Back again with more TV that we have been watching. There isn’t, technically, a pandemic right now. We’re all back to pretending COVID is gone, though the case numbers are rising again. But now we’re in the habit and routine of watching a lot of TV. So here we go again.
- Severance – Apple TV+
In some not too distant future… or past, the time line is ambiguous… Lumon Corporation has perfected a technology called “severance,” which allows them to split the conscious brain into two parts, separating a person’s work life from their outside and home life.
If you have the procedure, your work self knows nothing about your outside life and vice versa. In fact, your work life has no outside memories, it only knows work. Every day when you arrive at work you pass through an elevator that activates the change to work. The work version of you… your “innie” in the slang of Lumon… only knows an endless existence of entering the elevator to leave, then immediately exiting the elevator, back at work for another day.
The procedure is controversial, but Mark, the lead character, has chosen it because his wife recently died in a car accident and being able to forget that for the work day seems like a blessing.
Meanwhile, what he and his team do an Lumon is a mystery, even to them. They have quotas to meet, which earns them rewards like a waffle party, but they have no idea what they are actually accomplishing. Meanwhile, Lumon has a cult-like corporate culture, with a handbook of quotes from the founder, and an obsession with security even within the severed portion of the company. The groups there are kept apart through a labyrinth of corridors.
The series starts slowly, kicking off with a new employee, Helly, being brought into the group, and seems very strange, but you do get some payoff by the end of the season as to what is going on. A slow burn, but it kept me hooked.
- The Flight Attendant – HBO Max
Flight attendant Cassie is living the carefree airline lifestyle, traveling the world, drinking to excess, partying, and sleeping with people she has just met. And then she wakes up next to one of them, a first class passenger who was on her flight to Bangkok, to find he is dead. She was in an alcoholic blackout and doesn’t know if she killed him or what happened. She panics, cleans up the crime scene, then gets on her flight back to the US, where she and the rest of the flight crew are questioned by the FBI because the body has been discovered and the Thai police are following up leads.
She isn’t a suspect, but panics and ends up doing a bunch of dumb things that bring more attention to her, while also somehow unraveling by accident the actual conspiracy that led to the murder. It is dumb but fun, and Kaley Cuoco, best known for her role in Big Bang Theory, is probably the perfect actor to pull the whole thing off. It isn’t a huge stretch from the BBT role. So it is fun and silly and full of “that’s not how this really works” moments, but whatever. You’re there for the ride, and the first season pays off pretty well.
And then there is season two, where the manic quirkiness… well, it isn’t over, but it isn’t quite the same either… changes but the “that’s not how things really work” aspect is doubled down on and I couldn’t make it past the second episode. But we’ll always have the fun first season.
- Vikings Valhalla – Netflix
A follow on to the Vikings series, which I have not seen, this takes place 100 years down the road, opening with Æthelred, King of England, unleashing the St. Brice’s Day massacre, an attempt to slay all the Danes living in England. This pisses off the Danes, who sail for England to exact revenge.
And from there we follow the stories of King Cnut, Lief Erikson and his sister Freydis, and the schism between the Vikings who have turned to Christianity (with a very Viking aggressiveness) and those who still follow the old ways. I wasn’t expecting much from it… it seemed to lack in Skarsgards for something Nordic… but I ended up quite liking it.
- Slow Horses – Apple TV+
In MI5 Slough House is where you get sent if you have screwed up just shy of being fired. There Cold War burn out Jack Lamb is in charge of keeping those sent to this purgatory busy with a mix of menial tasks, like sorting through and cataloging the garbage of a somebody who isn’t really suspected of much, and a steady diet of scorn and derision. Those assigned, the “slow horses” of the title, can put up with it and maybe get back into a better position or resign.
Up and comer River Cartwright, whose grandfather was a major player in the service, makes a very public mistake and is sent there, but cannot leave well enough alone. He does his tasks but also carries on with some extra curricular activities which Lamb tells him to stop, but then grows interested himself, in his own scornful way, as it turns out Cartwright is on to something and it leads back to Slough House.
Fun, dynamic, and it has Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas. What else do you need? I actually waited until the series was complete… Apple insists on the one episode a week drip… so my wife and I could binge it if we wanted… and we did.
- Reacher – Amazon Prime
Jack Reacher has been done before. The popular 26… soon to be 27… book series has already had two movie adaptations starring an unconvincing Tom Cruise as the title character. I’ve read a few of the books… not a huge fan as the quality of the early books varies quite a bit… and Jack Reacher, who everybody just calls Reacher, is a muscular 6’5″, while Tom Cruise is a wiry 5’7″ on a good day. There is only so much suspension of disbelief he can carry. Also, Tom Cruise only knows how to be Tom Cruise. He is very good at it, and if you have a role written for Tom Cruise, only Tom Cruise will do. But Jack Reacher isn’t a very Tom Cruise role.
Alan Ritchson though, the star of the Amazon Prime series, he very much sells the Jack Reacher role. If you have read the first book… and the series starts with the first book, unlike the movies, which picked up in the middle of the series… the first episode of the series will seal the deal. You don’t get the inner monologue from the text, but Reacher doesn’t waste words, and when he does speak he tends to hit the mark hard. A couple people I know who love the books were big on the series as well.
And if you haven’t read the books, the first season is still very good without that knowledge.