I review the first four episodes of BBC America's paranormal thriller, starring John Simm and Mira Sorvino...
HOMELAND! THE FLASH! CONSTANTINE! GOTHAM! More!
Fluffy time-travel historical romance for girls? THINK AGAIN!
Was this the best episode in a very, very long time...?
Syfy have a new zombie series; but it's not as good as THE WALKING DEAD, of course...
Summer 2014's almost over, but which TV show kept you most entertained?
Hiro returns to Japan to persuade his friend to help him stop the nuclear attack on New York, Niki buries the dead bodies of her enemies in the desert, while Matt Parkman officially joins the FBI's search for serial-killer Sylar...
After the initial rush of new characters, new powers and new threats of recent weeks, things calm down in Episode 3, with new writer Jeph Loeb seeking to clarify and gently nudge along the show's fresh web of ideas.
One Giant Leap is disappointing after the fine work produced last week that made Heroes a must-watch show, primarily because it's increasingly clear some of the character's storylines are plain drab compared to others.
Hiro's journey remains the most addictive, although this week's reliance on the comic-book that predicts his actions is a bit silly -- why not just read the last page and save yourself a lot of hassle?
Nathan and Peter Petrelli are perhaps the most frustrating characters at the moment, although the exploitative Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) is suitably smarmy and Peter's boyish belief in his greater destiny is performed well by Milo Ventimiglia. It's just that the political backdrop isn't being used very compellingly.
Hayden Panettiere (Claire) is sexy and likeable, but despite having one of the best powers (invincibility), and an important link to series mythology (the bespectacled villain is her step-father) her story so far is unremarkable and underwritten. This week a tired and predictable date-rape angle is used to unconvincing effect.
Ali Larter (Niki) spends most of the episode burying bodies, with her son mysteriously able to sleep through it all in the back of a convertible car parked in a desert. It's little oddities like this that wrankle in the show and give it that half-assed atmosphere of writers desperately trying to juggle an overly-complicated sub-plots. Still, we at least get the information that Niki's ex-husband is a murderer. Is he the maniac Sylar introduced last week?
Ah yes, Sylar; the super-villain being tracked by Greg Grunberg's telepathic cop Matt and Clea Duvall's bottle-blonde Fed. It appears Sylar can control peoples' actions and might also have a few other abilities (he seems to vanish, but then again... most villains have that habit in the world of television!)
A review of any episode can quickly degenerate into simply recounting the various plot developments, so I'll stop there. Just be assured that while One Giant Leap lacks the bite of last week, Heroes is still moving in a strong direction and should sustain itself for awhile yet.
At the moment Heroes is 80% set-up and 20% development. The balls are still being thrown into the air (a main cast member has yet to be introduced even 3 episodes in!), so I just hope they don't come crashing down too soon.
Heroes isn't a particularly clever or well-written drama; examples of mediocre writing abound, particularly when you realize that every hero has a lone confidant (Claire's friend, Hiro's co-worker, Niki's babysitter, Mohinder's neighbour, Peter's brother, Isaac's friend, Matt's FBI accomplice, etc... it's spooky!), or consider the unlikely fact Mohinder's next-door neighbour Eden is so acquainted with his father's work! You can feel the writers' desperation at trying to shoehorn in a "sounding board" for Mohinder's character.
But, while flawed at a writing level, Heroes has ambition and imagination to spare. For fans, there's even a strange symbol that seems to be appearing throughout the episodes... and, well... yes, there's yet another eye-popping final scene to make you tune in next week...
The Sheriff arrives in Locksley and demands the townsfolk tell him where Robin is hiding, not realizing that Robin has been captured by a gang of thieves in Sherwood Forest...
After the lacklustre opening episode, the sense of fun picks up with Sheriff Got Your Tongue?, with a more relaxed sense of adventure and the sense that the show is moving into a comfort zone.
This is still amiable and lighthearted stuff, perhaps not to everyone's taste in the wake of gritty mediavel movies such as Kingdom Of Heaven and King Arthur, but it should please the family demographic.
There is the potential for problems further down the line, with the revelation in this episode that Robin lacks the killer instinct following his stint in the Crusades. This could be a method of ensuring Robin simply doesn't assassinate the Sheriff (something that inexplicably never happens in any Hood incarnation), but it could also be a badly-judged way of limiting the bloodshed for a pre-watershed show. If proved true, the sight of arrows harmlessly shooting weapons out of hands and thunking into trees to scare villains could become tiresome and repetitive.
Jonas Armstrong remains charismatic, but the youthful cast don't carry the gravitas some a gang of thirtysomethings would. At times it's like watching naughty schoolboys running around the forest. You half expect them to start having games of conkers and building treehouses, before their mothers call them in for tea.
As such, Richard Armitage and Keith Allen are the most enjoyable presences so far, as Guy Of Gisbourne and the Sheriff respectively. With age comes experience, and both actors chew the scenery with just the right amount of panache. In particular, Allen gets more to work with this week and has quite a few scenes to sink his teeth into.
Sam Troughton as Much is an energetic and likeable character, seemingly playing his sidekick in a similar vein to the Hobbits Merry and Pippin from Lord Of The Rings. Gordon Kennedy isn't quite the physical presence required for Little John, and a subplot about his estranged wife and son seemed a bit forced.
But the really frustrating thing about Robin Hood so far is the quality of the writing. Dominic Minghella's dialogue is a little clunky, but the real problem is the storylines, which have so far thrashed around all over the place from set-piece to set-piece, usually involving the rescue of people from Nottingham Castle.
At the moment I'm willing to put this down to "growing pains" as the series seeks to stamp its own identity on such a well-known story. But, once the pieces are all in place, I hope the series doesn't degenerate into a series of overly-familiar rescue scenarios week after week. It will be difficult, as the Robin Hood story is a relatively simple one that can be sucinctly told in a two hour movie, so spreading the narrative indefinitely for years (while keeping audience interest in the Robin vs Sheriff and Robin-Marian romance) will be tricky.
In summation, there is enough quality in the performances and production to make Robin Hood worthwhile. This episode kept my interest and contained a handful of good scenes, although the lack of violence (Robin's arrows haven't struck flesh) and a haphazard sense of plotting is so far keeping this series from flying high.
4 Oct 06. ABC, 9/8c pm
WRITERS: J.J Abrams & Damon Lindelof DIRECTOR: Jack Bender
CAST: Matthew Fox (Jack), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Michael Emerson (Ben), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliette), Julie Bowen (Sarah Shepherd), John Terry (Christian Shepherd), M.C Gainey (Tom) & Blake Bashoff (Karl)
WARNING: I hate spoilers and always try to avoid them. However, with Lost it's impossible to discuss anything without mentioning things that could be classed as spoilers. I strongly suggest you don't read this review until you've seen the episode. I'll never ruin major surprises (like character deaths), and do my best to avoid them in general, but don't blame me if I indirectly ruin something for you...
Jack, Kate and Sawyer find themselves held captive by The Others in a strange complex somewhere on the island...
After a stunning pre-credits sequence, easily one of Lost's most jaw-dropping moments, the season 3 premiere settles into an interesting but ultimately unmomentous story. Unlike last year, the fallout to the preceding season's finale is nowhere near as unpredictable as Desmond and The Hatch was. Instead, A Tale Of Two Cities is a fairly run-of-the-mill story of imprisonment and mind games.
This week's flashbacks focus on Jack, a character who was the focus in season 1, only to fade into the background during season 2. It doesn't help that the writers have gradually made Jack quite a whiny and tortured person, as he was far more enjoyable to watch as the tough but kind-hearted doctor.
Jack's history with his alcoholic father and marital problems has never been particularly interesting to me, despite the always excellent presence of John Terry as Christian Shepherd. Another piece of Jack's puzzle is presented to us, although after two years it's becoming difficult to care about some of the characters' histories when the present day island-based adventure is now far more interesting. Only Locke has a flashback storyline I'm desperate to see reach a conclusion.
Anyway, it transpires that The Others live in more modern accomodation than you'd expect, and have access to "The Hydra" (a underwater hatch, explaining season 2's shark). It's still not clear if The Others are remnants of DHARMA, but at this moment it's difficult to think why else they'd be there! Of course, straight answers are never very forthcoming with Lost, with any answer usually spawning more questions.
Sawyer finds himself locked in a cage that apparently used to contain a polar bear (a definite explanation for where the season 1 polar bear came from), so it would seem Sawyer and Kate are being kept in a zoological station of some description. Why? Well, folks, that's another question...
To be frank, A Tale Of Two Cities does very little beyond accustom the viewer to the new locations and characters. The most enjoyable and rivetting moment happens in the first five minutes, with everything else failing to match it. Elizabeth Mitchell joins the cast as Juliette, another enigmatic Other and sexy blonde (the number of identikit sexy blondes on the show is staggering and increasingly confusing...)
The really good news is that Michael Emerson is now a main cast member as Henry Gale (real name Ben, we discover). Emerson is a wonderful actor and brings a much needed creep factor that unsettles the screen whenever he's around. At the moment it appears Ben is the leader of The Others, although you can never be sure of anything with this show! Where's Miss Klugh?
Overall, A Tale Of Two Cities isn't a bad episode, but it's certainly not as dramatic as the season 2 premiere. In fact, much of what happens was predicted by fans throughout the summer, and it's worrying that the pre-credit twist (while undeniably excellent) is basically the same trick performed in last year's premiere. Together with the fact season 3's opening hours will be split (hydra hatch/boat) just like season 2' (swan hatch/boat) is another echo that makes it seem like the writers have fallen into a pattern.
Then again, every time you suspect Lost is about to jump the shark, it manages to get back on track and throw a delicious curve ball. I hope season 3 will continue to see the show evolve into new areas now we're out of The Hatch. Perhaps a few answers to some long-standing questions might also be in order, as it would be a mistake to store up all the answers for the final season.
Just to recap; I reviewed the first episode of Heroes (in a rough-and-ready format) a few months ago here, and much of what I said at the time is still true. Some problems were ironed out by the time it premiered on NBC, such as a more plausible rescue from a fire-ravaged building, but the scattershot pacing and characterisation remained. Overall, I gave the Pilot a rating of 2/5, but the finished product was a more solid 3/5.
Don't Look Back finds Peter in hospital following his leap from a building... Hiro discovers a comic-book that has predicted his arrival in New York... Claire averts celebrity status for her heroism... Mohinder finds an ally to help him trace his father... and Niki discovers a frightening side to her power...
The amazing thing about Don't Look Back is how it hits the ground running and introduces a number of new elements that immediately make Heroes one of the most interesting shows on television, if still the most unoriginal and thinly written.
Ali Larter continues her impressive work as Niki's power goes from being the most ludicrous to the most original and intriguing. Of all the characters she undoubtedly has the strangest ability, and her character's struggle is the most dramatic aspect to the show at the moment.
Masi Oka could so easily become the most annoying character on TV (and if they don't reign in his cute sci-fi references, that could still be the case), but right now Oka's made Hiro a very watchable bundle of energy. It helps that Hiro's powers are perhaps the most impressive in the show, and his storyline the best thing about Heroes at the moment.
I'm not going to needlessly churn over the rest of the cast's actions this week, needless to say that some characters are still underused -- Isaac the precognitive painter is effectively a walking plot device at the moment! Mohinder is the lynchpin to the series, and there are signs his investigation into his father's death could evolve into something more interesting than first thought.
The main interest this week is the arrival of another hero, namely Greg Grunberg as a cop called Matt Parkman who discovers he has the ability to read minds. This comes in useful at a crime scene where FBI Agent Audrey Hanson (Clea Duvall) is investigating a serial-killer known as Sylar. It's with the mysterious Sylar that another new component to Heroes is introduced, as Sylar is clearly gifted with strange abilities himself (a family he murdered were frozen stiff and had their brains removed!)
The new additions to the show introduced in Don't Look Back go a long way to making it compulsive viewing already, despite only a few characters being written with any depth, and the dialogue being a little weak. There's also the vague sense that writer/creator Tim Kring just has a list of cool moments and revelations to throw into the story whenever the script runs out of steam. If true, Kring clearly can't keep that trick up forever, but for now he's done a decent job of introducing the many characters and plot-threads.
The final scene with Hiro is such a spine-tingling moment it surely ranks as one of the best climaxes to any sci-fi show of the past few years. For the moment, Heroes is on a roll I didn't expect based on the competent, but worrying, first episode.
My only concern is that once everyone's powers are explained and developed fully, the characters will remain relatively empty and the series will struggle to keep its momentum. However, with so many characters, a growing mix of personal and global perils, not to mention the overall mystery, Heroes should make for great entertainment in its first season at the very least.