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New Escapist Column! On How the Third Season of “The Umbrella Academy” Captures the Pandemic Aesthetic…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the third season of The Umbrella Academy last week, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look back at the show.

The third season of The Umbrella Academy is not about the pandemic, but it stands as an interesting cultural marker of the moment. The show’s production has obviously been impacted by pandemic restrictions, with a lot of shoot on closed sets with a tight cast, and a recurring sense that the show’s world has become empty and withdrawn. While the third season of The Umbrella Academy is not explicitly about the pandemic, it is the rare genre show that manages to translate the experience of the pandemic into a more general mood or tone.

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

New Escapist Video! On the Visual Storytelling of “Better Call Saul”…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the broadcast of the new season of Better Call Saul, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show’s visual storytelling – the way in which it uses images to communicate plot, character and theme.

New Escapist Column! On the Uncanny Valley that “Star Trek: Picard” Occupies Between “Star Trek” and Prestige Television…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The seventh episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the big problems with modern Star Trek has been the extent to which the franchise finds itself caught between the past and the future, between a nostalgic impluse that pulls it back to the plotting that defined the franchise’s long history and something more ambitious that pushes it towards prestige television. The recent shows have never quite managed to square that particular circle, and this problem comes to the fore as Picard tries to delve inside the head of its protagonist.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Moon Knight” Suffers From the Sexlessness of the MCU…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Moon Knight, which is streaming weekly on Disney+. The third episode of the show released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Moon Knight very obviously wants to evoke a particular sort of old-fashioned romantic globe-trotting adventure, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone or even The Mummy. It is arguably part of a recent attempted revival of the subgenre, including Jungle Cruise and Lost City of D. However, the show’s attempts to tap into this sort of classic odd couple romance demonstrates the limits of the weird insistent sexlessness that define so many modern blockbuster stories. Moon Knight manages the seemingly impossible, in that it makes Oscar Isaac seem sexless.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The sixth episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the interesting aspects of the second season of Star Trek: Picard has been the way in which it has been drawing more overtly from classic Star Trek tropes, with the season taking a number of cues from Star Trek: First Contact. However, the season has drawn most overtly from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. What is interesting about this is that the show understands that The Voyage Home isn’t just about time travelers from an imaginary future, but about fugitives from television.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On “Peacemaker” and “MacGruber” as Reckonings with Reagan Era Action Heroes…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent release of MacGruber and Peacemaker, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to reflect on two comedy streaming shows that are very firmly anchored in a very particular nostalgia for a certain kind of eighties Reagan era action hero.

MacGruber and Peacemaker are essentially extended riffs on a very archetypal form of American heroism, a very militaristic and jingoistic expression of heroism. While both shows are reasonably affectionate and surprisingly sympathetic to its subjects, they are also quite aggressive in their desconstruction of this archetype. Both MacGruber and Peacemaker are shows about characters who are deeply unpleasant and incredibly juvenile, in what feels like an interesting interrogation of the action heroes of the era. It’s an interesting angle on this nostalgia, feeling at times like a tempered reflection.

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

 

New Podcast! Scheduled Programming – “Succession (Season 3)”

Scheduled Programming is a podcast looking at modern television. I was thrilled to be invited to join host Baz Greenland for a discussion of the third season of Succession.

Succession is one of the best shows on television at the moment, and it was fun to get to discuss what makes this show about horrible people doing terrible things so compelling, how wonderfully constructed it is, and how it manages to make wealth and excess seem strangely isolating and lonely.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Escapist Review! “Wheel of Time”…

I published a new review at The Escapist today. Wheel of Time is premiering on Amazon on Friday, and I was lucky enough to see the first six episodes.

Publicity around Wheel of Time has mostly focused on comparisons to Game of Thrones. This is reductive, and not just because Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic predates that of G.R.R. Martin. In reality, Wheel of Time often feels like a warm-up for Amazon’s upcoming adaptation of Lord of the Rings. As one might expect, given the source material, Wheel of Time offers a detailed and compelling fantasy world, but the series gets a little bit too preoccupied with setting all of its balls in motion rather than engaging with the story that it is telling.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” as a Romantic Comedy…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. With Venom: Let There Be Carnage releasing in Irish cinemas this weekend, it seemed like as good an opportunity as any to take a look at the film.

Like its predecessor, Let There Be Carnage isn’t really a functional superhero movie, at least in the sense that modern audiences understand the genre. It’s lumpy, it’s irrational, it’s more interested in immediate thrills than world building. However, despite this, Let There Be Carnage is a surprisingly effective romantic comedy. It’s built around many of the same conventions and adheres to many of the same beats, telling a heart-warming story of an alien symbiote and its parasite.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Ted Lasso” and How We Watch (and Discuss) Television…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. With the end of the second season of Ted Lasso, and with the ongoing discussion around the show, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the evolving conversation around the series.

The discussion around Ted Lasso has followed an interesting arc. It premiered to lukewarm reviews, that seemed almost grudgingly positive. However, the first season seemed to find its audience in hindsight. Once it was completed, the season drew both serious consideration and enthusiastic praise from a variety of outlets. Many viewers came to the first season as a complete object, a collection of episodes that they could binge at their own pace. In contrast, this growing audience watched the second season week-on-week. It’s interesting to wonder if this shaped the more divisive response to the second season.

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