TV Shows

The King: Eternal Monarch

If evil men didn’t try to corrupt the world for their own selfish greed, then all the world would turn out to be a beautiful place of love, happiness and joy. Everyone has their own fate, their own destiny, and sometimes you haven’t yet reached the destination. This South Korean melodrama of fantasy, science fiction, romance and thriller is a wonderous tale of the aforementioned above. It starts with a humble beginning that spreads to become so much more, so much weaving of the tapestry of life, of people bound in ways they do not yet know and we, the audience, are along for the discovery and journey.

Mild Spoilers ahead

Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) is the modern day King of the Kingdom of Corea who in his youth was injured by his half-uncle, Lee Lim (Lee Jung-jin), when the former assassinated his father and attempted to usurp the throne. Lee Lim wanted a magical flute for himself that was said to hold mystical powers that allowed one to travel between worlds. One day the King discovers two obelisks that allow travel to another reality, a parallel world. There he meets the woman he was destined to be with, and what unfolds is an epic romantic story. But, it’s not without its darker undertones, as Lee Lim, who survived the night of the assassination and has been in hiding in the parallel world, strives to take back what he believes should have rightfully been his – the magical flute. It was cut in two that fateful night, and the two halves are what allow both Lee Lim and Lee Gon to travel to a parallel world.

With each episode 70 minutes in length, as viewers, we are treated to a fully expanded world. Completely fleshed out characters that feel alive, and not caricatures of heroes or villains. Lee Lim, the evil half-uncle, is a greedy man who wishes to control time and space and be a ruler of all. While Lee Gon wishes to find his love and be with her forever as time will allow. He is just, fair, and has mercy for those that cross his path but for his enemies, he is ruthless and merciless as a King should be. There is no second chance for traitors, only a swift punishment. Detective Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) is Lee Gon’s destiny, and she is feisty and fierce, and brave when she has to be. She is kind, and beautiful, and Kim Go-eun’s performance deserves praise. I wept with her, and for her character, and I wished she’d succeed in her destiny; in both hers and Lee Gon’s fate, and I can happily say this story has a happy ending despite being fraught with danger, twists and turns.

The other characters in this story are equally human and flawed, and so full of life. The writer, Kim Eun-sook, did a great job with this series in creating these characters and their life’s events. The direction and editing did have some problems in that some scenes didn’t make sense or purpose despite the explanations towards the latter half of the show. But overall, it worked well. The music was fantastic and I’ve noticed in Korean shows that they often repeat the same songs in each episode during key moments. At first, it was a little odd but then it grew on you and touched your heart when you heard the music swell because then you’d be expecting what’s to come. The actors were all very convincing in each of their characters, some playing two due to doppelgangers with it being two parallel worlds, and nobody felt like a weak link. There was only the characters and not the men or women underneath.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire season of 16 episodes. I wholeheartedly recommend watching it if you’re in the mood for a sweeping tale of romance and fantasy. I hope you too will fall in love with the story of Lee Gon and Jung Tae-eul, and come out on the end feeling satisfied for experiencing this endearing and beautiful journey.

TV Shows

Vagabond (2019 TV Series)

Vagabond is a South Korean spy, crime, thriller, romance and action tv series starring Lee Seung-gi, Bae Suzy, with Shin Sung-rok and many others. The initial premise is when an airplane bound for Morocco goes down in mysterious circumstances, stuntman Cha Dal-gun (played by Lee Seung-gi) fights to unravel the truth surrounding the plane crash. He is forced to partner with a covert agent from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Go Hae-ri (played by Bae Suzy), and together they struggle against forces beyond their reckoning – corruption to the highest level.

Mild Spoilers to follow

What I really enjoyed was that the show goes full circle in its execution. It starts off with a scene in the desert, and then jumps to the story at hand. As you watch the entirety of it, you keep wondering the significance of that desert scene. And near the end of the final episode, that scene plays again and you realize the entire story was a showcase as to how the main character ended up there. The other strong points were the twists that occurred, and how it managed to build up its villains. The person who you think is the main bad guy is actually merely a pawn in the grand scheme of things, then when it moves up to the next level at play, even those individuals are merely pawns of something larger.

Every episode was nail-bitingly good, and kept you at the edge of your seat because you so strongly root for Cha Dal-gun and you want him to succeed. So each time he gets set back, you feel a little bit of angst because there’s a very real possibility he might not get what he desires. The bad guys are very good at what they do, at corrupting people or setting them up to be used as unwitting or witting pawns. It was like watching a game of chess with an amateur against a grandmaster but the grandmaster loses because the amateur acts in way you don’t expect him to because it’s dumb. And it’s that dumb move which gets him the victory yet the grandmaster knew it and saw it coming, but didn’t react because they didn’t expect their opponent to have the gall to do it. The grandmaster is not without fault either, they made a small and but critical error that allowed their opponent to seize victory – they underestimated them.

The chemistry between the leads is entertaining and you root for them to have a future together. You smile at their antics and your heart grows fondly at them getting closer. Everyone did a great job, and I didn’t feel that any actor or actress was a weak link. They were all believable and at times ruthless in their character’s manners or appearance. You truly disliked the villains and that is the best kind of acting. You don’t see the person underneath, only the character they are portraying.

The faults I had with it were that the gun fights were underwhelming and lacking. Often times, they were quite unbelievable because with the sheer amount of firepower offered, the good guys should all be dead. Too much missing a shot, or cars that can withstand hundreds of bullets and still be fully drivable without any problems. A lot of scenes of guns fired indoors and nobody batting an eye at the sound. What was good to see was a proper sniper sequence with them sighting the shot/adjusting it before firing and actually not aiming directly at the target but slightly off to the side. The hand to hand combat was excellent and never did I feel that the characters were superhuman when they fought. They took appropriate damage and acted as one should following an injury. The driving was very well done and never had a case of “how did that lower powered car somehow catch up?”

Overall, I thoroughly loved the show. I enjoyed the story and its depiction of real events regarding corruption and power, on how the world operates. I loved the chemistry between the leads and I’d recommend watching the show even despite the open ending. Perhaps Netflix will be kind enough to allow a second season despite it not yet being confirmed as renewed.

TV Shows

The Purge Season One

After a series of movies about the so called Purge, where all law is suspended for 12 hours and everything is legal including murder, comes a television show about the said events. I was hoping for a real in-depth exploration as to what such an event would mean, and the impact it would have on the lives of people after such an event took place. Unfortunately, season one is merely yet another torture porn scenario where the politics are glazed over in favor of showcasing brutal violence. There is quite a bit of societal comparison to current events and political climate, and some allegory to be had, but not nearly as much as there should have been.

Season one focuses on an interconnected story of several individuals that culminates in an explosive finale with all parties involved, but the steady rise to get there is not worth the journey of all involved. Only one of the stories was truly interesting, while the rest merely served as allegory on current events. We have a couple, Jenna and Rick, that make a deal with the devil, a founding father/billionaire to invest in their company so that they can help change the world. We have a finance manager, Jane, and her struggles to make it in the world as a professional, black, business woman. We have Joe, an iron worker who feels misplaced and angered at the treatment of his kind in the world, and his solution to it all when Purge night comes. And finally, the best and most captivating story, a brother, Miguel, trying to save his sister, Penelope, from a cult and the entire night of the Purge.

The main story, and that which you root for most, is that of the brother trying to save the sister. It also brings the most emotional impact. The couple serves to narrate how billionaires run the world and their funding is what keeps events such as the Purge going. Similarly to real world events, and how politicians are kept funded by similar entities. Jane speaks volumes as to how all professional women have to bide their tongues and wag their tails, so to speak, while being passed on for promotion and ridiculed by small time jokes about their “ass”. To put it more eloquently, they have to bide their tongues while being the brunt of sexism and gender jokes, bide their tongues while men make small racist jokes, and have to apologize when they don’t feel interested in a man as if it’s somehow their fault and not the man who should simply learn to move on. Joe is the antagonist of the story and the reason why everyone connects in the end. He is angered at being replaced by foreign workers, and by machines. He is angry for being played by legal loopholes that screw over the common man while ensuring those above continue to line their pockets.

Besides these characters, we have minor characters that help develop such a world. Such as Pete the cop, who runs a bar during Purge night to help ensure there’s a safe haven for all. We have the Matron Saints, a collective of trained women that go around saving and protecting other women found in dangerous situations. We have the Stanton family, the aforementioned people that are the deal with the devil, and their socialite lifestyle. We have Lila Stanton who provides an intimate experience with the couple and helped rekindle their marriage. We have Rex the collector, so called because he collects people on Purge night to be given over to a sadistic carnival that allows for bidding of humans to be massacred. And we have Henry, the ex-boyfriend of Penelope and hardcore drug user that provided the reasoning as to why Penelope joined a cult – run by a social worker by the name of Tavis.

It was well acted by all, and I particularly enjoyed Lee Tergesen as Joe. He had quite the charisma as to what basically amounted to as an incel. The camerawork was well done and helped capture an uneasy attitude with crooked angles and rotating the picture to appear upside down. Overall, I recommend it if you’re a fan of the Purge series. And if you’re not, and torture porn/brutal violence is not your thing, give it a pass. You’re not missing anything.

TV Shows

The Boys Season 2 (Updated for rest of season)

It is safe to conclude that this television show is the best superhero outing we’ll ever get. After an explosive, dynamic, political first season that established all the players in the game, this second season focuses on the repercussions of those actions, while adding a new superhero to the show: Stormfront. If you are at all familiar with such a name, then you’ll know what to expect. For those that are not in the know, simply look up on Wikipedia the stormfront website. Given that, the naming of the hero is a little on the nose. She is different than her comic counterpart, a male nazi, but still creator Eric Kripke manages to convert the hero to modern times. What we got was an insidious character who knows how to manipulate social media to achieve her own goals. She fills in the gaping hole of insecurity for Homelander. She is everything he fears and as such, he hates her with a fiery passion that is transcribed well on screen due to spectacular acting by Antony Starr.

As Homelander, Antony Starr breathes life into the character in a way that can’t be seen when read in comic form. His rendition of the character is totally believable and absolutely terrifying. A man-child with all the powers of a God. Every character around him feels like they’re walking on egg shells, being careful not to set him off. Homelander, given the name, and his actions, is America personified. Especially when he supplied terrorists around the world with the special compound that makes people super powered in order to be able to rage war and get into defense contracting.

Starlight and Hughie are interesting this season around, because she grows in a way I didn’t expect. She becomes bolder and braver, while Hughie, counter to his comic counterpart, is turned into a wimp. Always whining, and complaining and derailing operations due to his deteriorating mental state. His character has been resigned to be Butcher’s canary – his moral compass to know when he’s gone too far. In that regard, I understand the decision to make Hughie as he is. As for Jack Quaid’s acting, it’s great because you just want someone to slap or punch some sense into him. After working with the Boys and knowing how far reaching and powerful Vought is, you’d think he’d get wise to how things work. But that is not the case. I hope with the next five episodes, he grows up.

Karl Urban as Butcher is always fun to watch. His charisma just oozes off the screen and he just captures your attention in the scenes he’s in. His character has some soul searching to do and to free his wife from captivity. It’ll be interesting to see how his character grows given that what he thought happened was all a lie.

The rest of the cast are just as great in their roles, with The Female getting special attention this time around. We get to experience a little bit about her life before the Boys, and we get a glimpse into the possibilities that she might find herself in. Mother’s Milk provides the moral support and always has Hughie’s back despite some problems between them. Frenchie is as Frenchie does, not much has been added to his character that we already didn’t know from the first season. The Deep’s role gets slightly expanded as he attempts to change his life around, and has a nice featuring voice cameo by Patton Oswald. A-Train is back around to provide an antagonistic foil to Starlight, and we see a little bit more about Queen Maeve that begins to humanize her.

In short, I can’t wait to see where the Boys season two will take us. This darkly cynical look at superheroes is intriguing and thought provocative. I’ll be staying tuned in.

Wow! What an amazing season 2 conclusion. Much was answered and at the same time, much is yet to be revealed. A lot of references and callbacks to the comics, which was quite enjoyable (Love-Sausage anyone?). And they did a lot of switching character roles around between the tv show and the comics. In the comics, Mallory is pretty much useless outside of setting the boys up and then disappearing to his cottage by the sea. Raynor ends up doing much of the legwork instead. Here, in the TV show, they made Mallory do much more work and had Raynor killed off. There is also a lot of sub-context at work in the show with a lot of allegories and metaphors to real life situations in the United States. For example, what to do if a supervillain shows up at your school harkens to the notions of what to do if a school shooting occurs. The talk of supervillains is reminiscent of terrorist talks in the US and fearmongering regarding that.

The show brought back a cut scene from season one that Amazon thought was too risky yet clearly they decided otherwise because it is now shown. The depiction of the Church of the Collective is an obvious dig at Scientology. And yeah, just great television all around. Purely enjoyable, great action, and a satisfying depiction of events. Can’t wait for the next season, hopefully the show doesn’t go on too long and risk getting stale.

Hughie actually experienced real growth, and changed into not being a wimp and finally turned into a man capable of standing on his own two feet. Butcher became not as diabolical as his comic counterpart and appeared as being a real human being capable of nurturing, and showing emotions. Mother’s Milk remained relatively unchanged, and Kimiko and Frenchie’s relationship grew to new levels of trust. Starlight was herself and stayed true to her principles and in the end, found new meaning in a higher power. Where they go from here, time will tell.

TV Shows

Lucifer Season 5A

This season is split into two parts, with the first half currently out on Netflix. And I can say without a doubt, that this is the best yet but that’s only due to the build up of the previous seasons. The whole will they, won’t they between Lucifer and Chloe Decker finally gets realized as they get together. And it works! It doesn’t feel forced or over developed, I was so happy to see resolution. This half has been very emotional, to me, because the characters have all fully grown. Their arcs are nearing completion. Just this next half, and then a final sixth season.

As usual, the show follows a path of dead body that’s gotta be solved, interspersed with story and character development of the celestial and mortal kind. Amenadiel grows as a father and friend, Daniel grows in his own way, Lucifer learns to finally let Chloe in all the way, but Maze, she does not grow. She’s still stuck in that old “I hate Lucifer because he kept secrets from me” and it’s honestly tiring. And just when you thought she had genuine growth, nope. Goes back to her old ways. I feel they really missed an opportunity here with her. Miss Lopez also grows from simply being the super nice forensic scientist to being her own person that brings depth and new twists to the show.

Everyone’s acting is everything we’ve grown to love about the show. But it’s especially great to see Tom Ellis playing against himself as he acts as both Lucifer and his twin brother, the archangel Michael. To differentiate between the two, Tom has an American accent for Michael and walks with his right shoulder being slightly higher than his left. Perhaps an injury that is yet to be revealed in the show?

Overall, I love Lucifer because it’s totally social engineering to get us all accepting the devil as not a bad guy. As the old saying goes, the greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing others he didn’t exist. And that’s what Lucifer does, you don’t see him as the biblical bad guy. You sympathize and see him as a good guy, and not at all evil. Which is fair because this Lucifer is based off a DC character and ergo, a comic book character. I recommend this entire show and especially this new season.