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?