Sense8 – Season 1 – Diverse & Fun Despite Iffy Pacing

Sense8

The first season of Sense8, for the most part, is action and emotion-fueled entertainment. The biggest problem is the pacing of individual episodes and, perhaps, of the entire season.

For those who don’t know, it’s about people who live in entirely different parts of the world but whose minds are linked so they can get essentially experience each other’s lives, and then some. The primary theme seems to be diversity, similarity and inter-connectivity; that despite our differences, we are the same where it matters, in our capacity to feel. Well, that’s what I surmised knowing the premise and watching the first episode (haven’t changed my mind after finishing the season).

Warning: There are some *SPOILERS* below.

Action aka Deus Ex Machina

Hands-down, some of the most satisfying scenes are the action sequences wherein the sensates, the mind-linked folks, hand over control of their bodies to one another to beat up the bad guys. Though this is sort of a repeatedly used deus ex machina in the show, used so the characters who can’t fight can get out of difficult situations, it’s still satisfying to watch due to the superb tension building.

sense8action

“I’ll chop you good” (not actual dialogue from the show, in case you were wondering).

Super Diversity

It’s obvious that the Wachowski Siblings (I didn’t know they’d stopped going by the “Wachowski Brothers” until I started watching this show) and Straczynski intended to fill the cast with characters of varying gender, sex, race and nationality. This is also reflected in the settings which, going from the most western countries first, includes: the United States, Mexico, Iceland, England, Kenya, India and South Korea (I’ve been to five of these seven; sorry, couldn’t avoid mentioning it).

Despite the great range of representation, the Wachowskis play it somewhat safe by having the season’s finale center around a straight, white cisgender couple (with the male being American to boot). While there are other sex/gender/race romances prominently featured, given the heavy doses of diversity throughout Sense8, I was surprised that the finale focused on the old school pairing. Sadly, this particular couple felt like the least developed of all the romances.

sense8maincharacters

Yep. That’s pretty diverse.

Iffy Pacing

Let’s just get this out of the way. The pacing, at times, isn’t perfect. Having so many characters to juggle makes pacing very difficult. Given the number of main characters, the show does a decent job but is far from perfect.

Feels odd to say, but the pacing might have worked better if there were commercial breaks so the abrupt transitions between the mini-climaxes and slow build-up scenes wouldn’t be so pronounced.

The first episode dragged on with a lot of exposition, jumping from one sensate character to another. This made it difficult to develop sympathy. It took me three or four episodes to start caring.

The series benefits greatly from having what is essentially a captive audience. As a Netflix Original by the Wachowski Siblings, it was almost a guarantee that a large number of people would watch the show beyond the first few episodes even if they dislike the beginning; Netflix viewers are binge watchers and Wachowski fans are Wachowski fans. Had the show been on another medium with an unknown team at the helm, many viewers might have stopped with the first episode.

Overall, though, the first season is good. So, let’s continue to stuff I like—

Best Sensate/Main Character

Van Damme!

Van Damme!

Winner: Capheus aka Van Damme (Aml Ameen). Something about a goodhearted guy working to get medicine for his mother and being super nice to everyone appeals to me. He’s the guy who teaches the other sensates (who are all considerably well off in their first world countries and telenova star house) to stop being depressed.

Runner-up: Wolfgang. Mostly because he delivers my favorite line in the show (see “Best Lines” below). Random side note (with a spoiler): Watching the scene when young Wolfgang murders his abusive father reminded me of the anime Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle in which the character of Wolfgang Krauser does the same.

Best Couple (This review/recap is devolving into a yearbook thing—but, it works given the number of primary characters.)

So serious looking.

So serious looking.

Winner: Though there are a number of romantic pairings in Sense8, I thought the chemistry was strongest between Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Angel Silvestre) and his boyfriend, Hernando (Alfonso Herrera). Most likely, it’s because Lito’s entire story arc was focused on his relationship with Hernando (and the problems which arose from his unwillingness to come out of the closet). Perhaps their relationship was made more entertaining to watch due to the near-constant presence of Daniela Velasquez (Erendira Ibarra).

Runner-up: Kala Dandekar (Tina Desai) and Wolfgang Bogdanow (Max Riemelt). This relationship seems to have more passion than most of the others; sort of a we want to, but we shouldn’t kind of deal. That’s always fun.

On a somewhat related note, the character of Sun Bak (Doona Bae) is a giant East Asian stereotype: no romance, emotionless, martial arts expert. To top it off, her male relatives are chauvinist/misogynist assholes—another stereotype reminiscent of the initial portrayal for Daniel Dae Kim’s character on Lost not too long ago.

Best Sidekick(s)

Winner: As a team, Hernando and Daniela Velasquez. Lito’s story arc was one of the more interesting ones because of these two. Attractiveness aside, Hernando is smart and insightful-ish while Daniela is bubbly and kind of a pervert. What’s not to love?

The best sidekicks workout to look good; not to fight.

All good sidekicks lounge around in exercise gear.

Runner-up: Amanita. In the early episodes, her sass seemed a bit forced but after a while it started to work; I’m a fan of sass.

Best Non-Combat Scene

Winner: The birth sequence with cute self-referential jokes is pretty nice (e.g., Lito’s family watching television as he’s born; Wolfgang’s water birth to match his nude swimming scene). I thought it was a nice touch if a bit cheesy. I’m not including an image for the birth scenes; those images were burned into my mind. I feel like Chandler Bing in “The One With the Birthing Video.”

Runner-up: The “accidental orgy” (as a writer I know calls it), particularly for Will Gorski’s (Brian J. Smith) comedic response. Gorski making out with the air was also pretty funny.

Best Lines:

Winner: “He’s my brother. And not by something as accidental as blood; something much stronger—by choice.” -Wolfgang (emphasis added).

wolfganghospital

Yep. More serious moments.

Runner-up: “Van Damme always comes back.” – Several characters.

In Conclusion—

Like every other Netflix Original series I’ve seen, Sense8 is definitely worth a watch (assuming you’re okay with nudity and violence). Just be prepared for a slow start.

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GoT Season 5 – Diversions, Deaths, Rebirths

I’d read somewhere that the showrunners for Game of Thrones were planning to diverge from George R.R. Martin’s books—getting away from the source material and GRRM’s plans for the novel series. Knowing this, I went into the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones both dreading and anticipating David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ changes.

The following will contain massive *SPOILERS* for the show and the novels if you’re not up to date.

Some Characters are Better Off Missing

jeynepooleThe show wrote off a number of characters, making the plot less convoluted and saving themselves the trouble of so many named characters with lines. For the most part, a lot of these characters should be glad they went missing.

In both versions, Jeyne Poole is Sansa Stark’s best bud who goes with Sansa from Winterfell to King’s Landing where both their fathers are murdered. Good times. In the show, however, that’s where Jeyne’s journey ends; she vanishes after the first season, which is probably for the best. Continue reading

So, I Binge-watched Daredevil on Netflix

Daredevil Promo ImageMarvel has been knocking it out of the park with just about every addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Netflix has done similarly with their lineup of original series. Daredevil, which is part of the MCU as well as a Netflix original series, is no exception—the show is good.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel character, Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who uses his other heightened senses to moonlight as a masked vigilante. Matt has a sort of radar sense that gives him great awareness of his surroundings (e.g., placement and movement of objects, people’s heart rates and body temperatures).

It’s satisfying to watch the titular character flip around and kick countless amounts of asses. Beyond the physical action, there’s plenty of character development and non-combat tension. What I found impressive was the show’s success in developing the antagonists which sometimes left me rooting for the bad guys. As it should be, however, I ultimately wanted Matt Murdock to prevail.

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Awesome Character #3: Lisa Hayes (Misa Hayase)

Lisa HayesFrom Macross to Robotech

Robotech is a localization of three separate Japanese anime series, pieced together so there would be enough episodes for American television in the 1980s. The first part of Robotech, known as the Macross Saga, was adapted from Super Dimension Fortress Macross (Macross) and is largely the same as its source material. The most significant changes were the names and ethnicity of some characters and removal of what folks deemed to be excessive violence, drinking, and nudity (today, none of that stuff would be cut).

The Japanese characters, Hikaru Ichijyo and Misa Hayase, were made Americans (not through immigration and naturalization) and we wound up with Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. In terms of personality and action, Lisa and Misa is the same character.

A few years after the release of the TV series, Robotech was adapted into a novel series that expanded upon the story, adding a bit more depth.

By feats alone

Lisa begins the series as a Lieutenant and the First Officer of the SDF-1, making her the second-in-command of the entire ship (the XO, if Robotech used American military designations). She gets promoted a number of times throughout the series. On more than one occasion, Lisa is responsible for saving the asses of thousands of people (e.g., the Daedalus Maneuver, and that time on Mars). By her feats alone, Lisa’s pretty impressive.

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Most Compelling Seth MacFarlane Thingies

While driving home and listening to “Majestic” by Wax Fang, I started thinking about how much I loved the episode of American Dad! that exposed me to the song. That is to say, I didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot (okay, maybe I loved it). That also led me to start thinking about what may be my favorite episode of Family Guy.

First off, I’ll say that my general assumption is that most people who come across my blog—people who can read—probably aren’t quite as into Seth MacFarlane created works as I am. Secondly, I want to warn people that this post includes some *SPOILERS* of relatively old episodes of American Dad! and Family Guy.

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Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Arrow, this post will have some *SPOILERS* (come to think of it, the title is kind of a spoiler already—oh well).

After some Arrow bingeing on Netflix, I discussed the cast of characters with my friend who thought the show forcibly added attractive women into the cast and didn’t know what to do with them (story-wise). In that friend’s opinion, a lot of the female characters are underdeveloped.

This prompted me to list the main and recurring characters to see how many characters were of either sex. With just the characters off the top of my head, I found there were more male characters than female: seventeen men, and thirteen women. What I found most interesting was that of the thirteen female characters on my list, Oliver Queen—the show’s protagonist—sleeps with six of them and is romantically interested in a seventh.

1. Dinah Laurel Lance, Esq.: Oliver dated her prior to the start of the show and they have some relapses during Season 1 (poor Tommy).

2. Dinah Sara Lance/Canary: Oliver cheats on Laurel with her sister in flashbacks, and when Sara returns on the island, and as the Canary, there’s a bit of something going on there.

3. Felicity Smoak: It’s been demonstrated that they at least have crushes on one another—Felicity lets it slip that she imagined Oliver holding her, and that she likes watching him do that pull-up-cross-fit-y exercise (looked it up—it’s called the Salmon Ladder), and she’s also jealous when Oliver’s with other women; and Oliver is super jealous of Barry Allen when Felicity is all smitten with the Flash-to-be.

Caity Lotz as Sara Lance aka Black Canary - Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance - Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak

Canary, Laurel Lance, and Felicity Smoak

4. Helena Bertenelli/The Huntress: Arrow sleeps with his fellow masked vigilante.

5. Detective McKenna Hall: A female detective showed up, so he had to date her.

6. Shado: Oliver’s island-flashback relationship in Season 2. Why have Oliver be taught archery by a man when you can kill that man off and let Oliver roll in the sand with his daughter?

7. Isabel Rochev: Yay, Summar Glau’s here—oh, well, couldn’t stop Oliver from getting all up on her for too long.

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

To be fair, the character of Oliver Queen is a billionaire playboy in the comics, so Arrow giving the guy so many romantic interests stays true to the source material (and, I suppose in real life, lots of people date seven or more people within two years).

Notably, John Diggle also has two romantic interests on the show: his brother’s widow, and his own ex-wife, both of whom aren’t very developed as characters. When I tried to come up with a list of shallow male characters who exist primarily as love interests for a main female character, I couldn’t come up with anything (Roy Harper, Robert Queen, and Walter Steele are considerably significant characters).

Overall, though, you can’t say that Arrow capitalizes on women’s looks alone:

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper.

Awesome Character #2: Podrick Payne

Daniel Portman as Podrick Payne

Daniel Portman as Podrick Payne

Looks like I’m going with another dorky supporting character: first was lovable loser, Milhouse Van Houten of The Simpsons, and now, the equally awkward Podrick Payne of A Song of Ice and Fire (and Game of Thrones).

So, if you aren’t quite up to date with Game of Thrones, you may want to avoid reading this post due to the likely presence of *SPOILERS*.

A not-so-obvious choice

For this post, I wanted to find a character from GRRM’s series who isn’t obviously awesome, which sort of precluded a lot of characters whom I assumed would show up in most people’s lists of top ten favorites (e.g., Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya, the Lannister brothers, Brienne, Bronn, the Hound).

Clearly, I wasn’t going to go with a character I’m not a fan of, either (e.g., Sansa Stark, Viserys, anyone with Bolton or Frey blood).

With the huge cast of characters in the series, there’s more than a few who are pretty cool but aren’t too popular, like the Blackfish (Catelyn Stark’s uncle), Jorah Mormont (whose popularity seems to have risen thanks to the HBO adaptation), and Syrio Forel.

Ultimately, I wound up choosing Podrick Payne.

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