Leverage Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Leverage
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  TNT
  • Cast: Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge, Mark Sheppard (semi-regular)
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

Nathan Ford was a high-powered insurance investigator, recovering stolen art so his company, Lys Insurance didn’t have to pay the claims until his son developed cancer. The company refused to pay for medical treatment for Ford’s son, and as a result, Sam Ford died. Nathan lost his job, his wife divorced him, and he slid into depression and alcoholism. Then one day, Nathan runs into someone with a similar story of being screwed-over by a rich company and having no legal recourse against it. So Nathan decides to help and recruits several thieves and con artists he had run in to in his former career. Thinking it’s a one-time thing with a big payoff, the four Nathan recruits – Parker, Sophie Devereaux, Alec Hardison, and Eliot Spencer agree to help out once. But the team soon realize that they have a good thing going and decide to continue.

Nate usually finds and brings in clients, but occasionally one of the others will find out someone they know needs help and suggests the potential client call “Leverage Consulting”. Often clients only want back the money or property they lost, or simply want the company to pay – such as acknowledging a mistake. Often the client can’t sue for various reasons (it’s too expensive, lawsuits take too long – often years, while what the company or person did was immoral or harmful it wasn’t technically illegal, etc.) But Nathan and his crew can provide what their clients want. Once Leverage Consulting accepts a client, Nathan plans out the con they will pull on the target. Sophie is the “grifter” – a gifted con artist and in the sphere of running cons actress. She also has experience as a high-end thief. Parker is the thief with experience in breaking into any sort of museum, vault, private collection, etc. Eliot is basically muscle, and also fills in where needed, sometimes as back-up for Sophie, other times as back up for Parker. Hardison is a computer hacker. He can also pull an in-person con, but he prefers to use his hacking skills. Hardison can also produce fake ids and other credentials as needed.

The show is great fun, with lots of action. However, it’s often intelligently written, with snappy dialogue, and complex, well-written, smart plots. Most of the time an episode will have a twist – the audience thinks it’s going in one direction, but it then goes in another direction. This will often involve what looks to be a major setback, but in reality, was something Nathan had planned in advance, often to further embarrass the target or to get them arrested by exposing illegal actions. Essentially, each episode of Leverage is a small heist film, that is filmed beautifully and uses great stunts and effects. But unlike some action-oriented films and television shows, Leverage is also smartly-written, which makes it very enjoyable.

I like Leverage a lot. I bought seasons 1 and 2 when the show aired and watched season 3 on TNT, but like many of TNT’s shows, Leverage could be hard to find. I decided to re-watch the show to see if I wanted to purchase the final three seasons. My answer is “yes”. This show is recommended, it’s fun, there’s plenty of action, the dialogue is witty and smart, there’s an emotional core to the stories because they deal with people who feel real and have real problems, it’s just a good show.

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Birds of Prey The Complete Series Review

  • Series Title: Birds of Prey
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  WB (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, Mia Sara
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

The WB’s Birds of Prey is loosely based on DC Comics various Birds of Prey comic book series. The series features three female superheroes: Oracle, Huntress, and Dinah, the teenaged daughter of Black Canary. Oracle is Barbara Gordon who was once Batgirl until she’s shot by the Joker and paralyzed (an event that is shown in the title sequence of every episode of this series). Barbara is a school teacher in this version of Birds of Prey, not a librarian and information specialist. Although she is an expert in computers, technology and information gathering (or as Alfred puts it in the introduction, “Master of the Cyberrealms”). She’s also dating Wade, another teacher from her high school. Huntress, Helena Kyle, is the daughter of Batman and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). In this version of the story, Selina gave up her life as a cat burglar when her daughter was born, but also raised her alone. Helena doesn’t even find out Batman is her father until after her mother is killed. Helena was young at the time of her mother’s murder, probably around eight to eleven (her exact age isn’t stated). Helena is also a metahuman. The intro on each episode describes her as “half-metahuman”, which doesn’t make sense – she has metahuman abilities so she is a metahuman, but I think they are using that term so the audience knows only one of her parents was a metahuman. Dinah runs away from her abusive foster family and finds the Birds of Prey. She has psychic powers including prophetic dreams and telekinesis, etc. As she’s young, she’s still learning her powers and Barbara and Helena take her in to train her. Alfred Pennyworth watches over the heroes, especially Barbara. Helena also meets the “one good cop” in the city, Reese, and they become uneasy partners, then friends, and finally somewhat romantically involved. The story takes place in New Gotham after Gotham City’s been destroyed in a disaster and Batman has disappeared.

All three women in Birds of Prey are awesome heroes and great fighters, yes, even Barbara. Helena’s fight scenes are always well-choreographed. Dinah is learning about her powers and how to be a hero and her abilities and confidence grow during the short series. Oracle is usually the voice in Helena’s ear, but she has the ability to take care of herself as needed. She’s given an arc with the development of her relationship with her boyfriend, Wade. Dinah’s mother, Black Canary comes back for one episode but is then killed. Mia Sara is Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who happens to be Helena’s court-ordered therapist, and a criminal psychopath trying to take over New Gotham – something of which the Birds of Prey are completely unaware.

The pilot introduces the characters, New Gotham, and the set-up for the series like any pilot. Individual episodes usually have a crime committed in Gotham that Reese is assigned to investigate. Helena works with Reese. The criminal usually turns out to be a Meta, so Dinah and Oracle help. The Birds and Reese eventually capture or stop the Meta. Often “stop” means the meta is killed, often by their own actions. There’s also a hidden Meta Bar at a place called No Man’s Land Collectables, with a bartender named Gibson who has the meta ability to remember every single thing he’s ever done, experienced, tasted, or seen, which is more of a curse than an ability. The “Meta crime happens, Reese and the Birds investigate, the Meta is stopped” formula is livened up by the continuing storylines for each of the Birds: Barbara’s relationship with Wade, Helena’s relationship with Reese, and Dinah’s coming to terms with her powers and later, losing her mother. There’s also some great fight scenes and the Metas that the Birds and Reese take on are interesting. There’s also the storyline of Helena opening up to her therapist, who happens to be Harley Quinn – opps.

In the final two-parter, first, the Birds go up against Clayface and a meta who turns out to be his son. Helena finds out it was Clayface who murdered her mother. Since Clayface is already in solitary confinement at Arkham, there isn’t anything more she can do. But she opens up to Dr. Quinzel, and this both sets up the final episode and causes lots of problems. In the final episode, Dr. Quinzel gets a scientist to develop a machine that transfers metahuman powers. Harley steals the power to deeply hypnotize people. She hypnotizes the scientist to jump out the window and the meta whose powers she took doesn’t survive the process. She’s learned from Helena about Barbara and Wade then hypnotizes Helena to do her bidding. She also kidnaps Gibson. Reese is called the investigate the double death of the scientist and the meta. There’s a disturbance at the metahuman bar, which the Birds investigate. Helena, under Harley’s influence, gives her information on the clock tower base and even Alfred ends up hypnotized. Harley kills Wade and brags about it to Oracle. She uses the tech in the clock tower to send a hypnotic signal to all the televisions in New Gotham and the city breaks out in rioting and craziness. However, Barbara comes up with a cure to the hypnotism and gets Helena back, and then develops polarized contacts to block Harley’s powers. Oracle, Huntress, Dinah, and Reese, with some help from a cured Alfred, are able to stop Harley and reverse her takeover of New Gotham’s televisions (and thus the city’s people). Harley is sent to Arkham. Alfred makes a phone call at the very end of the episode that’s really cool, which I won’t spoil, but if the show had a second season it could have led to something very interesting.

I enjoyed this show, though as this was my second watch through I noticed some of the show’s faults. Other than the pilot and the final episode, the general formula is there’s a crime, it’s a meta, the Birds have to figure it out, the Birds have to convince Reese it’s a Meta, and then they come up with a plan to catch the Meta. The continuing story and character development for two of the three main characters have them in a romance. But I actually enjoyed the story between Reese and Helena. And the story between Barbara and Wade didn’t shy away from her disability – especially in showing how against their relationship Wade’s parents were. It was a shame to see Wade fridged though. Overall, I like Birds of Prey and I can recommend it. This series dates from 2002 and aired on the WB Network which no longer exists. The DVDs also include Gotham Girls, a series of short animated adventures of Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

As with all of my ST: TNG reviews I skipped the first episode of Season 6, which was reviewed with Season 5 and I also will include the first episode of Season 7 with this review. This is due to the season-ending two-parters. Much of Season 6 of Next Gen I found to be very flat, and at times even boring. The stories weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. I’m not sure if this is due to the unhappy coincidence of having just watched series 11 of Doctor Who and season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale both of which are extremely good, or if, objectively Season 6 of ST: TNG just isn’t that good. I just felt that even in comparison to Season 5 of ST: TNG, Season 6 just doesn’t hold up. Season 5 gave us episodes with ideas to think about, even disagree with (“The Perfect Mate”) but many of the episodes of Season 6 are just there.

This season includes the two-part “Chain of Command” aka “Picard is tortured and develops Stockholm Syndrome”. In Season 5, rogue Star Fleet officers tried to use a Bajoran freedom fighter to involve the Federation in a war against the Cardassians. This time around, a Star Fleet Admiral relieves Picard of his command of the Enterprise and appoints the war-mongering Captain Jellico in charge of the Enterprise, and sends him on a “diplomatic mission” to meet some Cardassians. That’s right, this Admiral replaces Star Fleet’s best diplomat with a guy determined to start a war for fun. But that’s not all – Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Lt. Worf are sent “behind enemy lines” to a Cardassian outpost to search for WMDs, specifically a biogenic plague. Of course, when they get there, there is no plague and no weapons of any kind. Crusher and Worf escape but Picard is captured. A Cardassian (played with relish by David Warner) tortures Picard for information on the defenses of a Star Fleet Outpost – which Picard has no information about. Even after it’s obvious that Picard doesn’t know anything about the Outpost, the Cardassian continues his torture and mind games. Meanwhile, the Star Fleet Admiral and Captain Jellico seem determined to turn the diplomatic talks into a war. Eventually, events force the Cardassian to release Picard. And because there is no follow-up between episodes of ST: TNG, Picard’s severe physical and psychological torture is never mentioned again.

“Face of the Enemy” has Counselor Troi turned in to a Romulan. The episode involves helping some of Spock’s Romulan Resistance members escaping and seeking asylum in the Federation. It’s actually a good episode, and one I enjoyed.

“Birthright” is another two-part episode, focusing on Lt. Worf, who is having a Klingon crisis of faith. He receives some information from an information broker that his father is alive and living in a Romulan prison camp. Worf’s father isn’t one of the survivors of Khitomer but several Klingons and their children, including children of Romulan/Klingon matings are living in a community on a hidden Romulan colony. At first, Worf is appalled – Klingons and Romulans have been mortal enemies for centuries. He begins to teach the children about their Klingon heritage and beliefs, something their parents and the Romulans in the colony haven’t done. Things come to a head as several of the children desire to leave the colony and see the Klingon homeworld. Eventually, Worf decides on a compromise – he will take the children and anyone who wishes to leave with him, but he will not tell anyone they are survivors of Khitomer, rather he will say he found survivors of a colony ship crash. Worf also will not tell anyone about the colony where Klingons and Romulans live together in peace.

“The Chase” involves an old archaeology professor of Picard’s showing up and offering him a new job on a fantastic project. Picard, of course, declines, because he doesn’t want to give up command of the Enterprise. Who could blame him? The professor is killed, but the Enterprise gets some of his research. Before long, the Federation, some Klingons, some Cardassians, and eventually some Romulans are all trying to crack the code of the professor’s research, which includes DNA fragments that are shared by all intelligent space-going races in the Federation. Dr. Crusher and Picard even convince some of the players to combine their resources and information to crack the code. They finally wind-up on a long-dead planet, where they find a tiny bit of DNA and play a message. the message is from a humanoid being who explains they left this message and coded it in the Primordial Soup of many planets because they were lonely in the galaxy, and wanted to help new life to develop in their image. The Klingons who wanted a weapon, the Cardassians who wanted a power source and the Romulans are disappointed, to say the least. And even the Federation who wanted information about the galaxy seemed to think this message wasn’t worth the hassle to get it. Essentially, the entire story seemed to be inspired by the folk song, “One Tin Soldier”. Also, it explains why “aliens” in Star Trek look so human.

“Descent Part 1” finishes the season with part 2 on Season 7. This episode brings back the Borg, Lore, Data’s “brother”, and the Admiral who was out to start a war with the Cardassians. A Federation Outpost is attacked and the Enterprise discovers it was a Borg attack – but these Borg seem different. The Admiral shows up, orders thirty starships into the area to defend the border, and reads Picard the riot act for releasing Hugh-the-Borg last season. Data starts to act weird. The Enterprise crew figures out that the ship that attacked the Outpost uses a “transwarp conduit” to get away. It’s basically an artificially generated wormhole. They follow. Data leaves the Enterprise. The Enterprise searches for him and discovers a planet of Borg with individuality. They are being led by Lore, who is using a carrier wave to control Data by feeding him addictive emotions. Although Data a first tortures Geordi at Lore’s command, in the end, with some help with Geordi and Picard rebooting his ethical program, Data kills Lore (who is later disassembled) and the Enterprise crew are rescued. Hugh is left in charge of the new Borg.

Overall, I just wasn’t that impressed with Season 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I missed Guinan, who only seems to show up once. I even missed Spot, Data’s cat, who is mentioned but never seen. Although we do see Spot in part 2 of “Descent”. Still, it’s worth having the season set.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5.

Stargate: Atlantis – Sunday Review

  • Series Title: Stargate: Atlantis
  • Episode Title: Sunday
  • Story #: Season 3 Episode # 17
  • Discs: 1 (Part of “The Complete Third Season” – 5 discs total)
  • Network: Sci-Fi (MGM Productions)
  • Original Air Dates: 6/01/2007
  • Cast: Joe Flanigan, David Hewlett, Jason Momoa, David Nykl, Paul McGillion, Torri Higginson, Rachel Luttrell
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD, NTSC
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 6/07/2007 (both entries), now hosted on Dreamwidth

This post is a combination of two posts from Live Journal reacting to the Stargate: Atlantis episode “Sunday” which was quite a surprise, to say the least. I’m leaving the content of these entries intact and only correcting spelling mistakes, typos, and the occasional wrong word.

Part 1

Ok, so what the …?

I watched “Sunday” last night, and was it just me or was the episode VERY very weird?

And, I not just talking about the fact the story wasn’t told in order – I’ve seen that before, I get it, heck -the idea of telling a story back-to-front actually goes back to a lot of classic film noirs like Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity.

But the non-linear storytelling aside, uh, huh? The entire episode had an almost dream-like quality to it. I actually almost expected someone to wake up at the end and say, “it’s all just a dream”? Ya’ know what I mean? Especially in the last scene. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

OK – first, who was the guy that was hitting on Dr. Weir? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before, and yet Weir (despite trying to brush him off in one scene) seemed, when talking to Teyla later, to be interested in him. Then she drops him like a rock? What? I mean, really – Weir is not that capricious! And she’s been married before – why the heck was she acting like a teenager on her first date about the entire thing?

Second – MANDATORY REST DAY??? And this is the first we’ve heard about it in three years? I’ve WORKED in 24/7 industries, and it simply doesn’t work that way. You get days off, but everyone does NOT take the SAME day off. Believe me. And that’s in retail/grocery – hospitals, emergency services, etc, heck, even restaurants, all work like that. You are more likely to work Thursday through Sunday and have Monday off. Obviously, on Atlantis – the gate room needs to be manned 24/7, as does the infirmary, and somebody better be watching the long-range scanners (in case the Wraith show up, tho’ we haven’t actually seen the Wraith in a while). So, what’s with the sudden mandatory rest day?

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I actually liked the idea of seeing what everyone does on their day off (who figured John for a golfer or Lorne for an amateur artist?), but in terms of everyone having the same day off, it’s like, huh?

And if it was for dramatic effect – to see a quiet day suddenly going haywire – then they totally lost the dramatic effect by jumping back and forth in time.

OK, about the jumping back and forth in time, to me it almost looked like they were trying to save the episode in the editing – that it had gone waaaaaay too long, or they’d forgotten to film the exposition, or something else disastrous happened (a roll of film went missing?) but it looked like they were trying to salvage something, rather than doing something cool. That’s just my opinion. (For the record, I thought “The Ark” would have worked better dramatically without the time-jump. I mean, you knew John and Rodney would both make it!)

Right, now… CARSON – they killed CARSON???????? What he’d ever do to anybody? Dr. Carson Beckett was always sweet and kind and cute as heck (those eyes!). He, Rodney, Zelenka, were always favorites of mine (as are Weir & Sheppard). But all the way through the episode, it was like everyone was ignoring Carson, paying him no mind. I mean, really, all he wanted was for someone to go fishing with him. (And I had the sneaking suspicion that Rodney, despite what he said to Katie, would have actually enjoyed fishing with Carson).

The scene with Rodney, in a suit & tie in Carson’s rooms, packing the photographs and such was heartbreaking though. And I couldn’t help but notice the number of people in suits (not uniforms) at the funeral. Waaaahhhh! (Update: Those in suits would be Atlantis’ civilians, as opposed to the military officers in uniform.)

Oh – and the bagpipes, um, nice try guys, but – that was some of the worst bagpipe music I’ve ever heard (my local police pipe & drum band sounds better). Also, for a funeral they should have been playing “Amazing Grace”, it’s traditional, especially for someone who’s died in the line of duty. And, if not that, they should have played “Scotland the Brave” which would have worked fine.

Still – no body, so HE’S NOT DEAD!!!! Ever notice on detective stories, especially on TV, if there’s no body, if you didn’t actually see it – the character comes back? And I’ve heard rumors, just like I heard rumors about “Sunday” (ah, the net, couldn’t keep a secret…). And they brought Daniel back on SG1 after a whole season, so there’s hope. (Update: Nope, five seasons of Atlantis and no Carson. Sigh.)

Finally, that last scene between Carson and Rodney? Huh? That was strange! Very strange! I need to watch the episode again, but it almost felt like Rodney was also dead – or dreaming. And that can’t kill off my Rodney!!!

And that brings me back to my original point – the entire episode, and I mean the entire episode felt incredibly strange. It was like, there was something else going on, especially with the weird time-jumps. OK, putting aside extra-“filmic” excuses (the film went missing, the episode ran long, etc.), I almost thought that, in the end, they’d pull back and show the entire episode was from Carson’s point-of-view, that is, his dead pov. How poor Carson never felt appreciated? How he felt everyone was always brushing him off? That would have made sense. As would have the funeral then, with Weir’s speech. Even the bad bagpipe music would fit as Carson’s pov (he’d naturally be in a position to criticize the bagpipe music – he is Scottish!)

Part 2

Well, I re-watched “Sunday” again. I still think the ep. is weird — very weird. It had a whole sense of unreality to it (like the Blake’s 7 episode “Orbit”, strangely enough).

The bagpipe music didn’t seem quite so bad, but it definitely could have been better. Trust me.
And louder. NOTHING is louder than bagpipes in an enclosed space! (I’ll never forget hearing the Muskegon Police Pipes & Drum band playing at the Scottish Festival/Ceille in a very tiny hall. It was loud! Very loud! You might think your average freight train is a bit noisy but that’s peanuts compared to a Bagpipe and Drum marching band in an enclosed space!) “Amazing Grace” or “Scotland the Brave” would have worked better in the Stargate: Atlantis episode than whatever it was the poor fellow in a kilt was trying to play. Unsuccessfully.

OK, the episode, “Sunday”, couldn’t have been from Beckett’s pov, there was just too much going on that he wasn’t privy too. Which makes the last scene even more confusing! In a sense, it was like Rodney was also dead (please no!) and it made me re-watch “Tao of Rodney” again (which must now be one of my all-time favorite eps. of Stargate: Atlantis). I just didn’t get it. Once of the post-Sunday fics I read said that Carson had Ascended, but some reading on the Save Carson website (www.savecarson.com) nixed that idea.

Anyway, I stand by what I said, “no body, he’s NOT dead”! And it seemed weird, just strange, the skip from the explosion to Carson’s funeral.

I WANT MY SCOTTISH DOCTOR BACK!

Oh, and if they get rid of a certain Canadian physicist. I just won’t be able to watch the show anymore. And probably ditto for a certain cute-as-a-button Czech physicist/engineer!

Update

These two entries originally published to my Live Journal blog and now hosted on Dreamwidth are my original reactions to a very emotional episode of Stargate: Atlantis. I enjoyed that series very much, though I was not a fan of season four and ended up not getting it on DVD. I do have season 5 though. Rodney remains my favorite character, and I had seen David Hewlett on other series. I also liked Zelenka, and David Nykl ended-up on Arrow. I’ve seen Paul McGillion a few times since Stargate: Atlantis ended. As I noted above in my “update” comments – Dr. Beckett wasn’t brought back, but they did introduce Jewel Staite (Firefly) as the new medical doctor. And yes, that is Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones and Aquaman fame. I saw him first on this show! I miss this show, it had a different vibe than most American SF.

Doctor Who Turn Left Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Turn Left
  • Story #: Season 4 Story # 11
  • Discs: 1 (Part of “The Complete Series 4” – 5 discs total)
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 6/21/2008
  • Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD, NTSC
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 1/26/2009, now hosted on Dreamwidth

In a word, “Turn Left” was awesome! I loved what I saw of it last summer, and now that I’ve seen the entire episode, I love it even more. It might be one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever made, and not just because of Doctor Who but because of what the episode says about philosophy / life outlook.

The episode begins with Donna being pulled into a fortune teller’s tent – said fortune teller then forces her to go back in time, changing a decision, turning right instead of left (incidentally listening to her overbearing and critical mother). This one decision snowballs, resulting in Donna never meeting the Doctor, and thus the Doctor dying when he meets the Spider Queen in what would have been “The Runaway Bride”. However, without the Doctor, the next year (or so) is a disaster for the UK and the world: London city hospital is taken to the moon – but everyone is killed including Martha, Sarah Jane, and Sarah’s two young wards; the “Christmas Star” – destroys part of London; the spaceship Titanic crashes into Buckingham Palace – vaporising London; the Atmos devices are set-off choking the world and Torchwood agents Owen and Gwen Cooper give their lives fighting the Sontarans; Adipose kills millions in the US. In other words – without the Doctor, the world is in sorry shape. And without Donna – there is no Doctor. Rose, however, returns – coming back from another universe, finds Donna and uses the dying TARDIS to send her back, to get her to change that decision, even though Rose also knows it will cost Donna her life. When Donna sacrifices herself – Other Donna turns left, resulting in her meeting the Doctor, the Doctor not dying, and Doctor Who history continuing on as we know it.

This episode is the best illustration of Chaos Theory I’ve seen since “The Butterfly Effect” and frankly much better done and less violent/spooky/freaky than that movie (I couldn’t handle the animal and child abuse shown in “The Butterfly Effect” – it was SO excessive). However, Doctor Who “Turn Left” illustrates Chaos Theory beautifully. But what I really liked was watching Donna – listening to her saying, “I’m just a temp!” and Rose telling her “You’re the most important person in the universe,” not to mention, when time snaps back, the Doctor telling her “You’re brilliant!”. This was the second incredible philosophical statement in the episode – it shows how interconnected everything is. How one person can actually make a difference and change things. It also shows just how linked or connected everyone is. Donna sees herself as a normal person, and not a very important person at all – “Just a temp” – about the lowly-est job you could have in a technological society. Yet, it’s Donna who saves the Doctor’s life – and by doing that she literally saves millions of people. It’s one of those “you never know how you affect others” moments.

Kudos to Russell T Davies and the Doctor Who team – because “Turn Left” was totally awesome! Donna rules and the Doctor rocks!

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Amanda Brugel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer, Alexis Bledel
  • Original Network: Hulu
  • Original Production Company: MGM

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. The second season begins where the first season left off. June is in a Gilead van, her mouth covered by a leather muzzle. She and all 30-40 handmaid’s who refused to stone Janine last season are also in vans. They arrive… someplace, and are herded through stone tunnels like cattle. They arrive in a sports arena where they see scaffolding and hangman’s nooses. All the women are led to the nooses, and their heads put inside them. A hangman pulls a lever, but nothing happens. Aunt Lydia then lectures them on what Gilead expects of its handmaidens. This is, of course, psychological torture and terrorism. June is then threatened, she is shown a heavily pregnant handmaid dressed in white and chained by the foot to a post in a room with a bed and chair. June is forced to eat, while the rest of the handmaids who refused to stone Janine have their hands burned on a stove.

But once June is returned to the Waterfords… she tries to escape. Or rather, others try and help her to escape. Escape, and an underground railroad in Gilead will be themes touched on throughout the season. The first four episodes have Nick helping the pregnant June, and she is taken from place to place, passed from person to person as sympathetic good people try to get her out. That is what it is always referred to – getting out. Nothing more specific, just out. June ends up spending two months at the Boston Globe newspaper, now abandoned, and finds a wall, stained red, where the reporters were executed by Gilead. She’s horrified and saddened, but eventually does the only thing she can do – she builds a memorial from the items left on people’s desks in the newspaper office. June is passed along, finally reaching a small airstrip, where she is joined by Nick. Unfortunately, the forces of Gilead catch up to them. The pilot of the plane is shot, and June is dragged, screaming, from the plane.

June is returned to the Waterfords’ house, where things return to normal until Aunt Lydia, who has been spending a lot of time “checking” on June and her pregnancy, takes her on a walk. She takes her to the wall and shows her an executed man, who “used to drive a bread truck”. Then tells her the son was given to a good family for a proper upbringing and the wife made a handmaid. The “econowife” had said to June when her husband brought her to his house to hide that being a handmaid is “what they threaten us with”. The family was also secretly Muslim – a crime in Christian Gilead. This breaks June. It breaks her. She had been so strong, but knowing someone was executed because he tried to help her because he was kind – she blames herself (after Aunt Lydia insists it’s her fault). June can only repeat, “We’ve been sent good weather.”

It takes a while for June to come out of her funk (it’s an understandable one, but still – she is broken). Meanwhile, we follow Emily and Janine who have been sent to the Colonies. They are there to work until they die – digging up poisoned, radioactive soil, and breathing poisoned air and washing with poisoned, contaminated water. A Wife is there, sent to the colonies for “having an affair”. Emily at first shows her kindness but then poisons her – for helping her husband rape defenseless women. Emily, we learn, was a biology instructor at university – tops in her field, and brilliant. She is also a lesbian and was married with a child. She and her wife had tried to escape after her gay and partnered boss is executed on campus. Her wife and child are able to get on a plane to Montreal, but Emily is taken – because she is fertile.

Getting back to Gilead. Waterford is instrumental in opening the new “Leah and Rachel Center” – an expanded Red Center. Everyone is forced to be there, including handmaids. Ofglen, who spoke out against stoning Janine, walks into the center “early” before Waterford is ready for the presentation of Handmaids – and she blows the place up. Commanders and some handmaids are killed. But one clearly knows why Ofglen did it – her tongue was cut out after she stood up for Janine. This is her way of speaking out. Since some of the handmaids begin to move away from the glass wall of the building, the second Ofglen enters, it’s clear they in some way knew what was going to happen. And someone supplied her with the explosives. After the bombing, Janine and Emily are brought back to the district as Handmaids.

The commanders arrange a ceremony for Nick and the other Eyes/Guardians. First, Nick is given a box, which seems to hold an award pin, but then women are led into the ceremony. Each is in white and covered by a veil. They are each lined up before the Guardians. A marriage ceremony begins. After the ceremony is over, the veils are raised. These are very young girls. Nick returns to the Waterford household with his new wife, Eden. She is 15 and very pious, trying to please Nick. She even has a somewhat frank conversation with June because Nick won’t touch her and Eden is concerned he may be a “gender traitor”. June later convinces Nick he must sleep with Eden or she will report him. When Nick points out she’s only 15, June counters with “she’s your wife”. Nick tries to do the best he can.

There is a funeral for the handmaids, who are only identified by their Gilead name (Of… their commander’s name). Once Commander Waterford recovers, he, his wife, and Nick go to Canada on a trip to convince the Canadians to ease up on sanctions and “border security”, and even send refugees back to Gilead. An American spy, from the government in exile in Anchorage, tries to get Serena to defect, but it falls flat. Nick, though sees June’s husband during a protest of the Gilead diplomatic mission. After a rough start to their conversation, Nick hands him the letters from last season. These are letters written by women in Gilead, asking for help, wanting to know what happened to their children, taken by Gilead. Moira and Nick upload the letters to the Internet. This starts a huge wave of protest and the Canadians literally throw the leaders of Gilead out. They aren’t even allowed to pack up their hotel rooms, which is done by others but are taken directly to the airport.

While Nick’s away in Canada, Eden develops an infatuation with Isaac the substitute Guardian (Eye) at the Waterford house. Later Eden and Isaac try to escape. They are caught, and both are executed by Gilead, with metal cannon balls clamped to their legs and their hands tied, they are dropped from a diving board into a swimming pool full of water. Eden’s mother screams as she’s forced to watcher her daughter’s death. Later a man comes to Waterford’s house. June learns he was Eden’s father and he turned her in.

June’s pregnancy grows closer to full term. She and Serena have problems, then they seem to get closer. After Waterford is injured in the bombing at the Rachel and Leah Center, Serena begins to write up orders, even getting an accusation made to Gilead’s Ecclesiastical Court against Cummings – a Commander with a grudge against June, Nick, and Serena. When Waterford returns he says nothing about Serena’s “transgression” of reading, writing, and having June edit her work. But later Baby Angela, Janine’s child, now being raised by the Putnams, gets sick. The child is very sick and everything thinks she will die. Serena knows of a doctor, an expert, the best in the field of pediatric neuro-medicine. Waterford asks who “he” is. Serena says “she” is now serving as a Martha. Waterford flat out refuses to have a Martha be transferred so she can treat a sick child. Serena writes the orders anyway. This doctor is also stumped by what is wrong with the child. Meanwhile, Janine has learned her daughter is sick and begs to see her. There is a lot of objections to this, especially by Aunt Lydia, but eventually, Gilead relents. It looks like the child is going to die and the doctors take her off the machines. Janine is allowed to touch and hold her child. The next day, Janine is sitting in the window, with her child, who is fine. The child is returned to the Putnams. When Serena and June return to their house, Waterford is waiting. He orders them to his office, reads Serena the riot act, then beats her with a belt – making June watch. Later, June tries to offer Serena kindness, but Serena refuses.

June is shopping with other Handmaids when she goes into labor. The ceremony we had seen before begins, with the Handmaid who is about to give birth on a bed at home, an Aunt as a coach, and surrounded by Handmaids to encourage her. The wives also begin a ceremony, with Serena in white surrounded by wives in blue, and Marthas in grey arranging flowers and food. It turns out to be false labor. Serena has a fit, and tells June she will leave their house the minute her child is born. June probably knows this may be a death sentence – she is known to be a “troublemaker” and the only thing saving her so far is her pregnancy.

Nick vowes to get June out, again. Waterford also promises June a visit with Hannah. She’s loaded into a van but no one tells her what is going on. June gets to see Hannah but only for a few minutes. They talk. June tries to reverse her daughter’s feelings of abandonment. Hannah is taken away, but before Nick or June can do anything else, a van of Guardians arrive. There is a shot and both vans speed off. June is left alone. She should have left but June is also heavily pregnant and it’s Winter. She finds keys and is able to get into the garage and into a car. She hears “Radio Free America” broadcasting from Canada, including news that India and China are offering help to the American government in exile, and the UK is allowing more refugees in from Canada. June goes back in the house, gathers food, water and blankets and throws it in the trunk of the car. But she still does not leave and returns to the house. While inside a car arrives. June hides. She hears Commander Waterford and Serena arrive and argue. Serena yells at Waterford that having a handmaid run away twice – “They’ll think we are part of the resistance”. June hides, again, but also manages to find a rifle. She has a chance to kill Waterford, to even kill Waterford and Serena, but June doesn’t take it. When they leave, she goes to the garage but finds the power has now been cut off. She tries to force open the garage door but it doesn’t work. She tries to bust down the door with the car – but it also doesn’t work. In the end, she returns to the house and gives birth. Now having baby Holly in her arms, she fires the gun four times in the air.

June is returned, again, to the Waterford house. She is kept hostage by the aunts and forced to pump her milk. Without access to her child, her milk begins to dry up. Waterford gets her a visit with Holly. June asks Aunt Lydia if she can return to the Waterford house to be “nearby”. Lydia, surprisingly, agrees it would be best for the child. June returns. Serena is of course, angry. But slowly, Serena begins to change her mind. We find out Baby Angela is well. Emily is sent to the weirdest posting ever. Waterford makes overtures to June, telling her that as a high-ranking commander he can see that she stays at his house and they can try again – for a boy.

After Eden’s execution, June and Rita (the Martha for the Waterfords) pack up her things. June finds a Bible. Since it is forbidden for women to read, even the Bible, she knows this is incredible. The Bible has handwritten notes in it. June shows it to Serena in her greenhouse and tells her Eden was trying to understand it. Serena is at first angry, but later has a guarded conversation with Mrs. Putnam Angela’s mother. They also conclude that other mother’s feel the same. Serena addresses the men who run Gilead. In her first sentence, she says, “we”. When a man challenges her, all the wives walk in and stand behind Serena. She then proposes that all of Gilead’s children be taught to read, boys and girls. Then men erupt in outrage. Later she’s with her husband, and Serena is dragged away, screaming. Later she returns home, her finger has been cut off – her crime, reading the opening chapter of Genesis (the one about the Word of God) to the men in chambers. June is appalled.

Meanwhile, the weirdness continues at Emily’s posting and her Commander refuses to sleep with her during “The Ceremony”. When Aunt Lydia arrives the next morning to check on Emily, Emily attacks her. Emily’s commander takes her for a ride. Meanwhile, the empty house across the street from the Waterford residence catches fire. Rita tells June, “we can get you out, you and the baby but you have to go now”. June slips out the back door to the greenhouse and garden. Serena catches her. June convinces her that as a mother if she truly loves her child, she doesn’t want to let her grow up in Gilead. Serena eventually agrees and says goodbye to her child. June leaves. She is passed from Martha to Martha and then waits, in the reeds, by a road. A car comes. It signals. She runs out and it’s Emily’s Commander. He tells them to enjoy their new life, their freedom and when a car stops in the tunnel opposite, he leaves. Emily runs to the car. June hands her Holly and tells Emily her name is Nichole (the name Serena chose). June had also put a picture of Hannah in the bassinet. June stays, standing in the rain.

Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale is intense. It’s brilliant, heartbreaking, and painful – yet it’s also full of hope and strong, strong women. After Ofglen’s bombing of the Rachel and Leah Center when the Handmaids are shopping and June sees Emily and Janine and she finds out they were brought back from The Colonies, June tells a new Handmaid her name – her real name, noting she never knew Ofglen’s real name. All the other Handmaids do the same, introducing themselves, by name – real first name. It is a moment of defiance. The bombing as well is a moment of defiance. June nearly escapes three times – but chooses to stay. We don’t know her plan (she does want to find Hannah but that’s all we know) but hopefully, June will also organize a resistance, and an underground railroad to get women out. We find out her mother was a feminist and an outspoken women’s rights activist.

The Handmaid’s Tale is addictive, intense, and incredibly, incredibly well done. The first four episodes are full of silence, because with June basically by herself as she’s passed from safe place to safe place, she has no one to talk to. The filming and cinematography are incredibly well done. Everyone in Gilead wears uniforms: Handmaids in red and white, Wives in blue, Marthas and “econowives” in grey, Aunts in brown. The majority of the show is filmed in Winter, so there is snow, and grey, oppressive skies. The ambient sound mix is also incredible – Gilead’s skies are full of helicopters, it’s streets full of sirens – these sounds are menacing. Yet The Handmaid’s Tale is about hope too. Even in the direst circumstances, the women of The Handmaid’s Tale are survivors, and sometimes merely surviving another day and not giving up is all they can do, but they do, they survive, they go on, and whenever anyone has the slightest chance to defy Gilead – they do.

Read my Review of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1.

White Collar Episode Review – Out of the Box

  • Series Title:  White Collar
  • Season:  1
  • Cast:  Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Willie Garson, Tiffani Thiessen
  • Original Network:  USA Network
  • DVD Production Network:  20th Century FOX
  • Originally published on my Live Journal (now hosted on Dreamwidth): 03/09/2010

LOTS of SPOILERS – be warned

This review is my original reaction to the last episode of Season 1 of White Collar, “Out of the Box”. This is originally posted as it was to my Live Journal, although I am fixing a few typos and formatting issues.

Man, oh man – the further along the episode went the more of a disaster I was expecting. It just felt like Neal was a doomed man – walking to his death.

Things I really didn’t expect – Fowler going after Elizabeth. That completely surprised me. It probably shouldn’t have, but it did.

However, the scene between Neal and Peter on Peter’s deck (or porch or whatever), was one of my favorites from the entire season. I especially liked the way Neal reminded Peter he had said that ‘Kate was his weak point’ and then pointed out that Elizabeth was Peter’s weak point. It wasn’t mean spirited or vicious on Neal’s part but more of a way to get Peter to understand.

I also really loved the scene of June saying goodbye to Neal. I almost cried. And the scene where Neal said goodbye to Moz also made me almost cry, though I figured they’d be in contact with each other again.

The last scene though man oh man – the forums are going to go NUTS! There was so much angst in Peter’s face. And everything he said made sense, but all Neal could think of was Kate. It just HURT to watch. And when Neal handed over his FBI credentials and actually thanked Peter for them, oh man.

And THEN Kate’s plane blows up. Jeeezzz!

The emotions and yelling from both Neal and Peter, and the way Peter holds Neal back was just exquisite angst. And the way Neal kept struggling in Peter’s arms, trying to get to the plane – and Peter held him back, oh man. Wow! They weren’t kidding about it being a shocking finale. I can NOT wait to see the fall out from this.

I did notice a couple of things.

First, I think Neal was meant to be on that plane. I think next season we will see Peter telling Neal this, and maybe even having Neal playing dead.

Second, you can see Kate or someone in the plane just until Neal turns around to head back to the plane. I hate to say it but she might have sneaked out the back door, or it might not have been her.

I think Fowler set it up as a self-cleaning operation. Fowler had the explosion set on a timer. Neal should have been there – if Peter hadn’t shown up… if he and Neal hadn’t talked… if Neal hadn’t taken a moment to actually think about maybe staying with Peter and in New York… Neal would have been a goner. That should be the first thing Season 2 will deal with.

Things we STILL don’t know.

1. Was Kate loyal to Neal or not? We never, ever really saw her. It might not have been her on the plane. Heck, she could have actually set the explosion and slipped out (her silhouette mysteriously disappears) though I think it was on a timer (otherwise they would have waited until Neal was on the plane).

2. What exactly was Mentor? Was Neal really working for Fowler that whole time?

3. Who was Fowler reporting to? Somebody was pulling his strings too.

4. WHAT’s the deal with the music box? The thing has turned into a MacGuffin, and I want to know what it means!!! Especially, since as part of illegal spoils of war – it can’t be traded, sold, or even transported across borders.