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

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.

TV Shows

V Wars

Ian Somerhalder as a human in a fight against vampires? Count me in were my initial thoughts. After seeing him as a vampire for 8 seasons of The Vampire Diaries, I was hoping for a decent show. I was proven wrong. This show is a muddled mess of different ideas put forth into a melting pot and hoping one of them sticks. Its first season is 10 episodes long and it premiered on December 5th on Netflix. It starts off incredibly rocky and just filled with mistakes. For example, Ian Somerhalder’s character, Luther Swann, is supposed to be a renowned scientist working on infectious diseases. Yet, when Luther goes to the Arctic to check what happened to his research team which were working on supposed long dead viruses contained underground, he doesn’t even wear any sorta quarantine materials. He and the other lead, Adrian Holmes, just waltz right on in and get exposed to an unknown biological sample.

From there the show slowly escalates demonstrating how the virus spreads and how the country reacts. It’s set in the United States. Several continuity errors arise. Such as, how are there serial murders while Adrian Holmes’ character is under quarantine, how does one character name the vampires as bloods and literally in the next scene, everyone is now calling them bloods? Did she magically telepathically tell everyone? Also said character is pretty much the reason that everything goes wrong for the vampires under the leadership of Adrian Holmes’ character, Michael. Due to her being jealous. Supposedly her character is 19 years old. And Michael thinks it’d be a great idea to make her his second in command. Then he thinks it’s an even better idea to let an old lover become his main girl. A blind man could smell the jealousy on the young girl.

The entire time I spent watching it, it felt like I was watching a half-baked idea. The effects look good but the story and plot is just flat and boring. You have random subplots that demonstrate very little other than “here’s a new character, he can shoot a gun and he’s FBI” and “she doesn’t like that she’s a vampire and won’t feed on a live human”. See how easily that was surmised? Well the show spends 5 or 4 episodes for each character respectively to establish that. It could have been done in one episode, and then we could have some juicier plot to help fill in the blandness. Oh and the sheer amount of times a character has racked an empty shotgun is hilarious. Has nobody been taught that racking a shotgun ejects the round, and if no round comes out then you’ve clearly got an empty gun.

I’d avoid watching this mess. Hard to believe the lead actor put “15 months of heart and hard work” into it. To the point that he even had to go to the ER for being overworked. It’s a dumpster fire of propaganda. Climate change melts the ice and releases a virus? No, an idiot scientist walks into a sterile lab without any quarantine and infects the world. Internment camp for potential vampires? Something something Nazis, something something US border camps, something something China. Free government handouts of medicine turn out to be poisoned? I won’t even go into that mess. It’s one thing to tell a story about vampires, but it’s another thing entirely to force world politics and problems and mold the vampire story around that. It’s just lazy propaganda with no substance.

So do yourself a favor, and never watch this. Let it die on Netflix and join the other mass of season one only shows.

TV Shows

Stranger Things (Season 3)

Earlier in one of my previous posts, The Silence (2019 – Netflix), I stated that I hope Netflix would finally have a good monster movie someday. Well, that day arrived with Stranger Things season 3 release. I know it’s not a movie but it feels like an 8 hour long movie with how each episode is paced. Each chapter tells a specific story that, when tied altogether, is a well-told tale of horror and things that go bump in the night. The ending segments of each episode led you into what would occur the next episode and thereby gave a sense of dangling the carrot or so to speak. You want to see what happens next, and this urge is not just brought on by the mystery but also the acting of everyone involved. I wanna see Steve do more, have more antics, and I wanna see more interactions with his character and others. The same goes with Hopper, I love seeing his character be on screen. I was most fond of Joyce, and she has quite changed from the overbearing, helicopter mother we met in season one.

Compared to season one, I find this season to be almost as good. It has the same level of dread, of intrigue, and of mystery. The action, when it happens, is brutal and gory and to the point. Only one scene I couldn’t watch due to the gore, and that’s from the end of episode 7 to the opening segment of episode 8. I feel most people might get queasy at the scene, but it did delivery effective horror. I enjoyed that they didn’t shy away from violence towards the kids/teens, to show that they are not invincible and can easily be hurt. And at the same time, I enjoyed that they had the kids be rather smart and capable. The interactions between the kids and “Bald Eagle” were very enjoyable and funny.

Spoilers Ahead

Now onto the bad news, the cons for me. Why are the Russians the bad guys? I understand it’s the 80’s and cold war and the Red Dawn references (even mentioned in show), but again, like with Santa Clarita Diet, that there’s a trend towards Slavs being portrayed as the bad guys. Why can’t the bad guys being localised to your own country? There was a particular character I was quite fond of and therefore knew what fate would have in store for him. I hated that they went that way. And it’s not just that character, but another character who had achieved joy and happiness in their life only to have it dashed away. I’ve also noticed that trend in shows, to have a character achieve true happiness and, so to bring horror or emotion to your viewers, you have that character killed off.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the monster – even though it reminded me of a monster I’ve read about in some nation’s legends that I cannot recall. The effects were solid and same with all the bodies that were transmogrified. It was a heartfelt tale of adventure between friends, family and lovers that conquered an ancient evil, and in the end giving us closure while teasing us with new possibilities. I recommend this show to all science fiction and monster movie aficionados for time well spent.

TV Shows

Santa Clarita Diet

The best moment in the entire series is the segment, during the first 10 mins or so, with the Serbian General. What’s actually said and, between, what is written in the subtitles is incredibly hilarious; the ending bit of that segment had me in tears. The rest of the show doesn’t ever compare since or prior to this. It’s a pervasive twist of rooting for the villain by humanising them. Before zombies, it was vampires or werewolves, or some other mythological nonsense.

Sure, Santa Clarita Diet has me laughing at lot at Timothy Olyphant’s character Joel’s antics or Skyler Gisondo’s character Eric. But, all that comedy masks the pretty twisted shenanigans going on. Some of which are, to be honest, quite messed up and I ain’t looking at the screen. Most of that action does not need to be normalised. I love the two aforementioned actors and therein lies the problem. These characters represent the normalcy of the real world and having them be accepting of cannibalism is not right.

I’m glad it got cancelled. Maybe some might enjoy having the bad guys be the protagonists but I do not; neither did I enjoy having the Slavic characters be bad guys. And not only bad guys, but generally incompetent ones at that. Oh well, can’t wait to see what other projects Timothy Olyphant will do next.