Striking Out Series 2 Review

  • Series Title: Striking Out
  • Season: Series 2
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: RTE (Ireland)
  • Cast: Amy Huberman, Emmet Byrne, Neil Morrissey, Rory Keenan, Maria Doyle Kennedy
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R1, NTSC)

Striking Out Series 2 picks up where Series 1 left off, with Ray in jail and Tara suddenly evicted from her new office – as well as Pete losing his coffee shop. Tara joins forces with an experienced solicitor, George Cusack (also a woman), and barrister, Vincent Pike, and together they get Ray out of jail and out on bond. Meg regrets setting up Ray so she gives evidence to George that the Guarda who arrested Ray were acting outside their remit (police district) and calling into question additional bogus charges (resisting arrest, intent to distribute drugs, hard drug possession (Ecstasy and others). However, the series never seems to change Ray’s status from “out on bond” to anything else.

Tara and George end up sharing an office. It’s cozy, small, messy, smoky, and there isn’t much privacy, especially for two solicitors working on separate cases. This causes the occasional problem throughout the season. George is tough, but barely making it as a solicitor – so she has to take the cases and clients she can get, similar to Tara. Tara meanwhile is trying to specialize in family law, but she has to take whatever clients she can.

Vincent is heading an official inquiry into a cost-overrun scam on a new hospital building. The company that won the bid to build the hospital did so with the lowest bid. But as the hospital was being built it ran into significant cost overruns. These costs actually pushed the hospital construction budget to higher than the highest bid. Also, several government ministers seem to have personally profited from the deal, and Dunbar’s – Tara’s old firm seems to be involved in the whole scheme. As the season develops, Vincent and his inquiry have successes and failures. Watching Vincent at his best (and worse) is fascinating.

Tara is still struggling, but once Ray is out of jail and she’s found a new office, she’s doing OK. She starts taking information from Meg again – even though she should know she can’t trust Meg after she got Ray arrested and herself evicted. Tara also dumps Pete (the coffee shop guy) and starts dating. She becomes very close to Sam, Eric’s younger brother. Tara is also now friends, but not romantic with Eric. It’s fascinating to watch Tara’s legal cases, but I found her romantic encounters less interesting. Yes, she needs to move on from Eric – but taking up with his brother? Bad move. Especially when Sam is a lot more involved in Dunbar’s shenanigans than he lets on.

Still, I love this series! Tara is someone you can root for, and she’s grown since last season, even though she still can be a bit too naive and trusting (especially for a lawyer). I miss Pete from last season – he seemed like a good guy, but I liked George, she’s lots of fun. Dublin and the surrounding areas look beautiful and like other series (Shetland especially) Striking Out balances the beauty and even glitz of city and country life with people just being horrible to each other. Tara is a solicitor not a barrister, so it’s seldom criminal cases (and if one of her clients ends up in court she needs to get a barrister to help her) but some of the family law cases are brutal. The series has also opened up more visually – last season there were a lot of frames within frames within frames, which visually underscored the trap Tara was in – this season as she’s grown, so has her world, and it’s beautiful.

I highly recommend Striking Out, and I sincerely hope there is a third series.

Read My Review of Striking Out Series 1.

Striking Out Series 1 Review

  • Series Title: Striking Out
  • Season: Series 1
  • Episodes: 4
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: RTE (Ireland)
  • Cast: Amy Huberman, Emmet Byrne, Neil Morrissey
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R1, NTSC)

Tara Rafferty seems to have it all – a lucrative career as a solicitor at a prestigious Dublin law firm, wealth and privilege, and she’s about to marry Eric, the son of the head of her law firm, a man she loves. Then it all blows up around her. The series begins with Tara at her Hen Party (bachelorette party), she makes a snap decision to drop in on her fiancé but finds him in bed with another woman. Right there and then Tara calls off the wedding. The next day she moves her personal items and files out of her office.

Tara is now on her own, getting by any way she can, picking up clients as she goes. Her office is in the back of a coffee shop, and when one of her clients needs a job to stay out of jail, she hires him as her office boy. He recommends a friend to help her with some “IT stuff” and soon Tara has hired Meg as well as her investigator (and sometimes hacker). Tara has a good heart, and she cares about people – but she’s young and too trusting.

Meanwhile, Eric, her ex-fiancé, is essentially stalking her – he shows up at her flat, in court when she’s presenting a case (because the barrister didn’t arrive), and at her new office. Eric insists he “still loves her” and his fling “doesn’t matter”. Tara sees through this and tells him it’s over and to leave her alone – repeatedly. But Tara’s mother, her father, Eric’s mother, and even her friends tell Tara she should forgive Eric and go back to him. In addition, Tara keeps getting cases that in some way or another come back to infidelity. Even her clients tell Tara she’s better off with Eric and the privileged life he can offer her.

But Tara defies all the social pressure and discovers she likes being on her own. She likes helping fellow underdogs. And for the first time, she really enjoys being in charge of her own life and making new friends and keeping the one trusted old one that stood by her decision to cancel the wedding. You can’t help but like Tara and her motley crew: Ray the office boy, Pete the coffee shop owner, and Vincent the down on his luck alcoholic barrister who helps her present cases in court.

This is a brilliant series about a woman’s journey to find herself and to say no to social convention and pressure. I enjoyed it very much! Even though at times Tara seems like a bad or at least inexperienced solicitor (her clients keep lying to her and she keeps believing them), she’s also someone you can pull for and hope things work out for her. Her new friends are also great – even as they work through their own issues. Striking Out, like Tara Rafferty herself, walks it’s own path, becoming a unique series in its own right, and I whole-heartedly recommend it.

Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3 Vol 2 Review

  • Series Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Season: Series 3 Vol. 2
  • Episodes: 13, plus bonus episode
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R2, PAL)

This review contains spoilers for Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3, Volume 2 (episodes 14-26).

One of the main differences between Thunderbirds Are Go and the original Thunderbirds series is that Jeff Tracy, the boys’ father, has been missing, presumed dead, for the entire series. Although they occasionally have found signs of their father, such as when Gordon discovered a crashed plane that their father flew on the ocean floor, for the majority of the series, the Tracy boys have been running International Rescue, their father’s dream on their own. The cliffhanger ending of Series 3 part 1 had the Tracy boys receiving a signal from their father. It indicated he was alive but stranded several light-years away.

Series 3 Volume 2 opens with a two-parter that picks-up where the cliffhanger ended. We see Jeff Tracy’s final mission – attempting to stop the Hood from stealing the Zero-X Faster-than-light craft, a mission that ends with the Hood’s escape and the space ship exploding in a fireball that takes Jeff with it, or so the Tracy boys and Jeff’s mother always thought. Following new leads, the boys discover new evidence – the Zero X didn’t explode but rather launched into space. Jeff may very well be alive! However, Brains analyzes the signals they found earlier and the trajectory they have – and realizes Jeff is eight light-years away in the Oort Cloud. The only way to rescue him is to build a new spaceship. Brains starts to build the Zero-XL.

You’d think there would be hints of Brains progress or one step forward two steps back as he develops the ship, but Series 3 Volume 2 actually has several episodes of regular rescues with little or no mention of Brains’ progress. It actually works, because we know Brains has a very important project, but the boys must still fulfill their father’s mission, the mission they now take as their own: International Rescue – rescuing people who would otherwise have no chance at all. And these rescue stories are very good, big, colorful, exciting, and even fun.

The end of the season is several interconnected episodes leading to the rescue attempt of Jeff Tracy. Brains admits he needs help completing the Zero-XL. The Tracys’ turn to the engineer that built the engine: The Mechanic. Now held in isolation at a secret GDF space prison, they go to ask for his help. But the Chaos Crew, Havoc and Fuse are already there. The Choas crew had caused trouble throughout the season, though the Tracys had seemed to be getting through to Fuse occasionally. As the Chaos Crew destroy the Hex space prison, Alan, Kayo, and two space pirates fight for their lives. The Mechanic rescues Kayo but then the two are locked in with a bomb. The Mechanic again rescues Kayo but appears to stay behind to get blown up. He later arrives on Tracy Island – he will help rebuild the Zero XL T-Drive engine if Brains permanently removes the Hood’s control over him. Brains fights off the Hood in a digital realm and succeeds – and the Mechanic helps Brains build a successful T-drive engine. The new Zero XL includes all five Thunderbirds.

The final two-parter of the set, “The Long Reach”, has all five Tracy boys boarding the Zero XL with Brains on a mission of their lifetime – the mission to rescue their father. Kayo is originally in the Zero XL as well, but when the Choas Crew arrive she leaves and uses Thunderbird Shadow to protect the launch. The FTL spaceship launches, they pick up John and Thunderbird 5 and then launch towards the Oort Cloud. Scott’s countdown is awesome!

Arriving at the Oort Cloud the Zero XL has overshot and is inside the cloud of ice and rock, the Tracys take Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 to investigate their father’s signal. At first, he still appears to be missing, but when Scott gets in trouble it’s Jeff that rescues him. Jeff and the boys return to the Zero XL only to discover the Hood was a stowaway who attacked Brains. They quickly overwhelm the Hood and lock him in a storage closet. Jeff gives the countdown to return home.

Meanwhile, on Tracy Island the Chaos Crew attack but the Mechanic, Grandma, Kayo, Lady Penelope, Parker, and Sherbet defeat them. The GDF arrives to arrest the Chaos Crew. Then Zero XL returns with two extra passengers and the GDF will arrest the Hood as well.

I loved series 3 volume 2 of Thunderbirds Are Go. The rescues are actually also awesome and don’t involve the Chaos Crew interfering most of the time. But what holds the series together is the search for the Tracys’ father, Jeff Tracy. This gives the story an emotional core and resonance. I ended-up rewatching the main stories about the Search for Jeff Tracy twice and they were just as good and just as emotional the second time around as the first. I highly recommend this series and this volume in particular.

Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 1.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 2.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 1.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 2.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3 Volume 1.

Shetland Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios, presented by Britbox)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

The severed hand and arm of a young man washes up on a beach in the Shetland Islands, and it is soon followed by the discovery of the man’s head in a duffel bag. The man was Daniel Ugara and he was in Shetland to find his kidnapped sister, Zizi. This leads DI Perez into a case of human trafficking and murder. The young woman’s estranged mother also arrives in Shetland looking for her, but it becomes apparent that not only is she a victim, but she’s desperate and possibly violent. Could she be driven to kill those she thinks responsible for the death of her son and the kidnapping of her daughter?

Season 5, as with previous season, sets the wild beauty of the Shetland Islands in sharp contrast to horrific, violent crimes – in this case, people trafficking and multiple murders. And taking place in a small community, even those close to DI Perez might be involved – even if unwittingly. Shetland Season 5 is a brilliant long-form mystery. We hope Perez finds the missing girl alive, and the clues and red herrings alike keep the story moving along. It’s a cracking good mystery and one who’s resolution I’m not going to spoil. I highly recommend Shetland, especially season 5.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.
Read my Review of Shetland Season 3.
Read my Review of Shetland Season 4.

No Offence Series 2 Review

  • Series Title: No Offence
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 7
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Sarah Solemani, Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Saira Choudhry
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

Season 2 of No Offence starts off with a bang as a bomb goes off at the funeral of the son of a mobster. This sets off a mob war, which is precisely what the bomber wanted. The series sees DI Viv Deering and her team setting their eye on Nora Attah and her son, Manni – leaders of a mob in Manchester. However, most of their tactics don’t seem to work and make things worse, especially when they involve Cathy’s sister, Donna, who had worked for the Attahs in the past.

No Offence is a fascinating, brilliant, well-written, and shocking series. DI Viv Deering has no sense of personal modesty and doesn’t let anyone push her around. She’s not too sure of her new boss, DCI Christine Lickberg, and spends most of her time running her team without checking with her boss. Joy has settled into her role as detective sergeant. Dinah is still caring for Cathy and her newborn child, though Cathy is now living with her sister, Donna.

The season follows the gains and losses of Deering and her team as they try to catch Nora and her son, especially after the horrific deaths of five young teens during a fire in a locked sweatshop apartment. It’s a fascinating ride. I highly recommend this series.

Read my review of No Offense Series 1.

Riverdale Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Riverdale
  • Season: Season 3
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the third season of Riverdale.

Riverdale Season 3 opens with Archie being accused of the crime of murder – which he didn’t commit. Though the trial ends in a deadlocked jury and a mistrial, Archie takes a plea deal anyway and is sent to a juvenile detention facility where the warden runs an illegal underground fight club for Hiram Lodge. Archie is forced to get involved in the club. But when he’s threatened with a transfer to Lodge’s for-profit prison, Veronica helps him escape and he and Jughead head to Canada.

Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty spot two boys playing a game, Griffins and Gargoyles at Pop’s Diner, later that night they are found in Fox Forest, victims of a ritual – one is dead and the other is taken to the hospital in critical condition. The second boy later commits suicide, telling Betty he will “ascend” with the Gargoyle King. The Gargoyle King will be the villain of the season, and Betty and Jughead spend the season trying to find out who he is and to stop him. The game, Griffins and Gargoyles, with its characters and quests, mimics life in Riverdale

Meanwhile, Betty’s sister Polly has already joined a cult called “The Farm” and she gets her mother deeply involved. Soon Alice Cooper is turning over her life savings, and Betty’s college fund to Edgar at The Farm, she even sells her house and gives the money to the Farm. Betty keeps trying to talk her mother out of all this, but it doesn’t work.

It turns out Griffins and Gargoyles isn’t new, but old – our characters played the game in high school. They formed “The Midnight Club”, sneaking into Riverdale High School at night to play. But then they have a wild “Ascension Night” and Alice sees the Gargoyle King and Principal Featherhead (Anthony Micheal Hall) is murdered. The Midnight Club realize the poisoned chalices were meant for members of their club, so they stop playing G&G, disband The Midnight Club, and vow never to speak of it again. No one seems to know which Midnight Club member was a murderer.

The musical episode for the season is Heathers the musical and it’s particularly well done, with the songs and characters tying in with the actual Riverdale characters at the moment it takes place in the story.

So the two villains are the Gargoyle King and The Farm, run by Edgar EverNever, who also seems to have some connection to Griffins and Gargoyles. The season’s episodes have Betty and Jughead, with occasional help from other characters, involved in solving these mysteries.

In the end, Edgar’s “daughter” Evelyn, who is attending Riverdale High and recruiting new members, is found to be his wife, who has been repeating her junior year at every high school to help Edgar with his con game. The Gargoyle King is Chic, who, among other things, impersonates Jason Blossom (which gets Cheryl under Edgar’s control). Chic, in turn, is controlled by Penelope Blossom and though he’s in jail, Hal Cooper, Betty’s serial killer father. Hal escapes prison towards the end of the season and again becomes the Black Hood to harass Betty and her mother.

I didn’t really care that much for Season 3 of Riverdale. Griffins and Gargoyles (G&G) is obviously referencing Dungeons and Dragons, a game some parents thought was “Satanic” in the 1980s – even though D&D is actually a cooperative game that fires the imagination. Plus – all you need to play are paper, pencils, the player manuals, and the gamemaster manual – no expensive consoles or equipment or subscriptions. I found it annoying that Riverdale made G&G so evil (and unbelievable that Penelope came up with the game as she seems to have no sense of imagination at all). Archie gets involved in boxing, thinking he can make it a career, even though he keeps losing – which makes no sense. Veronica spends several episodes trying to get Archie free but then breaks up with him, briefly taking up with Reggie (they are cute together, and I feel bad for Reggie because you know Veronica won’t stay with him). The Farm is this horrible cult, and in the very last episode, after Edgar and his followers escape and leave Riverdale, we find out the FBI was investigating and had an agent on the inside. This agent had plenty of opportunities to reveal herself to Betty or others – yet she doesn’t. Plus, Edgar steals organs from several Riverdale teens, including Kevin and Fangs, so you have to wonder how an FBI agent let that happen. It doesn’t make sense. Plus Season 3 was just really dark and loses much of the sense of fun of previous seasons. Still, I’m sticking with this show and will buy Season 4.

Read my Review of Riverdale Season 1.
Read my Review of Riverdale Season 2.

Book Review – Death by Coffee

  • Title: Death by Coffee
  • Series: A Bookstore Café Mystery
  • Author: Alex Erickson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/4/2020

Krissy Hancock and her best friend Vicki give up their lives fulfilling their parents’ expectations and decide to strike out on their own – opening a combination coffee shop and book store in the small town of Pine Hills. But on the first day, they are open for business, a rude man buys a coffee, then returns to his office across the street and dies mysteriously. Krissy isn’t a detective or a writer, but her curiosity is peaked – and before long she’s dating a local police officer and investigating on her own. Krissy asks questions, listens to gossip and looks for clues. Eventually, she solves the case and her boyfriend arrests the (accidental) killer.

Although this quick read is easy to summarize – I enjoyed reading it very much. Krissy is a fine heroine – a bit clumsy, not sure she even wants to investigate the case, and more motivated by curiosity than anything else. The story moves quickly and the other characters are interesting and feel real. Plus there’s coffee, a book store, two trouble-making cats, and a cute cop. What else do you need? The story is a good escape and draws you in. I highly recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived
  • Author: Christel Dee & Simon Guerrier
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/30/2020

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived is a large coffee-table book with gorgeous full-color art for each character described in the book. But not only does it include all of the Doctor’s awesome female companions – it also includes friends, acquaintances, and one-time “companions” from the various specials or single stories of Doctor Who. But unlike the title says – these are not simply the women who lived, because companions famous for dying such as Sara Kingdom and Katarina are included. The book also includes villains and enemies of the Doctor.

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived lists each woman it discusses alphabetically and starts the description of each person with “there was a girl who” and then something positive that defines that character. Even the enemies of the Doctor, such as Mercy (from “The Next Doctor”) and Missy are given a positive spin, though their negative aspects are discussed eventually. Not only are careers discussed, but what made each person special and memorable to the Doctor and each person’s special abilities and personality are discussed too.

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived is an excellent reference book about the Doctor’s female companions – who they are, where they came from, their careers, and most importantly who they were as people that made them special and in the cases of most of these women – how they came to travel with the Doctor. However, it’s a little unusual to read a discussion of Barbara without also discussing Ian or Zoë without discussing Jamie. The other unusual thing about the book is that in some cases the book reveals a character’s entire fate it a way that may spoil a story if one hasn’t seen it. The entry for Samantha Briggs (“The Faceless Ones”) is especially bad this way. And it’s a hefty coffee-table book with beautiful art. This book is a must-have for any Doctor Who fan and makes for an excellent gift for young women. Highly recommended.