This Fall 2014 TV thing is getting a little exhausting, but I persevere.
Synopsis: John Constantine is an exorcist, who’s tried to leave the game after a demon attack went horribly, horribly wrong. But something big is coming, and he doesn’t have the luxury of sitting it out.
Series: Season 1
I’ve Watched: Eps 1-2
Verdict: Promising (?)
I think it might take a few more episodes to really get a feel for the show, but so far, not bad. Hopefully, it isn’t going to settle into a too-procedural routine.
It’s refreshing to get a world-weary antihero whose past mistakes haunt him instead of an idealist somewhere in this TV season. Constantine is the character we see the most of at this point, and there are some interesting faucets to his personality. He has this sardonic humor that he pulls out in serious situations, not to be a jerk (though he can totally be jerk when he feels like it), but because he’s just so jaded from everything he’s seen. He wants to care less than he does. And unlike at least one of his allies, he cares more about giving others a choice than he does about how useful they might be to him.
Although, let’s be honest. A whole bunch of bystanders died during Constantine’s attempts to save one woman. That’s a lot of collateral damage.
As for Constantine’s companions, Chas has the potential to be interesting, but has yet to have his character explored (or even established). Ritchie had an intriguing start, with a very disillusioned outlook on exorcism in general and Constantine in particular–I definitely want to see more of him. But the most extensively explored companions so far are Liv and Zed. Liv is a newcomer to this supernatural thing, and very much what I’d expect from an everyday person type of character. Zed is…not.
Actually, Zed is kinda creepy, as a consequence of her magic. A more light-hearted show would have trouble pulling her off. Here, she’s discomforting and just a bit endearing all in one. Because of her visions and the inexplicable feelings they induce in her, she’s both an otherworldly, unpredictable presence whose power changes how she experiences reality, and a resourceful woman who’s nonetheless innocent to the demonic world Constantine moves in. She doesn’t quite fit in the normal world, and she doesn’t quite fit in Constantine’s demon-hunting world (yet). But she can hold her own against John, which is really impressive for someone who’s new to the dark arts business.
In short, I want to like her. She fits into the story in a fairly unique way. But yes, she does still totally creep me out.
As an addendum, an issue I take with one quote from episode 2: “There’s nothing blacker than gypsy magic.” –well, that’s kinda racist. If the show was going to create a type of magic which is inherently bad, it certainly didn’t have to be associated with an ethnicity.
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
Synopsis: Makai priests and knights are tasked with defeating horros (demons) and possessed humans–but they’re hunted by the rest of humanity, in a witch hunt driven by the machinations of the king’s advisor. Now, a boy whose mother was killed in the witch hunts fifteen years ago, his knight father, a usurped prince of the land, and a priestess with a hidden agenda will cross paths to save the country.
Series: First season
I’ve Watched: 4 episodes.
I love good fantasy, and this might just be it for this season.
Some spoilers for the first two episodes.
Garo starts of with a witch burning. The witch in question is pregnant, and magically manages to give birth to the child in way that destroys herself but protects the baby from the flames (none of the other characters get it, either). And then a mysterious knight in a magical metal suit launches an epic rescue of the baby. It’s a good scene, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention, though I do wonder why exactly the woman couldn’t have been saved (other than Because Plot).
I’m impressed so far. In episode 2, the main female character came into play when the show revealed she’d been captured by the inquisition and our main guys were off to rescue her (which did get an instinctive ugh reaction from me, yes). But then we actually see the character, and she’s…oddly confident for someone who’s tied to a chair in a torture chamber and has clear bruises on her face from being hit. And we find as our heroes bust in to rescue her that she could have escaped at any moment, and was there for information (like Black Widow in the Avengers movie, but with less interrogation skills).
Thankfully, when our heroes bust in to rescue her, she doesn’t ridicule or attack them for it–because obviously, they had no way of knowing she wasn’t actually in danger. Instead, she thanks them, but lets them know it was unnecessary. It’s one sentence, but I am just so happy that line was in there. Everything about this character’s intro is perfect. I was waiting on pins and needles for it to be fumbled somewhere, and it never was. This character–Emma–doesn’t come off as incompetent or hyper-competent or ungrateful or irrational. This is how a confident character with nothing to prove to anyone should react to an unwanted rescue.
As the fight with the horror commences, it becomes clear that Leon joining in on this battle is actually a hindrance. He has unresolved issues that make him unreliable in a fight, and Emma finally manages to finish off the enemy only when his dad physically removes him from the fight (so he can’t hit her with the area of effect attacks he throws at the enemy). These three characters all have strengths and weaknesses that have the potential to compliment each other–but as of now, they grate with each other. They’re all very different people.
And I’m interested in seeing how the dynamic shifts when we add in the kindhearted exile prince, sometime in the future. Leon is a serious, frustrated character with a chip on his shoulder. His dad is irresponsible and barely takes anything seriously. And Emma has a generally sarcastic demeanor. A gentle character might round out the group nicely.
Also of interest–German’s irresponsibility manifests itself in a few ways, one of which is abandoning his son to go sleep with prostitutes. The show ties in his promiscuity with his irresponsibility and portrays this as a negative aspect of his character. He isn’t even remotely ashamed of himself, but he’s called on his behavior (especially by his ever-abandoned son). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a portrayal of promiscuity like this in media before, for any gender. It seems to be uniquely suited to his character’s particular situation, rather than a broad idea of how people should behave.
So ultimately, a very promising show, that isn’t afraid of being a little more nuanced in the portrayal of its characters than I tend to expect.
Legend of Korra
Synopsis: Korra is the Avatar, tasked with bringing balance to the world. She’s a little battered and bruised from her past adventures, still recovering both physically and emotionally. But the world needs her as a new dictator is rising in the Earth Kingdom–one who is a former ally.
Series: Season 4
I’ve Watched: Eps 1-5
Oh, wow, what an opening!
Last season’s adventure took Korra out of the action for three years, and life has moved on while she wasn’t capable of doing anything. The Air nation has been trying to fill her role, but there’s too much to do, especially with the chaos in the Earth kingdom. Bandits galore, and an awesome villain with a history with our protagonists.
Kuvira has a strong army and is using some less then reputable tactics to get it–and she’s trying to reunify the Earth kingdom by offering security against serious bandit problems in exchange for the independence and natural resources of these regions. Now, on the surface, a lot of this is pretty standard national protection stuff. The citizens of Kuvira’s territory get her protection, and those who aren’t citizens don’t. Outright refusing aid to nearby territories in desperate need of it when she clearly has the resources to do it is a pretty jerk-ish move, especially by modern standards, though even that is not too far removed from political reality in real life.
But of course, she’s obviously in it for power, and commits questionable actions behind the scenes to get it. This puts her in a murky dark grey area of characterization, and the fact that she has so much history with many of our protagonists–and has even recruited one of our protagonists–makes this a very interesting set up.
So tons of potential for conflict here, which is awesome.
In parallel to Kuvira’s rise and the lives Korra’s friends have been living while she’s been unwell, is Korra’s own story. She’s been through a lot, so she’s not quite up to speed yet–and it’s kind of awesome that Korra’s journey of self-discovery happens so late in her story. She has her sense of self beaten down for three seasons before she needs to find a way to go on. Normally, this kind of thing would happen before the big fights, but for Korra, getting into the big fights was just something that happened. Her impulses drove her there. It’s after she’s been hurt repeatedly that she finds it hard to get back up again, and that’s when she needs most to grow and change. So I found the switch around interesting.
So far, Korra’s problems and Kuvira’s ascension have been separate storylines. Kuvira was a problem for those who are out in the world dealing with her, and Korra’s focus has been on recovering. But now that Korra’s going to get back into the action, we’re about to see where this goes. I have a lot of trust for this writing team, so I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.