Tag Archives: sequel

Water

[4 stars]

This much recognized tale by director and co-writer Deepa Mehta is more than just an historical. In fact, despite its setting in 1938 India, it is disturbingly reflective of today with its abuse by the class system, treatment of women, religious fundamentalism, and general social unrest. And I don’t mean reflective of India, I mean worldwide. But commentary aside, the story alone is compelling.

In her first and only film to date, Sarala Kariyawasam, holds this film together with her young and intense presence. As a young widow (at 7 years of age) she is forced to live out the rest of her life cloistered. The collection of women she now lives with are faced with her indomitable spirit and the chaos she brings to their ordered world.

In parallel, John Abraham (Dhoom) and Lisa Ray (Endgame) provide a separate and adult focus of life and possibility. It is a tale we’ve seen before, in many ways, but one that doesn’t tend to get old if you like romance and believe love is more important than rules. That doesn’t mean this is an easy set of choices and the outcome is far from sure, but these actors bring you along the journey and help you believe the choices.

Overall, of course, there is the title: Water. The element here represents life, magic, love, and so much more and so much less. I am curious now about its companion pieces that I didn’t know about: Fire and Earth. Water completes the trilogy, which I can see given the ending, but I have no sense of the overall journey and shape from only this single movie.

This is a beautiful and emotionally frustrating film with a lot to say about the past and about the present. Definitely worth your time if you missed it till now.

Water

Blade Runner 2049

[4 stars]

When making a sequel, the first question you really have to ask is: Why? And in this case, the writer of the original Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher, along with his new co-writer Michael Green, found an answer. And with Denis Villenuve (Arrival) at the helm, this new tale in the universe is gripping and inexorable as it moves along. In fact, while 2049 is almost three hours long, an hour longer than the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner, it feels shorter due to its editing and tension.

Unlike the original bottomless noir that was Blade Runner, this story is more a compelling personal journey for its main character, Ryan Gosling (Song to Song). It has light and hope, despite being sunk in the same ruined Earth and financial disparity that was established with that world 35 years ago. And yet, the story and world still feel timeless. And that is the interesting part, it still feels like it could be our dystopian future; now more than ever. A world of overcrowding, rampant poor, and authoritarian over-reach doesn’t feel that outlandish.

Villenuve managed to pay homage to the original story but create his own world all at once. Yes, if you have recently watched the first film, you will pick up nods and winks throughout, but it isn’t a copy of the original. The nods and mentions aren’t distracting ones, simply enough to make it clear that you never really left that universe. It isn’t a perfect story, but it is solid and complex. It will keep you thinking and wondering. That trick is attained thanks to the directing and, of course, the acting.

Along with Gosling’s subtle portrayal of K, there a number of women who fill out his world. Interestingly, his world is dominated by women. Primarily, Robin Wright (Rememory) as his boss walks an interesting line with him while Ana de Armas (Hands of Stone) provides the most interesting companion since Her. In addition, Sylvia Hoeks does a nice riff and counterpoint to Sean Young’s Rachel. And then there are the additional building blocks for the rest of his story: Hiam Abbass, Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror) and Carla Juri (Morris From America). As I said, quite the list of influence.

This isn’t to dismiss the men. David Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) actually gives us a bit of real emotion in his role. Only Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) came off to me as oddly empty. He has the presence and the story (particularly if you watch the 3 prequel shorts that bridge the original and sequel), but not a lot of it gets to the screen. It would have distracted from Gosling’s story, to be sure, so I understand the choice. However, Harrison Ford’s (The Age of Adaline) role manages to feel more complete without much more screen time, and not just because we know his backstory, there is just more there in Ford’s performance.

Be aware, this is not an action flick. It is a slow-burn and very personal mystery. It is beautifully filmed and expertly edited and directed to keep it all moving along. The story is one worth telling, and while it would lead to yet another story, it is complete as it is. I do suggest watching the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner before viewing this, much as I suggested rewatching Terminator 1 & 2 before viewing Terminator: Genisys. Though Terminator was all about what was changing, Blade Runner is more about providing a real sense of grounding and appreciation for what will unfold before you.

In case it wasn’t obvious, in prep for this late-conceived sequel, I rewatched the original Blade Runner. To be more specific, I watched the Director’s Cut, followed by the final 3 scenes of the original version and the Final Cut for comparison’s sake. It was an interesting exercise. I chose the Director’s Cut as that best dovetails to this new expansion of the story. I have to admit, the Director’s Cut is hampered by its slow pacing due to the removal of the voice-overs but no additional editing of the screen time where it was excised. However, it is the closest storywise to enter 2049.

As a side note, I think one of the things I’ve come to finally realize is that Ridley Scott has made only one brilliant film in his life: Alien. Blade Runner blazed new ground, but it isn’t a wonderfully directed film, it is just a fascinating world and a good story that he got lucky enough to have control over. Blade Runner remains a powerful influence on cinema from the Hunger Games to Ghost in the Shell; the claustrophobic, elite-class dominated hopelessness appears again and again in film since its release. The fact that he recut it multiple times trying to say what he “really wanted to” tells you that he isn’t a great director. And certainly his ouvre that followed Alien has never equaled that incredible piece of heart-pounding terror and rich world.

But Scott isn’t part of this outing. This is all Villenuve and his ability continues to impress me. I can only hope that this film will find its audience as the original tale did. It is worth the time spent, especially on the large screen.

Blade Runner 2049

The Orville vs. Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek is a cultural institution, pretty much world-wide. Now, after a multiple year gap of all things Trek on the small and large screens, we are suddenly being handed two very different options in what has grown from a property to a genre in itself.

The Orville, brainchild of Seth McFarlane (Ted, Million Ways to Die in the West, Family Guy), takes the formula we’ve known for decades and gives it a hard look with both a jaundiced eye and a big hug. It is neither fish nor fowl, approaching the world it has created as satire, but tackling real storylines at the same time.

If I had any doubts about whether Orville could find its footing, its third episode, “About a Girl,” proved they were serious about their television mission. Bringing Brannon Braga, main helmer (and some think destroyer) of Trek since Next Generation, on to direct indicated that as well. The melding of the two men’s sensibilities brings an uncomfortable detente to the series, but one that somehow works. It allows us to laugh at the absurd seriousness of the situations and still enjoy and invest in them.

Discovery, on the other hand, takes a different approach. When it was original conceived with Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods, Pushing Daisies, WonderfallsDead Like Me) at the helm, I was excited (despite the CBS All Access plan). Fuller had the potential to bring a level of dark reality to a franchise he had written for in the past, but which had drifted to become a bit too mainstream, too predictable, and without a  lot of teeth.

But somewhere along the development process, Fuller exited and the studio took over. Honestly, I’ve not dug into the what and whys, I just didn’t care enough. When Fuller left I was pretty sure the series would devolve back into its rut. Fuller likes living on a knife edge of sensibility. He has created, wrote, and run some of the best television out there, all of which got cancelled before their time but which became instant cult favorites. And Hannibal may even be resurrected.

Discovery is burdened by the very fabric in inhabits. 50+ years of history drape and inform it. But what has always made Trek work wasn’t the stories, it was the characters. Discovery doesn’t really have that chemistry at its outset. I don’t see or feel it either from the main individuals (except for the blue guy) or between these people who have supposedly served together for years. The first double-episode should have felt solid and shocking. Instead it had me in a wait-and-see sensibility.

To be fair, not all shows can be hits out of the gate. But I am more impressed with The Orville for feeling like it has its act together with no history to back it than I am with Discovery, who has a known property and a solid universe to build from. Discovery, especially because of its subscription wall, has to hit it out of the park to keep me around. I don’t see that happening at the moment… and I have suffered through every other Trek series to the bitter end on both principle and doggedness. We’ll see if my sense of completeness insists on my attendance going forward.

The Orville 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

[3.5 stars]

The first Kingsman was a delightfully unexpected and irreverent romp in spy-land. Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle) returns for this middle story of a planned trilogy and manages to grow the character and give us another, if much more violent, round of spy games. It may have lost some of the element of surprise, but the movie compensates with sheer audacity of spectacle and story. And everyone gets to show off a bit in this film.

On team England, Mark Strong (Miss Sloane), Sophie Cookson (Huntsman: Winters’ War), and Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’s Baby) all reprise roles adding to the mythology. But the surprise addition of Hanna Alström (Kingsman: The Secret Service) showed us that Eggsy wasn’t just a love ’em and leave ’em guy, he was capable of commitment. It is a nice flourish for his story.

Team America (1) is a bit more complex to pull apart. A great deal was made of Channing Tatum (The Hateful Eight) and Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), but their parts are relatively small. It is more Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas) and Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall) that drive that team. To be truthful, I wish I had known a lot less about this section of the film as it is slowly revealed over the first third of the plot, but it is impossible to not know it given the advertising and the cast.

Team America (2) is the US Government officials led by Bruce Greenwood (Spectral) and Emily Watson (Everest). Greenwood provides an ugly version of the office that was a scarily good guess at the current tenor given that it was in production during the changeover of administrations here at the time. Watson’s is an important role, but a bit of a cipher as a character, which is a shame given her abilities.

In opposition to them all are Edward Holcroft (London Spy) and Julianne Moore (Vanya on 42nd Street). Holcroft isn’t much more than a prop to bridge the movies and make it personal for Eggsy and the Kingsmen. There just isn’t much there other than anger and a desire to succeed. Julianne Moore, however, has a bit more meat on her character bones. Her speech on the motivation and plan she has put into action is one of the more interesting, subtle pieces of the social commentary that underlies this story. While she delivers it all well, there isn’t all that much for her to work with. Still, she kept it from being a cookie-cutter villainess. She also has one amusing, surprise guest with a fun story-line, but I’m not going to spoil that here.

The most interesting returnee to this universe is director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn. This is his first ever sequel. After launching Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, he left the franchises to others. He does a credible job coming back for this round, but he did miss a few marks. First, despite its scope, the film doesn’t feel international. It feels like Hollywood. This is in large part due to the rather nasty portrayal of the US government as well as only showing us a view of the world events via a fictionalized Fox News. “Fictionalized” as it is Fox actually doing news (rather than misreporting or opining). But there are no feeds from the other affected countries. That was a mistake I’m sure was insisted on by Fox Studios, but it really rather hurt the credibility of the tale. And Vaughn really has to stop trying to recreate his amazing “Time in a Bottle” sequence from X-Men. It just isn’t going to happen.

On a technical level, the film really excels. The script is constructed solidly to use everything as well as to redeem characters and even the golden circle symbol itself. And the editing, both between scenes and within fights, is pretty amazing. While there are moments it is very much obvious, which you don’t really want editing to be (like a couple of the cross-fades), they’re so beautifully executed that you can’t help but admire the choices. But the intra-fight editing is the real prize: is damn near seamless, which is astounding when you realize the complexity of the shots.

As a whole, this is just as entertaining as the first film in the series. It isn’t so much about discovery any longer, we’ve had our origin story after all. This round is about redemption and growth and finding a place in the world… and a whole lot of violence getting there, as adolescence often is. The film absolutely sets up a third installment, but fully resolves the story it starts in this outing. It has a ton of laughs, car chases worth of Fast & Furious or Bond, tons of flying lead and mashed bodes, and a social message that may or may not resonate for everyone, but that is certainly interesting to note. If you liked the first, you will like the second. If you haven’t found this series yet, start with The Secret Service and then return to this. While it may stand on its own, it will have a whole lot more depth with the background for you.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Marvel’s The Defenders

[3 stars]

One of the biggest challenges coming into this collective mash-up was that each of the prequel/origin series had very distinctive styles. Daredevil was a sort of stylized, dark police/action series. Jessica Jones was a gritty, street detective show. Luke Cage was borderline black exploitation, but with a positive flare. Iron Fist was much closer to pure martial arts comic book than anything else, and with a weak lead to drive it.

This is is also the first time I’m aware of multiple shows feeding into a single new entity (and done so with intent, not a temporary cross-over or spin-off). Aspects and mysteries from each of the shows come up and are woven back into a single tapestry for a sixth season climax (Daredevil has had two seasons already). You just have to appreciate the audacity of it, if not always the execution.

The melding of the styles actually worked rather well; the first half of the season spent time mixing them together into a blend of something that absorbed aspects of each. They also didn’t immediately form the team, for which I was grateful. The Defenders are an uncomfortable alliance of, often, reluctant heroes. Fate and The Hand insist on throwing them together, but sometimes they’d rather be throwing each other. It makes for some nice moments of tension and humor, as well as the iconic Marvel “moments in the restaurant.”

In addition to our main heroes (and enemies), adding Sigourney Weaver (A Monster Calls) to this cast was a a coup. She plays one of the most quietly competent and confident leaders of the opposition I think I’ve seen. She never loses her cool or focus, though she  does manage to show some levels.

But as a series unto itself, as clever and fun as it is, the entire plot rests on the shoulders of the Iron Fist. Frankly, Finn Jones is just not up to the job. He comes across as immature and petulant rather than as broken and troubled while trying to find his way. It weakens the result and keeps you from emotionally committing to the effort. You just want to slap sense into the man-boy. It particularly makes the events leading to the climactic reveal feel silly. The ongoing reluctance of Daredevil’s sidekicks was a drag on the story as well, though it is handled significantly better.

Ultimately, the series goes where you’d expect, which is fine. This is a super-hero trope and the journey is as important as the results. The fact that clues to it are throughout the previous five series is really fun. I do want to see what comes next, but I’m hopeful/hoping that the focus will be on a different character, and that Danny Rand will finally grow into his long pants and be a bit more Tony Stark than Pee Wee Herman (and aren’t there golden fists jokes to be made there?). But you do have to see this if you’ve committed to any of the previous lead-ups just to see the other characters grow. It certainly isn’t wasted time, but I had hoped for something better given the strength of the other three leads.

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Series 3)

[3 stars]

OK, I honestly didn’t see myself writing about this reboot again. The first series was wonderfully surprising, but still aimed a bit young for my taste. The second series was middling and felt like it was simply pushed out too quickly.

This third installment, however, has a bit more subtlety to it. Lotor, the new evil, is actually a bit more real, a bit smarter, and a lot more intriguing…especially given our world today. He conquers with kindness, stealth, and power. It is a great evolution in how cartoon enemies are drawn for this kind of story and this audience. Shades of grey are always more interesting than simple black & white.

Frustratingly, despite the interesting start, the end of this series was rushed. The final episode is just a huge flashback explanation on the origins of the war and, as it happens, Voltron. The explanations are clever and made me appreciate the writers. But then, well, let’s just say they fell back on what they knew rather than continuing to go someplace more interesting. I have a sense where series 4 will go, but I do hate missed chances.

At least we don’t have long to wait to see what happens next. Series 4 arrives in October.

votron

Alien: Covenant

[3 stars] The main question that was raised when this latest installment of the Alien universe was announced was, “Why?” The previous film, Blow-metheus, as it is lovingly referred to in my circles, had a horrible script, confused expectations, and answered next to nothing about the Xenomorph and the moments that led to the original Alien, even though we’d been promised that. In fact, Ridley Scott (The Martian) confused matters further by denying what little seemed obvious in the film (whether it was Earth at the beginning or not) and obfuscated the overall plan.

Now comes Covenant, which takes place 10 years after the end of the previous movie (though there are problems with that timeline based on Fassbender’s statements as David). But this time we’ve a crew that is, generally, more believable with some exceptions I’ll get to. As colonists I gave them some latitude as to their space worthiness. However it is a science fiction movie as well as horror, and there are some gaffs that really pulled me out of the tale on that aspect.

There will be some minor spoilers in this discussion, but nothing that really matters.

Let’s start near the top with the neutrino burst that sets it all in motion. Do suns have these? Yes. However, neutrinos also have little to no mass and so you wouldn’t be blasted by such an event. A gamma ray burst, maybe, but not neutrinos. And why would a multiyear, sleeper ship be so fragile as to lose all power when one sail is out of alignment? There were better ways to set up these events to get to the same ends.

Then we get to the Star Trek silliness of the entire senior staff of the crew going down to explore the new planet. They are responsible for four thousand colonists (so we’re told, though who lived and died there changes from beginning to end of the movie), but are willing to just take off and leave almost no one awake aboard. Now we get to signs of civilization, which are apparently surprising despite the following of a signal (a signal in English, mind you).

These folks may not be hardened space farers, but they are supposed to be scientists…and yet they go mucking about, touching things and being generally stupid on their arrival, and not taking objects that would make sense (like the photo they find).

And then, with the players positioned on the board, the fun begins…the second of three parts that is supposed to, eventually, close the loop with the original Alien. (Notice I’m not even calling out the scene replications from Alien, Aliens, and the rest of the series that you could take as either homage or laziness.)

Right off the bat we have familiar Alien-like attacks and expectations. Though there is a minimal, core group of actors for the story, there are really just two main crew members who drive the tensions. Billy Crudup (20th Century Women), as acting captain is ineffectual and weak…which was disappointing. Crudup is a good actor, but he was directed by Scott to be unsteady from the start and we never respect him nor believe his religious fervor. His deterioration should have been gradual. On the other hand, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) starts off tough. She, alone in the crew, appears to understand how things should be done despite any personal pain and sacrifice that is going on. She is our Ripley analog and overcomes a lot of the script to show us a solid leader and warrior…if not an intelligent one at times.

The rest of our characters, though set up in the opening scenes as competent individuals, suddenly change. For instance, the pilot, Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), who had nerves of steel through the storm is suddenly a panicked, screaming mess causing mayhem. Callie Hernandez (La La Land) becomes a preening fool. The men fare no better, and the somewhat groundbreaking relationship of Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight) and his lover is nice, but so glossed over as to be lost in the confused mess of the story and served no real purpose nor had any impact. In fact, if there is any constant in this film it is that the only lives that matter are the ones you, personally, care about. Everyone else’s lives are cheap…so, of course, it all falls apart.

The one steady element of all the Alien films has been the synthetics. Michael Fassbender (Song to Song) does a wonderful job as the semi-psychotic David and the even tempered Walter in this newest sequence. He also gets a great reference to Ozymandias, which is both amusing given Crudup’s turn in Watchmen, and probably far too arch for the type of film this really is.

But the reality is that, while there are the bones of an interesting story, the movie just isn’t that good. It is predictable, recognizable, thin on character and thinner on scares. The plot, the only reason to watch this prequel sequence, is getting stretched out over three films (assuming the next is ever made) and it will have to do backflips to get us to the ship with the Pilot in the original Alien. A place we already were in Prometheus, had Scott had the balls to just do one, simple film to close the series.

So why watch this uninspired, unsurprising sequel? Well, there are a couple reasons. It doesn’t really break new ground, but neither does it do it poorly. It just doesn’t entertain as much as it should because we’ve seen it all before and because we’re well ahead of the story regarding the “surprises.” There is also the dueling Fassbenders, which is great fun; watching him act is always a joy.

Is that enough to spend your time? Maybe. It is pure popcorn with a familiar refrain. It has good production values and some answers to burning questions. Fans of Alien wanted this to be so much more than it was, but it is what we’ve got to work with. The jury is still out as to whether any of it will ever make sense or be worth all the years of effort that have been pored into the endeavor.

Alien: Covenant

Game of Thrones (Series 7)

[4 stars] As we gallop ever more away from George RR’s personal vision and into Weiss and Benioff’s take on it, there were some big shifts in tone and approach for this massive fantasy. With only 7 episodes, rather than 10, the plot really moved along without ever sagging. Previous seasons felt like they slowed down or had filler (usually in the shape of nudity, sex, or violence that wasn’t needed). This season clipped along sharply, providing a breathless sort of movement. On the other hand, as the season wrapped up, it became a lot more predictable as well; more familiar, less surprising.

This is perhaps because these are hero’s journeys and are recognizable and/or because George RR didn’t really write these…it is being done by the show’s creators since they are off on their own path without much of a guide or same well of talent, and far off from the books that exist and the books to come. Also, in trade for the pace, there is a compressed sense of travel time between places and events and some scope of the world. People get from place to place rather quickly, though we are meant to intuit time passing for everyone as they do rather than seeing other plots for an episode or two while they are in motion.

Still, in many ways, this is the strongest season in its structure and focus, even if more predictable. We’re in heroic fantasy in this world, so getting ahead of this penultimate pause wasn’t surprising. How it all wraps up is full of bigger questions.

Some spoilers and thoughts

The start of this season was one of the strongest episodes they have done. It was on point, full of information, deliciously evil, and set up what has to come next in a beautiful kick-off. It even had real, honest-to-god humor. That was a lot of promise. Still, the expectation was set that this season will be the uniting of the kingdoms while the next will be the battle with the Night King, because you really can’t do one without the other. At this point, my prediction for the final show is The Wall collapsing and the hoards coming south toward whatever heroes still remain. (And that proved out.)

Another interesting aspect is greyscale. Up till now it was a colorful little disease that has remained persistent, but in the background since we met Stanis’s daughter. But now that Jorah has it my brain finally clicked that it must be important. By the second episode my thought was it will either protect against the army of the dead (or help somehow) or protect against dragon fire. Not sure which and not sure why they are peeling Jorah out of the shell and what that may or may not mean for my thoughts, but wanted to capture them in case I turn out to be right. Perhaps we’ll learn more next season, or I’m just out of my mind.

There was a lot of wrap-up going on in this season as well. For instance, Arya and her dire wolf. A missed opportunity to my mind. Arya and a wolf would have been so cool! But now it looks like they’ve parted ways. And, for that matter, we’ve not seen Ghost in ages. On the other hand, we are finally seeing Sansa grow up and grow into herself. Can’t wait to see where that goes wrong. But, clearly, we’re headed to a world of women rulers, which in and of itself is a fascinating set of choices. I say this even knowing the end revelations.

I was going to add a chunk on the third ep, but Esquire did a great job of summing up some of the changes. However, I will add one important bit. The structure of the writing felt better to me this season than it has ever been, even if the big reveals weren’t as well handled. The symmetry of structures in the third episode, the echos of themes, as well as the satisfaction of moment were among the strongest they’ve had. I don’t agree that Cercei became sympathetic in the third episode, but seeing all the strings come back together rather than more and more chaos being heaped on is great. And, yes, Jamie’s brief moment of realization, whether it develops into a conscience or not, was heartening. Certainly, the end of the season builds on that doubt. (Esquire did a similar round-up of the full season as well.)

The wrap of the season is exactly where we’d mostly expected: the fall of the great wall and the invasion of the hoard, and the revelation of Jon’s parentage. What I didn’t see, though should have, was the setting up of betrayal by Cercei. I’m an optimist, what can I say? I figured she’d die before being that idiotic. But Jamie riding off was a nice plus. Little Finger’s comeuppance was also brilliantly set up and executed (sure we saw it coming, and it happened a bit to slap-dash, but I still liked it)…and about bloody time.

However, the equivocating and ineffectiveness of our 3 eyed raven is getting annoying. Yes, oracles are generally cryptic and on their own timeline, but he just seems to be holding back info to be an ass and, more importantly, doesn’t even seem to see the full truth (vis-a-vis Jon, for instance) until prompted, so just how good is he at this? And where did the Night King get those big-ass chains? Or how did Euron know to storm off because the “undead can’t swim” or was he that good an improviser?

As to where we go, I’m betting on a pregnant Daenerys and Jon handing her the throne or at least the High Queenship. But there is also some revelation to come about the Night King, I’m assuming. There is something rather personal about all of it, and I don’t think we’ve gotten all the info yet.  Could be barking mad on that one, but having him as just a faceless, unconnected evil doesn’t feel like George.

But, ultimately, George’s version of the world is probably way more detailed and complex, and in ways that the show can never replicate without the template to adapt from. It is a shame that they need to forge ahead on their own rather than wait for George. Next season will be hard and bloody and, hopefully, with George steering it a bit more than he did this season so we get a satisfyingly complex and impactful finale.

Game of Thrones

Top of the Lake: China Girl

[3 stars] The first round of Top of the Lake felt like a forced update of Twin Peaks; a bit less surreality but plenty of odd characters, strange speeches, and meandering plot. It was interesting, but not great. At least not to my mind. But the complexity of Elisabeth Moss’s (High-Rise) character was intriguing and I was curious to see where they might take her.

This second series returns Moss’s character to Sydney and approaches the story with a lot more realism. It takes a lot of the bits of the first series, in idea, and transposes them into more believable situations. It is still stretched in credibility, but a lot less obtuse in its plot and intention. For instance, the impenetrable Holly Hunter philosophy is mutated onto the differently twisted David Dencik (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Analogs to other characters can be found in Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), Alice Englert (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell), and Ewen Leslie. In particular, the broken creepiness of Nicole Kidman (Lion), who embraced her ugly role with abandon, is great fun. But the point isn’t to compare the two series too closely, only to highlight that the creators learned some lessons and built on them.

The series still loses its way about half way through, forgetting Moss is a police detective and focusing on the more soap opera aspects of the story. You get the feeling through the second half that if she’d just been doing her job finding the murderer, fewer bad things would happen. It still manages to keep up a good head of steam through to the end, and provides the opportunity for more stories to come. My hope is that they get someone on the team that understands police procedurals, which would really up the value and believability of the stories.

Product Details

Ripper Street (series finale)

[3 stars] Somewhere around series 3, Ripper Street lost its way and never found it again. It retained its beautiful language, a Western version of Shakespeare for lack of a better description, but it lost the drive of the characters and the inciting conceit of Edmund Reid’s policing.

In series 4 and 5 it all comes back around and, with contortions that PT Barnum would have hired, they manage to close the story. Sadly it isn’t with great skill, but with a wedge and shim. Series 4 leaped ahead in time, and the final episode in series 5 attempts, clumsily, to put a shape around the whole through a collection of vignettes to wrap up the present stories, and flashbacks to provide a mirror and meaning to them.

Does it work? Sort of, but it all feels so very forced. The show was provided more than enough advance notice to plan a better arc through its final 2 series. Instead we got the White Chapel Golem, which wasn’t uninteresting, but with a meandering plot and too much going on (and a load of death). We are left, at the end, with an idea and melancholy that has carried through the series as a whole. It is, to its credit, unwilling to go for the easy and pleasant solutions to all the issues, but in other ways it gave in exactly to expectations.

Ripper Street, as a series, was ambitious and richly textured. The first series is still the best focused, and the rest of the run certainly has moments and merits, if not stellar choices. I would have been happy with the conclusion at the end of series 3, but the 2-series wrap up did keep my attention, even if I was less than thrilled with the direction of that resolution.

On the up side, it was relatively self-contained so if you want to stop at 3, you don’t lose much by doing so. But, if you want to go forward and see the wrap-up for all the various characters, you have that option.

Ripper Street