The Last Dance: This is my (NBA) Jam – Netflix Review

Ironically, the focus was not in NBA Jam.

SUMMARY

The Last Dance uses a bunch of previously unaired footage from the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls team in order to tell the story of the last year that Michael Jordan would play for the Chicago Bulls and the last year that Phil Jackson would coach for them. The series conducts a huge number of interviews ranging from sportswriters to players to former US Presidents all in order to successfully convey the incredible scope of the events of the Bulls completing a second threepeat. Episodes focus on several of the players and coaches and what was happening as the season unfolded, but, let’s be honest, it’s mostly about Michael Jordan and trying to explain to people who weren’t alive in 1998 exactly how huge that man was to the game of Basketball and the Chicago Bulls in particular. 

Also, Scottie Pippen finally gets some recognition.

END SUMMARY

I was a little bit intimidated by the length of this miniseries, because 500 minutes worth of documentary is a lot. However, the more I watched, the more it became apparent that you just cannot give this story its due unless you’re willing to spend hours going into the backstory of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson. In the context of the 1998 season, these weren’t just men, these were icons. 

Icons with weird hair at times, but icons nonetheless.

Part of it is that they emphasize how big of a change Michael Jordan was for the Bulls, and the NBA. Prior to his arrival, the Bulls not only weren’t title contenders, but were so bad that the team owners were looking to sell it to literally anyone. The 1983-84 team won less than one in every three games. They’d only made the playoffs in three of the last ten years at that point. Michael Jordan’s arrival, in the series, is basically portrayed as giving life to a dead team, and, given that they made the playoffs every year he was on the team, that’s probably not inaccurate. As is natural for a documentary like this, they do spend some time dedicated to building up a few of the more legendary feats in Jordan’s career, including his record-setting 63 point game against the 1985-86 Larry Bird Celtics (a strong contender for the best team ever to play the game) and the first championship against the Magic Johnson Lakers. By framing everything just right, The Last Dance magnifies a good sports anecdote into a modern Greek Myth, complete with nearly inhuman athletic achievements. Of course, since Larry Bird claimed of the game, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” it probably never could be anything less than mythic. 

You can almost see Jordan flying through the air, shooting lightning out of his fingers.

It helps that the 1997-98 season had the Bulls as underdogs at the beginning, starting the season off 9-7 and without Scottie Pippen, due to an injury. Somehow, the team managed to hold on and even start to turn it around with a heck of a win streak, leading to their sixth and final championship. 

An actual photo and also a metaphor.

I admit that I might be a bit biased in favor of this documentary, because in the 1990s, when I was growing up, the Bulls were essentially the team. Not in the NBA, not in basketball, but really just in US sports. I mean, we had the Braves pitching lineup, but people born in the late 80s weren’t that interested in baseball, because NBA Jam was fun and Roger Clemens’ MVP Baseball was not. I wish I could say it was something bigger than that, but… I mean, honestly, arcades were big in the early ‘90s and four player NBA Jam Tournament Edition was up there with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time in terms of wait times. Even if you couldn’t play as Jordan, you could still play as Pippen and Horace Grant and feel like you were part of that 90s domination.

Fun fact: The Creator of the game rigged it in favor of the Pistons.

Overall, if you were a kid in the 90s, you can’t NOT watch this. If you were alive in the 90s, you need to see it. If you ever liked Basketball, you should take the time to watch it, and if you didn’t, then you might like it anyway. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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What Keeps You Alive: Marriage is About Give and Taking Lives – Netflix Review

A married woman finds out that her wife is not who she thought.

SUMMARY

Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) is married to Jules (Brittany Allen), and the two are celebrating their first anniversary at a remote cabin in the woods that Jackie went to as a kid. On their first night, a young woman named Sarah (Martha MacIsaac) stops by to check on the cabin and recognizes Jackie, but calls her “Megan.” Jackie and Jules later visit Sarah and her husband, Daniel (Joey Klein), and Jules finds out that Jackie witnessed a girl drown as a child. Jackie claims that she blamed herself for not saving the girl and changed her name by choice, which Jules doesn’t quite buy. When the couple talk on a hike later, Jules finally starts to let her suspicions go, only for Jackie to push her off of a cliff. Jules barely survives, gravely injured, and now must survive a woman who apparently has been hiding a dark side this entire time.

They look so cute until the attempted homicide.

END SUMMARY

This movie has only four characters and has a plot (person you trust that turns out to be psychotic killer) that has been reused throughout horror movie history more times than I can count. However, most of the film is done so well that you will likely be on the edge of your seat anyway. It doesn’t matter that it’s a trope plot, it’s one that works. A big part of the appeal of films like Night of the Hunter and The Bad Seed is having a character who seems so innocent turn out to be a monster. It’s a reminder that no human can ever really know another one perfectly, and that those dark sides can be really dark. It’s not something that is likely to change in the near future. Have other movies done it better? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean this film doesn’t have merits.

There are some super tense scenes.

It’s really the interplay between the two leads that makes it work, and it works no matter which dynamic is on screen. Yes, Anderson plays a complete manipulative sociopath, but Allen has to sell how completely caught off-guard she is by the situation. This isn’t just a friend who has a dark side; this is her wife. This is the woman she loves, she sleeps with, she trusts implicitly with everything. Even when Jackie pushes Jules off of the cliff, you can tell that Jules isn’t quite sure of what to make of it. It’s only when she catches Jackie feigning an emotional plea that she really starts to realize that all of it, everything they experienced together, was just an act. It’s an absolutely amazing scene and both parties capture the feelings precisely.

Boats can be horrifying with the wrong company.

Now, there are upsides and downsides to being very formulaic. On the one hand, you will be predictable and that will annoy a lot of viewers. On the other hand, it makes the scenes better when you deviate. For example, unlike most films where a person is revealed to be a serial killer, this movie actually has some slow character moments that interrupt the “chase,” due to Jules’ machinations. She buys time before Jackie can kill her, which forces them to stay in proximity while Jackie just gets to keep trying to convince Jules that she’s going to die, while Jules tries to find some humanity in her wife. These scenes really set this movie apart from most horror/thriller films. Plus, it’s over in 90 minutes (plus credits), and that’s about as long as this movie could be. 

It walks a knife edge.

Overall, I can understand why the IMDB for this movie is so low (it is tropey as heck, and people may hate that), but I personally thought it was worth the watch. If you’re not into thrillers, don’t waste your time. The rest of you, check it out.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Elizabeth Harvest: Well Done, but Not Quite What It Should Be – Netflix Review

A young woman finds out that her husband is a monster. 

SUMMARY

Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is newly married to Henry (Ciarán Hinds), a brilliant scientist. They arrive at Henry’s manor and are greeted by the staff, Claire (Carla Gugino) and Oliver (Matthew Beard). Elizabeth enjoys her new married life, but is told by her husband that there is one room which she may never enter. Henry leaves soon on a work trip, and eventually Elizabeth decides to investigate the room. After she looks inside, Henry comes home and, realizing she looked, kills her. A few weeks later, Elizabeth is newly married to Henry, a brilliant scientist. They arrive at Henry’s manor and are greeted by the staff. It turns out that Elizabeth is being cloned by Henry over and over again, and periodically the Elizabeth harvest must come.

This is the most excited new bride ever.

END SUMMARY

I’ll start by saying that I think this movie is well shot and well acted. Hinds is one of my favorite actors in anything and having him portray a vicious Bluebeard-esque husband with a genius mind and a penchant for dropping strange trivia is great casting. Abbey Lee, who I thought was great in the film The Neon Demon does a great job playing the innocent girl who is married to an aloof, but powerful and impressive, man. Gugino and Beard each have great scenes that give them a moment to shine. Even Dylan Baker, who is only in the movie briefly, is solid. Behind the camera, the cinematography does a good job of heightening Elizabeth’s isolation and the distant relationship between her and Henry, then later between her and the other people. In fact, the cinematography and acting are so good that it almost makes up for the fact that this movie really isn’t that good. 

Looks great, sounds great… but is only mediocre.

See the plot summary I just wrote? That covers about the first half of the film. The rest of the movie, which clocks in at about an hour and forty minutes, is mostly just a convoluted explanation of why Elizabeth is being cloned. You know how I’m a big fan of “show, don’t tell?” Yeah, this is a ton of tell that has very little show. Moreover, almost everything that is revealed to the audience is so very, very obvious, mostly from the good performances and visual storytelling at the beginning. You keep waiting for there to be some kind of surprise twist, but… nope. It’s really just telling you a bunch of stuff that you probably could have guessed from the start. Sure, you might not have gotten all of the details, but you could have gotten the broad strokes. Instead, you are force fed a bunch of strangely elaborate motivations and plots by all of the characters that led to the current situation. Motivations that really fall apart upon closer examination. It reminded me of a great line from the Simpsons: “It’s so simple… wait, no it’s not, it’s needlessly complicated.” 

They do great work with symbolism, not so much with plot.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, particularly from a technical standpoint, but it never really did anything super original or interesting. I would recommend just watching Ex Machina if you’ve never seen it, because it’s a similar story, but touches on more themes. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Futurama Fridays – S6E23 “All the President’s Heads”

It’s another time-travel episode, but this time we kill George Washington.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) gets a night job at the Head Museum, feeding the heads of the former US Presidents. He invites the crew over to the museum for a party, but when they drink the liquid around the heads, they find themselves transported back in time. Farnsworth (West) hypothesizes that the opal used to make the head fluid keeps the heads trapped in a temporal bubble. After learning from George Washington’s head (Maurice LaMarche) that one of his ancestors was a traitor to the US, Farnsworth, Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) travel back to stop him from betraying the revolution. The four encounter Ben Franklin (LaMarche), who tells them that Farnsworth’s ancestor, David Farnsworth (David Herman), is working as a counterfeiter and they discover that he’s at Paul Revere’s smithy in Boston. They capture David and destroy his counterfeits, but in the process Fry grabs a lantern from the Old North Church just as they are pulled back to the future.

Chester Z. Arthur will be elected in 2520 and impeached for eyebrow in 2521.

They emerge on an Earth that is now British. All of North America is now West Britannia, due to the UK winning the Revolutionary War. It turns out that Fry taking the lantern led to Revere warning of the British coming by land, instead of sea, leading to a swift defeat. David Farnsworth was knighted for killing George Washington, making Farnsworth a lord and a rich man. However, upon finding out he’s also the consort to the horrible queen of England, Farnsworth steals her opal and uses it to go back and change history again. This time, he almost kills David Farnsworth, leading to the name being cleared, and Bender being on a flag. 

Oh, you have to have sex with a British woman in exchange for a mansion. How terrible.

END SUMMARY

This episode would be completely forgettable if it weren’t for Ben Franklin. Yes, the man too interesting to be allowed into the play Hamilton somehow saved an episode of Futurama. That’s because he somehow got some of the only memorable lines in it, or was the subject of others.

Not wearing bifocals, though.

First, when asked if Franklin is in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson responds “When he’s not in Charlotte, or Maribel, or Louisa!” Fry doesn’t get it. When they arrive at Franklin’s house, Louisa answers the door, leading Fry to finally say “Now I get it!” This is a reference to Franklin’s legendary womanizing, which is SO MUCH more than you would think. Second, he invented the “Franklinator,” a club with a badger tied to it. I have been trying to incorporate that device into a fantasy setting ever since this episode. I’m thinking it’d be a combination of bludgeoning damage with a bite bonus. Also, randomly you get the one with the chipmunk that does nothing. Last, he’s the only one who got to call our leads “sh*theads” on television, by mocking the ambiguous printing of S in the 1770s. Since it looked like f, Franklin gets away with mocking their ignorance by saying they’re “ftupid fhitheads.” 

Franklinator? It’s probably Milhouse.

Aside from those moments, most of this episode was just unimpressive. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. 

FAVORITE JOKE

Aside from the Franklin jokes, I have two other things I like in the episode. First, there’s a short cartoon in the intro featuring Zoich, the mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Zoich, as you might guess from looking below, was based on the Hypnotoad from Futurama. I like the fact that the show acknowledged they had some real-world impact. The other thing that amused me was the part where FDR’s head says “The only thing we have to fear… is running out of beer.” This would make running out of beer equivalent to fear itself, which… yeah, tracks.

All Glory to Zoich

See you next week, meatbags.

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NEXT – Episode 100: Cold Warriors

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Transformers: War for Cybertron: Pure Nostalgic Goodness – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

We get a darker take on the classic series, even if it’s just a taste.

SUMMARY

The planet Cybertron was once peacefully populated by robotic life (somehow, that term is accurate). Then, a new faction of synthetic organisms arose, the Decepticons, led by Megatron (Jason Marnocha). They began a war for control of the planet. Their only opposition ended up being the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Jake Foushee). The war has raged for years, and now, the Autobots stand on the edge of defeat. Hope comes in the form of the rogue Cybertronian Bumblebee (Joe Zieja) and the possible source of all life on the planet, the Allspark. The battle for the future of the planet is on.

Robots not in disguise.

END SUMMARY

If you have never watched a Transformers property before, this show is not for you. It is not interested in really giving you any introductions to the world or the characters, nor is it interested in fleshing out a ton of the backstories of any of them. Given the sheer number of Transformers featured as secondary characters, this may overwhelm a lot of viewers. However, in some ways, I appreciate this kind of setup, because it prevents a lot of the overdone exposition which is common in many Transformers series. Also, it’s not like Transformers needs to be complicated. There are good robots and bad robots and some of the bad ones turn good or vice versa. Good ones are usually the underdogs, bad ones usually end up losing. 

Starscream betrays someone. It’s a formula.

Actually, this adaptation has way more moral ambiguity than most of the previous series. At the beginning of the show, we see Megatron, typically shown to be a mass-murdering conqueror, talking about honor and attempting to resolve the war without having to kill all of the Autobots. At the same time, we see Optimus Prime, typically the ultimate symbol of goodness, considering some darker and less honorable tactics than we usually wouldn’t associate with him. As the series progresses, they both end up moving more towards their traditional roles. The series seems to indicate that their actions throughout the entire war are as much about their personal feud as they were for their principles. 

Rock them and sock them robots. Too sophisticated for the ’em.

The war for Cybertron has long been a part of the mythology of the Transformers, but this show is the most explicit version that I can remember. While the Autobots are usually shown to be fighting a losing battle, this show makes that painfully clear by having most of the planet in shambles, all of the autobots injured or battle-damaged, and random robot remains strewn about the locations. While it is bloodless, since they don’t have blood, this would resemble the battlefields from the film 1917 otherwise. Moreover, a big part of the struggle is to find enough energon to survive, something that both sides are having trouble with. That means that the two armies are both starving to death throughout the series. It makes this whole series darker than any I’ve seen before. 

The battle damaged figures will be very popular.

The biggest problem with the show is that it really just doesn’t have a lot of time. At 6 episodes, the plot feels a bit rushed, even without the backstories. Since this was only the first chapter, though, there are plenty of opportunities to expand in the future. On the lighter side, I do enjoy the fact that the show makes some fun references, including a recurring Blade Runner joke, and that it does point out sometimes that many of the Transformers look like others, only with different colors. Since many of the toys were made by taking the same figures and giving them new patterns, this is kind of a fun shot at the nature of the show being to sell toys. 

Gotta catch ’em all… wait…

Overall, I enjoyed it. I admit that I’ve only dipped into the franchise a few times since Beast Wars, but this was a solid miniseries and I look forward to the next installment. Thank you to the readers who recommended this series.

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Tread: Madman or Last Stand? – Netflix Review

I take a look at a documentary about the real-life Killdozer.

SUMMARY

Marvin Heemeyer was a welder who lived about 30-45 minutes out of Granby, South Dakota. He owned a muffler shop that subsequently became the focus of a zoning dispute over the construction of a nearby concrete plant. Heemeyer ended up losing and being fined for a number of violations of local ordinances. After perceiving the end of his business and that he had been wronged by the city council and a number of local parties, Heemeyer began building a weapon of revenge. After 18 months of construction, on June 4, 2004, Heemeyer revealed that he had turned a modified Komatsu D355A bulldozer into a makeshift tank and proceeded to go on a rampage that destroyed 13 buildings before he ultimately took his own life. 

Yes, this was a completely bulletproof bulldozer with guns on it.

END SUMMARY

I was wary of watching this documentary because I was already aware of the actions of Marvin Heemeyer and I have spent way too much time dealing with people who consider him a hero. Their primary argument is always that Heemeyer didn’t successfully kill anyone during his rampage aside from himself and that he was the victim of local politics and powerful people pushing him around. The fact that he’s now become a symbol of inspiration for people seeking a second US Civil War and a symbol of justice for the same people that consider mass-murderer Elliot Rodger to be a hero should say a lot about exactly how valiant his actions really were, in my opinion.  However, the fact remains that he was a man, with friends who miss him and his own issues that led to him getting to this point, so to condemn him as just a monster is to be unfairly dismissive. I don’t think I’ll ever understand someone going to these lengths, particularly for his reasons, but it is important to understand that people will do crazy things when they don’t feel like they have a way out.

Though, a sane plan probably doesn’t destroy this much innocent property.

As the movie started, much of the story seemed to be told from the perspectives of Heemeyer’s friends and from Heemeyer himself, which made me a bit apprehensive. Many of the things that were said clearly seemed to be biased takes on some of the events that almost seemed to excuse his actions. However, the documentary slowly became more objective and started to explain things that had already been addressed earlier, but from the other side. The documentary maintains this balanced viewpoint right up until the actual rampage, at which time it mostly starts to dissect his actions, showing how reckless and malicious they were. They chiefly point out that Heemeyer had absolutely no way of knowing that any of the buildings he went into were empty. Several were evacuated only moments before he drove through them. Moreover, it was only through his own lack of forethought that he was unable to destroy a large number of propane tanks that would have caused a huge explosion, potentially raining shrapnel for miles. 

There’s a decent amount of footage from the incident, naturally.

Just as a brief editorial warning: If you ever decide that something you’re doing can only be justified by believing that “God chose you to do it,” then please, please, pleeeeeease. DO. NOT. DO. IT. 

Overall, honestly a pretty interesting way to address a horrifying event. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Doom Patrol: Insane Adult Superhero Comedy (Seasons 1 and 2) – HBO Max Mini-Review

If you haven’t given this a look, you’re missing out.

SUMMARY

Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) was a professional racecar driver who was killed in an accident. He was revived in a robot body by Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), a scientist who leads a group of individuals that have tragic origins and fantastic powers. They include Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), a woman with 64 personalities and 64 superpowers, Rita Farr (April Bowlby), an actress whose body is elastic, and Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk), a pilot who is possessed by a radioactive “negative spirit.” In the first season, Niles goes missing, and the team, along with Vic “Cyborg” Stone (Joivan Wade) has to rescue him from the powerful Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk). In the second season, the team has to deal with the arrival of Niles’ daughter, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), who is likely to end the world with her imaginary friend, the Candlemaker (Lex Lang). 

They’re weirdly photogenic for a group of “social outcasts.”

END SUMMARY

I was skeptical about this show because it was originally shown as a spin-off of the show Titans on DC Universe. If you didn’t read my review of that, my opinion of that series was not positive. Doom Patrol, however, is an entirely different animal. While the show is still dark like Titans, this is a bitter, cynical dark comedy and it is done really well. Probably in an attempt to keep the series separate, the two shows have since been established to be in different continuities, although a “Doom Patrol” does still exist in the Titans universe. 

But that Doom Patrol is nowhere near as fun.

The show mostly duplicates the feel of Grant Morrison’s famous revival run on the comic book series. While the original Doom Patrol was a straightforward group of outcasts banded together as a superhero team, Morrison decided to age-up the series and make it more surreal and with more meta-commentary. He focused on making the universe in which the Doom Patrol operated bleaker and weirder than the average comic book being put out by DC at the time. Just how the comic’s nature differentiated itself from other contemporary series, so too does this show set itself apart from most of the other superhero shows on television right now. For example, a fun part of the first season is that the show is actually narrated by Alan Tudyk, who is both a genre-savvy character and also aware of his fictional nature. Not only is his commentary hilarious, but the fact that he’s narrating the events of a show in which he regularly appears also gives him an air of omnipotence, raising his threat-level as a villain. 

Dear every television producer: Alan Tudyk makes anything better.

While all of the main characters are pretty interesting and have wildly different personalities and motivations, the show’s ability to supply inventive guest characters is perhaps its greatest strength. Entire episodes typically revolve around the group making contact with some strange new entity, ranging from a donkey that can eat a town to a guy who can reshape reality by flexing his abs. Hell, there’s a recurring character that is a sentient cross-dressing, pan-sexual street. It’s populated by people who need sanctuary from the cruel world. The second season has focused less on guest characters and more on exploring the ramifications of what has happened to our central cast, but each episode has still featured a number of interesting worlds to explore and people to meet. This keeps the jokes and hilarious situations coming at a regular pace, which complements the dark nature of the world appropriately.

Yes, the street talks through signs.

Overall, just a really well done show. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Umbrella Academy (Season 2): Practice Makes Better – Netflix Review

The most dysfunctional family of superheroes on TV comes back for seconds.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

In 1989, forty-three women around the world gave birth to children despite not being pregnant minutes beforehand. A rich alien in human form named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) buys seven of the children: Luther/Number One (Tom Hopper), Diego/Number Two (David Castañeda), Allison/Number Three (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus/Number Four (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), Ben/Number Six (Justin H. Min), and Vanya/Number Seven (Ellen Page). All of the children are gifted with fantastic abilities, except for Vanya. They grow up to be the Umbrella Academy, a superhero team that split up after the death of Ben and the disappearance of Number Five. After the death of Hargreeves, the group reunites just in time for Number Five to return and announce that the apocalypse is imminent. Unfortunately, it turns out that the apocalypse is Vanya. More unfortunately, they fail. In a last ditch effort, as the Earth is dying, Five takes the group back in time to try and fix the situation.

The sunglasses show that they’re sexy, but not trying to be.

It turns out that time travel is not an exact science, so the siblings end up getting stranded in different parts of the early 1960s in Dallas, Texas. It also turns out that their jump to the past results in nuclear armageddon happening in 1963, shortly after Kennedy gets killed. Five goes back one more time, giving the team less than two weeks to reunite and prevent the apocalypse. Correctly, this time. 

END SUMMARY

I liked the first season of this show quite a bit, but, when I rewatched it in anticipation of this release, there were a handful of things that did irk me slightly. The first is that Diego was used more as the butt of a joke than as the great psychological specimen he could be. He’s the only one of them who operates as an actual vigilante, which makes him rife for deconstruction, but he mostly gets mocked for wearing tights. There were better openings for development everywhere, but he kind of ended up lacking. The same was true of Allison, as a celebrity who started as a superhero. Instead, most of her development focused on her difficulties as a mother in a dissolving marriage and her feelings for Luther. Lastly, the show itself tried to spend too much time on the mystery of the apocalypse, rather than just using that as a way to get all of the characters to interact. This season fixes all of those flaws and even just flat-out redirects some of the characters who had mostly used up their plotlines into much more interesting ones.

The new bad guys are three Swedish hitmen. It’s pretty cool.

While a lot of the season could feel like a re-hashed version of the first, particularly since the setup is still “dysfunctional family of superheroes need to stop an impending apocalypse that they don’t know the cause of,” most of the characters have changed massively from their time in the past. This makes all of their interactions feel fresh, and gives us a decent amount of new information about the core of their characters. They also expanded the role of Ben, the dead member, which was a great decision. Perhaps the smartest decision is that the season starts off by showing us a vision of what the Umbrella Academy COULD be if they actually managed to achieve their potential. They’re a force stronger than almost anything mankind has ever seen, and when organized together they can be unstoppable. Then, the show takes that from us almost immediately afterwards and shows us the reality that they’re all deeply flawed individuals that keep themselves from being that apex. Just like the rest of us do every day.

Yes, Five is still wearing bowling shoes.

The one thing that I most realized I enjoyed about the first season of the show was how well the show used their soundtrack. While this season doesn’t quite manage to match the amazing sequence of the teleport fight set to “Istanbul, not Constantinople” from the first season, they still did a great job continuing to emphasize action or development through music. 

Don’t ax Five to dance, though.

Overall, if you liked the first season, I think you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like the first season, you might like this one, so… give it a try?

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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