Doctor Whosday – S12 E4 “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”

The Doctor and Fam meet with the Man Who Invented the 20th Century.

SUMMARY

Nikola Tesla (Goran Višnjić) and his aide Dorothy Skerritt (Haley McGee) are attempting to gain funding for a new project, but is interrupted by reports of a problem at the Niagara plant. After finding out that parts are missing, Tesla finds a small glowing orb and sees a humanoid figure attack him. He, along with Ms. Skerritt, are rescued by the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), who reveals that the orb is an alien device. The Doctor, Tesla, Skerritt, and the Fam (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill), get attacked by the same figure, but they manage to escape. Following Tesla to his New York office, they find that Tesla is being protested by many people and spied upon by agents of Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister). 

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Hey, it’s image recognition on a Tesla that actually works!

The Doctor confronts Edison, only for the same mysterious figure to appear and kill everyone in Edison’s lab except the man himself. They manage to trap the figure, who is revealed to be a giant scorpion in a bodysuit. The Doctor tries to warn Yaz and Tesla of the threat, but they’re abducted. The scorpion creatures are revealed to be a race of interstellar thieves known as the Skithra, ruled over by a queen (Aniji Mohindra). They’ve been tracking Tesla to try and have him repair their ship, choosing him because he was the only scientist able to detect their signal. The Doctor pulls Tesla and Yaz back from the ship and uses Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower to shoot beams of electricity to drive off the Skithra’s ship. Yaz is saddened to learn that Tesla’s future is unchanged by the events of the episode, and that he still died penniless and mostly unappreciated. 

END SUMMARY

Much as how the last episode felt like a poorer version of “Voyage of the Damned,” this episode feels like a poorer version of one of the figure-centric episodes like “Vincent and the Doctor” or “The Girl in the Fireplace” and suffers from the exact same problem as the last one: Nothing ever makes the impact it should. The episode constantly feels like the team is running from place to place only for the Doctor to deliver a short exposition about its importance or the importance of the people in it. While the Doctor usually explains things to companions, this episode felt a lot like overkill in that department, mostly because she was talking AT the listeners like they were audience surrogates, rather than WITH them like they were characters in the same scene. 

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They literally run down all the stuff that exists in New York at this time period.

What may upset me the most is that I was seriously anticipating this episode. Nikola Tesla was an underappreciated genius who either did, or was rumored to have done, some of the craziest stuff in the history of science. There is so much you could work with in an episode like this that would be both interesting and potentially scientifically accurate, but this time they focused instead on his relationship with Thomas Edison. Now, it’s hard to talk about Tesla without bringing up Edison, due to the confirmed occasions in which Edison screwed Tesla over, the most famous of which was not giving him a promised $50,000 reward mentioned in this episode. But it would have been so much more interesting to just focus on the mind of a mad genius, rather than have to bring up and explain an already-existing conflict and try to show it and also the alien plotline. Instead, we basically just get a pair of half-portraits of the good parts of Tesla and the bad parts of Edison. Rather than seeing them as people in the episode, they’re both just the archetypes the writers wanted to associate with them.

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Even while Edison is trying to help, he has to slander Tesla.

Now, Thomas Edison, while a giant d*ck, was not a total villain. He got his start in technology by rescuing a small child from a runaway train, leading the boy’s father to give him a job at the telegraph office, which allowed him to fund independent experiments in chemistry and electricity. He invented a ton of devices and was one of the first people to encourage funding of science for the sake of science. Unlike Tesla, Edison vowed never to make weapons or sell them, believing that non-violence was the only correct way to resolve conflict (something this episode directly contradicts).  Tesla, while he did have much more noble goals in regards to helping the world through his research, also believed in some less-progressive ideas, like eugenics. They both are extremely interesting people because they were so complicated.

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Reminder: The guy on the right tried to make a Death Ray, not a Hug Ray.

This episode just feels like another missed opportunity. I like the message that the episode takes against people like the Skithra who just use the work of others rather than producing themselves, but it gets muddled when you have to exposit it, rather than let us feel it. Despite the fact that Tesla was, in many ways, a sympathetic character, I don’t think they ever do more than have him try to get “genius” or “impressed” moments. You know, some people who were important also had things they liked outside of those things, guys, or they talked about them with passion and dedication. This episode just felt flat on that account. 

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Parasite – Eat the Rich: The Movie (Spoiler-Free)

This is just one of the best movies I’ve seen in awhile and the Oscars would be even dumber than they are to deny it.

SUMMARY (Not really any spoilers, but you should still probably go see this cold if you can)

The Kim family, composed of father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), is destitute and stuck working part-time jobs to make ends meet. A friend of Ki-woo’s, Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon), offers Ki-woo a recommendation to be the English tutor of the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so). Ki-woo uses Ki-jeong’s art skills to forge documents saying he’s a university graduate, only for the mother of the Park family, Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), to completely ignore them and base her decision almost solely on Min-hyuk’s recommendation, giving him the job. When Yeon-gyo mentions that she wants an art teacher for her son, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), Ki-woo claims to know a famous art teacher who is really Ki-jeong. Ki-jeong manages to, in turn, recommend Ki-taek as a driver for the Park patriarch, Dong-ik (Byun Hee-bong), who recommends Chung-sook as a housekeeper. Soon, the entire Kim family deceptively works under the Park family, which only starts to make their differences much more pronounced. Eventually, the Kims make a discovery that leads to a more serious and dire conflict. 

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They manage to watch videos on folding pizza boxes to pay rent.

END SUMMARY

Bong Joon-ho, the director of this film, has previously been lauded for films like Mother (seriously, see this film), The Host (see this if you like monster movies), and Snowpiercer (also really good), but this film is the best thing he’s done yet. 

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It includes the most realistic scene, too: searching for Wi-fi.

In terms of visual storytelling, this movie is superb. Every shot and every performance tells you what is going on even if you don’t pay attention to the dialogue. You could watch this film without subtitles and you would still be able to follow the general story, even if you missed some of the details. The structure of the city in which the film takes place is a simple device, but it works: The Park family lives at the top of a very tall hill in a compound which has a lot of greenery whereas the Kim family lives in a semi-basement at the bottom of the hill. There is repeated dialogue about the fact that the Park family distinguishes the Kim family by their particular smell, which the Kims believe is related to them living in the semi-basement below ground. The film uses this as one of the many metaphors they put forth to discuss how the upper-class really feels about the lower-class. 

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Symbolized here by Mr. Park keeping his family separate from the Kims.

On the surface, the Park family is generous and kind, but they are always about maintaining “the line” between the rich and poor. The poor can be employees, but never friends or peers. The line is frequently drawn between the upstairs and downstairs, or the front and back of the car. Even the daughter, Da-hye, who seems willing to be romantically involved with people of a lower class, appears to be doing it partially out of rebellion, showing that she is fully aware of the fact that her family views them as lessers. It’s never that the Parks are cruel to the Kims, in fact they pay them quite well, but the gap between the two must be maintained, whether by position or by walls.

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You have to be rich to be as gullible as Mrs. Park.

One of the things that the movie highlights is that the difference between the wealthy and the poor is that the poor can have all of their upward momentum crushed by a single tragedy, whereas the wealthy never have to contemplate that kind of loss. Mrs. Park is mostly concerned about getting her children good tutors so that they can get into top-level schools or live out their potential as artists, two things that the Kim children couldn’t achieve despite their apparently superior talents. The Kims are more concerned with things like the fact that they can’t afford to get the bugs out of their house and have to rely on public sprayers, or that their apartment can flood if it rains too much. The film subverts the usual tendency to try and portray the antagonists as angelic, by showing them realistically using underhanded tactics to get and maintain their “leg-up.” By showing their circumstances, however, we understand why they feel it to be necessary to do such things.

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Very sneaky, sir.

I will say that, while I don’t want to get into the second half of the film to avoid spoilers, the second half is the tensest hour of film I’ve seen in a long time. It starts off, appropriately, with a fairly comic scene featuring a discussion of the class divide, before descending rapidly into a thriller-movie atmosphere for a while and expanding on the class division theme massively. 

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Observe the corpse, which, like the Kims, has bare feet.

One of the aspects of the film that I like most is that it never feels tied down to the conventions of any one particular genre. There are comedy, drama, thriller, and even horror elements and they all fit within the scenes in which they appear. The cinematography, dialogue, and acting are all superior. The themes of the movie, while they were supposedly reflective of the state of South Korea, which has been suffering from a substantial debt crisis since 1997’s Asian Financial Crisis, pretty much work everywhere. 

This movie is amazing and everyone should see it.

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Netflix Mini-Review: Sex Education (Season 2) – Relationships Are Complicated All Over

The British Comedy about the complications of teen sex returns with some relationship advice.

SUMMARY

At the end of the last season, Otis (Asa Butterfield) finally achieved arousal for the first time in his life after kissing Ola (Patricia Allison), who becomes his girlfriend. Having sexual impulses for the first time in his life, Otis quickly becomes addicted to masturbation. Meanwhile, at the school, an outbreak of chlamydia leads the school governors to hire Otis’s sex-therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), as a consultant on sex-education curriculum. Maeve (Emma Mackey), Otis’s partner in sex therapy, deals with both her return to the school as an elite academic and also the return of her drug addict mother (Anne-Marie Duff). Hijinks and issues ensue.

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So many plotlines.

END SUMMARY

While the last season of the show was mostly focused on overcoming personal issues to make the connections to start a relationship, this season goes into all of the effort that relationships take to maintain. Most of the characters start the season in a new relationship: Jean is dating Ola’s father Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Otis is dating Ola, Maeve is reuniting with her mother, Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) starts dating the new student (Sami Outalbali), etc. Everyone naturally has their own issues: Otis has no sexual experience, Jean is used to her independence, Maeve’s mom abandoned her in the past, Eric still has feelings for Adam (Connor Swindells), etc. This gives everyone a number of interesting issues to explore and the show does a good job of covering all of them.

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She’s a strong independent woman and an FBI treasure.

One thing that the season, and the show, does well is try to handle both the obscure and the common issues that people have in relationships, particularly sexual issues. The biggest issue that every relationship faces is honest communication. It hurts sometimes to tell your partner what you really think, but failure to do it hurts you both and can be the downfall of a relationship. The season also does a good job of addressing several other issues ranging from sexism to sexual assault, resulting in a tragically humorous scene in which a group of girls realize that the only thing they have in common is “unwanted penises.” It does drive home the point that one of the things that can help friends get through their troubles is also communication and empathy. 

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Everyone has stuff that they need to talk about and friends who need the same.

The downside to the season is that it honestly just doesn’t feel as creative or original as the last one. It certainly explores different territory, but the dialogue never feels as fluid and the performances never quite feel as passionate. I will say that it gets better towards the end, but at the beginning I was feeling a little let down. The soundtrack did help me get through it, though, because damn does this have a great soundtrack.

Overall, not a bad continuation, even if it dips a little for me. There is one thing at the end that did flat-out tick me off, but I’ll see how they handle it next season.

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Mini-Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths – DC Tries to Answer Endgame

DC combines all of its current television shows, most of its prior ones, and many of its movies into one giant crossover that… was pretty awesome.

SUMMARY 

It’s literally impossible to summarize this in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s just say there are a lot of Earths (probably not an actual infinite number) which are being destroyed. All of the headlining heroes from the shows join forces to come up with a convoluted scheme to stop the destruction of the multiverse. The series features Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), Green Arrow (Stephen “Dem Abs” Amell), Superman (Tyler Hoechlin and Brandon Routh), The Atom (Osric Chau and Brandon Routh), Batwoman (Ruby Rose), The Flash (Grant Gustin, John Wesley Shipp, and Ezra Miller), John Constantine (Matt Ryan), Black Lightning (Cress Williams), Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer), and so many more I’m really going to get lost. This is without getting into all of the cameos from actors who have been in old media, like Burt Ward, Tom Welling, and Kevin Conroy. Many of the actors play multiple roles.

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So. Many. Characters.

END SUMMARY

The original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book was one of the most influential events in the industry. The multiverse had been DC Comics mechanism for explaining away bad or inconsistent writing or characters for a long time, but relying on it had gotten too difficult, since it meant that there was basically no official continuity for anything. When the Crisis happened, DC not only killed off the multiverse, but hundreds of characters, ranging from minor characters like Huntress to major characters like Supergirl and the Flash. It was one of the most successful comic book series ever released at the time and is used as a benchmark when discussing comic book continuity. It’s kind of a big deal, is what I’m saying.

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This image has been copied so many times by other people.

The reason why the comic Crisis on Infinite Earths worked is because all of the characters were well-established. No time was really needed to give backstory to Superman or The Flash because everyone knew who they were so well that we already had emotional investment in them. The reason the Justice League movie didn’t work was for the exact opposite reason: Nobody really knew or had any connections to any of the characters since only three of them had been in anything prior and only one of those movies was memorable in a good way. Also, Superman was dead for most of the movie, so that emotional connection was essentially cut. Now, you can replace emotional connections with spectacle, like Commando or The Expendables, but it’s better to have both. That’s what Avengers: Endgame did so well, spending the first two acts on emotional scenes and character moments, then spending the last act giving us the spectacle that we finally wanted. 

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Couldn’t even get seven members, the number that almost always forms the JLA.

This crossover actually mostly did it right.

First, almost all of the characters were well established. Yes, you might not have liked all of the series equally, but, by mixing-and-matching team-ups, almost every scene had something in it that you had a history with. Even more than that, by referencing all of the older shows and films that they’ve made, mostly just to have the characters we remember from them die tragically, the series was able to raise the stakes of the entire event while cashing in on nostalgia.

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Not that Robert Wuhl’s character in Batman was beloved, but it was a nice touch.

 

Second, the plot, while it does have a lot of fetch quests and convoluted elements in it, is pretty straightforward: Stop the bad guy. The thing is that the Anti-Monitor, the villain, doesn’t just have one plan to thwart, he has a ton of other plots that also have to be dealt with. The Anti-Monitor is also just too powerful and too above-it-all to really be punched to death by Superman, unlike certain other DC crossover villains, instead requiring actual sacrifices to gain the power to deal with him.

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Yes, not everyone lives through this.

Third, LEX. FREAKING. LUTHOR. My god, did they make a great decision in giving Jon Cryer this role and my god did they write him correctly. Lex is the single smartest character in existence but, rather than trying to save it, can’t resist using his power to try and kill Superman. Much as how Thanos is the one with the actual character arc in Avengers: Infinity War, Lex is the one with the biggest character arc and the series is all the better for it. 

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This was freaking amazing. You are a treasure, sir.

Are there problems with the series? Oh yeah, it’s still a mess trying to get this many characters to all have their “moments,” but I was genuinely impressed at how well they pulled it off. Since the nature of the entire TV multiverse is changed by the end of it, I’m looking forward to seeing how DC will handle their new continuity.

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Futurama Fridays – S4E16 “Three Hundred Big Boys”

A Tax Refund leads everyone on Earth to go a little spending crazy.

SUMMARY

Zapp Brannigan (Billy West) leads Earth to victory over the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6, seizing trillions in the spoils of war. Richard Nixon (West) decides to give every citizen of Earth $300 due to literal Voodoo Economists. Each member of the Planet Express crew gets one $300 bill and they all spend it in different ways: Leela (Katey Sagal) decides to swim with a whale, Scruffy (David Herman) gets a $300 haircut, Zoidberg (West) tries to live like a wealthy person, Fry (West) decides to buy 100 cups of coffee, Bender (John DiMaggio) plans to buy a cigar, but instead buys burglars tools in order to steal a better cigar, Professor Farnsworth (West) buys stem cells which make him look younger, Hermes (Phil LaMarr) buys his son Bamboo Boogie Boots, stilts which immediately malfunction, and Amy (Lauren Tom) buys a talking tattoo. Kif (Maurice LaMarche) buys Amy a watch which falls into the mouth of the same killer whale Leela is scheduled to swim with later in the week. The Professor also meets a young woman named April (Tress MacNeille) and starts a romance with her while pretending to be 25.

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The Nixon Fun Bill.

Kif’s depressed about losing the watch, but Leela agrees to wear a suit filled with rotten fish for her swim so that the whale will eat the fish and vomit up the watch. Bender breaks into the cigar shop to steal the Grand Cigar, but is caught on camera and pursued by Smitty and URL (West and DiMaggio). Leela’s swimsuit gets eaten, along with the rotten fish, resulting in Mushu the whale vomiting up the watch, but Kif gets arrested for taking museum property. Zoidberg tries multiple “rich person” activities, but rejects them all. Fry becomes addicted to caffeine.

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The whale is puking up a fortune.

The staff all attend a party to celebrate Zapp’s victory at the Silk Surplus. Zoidberg tries to buy some art, but finds out that $300 is not that much. Kif gets free when it’s revealed that he was being kept for the ambergris that covers his body. Bender lights his super-expensive cigar. The Professor and April reveal that he is super old and she is heavier than she appears, but they continue to be attracted to each other. Hermes and his son, Dwight (LaMarr), still stuck on their Bamboo Boogie Boots, end up breaking into the party and knocking Bender’s cigar into the silk tapestries, setting the whole party ablaze. Everyone is about to die when Fry drinks his 100th cup of coffee and enters a state of hyper-enlightenment, allowing him to evacuate everyone at super-speed, though they don’t realize it’s him. Out back, everyone finds Zoidberg cooking hotdogs and they all enjoy a meal while saying that they got a few good stories out of the tax rebate.

END SUMMARY

This episode is Futurama’s version of the celebrated The Simpsons episode “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which itself was based on the film Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. In this, rather than just observing how a normal day in the lives of all of the characters on Futurama would go, the episode focuses on what the cast would do when given a windfall. Notably, none of them actually try to invest the money, both because that would be boring and also because the purpose of a tax stimulus is to encourage spending. 

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Yes, including on stupid stuff. Especially stupid stuff.

The strength of this episode is how flawlessly they keep each story feeding into the next one. The plotlines shift according to geography, theme, or even the previous line spoken, which makes everything feel extremely cohesive and allows for a large amount of storytelling within a short time. Each of the stories explores a different aspect of the characters, ranging from Bender’s thievery to Farnsworth’s amorous ambitions to Leela finally doing something spontaneous. It’s a nice way of giving us a large number of character moments in a short time. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that at the end of the episode, Fry gets superpowers and it somehow feels completely earned and not like a cheap deus ex machina. I think it’s because everyone secretly believes caffeine can give you hyperfocus rather than a coronary. 

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Yes, they make a bullet-time reference.

Overall, this is definitely one of the best Futurama episodes, mostly because it doesn’t really feel like any other episode. 

FAVORITE JOKE

The Whale Biologist. He’s one of my favorite unnamed characters. Everything we learn about him just makes him more hilarious and absurd. First, we find out that he hates whales, especially Mushu, but refuses to explain why he became a whale biologist. Second, he believes that whales kill for at least five reasons, one of which is just for fun. Third, he believes that his job requires him to be brutally and needlessly honest, but excuses it by saying “I’m a whale biologist.” Fourth, law enforcement has to listen to him due to his position. Last, he is intensely devoted to Aquarium property, including ambergris, a whale byproduct. His character has so many hidden depths… because whale biologist.

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Tell me your secrets, Whale Biologist!!!

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 69: The Farnsworth Parabox

NEXT – Episode 71: Spanish Fry

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Mini-Review: Watchmen – Who Should Watch Watchmen?

HBO has given us a continuation of the famous 1986-87 comic series that changed the industry.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s been 34 years since a giant mutant squid appeared in the middle of New York City, killed off several million people, and convinced the Earth that aliens were invading, preventing nuclear war. Since then, superheroes have been outlawed and Robert Redford has been president. An incident involving an attempt by the racist “Seventh Kavalry” to kill all of the law enforcement officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma has led to the passage of laws which allow Law Enforcement Officers to operate as costumed figures to protect their secret identities. 

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They cut the mutant squid from the movie, sadly.

Angela Abar (Regina King), a survivor of the “White Night,” operates as a Tulsa detective under the name “Sister Night” along with her fellow survivor Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) and Det. Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson). After a police shooting by the Kavalry, Abar gets dragged into a series of events intertwining her fate with the characters who are still standing from the events of the original Watchmen: Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt, Laurie “Silk Spectre” Blake, and Jon “Doctor Manhattan” Osterman. 

END SUMMARY

Damon Lindelof, the creator of the show, has spent a decade being roundly (and justifiably) chastised for the fact that his previous creation, Lost, appeared to have no f*cking clue where the story was going. As if to compensate, this show clearly was thoroughly plotted before the first scene was shot. It’s almost as coherent in terms of themes and storytelling as its namesake comic, which is saying something. Without saying what it is, they have their own version of the clock motif from the comic and it pays off from the first episode to the last.

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They put a lot of work into the character designs, too. 

Every performance is great, which makes it hard for me to really say who the standout is. I’m going to say it’s Regina King, mostly because she gets the most screen-time and is the focus of the story, but the fact that such an amazing actor isn’t head-and-shoulders above the supporting cast tells you how elevated the supporting cast is. Many of them have to play characters who operate almost entirely through masks that don’t allow for expression which is impressive. 

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I mean, sometimes they cheat, but it’s often for a reference.

In terms of storytelling, the show manages to both select and adapt some of the more memorable elements of the comic, including a completely linearly non-linear episode (it makes sense in context), which contains one of the best temporal mind-screws I’ve seen in quite a while. The show does a great job managing it’s fairly large cast and they accomplish a lot of worldbuilding through showing, not telling (which is something that I will literally always applaud). While the original Watchmen essentially satirized the existence of superheroes by pointing out that only damaged people would ever think superheroics are a good option, this show continues that by showing that people inspired by superheroes are also likely to view violence and secrecy more than normal people. The themes about the nature of racism are handled well, attacking it from all angles. 

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I admit that they are sometimes not super subtle, but it works.

The main thing that I appreciate about this is that it isn’t just Watchmen 2. The show isn’t focused just on the characters and what happened to them after the series, it’s about what would be changed in a world like the one that Watchmen is set in. It’s similar to what I appreciate about The Mandalorian: It’s showing me more about a world that I want to see more of, but it isn’t just trying to force a continuation of the previous story. Yes, it involves some of the same characters, but it doesn’t focus on them. 

I liked it and I hope the next season gets made.

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Netflix Review – Dracula (2020): A Visceral New Take on an Old Story

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the people behind some quality Doctor Who, Jekyll, and Sherlock bring you an updated vampire story.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) is being interviewed by a very interesting nun, Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), and her assistant (Morfydd Clark). Harker reveals that he was brought to Transylvania to help finalize plans by a Count Dracula (Claes Bang) to move to England, but he was trapped by the Count, who it turns out is a vampire, which you probably guessed because I can’t imagine you not knowing who Dracula is. Vampire stuff ensues.

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END SUMMARY

So, I’m giving a content warning here: This show is pretty damn gross. It includes things that you probably never wanted to see if you have a queasy stomach. It didn’t bother me much as a veteran of ‘Nados both Clown and Shark, but it might gross out a lot of people. While vampires have been very visceral in the past, some of the stuff in this series goes out of its way to be more unnerving and it’s probable that Dracula actually exaggerates it to make himself more terrifying and dramatic.

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He’s all about the drama.

The series makes the interesting choice to start off by being fairly faithful to the book and then deciding, only after we think we know where this is going, to diverge wildly. The focus of this series is on the relationship between Dracula and Sister Agatha, a refreshingly bold and snarky character for a horror series set before the 1990s. She spends most of her time on-screen exploring Dracula’s powers, mocking him, or threatening him, despite the fact that he can easily murder her without any effort. While she is fascinated with him because he’s a vampire and a sign that the supernatural is real, he is fascinated by her boldness and refusal to fear death. 

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She don’t want nun, naked man. Yeah, I already regret that joke.

Claes Bang’s performance as Count Dracula is a relatively new take on the character because he acquires the traits of the people on whom he feeds. As such, the character actually morphs and changes over the course of the series, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, to reflect the attitudes, desires, and sometimes even mannerisms of other characters. The fact that it is fairly subtle is actually to the show’s credit, because over-emphasizing it would seem gimmicky. The show does actively demonstrate that Dracula gathers information by drinking blood, however, which proves to be an interesting power that isn’t usually explored in this manner (aside from Hellsing). Dolly Wells’s performance is equally interesting, because she seems almost as sociopathic as Dracula at times, but it’s always based around destroying him.

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He gets his “who sharted” look by drinking an English guy.

The set pieces are extremely elaborate, ranging from a very well-designed version of Castle Dracula to a passenger ship that seems to be almost as labyrinthine at times. The costumes, likewise, are well-done. The dialogue is pretty solid, although it doesn’t stand out compared to other series by this team.

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… I kind of want that outfit and I’m ashamed of that.

The downside to the show is that it never quite figures out how it wants to handle Dracula. It takes some shots at vampire mythology, but mostly holds them up even though they “don’t make sense.” Dracula is supposed to be a complicated character who can be sympathetic while also being horrifying, but he’s so focused on enjoying himself  at times that it’s really hard to be either.  I think he has more than enough screen time to get there, but it just doesn’t come together as strongly as it should. Still, the scenes of him trying to one-up his enemies are pretty fun.

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Overall, I’ve enjoyed the series quite a bit, but I admit that it is not going to be most people’s cup of tea. At times it’s dumb and kind of gross, but it is consistently those things so I can suspend the right amount of disbelief. The biggest problem with reviewing it is that I don’t want to give too much away, because the fact that it starts so traditionally before quickly going in its own direction is one of the strengths of the series.  I’d say watch the first episode

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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