The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is a novel from Philip K. Dick. It has been turned into a stellar television series on Amazon Prime. There are currently two seasons available for viewing (as of April 2018).

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This is a dystopian alternate history set in “America” 1962. It posits that the Axis forces won WWII and that the continent is now divided between the Japanese Pacific State (western side of continent) and the Great Reich (the rest of the continent) with a slim band of neutral zone between the two territories.

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This is such an imaginative show. I have often wondered what would have happened if history had gone the other way. I love that there is a show exploring this (and incredibly thankful it is only on TV)!

The Man in the High Castle is Amazon’s most streamed show. So that must mean lots more people than just me enjoy it 🙂

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The main part of the story follows two characters: a woman from the Pacific States (Juliana) who gets pulled into the Resistance, and Joe, a man from the Reich with questionable allegiances.

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It is startling to see some of the most iconic images from the free world turned into Nazi symbols. The American flag, Times Square …

The Man in the High Castle is a drama. It does have some humourous parts and the violence is manageable, but the material can be heavy at times.

One of my favourite quotes:

You’re about to die horribly but your hair is fine.

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I started watching this series on a whim the other night because I was bored and the weather was bad. Well, ice and freezing rain pretty well had me stuck inside all weekend and I binged on both seasons. This show is completely addictive. It has a tendency towards cliff-hanger endings – both for individual episodes and seasons – so you will constantly find yourself clicking on just one more episode.

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There is an element of mysticism or other-worldliness to this show which greatly surprised me. The storyline takes on more meaning towards the end of the second season and starts to become more clear why they included it, but I still think I would have preferred the show without it.

What strikes me most about The Man in the High Castle is how complicated each character is. They all have multiple levels. I approached the show thinking that the Nazis would be the antagonists and the Resistance would be the protagonists, but it is much more complicated than that. Even the Nazis who do terrible things are softened in the show by their love for the families. And the “freedom fighters” come across much more strongly as terrorists.

Everything is not as it seems. No one is all good or all evil. We are just different shades of grey.

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xx

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The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)

A few months ago I mentioned in my review of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that I was hurrying through the book to be able to watch the new series on Bravo.

Tonight was the season finale and it was amazing.

This is one of the few shows that – in my opinion – has far surpassed the depth and entertainment value of the novel.

I love admire am in awe of the world of Gilead that the show’s creators have created, from the descriptions in Atwood’s novel. It is not a place I would want to live in, though I very much fear that it is the direction some parts of the world are headed in (you listening Missouri?!)

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I don’t want to talk to much about the plot and ruin it, but I will say that the show has built on the base structure provided by the book and made it better. You see the Mexican and Canadian approaches to the collapse of the United States and even though villains abound in Gilead, there are few characters I cannot empathize with, or feel sorry for, at some point in the tale.

Even Mrs. Waterford.

I find myself bouncing between disgust at her actions and pity for the world she has trapped herself in, one partially of her own creation.

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Nick is the most difficult character for me to pin down. He seems to be a decent guy but he isn’t a bystander in Gilead. He is an active participant. An undercover Eye. Nick was a member of the coup that took down the government of the United States of America. He knows June has a daughter and he isn’t helping them. He isn’t the good guy as much as we I may be rooting for him to be.

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The most exciting point in the finale for me, was the first glimpse of Hannah in Gilead and I cannot wait for the second season to begin airing!

* * * * *

xx

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(or, as seen on Bravo if you’re Canadian)

Broadchurch

Have you heard of Broadchurch? It is a British crime drama set in a small coastal town of 15,000 residents and it is the best thing since sliced bread.

I watched this show when it first aired in North America a couple of years ago, but between moving and whatnot, I entirely missed the second season and now we are on the third. To catch up I decided to re-watch the entire first season. I was curious whether it would hold up now that I know what happens, and boy did it ever!

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Miller (l) and Hardy (r)

The pilot opens with the death of 11yo Danny Latimer. His death is quickly ruled suspicious and the entire first season (8 episodes, about 50 minutes apiece) is spent tracking down his murderer.

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Danny was survived by his Mom (Beth), sister (Chloe) and Dad (Mark).

This is something that I love about British dramas; they don’t feel as if they have to somehow wrap it up and finish the entire mystery in one episode. They have faith that their audience can carry forward interest from week to week. American crime dramas, like Law and Order, Blue Bloods, CSI, Bones … they all seem to have to solve a murder in 40 minutes, which leaves very little time for exploring the intense nuances of emotion behind every situation, and the complicated web of lies and secrets in every person’s life. Throughout the course of Broadchurch season one, we learn (presumably) all the secrets of the Latimer family and many of the other village residents as well as the investigators, DI Hardy and DI Miller (featured in the DVD cover photo above).

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Miller with her family at a memorial for Danny.

There aren’t too many shows that can make you cry multiple times in the pilot episode alone! Because you explore the mystery of Danny’s death over so many episodes, and over considerably more time in tv-land, you feel as if this is actually happening. I found it easy to process the evolution of events and emotions with the characters. Just look at the emotion on Mum’s face as she realizes that the body found on the beach is her son.

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Police trying to drag Beth away from her son’s body.

The show covers every aspect of real life for the family. The full emotional range that each person can feel – and how each person grieves differently – is depicted over the following weeks, along with the criminal investigation, the involvement of the press and the emotional toll it takes on the police officers leading the investigation.

I expected DI Miller to be emotional because she is a long-time friend to the family and knew Danny all his life, but Hardy was a newcomer to Broadchurch. He literally arrived the night before the murder. To see the deep emotional connection that develops between himself and Beth and Mark was … inspiring? to see. I don’t think that is the right word, but it surprised me to see this relationship develop and the show would have been missing something without it. While Hardy is never going to be a friend who pops round for dinner, a bond develops over the season that I suspect will always be there. It is a deeply personal thing I suppose, to accept someone into your home in your most vulnerable moments, to bare every secret and skeleton to him while he investigates the murder of your child. You have to trust him to find the right person, and put together a strong enough case to stand up in court.

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The investigators walking with the family and other villagers in a silent vigil.

I also found it surprising to see the humanity of some of the reporters reporting on Danny’s case. The locals who were a part of the village I expected tact and common decency from, but the female reporter from the Herald also show a surprising amount of compassion. Throughout the season I kept willing the family to lock her out, not give her any time, because I didn’t trust her from the start, but she gives them good advice from the heart and is sensitive in her reporting.

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It would have been easy to paint her – or any number of people on the show – as evil but the creators were careful to depict each characters as regular people who are made up of good and bad, each with skeletons in his or her closet.

I love Broadchurch and so do most of my family members. It is my favourite show currently and I can’t wait to binge watch the second and third seasons. If you are remotely interested in crime shows, drama, or British tv, you need to give it a try. I could feel the emotional tugs on my heart with every episode and was often reduced to tears.

Obviously this show deals with difficult subject matter but the violence and subject matter aren’t any worse than your typical American crime drama. Actually, I think there is probably less violence. The emotionalism is partially just me, but mostly a testament to how well done this show is.

* * * * *

xx

 

Limitless (television)

If you remember, I talked about the new show Limitless awhile ago, which is co-created by Bradley Cooper. It follows up on the events of Scarlet Johansson’s movie Lucy, in a world where NZT is still very mysterious and unknown, but news is slowly leaking. Suddenly, the FBI is running tests on experimental replacement NZT drugs and trying to devise plans to control a criminal element that is increasingly smarter than they are. The good guys need a new weapon to even the playing field.

Limitless premiered September 22nd and it is AWESOME! Every bit as good as I expected it to be. There are three things I think set this show apart from the pack.

First, it’s super fast pace. The only thing slowing down the events is that the creators have to go slow enough for the audience to catch up, or give us a quick recap. In some cases, the 15 minutes catching up the audience is only a couple of seconds for the main character.

Second, this show is smart. It breaks the rules of what we perceive to be the limits, the rules of the universe, and it does so so logically and simply that you feel stupid for not realizing these secrets all along. There are few smart shows on television; Limitless is refreshing.

Third, the premise and plot of Limitless set it apart. The supernatural, crime investigation and medical dramas rule your tv screen most nights. Limitless is different.

Check it out on Tuesday nights, starring Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Guest-starring Bradley Cooper.

xx

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Limitless, Coming Autumn 2015

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According to imdb.com, Limitless is about a man who gains the ability to use the full extent of his brain’s capabilities… informative, huh?

Seriously though, this tv show is based off of the 2014 movie called Lucy, starring Scarlet Johansson. Basically, this new designer pill comes out that unlocks the brain’s ability to use the other 90% or so capacity that is currently locked away.

Which is such a fascinating idea. I hope they do this show right because it would quickly skyrocket to my favourite thing on television if they do.

Can you imagine if your ability to process information doubled? What if it kept doubling?? How incredible would it be to be able to learn a new language in seconds, to understand anything you had the remotest interest in, without struggling? To be able to make connections and predict probabilities, enabling better decision-making for future possibilities?

The list of things you could do, become, are endless.

** Next few paragraphs will have spoilers from the film **

In the movie, Scarlet’s character assumes super-human abilities by the time she reaches 50% brain capacity. She doesn’t just understand forces in the world, like gravity, but understands how to manipulate and bend them to her will. Hence her ability to suddenly manifest “magic” or “psychic abilities”. Because to the rest of us, that is what it looks like.

This topic always brings me back to a saying I heard when I was young, that magic is just science unexplained.

Arthur C Clarke: “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet”.

How true that statement is. I believe that anything is possible. In my life-time, no. In ten generations, maybe not even. But eventually, we will unlock things that make Millenials seems like Neanderthals to our nth degree grandbabies.

Scarlet’s character, in many ways, became GOD. Or at least, a good estimation on what/who GOD is by human standards. After her human body died, her consciousness remained in this realm and was able to communicate with individual people, to pull strings around the world and manipulate far-reaching events. She became omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

Bradley Cooper is attached to the television show and states that he is very invested in its future. I hope that means he will continue to be involved and that the show will have the much higher budget that shows usually have in later seasons, rather than a typical first season budget which greatly constrains the action scenes and special effects needed in a show like this.

Limitless premieres on September 22, 2015 on CBS and I will definitely be watching.

xx

Teen Mom 2 Returns

Teen Mom 2 returns tonight with the premiere of season six!

Teen Mom OG and 2 are the only MTV shows I like, but they are favourites of mine. I think most people have that one (or more) guilty pleasure television show(s) that they’re addicted to, and these are mine.

It is interesting to see the different paths that the girls have followed through life. I’m not a teen mother, but I find it inspiring watching them continue to struggle to overcome hardships and persevere. I have had more trouble that a lot of my friends to find my way in life and find schooling and a career and relationship that made me feel happy and fulfilled, so I can identify with many of the growing pains these ladies experience.

I was so happy during the previous season of teen mom 2 to see that Jenelle, who had been the “problem child” of her cast-mates for four seasons, has matured so much since then. She had gotten clean before but it seems she has stayed clean this time and went back to school and did well, studying all the time and spending time with Jace and then Kaiser, and realizing that she did deserve better and so do her sons.

I think the defining moment of season five was when she approached her mother about reclaiming custody of Jace. I expected this to turn into a train-wreck of a discussion between Barbara and Jenelle, particularly since Nathan was present, but it was a calm and heartfelt discussion between the two women. In that moment, you could clearly see how much they loved Jace and wanted to work together to create the easiest transition possible for him.

That situation was so charged, it was almost inevitable for confrontation to break out so it was surprising and gratifying that it didn’t. Even though I only know them through my television screen, I was so proud of their family at that moment and hope that they can continue to keep Jace as their focus, because that little boy deserves the world, and he deserves his Mom and Grandmother to work together towards a stable and happy future for him.

Excited to watch tonight and catch up with the other girls as well! Are we finally going to meet Chelsea’s new man on the show???

xx

Big Bang Theory

Oh man, I just watched tonight’s episode of the Big Bang Theory and it was quite likely my favourite episode ever!

It had the perfect balance of timing between the growing number of characters and was just. so. damn. funny! Yes, that needed to be emphasized. I love the show and wish there were more comedies like it on air. My life, like many people’s, doesn’t have enough joy and laughter and lightness in it, so the last thing I want to do in my evening is watch some depressing drama. Sorry Grey’s Anatomy fans.

The last few seasons of BBT haven’t been as funny to me, and I think others agree since their ratings stay high but they stopped winning all the comedic television show awards. I even stopped watching the show live, saving up several episodes to binge-watch together without commercials, because otherwise the show was broken up every time a scene gained momentum, and I would end up with this show that I enjoyed but never laughed out loud at. That was sad, in the past I would laugh til I cried and I wanted those good endorphins back. Tonight’s episode was their best in a long time.

I laughed hysterically at the one liners, enjoyed every character from Bernie to Raj to Sheldon, and thought the writing was excellent. This episode wasn’t counting on Sheldon’s idiosyncrasies to carry the laughs, it was genuinely funny and witty throughout. I also loved the big life changes that came to a few of the characters.

— spoiler alert —

Leonard had an ‘affair’ with a woman scientist on the boat in the Black Sea, a few years ago? Did not see that one coming.

Amy broke up with Sheldon?!

Sheldon was going to propose to Amy?!! Actually I saw that one coming, but he still played it so perfectly that I was in awe of the moment.

And finally, Penny and Leonard are going to get married in Vegas. Yay elopement! I was hoping that we would get to see her Dad again, and meet more members of both of their families, but I didn’t really want a wedding episode. I feel like we had that whole moment with Bernadette’s wedding and then the prom episode, and I like how they decide to handle the wedding. It fits the characters.

It felt like a final episode to the season, but I really hope not because I can’t imagine not getting the fall-out from all these big decisions. Considering they just took a two or three week break and this one was the regular twenty minutes in length, there should be a least one more episode before the season closes and I will definitely be watching for it.

Tonight, the funniest episode in years aired so if you have been on the fence about the show for the last while, it’s time to catch up now.

xx