Friday, October 02, 2015

October Netflix: New Seasons of Things

So, new seasons of things have been popping up on Netflix. I've watched halfway into a few of them.

One of the problems that plagues continuing series is that, after the first two seasons or so, the plot tends to resolve all the really interesting things that brought you to the series in the first place, and now it has to find new conflict. I'm going to rank the series in ascending order of how well they do that.


Running to a murdered plotline
I had such high hopes for Longmire's fourth season. The last one tied up who killed Walt's wife, and yet there was a cliffhanger.

And now, four episodes in, Walt's still avenging his wife's death, the cliffhanger got tied up too fast, and, worst of all, the nuance in the original seasons seems to be lacking.

A good example is the character of Jacob Nighthorse. In the first season, he was a polarizing figure in a moral gray zone; the constructor of a casino on reservation land, Nighthorse was a forceful advocate for American Indian rights while also being a semi-criminal land developer. Now he's been developed into a cartoonish crime lord who uses American Indian grievance as a recruiting tool for his thugs and justification for his actions. I liked Longmire for its lack of "good Indian/bad Indian" cliches, but now that's gone, I kind of don't want to see how the series finishes. 

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Apparently, my wife and I weren't the only ones saying, "put more gold-plated, pearl-handled revolver into this series!" It shows up a lot in Season 3.
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries seemed to be floundering a little in its second season; while still entertaining, the major interpersonal conflicts between the characters had basically been resolved and stayed in stasis.

I was going to write that for the third season as well, but the series started picking up in the third episode, making the romantic subplots more nuanced and, frankly, stepping up the game in the "murder of the week" department. Still definitely worth watching.

The Blacklist

These are ridiculously ugly sunglasses that James Spader wears all the time in the second season, possibly as a conspiracy involving the costume designer to make me want to destroy my television in sartorial fury, allowing a secret organization to replace it with a new one that explodes or bugs my apartment or releases biological weapons, or all three.
So, when you have a show whose first season is based on being so over-the-top with cliffhangers, every-other-episode twists, reveals, false reveals, etc. that the plot doesn't just border on incoherence, it is in fact completely nonsensical, you can't really jump the shark. 

Seriously, if James Spader's character Reddington water-skied over a shark to prove his cojones to a Mexican drug lord so that the drug lord would provide Reddington with the Swiss bank account number of an autistic Kazakhstani albino who can crack uncrackable ciphers by comparing them to the bar codes on bulk packages of candy, that would really only be par for the course for this show. Nearly every major plot point of every episode would make you say "wait, WHAT?!?" if you took The Blacklist seriously.

But that's not why you're watching, right? You don't really care if Elizabeth Keane figures out who her real parents are or what happened on the night of that mysterious fire or what she means to Reddington, right? You're watching because James Spader is amazing as an oleaginous criminal mastermind with amazing monologues. 

And, if you haven't heard one before, a Spader Monologue in The Blacklist is amazing. They tend to go like:

Red, did you kidnap and/or murder a person I kind of cared about again?

Lizzie, when I was a young man, I spent a summer kayaking. Besides developing an attractive tan, I learned some valuable things about the way one has to move while essentially alone in white water rapids. One day, I was passing over a particular stretch when a bear catching a salmon distracted me...

And it goes on for five minutes, and maybe Spader will answer the question, but who cares? He owns the character so completely that the fun is in watching. 

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