New TV Shows 2015 In Review (Part 2)

Aaand we’re back! Thank you for sticking around, I meant to put this out over the weekend but laziness intervened (the villain!)

Time for Round-2 of the reviews for the new series that I’ve seen thus far this past year and the third (and probably final) installment of the reviews will be up here in another couple of days at most. In case you want to check it out, here’s Part 1 of the reviews and now let’s just jump straight onto the reasons all of you are here:

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Heroes Reborn (Season 1 Ep. 01-03)

Definitely one of the bigger curiosities for TV in the past year or so – a TV franchise following suit from the comics domain it was inspired by, i.e, doing a “soft reboot” after the previous incarnation went the way of being ended. Understandably, trying to revive a franchise that was considered a ground-breaker (for good reason) for a certain genre of television and that had a very mercurial reaction during its first tenure is no easy task and I didn’t envy the people trying to bring it back. In fact I genuinely had an interest in seeing how it would play out, especially since they emphasised that the show would NOT be a reboot but would carry on the previous show (great for old fans) but would also be a new series that you don’t need to have watched the old one to enjoy.

I saw the first two seasons as a back-to-back almost two-hour journey as they injected this opening leg with a massive dose of concepts, characters and story-lines. It was good. Not great, but good.

The show starts with Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) at a fair to celebrate the newly revealed “Evo’s” and human-kind having a bright new future until something goes KA-BLOOEY! And well you can guess the rest. Then we time jump forward about a year and we see Noah (with no memory of what happened at that event) with a new life including a fiancé and a job selling cars, we see Luke and Joanne Collins (Levi and Shekoni) who have become violent Evo-hunters after their son was killed at the event the show starts with, a young Japanese girl named Miko who appears to be somehow connected to the big mystery unfolding before us and who has fan-favourite Hiro Nakamura’s (Masi Oka) sword and there are several others. But I have to admit, possibly the most fascinating of the lot for me was Carlos Gutierrez (Guzman) who plays a former soldier who comes home to find a masked vigilante protecting his neighbourhood and discovers it’s been his meek, non-violent brother who is running an underground railroad of sorts for the powered people being hunted all over the country and is faced with the choice to keep doing his brothers’ good work despite not having powers of his own. The most curiosity inducing? The quiet man played by Pruitt Taylor Vince who seems to have powers somewhat resembling the mind-wiping and altering ones of The Haitian from the original series.

…phew… there’s a lot going on here clearly.

The show does a commendable job cramming all the various stories together and the shift in focus from purely heroic adventures in the original series to a new one that parallels human history – specifically racism and other forms of segregation that were used to belittle, devastate, hunt down and dehumanize our own kind – is both not easy to do and thus far has been handled pretty welll without going painfully over the top. I do admit though that I’m not sure how they plan to tie together the great evil approaching the world with the heroes on the run and with no knowledge of one-another and whatever grand-secret Noah had wiped from his mind and why – chances are the heroes somehow come together and save the world and are either accepted in some fashion or become X-Men: fighting to save a world that hates them.

The shortfalls for the show however are the ones that make me hesitate a little. Firstly I really dislike the Collins’ as a couple, yes your kid died but now you go around hunting powered people without restraint and pretty much the wife admits that she is bloodthirsty about it – over three episodes it basically seemed like she was a murder happy sociopath who is just using this as an excuse and her husband is so afraid of her that he keeps helping her kill people even though he’s so obviously anguished at their actions, didn’t really feel for either of them even though the show seemed to try really hard to make me feel for Levi’s character. Secondly, while I appreciate the multi-storylines concept, for some reason it felt a little too crammed this time around and the weaker parts really seemed to bog down the good bits a little. Lastly, the sense of urgency and mystery is too intense for what is the starting point to a series (at least for me).

VERDICT: There’s a possibility that the things that I am not crazy about like crammed stories and pace and intensity might be because they didn’t get as long a season as they wanted or wanted to end a particular arc in season 1 – but all the same, it might make the show as a whole less fun. Perhaps shuffling/alternating combos of the stories over episodes would have worked better? Overall the show is definitely accessible to new viewers but also is in danger of putting off people who don’t like to be thrown into a turbulent deep end like these first episodes do + it does plenty of fan-service and call-backs to the original series to firmly establish it in continuity. Though how they will explain ALL the original cast being completely gone like this is beyond me.

For now I’m going to see where this goes, but my bottom line is that this should have been focussed more centrally on the character of Noah Bennet who was one of the best characters in the original show and somehow manages to remain so even here and his part as a non-powered yet critical player who is very capable, dangerous and interesting to watch would have made him a great central axis around which to build the world and events. Let’s wait and see, maybe (hopefully) the creators learnt from the flaws in the previous run of Heroes and this will just get better as it finds its feet and we go along a bit further.

MV5BNzQyMDEyNjYzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NjY3NTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Humans (Season 1 Ep 01-05)

Yet another example of a show with an intriguing and engaging premise that struggles but finds its feet after a stellar beginning – this show about an alternate present where we live our day to day lives with “Synths” (synthetic humans) as household appliance (as well as for a few less-than-savoury purposes).

The show centres around a group of self-aware Synths on the run, some captured and now missing as the remainder seek them out – the lovely Mia (Gemma Chan being one of the missing) has been reprogrammed and starts off the show as the new house-Synth of a family that struggles to keep itself cohesive with a too-busy mum, an unhappy dad and three kids. In addition, William Hurt plays a retired scientist trying to hold onto his dead wife’s memories through their old Synth who should have long ago been recycled but he keeps repairing until he is forced to take on a new Synth who is there for his well-being but becomes an intrusive and almost jailer-like presence.

Definitely the most intense of the many science-fiction shows out there right now in terms of how and what it is dealing with, i.e, the nature of life, consciousness, the extent of human rights and the nature of A.I and more. If that is of interest to you, then this is a show worth checking out. I say that despite the fact that for the first three episodes I found the shows pacing to be somehow dragging – perhaps I’ve seen to many of the more “fast” shows and need to get used to slower stuff (though that’s not likely the case), but it does seem to slow-play a lot of scenes and take its time getting on with things. It’s not a bad thing, but it does get a bit annoying at times.

VERDICT: A cleverly minimalistic, smart show about matters relevant to us now more than ever before as our knowledge and awareness is growing at an almost exponential rate and the nature of our world is in flux. I would say watch it for that and the excellent performances by Chan and Emily Berrington as fellow robot Niska – it’s not easy to do mechanical and still show humanity in little ways and some darker aspects but these ladies really create solid emotional resonance.

6109179Killjoys (Season 1)

The one that almost got away – yet another good sci-fi show from the frosty north of Canada. These guys keep killing it with great TV, the hits just keep on coming! In fact I would have to say the last few years have been a banner year for great science-fiction that didn’t cater to the lowest common-denominator and we’ve had shows like this, Dark Matter, Orphan Black, Defiance (now sadly possibly ended), Humans and several others.

In Killoys, we follow a pair of bounty-hunters – John and Dutch – in this grim future planetary-system where society is split into the haves (essentially nine royal families) and pretty much everyone else, scrounging to keep things together and just live a decent life – including an organisation of licensed bounty-hunters who operate from a space-station in a grey area, loosely and grudgingly working alongside the law and are lovingly called “Killjoys”.

The show had a great energy right from the first episode, but except for John (Aaron Ashmore) the acting was a little shaky and I have to admit, Dutch (the very lovely Hannah John-Kamen) was a little iffy for me at first as a casting choice – her accent throwing me a little and it feeling like they were trying to make her the cliched sci-fi super-woman. But thankfully that didn’t last long and before I knew it, the larger story, the little jobs they chased and the chaos that is the lives of these roguish trio, rounded out by Johns brother D’Avin (Luke Macfarlane) which often they bring upon themselves because they can’t help themselves led to a fun watch and in fact Kamens performance slowly began to grow on me and her chemistry with the rest of the principal cast made it all more and more fun – something missing in a lot of dramatic TV nowadays.

Between good, solid characters, a layered and interesting world dynamic and a good balance of character and good-old-actiony-stuff, this show is a true example of getting better as you go along. and by the last few episodes I was utterly and totally into the goings-on and actually enjoyed the way the writers decided to go with things and now can’t wait for the new season.

VERDICT: Great cast, mostly-excellent writing, dynamic action and a solid amount of world-building in a too-short season. Hands down my favourite new science-fiction show of the year and one I hope finds enough support to run for at least a couple more seasons – I’d expect more but it’s a genre that has never had the greatest of luck, but I remain hopeful eternally nonetheless! My feeling is that the ensemble tone and general style of the show will appeal to fans of the late-lamented show Firefly (like myself) in addition to science-fiction fans in general.


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