing squad that was stopped at the last moment. With a new show, you don't know who is important and have no concept of who could and couldn't possibly be killed off, so this episode, along with Juliana's struggles in the neutral zone town, were naturally tense and dramatic. For me, episode 2 trumped the pilot episode. Juliana's meeting with her "contact" who turned out to be a Nazi Spy at the very last moment, was a shock reversal for me, although her rescue much less unpredictable. The attack on our senior Nazi official character, John Smith (not very umm, german name?) was also dramatic and quite breathtaking.

Episode 3, sadly, didn't quite continue on in the same vain. Sure, it can't be action and intense drama every week but there were some flat sections this episode for me, not least that the Japanese segments came across as dull, emotionless and somewhat feeling like it was keeping us from all the interesting parts of the show. The tension and concern that they felt regarding the Nazis was clearly evident. Gathering people's true intentions is not easy in this show, and almost feels impossible with the Japanese who maintain great poker like expressions in every scene. However, as things progress over next couple episodes, we do get further emotional and expressionate sentiments from them, not least when the Crown Prince is taken out at the end of episode 4. The drama and fallout from immediately after that shooting is outstanding filming, along with the tension of the Trade Minister and maintaining his secret operative's disguise, actually genuinely making me feel slightly nervous for both their lives. The only slight disappointment perhaps from their whole segments is that the prince isn't at this point in time anything more than severally injured. You'd think two clear shots would have been enough for any assassin to finish someone off!

The emotion at times in this show is unbearable, and at others times always very good. Frank's interactions with his brother-in-law initially tense as hell, although somewhat strangely "friendly" at the latter funeral. It's poor Frank who really gets the most serious of emotional rollercoasters during the opening episodes. Julianna's, notwithstanding her altercations, seems less affected by what she's been through, continuing in episode 5 to search for the answers to behind the tapes, by strolling into her sister's boyfriend's house nochartely. The conversation she has with the lady there, who one assumes is resistance, was rather straightforward, given the whole cloak and dagger stuff we've had her go through previously. Her return home in episode 4 has presented her with probably the most plot convenient transition, with that house visit at Randell's home, and job at Japanese HQ being creamed with her bumping into the Trade Minister in that building. All rather too convenient for me, and certainly very out of place with the twist, turns and rather non-processional like storylines the show has consistently turned out.

Episode 6 and Juliana and Frank squabble like the dysfunctional couple they are, although in some ways at least their relationship makes more sense than Juliana/Joe which I really can't fathom out at all. They've both got their own relationships going on, but seem to be drawn to each other. This isn't going down the Star Wars Luke/Leia thing is it? I really hope not, but at least that'll make more sense than the stupidity Julianna has in repeatedly risking everything for him. Sure, he saved her life ... once ... but then she keeps doing all these things for him, and doesn't really ever give a reasonable explanation. Even on her first day working at Japanese HQ, she's being instantly stupid, by snooping for info and so clearly eavesdropping in the meetings, that she may as well sit at the table with everyone. The most interesting revelation from this rapid 1st day in the job though, is that she finds the room that the resistance wanted her to locate, sees that keyword "grasshopper", nicks some document with the writing on, and then sees her dad! It was a surprise to see him there. Seems he's working for the Japanese? Although not one of us would believe he's doing it for love. Meanwhile, Frank turns on another burst of emotion after his earlier torturing scenes in episode 2 when he stormed off from arguement with Juliana and meets up with a relation to find out the guy is a practising Jew. It's a tender moment with him, the family relation and children praying.

By far the biggest chunk of scenes in episode 6 are at Nazi Smith's house on "VA Day", which is a big celebration for Nazis.  Joe and somewhat unexpectedly, the "Swiss operative" (come Nazi and seemingly Smith's old pal) Rudolf Wegener are both invited to the family dinner which turns out to be a very clever ploy by Smith to essentially interrogate them both whilst stuffing them with food and drink. Smith knew Wegener was lying about every cover story he came up with about why he was on a so-called business trip, which wasn't totally obvious until he told Joe and asked for his advice. That was of course another clever trick to suss out Joe a little more. Wegener ends up being escorted away by Nazis and at the very end, Joe performs the classic stupidity of sneaking into Smith's office to look at files on Grasshopper, which turn out to be completely blank. That's when Smith turns up, somewhat disappointed in Joe. You'd think all was totally hitting the fan for both Joe and Wegener but the former gets a final chance from Smith to prove himself, by using Juliana to locate the latest film doing the rounds. The subtle way Smith plays Joe's girlfriend and son against him is a typical "bad guy" tactic but it's more than enough to work it's magic as a serious threat.

Quite unexpectedly, during episode 7, Juliana's dad collars her and tells her all about his role at the Japanese HQ, which plays out just as we thought. There's a whole 'what does he know or not' about Trudy (his daughter) and her role in everything, including these films. It's all a little unclear and seeming a tad inconsistent if you ask me. I'm not sure if he's really painting a good impression of himself, or if we're just supposed to believe it. The whole "Is Trudy dead or not?" thing seems to grind on this episode, but looks to have been put to bed when Juliana's new best buddy, the Trade Minister, reveals information he knows, including where Trudy's body is, which is a ditch in some field in the middle of nowhere. Julianna's almost vomits at the sight of the bodies, and even I felt a little uneasy, as she locates Trudy's body. I'm still completely unconvinced though that she is dead despite all this. The lengths they went to in this show to make us wonder if she was dead, and then show us her body ... well, it makes me believe we're being set up to see her again ... in some form ... giving the revelations that follow in later episodes.

Humour isn't totally absent in this programme, and the clear top joker in town is the jewellery shop owner, Robert Childan. He's brilliant in his role, dinning with the high-class japanese couple he wanted to attract to his shop and lapping it up, only to discover they really were just arrogant and obnoxious. Eager for revenge, he has Frank create some fake art for the couple, which just about manages to convince them, thanks to the lady's belief in "Wu"; some mystical energy that she thinks the item contains. This may be due to Frank having made it and later revelations in the show perhaps. However, Childan just steals every scene he's in. Speaking of "Wu", I imagine that's what the Trade Minister sees in the necklace he found a few episodes ago (that Frank dropped) and given how things progress, there clearly is something fundamental to the whole story concerning "Wu".

In Episode 8, Heydrich turns up as a very senior Nazi who, as it turns out, is probably not only against Hitler and Japan, but our Nazi chief, Smith. They share a rather diplomatic "spat" over the final few episodes, which is very much cat and mouse, as to one wants to show their cards. Smith works out what Heydrich is most likely up to, and is made into a much more human character after the VA dinner and the revelation that his son is terminally ill. The way the Nazi doctor suggests Smith humanely kills his own son, to save him embarrassment, is something you would think Smith would just do, as he's a duty man, but even he is putting off such an action, and shows even more genuine love for his son, whom is clueless to what's going on. It's a real show of emotion and adds that other side to Smith that we haven't seen. It also makes you wonder if deep down, he's going to perform a heroic act for the greater good at some point in the show's future.

Back to the stupidity side of things, and all that lies with Juliana, Joe and the Resistance's interactions. It seems that everyone is chopping and changing their minds every 5 minutes between this lot. What is even more baffling is how the resistance would trust her and especially anything Joe says so reasonably easily. The whole Joe factor and resistance is the hardest bit to understand when they were so cloak and dagger for so long, and now so open in believing and following Joe's lead on some matters! This is summed up when in the final episode they actually do some checking and find out that Joe is a Nazi. How stupid are they? Either the two resistance characters aren't really the sort of resistance we'd imagine they are, or they really are simply stupid and as rather hapless as they appear on numerous occasions. The Resistances actions in the second half of the first season are just unbelievably daft after the rather carefully hidden tracks and conversations they perform during the opening episodes. Why are they counting on Joe so much and not using their own resources? Don't get it.

It's not really a surprise then when things go wrong trying to retrieve the latest film from a gang who stole it and want money for it. The Kempeitai turn up, the resistance leg it, and Joe and Julianna are bundled into a car which turns up to belong to the gang leader. Episode 9 then is all about money and exchanges for the film, which seems to go on forever in their quest to be rid of the gang, so it's a bit of a surprise when once again, after Julianna gets her bail paid by the resistance, that Frank is the one who goes in to pay for Joe's release. That looks to be going to plan until Joe goes all gun-ho, stealing a gun and shooting everyone, before taking the film. A dramatic ending to what seemed like a rather drawn out plot segment we all could have done without. The plan to all met up at a local school after all this drama is strange, so much in that they seem to be walking around a school like they own it. No mention of having to break in, and there's obviously zero security around the school. But this is where things really start to ramp up for the finale ...

We've got the Trade Minister regretting all his under dealings to help his countrymen when it now seems to have convinced the recovering Crown Prince to launch an assault against the Nazis. Wegener is being booted and suited by Heydrich to kill Hitler (as they are best pals it seems) in return for ignoring his traitorous deceit. And to really raise tensions, Frank and Juliana view the film in the school and see a scene of Nazis executing people, of which one of the Nazi's is Joe, and Frank is one being shot! Sadly, this penultimate episode cliffhanger goes down like a lead brick with me. I was thoroughly disappointed that the film had anyone we know in it. Even more so that it turns out that Frank and Julianna are so ready to believe anything about what they see. Although they do suggest they don't believe the film, they take it as evidence that Joe is a Nazi and that it's showing events that'll happen one day. Where on earth do they have any evidence that anything in the films is anything remotely true? Seeing themselves in any film would be enough for me to disregard anything the films show, rather than believe them anymore. I suppose these people are so desperate for change, that they'll believe anything, but it's not really conveyed well that what's on the films is really good enough to be believed.

And so to the finale, which for me, was superb on the whole and only let down by the last few minutes and the ongoing stupidity between Juliana and Joe. However, outside of those moments, this was tense, dramatic and beautifully told. The ever helpful Ed gets caught trying to get rid of Frank's gun in a rather classic "Uh Oh" moment, which Frank only finds out about later in the episode, and then is trying to hand himself in. That's not going to work though, as the Japanese Police Chief has just managed to stop war by taking out the actual sniper of the Crown Prince in private and avoiding having to commit official suicide by now having someone to blame the shooting on. Poor Ed.

The show stealing moments though in the finale are all concerning Wegener as he returns home to Berlin and shares some awkward moments with his wife, and affectionate time with his children. The fact that it's all in german with english subtitles really adds to it in a way it just wouldn't feel so real and emotional if in spoken english. His journey to see Hitler is given extended screen time and beautifully shot in amazing picturesque backdrops both outside the high castle (yup, this gives away that part of the story) and inside. As he hears the sound of a film playing whilst approaching Hitler's office, you immediately know that a revelation is coming, and sure enough it turns out that Hitler knows about Wegener's intentions and that he is collecting the films and studying them. They've taught him the power of peace with Japan although we don't find out where they are coming from or how. One might have thought things might have a happy ending for Wegener at this moment, but seems Hitler hasn't suddenly become soft, and instead allows Wegener to commit suicide in return for sparing his family. This storyline directly links into Smith's predicament of being summoned on a animal hunt expedition by Heidrich, who you know has alternate motives. Things progress with the usual cat and mouse chatter before Heidrich shows his cards, taking Smith captive but offering him to join him in his new vision of the world (pending Hitler's death) or dying. The end result is extremely quickly and dramatically turned on it's head when the phone call to Heidrich comes through from Hitler himself. One feels Smith might be in for a promotion.

Whilst those big storylines are being played out, we have the usual Julianna/Joe stuff, where she's supposed to be luring him to his death by the resistance now that they've actually done some homework and know he's a nazi. Up until the final moment, she's all with the plan rather resolutely, but then reveals what's going on to Joe, who gives a little sob story, and the next minute she's sneaked him to safety, much to the dismay of the resistance. For me, this is not very convincing storytelling. Just seem too wishy washy, and leaves me feeling there has to be further revelations about Juliana and Joe to come, as well as something that restores my faith in what is a rather clueless seeming resistance.

The last two minutes see the Trade Minister leaving his desk and heading out with the necklace for some downtime. He believes he's likely to be in all sorts of trouble very soon over his secretive work and for employing Julianna, whom he now knows (although you'd think he already did surely?) that she's the girlfriend of traitor Frank. Of course, that problem goes away, much unknown to him at the time. His moment of meditation and reflection outside with the necklace causes him to have a rather real enveloping vision of the alternative reality of our world, that of the America in the 1960s. It's beautiful to look at from a historical point of view, but for me I did not like this ending. There was too much going on, and too hard to really believe he'd literally walk about in his vision. Something shorter and brief would have worked much better I feel. However, this further adds evidence to the fact that "Wu" means something in this programme, as the necklace, the Trade minister's belief in it, and the link to Frank and Julianna etc is all connected by it.

What I liked

There's no sweeping things under the carpet in this show. Episodes starting immediately where they ended in previous episode, which makes for probably the most dramatic beginnings of episodes since I saw episode one of LOST. Episode 3 began with gunshots from the bounty hunter chasing Julianna, and Episode 5 with the ghastly fallout from the crown prince's shooting. Your attention is wrenched from your eyes, and you're truly immersed in what's happened from the word go.

The costumes, backdrops and CGI is outstanding thus far. The world this show creates is absolutely intoxicatingly intriguing and appealing.

Top marks for a long atmospheric opening credits, even though I've never liked the song.

Mystery is everywhere in this show, not least with trying to work out the society and world these people live in, and exactly what history and motivations any of the characters have. The dynamics and connections between everyone is really compelling.

Some absolutely top quality segments throughout the first season, not least with the interrogation of Frank, the Crown Prince shooting, Julianna's Dam squabble and the nasty bounty hunter pursuit. Factor in the VA Dinner with Smith's clever interrogations, Wegener's emotional family exchange and there's so many top class moments. After that, there's numerous great stuff, and really only sprinklings of predictability, daftness and dullness. On the whole, the show gets it right on multiple occasions.

The bounty hunter is rather full of classic headhunter quirks and character, but there's no doubting he  is kick ass, and is as menacing as they come.

What I Didn't Like

I'm no fan of Edelweiss, and never have been. Even after hearing it numerous times watching this show, it's not growing on me. Not sure it's quite the best tune for the show but it has the right atmosphere and the titles are very decent and welcomed.

Japanese character stories are not the easiest and quickest to identify with and understand. I found them quite dry and uninteresting for first few episodes, although things did rise up a few notches with the Trade Minister's storyline in episode's 4 and 5 that made me actually care and attach to him for once.

Although full of quality, there have been several cheese and "bleh" moments, what with the drugged interrogation by the Nazi's feeling as pointless to sit through as the Nazi Commander felt, and the implicated Nazi Official by the captive carrying little weight as we hardly knew him or the captive. The passing of information to the Science Officer by the Trade Minister's operative also felt a little odd that there was only one opportunity apparently. I know things are tight and tense, but it did seem that the emphasis of why that exchange could only happen that way was not really clear. Lastly, the bounty hunter's "setup" by Joe and Juliana was well planed but far too cheese you'd think to really fool him.

The revelation of what's on the latest tape did not go down very well with me. It's was always going to be hard to convey any sci-fi in what's mostly been a pure fictional drama/thriller up until now. If they'd not had two of the characters shown in the film, it would have worked much better for me, but to see Joe and Frank conveyed in the video as "alternative world versions of themselves" was an overdose of cheese for me, rather than any jaw-dropping revelation.

Quite how Frank and Julianna decided Joe was a Nazi, based solely on a film they watched ... which showed Frank in a situation that clearly wasn't him ... well, I don't know. Just daft really.

The Resistance are really quite rubbish. They seem to have no clue what's going on. Don't really think they can be "pure" hardcore resistance because one moment they just take Joe's word and his cash, and the next they are performing "checks" on everything. Inconsistent stuff by them, between being all cloak/dagger and then just doing pure daft behaviour.

The ending ... didn't like it. Reminded me a little of the ending of BSG (the remake one) and a little of Heroes. If the Trade Minister had merely heard sounds of an alternative world, or caught a very brief look ... that would have worked better for me. But to march about and be immersed in it ... well, it's harder to believe that one could do that, and that others haven't already.

Huh?

Aside from my disappointment of the content on the latest film, the relationship and interaction between Joe/Juliana is my next greatest annoyance and frustration on this show. It just seems so random and odd at times to be taken seriously.

The season ending scene was at least a minute too long to really capture the emotion and wow factor for me. A brief glimpse and background sounds would have worked much better.

Beautiful scenery and confirmation of who the man in the high castle is, comes in finale.

And Finally

As close to perfection as any show has managed for me in recent times, but sadly let down slightly by an increase in convenient storytelling for Juliana's character, the longer time it's taken to identify with the Japanese characters and the incredulous daftness between Frank/Julianna/Joe/Resistance, especially Frank and Juliana in relation to the revelation of the film's contents. Plus, that ending ...

Nevertheless, there have been many award-winning chunks of amazing drama and tension in this first half of series one. The backdrops and atmosphere of this alternative timeline is absolutely gorgeous and so hard not to enjoy visually. There's real tenderness and emotion of the highest quality with Frank's torture, Wegener's family moments and his subsequent Hitler meeting, plus Smith's VA Family meal with hidden intentions. The mystery and the way plot points are stretched out to raise tensions and drama to their ultimate tether is simply so bountiful in this season and skillfully achieved.

The rather limited number of main characters made things slightly more predictable as time went on, but there were enough surprises and revelations along the way to keep shaking things up, and packing that powerful emotional blow that is used to such awesome effect in this show.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Last Kingdom: Episode 5

The Last Kingdom
Episode 5
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Average)


In A Nutshell


In a plot development that sums up this show, the voice over introduction this week "by Uhtred" says that he doesn't trust his servant who runs his land for him. NEWS FLASH! Sure, he thought he was a dope, but he never showed any clear hint of not trusting him, or the servant being anything other than a mindless idiot. But this week we're told he doesn't trust him, so it comes as little surprise when minutes later, the servant is helping Mildreth leave with young Odda and gives a menacing expression when they leave. I can sort of see this coming in the servant's plot development but to have it so forced in our faces shows just how daftly this show seems to throw plot changes at us when it feels they better serve the story. Although that's questionable in itself ...

Remember Uhtred lighting that beacon on the hill as the fleet was arriving at the end of last episode? That nice calm water and lovely looking sea? Well, this week all hell must have broken loose, because it's raining like it's the end of the world. Seems it's so bad that Guthrum's fleet is largely destroyed without any attack beginning. Shame King Alfred didn't know that, as he divides his army; one for Guthrum. The other for Ubba. The latter camp out on a hill, which seems strategically ideal, but they didn't bring much food. Hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this point. Anyhow, after a rather Jeremy Kyle like exchange between Ubba and Uhtred as the two sides "negotiate", Uhtred comes up with a plan to sneak into Ubba's camp and set the ships on fire. It'll distract them enough so Odda Senior can lead an attack. There's some plotting by Odda Junior to use the distraction to flee and some rather weak attempts to convince us viewers that Odda Senior would even contemplate that after giving Uhtred his word he'd attack.

Uhtred indeed sneaks in, lights the ships all rather easily. But on way out, he's caught. Seems stupid, given he got in, had plenty of time to set ships on fire but stumbles into a guard on way out. This sets up a fight with Ubba who is livid with Uhtred. Showing just how dumb he is, Ubba has the fight, and is not playing any attention to the fact that the ships on fire might be a distraction, or that a 1 on 1 fight is a distraction in itself. It's neck and neck, until Uhtred gains upper hand, slices Ubba's legs and chest, before delivering the final blow. Seemed rather easy for someone whom Uhtred described as "the greatest warrior he's ever seen." Seconds later, in true convenient fashion, Odda and his men arrive and deal with the rest of the vikings.

Feeling good about his heroic acts, Uhtred leaves the dying Odda Senior, injured from battle, to go see Mildreth and his son, who he decides to sneak up upon in the woods, for some reason. Another convenient chance that she's alone in middle of nowhere at that time. They have a very happy conversation about all the good stuff coming their way from his great help at the battle to defeat Ubba. Yeah, you know this isn't going to go well. Sure enough, as they ride into Winchester, there's a big prayer service going on and Odda Junior has taken all the credit for the battle. Furious, Uhtred storms the church where King Alfred and all senior people are praying and rants at them like a banshee. That goes down like a lead brick, but a lenient Alfred decides against sentencing him to death, but instead to do penance. This means dressing up like a girl, and crawling through the street up until the king to beg for mercy. Joining him though is Aethelwold, who has been up to his usual drinking and sex mad exploits. Aethelwold's crazy but funny speech to the king about his love of tits saves Uhtred from making any mercy speech, but he's still not happy about it all. Why he agreed to the penance, and then storm off at how stupid it was, is slightly odd. He and Wife however return to their land, where upon they ride in as the servant is moving the remains of a tree to be sold. Not willing to accept such stupidity from the fool, Uhtred serves his own justice on him with his sword.

What I liked

Usual top production values, and great background music.

A very welcomed return for the waste-of-space but nevertheless amusing Aethelwold. Great speech about breasts.

Ubba versus Uhtred; long overdue. Deadly battle but shorter than anyone would have liked. And maybe too easy.

What I Didn't Like

Leofric, as one of the decent characters at least, is hard to really work out, as he's loyal one moment, jesting with Uhtred the next, and then plotting against the King's ways.

The rather sudden introduction of the servant being untrustworthy. It was never really mentioned in such a way before, although he was an ass.

Odda is an obvious power hungry idiot, that it's at least very easy to read how things are likely to go with his storyline.

I know the weather is rubbish in UK, but it doesn't go from calm seas to absolute havoc of a storm that quickly.

The attempt by the writers to have us even think that Odda Senior would not keep his word.

Huh?

The original M5

England; the only place in world that can go from calm seas to storms in seconds.

Sure he took out the guard, but no one else saw him throwing fire about?

And Finally

Not a lot to go on this week. We see little of any battles, but plenty of stupidity from Uhtred, and from the writers in several areas. Logic is not really par for this show, which long ago felt like they'd stretched it out at least 6 more episodes than they really had story for. There are very few characters that make any sense. Some classic idiotic characters, and the rest just really making things up as they go along it seems.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Average)

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Man In The High Castle: Season 1: Episodes 2 to 5 Review

The Man In The High Castle
Episodes 2 to 5
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

In A Nutshell


Having watched the pilot episode several months ago, I was quietly awaiting the start of the series to be streamed on Amazon. I wasn't OTT with salivating eagerless, but the pilot was undoubtedly very good and well put together. Seeing where this show would go, and if it could possibly keep up the standard, was going to be worth my time I hoped.

So, has it maintained standards?

Almost.

Episode 2 was right up there with the opening one, as Frank Frink (try saying that ten times quickly) was tortured by the Japanese and his sister's family gassed, in order to get information out of him about his girlfriend Juliana's disappearance. This was a tense and horrific episode on emotional levels, what with Frank's sister knowing exactly what was "going down" and reassuring the kids anyway. Frank's emotions in the jail were about as award winning as things get, not least the aborted firing squad that was stopped at the last moment. With a new show, you don't know who is important and have no concept of who could and couldn't possibly be killed off, so this episode, along with Juliana's struggles in the neutral zone town, were naturally tense and dramatic. For me, episode 2 trumped the pilot episode. Juliana's meeting with her "contact" who turned out to be a Nazi Spy at the very last moment, was a shock reversal for me, although her rescue much less unpredictable. The attack on our senior Nazi official character, John Smith (not very umm, german name?) was also dramatic and quite breathtaking.

Sadly, Episode 3 didn't quite continue on in the same vain. Sure, it can't be action and intense drama every week but there were some flat sections this episode for me, not least that the Japanese segments came across as dull, emotionless and somewhat feeling like it was keeping us from all the interesting parts of the show. The tension and concern that they felt regarding the Nazis was clearly evident. Gathering people's true intentions is not easy in this show, and almost feels impossible with the Japanese who maintain great poker like expressions in every scene. However, as things progress over next couple episodes, we do get further emotional and expressionate sentiments from them, not least when the Crown Prince is taken out at the end of episode 4. The drama and fallout from immediately after that shooting is outstanding filming, along with the tension of the Trade Minister and maintaining his secret operative's disguise, actually genuinely making me feel slightly nervous for both their lives. The only slight disappointment perhaps from their whole segments is that the prince isn't at this point in time anything more than severally injured. You'd think two clear shots would have been enough for any assassin to finish someone off!

The emotion at times in this show is unbearable, and at others times always very good. Frank's interactions with his brother-in-law initially tense as hell, although somewhat strangely "friendly" at the latter funeral. It's poor Frank who really gets the most serious of emotional rollercoasters during the opening episodes. Julianna's, notwithstanding her altercations, seems less affected by what she's been through, continuing in episode 5 to search for the answers to behind the tapes, by strolling into her sister's boyfriend's house nochartely. The conversation she has with the lady there, who one assumes is resistance, was rather straightforward, given the whole cloak and dagger stuff we've had her go through previously. Her return home in episode 4 has presented her with probably the most plot convenient transition, with that house visit at Randell's home, and job at Japanese HQ being creamed with her bumping into the Trade Minister in that building. All rather too convenient for me, and certainly very out of place with the twist, turns and rather non-processional like storylines the show has consistently turned out.

What I liked

There's no sweeping things under the carpet in this show. Episodes starting immediately where they ended in previous episode, which makes for probably the most dramatic beginnings of episodes since I saw episode one of LOST. Episode 3 began with gunshots from the bounty hunter chasing Julianna, and Episode 5 with the ghastly fallout from the crown prince's shooting. Your attention is wrenched from your eyes, and you're truly immersed in what's happened from the word go.

The costumes, backdrops and CGI is outstanding thus far. The world this show creates is absolutely intoxicatingly intriguing and appealing.

Top marks for a long atmospheric opening credits, even though I've never liked the song.

Mystery is everywhere in this show, not least with trying to work out the society and world these people live in, and exactly what history and motivations any of the characters have. The dynamics and connections between everyone is really compelling.

Some absolutely top quality segments throughout the first five episodes, not least with the interrogation of Frank, the Crown Prince shooting, Julianna's Dam squabble and the nasty bounty hunter pursuit. After that, there's numerous great stuff, and really only sprinklings of predictability and dullness. On the whole, the show gets it right.

The bounty hunter is rather full of classic headhunter quirks and character, but there's no doubting he kicks ass, and is as menacing as they come.

What I Didn't Like

I'm no fan of Edelweiss, and never have been. Even after hearing it numerous times watching this show, it's not growing on me. Not sure it's quite the best tune for the show but it has the right atmosphere and the titles are very decent and welcomed.

Japanese character stories are not the easiest and quickest to identify with and understand. I found them quite dry and uninteresting for first few episodes, although things did rise up a few notches with the Trade Minister's storyline in episode's 4 and 5 that made me actually care and attach to him for once.

Although full of quality, there have been several cheese and "bleh" moments, what with the drugged interrogation by the Nazi's feeling as pointless to sit through as the Nazi Commander felt, and the implicated Nazi Official by the captive carrying little weight as we hardly knew him or the captive. The passing of information to the Science Officer by the Trade Minister's operative also felt a little odd that there was only one opportunity apparently. I know things are tight and tense, but it did seem that the emphasis of why that exchange could only happen that way was not really clear. Lastly, the bounty hunter's "setup" by Joe and Juliana was well planed but far too cheese you'd think to really fool him.

And Finally

As close to perfection as any show has managed for me in recent times, but sadly let down by an increase in convenient storytelling for Juliana's character and the longer time it's taken to identify with the Japanese characters. Nevertheless, there have been some award winning drama and tension in this first half of series one. The backdrops and atmosphere of this alternative timeline, is absolutely gorgeous and so hard not to enjoy visually. One fears that with a rather limited number of main characters, that it might become slightly more predictable with regards to outcomes, but I'm hoping it continues to shake things up, and pack that powerful emotional blow that it's used to awesome effect thus far.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Flash: S02E06: "Enter Zoom"

The Flash
S02E06: "Enter Zoom"
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Decent)

In A Nutshell


This didn't start off very well with a Dr Light/Flash battle showing us Flash being defeated, before the "72 Hours Earlier" caption appeared. Sigh. I really don't like flashbacks at start of episodes ...

Turns out that Barry thinks he's convinced Dr Light to help him against Zoom, but nope, she ends up escaping her cell by a combination of powers much more interesting than throwing light about. She hacked into the network via fibre optic cables and also made herself invisible. Impressive ...

That's also the last we see of Earth 2's Dr Light this week as Barry comes up with a way to help out our own Linda (who is still freaking out over everything, naturally). He reckons Zoom can't tell difference between the Lindas so he has her dress up as Dr Light and practice throwing light about from contraptions Cisco created. It's a little amusing but all just feels like it's staged for failure. Indeed it is, as after they plan to have fake Dr Light defeats Flash and then signal to Zoom that Flash is dead, but nothing happens. Zoom doesn't show. I wouldn't have either, as their fight was so clearly staged acting that it couldn't have fooled a pidgeon, let alone a super bad guy.

A tad later, whilst Linda and Iris are leaving work, Zoom zips by, nicks Linda and then taunts Flash to confront him. After saving Linda, Flash and Zoom battle, which leads to Flash being bloodied and battered like a cod at your chip shop. Dr Wells tries to shoot Zoom with his anti-speed but Zoom sees him, even though he wasn't looking (remember that) and stabs Flash with it. He then parades Flash to the police and media as defeated. Returning to Star Labs he proceeds to taunt everyone before going to kill Flash but Cisco shoots him with the anti-speed dart. Yes, he didn't see that coming! Huh? Zoom flees and a recovering Barry gives us the cliffhanger by saying he can't feel his legs.

What I liked

Zoom; nice to see more of him and have a speed master's battle.

Nice to see Flash all beaten up. Just shows it's not all easy being a superhero.

No Firestorm. No Eddie Ex-Wife. Woohoo!

Earth 2 scenes were cool showing Dr Wells and Daughter, with her kidnapping by Zoom. Nice orange/yellow tinge to everything like they did in Fringe to show it's another world. The subtle differences are fascinating.

What I Didn't Like

Zoom comes across as nothing more than a monster, which is good in many ways, but without any backstory or real rational, he lacks what the reverse-flash had.

Doctor Light/Linda; she's pretty dull still and her learning to be a superhero thing was just plain dumb.

Cisco's powers; convenient. And him trying to use them on Dr Wells, and eventually doing so, is just a stupid routine and cheesy, especially as we'd all worked out why Dr Wells was there long before Cisco's vibe and Earth 2 flashbacks.

Zoom saw Dr Wells fire dart at him, even though he wasn't looking, but didn't see Cisco shoot at him?

I'll mention this every week, but, umm, Gideon?

Huh?

Enter Zoom. A bad ass monster, but one who likes to have his top zip done up.

And Finally

Not the confrontation with Zoom I'd hoped for, although it was good to see that Zoom is no push over, and super, super fast. He has zero character though, compared to Reverse Flash. A rambling monster is all he comes across as. Still reckon he's a crazy Earth 2 Barry, but we'll see.

Overall, this episode seemed to be a slightly flawed attempt at everything, failing in many ways to really be as good as it could have been. Saved from being a 5/10 from the Earth 2 beautiful scenery and the Zoom battle.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Last Kingdom: Episode 4

The Last Kingdom
Episode 4
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Average)


In A Nutshell


Nudity warning this week. After another recap, we see Uhtred washing stark naked in a river and then being visited by Odda who is trying to dissuade Uhtred from his upcoming marriage which seems to have speeded up in terms of wedding planning like lightning since last week. Sure enough, in the space of the next 5 minutes, Uhtred is married to Mildrith (who apparently owns nearby land) and turns out to be quite a "looker" in Uhtred's eyes after all the chat beforehand was on who he'd end up with. So staged was all this pre-wedding chat, you'd be surprised if she was anything but pretty when revealed. He heads back to her home, Liscomb, with her and Leofric, whom he now seems to be best buddies with. What he didn't know was that he's inherited his wife's dad's debt, which although he's unhappy with and says he'll have words with Alfred about, he fails to really made much of a big deal about it in the end. Talk is cheap it seems.

Before he gets to meet Alfred again, things skip along what must be 4 months, as we see Mildrith bathing (nude) in a pond and looking as pregnant as they come. Either she ain't all the pies in 24 hours or, as we find out, she's with Uhtred's child. In the blink of the eye, months have indeed past as we cut to seeing Uhtred and companions observing an army of Vikings moving through nearby woodland towards a town. Naturally no one else has noticed this mass ensemble of Vikings it seems, so Uhtred and his wife and bromance buddy Leofric head to Winchester to alert Alfred. One minute later and Alfred is agreeing with everything Uhtred says and he ammases an army to go help out the besieged town, if they arrive in time. They camp out nearby at nightfall, and come the next morning the fortress has fallen, but already been repaired by the vikings, so there's no point them attacking it seems. It's all rather odd and illogical at this moment in the show, more than any other time. Why did they stop so short, and how was the fortress, which looks very beefy, repaired so quickly? Ahh well.

In another plot twist that feels more like a way of making the show last more episodes than actually being interesting to watch, we learn that Ubba has buggered off to Ireland to avenge his brother's recent death, leaving the fortress they'd taken without enough Vikings to hold it. Ragnor and Guthrum are the two in charge so they agree for some reason to have a truce. Even though Guthrum feels let down by Ubba, he will wait for him to return. The truce is for a month, after Alfred refuses to budge from that time limit. Then there is an exchange of hostages, for some reason. Not necessary as far as I can see, but it happens, and just like Ubba leaving, it feels very much like a staged plotline whose only aim is so Uhtred can get inside information. Yes, he's one of the hostages. Something you'd think the Vikings would think could only have a secret reason behind him being selected. Brida asks Uhtred, and he tells him it's his plan to find out when Ubba returns, escape and alert Alfred. It's all rather bizarre that Alfred would think it would be easy for him to escape but alas he takes the chance. Along the way, Uhtred has fun and games with his best viking buddies Ragnor and Brida, before having a semi awkward moment over the different paths they've taken in recent months. Still, it feels all rather nice and friendly considering one minute Uhtred is slaughtering Vikings and the next he's drinking with his buddies. Friends or not, you'd think they'd have a problem with the fighting bit. Anyhow, one of the other hostage includes a priest, whose screen time beforehand suggested he might have been wearing a big "Kill Me" t-shirt on him. Especially when he tells Uhtred he thinks he's almost converted Guthrum to christianity, after what's been only a few weeks. Blimey, he must think he's a good teacher. You know that can only mean a grisly end for the poor guy.

Sure enough, news of Ubba returning is delivered to Viking HQ, and Guthrum orders all the hostages slaughtered, leading to Uhtred legging it, being saved by Ragnor/Brida, and thus being allowed to leave. He then enacts Alfred's plan and lights a beacon so quickly that a boy scout would be guaranteed a badge, so as to alert Winchester of Ubba's return.

What I liked

As ever, the scenery and costumes are excellent in this show. Top Production values, including the music. Even the CGI was up to scratch this week. The fortress and the ships on the sea were really gorgeous.

Alfred is head and shoulders above everyone else in this show for actually making any logical sense with his actions and words, but also with his fantastic acting.

What I Didn't Like

Still very wishy washy stuff going on with Uhtred and anyone. Sure, he might feel conflicted but it's hard to really feel it in this show. All his dealings with Alfred, and his Viking friends come more across more as a whim than anything else.

The fact that Brida knew Uhtred was acting as a spy, and probably Ragnor too, didn't make them at least think he shouldn't be there with them? And what exactly was the point behind the hostages? It seemed to be made up merely as a plot point to get Uhtred inside the fortress and his reunion scene.

Huh?


The Priest crapped himself on news of being ordered to be a hostage.

No one wanted to tell her what she already knew, which was that the cloak had a wardrobe malfunction.

Uhtred was the butt of everyone's jokes this week.
And Finally

Well, this show really fails to build on any tension by simply just talking about it, and then it turning into some sort of wet fish, full of illogical plot decisions and stupidity by characters. Everything is just "meh". It's not awful, thanks to the scenery and customs really setting the atmosphere, but it's like a bowl of porridge that's been put on the oven ring on the lowest heat setting there is, slowly lightly cooking, rather than actually building to a boil.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Average)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Flash S02E05: "The darkness and the light"

The Flash
S02E05: "The darkness and the light"
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Decent)

In A Nutshell


I'm instantly reminded of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer with this week's episode title!

Anyhow, back to the show ...

Now this is more like it. Much more Earth 2, especially in the form of a Doctor Wells overload. We see him at the start in a flashback on Earth 2, where he gives a speech about ridding the world of metahumans and Zoom. The fact he has a spat with Jay/Flash in this scene, and also says "hi" to his daughter, means that you know that is all very relevant. Indeed, after (quite easily it seems) convincing Barry he's not like our Doctor Wells, Harrison Wells 2.0 spends the episode helping everyone capture the latest metahuman to be sent by Zoom, Dr Light. Basically, she controls very bright light. The clue is there in the name I guess. I know light is fast, but as Flash is as quick or not quicker than light, I don't quite get how he's out maneuvered by her on at least 3 occasions here. Just speed up to her and knock her on the head! It should be that simple! Eventually he pretty much does that, after some rather cool multiple flash mirages, even though it seemed very unnecessary to do in order to defeat her.

Before that conclusion, we discover that she's Earth 2's version of Barry's Ex, Linda. Yes, her from the newspaper business that I said just showed up last week. Told ya she was appearing for a reason. Her Earth 2 counterpart tries to kill her but ridiculously fails, taking out the editor by "accident" before Iris shoots her helmet off to reveal her identity to our Linda. Poor Linda is confused quite how it's possible, whereas I was just wondering why Iris aimed for the head? Oh well.

Along the way there was a really funny scene with a temporarily blind Barry on a date with Patty. That lady is so sexy. I've got to stay impartial! Argh. But it was funny and cute, especially with Cisco helping Barry via in-ear audio. Quite how blind he really was is hard to fathom. Seems to be rather selective but nevertheless it was amusing.

Seems quite clear that Cisco was right, that Dr Wells version 2 is an ass. He manages to annoy everyone, especially Jay who he has a fist fight with. Seems they don't like each other! Jay in the end decides to leave. I assume he's going back via the portal? Where does that come out on Earth 2 then?

As expected from the opening of the show, Dr Well's reasons for being on our earth are to rescue his daughter who has been captured by Zoom. I'm sure there are more secrets though behind him than all that.

Seeing Zoom close up at the end makes it look like he's got a suit very similar to our Flash. Is he an evil Barry?


What I liked

Barry and Patty's date; very funny.

Dr Wells 2.0; obnoxious but still captivating.

Jay/Caitlin Romance; think we all saw that coming.


No Firestorm. No Eddie Ex-Wife. Woohoo!

Earth 2 scenes.

What I Didn't Like

Can't help but think that Barry overcomplicated what was needed to take down Dr Light.

And, Doctor Light was really quite boring.

Cisco's powers. Is he seeing only the past? It all feels like a "convenient" power for plotlines to me.

I'll mention this every week, but, umm, Gideon?

Huh?


Helmet is very sturdy to take a bullet, but bounces off easily.

Multiple Flash! Now why's he not just do this every week?

Zoom has Dr Well's daughter in a cell and with handcuffs on. Surely only one of those is needed? Is she a metahuman?

And Finally

Much improved without any firestorm or Eddie's Ex this episode. Dr Wells 2.0 is rude but brilliant as ever. His interaction with everyone is just writing genius. Although Dr Light, even with the Linda thing, wasn't that interesting or as dangerous as I think we were supposed to believe, everything else that happened this week was ten times more interesting than the last two episodes.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Flash S02E04: "The fury of Firestorm"

The Flash
S02E04: "The fury of Firestorm"
Rating: 5 out of 10 (OK)

In A Nutshell


The title sent a chill down my spine, for this was indeed the story of firestorm part 2. We'd seen all this in season one and it wasn't that interesting last time for me. Given we started with a flashback to a young American football wannabe getting zapped by the explosion from star lab 2 years ago, you knew that even when they'd said that the Professor needed another donor to save his life, and they offered two possibilities, it was obvious who the right one would be. So, it wasn't much surprise that the footballer ended up joining with the Professor after some early reluctance, and the other possibility, a scientist, turned out to be obnoxious, have anger issues and also not afraid to start using the firestorm powers he'd inadvertently had switched on. There was nothing complex here (aside from the science perhaps) and it was all pretty daft how anyone would sign up for such a life, even with the superhero powers. At least at the end, both firestorm peeps leave to go off and meet one of the professor's pals who can help them more. Seems awfully familiar ...


Aside from this, we had more on the dullness that is Joe's Ex-wife, although now we find out she's dying and has months to live. Iris does meet her before hearing this but tells her where to go, before being a little nicer later on, but still telling her where to go after finding out something that Joe doesn't know, which is that the ex has a son. It's a little twist on things, but I'm still not interested much in what feels like a storyline forced on us.

What's more fun is Patty, Joe's assistant cop, and Barry's flirting, which is amusing and cute.

However, things really jump up a level once again in the last few minutes, when Dr Wells saves Barry/Flash from a mutant sharkman (yup, you heard me) after he was checking out Patty in a café. She had tried to shoot the shark in comical fashion before Wells shoots the sharkman and reveals himself to Barry. Not sure why he did that, but I'd reckon it's all a ploy.
What I liked

Sharkman; ridiculous, but also awesome.

Barry/Patty; too cute to not progress surely?

Dr Wells sneaking about on Earth 1, and his reveal at the end.

What I Didn't Like

Firestorm; we've done all this before! And the CGI was quite rubbish on the firestorm wannabe.

Joe, ex-wife, and Iris; it's a serious distraction from all the interesting stuff. Although this week, firestorm was the other stuff. Sigh.

I'll mention this every week, but, umm, Gideon?

We want Zoom, Jay and Earth 2!

What's with everyone continually hiding things from each other based on what they think is best for them? Even Joe is at it again, hiding Doctor Wells discovery from Barry before he reveals himself at the end anyway.

Huh?


CGI disaster sadly for this guy. Every time he did anything it just looked wrong.

I'm back. And I'm glad!

"Hello. My name's Bruce"
And Finally

We've see this all before, although at least there's hope that firestorm might go away for a while this time. The Joe ex-wife story continues along like an unwanted cousin visiting at Christmas time, whereas the interesting stuff simmers in the background.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Flash S02E03: "Family of Rogues"

The Flash
S02E03: "Family of Rogues"
Rating: 5 out of 10 (OK)

In A Nutshell


Sadly, I just didn't enjoy much of this week's episode. It didn't help that it featured two of Flash's storyline I've never really cared for; primarily firestorm, and also Captain Cold.

In a rather miss-able episode, that feels much like filler, we have Captain Cold's sister turn up asking for help, and the gang having to work out how to save her head from exploding (due to a bomb) thanks to what her dad had done to her. It's all rather simple plot work, and one that feels like it's keeping us from the real action regarding Earth 2. Needless to say, Cisco and the gang do save her, and thus brother Snart ends up in jail as he took revenge on his abusive dad.

That all aside, we had to deal with more of the dull Joe and his ex-wife storyline, with the classic "I'll tell Iris, but no I'll chicken out" before he does tell her. Why we need this storyline, I don't know. Feels like it's all been done before with Barry and his dad etc.

Speaking of rehashed storylines, it's firestorm again. After the Professor frequently states "he's ok" through the episode, you know where that's heading, and thus right at the end he "flames up" but in a blue flame instead of usual old-school orange one. He then collapses again. Sigh. I really didn't like any of the firestorm stuff last season.

But ... right at the end, we see the highlight of the episode; Doctor Wells stepping through the portal they'd just made in the lab to Earth 2. How they made the portal was quite silly and quickly done, but, who cares, Earth 2 and Wells is where the action is!

What I liked

Captain Cold at least is interesting, as a person, but little else. I do however like stage presence, which he oozes, even though he's really all about his ice gun.

Lisa Snart and Cisco was a little cute, as was Barry and and the new lady assisting Joe in the metahuman's taskforce.

Anything with Earth 2's Jay in, and the last few seconds with Dr Wells.

What I Didn't Like

Captain Cold's Dad storyline. Pretty dull and simple really.


Joe, ex-wife, and Iris storyline seems out of place and forced upon us.

Firestorm. Won't that storyline just go away please?

Don't quite get how after they figured out that Captain Cold's dad had the head bomb controller and was using his son, that they didn't just knock him out until they got the bomb out of Lisa Snart?

I'll mention this every week, but, umm, Gideon?

Huh?


Oh, look, it's Barry's Ex. Now that's a brief appearance for a background charector. She's got to feature more heavily this season you'd think.

BEST. BIT. OF. EPISODE.

zzzzzzz, firestorm.


And Finally

A classic filler episode full of a rather simple storyline that you could easily forget all about. More firestorm? Do we need that or Joe's ex-wife as B-stories? The life of customers in that coffee shop would be more interesting.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Last Kingdom: Episode 3

The Last Kingdom
Episode 3
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Not OK)


In A Nutshell


It's all rather dull and as bleak as the English countryside on a winter's day. And, still, the conversations and reasoning behind anything Uhtred and Brida discuss just feels loose and hard to fathom. It's not good viewing this week ...

Uhtred and Brida are still locked up as Alfred returns victorious and with the king as good as dead. Aethelwold comically moans, as he does throughout episode, like an annoying fly, although you'd guess he'd become more of a pest at some point if he doesn't get swatted soon. He missed out on the action, but that's just as well, as he'd also probably be dead if he did. When Uhtred and Brida are eventually released, they discuss terms with the (almost) King Alfred with Uhtred is determined to get his land and status back (although don't they have the deeds in the vault anyway?). Alfred dispatches Aethelwold to a monastery and is anointed King as, for some reason, we see Uhtred having sex with Brida through one of the windows.

Ubba is unhappy that Guthrum led the battle with the Wessex army without him, but nevertheless, the king is dead, so it's sort of not so bad. They eventually go to negotiations with King Alfred which are not really easy to follow in terms of who is getting what and who wants what, but at least it was a little amusing. The negotiations though sort of just end, and one is left to guess that no decision was made? I didn't see any agreement. Anyhow, Alfred assumes they'll be back and so has Uhtred agree to an oath to help train his army for a year. We don't see him agree to it, but it's said later that he did.

A while later, Brida is approached by a messenger whilst collecting up Ragnor Senior's silver in the woods, and we later find out that Ragnor Junior is in town and wants to meet. A rather unconvincing "do I believe them?" dialogue from Ragnor Jnr later and everyone is hugging, with Brida agreeing to join Ragnor on the ship heading home, but Uhtred staying to honour the oath that he made with Alfred, of which everyone is very accepting, given it means he's training the enemy to kill vikings. All very odd and a pleasant atmosphere for such a screwed up set of logic.

What I liked

Just about the only thing that's positive and consistent with this show is that the scenery, atmosphere and costumes which are top notch.

Alfred continues to be just about the only person in the show with great presence.

The negotiations were entertaining.

Aethelwold is at least entertaining with his stupidity.

What I Didn't Like

Quite simply, it's all a bit dull. It's hard to gauge the direction the show is going in and the wishy washy decision making between Uhtred and Brida is now so flakey and odd, that I'm beyond caring what either of these two really think.

The Athelwold and Uhtred conversation at what must be a pub was just odd, but I guess it was there to fuel Athelwold's annoyance at Alfred and maybe as a tempter for Uhtred later.

The Ragnor Jnr meetup with Uhtred and Brida was ridiculously not tense, contrary to what they wanted to us to believe, as well as all very amicable despite Uhtred's oath to Alfred.

Huh?


Aside from the dullness of this episode, Brida's miscarriage is the most disturbing part this week.

Mushroom risotto this is clearly not.

Althelwold is the comedy relief in this show. That's a pig on the left btw.

And Finally

Well, last week showed a little promise but this week it was very lifelike of the dull, cloudy and sodden winters in England. Uhtred and Brida don't show enough cohesive logic and belief behind their words, with all the other characters except Beocca and Alfred really feeling much like they are fillers without any substanance. Aethelwold at least provides some comedy but it's all rather bland this week with little of any quality or note to recommend viewing.

Rating: 4 out of 10 (Awful, and just below even average viewing. As wooden as the scenery.)

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Last Kingdom: Episode 2

The Last Kingdom
Episode 2
Rating: 5 out of 10 (It's OK)


In A Nutshell


Well, this is no substitute whilst we wait for the new season of Vikings to begin. It does however fill a void perhaps in British TV with regards to swords, sex and blood.

Episode 2 is undoubtedly an improvement on the opening episode, as although time passes like, umm, sex in the barn (see the episode for this!), it's not as crazy with skipping along the timelines as we had to endure last week. Not to worry, we knew we needed to set things up for the series and Uhtred trying to win his land back, so episode 2 should be where his mission starts, and certainly it did. We even get a 30 second "previously on this show" at the start with Uhtred voiceover, which is much more pleasant than watching episode one. Sadly, I could remember the gist of what had happened, and was painfully force-fed it again. Anyhow, how does this week's episode go?

Mostly, this was an ok episode. As ever, the scenery, costumes and atmospheric conditions of England are brilliantly reproduced, although not that we'd know for sure as none of us were around in that time. Regardless, it paints a very murky and somewhat primitive world which is absolutely gorgeous to watch. In fact, stick this show on mute and it probably feels a whole lot better because there's some absolutely ridiculous dialogue and ludicrous plot work once again.

Uhtred's return home is brief. He and Bridda are seen off by a few horses (with men on top). Not that Uhtred's too bothered. He just wanted them to know he's alive. Job done then. A tad later as they roam about somewhat aimlessly (they do that a lot here) they come across a ransacked village. Someone is shooting arrows at them but Uhtred creeps up on the visually scared villager whom Brida rather casually kills with an axe to the back. He certainly didn't deserve that. Regardless, this scene is there to inform us that there's a story going around that a pagan slave killed his Dane master and thus this village was ransacked as revenge by the Danes. Yup, they are talking about Uhtred. Back in those days the spin doctors had a job, huh?

Not really knowing what to do next, they decide to head to see Ubba, the other main Viking in this show, and I guess was colleague and pal to Earl Ragnor. During sex, as you do, Brida suggests they must take Ubba's sorcerer captive as some sort of safety bargaining tool if all goes to hell with Ubba. So, they go to where Ubba's army has recently decimated a town and just semi-walk through the town/city with Uhtred pretending Brida is his captive. Yeah, not sure how that helps him either. Anyhow, he gets all the way to where the sorcerer is in the castle. Despite him being alone, they do some stupid trick to capture him. Then, as Ubba is torturing the current King of this land, King Edmund I believe, Uhtred introduces himself. Ubba gets angry but then returns to torturing Edmund. A very odd passage in plot work here. Anyhow, Edmund is killed and then Ubba returns to chat to Uhtred, whom he doesn’t believe the truth from and is going to torture as well, but wait ... Uhtred tells him he has his sorcerer, so he gets away. He returns to Brida outside the town/city and they send a now naked and sexually tortured himself sorcerer back on a horse. What an ass ...

So, now they still don't know what to do. They want to see young Ragnor but he's in Ireland, so for some reason don't want to go to all that effort and would rather wait for him to return to England. Uhtred gets a sword made by a rather nice ironsmith in some village where he and Brida spend their time having sex for days whilst the sword is made. Then they have to leg it with the sword when they are attacked by some people suspicious of them. No one knows, and it's hard to care, who sent those "bad guys".

Eventually, Uhtred decides to head to Wessex, as the last kingdom not yet captured by the Vikings. Seems he's completely forgotten that his priest friend from home, Beocca, told him to meet him there years ago. We've not forgotten because we've seen the priest with the King of Wessex, Aethelwold, and his 2nd in line, Alfred throughout the episode. Yes, I suspect THAT Alfred. The first in line is his nephew and spends most of his time drunk it seems. Anyhow, Brida and Uhtred ride into Wessex on horse, as the locals just watch them with concern, before getting to the gates of the main castle I guess and having a jostle for who is the best fighter with one of the guards. It's a stupid conversation which is ended by the priest turning up conveniently. Uhtred is welcomed into Wessex and meets with Alfred who makes a lot of sense but isn't sure if he trusts Uhtred despite priest vouching for him. We then see a short scene where Uhtred and Brida spy for Alfred on the Vikings, and then return to tell the king that those Vikings are likely to strike soon. Uhtred comes up with the likely plan the Vikings would have and where is best to do battle. The king is amazingly convinced enough to go have a look, whilst Uhtred and Brida are caged up for safety. Sure enough, as the credits are about to roll, we see the Wessex Army meet the Vikings just as Uhtred had predicted.

What I liked

As ever, this programme has great scenery, atmosphere and costumes.

Alfred is very impressive as a newcomer to the cast. Everyone else, as few as they are, less so.

Less Skippy chronologically this week and all the better for it. Easier to believe the plot development.

What I Didn't Like
.
Dialogue is still rather modern and daft at times.

Some lazy, convenient and Skippy plot work. The way some things happen seems heavily awkward and just daft far too many times. This stops the show being of any decent quality.

CGI mostly ok but during Uhtred's spying, the background scene looked more like a painting than real.

Huh?

Some rather childish conversation from Uhtred and the guards.
Kinky behaviour from Brida.
Yup, he's dead.
And Finally

Almost worthy of a 6/10 this week but the rather cheesy convenience and daftness of some of the scenes just lets it down. Much better though than episode one in terms of it's pacing and logic. I somewhat doubt this show will reach any level of brilliance but it's an ok watch thanks to it's fantastic scenery, atmosphere and costumes ... and a little of a watchable story.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (OK - average with hardly any memorable bits)

Windows 10 System Apps: A Numerical History of Updates

Note
  • App Updates during OS Upgrade may not be included in figures
  • Apps are listed as their Windows Start Menu names, not as they are known in Store or as an AppX Package.

Last Updated: End of June 2016



Number of Apps Updated Per Month

Number of System App Updates
August 2015
NA (I didn’t take any records)
September 2015
30
October 2015
37
November 2015
45
December 2015 28
January 2016 23
February 2016 16
March 2016 29
April 2016 17
May 2016 17
June 2016 31

Top 5 Apps Updated since 27th August 2015

App
Number of Updates
1
OneNote
30
2
Mail & Calendar
23
3 Get Office
16
4 Store, Photos
14
5 Camera, Films & TV
13



Top 5 Apps Updated Per Month


June 2016
App
Number of Updates
1
OneNote
3
2
News, Get Started, Groove, Mail & Calendar, Alarms & Clock, Money, XBox, Sport, Weather.
2
3
Phone, Phone Companion, Maps, Photo, Sway, Voice Recorder, Get Office, Films & TV, Calculator.
1

May 2016
App
Number of Updates
1
OneNote
4
2
Sway, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Get Office, Mail & Calendar
2
2
Xbox, Maps, Films & TV, Camara, 3D Builder
1

April 2016
App
Number of Updates
1
OneNote, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Mail & Calendar
2
2
Weather, Sway, Store, Sport, Phone, News, Money, Microsoft Wi-Fi, Messaging + Skype, Films & TV, Camera.
1

March 2016
App
Number of Updates
1
Get Started
4
2
Mail & Calendar
3
3
OneNote, Films & TV, Get Office, Photos, Phone
2
4
Camera, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Microsoft WiFi, Alarms & Clock, News, XBox, People, Sport, Store, Sway, Weather, Money
1

February 2016
App
Number of Updates
1
Mail & Calendar
4
2
OneNote
3
3
Sway
2
4
Xbox
1
=
Store
1
= Photos
1
= Phone Companion
1
= People
1
= Get Office
1
=Camera
1

January 2016
App
Number of Updates
1 Store
3
2 OneNote
3
3
Calculator
2
4 News
1
= Camera
1
= Films & TV
1
= Get Office
1
= Get Started
1
= Maps
1
= Messaging + Skype
1
= Money
1
= Xbox
1
= Phone
1
= Photos
1
= Sport
1
= Sway
1
= Weather
1
= Microsoft Solitaire Collection
1

December 2015
App
Number of Updates
1
Mail & Calendar
3
=
Alarms & Clock
3
=
Calculator
3
2
Messaging + Skype
2
=
Photos
2
= People
2
= OneNote
2

November 2015
App
Number of Updates
1
OneNote
4
2
Messaging + Skype
3
3
Sport
3
4
Store
3
5
XBox
3

* Sway and 'Messaging + Skype' now system apps with v1511 of Windows 10

October 2015
App
Number of Updates
1
Camera
4
2
OneNote
3
3
Mail & Calendar
3
4
Calculator
2
5
Films & TV
2
=
Groove Music
2
=
Maps
2
=
Get Office
2
=
Photos
2
=
Store
2
= Voice Recorder
2



September 2015
App
Number of Updates
1
Office Hub
4
2
OneNote
3
3
Mail & Calendar
2
4
Camera
2
5
Photos
2
=
Films & TV
2
=
Groove Music
2