Tag Archives: Lost

‘Wayward Pines’ aces the Season 1 test

Kate (Carla Gugino) gets more than she bargains for in her attempt to escape Wayward Pines.

Kate (Carla Gugino) gets more than she bargains for in her attempt to escape Wayward Pines.

I was wary of Wayward Pines.

It came down to two things. The first was the name “M. Night Shyamalan” propped up prominently in the advertising. Most of his work since The Village has been the film equivalent of a raging tire fire, and after what he did to Avatar: The Last Airbender, I wasn’t sure I’d ever watch anything he was involved in again. However, Shyamalan deserves some credit here for making Wayward Pines work. His tendencies to lean on moody atmosphere and a deliberative pace in the pilot set the tone for the rest of the first season. I wonder if working off another’s material – the series is based on the books by Blake Crouch – as well as working on a television series, which is more collaborative than the auteur role Shyamalan is used to as a film director, is part of what is responsible. If so, that mix has proven potent, and Wayward Pines can head in some interesting directions from what’s been established already.

The second thing that concerned me were the comparisons to Twin Peaks that were popping up in early reviews. I view Twin Peaks as one of the most uniquely twisted shows in the history of television, almost sacred because of the swirl of odd humor, kinky otherworldliness and dark underpinnings that are unmatched. Well, it turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about, because those reviews were dead wrong. Wayward Pines is distinctly lacking in sense of humor, which isn’t a put down. That’s just not what the show is, and it’s the easiest thing to point to as a difference when comparing it to Twin Peaks. Also, in Twin Peaks, the secrecy that drives the show is the hidden lies of the townspeople who are living the small-town, American dream. Wayward Pines‘ secrecy is more about the workings of the town itself, how it came to be, why it is so isolated, the planned machinations happening behind the scenes and what those machinations result in. Really, Wayward Pines feels much more like Lost than Twin Peaks.

FBI agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) won't follow the party line in Wayward Pines: Don't talk about the past, don't go past the wall.

FBI agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) won’t follow the party line in Wayward Pines: Don’t talk about the past, don’t go past the wall.

Hopefully, the Lost comparison won’t extend past the first season. The ending of season one changes the focus of Wayward Pines, spinning the plot in a different direction. The cast could potentially be radically different as well, even after the culling of familiar faces throughout the first season. The potential is there for long-term success, if the show and the folks running it can maintain the balance of plausibility of the action with the more far-out, fantastic elements that are part of this cloistered world.

If not, it could get … well, lost, for lack of a better way to put it. The ending of season one leaves the show dangling on a precipice, a radical change of course charted for the upcoming season. Abandoning the situation as it was, moving ahead a few years, could test the patience of fans if it is not handled delicately, possibly even alienate fans who would like more of what they saw and aren’t ready to push on.

I, for one, have hope. We’ll see if that hope is rewarded.

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‘100’ may be trying to get ‘Lost’

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Spoilers ahead. You were warned.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the CW’s The 100. I started watching it with my (then) tween daughter, who is a big fan of all things Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. And while in its own post-apocalyptic way The 100 is part of that youth genre, the writers and other minds behind the show have done a nice job of establishing unique situations and strong characters. The three-way war between sky folk, grounders and the mountain people was masterful, a situation made more interesting by the personal relationships and political machinations that each side has tried to manipulate in their favor.

Clarke has become the most interesting character. Yes, she’s the lead, the daughter of the only doctor among the sky people, a conscience at times when the youthful, shrinking group of 100 needed her to be, particularly in the first season. But the second season has seen a dramatic change in her role. As she has ascended to leadership, she is the one who now must make the tough decisions. She can’t just stand on the sidelines and critique. Now, the blood is on her hands when things go wrong, when battles must be fought, when conflicts must be settled. The change becomes apparent at mid-season when her love interest, Finn, is surrendered for the mass murder of unarmed grounders. It is a political decision to hand him over. It smooths the path for unity between grounders and sky people, as well as their military alliance against the mountain folk. Finn will be tortured, slowly, in gruesome manners for his crime. Clarke approaches him, hugs him to say goodbye, then stabs him in the gut, sealing her bargain with the grounders with blood without allowing Finn’s death to be dragged out over days. It’s a hard call, but the mark of leadership.

I could go on and on about the positives regarding character development, factions and more. It’s all praise that is deserving. But I’m worried that the good times may be over, and that has paused my adoration.

At the end of season two, Jaha – who was the leader among the sky people while in space, but has become a Quixotic character in his search for civilization – has found what he believes to be is the fabled City of Light, of which we have heard a lot about, but not much of substance. Things are clean, solar-powered, food and drink are around. But Jaha finds a settler, a digital image of a human who we were warned might be the person who started the nukes flying that sent our plucky heroes’ ancestors to space in the first place. This digital being seems determined to start the radiation parade all over again. ostensibly with the help of Jaha.

There was something about it that just screamed … Lost. To this point, there’s been no mystical element to the proceedings. To be sure, there’s been plenty of weird to go around, but all explainable. But this moment that closed Season Two felt like the smoke monsters, talking to dead people, ancient temples, a plane full of carcasses on the bottom of the ocean. I sincerely hope that this will lead somewhere rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

But my Spidey Sense is tingling. And as we all know, that never ended well for Peter Parker.

To be continued …

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‘Intruders’ example of how good sci-fi is done

This creepy little girl is being partially inhabited by an immortal serial killer.

This creepy little girl is being partially inhabited by an immortal serial killer. Welcome to “Intruders.”

Last fall, I complained about Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. My main issue was how much information the minds behind the show gave the viewers in the pilot, information that could have been subtly teased and slowly leaked out as the season went along. Instead, it was all vomited into the first episode with all the delicacy of hitting a watermelon with a sledgehammer.

This is why I am such a fan of the new BBC series Intruders right now. It’s five episodes into its first season, and only now are we starting to get a clear picture of what is happening with the secret society of immortals that appears to be manipulating events. Heck, only now are we getting a clear picture that there is a secret society of immortals. The soul transferring ceremony … mechanism … whatever, we have zero idea how that works. What makes the immortals special? Who knows? Why was Marcus (played to the dirty scumbag hilt by grade-schooler Millie Brown, pictured above) to have his immortal status revoked? Not a clue.

Being in the dark is no fun if there’s no point. Just ask all those pissed off people who watched Lost from start to finish. Fortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Producer/creator Glen Morgan has done an amazing job of crafting episodes that are interesting without spilling too many beans, leading viewers to each insight slowly and with a build-up. The direction is moody and sparse, allowing the actors and the story to be front and center. Stars Brown, Mira Sorvino and James Frain take advantage of this approach, owning each scene and revealing layers to their characters that are peeled away at key moments.

It’s worth the ride if this is your type of thing. If not, I’m sure Sleepy Hollow will continue to blast cannonballs of plot and exposition in your face on a weekly basis.

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Will I continue to walk with the ‘Dead’?

Our plucky band off survivors just keeps on plucking.

Our plucky band off survivors just keeps on plucking.

Lots of spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Instead of “those who arrive survive,” how about “slowly but surely”? Because that both describes the trek to Terminus and seasons 2-4 of The Walking Dead.

Harsh? Maybe. To their credit, the Walking Dead folks know how to create a cliffhanger, both at their mid-season break and at the end of the season. From the execution of Carol’s zombie daughter to the fall of the prison and the death of Herschel, the minds behind The Walking Dead hit the big notes big. Rick finally getting back into kick-ass mode after being so lost for a season and a half was terrific, and I look forward to seeing what happens next fall.

Maybe.

Season 4 was an exercise in frustration for the most part. I was willing to forgive slow starts to both Seasons 2 and 3 because AMC had excised significant portions of the writing and producing staff each time. The death of zombie Sophia in the middle of Season 2 was awesome, but preceded by a lot of twiddling thumbs. At that point, Walking Dead was starting to remind me a lot of the worst of Lost: Two people isolated in some beautiful setting, saying deep, serious shit while staring off toward the horizon.

But, again, the turnover behind the scenes, the knowledge that these people were kind of being thrown into the middle of a hugely popular show, it all made me be patient, even if I was a bit on the annoyed side.

The problem is there is no such excuse for Season 4. There was no purge, no turnover. There should have been an amazing plan for the whole season heading into it, not just a nice start, terrific middle and gripping – if abrupt – end. All of that Governor background in the fall, what exactly was the point of that? We knew he was a selfish, brutal (and possibly slightly mentally ill) guy with a taste for blood and power who never really even believed in the possibility of peace. Were we supposed to believe he’d soften up with his new “family”? Because if so, that wasn’t sold very well. I never bought into it. It played like wheels spinning in snow, a waste of screen time for a character who the Walking Dead folks then proceeded to kill. Not that I have a problem with that, but if you’re just going to kill him anyway and not really make him integral in any part of the future show except the execution of Herschel, then why bother with the lame, useless back-story?

When The Walking Dead returned from Christmas break, we got more background and less plot and action. Michonne had a family, and it broke her heart when they died? Name one character who doesn’t have the same back story. Daryl was a dipshit redneck before the apocalypse? Gee, who would have guessed that? Rick isn’t sure what to do next? Been there, done that. Glen and Maggie love each other? Sweet, but no value added. And in between we get plod, plod, plod, plus a few characters added who, at this point, aren’t very interesting or are already dead.

Really, the second-to-last episode of Season 4, The Grove, where Carol is forced to make another hard choice, is far superior to either of the two that follow it. The second-to-last was another mildly interesting episode that’s sole purpose was to reunite Glen with Maggie. The final episode starts with serious intensity, then watch it crumble to pieces as Rick, Carl, Michonne and Darryl practically run into Terminus without a thought, followed with a display of automatic weapon fire so hokey and poorly choreographed that I’m reasonably certain it was stock footage from The A-Team, and – finally – one great, final line.

Is it worth it? It has been, to an extent. I guess the real question is will The Walking Dead be worth it moving forward? That, I’m not so sure about.

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Bring out your ‘Dead’

The long arm of the post apocalyptic law

Is anyone else at all disappointed with this season of The Walking Dead?

Don’t get me wrong: Slightly off WD is better than Two and a Half Men when it’s dead on … if Two and a Half Men has ever actually been dead on. I’m not saying The Walking Dead creates a vacuum or anything. It’s just not as good as I want it to be.

I’ve narrowed it to two issues: Pacing and my Child-In-Danger theory.

Pacing

The first season was very, very short, but the writers managed to really deliver a flood of character information and a menacing intensity that was the under the surface waiting to boil over. … And sometimes doing just that, boiling over, exploding in ways that both drove the story and served the characters. They had to trim all fat because there was simply no room for it. It reminds me of how concise BBC dramas (I’m thinking specifically of Luther) have to be because they have such short seasons. A BBC show may get eight episodes while mid-season replacements on the major America nets will get 11-13. There’s little fluff and navel gazing across the pond. It’s straight to what’s important, what drives the story. Walking Dead‘s first season had that compactness, and it’s part of what made it so great.

Now … there’s a lot of gazing. A gaggle. A plethora. A ton. It’s starting to remind of the worst aspects of Lost. I’m almost to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack and Sawyer show up to fight over/pine over Freckles. (Hopefully, should that happen, they’ll all be zombies. Fingers crossed.) I’m all for character development. And I realize part of what was happening in the first half of season two was a lulling of the characters (and viewers) into believing the farm was safe and permanent. But there were times I thought I was going to fall asleep. The writers now have more episodes, more screen time, yet if feels like rather than taking advantage of that, they’re just writing what they’ve would have written for a shorter season, only dragging it out. Maybe I’m overly sensitive and things will pick up now that Shane’s forced the issue. I hope so.

Child in danger

One of the things that drives me nuts about TV dramas is that they tend to want to put children in danger solely to play on the feelings of a viewer that should know that kid ain’t going nowhere. They may be hospitalized. Maybe even a coma to really drag the predictable boredom out. But they will not die.

Sure, you’re going to immediately point to the fact that Sophia ended up being as a zombie, then ended up as a dead zombie. Of course she did. Because when you put not one, not two, but THREE children in danger, one of them isn’t going to make it. And when one’s the son of the main character, and the other is a fetus that can stoke the tensions of an ill-fated love triangle, the daughter of the secondary character who ran off alone into the zombie-infested wild? She’s the one getting the bullet in the forehead. A terrific moment, dramatically, because it reinforced what makes the Rick character so vital: He’s the one who will do the dirty job when the time comes. He won’t put it on anyone else. He won’t hide it or hide from it. But I thought having all three of the pre-junior high age kids put in mortal danger was too over the top and came off in a soapy way.

All of that said, I’m not dumping The Walking Dead anytime soon. I often complained about the pacing of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but when I reviewed it after the series ended, it worked much better than I’d believed at the time. I have a feeling, despite my uneasiness concerning the first half of season two, that I’m going to come to a similar conclusion in this instance.

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