Review: Locke & Key season 1

We just finished watching Locke & Key, the new netflix series and… I’m torn on what I think about it.

I have the complete series of Locke & Key graphic novels, though I have only read the first one. I found the whole idea of keys that magically unlock things to be fascinating. A key that you can unlock the mind and step inside the memories. A key that allows you to step through a doorway and separate soul from body. Each key a new experience and wonder.

So watching the new series was a must for me. And I have to say I do love the way they did most of the keys. You put them in a key hole, and unlock, or lock something. Except the fire key, that one is odd because all it does is light things on fire. No locks to go with it, just fire.

The story, itself, started interesting as well. It starts with three children and their mother moving to an old mansion left to them by their deceased father, but no one knows much about this house, or their fathers past. The father kept it all a secret. Then when the youngest starts finding keys with magical abilities they start to find a dark secret that they have to unravel before things go terribly, terribly wrong.

The secret of their fathers past is locked together with the traumatic way their father was murdered, and the emotional scars it left on each of the family members. Each of them blames themselves for different aspects of the death, and each of them have to come to terms with that perceived blame.

Where I think the story falls short for me is the lack of a cohesive plot. There is an ancient evil, a “bad guy” per-se, but the reason you are given for them to be at odds with the Lockes (the desire to get specific keys) falls apart in the end. They finally have access to the key they were searching for all this time, but they don’t take it for some reason. It left both my boyfriend and myself staring at the screen just wonder… but why? What was all of this for?

So, yes, I did enjoy it. I liked the mystery, and the magic. I didn’t like the ending. It was a bit too much of a cliff hanger with the family getting closer to one another, but the over all plot left hanging. And if you’ve read many of my reviews you probably already know I hate cliffhangers for the sake of cliffhangers.

Will I watch the next season? Probably. It wasn’t a bad series, and I would like to see what it does. However, I can say that if the second season doesn’t at least give the series a purpose, and some overarching plotline, then I probably wouldn’t go for a third season.

I will give them a little credit through, adapting a comic book series to TV can be challenging, especially with some of the visuals inside the graphic novels. They managed to do some interesting things with the mind key, letting us get a glimpse inside of several characters memories. They also simplified some of the plot between comic and tv series, so I will probably go back and read the comics now just to find those differences.

Star Trek Picard – Four Episodes in and what is this?

I just watched episode four of Star Trek Picard and…If it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend and our room mate were watching this I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s awful, just not interesting enough to keep watching. There have been a number of scenes that make me uncomfortable (like the brother and sister that get way too physical) or annoyed (why is she calling him JP?), or just plain angry (ya, let’s reinvent the timeline again.) But while those scenes detracted from my enjoyment they were just a few scenes of the whole. The vast majority of it has been…. meh.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was little, right there with Captain Kirk flying off to various planets and defeating the problem of the week. There are so many of them that I love, from Spoke and the flowers that made him feel, to the disease that attacks anyone hitting puberty. Then there was The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9,  Enterprise, and every single movie (even the new ones). I’ve watched them all. I enjoyed them all. From the convoluted plots of the Cardassians, to the tribbles, and the invisible monsters only Data could see.

(I do admit I skipped Discovery, I didn’t want to pay extra to watch it on yet another streaming service. I’m only watching Picard because I’m not paying for it, or room mate is.)

So when I come to Picard I am there as a fan of the franchise. Sure, there have been episodes of the old series that I didn’t like, or I felt could be better, but on the whole I loved them and I kept coming back for more.

I think the biggest problem I have with Picard isn’t even the story, or the pieces in the plot that take me out of the world. It’s the way they are choosing to film it.

Every season before (minus Discovery, since I didn’t watch it and I don’t know) was in an episodic mode. That is: each episode was a self contained story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end revolving around a specific monster or problem. Sometimes the episode would be cut into two or three pieces, and often there was a larger story that connected all of the episodes together, but on the whole when you got to the end of an episode you felt like it had a satisfying conclusion.

Now Picard is here, and it does not have a structure to it. The first episode may be the only one that had a whole story, but even that felt incomplete and unfinished. It was the opening dragging you into the series, but it wasn’t satisfying. There was no conclusions, just questions.

Then the second episode happened, and there were even more questions, and only a few small answers. It gave them a direction to head in, but again it wasn’t a self contained episode, just a piece of the whole.

Episode three happened and I hated the new character introduced the first time she called the admiral “JP”. Who does that? Even in the flash back while he is still an admiral she is calling him JP instead of Admiral, or Jean-Luc. It felt entirely disrespectful. And again…. no satisfying conclusion, just more questions (like how did the scientist get the disrupter from the trained secret assassins? Is she a double agent, or is it just bad writing? And how did an old man and two older Romulans take out a group of highly trained assassins? But lets just wave the wand and forget about that.)

Episode four attempted to have a base plot. They went to a planet to get help from an assassin nun, and go on their way. But again it wasn’t very satisfying. It didn’t feel fleshed out, and every persons motive on that planet just feels…off. Picard is a shadow of the man he used to be, unable to command a room. Unable to use words to fight for him like he once did. Instead he stumbles over himself, and his past, and ignores the pain that he caused others. A man who used to be good at reading a room, and figuring out what to say, who respected the customs of other species, now walks right over theirs. It isn’t until someone else takes charge and kills the “bad guy” that Picard finally admits he screwed up…sort of. It was such a half assed apology.

Next episode looks like a casino planet episode. All I can think of is the casino planet from Last Jedi, and how absolute trash that section was. I hope it isn’t as bad. Mostly I hope there is a satisfying episode with a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have hope.

I expect all episodes to be pieces of a the whole instead of self contained episodes. That makes me wonder why they bothered to release it as a weekly episodic series instead of just releasing it all at once. If they did release it all at once then at least we could watch it all and evaluate it as a whole. Instead we are getting episodes that feel disjointed and separated, that don’t really feel satisfying. (The answer is money, they wanted subscribers, and that’s why they released it this way, but I digress.)

If I were the only one watching this I would just wait until the full thing was out and watch it then if I got really bored and couldn’t find anything else to watch. Because I live with two guys who want to watch it… I’ll watch it with them. Also of note is they didn’t grow up on Star Trek like I did. I know our room mate saw Discovery (and liked it) but he hasn’t watched all of the other series. My boyfriend has only watched part of TNG. Neither of them knew who Seven of Nine was, and most of the lore is going right over their head. I find it interesting that they are enjoying it more than I am, but not surprised really.

It doesn’t feel like Star Trek. It almost feels more like Roswell, actually. Teen drama that just happens to happen in a star ship. But….we’ll see how next week goes.

Review: The Orville

I grew up on Star Trek. I loved watching Kirk battle the monster of the week, especially if the monster was himself. I welcomed The Next Generation when it came out, and LOVED it, even i the first year was a little rough around the edges. I didn’t care, I was able to travel across the galaxy with a sentient android, and various crew members from different races.

I use to watch Voyager every night when I got home from work. I watched many episodes twice. I loved Janeway’s get it done attitude, and Checoti made a wonderful counterpoint to her sometimes blind desire to get the crew home.

I’ve also watched a lot of the fan made series on you tube, some of which are really good!

What I’m saying is….I LOVE STAR TREK! I love the messages, examining each story, seeing allegories in modern life, and the shear fun of monster of the week mayhem some days. Sometimes a bug is just a bug and you have to kill it.

Now there is a new Star Trek, and it’s locked safely behind a paywall, so I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some love it, some find it a little too preachy. The fact that the writers specifically said their Klingon’s are modeled off “Trump supporters” gives me some reservations, but I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the original Star Trek often comments on society, and ways to improve it. Maybe this one will have some good insights as well.

But for now, since I’m not going to pay for a paywall till the full season is out, I am watching The Orville.

I caught a glimpse of the Orville while at work and thought the design, space, and ship looked a bit like Star Trek, though not quite. I also saw that it was advertised as a comedy. Of course I had to try it.

What I found wasn’t quite a sitcom in space, and it wasn’t quite a Star Trek space opera. It was something in the middle, with enough parody to keep it from tripping copyright, and enough space opera goodness to quench my craving for the cheesy experience.

The juxtaposition of cliche modern language in a space ship that is supposed to be from the future is kind of absurd, but it works. The ex husband and wife team cause just enough strife to keep everyone on their toes, but they also work well together because they know each other. The two pilots often say inane things that remind you they are two dudes from this world, and this time line, that got to play a role on their favorite space opera. Their reactions often would have no place outside a college dorm, or a sports party. And yet it works.

The first few episodes have ship to ship and hand to hand battles. There is character growth, unusually characters from other cultures, and even some important discussion of two cultures colliding, and not seeing eye to eye.

And while all of that is what I expect from a space opera style show I can also see that it’s campy, throws in jokes that aren’t always appropriate to the time period, and setting. But that’s the charm. The original Star Trek had bad fx and latex masks, The Orville has cheesy jokes at odd places. It works.

Now, I it isn’t perfect. The writing is still rough, but I think it’s showing some potential. I also like that it doesn’t spoon feed you a moral. On the third episode dealing with a child that was born the wrong gender, and dealing with the sex change of the child, the answer wasn’t handed to you neatly packaged as “this is the truth”, rather it was “this is what’s happening, but we feel uncomfortable about it even if this is how it has to be…for now.” And we, as the audience, are allowed to decide for ourselves why these things happened the way it did, and the ramifications of it all.

I’ll be watching more of The Orville, and I hope they will take us to many places far far away, with interesting characters and species from the edges of the galaxy.

Review: Stranger Things

stranger-thingsThis has to be my favorite TV series this year. And it’s on Netflix.

Last year my two favorites were Dare Devil and Jessica Jones, both on Netflix. Okay, Game of Thrones is probably also. So yes, top three. Netflix is doing an amazing job of producing some fantastic shows.

If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet…GO DO IT! Seriously, it’s a slow burning thriller set in the 80’s, and so good.

I have to admit that some of it is nostalgia that makes me love it. The sets are done with old wall paper, and wood paneling just like my grandmothers house use to be done up. There are Ferrah Fawcett hairdo’s (though not many) and lots of 80’s music.

But the story is what compels you to keep coming back. There is so much mystery around the young girl, and the underside. And while the whole series has a satisfying ending with all of the ends tied up they leave two new mysteries that leave a HUGE opening for a second season. I’m really looking forward to that second season.

The acting in this series is fantastic. I forgot what a great actress Winona Ryder is. She plays a desperate mother trying to save her son even when all the evidence points to him being dead. She seems to go a little crazy, which is exactly perfect for that character.

But it isn’t just her. The four kids that play the main characters are fantastic, each in their own way. Millie Bobby Brown who plays Eleven does a wonderful job of playing a semi mute child, and yet providing a lot of the emotion of every scene she is in. David Harbour and Charlie Heaton also stand out, trying to help those they care about while they are struggling with their own demons of their past.

If you love mystery, and thrilling story telling without being too scary, Stranger Things is a wonderful show.