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New Escapist Column! On “The Last of Us” as a Character-Driven Apocalyptic Narrative…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. To start with, though, a look at the series as a whole.

Although it takes a little while to get going, with its first two episodes largely given over to exposition and worldbuilding, The Last of Us is an incredible accomplishment from HBO. The show is clearly the result of a great deal of care and attention, and a substantial investment from the service. It’s a show that benefits from the best possible talent and from the freedom afforded to that talent, to find a distinct angle on the end of the world. It’s a charming, emotional and deeply moving character study at the end of the world.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Witcher: Blood Origin”, “The Rings of Power”, and the Limits of Fidelity…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this week. With the recent release of The Witcher: Blood Origin on Netflix and the ongoing arguments about the perceived “faithfulness” around The Rings of Power, it seemed like a good time to explore how the quality of a work relates to its alleged faithfulness.

To put it simply, quality and fidelity are completely different metrics. It is entirely possible for a fiathful adaptation of source material to be terrible, for example the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. It’s also possible for an adaptation that has nothing to do with even the tone and genre of the original property, such as 21 Jump Street, to be brilliant. Ultimately, The Witcher: Blood Origin and The Rings of Power are adaptations that fail on their own measure.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the Bad Batch Are the Worst Part of “The Bad Batch”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. With the release of the second season of The Bad Batch, it seemed like a good opportunity to review the series.

The Bad Batch is an interesting series. It is essentially a spin-off from The Clone Wars, but one that rejects the anthology nature of that show for a fixed central cast and a linear series of episodic adventures. This is somewhat frustrating, as it strips the most compelling part of The Clone Wars in favour of a generic riff on The A-Team or Kung Fu. Still, when the show gets out of its own way, The Bad Batch is a surprisingly compelling and thoughtful addition to the Star Wars universe, a meditation on what happens to soldiers at the end of a Forever War.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Witcher: Blood Origin”, and What Happens When Television Becomes a Six-Hour Movie…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this week. With the release of The Witcher: Blood Origin on Netflix, it seemed like a good time to discuss an unsettling trend in modern television: the idea that modern shows are really just super-extended movies, and the consequences of that.

Blood Origin demonstrates what happens when a studio treats a television show like a movie. The series was written and filmed as six episodes, but was horrible cut down in the editting bay. Two whole episodes were stripped out of the show, leaving it incoherent and nonsensical. In many ways, this was exactly what happened with Joss Whedon’s cut of Justice League, which was similarly cut down to have a runtime of under two hours. If television shows are just films now, they are subject to the same sort of meddling.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the HBO Max and the Future of Disappearing Media…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. With the recent chaos at HBO Max and the removal of content from the service, it seemed like a good time to discuss of film and television have suddenly become ephemeral again.

One of the big selling points of the streaming age was that everything would be immediately available to audience members at the click of a mouse; vast libraries of content would be made available to stream via these services, representing a boon for conservationists and archivists everywhere. Nothing would be lost, because everything would be at hand. However, the removal of entire shows from HBO Max illustrates that these projects are as intangible as they have ever been, and that they can removed and even destroyed without any warning whatsoever.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Willow” Gently Plays with Fantasy Tropes…

I am doing weekly reviews of Willow at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the legacy sequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

It is too much to call Willow a deconstruction or a subversion of classic fantasy tropes. Certainly, the show is often a celebration of the trappings of high fantasy, and a much more old-fashioned take on the genre than contemporary shows like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power or House of the Dragon. At the same time, the series is written with an understanding of the tropes and conventions of the genre, and a willingness to play with those ideas in a way that deepens and explores its own themes. Given that this is a show about divorce, Willow eagerly dives into familiar fantasy tropes about blood and lineage.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Andor” as the Most Consistent “Star Wars”…

I am doing weekly reviews of Andor at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the Rogue One prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

Rix Road brings the first season of Andor to an end, closing the cricle by bringing the primary cast back to where it all began. It’s a fascinating and compelling way to close out the season, underscoring how much these characters have changed by bringing them back to their starting position. Rix Road is a breathtaking and impressive season finale to what has been the most consistent run of Star Wars ever produced.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “1899” and the Problems of Abstraction…

I published a new piece at The Escapist over the weekend. Last week saw the release of Netflix’s 1899, a surreal mystery thriller from the creative minds behind Dark.

1899 is an impressive show in many ways, a multilingual series with a diverse cast, that is also the most expensive television show ever made in Germany. It is packed with big ideas, and grapples with heady themes, without ever stopping to apologise for itself or condescend to its audience. There’s undoubtedly something appealing in that. However, there’s a strange coldness to the show, a detachment that makes it very hard to emotionally invest in the series as anything more than an intellectual exercise.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Better Call Saul”, “Andor” and Slow-Burn Classics…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier this week. As Andor winds down its first season, garnering rave reviews but not attracting as strong an audience as its predecessors, comparisons come to mind concerning Better Call Saul, which has quietly become one of the best television shows of the decade despite never reaching the same level of popularity as its predecessor.

What do Better Call Saul and Andor have in common? What is it that makes both shows so compelling, but which also makes them a tougher sell to audiences than what came before? Are they both just out of step with the zeitgeist, reflecting a mode of television production that doesn’t have the same cultural cachet that it once did? And, most importantly, does any of that matter if they are both creative triumphs? It’s interesting to explore and unpack.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The English” as a Love Letter to Sergio Leone…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. This week marks the premiere of The English, a co-production between the BBC and Amazon.

The English is effectively a spaghetti western with a very British sensibility. It is written and directed by Hugo Blick. It stars Emily Blunt, and its supporting cast is populated with British and Irish character actors like Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Rafe Spall and Stephen Rea. However, it is a thoughtful exploration of the genre, and an obvious love letter to the exploitation movies of the sixties and seventies. The show is occasionally a little to reverent to its inspirations, but it is beautifully shot and deeply moving, anchored in two great central performances from Chaske Spencer and Emily Blunt.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.