The Following – Season 3 Episode 1 – New Blood – Review

Kevin Williamson created show The Following is back for its third season, and there are a collection of interesting new characters as well as familiar faces to join the mix in what seems will be an action packed season.

Episode Synopsis: We begin a year after the events of last season, and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is on death row – a month from execution.

Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has a new girlfriend named Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson), but he is still mentally recovering from previous events. After being blamed for the death of one of Joe’s followers in the opening scene from her apparent father, Ryan is clearly shaken. The trail of destruction left from the first two seasons has definitely left its mark.

Mark (Sam Underwood) is back with the absence of his twin brother Luke and mother Lily Gray. He is more psychotic than ever as a direct result of the deaths of his family members. With a new set of followers helping Mark, things begin to take a familiar turn, affecting Ryan Hardy in particular.

This is an interesting start to the season, with the main themes focusing significantly on the consequences of the characters’ actions. Ryan seems to show genuine remorse for all of the victims in the hunt for Joe, and is not the only character who has been affected by past events.

Ryan’s niece, Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup) is back for this season, and has been impacted by F.B.I agent Mike Weston’s (Shawn Ashmore) previous departure and reappearance. Due to their romance last season, this will make for interesting viewing as the season progresses.

The new followers, Kyle (Hunter Parrish), Daisy (Ruth Kearney) and Andrew (Michael Irby) carry the sensibilities of previous followers, and spare none of the gory murders reminiscent of the first seasons. Therefore, I would not recommend watching if you are squeamish.

This episode was without Joe Carroll; however, it is shaping up to be another good season which I recommend tuning in for. Joe will most definitely play a significant part in this season with his looming execution providing an effective ticking clock to proceedings.

By Robert Spence

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Gotham – Pilot – Season 1 Episode 1 – Review

Gotham (2014) is an American television series and is an origins story to the DC comics character Batman as well as some other characters in that universe. The series was created by Bruno Heller, and focuses on Commissioner Jim Gordon as the main protagonist.

Starring: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Sean Pertwee, David Mazouz and Jada Pinkett Smith.

This episode was directed by Danny Cannon and written by Bruno Heller.

Episode Synopsis: The story begins with Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) parents being shot and killed in cold blood by a masked gunman. Sparing Bruce, he flees leaving him with his parent’s bodies.

We are then introduced to rookie cop Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his partner Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Gordon promises Bruce that he will find the man who killed his parents.

As the story progresses, Gordon becomes immersed in the corruption governing Gotham, and the many villains who inhabit it.

This is a very good opening episode, and captures the characteristics of Gotham very well. Fans of the Batman universe will not be disappointed, as this latest outing looks at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents has been done endlessly, but this series harnesses these events from the perspective of Jim Gordon; thus allowing something fresh.

bruce wayne parents dead

Characteristically, there is a lot of potential. Jim Gordon is likeable and morally good despite the corruption surrounding him. Ben McKenzie is perfect for this role, and plays Gordon very well.

The supporting cast are also impressive. The young Bruce Wayne is exactly as I imagined as well as his loyal butler Alfred (Sean Pertwee).

The main antagonists such as Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) effectively embody the collective corruption in Gotham. This is the first role I have seen her portray a villain, and she does it very well. She is sexy as she is scheming – very much a femme fatale.

There are various seeds planted in this episode which will undoubtedly grow as the series progresses. Fans of Batman are in for a treat as well-known characters begin to reveal themselves.

By Robert Spence

The Inbetweeners 2 Review

The Inbetweeners 2 (2014) directed/written by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris. This is the sequel to the 2011 movie and is a spin-off from the 2008 television sitcom.

This movie stars: Simon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Blake Harrison.

Synopsis: The four friends have moved on somewhat since their last adventure in Malia where they had their first lad’s holiday. Will (Simon Bird) is still as geeky as ever and attending university. He is still as disastrous at making friends and talking to the opposite sex. Simon (Joe Thomas) is also at university and is now in an unhappy relationship with Lucy (Tamla Kari) who he met on holiday in the first movie. Her character is the polar opposite of what she was before and is very overbearing and clingy; therefore, Simon is trying his best to dump her. Neil (Blake Harrison) works in a bank and is as dopey as when we last saw him.

After receiving an email from Jay (James Buckley) about how good Australia is (because he is having a gap year there), the gang decide to join him for a month’s holiday. However, when they arrive, things do not go according to plan resulting in some hilarious circumstances.

Being a big fan of the original series and movie, I was expecting big things from this sequel. I did, however, have reservations that it would be very samey in places. However, as soon as I got past the opening scene my reservations diminished as the first laughs bellowed from the cinema hall.

In my opinion, this is better than the original and the writers seem to play around a bit more with the narrative structure which results in a less formulaic story. The writers have also managed to make this just as funny as the original, and there were a few occasions where I was crying with laughter.

Out with the four friends, there is an array of other funny interesting characters who complement the story well. The movie really explores the notion of travelling, and finds humour in some of these situations – i.e. staying in hostels and being on the road. No doubt this will spark a frenzy of people desperate to backpack and experience similar things.

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All four of the main characters have great chemistry which is what has made the show and movies so successful. The funny script as well as their onscreen chemistry will undoubtedly result in this surpassing the original as the most successful British comedy of all time. As I do not want to spoil any of the gags in this movie, all I can say is watch this movie because it is definitely worth it.

By Robert Spence

Outlander – Season 1 Episode 1 – Sassenach – Review

Outlander (2014) is a historical multi genre television series based on the best-selling novels written by Diana Gabaldon. This was developed by Ronald D. Moore, and the opening episode was directed by John Dahl.

Starring John Heffernan, Nell Hudson, Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan.

Synopsis: The story begins in 1945 with combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) 6 months after the conclusion of World War II. She peers into a shop window and receives a flashback of her time there. We witness her nursing a dying soldier, and the harsh realities of war. After hearing the war has finally come to an end, there is much celebration.

Back to reality, and Claire travels with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) to Inverness in Scotland to bridge the time they have spent apart since the war. He has accepted a teaching position at Oxford University which he is due to start two weeks from then. It is apparent their time apart has made an impact, and this is somewhat of a second honeymoon for them. They explore the sights, and become better acquainted.

After exploring the forest on her own for plants, Claire begins hearing strange buzzing noises. After inspecting further, they seems to be descending from a large standing stone. She edges closer and touches it.

Darkness, and Claire wakes up on the ground in what appears to be the same place; however, she has travelled back in time to 1743. After exploring, she sees red coat soldiers engaging in gunfire. They shoot in her direction causing her to run away. She stumbles across the double of her husband dressed as a red coat, and his name is Jonathan Randal (also played by Tobias Menzies). This is clearly an ancestor of Frank’s. He tries to rape her when suddenly she is rescued by a Highlander. After she screams for help, he knocks her out. She awakens and is taken to a safe house with other Highlanders. She gives a fake last name for safety, and meets a handsome injured Highlander named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). After helping him, she gradually begins to realise that she is no longer in the 20th century, and must find a way to return home.

After hearing rumours of these novels being adapted for years, it is good to finally see this story onscreen. As there is currently eight novels in this series, it is clear to see why this has been adapted for television.

I was impressed with the initial episode of this show. The majority of this episode establishes the protagonist Claire and her current life as well as some backstory. We see the trauma she has gone through during the war, but her resilience at getting on with her life.

It does seem like the target demographic of this show is aimed towards women due to the romantic elements along with a female protagonist; however, this would not deter me from watching the rest of the show and enjoying this story.

Caitriona Balfe is relatively new on the acting scene, and has recently come to prominence in movies such as Now You See me (2013) and Escape Plan (2013). She is very likeable, and there will not be a problem with an audience connecting with her. Her chemistry with Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser (the main love interest in this story) is good, and this initial spark in the opening episode paves way nicely for the rest of the show.

Male or female, if you like a good love story, then I would recommend this show. It will not be the next Game of Thrones but seems to be shaping up as a nice adaptation to the popular novels.

By Robert Spence

Extant – Season 1 Episode 1 – Re-Entry – Review

Extant (2014) is an American science fiction television show created by Mickey Fisher and executively produced by Steven Spielberg. The show stars: Halle Berry, Goran Visjinic, Pierce Gagnon, Camryn Manheim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Grace Gummer and Michael O’Neill.

This episode was directed by Allen Coulter and written by Mickey Fisher.

Episode Synopsis: Molly Woods (Halle Berry) is struggling to adapt to life after 13 months on a solo mission aboard a space station. She is still receiving flashbacks from her time there, and concern is raised from her son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon). She lives with him and her husband John (Goran Visnjic) who is a robotics engineer heading the Humanichs Project (a project specialising in Artificial Intelligence).

Early on in the story it is established that their son Ethan is a robot who the couple have been raising as their son due to problems conceiving a child of their own.

Due to Molly’s time in space, increasing concern is raised from Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada), Molly’s employer. He heads the Yasumoto Corporation, and John’s Humanichs Project is desperately seeking funding from this. Yasumoto’s concern stems from the fact that some footage from Molly’s mission has been deleted, with Molly claiming she did this accidentally.

During the episode, Molly finds out that she is pregnant. She claims this is impossible because she is unable to have children. We then gain insight into an incident that occurred on her mission in which she encounters an apparently deceased astronaut who she used to be romantically involved with named Marcus Dawkins (Sergio Harford). After appearing unable to talk much and touching her face, she blacks out with Marcus standing before her. Later, when inspecting the camera footage she notices that he does not appear whatsoever and it looks like she is touching thin air. In a panic, she deletes it.

As a result, Molly is clearly hiding something, and Yasumoto has funded the Humanichs Project in an attempt to get closer to the family.

Due to this being the first episode of the series, there is a lot of world building occurring. Not only are we being introduced to new characters with their respective stories, but we are also being introduced to a new world; a world where technology is much more advanced than now.

This episode is nicely written and directed. There is enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested, as well as questions raised to entice the audience for the rest of the series. It is also clear that Steven Spielberg’s touch is all over this show.

Halle Berry does not disappoint as Molly, and neither do the other actors in the cast.

There is some strong themes running through this episode; for instance the difference between humans and robots. This is mainly manifested in the Wood’s son Ethan, and whether he truly can experience human emotions such as love. Morality is another prevalent theme. Is creating robots in this manner morally right, and what are the repercussions of playing God as such?

To conclude, this is a show in which I would recommend. I was taken in by the world that has been created and the characters in it. The fact this also features Oscar winning actress Halle Berry and the legendary Steven Spielberg is enough to warrant further interest.

By Robert Spence

Fargo – Season 1 Episode 5 – The Six Ungraspables – Review

This episode was directed by Colin Bucksey.

Synopsis: This episode begins as a flashback when Lester is buying some socks. At the suggestion of the store assistant, he purchases a rifle too. We also see that this was the very gun Malvo uses to kill police officer Thurman in the opening episode. The fragment of shotgun pellet from this lethal shot gets lodged into Lester’s hand which causes the infection that has plagued him from the beginning.

Back to the present day, the story continues it left off previously; Lester is sharing a prison cell with Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench. After much pressing, Lester gives them Lorne Malvo’s name as the killer of Hess from the opening episode. They then make bail.

Molly says she has information from the night Pearl Nygaard (Lester’s wife) died and she has a name and picture of the suspect. After piecing together the possible sequence of events from that night, Bill Oswalt finally listens to her and states she could be onto something.

Police officer Gus Grimly continues to try and prove Malvo’s guilt. Meanwhile, Malvo purchases a police scanner to monitor police activity.

I liked how this episode began because it deviated from the standard way the show has been opening from the start. With the flashback into how Lester purchased the rifle as well as how the foreign object got lodged in his hand, we instantly understand why he did not want to go to a hospital. Had this have happened, his involvement would have been apparent.

In this episode, we also see the appearance of Thurman’s new baby; this being when Molly visits Ida Thurman (played by Julie Ann Emery) in the hospital. This proves quite a poignant moment, and further enhances our understanding of why Molly is so emotionally attached to finding Thurman’s killer.

This was another enjoyable episode, and the dark humour continues to enrich the story which is reminiscent of the original movie. Billy Bob Thornton’s character Malvo gets very funny dialogue, and this proved amusing in this episode.

By Robert Spence

Hannibal – Season 2 Episode 12 – Tome-wan – Review

Beware of some spoilers

This episode was directed by Michael Rymer

Synopsis: The episode begins with Will and Hannibal discussing Mason Verger. Will states that Mason is a pig and deserves to be someone’s bacon.

Due to the revelation last episode that Will and Jack are working together and that Freddie Lounds is actually still alive, Jack states to Will that he wants more information about what is happening. Will says that he has a plan, and that it involves Mason Verger.

Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Lecter’s psychotherapist, (played by Gillian Anderson) makes an appearance this episode. Will tries to coax more information from her regarding Hannibal in order to finally catch him.

We also see a scarred Margot fresh from the aftermath of last episode when Mason destroyed her baby and foiled her plans of creating an heir to the Verger fortune.

Just like last week’s episode beginning to cover common ground from Red Dragon, this also happens here with the revelation of how Mason’s face becomes deformed. This was shown in the movie Hannibal and if you are squeamish I would advise you to look away.

Despite the show never being free from the grotesque, this episode takes this to a whole new level and I found it hard to watch at certain moments. This is a testament to the make-up artists here because Mason’s face is completely transformed.

Will and Hannibal’s complex relationship begins to evolve, as we are shown just how much of an influence Will can have on Hannibal.

Due to this being the penultimate episode of the season, momentum continues to rise in time for the finale next week. This episode is not one to miss.

By Robert Spence