Loki (S1) | A Somewhat Complex Talkathon

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe Television Series that were announced Loki was the one that I was the most excited for. Not because I am a Loki or Tom Hiddleston mega stan – Hiddleston can get it I’ll admit that – but the look, the feel of the show and the time element sold me on it. The head writer Michael Waldron was not known to me but I’ve seen and enjoyed Ricky and Morty; same thing for the director Kate Herron (Daybreak, Sex Education). However, I had to admit that the rest of the cast was both known to me and surprised the heck out of me. I mean we have Owen Wilson (Marley & Me, Inherent Vice), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Come Away, Concussion, Belle, Miss Sloane), Sophia Di Martino (Yesterday, Into the Badlands), Richard E. Grant (Star Wars IX, The Nutcracker, Logan, GoT), and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, The End of the F***ing World, Philomena).

Premise: In Avengers: Endgame – where an alternate version of Loki created a new timeline when he stole the Tesseract – the TVA (Time Variance Authority), a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space who monitors the timeline. They give that alternate Loki a choice: face being erased from existence due to being a “time variant”, or help fix the timeline to stop a greater threat. Loki ends up trapped in his own crime thriller, traveling through time and altering human history.

Review: Not sure what I expected the series to be but this ain’t it, and I’m glad about it. The show is a bit more complex and smarter than I would have guessed. It’s designed for a specific type of fan, one that knows the MCU like the back of his hand, who loves to speculate about it, and would pick up on the many implications the series has.

By putting the 2014 Avengers’ Loki in this situations, being outside of the MCU we know and protecting it from anything that might disturb it. From a character’s perspective, it gets a bit fascinating because we know the growth Loki’s capable of, he can become a somewhat nice guy. However the one in the show is still angry and bitter, just like ours was back in 2014. So the process of getting him where we know he could be starts anew and that is, when I think about it, the redundant part of the show. As great as it was to see the old Loki back in the beginning of the season, it kind of gets old because regressions aren’t very fun to watch. I think it’s why Mobius is a lifeline at the start, and when he wasn’t there, he was missed.

Since this Loki has a different experience during the series, the road to get him where we know he can be wasn’t very exciting for me. For a good chunk of it the show seemed a bit slow, not much was happening, there was a lot of talking, but it was necessary. We needed the time to redefine the 2014 Loki. The quips, the memorable lines, and the visuals in the series were a good distraction but the show wasn’t as exciting as WandaVision or Falcon and The Winter Soldier got by the second half of the season.

Despite amazing action scenes, the story is cerebral throughout, like a chess game. The main vilain being a bit abstract, a vague entity that they’re up against and that we don’t really know, the action scenes have a different impact. To me Loki is best when he has a clear concrete foe, someone we know, which is why I think season two will be even better. We’ve met that vilain, a variant at least, and by the time next season rolls out we will have learn more about that enemy.

Pacing and story aside the cast does a great job, casting is key here. They are one of the reasons why I was so engaged. When the pace was a bit slow, the story not developing fast enough, they kept me entertained. The visuals were also amazing, hands down more impressive than all the shows so far. It helped getting immerse in the story but also with the scope. It very much felt like what was happening in this show will have repercussions not only on the main characters but on the cinematic universe at large.

So season 1 of Loki is visually striking, fun, very well acted and a great primer for the following MCU films and the upcoming season 2.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Clarice (Season) | Adding Layers to the Hannibal Lore

This psychological horror crime drama created by Alex Kurtzman (Sleepy Hollow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Jenny Lumet (Star Trek, The Mummy) is based on the best-selling novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. The series stars Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars, The Originals) as the titular character, along with Lucca De Oliveira (SEAL Team, The Punisher), Devyn A. Tyler (Watchmen), Kal Penn (House MD), Nick Sandow (OITNB), Michael Cudlitz (Invincible, The Walking Dead) and Marnee Carpenter.

Premise: A look at the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling, as she returns to the field about a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Review: Stylistically this show is very 90s without trying too hard. It also has the right look and tone to land itself between The Silence of the Lamb (1991) movie and Hannibal TV series. The show is darkish and creepy, without being too gruesome, adding layers to the lore we already know.

As for the overall story, they did a great job weaving the cases, Clarice’s mental health, and the social commentaries in the show. At first I thought that they went in a bit too strong with some of the commentaries. At first the misogyny was through the roof, while they did a subtle but effective job at tackling racism, but as the season went they balanced that out. It went from Clarice against most of the boys, to showcasing how much harder she had to work to gain an ounce of respect. Her struggle on that front was smartly contrasted by how her black best friend and fellow agent was even more underestimated and underappreciated. It’s a few of the many commentaries that the show tackled pretty well; putting a mirror to it asking us, without actually doing so, if and/or how things have changed since.

From the pilot on, the first case blossomed into a conspiracy with many entertaining twists and turns that kept things quite interesting the whole season. I appreciated that the show wasn’t much of procedural with a serial killer of the week but one big case that the team was working hard to untangle. Episode by episode we had a piece of the puzzle but not every piece seemed important or that captivating to uncover but in the end it pays off.

The ensemble cast of actors, and their characters as well, are incredible. Lucca De Oliveira among them really stood out. I instantly liked the actor and his character, and not just because of his looks or the writing, he’s good. As for Clarice herself, Rebecca Breeds, is excellent like the rest of the cast.

Clarice was a very interesting show, that could have benefitted from a second season but I hear it’s not happening.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Love, Victor (S2) | More Adult But Just As Good

The half hour dramedy staring Michael Cimino (Annabelle Comes Homes), George Sear (Alex Rider), Rachel Hilson (This is Is Us), Anthony Turpel (No Good Nick), Isabella Ferreira (OITNB), Mason Gooding (Booksmart), and Bebe Wood (The Real O’Neals) was a welcome surprise for me. Both inspired by Greg Berlanti‘s Love, Simon and Becky Albertalli’s novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,Love Victor was a breath of fresh air, a more nuanced and grounded depiction of a queer kid journey of self-discovery. This season the cast is joined by Anthony Keyvan (Genera+ion, Alexa & Kate), Ava Capri (Embattled), Betsy Brandt (Life in Pieces), Daniel Croix (The Oval) among others.

Last season: Victor was a new student at Creekwood High School on his own journey of self-discovery, facing challenges at home, adjusting to a new city, and struggling with his sexual orientation. He reached out to Simon when it seems too difficult for him to navigate through high school.

Premise: After coming to termes with his sexual orientation Victor comes out to his parent’s amidst their separation, his break-up from Mia, and new relationship with Georges; Victor faces new challenges as he’s coming out to everyone not just his family and friends.

Review: Although I loved a lot of little details in the first season of the show, I have to admit that I forgot quite a few of them. There are plot points that I did not remember at all, so the refresher I did on the first season was both fun and needed. The season does opens with a quick recap but watching the two seasons back to back was a threat.

The story picks up right after the massive cliffhanger that drove me crazy for way to long. We get to finally see the reaction to Victor’s news, and it’s quite surprising. But where the show gets super smart with it, is the little time jump – 10 weeks – that’s just enough to have Victor’s news and some of the events of season one to have settled a bit. So Summer break is almost over, Victor is out to his family who is adjusting to his news and their own problems. He’s still going strong with Benji, so is Felix with Lake. Mia is dealing with the recent changes in her life in her own way, and Andrew just trying to move on.

Where season one could have arguably been on Disney+ proper – it’s in the Star section of the app in the rest of the world – season two earns its place on Hulu by tackling more adult subjects. Because with relationships, teenagers and hormones comes the idea of sex, and all the questions and anxiety that entails. Though it’s a natural progression for the characters it did feel like the show went full steam ahead on the subject, I’m not complaining they handled it pretty well, but they’ve sped things up a bit. It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

One of the best things about the show, is that all of the characters have an exciting arc. Victor’s parents portrayed by James Martinez (The Deuce, Tell Me A Story), and Ana Ortiz (Special, Ugly Betty) have a really juicy arc this season that they pulled off brilliantly. I was as curious about what was going on with them than anyone else. They also gave Mateo Fernandez Victor’s little brother more to do and he’s so cute and chill, it’s funny to see how everyone around him are worrying for nothing. My favorite TV best friend Felix also as a great storyline and Turpel is so good. I could gush about this cast and the writing because it’s absolutely solid. There’s enough drama to shake things up a bit but they’re not overdoing it, it’s light drama. Maybe not “light drama” because they are serious and kind of dark moments in the show this season but the comedy and the sense that there’s a light at the end of tunnel does help. Plus they actors really sell these moments.

As thrilled as I am with the cast – returning and new – and most of the storylines, I am annoyed with how things soured for the main couple. I just wished that friendships would remain friendships particularly in this instance, I’m not talking about Pilar. Anyway if I continue I’ll spoil more than I could like but let me say the following:

Love, Victor S2 is a must see, it’s entertaining, well acted and nicely written. I want more!

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Trese (S1) | Filipino Myth and Folklore with Shades of Familiar Heroes

If it wasn’t for Geeked Week this show would have pass me by, but I’m glad I found it. It’s a filipino animated series on Netflix directed by Jay Oliva who’s work on animated shows and movies like Young Justice, and Justice League Dark to name a few. Based on the comics by writer Budjette Tan and artist Ka-jo Baldisimo, the show features an incredible English voice cast like Shay Mitchell (You), Jon Jon Briones (Ratched), Griffin Puatu (Spider-Man: Miles Morales), Matthew Yang King (Sweet Home), Darren Criss (Glee), Lou Diamond Phillips (Prodigal Son), Manny Jacinto (The Good Place) to name a few.

Premise: Set in Manila where the mythical creatures of Philippine folklore live in hiding amongst humans, Alexandra Trese finds herself going head to head with a criminal underworld comprised of malevolent supernatural beings.

Review: I knew little about the show when I dove in, I just liked the look of the animation, in fact when the trailer premiered during the Geeked Week stream I was busy on the phone. I discovered the show as I was watching it and I liked the fact that it has its own identity.

The world building is intriguing, unique in some many ways. It’s full of creatures that were unfamiliar to me, at least for some of them. I commend the show for not explaining its cultural identity but showcasing it instead. It was fascinating. However, the story is not as tightly woven as I would liked, the flow is a bit wonky despite the interesting dynamic between the characters and their history. It feel a bit rushed but it has a nice dark DC feel to it.

Trese is uniquely familiar because for some, the filipino myths and folklore will speak to them, and for others, Alexandra Trese will remind them of western comic book heroes they know like Constantine, Raven, or Zatana while being her own thing.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Lupin (Part 2) | A Sameness that Still Works…Kind of

I thoroughly enjoyed Lupin (Part 1) it was so engaging, nicely paced, and full of social commentaries that did not impede the story at all. Omar Sy (X-men Days of Future Past, The Untouchables) is amazing in the role, and the show is a nice spin on Maurice LeBlanc‘s The adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief.

Previously: Inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s stories on the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief, Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family. Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Assane’s father died in prison, leaving his then teenage son orphaned.

Premise: After enacting his revenge on the Pellegrini, the wealthy family that had his father wrongfully convicted and murdered. Assane Diop now finds himself on the receiving end of that family’s wrath, as they try to get him before his plans are completed.

Review: We pick up right we’re we left off, Raoul, Assane’s son is missing, he was kidnapped by Hubert Pellegrini’s man so a thrilling race to save him starts us off. Part two, the second half of what is essentially one season, is just as engaging as part one. A lot of what made the first half interesting remains, the clever traps and escapes, Pellegrini’s schemes, the social commentaries, and the intriguing characters.

However, I expected the show to go more in depth on all of those things but like I said it’s more of the same, it kind of stays surface level, so it ends up feeling a bit repetitive at points. Also some of the flashbacks, the ones in the 90s didn’t feel as useful as they were in part one. That said the show is fun to watch and I love the cast.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Loki (Pilot) | A Recap and A Mystery

Michael Waldron (Head Writer) & Kate Herron (Director)

CAST
Tom Hiddleston
Owen Wilson
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Wunmi Mosaku

Review: I suspected as much but Loki has a different vibe than the other shows and I love it. The set and costume designs, the cinematography, it all look singular yet it fits with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Story wise most of the pilot was flashbacks, ones that served to brings us back to Loki’s past. It’s history to us but news to him since this Loki is an alternate version. The flashbacks also shine a light on his state of mind back in Avengers. We get an accelerated version of the crumbling of his armor, some of his façade is shed when his trajectory is revealed to him.

The rest of the episode pretty much sets up the mystery around the show. If you follow this kind of stuff it is not a surprise but it does set up Loki to face his own demons in a more hands on way than the flashbacks did. Like WandaVision was, Loki also seems to be some kind of a therapy session for the character, a form of active therapy to try and get him to know himself better.

The pilot does raise a few questions but there’s not much excitement so far. However, we get to revel in the beauty of the show, banter and the amazing acting performance.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Sweet Tooth (S1) | A Captivating Adventure

This TV show wasn’t on my radar until the first teaser was released. I had no idea this was coming but the teaser trailer piqued my interest in the show. Created by Jim Mickle (Cold in July) and Beth Schwartz (Arrow), and produced by Team Downey, the series is based on Jeff Lamire‘s Vertigo comics “Sweet Tooth.
The Netflix series is narrated by James Brolin (The 33), stars Nonso Anozie (Artemis Fowl, Cinderella) as Tommy Jepperd Christian Convery (Venom, Lucifer, Legion) as Gus, Adeel Akhtar (Enola Holmes) as Dr. Singh, Will Forte (Booksmart) as Gus’ father Richard, Dania Ramirez (Jumanji: The Next Level, X-Men: The Last Stand) as Aimee, Neil Sandilands (News of the World) as General Steven Abbot, Stefania LaVie Owen (The Carrie Diaries, The Lovely Bones) as Bear, and Aliza Vellani (iZombie) as Rani Singh.

Premise: Ten years after the emergence of hybrids – babies born part human, part animal – coinciding with the spread of a dangerous virus. Hybrid children are hunted by many humans who fear they are the cause of the virus. Gus, a sheltered deer-boy, who grew up living safely in his secluded forest home befriends a wondering loner name Jepperd. The two will set out on an adventure across what’s left of America where they’ll meet unexpected allies and enemies, try to find answers, learn about Gus’ origins, Jepperd’s past, and the true meaning of home. Gus quickly learns the world outside the forest is more complex than he ever could have imagined.

Review: Giving that “Sweet Tooth” was a Vertigo comic, I expected something much darker and grittier. But a few minutes into the series I shed those expectations and revelled in the atmosphere of the series. Where most dystopian worlds are grim and brutal, the show is bright and hopeful with a hint of darkness and violence. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, the series’ tone manages not to be silly or sugary.

The series follows a bunch of key characters that ends up giving us a broader view of this post-apocalyptic world. Each of these characters add something to the story, bringing answers as the season unfolds, but Gus and Jepperd’s story is the heart of the show. Jepperd’s surliness does a lot to counterbalance Gus’ hopeful disposition. Their surogate-father and son relationship is breath of fresh air and I loved it.

The first season of Sweet Tooth beautifully sets up the characters, and the world they’re in. It’s engaging and a fun watch.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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