Jim and A.Ron give their thoughts and opinions on the entire first season of Netflix’s Korean medieval zombie series, Kingdom, as well as the first two episodes of Black Earth Rising. Kingdom is much needed breath of fresh air in the mouldy zombie genre, with lush locations and sets, impressive costuming, excellent plotting and performances, and genuinely creepy and terrifying monsters. The boys both were very into the premise and promise of Black Earth Rising, but are worried two episodes in from the series penchant in getting distracted with Jason Bourne types of intrigue and assassinations as well as the complex and confusing personal lives of the main characters. Whether the excellent performances and important questions the show has to offer can overcome the clunky writing and execution remains to be seen.
Jim and I haven’t finished The Punisher season 2 yet, but we’ve seen enough to tap out. As we discuss in our spoiler filled review, The Punisher has the chief sin of these Marvel/Netflix collaborations; a bloated 13 episode runtime, and adds to it ludicrous character details and plot-points until this grimdark ultra-violent fantasy pushes through the drama boundary and hits unintentional comedy. 8 episodes in, we still don’t know why we should care about Amy, or what makes the Pilgrim tick, or why Frank let Russo off the hook when he should be worm food except, oh right, this is a 13 episode season instead of a more reasonable 8-10 episode season and if things made sense and had dramatic urgency they’d be five hours of content short.
Netflix and Hulu had dueling documentaries on doomed Fyre music festival, Fyre, and Fyre Fraud respectively. With slightly different focuses, the documentaries broadly outline how founder Billy McFarland built several ponzi schemes on the idea of selling a fictionalized “baller” lifestyle to young, naive, rich people and took them for a ride. Built on the back of a few dozen paid influencers and a long list of impossible promises, Fyre was supposed to be the event of the decade. Instead, it barely avoiding being a genuine humanitarian disaster. We discuss influencing, the morality of excess, and engage in the kind of barely contained glee at seeing narcissists fall from grace that you’d expect in this discussion of all things Fyre.
We take a look at the first few episodes of seasons two of both Netflix’s The Punisher as well as CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery!
Jim and A.Ron have explored the latest Black Mirror mindf$#%, Bandersnatch. Essentially a choose your own adventure book turned into an interactive Netflix app, Bandersnatch periodically pauses to ask you how the narrative should proceed as you attempt to guide a troubled young 1980’s programmer on the cusp of creating an acclaimed video game of the same name. With branching parallel storylines that can have outcomes that can be mundane, psychotic, or extremely meta, we ask if this is the future of television? We stay spoiler-free for a good portion of the beginning of this podcast, so if you’re curious if it’s worth your time feel free to listen up to the spoiler segment!
Amazon Prime’s The Romanoffs arrives at the finish line in “The One That Holds Everything”. If you were hoping that this would be the one that really brings into focus Weiner’s thesis for The Romanoffs, you’re probably walking away disappointed. An ambitious story framing device that doesn’t quite work leads to a surprise ending that doesn’t feel earned, and we’re still left at the end of it all confused and asking “why?” What is so fascinating about the Romanovs and their lives of various levels of privledge and quiet desperation that justifies the time and expense that went into making this, or watching it? We don’t have great answers, but we’re relieved to see this particular line of Romanoffs brought to an end.
This, by our estimation, is the second best episode of Amazon Prime’s The Romanoffs, but unfortunately, that’s not saying much about “End of the Line”. It features fairly engaging material involving a couple desperate to have a child engaging in grey-market adoption shenanigans in Russia, and the man and woman in question are appealing and sympathetic as leads. The script also approaches “crackling” in places, as these potential parents begin to fight over how far they’re willing to go and what compromises they’re willing to accept for their child, as the adoption environment itself plays on their paranoia and prejudice. Unfortunately, all this is betrayed by what has become as much of a Romanoffs trademark as it’s nebulous connection to the titular theme; uninspired directing and editing.
Jim and A.Ron think this latest episode of Amazon’s The Romanoffs, “Panorama” is a mess. At best, it’s a mildly interesting yet gorgeous travelogue for Mexico City. At worst, it’s a poorly, written, directed, acted, and edited mess that seems to have no idea what it wants to say, and doesn’t know enough about the topics to offer any depth to the things it reaches for. The only thing that kind of works is the relationship between the two ridiculously photogenic protagonists, but they are also the least interesting of the premises. Our hope for this series is now that Weiner can make one really exceptional episode out of the next two, or the finale episode is truly “The One That Holds Everything” and somehow ties this all together.
HBO’s The Deuce wrapped up it’s second season in fine style, with the finale episode “Inside the Pretend”. Simon and Pelecanos did an admirable job putting all their players in position to make the jump to the 80’s. The pimps seem on the wane, the porn industry is still waxing, but the men and women of the industry don’t seem to be enjoying their ascent as much as it would have seemed at this season’s outset. It’s hard to have a sunny outlook when people you care about wind up dead; that goes double when you’re the one doing the killing. Can’t wait to see how things shake up next year, we’ll see you then!
The fifth episode of Amazon’s The Romanoffs has something to say, but we’re not sure what it is, if it’s worth saying, and if Matthew Weiner is the right spokesperson for the message, which seems to be; the worst thing you can be accused of is accusing somebody else of something they didn’t do. Regardless of how we felt about the themes at play, the presentation left a lot to be desired as well, featuring clunky dialog and either stagey acting and/or bizarre editing choices or both. You know, hallmarks of Mad Men, the series that made Weiner famous.