Hi. Some time has passed, so here’s another roundup of some of the things I’ve seen on TV. [Or, more often, on DVD, but never mind].
I just give them a quick and simple score out of 4: 1 for rubbish, 2 for not-rubbish-but-you-have-to-like-the-premise/genre/cast/etc, 3 for things I would recommend to people even if they didn’t like the genre much because these things are really good, and 4 for things that are flat-out brilliant and everybody ought to watch.
This one’s slipping from my mind a bit, so I’ll just get something down while I still can.
Page Eight is a one-off (so far, the writer has suggested a possible series, don’t know if that’s happening) conspiracy thriller starring Bill Nighy. Well, ‘conspiracy’ is pushing it, and ‘thriller’ is definitely pushing it, but it certainly does have Bill Nighy in it.
So, a thriller. Only, the most thrilling thing is one character going for a stroll. Not joking. There’s one chase scene, and the person being chased is walking slowly, without any signs of panic or alarm. That’s the peak it hits of adrenaline-bursting thrills.
And yet… it’s actually very good. It’s written and directed by David Hare. Yeah, that’s the one, the guy with a BAFTA, an Olivier, a Golden Bear, two Oscar nominations and a heap of other stuff. Maybe that’s why it’s good.
All through the film (film? episode? whatever), it felt like the writer was setting out to write it properly. There’s nothing I like more than a writer who gives a shit. As a result of this care and attention, it’s – despite the lack of action – genuinely gripping. It’s also a little bit moving, a little bit funny, and keeps the mind happily active trying to work out what’s coming next.
Michael Gambon is here, which is always good, though neither he nor, frankly, Rachel Weisz has much to do, vis a vis the acting stakes. Ralph Fiennes has a slightly tougher, but very brief, role as an intimidating, quite unpleasant-seeming Prime Minister. In fact, the whole cast is great, but my special mention would go to Alice Krige as Gambon’s current, and Nighy’s former, wife. However, the heart and soul of this film is the millimetre-perfect performance of Nighy, who brings a bone-weary but indomitable integrity to the character of Johnny Worricker – once a bad husband, still perhaps a bad father, long-serving MI5 officer, loyal friend, and, hopefully, a good man. Now lumbered with the responsibility of potentially explosive intelligence about what his own side knew and when, and desparately in need of someone he can trust.
I hope he does return for a full series. As with many conspiracy thrillers, the secret here is not really all that exciting, but Hare and Nighy navigate the course so proficiently that it doesn’t really matter. Only the film’s relatively low-key style and its inevitably short length prevent this from being a masterpiece. Give this team the time and space to craft an entire series, rather than just a glorified pilot, and who knows how good it could be.
[Or bad, of course – not every great pilot turns into a great series. Maybe Hare can’t find enough material to keep his characters going. Maybe that quiet patience will fail to rise to a crescendo and instead will turn into a dull, monotonous drone. Maybe. After all, there’s nothing earth-shattering about the plot, or the characters, all of which are perfectly ordinary and familiar. But these characters deserve a chance to plead their case on a bigger canvass. The sheer and unusual competence of both the creator and the actors demands it.]
Verdict: 3/4. Highly promising, if it gets made into a series. Otherwise, a non-essential but nonetheless thoroughly rewarding 99 minutes of class.
Oh good. An American high school. I’ve not seen one of those on TV before! And what’s this I hear? A socially outcast teenage girl (played by a beautiful woman in her twenties) kicks the ass not only of bullies, but also of all sorts of local hoodlums, scoundrels, philanderers, and even murderers? Through a combination of precocious intelligence, superpowers, and mordant sass? Yup, this is a real original here.
OK, she doesn’t have superpowers, technically. What she has are the con-man skills and investigatory connexions and tech that come with being the precocious daughter of a private investigator (and former local sherriff). Let’s face it, in the context of high school, those may as well be superpowers.
Now, from that intro, you might expect that this isn’t something I like. I might have expected that too; indeed, I did expect that, which is why I never watched it until now, despite so many people saying it was good. I mean, true, I do have an embarrassing weak spot for teenage angst soap stories – but it’s almost always against my better judgement. Yes, I’ve watched almost all of Smallville – but I still thought it was almost entirely shit.
But Veronica Mars is not shit. It’s a very long way from being shit. In fact, and I do know that Buffy fans will disagree and with some cause… I think this is the best show ever made of its genre.
Why should you care about that if you’re not inherently in to American high schools as a setting? Well, actually there are a lot of reasons why people should watch Veronica Mars. [And boy, I’ve looked at the viewing figures, and if you persuade yourself and your dog to watch it you’ll double the audience it originally had. If a minor network showed six straight hours of a drunk man vomiting, it would get better ratings than Veronica Mars. Its viewing figures would have been good, if it had been a complicated, obscure work of high-art auteurism on a subscription channel – way more watched than Luck, Treme, or The Wire – but for a pop culture high school drama on a major network, they were abysmal. So, why should anyone buck those figures and watch it? Well…]
First off: didn’t you hear? It’s a beautiful, intelligent social outcast girl kicking ass. Of course it’s a great show.
Or is that just me?
Second – the darkness. Let’s recap the initial premise: Veronica Mars used to be popular. She’s living in a fabulously wealthy town, and her family has never been rich, but her father was the Sherriff, so that gave her sort of honorary rich-kid status. Her best friend was Lily Kane, daughter of the fabulously wealthy tech-baron Kane family, and her boyfriend was Lily’s brother, the moody-but-likeable Duncan. Then, one day, Duncan completely stops speaking to her, for no obvious reason. Oh dear. More importantly, soon afterward, Lily is brutally murdered. Oh dear oh dear. Veronica’s father becomes convinced Lily’s father is the killer, becomes obsessed with bringing him down – the people of the town don’t buy it, and vote him out of office. He becomes a national disgrace, a laughingstock, with the last of his credibility destroyed when ‘the real killer’ is found. He’s forced to become a private detective to pay the bills. His wife, Veronica’s mother, is hit badly by her husband’s demotion and humiliation; she wants the family to leave town, but he’s too proud; she takes to drink, and eventually runs off, leaving her husband and daughter no idea of where she might be. Veronica becomes outcast from her circle of rich friends – rich boyfriend has left her, rich best friend is dead, powerful father has been thrown down, of course she’s not popular anymore – but tries to force her way back in, gate-crashing a former friend’s party. She ends up drunk, drugged, humiliated, and raped at least once, waking up the next morning with no idea who raped her (or anything about the rest of the evening) but the certainty that it happened. The show starts a while later (it feels like quite a while, although it may only be six months officially, I’m not sure); Veronica has given up on popularity. Instead, she’s working for her father, ignoring the vile things people say behind her back, taking any opportunities she finds for little moments of vengeance against those who have wronged her, and now and then fighting for justice.
But she doesn’t believe the incompetent police have caught the true murderer of her best friend, and she still doesn’t know who raped her.
So, like I say, it’s dark. It has a bubbly, cheerful, exuberant high school side, in which Veronica takes on a case of the week (sometimes to fight on the side of righteousness, more often for cash) and uses her sleuthing skills to right wrongs and expose ill-doing and protect the weak and innocent among her classmates, and this might almost be too chirpy and sweet, if you overlooked the old-before-her-time wisecracking, complete social isolation, and borderline sociopathy (she’s a nice girl, honestly, but her ‘get tough, get even’ approach makes her ruthless and vindictive toward those she dislikes, which seems to be most people). But then there’s the dark side, the season-long arc investigating those two tragic crimes. It’s not a show that wallows in darkness, or that becomes morbid, but it’s not afraid to be unpleasant, or depressing, or creepy. It doesn’t let this fantasy high school world become detached in a bubble away from reality – Veronica may be a child, but she’s got serious, adult concerns. And while, as I say, most of the show is light enough to be a fun watch, it has the confidence to go to the dark places when they’re justified, which makes it a far more powerful experience.
Third – the writing. The writing is fun… more than that, it’s actually funny, with frequent laugh-out-loud moments (particularly in the second season). It’s not the greatest comedy material ever, sure, but it’s witty, it’s smart, it’s fast… but at the same time, it’s able to bring in pathos and depth as well. A good parallel might be The West Wing – this isn’t written in the same style as Sorkin exactly, but it shares that duality of humour and real character. And in terms of the larger scale, the plotting of the cases of the week is as original and unpredictable as can be expected from the constrained format (there aren’t a lot of possible plots with a small cast in a high school), while the arcs are superbly plotted whodunnits which rack up the tension and keep the viewer guessing. The biggest problem is that there is sometimes a lack of emotional continuity – Veronica will make a big discovery one episode, only to put it on the back burner for a bit while the show does a more self-contained episode, and then pick the big plot up again the week after, which doesn’t feel entirely realistic.
Fourth – the acting. Kristen Bell, particularly in the first season, is outstanding. It’s a great role for an actress, because it lets her character act – and it turns out that Bell has the voice, mannerisms, and even face of a chameleon (she’s beautiful, but is able to be beautiful in different ways – there are shots of her in this that strongly remind me of, to the point of sisterhood with, five or six different actresses from other shows who I would never before have said looked remotely alike). There are little vignettes of Veronica, slipping into different accents, personalities, appearances, to fool her mark, that are just a delight to watch in their effortless ease. There are also some strong performances in the background – particularly Jason Dohring managing to make ‘troubled bad boy rich kid’ a genuinely interesting role, and Enrico Colantoni as Veronica’s father, creating an acheingly wonderful (though possibly not healthy) parent-child relationship.
But there are problems – and I don’t just mean the token black sidekick, who manages to evolve out of the role of token black sidekick only by instead becoming a sidekick who is also frankly a git. No, the biggest problem is that the first season is too good, wraps everything up so brilliantly, reaching back throughout the season to bring in things that looked like throwaway moments at the time, culminating in a really great season finale… it leaves the show with nowhere to go but down. With the two big season arcs of the first year resolved – or, at least, as resolved as it appears feasible for them to be – I worried that the second season would either have to retreat to the banality of high school permanently, or else introduce an unrealistic second-season ‘big bad’ plotline. The show worked so well in the first year in part because it was realistic – heightened realism, to be sure, but fundamentally a fantasy version of life in the real world. Bringing in an equally major plotline out of the blue in the second season would strain credulity just too far, and lack the emotional impact of the initial arc.
But that’s what they did, and to their credit they did a good job of it. It was unrealistic both in its existence and in its near-cartoonish excesses, and it strained credulity, and I never cared as much about it as I ‘should’ have done, or as I’d cared about the first season arc… but it wasn’t egregiously awful, and the quality of the show as a whole let me see past it. I didn’t mind so much that the big plot didn’t seem as skillful when the scene-to-scene writing had if anything improved.
The trend continued, however, in the third season. This time, they knew they couldn’t have a third massively epic storyline, so they went for a series of smaller arcs, culminating with a hurried and underwhelming silly little damp squib of a series finale. The succession of quite-major-but-not-that-major plots frankly feels just as incredible, in the bad sense of the word, as a single larger arc would have done, and lacks the emotional investment.
The bigger problem with the third season, however, is the character. Over the course of the three years, the character of Veronica gradually evolves from a sassy outsider with an individual spirit into a teen-by-numbers bitchy robot who isn’t overly likeable and, more importantly, isn’t particularly interesting. It feels as though over time they forgot that the character wasn’t meant to be an identikit blonde cheerleader, and they gradually drifted in that direction throughout the series (albeit without ever quite getting there, to be fair to them). Coupled with the sidelining of some characters and the annoyance of others (including the token sidekick (side-rant: surely not all black teenagers in America have as their only hobbies ‘talking in mock jive for self-effacing humorous effect’, ‘playing basketball’, ‘doing what they’re told by white people’, and ‘being 100% only interested in black girls so that they’re never ever seen as in danger of a relationship with the white heroine and so the question never has to be addressed in even a single line’? Oh, please…)), it makes the third season a lot less enjoyable to watch. A simple metric of Veronica’s shift is her appearance – her hair gets longer and blonder and more hollywoody, and her face becomes more painted over with makeup as the series progresses, epitomising the levelling down of her personality.
Finally, there are a couple of points where the writers didn’t bite the bullet. There’s one point in the first season where they back away from what could have been a really interesting sub-plot implication (which wouldn’t have interfered with their main plot) because it was a bit too radical an idea (though making perfect sense within the show). More importantly there’s another point toward the end of the second season that suggests a brave but exciting direction for the show in the third season, that would really have given the third season some purpose… but they back down from following it up. There are, more minorly, a few other times where they refuse to allow change, probably to keep the same actors in the same roles even when the role has been played out.
These reservations, however, are relatively minor. It’s true that Veronica Mars wasn’t the greatest show on TV, and you need quite a tolerance for teenagers and saccherine silliness to watch it at all. But at heart this was, at least at first, a seriously good TV show. It took a setting that is beyond familiar, that is hard to make work, and it made absolutely the most of it – a show that in other hands would have been terrible and indistinguishable turned out funny, tense, imaginative, well-crafted, dark, gripping, and touching. More people should have watched it.
Season One: 3*/4. I haven’t given a ‘star’ before, but I think it applies here: the final episode (and what it reveals) lifts this up from an ordinary ‘quite good’ show, but it’s still not a brilliant must-watch show. So, 3*.
Season Two: 3/4. Not quite as good, lacks that kick of excellence, but still a better show than most of TV and worth recommending to people.
Season Three: 2/4. If you’ve watched the first two seasons, you may as well watch this. It’s a broadly enjoyable and clever show still – just not what it had been, and maybe not all that great anymore.
This could easily have been terrible; it wasn’t. Alternatively, it could have been great; but it wasn’t.
It’s a hard one to assess. Low budget SF with puppets playing heavily on the culture-clash humour inherent in its scenario of a human astronaut lost in alien space trying to get home, not understanding the creatures around him… such a razor-fine edge to walk. It frequently doesn’t manage it. Much of the writing and acting are just far too far over the top into self-parody; the overall narrative direction suffers from the late-nineties time period, as this is a show that wants to have season long arcs but is still anchored to an episodic adventure-of-the-week preconception; character development relies too much on the viewer’s interpolation of the meaning of the general brusqueness and tightlippedness, and seems to sway back and forth without clear purposeful drive. The gimmick, if you will – that these are characters thrown together by convenience who don’t like each other very much – is rarely lived up to. It’s sometimes dull, and often silly, and sometimes there are great big head-slapping plot-holes that you just wish they’d found a way around because as it is they’re just painful to watch.
There are times when you can see what they wanted this to be. Namely: good. I know that sounds stupidly simplistic, but I think I’ve explained before that ‘being good’ seems to be a category that can be applied to almost any concept, simply by really trying and not being lazy. A good example of that here is a monster-of-the-week episode like “Born to be Wild”. Look at a teaser synopsis, it looks familiar. As you’re watching it, you feel it’s familiar. But what in most shows would have been a massively predictable throwaway formula is teased out, made unpredictable, given a grey moral dimension… when it’s good, what Farscape does is apply a non-lazy writing effort to its stories, and back that up with moral uneasiness, and a disconcerting weirdness – a sense that the universe is a strange and possibly unpleasant place, and that the protagonists are very small and helpless. It’s a great antidote to something like Star Trek: Voyager – here, things aren’t clear and obvious, the future isn’t clean and polished, and it’s a lot less clear that the heroes will win in the end.
When it’s good, it’s very good. Sometimes, it’s almost brilliant.
But then sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the characterisation seems off, the personality quirks are just irritating, the plot arcs lack direction, and the plot-of-the-weak episodes are disposable. And, unfortunately, it is still basically some kind-of-OK actors running around some cardboard sets, with a puppet.
If you can maintain your suspension of disbelief, and are willing to go with the rough episodes, and in particular to get into it in the first place, Farscape seems like a rewarding show – it can be fun, funny, disconcerting and dark, and clever too. If you’ve been spoiled by better television (in particular the shows that have come out since Farscape was around that have taken similar paths), or if you’re not certain about SF in the first place, you may not feel like making the investment.
So far, I’ve only watched the first two seasons, and it does seem to be getting better, so I’m sure I’ll get around to finishing it off. And who knows, maybe it’ll turn out a classic in the end. So far, it feels like an entertaining footnote.
Season One: 2/4
Season Two: 2/4
Other Seasons: Not Yet Seen.
I should have written this up months ago, but I didn’t get around to it, so it’ll just be a few notes.
Angel is the even more brooding, even more angsty spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like Buffy, it at first adopts a sort of ‘monster-of-the-week’ formula, before later developing more complicated story arcs. Like Buffy, it is fond of overly-obvious analogous ‘Moral of the Week’ stories too, in which ordinary life things are transparently transliterated into supernatural-monster equivalents. [The ‘be aware of the dangers of date rape’ episode was just groan-inducing]. Like Buffy, it often involves excessive melodrama, and sets that are often not wholly convincing, along with a dodgy mythology and far too many coincidences, not to mention too many plot-by-rote episodes.
But like Buffy, there’s something here that transcends its limitations. The key here, I think, is the ambition of the writers, who are never happy settling with what they’ve got. Each season is different from the last, and there is a real sense of (albeit limited) character progression. The writers aren’t afraid to move characters out of their rut, and they aren’t afraid of one-upping the expectations the audience might form, or of doing something totally unexpected.
Central to this are the two supporting characters of Cordelia and Wesley, both borrowed from Buffy – and possibly the two least promising candidates for character growth in TV history. Both, at first, are played primarily for laughs, yet as the series progresses both show and develop new depths, becoming both more believable and more compelling as characters. Cordelia’s growing groundedness and resignation – her growth from airheaded highschool bitchqueen to (somewhat) wise and sympathetic matriarch of the group – and Wesley’s simultaneously growing competence and darkness, his development from a clumsy public school boy playing at ‘rogue demon hunter’ into a genuine (smart, brave, ruthless, sometimes genuinely frightening) rogue demon hunter, provide the heart and soul of the show. Sometimes, unfortunately, to the detriment of the alleged main character, Angel, who remains mostly static and uninteresting throughout. It doesn’t help that David Boreanaz, while perfectly tolerable in his own right, turns out not to have anything like the acting skill or charisma of Alexis Denisoff or Charisma Carpenter (he’s actually a lot better playing Evil Angel than Angel himself, which I guess is why the writers end up far too happy to find bad excuses to show us Evil Angel).
In some ways, this feels like a more succesful version of Farscape, despite the completely different plots and settings – it feels like it shares that show’s ambitions regarding inter-character conflict, character growth and interesting plot arcs, but does it all significantly better.
As I say above, the different seasons are all very different from one another (and note that I haven’t seen the final fifth season yet, though it’s set up to be the most ‘different’ of them all), so it’s worth commenting on the individual seasons.
Season One is a spinnoff of Buffy: it takes the style and setting and concerns of Buffy, gives us a (mostly) new cast of characters and location, and shows us how these things can work with a more grown-up, urban, noirish approach. It’s mostly monster-of-the-week – some fun, some frightening, but some plain silly. The writers don’t seem to have been certain what they wanted, or else to have changed their minds or had their minds changed, because the first and second halves of the season could almost be different seasons in themselves. Quality is variable – it’s mostly a pretty entertaining, somewhat silly show. Particularly noteworthy is the two-parter late on revolving around the character of Faith: as always, Faith is a paradox, in that in the sitting-around-bantering portions of the show she seems obnoxious, badly written, and frankly badly acted… only to transform once the action and the drama get going. Faith being sincere is brilliant – sympathetic yet frightening, well written, fantastically acted. So every time she appears on screen in Buffy or Angel I start out by groaning, hoping for the episode to be over soon – only to be transfixed by the end. There are two distinct sides to the character, the casual/cool and the intense/broken – and both the writers and the actress are a lot better at one than at the other. Fortunately, the one they’re good at is the one that matters. This two-parter is a direct sequel to the Faith two-parter in the fourth season of Buffy, and like that double feature it’s a lot better than I expected it to be.
Season Two is… angsty. Really, really angsty. The show throws away the monster-of-the-week (well, partly) and concentrates on a season-long arc, albeit a fairly meandering one, that mostly serves to have Angel looking anguished and brooding a lot. There’s no doubt that it’s a big step up from the quality of the first season, and a big step into darkness as well, but I found it hamstrung by its seriousness and its determination to be grimdark. Slaughter, syphillis and suicide – not the most enjoyable viewing, and I didn’t feel it had the gravitas to deserve this darkness (although of course, this being a spin-off of Buffy, there’s always plenty of jet black comedy among the grimness). However, massive kudos must go to the dimension-hopping Pylea arc, in which the writers through the established setting to the winds and take their group of hardened LA demon-hunter detectives and put them into a stereotypical-but-weirder mediaeval fantasy setting. The result is, if the episodes are viewed in one go, arguably one of the best fantasy films ever, and a great mix of pathos and absurdist comedy.
Season Three is where it all works. The content remains dark, but with less brooding and more action; the plot doesn’t meander, but instead rockets along, with multiple significant twists. The supporting characters get most of their development. The antagonists become more interesting. Everything goes completely out of control. In a way I wish it had ended here, because by the ending of season three the show is in an astonishing bleak place – without exaggerating, this could have made the darkest and most depressing season finale in history.
Instead, the show came back for a fourth season, and things almost immediately didn’t seem right – you know you’re in trouble when you have two “amnesia” episodes in a row, and the lampshading “it feels like we’re in a melodramatic supernatural soap opera” comments didn’t really help in that regard. It also doesn’t help when a character from Buffy pops by and casually one-ups the entire show, pointing out how much bigger and more powerful and more important and ‘darker’ Buffy has become (largely because Buffy is more cartoonish and characters can ‘go to the dark side’ with a lot less groundwork being laid, and a lot fewer consequences).
On the other hand, the fourth season does have its virtues – the greatest of which is boldness. My word it’s bold. In terms of stakes and consequences it ends up far bigger than anything else ever on either Angel or Buffy – and that’s before we get halfway through the season. The plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing, without a moment’s rest – including one particularly fan-baiting revelation. But in the end, the boldness is the undoing of it too. It’s too big, too fast, too loud – it sacrifices a lot of the wit and quiet character of the earlier seasons, and ended up just giving me whiplash. It was a fun ride, but it won’t stay with me as long as the more deliberate pace of Season Three. And with the astonishing plot twist in the final episode, I put down the series, too tired of it to continue… though I’ve no doubt I’ll be back before long to find out just how they try to make the new conditions make some sort of sense.
In the final analysis, then, what we have in Angel is a show full of paradox. It’s a steadfastly genre show, but it also brings a popularist approach, while at the same time daring to go beyond the conventional to try to do something noteworthy and unique. It doesn’t always succeed, and sometimes it’s too grimdark and angsty for its own good. For the most part, however, it’s a fun show with plenty of action, a whole heap of witty badinage and genuinely funny ironic humour, and a lot of beating people up. And it times, it goes beyond that to be a compelling drama with interesting characters and a challenging plot.
Seasons 1-2: 2/4
Season 3: 3/4
Season 4: 2/4
A brief update: I’ve now seen Season Two. I don’t have much to say – it’s much the same as Season One, but a bit better.
Season Two: 2/4
I’ve now seen the fourth season. I think this is a big step up from the first three: it seems to have more of a sense of direction, and more tension throughout. Cranston’s acting is as superb as ever, but here the surrounding characters are given a lot more to do, and the actors (and actresses) all more than live up to the heavier demands placed on them: although Cranston’s charisma and the centrality of his character still loom over the whole of the show, at the practical level this has become much more of an ensemble work. Dialogue and directing have reached new heights also. On the other hand, it’s still not perfect. The biggest problem is that, while the plot arc seems more solid this season, Walter still doesn’t have the clear character progression he needs. I suppose it’s realistic that his character should waver a little, moving forward one episode only to regress the next, but the bigger problem I have is that I always thought he was capable of what he ends up doing. And indeed he showed himself capable of quite a lot back in the first season. So (except perhaps in the final episode or two) I didn’t get the feeling that Walter had ever stepped up to a new level of bad, but only that he got more brazen about it. He broke bad before the show began, or at least some time in the first season. Then again, perhaps the real problem is our inability to see inside Walter’s skull – he talks so little about what he’s really feeling, or his motivations, and when he does there’s always an ulterior dimension to consider. We rarely get to see what he’s going through, which makes the show considerably less engaging: it lacks an emotional core. It doesn’t have a single really likeable character in it. And because we can’t see what Walter’s thinking, it makes it seems like his progressions and regressions – the whole of his behaviour – is governed primarily by the demands of the plot. Worst of all is his ridiculous stupidity. Walter is clearly an extremely intelligent man, yet from time to time he does really stupid things, and although it’s true that this is to some extent a result of his established traits of vast pride and a short temper it still largely seems as though these lapses are driven by what the writer’s think will make their job easier. And it’s not just Walter. Everyone’s super-smart in Breaking Bad… except for when they’re not. All because of the plot.
Fortunately, it’s a really good plot. And good writing, and great directing, and great acting. So the odd little plot-hole or vagary of character doesn’t sink the ship. It’s still really, really good. It’s just that a couple of little issues prevent it, in my opinion, from being truly brilliant.
[Oh, and sometimes they beat the audience over the head with things, and I still feel that sometimes they don’t quite judge the tone quite right, with the levity undercutting some of the darkness they try to build up, and the more cartoonish elements undermining the gritty realistic bits]
Season Four: 3*/4