Recent TV

March 1st, 2015

Sons of Anarchy Season 6 – My love/hate relationship with the Sons somewhat continues, but hey, I’ve made it this far, so they must be doing something right.  It’s still an odd mix of the rather cliche, silly and wearyingly sexist and the utterly clever, shocking and unpredictable.  Charlie Hunnam has grown into his increasingly darkening role, somewhat, and the surviving members of the biker gang are thoroughly comfortable there.  The violence is, if anything, dialled up a notch and there are some really spectacular shocks in this season.  I expect the next and final one to be an absolute bloodbath.

Walking Dead Season 4 – Yes. Tough, sweaty, shocking, uncompromising, zombies, even worse people, etc. etc. A slightly bitty season which spends the first half tying up the last season, in a sense, and the second on a set of scattered story lines of somewhat varying effectiveness, but the core values remain in place. Good stuff.

True Detective – I must confess that I found this a bit less impressive than some of the gushing praise on twitter led me to expect. Undoubtedly it’s good, with a great pair of central performances from the lately rehabilitated Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson, plus much beautifully filmed deep south strangeness, long-drive philosophising and one particularly cracking one-take action sequence.  I found the central thread of the case more than a bit meandering, though. Maybe that’s the truth of detective work but a show like the Wire managed to seem just as true while delivering much more narrative payoff.  Your mileage may vary, evidently.  I’ll certainly watch a second season.

Marco Polo – Netflix exclusive historical hischmorical programming with hot young Italian Marco Polo abandoned among Kublai Khan and his various Mongol and Southern Chinese friends and enemies and their poisonous politicking.  Early episodes seem intent on out-boobing game of thrones.  Boobs everywhere, like a collision between two boob trains.  Like an explosive accident at a boob factory.  But the boob quotient reduces later in favour of riding around, catapults, mysticism and some odd kung fu.  It looks pretty, there are some good performances, and it’s interesting to see a western-made series with only really the one white actor and an otherwise pretty diverse cast, but it’s not exactly electrifying.

Attack on Titan – My mind was blown by Akira when I first saw it – on a massive screen at Glastonbury festival 23 years ago, funnily enough – and there will always be a place in my heart for the overwrought insanity of Fist of the North Star, but despite the occasionally gobsmacking ideas my history with anime has been a rocky one.  Death Note was my last effort a few years back and it didn’t really work for me, but when I was in Detroit recently there was something on the screen that kept drawing my eye and someone said, ‘oh, yeah, that’s Attack on Titan, that’s supposed to be brilliant,’ so when I noticed it on Netflix I thought I’d give it a try, and I’m very glad I did.

Humanity have been herded into a walled compound beyond which lurk herds of gurning, brainless giants. Who eat people. Horribly. When they start coming over the walls, the outclassed military must try to find a way to fight them. And get eaten. Horribly.

These things often can’t sustain, and there are are perhaps worrying signs towards the end that it’s going to go in a slightly more familiar special-teenagers-pilot-giant-robots-to-save-the-world direction, but the first half of the season is great, horrifying, with some crazy ideas, and communicates a really powerful sense of what it’s like to fight an implacable, incomprehensible, undefeatable enemy.

Knights of Sidonia – the horrifying charms of Attack on Titan led me to look for more Anime. Knights of Sidonia has similar special teenagers taking on an implacable alien enemy, but this time from the confines of a generation ship in space rather than a walled compound. Not nearly such an edge on this, though, and the slightly weird art style, though pretty, is a bit distancing.

Arrow Season 2 – watched the whole season on flights to and from Australia, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I must say.  They’ve maybe dialled back the pretensions of depth and I think the show feels more comfortable in its own skin as a result, with an extensive cast of mildly absurd heroes and villains now well established and striking nice sparks from one another.  It all looks a million bucks, there’s some nice patter, some nice action, some nice split narrative between past and present.  If you don’t like watching really pretty people work out a lot you may be bored, but hey, if you don’t like watching really pretty people work out what the fuck is wrong with you?

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on March 1st, 2015.

26 comments so far

  • BHawthorne says:

    Netflix is actually a bad cross section for anime genre. Hardly anything of note gets licensed on Netflix. CrunchyRoll carries most series simulcast. I couldn’t get into Knights of Sidonia. Of the space/mech genre it doesn’t really stand out. Personally, I think ALDNOAH.ZERO is a much better written and produced current series.

  • Hamid says:

    Mr Abercrombie, On anime list you should definitely check Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Season 1 & 2. it has complex and deep story line and an anti hero, plus the best ending you will ever see ” unusual suspect of anime i like to call it “. I think you gonna like it !
    Also check Monster if you have the time, it’s slow but my goodness it’s good.
    Thank’s for your thought’s i’m gonna start Marco Polo, sounds interesting !

  • RAMSAY says:

    Great read, especially with regards Arrow Season 2. Oh Felicity, how I yearn for thee….

    You really, really have to watch The Leftovers Joe as it’s the kind of brilliant and inventive nihilism I think you’ll adore!

  • Taylor says:

    As far as Netflix shows one very excellent series is Fate/Zero an anime with excellent animation and direction, and amazing but tragic story and characters

  • ColinJ says:

    I finally got around to watching the first season of VIKINGS over the weekend and I enjoyed it a great deal.

    Travis Fimmel may look alarmingly like Charlie Hunnam, but I think he’s a far better actor.

    The one good thing about coming to a show late is that there’s a good back-log of material you can wade through to catch up. And I look forward to digging into season two.

  • Nathan says:

    A reliable tv guide! Thanks. For me the second half of Attack on Titan was maybe even better than the first half. But yeah nice reviews again.

  • Angie says:

    I found Attack on Titan absolutely chilling in those first several episodes. But it kinda lost me as it got going.

    I loved Death Note up until the death of the character that had been the reason I’d liked the show. I hope I get some credit for managing to not spoil that directly; it required some awkward wording! People who’ve seen it probably still know exactly what character death I refer to. It just was not very enjoyable beyond that point.

    I also found the art in Knights of Sidonia pretty distracting. Where are their noses? But I like it well enough that I will be watching some more if they should do another season.

    Someone on the Fantasy forum on Amazon recommended Blue Exorcist to me. I haven’t tried it out yet. If anybody has seen it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  • Prez says:

    I’m a big SOA fan, but it lost it’s way somewhat with the demise of Clay Morrow. Not sure how season 7 will turn out. I’ve got it on order! I can recommend Vikings series two. It’s much better than series one. If you get the chance, give it a watch.

  • AndersJakob says:

    Finally some new reviews from my favorite fantasy author, it’s great!

    Regarding the 4th season of The Walking Dead, I think it really improved alot in the second half. It had some very interesting and raw themes, like “is there room for delusional little girls in this new world?” Also the fact that violence has a consequence in this show is something I really admire it for. It does matter when Carl watches his father rip another man’s throat with his bare teeth, moving on to beat the man, who tried to rape his son, over and over again. This show has got me hooked again.

  • jay says:

    Liked both Titan and Sidonia they are both excellent shows. Blue Exorcist is an excellent show though much more of a comedy then the other two mentioned here.

  • Branko Burcksen says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading them.

    I am still hooked on The Walking Dead. I was glad when they finally left the prison and dealt with the Governor. I am interested to see where they go next.

    I need to see Sons of Anarchy at some point. Maybe once I finish Mad Men.

    I second Taylor’s suggestion of Fate/Zero, and I would add Psycho-Pass, which is also available on Netflix, or The Devil is a Part-Timer if you are more interested in a comedy.

    Angie, Blue Exorcist is a decent, though in my opinion, unexceptional shounen action anime. If it interest you than go for it. It is enjoyable.

    I dug True Detective. I agree it is not as good as The Wire, but I think that show is the pinnacle of television anyway. The Wire deals with institutions and how they fail the people they are supposed to help. By comparison, True Detective is about the nature of human beings and what our values amount to in a heartless world.

    This is going to sound very strange, but I think the anime Madoka Magica (also available on Netflix) is the thematic mirror of True Detective. On the surface, they could not be more different: one is live-action, the other a cartoon; one is about men, the other teen girls; one is grounded in reality, the other is bathed in fantasy. However, both stories focus on the value of being a good person, protecting what you hold dear in a heartless world. Despite its initial cute, girly appearance, Madoka goes dark really fast and becomes the literal embodiment of Rust’s philosophy.

    Zac Bertchy’s three reviews of the series on Anime News Network assess it way better than I ever could, but there is one thing he says I agree with above all: “It is a must-see for anyone remotely interested in what anime can accomplish as an art form.”

    Also, Attack on Titan is pretty good. I cannot wait for the second season, coming in 2016.

  • Nora says:

    Watch Parasyte, Joe. If you like weird, horror anime where things constantly get worse and worse like Titan, you’ll like this. It’s a little annoying with relationships in the middle (if you watch, you’ll see what I mean), but it’s pretty good. Only four more episodes to air and it’ll be over.

  • Nora says:

    Check out Parasyte, Joe. It’s a pretty awesome anime too.

  • Abiodun says:

    Hello Joe, Big fan of your work. Kindly please watch Naruto…from the story line, to the art work, to the characters depth, characters relationships, techniques…and god-like Techniques. Nuffin like it has ever been done in the history of anime since the age of mankind FULL STOP….Note :the great leveler levels more characters in this anime than ASOIAF.

  • Elfy says:

    Oh you got it right with the final season of SoA, it is a complete and total bloodbath. It was actually rather macabre fun trying to work out who would survive.

  • Robert says:

    I watch Marco Polo first season. I enjoyed it but it did have the typical grab you in theme. Lots of boobs and violence which slowly tapered off over time. I am currently watching Borgia. Which had more carnal pleasure than Marco Polo. Though it is developing into a more complex story line.

    Both these shows however have a pet peeve of mine is whne the writers don’t know how to exactly make a plausible way for something to happen that they want so they do what I call “I/we have a guy”. And bada boom it happens.

  • James says:

    Loving the new series (3) of Vikings, and the ever excellent Banshee is now into its 3rd series also.

    How can you not love a show that whose protagonist damages his hand in a fight early in season 2, then proceeds to wear a support bandage every episode for the rest of the season and well into the next?! And of course the usual moral ambivalence and excellent characterization. Can’t recommend it enough.

  • defenestrate says:

    Seconding Psycho-Pass and Fate Zero. Gen Urobuchi is Mr. Grimdark of anime, and perhaps the best person to pull off an animated adaptation of the First Law (if you decide to go in that direction).

    Note: the second season of Psycho-Pass was made (poorly) by someone else and is best left unwatched.

  • TJ says:

    Apropos netflix anime – if you haven’t seen it you must watch deathnote!

  • Georgia says:

    Fourthing the recs of Fate/Zero and Parasyte (I’m p sure you can watch Fate/Zero legally on Crunchyroll for free). Damn good stuff :). It’s funny how whenever you mention watching anime, people rush forward to provide recommendations. You will join us.

  • Georgia says:

    OH! Also I just looked on Netflix and realized Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is on there! If you’ve never seen FMAB, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s one of the best TV shows – let alone anime – that I’ve ever seen.

  • Holly says:

    Jax teller needs to die.

    PS – Fargo is really good.

  • Dominik says:

    Hi Joe,
    Concerning grim dark stuff & animes I got a question:
    Do you know the “Berserk” anime..
    I got the feeling you do.. if not you should definitively take a look at that.
    There’s the one handed hero Guts and I think you would like him quite a lot :—)

  • Philip G says:

    Let us not distract the great abercrombie with our frivolous promises of anime ecstasy, that he may watch and scratch upon his brow as wimpy protagonists stumble through half baked storylines

  • SeanM says:

    You might be interested in taking a look at “Berserk” Joe. Quite a good Grim Dark anime series following a rough group of medieval mercenaries trying to acomplish the impossible in a low fantasy world. Very grounded. It’s on Netflix and a great fan edit of it that follows the books closely can be found here.

  • Barry says:

    Surprised Luther hasn’t been mentioned ( absurd, but delicious ). Some of the maddest villains I’ve seen in a show/movie – what’s going on that crazy Island of yours! Some very cool stuff coming out from the UK these days.

    I’ve noticed a common theme from European TV – criminally corrupt government ( Sherlock, Dragon Tattoo ). Interesting.

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