Saturday, January 9, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (Pt. 3)

Space Opera!! I loves it. It is my favourite kind of science fiction: spaceships, battles, epic plots and ensemble casts. There hasn't been a defining movie for the genre, outside of the Star Wars movies, yet the genre regularly rises up from the dust of Firefly. Unfortunately, most of it is bad bad bad. Sometimes just Canadian bad, but often just bad.

Canadian bad? Yeah, that sub-genre of genre TV made mostly in Canada and starring a regular familiar cast of Canadians and limited budgets. Remember Kevin Sorbo's Andromeda? That was classic bad Canadian scifi, despite its popularity.  More recently there was Dark Matter, a comic book adaptation about a crew of a spaceship that awakens from cryo sleep with no memory. There is the tough chick, the smart chick, the nice guy, the asshole, the exotic guy, etc. etc. etc. Boring boring boring. The ship designs were boring, they set every fucking planet inside an abandoned warehouse and the plots were familiar. I gave it barely two episodes. Maybe it got better? Doubt it.

But then there was Killjoys, which I rather enjoyed but also barely crept above the bad moniker. Killjoys are bounty hunters, licensed by the corporations but standing apart. There is the usual rich planets vs poor planets and a small crew of killjoys as the main characters.

I loved the main cast: Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch, the sexy, grumpy leader of the team, a seasoned killjoy with a secret past and connections to the wealthy elite, Aaron Ashmore as John, her mechanic, pilot and crushing (on her) partner, and finally Luke Macfarlane as D'Avin, John's brother, new killjoy recruit with his own dark secret. Dark secrets are what these shows are always about.

The world building was great if a little limited. They kept on flying between the same three locations but as the season went on, they added some massive spaceships and other offworld locations. The corporate control and the tensions between the haves and have-nots were familiar but for me, it was direction and characters that kept me coming back.

More exciting to me is The Expanse. a spectacularly built world but cheating because they have a popular series of books to draw upon. OK, not cheating but easier for them than Killjoys. Earth, Mars and the populated outer belt of asteroids. Earth is short on resources (thought I am not sure which resource, as they keep on talking about oceans -- desalinization anyone?), but still green (again, comments about us paving Eden and yet all the shots are loverly) and beautiful for the wealthy who can afford it. Mars is mysterious and angry. And the mining colony on the Belt where all the fun takes place is gritty, reminding me of Mars in the Arnie version of Total Recall as well as any other space station movie.  The beleaguered living there are played against their loathing of the Earther elites and their fear of the oppressive Martians. The show likes to play with the little details, like the body shapes of those born to generations in lower gravity, or the pidgin language spoken.

I'd watch this only as a noir detective show for corrupt cop (Thomas Jayne) hiding his Belter heritage behind Earth clothing, but its shaping up to be a political story of the tensions between the three "worlds" with characters from all walks of life on each -- politicos on Earth, cops and bad guys on the Belt and the remaining crew of an ice hauler getting mixed up with Martians and a mysterious, technologically advanced third party.  And its balancing the time until Killjoys returns.

On break, but returning soon, is season 6 of The Walking Dead. I had let the show slide for a few seasons, only grabbing it in bunches when the whim hit. But with some coworkers watching it faithfully, I was inspired to return to it. This season, as well as the last, has felt like one long one -- all taking place in the too-good-to-be-true Alexandria Free Zone. This neighbourhood made compound has been basically zombie free since the beginning of the outbreak, when an industrious leader put up walls and established rules on who comes in and who doesn't. Paradise always falls.

The season began with an explanation of why there were so few dead around the town -- most had wandered into a quarry some miles away and had been penned in by unknowns. Thousands were contained. But Rick discovers that cordon is failing and will leave a massive herd on its way to Alexandria. Finally people are trusting him again, as he devises a plan to lead all the walkers away from town. Of course, the plan fails (not Rick's fault, just circumstances) and it is aggravated by an attack on Alexandria, by the horrific Wolves.

This season is supposed to be about pulling back from the focus that Rick is all, Rick is god, scary Rick can do no wrong. Even his own people are realizing that they cannot always do things his way, if they ever expect to have some semblance of normal lives. But that is Rick's point, that there is no "normal" anymore and believing so is foolish. Life is now about being smart, being ruthless, being safe. His people. His people only. But his people now consider themselves part of Alexandria, so that is creating tension. They wonder what happened to Old Rick, who gathered all of them and kept them (mostly) safe.

When Alexandria almost falls to the Wolves (I am not sure if this is a toss-away group, or more is yet to be explained) and is surrounded by the remaining herd, one cannot help but think Rick is right. Is he?  Somewhat. I have always felt the ideal of a zombie show should be how people retain their humanity even in the light of all that loss. But the crux of the series, the comics and show, has always been that humans will always be much much worse than any monsters can be. How do you retain your humanity when humans won't? I side with the Alexandrians that you just do.  Foolish? Naive?  Probably but Rick's crew used to be that, and now they aren't. Or have not been able to be, of late.

For once, I am playing right into the debate the showrunners are having with the audience. The questions I have are the questions they want me to have. The horror I feel watching them fake us out on the death of Glenn is exactly what they wanted. "Fuck you Walking Dead, fuck you," was what I said when that episode happened. They can kill main characters, and often do, but no, not him. Not yet.

The season returns soon bring a new enemy with it.