Britannia (Season 1)

I just finished watching the first season of Britannia and I honestly can’t tell you if I like it or not. I go back and forth and it really isn’t even something I can break up into too many pros and cons. That is because it is all so intermixed that there isn’t a clear winner and loser portion.

It is about the Roman invasion of Britannia in 43 AD led by Roman Aulus Plautius. David Morrissey who played the Governor on Walking Dead does well enough, it isn’t him, or it really isn’t any of the actors. They all do well. I suspect instead I have an innate issue with how they changed the history of the event.

It is to be expected they would change it, this is a supernatural historical fantasy version of the invasion. The druids are portrayed as supernatural (the leader being 2000 years old) and living in what most would consider squalor. It just didn’t work for me.

The second part that really bugged me was the references to Rome. It is historically true that Rome (via Julius Caesar) failed to conquer fully Britannia, they did however install a King who was subservient Rome. It was the first time that Rome had utilized the system of client Kingdoms when Caesar enthroned Mandubracius as King. Rome then kept diplomatic and trading links with Britannia until they finally came back in 43AD and invaded to take it fully. Whereas the show acts like Caesar left, the Britannia went on about their lives and never heard of Romans again for 90 years.

I think with my penchant to read a lot of history, precludes me to not liking the show overall. It isn’t that its written badly, just it isn’t true and I can’t really recommend the show to others because of that. I watch too many people believing things are factual because they watched a show that is fiction that I can’t go with this show either.

Sneaky Pete (Season 2)

This review has a bit of spoilers to explain how I feel.

To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on the show for several episodes. The actors are all still great but it didn’t have the same chemistry. Pete and most of “Pete’s Family” were not in contact so we didn’t have the same relationship or interaction as the first season. The premise was a very slow version of Ocean’s 11 and they started introducing too many side characters. Then the introduction of real pete, real pete’s mom and a bunch of other things made this pretty hard to stay focused on for several more episodes.

That being said it was still enjoyable, Giovanni Ribisi makes the show work (along with Margo Martindale). They are great to watch. When they start interacting again things pick up speed and it ends up not being too bad this season. It is a bit of a drudge to push through, but once I was on the other side I don’t regret watching it. I just wished had not gone this direction.

Pros: The storytelling is good but what sells it is the acting by everyone involved. Mostly this rests on Giovani Ribisi and Margo Martindale, but everyone else does put in a bit for it.

Cons: Doesn’t have the same chemistry as the first season, without that chemistry this makes the show just “meh”.

The Path (Season 2)

I am beginning to learn that maybe there is something to the “sophomore slump” meaning the second season of a show tends to not hit the same peaks as season 1. That isn’t to say I haven’t like the show, but you can see some changes that should have happened and didn’t and some that didn’t but should have.

I want to say first of all that the acting is just as good, if not better. Aaron Paul is someone a person can identify with even more, Hugh Dancy is becoming more unhinged and the rest just flow together better.

That being said the season was too long. They added three more episodes, but that just made the main point drag way too much. Instead of telling a story the writers had to fill time and that is what made it not as high up on my list. The single biggest plot issue I had was the disappearance of the whole investigating a murder storyline. I realize it is a little bit of a spoiler to say that, but there is absolutely nothing about it in the second season, as if the writers just cut it out completely. Maybe it will come back around in Season 3, but I doubt it.

Pros: Once again Aaron Paul is great, the rest do well in acting. The character and actor for Hawk is just growing on me.

Cons: Sometimes making a longer season doesn’t make the show better. Too much filler means it takes too long to tell the story.

The Path (Season 1)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show about a Aaron Paul and a cult. I put it off watching it because it really isn’t my normal thing. Then one day I needed something to watch and thought I could blow an hour watching it. Now I have been binge watching it. What I didn’t really expect was how interesting it was.

A story about loss of faith, the prison of belief and how to deal with the in and out groups in your life was a lot better show then expected. Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame has moved out form his younger sidekick role and he carries the show. He is surrounded by other great actors like Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan.

The show is fairly quick paced as it explores the cult of Meyerism and the issues of that kind of religious dogma and fanatacism. There is a foreboding of Jonestown or Waco in the subtext, along with petrified heirarchy that seems to insinuate itself into the movement. Followed by the search for truth, not only in religious subtext, but also in what is really happening behind the scenes kind of way. Is the movement corrupt, or is it just a few people? All of it makes it interesting for drama, and that is what it is good at.

Pros: Aaron Paul is great, the pacing is fairly quick and it ends at a good point.

Cons: I am unsatisfied yet again with the main female character. They seem to be following down that rabbit hole of a woman who can’t choose, who is unable to make up her mind. Hopefully next season they will fix that.

Shut Eye (Entire Series)

It deserved more than two seasons.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a stellar breakthrough in writing, but if you enjoyed Jeffrey Donovan in Burn Notice, you will enjoy this a lot.

Following Charlie Haverford (Donovan) who is a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling businesses in the greater chunk of Los Angeles. A blow to the head from a client’s angry boyfriend intersects with a hypnosis session while auditioning a new “clairvoyant,” and suddenly, a man whose entire life has been based on fraud begins to see and feel some very real and fundamental truths. 

The show was well written, quirky and both fun and serious at the same time. Jeffrey Donovan was the central hub for the first season and that made it interesting. The second season tried to expand into the subplots with the secondary characters and that is where I think people lost interest. Not enough time on Charlie, too much time on his horrific wife. I did like that there was a scammer/psychic fraud underworld in LA. That was a new twist.

The things I disliked other then the expansion was the way the wife’s character was written, and how Charlie wouldn’t do anything about it. I also disliked that the show portrayed Romani as the illegal underground for psychics. I don’t think it was on purpose, but it played into a lot of stereotypes about Romani, when it looked like they were trying to overcome that.

Pros: Good acting, and a very up on it Jeffrey Donovan made this an interesting show.

Cons: The loss of focus on Charlie, the representation of Romani and especially how horrible they made Charlie’s wife.

Even with all that, I am disappointed there wasn’t a third season.

River (Series 1)

I have watched a lot of police procedurals, and among them several British ones. This is by far the most unique series I have seen, following Inspector River as he looks for his partner’s killer. The twist on this, his partner still talks to him, along with many other victims and/or influences on his life.

The second twist, this isn’t a supernatural show at all. River just has mental issues and his abilities at being a detective manifest that way. It also shows how that mental illness takes a toll, resulting in a downward spiral.

The acting is great with Stellan Skarsgard as the center of the show (yes he is the father of all the young acting Skarsgard including Alexander). His acting is magnificent, and is in direct relation to the decades of acting he has put in. The rest of the cast are spectacular as well with the stars being selected for their acting ability and not because they fit into some weird young Hollywood attractiveness. This is one of the reasons I love British tv, they do have attractive young actors, but their shows starts seem much more relatable, real.

There wasn’t really any negatives I had with it, except of course the short season always throws me off (being American and used to 13-22 episodes a season, 6 episodes is always quick). I truly think though that is where British TV has American TV beat. It is about telling a story, if that only takes four episodes, that is ok. They don’t have to stretch it out to 22 episodes, thus making the show lose both pacing and heart.

Pros: In the top three for cop shows I have seen, and just a generally great series.

Cons: The fact there is no confirmed season 2, although honestly it might be good to leave it finished as an excellent show.

 

Mad Dogs (Entire Series)

Mad Dogs was given a single season before Amazon decided to not renew. While I did like the show, it is probably for the best.

A pretty dark comedy that is following 4 forty-somethings who go down to Belize for a reunion that evolves into a nightmare of lies, deception, and murder. Based on a British show of the same name.

Overall the people were pretty good in it, Billy Zane (of a dozen movies including The Phantom) and Michael Imperioli (of Sopranos) were the ones I specifically recognized and were my favorite characters in the show. 

It was an entertaining show, each of the ten episodes they would make the absolute worst choice, people would die, strange people would wander into the show (one example, a little person dressed in a cat mask). Unlike a lot of other shows like this, it didn’t let itself get too dark either.

The biggest problem was ten episodes was too long for the situation. The original British show (which I hear one of the other actors in this Mad Dogs played the Billy Zane part in the original) was four episodes the first season (and two additional seasons for a total of 10). Meaning this season was two and a half times longer then the British first season and had too much filler.

Pros: Funny and surprising regularly with decent acting.

Cons: The material isn’t enough for ten episodes, they should have cut it down a bit.

Maybe I will try the British version now.

Deadwood (Entire Series)

This is for the whole series.

I really do wish the series lasted more then three years, but then again maybe it would have declined and been a mockery of itself if it had.

Set in the town of Deadwood in 1876 where it tells the tale of the town going from open frontier with gold strikes, and how the people living there got along. Fun side note, many of the characters in the series were there in real life (and by default are real people).

No, it isn’t a documentary, yes it is full of violence and sex (and let’s be honest, it doesn’t stay too close to the truth either). It starts with following Timothy Olyphant (of Justified fame) as he arrives in town. Then it truly becomes a full ensemble cast with Brad Dourif playing the Doc, Ian McShane playing Al Swearengen, Molly Parker as Alma Garrett and even Keith Carradine as the doomed Wild Bill Hickok.

There are a ton of other famous or semi-famous actors and actresses you will see, but there are so many I can’t really list them all.

The show is as good as it sounds. The acting is superb. By the third season the actors play off each other with just a word or a motion. There was so much put into each character that you could read what they were thinking and they could sometimes have conversations with each other that were in depth without more then a few words.

The filming was good, and the direction as well obviously. I am saddened that so many people have not seen it. I was especially impressed that rape didn’t play a bigger role, after all that is what most westerns are unfortunately built upon. Not saying that some things didn’t happen, but for what the show was (the Sopranos in the old west) it stayed away from that most of the time.

The only thing I thought hurt the show was bringing in Powers Boothe and his whole crew. Not that there weren’t good stories, and definitely not because of Mr. Boothe (he is great), but it took away from main characters in the beginning. While I started watching the show for Mr. Olyphant, I ended the show with Ian McShane (Swearengen) as my favorite character.

Pros: Great acting, directing, story and sets.

Cons: Perhaps too many secondary stories and plots and too many characters by mid-second season.

Now to find some more Ian McShane work.

Justified (Season 6 – Final Season)

Well it is in the can and over with and it ended on a very good note, barring one annoyance.

This season focused on Boyd and Raylan’s struggle, but involved Sam Elliott playing Avery Markham and Mary Steenburgen playing Katherine Hale as new bad guys in a tug of war between multiple groups. We also had a lot of  Wynn Duffy which I personally enjoyed.

The season was perhaps the best one to date. The acting still really good, and the fact that almost all the side characters popped up in this (or were put down as the case may be). It was a really good send off for the series.

The only issue I had was the last 20 minutes of the season finale. I won’t say what happened other than it moves forward a few years to give sort of an epilogue, but I think that is where it did a disservice to the series. Not everything needs to be wrapped up completely and sometimes its best to leave things where they end, takes away from the climatic end.

Pros: Acting, story and pace were all great.

Cons: Sometimes its best to not have an epilogue, just leave it where it stands after the final climax.

Made me want to watch Deadwood, maybe I will do that.

Justified (Season 5)

I never realized that I wanted a season to focus on Dewey Crowe’s family, but evidently I did.

Just like prior seasons Justified is entertaining to watch. This time however the story is three factions and the mixing between them. One of them is of course our main star Raylen Givens, the tough Federal Marshall. The second is Boyd Crowder and his crew (which I am just as entertained if not more so by Boyd as by Raylan). The third and final is Dewey Crowe’s family… and they were entertaining.

The backstabbing is upped a notch, the violence is pretty intense and the white knuckle moments are still there. It is true, that other than Boyd and Raylan, none of the new characters measure up to Margo Martindale (yes I am still beating her drum), but they were definitely entertaining.

Oh, and Wynne Duffy seemed to be in it more this season and I approve of more Mr. Duffy.

Pros: Still great acting and writing. .

Cons: Still no Margo Martindale, other than that things were great.

The final Season 6 is in the queue.