Robot(s) and Humans vs Aliens and Abbies

I had just about given up hope that anything of value would air during the summer season. Sure, we’ve got the final season of Hannibal, but we also have the absurdly hot messes that are Wayward Pines (Series 1) and Extant (Series WTF?).

But after wading through junk, and listening to hype, to discover that Humans and Mr. Robot could really deliver on what I’d been hearing, was a wonderful surprise.

Humans, while flawed slightly in its core, is a great drama with a lot to make you think. The irony of Parkinson (The IT Crowd) in a lead role was also quite fun; she lands the role well too. If you haven’t caught this one yet, find it and watch. I almost turned away after the first episode, but if you feel that way, push through to the second. All the concerns you have will vanish at that point as they pivot the show from what would have been a disastrous path. But it isn’t just the writing that makes this show, Chan (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Morgan (Merlin), in particular, have created very complex characters and delivered them expertly.

Mr. Robot, renewed before it even aired, is deceptive and subversive from the outset. The entire show is lensed through Malek’s (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) paranoid and delusional perspective. What is real and what isn’t is far from clear… and seeking clues is part of the fun. I have my theories, I must admit, but doubt any will be proven true or false before the end of the first set of shows this year.

But to comment on the problem children of the season…

Wayward Pines is a phenomena I just don’t understand. It is the worst kind of science fiction. It takes stock ideas and comes up with clever moments, but fails to consider the implications beyond what serves the initial plot desire. In fact, it attempts to support absurd choices though long extempore speeches, but never succeeds. By the end of this initial 10 episodes, I felt my intelligence abused and my hopes dashed. I’m sure there is an argument to take this as a cautionary tale for how the world is now, but what works in print doesn’t necessarily work on screen (especially if characters are allowed to chew scenery).

Extant’s first season last summer was intriguing, if imperfect. There was enough there to get me back. Enough plot, enough character, enough thought to implication, and some solid actors. Then came this season. I haven’t seen such a quality and concept flip on a series since the German producers took over Forever Knight and destroyed the cult classic. By the end of the first episode, Extant had wiped the board and started over with, essentially, a whole new series and an entirely different feel. Not like Fringe did with its various seasons, no. This was a lowering of the quality and a rethinking of the characters. It went from  prime-time quality production to the cheap, ill-contructed SyFy produced/purchased science fiction series that is filling the hours these days. I dare anyone to defend most of what that channel puts out as quality… entertaining at times, sure, but not great sf. And neither is this.


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