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AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 3 “Head Full of Snow” Review

This week the action is dialed back a bit, although Mr. Wednesday provides some felonious hijinks to entertain us. “We’re Gonna Rob a bank,” he says. “Want some coffee?” But really, this installment is all about what is going on in Shadow’s head. Does he really make it snow? Does it matter? Isn’t it nice when you can dream whatever you want? His introduction to this new and disturbing hidden world mirrors our own experience.

We also meet some new players and see the return of some familiar characters. Anubis (Chris Obi) arrives and appears to be quite nice and comforting. There is a complex introduction to Salim (Omid Abathi) and the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), who we are told, does not grant wishes. The third Zorya sister (Erica Kaar) snatches the moon from the sky to give to Shadow to keep him safe. Czernobog loses a checkers rematch which buys Shadow some time. Mad Sweeney finds that he has lost his luck. Laura Moon’s grave is revealed to be empty.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 5 “Oxygen” Review

I’ve lost count of how many times there has been a Doctor Who episode set on a space station or inside of a ship in peril. The set-up is always the same, The Doctor and companion(s) arrive, are almost immediately separated from the TARDIS, realize they are in danger and are met with suspicion by the survivors. There are often dark corridors and some running involved, and ultimately a puzzle is solved and a sacrifice is made.

So, this time, The Doctor has to save the day before they are all turned into space zombies or run out of oxygen. As it turns out, this isn’t such an accident after all, since oxygen is a commodity that can be sold by the breath. The Doctor sums it up with “The universe shows its true face by asking for help. We show ours by how we respond.” He, of course, responds by risking his life to save Bill, only there are unexpected consequences.

There, too is a confrontation with Nardole over The Doctor’s duty with respect to whoever is contained in the vault.

CLASS Season 1 Episode 4 “Co-owner of a Lonely Heart” Review

Too much happens in this fourth episode in the series of eight and the info-dump it contains is head spinning. The story begins with an attempt by the King of the Shadow-Kin to retrieve his half heart. The procedure doesn’t work, but rather increases his connection to April giving her heightened hostility, strength, and aggression all of which come in handy with the unwelcome return of her father. In turn, the King feels the need to cuddle as April and Ram consummate their relationship.

We then find out more about Charlie when he shows his privileged imperious nature and as a result both Matteusz and Tanya question his ethics. The message appears to be that perhaps Ms. Quill really was a freedom fighter after all.

Meanwhile, back at Coal Hill, there is a new Head Teacher (Pooky Quesnal) who knows way too much as well as an as yet unexplained plague of carnivorous flower petals.

All this makes me wish that they’d just slow down a bit and take a breath. It’s all good stuff to be sure, but it needs some space to sink in. Charlie is getting more interesting, and even Matteusz is starting to have depth. Ram is turning out to be a heroic nice guy which he deserves to be. Tanya didn’t complain about her mother for a whole episode and April is becoming a bit of a badass, all of which make me like this show more.

One thing I don’t like though are the episode titles that so obviously try to be clever but usually fall flat.


AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 2 “The Secret of Spoons” Review

When they talk about the New Golden Age of Television, they will be talking about American Gods. Craft, expertise, and attention to detail are apparent everywhere. There is not a frame that is anything less than deliberate. There are no wasted efforts. Every word is selected to tweak every emotional nerve ending. Posture, color, and sound are all employed for effect. Only two episodes in and I am amazed and astounded by the skill I see. This is a masterpiece.

And I still have no idea what is going on.

Shadow’s world on the outside is even more nightmarish than when he was incarcerated. Last week’s episode ended with him being beaten within an inch of his life. This week he doubts his sanity, yet is drawn further into Mr. Wednesday’s otherworld. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Shadow who literally has nothing to lose makes some reckless choices.

Around the edges of this perilous landscape, we have Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) framing the episode with the assurance that “angry is good.” Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) returns with her all-consuming passions. We are also introduced to some very scary Russians (Cloris Leachman, Martha Kelly and especially Peter Stormare as Czernobog).

The episode ends with Shadow once again with his life on the line, ready to succumb to Czernobog’s killing floor hammer.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 4 “Knock Knock” Review

The idea is entirely believable that some college students could be so desperate for a place to live that they would ignore the obvious red flags. They take false comfort in safety in numbers when they move into the “too good to be true” lodging, and well, we know what happens next. We don’t even need the requisite nighttime thunder and lightning to set up the spooky mansion story, but it is a nice touch and it doesn’t take long for Bill and the Doctor to be looking for clues and answers.

The easy chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie makes me wish she had been around longer in the series. When she introduces the Doctor as her Granddad in this episode, it is just too funny, especially in light of how strongly he objects to the designation. That the TARDIS is employed as a moving van is also a nice excuse for a chuckle.

In terms of the MOTW, the alien lice were creepy enough, but nothing substantial was revealed about them. It would have been helpful to know where they came from, how they got there, and whether or not they were sentient. I’m glad the students inexplicably got reconstituted, I guess, but that took the menace out of the story for me and lessened the impact.

CLASS Season 1 Episode 3 “Nightvisiting” Review

Class S1 Ep3 CR: BBC/Simon Ridgeway

Ms. Quill is the only character who has a reasonable expectation of surviving any of these weekly alien encounters. Her history as soldier/assassin/bodyguard gives her at least a fighting chance against what comes through the Whoinverse’s answer to the Hellmouth. The same cannot be said for the rest of the gang, in fact, they seem extremely vulnerable. This is a narrative choice that is starting to pay off. The British Scoobies are all broken or deficient in one way or another as we find out in greater detail in this episode. I’m actually starting to care about them, which is a good thing.

All of them seem to have Daddy issues. Charlie was merely a pawn in his family’s political machinations. Tanya is still consumed with loss and rage over the death of her father and April, in the most surprising reveal so far, confesses that it was her father who deliberated caused the accident that paralyzed her mother and is in jail as a result.

The story of some creature that feeds off of the power of grief is of sufficient interest and has enough suspense to make for a good episode, but it is the backstories that we get to see, all about love and loss, that makes this a show worth watching.

Class is all about the people who live in the Doctor’s universe and have to deal with its hazards when he is not around. None of them are particularly heroic by nature, but they are relatable, and they are rising to the occasion. Class adds a new perspective to the fifty-year-old franchise and does so with the freshness of a twenty-first-century point of view. So far so good, and I look forward to seeing how far they can go with this.

AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 1 “The Bone Orchard” Review

Beginning with Vikings in the New World, we see violence and blood everywhere and see that mere mortal are only the tools of powerful creatures. If this first episode doesn’t exactly spell out what the world is really like, we get plenty of hints. First is the creepy and menacing Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who offers ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) a job. Then, there is Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), who insists on fighting him. All this on his first day out of prison thanks to an early release after being told his wife died.

The problems though are only just beginning with freedom. To have a name like “Shadow Moon” is to be drawn into the supernatural. Ricky Whittle plays this charming and intense ex-con with a great mix of apprehension and hopelessness. Plagued with foreshadowing dreams and visions, of course, things get worse. Not only is his wife dead, but his best friend who was supposed to have a job waiting for him, he’s dead too. Oh, and they died in the same car accident, in flagrante delicto, in fact.

The real peril is merely hinted at, the action is superb and the dialogue is sparkling. The humans in this story are not happy and the gods aren’t there to bail them out. Quite the contrary, it appears.

“The Bone Orchard” also ends with a brutal assault. Shadow is attacked at the behest of a digital avatar with no explanation. Clearly, he’s gotten himself into the middle of something bad, and even though there is still much to be revealed, everybody knows Shadow’s situation is completely beyond his understanding or control.

American Gods is shocking and disconcerting and so very intricate and compelling. It may even be one of those cases where it exceeds the source material in every way. This is a must see for anyone interested in the suspenseful and chilling whether you are familiar with the material or not.

AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 1 “The Bone Orchard” easily earns a 9 out of 10 and a promise of so much more.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 3 “Thin Ice” Review

The Doctor has been telling us things for millennia, sometimes we listen, but usually, we forget. This time, though, he has decided to listen to us.

It is the 1814 Frost Fair when the Thames has frozen over and the Doctor discovers a giant sea creature chained to the bottom of the river. It eats people who are provided by the energy mogul who imprisoned it. Should The Doctor set the fish free? Will more people die if he does? He leaves that decision up to Bill giving her a lesson in the ethical quandaries that come up while time traveling. It is never easy to assess the value of a life regardless if it is human.

The monster, though impressive, is the least important detail of this episode. It is Bill, once again, who is the center of importance. At first, she pleads with The Doctor to save a child, then gets a glimpse of how much death he has actually seen and been responsible for. Never cowardly or cruel, he carries unimaginable burdens, as Bill begins to understand.

The implications of his speeches give much food for thought and are the best part of the episode. They promise for heady discussions to come. I love this introspective version of The Doctor and I’m sure we’ll see more of his musings before what is in the vault is revealed.

Speaking of which, I doubt I’m going out on a limb if I say I think there is a living Timelord behind that door. Exactly what kind of Timelord remains to be seen, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be epic when we find out.


Class Season 1 Episode 2 “The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo” Review

Class Season 1 Episode 2

We find out a little more about our British Scoobies this week.

Mostly the details concern Ram, the Jock (Fady Elsayed) who is suffering more than he lets on about the death of his girlfriend and the loss of his leg. Tanya (Vivian Oparah), the math whiz, does little more than complain about how strict her mother is, but does manage to bond with Ram when she talks about her grief over the sudden death of her father.

The monster of the week is revealed in the on the nose episode title and is defeated through a Doctoresque speech from Ram about the need to move past loss.

As far as the rest of the team. April (Sophie Hopkins) is sweet and nice and of no real use. Charlie (Greg Austin) the alien prince is starting to become even more of an annoying elitist. Matteusz (Jordan Renzo) is absent and Ms. Quill (Katherine Kelly) is fast becoming my favorite if (delightfully) deranged character. Her considering which chess piece would make the best offensive weapons is so endearing.


Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 2 “Smile” Review

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 2

I like Bill. In the tradition of companions who admire, but don’t adore the Doctor, question what he says and retain a human perspective, Bill is just right. Everything she does is earned. She is curious and thoughtful and maybe that’s just what the Doctor needs. I’m glad to have her around for this transition.

This week we have more about this season’s enduring mystery. There is a vault that the Doctor must protect and the vow that he must not leave Earth. There will be reveals and consequences to look forward to as Season 10 progresses.

Meanwhile, “Emoji” survives as the enduring language of humankind. That’s probably the most frightening aspect of the episode.

But “Smile” is a good episode. The audience is clued in right away by the menace these robots pose and before long the Doctor and Bill see it too, but in their attempt to fix the problem, they make it worse. There’s plenty of running and swiping out of component wires in this familiar but nicely paced story. It works as an easy intro to the new additions to the TARDIS and showcases the genuine chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie.

And no matter what Episode 2 implies, Emojis are evil and will always be evil.

General-DC Comics

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