*TV SERIES RECAP: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA

The basic premise of The Plot Against America is to reimagine what would’ve happened if Charles Lindbergh and not FDR had won the 1940 US presidential election. It is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Philip Roth. The story is told through the eyes of the Levins family; A Jewish working-class family living in 1940s Newark, New Jersey.

The background of the story is that Charles Lindbergh (Ben Cole) is campaigning hard all over the country, where anxious crowds are waiting to hear him speak. Lindbergh flies a plane down to his campaign rally appearances while selling an isolationist agenda to the American public, and he is also opposed to joining the war effort against Nazi Germany; Lindbergh even has a campaign slogan consisting of repeating the same phrase over and over again at every single rally: “The choice is simple. It is not between Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is between Charles Lindbergh and war.”

This show draws you in slowly; it takes the first two episodes to get a tangible sense of the characters and where the story is going. The tension grows in every episode; the plot moves slowly, but it works well. The world these characters inhabit feels authentic. And the clear depiction of this working-class neighborhood made up of mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants in 1940s Newark, New Jersey, was well crafted.

You get to know this Jewish family well; you get a good sense of this family and their suburban life. There are slow warnings of potential danger to their community through news reports on the radio and newsreels. The depiction of the slow and steady rise of fascism and the terror that it causes within the Jewish community is remarkable. All those things are put together brilliantly.

We get a closer look at the story through the eyes of young Philip Levin (Azhy Robertson), as he comes to terms with the reality of things. The audience also begins to come to terms with the high stakes at play alongside young Philip. We have to lean in and pay attention to each scene closely.

It is impossible not to avoid the obvious comparison between this show’s premise and the rise of Donald Trump. The idea that a celebrity with no political experience becomes a politician and turns out to be a populist and a right-wing nut job — appealing mostly to the lowest common denominator of voters is eerily similar — once elected, this right-wing hack turns the whole country into a fascist regime and The United States’ decline is set into motion.

It is chilling to see how Lindbergh uses a populist agenda and turns to members of the Jewish community to do his bidding. We have Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (John Turturro), an influential leader in the Jewish community, who becomes a strong supporter of Lindbergh, normalizing many of Lindbergh’s rhetoric and, in a sense becoming the “token” Jew of the campaign.

I cannot help but see similar and modern parallels within many leaders and influential Hispanic community members who supported and continue to support Trump and his right-wing anti-immigrant agenda.

The performances are excellent. Morgan Spector (Herman Levin) and Zoe Kazan (Bess Levin) are fantastic. Both characters sense the danger of Lindbergh’s rhetoric but cope and approach the imminent threat to their community differently. Winona Ryder (Evelyn Finkel) is outstanding as this naive and over-trusting follower of Rabbi Bengelsdorf. The kid that plays Seldon (Jacob Laval) is a scene-stealer.

Kudos to David Simon for this remarkable and thought-provoking adaptation. I must confess that I have never seen The Wire; I’ll get around to it eventually. However, I’m a massive fan of The Deuce, which is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in the last 20 years. Both of those shows were David Simon creations.

At its core, The Plot Against America is speculative and alternative history. Notwithstanding, it is also a clear warning of a dystopian horror that might await us in the not-so-distant future if we allow populist, isolationists, and xenophobic demagogues to rise into political positions of power.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA (2020). Streaming now on HBO

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Happy to say, I was surprisingly captivated and highly entertained with this TV Series. The Flight Attendant is based on a 2018 novel of the same name by bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian. This adaptation is a frenetic dark comedy — a murder mystery that pushes the pace from beginning to end.

Our flight attendant slash heroine Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) wakes up next to a dead body and with no memory of what happened the night before. The dead body belongs to Alex (Michiel Huisman), a passenger on Cassie’s Bangkok flight with whom Cassie goes out on a wild night of partying and drinking.

After waking up next to her dead date, Cassie frantically runs out of the hotel to avoid the Thai authorities and rushes to rejoin her flight crew back to New York — Within a few hours of hotel staff discovering Alex’s dead body, the FBI gets involved in this international homicide investigation.

Upon the flight’s arrival in the US, the flight attendant crew is interviewed by FBI agents, at which point Cassie becomes their main suspect.

The frenetic pace of the show picks up immediately after Cassie returns to NYC. She goes on this quest to piece together the mystery surrounding Alex’s murder. She learns about Alex’s shady business dealings and dangerous partners. However, this show’s most notable and unique thing is how Alex keeps showing up in ghost-like visions throughout the plot’s critical moments. He seems to be embedded in Cassie’s conscience, where some of the most engaging and emotional scenes between Cassie and Alex take place.

Cassie is this out of control, functioning alcoholic, but in a fun and entertaining way. Kaley Cuoco is excellent here; Her comedic timing is flawless — her body language, facial gestures, and delivery come naturally. No doubt all those years in hit sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory has paid dividends. Her alcoholism and self-destructive behavior are crucial to the plot, and Cuoco rises to the dramatic occasion. In lesser hands, this character would have been annoying and not as likable.

The entire casting is solid, but the most notable performances come from the three supporting female stars; Cassie’s brutally sarcastic best friend Annie (Zosia Mamet), a power attorney representing underworld types. Zosia Mamet is superb here, and her presence on screen is intense. Megan (Rosie Perez) is fantastic as Cassie’s flight crew supervisor. Megan is involved in a sub-plot of international corporate espionage, selling her husband’s company secrets to agents of the North Korean government. Also, the Mysterious femme fatale assassin Miranda (Michelle Gomez) is outstanding.

The plot and dialogue are all well put together, some things feel a bit preposterous, but it ends up working well. All in all, The Flight Attendant is an incredibly charming, fun show to watch. It is high-quality escapism and it is suspenseful enough to keep you invested in every single episode. I am looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Flight Attendant, (2020). Streaming now on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: RUN

RUN was a guilty pleasure watch. The premise and concept of this limited HBO series are somewhat irresistible to me. We have two former lovers, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), and Ruby (Merritt Wever). They made a pact to each other during their college years, that if either one of them ever texted the word “RUN” to the other, followed by a return text with the same word—then they will both drop whatever they are doing, and meet at Grand Central Station and be there for each other.

Now in their 30s, Ruby is married with kids. Billy is a successful motivational speaker and author. It seems like they have previously texted RUN to each other throughout the years, but this is the first time that the text was actually returned. The ex-lovers meet up and embark on a cross-country Amtrak train ride.

The whole idea of dropping everything in your life and making a wild run has crossed my mind multiple times, and perhaps this is why this show appealed to me from the get-go.

Episodes for the first season are roughly about a half-hour long with 7 episodes. Pretty easy to power through the whole thing in one sitting. It is a fun show, with lots of tension and slow revelations. Layers and layers of information about the characters are slowly revealed, so you have to be patient to see where the story is actually going. The tension keeps on building up with each episode.

The supporting characters are essentially the main obstacles in this love story. Billy’s assistant Fiona (Archie Panjabi), is stalking and blackmailing Billy — she is holding some dark and compromising secrets regarding Billy.

Ruby’s husband, Laurence (Rich Sommer), seems to be aware that his wife has run off to be with someone and is willing to forgive her if she returns home to her family. All the supporting characters added along the way add a very compelling dynamic that worked well for me. Most notably, the inclusion of the character Laurel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), A taxidermist, who collects roadkill, and gets involved in the plot.

There is this exciting sub-plot between Laurel and police officer Babe Cloud (Tamara Podemski) that develops midway through the first season,

Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson have solid chemistry together. I was all-in on the idea that these two were once lovers. The sexual tension was believable. Wever’s performance is pretty intense and remarkable. She has this uncanny ability to deliver lines in a very deliberate manner. The character flaws between both characters are worth exploring further…. if there is a second season, which I hope there is.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

RUN (2020). Streaming on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 2)

In the final months of a dreadful 2020, I got the chance to finish up the year watching the second season of one of the most enjoyable book adaptations in recent memory.

His Dark Materials is based on a series of books by Phillip Pullman, who also serves as showrunner for the series. Season 1 was mostly based on book 1 of the trilogy, The Golden Compass.

This second season is based on book 2, The Subtle Knife, and season 3 will be based on book 3, The Amber Spyglass.

In season 2, we continue to follow the adventures of Lyra (Dafne Keen) and her Daemon Patalaimon (voiced by Kitt Connor) as they explored the alternate world that Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) opened up after killing Roger (Lewin Lloyd) at the end of season 1.

Season 1 was excellent — there was a lot of exposition, lots of world-building, and many moving parts coming at you pretty fast. But it all worked well, and things came together nicely by the end of the season.

We catch up with Will (Amir Wilson), who is also exploring this new alternate world. Will and Lyra’s eventual encounter will put our two heroes on the path to fulfill the Witches Prophecy. They both need to rely each other, as they find themselves on a journey full of obstacles,

The Magisterium senses a dire threat to their control and power and dares to cross into this parallel reality to stop Lord Asriel and Lyra. The idea of witches and non-believers challenging the dogmatic and authoritarian ways of the Magisterium is dangerous for their hold on things and the power of The Authority. Here, at the intersection of politics, philosophy, witches, religion, and multiple worlds is where the series becomes more exciting and compelling.

Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) is brilliant yet again — she is pure magic whenever she is onscreen, and she is way more manipulative and deceptive in this second season. Mrs. Coulter is by far one of the most outstanding villains on TV.

In a sense, Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) becomes a more sympathetic and less villainous character in this season. The onscreen chemistry between Lord Boreal and Mrs. Coulter is exceptional.

Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda) is terrific again. I enjoyed how they have continued to develop this character from the first season. I was glad to see Lee’s Daemon, Hester (voice by Cristela Alonzo), getting a bit more involved in the plot than in the first season.

Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby), a physicist who studies dark matter, is crucial to the plot. Dr. Malone allows the audience to understand better what dust might be, and we get to go on this journey of discovery along with her.

But the young characters are the heart and soul of the story here. The loss of Roger haunts Lyra, and Will is obsessed with finding his father. The bond between Lyra and Will is a critical factor as both characters move forward.

According to the prophecy, Lyra is supposed to be the girl “destined to bring about the end of destiny.” This is why everybody is supposed to protect Lyra — Will, Lee, and the Witches are supposed to protect Lyra at all costs.

The set up to the eventual war between the multiple worlds is set in motion in this season’s final episode. We see Lord Asriel appealing to the Angels as he tries to raise enough support to wage war against The Authority. The post-credit scene with Roger in this season’s final episode is shocking and sets up season 3.

I really cannot recommend binging this series enough.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 2). Streaming on HBO MAX

* TV SERIES RECAP: DEAD TO ME (Seasons 1 & 2)

It originally came out in May 2019 on Netflix, but it wasn’t until this past summer of 2020, during the confinement when I finally had the chance to sit down and binge on seasons 1 & 2. The show runs for roughly 30 minutes at 10 episodes per season, making it very easy to binge through the whole thing in a few sittings.

It’s essentially a dark comedy but with a lot more drama than comedy; the humor and comedic moments are hilarious, but when the drama arrives, the show gets dark pretty fast.

We have Jenn (Christina Applegate), a widower searching for her husband’s killer, who was the victim of a hit and run driver. She spends most of her time obsessively looking for speeding cars passing through the scene of her husband’s death, with the hopes of finding a lead to the hit and run driver who killed her husband. She theorizes that perhaps the killer might be living in her neighborhood. Christina Applegate was nominated for an EMMY for this performance, probably her most intense performance ever. She is remarkable here.

While attending a grief support group, Jennifer meets Judy (Linda Cardellini). Judy is an upbeat, positive-minded person but seems to be hiding a secret. Her interest in befriending Jenn is suspicious. Linda Cardellini made this character likable — at first, I was taken aback by her decision to get close to Jenn, but as the show progresses, you cannot help but root for Judy.

On a dual role, playing twin brothers Steve and Ben, James Marsden adds a unique dynamic to the plot. Katey Segal’s addition to the cast was an excellent choice; her character has a manipulative, sinister vibe to it. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this character in season 3, especially when she gets to interact with Jenn, which will feel like an unofficial Married with Children reunion of sorts.

The acting is what makes this type of material work. The entire ensemble cast is excellent—lots of drama, emotions, and heavy emotional content. The writing feels real and raw. The acting and the writing come together naturally and organically. The dialogue is sharp and witty. Once the two female leads are established as characters, their personality traits remain consistent. The rest of the female characters, like Detective Perez and Jenn’s mother-in-law, are well written — all the supporting characters are compelling and exciting.

There is this unique display of affluential, upper-class living portrayed by the luxury and flawless appearance of the houses inhabited by most of the central characters. They present this illusion of perfection, which is a mirage of the chaos, misery, and overall unhappiness in their personal lives. There is a particular scene when Jenn is crying her eyes out while an immaculate-looking kitchen surrounds her; A perfect example of the facade her character exhibits.

Season 1: It is mostly about Jenn’s grief and her family dynamics.

Season 2: We get to know more about Judy and explore her backstory further. There are many layers to Judy’s backstory, and season 2 gives you a more in-depth look at her life. 

Netflix announced in July 2020 that a 3rd and final season would be coming, but there have been rumors of a possible cancellation, which would be sad and unfortunate. This show deserves to come full circle and bring Judy and Jenn’s story to a conclusion.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Streaming on NETFLIX

*TV SERIES RECAP: COBRA KAI (Season 3)

First of all, I’m a true O.G. fan of this series — I watched the first season the same week it initially dropped on YouTube Red way back in 2018. I think it took me a couple of nights to watch the whole thing; I would watch it late at night after getting home from work — I pretty much did the same thing when the second season moved over to Netflix.

Needless to say, I binged the fuck out of season 3 the same day it dropped on Netflix. I watched the whole thing in one sitting on New Years Day — it was an excellent way to start 2021.

Season 2 ended with this insanely well-choreographed High School fight scene between the rival Dojos of Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai. Which ended on a cliffhanger with Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) going over a stairwell down a few stories and landing on a railing, leaving him paralyzed and in a coma.

Robby (Tanner Buchanan) is on the run from the cops for kicking Miguel over the stairwell and leaving him in a coma. Robby is more of an outsider in this season; He feels betrayed by all the people he once trusted.

Season 3 is darker than the first two seasons, and all of our favorite characters are in a state of disarray, but the rivalry between the two Dojos is the one true constant throughout season 3. Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel La Russo (Ralph Macchio) are still beefing with each other just like in the previous two seasons.

Here is where our three main characters and the rest of the Karate Kids find themselves:

DANIEL LA RUSSO:

Daniel is in a tough spot with his car dealership — His top competitor is making deals with Daniel’s Japanese business partner, threatening to shut Daniel off from his Japanese car importer. And in a desperate attempt to save his dealership, Daniel goes back to Japan to try to work things out with his car distributor, Doyona International. While in Japan, Daniel decides to visit Mr. Miyagi’s Tomi village in Okinawa. Tomi village has completely changed to how it looked in Karate Kid II, and now it resembles a typical American town center, full of name-brand American retail shops.

Here Daniel reunites with Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto). This Karate Kid II reunion perfectly nails the Karate Kid franchise’s essence, and it filled me with warm nostalgia for these characters. Chozen teaching Daniel new techniques and pressure points was one of the highlights of season 3. Chozen should return in season 4; maybe this time around, he can visit Daniel in the States.

JOHNNY LAWRENCE:

Season 2 ended with Jon Kreese (Martin Kove) taking back control over Cobra Kai Dojo, casting out Johnny and leaving him in a bad spot. Also, Johnny received a notification on Facebook that Ali Mills (Elizabeth Shue) had accepted his friend request….more on her later.

Johnny is still trying hard to make amends with Robby, but Robby wants nothing to do with him. The relationship between Miguel and Johnny continues to be central to developing his character and the overall plotline, especially as Johnny attempts to help Miguel with his recovery— Johnny’s rehab techniques are ridiculous and outlandish. Still, you have to suspend disbelief and go along with it for the sake of the story. There are some bizarre scenes, like when Johnny sets fire to Miguel’s feet to see if he feels anything or when he dangles an old porn magazine from the 80s over Miguel’s head so he can reach out and grab it.

We also get more of Bobby (Ron Thomas) in this season. Bobby’s expanded role in season 3 is great; he provides a bridge to the original Karate Kid film and to Johnny Lawrence.

Johnny’s relationship with Miguel’s mom Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), continues to grow this season. Carmen begins to sees that Johnny is a good man underneath it all. However, Ali Mills (Elizabeth Shue) returning to the Valley and to Johnny’s life throws him for a loop. He seems conflicted between Ali and Carmen — I think this whole love interest conflict stuff is critical for the growth and development of the Johnny Lawrence character and his road to redemption.

I’m happy to see Carmen given more screen time this season — I still believe that she might be connected to Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) or Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) from The Karate Kid III movie. She did say that Miguel’s father was “a very bad man.” And those two are both very bad dudes indeed.

JOHN KREESE:

Now back in charge of Cobra Kai Dojo, Kreese reverts to his original philosophies of the Karate Kid Movies with “Strike Hard, Strike First, No Mercy,”…. and the whole idea of the “Enemy” is out there type of stuff.

However, Kreese gets his moment in the sun here — he gets to be humanized a bit with flashbacks to his younger days. We get to see John Kreese’s origin story and his time in the Vietnam War. We learned that his mother was an alcoholic and committed suicide. We get to see where Kreese got his initial Karate training and philosophies and how those philosophies are rooted in his military experience. We get hints of a young Terry Silver as one of the members of his military team. The whole Vietnam flashback stuff is full of easter eggs and teasers for season 4… I think.

Also, Kreese is planting seeds of deception with Robby, turning him against both Daniel and Johnny. This plot twist is setting us up for something big on season 4.

ALI MILLS:

The return of Ali Mills is beyond crucial here…She brings both Johnny and Daniel together beautifully. She tells them hard truths, like telling them that they are both very much alike and that they have a hard time admitting it. It was pure magic watching Ali return to the Karate Kid extended universe.

MIYAGI-DO VS COBRA KAI:

The power of mentorship continues to be the central theme here. We see how the passing of wisdom and knowledge can have both negative and positive influences on all these young karate pupils’ lives.

Samantha (Mary Mouser) continues to grow and develop as a character. In season 3, she is dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions and personal conflicts. This Samantha character is a compelling one, and I feel like the Miyagi-Do legacy rests on her shoulders.

Eli/Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) has some dark scenes but seems conflicted throughout this whole season. His rivalry with his former best friend Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) is still going strong.

Tory (Peyton List) gets a lot more screen time, and we get a small but better glimpse of her background. I initially thought that she was connected in some way to Terry Silver or maybe even Mike Barnes (the villains from Karate Kid III). We got to hear Tory’s mom speak off-screen, but we never got a chance to actually see her or find out her name. There is a good chance that Tory might be related to Julie Pierce (Hillary Swank) from The Next Karate Kid movie or Jessica Kennedy (Robyn Lively) from Karate Kid III. And now that we know a little more about Tory and her home life, I get the sense that she is in some way related to a character from Karate Kid III…. In any case, Tory is slowly becoming the primary and lone villain of the series.

Of course, there are some insane, hard-to-believe things going on in the plot, like the idea that in 2020-2021, we have rival karate Dojos running around fighting each other with no government or authority figures present….it is straight-up escapism at its best.

As I said earlier, Season 3 is a bit darker than the previous seasons. Most of the comedic parts are centered around Miguel’s rehab and Ali’s return.

All the characters continue to be massively compelling and appealing. Especially Johnny’s sentimentality and references to the 80s…. the 80s and 90s are near and dear to my heart, so I can directly relate to Johnny.

Cobra Kai is slowly becoming the Daniel LaRusso slash Johnny Lawrence buddy dramedy show. The chemistry between these two is terrific. I cannot get enough of them every time they share some screen time.

I get the sense that in season 4, they will take this whole concept of mentors and students to a higher level, especially with the potential return of Terry Silver and Mike Barnes.

This entire three seasons of Cobra Kai has provided a brilliant blueprint for how a successful revival of a series or franchise should be put together.

Beyond excited for season 4.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Cobra Kai (Season 3). Streaming on Netflix.

*TV SERIES RECAP: HUNTERS

Hunters is an over the top TV series that brings an alternate version of history with some real historical facts sprinkled throughout its fictional plot. The show takes on historical facts like the Holocaust, World War II, and Operation Paperclip — it takes all those historical facts, and it reimagines them as a TV series along similar lines as Inglorious Basterds.

The opening scene in the first episode is outstanding, and it gives you a taste of what to expect from this show in terms of over the top violence. The entire first episode feels like a movie — in the sense that the first episode is about 1 hour and 29 minutes long — All the remaining episodes are roughly about an hour.

Set in 1978, New York City, we have young Jonah (Logan Lerman), who works at a comic bookstore and lives in Brooklyn with his Holocaust-survivor grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin). Ruth is murdered inside their home; Jonah witnesses the murder but fails to stop the killer. At her funeral, Jonah begins to suspect that grandma had a separate life from the one she lived at home. Soon, he discovers that grandma was a secret member of an underground Nazi-hunting organization.

We get to see how Nazi war criminals and many Nazi scientists were brought to the United States under US government protection and given high-level jobs after World War II. And now, years after the war ended, these same Nazi war criminals are being recognized by Holocaust survivors in random cities throughout the United States.

Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) leads a team of Nazi Hunters, hell-bent on tracking down leads and executing justice in violently imaginative ways. Al Pacino seems to be having a blast with this role. I enjoyed his performance.

The Nazi hunters’ team is an interesting one; we have the fantastic husband/wife team of Murray (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy (Carol Kane); their backstory is super compelling. Roxy (Tiffany Boone) is a foxy brown type of character. Lonny (Josh Radnor) is a cool, sophisticated, and fun-loving actor who specializes in disguises. Joe (Louis Ozawa), a combat expert and Vietnam vet who has PTSD. Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvaney) a nun and a former British agent. This nun character is the most mysterious in the group. She seems to be regularly reporting on the progress the Nazi hunters are making to someone on the phone.

We also have Millie (Jerrika Hinton), an FBI agent. She begins to connect the dots between the random killings of German-born US citizens and realizes that all these killings are somehow connected. All of the victims seem to have a mysterious past—she soon discovers that these murder victims were former Nazi war criminals living in the US. In some cases, they were living under new identities given to them by the US government.

The Colonel (Lena Olin) and Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) are excellent villains. However, the character by the name of Travis (Greg Austin) stands out as one of the most remorseless and terrifying villains of recent memory.

Hunters is a daring show that goes into dark places; It deals with white supremacy rising from the shadows and how these Nazis had a plan to infiltrate US institutions of government and fields of science, politics, religion, technology, and business. There is a long game at play here for these Nazis, in which they will destroy the United States from the inside and give rise to a fourth Reich.

In a nutshell, Hunters is a well-made and entertaining comic book style show about Nazi hunters. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies or even the Kingsman movies, you will probably appreciate what this show attempts to do. I enjoyed it and looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HUNTERS (2020). Streaming on Prime.

*TV SERIES RECAP: WESTWORLD (Season 3)

We went full Matrix this season; Going beyond Science Fiction and more in-depth into philosophical themes of reality and consciousness. The complete series, seasons 1-3, feel like Cinematic TV at its finest.

Season 1 was excellent — I thought it was pure genius in every single aspect. I still believe that it was one of the most revolutionary, mind-blowing shows ever made. Season 2 was a bit underwhelming for me when compared to the first season, but I still liked it and found it to be pretty entertaining.

WESTWORLD Season 3 reinvents the western vibe of the whole series — following the escape of Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) from the park at the end of season 2. Now we have a futuristic “real world” type of setting outside of the Westworld park.

The brilliant thing is that this future world looks and feels believable; it does not feel like a far-fetched version of a futuristic society. It feels like this type of setting, and this way of life is entirely possible, and like it is something within reach for all of us who live under our current timeline. All the little futuristic details worked well for me.

However, there is way too much exposition — lots and lots of exposition. Every single episode is full of drawn-out exposition. Things do not get going until the very end of almost every episode. This is not necessarily a bad thing — I just wasn’t in the best of moods when I binged through it.

I cannot get enough of Dolores; she is one awesome character. She has gone from this farm girl — always a victim type of character to a tough, take no prisoners approach, driven by revenge. There is so much room to keep growing and developing this character beyond this season….. If there is a season 4, then by all means, Dolores has got to be the central character.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) was very compelling in every single season; however, now, in season 3, she seems stuck and not really going anywhere. She is still trying to reunite with her fictional daughter, who has escaped into “The Valley Beyond.” Maeve’s character doesn’t seem to be developing further, and she is essentially repeating the same twists from previous seasons.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is suffering from similar issues as the Maeve character. He spends most of this season Prophesizing the end of times. Plus, Bernard now has Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) as a sidekick. I really don’t know how I feel about this — and besides escaping into the human world, these two characters did not really do much.

Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) has been consistently excellent ever since she showed up on season 2, but towards the end of this season, it felt like they were running out of ideas on what to do with this character.

William (Ed Harris) was always believed to be the real villain behind everything (believed by me, that is). Season 1 and season 2 established William as this sadistic, evil overlord, and Season 3 was all about redemption for William…. I am not sure William’s redemption was accomplished.

New Character Caleb (Aaron Paul) is a former soldier dealing with PTSD and struggling to readjust to life after his military service. I could not get into this character as much as I tried. Anyhow, he is supposed to be a john Connor type of character, leading the revolution — leading both humans and hosts.

The addition of Serac (Vincent Cassell) was a great idea. I am a big fan of Cassell’s work (everybody should watch Brotherhood of the Wolf, 2001). This Serac character is fascinating — his backstory was one of the highlights of this season.

…and what about the rest of the Hosts barely used this season like Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr), Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker), and so on…. I wanted to see them more involved in season 3. I also wonder if Teddy (James Marsden) will return in season 4. His absence was felt; Teddy was needed this season.

Hard to say if this series will go on; I sense the opportunity to move this series forward has been missed. I must admit that for me, there was an apparent drop-off from the first two seasons in terms of engagement. Nevertheless, I did enjoy all the profound philosophical and existential aspects of this season; however, sadly, I am no longer as invested or excited about future seasons as I once was.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

Streaming on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: CARNIVAL ROW (Season 1)

I have been on a continuous roll for the past four months, catching up with movies and TV series in my seemingly never-ending “To Watch List.” Which seems never to stop growing.

Carnival Row was a captivating delight to binge-watch. Episodes are roughly about an hour-long with only 8 episodes, so it was easy for me to power through the first season in a couple of sittings.

It is essentially a period drama within a fantasy world — set in a fictional city called The Burge, within a fictional timeline (7th century in their world). The Burge closely resembles 19th-century Victorian-era London.

We have Faeries or Fae creatures — They are mystical creatures whose homeland has been ravaged by war, forcing them to flee as refugees to the Burge. We also have Faun creatures, half-human, half-goat beings. Faun and Faeries live as refugees within the Carnival Row district of the Burge, which is commonly known as the “Row.”

There are many fantasy elements sprinkled throughout the series, most notably witchcraft and dark magic; still, this is not a high magical show or even a high fantasy show like, say, Penny Dreadful. But, there is a multi-genre feel to it.

One of the main characters in the series is a Fae called Vignette (Cara Delevigne); she arrives at the Burge fleeing her homeland. She has a complicated history with the other main character of the series, Philo (Orlando Bloom), a police inspector in the Burge, who has a soft spot for Faes.

Philo is tasked with investigating a string of gruesome murders…. Murders that humans are placing blame on the immigrant community that lives within the “Row.” Immigration, Racism, and xenophobia are central themes here.

There is a bit of slow pace and plenty of exposition in the first two episodes; however, by the third episode, things pick up. The third episode is essentially a flashback episode where we learn a little bit about the Fae myths. You get to see the Fairy temple where Philo and Vignette first met, and you get a better understanding of where the story is heading.

Orlando Bloom has found an excellent TV role here. I have been a fan of his work for a long time…. I am always recommending Kingdom of Heaven (2005); I think it is a highly underrated film and one of the best films made within the last 20 years, but make sure you watch the Director’s cut, it is one of Ridley Scott’s finest achievements as a filmmaker, and Bloom delivers one exceptional performance.

The whole show is obviously well put together; I can tell that the production value was pretty high. The sets and customs are excellent. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the casting is perfect. Jared Harris (Absalom) is always great in everything he is in, and he is great here also. I have been a fan of Simon McBurney (Runyon) for many years now, and I am static to see that he will be a series regular.

The character of Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) had the most compelling character arc in the entire first season. She starts as this upper-class snob, and over the course of the story, she evolves into a more progressive-minded person. Tamzin Merchant has a solid and charismatic screen presence—looking forward to seeing more of her character next season.

There is one pretty fantastic Faery sex scene that stands out from all the rest. The depiction of life at the Row was remarkable. It was grim and dark…. The crime syndicates running things, the street markets, the brothels, and the prostitution…. it showed all the undignified aspects of their everyday immigrant life.

Like I said before, Immigration is at the core of it all here. The show tackles Immigration, racism, and xenophobia in an unapologetic straightforward manner. They are using a fantasy format to expose a significant and relevant issue. The Burge is a place where regular humans hold all the power, and the mystical creatures are viewed as lesser beings, and this show forces you to look at racism through a fantasy lens. It reminds me of late 19th century to early 20th century New York City. And the peak of European Immigration and all the xenophobic and anti-immigrant climate of the era.

Carnival Row is a phenomenal show that surpassed my expectations; it was a fun and entertaining binging experience. And I am pleased to hear that it is getting a second season.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

Carnival Row (Season 1). Streaming on Prime

*TV SERIES RECAP: MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL (Season 1, 2 & 3)

If I had known how delightful this series was going to be and how much I would enjoy it, then I would have jumped on it much earlier. Although weirdly enough, I am glad it took me this long to binge through the entire first three seasons — it took me about two weeks to power through all 26 episodes. I Binge-watched at least two episodes every evening for two weeks straight.

Ever since MAD MEN came to an end, I have been craving for another well-made, engaging throwback series set in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is precisely that show.

New York, New York, Baby! We get a heavy dosage of my beloved city, which is the principal setting for the series. Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is an Upper West Side Manhattan housewife who stumbles into standup comedy by accident. Domestic life is not something she is excited about. Midge also seems ambivalent about motherhood, plus her husband has left her for his secretary. She has no choice but to pursue a living and become independent of her husband. Comedy was not a career you would seek out in the ’50s, but Mrs. Maisel pursues it against all the odds. And throughout the first three seasons, we get to see her honing and shaping her standup skills.

Hard to avoid the parallels with Joan Rivers and how Rivers began to make her mark in standup comedy in the 1950s. Even the way Rivers would dress on stage is almost identical. Perhaps Joan Rivers is a loose inspiration for Mrs. Maisel, but the similarities are definitely there.

The series leans pretty heavy on New York Jewish culture. They are depicting particular aspects of everyday life during that period. We see how much value and effort Midge puts into her appearance: She measures her body proportions every single day, tracking them religiously. The vanity aspect is a big part of the series. The effort women made to look good, even at home, striving to always look their best, like putting on makeup right before going to sleep. Midge works hard at her beauty, and her beautiful dresses are an extension of the character’s personality.

The casting is perfect. Midge’s business manager Susie (Alex Borstein), is excellent; her street-smart personality complements Midge nicely. Susie’s character development is equally as crucial as Mrs. Maisel’s. Although Susie is not as attractive as Midge and has a rougher personality still, Susie has to find ways to navigate similar issues and difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated 1950s world.

Midge’s father, Abe Weissman (Tony Shaloub), is a complex character, just as compelling as Midge. The ensemble of supporting characters is fantastic: Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle), Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollak), and Shirley Maisel (Caroline Aaron) are all hilarious in every scene they appear together.

Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby)

Luke Kirby, like Lenny Bruce, is phenomenal; I feel like he should have his own spin-off biopic and expand further on the legendary comic. Jane Lynch (Sophie Lennon) became one of my favorite characters, glad she became a regular as the series progressed. Midge’s husband, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), is pretty engaging enough that I kept finding myself rooting for him to make things work with Midge.

The writing is exceptional. I admire the distinct look and feel of the show; the colors and period sets are gorgeous. The garment district warehouse scenes are well executed. The particular showbiz aspect of the period is fascinating.

Rachel Brosnahan is now a star; her performance exudes charisma. I am sure Mrs. Maisel’s journey in the series will eventually lead her into the Johnny Carson show and possibly the infamous Johnny Carson couch.

Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel cannot escape criticism for ignoring and pushing aside specific cultural issues of the period. Picking and choosing which battles to fight and showcase is totally the showrunners’ prerogative. However, the show is set during a crucial time in the history of the United States. A higher level of seriousness and sensitivity should be applied when dealing with real-life issues.

I realize that this type of show is now considered to be a “dramedy” style show; nonetheless, Mrs. Maisel has a unique opportunity here to tackle some crucial issues in upcoming seasons and remain as charming and entertaining as the first three seasons have been. While at the same time figuring out ways to be more grounded in reality.

The way season three unfolded and ended gave the writers and producers of this show a unique opportunity to highlight some of Midge’s obvious character flaws and address those flaws and her lack of sensitivity and urgency towards real-life issues in a more profound manner. Let us hope that is the route they decide to take.

Extremely excited for season four…

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 1,2 & 3). Streaming on Prime