Binge Watching into Another Autumn

The pandemic isn’t over and we’re still staying home rather than going out as much as we used to, so I’m back again with another post about what we have been watching on TV.

This was one we were going to give a pass to, then we heard some good things, watched a couple of episodes, stopped watching, and then several people told us we had to finish it because there was a huge surprise twist involved or some such.

And I guess, technically, if I let you watch episode one and told you how it ended up, you would indeed be surprised.  But each episode is designed to pull the viewer’s attention in a different direction, so whatever you thought was going on in episode one will be superseded by episode two and so on.  There isn’t a big surprise twist at the end because you don’t even get the information to know it was possible until the next to last episode, at which point you’ve been yanked around so much that your reaction is likely to be just, “are we there yet?”

The biggest deal about this show for me was that according to IMDB, it was mostly filmed in Australia, but it takes place in Oakland California, so I spent a lot of time looking for details that were wrong.  They did a pretty good job on that front. (I can’t really ding them for making up a fictional University of Oakland to give the story setting I suppose.)  Still, didn’t really do much for me as a show overall.

Billy Bob Thorton is back for the final season of the series and it takes place in San Fransisco.  Or is sort of takes place there.  There are a lot of exterior shots that are clearly from the city by the bay, but Billy McBride lives in a strange side street in Chinatown where it is always either raining or has just stopped… it feels like a set from Blade Runner at times… and I want to know where in the Bay Area it rains that much, because the weatherman isn’t telling us.

Anyway, Billy is up in SF for an opioids case, because the TV and movie production pipeline has finally caught up with the opioids epidemic.  A really sold and strange performance with J. K. Simmons and Bruce Dern in the mix.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

A dead body is found by a US Marine Fisheries agent near Provincetown, MA.  The case is picked up by the state police task force as the victim was involved in an investigation into a local drug ring, and also the opioid epidemic is in there somewhere.  The agent is also a drug users and turns out to be connected to the murder indirectly and tries to get clean and interferes with the investigation and we spend a lot of time with their problems, which keep bringing them back to the whole crime, while the lead from the state police task force sleeps with the stripper wife or the imprisoned drug kingpin who… oh, I don’t know, it is kind of a mess.  It was okay, and was popular enough to get a second season, which is out now, but I was fine with stopping at the end of season one.

Jeff Daniels as a small town police chief taking on the scourge of the… wait for it… opioid epidemic.  Jeff Daniels gives a solid performance and I quite like him, but the whole thing felt like it had been done with Mare of Easttown already. (About which I wrote here.)  Small town, murder, drugs, woods, relationships, something about a union, and opioids.  It isn’t bad, but it felt like ground already covered a lot of late, small town America, poverty, and opioids.  Also, it ends somewhat abruptly.  At the end of episode nine I assumed there was another episode to be seen, as there was enough left unresolved to fill out another hour.  But no, that was it.

Ten final episodes to wrap up the series, though there really felt like the writers only had about five episodes of content to work with, so there is a lot of what feels like filler as Lucifer has to solve a time traveling mystery that involves his daughter, Chloe, and whether or not he wants to take up dad’s position and run the universe.  You could probably just watch episode 10 if you needed closure on the series.  Otherwise is suffers from what I call Castle-syndrome, where once the Lucifer and Chloe love connection gets resolved, the show has to fish around for a reason to continue.

We watched the first episode of this back when the first season landed, didn’t like it, and stopped watching.  Then, two years later, with a second season available and it still lingering in my “continue watching” queue, we picked up with episode two and watched both seasons.  So maybe episode one is optional?

Anyway, aliens show up on Earth at some future date where we also have a spaceship with faster than light travel tech, so Katee “Starbuck” Sackhoff flies off to find the source of the aliens while her husband leads the research team that is trying to figure out what is going on with the monument the aliens dumped on Earth.  Also, they have a daughter who, in any sane world, would have been picked up by child protective services half way through the show.

The show kind of builds roughly, as the FTL ship runs into trouble and they have to hang out on a couple of planets to find food and on both somebody in the crew takes their helmet off and you just know that is going to end badly… and it does.  While the show veers off course now and then and gets caught up in some crew drama, we did watch it all the way through and were eager to see how they wrapped up season 2.

8 thoughts on “Binge Watching into Another Autumn

  1. Tipa

    I dunno. The first episode of Another Life was so, so, SO bad that nothing could make me watch it again, not even Starbuck. Unless in episode 2 they recap with, “yeah, after we came out of warp or whatever, we went a little crazy, but that is all over now and always, we fixed the thombocrastic particle deoxynator and it’s okay. Let’s move on.”

    But when you write about people popping off their helmets on alien worlds, well, I think maybe they doubled down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bhagpuss

    The only one of those I’ve watched is Lucifer. and I agree 100% with your review. There were (many) moments where I wondered just what the point of an episode or a subplot might be and it turned out there wasn’t one. Are there any long(ish) running shows that built their central narrative around a “will they, won’t they? couple that then when went on to feel as interesting and purposeful after they did (or didn’t)? Can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    With Lucifer, though, my biggest problem with the final season was the whole “Being God” concept, which they absolutely never even paid lip service to defining. There’s a lot of talk about getting the power but there’s not the slightest explanation of what it is or how it could be used. Literally none of the problems any of the characters wrestle with concerning what life might be like after Lucifer ascends the throne would mean anything at all in the face of omnipotence and omniscience. Literally nothing could. Conversely, they’d spent the best part of five seasons banging “God moves in mysterious ways” into the plot like a piledriver so the only understanding we had of the role involved utter lack of understanding.

    Hard to imagine a more unsatisfying set-up for a character arc – either he can do anything and everything effortlessly or we have not the least idea what he can do and never will. In the end I thought the final episode was quite neat but only because it gives us a feel-good ending to what was supposed to be a light and fluffy feel-good show (took a long time getting there in the last three seasons, for sure). Didn’t make a spoonful of sense but you can’t have everything.

    Of the others in the post, I quite like the look of Goliath. I think I can manage okay without the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Tipa – I can barely recall the first episode, I just remember my wife saying the show was crap and we didn’t need to watch any more of it. I was a bit surprised when she picked that out of the list top watch, though I suspect she just didn’t remember her reaction from two years before.

    I will admit that episodes two and three are also pretty iffy, but we hung on and it did finally start getting interesting. There are 20 episodes and maybe 10 episodes worth of interesting content, and we do get into a bit of Independence Day level “we’ll just plug this into an alien USB port” sort of thing, but the aliens are kind of interesting and even at the end of season two their motivations are not clear.

    @Bhagpuss – Yeah, I didn’t even want to go into the whole MacGuffin that Lucifer taking on the role of God turned out to be. The season felt like 10 episodes of giving fans a last look into the characters they loved… and honestly, I didn’t love any of them.

    And the problem with a TV show based on a single premise, like whether boy and girl will hook up, is that they always seem to lose their edge once that issue is resolved. But they also can’t drag that conflict on for too many seasons because people will become exasperated. Boy has to eventually get girl or we’ll just lose interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nimgimli

    I went back and finished Season 1 of “Another Life” but it was a struggle, though the last few episodes started to draw me in a little bit. I just hope if we ever do have to send a crew to another star system to try to save humanity, we leave the sex-crazy 20-somethings at home.

    One of these days I’ll go back for Season 2, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pkudude99

    I recall not liking S01E01 of Another Life either, but I stuck through it and overall enjoyed S01 well enough, but not so much that I’ve cared to continue watching now that S02 is out either.

    I’ve actually gotten really into k-dramas lately. A lot of them feature time travel or “near future” sci-fi tech as their MacGuffins, so that’s helped. Currently I’m working through “Memories of the Alhambra” which has an AR game played via a cell phone and “smart contact lens” interface as its MacGuffin… especially after it’s found that if you do PVP duels that the loser actually dies IRL for no apparent reason…..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Halum

    Can’t wait to see your commentary on Wheel of Time in a couple of months. We just finished the first three episodes last night and are pleasantly surprised/hopefully optimistic. Now, to be fair, my expectations were set at “this will be terrible” so that may have colored my opinion somewhat.

    Like

  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Halum – It has been good so far, but I’ll hold on for the end of the season. I might not be the best bellwether for the series though. I read all the books, but I think I read the first book more than a decade back and even watching the first three episodes I was surprised at how much I had forgotten from the books. My wife will make the better neutral observer as she knows nothing about the story, so it is all fresh for her.

    I almost wish I remembered more from the books just to be able to tell what they left out, because for the series to be viable at all they are going to have to leave out a lot.

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