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The X-Files – Dæmonicus (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

Dæmonicus is the first “monster of the week” episode of the ninth season.

This is important, particularly following on from two particularly limp introductory mythology episodes. After all, The X-Files amounts to more than just its mythology; problems with the mythology are less of a problem when they are surrounded by strong standalone episodes. Tunguska and Terma arrived as messy mythology episodes at the peak of the show’s popularity, but nobody was too bothered because they were surrounded by standalone episodes like Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man or Paper Hearts.

The devil inside...

The devil inside…

So the show can probably withstand the hit of Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II. After all, the third season opened with The Blessing Way and the fifth season opened with Redux I, with both of those seasons standing among the best seasons that the show ever produced. (That said, it helps that the second episodes of those seasons – Paper Clip and Redux II – were much stronger.) There is still a chance to salvage things here. The ninth season is down, but don’t count it out yet.

Dæmonicus could really turn things around, right?

Well, that's just cheating.

Well, that’s just cheating.

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Millennium – The Thin White Line (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

The Thin White Line is the final script from James Wong and Glen Morgan for this season of Millennium, following closely after Never Again, their final script (ever) for The X-Files.

Indeed, there is considerable overlap between the two stories – at least thematically. Both are episodes about destructive cycles. In Never Again, Scully faces the very real possibility that she is now trapped with Mulder; that her life outside the X-files is over. In The Thin White Line, Frank Black contemplates the idea that people are trapped in perpetual cycles of violence and abuse; that the world resembles the ouroboros featured so prominently in the opening credits, a snake constantly eating its own tail.

Frank discharge...

Frank discharge…

Never Again is relentlessly cynical. The closing image suggests that nothing will change, that something is broken than cannot be fixed. Important statements hang in the air, unresolved. The Thin White Line is perhaps slightly optimistic. Both Frank Black and Bob Bletcher try in their own way to end cycles of violence and recrimination. While Bob Bletcher responds with brutal cynicism and more violence, Frank Black responds with compassion and humanity. There is a sense of cynicism to The Thin White Line, but there is also some hope.

The Thin White Line is a stand out piece of work, a fantastic illustration of what Millennium can do when it sets its mind to it. Like Force Majeure before it, The Thin White Line suggests that Millennium has very clearly and definitely figured out its own voice. It is no wonder that both episodes come from future showrunners.

Cutting retort...

Cutting retort…

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Non-Review Review: The Call

The Call is one-half knock-off of the underseen and underrated Cellular, a delightfully pulpy high-concept thriller which perhaps felt a little bit too similar to Phone Booth. The Call is also one-half knock-off of Silence of the Lambs, with the second half of the film in particular feeling like one of those psycho killer thrillers that were oh-so-popular in the mid- to late-nineties, but which became less popular in the post-CSI era. The Call has a delightfully ropey central premise, a high-concept for the mobile age, straining all manner of credibility and suspension of disbelief.

However, the problem lies in the execution. The Call wallows in heightened melodrama, struggling to sustain its central premise by trying to make us “feel” for the central characters in the most coy and manipulative of manners. Director Brad Anderson’s intrusive style doesn’t help matters too, seemingly unsure whether he’s making an action movie, a psychological horror or a high-concept thriller, and so instead tries to mash the three genres together with limited success.

Holding the line...

Holding the line…

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Hannibal – Savoureux (Review)

That was one impressive first season. Hannibal has developed from something that seemed like an idle curiosity – a police procedural based around the over-used cannibalistic serial killer? – into one of the best new American dramas of the past season. I suspect a lot of that is down to the decision to structure the season across thirteen episodes, instead of a larger (more traditional) network structure of twenty-or-more. To be fair, there were a few missteps early in the first season as Hannibal tried to balance the expectations of a procedural drama with the demands of an intimate character study, but it found its feet almost half-way through the season and it has never looked back.

Hannibal has been tightly plotted and cleverly constructed from around about Coquilles, and it’s remarkably how the show has found a way to weave its “serial killers of the week” into the over-arching plot. For example, Georgia from Buffet Froid winds up being a vital piece of Hannibal’s plot to incriminate Will. The clock that the sinister psychiatrist asked Will to draw in that episode is used to generate some exquisite tension here. Everything seems to have been building towards this point, and Bryan Fuller has done a simply tremendous job constructing a thirteen-episode Rube Goldberg machine that pays off beautifully.

Portrait of the killer?

Portrait of the killer?

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Hannibal – Relevés (Review)

For a show about a serial killer and the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit, Hannibal is often surprisingly deep. That’s not much of a surprise, given the quality of the staff working on it, but the show is absolutely stunning meditation on identity and personality. In a way, that’s one of the smartest things about Fuller’s first thirteen episode season, building on the foundations set by Thomas Harris to construct something that fits quite elegantly while remaining its own distinct entity.

Relevés is the penultimate episode of the first season, and the point where – having used Roti to clear away some of the clutter – the show starts tying up a lot of those loose ends. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the episode is the amount of suspense that Bryan Fuller and his staff can wring from the set-up – despite the fact that we know how this story ends, Hannibal manages to engage us so completely in the telling that what we already know seems almost irrelevant.

Things are heating up...

Things are heating up…

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Hannibal – Roti (Review)

Roti is the point where Hannibal really starts to gear up for its finalé. The decision to thematically name each of the first season’s episodes after a part of a meal seems oddly appropriate, as the whole season can be seen as a banquet, each of the courses painstakingly prepared to ensure a rich bouquet of flavour and a pleasing array of tastes. Each course is individual, and yet it remains part of the whole. It’s all one gigantic and enjoyable experience, just broken down into sweet digestible chunks. Each serves a clear purpose, like a chapter in a book, or a course in a meal.

Roti features the return of Abel Gideon, the show’s obvious homage to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Doctor Hannibal Lecter. It also positions Will precisely where he needs to be for the first season’s rapidly-approaching climax.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

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Hannibal – Buffet Froid (Review)

Buffet Froid is the most strikingly horrific episode of Hannibal to date. Of course, the show is very much a horror story and enjoys its fair share of grotesque imagery. This is the series, after all, that gave us the makeshift angels, the do-it-yourself cello and the human totem poll. However, Buffet Froid plays most obviously on the imagery and iconography of horror. This is the episode where people have no faces and skin comes off at the slightest touch and the serial killer is waiting for you under your bed.

As you might imagine for a show with such complete control of its own atmosphere, Buffet Froid works very well indeed – providing what might be the most horrific episode of the show to date.

The doctor will see you now...

The doctor will see you now…

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