This was one of those shows I came into late through social media. Between people tweeting their love and pretty tumblr pictures it was hard to ignore for long. Pretty? That was unquestionable. Good though? The History Channel was putting it on so I was worried it was going to be some kind of history-ish half drama half teachy. Nope. It is an all out drama. Thank god.
What I like about Vikings is that it is an explorers narrative but also is a look at Viking culture. What it does that doesn’t always translate on tv well is depict a living religion from history in a way that it makes sense for the characters and the community. I think the only other show I’ve seen do similar is HBOs Rome. The scope of the show is both micro and macro in that it revolves around one family, but the context is within the framework of Viking expansion and growing influence as explorers. It also does a great job at showing early egalitarianism in Viking culture that shows the early seeds of a superior egalitarian society in the region today. Shield maidens FTW!
Side note: Everyone is starting to copy the braided hairstyles shown on Vikings. Newsflash: Current Vikings are still wearing that style. It never went away.
Next up…Orphan Black
Ok, so it is a little late, but I’ve been without internet and moving apartments and a slew of other boring things. What isn’t so boring is tv lately. There are three shows that have topped my list this spring. I’ll talk about my favorite first.
I was fairly skeptical about this show. I loved the original Psycho, but I didn’t really see a series out of it. A prequel even less. A prequel set in modern times… let’s just say I was doubtful to the point I forgot about it after the initial production news came out.
After it came out I kept hearing good buzz about it and then I discovered Vera Farmiga (national treasure of whatever country she’s from) was headlining it and the sell was much easier. It was available by episode on Amazon and my sister willingly was talked into buying some episodes.
I have a particularly warped sense of humor so I find this unsettling and tense show delicious. It is particularly delicious because like the movie the villain is the “hero” in that you related to them at times and are terrified of them at times. Norma and Norman move into a weird town, buy the motel, and even with all of their family glitches manage to be compelling, witty, sympathetic, scary, unnerving, and badass. It is an accomplishment that even during a heartwarming scene between two characters you hope no one turns their back because the mood can flip on a dime and there are lots of objects around that are good for bludgeoning
It was brilliant to have them move into a town with its own set of oddities. They have outside adversity as well as inside just in the dynamic between Norma and Norman and you watch them struggle to be even their version of normal and good. I mentioned Vera is fantastic as Norma with her freak outs and flustered determination to make her family work and her dry wit. If she doesn’t get nominations and/or all the awards this year I don’t know what’s wrong with the world.
With such a strong Norma they had to get someone strong for Norman or he’d be overshadowed. As personality dominance is a Psycho thing this couldn’t be ignored. The kid they got, Freddie Highmore, has the chin acting down for the role and his “Mother” is perfect. There is not a whiff of CW about him even though he does have his own high school storyline going on. There are other teens in this show but it isn’t annoying in other words. In fact I look at their scenes and wish more actual Teen Shows would be like this.
Bates Motel manages to open up the Psycho universe to a larger scope and does it very well. This is my favorite new show this year.
Next up… Vikings!
1. Before: Revenge
A couple months ago I went on a tv binge of Revenge season one. I had ignored much of the hype while it was on, but a lot of people were talking about it and eventually I got worn down. I was going through a period of stress and nothing like giant info dumps or tv marathoning to get me out of a funk. So I watched and I loved the campy, revengy, vaguely k-drama-ish show. It seemed like they knew where they were going…all the way up to the last half of the last episode when it was like they thought, “We got renewed so we need to throw wrenches everywhere!” But I still trusted them. They plotted a season long story. Surely the could do another season.
Nope. This show fell off the cliff for me. Nolan is my only reason to keep watching and they are messing with him even. The plot is convoluted. I want things to go back to being a tight, revengy story, but they added characters and their stories and lost focus. Weeks ago I thought they would settle things down and get into a groove, but that has yet to happen.
2. Now: Revolution
This show started off slow for me. Or rather the pilot was great and then it meandered on this “have to find my brother” quest that really wasn’t a good way to start a show off. It made the least compelling character (the annoyingly golden haired, golden skinned, golden clothed girl Charlie…seriously, her coloring screams jaundice to me) the one more or less in charge of the show. The most interesting character (Miles Matheson) was stuck being the grumpy tag-a-long who has to take the brunt of her constant speeches, admonitions, and stupid plans. Bleh.
Fortunately as we got closer to the winter break more and more of each episode got better. Meaning = Less Charlie! Less Charlie and more of the adults who were the most compelling anyway. In the last episode before the break all of the interesting adults were together and I finally got to see how good this show could be. Will they realize they struck gold or will they go back to Charlie’s annoying adventures? I think that’s what the success of the show will hinge on. Getting the most compelling actors together on screen.
3. What’s to Come: The Following
Everybody’s seen the advertising for FOX’s new show The Following which comes out in January. Not everybody has read the script though. This girl has. And I can say with no reservation that out of all the pilots that have come out this season The Following is the tightest. If is shows anywhere near as well as it did on the page it will be a hit. I’m a little apprehensive of it being on FOX. It’s good enough to be on a proper cable channel. There’s two scenes in particular that make me wonder what the mainstream audience will make of it. It is more Luther than Criminal Minds for example. I love Luther so I’ll love this, but for the average American I wonder how much good TV they are capable of enjoying. FOX is giving it the best shot they can. The promos look excellent. The cast is great. Will the audience be there? Don’t fail me, America.