Criminal Minds Series Review

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Review:

I started watching Criminal Minds on the recommendation of a friend. Despite the fact that I love mysteries and crime dramas, it took a little bit of persuading, because Criminal Minds follows the  FBI’s (real but fictionalized) Behavioral Analysis Unit – profilers – a group that deals frequently with criminals who are the sickest of the sick: serial killers, serial rapists, pedophiles, etc. Quite frankly, I was afraid the show would give me nightmares, and this turned out to be a totally legitimate fear, because it has given me nightmares on multiple occasions and to this day there are certain episodes I can’t rewatch because they’re just too horrible.

Despite this, I ended up really enjoying the show and watched it until partway through the 6th season. I broke up with it rather reluctantly and still sometimes think about going back and picking it up again, but so far have not. I stopped watching because I thought there was a noticeable decline in the quality of the cases starting in season 5 and there started to be too many arcs I didn’t like (spoilers, click to view): fridging Hotch’s wife, for example, and the whole thing with Prentiss.

I remember the show as a whole pretty fondly, however. Most of the cases were interesting and well-written, but what really made the show great was the team dynamics. Though I was never a huge fan of Gideon, I adored the rest of the team. Penelope Garcia, the team’s hacker, is probably my favorite, because she is adorable, but it’s such a tough call, because Prentiss! Morgan! JJ! Reid! Hotch! I love them all so much, and they work so well together as a team that it’s hard to separate them in my head.

One of the things that helped persuade me to give the show a shot despite my apprehension about how well I’d be able to handle the nature of the cases was several excellent meta posts by fans and I wanted to quote a bit from a post by Synecdochic for you, because it’s totally true and also part of what makes even the most nightmarish episodes in this show bearable, at least one time:

For a show that’s about the horrible things that human beings can do to each other, it reinforces — over and over and — that even victims (especially victims) still have agency. The victims who fight are the victims who win. The victims who give up and lie down to die are the ones who don’t make it. One of the most awesome statements that keeps running through the whole show is that even when there are things you can’t control, even when horrible things are being done to you, you do still have power — even if you might have to squint to see it — because the person who’s doing it needs something from his or her victim, and that gives the victim power. Part of what the show is trying to do, I think, is trying to show the watchers that when you only have a little bit of power in a situation, you can still use it. No matter how bad the situation is.

This is an incredibly powerful message, and not just if you happen to get snagged off the street by a serial killer.

A couple other meta posts I recommend were written by the SFF writer Elizabeth Bear, who’s also a fan of the show. This one discusses thematic elements in the show, and this one discusses some of the very interesting things the show did with gender expectations in the early seasons, including its tendency to cast male characters in traditionally “feminine” roles and female characters in traditionally “masculine” ones and then play against type even then. For example:

Mom and Dad. Because if the team is a family (and they are, complete with sibling spats and looking out for little brother) then Mom and Dad are the two senior supervisory agents in charge of the zoo. And again, they are totally cast against type. Because Hotch [Thomas Gibson] is a three-piece-suit and wingtips, marksman-qualified, stern, unsmiling, ambitious piece of work. And Gideon [Mandy Patinkin] is soft-spoken, manipulative, casually dressed in soft colors, with a cluttered office full of pictures of the children he’s helped save.

Gideon is Dad and Hotch is Mom.

Anyway, all three meta posts are thoughtful and interesting and I hope they’ll inspire you to check the show out as much as they did me, because when it was good, it was really good.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Sherlock (BBC) Review

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Review:

Does anyone else just… not get what all the fuss is about?

Seriously, I feel like the entire world LOOOOOVES this show. I wanted to love it, I really did. Unfortunately, it makes me want to tear out my hair.

You see, Sherlock does some stuff so well and then just completely bombs other stuff to the point that I can’t even believe some scenes are written by the same people. Maybe the pod people that were always hijacking Buffy the Vampire Slayer moved to England? But in this case, it’s not even that there are good episodes and bad episodes, like season two of Buffy. Every single episode is a mess of brilliant stuff mixed up with total crap. Too much crap for me – I quit two thirds of the way into season two.

Warning: for some reason, Sherlock brings out the profanity in me. If you don’t appreciate f-bombs, stop reading now.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Review

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Review:

In season four, Buffy went to college, and the show floundered a bit trying to regain its footing after the change in setting and the loss of Angel and Cordelia. It is widely considered the weakest season of the show after season one. The pod people, refreshed from their extended vacation in season three, turned up quite a bit. (To be honest, several episodes had such bad reputations that I never even watched them.) Season four was also hurt by a boring Big Bad.

Another reason many people dislike season four is due to Buffy’s relationship with Riley. I actually kind of like Riley myself (possibly I’m biased due to the Iowa connection), but I nevertheless agree with the fandom at large that he’s a distant third on my list of favorite Buffy boyfriends.

Despite its flaws, the fourth season does contain several outstanding episodes. My favorites include:

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Friday Night Lights Season 2 Review

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Review:

After a practically perfect season one, Friday Night Lights fell apart in its second season. Like most other shows in 2007-2008, it had a shortened, 15 episode season thanks to the Writer’s Strike that gave many shows a weak year.

On top of the problems with pacing faced by most other shows affected by the strike, the FNL writers also made some mystifyingly dumb story choices, most notably the disastrous murder subplot. (In fairness to the writers, some of these poor story choices were reportedly the result of Executive Meddling.) Other storylines from season one were dropped completely. Waverly? Who’s that?

Disappointed, I gave up about halfway into the season and haven’t watched the show again since, although I’m told that the later seasons were closer in quality to the first season than the second, and they are on my to watch list.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 Review

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Review:

To be honest, I’ve only seen some of the episodes from season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wasn’t impressed. The show was a mid-season replacement and it was initially given a tiny budget. With just 12 episodes, it didn’t really have enough time to find its footing and it flailed around with mostly silly plots and absolutely terrible special effects for most of the season. If you want to watch Buffy but don’t want to sit through the whole season, start with these four episodes:

  • 1×01 Welcome to the Hellmouth
  • 1×02 The Harvest
  • 1×07 Angel
  • 1×12 Prophecy Girl

There are occasional callbacks to other season one episodes (especially 1×03 Witch) in the later seasons, but these four are the most important to the show’s overall arc.

My rating:2 Stars (2 / 5)

Supernatural Season 5 Review

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Review:

Despite having mostly lost interest in Supernatural by early season four, I finished out the season and even made it through episode 10 (“Abandon All Hope”) of season 5. I suppose having Ellen and Jo die so pointlessly was the final straw on the camel’s back of my dislike for the Lilith and Lucifer plotlines. ~shrugs~

My rating:2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

The Killing, Season 1 Review

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Review:

This show got off to a really promising start, with great acting and a good premise, but quickly got mired in pointless red herrings and uninteresting personal dramas. Nevertheless, I stuck it out almost until the end, wanting to at least find out who killed Rosie… only to be accidentally spoiled that the killer would NOT be revealed in the season finale. “Screw that,” I said, and never watched another episode.

For anyone who might be intrigued despite this unflattering review, the internet informs me that the killer was finally revealed in the season TWO finale.

My rating: 1 Stars (1 / 5)

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Borgia: Season 1 Review

Review:

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After The Borgias was prematurely cancelled by Showtine, I decided to give this European show (also known as Borgia: Faith and Fear) a try to get my Borgias fix thanks to this intriguing comparison of the two shows by a historian, but found it disappointing.

It was interesting to compare the different choices the two shows made about how to tell the story, but while Borgia did make some choices that I liked a lot (as well as some that were more historically accurate than those made in The Borgias), the acting and characterization killed the show for me and I lost interest midway through the first season.

An international production, Borgia cast actors from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities, and unfortunately the mix of accents made it difficult to suspend disbelief. For example, Rodrigo had an American accent, Cesare had a British accent, Juan had a Spanish accent, and Lucrezia had a German accent. And that was just the Borgia family! Compounding the problem, some of the accents were so thick it was hard to understand what was being said.

In addition to the problems with the accents, some of the actors were simply not very good, and the characterization was sometimes sloppy and inconsistent, and occasionally outright preposterous. In particular, the characterization of Cesare was baffling to me. He came across more like a lunatic than “Il Principe.”

Borgia also had a lot of extremely graphic sex and violence, to an extent that was off-putting for me, and the lower budget forced them to cover some important events by standing around and talking about them rather than actually depicting them. In a rare case where Showtime’s The Borgias was nastier and more graphic than Borgia, the French king’s invasion in The Borgias involved towns being sacked and put to the sword, huge armies on the march, and a bunch of Roman soldiers being sliced in half (literally) by chained cannonballs. In Borgia, the French invasion consisted of about 20 guys running through the streets of Rome with torches.

Though Borgia is worth watching if you’re interested in the family or the period, I think Showtime’s version of The Borgias was both better made and more enjoyable.

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My rating:2 Stars (2 / 5)

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