Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Sunday

23

June 2019

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Legion Remains One of Television’s Greatest Visual Achievements

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews, TV Reviews

Like its titular character, Legion is a very difficult show to describe. It’s a superhero show without heroes. The morality of David Haller isn’t so much grey as it is rainbow, impossible to decipher yet present in an unmistakable fashion. Legion is quite possibly the most beautiful show on television, with stunning visuals giving the eyes plenty to digest while leaving the mind dazzled and bewildered.

Season three continues the battle for control of David’s mind. The powerful mutant, played by Dan Stevens, seeks the help of a time-traveling mutant named Switch (Lauren Tsai) to help fix his mind after decades of abuse from Amahl Farouk (Navid Negahban). David’s former friends have allied with Division 3 on board an airship, doing their best to manage a situation far beyond any of their control.

As always, Legion remains a difficult show to follow. David’s motives are as elusive as ever, a protagonist seemingly unconcerned with the notions of good and evil. The show offers a remarkable visual portrait of David’s mental health in a constant struggle to unpack the years of abuse from the Shadow King,

The visuals on Legion are out of this world, fitting for a show that often takes viewers outside reality. Stevens’ performance in the lead role often serves as a suitable counterbalance, bringing a sense of calm to all the chaos. For all the times the viewer is left staring at the screen wondering what just happened, David is there to crack a slight smile as he embraces the world around him.

Legion is much better at offering food for thought rather than any sense of concrete answers. The urge to simply sit back and enjoy the ride is contrasted with a narrative that gives you just enough to start to put the pieces together, even if you’re never really left with the idea that the show wants to let you in on its secrets. It’s a journey with an unclear destination, an indecipherable map, and a cast of characters who rarely seem to have any more of a clue than the audience. Simply put, it’s a singularly bizarre piece of television.

As the final chapter in David’s saga, season three does carry the sense that it is headed toward a conclusion. You never quite know what direction each episode will head in, or how many times it’ll alter course, but the power struggle between David and Farouk remains at the core of the series.

Legion is among the finest comic book adaptations in existence, portraying the wildly inaccessible David Haller as faithfully as could possibly be imagined. The show brings out emotions you wouldn’t expect after two years spent redefining all the norms of television. With Disney’s purchase of Fox set to usher in a new chapter of the X-Men, it’s perhaps fitting that the story belonging to one of the most eclectic characters in its universe would come to an end.

For a show that could, in theory, go on forever, having shattered all expectations of time and space, the narrative finds a way to leave its audience feeling satisfied with this three-season arc. David Haller’s world is one that seems impossible to grow tired of, though the confines of television often call for shows this wild to enjoy shorter runs. Legion is one the weirdest shows ever made. Season three concludes a beautifully strange journey that often exists outside the world of beginnings and ends. Few shows can pack in so many different emotions in a single hour.

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Friday

6

November 2015

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Breaking Down Why The Bastard Executioner Is So Unwatchable

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

We’re living in a wonderful time for the action/fantasy costume drama. There’s never been so much to choose from. Regardless of whether you want to watch something that’s going to be a Emmy contender (Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, hopefully Outlander next year), something with well choreographed fight scenes (Vikings, The Last Kingdom, Black Sails), or merely something to fall asleep to after a second nightcap (Olympus), there’s something for everyone.

The Bastard Executioner should have been a welcome addition to the second tier. A historical drama created by Kurt Sutter, the man who brought us Sons of Anarchy, had all the makings of a show that would fit in well with the current mix of offerings.

It doesn’t. It’s not just a bad show, it’s a downright unwatchable travesty. Calling it worse than Marco Polo is almost insulting to the underwhelming Netflix entry to the genre.

It took me a few weeks to figure out why this show is this bad and it’s not because the show had perhaps the worst name in television history. It’s not even that the show has bland characters and feels highly derivative. The Last Kingdom has essentially the same plot as Vikings and is still an excellent new show (worth noting that TLK is based off of a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell, which makes the similarities more acceptable).

I’ve seen four episodes of the show and I’ve found it hard to care about anyone on the program. Even Stephen Moyer, who can’t seem to make anything work with the bland writing. As much as I enjoy Katey Sagal, her character is unbearable with that completely baffling accent. Her character looks like something out of The Legend of the Seeker, which is hardly a compliment for a show on a network like FX (though I enjoyed Seeker and The Sword of Truth books its based on).

The show has no obvious likable characters. No Tyrion, no Jon, no Ragnar, no Floki. Just a bunch of crappy generic characters with generic names. There’s no fun to be had at all with this lot.

Some shows take time to develop, even the ones that were good from the get-go. Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander are all different programs now than when they started (which would be a bit unusual in Outlander’s case if it wasn’t following its source material). Problem is, The Bastard Executioner makes it downright impossible for you to actually get through the episodes.

As we learned with the last few seasons of Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter is not a man who likes to be edited. Since 2012, SOA episodes almost always ran for at least 90 minutes on commercial TV, often longer. This trend has unfortunately continued with The Bastard Executioner.

It takes the saying “too much of a good thing” to a whole new level. It’s too much of a terrible thing. A show trying to work through its growing pains doesn’t need to air episodes that are longer than most HBO shows on a regular basis. I assume Sutter has a fair amount of pull at FX. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work to the benefit of the show.

While I’d say the long run times are the show’s biggest problem, the fight scenes are very subpar. They’re sloppy and have way too much gore. You can’t exactly blame the budget either, when fellow non-premium cable show Vikings produces the most consistently great fight scenes on television.

I’d imagine that Sutter set out to beat Vikings at its own game. I don’t think he seriously expected a show with the title, The Bastard Executioner, to be an Emmy contender. While Vikings isn’t going to challenge for Best Drama either, it has grown into one of the best shows on TV with amazing visuals, great action, and most importantly, compelling characters.

The Bastard Executioner has no redeeming qualities and that’s a shame. Sutter should have been able to do better than this. If his ego is half as bloated as his show’s run time, it’s possible he’s oblivious to how terrible the finished product is.

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Tuesday

14

April 2015

1

COMMENTS

Justified Goes Out With a Masterful Final Season

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

Final seasons are tricky. Most shows avoid ending until ratings have slipped, major cast members have left, or until the quality has sharply declined. Justified doesn’t really fit into any of these categories, though season five was clearly not as good as previous seasons. Timothy Olyphant and the producers decided that six was enough and they’re probably not wrong.

I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted just how perfect season six would turn out to be. Many shows get a boost in their final seasons as they’re afforded the opportunity to wrap things up versus prolonging the status quo. Rarely do you get a show that has the chance to pay homage to the qualities that made it a success in the first place and completely raise the bar. Justified did just that.

Much of this credit belongs to Sam Elliott, who just might be the perfect person to cast in an Elmore Leonard adaptation. Elliott’s Avery Markham dominates every scene he’s in, which is rare for a new villain in a show that’s about to call it a day. This is even more surprising when you consider Justified’s crowded pool of bad guys for Raylan Givens and Co to deal with in just thirteen episodes.

You could certainly have made the case that Justified’s final season didn’t need a new arch villain with Boyd Crowder, Katherine Hale, and fan favorite Wynn Duffy in the mix, especially when you consider that the Raylan/Boyd/Ava relationship has been a defining element of the show for its whole run. A Raylan/Boyd feud could’ve likely carried the whole season, but that would have been the predictable move. If there’s one thing Justified has never been, it’s predictable.

This season has been a perfect mix of new drama that also manages to revisit almost every member of Justified’s deep roster of recurring characters. The returns of Ellstin Limehouse, Loretta McCready, Dickie Bennett, Arlo Givens, Winona Hawkins, and Constable Bob Sweeney could’ve worked fine as victory laps. For the most part, the show managed to involve them all directly into the main plot.

While Justified has always been a critically and commercially popular show, its often overlooked both at awards shows and even on its own network. Being on TV in the same era as Mad Men, Homeland, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and on the same network as Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story certainly explains this. Justified did tie The Wire for number of Emmy noms for Outstanding Drama Series with zero apiece, which goes to show how pointless awards are.

You could make the case that Justified is currently the best show on TV. I can’t name a show that had a better year this season. Homeland came close, but suffers from not having Sam Eliott as a member of the cast and for having a truly horrible finale. Going out literally on top of the TV world would be nice, but it doesn’t really change Justified’s legacy at all.

For six seasons, Justified has consistently been one of the best shows on television. Get Shorty is its only true completion for most faithful adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s work (Jackie Brown is one of my favorite films, but it deviates significantly from Rum Punch). As far as legacies go, Justified couldn’t have done much better. I’ll miss Raylan and Co, but I’m thankful that they’re going out on top. I doubt a seventh season would have been terrible, but it’s hard to believe it would have been better.

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