Daredevil – Season Two
It’s easy to see Jessica Jones’ flaws after watching Daredevil season two. In Jessica Jones, the entire season was focused around getting Kilgrave. There was only one story, and really only one main character that mattered in any significant way. In Daredevil, there’s Daredevil’s back and forth with Punisher, Karen’s search for the truth, the underlying threat of The Hand and their magic, the hidden machinations of Wilson Fisk, the breakup of Nelson and Murdock, Daredevil teaming up with Elektra against The Hand, Elektra’s confrontation with Stick, and the new enemy in The Blacksmith. That’s a lot going on, and it offers the writers an opportunity to constantly change focus on the show. Whenever one storyline grows stale or reaches a pause, there’s something else to take its place. That’s why Jessica Jones felt so boring; the entire season was one fluctuating arc. They were either chasing Kilgrave or interrogating Kilgrave. I mean come on, they captured the dude like four times and could never figure out if they wanted to keep him alive or kill him. It was lame. But enough about Jessica Jones’ shortcomings, let’s discuss the completely amazing second season of Daredevil.
To be honest, I felt that it started a little slowly for my tastes. People were already freaking out about Punisher when I started watching, so my expectations were understandably high. I thought the character was definitely badass in the first few episodes, but there wasn’t much depth there. But boy, did that sure open up later in the season. I also wasn’t a huge fan of Foggy or Karen in season one. Foggy was a little too over the top for the grounded nature of the show, and Karen felt kind of unnecessary. Thankfully, season two used both characters in much better ways. Foggy’s impact on the show became smaller, and while the fight between Nelson and Murdock got a little old towards the end, it helped set up their relationship for season three. Karen put on her detective shoes, taking Ben Urich’s place, and it gave her a much more interesting storyline. I found the relationship between her and Murdock kind of forced, but the complexity later in the season was worth the initial investment.
I’m still not completely sold on Charlie Cox as Daredevil. He’s awesome when it comes to the subdued nature of the character, and he nails the action sequences (however much of them he actually performs), but the few instances of Matt becoming overtly emotional felt weak to me. It’s a small gripe, but with a character as nuanced as Daredevil, I’d like to be able to expect more. As I stated earlier, even with so many story threads floating around, the show never felt pulled in too many directions. Daredevil’s dynamics with Elektra and Punisher were constantly changing in interesting ways, the secondary characters were given storylines that better fit their place on the show, and season two served as a tremendous building ground for the all but guaranteed season three. The writers learned from their few mistakes in season one, and they’ve succeeded in making Daredevil one of the best Netflix shows out there, and certainly the superhero show to beat.
The Order: 1886
There was a lot of mixed feelings for this game in the period between announcement and launch, with myself included. The reveal trailer was really awesome; it made the game seem like a mixture of horror, sci fi, and a throwback time period, all behind shooter trappings. But then, once press started to play bits and pieces of the game, the messaging changed. The game still looked beautiful, but the gameplay felt repetitive and beyond the few made-up weapons, everything was pretty standard fare for a third person shooter. But hey, without seeing all of the game, maybe the story goes in an interesting direction and maybe the gameplay loop gets mixed up at some point? Sadly, the answer to all of those questions is “no.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like The Order is a terrible game, it’s just an immensely disappointing one, given the premise and original promise behind the trailer. The game is extremely short, with absolutely zero reason to replay it. The shooting mechanics are fine. They aren’t very inspired, and things definitely get repetitive towards the end of the six hour campaign, but the guns feel good to shoot and there are some fun weapons throw in there, though you don’t get to use them often enough. The characters don’t really stand out either, which is due in part to the lackluster story. There’s a great world and concept hidden in this game, but it isn’t presented or explored in a very good way. Some aspects of the story are confusing or boring, and the ending is sequel bait at its worst, especially considering we may never even get a sequel. And the werewolves highlighted so much in the trailers and marketing? They play a very small part in the actual gameplay, and when they do, things devolve into a quick time event.
My last point is about the graphics. Sure, the game looks beautiful, and mostly runs at a solid frame rate, but half of the screen is covered by black bars. The pitch by the developers was that they make the game “more cinematic,” but it’s all too obvious that this was done in order to help increase the visual fidelity. It’s such a shame that The Order turned out the way it did, but so much in this industry is down to execution. You can have the coolest idea ever for a video game, but if it’s too short, too confusing, too uninteresting, and too repetitive, it’ll only be remembered as a bad game.
I remember watching the trailer for Everest and thinking it looked like a relatively generic ice climbing movie, albeit one based on a true story and with a great cast. Well, my wife and I were bored one night and Room was sold out at the Redbox, so we picked up Everest instead. It didn’t end up having many surprises in store, but knowing that these events really happened (at least mostly) added a weight to everything that made the movie much more engrossing.
The setup is pretty basic, and sticks true to most mountain climbing movies that you’ve seen. The central character is the lead climber, and he’s bringing a group along made up of people with different levels of climbing experience. There’s the rich cocky guy with relatively little experience, the guy who’s back to try it again after failing the last time, the woman who’s climbed every other peak in the world, etc. All of the boxes are checked, and it seems crazy that these people really did exist. The group begins making the ascent, of course impeded by a rival climbing team trying to make it up first, until bad weather approaches, storm of the century style. Things quickly go downhill from there (pun most definitely intended). When the credits roll, most of the crew has died up in the mountain, and I’m left wondering why anyone would ever try something like that, ever. I certainly don’t mean to belittle the horrific things some of the people faced thousands of feet above sea level, but I’m also analyzing this as a movie. And as a movie, I found it somewhat lacking. I respect the want to stay true to the real life events, but there’s nothing special about Everest. If it wasn’t for the “true story” bent, it would be a completely generic mountain climbing movie. But, it was at least well acted and shot.
Game of Thrones – Season Four
Season four of Game of Thrones was a transitional one for the show. It marked what is likely the mid-point for the series, and began some significant departures from the book. It won’t be until season six that the show completely diverges from the text, but several large moments didn’t exist in the books, and vice versa. Now, I won’t be comparing the two for the purpose of review, but it’s important to notice the marked change in storytelling, a desire for the writers and showrunners to embark on their own version of Westeros and beyond. So, let’s talk about season four.
The first time I saw it, I found the season to be lacking when compared to what came before it. There didn’t seem to be as much of a through-line as before, with several characters stuck in place instead of moving forwards. Dany spent much of the season sitting on the throne of Meereen, and Tyrion spent much of the season behind bars. While that halted some of the storytelling, it allowed focus to be given to other characters. Bran got some limelight and finally made it north of The Wall, and I can’t wait to see what he’s been up to when season six hits. Jon went through some significant changes, and though Stannis and Davos took a backseat after their routing at King’s Landing, they turned the tide in a significant way at the end of the season. Arya and the Hound became everyone’s new favorite odd-couple, with Brienne and Podrick close behind.
Though some of the pacing was uneven, particularly with Dany, Theon, and Sansa, there were plenty of highlights to note. Brienne’s fight with The Hound, Tyrion’s trial and later confrontation with Shae and Tywin, Arya and The Hound trying to get some chicken, Joffrey’s wedding (or The Purple Wedding, as it’s been called), and perhaps most notably, the penultimate episode focusing on the fight between The Night’s Watch and The Wildlings. Game of Thrones will occasionally center an entire episode around one event, as they did back in season two with the Battle of the Blackwater, and it works just as effectively here. Several main characters are in for some major changes going into season five. It’s never boring being a fan of Game of Thrones.