When Castlevania was announced back in 2017, I was surprised to see a video game property getting a television show. Usually, video games became movies like Mortal Kombat or Doom. Who knew that this was a sign for times to come, now we have Detective Pikachu and Sonic The Hedgehog. Even with all of the video game properties getting motion pictures or television adaptations, Castlevania has been a constant source of interest to this day. The first season marked one of the first commercial animations for adults made in the west. Its focus on being real 2D animation was a roadblock that Netflix overcame and has allowed the show to continue into its third season.
I was not planning on rewatching the first two seasons of Castlevania, but it just kind of happened. Since the first season debuted three years ago, it might have been a happy accident that I received this refresher course before jumping into the latest addition. The first two seasons were famously repurposed from an old movie script, so this marks the first outing without an established roadmap. This change-up is immediately felt as the show’s structure has come to resemble a traditional television show. There is a lot of switching between characters and multiple plot lines going on at once. So now that season 3 has a full ten episodes and has switched over to actually being Tv, does the quality of the show stay the same?
Castlevania continues to be some of the best television you can watch. I am infatuated with how it tells its story. The dedication to characters, their progression, and development push the show to punch above its weight. It works because I’m interested in these people; they feel true to themselves and have to work towards their goals. The groups in which they have been separated also helps their best traits to be put on display. Having Trevor and Sipha together is cute and charming, while Issac being by himself is enthralling. This allows the viewer not only to follow multiple people but to explore more of the world that has been mostly absent. It seems that everything included so far has been in service of building foundations for what’s to come next.
Just like all great things, there are a couple of hiccups that occasionally disrupt the flow of what is a terrific show. Some of the character’s stories are a little more obvious than others, draining the tension from their situations. Two characters are plagued by poor dialogue that never seems to land. Thankfully, all of that is in the minority as Castlevania earns every minute that is on display.
There is never a situation that feels forced and never makes you wonder why you’re watching something. This accomplishment extends to action sequences as well; you would think that a show about monster hunters in a world full of vampires and demons would make any excuse for fights to break out. The measured approach paces these scenes, so they feel monumental each time they happen. With the culmination of the last two episodes, the show rewards you with an action-packed finale that rocks a small town and your world.
I hope Castlevania gets a fourth season gets to continue until the creators find an ending that they find satisfying. I will be along for the ride until the end, as the show continues to be a pleasure. Its wit and humor mix perfectly with the dark despair that permeates throughout the story it tells. The show should be at the top of people’s watchlist as there isn’t anything quite like it.
The Good Place was one of my favorite shows to watch. The first two seasons captivated me with their creativity, pushing the boundaries of audience expectations and surprise. Then, the third season brought everything down as I was disappointed by the disingenuous attempts at maintaining the status quo. Going into the final season, I was worried that the show would continue down the path it set itself on in the season prior rather than being a return to form. With this final season, The Good Place has cemented itself as a show I will hold dearly as its ending burrowed its way into my heart.
Having an ending insight might have led to a reinvigoration that was needed to keep the show at a high quality. Working towards how every characters' story would end probably gave the creatives room to work with how they would end up there. Essentially starting from a reboot, the season takes the audience on quite a ride as nothing seems phoned in. Just like the first two seasons, there was a sense of escalation that's felt episode-to-episode while still keeping you guessing what could happen next. By the end, everything feels earned, and while you might not be 100% happy with how everything ended up, it feels right.
This final season has all of the callbacks and revisits everything that made the show a hit in the first place. It has the character relationships that you crave, the cameos you didn't know you needed, all while making you laugh. It's in the first half of the season where most of this is happening since it's in a familiar setting. It all works thanks to the strong characters that have been built up and the audience being invested in how everything will pan out. But there are more surprises in store.
Halfway through, the season takes a drastic turn that plops the cast in a familiar yet unique circumstance all its own. From this point on, the fate of the universe will hang in the balance... again. Wild developments will occur as the audience will be guessing how the entire show will end in just a handful of episodes. One of the best parts of that uncertainty is the fact you don't have toxic fandoms guessing what will happen next. There is a purity to the direction that the show is headed that will captivate you till the last episode.
There will always be a legitimate feeling of finality to shows that end before they outstay their welcome. The Good Place achieves this as the ending doesn't make me wonder what could have been. I feel satiated, happy that I had been along for the ride, and mostly delighted how everything ended. It's something that most high profile shows don't get to enjoy, which makes this ending so much sweeter. At this point, if you've never seen the show, now is the perfect time to start. If you were worried about the show after the third season, I can confirm that it will delight as a finale to some outstanding television.
The Mandalorian represents a turning point in the Star Wars saga. The battle between fans and the current leadership at Lucasfilm seems to be shifting in the fan’s favor. Spearheading this new vertical at the company is Jon Favreau. His vision for a more traditional Star Wars story, one that harkens back to the time before the prequels is something that fans have been clamoring for. With Dave Filoni at his side, the arbiter of The Clone Wars animated show, The Mandalorian is positioned to be the most authentic live action Star Wars project since 1983.
The first episode of The Mandalorian was not that exciting. There was a distinct lack of energy that brought down the entire episode. Even when there were action scenes, they seemed a little clumsy and didn’t offer a rush of excitement. The aspect that did bring the show up was the world building; there was no confusion in who this person was and what they did in their day to day life. There was also a familiar feeling that harkened back to the original trilogy. With a combination of practical and special effects, there was a sense of nostalgia that made the show more authentic. Prosthetic makeup and miniatures for space vehicles lended a realism to the show that has been absent from the movies. As a first episode, it wasn’t that great for driving interest but does create some hope that Star Wars might be fun again.
Throughout the first three episodes, you will notice the PG-13 rating very clearly. There will be shots or sequences that are framed certain ways to not be too graphic. This is a blessing and a curse as it makes the show palatable for all ages but also pulls back right as you think you are about to see something cool. It’s a problem that Diseny might have to face in the future, but for now isn’t too egregious.
The second episode is where I decided I was going to stick with the show. Even though this might not have been the case with some that were more skeptical, I knew I was watching the whole season from this point on. The internet has revealed the main secret of the show, but if you have not found out, I won’t be the one to spoil you. Just know that there is a big reveal at the end of the first episode which is continued here and I love it. The dynamic between characters can be described as cute and I want to see more of it. A new character on the show also gives me the opportunity to praise multiple departments that did a fantastic job bringing scenes to life. Those departments include the VFX people, whoever made the prosthetic animals, and also puppeteering. They bring creatures and characters to life so effectively I couldn’t look away. There is also a sequence with a fairly large animal in this episode that I was wowed by; not by its creature design, but for how real it looked on screen.
The third episode is universally praised as the best episode yet. It has heart, it drives characters forward, and it has the cool action scenes that glue your eyes to the screen. This episode can be described as well rounded as it hit on everything the viewer wants to see. It’s really hard to try and talk about the episodes without spoilers so the one thing I can say, is that the show kind of became a must watch for any Star Wars fan here. I have been a moderate fan since I was about 10 years old and The Mandalorian is the first time since I have been interested in Star Wars. Nostalgia works when it comes to this property because of the sprawling nature of its lore. Getting to touch on so many fun things in a show that has an episode come out each week is great.
I also have to give a quick shout out to Ludwig Göransson who does the music for each episode. You might know him for winning an Oscar for Black Panther’s soundtrack, and his work here is stellar. There are distinct moments where the music perfectly fits the visuals and you are transported to this equilibrium where everything is working in perfect harmony.
So that’s The Mandalorian, something that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. You don’t even have to be a big fan of Star Wars and still have a good time.
As the streaming wars between Netflix and Disney heats up with the launch of Disney+ later this month, Apple decided to pop up with a handful of shows too. Their program with the most buzz is The Morning Show, a workplace drama at a daytime news network. It aims to tackle the #Metoo movement with a fresh take, at least one that’s not present in mainstream media. It reminds me a lot of The Newsroom, the HBO drama that ran for three seasons. But this is on Apple TV+, which means not that many people will watch it—and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.
The Morning Show is never consistent. In an episode, you can go from enjoying yourself, to hating it, to being bored, and then back to loving it. There are blatant levels of mishandling in characters, stories, and plot progression that can be really hard to justify. It can’t keep itself from falling apart every chance it gets. The only threads holding it together are occasional moments that are simply brilliant. There are scenes and character beats that just mesmerise with how perfect they were in the moment.
The blatant pandering towards porgressive ideas is another aspect of the show that made me cringe. Having Jennifer Aniston’s character scream about ‘male egos’ and saying, “Sometimes women can’t ask for control, they just have to take it”; all just makes you roll your eyes. The reason it doesn’t come across as empowering and not just preachy, is that the characters aren’t real enough for their dialogue to carry any weight. Everyone is so unlikable, and not in a peek behind the curtain kind of way. It’s not even the actors’ fault, the show just didn’t write any compelling characters.
What makes the whole situation worse, is that everything is shamelessly telegraphed. You have two white female leads for ‘progressive’ aspirations—while everyone in the control room is an African American women. Then to have more diversity in the show, the only African American man is also gay. It comes off as straight up check boxes that need to be filled, lip service to the idea of being woke. In real morning talk shows, there are people from every background, not just white women on screen.
This altered view and the problems that arise from it are a direct result of Reese Witherspoon. She is responsible for the show, its her production company that makes it and it's her vehicle to star in. She gave herself the main character role, the mid 40 year old who is now sought after for her personal brand of moxie. With people clambering to work with her and getting a standing ovation for existing at the beginning of episode 3, it seems like her personal fantasy. It all backfires as all the main female characters are more sentient arguments rather than people.
The only person of interest is Billy Crudup’s character as the News Network President. His transparency anchors the show to reality. He’s the only character that can be confused for a real person which makes his part so interesting. When the show is being honest, that’s when it’s at its best. So Crudup’s character but also Steve Carell’s journey on the show. His role of Mitch is why you could be interested in watching this thing.
Mitch, at the beginning of the first episode, is fired for sexual misconduct; he had sexual relations with staffers of his show. You get to see how upset he is, that he takes personal offense with the idea that he is a predator. He continually makes the distinction that he did not rape anyone, that it was all consentual. There are moments in the show that depict the grey area of the situation. The contrast in episode 3 where he talks to a disgraced director who was also affected by the #Metoo movement, makes him realise how people see him. The viewer knows what he did was wrong, but the interesting part is trying to differentiate his situation from everyone elses that are in the same group.
At least that’s what I think it's trying to say. I don’t know if The Morning Show knows what it is or knows what it wants to say. After three episodes, it has contradicted its own ideas and fubbled its way into depicting a nuanced perspective. Even the press forward attitude was derailed after Aniston’s character says, “I don’t know what I’m doing”. It was supposed to be a bonding moment for the two leads but gives credence to the idea that her character is crazy, something echoed at the end of the third episode.
So I will continue to watch The Morning Show for four more episodes. If it doesn’t get better by then, I’m dropping it. But for now, it's a cautionary recommend because it does have some great moments. The distinction should be made that it is not as good as The Newsroom, a show that knew more about presentation and how a live TV set is actually run. If you were interested in The Morning Show to see how day time television is made, this is not the show for you. It’s squarely focused on how middle aged white women either have no friends at their work, or how they are Cinderella’d into their dream lives.
When the first season of Mindhunter came out in 2017, it seemed to be a familiar stomping ground for David Fincher. Following a serial killer through the eyes of police officers sounds like some of the director’s most recognizable movies: Se7en, The Zodiac Killer. However, instead of trying to outright catch a killer, this show depicts the FBI coming to terms with the idea of serial killers existing. The story brings together three people of various talents interviewing convicted felons to try and understand how they think. As the season progressed, tension built to the point where the finale left me wanting more.
Mindhunter Season 2 picks up right after the first left off—with one of the main characters suffering from a panic attack after being hugged. This odd development introduces a shift in the three lead’s screen time. While Panic Attack takes a back seat, the other two members of the group have their roles expanded. They each get side stories that rival in interest to the main one, offering the audience other angles to explore the ideas being presented by the show. It’s within the first three episodes that your attention is officially kept hostage as you feel the need to see how it ends. By setting a limiter on the most active member of the group, adding more story to the show, and introducing a whole new scenario for the characters to deal with, everything is working to keep you hooked.
The rest of the show is good but doesn’t come close to those first three episodes. The worry for Panic Attack is continued by his peers but never comes up again. His condition is thrown by the wayside as screen time has become a precious commodity. It’s being taken up by competing storylines that get harder to balance as each one becomes more pressing. It feels like everything starts to drag as you want the resolution for every plot point. What’s crazy is that out of the three different branches, one is resolved, another is left for a cliff hanger, and the main narrative is unfulfilled—on purpose.
David Fincher did an interview when the first season of Mindhunter was debuting, where he said ‘I learned my lesson from Zodiac’. The lesson he’s talking about is not having a definitive ending, one that is in full effect by the end of season 2. There is no simple resolution, it robs you of the dissonance you are supposed to experience, leaving you empty. He uses that hole made by the show as a tool to replicate the feelings of characters, intrinsically passing that on to the viewer. It’s there to get you upset about shortcuts taken, the bureaucracy that limits progress, and a shame for the true events the show used as a basis.
What makes Mindhunter so captivating is its ability to strike the balance of drama and realism in an enthralling way. The heavy usage of real-world events, capturing the essence of people rather than an impersonation of them— it all comes together to keep you invested. It doesn't matter that the characters in the show never existed in real life, as their actions are derived from reality. There is a weight present that grounds the experience, leaving intrigue for what comes next. Even though this season has flaws, there is so much good to overcome it.
Stranger Things has always been a show about people from a small town battling big things. It takes groups of characters and forces them to confront relationship challenges as their pedestrian lives clash with the supernatural. Viewers sign up for superpowers and big climatic fights but fall in love with more intimate moments that the show has in spades. It’s become a phenomenon thanks to a likable cast, great production quality, and intense fan interest. The greatest challenge each new season faces always comes down to if it can be better than the previous one, and I don’t know if season 3 achieves that.
In an attempt to have a larger final battle, this season seems to save money in the early episodes. The first three are much slower than the rest as it milks each minute, taking its time to set up possible plot points as it relishes in the lack of heavy CGI scenes. It’s this slow burn that doesn’t create extra tension moving at a snail’s pace. Nothing about the characters are challenged in this part, even if the biggest shake-up does happen here; it's a testament to how boring the show is at this point. It’s not like these three episodes are devoid of anything of consequence, but it feels like nothing important is going on, and that's a problem.
The reason there is such a disconnect between the viewer and the events happening on screen can be traced back to a couple of things. The first has to do with splitting the cast into large groups like the first season rather than the smaller ones of the second. These large groupings take away a lot of the fun and variety you get when fewer people are together. It also has a major effect on how often characters speak. When you have fan favorites in a group with others, they get way more lines than the rest. Spreading everyone out into separate groups allows for everyone to shine.
Allowing each actor a chance to have strong moments is very important when it comes to new additions to the cast. Stranger Things continues its streak of integrating new characters for each season. Not only are they directly tied to major plot points, but their interactions with the current cast is usually a blast. Season 3 introduces a couple of the best characters the show has ever seen. They fit perfectly into the story while being major points of interest; some of this season’s best parts have to do with them. However, how well they will be used in the future is unpredictable since the new characters from last season were a mixed bag here.
Season 3 is definitely a misstep for the series. Its decision to be more like the first season, rather than embracing the changes of the second season, was probably made due to the response of the infamous episode seven. So, instead of leapfrogging in storytelling, pushing the show forward in quality, the retread has brought down the show. There is still hope that the show will revert back to smaller group sizes, better storytelling, and not banking on a giant final battle to keep viewers interested. As long as there are still new characters to introduce, and the current ones still get a chance to shine, the final season could still live up to the hype.
My relationship with entertainment about food is limited. I don’t watch daytime television where a cook shows stay at home parents how to poorly make a meal. I don’t gravitate towards the reality show versions of cooking competitions where Gordon Ramsey tells someone they are an idiot sandwich. Instead, I’ve seen a couple of episodes of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, thankfully mostly from the first season. This kind of entertainment uses food as a trojan horse to sneak a documentary about people in front of you. It hammers home how lives are affected by government or educates about the culture of a people, all expressed through their food. So when I saw an article talking about how Gweneth Paltrow didn’t know she was in Spider-Man: Homecoming, that got me interested in a new cooking show.
The Chef Show is very much in the same vein as Parts Unknown. It has hosts that go around and talk to people about their lives while using food to bring all of them together. Food shares the spotlight as stories about running a restaurant, starting a food truck, or just reminiscing about the past fills out each episode. When everyone isn’t regaling the glory days, it's all hard work as cooking skills are put to the test. It ends up being a great mix as recipes are shared amidst the fast-paced work environment or during a more laid back cooking session with guests.
It's really the personalities that give the show the flair needed to stand out in an ocean of food content. The Chef Show follows Roy Choi, famous for his Kogi food truck in Los Angels, and director John Favreau, director of Iron Man. The pair's relationship is framed as a seasoned professional with a very capable student which is enforced by continually by bringing up how they met. Favreau was making a movie about a chef and wanted it to be authentic, so he enlisted the help of Choi to be a consultant. The result was a friendship that surpassed the film’s production, evident by this very show.
connections in their respective industries. Gathering at a director’s house to make brick oven pizza or seeing Tom Holland eat his first oyster is just one kind of episode in the season. Others offer looks into how restaurant owners started in a backyard or exploring the thriving fast food truck scene in L.A. It ends up feeling as cozy as sitting around a table getting to hear people regale about the past over a nice meal. As it all blends together, its equal parts fun and food as you couldn’t hope for a more watchable show that mostly takes place in kitchens.