There was a lot of free time over the holidays, which meant lots of time for TV. We managed to get through three new series. We were a bit late to the party for the first two… though that was fine, because it meant we didn’t have to wait week-to-week for new episodes.
Wheel of Time – Amazon Prime
I was probably the ideal audience for this show. I am familiar with the material, having read… or at least listened to in audio book form, which at least means I know how to pronounced things, sort of… the whole series.
But that was more than a decade ago for most of the series, and I didn’t come away as a huge fan of the tale, so I am not wed to the idea that every word is sacred and must be reproduced on screen as the late Robert Jordan intended.
I know the basic tale, am hazy on the details, and happy enough to see them bypass huge tracts of text to winnow the story down to something that can be told in less than a thousand one hour episodes. So I enjoyed it, remembered enough so I was never really lost, and felt they got through first book just fine. Just a dozen more to go!
The casting might have been the weak part of the show, not that I don’t love Rosamund Pike, and having Sophie Okonedo, who we last saw as the boss in Flack, as the Amyrlin Seat sparked some amusement, but the kids from the Two Rivers were all kind of bland. We’ll see how they develop over time I suppose, but I’d like to get some more of the cast of Flack into the Aes Sedai.
The hard core Wheel of Time fans though, there are some very unhappy people in that group. And I get it. I like about 1.5 movies out of the six that make up The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But I also try to remember that bringing something to a different medium makes it a different story almost by default. Of course, that is easy to say when I’m not invested in the tale.
My wife was on the other end of the spectrum and knew nothing about the story and just had to go with what was on screen and the bits of clarification I could provide. But even with that, she was on board. We’re looking forward to next season.
Foundation – Apple TV+
Another one where I might theoretically be a prime candidate. When I grew up the science fiction club in middle school had drawn a line between those who worshiped Asimov and those true to Heinlein, and the weirdos like me who were off reading Niven or Burroughs learned to keep clear of the holy war between the two factions. And while I warmed to Asimov later, the Foundation series has always been ill considered pretentious schlock in my book. So color me happy to see somebody re-interpreting it, because it always felt like it needed another pass to make it worth reading. And the series looks so good. Production values worthy of the tale.
A pity it is both pretentious and as dull as dishwater, though I suppose in that they have captured the original. We plodded through, though I will probably need a serious “previously” recap when the next season drops… because it was good enough to get renewed for a second season.
Cowboy Bebop – Netflix
And a third series for which I was well primed, this time because I had never seen the original so I was not going to rend my garments every time something varied from the expected. Overall the show had great casting, great music, tons of style, and really worked for me for the first eight episodes. I very much enjoyed the practical set dressing, the retro-futuristic kitsch theme, the music, and the way the story kicked off. I liked the opening credits so much that I didn’t even skip them after the first couple of episodes.
I was all into this.
The biggest chore was watching it with our daughter, who had seen the original, though she seemed mostly okay with this live action remake. The problem was that she only wanted to watch one episode a night, and what kind of binge watching is that?
As it turned out, that managed to expand my enjoyment over more than a week. On New Years Eve we watched the final two episodes and… well, we’ll always have the initial eight. If they had stopped at eight and teased a bit of what was to come, we might have had a season two in the works.
They ran into what I think of as the Burn Notice problem, where there is a story arc for the season, but a lot of time is spent on quirky, fun side adventures that let you get to know the characters, but don’t always advance the main story. And then in the last two episodes they went all in on the main story arc, with a whole episode of flashback and then a final conflict episode… and I really missed the quirky, fun side adventures.
We had also just watched The Last Duel, and there were some odd parallels between that and the final episode. Anyway, the end wasn’t as satisfying… so much so that there will be no second season.
The Expanse – Season 6 – Amazon Prime
Somewhere in season four the series kind of lost us. But, the books also lost me at about the same point, so I guess that all adds up.
The cast is still good, the sets and effects remain top notch, and there are occasionally things going on that I follow and understand, but we were pausing and asking each other, “So what is going on here?” a little too often. I think there is an argument here for waiting for a show to be done and binging the whole arc in succession so as to not lose the threads of the plot. The wheel weaves erratically at times, such that even having to go a week between episodes left us a bit lost.
I don’t know why Amazon insists on weekly episodes. If there is one streaming service we’re never going to cancel, it is Prime, because we use the subscription for other things as well.
Anyway, we muddled though, saw Holden as the reluctant hero once more, and saw some state of accord come to the solar system for a bit. I’m just not sure what the scenes on the planet through the gateway were about and, honestly, I kind of missed the simplicity of “whose got the proto-molecule?” But this was the final season, so I guess we’re done with that.