Season 5 May Not Be Its Last, But It May Just Be Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Best (no spoilers)

There is pure joy associated with the fact that I write this knowing it isn’t going to be an article of sorrow, tribute and remembrance.

Here we are, instead, after a rollercoaster of ten days, allowed to simply celebrate the fact that… Well I can’t really say because it’s a spoiler.

Season 5 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is, despite the competition from the rest, the best of the show so far. It is a season to be remembered for its incredible Halloween episode, gripping overarching plot, innovative episodes and truly important character development.

It really says something about a series when its already fleshed out cast of characters can be given so much more in its fifth season, and that really is a representation of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s characters are people, nothing less. Season five elevates all its characters.

Season five also marks a milestone for the Nine-Nine, with a celebratory 99th episode (instead of the traditional 100th), and I could argue that it’s the show’s best ever episode.

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Add to this an episode in which Rosa is caught in an active shooter situation, and a brilliantly unique episode, The Box, guest starring someone I have nothing but love for, Sterling K Brown, and you find yourself with a season of episodes that truly stand out. Also, it has, by far, the best season finale of the show to this point.

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This season, inevitably, will be remembered for almost being the last, and if it was, it would have been a wonderful last season. Thankfully, it isn’t, and it certainly looks like things aren’t going to slow down from here.

The worldwide uproar when Fox cancelled the show wasn’t just for nothing. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to those of us who love the show, genuinely means something. Sure, it’s just a workplace comedy, but the show itself is so much more than that. It is naturally diverse, without drawing attention to itself. It is an overwhelmingly positive show, much like Parks and Recreation, that is driven by characters supporting one another.

Something else that needs to be brought into the spotlight is just how much all these characters have matured since season one, and how much tighter their bonds are. It feels natural because the show is written that way, but it is a beautiful thing to see progression in character.

And once again, I feel the need to repeat myself in saying the show isn’t dead. There isn’t a TV show today, or possibly ever, that I have a connection to quite as much as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it has earned its right to stay.

There isn’t a trace of a doubt that season six will be as charming, funny and… Well… Moving as this season was.

Nine-Nine!

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season 5): MIHIR

 

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Riverdale season 2: A Showcase of Dreadful TV Writing

Last year, I watched a thirteen episode series that caught me off guard with how good it was and made me excited for more.

When the second season was announced, that excitement only grew, but it did take a little hit when it was announced that the second season was going to be twenty-two episodes. My concern that most of the season would be obsolete and forgettable soon accompanied my excitement. Then the second season of Riverdale arrived.

I couldn’t have been more right.

It’s not just that most of the second season of the show is pointless, it’s also that a lot of it is just bad. This season seemed like it was going out of its way to be a showcase of poor television writing, and if it really was, it succeeded.

I don’t even know where to begin here, but I’ll logically start with the plot point that I think was supposed to be at the forefront. There is a serial killer on the loose and nobody knows who it is. That’s pretty much it.  It is one of the two plots that actually work. The Black Hood story is not perfect – far from it – but at least it is a story that makes sense.

The rest of the season, however, falls flat, especially when it comes to how awfully written Veronica and Archie are. Without meaning to spoil anything, there are points in this season when both characters are written as definitive villains. There isn’t even an attempt to justify their actions, and at this point anyone watching should be questioning why they should care for two main characters who are just bad people.

But while Archie and Veronica are consistently written poorly, it’s Betty that suffers the lowest points on the show. Betty’s actual arc in the whole season is good, but there are moments – which I will not reveal – which are so bad for her character, you wonder how anyone on the writers’ team could have sold that to the show-runners.

The real star of this season is Cole Sprouse’s Jughead, who not only receives the strongest story and writing, but also the best performance. Jughead in this season is more rounded than anyone else, and everything he does feels right for the story. He is written the truest to his character and his entire arc is immensely satisfying.

Apart from the core four of Riverdale, there are clear hits and misses. Josie and Kevin are basically non-existent, Reggie is… There… And Cheryl has high points but suffers from severe inconsistency throughout the season. The parents of Riverdale have certainly stepped up this season, however, with Alice Cooper, Hiram Lodge and FP Jones being the most compelling.

This season also does a great job of humanising the South Side Serpents, which is really why everything with Jughead works. There is a major plot from start to finish surrounding the tension between the North and South sides of Riverdale, and while it has its questionable moments, it is a good plot. The Serpents also bring with them new characters that are welcome additions to the show, particularly Toni Topaz.

While I appear to have listed strong plot elements in the season, I need to make sure I’m not being misinterpreted. This is not a good season. There are twenty-two episodes, and I actually liked about nine of them. I loved three, and one of them is a musical and another is told in a very unique way, at least for Riverdale. That’s only because I have a soft spot for TV episodes that are stylistically distinct from most other episodes.

The biggest problem casting a shadow over this season is the fact that the show never really seems to know what it’s doing. Things happen and then other things happen after that, and you’re not really sure why you should care. The first season of the show, being only thirteen episodes, was crisp, focused and effective. While it is never easy to be gripping for twenty-two episodes, it could have definitely been done better. There’s no way around that.

The fact is that when I look back at this season of the show, despite it having a wonderful Jughead story among other good elements, I will always think about how much I disliked Veronica and Archie and how poorly almost everything was executed. That does make me upset, but I am not going to turn my back on the show because when Riverdale is good, it’s great.

I just hope it manages to be good again in the next season.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Riverdale (season 2): MIHIR

Jessica Jones’ Second Season Struggles to Escape the Shadow of Its First (no spoilers)

It’s a little unfair to a series when it sets such a high bar for itself with its first season.

Jessica Jones’ first season is still my favourite Marvel Netflix series thus far, and I doubt it’ll ever be toppled.

The quality of that first season, however, did place high expectations on the second, and it was inevitable that those expectations would not be met.

I choose not to disclose anything at all about the plot of the second season because the very premise is a spoiler.

What I will say, however, is that it is a smart route to take. The first season of the show was already so personal that exploring the character of Jessica Jones would have been difficult to begin with in the second season. What’s on display here is a great way to dive deeper into her character, and it makes for a compelling story.

However, at some point in the season you begin to realise why the second season simply cannot stand toe-to-toe with the first. Jessica Jones season 1 was the most focused, most driven of all Marvel Netflix series. It had one purpose, one direction, and it didn’t need any more. It was such a great series because it always had you by the collar, making you stare into its eyes.

The second season greatly lacks that focus. Granted, this does not means it’s bad. It is just scattered. You can never truly be as invested in this season as you were in the last, because it doesn’t really allow you to be.

The bigger hole left by season one is David Tennant’s Kilgrave. That character almost defined season one, and his lack of presence is noticeable. This isn’t to say that the cast isn’t adequate – they are all, in fact, great – it’s just to say that Kilgrave was such a scene-stealing character that he seems to have stolen something from the whole season.

This is what makes season two of Jessica Jones just fine, but it should be more than that. It makes for entertaining television, but at the end of the day, almost nothing from the season is memorable.

The season has direction but throughout its entirety, even towards the end, you can never really feel this. There is never a point where you want to stop watching, but at the same time, you can stop watching. Nothing would really stop you from just putting something else on.

Jessica Jones returns to Netflix on the heels of a fantastic first season and a return to form for Marvel with The Punisher. It just doesn’t really go beyond that, and at the end of the day, I’m not going to remember it when I wake up tomorrow. That’s just the sad truth.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Jessica Jones (season two): MIHIR

This Is Us Presents the Most Difficult Hour of Television Ever

Spoilers for This Is Us. Proceed with caution.

I don’t conventionally write about a television series until its season comes to an end, and I certainly never write about a random episode in the middle of the season.

However, when it comes to This Is Us’ Super Bowl Sunday, I have to make an exception, because this episode feels like a finale to everything the series has stood for so far. At least, in one sense.

The funny part about all of this is that Jack Pearson’s present-day state of being (as in, dead) was revealed as early as the second episode of the show, and yet, a whole thirty episodes after that, it manages to still make you care so much about his death.

That, really, is a true testament to the show. Jack Pearson may, admittedly, be painted as unrealistically good at times, but This Is Us manages to do this without the audience turning their backs on Jack. This could partially be because Jack isn’t perfect, and the times when the show highlights this, it often goes all out to do so. The bigger reason, however, is clearly Milo Ventimiglia’s performance. Not many would be able to portray Jack quite like he does, and he makes you fall in love with the character effortlessly.

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Jack’s death could have been something thrown out of nowhere (although, given the show’s structure, it would have been impossible or indeed, extremely difficult) and it wouldn’t have been so effective. The key to making Jack’s death so painful to watch, even with the whole world knowing he wasn’t a character that would last, was making Jack seem larger than life.

This isn’t necessarily difficult, because to the Big Three, Jack is larger than life. They often didn’t see their father at his worst, and he was, as Randall puts it in this episode, “the best dad in the world”. Even Kevin, who was always at heads with his father, even the very last time he saw him, knows what kind of a person his dad really was. Kate, of course, is even more attached to his death than everyone else.

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Thirty episodes of teasing everyone with how Jack died and making Jack the most lovable character that probably exists in any current drama has its effects.

I realise that I’m going on and on about things that have happened previously on the show, but it just astonishes me that a death everyone knew was coming hit me so hard. It hit me even before I watched the episode. I spent about twelve hours contemplating even watching the episode at all.

Ultimately, I did. At 10PM. Because I enjoy going to sleep with tears in my eyes.

Super Bowl Sunday knows what it’s giving us and it even gives us a fake-out about Jack’s death early on. It knew everyone thought he died in the fire, and it played that card until it was almost unbearable.

And so it makes the actual blow much harder, because even in its revealing episode you’re not sure how Jack dies. When he does, though, of a heart attack caused by excessive smoke inhalation, it’s even more tragic than I ever could have imagined.

One thing you notice is that the episode focuses on Rebecca’s immediate grief when Jack’s death actually happened, and it focuses on the Big Three’s different coping mechanisms twenty years later. Interestingly, they are all different. Rebecca tries, no matter how difficult, to be strong for her children.

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She is the only one at the hospital when Jack dies, and in her last conversation with him, Jack is visibly not well, but he doesn’t say it. Even then, he tries to make Rebecca laugh, with the last thing he says to her being ‘you’re in front of the TV’.

Then Rebecca leaves and finds a phone to call Kate and tell her everything is okay. What she doesn’t see, however, is the chaos behind her, and she still thinks Jack is completely fine when she gets off the phone. She gets a candy bar from a vending machine, and the first thing she does when the doctor tells her what happened to Jack is take a bite out of it, because she thinks it’s a joke.

What hits you the hardest is the simplicity of it all. Everyone thought Jack’s death was going to be in a fire, but it wasn’t. We were given his death not by the sight of him, but by the sight of Rebecca. Even though this is Jack’s episode, Mandy Moore is truly the star. There’s something more heartbreaking about her not breaking down immediately, but only realising the doctor isn’t lying by seeing Jack’s body herself. Rebecca had been through so much that day already that she didn’t even care about the Pearson house burning down. It may have been tragic earlier, but Jack helped her see that the house doesn’t matter as long as they have each other.

And then minutes later he was gone.

In the present day, Kate blames herself every year for her father’s death, Randall goes into denial and tries to wash out grief by trying to do something cheerful and Kevin routinely avoids his father around the time of his death.

By the end of the episode, both Kevin and Randall realise that they can’t push their sorrow away forever, and Kate appears to be learning to let go and focus on what she has, instead of what she had.

Now, really, all three of these stories were compelling, but, much like the rest of this season, Kevin’s is simply the most crushing.

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Justin Hartley appears to be in his element when he’s talking to nobody but himself, or, someone who isn’t there. ‘Number One’ was one of my favourite episodes of television last year, mostly because of the final few minutes of Kevin just talking to himself and spilling all his regrets.

The moment my tear-ducts could no longer contain themselves during Super Bowl Sunday was when Kevin went to Jack’s tree and just talked to him. There it is again. The beauty of simplicity.

It’s worth noting the difference between Jack’s death and William’s death from last season. William’s death focused mostly on William, because he’d been a character that the show attached us to. Jack’s death focused on everyone else. It’s probably the event that made all of the show’s characters who they are, so, it’s not just about Jack dying. It’s about a part of everyone dying.

Even in this episode, there is a completely unexpected twist. While all of us thought the little boy that was occasionally cut back to was going to be adopted by Randall and Beth, we were all wrong. That was set in the future, and that child’s social worker is actually Randall and Beth’s first daughter Tess. This is interesting because it could be hinting at where the show is going in the future. Also, older Randall has aged really well.

For the present, however, This Is Us left everyone grieving a fictional death that they knew was coming. I may be making a bigger deal of this than it really is, but, it’s incredible how a show can pull that off. I do know, however, that if This Is Us leaned even a little bit away from how down to Earth it is, Jack’s death wouldn’t have been so hard-hitting. This Is Us’ charm is that it is as real as can be (its very tagline is ‘This Is Real’), and as far as I’m concerned, that’s why I’m able to care so much about the show and its characters.

There is another episode this week, which Mandy Moore has said is even more heartbreaking than Super Bowl Sunday. Wonderful.

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The Indian Detective: A Series That Could Have Used a Little More of… Anything

It is a little strange to see Russel Peters – who I consider stand-up’s greatest living name – lead a drama about a police officer in a fish-out-of-water sort of situation.

The result is a show that is just fine. It isn’t bad, but it also isn’t that memorable. The Indian Detective is a Netflix original mini-series set in Mumbai and Toronto, and is about a Canadian constable who finds himself caught up in a major crime story in India.

The Indian Detective’s biggest problem is that it never quite commits to anything that can make it great. It is billed as a dramedy, but isn’t comedic enough to really be called that. It tries to tell a story between father and son, and while it manages to just do an alright job with it, it never really makes it anything special. It appears to be creating a reflection of the state of the Indian police and legal system, but it really only scratches the surface.

While its cast may be good, from Peters to Christina Cole as Peters’ partner on the force back in Toronto, The Indian Detective fails itself by not really understanding what it is. It somehow finds the unfavourable line between being not funny enough and not serious enough, and this tonal inconsistency really makes you wonder what you’re supposed to feel while seeing things unfold.

I have a liking towards stories about Sub-Continental immigrants in North America (that’s very specific, but, yes). Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick is a film I love, and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None was my favourite TV series of last year. However, and as disappointing as this is, Russel Peters fails to live up to those because his series is just not as memorable in any way.

The biggest positive about The Indian Detective is that it brings Indian life… To life. It does a really good job of showcasing what life is like on the streets of Mumbai, and for that, it deserves acclaim.

Beyond that, however, I don’t see myself returning to this one for a second season, if there is one. It’s a bigger disappointment because the world knows how great Russel Peters can be.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Indian Detective: MIHIR

Marvel’s Runaways: The Most Promising Series Around? (no spoilers)

It’s been more than two weeks into 2018, and I’ve written three articles already this year, but this is my first review, and, it feels good to be back to my basics.

Marvel’s Runaways is a Hulu Original series (which, if you live in a country that doesn’t have Hulu, as I do, you may be able to access via Amazon Prime Video) that is based off the comic book property of the same name.

It is apparent that when a series is made for a streaming service, it can have an overall better quality than a regular television show. This is not generalising, as there are some TV shows on the air that I really do love, but it is true that the content can be a little more ambitious. Marvel’s Netflix series have been prime examples of this – even though not all are on the same level of quality – as they are generally grittier and more mature than the rest of the MCU.

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This places quite a high standard for Runaways to live up to, and it is a delight to say that the series does.

Set on west-coast Los Angeles, rather than New York (where all of Marvel’s Netflix series and five of the MCU’s films are set), Runaways feels refreshingly new. It has a Spider-Man: Homecoming-esque vibe of being about high school and adolescents, at least, with the actual Runaways, while having a much more sinister, mysterious layer to it as well.

It’s immediately evident that Runaways has quite a lot on its plate to balance, from a perplexing story that anyone can lose track of if they aren’t paying attention, to an insanely extensive number of characters, and it does a great job of doing this, for the most part.

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Critiquing this show is quite a challenge because in having all of these elements collide, it does come off as too many cooks, but when the season actually wraps up (a second season has already been confirmed), one realises that Runaways has a long-term, multi-season plan, unlike Marvel’s Netflix shows which mostly had all their individual stories wrap up in order to have a crossover series with The Defenders. Runaways doesn’t have anything of the sort planned, so the series is self-contained and it appears to have so many elements to it for a reason.

As complex as its story may be, Runaways does have quite an intriguing plot (although towards the end it does come off as a little Defenders-ish, and that is slightly disappointing). It isn’t told in a linear fashion, which is why even a minute of inattentiveness can allow anyone to lose track of what’s going on, but a plus of the show telling its story this way is that it allows there to always be an air of mystery around the series.

Runaways’ cast, and I cannot stress this enough for being a positive, is so richly diverse that it is a a wonder to watch. Granted, the source material is no different, but seeing such a diverse set of characters on screen is great. The characters are also really nice characters, by which I mean they are interesting. The dynamics and relationships between the six main cast members is something the show handles really well, and it manages to balance all of its characters marvelously.

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Having said that, some of the acting is… Well… Underdeveloped, and some of the CGI is… Err… Television. And even though it’s clear that there is a lot more to come from this series, I could have used a little more satisfaction as the season concluded.

Apart from that, however, Runaways is a promising series that deserves to be renewed and have its story told further. Its main characters are not perfect, in the sense that they are real characters. Nobody on Runaways is definitively good or bad, and I think that’s a great way to go about telling this story. Everything is complicated, and it’s handled that way.

It may have been smart on Marvel’s part to end the season with promise of so much more. The anticipation for season two is torturous.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Marvel’s Runaways: MIHIR

 

How I Met Your Mother And How It Went So Wrong

There is a certain stupidity associated with being extremely angry at a television show, and yet, there is also a certain necessity, and when it comes to How I Met Your Mother, fans who had been loyal to the show for its nine year air time have the right to want to burn it to the ground.

Of course, I am not one of those people, having just binge-watched the whole thing like any respectable loser with a lot of time on his hands. And even in this scenario, there is so much boiling anger that ‘furious’ is a bit of an understatement.

This rage would not exist if How I Met Your Mother was not a good show, and unfortunately for it and its fans, it was a great show. How I Met Your Mother was uniquely funny, packed with heart and a show that never had a bad episode… Until it ended, of course.

Oh, by the way, spoilers.

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The charm of the show was that it never shied away from exploring the complexity of its main characters’ relationships with each other. In doing so, it brought out the best in the actors, the writing, the laughs and the tears. It turned its characters into completely different people by the end of its run, and I mean that in a good way. The characters grew so naturally and so beautifully throughout the series that one develops a bond with the show that is extremely rare.

A lot of this is probably because the show had a plan, from beginning to end, and it was exactly as long as it needed to be (unlike a certain Modern Family that should have capped at a perfect eight seasons). In its nine year run, the show was always fresh and brilliant, and it would have betrayed itself if it went on any longer. Of course, it betrayed itself anyway, but, I’ll get to that later.

The show’s premise is, well, alright, even if it’s handled rather questionably. The fact that Ted is narrating all of the events of this story to his children makes for some real emotional moments and some great laughs.

But that’s what makes everything about How I Met Your Mother’s finale so… Wrong.

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The final season of How I Met Your Mother – except the finale – is arguably the greatest of the show. It had all its characters hit their highest and lowest points, and it enabled all of them to find their perfect endings.

Lily and Marshall are probably the only characters that remained with a perfect ending. Ted, Robin and Barney, the show’s hit-you-over-the-head love triangle, however, would all fall so far down from grace.

Yes, the entire series kicked off with Ted falling head over heels for Robin, but, that didn’t mean the show had to beat on a dead horse for so long. Having watched the entire show at a stretch, it is honestly very hard to believe that Ted would have feelings for Robin throughout the entire series, especially since the show is literally titled How I Met Your Mother.

Leading up to their wedding, Barney Stinson (excellently played by Neil Patrick Harris) completely changed himself for Robin. Their relationship was nothing but rocky, but it was the struggle itself that made it impossible for them not to end up together. Barney’s proposal to her was perfect, and everything that happened on their wedding weekend was, perhaps, necessary, but they should have stuck together. Ted should have let Robin go because Robin and Barney were the actual centre of the entire last season of the show. Having them announce their divorce in the very same episode that began with their wedding reception is the equivalent of looking every single fan in the face and spitting right into their eyes.

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I do realise that the idea of Barney and Robin being together is what I would like to have seen, but even if they were never meant to stay together, both characters deserve better than to announce their divorce like it was nothing. What’s worse is that Barney goes back to his ‘abandoned’ single lifestyle, only to involuntarily become a dad and close the series on that note, and Robin distances herself from the entire group. This is such a horrible conclusion to their stories that it even distracts you from the fact that Robin is present in most flash-forwards to the future from previous seasons, so it doesn’t even make sense that she distances herself.

Then comes Ted. Ted, who has spent the entire show narrating to his children the story of how he met their mother, only to have her be a red herringWhy? There is no reason for this. What the show is saying is that the whole time Ted was with his children’s mother, he was secretly in love with Robin?

All other things aside, it’s at this point that you realise the show just tried too hard with Ted and Robin, and stuffed itself too much at the end. The finale (spanning 40 minutes) is so rushed and has so much going on, that it is the show’s only poorly executed episode.

One particular comparison that can be made is how the finale handles Marshall’s judgeship. When Marshall was going to become a lawyer, the show dedicated an entire episode to him trying to find out if he passed the bar exam, and in doing so, enabled all of Marshall’s friends to support him and be with him when it was ultimately revealed that he passed the test. That’s what made How I Met Your Mother stand out. It made sure all the big moments, and even the little ones, were memorable. In the finale, Marshall announces that he’s been made a judge right at the start, and then it’s dismissed for the million other things that happen in the episode.

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The finale sticks out so much that it’s even apparent in the sets and cinematography. Set in various points across the future, the finale has familiar sets like McClaren’s Bar, Ted’s/Marshall and Lily’s apartment and even Robots vs Wrestlers, except, all of them are drab and devoid of colour. It’s as if the show knew it was taking a completely unnecessary turn to the dark side, and was embracing it.

But of course, the trophy for ‘worst decision of How I Met Your Mother’ goes to the reveal of Ted’s wife being dead six years prior to him telling his children this story. This is the moment that anyone who is still around would want to punch whatever screen they’re watching the episode on, because it makes everything that happened in the nine seasons prior a little less important. Beyond this, you really have to ask, why was this decision even made? It ruins the show, it has Robin and Barney end the series in the wrong places and makes Ted seem like someone who always loved Robin more than his own wife.

Here’s the thing. Up until the very, very last episode, How I Met Your Mother was essentially perfect, and it even made it look like the whole Ted-Robin thing was wrapped up. All it had to do was tell the story of how Ted first met his wife, and that’s it. Instead, it chose to leave everything it spent nine years building in ashes, and laugh at every single fan.

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I’m not a person that always needs a happy ending, but after watching this show, that’s all it needed. The finale is so depressing that it makes you wonder why you invested so much time in a show that was ultimately going to leave you disappointed. Lily and Marshall have a happily every after, and, I suppose, so do Ted and Robin. But Barney deserved better. Barney didn’t spend nine years completely changing himself for Robin just to break up with her after three years of marriage and go right back to his old self. Barney said it himself. He only felt truly happy with Robin. How I Met Your Mother robbed him of that.

You can’t have a show that is so beloved, with characters so cared about, and then throw everything out the window for nothing.

I realise I have ranted about fictional characters this whole time, but, it can get frustrating when a show can end having been complete perfection, and then somehow flips itself on its head right at the end. I will remember that finale for its grey colour palette (seriously. Its’s grey) and it will forever tarnish the legacy of this truly wonderful series.

That is really quite a tragedy.

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Remembering Seinfeld, An Icon of Television

It’s been almost twenty years since the final episode of Seinfeld aired, and the show still stands as one of the most memorable television shows of all time.

The charm of Seinfeld is that it never takes itself too seriously. While every sitcom is, by nature, not serious, almost all of them eventually have serious consequences or deal with serious issues. In the case of Seinfeld, however, this never happens, and the result of this is a show that is nothing but funny.

With a rather rocky first two seasons, one would be surprised with how great Seinfeld would be from its third season on, especially when it even becomes a parody of itself in the fourth. Seinfeld knows what it is, and it even makes fun of it, with Jason Alexander’s George Costanza pitching to NBC a show called ‘Jerry’, which is about nothing. A friend of mine told me to stick around beyond the first couple of seasons, and that I’d see how special the show really is later on, and he certainly was not wrong.

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In its commitment to staying light, Seinfeld also has minimal character growth for all four of its main characters, and oddly, this is a compliment. George, for example, may move up the ladder career-wise (albeit very slowly) throughout all nine seasons, but he is still as pathetic as ever. Alexander gets better and better in his role as the show goes along, and I’m not just saying this. Comparing first episode George to last episode George, you can see that there’s an overall better performance from Alexander as the years go by.

Similarly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine Benes is all over the place professionally throughout the series, but as a character, she is always the same. Unlike the other characters, there isn’t a distinct characteristic to Elaine, and what this allows for is a lot of versatility in all her stories. There is no denying that Louis-Dreyfus is capable of everything Elaine asks of her.

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The titular character of the show isn’t necessarily its singular main. Jerry Seinfeld, playing Jerry Seinfeld, probably has the easiest job of the lot, because not only is he playing himself, he’s playing a comedian too. However, even so, Jerry is a delight on screen because he is the audience character. He’s sarcastic and genuinely funny. He is perhaps the most real of all the characters, but there’s still a certain flair to him that makes you love him.

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Seinfeld’s stand-out character, obviously, is Michael Richards’ Cosmo Kramer. Richards in real life is irrelevant and I will not get into that, but Kramer himself is such a delight. There is not a single moment with Kramer that isn’t memorable, and every second of Richards’ performance is spectacular. Kramer is quirky, unstable, and there’s always a certain welcome mystery to him.

Cosmo Kramer may indeed be one of the best characters TV has ever seen.

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My one critique of Seinfeld is that its main set, Jerry’s apartment, can have a little bit more life to it. I’m not implying it has to be as colourful as Monica’s purple apartment from Friends, but, it could use just a little bit more colour. There’s a prominent grey to the set, which in fairness is just a regular apartment, but for something we see so often, it could use a little bit more. But that’s just a minor critique, and that’s just me.

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Seinfeld’s laid back nature also enables it to be able to explore virtually any topic in its episodes, and it most certainly does. Seinfeld often handles controversial topics like mental health and death very lightly, and if this isn’t done just right, it could spark a lot of backlash. Thankfully, Seinfeld somehow manages to deliver just the right amounts of everything, and you end up laughing at whatever it gives you.

Seinfeld’s greatest strength, despite all I’ve said, is its memorability. There are a lot of episodes on most sitcoms that are fine but forgettable, but with Seinfeld, nearly all of them are worth remembering, from the episode where Kramer turns his apartment into the set of The Merv Griffin Show, to the episode where Elaine befriends a group of the opposites of Jerry, George and Kramer, to even the brilliant bottle episodes such as “The Chinese Restaurant” and “The Parking Garage”.

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Seinfeld is legendary, and it always will be. It truly embraces the idea of being a show about nothing, and in doing so, ends up being a show with everything anyone would want. The penultimate episode, The Clip Show, admittedly does get a tear rolling down in its blooper reel, and Seinfeld deserves that tear.

Even twenty years on, Seinfeld continues to be watched and re-watched. And it likely will be twenty years from now, too. Giddy-up!

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Silicon Valley: Like The Big Bang Theory, But Better In Every Way

Over time, one comes to realise that the better modern sitcoms/comedy series are those which do not have laugh tracks tacked on. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Modern Family and Master of None are just three examples of this.

Silicon Valley, like the last of those examples, is also a drama with an overarching story, which so far has taken place over four seasons. The HBO original follows Richard Hendricks as he tries desperately to get his software company, Pied Piper, off the ground, with his friends/colleagues Jared, Gilfoyle, Dinesh and Erlich.

Set in the titular location, Silicon Valley manages to excellently capture the environment of the world’s leading technology hub, and often becomes a parody of it too. It has quite a vast mix of characters, from CEOs to investors to lawyers to competitors, and it does a great job of balancing all these characters, especially in seasons three and four.

This leads into a criticism of the first two seasons, which do feature stories that are good enough, but are stubbornly one-note when it comes to its characters, except Richard. Erlich, Jared, Dinesh and Gilfoyle are one-dimensional, especially the last two, which does get a little tiring because there are often the same dynamics between the two.

Season three, however, allows for better character development, and it allows the show to live up to its title, rather than just being ‘the Richard Hendricks show’. The humour also steps up from the third season on, and it does feel like the writers seemed to understand what worked in the first two seasons and kept going down those paths. Seasons one and two feature some good humour, but oftentimes it does feel rather unoriginal. Seasons three and four have a certain flair to them, almost as if it could be used as a comparative tool for other shows. ‘It has a Silicon Valley-esque approach to humour‘.

The crowning jewel is season three, for which I cannot remember having found any flaws. While it is clear that the show completely understands what it is in the fourth season, there are certainly some questionable creative decisions towards the end, especially regarding Richard, which sort of make the character’s growth over time a little redundant.

Even as initially one-dimensional as the other characters are, there is no denying that they have their own distinct charms. Erlich is, by far, the funniest, thanks not only to the writing, but also to TJ Miller’s perfect performance. Gilfoyle, the show’s own biggest critic, and Dinesh, the show’s token loser tech guy, play off each other really well as time goes on, mostly because their relationship changes from being one dominating the other, to both trying to be dominant over one another. Jared, who is a really, really strange character if you catch all the absurd throw-away lines there are about his lifestyle and his past, is my personal favourite, being responsible, soft and having all the show’s deepest feelings attached to him.

The show has strong supporting characters too, from the snobbish CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, Gavin Belson, to Nelson ‘Big Head’ Bagetti, an idiot who stumbles upon good fortune without even knowing it, all the time. And that’s only mentioning two of them.

Finally, it is upsetting that TJ Miller is leaving the show for good, for a number of reasons, and the way his character is written off the show is rather disappointing.

Silicon Valley is funny, engaging and clever, and seems to get better with each season. It isn’t perfect, but it is definitely worth watching.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Silicon Valley: MIHIR

The Punisher is Really Good… Eventually (No Spoilers)

The mandatory thirteen episodes for the Marvel Netflix series has always been a factor that brings them down, but none have been a greater victim of this than The Punisher.

After the positive reception Jon Bernthal’s Punisher received in the second season of Daredevil, his own series was immediately green lit, and it follows a personal story concerning the death of the character’s family, and is in quite a political environment.

With perhaps Jessica Jones season one being the sole exception, the necessity to churn out thirteen episodes – even if the story being told is not worth stretching to that many – has plagued Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the second and even the almighty first season of Daredevil.

When it comes to The Punisher, however, it’s somehow even worse.

It goes without saying that Jon Bernthal is phenomenal as Frank Castle. The supporting cast, even among the stellar supporting casts of the rest of the Marvel Netflix universe, truly stands out, from Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s David Lieberman/Micro, to Amber Rose Revah’s Dinah Madani, Daniel Webber’s Lewis Wilson, Jaime Ray Newman’s Sarah Lieberman, Jason R Moore’s Curtis Hoyle, and the returning Karen Page, played by Deborah Ann Woll.

However, despite the intriguing characters, The Punisher suffers from just being way too long. The first half of the season is a pain to get through, and by episode six, you’re really wondering if it’s worth seeing this through to the end. Your thoughts aren’t exactly helped by the fact that the story is all over the place in the first half of the season, before everything begins to converge and things start to make sense. I’m not saying the first six episodes are bad, like with Iron Fist. It’s just that the matter they provide could have easily been compressed into four episodes, or maybe even three. The first half of the season just drags on and on.

The second half of the season is a different story. The second half of The Punisher is some of the best Marvel Netflix content there is, and is a much needed return to form. As much as you have to struggle on with the show for the first six episodes, from episode seven and on, you just ease through it because it’s so good. The story all comes into one and the dots are connected for gripping, entertaining television, and you do finish the series wanting more.

A standout for me is episode 10, a bottle episode which is not strictly chronological in its storytelling. There’s no real reason for the story to be told that way, but it was interesting and fresh.

The Punisher, rightfully, does not hold back on gore, and commits itself to honouring its titular character. Frank Castle has not only grown from the way he was in Daredevil, he grows throughout this series as well.

Ben Barnes plays antagonist Billy Russo, a former US Marine who was in Castle’s unit during his time in Afghanistan. He falls under the banner of the better Marvel villains, because of his personal ties to the protagonist, and because this is a character that is written well and is played by a good actor.

Another antagonist is played by Paul Schulze, and his name is William Rawlins. I initially wasn’t going to mention him in this article, because Russo is more important, but then I realised that the two main bad guys of the first season of The Punisher are named Bill and Bill. That would make for an excellent team name.

One final gripe I have with this series is that the first few episodes try (a little too) hard to show you that Frank Castle suffers from severe trauma caused by the death of his family, and the show sort of forgets about this in its middle phase.

This is also the first Marvel Netflix series that doesn’t feature Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, and that is a little bit of a disappointment.

The Punisher is a serious drag, until it finally gets going. What it then becomes is something you cannot take your eyes off. Driven performances and excellent supporting characters, along with the lead, are a staple of the show.

If there is a season two though – and this applies for every other Marvel Netflix series – please make it shorter.

Finally, The Punisher’s title sequence and theme song are incredible. Daredevil finally has a competitor for ‘best title sequence’.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Marvel’s The Punisher: MIHIR