Category: review

Television Review: 1899

Would you look at that? I finished another TV show a week or so after finishing a different one. That’s usually a very good sign that I enjoyed it, and I very much did this time, but that comes with some caveats.

The first season of 1899 is on Netflix. It’s follows a group of people on an Atlantic cruise ship from London to New York City in (you guessed it) 1899. The group (generally) doesn’t know each other, and most of them are from different countries. (The show has Spanish, Cantonese, Dutch, German, French, and English on a very regular basis. The characters often don’t understand each other, but subtitles are given for everything, so the audience knows what everyone is saying.) The ship encounters its sister ship in the middle of the Atlantic, four months after that ship had disappeared. Mystery and intrigue ensue.

The show is from the same folks who did Dark, which I really enjoyed. (If you haven’t seen that series, you should definitely check it out, if you like science fiction and time travel. Great stuff.) The same sort of unraveling mystery premise is at work in 1899, and this is very much the first season of the show. That means it does a fantastic job of asking lots of questions, setting lots of riddles, and answering those questions with even bigger questions. If you loved Lost and the experience of watching Lost unfold over the years, then this show is for you. If Lost infuriated you, probably avoid this.

Of course, since I have no idea what the answers to the show’s questions are, it’s hard for me to really say one way or the other if it’ll all pay off. When people found Lost’s answers, many didn’t like them, and thus didn’t like the show. (I personally enjoyed the answers, even though I wish we’d gotten more of them.) On the other hand, Dark was able to ask big questions and deliver on answers, so I’m optimistic for 1899’s future.

It’s got some language and steamy scenes, but nothing in the ballpark of an HBO show. Denisa and I both enjoyed it, and now we’re both impatient for the next season. (That’s the Catch 22 of shows like this. On the one hand, it would be nice just to watch it all at once, and never have to wait. On the other, if enough people don’t watch the first season, then we’ll never get a second season at all . . .)

It’s 8 episodes, and it moves quickly. Very bingeable. Give it a shot. 8/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: The English

Westerns just don’t get made as much as they used to. There was a time when the genre was everywhere you looked, but good westerns only come out now and then. The English, streaming now on Amazon Prime, does a great job taking tropes from westerns and blending them with a more modern approach, and the result was really fantastic.

Starring Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, the six-episode series traces the efforts of a woman to find revenge on the man who killed her child, and the journey of a Pawnee veteran trying to make a place for himself in the new normal of America in 1890. The acting is superb, the characters complex, and the cinematography is gorgeous. I also enjoyed the soundtrack, especially the credits number for the final episode. (A cover of Paul Simon’s American Tune by Crooked Still, linked at the bottom of this post.)

The series feels very real, depicting life on the frontier with no filters. Is it accurate? Hard to say. I know the creators worked with Pawnee advisors throughout the filming, so I’d say it’s definitely more true to life than the classic Hollywood western. I’d like to think the west wasn’t so bloody and dangerous, but having written books set in the late 1800s and done a fair bit of research into the time period, I tend to think it was more violent than not.

As I said at the start, The English injects some modern storytelling approaches, slowly unspooling its plot by showing things in the present and the past. It’s easy to make assumptions about character early on, only to discover later how wrong you were. Again, this felt true to life. All we see is a snapshot of each other’s lives. Look at any one snapshot, and the same person could seem a hero or a villain, depending on your interactions with them. I enjoyed the mechanic in the series, especially how it kept me guessing and wanting to know more.

It should be said the series isn’t for everyone. It’s violent and bloody, though not pervasively. There are some gory scenes, and it touches on some unsettling subjects. That said, if you’re up for it, it really is a fantastic show, and better still for being entirely self-contained. You don’t get to the end of the sixth episode and reach a huge cliffhanger. It’s one story.

10/10 I loved it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: The Devil’s Hour

I’ve got so many TV seasons I want to watch, I’ve resorted to keeping a separate list, and that list is only getting longer. So it makes perfect sense that when I finished a show, I completely ignored the list and looked for something else to watch, instead. I don’t know why I do this. It’s just that sometimes what I really want is something I’ve never heard of before. Sometimes that pans out, and sometimes I watch an episode or two and remember why I generally curate what I watch ahead of time.

The Devil’s Hour is a show I started on a whim. I saw it advertised on Amazon, and it starred Peter Capaldi, who I liked in Doctor Who. The premise was intriguing: a woman wakes up every night at 3:33am, suffering from terrible nightmares that may or may not be predicting the future. More perplexing, she feels like she’s constantly having deja vu, which feels to her like she’s remembering things that happen in the future. It had a 7.8 on IMDB, and it was only 6 episodes long. Denisa and I gave it a shot.

I’m really glad that we did. It was a fast watch and very intriguing, full of tense scenes that really delivered some good suspense. The plot was twisty and turny in a way that felt bewildering at times, but which still managed to make sense and come together by the end. It reminded me of Dark in that way, and I was skeptical it was going to be able to pull it off, but it did for the most part. (Though I’m really hoping there’s a second season, because the ending really left me wanting to know more. That said, it could end there, and it would feel like an ending, though one you’d be left with lots of questions about.)

It’s TV-MA almost entirely for language, though there’s also some fairly disturbing images and subject matter, ranging from suicide to abuse, so it’s not exactly a show that’ll leave you with a spring in your step. That said, it uses its 6 episodes well, and Peter Capaldi does a great job in it. The pacing is great, and I kept wanting to come back to see what more was in store.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for a good thrill, this is a great place to go. 9/10.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

TV Review: The US and the Holocaust

This is by no means a quick watch, or an easy one, but I made my way through all three episodes of The US and the Holocaust over the last week, and it really made an impact on me. There’s a story we like to tell ourselves about America and its history. How we’re essentially the good guys, out there making the world a better place. And when you bring up anything from history that casts that into doubt, some people get upset. As if by not being 100% good, we’re somehow 100% bad. Or that it’s unpatriotic to look at the mistakes we’ve made over the years. It’s a sentiment I’ve never really understood. Only by acknowledging our flaws can we overcome them. If we choose to consistently ignore them, we’ll have no chance of correcting them.

I think this Ken Burns series should be required watching. I consider myself fairly well informed when it comes to the Holocaust. I lived in Germany for two years. I’ve read and watched multiple documentaries and accounts of what happened, but none of them brought to light many of the things this series focused on.

For example, I hadn’t realized how much Hitler had viewed America as a role model. We’d done such a good job with Manifest Destiny, shoving the Native Americans to the side as we focused on ourselves first and viewed them as subhuman. We’d also successfully treated Blacks as less than equal in the south, banning them from restaurants and public facilities. Seeing the “No Jews” signs all around Germany and then connecting them with the “Whites Only” signs from our history made the connection clear.

I hadn’t realized how much our immigration policies had been crafted to specifically minimize the number of Jewish refugees that could come to America during Hitler’s reign. Watching how the Holocaust unfolded, and how desperate so many people had been to escape, was just heartbreaking. Yes, our closed doors mirrored the doors of many others, but for a nation that prides itself as the “good guys,” we fell far short of the mark. It’s easy to point the finger at Germany and blame them for the Holocaust, but when you then consider that America could have gone a long way toward making that Holocaust so much weaker, it doesn’t feel as clean cut.

The fact is, Hitler and the Nazis didn’t want the Jews in Germany. They purposefully made life difficult for them in an active effort to get them to leave the country. And many, many Jews would have left, if they’d had a place they could go. The rest of the world had essentially bricked them into a burning building, and that’s tragic. Does it excuse the Nazis? Not at all. But it’s important to realize we had a hand in history, as well.

I don’t have time or space to go into everything the documentary highlighted. It’s over 7 hours long. But it did a tremendous job connecting America’s past before WWII, its role in WWII, and its current state today. I blamed Trump for fanning the flames of racism in America, but after watching this, it’s clear what he did was more turning over a rock to let the creepy crawlies run around more freely. Like I began with: we can’t get better at something until we acknowledge we have a problem to begin with.

And America definitely has its share of problems, even eighty years later.

10/10. Brutal, but so important to watch.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Obi Wan Season 1: Review

I’m finally catching up with some of the different shows I’ve been missing out on for the last ever, so I assume most people who wanted to watch Obi Wan have already watched it. But for those of you who might have been on the fence and still haven’t pulled the trigger, allow me to save you some time. Overall, I found it better than Boba Fett, but still leaving much to be desired.

The sad thing is that there are some genuinely cool moments sprinkled throughout the series. Some really great lightsaber duels and force battles, but in between is just a bunch of padding that goes nowhere.

With that said, I’m going to head into some spoilers now to discuss just what went wrong for me. If you want to avoid them, stop reading here.

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Okay, so here’s a quick rundown of the bad of the series:

  • Leia’s whole plot line is way too contrived. She doesn’t come across as a character, she comes across as a device. A reason to get Obi Wan into trouble. She’s being chased by the bad guys, and she randomly does things like run away from Obi Wan for no real reason. Some of this is probably from the fact that getting a solid acting performance from someone so young is very difficult. No one expects much out of Baby Yoda. Little Leia has a higher bar to get over.
  • The Force is wildly inconsistent across Star Wars canon at this point. Darth Vader basically yoinks a spaceship from the sky without breaking a sweat, but then moments later he lets another one go. The first one posed no problem. Why did the second one trip him up? Often the Force comes across as “let’s have some cool special effects now,” without any real rhyme or reason. That’s wearing thin.
  • Weak Obi Wan is just . . . not that fun to watch, it turns out. Some of that might be because when he tried to get his powers back, he always was able to do just enough to do whatever he wanted to do. That’s not really failing, so it never felt like it was a true struggle for him. Yes, he had a showdown with Vader early on that he soundly lost, but he didn’t lose it to any disastrous length. The stakes never felt that big.
  • The inquisitors all felt pretty toothless, with no real character development. So instead it was “weird guy who speaks low and wears a funny hat” and “strange woman with a pointy face.” So what? They made some effort with Reva, but even then, her story was just too little substance to carry what the show seemed to be trying to pull off. Maybe a little less Obi Wan cutting up meat and a little more developing her backstory would have helped?
  • While I’m at it, I’m wondering why in the world stabbing people through the stomach with a lightsaber is even a thing in Star Wars. It doesn’t do a blessed thing to the person, apparently, except slow them down for a while. So if you’re an evil Sith or whatever, wouldn’t you take a moment to lightsaber their face in half, just to be thorough? Seriously. They ought to have a class on that in Sith school and everything.
  • They missed the set up of all time. Obi Wan’s in a pit, and Darth comes to stand over him and stare down. This is where Darth should have said, “It’s over Obi Wan. I have the high ground.” Instead, he just dumps rocks on top of him and walks away, because Darth apparently skipped “how to effectively kill your nemesis” class as well. Sigh.

It was a frustrating show, and after each episode, we generally talked about all the things that irritated us about it. That’s a bad sign. I have higher hopes for Andor, but we’ll see how that goes. Overall, this one was a 4/10. The cool scenes just aren’t enough to make it worth while. Maybe there’s an hour long highlight edit out there that would be awesome . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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