Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e08 – Death Do Us Part

I didn’t realize until five episodes into Season Three there were only eight episodes this season. I knew it was the final season, but I didn’t realize it was a short final season. Director Daina Reid handles the series finale with aplomb; there’s a list of things the show seems like it’s going to get done in the last episode and then the list of things we hope it’ll get done. Writer Kris Wyld creates a lot of tension between the two, with Ashleigh Cummings and Hugo Johnstone-Burt’s nuptials seemingly the only positive guaranteed element. Not because it’s really part of the plot, just because… well, just because.

But the other inevitability is villain Colin Moody. His vendetta against Essie Davis’s no account, albeit royalty and wealthy father, Pip Miller, is drawing a lot of blood and quite viciously. Moody’s physically imposing, but he has this standing energy about him. Moody’s dangerous in every frame in every scene, even when he’s hanging out with an old friend. Like, sincere friend. It’s incredible what the show’s able to get away with as far as performance sincerity when the viewer’s got more of the facts to Moody’s violence.

There’s also a regular mystery—with Moody somehow involved—with a noted scientist (David James), who plays a character named Tode but it’s pronounced toad so the whole episode is the cast talking about Professor Toad. It’s very Wind in the Willows. Anyway. He gets killed off in some strange way by someone, possibly even local Catholic priest, Dennis Coard, which would be one hell of a twist, wouldn’t it?

Cummings is beside herself—even with everyone in danger, including herself—at the idea of now revealed to be un-Christian to scientists Coard being the one to marry her. It’s very cute. There’s only so much time for Cummings this episode and she does get a very nice finish to her series arc, so the cute little moments are nice to have.

The episode’s so full there’s no time for Miriam Margoyles and Tammy Macintosh didn’t get her episode this season. Having her around more was okay but not a substitute. Ruby Rees never made it back, leaving Jane the either.

As for Essie Davis and Nathan Page… how do the Honorable Phryne Fisher and Inspector Jack Robinson leave things? As successfully as they can. Wyld finds a certain way of framing things to get it done. Maybe not the hoped for, but better than the good enough. I’m sitting here with a smile thinking about it.

It’d be preferable to have more “Miss Fisher’s,” but as is… it’s just right. Enough.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e14 – The One Where We’re Trapped on TV

I’m not going back to count, but I feel like at least half this season of “Legends” is them getting knocked off track for an episode then getting back on track by the end. It’s fine, there have been some great episodes, but there’s no momentum on the main plot.

So while this episode is amusing—the Legends are trapped in TV shows with Caity Lotz doing a bad William Shatner impression for a while (with Jes Macallan doing a Spock), Nick Zano doing a riff on Joey from “Friends,” and Matt Ryan playing Mr. Carson from “Downton”—it’s definitely just a gimmick. It’s well-produced though maybe not well-executed. But it’s also hard to say for sure because the trip through reruns isn’t even the biggest deal in the episode—real Zari (Tala Ashe) comes back. So does Ramona Young.

The episode opens in a dystopia where the Fates have retaken control and turned it into a “1984”-type thing where all you do is work, make mush, watch TV. Young is the protagonist for this section, figuring out things are wrong on her favorite shows as Ashe pops out of the totem and possesses new Zari who’s living in the “Friends” show. Sounds complicated, but plays out real simple. The show almost immediately works itself into a pickle with old Zari, because Ashe is so good. So good. Even when she reunites with Zano, who is still in his “Friends” mode. Also, is “Legends” correct, is “Friends” responsible for the growth of “Bro” culture?

Anyway.

In the real world, Young hooks up with Adam Tsekhman, who also knows something’s wrong, and they go to the TV studio to try to confront the TV actors (not knowing what the Legends are yet). There, they discover a complicated, almost steampunk setup plugging life threads into a computer and auto-generating the TV shows. Turns out Maisie Richardson-Sellers had to get creative to keep her teammates alive.

So will the team get back together and save the world? Going to be a pretty dreary season finale next episode if they don’t….

There are some good jokes, there are some eh jokes; there’s a lot of good acting from Ashe, Ryan, and Olivia Swann in particular.

The show moves a bunch of pieces around to setup the characters who’ve returned and those who haven’t, but there’s no sense what the final battle is going to look like… instead, I’m just hoping some of the developments are permanent for next season because there’s a lot of potential.

Also—amazing makeup and costumes this episode. It’s a great idea, just awkwardly executed.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e03 – The Unquiet Dead

So the time and space machine is imprecise? Is that a “Doctor Who” thing? They bumble through the time? Because this episode is supposed to be Billie Piper getting to see nineteenth century Christmas in Naples or someplace but instead they end up in Cardiff (Cardiff gets a lot of deriding this episode); so can Christopher Eccleston just not fly the TARDIS?

Because the viewer already knows they’re not going to Naples because the zombies are in Cardiff. This episode’s about Charles Dickens (a wonderful Simon Callow) getting his proverbial groove back thanks to Eccleston trying to stop a bunch of zombies from doing their thing, as they reincarnate in a funeral parlor run by Alan David and Eve Myles.

There’s a forced twisty plot—writer Mark Gatiss does a low fine job but it’s all about the actors so it doesn’t matter—and nice direction from Euros Lyn. Piper bonds with nineteenth century Myles, who can’t imagine being a lady of the future and whatnot. Myles is great. She can’t help but be overshadowed by Callow, who’s so good as Charles Dickens, Zombie Hunter, they should’ve given him a spin-off.

The problem with the episode’s the finish, when Eccleston and company don’t seem to realize they’re at fault for all the tragedy. Their bad advice. Though it seems much more like Gatiss’s fault.

We get to hear some more about both Piper and Eccleston’s past—she’s got a “big bad wolf” in her personal history (Myles is psychic, which the episode uses well as it builds to a plot point) and Ecclestone’s alien race, The Time Lords, apparently hurt some noncombatants in the Time War, or something.

Piper gets to show some agency but it’s not well-written agency, so it’s a false step.

The first half is much better than the second, though Callow makes it more than worthwhile. Myles is still good, just not good enough—given the material—to hold the thing up. Callow does, however. Overall, it’s fine, if a little pat.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e02 – The End of the World

This episode is so much better than the previous one. So much better. And the only difference, besides setting and it not introducing a new lead character (Billie Piper), is a different director (Euros Lyn). Or maybe writer Russell T. Davies just had much better ideas for this one? Though the special effects are also “better,” quotation marks because it’s a bunch of exterior space shots, which don’t involve the main characters. It’s just pragmatic exposition shots of the sun about to Krypton Earth.

The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) has brought Piper to the end of the time, at least as far as time goes for planet Earth; they’re going to watch its destruction some five billion years in the future. It’s a seemingly budgetary choice, with Eccleston teasing Piper with possible stops in the future—but she never gets to get out of the TARDIS (okay, weird thing about “Doctor Who,” the absurd jargon is catchy). Instead, they go way way into the future so they don’t need to do exteriors and instead the action takes place on this spaceship—viewing platform—where a bunch of rich future people (people meaning aliens) have paid to watch the Earth get zapped by an adjusting sun. There’s a lot of exposition about how the future works, but it’s mostly just blather, some of it amusing, some of it diverting, all of it usually amiably delivered by Eccleston.

Eccleston’s a lot better this episode—Piper’s the main improvement, acting-wise, as she goes from a very low middling to fantastic as the weight of the reality she’s experiencing hits her. She’s five billion years in the future. She’s meeting all these alien races—Eccleston calls her a racist in response to her pointing out he had the TARDIS change her brain chemistry to allow her to understand alien languages, so it’s good to see the Doctor’s a man—and the Earth is about to die. Even though everyone she knows is five billion years dead. Though Eccleston does outfit her phone with a new SIM card (taking her off AT&T?), allowing her to call through time and space and talk to mum Camille Coduri.

The main plot, involving sabotage, is rather nicely executed and quite winding. Eccleston gets a love interest—an excellent Yasmin Bannerman—and Piper makes her first alien friend, Beccy Armory, and her first future human enemy, Zoë Wanamaker.

It’s really quite good. If they were all like this episode, I’d be closer to understanding the “Who” enthusiasm.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e07 – Game, Set & Murder

Given it’s the penultimate episode, I don’t feel too bad about generally picking the murder from the opening scenes. There are just certain “Miss Fisher’s” tropes in play—it’s episode thirty-three overall—and there are certain things the show’s never done and if it’s going to do them, now’s the time.

And I didn’t have any predictions on motive or whatnot. It was just… a sense of how things were going to go.

Essie Davis is throwing a tennis tournament at (away) Aunt Prudence’s estate, hosting old friend Jeremy Lindsay Taylor and his new wife, Lauren Williams. Williams is one of the best tennis players in the country, second only to American Ella Scott Lynch (who’s not American but better than usual with the Aussies playing Americans on the show). Ashleigh Cummings is a big fan of Williams, which leads to some fun awkward scenes.

But another thing the show finally gets around to addressing is whether or not Davis has an actual fears. It finds one for her in the murder method, leading to some more fantastic scenes for Nathan Page and Davis. Speaking of Page and Davis, there’s a really nice subplot about his support of her professionally when they get in trouble thanks to a lurking paparazzi (Fletcher Humphrys). Page also goes out in support for finally back Hugo Johnstone-Burt—was he busy during filming this season or something—as Johnstone-Burt and Cummings get to prepare for their impending nuptials with a little more security.

It’s a complicated plot involving mistaken victim targeting, some women’s rights issues—Australia doesn’t pay for women’s international sports travel but does pay for the men’s—old romances, and so on. There’s also Scott Lynch coming on to Page with an intensity to do rival Davis.

Elizabeth Coleman’s script is thorough and careful—the mystery and red herrings all get unpacked with just the right amount of detail—and the finish is sufficiently complicated for the characters involved. Really good supporting performance from Williams.

And Davis and Page finale is quite cute.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e10 – Where Do We Go From Here

How’s “Dead to Me” going to finish up its second season? How’s it going to resolve all the dangerous situations its characters have put themselves in? With one deus ex machina after another. One could say it’s lazy, but given how hard the show tried to be more than an easy black comedy the first season, it’s kind of nice for it to acknowledge it’s not going to clear any high bars.

And this episode does give cop Diana Maria Riva some good material. It really does. Does it make up for her basically being a lazy Latinx the first season? No. And the second season also just has Brandon Scott around to get racist shit from Jere Burns so its inclusivity is… well, it’s actually not suspect because you wouldn’t expect anything different. So Riva getting good material is a surprise.

She’s helping Christina Applegate tie up her arc, which is one or two of the deuses ex; there’s no point in counting them. Much like the earlier Tell-Tale Heart, you get the feeling “Dead to Me” would be lucky if had heard of deus ex machina from anything but a video game.

Everything gets wrapped up in a nice bow, even after things should get more complicated—including the finale, which sets up another season but also doesn’t have a cliffhanger. It could wrap up in a dark but accurate bow, but doesn’t—though based on the shot and the audio… it’s possible they were at least thinking about it. Maybe “Dead to Me” got saved in post, who knows.

There’s a shot or two of Telma Hopkins, who’s back for one of the strands in the bow wrap-up, and Valerie Mahaffey puts in an appearance for one of the deus ex machinas. Sadly Suzy Nakamura has a cameo too. And gets mocked. Because “Dead to Me” goes for cheap laughs.

The show ends as a full-on comedy, so if there is another season and they keep with it… it’ll probably be better? Like, Applegate and Cardellini are great as wine mom Kate & Allie or whatever. The dramatics… not so much.

Hopefully annoying teenage son Sam McCarthy will be off to college by then.

But until then… there are probably better James Marsden and Natalie Morales performances out there to watch. Ones in much better productions.

Ginseng Roots (2019) #3

Ginseng Roots  2019  3Okay, this issue is even better than last issue and not just because creator Craig Thompson has Black Jesus, White Yahweh, and a Chinese Holy Spirit, which is an amazing panel. Lots of amazing illustrative panels this issue, in fact, because the main plot isn’t about Thompson working on his comic or anything with his family—it’s about the history of ginseng.

Thompson starts with a creation myth straight out of The Phantom Menace and those other virgin birth stories. Except instead of doing the Jesus thing, this guy spends his life figuring out how best for folks to live off nature and to be healthy. Thompson has this absolutely glorious transition where the guy, Shennong, has to find the missing cute ginseng root, which has gotten successfully hunted because the hunter is worthy. Shennong is 28th Century BCE, so pre-Jesus, post-Anakin. Shennong then has to try to find his ginseng friend, which brings him to the twenty-first century and Thompson at a ginseng rally in Wisconsin. It’s beautifully executed. Just stunningly good work.

But then Shennong discovers the ginseng isn’t his old friend, it’s American Ginseng or whatever and how did it get there and we don’t get to find out because it’s the cliffhanger. The educational element of Ginseng Roots is the cliffhanger. It’s stunningly good. Like, if issue two was better than it seemed issue one could ever get, three’s just as much an improvement over two. It’s an exemplar comic.

There’s some great American political commentary, with Thompson managing never to come off sarcastic when he’s doing something sarcastic. A lot of it comes from Thompson’s understanding of comic book and comic strip mechanics; even the beginning treats the origin of Shennong like a sensational seventies Marvel book. Thompson’s got a lot of chops and is showing them off here.

I’m loving this book.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e01 – Rose

I am not a “Doctor Who” person. I’ve known some “Doctor Who” people, I count good friends as “Doctor Who” people. But there’s no way to talk about this show without prefacing with… I don’t get it. I still don’t get it. It’s like you have to be a certain kind of anglophile. What’s the Venn diagram on “Monty Python” and “Doctor Who”? Then with Quatermass and Hammer.

And this viewing is my second attempt to watch “Doctor Who (2005)” or whatever it’s official designation versus the old “Doctor Who.”

The first time was in 2005, when we were seeing television’s successful mainstreaming of season-long story arcs with “Lost,” “Veronica Mars,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “The Shield.” Basic cable and UPN, oh my. So an awesome new “Doctor Who” was just what, ahem, the Doctor ordered. Do people make Who puns? Is the title itself just a pun? There’s fifty-seven years of “Who” lore. I couldn’t keep track of it as a kid just hearing about the show much less watching it.

This episode is full of puns. It’s full of puns, terrible editing (Mike Jones), and directing (Keith Boak). I remembered where I stopped watching the episode the first time I tried, which was already a significant ask for me because I’m a hard pass on Christopher Eccleston. I think I would’ve tried “Who” after 28 Days Later so I never would’ve been more positive on Eccleston. That oversized jacket thing didn’t age well.

Eccleston’s comic timing is better than sidekick Billie Piper—who’s either going to become Eccleston’s familiar or companion or something; the Doctor’s always got a Watson, or so I remember thinking in my youth (based on second-hand information).

The episode’s about plastic coming to life and trying to take over the planet. It’s more complicated, but basically there are these mannequins chasing and attacking Piper and Eccleston. They look like those B.O.B. dummies. It’d be disquieting if Boak’s direction weren’t bad or if the tone weren’t kind of silly. Campy. Is it supposed to feel campy? But, like, that British campy.

What’s the Venn on “Who” and Benny Hill, or “Who” and “Mr Bean.”

But apparently there’s going to be great acting on this show in later seasons from different actors so I need to stay positive.

Noel Clarke plays Piper’s boyfriend. He’s annoying. Piper’s writing is really thin in what’s essentially a scream queen part so far. Camille Coduri (who’s familiar because she was in two movies I saw when I was twelve, apparently) is okay as Piper’s mom. Not great writing but Coduri’s good. Mark Benton’s great as an in-world “Doctor Who” fanboy.

Also… are the special effects supposed to be bad? 2005 it could’ve been either way. But this episode multiple times feels like a lower rent Terminator 2 just fourteen years of technology later. Like, are they supposed to be silly?

The show’s perplexing.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e06 – Death at the Grand

It’s a single location mystery, which is always a lot of fun on “Miss Fisher’s.” Though this single location mystery turns out to be an incredibly dangerous one. It’s the local Grand Hotel, which is no longer as grand as it used to be; someone throws the concierge (Nick Mitchell) off the roof and he’s holding onto a bag belong to one Miss Phryne Fisher, which is a big surprise to everyone. Including Essie Davis, who didn’t even know the bag was missing.

It doesn’t take long for Davis and sidekick Nathan Page—seriously, it’s fine, but Page really doesn’t get anything his own this season—to discover the mystery involves theft, gambling, and one Baron Henry Fisher (Pip Miller). Miller’s Davis’s estranged father, who’s supposed to be being responsible with his money but instead losing it in a rigged poker game to intensely creepy poker hustler, Goran D. Kleut.

Kleut wants the money Miller owes him and is apparently willing to get violent to get it. Hotel owner Nell Feeney is little help to the investigation, so Davis installs Ashleigh Cummings in the lobby to actively snoop. And this time, new constable Henry Hammersla is more than willing to learn from Cummings’s superior detecting abilities. Maybe a little bit too willing to learn… especially since Cummings hasn’t heard from Hugo Johnstone-Burt lately.

But while Davis and Fisher are convinced the murder has something to do with hotel-related Feeney, Kleut, or maid Michala Banas, the audience knows it’s creepy Colin Moody. Moody always in the background, lurking, as he starts stalking Davis, who’s got zero idea she ought to be worried about him. Moody’s less creepy than Kleut, which affects the tension, but not necessarily in a bad way—delaying Moody’s extremes just make them all the more effective later on.

Excellent direction from Mat King. There’s a phenomenal poker game sequence and he really does well giving the hotel a personality.

There’s a charming finish and a surprising development in Cummings’s lessons—it starts with her picking out her preferred gun for her adventurer career; plus Miriam Margoyles is around quite a bit, including some wonderfully comic moments.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e09 – It’s Not You, It’s Me

The episode opens with some post-morning sex freaking out for Christina Applegate while Linda Cardellini is off to the big house. The show’s real cheap about the Cardellini thing, making me think I missed something in the previous episode, but she’s really there to see mom Katey Sagal, who’s not dead, but in prison. Again.

I mean, cool to have the “Married with Children” reunion but not with the actors actually having a reunion… Sagal’s great, even if she’s a stunt cast and even if its poorly written.

Back to Applegate, she’s breaking it off with new James Marsden, who’s so happy after the sex he wants to dance with her. But he’s got to go.

On his way out, he runs into Sam McCarthy, who’s sad and confused to see him go. It’s all a lead-up to Applegate getting a letter from the city saying her stop sign proposal has been rejected.

Now, most episodes of “Dead to Me” this season have started immediately following the previous one, meaning Applegate hadn’t even submitted the proposal in the previous one. But somehow city government answered her in a day—so she storms down to city hall where the zoning commission is always in session so she can yell at them.

It’s a fine enough scene, with a returning appearance from first season attempted rapist Rick Holmes, who’s still a great creep, but “Dead to Me”’s plotting is dismal.

At least the direction—from Silver Tree—isn’t terrible.

Cardellini goes to the cops, where she’s surprised to see Brandon Scott, and Diana Maria Riva threatens to arrest McCarthy for old Marsden’s disappearance and blah blah blah. There’s a cheap cliffhanger as to how Cardellini is going to react but then she’s back home to argue with Applegate about everything.

During the argument, Applegate lays into her, including making a remark about her mother… who Cardellini has been telling everyone is dead. So… not a great script, not great.

Applegate also confesses her first episode of the season secret to Cardellini, which leads to more drama and then a big cliffhanger with Applegate now ready to change all their lives.

Lots of big things happen this episode and none of them go very well, which isn’t a surprise… series creator Liz Feldman cowrote and she’s never written the better episodes of the show.

Scroll to Top