The Leftovers – Season Two
In my review of season one, I mentioned that part of what makes The Leftovers so unique and special is that the show takes place in this amazingly interesting, mysterious world, yet the writers aren’t afraid to make the characters the focus over the concept. That’s something that Lost played around with, to mixed results. It’s definitely cool how the world is built over time in The Leftovers, with new twists taking place while the characters are going about their lives. Season one also ended after a very tense scene. It was hard to know where the characters would go from here, with Laurie seemingly discarding The Guilty Remnant for sake of saving her daughter, and Kevin, Nora, and Jill reuniting at the end.
Well, I can confidently say that season two didn’t open in any way that I possibly could have expected. Mild spoilers for season two, but an entirely new town and characters are introduced in the season premiere, and the town of Jarden/Miracle takes the center stage of season two. It felt like a completely new show. The Leftovers was no longer solely focused on our main characters any longer, but gave significant screentime to this new family, the Murphys. Miracle itself also became somewhat of a character in its own right, and a great deal of time was spent building the mythos of this sacred place, its inhabitants, and how they’re both perceived to the outside world. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it at first. It felt like such a huge departure from the first season, what with an entirely new family, new location, and even new opening credits. I loved the first season for its simple focus on such a complicated concept, and season two expanded that focus by quite a bit.
While I never developed quite the same attachment to the Murphys as I did the Garveys, the town was fascinating, and the writers found ways of keeping on all the old characters without it feeling contrived. Christoper Eccleston continued to be the heart and soul of the show — I don’t know how that man failed to garner an Emmy nomination for his performance as Matt. The acting and writing, in general, continued to be top-notch, even if the actual finale was a bit underwhelming. Kevin’s story throughout also got a bit up its own ass, but it was still fun to watch. I’m curious to see where season three goes from here.
Vice Principals – Season One
Vice Principals is a weird ass show. I’m a big Danny McBride fan — an even bigger Walton Goggins fan — and I also loved Eastbound and Down, so Vice Principals has been on my “must watch” list for quite some time. While I was anticipating something similar to Eastbound and Down, with McBride playing a bit of a loveable blowhard, I was surprised with just how much heart Vice Principals injected into its concept.
The show begins with Neal Gamby (McBride) and Lee Russell (Goggins) as Vice Principals at a high school. Russell is the cool suck up, Gamby is the deliverer of punishments. They hate each other. The current principal retires, leaving a power vacuum. But instead of one of them getting the gig, a new principal is brought in, Dr. Brown. She’s a no-nonsense African-American hardass aka the exact opposite of our two “protagonists.” There’s the whole “enemy of my enemy” thing, and they decide to team up to bring her down.
The show is insane. Gamby and Russell outdo themselves almost every episode with the messed up stuff they’re willing to do to bring down Dr. Brown. Plus there’s the whole subplot that they still don’t totally like or trust one another, despite their burgeoning friendship. Goggins definitely gets the short end of the stick from a character development perspective, as McBride’s character is the main focus and events are typically seen through his eyes. He’s definitely the more likable of the two, but Goggins brings that whole effeminate, southern schtick that he’s so brilliant at portraying.
If you’re a fan of McBride’s style of crass humor, you’ll enjoy Vice Principals. It’s not something I’d consider appointment television, but since there are only two seasons, it’s an easy thing to marathon.
Star Wars: Han Solo
The new canon Star Wars comics have been a bit hit or miss for me over the past few years, with the monthly ongoings typically bringing better stories than the little mini-series, such as Lando, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia. Of course, it’s always fun to live in the Star Wars universe — even for a mere six issues — but I have higher expectations after the great last few years of Dark Horse comics we were gifted before Marvel took over. Even with those slight reservations, I was very excited to dive into the Han Solo mini-series. But while I had a fun ride reading through this little inessential story, there’s not much there that I’d consider “fresh.”
The basic concept is that after A New Hope and the destruction of the first Death Star, Leia hires Han to help out with a very secret mission. He’s brought on to rescue a few undercover agents scattered across multiple planets. The cover for this mission is, you guessed it, a space race. Han and Chewy board the Millenium Falcon and head off. Of course, things become more complicated as Han meets the other racers, the Empire gets involved, and one of the undercover agents is outed as a traitor. If this is all sounding kind of generic, that’s because it is.
Like I said, it’s not a bad read, and things move at an extremely rapid pace, but there just isn’t anything special about this story. The bad guy is telegraphed from a mile away, as is the “twist” ending. Considering you can try out a new Image trade for a mere $10 while Marvel wants to charge an insane $17 for this five-issue read, it’s hard to completely recommend this. But if you’re a Star Wars diehard and need to kill an hour with a fun space race adventure, there are worse ways to spend your money.
Silicon Valley – Season Four
Season four of Silicon Valley acted a bit as a reset for the show, which I think was smart. In my review of season three, I mentioned the quick pace the show was taking in terms of its plot structure, and how that might have led to the show running out of story room. Now, with the guys no longer beholden to some investor conglomerate and in charge of their own fate, it was easier to expand that runway, since there were several new types of obstacles and interesting ways to bring back side characters. I was really looking forward to TJ Miller’s character taking a larger role in the company this season. He’s mostly been relegated to fun but inessential side stories the past two seasons.
On the negative side of things, I think I’m now firmly in the “I don’t like Richard” camp. Some of his actions in this season were completely reprehensible. To be fair, this is a comedy — and one that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of believability. It isn’t something that’s ruining the show for me by any means, but given that he’s the primary protagonist of the show, I wish he was just a little more likable. That’s nothing against Thomas Middleditch, who successfully plays that dichotomous character. It’s more a warning to the writers that Richard is bordering on villain territory.
I like that things are not all well with the guys. It gives an air of drama that the show hasn’t really played with up until this point. I’m also glad that Gavin seems to be completely back in the fold. I don’t think the writers really knew what to do with him the last few seasons, which is why they staved off his exit from Hooli for as long as possible and then kind of dropped him from the show for a while once he did leave the company. He’s an interesting wild card of a character, and I’m excited to see the show get a bit back to its roots with Pied Piper taking on Hooli yet again. Only this time, Gavin has some more respect for Richard, which should make things interesting. It’s hard to count the Pier Piper crew as true underdogs now, with all the success they’ve had. Though to be fair, the vast majority of that success has been short-lived or related to sheer luck…
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and be sure to check out my other Quickie Reviews!