A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 (Netflix)

a-new-series-of-unfortunate-events-to-hit-netflix-462487Secrets will be revealed, one unfortunate event at a time.

It dawned on me the other day that I finished this series recently and I hadn’t blogged about it!  And with Netflix’s sudden interest in adapting YA novels into TV series (looking at you, 13 Reasons Why), I’m going to be busy!

If you don’t know the premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is an unfortunate event in itself), here’s some background: three children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) find themselves suddenly becoming orphans after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents.  Shipped off to live with their closest relative, Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris), the trio find life is no longer comfortable and safe.  They have too many questions about their parents, their parents’ deaths, and their new guardian.  Because no matter how they try to escape Count Olaf, they can never get far enough away.

Quick overview of the episodes: this series covers the first four books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill).  Each book is broken into two episodes that range in length but generally run about 50 minutes.

I thought this series was really interesting.  I watched it over the course of about a month with my boyfriend, who kinda sorta knows the stories.  Anyway, the story is narrated by Lemony Snicket (played by Patrick Warburton).  He cuts in and out to explain what words mean or tell us that something bad is about to happen, the same way Snicket did in the books.  (It’s probably been over 12 years since I last read the books and I still remember Snicket’s way of defining words All. The. Time.)

The acting, I thought, was great.  Obviously I enjoyed Warburton’s dry humor and his somber delivery as our narrator, but NPH…give this guy some props.  He plays Olaf (and Olaf’s many personas) masterfully.  Olaf is obnoxious and boisterous and terrible, but that just goes to show how good NPH is because that’s so not the NPH we’ve come to know.  And the fact that he pulls off these weird disguises he wears to get close to the children also goes to show just how amazing an actor he is.  (As if that isn’t enough, he also sings the theme songs to each episode!  The songs are all a little different, depending on which book you’re in.)

The children were also delightful.  Violet (played by Malina Weissman) is clever and careful.  I totally bought into her older sister act as she tried to keep tabs on Klaus and Sunny to protect them.  And Klaus (played by Louis Hynes) was just a sweetheart.  He’s booksmart and savvy, always two steps ahead of Olaf.  They were so much fun to follow, and the chemistry between the two of them was great.  They really seemed like family.

And of course, the minor characters were fantastic.  From Olaf’s crew of henchmen to the Baudelaire orphans’ new guardians, they were all well-cast and brilliant.  I did kind of have a freak out when I saw that Aasif Mandvi was playing Uncle Monty.  I think Mandvi is hilarious.

The show, amazingly, is targeted at both children and adults.  So the humor remains clean and the children’s conflicts are familiar to other kids.  But as an adult, I loved the subtle jokes this show got off.  It broke the fourth wall, they made all kinds of literary references to classic novels and writers, and the acting sometimes gave subtle jokes as well.  It’s mostly based on puns and slapstick for humor, but that’s my favorite.  And like I said, there are great literary references if you listen closely.  Everything from George Orwell to Virginia Wolf to Moby Dick.  Basically every episode dropped something that my English major side picked up on.

I really enjoyed this.  I won’t say everything was perfect; some of the episodes felt long.  There were times I started getting a little bored.  But it was still fun to see this series come to life and I’m really interested to see where the next season goes.

Outlander: Season 2

outlander-season-2-poster-600x400So for those of you that follow this show, the season finale was last night and I have GOT to talk about it.  Welcome to my review, where I’m going to attempt to not spoil too much but also convince you that you need to watch this show.

*If you’ve never read Outlander before/know nothing about the story…there could be slight spoilers to come.  We are in book 2 after all.*

So in this season, based on the book Dragonfly in Amber, Jamie and Claire are exiled from Scotland and living in France.  Desperate to try to stop the battle at Culloden Moor, they attempt to ingratiate themselves in Parisian high society and subtly undermine the Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Outlander Season 2 2016Let’s start by talking about the phenomenal acting.  Obviously, Caitriona Balfe knocks it out of the park.  She’s expressive and totally gets who Claire is.  I love watching her because she always nails it.  (Best episode is easily 2.07 “Faith”.)  She can do everything from showing Claire’s cunning and manipulative side (which she needs to survive in Paris) to her caring and heartbroken side.  I have a mad girl crush on Balfe.  So much love.  Granted, TV show Claire is a little different from book Claire, but she’s still totally amazing.

Now for Sam Heughan.  Obviously, he’s hot (except when his hair is always pulled back in Paris).  Jamie begins this season broken and Claire has to slowly piece him back together.  (Also, I’m pretty sure that by the end of the season, they’ve more or less forgotten about his hand issues…)  Now, Heughan is a fantastic actor.  He handles the battle scenes with the right amount of strength, regret, and determination that make up Jamie.  But I’m also kind of sad that Jamie is no longer the expressive young man he was in the first book.  I can’t tell if that’s because his character is written that way given what happened at the end of season 1 or if that’s an acting choice of Heughan’s, but it has made it a bit harder for me to really feel for Jamie.

And it’s time to do a massive gush for my minor characters.  Duncan Lacroix really made Murtagh bloom this season.  While Murtagh is still that serious, stubborn man he’s always been, he’s now added humor and fantastic one liners to his repertoire.  Graham McTavish gave Dougal a desperate, unbridled edge that made him a great addition to the later part of the season.  Stephen Walters knocked it out as Angus, as he always does.  You truly never know what Angus will say or do next.  Romann Berrux is the most adorable Fergus I could wish for.  Stanley Weber is delightful as the cunning Comte St. Germain.  Rosie Day is beautiful as the innocent Mary Hawkins.  But two of my favorites were Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond and Frances de la Tour as Mother Hildegarde.  Those two tended to steal scenes they were in.

Outlander Season 2 2016I am also madly in love with the casting of Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton as Roger Wakefield and Brianna Randall.  By the middle of the finale last night, I knew that I truly liked Rankin’s Roger.  He’s adorable.  The only thing I was unhappy with was the little screen time the two of them got.

For those of you familiar with the book, you are probably aware that the book is not written in chronological order.  (I remember freaking out terribly when I started that book, wondering what had happened.)  The show attempts to do that as well, but not to the degree that the book does.  It’s modified.  And in fact, they basically push all that stuff in the beginning of the book to the finale.  I was dying.  For as much as I was struggling with it when I read it, it’s become some of my favorite stuff.

As typically happens when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show, some things get cut or changed.  I’d say probably 85% of the show stays true to the book.  What I mean by that is that many of our favorite scenes (Faith, the duel, Fergus, etc.) are what we remember from the book.  But every few episodes, something I considered biggish would change.  Plot lines simplified.  Little surprises planted to keep even the most devoted readers guessing.  Those kinds of things.

Still, some of my favorite things got cut as well.  I felt that some of Claire’s strongest moments were missing in the second half of the season, making her seem more frail in some respects.  Her medical side is nearly dropped altogether because of the amount of action happening in the rest of the story.  I was a bit disappointed by that, but Claire was still feisty whenever she had to go toe-to-toe with Jamie or anyone else trying to push her.  And everything from that later time period felt lacking because so little time was allotted to it.  That was perhaps my biggest disappointment of the season.

But seriously thought, this show goes above and beyond so much else on TV right now.  Whether you’ve read the books or not, you can get into this.  One of my family’s friends was watching the show once and her husband, who knew nothing about the storyline at all, got sucked in and loves watching it.

It’s definitely violent and gory and sometimes disturbing, but it’s not usually every episode.  If you can put up with the occasional gore (we are in the middle of a war, after all), this is so worth it.  And typically, you can feel the violence coming.  It doesn’t usually spring out of nowhere like in a horror film.

The writers did a fantastic job with this show, one episode even being written by Diana Gabaldon herself.  (You can just feel how that episode is different from the rest.  It’s so her.)  The set design crew and costume department did magnificent things when they were in Paris.  It’s beautiful.

And in the finale?  Tons of little Easter eggs about things that happen in the future if you’ve read the books.  My mom has not gotten past book 3, Voyager, so I had to bite my tongue to keep from spilling secrets.

I love this show so much and if you’re full of feels right now too, LEAVE A COMMENT AND WE’LL GUSH TOGETHER.

Bitten: Season 3

33891350214502637726I don’t know how many of you are actively following me talk about this show, but hey, I figured if I’ve done the other two seasons, might as well also do the last season.  (As I just discovered, there are only 3 seasons.  It’s done.  I feel like I should’ve known that before, but c’est la vie.)

*Potential Series Spoilers*

They’ve battled mutts and they’d dealt with witches, but this new challenge could destroy the pack entirely.  Elena has seen a premonition in which she brings about the downfall of Stonehaven.  But how?  And why?  The presence of the Russian pack in Bear Valley seems to be a problem, but are they the source of the destruction?  Or is it the strangers who come to town searching for Elena?  The pack is going to need all their wits and strength to fend off the newest challenge…

Ahem.  Well…I think I liked the previous two seasons a lot better.

Don’t get me wrong.  Still tons of girl-love for Elena.  Strong, feisty, clever.  She’s a great role model and the perfect character to handle dealing with all these problems.  Not to mention I’m still jealous of her wardrobe.  Even though I’d never wear half of it without feeling like I’d be in a biker gang.

But some of the other characters kind of started to bother me.  Clay just needed a serious hair cut.  From the first time I saw him this season, I was like, “Nope.  Go.  Great Clips is calling your name.  This is not going to work.”  Yet for ten episodes he ignored me.  How rude.

In all seriousness, though, Jeremy isn’t the same alpha I’ve come to know and respect.  The stress has changed him and it was a little bit scary because he had suddenly gone from reliable to unpredictable.  It was unsettling and instead of looking forward to scenes with Jeremy in it, I was suddenly cringing through them.  I know this is intentional and all because it kind of has to be this way, given the story line, but I didn’t like it.  By the end of the season, though, he’d started to return a little more to normal.

I will say that this season did have the scariest villain I’ve seen in a while in television.  That cold, clinical approach to torture and death.  It’s chilling.  But that also brought out Elena’s strength, so who am I to really complain?

I was glad to see some of the minor characters that we’ve loved (and loved to hate) return for this season.  I won’t say who, but you’ll know them when you see them.

And there were a number of interesting new characters introduced that were (mostly) delightful too.

But as for the episodes themselves, they got a little predictable, a little boring.  I know the stakes are so much higher now and all, but it became a bit numbing after a while.  I didn’t care sometimes that death was on the line for them because well, it’s always on the line in these episodes.

So yeah.  Even though I enjoyed the characters a lot (except Jeremy’s changes), I just couldn’t get into this season as much as I could the previous two.

Bitten: Season 2

b7a2kooccaa92en2blargeMy lovelies, I have finished another season!  (And I’m also posting something because that Mrs. Doubtfire gif really is giving me the creeps…)  If you don’t want things spoiled for you about this show, I just suggest you go watch the first season and then check back in, ok?  🙂

*Potential Season 1 Spoilers Ahead*

Elena’s life in Toronto is a thing of the past.  She’s embraced her life with the pack and with Clay.  But just because the mutts have been taken down doesn’t mean that life is now easy.  When witches descend on Stone Haven, the pack suddenly learns that they have a dangerous new enemy who not only wants to take out the witches, but the werewolves as well.  Can they defeat him before it’s too late?

Ok, this book I did remember better than the previous book (although I clearly still forgot a few things).  But that’s not really a great statement either since I really just remembered the witches.

Alright.  This season, for only being 10 episodes, was incredibly intense.

Let me back up.  The first few episodes, where everything is getting set up, was once again a bit dull.  Not that there isn’t action.  (It’s pretty funny to watch Jeremy try to wrap his mind around this idea of magic.)  It just takes a while for the witches to reveal things, for the new enemy to make his move, etc.

But then, then it gets really intense.  Like binge-watching intense.  Like, keep a box of tissues handy because you’re going to find yourself grieving over fictional characters intense.  I spent something like two episodes just crying.

I remember when I read this book that I rolled my eyes over the addition of magic and witches.  But this actually played out really well.  The actresses for the witches were really good.  Paige (played by Tommie-Amber Pirie) brings a dose of attitude and heart that plays really well off of the pack.  Ruth (played by Tammy Isbell) is a great female counterpart to Jeremy.  She has the same sense of duty to their kind as he does.  It was fun to see them butt heads from time to time.  And Savannah (played by Kiara Glasco) was really well-played as well.  She was a complicated character and Glasco portrayed that well.

Of course, I still have a serious soft-spot for the pack members we’ve gotten to know.  Elena ups her game here, forced to do things that she doesn’t want to in order to protect others.  Jeremy is forced to believe that there are things outside of his understanding, all while fighting to remain alpha of his pack.  Clay is dealt a harsh emotional blow and has to keep moving or drown.  Logan, frantic in his search for something that was taken, will do whatever he needs to in order to bring down those causing pain to his family.  And Nick, the group’s sweetheart, is still bringing the heart along with a healthy dose of jokes and sarcasm to keep from turning maudlin.  I cannot tell you how much I admire Steve Lund (the actor playing Nick) right now.

With only three seasons out right now (and short seasons, at that), this is pretty much perfect for the summer.

Bitten: Season 1

bitten_castHoly Moses, I don’t remember when the last time was I did a TV show review!  But I thought that you guys deserved to know about this show (if you didn’t already, of course).  Also, just a quick note, this show may not be appropriate for young viewers.

Based on the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong (who also has written quite a few YA books), this is the story of Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf.  Bitten four years ago, Elena left her pack about eight months ago after a falling-out.  She’s made a new life for herself in Toronto as a photographer with a great boyfriend.  But the past won’t leave Elena.  When Jeremy, her pack leader, calls about murders happening in their town of Bear Valley by a rogue werewolf, Elena’s forced to go home and deal with the threat that is much bigger than she could have imagined…  (Available instantly on Netflix.)

To give you a little background here, I have read the first two books in this series (which seems to make up season 1 and 2, from what I can tell).  But honestly, I remember very little of either book.  I had a few mental images of things that were going to happen and a few character names.  That was it.

Ok.  So I started watching this show and I’ll just say that the first two or three episodes aren’t the most gripping on the planet.  We need a lot of set-up about werewolves and Elena’s past and the differences between her lives in Toronto and Stone Haven (which is the name of their mansion in Bear Valley).  All the subterfuge and strife without an explanation got a little old after a while.

That said, there was something that kept me coming back to this show.  Partly it was the characters (which I’ll get into more soon).  But it was also partly the mystery.  Someone is killing people in town and dumping their bodies near Stone Haven, making the reclusive pack suddenly persona non grata in town as everyone assumes the murderer is one of them.  Only Elena and the pack know that’s not true, but finding the rogue wolf isn’t that easy.

There are a few surprises that happen pretty quickly too.  And that was good for keeping my interest.  Like I said, I barely remember these books.  And what I did remember certainly didn’t happen in the very beginning of the book.  So when I started getting to a few of the twists, well, that just made me want to watch another episode.

Another bonus of this show?  These werewolves can’t be wearing clothes when they shift (which is at will), so we see a lot of shirtless men.  And boy, do they look good.

Alright, let’s talk about these characters.

bitten_tv_series_cast_2015-1280x720

Let’s start with Elena, our main character (center, played by Laura Vandervoort).  Elena is the kind of heroine I would hope for in this show.  While she begins the show sort of meek because she’s trying to distance herself from Stone Haven and the pack, she eventually turns into a very strong, very capable woman.  She has the attitude and the sass to handle all the men in the pack while also packing some seriously awesome clothes.  God, what I wouldn’t do for her wardrobe.  Kicking butt and wearing heels.  It’s a nice counterpoint to all the males.  It takes a few episodes, I feel, for Vandervoort to really sink into the role, but once she gets there, it’s beautiful.

Then there’s Jeremy Danvers, the pack alpha (blue button-down, played by Greg Bryk).  Calm, mild-mannered Jeremy is a very capable leader.  He’s soft-spoken, polite, and caring.  Not exactly the qualities you’d expect for a werewolf alpha, but it makes the pack incredibly loyal to him.  And it’s a great counterpoint to when he’s threatened.  Come at him and his pack, and it’s Jekyll and Hyde.  Suddenly he’s fierce, merciless, and deadly.  Do not cross Jeremy.  Bryk does a great job playing that dichotomy.  (Wow, what did I do, study up on my SAT words today??)

And we certainly can’t talk about the boys without mentioning Clay Danvers (plaid, played by Greyston Holt).  As Elena’s ex-fiance, Clay has a lot of inner turmoil to deal with when Elena returns.  He’s dark, brooding, and dangerous.  Other werewolves fear him because he’s basically a loose cannon and the one who does Jeremy’s dirty work.  Holt does a nice job playing with that darkness inside Clay, though it does make him look about as emotional as a brick for the first half of the season.  Brooding is probably not Holt’s strong suit, but cracking through that is magical.

Finally, we have Logan Jonsen (far left, played by Michael Xavier) and Nick Sorrentino (far right, played by Steve Lund).  Also both members of the pack, Logan is more of a minor character than Nick, partly because of how Logan also keeps himself distant from the pack because of his job in Toronto.  (He’s very close with Elena because of that.)  Logan has his fair share of problems, though, and it’s really great to see how Xavier portrays them.  But it’s Nick, of all the characters, who has stolen my heart.  Lund is total eye-candy, and Nick is just that lovable guy who can make anyone smile.  He’s charming, but he also has a soft side that will break your heart.  Lund does an amazing job here.  I want to know why he hasn’t landed bigger roles.

Basically, this show has lots of action, a bit of mystery, sweet characters, and some really despicable villains (if you like your villains dark and dangerous, which I do).  I really enjoy this show, to the point where I’m watching 2-3 episodes a night because it’s so good.

Sherlock, Season Two

A new sleuth for the 21st Century.

Well, well, well.  If it isn’t Sherlock Holmes, back for a second season.  …Ok, technically it came out in like, January, but I only just watched it.  Ruining my dramatic vibe here.

Phooey on that, I guess.  As you likely already know, I raved about season 1.  It was freaking fantastic and I was in love.  So much so that I watched it twice (maybe 3 times soon as I introduce it to my roommate).  Season 1 was fantastic, but season 2?  Blew that out the roof.

In this season, they cover some of Sherlock’s more well known stories, such as The Hounds of Baskerville and A Scandal in Belgravia, with their own fantastic, modern twist.  I’ve never read the original Sherlock Holmes tales, but I certainly plan to now.  I want to see how difficult it would have been to modernize them.  One of the writers said in the bonus features that he was pulling his hair out (figuratively, I believe) trying to rewrite Baskerville.

As usual, what makes this series so fantastic is the duo pictured above.  Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a perfectly manic Sherlock that is both delightfully socially awkward and still manages to be heartwarming.  He has more…shall we call them “emotional” moments in this season, where he connects more with other people.  I really enjoyed those moments because they make him seem more human.

And John.  My goodness.  Martin Freeman does a wonderful job of showing how John walks that fine line between being Sherlock’s best friend/flatmate and being utterly annoyed with Sherlock.  He brings to life John’s logical approach to events while showing how they affect him emotionally.

What was most exciting about these episodes were the parts that revealed different sides to Sherlock. The introduction of Irene Adler brought out a challenge for Sherlock in the form of a female counterpart who was just as clever as he was.  Each episode, in its own way, highlights Sherlock’s weaknesses.

Season Three cannot come fast enough.  Hopefully this time I can catch it when it’s actually on TV and not through Netflix like I have thus far.

Sherlock, Season 1

The world’s favorite detective has emerged from the fog…this is Sherlock for a new generation.

I’m a pretty constant reader of Entertainment Weekly.  I say that to say that for about a month, this was like, all they wanted to talk about in the first half of the magazine.  I was like, “What’s so special about this show?”  I’m all for a good Sherlock movie, sure, especially if it stars Robert Downey Jr.  But a TV series that only has 3 episodes in the first season?  How good could it possibly be?

Boy, was I wrong.

The first episode alone had me giggling like a school girl, wanting to cry, and sitting on the edge of my seat literally yelling at the TV.  (It helps that every episode is about 90 minutes long, so it’s like a full length movie every time.)  There’s an insane amount of suspense that goes into every episode.  I haven’t been into murder mysteries for a long time (I read them, but not as frequently as I used to), but this makes me wonder why I stopped.  Of course, Sherlock Holmes is an entirely different kind of detective from most current murder mysteries.

What makes this different from say, the latest Sherlock Holmes movies, are a few things.  First of all, this is set in modern times in England.  It was a little strange at first for me to see Sherlock in a high tech laboratory and using a cell phone.  But really, that just makes the mysteries more interesting because we as viewers understand how dire the situations really are.  I find myself in some historical fiction movies thinking, “Why didn’t they just call ____?” before remembering they don’t have cell phones.  Yeah, I’m not proud of that either.

The second thing that makes this awesome is the characters.  We’ll start with the main man himself.

Sherlock Holmes (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a total hottie.  I never thought there’d be a Sherlock to usurp RDJ, but he totally did.  As you would suspect, Sherlock is also very hard to get along with.  He’s a high functioning sociopath who uses his amazing intellect to solve complicated cases for Scotland Yard…just for fun.

What makes Sherlock even more amazing is how dimensional he is, and how unpredictable.  Much like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Sherlock doesn’t always understand social graces and will occasionally make comments that are funny without him realizing it.  He’s very clever yet not always smart.

Every episode seems to highlight another aspect of Sherlock’s character that we didn’t see in the one before.  It’s really awesome to see him grow as a character the more I watch too.  It always astounds me how he makes some ludicrous sounding claim that comes out of nowhere and then he can link it with his thought process and come up with a result that is just…amazing.  I can’t get enough Sherlock.

Dr. John Watson (as played by Martin Freeman) is perhaps the most likable of all the characters.  Since this is set in modern times, John was a doctor in the Afghan War before he was injured and discharged.  This leaves him vulnerable to many things when he returns.  The reason he even meets Sherlock is because they both happen to be looking for a new roommate.

Where Sherlock is the brain, John is the heart.  He balances Sherlock’s crazy intellect with sympathy and social cues.  He frequently will try to bring the victims back into the equation when Sherlock thinks of nothing but the clues.  He is constantly annoyed with Sherlock for one reason or another, but you can tell he enjoys the action and adventure that comes with being Sherlock’s right hand man.

John really does become the butt of Sherlock’s efforts sometimes.  When Sherlock shirks on his duties, John is the one who has to try and smooth over the mess.  And let me tell you, Sherlock makes a lot of messes that require John cleaning them up.

This show is truly incredible.  The writing is fabulously complex.  The only complaint I have with it is why the hell can’t American TV shows be this awesome anymore?