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HANNIBAL Episode Recap: “Potage”

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I can’t remember the last time I’ve so emphatically recommended a network drama.  Hannibal, a mere three episodes in, is already heads and shoulders above, say, The Following, not just because of its writing and acting, but its style.  Few people can put a visual stamp on things like Bryan Fuller, and while Hannibal and Will inhabit their own distinct spaces and looks, it’s the loathsome Freddie Lounds who really embodies that slightly cartoony / candy-colored world that Fuller built in Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies.  In Hannibal it’s more muted, but the time-lapsed establishing shots and vivid staging (the chat in the hospital’s greenhouse, or in the bright fall leaves behind the Hobbs’ house) still keep things from looking like a rote procedural.  So does the advent of Abigail Hobbs.  Hit the jump for why you should never threaten someone who thinks about murder all day (like kittens) … READ MORE

THE AMERICANS Episode Recap: “Covert War”

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The Americans has its flaws, but the one thing it gets really right — and that it dedicated almost all of “Covert War” to — is its bleak deconstruction of marriage.  The Americans has always been dour, and it’s not a show I ever get excited about watching.  But once I’m in the show’s world, I’m interested to see how things play out.  “Covert War,” though, highlighted some of the best things about The Americans, and in the process, made everyone feel like crap.  Hit the jump for why “I only have fear … and you.” … READ MORE

BATES MOTEL Recap: “Ocean View”

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I have to admit, I was having my doubts about Bates Motel, but “Ocean View” really turned things around.  The town’s tangled web of fear and intimidation is starting to have its trickled-down repercussions for our main characters, and is setting up some interesting twists.  One of the biggest questions was answered, too: can we believe what Norman sees?  After the hallucination about his mother that lead him to Shelby’s hose, it’s been confusing whether what Norman sees is real or not.  But in “Ocean View” it seems that, thanks to some corroboration from other characters, unless otherwise notified, Norman’s experiences are real.  Which, in one case, is fairly terrifying. Hit the jump for why you should always ask yourself, “if I had an Asian sex slave, where would I keep her?” … READ MORE

DEFIANCE Preview; New Syfy Series Is Also a $100 Million Joint Gaming Venture

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There have been many attempts to marry the TV and gaming worlds with interactive features that encourage viewers to immerse fully in a fantasy universe.  Most don’t take.  But the Syfy channel and game developer Trion Worlds are betting big — like a reported $100 million big — that their collaboration of science fiction TV show and first person shooter MMO will turn out to be a hit.

Defiance is set a mere 33 years in the future, where humans now live side by side with a number of alien races.  The world looks exceptionally different than it does now, with alien technology augmenting our science, and something called the “Pale Wars” destroying much of the planet.  St. Louis, it turns out, is one of the only refuges of civilization left, but those within its gated walls still have plenty to fear.  Hit the jump for more on this new series, and whether it’s worth a watch. … READ MORE

MAD MEN Recap: “Collaborators”

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Has everyone recovered from the Mad Men premiere?  So many mixed emotions this week about that double-dose first episode this season — some great moments, but a dark way to open the new season.  This week though, “Collaborators” settled back down into the show we maybe expect it to be.  We actually spent some time in the Sterling Cooper Draper (Pryce?) offices, and were treated therein to a Reverse Don effect.  There was still plenty of Don staring off into the past and into keyholes (Jon Hammdirected this episode and did an admirable job) and lots of questions about the future, but we also got a healthy dose of office politics and another comparison of Pete’s life versus Don’s.  Hit the jump for why “if you come within 50 feet of this house and so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you.” … READ MORE

GAME OF THRONES Recap: “Walk of Punishment”

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By the light of R’hllor, what a fantastic hour of television — this is Game of Thrones at its best.  So many scenes this week were quietly indicative of character.  We didn’t need to rely on sexposition or chatter to get at the heart of things: a simple dragging of a chair spoke volumes.  Even though the show jumped around again this week and visited almost everyone (giving some, like Jon and Stannis, only a few moments of time), it still felt laid-back, accessible, and not frantic in its pacing.  Time spent at Riverrun and King’s Landing and even in the woods with Brienne and Jaime was slow and thoughtful, and did a lot in the way of character building.  Hit the jump for why horse-part crop circles are all the rage north of the Wall. … READ MORE

DA VINCI’S DEMONS Preview; David S. Goyer Puts A Modern Spin On An Old Master

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Something about Da Vinci’s Demons, a new 8-part Starz miniseries, felt very familiar as I was watching its first two episodes.  The handsome, fit young man, the flowing blouse (chest always exposed), the leather “tunic” that really just looks like a regular modern leather jacket, a portrait of a genius as a young, lusty rogue — yes, I’ve got it: it’s Shakespeare In Love!  Tom Riley, as Leonardo da Vinci, is particularly reminiscent of Joseph Fiennes in his portrayal of a young and lusty William Shakespeare, and it’s neither a wholly good or wholly bad thing.  Hit the jump for my preview of this upcoming drama (which is worth a watch) and why, as it says, “history is a lie.” … READ MORE

HANNIBAL Episode Recap: “Amuse Bouche”

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A fellow TV critic said of Hannibal, “NBC doesn’t know what it has with this show.”  He’s absolutely right.  Though it has some of the trappings of a procedural (a case of the week, a familiar make up of quirky forensic detectives, a kind of “you can’t handle the truth!” refrain), Hannibal is elevated by three things.  It’s incredibly stylish (but not cartoonishly so, as CSI: Miami could be), it has two great leads (Mads Mikkelson and Hugh Dancy), and it has a built-in anticipation with the development of Hannibal’s character, because we know where he and Will end up, something that adds a lot of tension to the onscreen proceedings, even when they’re not overt (like that little dinner Hannibal served Jack).  NBC, don’t mess this up.  Hit the jump for more on why you should always inquire about where the loin came from. … READ MORE

THE AMERICANS Recap: “Only You”

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“We’re in a war, even if it’s a secret.  Blood gets spilled.  It’s the way it goes,” Gaad tells Stan this week on The Americans, and how true it is.  But unlike other shows that depict violence, The Americansalways makes it personal.  The show has gone from being a little sterile to being very emotional, all in the same muted tones of the Cold War it depicts, but those smothering feelings, whispers and quiet anguish make it all the more visceral.  A lot of The Americans is built on issues of trust — Elizabeth and Philip need to be trusted by everyone, but they themselves trust no one (not even, sadly, each other; at least, not fully).  Stan lies to his wife and to Nina, but they are also forced to trust him whether they want to or not.  In war there are always sacrifices, and as we experienced this week, martyrdom.  Hit the jump for more about how “we’re not monsters.” … READ MORE

BATES MOTEL Recap: “Trust Me”

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Is everyone on sedatives this week?  All of my regular shows to review seemed to take some sleepy time tea before they aired, and Bates Motel was no exception.  After last episode’s shocking ending, “Trust Me” was a very slow burn.  Before this week things seemed to be headed in a fairly clear direction, even with the inclusion of the “darker” side of town, but now things seem set up in a very strange way for future episodes.  The meandering didn’t seem to lead anywhere except, ultimately, to Norman and Norma’s “secret” finally coming to light (no not that one), but that seems an odd turn to take.  Hit the jump for why “death is profound, isn’t it?” … READ MORE