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.

TV Shows

Dirty John Season 2: The Betty Broderick Story

This season is about the case of Betty Broderick, and it’s supposed to explore how this woman ended up shooting and killing her ex-husband and his new wife. Well not even 15 minutes into the first episode, it’s more than obvious in every sense of the word that this woman is a bitch. There’s no mincing words here, she is undoubtedly mentally insane and no wonder her ex-husband divorced her. There’s no leap here to see how she snapped, she’s already certified nuts. Which speaks volumes to Amanda Peet’s acting, cause she’s nailing the role. Her character is so stubborn and naive, and incredibly selfish. It’s truly a wonder this woman even existed. She’s like an ostrich burying her head in the sand and refuses to accept reality. Her ex-husband, played by Christian Slater, is a testament to willpower and patience. Did he know she was always this way? Her own kids have to go to therapy because she’s crazy and she can’t even realize it. And anytime anyone even mentions this to her, she snaps and buries her head and turns into a child, a petulant, insolent child. She thinks if she ignores the courts then she’ll never get divorced, and it would be hilarious if she wasn’t so aggravating.

It is fundamentally clear to me that this first episode was designed to be as “click bait” as possible, in an attempt to lure in as many viewers as possible by painting Betty in the light which I’ve described her as. The writers and directors and everyone involved made her appear a bitch and crazy because then you want to see what led to that. If they had started off with the second episode and showcasing their relationship, then my mind would not have been tainted against her. I would have been against the husband because he clearly uses her and when he’s reached the point of power that he’s got, he tosses her aside. I completely understand her decision to kill him, and I would not condemn it. My problem is she killed the other woman, his new wife. To me, the other person is innocent. Sure, they may have manipulated their odds to be with your significant other but at the end of the day, the blame lies solely on your significant other. They made the choice. They alone should suffer the consequences.

Episode two starts to shine some light on how Betty ended up the way she is. Turns out her husband is a product of his times, and has her do everything in her power to make sure he succeeds at the cost of her own success. He is a man who refuses to use contraception, and naturally, she ends up having 4 children – 2 girls and 2 boys. There is a certain disconnect here between what was presented in the first episode and the second, perhaps the second episode is crafted from her viewpoint and therefore that’s why there’s this sympathetic view towards her. There is a clear viewpoint of a burgeoning dislike or even hatred towards her husband, Dan. He’s painted in unsympathetic light.

Episode three establishes that Dan pretty much used her all throughout his law school, as a scribe, or study group or whatever he needed to succeed. Again, product of the times. Wife helps husband. And you can see, that she is far more educated than she lets on. She is in fact, a feminist, fighting for equal rights. This third episode shows that she has no love for a man who cheats, divorces and then has a new marriage. That she won’t even go with her husband, as a friend to the wedding. Whereas he states that it isn’t any of his business what his friend does. So far, completely understandable. However; towards the end of the episode, even a blind man could see that Dan no longer cares for her like he used to. It’s plain to see Dan has eyes for another. And naturally, it’s the young, blond receptionist in his building. So he clearly has a type. He even goes so far as to hire her as his personal assistant, despite her lack of any qualifications, to the chagrin of Betty, who poses him an ultimatum: fire her or leave the house. Problem I find here is that Betty has forgotten her station. Dan makes all the money and therefore he has all the power. And to quote Eddie Murphy who was a little crude, but not wrong, “pussy has all the power” and if Dan ain’t getting it from her, well, here comes the pretty little assistant. It’s a classic tale of older married man meets pretty young thing and suddenly he feels like his life has been a waste and goodbye wife. Now I don’t condone that kind of behavior or support, but the truth here is, that Dan is a coward, liar and cheater. He has been emotionally cheating on his wife long before he physically did. At the end of the episode, whatya know? Dan does what I said she’d forgotten earlier. He tells her about her station, about her position, that he has all the power because he makes all the money. And folks, this is why you get a prenup.

Episode four starts off with a very telling beginning. It’s going to be about Linda and how Dan met her. And off the bat, Linda remarks how amazing his office looks, and that she loves whoever decorated it, and the sheer audacity of Dan is mind boggling. He just says “that’s lovely of you to say.” Yo, champ, what you’re supposed to say is “thanks, my WIFE decorated it”. The fact he doesn’t, tell us viewers that he’s moved on mentally from his wife. He’s already begun to emotionally cheat. And it appears that after Betty confronts him, after her ultimatum, after she asks if he’s sleeping with her, that he decides to do so. Was it out of spite? Or has he always felt like he hates Betty? As the episode moves on, there’s a psychologist at her trial speaking about gaslighting. And everything Dan does is exactly that. It’s that emotional manipulation that led to his death, he created the monster that Betty became. At the end of the episode, he finally reveals that she was right and not crazy. There was another woman all along.

Episode five is when Betty starts to give in to her anger and everything Dan does, she responds with actions that paint her in a worse light. Actions that have legal consequences. And the result is divorce with no visitation without the approval of a psychiatric facility that she has gone to, to evaluate her mental state. Even her friends during their usual dinner meets try to dissuade her from constantly calling and harassing Dan, but as I said at the beginning, she buries her head in the sand and refuses to listen. Dan has his secretary transcribing all her calls, and even she starts to think Betty is evil and insane. Even compares her laugh to the demon child in The Exorcist. It’s not until she spends time in a police cell block and has to borrow money from a friend, that she finally sorta calms down and starts using a journal for her thoughts. She also gets herself a lawyer through her friend that lent her money, and goes to that court ordered psych evaluation, yet while there, she has the audacity to say “I threaten him all the time”. She seems to revert to a state of normalcy when her lawyer informs her she can have her kids for Easter, yet when Easter rolls around, Dan changes his mind and she doesn’t get them. It feels like Dan is the biggest villain here, and such a mastermind at painting her as a horrible mother. And well, he’s not wrong. Why? She calls again despite all the numerous people telling her otherwise and her son, Ryan, answers, and that conversation is the icing on the cake; “Why can’t you grow up and start acting like a woman?” Everything the kid says is true, and classic Betty, head goes in sand, and refuses to listen. It’s not even being stubborn anymore, it’s pure unadulterated mental sickness. And then again at the psychiatrist, she gets asked if she’s ever spoken to Linda about anything, and her response? That’s right, you guessed it! Head in the sand! Tells the doctor off and leaves. At the court hearing, thankfully she gets sent to jail for six days. Maybe we’ll see that this gets her to understand the depth of her actions. As the episode comes to a close, Dan explains to his son Ryan that his mom was always this way and she’s always acted like a child when she didn’t get things her way. Remember how I wondered if he knew that she was always like that? Now we know. It’s nobodies fault but her own. She could have acted with dignity and respect, and obeyed the rule of law, and she might have turned out much better. But she didn’t.

Episode six sees her freed from jail and a reporter wants to tell her story. Later on, she goes to her oldest daughter’s graduation and again, the sheer audacity of her is truly mind boggling! Instead of making the day about her daughter, she keeps bringing in Linda (calls her a whore) and just trying to railroad what should be a day of celebration. I can totally understand why her eldest daughter would hate her and refuse to ever see her again. Betty sees an organization called HALT (help against legal tyranny) and speaks to them and gets support from them and their leader. At her court proceedings, she decides to represent herself, and learns that since the day they got married, that Dan wanted divorce. While waiting for the judge’s decision, she tries talking to the reporter who clarifies what we all know: she can’t let go. Her friend reveals to her that rumours surrounding the closed court is that she’s a child molester, which is unfounded. The judge’s decision is Dan gets sole custody and she gets a $26k payment and $16k a month. She doesn’t even work and gets that much a month? Dan sure has some tolerance. I just can’t comprehend in what world she’d want more. The episode ends on an ominous note with her buying a revolver.

Episode seven begins with Linda and her friends essentially bad mouthing Betty and making fun of her. Dan is giving a lecture on how you have to seek the truth for your client. Honestly that’s some twisted philosophy he teaches given what he’s done to Betty emotionally and at court. Betty drops the kids off back at Dan’s and while there, she steals a shirt, a dress and Dan and Linda’s wedding invitation list. In return, Linda breaks into Betty’s home and steals her private diary. This escalation causes Betty to have what might be called a nervous breakdown. Least now I understand that Betty’s accusations of Linda were not unfounded. Dan deserves someone like Linda, both are horrible human beings – sorry, were horrible. Dan has his wedding day at his home, and hires security due to Betty’s chatter about owning a gun and how well she can shoot. During this time, one of Betty’s friends comes over to keep her company. It almost feels normal. That is until she surprises her friends who are having brunch and immediately launches into a tirade of “bastard this” and “whore that” and at this point, it’s just like, pardon my language, “why the fuck can’t you let go?” Further, she has lunch with her eldest daughter and instead of caring about her, again tirade against Dan and Linda. There’s nothing more to be said about her. At this point, the picture can’t get any clearer. The episode ends with her calling everyone about what she’s done, and getting arraigned.

Episode eight, the final episode. In court, the prosecutor tells her that if Dan really wanted to be a jerk then he wouldn’t have voluntarily paid her support checks. He would have given her nothing. Meanwhile, while in prison, she gets letters from various women that were in similar positions against their ex-husbands. Her first trial ends when the jury is hung on their decision. So she gets a second trial. Before it can start, she prank calls all her former friends and gives out interviews to whatever reporters she can much to the chagrin of her lawyer. During the trial, the prosecutor questions her former friends and they all confirm everything I’ve written about her: that she’s boring and dead stuck on talking about hating Dan and Linda. While on the stand, her position is she wanted to kill herself in front of Dan and that she doesn’t remember doing any shooting. That she automatically tensed and it fired. She used a revolver. Her defense is such a load of nonsense. The prosecutor manages to successfully catch her in a lie because she corrected a news reporter about what was said in the room by Dan prior to dying despite her defense of not remembering what happened in the room. In a different scene, her lawyer tells the leader of HALT that he doesn’t think she can better even after mental help, that only thing she can do is get old. The trial ends with her being convicted on both counts of murder in the second degree, getting a lengthy life sentence. The episode concludes with her remembering events differently than they were presented to us.

To conclude, this is a masterpiece in storytelling and acting. The main character is a heinous woman who got to be where she is due to the emotional manipulation of her ex husband and ultimately due to her own inability to let go. Amanda Peet’s acting deserves numerous accolades and rewards. Also in turn, Christian Slater did a phenomenal job at portraying a man at his wit’s end and just emotionally exhausted at his ex-wife’s inability to let go. The supported cast were all also well casted, they provided that sense of realism because you know it’s been dramatised for viewers, and they helped cement the feeling of the time period. Her “friends” were excellent at being two faced. I found that I enjoyed the entire cast. I definitely recommend this for Amanda Peet’s acting alone. 10/10 watch.