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Interrogation (2020) s01e01 – Det. Dave Russell vs Eric Fisher 1983

Poor Kyle Gallner. Thirty-four years old and still playing a seventeen year-old, which—at one point—would’ve been some kind of record (or near one). But playing half his age is nothing compared to Gallner’s wig. It’s 1983 L.A. and Gallner’s got a full… what would it be called, metalhead? He just found his mom dead and had to take two steak knives out of her back to help her breathe before he called the cops—it’s pre-911, which I only know because I learned things about history from “Quantum Leap.”

Anyway, top-billed Peter Sarsgaard thinks Gallner killed her so he’s going to crack him in the box! Sarsgaard brings zero personality to the part—other than being a possibly dirty cop—and seems to be trying to channel Kiefer Sutherland.

The “Interrogation” is based on a real case, real interview transcripts, just with lots of related reenactments.

The first episode sets up the series as the CBS All Access answer to “Mindhunter,” only with a bit of “Serial” thrown in.

David Strathairn plays Gallner’s dad, who thinks he’s innocent but also maybe not, and Joanna Going is the mom. It’s a blink and you miss it part for Going, who’s literally an object.

While the show goes out of its way to set up the “realism” of the interrogations, nothing else’s realism is very clear. Is a scene with two people presumably “true” or might it be a dramatization. Making some of it “real” and some of it real-ish doesn’t do much for the show, which is—so far—only going to be engaging because of the crime investigation itself.

Like, Sarsgaard not sympathetic as the cop—unless you gravitate to fascists—and Gallner’s a thirty-four year-old in a bad wig playing a teenager… theoretically it could give Strathairn a good part but certainly not yet.

Frank Whaley’s in it for something like two scenes and he pretty much walks away with the cop scenes, if only because he makes you want to watch “Luke Cage: Season One” again.

Then comes the streaming gimmick—you can watch the subsequent episodes in any order you choose! Except the finale, I think.

There’s a certain cool factor to the early eighties L.A. getting visualized but… it’s a limited one.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e03 – The End is the Beginning

This episode ends where the second episode should’ve ended, with the Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme (i.e. “The Next Generation” theme) and a starship going into a very boring warp. It took Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his band of sidekicks all episode to get into space; apparently you can teleport everywhere in the future but not get a starship into gear for an entire episode.

It opens with a flashback. Picard and introduced last episode sidekick Michelle Hurd in some questionable Starfleet uniforms arguing after Picard’s meeting at Starfleet after they tell him they’re letting billions of aliens die because, well, the Federation’s racist, so what. Kind of sucks not getting to see Stewart yell at Starfleet. Shatner always got to yell at Starfleet. Instead, he just gets to recap to Hurd, who can’t stop calling him “J.L.,” because it’s unthinkable she’d call him Jean-Luc, Admiral, or whatever. If they turn out to have been sleeping together, moany “J.L.”s are going to haunt the imagination. It’s a silly move, like they’re trying to make Hurd seem like the cool Black sidekick to the old White man in a 1990s movie. She’s basically in the 1991 LL Cool J role. There’s optics to Stewart selling her out, but they’re never addressed. He just happens to push the Black woman on her sword.

In the present we find out Hurd’s a genius who can wave her hand meaningfully at the future computers and figure things out. But she’s also a pothead. They call it something else—like snake-leaf—but she’s a pothead. Again, there are optics. “Star Trek: Picard” manages to be less woke in 2020 than First Contact in 1996, though—even though she’s okay—Hurd is no Alfre Woodard. Not even Woodard doing a Star Trek.

She and Stewart bicker a bit, but she immediately agrees to help him, setting up eye-candy, roguish pilot Santiago Cabrera. Cabrera’s supposed to be Han Solo but he’s actually got a big ol’ man-crush on the Starfleet principles in general and, we find out, Stewart specifically. It’s an eye-roll at the forced earnestness but fine; Cabrera’s amusing enough.

Hugh the Borg (Jonathan Del Arco) shows up in the Isa Briones Borg subplot, which still manages to be a lot more interesting than the Picard getting a crew together one—even if Briones is starting to grate. Neither she or Harry Treadaway are particularly good, acting-wise, and it seems like her subplot’s going to be some kind of future-present thing because the show creators have seen Arrival but also the new “Battlestar Galactica” but… Borg anthropology—Borgopology—is engaging enough.

Really not here for the Alison Pill and Michelle Hurd bickering for no reason other than being the only two women thing though. Also Tamlyn Tomita’s quite bad as it turns out. Oh, and Picard knew about the secret Romulan android hating secret society going back to when the Romulan mission failed, which you think he’d have mentioned last episode.

But whatever. It’s a short episode (less than forty-five) and passes well enough. Though the constant fades to commercial in a streaming series are annoying.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e02 – Maps and Legends

I was expecting a lot of fan service this episode and it definitely did not provide. But instead of doing fan service—outside confirming Riker, Work, and LaForge are all still alive—this episode just kills forty-five minutes or so until the next one. “Picard” has a ten episode season and Maps and Legends is utterly disposable. Unless it really matters seeing a sadly underutilized Ann Magnuson as a Starfleet admiral telling Patrick Stewart she’s sick of his liberal mansplaining and no one has to listen to him anymore, which doesn’t work because Stewart’s right. He might be mansplaining but he’s not wrong. The whole “Starfleet decides to let billions of Romulans die because they’re basically space racists” thing? They’re the bad guys now. They had to decide whether or not they were going to step up and they did not.

Because the post-Roddenberry “Star Trek” humanity is humanity, not the aspirational stuff. “Picard”’s future humanity never would’ve made it through the twentieth-first century… just like we won’t. Anyway, I wish Magnuson was better in it. There’s no real stunt-casting but some familiar guest stars—David Paymer plays Stewart’s Bones McCoy from the Stargazer, which was Picard’s first command and a big recurring thing on “Next Generation.”

Paymer’s not great. He’s not even good Paymer annoying. He’s just there to give Picard his Search for Spock arc. At one point, Stewart’s even talking about how even if there’s a chance of Data’s soul existing, he’s got to go find the daughter (Isa Briones, who has a somewhat interesting arc fooling around with Romulan emo stud Harry Treadaway as they excavate an old Borg cube) as surely if she were his very own.

Yeah, so… this episode is like if they did a Star Trek III homage but forgot to be intentional and fun about it.

But then there’s also the cross-species conspiracy against… hang on… got to drag this reveal out because they really drag it out in the show, with Orla Brady acting like anyone is going to care the Romulan secret secret police hates androids. And, guess what, they’re not the only ones. There’s a secret society in the Federation who helps the Romulan secret secret police’s quest to destroy androids.

Somebody’s seen Star Trek VI too!

And why do they hate androids? Who knows. But they’ve hated them for hundreds of years, probably because the Romulan equivalent of a Roomba hit some ruler’s toe and he went ape-shit. Actually, no, because that idea is too fun and “Picard”’s unnecessarily morose. Especially since second-billed but in the episode for a scene Alison Pill has fun, even when she’s in high drama. Ditto Stewart. He’s trying to bring some charm to the project, even as the project resists.

Tamlyn Tomita plays the evil Starfleet mole. Peyton List is her sidekick. Fourth-billed Michelle Hurd shows up for a scene at the end. Not the cliffhanger scene because Stewart doesn’t get the cliffhangers (yet, hopefully), because he’s not important this episode. He’s not going to get important until he gets out into space and engages and whatnot. This stuff is just episode commitment time killing.

Though the Borg excavation stuff is at least interesting. Co-writers Akiva (Batman & Robin) Goldsman and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon are a lot better with the Borg fanfic than the actual writing for Patrick Stewart stuff.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e01 – Remembrance

The most peculiar thing about “Picard” is how much it plays like a sequel to Star Trek: Nemesis. Not because Tom Hardy guests as Patrick Stewart’s unlikely Romulan clone or… wait, what else happened in that movie? Oh, yeah, Troi got mind raped… again. No Troi (Marina Sirtis) in this episode, thank goodness. Not thank goodness because Sirtis wouldn’t be a welcome guest star but more because… can they manage to have her guest star and not mind-rape her. It was basically her only subplot on the show. Anyway, Data (Brent Spiner) also died in Nemesis and “Picard” is all about Data. See, it turns out Data might have successfully made a daughter—Isa Briones—or something. Even though Spiner shows up in Stewart’s dream sequences, it’s not like a ghost Data, just a memory, so dream Data can’t exactly tell Stewart about the daughter.

But also the Romulan thing; “Picard” is set after the Romulan homeworld blew up in Star Trek (2009) and Eric Bana went to the past to kill Kirk’s dad and so we got the (now failed?) reboot series. “Picard”’s all about how Stewart tried to help the Romulans but then a bunch of androids blew up Mars and the Federation decided they were too busy with that to help the Romulans and let a bunch of them die. By bunch, we’re talking hundreds of millions or billions. In order not to feel the immeasurable guilt, the Federation apparently now demonizes Romulans, even though Stewart’s got Romulan… servants. I mean, they’re staff, but it’s staff like… servants. They cook for him. Jamie McShane and Orla Brady. They’re good. Okay Romulan makeup… but it does look a lot like Nemesis. Points for continuity?

The episode also refers to the Borg in a big way—the reference is the cliffhanger—and there’s trouble in store for an unsuspecting Briones, so good thing Stewart’s got his mojo back and is going to save her. See, he’s spent the last twenty years moping because the Federation decided to let the Romulans die. Stewart thought it was shitty. So he went back to Earth and ran his family vineyard (though the robots do all the work) and moped. Wrote history books but Federation civilians don’t care about history. They don’t even know what Dunkirk means (guess Christopher Nolan doesn’t survive 300 years).

The first episode’s poorly plotted in that streaming series way—no idea what the series is going to be like based on this episode, it doesn’t even introduce all the regular cast and (apparent) costar Alison Pill only shows up for the last few minutes. Pill’s good though. She’s got enough energy to play off Stewart.

As for Stewart… “Picard” is an okay part for him. No great heavy lifting so far because he’s done all this moping stuff before, in various times through both the TV series and the movies. It’s kind of cool to see “based upon ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ by Gene Roddenberry” in the opening titles though. Like, it’s something different. Even if the show’s not really anything different or new.

In fact, “Picard” is probably about ten years late. “Star Trek,” as a franchise, is all about extended delay sequelizing.

Okay, maybe not ten years… eight years. Nemesis was 2002. “Next Generation” was due for its revisit in 2012. Eight years late.

Will it be good? Eh. Maybe. It’ll at least be… engaging, if they can keep it going with all the references to catch.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e06 – The Sound of Thunder

At this point, not even halfway through the second season of “Discovery,” it seems like the only way they’re going to redeem it at all is if they go full absurd. Like the Red Angel, which is actually a time traveling humanoid in an outfit with metal (as in heavy metal) wings. Unless it’s Matt Frewer, it’s not going to be worth it.

This episode gives Doug Jones a lot to do. “Discovery” isn’t just a show set in the 23rd century with aliens and mushrooms and warp drives, it’s also a show where you’re expected to take Doug Jones’s acting seriously. It’s like they made a terrible deal—you get into this makeup, someday we’ll give you a lot to do. And now they have and it’s awful.

And it’s not the makeup, because we meet Jones’s sister, played by Hannah Spear, and Spear is fine. Not great, but fine. No way she’s going to be great with the crappy script, which opens with a nonsense, poorly delivered monologue from Jones. He gets the big plot this episode—going back to his home planet and discovering the big secrets of his people and whatever—then there’s a couple C plots with Wilson Cruz being uncomfortable with his resurrection (and not very good at the acting) and then Anson Mount and Shazad Latif bickering about Starfleet principles versus Sector 31 fascism.

Sonequa Martin-Green is entirely back up for Jones, which is a heck of a slight. Not only is she top-billed, it’s supposed to be her show. It’s not the script lets her shine either. She’s in crappy scenes opposite Jones, who probably commits at least some major Starfleet violations this episode but gets an entire pass because… the show wants to leave us stuck with Jones.

Mount gets a single good scene, when he and Latif are bickering. “Star Trek: Discovery.” The secret recipe for success is the white, cishet captains.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e05 – Saints of Imperfection

They really did forgot Saru was dying last episode, didn’t they? Like, he’s a-okay for his first scene here, which is seemingly moments after the end of last episode. See, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has been sucked into the fungus dimension and Sonequa Martin-Green is really sad so she has a voiceover about duty. It’s so poorly written, you’d think Alan B. McElroy was writing the episode, but no. It’s Kristen Breyer, who—and the following is a friend’s observation—thinks she’s writing “Call the Midwife.”

The episode’s also really poorly directed (by David Barrett) but whatever.

So the Discovery goes on a super dangerous mission halfway into the fungus universe to rescue Wiseman. Meanwhile Wiseman has promised fungus in human form Bahia Watson she’ll help the fungal life forms with some predator out to get them.

What else. Oh, right. Shazad Latif, with his long hair and full beard and an all-black Section 31 outfit (Section 31 is the Starfleet CIA). He’s back. But he doesn’t have anything to do after a scene with Martin-Green, who was more affected by holochatting with him than meeting him again in person. Can you hear me, Clem Fandango?

Along with Latif, Michelle Yeoh’s back, scenery chewing as the Mirror Universe emperor turned regular universe super-spy. She’s vaguely amusing. More than when she played the role straight. Also from Section 31 is boss Alan Van Sprang, who’s got a clean-shaved head and a scruffy beard to show he’s mysterious and damaged. He’s old buddies with Anson Mount but they grew apart when Van Sprang started running assassinations, I guess.

The episode goes on and on and on. The third act is full of lengthy, poorly written monologues from poorly directed actors, when they all have four or seven minutes before they all die. The monologues seemingly take much longer. I’d time it but I never want to see the episode again.

At least the Klingons don’t show up again.

Also—they’re just delaying the arrival of Spock some more. It’s just another filler episode. So bad.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e04 – An Obol for Charon

Wow, what an exceptionally bad episode of television. I noticed Alan B. McElroy (he wrote Spawn, he’s not good) in the titles last episode or maybe the one before, but I didn’t think much of it. Even though last episode was bad. I figured it was just lack of Anson Mount and any Mia Kirshner at all. But McElroy’s got a co-credit on this one too so maybe he’s just sinking the proverbial ship. Mount has a little more to do this episode because it’s an Enterprise—sorry, sorry, sorry—Discovery trapped in a more powerful alien vessel’s “web” episode. Not the Tholians, unfortunately. Something new. Think an organic, friendlier V’Ger. Think something dumb.

There’s a cold open teasing Rebecca Romijn as the first officer from the Enterprise, who was in the original pilot, played by Majel Barrett. Now sure why a tease is necessary. She comes by to dump some exposition to Mount about Spock and then she goes away. Mount takes the ship Spock-hunting only to get caught by V’Ger/Probe/Nomad and then there’s onboard troubles when Saru (Doug Jones) seems like he’s going to die. Because he’s got a strange alien disease and it’s killing him out of nowhere. You know, just like lots of “Next Generation” episodes. Or a lethal pon farr type thing.

“Discovery” is “Star Trek” as written by people who write repetitive fan-pic.

The Saru thing leads to the most humiliating scene for Sonequa Martin-Green in the show this season or last. She’s got to have a heart-to-heart with Jones and he’s so unbearably bad you wish he’d just die. It’s not going to happen because it’s the fourth episode in the season and the writers are just bad, but for every millisecond Jones “acts” in the scene, you’re wishing they’d just kill him and end this terrible scene. Martin-Green’s usually able to keep her head above water but her emotional breakdown stuff?

So bad.

Actually, the only thing in the episode to make things slightly tolerable is Tig Notaro. She’s awesome. She doesn’t build rapport while acting, which is a problem because it leaves Anthony Rapp hanging out like laundry, but she’s still awesome.

Otherwise the episode sucks. Whoever plotted this season—the episode’s all bullshit just delaying having to introduce Spock for another episode or whatever—did a rather bad job. Mount can’t overcome McElroy. I just hope there’s no more of the latter to come.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e03 – Point of Light

There’s that incredibly disappointing “Star Trek: Discovery” I know. Though not exactly. I had no quality expectations going into the first season so I didn’t have any disappointment, just dread of watching the show. But this episode perfectly encapsulates everything the show has done wrong until this point. It’s not really a victory lap of its badness, it’s a bad episode hitting all those points, over and over again.

First off, Anson Mount plays a bit part in this episode. Smaller than Michelle Yeoh who’s a pseudo-surprise cameo but not really because it’s in the “remember the characters from Season One we’ve ignored the last two episodes (and the show’s been better), let’s check in with them” plot. That plot is all about Shazad Latif trying to fit in on the Klingon homeward as sidekick to new leader Mary Chieffo. Chieffo’s already got to deal with the old Klingon men not wanting a woman leader, much less having a human sidekick, even if he is a Klingon grafted onto a Federation officer or some such nonsense. Anyway, the Klingons bickering and plotting is like an old Atari commercial for a “Star Trek” video game but spoofing “Game of Thrones.” Though it gets much worse once there’s action. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi is really bad at the action.

Also it’s going to take a lot to believe Latif can fight off three guys bigger than him, even if they do all have enormous mask-helmets on because the Klingon makeup people have made all bad choices this year, which is impressive since last season’s choices were all bad too. They’re taking it up a (bad) notch.

And it’s hard to be onboard with anything else because the whole Anson Mount takes command, when is Spock showing up subplot has taken a terrible turn in the form of Mia Kirshner as Spock’s mother. Kirshner ain’t no Jane Wyatt. Kirshner ain’t no Majel Barrett, ain’t no Winona Ryder; she probably couldn’t do as good of a job faking Vulcan-birth as Cynthia Blaise either. Kirshner’s really, really, really, really bad. She’s so bad she sucks the life out of “lead” Sonequa Martin-Green. Martin-Green’s entirely support this episode, first for Kirshner, then for Mary Wiseman. Wiseman’s big cliffhanger plot—she’s seeing a ghost—gets resolved super fast here. “Discovery” doesn’t just have bad ideas, it has no commitment to them. Same thing happens, even bigger, in the Latif and Chieffo plot line but I’m trying to stay away from the Klingons. At least on Discovery, Anthony Rapp will amble through like his agent wanted to make sure he got paid for every episode of the season.

But, yeah, it might just be the “Game of Thrones” draining, but I’m currently terrified whatever Martin-Green did to Spock involves pon farr because… the writers are that desperate to be “Game of Thrones”-y.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e02 – New Eden

This episode certainly doesn’t do anything to “solve” the Anson Mount problem—i.e. Mount’s leagues ahead of anyone else on “Discovery,” past and present, as far as commanding the show. He’s a TV show lead. It’s almost depressing to see Sonequa Martin-Green in scenes with him because she’s already had the indignity of being the first potential Black female captain on a “Star Trek” and now she’s just second-fiddle to Mount. Mount’s so good you’re tricked into thinking “Inhumans” might be all right, just because he’s so good on “Discovery.” No wonder people want a Mount-led spin-off.

New Eden feels like “Star Trek” for more reasons than White male captain; it’s got Jonathan Frakes directing, it gives the bridge crew something to do besides look at each other when Martin-Green pisses someone off, it’s got a very “Star Trek” main plot and a very “Star Trek” B plot. The A plot is about the ship finding this far-flung planet in the Beta Quadrant (I used to know everything about “Star Trek” quadrants; not any more) and on this far-flung planet is a human settlement. Now, it’s far enough away from Earth they can’t be settled, but there they are, complete with a church. It feels like a budget conscious “TOS” episode, where they find a civilization dressed in leftover frontier costumes Paramount had laying around. Throw in Mount and Martin-Green gently arguing about whether or not the Prime Directive applies to the people and some religiosity stuff and it’s like a mix of “TOS” and “TNG.” Very cool.

The B plot has Tilly (Mary Wiseman) figuring out a way to save the planet from an impending… asteroid swarm. Something. Lots of tense action, which Frakes does all right with but not exceptional. It’s all about the human adventure for Frakes and he does well with it. It’s taken seventeen episodes but Doug Jones’s Saru finally has a non-obnoxious scene. There might have been one in the first season but I think I’d remember it. Though then there’s the whole thing about alien Saru getting a lot less obnoxious because he’s second-fiddle, rank-wise, to Mount.

Okay stuff for Anthony Rapp—seriously, the show is wasting him so far—and the mysterious “Red Angel” C plot, which is going to bring in Spock and tie everything together. The Red Angel stuff seems a wee contrived for a “Star Trek” show and I really hope it ends with the introduction of Sybok and a trip to the center of the galaxy but I’m not hopeful.

“Discovery”’s much better, two in, this season than last. Though the “up next” teaser at the end threatens the Klingons; they’re always good for dragging the show down.

Also Sheila McCarthy shows up for a bit on the planet. She’s awesome as ever.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e01 – Brother

There’s a lot going on with the season premiere of “Discovery.” And not just the multiple teases related to the original series. “Discovery” gets out of addressing the time, technology, and costuming discrepancies with the original series and the reboot movies by bringing Captain Pike into the mix. Pike was the captain on the original “Star Trek” pilot, which later got recycled into a two-parter in the regular run. Though he, like Sarek, appeared in the reboot movies. There’s no big “Discovery” deal about recasting supporting players.

So Pike’s a thing for a couple big reasons. First, the show does a bait and switch with Pike bringing his science officer (who is Spock) and his first officer (who was on the original show, played by Majel Barrett) only to have the transporter reveal a couple glorified red shirts. Even if their time doesn’t come this episode, they’re still just disposable stock Starfleet officers. Except the science officer guy; he’s a complete dick because White male privilege is still a thing in “Discovery”’s future. But the more important thing with Pike, played by Anson Mount, is he’s just what the show needs. He’s a fun, caring, White captain guy. More old(er) man Chris Pine than mid-sixties Jeffrey Hunter (who played Pike on the original “Trek” pilot, but not the two-parter). He makes the crew all feel good, which is important since their last White captain guy turned out to be an inter dimensional mass murderer.

The way the season opener deals with last season’s plot threads is… not good. There’s some follow-up with it, but then everything gives way to the new adventure—Pike’s taking over the Discovery because there are these seven flares or something. A message from V’Ger; who knows. But they’re investigating. So instead of worrying about the “regular” cast, “Discovery” becomes Mount’s show, which is fine. It’s kind of shitty for Sonequa Martin-Green because it’s supposed to be her show; instead she gets the subplot fretting over her relationship with so far unseen foster brother Spock only to discover he’s maybe tracking the galactic disturbance too. But on a sabbatical, because it’s “Discovery” and “Discovery” loves its reveals, surprises, and twists. It’s about all the show cares about.

Though this episode has at least two huge sci-fi action set pieces. Both of them are kind of lousy, but they’re huge set pieces.

We’ll see what happens but if it’s just Mount becomes the dynamic lead the show always needed and Martin-Green gets big subplots and lousy material… well, it’d be on par for “Discovery,” which is still an utterly pointless gesture.

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