Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Poll result: what's the scariest TV show ever made? [Halloween Special]

Scary TV Shows (clockwise, top-right) Carnivale, Ghostwatch, The Stone Tapes, Supernatural, Dexter

After a year's break, I finally got around to hosting a poll here at Dan's Media Digest. This one was to celebrate Halloween and determine the TV show most people consider the scariest ever made. 148 people voted and here are the results in ascending order:

MSN TV: Sky1's LAST RESORT review

Over at MSN TV today: I review the pilot of the terrific LAST RESORT, which received its UK premiere last night on Sky1. (Please note: this is a shortened version of my original review, written after the show was broadcast on ABC in the US--although it has a few new bits.)
High-concept military thriller Last Resort delivered a tense, gripping, exciting, and ambitious scenario with influences ranging from Crimson Tide, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and pulpy Tom Clancy/Clive Cussler novels. This eagerly-awaited pilot doesn't disappoint, but the only question mark hanging over the show is a familiar one: can this idea evolve and adapt to the needs of a weekly TV series, or will it turn flaccid now the cinematic pilot has aired?

Continue reading at MSN TV...

HOMELAND, 2.5 – 'Q&A'

written by Henry Bromell / directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

Homeland has the curious ability to appear very unpredictable in the moment, while in retrospect things seem almost inevitable. This season's direction and pace has astonished almost everyone who's been watching, and yet "Q&A" took a path many people predicted it would last week... although that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

DEXTER, 7.5 – 'Swim Deep'

written by Scott Reynolds / directed by Ernest Dickerson

When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. After the abysmal sixth season, it's a joy to see Dexter recover so admirably this year. I love this season at the moment, and suspect the writers are overjoyed that having Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) secret be known to Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) has resulted in such freshness. Quite aside from that major change to the show, the storylines this year feel far better integrated—with less of a feeling that characters like LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), Quinn (Desmond Harrington) and Angel (David Zayas) are being fed indigestible scraps from the table. It just feels more confident and cohesive this season, and the direction of the season feels less predictable. I think everyone thought Isaak (Ray Stevenson) was the Big Bad, but he's already behind bars and unable to bother Dexter for a very long time—although, crucially, there will come a time when that changes. I loved the undercurrent that playing more by Deb's rules, refusing to kill Isaak, has resulted in a Sword of Damocles scenario—when Dexter's usual methods offer more certainty and peace of mind.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: MISFITS, 4.1 – episode one

written by Howard Overman / directed by Nirpal Bhogal

It's not uncommon for British drama to recast from time to time, and this is something popular shows must try to turn into an advantage. Famously, Doctor Who latched onto the idea of having its time-travelling hero "regenerate" into different actors whenever the incumbent Doctor wanted to leave, or BBC chiefs felt a change was necessary. Other shows, like E4's Misfits, just have to find a way to plausibly explain the losses while introducing new blood and hoping audiences find them as appealing as the originals.

TV Picks: 29 October – 4 November 2012 (American Horror Story, Horror Europa, Last Resort, Top Gear: 50 Years of Bond Cars, Young Apprentice, etc.)

Below are my weekly picks of the best UK shows premiering between 29 October and 4 November...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Competition result: DARK SHADOWS region-free Blu-ray

Last week I held a competition for someone to win a region-free copy of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows on Blu-ray. The question posed was: which movie did Tim Burton and Johnny Deep first work together on? The correct answer is: 1990's Edward Scissorhands. Of course.

Of all the correct entries, the randomly chosen winner is:

Ian McArdell, Surrey

Congratulations, Ian! Your prize will hopefully be dispatched within the next few days. Commiserations if you didn't win this time, but please do try again when another competition is held. I always stress this, but you really do have a great chance of winning stuff here.

MERLIN, 5.4 – 'Another's Sorrow'

written by Jake Michie / directed by Ashley Way

I have to confess, I'd completely forgotten the background to the relationships this episode built on, and I'm probably not alone in struggling to remember that Princess Mithian (Janet Montgomery) was once engaged to King Arthur (Bradley James), and that Uther's death was ordered by a man called Odin (Fintan McKeown) as revenge for Arthur killing his son in a duel. Or maybe I am? Thankfully, "Another's Sorrow" wasn't impenetrable if you haven't seen, or can't remember, the episodes it acted as a quasi-sequel to. I'm not convinced I'd have enjoyed this if the same story had been done in series 2 or 3, but now that Merlin's developed a moodier aesthetic and glossier filming style, it somehow feels easier to give yourself over to the show. Maybe that's because there's less of a feeling you're 20 years older than the target audience, as they're clearly making an effort to appeal to older viewers this year—and, to be honest, original fans who are five years older and now more demanding teenagers.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


written by Bryan Fuller / directed by Bryan Singer

The Munsters was always trapped in the shadow of The Addams Family during its original TV broadcast in the 1960s, and hasn't enjoyed its rival's continuing pop-culture interest—which received a substantial rejuvenation thanks to two witty movies in the 1990s from director Barry Sonnenfeld. Ironically, Sonnenfeld would later become a producer of Bryan Fuller's Pushing Daisies television series, and Fuller was recently given the chance to update The Munsters for a new generation. Unfortunately, NBC decided against turning Mockingbird Lane into a full-blown TV series, but have instead re-marketed its pilot as a Halloween special—most likely to recoup some of the $10 million development cost. Was this decision wise or premature?

In case you don't know, Mockingbird Lane sets up the original premise of The Munsters during its pilot—as a family of monsters move into a dilapidated suburban house on the titular street: father Herman Munster, a Frankenstein's Monster now re-imagined sans the original's Boris Karloff look (Jerry O'Connell); his beautiful vampire wife Lily (Portia de Rossi); murderous vampire father-in-law Grandpa (Eddie Izzard); young son and unknowing werewolf Eddie (Mason Cook); and blonde teenage daughter Marilyn (Charity Wakefield), who's perfectly normal.

FRINGE, 5.4 – 'The Bullet That Saved the World'

written by Alison Schapker / directed by David Straiton

After a week's break so early in the season (I hate US scheduling), Fringe bounced back with "The Bullet That Saved the World", which helped put the previously disappointing "The Recordist" out of everyone's mind. The strange thing about this episode is that it actually wasn't anything too extraordinary, with Olivia (Anna Torv), Peter (Joshua Jackson), Walter (John Noble), Astrid (Jasika Nicole) and Etta (Georgina Haig) resuming their scavenger hunt around the city, looking for some important blueprints Walter stashed under a train station, but there were so many excellent moments that elevated it considerably. Peter having his mind read by an Observer while buying his daughter a necklace from a pawn shop; the return of an aged Broyles (Lance Reddick) as a resistance man deep undercover amongst The Observers; and the fun reveal that Walter's been hoarding "fringe event" paraphernalia under the lab, with one device from season 1's "Ability" being used as a distraction during a key action sequence—sealing people's orifices closed. Naturally though, the biggest surprise was the death of a regular character...


I've been a huge fan of Derren Brown's work since he exploded onto Channel 4 about 10 years ago, bringing his psychological illusions and mind trickery to the Great British Public. His impact on magic can't be underestimated and, for my money, eclipses what David Blaine did for street magic in the late-'90s. The only problem Derren faces is the growing feeling that every TV series/special he comes up with is just a twist on something he did years before, or at the very least an embellishment of an old trick. I guess there are only so many ways of hoodwinking people, or using hypnotism/suggestion to manipulate people into doing extraordinary things. It hasn't been a huge problem yet, mainly because the new wrinkles Derren's creative team dream up are always entertaining—even if the underlying principles and mechanics feel recycled.

Friday, 26 October 2012

RED DWARF X – 'Entangled'

written & directed by Doug Naylor

Better than last week's sour time-travel romp "Lemons", but "Entangled" was more of a structural mess—flailing around awkwardly trying to find a shape. There's nothing wrong with ambition, but this episode just didn't know what it wanted to do. It started with the promise of Cat (Danny John-Jules) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) becoming "quantum entangled", prompting synchronicity and coincidences (harkening back to the "luck virus" in Series V); there was then some business with Rimmer (Chris Barrie) pestering Lister (Craig Charles) about spaceship Health & Safety; then a leftfield story about Lister losing Starbug and hologram Rimmer to Biologically Engineered Garbage Gobblers in a card game; which in turn prompted a mission to try and annul the deal, before Lister's privates are destroyed by a groin-exploder the BEGG attached to his crotch; which then led to the crew discovering the Erroneous Reasoning Research Academy space station (or ERRA—so many acronyms!), where the device was created by an inept scientist called Irene (Sydney Stevenson) who's since devolved into a chimpanzee-type creature. Got all that? I've got a headache, I know that much.

MSN TV: Channel 5's HATFIELDS & McCOYS review - Part One

Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the first two-hour instalment of History Channel import HATFIELDS & McCOYS, which premiered on Channel 5 in the UK last night. It's an Emmy-winning miniseries starring Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton... but does that mean it's any good? It's a six-hour Western telling a story that won't mean anything to most Brits, after all...
As a viewer, I'm admittedly at two disadvantages with Hatfields & McCoys: I've never particularly enjoyed Westerns and, as an Englishman, I was ignorant of the real life story it's based on, which has since entered American folklore. Consequently, I knew this two-hour premiere would struggle to win me over. I'm sorry to say it failed, although the blame can be pinned on dull characters, a feeble basis for such a famous rivalry, and a storyline that simply doesn't justify its lengthy running time. Six hours total? Three feels indulgent.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Poll: what's the scariest TV show?

It's been months since I did a poll at DMD, for one reason or another, but here's a special one for Halloween. What's the scariest TV show? I'm primarily looking at all types of drama (ongoing series, soaps, miniseries, specials), so will discount reality shows and documentaries. (Although mockumentaries are acceptable.)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

MSN TV: Sky1's FRINGE review - 'Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11' (season 5 premiere)

Today over at MSN TV, I've reviewed the fifth and final season premiere of sci-fi drama FRINGE, which was broadcast on Sky1 last night. (Please note: this is a condensed version of my original review from a month or so ago, after it aired on Fox.)
It's remarkable we're watching a fifth season of Fringe, considering how low it's rated on the other side of the Atlantic. You have to give its US network Fox credit for supporting a drama that never charmed the masses--despite a first season designed to do exactly that. "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11" the fifth season opener, heralded another major shake-up as we jumped forward 21 years to a dystopian world of 2036.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 2.9 & 2.10 – 'What's My Line: Part 1 & 2'

Xander: It's a statistical impossibility for a sixteen-year-old girl to unplug her phone.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's first ever two-parter was a very mixed bag, with too much rehashed from previous episodes, but there was enough good stuff to make it slip by innocuously. If that's a good thing. "WHAT'S MY LINE: PART 1" again found Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) grumbling about being The Slayer and questioning her destiny, thanks to a school Careers Fair that, for her, won't determine the preordained future. But do any teens take notice of these things? They didn't in my day. And while the story went to some effort to make us understand Buffy's rationale, I don't really understand her complaints because there are hundreds of jobs that would suit someone who primarily slays the undead after the sun's gone down. The story also returned to the uncertainties about Buffy and Angel (David Boreanaz) becoming a couple, which the show has already covered many times before, although I quite enjoyed how they actually arranged a date at the local skating rink. It was interrupted by a vampire assassin with a bark worse than his bite, naturally.

Trailer: EVIL DEAD (2013)

I respect Sam Raimi's '80s cult classic EVIL DEAD, but much prefer the jokier sequel-cum-remake Evil Dead II. Fans have been waiting for a fourth movie from Raimi and star Bruce Campbell for around 20 years, but it never seems to happen. A remake was also mooted many years ago, but that's actually come to pass—with Raimi and Campbell as producers. Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez (who came to many people's attention with his short film Panic Attack!) is behind the remake, and Sony Pictures have finally released a full trailer for fans to nitpick. You can take a look for yourself above, but please be warned that it's NSFW and certainly not for the squeamish. NFTS?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

HOMELAND, 2.4 – 'New Car Smell'

written by Meredith Stiehm / directed by David Semel

So that's how things are going to play out! When Homeland took the unexpected decision to expose Brody (Damian Lewis) as a certifiable terrorist in only the second episode, everyone's been predicting what the writers might do next. Typically for when this sort of thing happens, the fallout feels very obvious in retrospect: Saul (Mandy Patinkin) breaking the news to Carrie (Claire Danes) in person, making the self-doubt vanish while validating her instincts; and this week Estes (David Harewood) being apprised of the situation and allowing Saul to help Carrie surveil Brody, working for his lead analyst Quinn (Rupert Friend). In many ways "New Car Smell" was a return to early season 1, when Carrie and Saul were snooping on Brody based solely on a hunch, only this time they know their target's a traitor working for terrorists...

MSN TV: Sky Living's ELEMENTARY review - 'Pilot' (season 1 premiere)

Today over at MSN TV, I take another swing at Sherlock Holmes update ELEMENTARY, which premiered in the UK on Sky Living last night. Having had a number of weeks to digest the show, following my original review, has my opinion softened or my ambivalence grown?
Elementary's problem isn't that it's inspired by the BBC's successful Sherlock. The hitch for the CBS series lies closer to home where US television is clogged with too much similar programming. CBS is such a hotbed for quirky procedurals it's remarkable they didn't update Holmes years before the BBC. The US network is just after another glossy P.I show with a ready-made fanbase to exploit, making this The Mentalist with a cultural history. Or, as someone put it on Twitter, "CSI: Sherlock".

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Watch: BREAKING SWIFT - 'We Are Never Ever Gonna Cook Together'

Have you noticed the sudden increase in Breaking Bad parodies and other funnies online? The show seems to have hit a nerve with online comedians since season 4 aired. Here's one of the funniest I've seen in awhile: Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" given a Breaking Bad-style twist. (Warning: I guess some of the lyrics and imagery can be classed as spoilers if you've yet to see this amazing show.)

DEXTER, 7.4 – 'Run'

written by Wendy West / directed by John Dahl

I'm loving this season's progress; particularly the way things seem to matter again, as Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) try to reach a mutual understanding. Over the past few years, there's every chance season 7's plots might have slightly dull (with Dexter's voice-over cluing us into whatever hazy theme or token symbolism the writers are reaching for), but this year it's working because the potentially humdrum stalk-n'-kill of femicidal body-builder Speltzer (Matt Gerald) carried significance for the main characters—as he was Dexter's example to prove the legal system's shortcomings (Speltzer walked free on a technicality after confessing). It's therefore only fair and acceptable that someone like Dexter literally takes matters into his own hands, for the ultimate good of innocent would-be victims, right?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Competition: win DARK SHADOWS on Region-Free Blu-ray

To celebrate the UK release of Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS on DVD/Blu-ray today, I have one copy of the Blu-ray disc to give-away!

This comedy is an adaptation of the cult classic US supernatural soap opera, about a 19th-century man transformed into a vampire and buried alive by a witch, who's exhumed in the 1970s to meet his quirky descendants. It stars Tim Burton, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonny Lee Miller & Chloë Grace Moretz.

To have a chance of winning this Region-free Blu-ray, just answer the following question:

DARK SHADOWS marks the eighth collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, but which film did they first work together on?

(a) Edward Scissorhands
(b) Ed Wood
(c) Sleepy Hollow

TV Picks: 22-28 October 2012 (Arrow, Brazil, Derren Brown: Apocalypse, Elementary, Girls, Hatfields & McCoy, Misfits, Scandal, etc.)

Below are my picks of the best TV shows debuting in the UK between 22-28 October...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

FRESH MEAT review: second year

I've neglected to write about the return of Channel 4's student comedy-drama FRESH MEAT, but that's no reflection on the show itself. It became one of my favourite comedies last year (slightly below Peep Show, also created by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain), and I'm pleased to report series 2's started strongly.

Writer Tony Roche's second episode was actually better than the premiere written by the show's BAFTA-winning creators. The changes to the show between series also feel smart and self-aware: Kingsley (Joe Thomas) now wears a trilby and has grown a soul patch, which helps differentiate him from his Inbetweeners character (well, visually); Josie (Kimberley Nixon) still has feelings for Kingsley, but it no longer feels like a huge focus; the writers have realised Vod (Zawe Ashton) is potentially the funniest character, so are giving the actress better material (love how she's so oblivious to being a freeloader); they've introduced the fun idea of a Dutch student called Sabine (Jelka van Houten) being a party-pooping housemate nobody likes, who's oddly accepting of the awkward atmosphere she creates; and I quite like the addition of Heather (Sophie Wu recycling her shtick in both The Fades and The Midnight Beast) as Josie's friend who starts dating Kingsley, to her quiet annoyance...

MERLIN, 5.3 – 'The Death Song of Uther Pendragon'

written by Howard Overman / directed by Justin Molotnikov

Merlin's off to its best start in years, with three strong consecutive episodes. I have less to say about "The Death Song of Uther Pendragon" than the two-part premiere, but that's only because the plot this week was so simple. Don't take that as a negative, because shows like Merlin often work best when they're telling stories that feel lean and classic. Howard Overman was an early stand-out of Merlin's writers (going on to create the wonderful Misfits for E4), so I always expect great things from episodes he's written. This hour didn't disappoint—being a moody, suspenseful, chilling ghost story that actually meant something to the character of King Arthur (Bradley James).

Saturday, 20 October 2012

SPY review – 'Codename: Growing Rogue' (series 2 premiere)

written by Simeon Goulden / directed by John Henderson

I wasn't a fan of Sky1's Spy when it debuted last year, and that's something of an understatement. The basic concept has merit (a plebeian single father of a prodigious child accidentally becomes a spy, but is therefore unable to impress his son by sharing the news), but there were fundamental flaws that preventing me from buying into the show. The biggest let-down was a ridiculous lack of espionage, as the only sign Tim (Darren Boyd) had wangled a job at MI5 was a running gag with a high-tech "talking door" and the fact his boss, "The Examiner" (Robert Lindsay), would occasionally throw a ninja star. I only actually remember one "mission" Tim was involved with, and that involved retrieving a plastic bag from atop some scaffolding. Oh, the excitement!

MSN TV: THE WALKING DEAD review - 'Seed' (season 3 premiere)

Today over at MSN TV, I've reviewed the third season premiere of AMC's THE WALKING DEAD, which had its UK premiere on FX last night. As someone who didn't care for the first season, and found half the second season mostly dull, is this zombie drama onto a winner now it's tackling the comic's revered prison storyline..?
AMC's adaptation of the best-selling Walking Dead comic has been an extraordinary success (this premiere attracted a record-breaking 10.9 million US viewers, unheard of on cable TV), but I've never been a particular fan. I love horror and zombies, but The Walking Dead didn't bring anything new to the genre when it premiered in 2010--beyond the serialised TV format to explore the concept in greater detail. The truncated first season had a terrific start it couldn't live up to; while the second season started and ended brilliantly, but got stuck in a rut during the middle. In addition, I don't see the appeal of most of the characters, and it's perhaps significant that the most interesting one, crossbow-wielding redneck Daryl (Norman Reedus), is an original creation without an illustrated source.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Friday, 19 October 2012

RED DWARF X – 'Lemons'

written & directed by Doug Naylor

My TiVo recorded a batch of Series IV episodes after last week's "Fathers & Suns", which I found myself watching in recent days. That was a mistake, because it brought Series X's scarcity of laughs into sharper relief. "Lemons" had a fun but hackneyed idea at its centre, with the gang accidentally sending themselves back in time to 23 A.D while trying to build a Swedish "rejuvenation shower", and having to traipse from England to India in order to get some lemons to power the machine's remote control for a return trip. Matters were complicated when they made the acquaintance of Jesus (James Baxter) at a marketplace, before whisking him away back to the future to escape Roman enemies and discovering he needs urgent surgery to remove a kidney stone. It sounds insane but fun on paper, but this was easily the worst episode of Series X so far, and now the novelty of Red Dwarf's return has worn off I'm feeling pessimistic about the second half of its run.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM review – 'Welcome to Briarcliff' (season 2 premiere)

written by Tim Minear / directed by Bradley Buecker

I watched all of American Horror Story last year; mostly out of a grim fascination than any attachment to the thin characters or their convoluted storylines. From two of the sick minds that brought us Glee (Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk), it was always apparent they only have two settings: "too much" and "much too much". Subtlety isn't inherent better than tactlessness, but AHS always felt too overblown to become genuinely scary. Frightening events happened very regularly (most paying homage to films like The Exorcist and The Shining), but did it ever get under your skin and make it difficult to sleep at night? I don't think so. AHS threw so much at viewers that it was difficult to care about anyone or anything, as the show instead became something of an endurance that was amplifying its own shortcomings. There were a handful of great episodes (I remember really enjoying half its Halloween two-parter), some enjoyable performances (such as the superb Jessica Lange), and the occasional successful surprise (like the daughter having died weeks ago), but in general terms I found AHS an unwieldy disappointment.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 2.7 & 2.8 – 'Lie to Me' & 'The Dark Age'

Buffy: You die, and a demon sets up shop in your old house; and it walks, and it talks, and it remembers your life, but it's not you.

This is now a very different show compared to its first season. "LIE TO ME" didn't even have a monster for Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to fight of clear supernatural origin; instead, it was a human villain in childhood crush Ford (Jason Behr). The episode also spent a chunk of time keeping its cards close to its chest, so I wasn't sure where the story was headed until Ford visited a club for Anne Rice-worshipping vampire obsessives. I'm so glad Buffy the Vampire Slayer has reached this creative juncture, because it makes for far more interesting and texture storytelling. I had a feeling creator Joss Whedon was behind this hour, and my hunch was proven correct after reading the credits (he even directed it).

TNT pickup Darabont's L.A NOIR

After writer-director Frank Darabont was fired from AMC's The Walking Dead, he almost immediately started work adapting John Buntin's book L.A Noir for television.

The book tells of the epic battle between the LAPD and Mickey Cohen, a former boxer turned mob boss in the 1940s. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Pacific) will play the lead, an ex-Marine turned cop who also has to deal with the corrupt police force around him. Also involved are Neal McDonough (Justified), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Jeremy Strong (The Happening) and Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead).

Thomas Jane (Hung, The Mist) will also guest-star in the pilot as a gangster with anger management issues called Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, while Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) will appear as a mediocre comedian and mob associate.

Cable network TNT (who are behind Falling Skies) have picked up L.A Noir for a brief six episode run, according to Variety—showing similar caution to AMC when they first announced The Walking Dead. If L.A Noir's a success, expect a more usual 10-13 episode second season.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Trailer: MISFITS series 4 coming soon

E4 have released the first trailer for Misfits' fourth series, which I'm guessing means we only have a few weeks to wait. It appears to confirm the new character's super-powers are x-ray vision and telekinesis, but also hints that another "super-storm" is going to hit the estate. Well, unless that's purely an artistic choice for the 40-second teaser, to remind us about where these powers first came from.

There's no premiere date for Misfits yet, but I'm guessing 28 October or 4 November...

REVOLUTION, 1.5 – 'Soul Train'

written by Paul Grellong / directed by Jon Cassar

Another decent episode of Revolution—which has become this TV season's nicest surprise. That said, the writing was noticeably blunter in many ways; particularly the pre-blackout flashbacks to Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), where it was revealed he was once a mild-mannered salesman with a noisy teenage neighbour problem. I appreciate the idea that this post-apocalypse has changed people—or allowed them to indulge dark impulses or chase power—but the script was a bit heavy-handed with Neville's back-story; So the quiet family man, who took out his daily frustrations on a punch bag, only became a bad-ass when a neighbour was caught looting his home and almost beat him to death in front of his wife (24's Kim Raver) and son (J.D Pardo)? Okay, I guess. Esposito made it work because he's a fine actor, but it just felt too predictable to me. Better was the climax's surprise, where Neville's comrade Nate was revealed to be his grown-up son Jason from the episode's flashbacks—which, I'll be honest, I didn't see coming. But even if you did realise this, you can't disagree that's a great way to bring Nate/Jason closer to the drama.

HOMELAND, 2.3 - 'State of Independence'

written by Alexander Cary / directed by Lodge Kerrigan

I loved how this episode began: teasing us with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) having Brody's (Damian Lewis) confession confiscated by airport customs official. It was something I didn't predict might happen last week, which was reason alone to believe this was the direction things would take (Saul knowing Brody's a traitor but without the evidence), but I was pleased this was a tongue-in-cheek deception. Saul's too clever for that to happen, so presumably hid a useless SD card for customs to find in his diplomatic briefcase, with the incriminating video concealed somewhere less obvious...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

DEXTER, 7.3 - 'Buck the System'

written by Jace Richdale / directed by Stefan Schwartz

After two sloppy seasons, I'm still poised for Dexter's seventh to turn into a catastrophe, but it hasn't happened yet. In fact, I found myself enjoying "Buck the System" more than the previous episodes, although obviously they gave this hour its foundations to build on. I also couldn't help wondering if the writers are kicking themselves about not letting Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) in on Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) secret earlier, because it's adding a whole other angle to episodes and giving both characters their best material in years. This was the episode where Dexter had to convince his sister that vigilantism has advantages over legal crime fighting, to allow the character to go back to doing what he does best—and considering this is only the third episode, it succeeded in a plausible way that didn't seem rushed or forced.