|Posted on February 26, 2015 at 2:10 PM|
We're about to get totally British up in here as I look at some shows that you can watch right now on Netflix. If my Doctor Who or Luther blogs were any indication to you, you know I have an affection towards British television for some weird reason. Here's a brief look at three of them.
Let me get one thing out of the way first: the comparisons to The Twilight Zone are way off base. They really are. There’s, maybe, one episode I might sit in that style and “feel” of how that classic series worked, but it’s really not a fair comparison on both sides. For one, Black Mirror is far more darker and cynical and it doesn’t quite have that final “twist” or “hook” that Twilight Zone episodes often have. Black Mirror deals more with relationships of human beings with each other, not necessarily a “theme” or “idea” to point out that reflects society as a whole.
Secondly, while both have a kinda-commentary on thing, The Twilight Zone covered it in broad strokes more than Black Mirror, which is often more intimate and emotional between people. One isn’t better than the other in that respect, but I’m pointing out those differences just sit and say that though Black Mirror isn’t The Twilight Zone that people seem to think it is, it’s still a pretty damn brilliant show.
With only six episodes, I could easily review all of them, but I’ll limit it to a few. First, the pilot. Let me just say that it just goes for it. In that respect, I have to give it props, but it’s also the hardest to sit through and the weakest out of all of them. The concept is easy: the Prime Minister has to choose between letting a member of the Royal Family, who is kidnapped, be murdered or have sex with a pig on live teleivison.
The second, though, is my favorite. By a mile. It’s entitled Fifteen Million Merits and takes place in a future where everyone lives through avatars, ride stationary bikes to earn points all the time (presumably to keep power going) and watch awful television including an X-Factor or America’s Got Talent type of show. It’s brilliant, full of great performances and a damn good final twist. This is the closest in idea and execution the show gets to Twilight Zone territory. It’s also beautifully shot giving the world, which we only see interiors of, a great sense of style.
The last episode I want to point out comes at the very end of the second series entitled The Waldo Moment. It’s a great piece of satirical writing that takes on politics, and I’m all for political satire. Though it’s a little clunky story wise, it’s points really hit home and have a great sense of relevance in how politics and the mindset of a voting populace works.
There’s also a Christmas Special with Jon Hamm that came out in December, and you should hunt that down as well because Hamm’s performance is fantastic and it’s one of the more intricate episodes certainly, but overall this is a solid series that fans of science fiction should really enjoy.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5
The Fall is a simple premise: a police detective (Gillian Anderson) is hunting a serial killer (Jamie Dornan) who is murdering women in Northern Ireland. The show is a cat and mouse game as Gibson (Anderson) closes in on Spector (Dornan) and is also a poignant look at misogyny as a whole on many levels, from the obvious (killing women) to something more subtle as abusive marriages and gang-like mentality of men.
Truth is, that latter thing kind of falls apart as it’s all sub-plots that take a backseat to the more interesting serial killer thing, and the way they tie it all in feels a bit contrived, but the fact is when Anderson and Dornan are on screen and the story is focused on that aspect The Fall is an incredible show. Gibson is a strong and fascinating character. There’s an affection for her that Anderson just seems to enjoy immensely and it shows. She’s blunt. She’s to the point. She’s business like. But she’s not cold or callous. You love her because she’s complex and feels believable.
Equally complex is Spector and Dornan is absolutely fantastic as the creepy guy who isn’t always creepy. Spector has a family. He has children. He has a nice home and a steady job. Yet he has an urge to murder specific women in very specific ways. Anderson and Dornan are at the absolute top of their game even when the writing might not live up to their respective performances.
That writing especially comes to a fault in the second series (both Series, or seasons, short as most British shows tend to be). Certain things just don’t feel tied up, sub-plot fall to the wayside and don’t amount to much, endgames end up contrived. There’s an entire subplot of Dornan and an underage girl that feels completely useless even from the beginning. There’s another about Anderson’s relationship with her fellow detectives that also feels only touched upon and not gone anywhere. Another about a neighborhood where gangs seems to rule the area amounts to absolutely nothing….and all these are given a hell of a lot of screen time for what ends up mere footnotes in the grand scheme.
Yet, the interplay between the two, especially in the few moments they’re on screen together, makes The Fall a worthy watch. It may drop the ball on those subplots, especially when it ends up just feeling like padding, but the two leads are so into their roles and their characters so fascinating that it makes up for it.
Final Rating: 3 out of 5 (mostly due to the weaker second season)
I’m quite the Cillian Murphy fan. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I feel he’s an actor who is always good in what he does, chooses all sorts of different roles and people recognize when they see him yet he never seems to get enough credit overall. Well now he’s a lead, and he’s an awesome lead as an upstart gangster in 1919 Birmingham.
He’s not fully a gangster as you may know them as, though. He’s up and coming and building his empire, so we start small with him. He’s fixing races. He’s playing people. He’s planning something that his older brother can’t see and his younger brother too brash to even consider. Eventually, the larger picture starts to take precedence as a Chief Inspector from Ireland is sent in to find out what happened to a ton of guns that disappeared. It only takes him a few days to discover it’s the Peaky Blinders gang and he soon makes Tommy Shelby’s (Murphy) acquaintance.
Peaky Blinders is all about style. It’s a period piece but is full of contemporary music (Red Right Hand by Nick Cave being its theme song) and stylized directing. It’s also a lot deeper than just being about a gang and a copper after them. It’s also about poverty. It’s about post-World War I struggles and the feel of many who served and their communities feeling disenfranchised from the world. It’s about regrets and nightmares on top of all the drugs and sex.
In other words, it’s a smart, clever show. Far smarter than one might assume a “gang drama” to be. It has those elements that a show like that would need (great casting, characters and performances on top of a gritty setting) but it goes beyond that to paint a portrait of a struggling time in British history. Some compare it to Boardwalk Empire (mainly for the time period, I assume), and while that is an entertaining show, I feel that Peaky Blinders has a lot more to say on a thematic level than that show ever got to.
I’m not only a big Murphy fan, I’m also a big Sam Neill fan, and I’m always happy to see him in anything. He’s absolutely fantastic here and it’s great to be reminded how much of a great actor he is. Another great actor is Tom Hardy, who appears in the second season. Hell, another is Noah Taylor, who also appears in the second season. Another Tommy Flanagan. Another…ok you get the point…the show is full of awesome actors and awesome characters.
Best of all is that I just love these period shows. Boardwalk Empire, Ripper Street, Copper though it didn’t last long - these are shows I just get into and I would dare say (oh yes…I dare) that Peaky Blinders might just be the best of the bunch. Of course, there’s still more of the show to go, so it could just go to absolute shit after a while like many shows do, but 12 episodes after its first two seasons and I’m safely saying now that I adore it.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5
On to more TV I guess...