Fall has arrived, and for the mediaphiles among us that means a return to our favorite television series. As a true and dedicated nerd I have my own list of likes and dislikes among the returning veterans and newcomers to the nerd-relevant scene.
A supernatural horror slash police procedural drama, I watched the first two episodes of Sleepy Hollow on Hulu so far. I have mixed feelings about the series.
There are some strong positive elements. Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane is a refreshing hero as a British idealist and intellectual converted to the Revolutionary cause and serving under General Washington until he gets zapped to the modern era. History buffs like myself receive many bones tossed our way, not the least of which is Ichabod’s rant in episode two about forty cents in taxes on his breakfast, pointing out that the revolution was fought over two cents worth of tax. But Ichabod uses modern politically correct terms for real triggers that were absolutely not used in his time. Nicole Behare plays his modern counterpart, Lt. Abbie Mills, and I’m usually not impressed by the ‘strong woman’ role as actresses go over the top and play nearly rabid aggression or hypersexualize their characters. Abbie is neither. The special effects are well done for a television budget, and the plots so far have mixed a little bit of X-Files with National Treasure, which may have some legs if it isn’t overdone.
My fundamental problem here are the two main premises of the show. First, the Christian book of Revelation is apparently a chronicle of how two groups of witches, one good and one evil, who will battle for the fate of the world in Sleepy Hollow. Bold! Perhaps their next stolen and bastardized text will be about Islam… No? Second, the idea that the headless horseman is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse is… beyond credulity. Did anyone even bother reading Revelation before deciding to use its imagery?
I suppose it could be sightly more deliberately blasphemous if they had said that Jesus and Solomon were witches… which would make them Gnostics or Freemasons, I’m not sure which… But that’s about all they could do to be offensive. I’m particularly irritated because if it hadn’t been a mockery or attack on my own faith tradition this could have been a very cool show.
As an added bonus, in the pilot Highlander fans get to see Clancy Brown (the Kurgan) promptly get his head chopped off one more time!
But the total rapine approach to Christianity and American tradition isn’t done.
The first season of Revolution was a lot of fun, and pretty much everything I was hoping for in a post-apocalyptic series. It fixed a lot of the problems I had with the Dies the Fire novels by S, M. Stirling. Naturally, and big surprise, turning the electricity off suddenly eliminated all religious faith from the face of the planet, (everyone knows that Christianity was invented by Thomas Edison after all…) but barring that, the descent to neo-barbarism is exactly what was predicted by Nietzsche, that once the reality of absolutes is denied (good thing we got rid of faith) right and wrong become an exercise in force.
Season one had your big mystery. Why did the power go out and how can we turn it back on? Billy Burke of Twilight fame gave a show-stealing performance as special-forces-turned-barbarian-turned-hero Miles Matheson, and he was only one of a number of dynamic cast members all worth watching. There was swashbuckling sword-play, bows, arrows, explosions, flash-backs… this show had everything but Jesus. It was as good as I hoped to get from television in the 2010’s.
Then the plot came out for season two. Spoilers beware. Our heroes failed to keep the power on, failed to prevent the nuking of two cities, and failed to stay together. Whee! On top of that rewarding news it turns out that the new bad guys are pulled straight from the pipe dreams of MoveOn.org. Christian Patriots who use the American flag are a pervasive murderous evil who have to be stopped at all costs! That’s right, because calling them the Tea Party wouldn’t have been subtle enough. We’ve gone from a child-enslaving, brainwashing expansionist militia to… Republicans. I suppose in the minds of the show’s creators they’re being original and groundbreaking, but I’m hard-pressed to remember the last time that the bad guy in a politically aware bit of TV or video had a D next to their name, or even sounded like an independent. This sort of one-sided demonizing isn’t at all responsible for the government shut-down or the growing bitter divide between political parties. We’re teaching our children tolerance by showing how much the other side needs to be shot and run through with swords…
There are still some mysteries, and some areas for character growth. I will probably keep watching but this show is already irritating me and I’m only two episodes in! They’re going to have a lot of ground to cover to regain my enthusiasm from season one, which truly was pretty good.
The Legend of Korra
Korra returns in Nickelodeon’s steampunk martial arts extravaganza, and there’s little not to like. Nickelodeon has decided that this series will have its own story for every season instead of a multi-seasonal epic. The characters have grown up a bit, come into themselves more than the late-high-school angst we saw in series one.
This season’s plot deals largely with the tension between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, which is a nice contrast in and of itself. One is a free-wheeling society that is more secular than spiritual while the North is more regimented and authoritarian. Tai Chi moves abound as the philosophies of unity and diversity play out on scene.
Treats so far in the first four episodes include a deeper look into Ang as a parent and the fallout of his strengths and failures among his children. We get a great chance to deal with some of the tension between the material and spiritual worlds. I particularly enjoyed the reversal of stereotypes in that the free-wheeling society is usually depicted as the more spiritual and the more regimented society materialistic. That trope stands on its head as the story deepens. Our antagonist is revealed in episode four, and I won’t spoil it.
The martial arts, visual effects, and voice acting continue to be excellent. I’m very excited to see where this series goes!
So the fall Television reviews so far:
Sleepy Hollow: Tragically an “avoid” or “watch with extreme caution”
Revolution: If you are a Democrat, union member, or can hold your political breath with the tired old drumbeat there will probably be something worthwhile down the road.
Legend of Korra: Everyone should watch this. Are you watching it yet? Get on that!
I’m looking forward to the return of other favorites. Supernatural, The Walking Dead, and Arrow are all coming up, and I have high hopes for them all.