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Millennium – Goodbye Charlie (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Goodbye Charlie is an interesting oddity at this point in the season. It is the closest thing that the show has done to an old-fashioned “serial killer” story in quite some time, while still remaining quite unique and bizarre. It is a story about a man who may (or may not) be a serial killer, opening with shots of that (possible) killer serenading his victims with a dodgy karaoke version of the already dodgy Seasons in the Sun. It is memorable and striking, a strange hybrid of familiar trappings and completely bonkers absurdity.

There are points where Goodbye Charlie does not work. There are moments when the script seems a little too knowing or a little too heavy-handed. However, there moments are generally fleeting. When Goodbye Charlie falters, it is only a slight misstep; there is never a sense that it might implode in the same way that Sense and Antisense or A Single Blade of Grass threaten to collapse in on themselves. More than that, as with a lot of the bumps in the road during the second season, the show is generally ambitious and energetic enough that it’s hard not to get drawn in despite the flaws.

Sing with me now...

Sing with me now…

There are two elements of Goodbye Charlie that really sell it. The first is Richard Whiteley’s script. It is perhaps a little stilted in places – most notably in the way that it awkwardly plays up the ambiguity around the case by having Frank and Lara repeatedly draw attention to the ambiguity around the case – but it is clever, fast and witty. The episode also benefits from the casting of Tucker Smallwood as Steven Kiley, who turns in one of the best one-shot guest appearances of the season as a character who might be an altruistic helper or a manipulative sociopath.

Goodbye Charlie is perhaps a little too uneven to count among the very best of the season, but it is a fascinating little episode. It is also perhaps an indication of how profoundly the show has changed over this half-season that Goodbye Charlie manages to feel like one of the more conventional episodes of the year.

Nuts to that...

Nuts to that…

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Non-Review Review: Whiplash

The joy of Whiplash is in how the film subverts so many of the conventions of the “unconventional teacher pushes promising young student” subgenre. A one-sentence plot summary for the film suggest an inspirational and life-affirming tale. Andrew heads to a prestigious music school to hone his skills on the drums, and encounters an obnoxious and confrontational teacher who pushed him to his limits. One can already hear the applause, see the inevitable hug, feel the radiating mutual respect.

Whiplash carefully and meticulously subverts these expectations, avoiding many of the familiar plot beats that one might expect from a story like this. There’s a raw, gruelling honesty to the story – Whiplash is not a story calibrated or tailored to make the audience feel particularly comfortable or happy. Indeed, it addresses its central themes with a refreshing candidness. It asks some very tough questions about honing talent and the responsibilities of a teacher. It doesn’t offer any easy answers.

Anchored in two compelling central performances and a beautiful soundtrack, Whiplash builds to a beautifully cathartic climax, one that refuses to wrap too tight a bow around an intriguing little film.

Stick around...

Stick around…

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