The Man in the High Castle: Sunrise

The second episode of The Man in the High Castle, the Amazon series that’s combined the World War II film Der Untergang with Mad Men and dashes of LOST, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s hard to properly describe it, because of its crazy premise. ‘Sunrise’, like many second episodes, isn’t as exciting as the first one – especially the plot line of Frank takes a lot of wind out of it – but it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Characters are being fleshed out more, while alliances are made and broken.

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Nazi Spy Agent
At the end of ‘The New World’, Joe (Luke Kleintank) made an ominous call. Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) picked up. Joe’s an undercover nazi spy agent. However, I was too quick to assume he was after Juliana (Alexa Davalos); he didn’t know as much as I thought. But he’s all up to speed now.

Stuck
In the town Canon City, which is more of a deserted, shot all to hell site than an actual town, Juliana and Joe are kind of spending their holidays. Joe doesn’t do a whole lot of trucking for his cover as a truck driver. I guess it doesn’t really matter he’s so tight-lipped about it, because Juliana isn’t very talkative either. She knows she’s stuck there. She can’t go back. When she tried to reach her boyfriend Frank (Rupert Evans, Fleming), no one picked up. Well, eventually a Japanese voice answered, which equals bad news.
Her sister Trudy was probably going to meet her contact here, but there’s no way of knowing who she was looking for – or who’d be on the lookout for her. So getting a job as a waitress it is, then. She’s in luck: diner owner Lem Washington (Rick Worthy, The Magnificent Seven, Star Trek: Enterprise, Eyes, Heroes) is looking for one.

Turning On The Projector
Joe’s shadowing Juliana, tracking her moves, having John Smith do background checks of people she meets. But that movie reel, it’s still bugging him. How is it possible a fabricated news broadcast is able to put the fear in his leaders? (That’s not just a mystery to Joe, but to us viewers as well.) John Smith tells him not to ask questions; the best way to motivate people to figure it out for themselves. Joe breaks into an abandoned movie theatre, turns on the projector and watches… something amazing..? An obvious, silly hoax?

Rescue
In the diner, Juliana meets a guy (Allan Havey, Mad Men) reading the Bible. Not an illegal book, but not such a legal one, either. She’s interested. Maybe he’s part of the resistance? Joe finds out the guy’s far from any resistance activity. After watching the reel, it seems like Joe’s loyalties are on a slippery slope. When Juliana’s almost thrown off a CGI arch dam by the Bible guy, Joe comes to her rescue. It isn’t really necessary, though, given Julian’s able to lift and push the guy over the ridge all by herself.

Daddy
We get a glimpse of John Smith at home, as a father. Once you say exactly what he wants to hear, it’s easy to please him. So that’s what his son does. One wrong word, though, and daddy could get very angry. It’s a tense scene, with Rufus Sewell not doing much, but turning up the suspense to great heights. The show couldn’t have picked a better bad guy.

How To Change A Mind
But most of the episode is about Frank. He’s locked away in a cell, getting beaten en threatened if he doesn’t tell the Japanese where his girlfriend went to and why. It all takes a bit too long, but it’s clear why the writers felt they had to take a realistic amount of time. Frank had to change his mind about becoming one of the freedom fighters and it’s hard to change a character in a scene or two.

Public Morals: A Fine Line

There’s a lot on the line for Edward Burns, with his new TNT show Public Morals. Indeed, his show, because he created, wrote and directed it. Assembled a bunch of terrific actors to go back to the 1960s with him, found a network to back it up, and even got Steven Spielberg involved (as executive producer, which, we all know, means he’s not very involved at all, but still: Steven Spielberg).

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The Business of Comfort
It’s fair to say TNT has lost the game against USA. It’s hard to say exactly why, but TNT does seem to have an affection for easygoing, middle of the road product. People should be able to watch their series and stay comfortable in their seats, while USA isn’t afraid to put you right on the edge of it. Public Morals certainly falls in the former category, but that doesn’t disqualify it; staying comfortably in your seat can be a nice thing.

Breathe
The show’s got a resemblance to TNT’s short-lived, quickly-aired Mob City, but that’s just because of the time period, men in suits, hats, and Robert Knepper (Prison Break, Heroes), as well as Burns himself. All in all, it looks great. No funny business with sepia tones or abysmal lighting, like The Astronaut Wives Club and especially Aquarius. The series is perfectly lit, dressed and designed, with a director on board who knows what he’s doing and takes his time, which enables the show to breathe.

The Gap
Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan, 15 Minutes, Confidence) came up about the same time Ben Affleck went down. He counted as the perfect Affleck substitute, the pretty boy leading man everybody was looking for. But while Hollywood was way too occupied trying to fit Affleck the square into a round shape, Burns was never called back. He could’ve easily filled the gap left by the pumped up image of Affleck, but it just never happened.
He may not have wanted to, decided to sharpen his craft as writer and director. And now there’s Public Morals, the accumulation of all of his talents.

The Business of Management
The series deals with a New York police department, starring next to Burns and Knepper, Michael Rapaport, Wass Stevens and a young actor who’s going to go far, Patrick Murney. Why? Just a hunch. Prostitution, gambling and alcohol are prohibited. The cops aren’t cops, they’re managers. Donald Trump would be proud. They’re keeping the peace, turning blind eyes, until that peace is broken: a body washes up on the shore with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.

Tasty Dish
That body’s Timothy Hutton (Leverage, Kidnapped, American Crime). Burns has got ‘a few ideas’ who could be behind it. It seems this murder is what sets everything in motion. It’s at the very end of the episode, so what have we been watching for an hour? If the first interesting thing happens right before fading to black, everything that came before must’ve been pretty boring, right? Not right. Public Morals might not serve up an explosive dish, but it’s a tasty one.

Lyndon Smith
There are other storylines woven through Burns’ work and private life, too, but it’s way too soon to tell where they’re all headed. One thing that must be mentioned, though: Lyndon Smith (Parenthood, Extant, 90210) is playing a minor part, and you don’t want to miss her in anything she’s in. She’s the Girl with the Most Amazing Jaw Dropping Hypnotizing Eyes on Television.

Aquarius: Old Ego is a Too Much Thing

Premiered on television in May, the full first season released online the same day, then moved to the Bermuda Triangle of television drama; Saturday night, so to claim Aquarius has been flying under the radar the last 13 weeks is a bit of an understatement.

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1960s Version
David Duchovny’s show about Charles Manson has officially (if television’s still today’s standard, that is) ended its first season this weekend. The show in which Duchovny plays a 1960s version of Noah Bennet, sort of, judging by his hairstyle and sunglasses. It may just have been Fox Mulder all along, though, sent back in time by Hiro, to solve an X-File. Or maybe I’m getting a little carried away now – the era of series revivals has begun and I get confused sometimes.

Tainted Windows
At least Duchovny’s character Sgt. Sam Hodiak loses the glasses during the first few episodes. However, the way the series is shot remains. Scenes indoors are way too dark, scenes outside have a certain sepia blur about them, and the whole show looks to have been drowned in a grey-greenish filter. It’s just not particularly nice on the eyes.
Aquarius has been renewed for a second season, so hopefully they’ll decide to brush off the tainted windows through which everything is filmed.

Potential
Creator John McNamara (writer on Eyes, Profit, Lois & Clark and the television adaptation of The Fugitive) apparently had been tweaking the concept, until NBC was convinced this was the way to go. What made them think yes, this is an original story with enough potential to order 13 episodes, is still a mystery to me. If there’s one thing Aquarius suffers from the most, it’s the ‘inspired in part by historical events’.

Gruesome
Everybody knows ‘inspired by’ means the writers can take a lot of liberties with the source material. But everybody also knows it’s ridiculous to create a show about Charles Manson and not include that infamous, gruesome act he’s committed. So from the very first seconds of the pilot, the viewers are waiting for it to happen – because it will. This creates suspense, to an extent, but once you get the feeling it’s not going to happen anytime soon (because at that point, or soon after, the show will probably be over), the suspense starts to turn into a drag.

Overshadowing
There are other storylines too, of course. Hodiak’s son, deserter from the military, the rise of the Black Panthers, Hodiak’s own alcohol and drug abuse, the character of Roy Kovic (David Meunier) who’s under-utilised, Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) who’s fighting an uphill battle as a woman in the police force, the relationship between Ken Karn (Brían F. O’Byrne) and Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett), but all of this is overshadowed by this disturbed young man played by Gethin Anthony. Aquarius would actually be a much better show if that whole Charles Manson wasn’t a part of it.

Cancellation
So the best thing that could happen is if they wrap up Manson’s story arc, first thing in the second season premiere, hire an extra guy with lamps so we can actually see what’s going on, dial back the color correction and suddenly the ratings will double. But, you know NBC’s not going to do that. Why fix what isn’t broken, is what they’ll be thinking, so we’ll be watching Manson pointing guns at heads again in darkness and greenness, until its cancellation. Too bad, because the show does have potential. It’s just the way that it’s executed that misses the mark.

The Disappearing Act of Michael Scofield

To reboot or not to reboot, that’s the question. Series that hit it big in the past aren’t addressed as ‘series’, but as ‘properties’. One of FOX’s larger properties is Prison Break, which ran for 4 seasons between 2005 and 2009. Like The X-Files and Coach, there’s talk of a continuation of the story – a ‘revival’ -, not a reboot.

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Nemeses
Reboots, revivals, sequels, flash sideways, re-imaginings; the world of television is a vibrant one. It needs to be, too, with its new nemeses getting a lot of traction nowadays. The Netflixes, Amazons, Hulus and many more are driving the viewers away from The Big 4, with serious quality programming. ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC are hanging on their proven straws of the last ten, fifteen years, for dear life. It’s not a safe bet. The only show brought back so far, 24: Live Another Day, was a decent succes; just decent. Heroes Reborn is up next, premiering September 24, The X-Files will be reopened on January 24, and Coach will most likely be back on the field in the spring of 2016. Will their performances be of any influence on the return of Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows?

Heartbeat
In January of 2015, Chairman & CEO of the FOX Television Group, Gary Newman, told reporters there was ‘nothing going on’ in the matter of a Prison Break resurrection, but FOX would bring it back ‘in a heartbeat’.
That same month, Wentworth ‘Michael’ Miller and Dominic ‘Lincoln’ Purcell had a little reunion of their own, on The CW’s The Flash, playing Captain Cold and Heat Wave, respectively. In that same universe, there’s also a Clock King knocking about, played by Robert ’T-Bag’ Knepper. It looked like The CW was busy soaking off the complete Fox River cast from FOX. Whether The Flash had anything to do with it or not, nobody knows, but a few months later, Miller and Purcell were asked by FOX if they had any interest in orchestrating another breakout.

Completely Brilliant
Last week, during the press tour for Legends of Tomorrow (the Arrow and The Flash spin-off show), Miller opened up – a tiny bit: ‘Conversations are happening’, he said. ‘The concept I’ve heard is completely brilliant’, Purcell added.
There’s still a long way to go before we can cheer. Just the fact that FOX is in ‘conversations’ doesn’t mean that much. Also, a brilliant concept is no guarantee of anything; Prison Break wasn’t even picked up the first time it sat on the desk of FOX headquarters. They didn’t really know what to do with it – it didn’t look like series material, a standalone movie, maybe – so they rejected it, as did every other network Paul T. Scheuring tried to convince after that.
A year later, FOX changed its mind – and the rest is history.

A Ridiculous Mess
The first season was brilliant. The second season was very good, too, because think about it: at some point, Michael and Lincoln would have to manage to get out. There’s only so many times you can postpone the lethal injection. But once they escape, what’s left for them to do but run? What’s going to be left of the show called Prison Break, with the prison broken out of?
So, given that enormously difficult task to maintain the brilliance of the series, season 2 was very, very good. The third season – cut in half because of the writers’ strike – was alright and got better towards the end.
Season 4 was a ridiculous mess.

Still Alive
As a fan, you can pretend the fourth season never happened, but it did. It’s part of the Prison Break canon. It does pose a bit of a quandary, because Michael died. The hows and whys were pretty convincing. Miller mentioned he, since being ‘in conversations’, has been assuming Michael is ‘still alive’. That means there has to be one hell of a believable motive for Michael to have staged his own death. It also means there has to be an explanation for his recovery of a terminal illness. Or did he make it all up? And if so, did he fake the nosebleeds as well? Even when no one was looking? A lot of questions that need answering; there’s no better sign a season 5 must be made.

Better Call Saul: Alpine Shepherd Boy

The fifth installment of The Adventures of Saul Goodman finally gives us some more information about his brother Chuck, and a glimpse of how elderly booth man Mike Ehrmantraut spends his days.

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Nutcases
The billboard scheme seems to pay off, more or less. Jimmy’s got bonafide (potential) clients. From a man who’s got a million dollars lying around – with his own picture on the bills – to the inventor of a talking toilet, most of them are complete nutcases. It does provide him with funny stories while painting the toe nails of Kim, though. I’m sure we’re going to get the answer very soon, but what’s up with that?
There are two options: either they were in a relationship in the past and it didn’t work out, so they’ve remained friends, or: they were never together and don’t want to be. I can understand the dirty talk over the phone thing (in a previous episode), in both scenarios, but painting her toe nails?

Chuck
From signing a non-disclosure agreement about Tony the Toilet Buddy to Jimmy’s brother; it’s a small step. Chuck’s dealing with the aftermath of stealing his neighbour’s paper.
Albuquerque police officers show up on his doorstep and because he doesn’t want to/can’t let them in, they kick down the door. He gets an allergic reaction to everything they have on them – phones, flash lights, tasers – and ends up in the hospital. There we finally get a clear explanation of what his condition is. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. In other words: an allergy to electricity. In Jimmy’s words: it hurts.
When the nurse – a guest role of Clea DuVall (Carnivàle, Heroes, Argo, The Faculty, The Newsroom) – tricks him, we know Chuck’s condition’s essentially a symptom of something else. Probably the result of worrying over his little brother.

Will Business
Jimmy takes Chuck home and tries to reassure him. The billboard scheme was just a form of advertising, to get on the right track, and that’s where he is now. He’s found a niche: drawing up wills for old people. While explaining Chuck he can take care of himself, without breaking the law, something weird happens with the shadow on his face. Vince Gilligan series seldom have continuity issues, but this is one. The left side of his face is half dark in one shot, in the other they’ve put a light on it.

Mike
Just when you think Mike Ehrmantraut won’t show up, he does. In the show, or in front of your house. We get a glimpse of what his life outside the booth is like. Apart from sitting in a car across from someone’s house – most probably someone he looks out for, whether she likes it or not -, pretty boring. Until the doorbell rings.
‘Long way from home, are you?’ he asks the cops. To be continued.

Once Upon A Wachowski

It was only three years ago when Netflix launched an ‘original series’ and we all know how that turned out; House of Cards took over the world by storm. Now, it looks like the network (can we call it a network?) pushes out a new high concept series every month. On June 5, get ready for Sense8.

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He-Man
I’m trying really hard not to mention The Matrix, but there’s no way around it. Say Wachowski and Neo, slow motion fights, crazy stunts, inventive camera shots and red pills are peeking around the corner. The siblings have missed the mark with their post-Matrix projects, such as Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, so hopefully they’ve brought their A game for Sense8.
They’re not the only ones. They’ve co-created the show with J. Michael Straczynski, known for creating Babylon 5, Jeremiah and Crusade, and writer on various other series, like Murder She Wrote, Jake and the Fatman, The Twilight Zone, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Story
It’s a high concept show and there’s a feeling of deja vu. Heroes meets Global Frequency meets Touch meets Jumper meets dodging ‘when you’re ready, you won’t have to’ bullets. Eight strangers somehow get connected, like a computer network, and are able to access each other’s skills, emotions, knowledge and senses. No stranger to sci-fi, Naveen Andrews (Sayid on LOST) seems like the one who brings everyone together.  In itself, not quite an exciting premise, however, there are people who aren’t that fond of this seemingly harmless power and are hunting them down. Their leader: a cousin of Agent Smith; Mr. Whispers.

Trailer
One thing the Wachowskis know how to do, is make their visions look good. The colors are jumping off the screen; lighting a scene is their middle name. The trailer promises an array of eye candy and I’m not just talking about Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas). She’s not the only familiar face: Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix, Bound) also plays a role.
On Friday June 5, the complete first season – 12 episodes – will be unleashed.

A Legion of Biblical Heroes

On the heels of Arrow, The Flash and a secret new series coming this fall, The CW has gone full blown superhero. Its latest addition, The Messengers, has got a religious spin on it. Something like NBC’s Heroes meets the movie Legion.

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Awakening
The pilot, titled Awakening, starts off with a brutal murder. Does every new show have to begin with someone getting shot multiple times in the chest, point blank? It sure seems like it. To be fair, the victim lives – sort of – when we see her hooked up to a machine in the final seconds of the episode, but still. The Messengers isn’t a police procedural with a dead body of the week. There must be other, less predictable ways to make it interesting.

Angels
Everything after the shooting is set up as a frame story, where we follow different characters right before and after a meteor hits Earth. The crash sends out a specific kind of static, which for some reason only affects our ‘heroes’. This time around they’re called ‘angels’, but the idea is the same: superhero powers for everyone.

Johnny on the Spot
These people have to be brought together, obviously. No worries: the meteor wasn’t some extraterrestrial rock, but a guy – at least with the appearance of one. A real johnny-on-the-spot, also known as Johnny Redeyes. He’s the man behind the curtain and he seems to be up to no good. He tries to recruit one of the angels to assassinate someone, when he’s clearly more than capable to do that himself; in full Terminator 2 style he appears out of nowhere, all naked, and asks the first person he meets for their clothes. That person, we can easily assume, is no longer with us.

Actors
The most interesting angels are Shantel vanSanten (Gang Related, One Tree Hill) and JD Pardo (Revolution, The O.C., Drive). The latter was saved in his first scene, when some bad guys figured out he’d been undercover and wanted to kill him. Before they could do anything, two bullets came out of nowhere and took them down. You’d think a sniper was responsible for it, or two, but no. Somebody took the shots from a car that was driving towards them. The bad guys were too busy to notice that. Fine. That could happen to anyone, but taking two perfect shots from a moving vehicle, from half a mile away, on a dirt road, is a bit, how shall I put it, lucky.
One of the guest stars is an old familiar Fox River face: Lane ‘Tweener’ Garrison. He’s on the right side of the law this time. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Wings
The angels have wings, as it turned out. It’s not quite clear when they’re visible, though. They suddenly appear on camera screens and in mirrors, but disappear just as fast. In any case, these angels will have to stop Lucifer, who’s ‘coming’, according to the voiceover. Or is he already here? Is it Johnny Redeyes? But if Johnny is indeed Lucifer, who’s doing the voiceover? Who knows more than any other character on the show? And if it’s not Johnny, why does he have red eyes? I’m confused now. This is precisely why I detest voiceover work.