Sons of Anarchy Season 7: Sons of Anarchy has been a frustratingly mixed bag for me right from the start. At its best it’s been tough and twisty as a mean rattler with some great characters and jaw dropping shocks. At its worst it’s been nonsensical, melodramatic, and really quite silly. Without Ron Perlman’s gravelly presence to counterbalance idealistic Charlie Hunnam there’s a sense that the Harleys may be running on empty as this final season commences. The engines do start to rev after a while, and it builds up to a suitably Hamlet-like bloodbath in the penultimate episode, but just when you’re thinking they might end in a gritty fireball, it retreats into a disappointingly sentimental swan song. Compared to the savage and uncompromising ending of The Shield, with which it shares a lot of great writers and actors, Sons of Anarchy ends up looking decidedly lightweight.
Sense8 Season 1: The Wachowskis have been responsible for some brilliant stuff (1st Matrix) and some risible stuff (other Matrixes (Matrices?)) so let’s say I didn’t have particularly high hopes for their foray onto Netflix. To begin with it seemed more risible than brilliant, but after a couple of episodes I was curious, and after eight or nine I must admit I was loving it despite myself. The science-fictional premise, of groups of super-evolved humans able to communicate and share skills over vast distances is kinda nonsense, but the wonderfully diverse characters and human dramas are (mostly) great. Don’t know how it’ll develop, as I’m really not that arsed about them teaming up to fight an evil governmental telepathic mega-corporation, but, much to my surprise, I could sit and watch them comfort, advise, and develop deep feelings for one another all day…
Vikings Season 3: Yes, yes, and thrice yes. The scale increases as history’s shiftiest and most piercing-eyed barbarians lay siege to Paris while the even shiftier King Egbert tightens his grip on Saxon England. Treachery, violence and great antiheroic characters abound, tempered by historical detail though not too much historical detail, strong visual style and some nice takes on spirituality. It’s great.
Black Sails Season 2: After a very mixed first season it feels as though the producers hauled this one into dry dock and gave it a thorough going over, tossing out the weak and focussing on the strengths to very positive effect. Things move at breakneck pace now, with shocking twists, explosive deaths, alliances that shift on the wind, a lot more sea based action, and a general focus on shit blowing up. Yaaaarrrr me hearties.
Peaky Blinders Seasons 1 and 2: Stone the crows but this series about Brummy gangsters just come back from fighting in the 1st World War and with big plans to found a criminal empire across Her Majesty’s not so green and pleasant land is a bit of alright. Excellent performances all around, including a ruthless, calculating Cillian Murphy, a ruthless, sanctimonious Sam Neill and a ruthless, lunatic Tom Hardy. Punctilious period detail is combined with a modern soundtrack and visual style to produce something thoroughly original and arresting, and with only six episodes a season it keeps the forward drive and never outstays its welcome. Recommended.
Hell on Wheels Season 4: I enjoyed the first couple of seasons of this tough western following gritty railroad man cum confederate survivor Cullen Bohannen as he struggles to keep the Union Pacific headed west while looking handsome yet grizzled and maintaining the right balance of threat and nobility. I thought the 3rd season lost its way, to be honest, but this fourth one gets things back on the right track. It starts a little slowly, with Cullen captured by Mormons, but before you know it there are megalomaniac carpetbaggers turning up from Washington, Irish gangsters arriving from New York, and southern psychopaths tracking up from Mexico, culminating in some of the most grimdark few episodes of TV I can remember seeing. This shit is bleak. Like, people-sitting-on-coffins-screaming-out-their-mindless-hatred-of-an-uncaring-god-that-made-the-world-this-way bleak. Bleak. But actually very good, and promising a cracking finale in the next season…
Half a War comes out in the UK in hardcover, e-book and audiobook in but 7 short days. Here be its cover… And here be its blurb… Words are weapons Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly […]