TV: What I’ve Been Watching

Been watching a bunch of different shows in the sci-fi/fantasy vein lately. Rather than spamming my blog with half a dozen different review posts, I thought I’d throw together a list of my quick and dirty thoughts on each. Presented in no particular order:

The cast of Glitch season twoWu Assassins, season one:

Cheesy kung fu show that’s fun if you don’t think about it too hard. I mostly enjoyed it, but it did falter a lot in the later episodes.

I’m really getting fed up with how ridiculously short most TV seasons are becoming these days. Among other problems, it leads to very rushed stories, and Wu Assassins is a particularly egregious example.

There’s about three seasons of good story here, but it’s all crammed into ten episodes, and it just becomes a mess. Stuff just happens without any explanation of how or why. Characters change sides or evolve into completely different people without any foreshadowing or natural development. Interesting new plot threads are over before they start.

The fight scenes are good, and it’s got a certain kitschy charm, so I’d probably watch a second season if it gets made, but boy this show wasted so much of its potential.

Killjoys, season three:

Dutch and D'avin in KilljoysIt had been so long since I watched Killjoys that I’d forgotten most of the plot, but it doesn’t really matter because there isn’t much of a plot to begin with. Upon being reacquainted with the show, I was once again reminded of how spectacularly mediocre Killjoys is.

The last two seasons are available for me to stream, but I’m not sure I’ll bother. It’s clear by now this show is never going to get any better. In fact it’s slowly getting worse as they continue to gradually write out all the secondary cast members, which were the only thing memorable about the show.

The fact Killjoys survived and Dark Matter didn’t is just tragic.

Disenchantment, part two:

I was a bit disappointed with part two of Disenchantment.

The trade-off of Disenchantment is that it’s got fewer jokes than The Simpsons and Futurama, but it makes up for that with an engaging ongoing plot and good character development. But fully half of this season is standalone episodes that don’t contribute to either. They’ve very forgettable.

A promotional image for Netflix's DisenchantmentOn the plus side, the episode in hell is great, and the cliffhanger is pretty good. Also Jerry is the best.

Glitch, season three:

It had been so long since season two of Glitch that I kind of assumed it had been cancelled. Then one day boom there’s season three on Netflix. I didn’t realize until the last episode this is also the final season of the series.

The good news is that season three is more akin to the second season than the first. It’s well-paced and advances the plot at a good clip, without wasting too much time on soap opera style angst. The acting and character development continue to be outstanding, with Kirstie once again being a particular standout.

The bad news is that it’s a great season right up until the ending, which is a serious disappointment. Glitch’s ending is a complete copy of the ending of a fairly famous video game, and I didn’t like that ending the first time, let alone the second.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, season one:

I remember enjoying the original Dark Crystal movie when I was a kid, but I’d all but forgotten about it as an adult. I rewatched it before jumping into Age of Resistance, but I have to say it didn’t really hold up from a grown-up perspective.

A promotional image for The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceFortunately, Age of Resistance is a more mature take that preserves the brilliant world-building of the original movie while fleshing out the story and characters into something much more meaty and satisfying.

It is not without its stumbles. Like Wu Assassins, it suffers from trying to cram way too much story into just ten episodes, leading to a lot of rushed and unsatisfying story-lines and character arcs. In particular a lot of wins by the heroes come too soon and feel unearned.

While I’m usually a defender of prequels, in this case I do feel knowing how the story ends hurts Age of Resistance. We know the Gelfings ultimately lose, so it’s hard to get excited about their budding revolution. I think it would have been better to sell this as a reboot rather than a direct prequel to the original movie.

On the other hand, the depth of the world-building and the visuals to support it are spectacular, the characters are mostly endearing (Deet is a treasure and she deserves all of the hugs), it hits a nice balance of being both heartwarming and tragic, and the season finale is one of the most spectacular bits of television I’ve seen in a long time.

I definitely want to see a second season, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Review: Disenchantment, Part One

When I watched the first couple of episodes of Matt Groening’s Disenchantment, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Being a massive fan of The Simpsons and Futurama, and a huge fantasy nerd, my expectations were very high. It seemed like the perfect series for me.

A shot from Netflix's DisenchantmentMy expectations were sky high, so maybe it’s not surprising they weren’t met.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it. There are good gags, and the characters grabbed me pretty quickly. I also loved the animation. While the characters are of the same cartoony Matt Groening style we recognize, the environments are very detailed, with a unique style clearly meant to emulate Medieval artwork. Disenchantment is a feast for the eyes.

So it was good, but it wasn’t the Second Coming of Futurama I hoped for. However, as I got farther into the season, it did start to grow on me. It got a bit funnier, with some of the later episodes being genuinely hilarious, though it did maintain a certain inconsistency through to the end.

A real strength of Disenchantment, as alluded to above, is its characters. Though there’s a diverse background cast, as you might expect from a Groening show, the focus of the story is pretty heavily placed on Princess Tiabeanie (or “Bean” as she prefers to be known) of Dreamland and her companions, Elfo the renegade Elf and a self-appointed “personal demon” named Luci.

Luci doesn’t add much beyond the occasional one-liner, but Bean and Elfo are, for such a silly show, surprisingly real and endearing characters. At times they feel like a bit of a retread of Fry and Leela, but their arc progresses more quickly, and I think it may be headed in a different direction.

I especially want to highlight Abbi Jacobson as doing a fantastic job voicing Bean. She feels very comfortable in the role right of the gate, and she infuses Bean with a great deal of personality, perfectly nailing both serious and comedic moments. Despite her many bad habits, Bean is an intensely lovable character.

A promotional image for Netflix's DisenchantmentThe characters help carry the series, even during the slower moments when there aren’t as many jokes.

One other thing that makes Disenchantment unique compared to Groening’s other shows is that it is much more serialized. Some episodes are still standalone, but it’s clearly following a continuous arc. The writers have a plan, and it shows.

Events start to come to a head in the final episodes of the season, and things actually get pretty serious and intense, all things considered. Some of the twists are a bit predictable, but I enjoy them for the effect they have on the characters, and I’m really curious where things are going to go in the long run.

In the end, it might not be quite as good as Futurama at its best, but Disenchantment is definitely worth your time.

Overall rating: 8/10