#REVIEW: The Boys, Season 2

Before I get into the post itself, I just want to point out that I find it kind of funny that I made a point of mentioning the other day that I hadn’t missed a post since April, and then bloody went and forgot to post yesterday until almost 11:30, at which point my inner fuck it, nobody is paying me for this kicked in and I didn’t bother throwing something onto the site just to check off the day. In my defense, yesterday was a deeply weird, schedule-murdering sort of day, the kind of day where you wake up with a certain set of expectations on how the day is going to go and then those expectations are rather rudely tossed onto their ear before you’ve finished your coffee.

What we did manage to do was finish the second season of The Boys. And while I watched the first season by myself, my wife was along for the ride for the entire season this time, thus the “we” and the slightly longer amount of time elapsing before its release and me managing to watch it all. The first season of The Boys was … messy. Real messy. To the point where I felt kind of squicky about recommending people watch it.

The second season was phenomenal.

Now, let’s not misrepresent things: The Boys is still hyper-violent (exploding heads make up more of the season’s plot points than you might typically see in a TV show, and there’s a thing that happens with a whale that is, like, wow) and profane and a lot of other stuff, but while the first season followed the comic books into leaning way too hard into sexual violence and rape than anything really needs to be, the second season has none of that. In general, the female characters are treated much better this season; there’s no fridging at all, and most of the new characters introduced are women.

This show does a couple of things that I really like. First, the acting remains absolutely top-tier across the damn board. Antony Starr as Homelander is Goddamned amazing. This is the role of Karl Urban’s life. The relationship between Jack Quaid and Erin Moriarty’s Hughie and Starlight is sweet and awkward in all sorts of adorable ways. And Giancarlo Esposito is in this show and I praised four other actors before I got around to mentioning him. I mean, come on. And while I wasn’t happy with the semi-redemption arc Chace Crawford’s The Deep got last season, his role this season is far more interesting than last year’s. And his character is responsible for what might be the single greatest cameo in the history of television. You wouldn’t think that the acting and the character work would be the highlight of a show that spends fully three-fourths of a season making you think a head might literally explode at any given moment, but it absolutely is.

(Also, I want every shirt that Mother’s Milk wears during the series. Every single one.)

The second thing that I love about the show is how it has handled adapting the comic book, and it’s kind of fascinating to me that my other example of an outstanding adaptation, The Walking Dead, is also an adaptation to TV of a comic book series. This is the right way to adapt things, guys: take what you think works from the original material and then twist it and fuck with it however you want so that the people who know the source material don’t necessarily know what’s coming next. Something happens at the end that manages to recast the entire first two seasons as a prequel, at least of sorts, to the place where the entire comic series starts. And while at least part of this season is taken, broadly, from the comic book, a huge chunk of it isn’t, and there’s no smug “I know what’s going to happen at the Red Wedding!” sort of scenes for people who have read the comics. I knew one reveal was coming about one character, and one major reveal from the end of the comic series appears to not be the case in the TV series, based on about four seconds of footage in the second-to-last episode. So they’re definitely going their own way here.

The last time I talked about this show, I ended with “If you think this is something you might like, and you’ve already got Amazon Prime, maybe check it out.” I’m still not telling you to get Amazon Prime just for the show, but it’s definitely a reason to get Prime now, as opposed to an ancillary side benefit, and if you already have the service you should strongly consider checking it out if the ultraviolence isn’t going to push you away.

#REVIEW: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Season 5

We finally finished watching the final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power last night, and the show has joined a very exclusive list: television programs that I started watching with the first season and then stuck with through to their conclusion. In fact, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably the only one. I watched all of How I Met your Mother, but didn’t get into it until the second or third season and then went back and got caught up. Everything else I’ve eventually bailed on.

Here’s the thing about this program: I loved– absolutely loved— the first season. Seasons 2 and 3 (which were basically one season, broken in half) and Season 4 were all good, but I wasn’t apeshit about them enough to write posts.

Season 5 is the show’s best season, and the only one that is even close is the first season. I don’t want to get into a lot of details, because if you’ve not taken my word on this in the past you need to experience the series for yourself, but the way it resolves all of the story and emotional arcs from the rest of the series without feeling like it’s ever ticking off boxes and without any filler episodes in insanely impressive. It’s a remarkable achievement in television, and everyone involved should be incredibly proud of themselves. If you have Netflix, this is what you’re paying your money for. Look past the name of the show if the idea of watching She-Ra in the first place seems weird to you; it definitely felt weird to me at first, as someone who never really knew anything or much cared about the source material (and even the He-Man stuff was never anything other than pretty ridiculous,) believe me, you’re gonna get over it. It’ll be okay.

You’re going to love this program. It’s magnificent. Check it out.


6:11 PM, Monday, May 25: 1,657,441 confirmed cases and 98,034 deaths.

In which I let the hivemind decide

Six years ago I watched a certain movie and had some opinions about it. I, as I am occasionally known to do, put those opinions on the interwebs for other humans to see. That post is still the number one Google result if you search for the words “Snowpiercer stupid,” and is, somehow, still my highest-traffic regular post on a day-to-day basis:

You may be aware that they have decided to make a television program out of this very silly movie, and that that television program is currently airing, which is responsible for the current surge in pageviews– the post never died; there has been one day since 2015 where it didn’t get any views at all– but I’m not used to it being back up to having three-figure days again.

So here’s the question: do I watch the show? I’m not actually interested in watching the show, but I’m willing to do it for science, if the Internet wants me to.

So, uh, let me know?


3:54 PM, Wednesday May 20: 1,539,633 confirmed cases and 92,712 American deaths.

In which I watched The Witcher

When did I watch it? Wecently.

Shut up I get to have my fun.

I’m coming at this show from sort of a weird angle: I had not read any of the source material (but I ordered three of the novels after watching, and am about a fourth of the way through the first one right now) and I have played one of the three video games and didn’t like it very much. So it’s kind of difficult for me to explain why I jumped at watching the show, particularly since I’ve never really been a fan of Henry Cavill either.

tl;dr you should probably watch this if you’re into This Sort of Thing, but don’t pay for a Netflix account for it or anything like that.

Good Stuff:

  • The show mostly dispenses with the rampant sexism and PoC erasure of the game, at least– I don’t recall a single use of the C-word, which is everywhere in the game, and the cast is reasonably diverse;
  • Henry Cavill is having the time of his life playing a man whose only emotion is exasperated— Geralt of Rivia is so over all of this shit, all the time, and it’s hilarious; I never thought I’d use the word “adorable” to describe Cavill but it’s entirely accurate through most of the show;
  • Anya Chalotra as Yennifer of Vengerberg also does a fantastic job in what is probably the show’s best role. Yen is a complicated, meaty role, and she digs deep into this character;
  • The majority of the smaller roles are well-acted as well. I don’t know any actor in this program outside of Cavill himself and I don’t know where they found all these folks but they’re great. Definitely worth singling out are Joey Batey’s Jaskier and Jodhi May’s Queen Calanthe, who I want to get a show all on her own;
  • Fun fact about Jaskier: this is the character who in the games and the English novels is called Dandelion. Turns out jaskier is the Polish word for “buttercup,” and the books and games made the decision to render the character’s name as a slightly less feminine-sounding yellow flower in English, but the show just stuck with Jaskier, which in English scans perfectly well as a fantasy name;
  • Netflix went all out with budget and FX; there’s a suspect mask early in the series but in general the show looks really good, and it’s well-directed across the board, with good action scenes.

The not as good stuff:

  • I’m willing to be patient with Ciri’s story while she becomes the character I know from the third game, but she basically just runs around in the woods uselessly for the entire season. She’s getting Sansa’s character arc from GoT right now without the endless, twisted speculation about when she’s going to get raped, and we’re very much in the “young and whiny and mostly pointless” phase at the moment. Hopefully this gets better quick in the next season;
  • Costuming is generally pretty good, but two exceptions are Henry Cavill’s wigs and the Nilfgaardian’s utterly ridiculous, impractical, please-stab-me armor;
  • The show follows three timelines separated by at least several decades, and wants you to figure that out rather than making it clear, and while I don’t mind TV that rewards the viewer paying attention it’s not at all obvious what the show gains from making all the time-jumping effectively a background detail. They also hurt Yen’s storyline quite a bit with this; she goes from a novice to someone who has spent three decades as a royal advisor between the earliest storyline and the middle one, and those three decades change her character quite a bit– it would have been nice to see some of it;
  • It’s possible that Cavill’s bad wigs are a timeline hint, but even if they are– I think one of them might be blonder than the others– they’re still terrible;
  • Related to the timeline issue, the show isn’t great at explaining things in general, and my wife spent most of the season asking me questions I couldn’t answer with my limited background knowledge. You’re asked to take quite a bit on faith and I think the show works much better for people with deep background knowledge, but it’s hard to say, since I don’t have it. One of the best things about GoT was the opening sequence, which effortlessly laid out the entire map and let you know where everything was without wasting show time on it. This show could have used something along those lines. At least sprinkle some maps into the background somewhere.

So, yeah: if you’re one of the ten Netflix subscribers who hasn’t checked this out yet, you should probably think about it. If you don’t have Netflix and are a big fantasy person, maybe think about it. If you’re neither, give it a pass. I’m in for Season Two and at least the first of the books, but I’m not gonna lose any sleep waiting for it either.

In which all I do is review things now

This week was seven hundred years long and featured hospitals and shingles— the disease, not the roof covering–, neither of which I was directly involved in, but I’m tired and utterly refuse to brain in any significant capacity right now. Luckily I have massive megacorporations providing entertainment to soothe me. So: two brief mini-reviews.

I have watched both episodes of The Mandalorian that have been released, and it’s pretty solid. It’s definitely Star Wars– the series not feeling right was my second biggest fear behind the fact that it was going to secretly be about Boba Fett, which it isn’t– and while I wasn’t sold on the music or the humor after the first episode I was right in suspecting that I just needed to get used to it. My favorite thing about the show so far is that it subtly reinforces the idea that Mandalorians aren’t actually the big tough badasses that Star Wars have been pretending they are for years– Boba Fett got killed by a blind man with a stick and a monster that couldn’t move, and the Mandalorian (who still doesn’t have a name) gets his ass kicked by Jawas in the second episode. I mean, it’s hilarious, but still. I don’t know that this is worth getting Disney+ for all by itself, but if you’re a Star Wars sort of person you probably already have your subscription and have watched the show already.

I have beaten this now, and everything I said in my early impressions post still holds: this is basically a Fallout game, only more Westerny and less post-apocalyptic, and with Mass Effect/Dragon Age-style companions. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll get along with it perfectly well, and unlike the last Dragon Age game I was actually able to finish it without dying of boredom, but I’m starting to think that unless someone does something to radically shake up how this genre works I think I’m going to tap out of it now, because long quest chains and ceaseless fetch quests just aren’t fun for me anymore. I damn near turned the game off when one character literally asked me to go ask another character if a poster he’d ordered had arrived yet, and I accidentally screwed up a quest late in the game involving modeling for an NPC and when I looked up what might have happened had I not messed it up I realized that there were 10,000 more things to do for it and I’d have been howling and throwing shit at the walls by the end of it. It’s mostly well-written and entertaining beyond that, but this game demands a bit more patience than I actually have available to me right now. I might go through it once more to see how some quests might go when I make different choices, but it won’t be happening for a while.