Recent TV

July 27th, 2015

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…

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on July 27th, 2015.

24 comments so far

  • innokenti says:

    I actually gave up on Vikings by the end of Season 3 (or just short) because the Norse themselves stopped making any sense. The characters had no real motive – things were done for plot reasons, to keep changing course. Or maybe they have motives but they are never revealed, in any case, that and the jarring historical mish-mash (which was at least kept a little more backgrounded in earlier seasons) just put me off. Egbert was still bloody brilliant though – best thing about the show, and never stopped being an interesting and well-written/well-acted character. I would certainly watch a ‘Saxons’ spin-off…

    Black Sails in contrast just couldn’t stop being compelling and excellent. I always felt that we were given just enough understanding of the main characters’ base motivations and goals, so that when they did thing on the edge or in the moment, you could still see that they were trying to stay true to themselves. And what a storming and dramatic finale, both in how it comes about and how it is executed. Can’t wait for the next season!

    Keep on meaning to pick up some Peaky Blinders too… good to know more good things said about it.

  • SwindonNick says:

    Banshee is one of my current favs and am looking forward to watching Sense8….

  • Iangr says:

    Enough with the mediocre.
    Catch the first episodes of Mr Robot and prepare to be blown away

  • Mrs.achmo says:

    i love sens8! Oddly, it’s watching the stories of the individual characters that keep me interested. The overall theme of the show is entertaining, but the diversity of the characters, and the fact that we are hearing stories about the everyday lives of people who don’t all live in America, give it a really fresh feeling. I also get a kick out of the fact that one of my favorite character is transgender both on the show and in the real world.

  • Raul says:

    I really dislike this Vikings’ season.

    Vikings are smart and they fight bravely but Paris’s defenders are just idiots and fight like a 8 years old girl. First season was quite good, despite the “low” budget, but this season is full of cliches.

    About the historical facts just remember that siege of Paris was almost a century after the attack on Lindisfarne. Anyway, watching nowadays History Channel’s shows I’ll be happy if in Vikings 4th season Ragnar doesn’t fight against the aliens or Rollo doesn’t find Atlantida.

  • Graham says:

    Another vote for Banshee at the moment, how one guy can take so many beatings and have so much sex and find time for other things I will never know.

  • Rick says:

    **Spoilers** – Sons of Anarchy

    In the last episode of SOA, I just felt sorry for the 3rd party in Jax’s final act. Could he not have just followed his father into leaving a stain on the rocks.

  • Urban says:

    Peaky Blinders is brilliant. Its got the music, the clothes and the 6 episodes per season which forces it to move the story forward alot more then alot of other tv shows that go year by year at slow pace.

  • Phil.I.P. says:

    Peaky Blinders gets my vote. Superb plots, casting, sets and costumes – difficult to fault, except perhaps for some of the attempts at Brummie accents, our kid.

    Also very pleased to note that Ripper Street Season 3 will at long last be showing on BBC1 commencing at 21:00 on Friday 31st July.

  • mike says:

    I totally agree with you on Sons of anarchy. Followed it from the very start and it was always entertaining to say the least. Definitely a fan of Black sails and Hell on wheels. Hoping for another great season of Vikings. Banshee has got to be my guilty pleasure though. Way over the top,but great action and charcaters..Love all of your books. Pass them on to anybody I find that loves to read. Can’t wait for your next one. The scene with Brand and the ship coming down the Tall hauls in Half the world, had me so involved, even my wife asked me what the hell was going on!

  • Neil says:

    Sense 8 was a pleasant surprise. Initially I thought mmmm a bit of a turkey, then by episode 3 and things started flowing , by the end I thought, lets hope enough people stuck with it to get a 2nd season.

    I found I was trying to guess what each person would bring to the party, what skill, then started appreciate each person was bring multiple talents.

    Banshee rocks.

  • Neil says:

    I should really read what I write… Grrrhhh.

  • Paul says:

    I love how diverse Sense8 is, without it feeling like somebody attended a diversity seminar and decided to include token characters just to hit minority buttons. These people feel like real people and their psychic and emotional connections makes compelling viewing once you get past the muddled first episode.

    Other people have mentioned Banshee – possibly the most ridiculously unnecessarily violent show I’ve seen in a while and it’s based on the flimsiest of premises (criminal pretends to be sheriff). I love it though. It doesn’t matter how over the top it can be – there’s apparently always a place for sex and violence, even if you’re just banging the Amish.

    I agree with you about The Shield – possibly my favourite show of all time and the ending is harsh, and yet somewhat inevitable. You can see it happening a mile off but you can’t help rooting for Vic and the Strike Team (names omitted to avoid spoilers) even when you have a good idea whats coming.

    It upsets me a little that all the other shows listed are on my ‘to watch’ list.

  • Azothra says:

    You should check out Mr Robot it is a new series that is about to air its sixth episode. It is one of the best new entries to tv I have seen in quite a while. The characters are incredibly complex and interesting, all with an interesting plot.

  • Neil says:

    I read that Banshee finishes at the end of season 4.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  • Alejandro says:

    Looking forward to SoA Season 7. I agree this show is a bit silly at times but always kept me entertained.

    I am also highliy excited for Mr Sutters take on a medieval drama (The Bastard Executioner).

    Vikings S3 has been a bit of a let-down after the fabulous second season. However, the stage is set for a return to form in S4.

    Hell on Wheels is on my must-watch list. Should I start with this one or Deadwood?

  • Alejandro says:

    On another note: I saw that you liked Friday Night Lights so I would highly recommend to watch Everwood if you had not done so.
    This Show is often mentioned together with Gilmore Girls, OC California, One Tree Hill, Dawson`s Creek, Hart of Dixie etc.
    Although I have a soft spot for all those series Everwood is just so much better. Fantastic acting and highly emotional. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  • James says:

    Finally Joe, after all these other people have been banging on about Banshee, its surely time for you to take a peak? I mention it every blooming time I post, but it really is up you alley I reckon.

    Loved Peaky Blinders and last series of Vikings, not so bothered about the historical accuracy now, just enjoying the flow.

    Ray Donovan also cracking, and for guilty pleasure I’m enjoying Dominion, TV show based on the Legion movie, featuring that bloke from the Nescafe advert who was in Buffy.

    Utopia is British, shocking, arty, subversive and weird.
    Given up on series 2 of True Detective, just not interested enough.

  • Prez says:

    Really disappointed with SOA season 7. I agree with you that when Clay (Ron Perlman) was written out the show took a turn for the worse. He held it all together and was hugely believable as a guy who did the wrong things for the right reasons. We’ve all been there, right? The fact that Jax ended up doing far worse things to far more people for much less reason ruined the show. How could you defend a guy who went on an all out slaughter because his wife was murdered? Hell SOA murdered people all the time! The demise of Gemma and Unser was just disappointing. Poorly written last series I’m afraid. Family went from being the most important thing for the main characters, to, well, nothing really. Hate to say it but with the huge fanbase SOA ended up with and all the commercialism that goes with it, maybe Sutter just lost his edge?

  • Volkert says:

    So what did you make of hbo shows outlander and game of thrones? Not that the latter needs any promotion. Jus curious to your opinion.

  • Ranma says:

    Did you like the miniseries Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell?

    I wanted to like Black Sails, but for the sake of me I could not cope with the acting (with few exceptions) and the rainstorm of f-words.

  • Barry says:

    Don’t give up on True Detective 2nd season – a real gem by the end of it. Re-watching the 1st episode helped a lot, came across very convoluted first viewing. Banshee is entertaining, but not the rich complexity of stuff like True Detective, The Bridge/Boss ( both cancelled! grrrr! ), Homeland or as cool as Game of Thrones, The Americans. Would love to see First Law + 3 be episodic tv, simply madly delicious.

  • Shifty 7 Crows says:

    Haven’t checked in since ‘Best Served Cold’ + these are some of the only shows i don’t spam ff to get to the good parts…plagarize meow!!

    1. SoA S7: American Cops = semi retarded tax collectors. I was fine w/ the executions, shankings, torture, shootings, massacres, trannies, & skull f’ing murderous insanity w/ thoughtful commentary but I think having Manson feed coke to Juice than reading Jane Austin before he raped’em crossed the line…or slightly less disturbing when Tig drowned a guy in a vat of piss 5 stars!

    2. Vikings S3: Spikes + giant rolling pin ftw…

    3. Black Sails S2: 18th century Nassau prostitutes…

    4. Peaky Blndrs S2: Winston Churchill ftw…Sam Neil lives S3! Evil + Irish = Immortal

    5. HoW S4: Wish List – Blow the Swede’s brains out…a lot.

    6. Falling Skies S5: Opener blew my mind but the rest was garbage (#killtommasonswhinybitchfamily)

    I stopped reading your books in public after breaking out in hysterical laughter at the DMV…apparently reading & laughing look strange.

    Movie scripts are a combination of relentless failure & scumbag luck I would reference William Gibson’s Alien 3 script…spore chest poppers!

    Thoughts on Alistair Reynolds and the less is more approach to the mystery depth of history? After watching Tom Hardy’s Mad Max I’m glad we’re missing 50,000 years of pre-history.

    Your books have gotten me thru some bad days & nights and I too fear gangs of 11 yr olds.

    I typed this on my rotary phone xbox fml

  • HeidiV says:

    Sens8, Black Sails and Vikings – all three started with not much chance of me watching to the end, but oh my god, they were brilliant! It’s a shame they weren’t on mainstream TV when I watched them though, as very few people I know had even heard of them!!
    Much the same as my reading choices really!

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