Tag Archives: Season 7

A review of “The X-Files” Season 10

I breaks my heart to say this, but 2016’s long-awaited return of “The X-Files” was not a triumphant one.  (Indeed, I am writing this review nearly two years after its conclusion because I only recently got around to watching the last of its six episodes.)  I’d rate the brief season a 4 out of 10 — the lowest rating I’ve ever given to a season of the show.

I hope this year’s Season 11 proves me wrong, but I’m finally starting to wonder of “The X-Files'” time has come and gone.  (This is coming from someone who was a lifetime fan.  I even thoroughly enjoyed seasons 7 through 9, which was when much of the show’s loyal fan-base began truly eroding between 1999 and 2002.)

So many of the show’s core elements seem outdated now.  The character arcs of its two heroes and their relationship were resolved seasons ago.  Its central overriding story arc — an elite cabal’s conspiracy about (and with) aliens — appears to have been milked for most or all all of its entertainment value.  And the show’s format of mixing a handful of “conspiracy episodes” with standalone “monster-of-the-week” episodes feels awkward compared with contemporary programs that better integrate multiple plot lines.  (Consider HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” for example, or even the various Netflix and television series that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

The truly fatal blow to “The X Files'” staying power, though, runs a bit deeper — network television just isn’t as positioned as it used to be to tell the scariest stories to a wide audience.  There is too much competition from sources less beholden to censorship or to the milquetoast sensibilities of mainstream appeal.  The first is easily accessible cable channels like HBO and AMC, which can shock viewers with visceral violence.  The second is subscription services like Netflix.

And third is simply the Internet at large, with its endless cornucopia of morbid or bizarre content.  “The X-Files” was created before the Internet was a common household utility.  Part of the show’s appeal was that it offered people the creepiest stories they’d watch anywhere anywhere outside of a movie theater.  And those stories at least seemed well researched by the program’s writers, who did a tremendous job for most of the show’s run.

Today’s Internet-connected entertainment marketplace is different.  No matter how much weirdness “The X Files” can pack into a 43-minute episode, the average consumer can find material online that is darker or more frightening in less time than that.  Compare the average “X-Files” episode, for example, to the array of material devoted to real-life “paranormal” subjects, like “Slender Man,” alleged UFO footage, or tragedies like the mysterious death of Elisa Lam.  (That last one is truly shudder-inducing.  Google it at your own peril.)

The only way a show like “The X-Files” can hope to compete is with excellent attention to tone, tension and character — something I thought that seasons 7 through 9 did pretty well with, despite a gradual fan exodus after David Duchovny’s awkward departure from the series.  Season 10 just didn’t follow suit.  It really was as though a range of previous “X-Files” episodes has been thrown in a blender, so that their component parts could be served yet again.  The conspiracy stuff, in particular, was poorly executed, too hastily paced, and just a bit too campy for my taste.  Mulder and Scully’s return was also too self-conscious — as though Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were reunited for a tongue-in-cheek reunion special.

It wasn’t all bad.  These two leads are always fun to watch.  The fourth episode was superb — “Home Again” served up both a creepy, macabre story and a meaningful character arc for Dana Scully.

Episode 3, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” was also fun enough.  But while a lot of other fans absolutely loved this humorous entry, I personally didn’t feel its central joke merited a full episode.  Besides, this particular twist has been done before, in a 1989 book by a well known speculative fiction author.  (I won’t name the book or the author here, in order to avoid spoilers.)

The rest of the episodes were … fair, I suppose.  Oh, well.

I’m thrilled that we’re currently being given Season 11 of “The X-Files.”  As someone who was a longtime fan, I never envisioned the show lasting this long, even after a hiatus of many years.  I just hope the show matures and grows in quality after this disappointing rebirth.

 

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A very short review of the Season 7 premiere of “American Horror Story” (2017)

I finally got around to watching my first episode of “American Horror Story” last night; I started with this season’s critically praised premiere.  (People have been enthusiastically recommending this show to me for years, and “Game of Thrones” taught me that the bandwagon isn’t always a bad thing.)

I can’t say that I was overly impressed.  Season 7’s opening episode, entitled “Election Night,” consists mostly of heavy-handed political commentary with caricaturized portrayals of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters.  Nearly none of the characters are likable; not even the one played by the terrific Evan Peters.  (Yes, comics fans, that’s none other than Quicksilver from the latest “X-Men” movies.)

There is a lot of “scary clown” horror here, as anyone who’s seen any marketing for the show at all should know.  Between that and the political elements, I suspect I am not the right audience for this show.  I simply find clowns obnoxious instead of scary, and political commentary in horror usually falls flat with me.  (I’m the rare horror fan who loves George A. Romero’s work only because it’s scary, without caring much about the social statements he’s supposedly making.)

With all of that said, there actually were a couple of creepy moments late in the game.  And there was one (as of yet, minor) character that I liked — the child of the liberal couple who were so devastated by the election results.  He’s cute, and any kid who hides parentally forbidden horror comics under his pillow is one of my tribe.

I’d somewhat grudgingly rate this a 5 out of 10.

Anyway … scary clowns are ubiquitous now, and we already have the zombie shows we need.  I propose that we bring back … body snatchers.  Those can be terrifying in the hands of a talented writer, and they require no special effects.  Or, what about vampires?  Now that “The Strain” has concluded, how about a well written television excursion into Steve Niles’ “30 Days of Night” universe?  Or maybe a “Stakeland” TV show?  Looking at you, AMC.

 

 

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A few quick words on “Game of Thrones” Season 7 (2017)

After finishing its seventh season, I’ve reached the point where I’d name “Game of Thrones” as the best fantasy I’ve ever read or seen.  It’s also among the best television I’ve ever seen, period.  I’d cheerfully rate this penultimate season a perfect 10.

I do understand some of  the criticisms I’ve read from other fans.  Yes, this shorter, more eventful, seven-episode arc could seem a little rushed when compared with prior seasons.  And certain plot points in the last several episodes here are easy to nitpick.

But I can’t give less than a perfect rating to a show that I enjoyed this much.  Season 7 added great action and special effects, lots of momentum, frightening horror, and some long-awaited conclusions to story arcs that began back in Season 1.  And the show still has the best dialogue of any current television show that I’m aware of, usually supported by terrific acting.

I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.  But I obviously loved this season.

 

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A few quick words on the “Game of Thrones” Season 7 premiere.

The premiere of Season 7 of “Game of Thrones” was damned good … enough for me to give it a 9 out of 10.  (You know you’re enjoying a TV show when you are riveted to the screen.)

The dialogue and character development for this show is always first-rate, and the acting often is.  Last night was no exception — the exchange between Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), for example, was priceless.

The glimpse of The Night King’s wight army, however brief, should please any horror fan.  I watch a lot of horror movies, and I’m a tough fan to please.  Yet I am still surprised at how this fantasy show continues to succeed in scaring me.  It’s impressive.  If the leaked script for Season 7 is accurate, then the bad guys in the final episode ought to be damned frightening.

I will reiterate a very minor longstanding quibble that I have had with “Game of Thrones” as someone who has not read the books.  This story seems to attach tremendous dramatic emphasis to the movement and arrival of groups of people.  I do understand the need for this, and its appeal — the logistics are part of George R.R. Martin’s world-building, and they bring detail and a sense of realism.  There are times, however, when I feel like Daenerys’ defining character trait is that she … goes places.  (Look!  Now her army is here!)

I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers — this is a show where even mentioning a character’s name can suggest a chapter in his or her character arc.  (I will say that I loved the opening segment, even if I was understandably puzzled at first.)

This is great TV.

 

“And then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the iron throne.”

The “Game of Thrones” Season 7 trailer dropped … yesterday, I think. It looks to be a great season. Has there ever really been a bad season of this show? I’d name the first one as the least of them, and that was still pretty good.

If Arya dies, we riot.

If Sur Davos dies, we riot. (I’m never clear if it is “Sur” Davos or “Sir” Davos. Because I never read the books.)

 

A review of “The Walking Dead” Season 7.

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS GENERAL, MINOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 7 OF “THE WALKING DEAD.”]  I loved Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” — it was well executed, well performed (especially by Andrew Lincoln), and well written.  It was even beautifully scored.  (The closing narration and montage, combined with the music, were surprisingly moving.)  It had some great twists, unexpectedly good CGI, and some nice callbacks to the original comics.  (One surprise we see actually occurs with respect to another major character in the books.)  Towards the end of the episode, I was riveted.

The finale, however, can’t really redeem Season 7 as a whole.  I would honestly rate the season a 7 out of 10.  This was definitely one of the lesser seasons; I believe it would be the one I liked the least, if not for the inexplicably poor Season 2.

Maybe I was a little grumpy about “The Walking Dead” even before the season started.  Like a lot of viewers, I felt that the “cliffhanger” where Season 6 left off was absolutely manipulative on the part of the writers.  It pissed me off, and I went into Season 7 with reservations.

Then I was reminded about some of the smaller complaints I had about the show in the past.  I strongly differ with my friends about this show’s character development — I think it’s inconsistent at best.  And “The Walking Dead” seems to have so many characters that it can’t seem to decide who is a major character and who is not.

There’s a bit too much cheesy melodrama, like the schoolyard dynamics among the good kids, Maggie and Jesus, and the meanie, Gregory.  (This subplot was drawn from the comics, too — but it played out there in a far more adult fashion.)

Then I had a new quibble or two — one was a lack of proper minimal exposition.  We know extremely little about Jadis and the survivors in the garbage dump, despite the major role they play in the story.  They seem … sort of like a cult, and sort of like a performance art group, but that’s all I could tell you about them.  (The Internet tells me that some fans refer to them as either “the Heapsters” or “the Garbage Pail Kids.”  I find both appellations pretty funny.)

My biggest complaints about Season 7, however, were that it was too much of a downer, and that it was too slow.

We start the season with a front seat to Negan’s gory, merciless punishment of Rick’s de facto family.  And then the victimization of our favorite characters simply … continues for the length of the season, until the last episode’s climax.  You see that cool image at the bottom of this blog post?  The advertisement depicting bad-ass Rick and his allies getting ready to “RISE UP?”  (It actually looks a lot like the posters for the “Walking Tall” films.)  Well … we don’t see much of that until the final episode. I told one friend that “The Walking Dead” was disappointing me because it had grown tiresome “seeing Negan beat everyone all the time.”

And some episodes felt like filler.  Yes, there were some nice “milieu” -type stories — it was actually a lot of fun expanding the show’s world, to see other settlements, like The Kingdom, The Sanctuary and Oceanside.  But I think the plot needed to move forward more quickly.  (For a far better discussion of these issues, check out Ryan Roschke’s excellent review over at Popsugar.)

Hey … I’m still a fan.  I’m just not as satisfied a fan as I used to be.  I certainly looked forward to “The Walking Dead” every week, and never missed an episode.

And this season did have its high points.  Dwight emerged as quite an interesting, compelling character, thanks in no small measure to Austine Amelio’s portrayal of him.  The character interaction among him, Daryl, Negan and Rick is great stuff — I find myself wishing that the lion’s share of the season was devoted to those four.  I am finally starting to understand that Norman Reedus is indeed a really good actor — his performances were strong throughout the entire season, but must notably upon his return to Alexandria and his embrace with Rick.

And there were moments of nice action and horror as well — the sand-buried walkers pursuing Tara and Health spring to mind, not to mention the neat trick Rick and his group use to dispatch an entire herd of zombies on the interstate.

Let’s hope that Season 8 will pick up a bit, now that “war” is underway.

 

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