TV Shows

WandaVision

I had high hopes when the show initially started due to the meta usage of layering a show within a show. And then the slow reveal that everything was a reality created by Wanda was unique. I enjoyed the performance by Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, it brought in comedy to what was otherwise a grim affair. Elizabeth Olsen did an excellent job portraying a woman consumed by grief and the PTSD that comes from watching your loved one die (twice in her case). I was indifferent to Paul Bettany as Vision. There’s not much that character can bring emotionally to the table. He’s more a tool to advance Wanda’s character.

The rest of the supporting cast characters such as Captain Rambo, Darcy, Hayward, and her twins all did pretty decent. Nothing outstanding, just played their roles. Agatha was campy fun and a nice foil to Wanda, but ultimately served little purpose other than to accentuate Wanda as the Scarlet Witch. The citizens of Westview had little effect on the plot, I thought they would have more than what was shown. That they would have a greater impact on Wanda’s character but they simply served to reminder her that her actions have consequences.

Spoilers From Here On

Ultimately, I was filled with disappointment. They failed to deliver what I had hoped to have been shown. I was expecting to see a Scarlet Witch devastated by loss and brought to madness but it’s Disney, they never have the courage to show such loss. Gotta keep it kid friendly – yet their cartoons have no problems killing off the mom characters. I was expecting Wanda’s twins to die, and Vision to die, and then consumed by grief and vengeance, she becomes the Scarlet Witch and a tragic villain. Instead, we got a Wanda that accepted her loss (for the moment) and reverted everything to normal except the townsfolk hate her guts, oh and she stole the magical evil spellbook. Any devoted fans recognize it from Agents of Shield? Yup, the book that made Ghost Rider and the same book he took to Hell, somehow showed up in Agatha’s hands. I’m slightly angered by that. Shows they don’t care at all for Agents of Shield and that they’re clearly retconning it. And watch, all sorts of various sites are gonna be talking about how the darkhold can bring all sorts of magical things to the MCU… Newsflash people! It’s already happened!

Other disappointments include the Vision vs Vision fight. Two entities capable of phasing through matter fighting into a stalemate and then having a philosophical match. Yawn. Captain Rambo gets powers and she uses it to stop bullets. Another yawn.

Honestly, this entire show was just a marketing ploy for Doctor Strange 2. You could have cut it down to four hour long episodes and you’d have achieved the same result. The only gains were a new superhero, Vision back from the dead, and Wanda as Scarlet Witch. And all of that was simply teased, never allowed to go to full fruition. It’s clear the movies are their main goal to forward the MCU, and the TV shows are but appetizers to slightly sate your hunger while they prepare the main course.

Overall, I actually don’t recommend watching this. It’s a time sink with little to no payout. You’ll have learned nothing going into Doctor Strange 2 that would influence the plot. If you knew comics at all, you already know Wanda is the Scarlet Witch. If you do insist on viewing it, you can skip every episode and watch the finale and you would have learned as much as those that watched it in its entirety. This was a special effects extravaganza and light on storytelling. Then again, it’s Disney. What did one expect?

TV Shows

Behind Her Eyes

This is one of those shows that if they didn’t lie to you off the start, you never would have watched it. By this, I mean that it is withholding a vital piece of information regarding genre. It says on Netflix that it is a mystery, thriller, and drama but it’s missing the most important piece(s). Those are that it is also a supernatural fantasy. Now it if was just a show about a cheater and his involvement with his secretary who happened to also befriend his wife, and kept it realistic, I’d have enjoyed it much more. As it stands, I can’t help but feel cheated. The ending is seen a mile off and you can’t help but think “please don’t have the ending be what I think it is.” Guess what? It’s exactly the nonsense you thought it would be.

Going into it, I knew I was to be worried seeing that the showrunner is one Steve Lightfoot. He made the spectacularly bad and utter misfire The Punisher for Netflix earlier. I just loathe what he did to that character, and given his terrible writing in that, I felt this would suffer the same. And I was right. Behind Her Eyes felt like somebody watched The Skeleton Key (2005) and decided the ending and villains would be better if they were white. Now technically, I haven’t spoiled anything, but if you’ve ever seen that movie then you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. However, this could merely be a coincidence and the book that which the series was based on, could have had what show ended with as its plot. I never read the book, nor knew of it prior to watching this limited series. I’m just saying, it’s a little too uncanny with the similarities. Though in the Skeleton Key, they use hoodoo magic as the basis and here it’s astral projection.

Spoilers Ahead

Now if we do a deep dive into the ending of the series, and really consider what it means, there’s a lot to unpack here. An oversimplification of events would be that a gay man fell in love with a straight man, but knew that the straight guy would never go for him, so he changed his sex to a female to get with him. If we wanna get technical, it’s rape by deception. Sure, you’re having sex with your wife but inside your wife’s body, there’s a man’s spirit. But then your white husband gets bored of you or scared of you, and falls for a black woman. So now you become the black woman, and resume raping your victim. See what I wrote sounds way worse than what they showed in the series, but it’s what happened. Sounds much more horrible when you actually write it out and think about it. This ending is messed up.

A couple things I wondered were that a) a woman you just recently made acquaintances with, gives you a book that is very clearly someone’s personal journal that should in no way be with her, you just take without question and read it. B) A woman you called psychopathic, sociopathic or god knows what makes essentially a suicide note, and you come running to save her… Literally, all she had to do was not do that and it’d be all happy after. But no, you go to her house, and try and save her by… ASTRAL PROJECTION?! HUH? Honestly, being that dumb, she deserved her fate.

As for the actors themselves, they were pretty good. And pretty good looking, which I mean, they had to be for the erotic thriller aspect of it. Eve Hewson as Adele, the aforementioned psychopath, did really good as a person struggling with mental health issues and Tom Bateman as Dr. David Ferguson did really well at making you feel like he had something sinister going on. Simona Brown as Louise did great as the single mother looking for a connection, and did an excellent job at making me dislike her as a character. Robert Aramayo as Rob was entertaining to say the least, and very insidious. The direction was good, by Erik Richter Strand, but the writing felt off at times. The interactions between Adele and her husband, David, didn’t feel real. It never felt like this is how two people would ever communicate with one another. Like the writing has that specific feel that it was written for this scene and this camerawork. It wasn’t organic or natural. That’s right, Steve Lightfoot once again proving he has no business in TV shows yet somebody keeps giving him money.

Overall, just stay away from this show. It’s not worth the stream, nor is it worth having Netflix look at the viewing numbers and go “Wow, we should give more money to Steve Lightfoot! He sure knows what he’s doing. Boy, what a great showrunner and writer.” Please no, I don’t wanna see another show with his name on it because next time, I’m just gonna skip it. Like you should skip this show.

TV Shows

The Uncanny Counter

“People are the real devils.”

In a supernatural fantasy show, where people are assigned the job of a grim reaper to help wayward souls ascend to the afterlife and to fight evil spirits, having the real villains be human is a great example of societal messaging. The show, The Uncanny Counter, is a South Korean production about 4 grim reapers or demon hunters (Counters) and their journey in protecting the land starring Jo Byung-gyu as So Mun, Yoo Jun-sang as Go Mo-tak, Kim Se-jeong as Do Ha-na, and Yeom Hye-ran as Choo Mae-ok, with supporting cast members. These four are the primary cast of which the show revolves around with So Mun being the main character and the most powerful member of the group. As mentioned earlier, their duty is to help souls ascend to heaven or the afterlife in a place called the Yung but only those unfortunate souls to have been killed by a person hosting an evil spirit. These hosts are individuals with murder in their hearts which has allowed an evil spirit to bond with them, and in doing so they are capable of becoming stronger than that of a normal human. Each evil spirit is measured on their powers with a scale of level one to level four. Level three and up spirits possess unusual abilities and require the Counters to work together as a team in order to defeat them. An evil spirit is defeated once a Counter uses their ability to ascend souls to force an evil spirit to return to the afterlife or Yung, and be judged by the judiciary committee of the afterlife.

Furthermore, a person killed by an evil spirit has their soul eaten and will remain confined inside the host until the spirit is defeated. To combat these beings, Counters have their physical strength and speed enhanced by a factor of three times as powerful as a normal human being. In addition, each Counter has their own ability based upon their personalities. So Mun is special because not only does he have the enhanced strength and speed but he can summon the Yung Territory at will. This territory appears normally in the world for a few moments but can last as long as an hour. Within this territory, the Counters are enhanced by a factor of five times as powerful as normal humans. This surge of strength allows them to defeat the more powerful level three and up entities.

With that explanation aside, the story in The Uncanny Counter follows So Mun as he becomes one of the Counters following the death of a previous Counter member. He embarks on a grand adventure helping him hone his abilities and allowing him to keep his emotions in check. Being an 18 year-old highschool student with a physical disability, he and his friends are the targets of bullies. It is not until he becomes a Counter that he acquires the means to deal with the bullies, and help not only his friends, but the entire school. Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy of fraud, murder, and corruption within the Mayoral and police offices.

What I enjoyed best about this show was that each episode is filled to the brim with societal messages. Like those that kill others are just as bad as evil spirits, or that not repaying a kindness is a form of wickedness, or that standing idly by while acts of wickedness happen is just as bad as those that did the acts. Another that I liked was that you have to take moments to evaluate your emotions, feelings, and thoughts and parse through them. Give yourself a chance to figure out and express them because keeping them bottled up inside only continues to hurt you. Another is that not all people who bully others do so because they’re inherently bad or evil, but rather from a misguided attempt to mitigate their own hurt feelings be it from bad parenting or outside circumstances. They’re merely victims of a cycle and that by helping them break free of it, they can change for the better. All these messages were great to see and really helped the show become something more than merely a fantasy.

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Other aspects that were really good was the acting of the four Counters, Jo Byung-gyu as So Mun was incredible at portraying emotions, I even teared up several times. His character’s story was a main driving point because it’s established that when he was 11, he and his parents were in a car accident that took their lives and left him crippled. He later learned that it was not an accident, and that his parents were killed. The conclusion in the final episode was so satisfying to watch, and so cathartic and emotional. I found myself weeping during So Mun’s interactions with his parents in the afterlife. It was so touching and beautiful. The other characters didn’t have nearly the same emotional impact but nonetheless there was still moments of tenderness. Yoo Jun-sang as Go Mo-tak portrayed a character that lost his memory seven years ago, and he was a joy to watch. Tough yet nurturing, funny yet wise. His character’s arc was tragic but also a necessity to have him experience growth. Yeom Hye-ran as Choo Mae-ok was like the mom of the group, and was kind and caring to all but fierce and protective when she needed to be. (Side note, all the Counters are possessed by a spirit from Yung which is what grants them their powers. These spirits are those that have died and are working for a chance at reincarnation.) Her Yung spirit is revealed to be her own son that passed away years ago. This relationship between her and her Yung spirit is simultaneously tragic and touching. Kim Se-jeong as Do Ha-na is like the black sheep of the group, her character’s personality is dark but only because of her upbringing and own tragic past. Nonetheless she doesn’t stay dark but becomes a beacon of light and laughter at times, she doesn’t let her past weigh her down but embraces it and uses it to help her new family. She’s just as kind, caring, and protective as the rest of them and just as wise and nurturing. All of the Counters felt really human, and fleshed out.

The special effects were well done, there was a nice use of practical effects with wires and stunts. The CGI was on point and never detracted from the story or actions going on. The action sequences were a blast to watch, hand to hand combat was enjoyable and easy to follow. There wasn’t really any multiple quick takes and different camera angles at play. One particular scene was done in first person point of view and it was a blast to watch. The soundtrack was fun and eclectic, from pop songs to instrumental to heavy rock.

Overall, I highly recommend watching this show. I splurged through it in a manner of two days. I was simply enthralled. And American shows need to take note, this is how you make a season finale. It ends all threads, wraps them up, provides a cathartic release, and then showcases where the story could go next. There is no cliffhanger ending, those should only ever be used between episodes and never in the last one. It was a wild ride, and satisfying from start to finish.

TV Shows

Fate: The Winx Saga

Winx is alright. Co-created by a writer from Vampire Diaries (Brian Young) and it shows. Edgy teenage high-school drama, with a petty jealous ex-girlfriend, delinquent stoner and bully, token bisexual who happens to be black. Newcomer with insidious purpose serving some mysterious dude only named as “he”. Token fat girl who grows to be much better than initially led on. Slightly emo girl that turns out to be an empath. Cool, smooth and charismatic guy that is essentially a jock. Main character with a mysterious hidden past and special powers much stronger than any other character. The show is chock full of TV tropes stretched to their limits. The plot follows standard young adult fantasy shows, your main character doesn’t know her past, she rebels against the adult authority figures who may or may not have been lying to her, turns to the enemies or bad guys of the show for help, realizes the friends she made along the way are better than the enemies she’s been unwittingly helping with their nefarious plans, being hunted by CGI monsters/creatures. You know, standard stuff.

The six episode format helped move things speedily along but it sacrificed proper character development, world building, and overall felt more like an origin story for the girls. It completely feels like the second season is where the meat and bones of the story will be. The first season was mere filler. The main character is Bloom played by Abigail Cowen, a 16 year old girl with fire powers. We have Aisha played by Precious Mustapha, an athlete, morning person, and a water fairy. There’s Terra (Eliot Salt), with a spot on the nose character name, as an earth fairy. Musa (Elisha Applebaum) as a mind fairy and empath. Hannah van der Westhuysen as Stella, a light fairy and princess of a land called Solaria. Sadie Soverall as Beatrix, an air fairy that can summon electricity, and our minor villain. Danny Griffin as the token jock, Sky, a specialist student aka non-magic user trained to use swords and other weapons as a soldier for the school. Other mentions are Freddy Thorp as Riven, another specialist and the token stoner/delinquent. Theo Graham as Dane, specialist and the aforementioned token bisexual as Netflix demands of its shows. And six more actors and actresses that have a bit more screen time as the love interest of Musa, the headmistress, the tough father figure of Sky and weapons master of the specialist students, Bloom’s parents, and the father of Terra and love interest of Musa.

It was well acted as far as these kinds of young adult shows go. The young actors and actresses were clearly in the ranges of 22-25 so it was a little unbelievable that they were supposed to be playing teenagers except for Sadie Soverall, she was clearly much younger than the rest (19). The chemistry between the friends was good, and between all love interests. The adult authority figures were standard fare, not much to write home about there. The antagonist that was eventually revealed wasn’t necessarily evil, more like heavily misguided and thinks their way is the only correct way.

As I stated at the beginning, it was alright. Definitely a guilty pleasure show for me. Soundtrack was mostly alternative or indie music, whatever the kids are listening to these days. Cinematography was beautiful; English countryside and spooky trees. With it being 6 episodes long, I recommend giving it a watch if you were an old time fan of the original kids cartoon or if you’re looking for a young adult fantasy binge watch.

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.