TV: iZombie Recovers, Lucifer Falters, Lost in Space Disappoints

Lately there’s been an unusual excess of sci-fi and fantasy TV for me to watch. Unfortunately, it hasn’t all turned out to be must-see television, but it has been interesting enough for me to have a few thoughts to share.

"Brother Love" (Robert Knepper) in iZombie season four(Un)Life in New Seattle:

I went into season four of iZombie with a fair bit of trepidation. While season three impressed out of the gate, over time it began to flag badly. The plot was extremely over-complicated and confusing, and most of the characters ended up going in dark directions that I didn’t care for. I was worried the show was losing its mojo.

However, I am pleased to report that, with only a few episodes left, season four has been kicking all of the ass.

iZombie is now a very different series from when it started. It’s gone from a very simple, lighthearted show with a very small focus to a much more intense drama where the very fate of humanity may hang in the balance.

It’s a big adjustment, but I deeply admire the writers for being courageous enough to shake things up so much, and for the most part, it’s paid off. Season four of iZombie still maintains much of the quirky charm and off the walls humour that made us all fall in love with the series, but it’s now a bigger, more powerful story as well.

I was initially skeptical of the show’s continued reliance on the case of the week formula — it was one of the things that dragged season three down — but they’ve mostly done a good job of making the cases tie into the greater narrative, and they haven’t been afraid to buck the formula when the situation calls for it.

The cast of iZombieSimilarly, I didn’t at first enjoy the idea of bringing Angus back into the story, as it felt like his plot had been pretty conclusively wrapped up, but “Brother Love” has became one of the most spectacularly creepy yet gripping aspects of the series to date.

My one big complaint would be that the season’s attempts at social commentary have largely fallen flat. The conflict between zombies and humans is clearly intended to echo real world prejudices, but real world minorities aren’t an existential threat to the human race, whereas zombies are, so the anti-zombie perspective ends up far more sympathetic than the writers seem to want. Any message of tolerance is lost in translation.

It also feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity not to revisit Liv’s estranged family now that the zombified cat is out of the bag and they (presumably) know why she couldn’t save her brother, but it’s already such a packed season I can understand why they haven’t tried to cram that in on top of everything else.

Aside from that, season four of iZombie has been nearly flawless.

I was pleased to see the show has already been renewed for a final season. Even before the announcement, I was thinking to myself that the story seemed to have about one season left in it, so I think this will work out well.

Hell fallen:

On the other hand, Lucifer’s third season ended up being mostly a disappointment. It started out okay, and it had some good ideas, but a number of missteps dragged it down.

The official logo for the TV series LuciferFor one, it focused far too much on relationship angst. The conflict between Linda and Maze was utterly unnecessary, and the love triangle at the heart of the season was just terrible.

I hate love triangles at the best of times, and this one was made worse by how uninteresting Chloe continues to be. For a romantic arc to work, the love interest has to be appealing to the viewer, but Chloe just isn’t appealing at all. She’s dull, wooden, and lifeless. I can’t understand why anyone would want to be with her, let alone why two immortals would end up competing over her.

Also, the case of the week formula began to really bog things down. It’s always been the weakest element of Lucifer, but rather than de-emphasizing it as iZombie wisely has, Lucifer clung to it with an incredible fervour.

It became painfully predictable. Each week, a new murder where there’s no relevance to the meta-plot, the true culprit is blindingly obvious, and Lucifer makes it all about him in an incredibly childish manner.

Lucifer’s immature ways were amusing for a time, but by now, I was expecting the character to have evolved. Even a show as silly as Lucifer needs some character development.

Lucifer with his renewed wings in season threeHe does finally grow a bit by the end of the season, but only after a truly painful expanse of episodes where the series pretty much just chased its tail.

The frustrating thing is that season three had a lot going for it. “The Sinner Man” was a very interesting villain, and his arc had some memorable twists. There was potential there. Charlotte’s storyline this season was nothing short of brilliant, but it got largely ignored in favour of the petty angst that defined so much of season three.

Sadly, Lucifer has now been cancelled, which means season three may well be its last, barring a miracle pick-up by Netflix or some other network. Despite my criticism of season three, I would like to see it continue. As iZombie illustrates, one bad season doesn’t necessarily spell doom for a show, and the ending of season three did look set to move the show in a fresh direction.

Doldrums, Will Robinson:

Going in, I heard a lot of good buzz around Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot from people whom I respect. Therefore I was quite surprised by how boring it turned out to be.

I mean, it’s not terrible. I’ll probably watch the second season (which is already confirmed). But I can’t say I’m impressed.

For one thing, it is, to be blunt, pretty dumb at times. I never fully recovered from the brain-achingly silly pilot.

The robot and the Robinson children in Netflix's Lost in Space rebootSeriously, guys, that’s not how ice works. At all. I don’t expect a lot of realism from my sci-fi, but when you’re screwing up something you could have tested in your home refrigerator…

The biggest problem, though, is that none of the characters feel real. Dr. Smith is so cartoonishly evil she seem ends up feeling more ridiculous than sinister. The rest of the cast (with one exception) is little better. They all feel forced and unreal.

I also thought the plot was undermined by how much of the show’s drama is dependent on the incompetence of the Robinson children (especially Will, who is just terrible on every level). Either they’re superhuman wiz kids who can serve as part of a deep space exploration mission, or they’re just kids who make mistakes, in which case they have no place on a mission like this. You can’t have it both ways, but that’s exactly what Lost in Space tries to do.

The only strong mark in the show’s favour — aside from the admittedly amazing production values — is Penny, who is awesome. Alone among all the cast, she feels like a real person. She acts pretty much exactly how I would expect a teenage girl to act. She’s precocious, but not superhuman, and relatable in a way the other children aren’t.

And her snark is delightful.

As I said, I’ll probably return for season two, but for me Lost in Space is very much in the “I’m watching this because there’s nothing better to do” category.


The Mustering of Azeroth: An End at Last

At long last, the journey is done. My nearly two year mission to complete every class story in World of Warcraft has reached its conclusion, with the last three now in the rear view.

My druid posing with the Scythe of Elune in World of Warcraft: LegionMan. What am I doing with my life.

Rise of the mountain queen:

The trouble with the warrior campaign is it’s one of those stories that just doesn’t go anywhere. You spend all this time marshaling the armies of the Titanforged, and then… that’s it. You don’t actually do anything with your amazing immortal army. I like the subject matter, but there isn’t really a story here.

The only significant lore revelation to be found is learning what happens to the Kvaldir after Helya’s defeat, but while that’s nice to know, it’s honestly not a question I’d even thought to ask.

They do have a very pretty class hall, at least, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed playing arms spec. Going in, it sounded totally unappealing; I thought not having an active rage generator would make the spec incredibly slow. But it’s not like that at all. It’s quite quick, and it flows well. I wound up enjoying it better than fury, which I never would have expected.

This is why I try to test out so many different classes and builds. You never really know what you’ll like until you try it.

The warrior class hall in World of Warcraft: LegionRu shanna Shal’dorei:

We had a bit of a last minute line-up change here. I had leveled up my Pandaren hunter, but that race never seemed to fit the class very well, so I decided to use my “free” 110 boost as a cheap alternative to a race-change. I spent really a disturbing amount of time agonizing over whether I wanted to be a Void Elf or a Nightborne, but while Void Elves are unquestionably the coolest looking race in the game right now, the vastly superior backstory of the Nightborne won out.

As for the campaign itself…

I’ve said before that Legion’s class campaigns don’t have enough content to work as standalones. The best campaigns are those that build upon existing lore and continue the stories of well-known characters.

The hunter campaign is entirely standalone, and as a result it’s possibly the dullest of all.

It’s undoubtedly a challenge to come up with a cohesive story for a class that has no real singular identity or established factions in-lore. I’m not sure I have a better idea for how to handle things. But the fact is that the Unseen Path, while potentially an interesting concept, is way too out of the blue and way too underdeveloped to be at all compelling.

My Nightborne hunter in World of Warcraft: LegionWhat’s equally sabotaging to the story but harder to explain is the fact the hunter campaign focuses almost entirely on unfamiliar characters the player isn’t going to have any investment in. There are more than a few memorable and interesting hunter characters in the lore, but for some reason they’re largely ignored by the campaign.

The hunter story isn’t quite as destructively dumb as the shaman campaign, but for sheer boredom, it takes the crown.

Also, I skipped recruiting a couple of followers because they required you to do Nesingwary’s quests in Highmountain. A long time ago, when I was a lowbie leveling through Stranglethorn, I swore to myself I would never do any more quests for that benighted, grind-loving Dwarf again, and I will not break that promise for anything.

The one piece of good news is that I did enjoy playing the class quite a bit. Marksmanship takes some getting used to, but once you get into the rhythm, it’s pretty satisfying. It does feel like playing a patient, master sniper. Beast mastery was also pretty fun, surprisingly. I wouldn’t play it solo, but in a group context, it’s not bad. More active than I expected.

Survival didn’t quite do it for me. It’s got some cool ideas and unusual mechanics, but it’s just not tuned well. You wind up so focus-starved.

The wilds call out:

My druid, Broll Bearmantle, and Thisalee Crow during the druid class campaign in World of Warcraft: LegionThe druid story was a good note to end on. It’s not the best class campaign, but it is better than most. In stark contrast to the hunter campaign, it draws almost entirely on well established characters and plots. Maybe it’s still a pretty basic story on paper, but as a long-time Warcraft fan, I can’t deny the thrill of once again adventuring alongside the likes of Broll Bearmantle, Hamuul Runetotem, and Celestine of the Harvest.

Also, you get to relive the War of the Ancients in all its mad glory. Hells to the yes.

Man, I am scarred for life by Thisalee Crow’s new voice, though. It’s like they got the actresses for her and Valeera completely backwards.

Mechanically, I find druid a mixed bag. There’s no spec that I actively dislike, but nothing quite clicks, either. Balance and restoration just feel off in a way I can’t fully articulate, and feral still feels like playing a watered down rogue.

Guardian did grow on me a bit, though. If I wasn’t so burnt out now I might have spent some time playing guardian just for the hell of it even after I finished the campaign.

There’s also a certain sense of symmetry to finishing with my druid. He is not the first character I ever created — playable Worgen didn’t even exist back then — but he is reusing the name I gave to my original WoW character, who was a Night Elf priest. In that sense, I’ve ended as I started.

The Claws of Ursoc artifact quest in World of Warcraft: LegionFinal thoughts:

What a long, strange journey it’s been.

I admit to having mixed feelings. There’s a lot about this I enjoyed, but honestly, twelve class campaigns is a bit much. I’m glad I pushed myself to do more more than the stories of the classes I normally play, and it did give me a much more holistic view of the story of Legion, but I’m not sure doing every last one was really necessary.

If you’re wondering which are the must-plays, I’d say death knight, paladin, druid, and mage are the ones that feel important as a lore fan. Rogue and warlock were also a lot of fun, but I’m not sure they can be considered required.

Death knight wins as my overall favourite. Shaman was the worst.

This also means that I have now played every class and spec in World of Warcraft. I’d say the most enjoyable specs in each role right now are outlaw rogue for melee DPS, elemental shaman for ranged DPS, resto shaman for healing, and prot paladin for tanking.

Blizzard has done a very good job of improving class design across the board such that while there are more than a few specs I’m not that passionate about, there are very few that are actively unpleasant to play. Just holy paladin and demonology warlock, I’d say. Which is very sad to say, because those are both specs that have in the past been my favourite.

The warrior class hall in World of Warcraft: LegionOf course, Battle for Azeroth will be changing everything again soon anyway…

Speaking of which, I think I must address my future relationship with World of Warcraft. I’m still not willing to say that I’m done with the game for good, but honestly? I have no plans to play anymore WoW right now.

The fact is pretty much all the stories I care about have been wrapped up, and the Mustering of Azeroth seems like a good note to end on. Maybe I’ll come back at some point, but for now, as impossible as it is to believe, I think I’m done with this game.

I’m still a Warcraft fan. All the stuff I used to love is stuff that I still love. I’ll always be a Blood Elf nut. I’ll always have fond memories of WoW and the previous games (not to mention the novels, comics, and movie). But at this point I think the franchise has given me all it can. I think it’s time to quit while I’m ahead.

Stay tuned, though, as I still have one or two more posts about all this up my sleeve…

I leave you now with a gallery of all twelve of my max level characters. A fine-looking bunch, if I do say so myself. You should all be impressed that only half of them are Elves.

Shorel’aran, friends.