The Handmaid´s Tale: Season Three – Episodes 1-5 (2019)
Game of Thrones has come and gone. If you missed my weekly podcast with my buddy, Peter, be sure to click on the link below to my YouTube channel and listen. While the mediocre ending did not infuriate me as much as it did others, it did leave a big gap open for “the next big epic television series”. After having watched the first five episodes of The Handmaid´s Tale, I believe this show has everything going for it to take on that mantle and run with it. Although the series has always had a high-quality standard, I did not always feel that this was the case.
Season one of The Handmaid´s Tale pretty much covered and even went past a lot of what was covered Margaret Atwood´s classic 1985-novel. As such, it really focused on June´s story and could have very well ended there as a one-off mini-series. I was actually surprised to hear they were even going to make a season two.
With no more source material, season two had to fly solo, so I was both curious and excited to see where the show would go. And while it did have a pretty strong opening salvo (especially with June´s escape) once she was recaptured I got a sense that the writers were going around in circles, wallowed in showing us the many ways Gilead can torture a handmaid. There were even some articles written about how borderline to torture-porn the show got to be at times. I disagreed with the sentiment but could understand where it was coming from, too.
Fortunately, episode 6 of season two opened the story up with a literal, “bang” as a bomb was set off in Gilead, planting the seeds for revolution. The back-end of that season proved that this show was not a one-trick-depression pony – that is until the last episode, where June had yet another chance of escaping but decided to stay behind.
“Would season three be more of the same gloom and torture?” I wondered.
How wrong I was.
Season three of The Handmaid´s Tale has gone all in on revolution (the sort that does not get televised) and has begun world-building in a way it has previously only hinted at with its bits in the Colonies, Canada, and Jezebel´s. While in past seasons these side-journeys felt clumsy and out-of-place (we were here for June´s story, not Luke´s), this season the producers of the series have managed to balance it out perfectly so that while June remains our main protagonist, I also care about the separate chess pieces throughout the world of Gilead and beyond.
The best of these side-stories so far has been that of Emily, who managed to escape at the end of last season with June´s daughter. Her reintegration into society, in Canada, and reunion with her wife has been some of the most heart-wrenching, yet hopeful (we do need some hope in this show), drama the series has produced outside of June´s struggles.
Along with Emily, we also have more of Serena not longer in her safe zone. She is slowly accepting the fact that the utopia she fought for is not the utopia she imagined. We are able to see this struggle from her point of view and not as a reflection of June. This deepens her character and keeps us guessing as to whether she can truly join in the resistance or fall back into comfort. As things usually go with Serena, it´s one step forward and two steps back. The difference is that the show is willing to give us this complex character arc on Serena´s terms.
The show does well to present us with deeper looks into how these very different women are surviving, accepting, and resisting. Even Aunt Lydia, who is as evil as ever, has a moment where allegiance to Gilead becomes a bit too much.
This season has also dared to spend more time in Canada and show us what the outside world thinks of Gilead. I would love it if they did the same even for other parts of the world. This comparison makes Gilead feel like even more of an anomaly. If Gilead is all we see then we almost become desensitized to accepting that that is simply the way the world is everywhere. That might very well have been the producer´s intentions – make us feel as if we are truly part of that horrid society – but I prefer de-normalizing Gilead via sheer abrupt contrast.
I also like that the show has teased us about Chicago. The windy city has been mentioned various times as a place where rebels are holed up. To think that there won´t be a payoff of an actual armed conflict between Gilead and the resistance would be upsetting. It would be a great moment to present some of the men of Gilead – the ones who, perhaps, like Nick, don´t know exactly what they are fighting for or simply have no choice but to fight.
Yes, The Handmaid´s Tale is a tale of women, but it makes a point to not vilify all its male characters. The men who built this hell have moments where they seem to question what exactly it is that they did construct – these moments are far and few between, but the roots are there.
Clearly, I don´t want The Handmaid´s Tale to turn into a war-drama and the show still works beautifully on a very personal and visceral emotional level. However, these conflicts are real and expand the world of the series beyond its quiet suburban Gilead streets.
Of course, I need to mention June. Her new posting with Joseph Lawrence has given us new layers to her character. She is finally matched with a man who may very well be her equal in wits and tenacity. He is also not as easily manipulated by June because, unlike Nick and Fred, he has no emotional or sexual interest in her. This is a new challenge for our heroine and a pleasure for us viewers on a dramatic-conflict level.
While it is a relief to be able to breathe a bit easier knowing that June is in a safer house than in the psychological torture chamber which was the Waterford home, we are still met with a different sort of frustration when Joseph exposes how naive June is – even if her heart is in the right place. When he puts the responsibility of saving some women or sending them all to the radioactive colonies flat on her lap, we understand that June is in over her head but that she also needs to think beyond what she believes are the perfect plans if she truly wants to make the impossible choices that can change the course of Gilead. Up to this point, June has made tough decisions but they have come with little intentional collateral damage. This is not the path anymore and it is important for June to grasp this quickly as this season has not just had whispers of rebellion but has begun to take tiny steps towards it.
The Handmaid´s Tale has attempted to both world-build and to spend time away from June´s story before, but the results were mixed. I believe this is because Atwood´s novel tells a very insulated and personal story and begs us to fill in the blanks about Gilead and the surrounding world. As we saw with Game of Thrones, filling in the blanks is not always the easiest task. Yet, season three has demonstrated a great capacity of the writers to do just that. The show is filling out just as much information as we need while also keeping June as our centerpiece.
These last few episodes have also given me hope that the show will be working towards filling in the biggest blank space of all from the novel – what happens from the end of June´s diary to the epilogue, where Gilead has fallen.
While The Handmaid´s Tale can still get weighed down by its own brooding and cumbersomeness, it has done a better job this season of feeling as if it is moving in a forward direction through the rabbit-hole which is this fictional society and not just giving us a circular ride through the different levels of Gilead-hell. Repetition, after all, is a show killer.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
“And now for something completely different!”
2014´s Godzilla brought the first respectable American big-budget version of the legendary lizard monster to audiences. While this fanboy did enjoy that movie a lot, its major flaw was not giving us enough of the big guy, choosing instead to rely heavily on its human drama.
2019 meant course correction and what a course correction it was.
We not only got more Godzilla, we got more of everything – action, destruction, fights, environmental awareness, and monsters!!! This movie was a true love letter to the fans while building its own universe.
Godzilla truly is the King of the Monsters and he goes to hell and back to prove it.
My only complaint is the color of the movie – everything has a blue filter. I understand that the old-school color schemes would look too campy for today´s audiences but what is the problem with trying to use at least some color!!! Everything is dark and blue, like almost everything else on television today (looking at you Battle of Winterfell).
I do hope that the upcoming King Kong vs Godzilla uses more of the bright and varied colors as utilized in Kong: Skull Island.
Go see this one if you want to turn off the brain but not go brain-dead. Godzilla is well paced, acted, and put together. America may never be able to match the absolute camp and charm of the original Godzilla (Hollywood takes itself too seriously in these movies) but at the very least they are finally producing versions which are respectful additions to the kaiju genre and lore.
Gotham Season One and Two (2014 – 2016)
Better late than never, I suppose.
I am a huge DC fan but have not had the patience to sit through any of the television shows aside from three or four episodes of Supergirl and some bits and parts of The Flash. They weren´t bad, but I felt they were definitely targeted for a teen audience and did not hold my attention for long. Thinking that Gotham was more of the same, I skipped it, despite being a huge fan of Batman.
However, one day, boredom got the best of me and I pressed play on episode one. While the episode wasn´t perfect, it had enough campy-charm and an adult feel to make me press episode two … and so on, and so on.
For those that have been sleeping under a rock. The show centers around the city of Gotham many years before Batman arrives. In fact, the series begins on the night that Bruce Wayne´s parents are murdered. Although Bruce does play a big role in the series, it mostly follows the exploits of a young James Gordon while showing us the rise of some of the Batman-Universe´s most notorious villains.
Season one is up and down – and I “watched” a few episodes while doing the wash or cleaning the house. Its biggest fault is relying on “monster-of-the-week” episodes through most of the first half of the season and keeping the long-arcing storylines drip dropping in the background. While the one-off villains were at times creative, teasing us with a bigger universe only made those episodes frustrating and non-consequential to the bigger plot. Once the long-arcs take center stage, the series begins to find its voice and makes for a pretty exciting back end of season one.
It took me about a month and a half to finish season one, but I flew past season two in about two weeks due to the improvement in quality. The show decides to throw away its bottled episodes and instead focuses on a full season arc, with each episode directly tying in to the one before it in a much grander scale. Although there are still some lulls around the middle of the season, the difference in how confident the show feels about what it is trying to create is evident.
Gotham´s biggest strength is its ability to be adult while still playing for a TV-14 audience. It has taken the blueprint The X Files laid out, when it comes to how far one can push violence on network television, and taken it to its very the limits. This is definitely not your CW-variety DC show. Despite some of its darker and bloodier moments, it still manages to keep things just light enough to be enjoyed by a mass audience and kids.
There are a few lulls within the 22-episode seasons, but it´s only natural to feel that some episodes are “near-filler” in the age of binge-watching 10-to-16-episodes where the story and pacing are as tight as a virgin asshole. Stick with the slow burn and you may be pleased with the end results.
Most of you have probably already seen all five seasons of the show, but if you haven´t, check it out. So far, it has been a worthy entry to the huge Batman-universe, even if the caped crusader is not swinging around Gotham yet.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (2018)
I am a huge fan of the Bigfoot mythology and was looking for a good movie to watch based around the character. My google search landed me on this movie, which I had to watch on the strength of the title alone.
The strange thing is that I was expecting a Troma-like horror-comedy but instead got a movie that was sincere and sad.
The plot involves a man (Sam Elliot) who, when he was a younger, was contracted to kill Hitler. Well, the title sort of tells you what happened there.
He is trying his hardest to reconcile with his bloody past and everything seems to be fine until the day he is contracted again – this time to kill Bigfoot.
There is not much more to the story beyond that, except it is treated with such care and respect that had this starred Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman and centered around an old cowboy-assassin who was contracted for one last job, it would have been called Unforgiven and won a bunch of Oscars.
Now, the movie is certainly not on that level of greatness, but it may surprise you with how deep it is. Check it out if you like wacky but appreciate that wacky can have a real heart. I managed to find a copy of this one YouTube, so have fun with it while it is up.
Killer Condom (1996)
My last entry is a last minute addition only because I mentioned Troma. This movie is about as great of a comedy as I have seen in years.
Killer Condom (original title “Kondom des Grauens” -Condom of Horrors-) is a German film set in NYC starring a Sicilian homosexual police officer, Luigi Mackeroni, who is investigating a case of penises that are being chomped off by a sinister condom.
The film plays it straight and it works magnificently for many laughs. I can´t say much more about this movie as its genius speaks for itself. Lucky for you it´s on YouTube. Just click on the link below.
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