Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E5 Review “Partings” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

I only spent half the time distracted [this episode] … hardly a ringing endorsement

Episode 5 of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “Partings”, sees the Southlanders split between two factions — those who are going over to the dark side and those who will stand and fight. We also witness the Queen of Númenor having to make a fateful decision.

“Partings” started slow but got better as it went on. It’s definitely stronger than the previous episode, and I know this because I found myself merely checking my phone whilst watching rather than checking the show whilst watching my phone. And I didn’t fall asleep again. However, saying that “I only spent half the time distracted instead of almost all of it and that I remained conscious” is hardly a ringing endorsement.

The big problem continues to be the characters — and that is really a fatal flaw for any piece of work. What actually motivates them? The Queen of Númenor’s fateful decision doesn’t seem to be based on much nor make sense at all. And Galadriel, ostensibly the star of the show, continues to resemble a teenage fan fiction version; petulant, stupid, arrogant, essentially angsty and definitely not a good guy. She would have been mediocre in a budget network 1990s show. I just don’t buy into any of the characters. It’s hard to care when relationships aren’t properly established or developed and when we don’t really feel like we know our characters.

However, on a plus point, black-guy-who-is-the-friend-of-the-guy-who-is-supposed-to-be-Isildur (he’s Isildur inasmuch as the Galadriel in this show is Galadriel and I am Father Christmas), that is, the guy who fell out with “Isildur” previously, shows signs of potentially maybe having the possibility of becoming an okay character, eventually.

“Partings” was somewhat better than the previous ep, but to say I was “gripped” would be an overstatement. Whereas the previous episode was a two-out-of-five, this outing was a solid 3 minus.

Let’s see if this season has the exit velocity to launch us into a hopefully much improved season two. That’s the best we can hope for at this stage.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://imagesv2.desimartini.com/images/202209/rings-of-power-1663571355.jpeg

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

The Rings of Power: a cure for insomnia

Rings of Power Episode 4, “The Great Wave”, involves more Númenor-based Elven hijinks, the big reveal of the mysterious Orc man-God “Arda”, and a Dwarven secret.

The episode also involved a lot of sleeping. My sleeping. I fell asleep twice while trying to watch this. A cure for insomnia is probably not what Amazon was hoping for when they ploughed a billion dollars into this series.

This blog is all about short form reviews. But for this episode, there was no way to fulfil that in this case. There is simply too much to say.

So what was wrong with the weakest episode of Rings of Power to date? Far quicker to say what was right.

THE GOOD

Gimli 2 shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character

The visuals continue to be pretty. The non-CGI goblins/orcs are a welcome return to aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings film series, undoing the awful CGI overdrive of The Hobbit. And Gimli 2, as I am calling him, shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character. There was no sign of Probably-Gandalf, or there was but I was asleep, which is a good thing, and the role of the Zummerzet-by-way-of-Kingston-Jamaica-cum-Dublin sort-of hobbits was mercifully minimised.

THE BAD

Everything else about this episode really is off.

Lack of immersion / Comedy resemblances

Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions.

First of all, I can’t stop thinking about how Galadriel sounds exactly like Kate/Bob from classic British sitcom Blackadder II. And speaking of comedians, I talked in my Episode 1/2 review about how Fat Hobbit looks exactly like Dawn French, thereby reminding me of the wonderful French and Saunders Lord of the Rings spoof, and how Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven smith of all, bears an uncanny resemblance to Monty Python‘s Michael Palin. Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions. To make it worse, Isildur — who is going to be a big donny in this show if they follow Tolkien’s mythos — looks just like James Callis who played Gaius Baltar in Battle Star: Galactica (2004). This might be ironic as the mythos suggests Isildur may follow Baltar’s plot path, in a manner.

Anyway, that I’m constantly finding myself dropping out of the hoped-for immersion and thinking about such things really shows that this show is not holding my attention. But if I doubted as much myself, falling asleep definitely proved the point.

Characters without any character

the writers … fulfil the age-old writing adage of “tell not show”…

Speaking of Gaius Baltar, I mean Isildur. He has a weird kind of bromance with his two BFFs. But in this episode they fall out, bigly. It’s supposed to be a huge dramatic moment in the episode. But I didn’t care. Why? Because I forgot the other two guys existed. I can’t even remember what their names are, who they are, what they even do, and the who I do remember, Isildur himself, just seems like a moody little twonk. Good job the writers were there to fulfil the age-old writing adage of “Tell not show” with some phenomenal exposition: “You got me kicked out of the navy. All I ever wanted was to be in the navy”*. Rule of writing for the “writers” of this show: big dramatic moment for Character A isn’t big dramatic moment if Character A isn’t a character. Even with a swell of music.

*(This is a paraphrasing. This episode was truly too awful to go back and catch the actual line. Suffice it to say, it was even more moronic than what I have written)

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave”‘. Wow, that’s a blog post title almost as long as the cast list of the aforesaid show. “Let’s have a whole bunch of characters / NPCs and make this show EPIC!” was surely what went on in the writers’ room. Apparently, according to showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay you can never have too much of a good thing. Nor of a bad thing. Speaking of which…

There’s a weird Monty Pythonesque vibe to Bloke-whose-name-we-don’t-know-nor-care-to-know who fancies Girl-who-I-think-is-the-daughter-of-the-guy, the one with the brother who’s on the boat. That one. Her. Weird, almost sitcom-ish stuff.

When Legolas 2 (as I’m calling him) copies Gimli 2’s (as I’m calling him) kids’ knocking game and opens up a secret chamber containing a priceless ore, my jaw-dropped — at the absurdity of it all. This segues nicely into…

Tonal shifts

…two thousand year old teenager Galadriel

Reviews slating Episodes 1 and 2 bemoaned strange and inappropriate tonal shifts between high drama and low comedy, a shifting of genres. I didn’t see that myself. But with this episode, I finally agree. Strange comedy moments that don’t gel with the overall vibe abound. Another major culprit is defiant two thousand year old teenager Galadriel. Nothing about her makes sense, and she seems to be in an alternate teen version of this show from a different universe.

Galadriel’s behaviour with the Queen Regent of Númenor, in particular, was totally unbelievable, and this show has got Goblins in it. More sitcommery interspliced into what is presumably intended to be a weighty epic. The parallels to Game of Thrones, given the GoT spin-off is going head-to-head with RoP, cannot be avoided. So imagine, if you may, the Red Wedding, followed by Galdariel’s hilaaaaaaaaaarious petulant attitude that winds her up in prison, comedy directoral cut included. Inappropriate tonal shifts.

Gimmicks

… Legolas 2 … Gimli 2 … Aragorn 2 … Probably-Gandalf …

Asides from being a kind-of woke rip-off of The Lord of the Rings — complete with Legolas 2, Gimli 2, troll fight, the Dark Lord’s comin’ ta getcha, Big Statue, Aragorn 2, Frodo-Sam-Merri-Pippin Hobbit mash-up characters, Probably-Gandalf — the show is also guilty of other gimmicks. My favourite is directorial.

The directorial trick of stuff spraying against the camera lens is being overdone. Remember that shot from Children of Men, that crazy long shot, where half way through the lens got sprayed? They had no choice but to carry on, as the shot was so long and complicated that they would have lost everything if they’d tried to go back. But that bit of splatter made the scene all the more graphic and disturbing. In LOTR:ROP their overuse of this trick — once per episode — is drawing attention to itself in a rather uncouth way.

No tension. Simple as.

showing us Sauron so soon…. giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub.

They show Adar’s face, the man who we presume is Sauron. Isn’t that a no-no? The fact that he was unseen in The Lord of the Rings made him scary all the way through. In the original Alien, you hardly see the alien, just snatches, and it makes it all the more horrific. And we all remember seeing Mr Blonde cutting off Marvin’s ear in Reservoir Dogs. Oh wait, no we don’t, it happened off-screen, yet that made it all the more graphic — indeed, many people, in a straight Mandela Effect twist, “remember” seeing it happen, such was the effectiveness of that non-show. So why have they blown it by showing us (probably) Sauron so soon? Giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub. Even if Adar isn’t Sauron, just as Probably-Gandalf may not actually be Gandalf, why is a main baddy being robbed of his shadowy nature this early?

The biggest problem with the show so far, and it was particularly highlighted in this episode, is we just don’t care. Sure, we know we have to stop Sauron because he’s evil, he won’t stop so we’ve got to stop him, or whatever. But there’s just not enough to care about. Galadriel, who could have gone to the western lands where she’ll never die, who is an elf and lives thousands of years, is talking to the leader of an a realm of humans that is an island kingdom way over the seas and totally isolated and safe, that these men and the elves need to join forces again to fight Sauron to stop the people of the Southlands, which is a human realm very, very far away, who I think joined with Morgoth — Sauron’s own lord — to fight against good, from being conquered… I mean, read that sentence back. Who cares? Where is the drama? What is the point? I’m enjoying the beautiful visuals, but whatever. In LOTR, Sauron was coming, he was coming for you, and it felt immediate, it affected everyone. But here, his coming is so distant, so far-off, so irrelevant to everyone else, that it’s hard to be bothered.

IN SUMMARY…

Bored of the Rings? Yes.

2/5

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E1&2 Review “A Shadow of the Past” and “Adrift” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes

What is LOTR:ROP?

It’s finally here, the series that nobody apart from Jeff Bezos asked for: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. LOTR:ROP tells the tale of the second age of Middle Earth, some thousands of years before the events portrayed in the Lord of the Rings. Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes from Tolkien’s rubbish bin, LOTR:ROP will take us back to experience the world of J. R. R. Tolkien once more, a world of good versus evil, dragons and treasure, duty and honour, and prosthetic ears.

Having spent one billion dollars on this show — a sum large enough to make one thousand people millionaires, or one person, me, a billionaire — Amazon really is going all in on this intellectual property. This innovative company with a proven track record, and a story based on a world created by one of the greatest figures of British literature, means hopes are high for this series.

Episodes one and two came out at the same time, so let’s delve into both together. The raison d’être of this blog is short form reviews. But hey, LOTR is epic, right? And judging from recent productions, “epic” means “long”, so here are my words splurged manically over your screen.

So Far, So Familiar

They seem to be trying to do a Star Wars Episode VII job on this. Kind of following the basic outline of the original, LOTR, with enough nostalgia thrown in to keep people hooked. We have Galdriel, we have Legolas 2, we have the Hobbits (kind of), we have a dark lord, we have a looming danger, and we have juicy maps. My concern with this show is they might follow the path of Star Wars episodes 7-9 which, although not awful, perhaps do not spiritually live up to their predecessors. But we have to see if this is a case of respectful homage or memberberries as the series develops.

Hobbits

Remember the Lord of the Rings? Remember how we had the Hobbits who epitomised a nostalgic olde timey rural England where things were simpler but life was better? Remember how duty and burden fell on one of these wee folk, and how in the hobbits we had the everyman characters through which to experience and connect with this fantastic world of wizards, dragons, elves and orcs? Yeah, well that’s all been replaced with a kind of gypsy tramp version of the Hobbits, now restyled the Harfoots, who caravan their way through the woods, just because. Instead of being our window to the world, these Harfoots seem to function as a kind of bumbling comedy relief. So I’m not sure what the point of them is other than to say, “Hey, remember the hobbits? Nostalgicus Rememborius! Poof!

The Harfoots feature a Ghostbusters style all-female reboot. Whereas before we had Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, now we have a kind of comedy mash-up of the original fab four boiled down to a twosome: Fat Hobbit, who looks just like Dawn French in the wonderful French and Saunders LOTR spoof, and Female Frodo (minus the burden of the ring), who herself looks eerily like Jennifer Saunders. Perhaps the presence of French’s ex-hubbie Sir Lenny Henry as Chief Harfoot (can’t remember his, or any character’s, name) is tripping my mind out. As an aside, and speaking of resemblances, the elven master smith, Celebrimbor, bears more than a passing resemblance to Monty Python member Sir Michael Palin, and I just can’t get this out of my head. I feel at times like I’m stuck in some kind of new version of Erik the Viking.

In short (no pun), I worry that the showrunners are going to push the Harfoots in an Ewoks / JarJar Binks direction.

OTT

One of the great things about Tolkien was his excellent command of the English language and the poetic beauty of his prose. So LOTR:ROP has taken the novel approach of, err, ignoring Tolkien’s own words. Some of the lines are way of the top and completely trite. They “march at first light”, of course. And then there’s, “You don’t know what’s down there!” –“That” (pregnant pause) “is why I must go”. So far, so fanfic.

It’s not just the dialogue which is over-the-top. Some of the action and special effects are ridiculous. Remember when people complained that in LOTR Legolas was almost like a computer game character, spinning and twirling about? Yeah, okay, well bring Legolas’ willing-suspension-of-disbelief testing agility back, because the way Galadriel dispatches a troll like a video game character, and the way the useless white men by contrast flail around, is just too much. Absolutely ridiculous.

Lord of the Woke

I don’t want to touch this toxic subject, not least because I risk sounding a bit Klan-ish. But it’s been a big talking point, so I have to.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power is going out of its way to be woke. And that isn’t a compliment. All the main characters are female and/or ethnic minority. All the white males seem to be dysfunctional idiots. Every marriage is mixed race. In fairness, Tolkien himself said the Harfoots were darker than the Hobbits, although I’m not sure he had Sir Lenny Henry in mind. But anyway, there’s nothing per se wrong with any of this. However, the producers have been inclusive in a way that draws attention to itself, and therefore at the expense of the immersion of the world they’re creating. And that is unforgivable.

This series will be compared to Game of Thrones, so let’s just get down to it. GoT was multiracial and featured many important female characters. But it never felt shoehorned in or for the sake of ticking boxes. It was completely natural. The people in the North were broadly ethnically similar, those from Dorn had a kind of Latin and/or Mediterranean vibe about them. The various races all mixed together in a natural way and in appropriate locations. It all just made sense.

By way of contrast, LOTR:ROP has the strange primitive isolated Harfoots who, for some reason, live in a multiracial society, where some folks speak Zummerzet, others Irish, and others still Jamaican — often the same character will sport all three accents within a sentence. This just makes no sense whatsoever and draws attention to itself. And it’s weird that in this multiracial society, there seems to be no interracial marriage; all the whiteys stick together, and all the non-whites stick together. None of it makes any sense.

But at least LOTR:ROP deals with racism through its world-building genius, where white men refer to non-white and or non-male elves, as “dagger ears”. Ooch.

The Good

There are some plus sides. They’ve done reasonably well introducing us to a wide range of characters fairly quickly. Although maybe they should have followed Tolkien a bit better by introducing them over time. They do set up a lot of stuff very quickly, albeit with a lot of exposition. But this is handled mostly effectively.

The visuals are excellent, and there seems to be a kind-of return to the aesthetic of the LOTR films and away from the overly CGI design of the Hobbit. And that’s very much welcome. The show does look gorgeous, for the most part.

The acting isn’t blowing me away, but it’s not bad. I’ll be interested to see if these relatively unknown thesps are able to deliver a heavy emotional payload later in the show as legends such as Sir Ian McKellan could in the LOTR movies.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, LOTR:ROP isn’t overly exciting me. It’s not what everyone hoped it would be, but it’s not what everyone feared it would be, either. I think some of the harsh reviews so far have been a little bit unjustified. Sometimes I don’t know if reviewers believe what they say or they are simply in love with the sound of their own witty barbs (case in point, Christopher Stevens from the Mail). We need to give this series space to see what it can grow into.

As for the storyline, before firing up Prime, I was concerned. It’s because LOTR:ROP isn’t based on a story, so much as it is based on a series of appendices and footnotes and backstories that Tolkien deliberately left out of his novels as he knew it would all get in the way. It’s like when an artist comes out with an album comprised of the offcuts of a previous album, but tries to sell it as an original work. We were on dangerous ground.

So given this isn’t an adaption of a Tolkien story like LOTR or the Hobbit were, I had fears about what the story was to be. Nonetheless, so far everything seems pretty clear: there’s some kind of dark lord, he’s comin’ ta getcha, and the powers that be are blithely and blindly ignoring the imminent threat — the elves being particularly culpable, having declared “mission accomplished” and buggering back off to their vineyards. Kind of riffing/ripping off LOTR, but you could say that is a tried and tested formula.

In Summary

Enjoyable, but nothing amazing. And we can’t use the yardstick of Tolkien’s magnificent work or the wonderful Jackson-Boyens-Walsh films to judge this by; we must judge it by its own standard. Nonetheless, more evidence must come in before the jury can render a verdict.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.frezila.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/The-Lord-of-the-Rings-The-Rings-of-Power.jpg

Star Trek: Picard Season One Review @SIRPATSTEW @STARTREK @STARTREKCBS #STARTREK #STARTREKPICARD

S1E10 Review
S1E9 Review
S1E8 Review
S1E7 Review
S1E6 Review
S1E5 Review
S1E4 Review
S1E3 Review
S1E2 Review
S1E1 Review
S1 Preview

the writers need to stop introducing deep story threads … and then resolving them … in one scene or through exposition.

Star Trek: Picard promised much, returning as it would to some of the franchise’s most beloved characters, notably Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself. The eponymous series starts with Picard in semi-comatose retirement, whiling his time away on his vineyard, when, suddenly, his retirement-cum-autoeuthanasia is rudely disrupted by a gatecrashing stranger with an extraordinary story.

The excitement of spending time with Picard and co again was mildly tainted by the stench that this was just an easy paycheque for Patrick Stewart. Plus, his rants on Brexit and Trump, even if you agree, boded badly for this series executive produced by the man himself; would this merely be Stewart in soapbox mode? However, these fears were unfounded. Picard got off to a slow but steady start, before launching into warp nine in the season’s second act, before stumbling and tripping in act three. Did it come off the rails? Not at all. But the ending was unworthy of the journey. The old characters were of course nice, but it’s the new characters that were refreshing: all the hallmarks of classic Trek characters, without feeling derivative. A great new batch of characters for the Trek canon.

If Game of Thrones is the yardstick (bar season eight) for streaming series, then ST:P isn’t quite the full 36 inches. But it’s not bad, either. Far from it. There was no single episode that you could call “poor”, although some were distinctly weaker than others. The worst episode was solid and serviceable; the best: first rate exciting television. This show could go far. But the writers need to stop introducing deep story threads and backstories and then resolving them within the very same episode, worst of all, in one scene or through exposition. This show seems more accessible to non-Trekkies than any other Star Trek series, including Discovery, but still seems Trek enough for Trekkies; maybe it’s found that Goldilocks zone that much of the franchise has failed to find.

All’s well that ends well? Yes. And if the finale had been stronger, season one would have gained a four star rating. But the box-ticking logic-chucking way the first season ended somewhat soured the thing. All in all, I am cautiously optimistic for season two. A good show for Trekkies and a good show for newbs.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Star Trek: Picard S1E10 “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

Boxes were ticked …

Star Trek: Picard‘s season one finale, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2”, sees our heroes hatch a daring plot to prevent the destruction of all biological life at the hands of an advanced god-like artificial lifeform whilst also preventing the destruction of the android planet whose denizens are the ones summoning the aforesaid god-like synths. Classic Trek quandry!

“Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” had a lot of action, fight scenes, starship battles, enemies temporarily allying, faces from the past, moral dilemmas, betrayal, a defence of the Federation’s sacred principles, and a whole lot more beside. Unlike some other episodes, such as episode one, this installment was packed with action and certainly had me engaged from beginning to end. On paper, it was an amazing season-ender. Unfortunately, the entire season’s main storyline was neatly resolved. A little too neatly. Boxes were ticked, and the whole season’s payoff felt flat and without effort. Everything was too easy in the end. For example, despite being a huge, long-time Trek fan, I just did not feel any emotion at the death of a key character which the show’s producers clearly felt was the “emotional” showpiece of this episode. It lacked weight because we already knew that this person wasn’t going to really be dead after all. Everything was too easy.

Forget logic, let’s just resolve away! Huge and absurd plotholes, such as the magical deus ex machina energy-to-matter device. Made no sense whatsoever and was used merely to set us up for an episode which just concluded everything — because it just had to!

The complexity of this season deserved a more complex and subtle set of resolutions. Furthermore, everything was wrapped up. Not even the hint of a cliff-hanger. I cannot imagine how Season Two will carry on the storyline, as there isn’t much of anything left to resolve or carry on. This gives the effect that season one was merely an extended single episode and that the universe is going to effectively reboot with season two. Instead of having an ongoing show arc, are we going to have merely one season arcs? Have the producers figured out a way to stretch the classic Trek double episode into a season-long fare? Will we end up with ten seasons, each compromised wholly of one over-extended and massively fleshed out single episode?

The weirdest thing about the episode is something whose full significance only hit me later when mentally sifting through this episode: the characters in the show have basically discovered a way for people to become immortal. The greatest discovery ever. Yet the significance of this seems to be not recognised by anyone. Truly baffling stuff.

All in all, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” was one of the more action-packed episodes, but it was also one of the weakest. Indeed, I think was bested in the weakness states only by Episode One which was an incomplete episode by necessity (as it sets everything up). All’s well that ends well. Sadly, although this season finale wasn’t bad, it was weaker than the show merited.

A frustrating and disappointing, albeit not bad, end to what has been a frustrating, if promising and exciting, first season. Not the final episode the season deserved.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn2-www.superherohype.com/assets/uploads/2020/03/Star-Trek-Picard-Episode-10.jpg

Star Trek: Picard S1E9 “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

We arrive as aliens ourselves on … some kind of reverse Eden.

I hate plot spoilers. I try my best to avoid them. Unfortunately, when reviewing episodes of a series, it’s almost inevitable that you give certain things away. Even the very act of no longer mentioning a character in itself tells you something. This is unavoidable and acceptable plot spoilage. But what is not acceptable is to smack a massive plot spoiler in the credits sequence. Episode 9, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1”, plants a massive spoiler flag in the opening credits by declaring “special guest star: so-and-so”. So now we know that that actor is in it and, of course, we know what character they play in the Star Trek universe, so… surprise ruined! Can you not have the cast list at the end of the episode, please?

Leaving meta-considerations aside, this was a disturbing episode which thoroughly upsets our moral compass. We finally arrive on Sojo’s homeworld, our crew making landfall in a less than conventional manner. We arrive as aliens ourselves on a brightly-coloured world with an almost Star Trek: The Original Series vibe about it. It’s full of life yet slightly off-kilter, a realistic and disturbing portrayal of some kind of reverse Eden: I was left unnerved and frightened by what appears to be coming up. Many new important characters are introduced, and it really feels as though the final episode will totally shatter the world we’ve come to know. The stakes have never felt higher.

Picard says in this ep that “it seems these days that all we do is say goodbye” and this episode indeed features two goodbyes. Sadly, they were robbed of some of their emotional value due to, once again, trying to cram everything into one episode. For the umpteenth time, the Game of Thrones Season 8 model doesn’t work; someone let the writers know.

“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” was stronger and felt more complete than last week’s showing, and we are being propelled towards what promises to be a truly terrific finale. We are made to face the sickening possibility that we, and our heroes, might be on the wrong side of this battle. Consequently, the sadism and fanaticism on the part of the show’s supposed baddies, the Romulans, is beginning to feel less and less consequential next to the threat that the androids are convincingly portrayed as having the potential to pose. However, the rush to the end robbed many moments of a sufficient sense of gravity. None-the-less, this episode did just enough to nudge a four star review.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10073428/mediaviewer/rm3212230145

Star Trek: Picard S1E8 “Broken Pieces” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

… in the rush to the season finale, “Broken Pieces” incompletely tells a story of its own …

Episode 8, “Broken Pieces”, thrillingly sets up the season finale two-parter. We are told a lot about a secret Romulan sect and why they are so hell-bent on destroying the androids. And the previously alluded to plot within the Federation dramatically shows up again. We are also tantalised by the prospect of visiting Soji’s homeworld, a prospect set-up in episode 7.

Our fellowship is crumbling before our eyes because our mole aboard La Sirena has been found out. But the most compelling aspect of this episode is that we are reminded that the baddies of the show, those fighting against our heroes, themselves do have very legitimate reasons for what they believe in — they don’t want to see the destruction of all life by synthetics, which is portrayed as a frighteningly realistic possibility. The viewer is suddenly, horribly aware that the heroes and synths we have been rooting for might well be on the wrong side. If only our baddies didn’t seem quite so sadistic, we would want to side with them. To facilitate this end, we see a weak, vulnerable side to Hot Sexy Space Elf, A.K.A., Narissa (Peyton List).

To save us from all this crushing bleakness, comedy relief was much appreciated. This week’s turn at playing the joker was Rios (Santiago Cabrera): all the different holograms who “man” ship look like Rios but all have different personalities, and accents. Honestly, goofy but funny.

Demons of the past rear their heads. Rios struggles with the traumatic moment that led to his leaving Starfleet, and Seven of Nine resists the seductive power of the one true ring, that is, the chance to be a Borg queen. Sadly, whilst Rios’ story convinced, enhanced by a powerful pep talk from Picard, Seven’s was played out with insufficient real peril and thus was robbed of any weight it should have had. Picard has returned to form: rushing the conclusion to plot threads and leaving us with no real emotional pay-off.

After the previous three excellent episodes, this felt like a return to inconsequentialism and exposition. However, it zips along so fast, and we’re so involved in the characters and central storyline, that we almost don’t care. This was tightly written, which is meant both as a compliment and as a criticism; “Broken Pieces” felt like a means to an end rather than also being an end in itself, like the second film in a trilogy. And thus, despite its strengths, it was notably weaker than our more recent outings.

Much intrigue and some fascinating plot developments, but in the rush to the season finale, “Broken Pieces” incompletely tells a story of its own, this episode serving more to structurally set up the series ender. Only juicy action is left to paper over the cracks in the incomplete and fragmented plotting.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9420290/mediaviewer/rm365279489

 

Star Trek: Picard S1E7 “Nepenthe” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

… a genuinely affecting reunion with two of Picard’s old colleagues from the Enterprise …

No sooner than our two storylines had converged at the end of the last episode, the fellowship has now fragmented into what looks like three separate story threads. This episode, “Nepenthe”, sees Picard and Soji escape to a secluded Eden-like planet with rich, almost magically regenerative soil. Here they have a genuinely affecting reunion with two of Picard’s old colleagues from the Enterprise [names withheld to prevent spoilers!]. Their mission: to recover from a trauma of their own in this paradise. The performances from our two guest starts here was powerful and believable; surely the genuine affection and love between these two and Patrick Stewart, going back years, bled through into their performance. The tranquility allows all of our characters to reflect deeply on their lives, and gives Soji space to begin to grapple with her true nature, the nature of reality itself, and who she can trust (if anyone).

Meanwhile, Picard’s protégé/personal body guard, Elnor (or “Legolas in Space”, as I like to think of him), is struggling to stay alive and fight off the Romulans on the Borg Cube. We see a real deepening of his character to counteract the goofiness and moodiness we have seen so far. He’s becoming a great addition to the series.

Our mole onboard the fellowship’s spacecraft La Sirena is beginning to struggle with what they have done and, indeed, were commanded to do almost against their will. Surely not long become their demons consume them.

This was a very exciting episode with no serious flaws, lots happened, and there was no sign of the old problems: development and conclusion of entire backstories within one scene and heavy exposition. Additionally, it turns out that one of the characters creates invented languages, which is something of an area of interest for me (believe it or not: see Tolkien’s A Secret Vice). “Nepenthe” is characterised by deep reflections by our characters as they struggle to come to terms with the stories of their lives. A heart-wrenching, gut-churning episode; possibly the strongest so far, but it has stiff competition from the previous two instalments.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9420288/mediaviewer/rm1170389249

 

Star Trek: Picard S1E6 “The Impossible Box” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

… reminded us why the sci-fi/horror baddies … the Borg are one of the greatest in all pop culture.

“The Impossible Box” (S1E6) zipped along at a terrific pace. Picard and Soji are face-slammed directly into moments from their past that they had deeply repressed. Soji’s world begins to unravel as she is confronted with the disturbing reality of her situation, although we end the episode with her still not having had time to fully understand or internalise the situation. There’s some great Borg-based body horror, disturbing scenes where Picard struggles with the memories of his time being assimilated by the Borg. The flashbacks seem to smash through his, and the viewer’s, skull. This episode reminded us why the sci-fi/horror baddies that are the Borg are one of the greatest in all pop culture. And we finally get to see the show’s two storylines merge together.

All of this horrifying action hurtles along while in the background the equally horrifying situation from the last episode, where one of our crew isn’t quite what they appear, gut-churningly, slowly, steadily, threatens to explode at any minute.

All of this darkness is counterbalanced with a bit of sassy Raffi comedy. Thankfully, the comedy has been dialled back to warp factor one and appropriately served to break up what was an action-packed and terrifyingly dark story.

The genius of this episode was not discovering what happens, as we have known what the characters haven’t since episode one, but watching how it unfolds. A truly thrilling episode, and definitely the best so far from a dramatic point of view, although from a general entertainment standpoint I slightly preferred last week’s episode. My only criticism is that Star Trek: Picard really needs to knock its tendencies for exposition and introducing and/or resolving storylines in one scene/episode on the head.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

 

 

Star Trek: Picard S1E5 “Stardust City Rag” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

Jean Luc Picard [puts] on the most unbelievable French accent since Ewan McGregor in Beauty and the Beast …

This week, on Star Trek: Picard.

In “Stardust City Rag” (S1E5), our fellowship sets up a meeting on a dodgy planet to take part in an exchange: one life for another. This place, Freecloud, could have been lifted straight from Star Wars‘ cantina scene, where all sorts of criminals and smugglers and crimelords and aliens mingle in an anarchic power-vacuum region of the galaxy. Fascinating, but I’m not sure it totally sits within the Star Trek universe.

We find out why Raffi, who I’m now very fond of, wanted to leave Picard’s crew and go her own way when the team reached Freecloud. Just like Picard in the previous episode, she has a very weighty personal matter to resolve, a matter that has been hanging over her for years. Unfortunately, whilst Michelle Hurd’s (Raffi) acting more-or-less convinced, that of her counterpart in this scene distinctly did not (Gabe, Mason Gooding). Very disappointing. A big moment with a character I’ve come to care about, and yet I did not care much. Once again, Picard rushes and resolves an issue within the space of a scene or two. The writers do realise that this model, let’s call it the “Game of Thrones Season 8 Model”, is not a fan favourite, right?

This episode was full of zany comedy, including Rios dressed as a kind of intergalactic pimp, Jean Luc Picard putting on the most unbelievable French accent since Ewan McGregor in Beauty and the Beast, and Picard’s manservant-cum-bodyguard-cum-protégé establishing himself as the series’ light relief rather than broody angst merchant (as he appeared in the last episode) — and he seems to be acquiring an increasingly strong Antipodean accent as time goes on (think: the reverse of Deanna Troy in Star Trek: TNG). The writers and actors really pushed the boundaries of tone and good sense here, and they just stayed onside. The result? Back of the net! I loved it. I just hope they don’t camp it up too much; Picard has established itself as tonally distinct from some of the other, campier entries in the Star Trek canon, and it would be a shame to backslide from that or, worse, become tonally confused.

There’s a huge moment towards the end where one of our fellowship unexpectedly acts horrifically. Big drama to follow from this in future episodes, undoubtedly. I’m also starting to notice a pattern more generally: those who have served Star Fleet either get burnt out, go mad, or become numb in order to maintain their commission. The campy, intergalactic comedy romp belied this much darker core.

A lot happened. Great moments. Wonderful developments of some characters through their actions rather than through talking, as has sometimes characterised this show so far. The lightest and, paradoxically, also the darkest episode, this was an excellent outing and without a doubt the most entertaining so far.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.dailydot.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/star-trek-picard-episode-5.jpg