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Friday, March 31, 2017

Tried To Think Of A Smarter Headline But The Idea Was #Taken #NBC #3weekroundup

Tried To Think Of A Smarter Headline But The Idea Was #Taken #NBC #3weekroundup

All Pictures Courtesy of NBC

Another lame attempt from me to be kitsch-funny? You know what that means. It's time for another three-week roundup review of a new series. On deck today we have NBC's Taken. So, does the series based on the hit movie capture your fancy, or does it not have the skills to keep your attention? Read more to find out.

NBC's Taken (#Taken), as said, is based on the film franchise of the same name starring Liam Neeson and one of my many Hollywood crushes, Maggie Grace. While we sadly won't see Maggie, we do see a much younger Brian in this prequel series from Taken creator Luc Besson. Hoping to translate the driving verve of the film to the small screen, the show describes itself as “showing us just how Brian got those particular set of skills” used in the films to rescue his daughter and ex-wife before she was brutally murdered in the third installment. Oh, spoiler alert, I guess. Anyway, here we pick up with what looks like a thirty-something Bryan Mills played by Clive Standen. Starting almost immediately with the kick-assery, he is on a train with a younger girl who happens to be his sister. A man stares at his sister as she is beautiful but young. He says something to the guy to warn him off.

Suddenly, he sees two men enter their train car and knows they're up to no good. He whispers how she is supposed to do something that makes a distraction while he goes to check on this guy. If he yells her name she is supposed to get beneath the seats for protection. Note: women, children, and tough guys never follow instructions here. Never! Wimpy men will do it, though. But no woman, scared, strong or otherwise ever listens to the person who deals with dangerous people on the daily. And here it is no different. It's a cliché, but because it shows a woman's strength, it is acceptable. Naturally, the guys are bad, they try shooting her, Bryan kicks butt and saves everyone on the train by taking out the two guys. Everyone except his sister who is standing out in the center aisle while everyone else reacts in a panic. Bryan holds her dead body in his hand as the guy who had been staring at her hands Bryan the card she had been writing for their parents. Now that I think about it, I can't remember why she was writing the card, though I think it was for their anniversary.

Anyway, he already suspects that this was no random terrorist attack, a theory strengthened by the sudden appearance of a surveillance vehicle outside of his parents' house on the day of the funeral. He chases them away but they escape. He knows that he must then get as far from his parents as he can and goes back to his own home.

Meanwhile, a secret group is keeping watch over him. Run by Christina Hart played by Jennifer Beals, the group discovers that the people who posed as terrorists and shot Bryan's sister were associates of a very violent drug cartel boss that they've chased for the last few years. Instead of warning Bryan of this, they are willing to use him as bait to lure out the boss and take him alive. Why? Though they've had many chances to kill him, they need him alive because he is working with a conglomerate of other terrorist cells around the world and they need him to talk, otherwise they'll never find the other terrorists.

As soon as Bryan gets home, this secret group sends out a small team to keep watch over him, knowing that the big baddie terrorist they want has issued some thing about capturing Bryan or killing him. But our guy is too clever not to know this plan. He sits at home, in the dark, with guns in hand just waiting for some punks to show up so he can Dirty-Harry their asses. And they do, and he does. He shoots all of them, fatally killing one or two and badly wounding two more. He gets close enough to one of them to interrogate them face to face, and steal their phone. As it just so happens, that guy seems to be the leader of the group for a reason I'll tell you in a second. Bryan must get the heck out of there and quick as who knows more will come. Meanwhile, the secret group watching him searches his now-abandoned place and sees the dead guy in the back all so they can say this line: “Guy's got skills.” And we all grin and secretly whisper either to ourselves or fellow in-house viewer, “A particular set.”

Bryan escapes to a motel which is cool because the secret group can still track him by listening to his phone calls, but the terrorists/cartel baddies can't. Until Bryan calls one of the other guys associated with his past mission. See, the whole reason that our hero's sister was killed is because Bryan and a team of military officers raided a complex a few years back in order to save a journalist or CIA operative or somebody. The detail is only semi-important. What is important is that the cartel leader's son was in that complex and held a gun to the head of the guy Bryan and his team were there to save. Naturally, Bryan killed him and became a hero. Ever since then, the cartel boss has wanted revenge.
Back in the motel, Bryan dares call the guy they saved on that mission and tells him to take his daughter and leave now because they'll be coming for him. The guy argues a little about how he doesn't want to and Bryan says that some guys had come to his place and they'll definitely be coming for him. The guy says OK.

And then things turn because the next thing Bryan knows, that phone he stole from the meanie he killed is buzzing with a text from the guy he just called to warn. The text is about the man being stunned that Mills is still alive. Just to test that he isn't crazy, Bryan texts the saved journalist/CIA guy to find out where “Bryan Mills” is right now so they can go and take care of it. He gets a call back from the man he just warned where he tells the man where he is. The man then texts the baddie's phone the address. It doesn't take long for Mills to show up to the man's parking garage and bitch-slap him a few times, “You told Harpo to beat me? How long have you been working for them?” And the guy is all repentant and saying, you don't know what they said they'd do to my daughter.

Well, some more craziness happens which winds Mills up in a trap and knocked unconscious. He awakes to find himself dangling from a chain with his hands cuffed above his head, torture-style. In the center of a barn, he hangs as armed guards stand around him while a shadowy figure approaches. And this is when I realize that I've either been watching too much TV or this was an overly simple plot or both as I knew who the cartel boss was all along. See, I should've mentioned earlier that the boss was rarely ever seen full-frontal-face, so he could, in theory, walk around public without notice. However, I noticed him right away as he is a bit actor who has been in tons of projects both for the big and small screen. Hardly a star, you would recognize his face if you were paying attention in any meaningful capacity. By now, you've guessed my hint and know that the cartel guy who emerges from the shadows is the same guy Bryan saw eyeing his sister on the train.

Meanwhile, outside the barn, the secretive group is watching everything going on and Jennifer Beals' character has already put together a team to go in and take down the cartel guy. So while the big baddie is explaining how he wanted Bryan to feel the pain he felt by taking away someone special to him, a special forces team is moving in with precision. Before the baddie knows it, Bryan is off his chains, all of his lower-level men have been shot dead or taken out by other means, and Mills is knelt over him about to kill him. He laughs because Mills is the only one who doesn't know that they can't kill him because they need him to talk, remember. But Bryan Mills doesn't care because Bryan Mills is that guy. He tries killing him anyway and is shot by the special forces secretive group.

Part Of The Team

He awakes to a bed where Beals' character lords over him. Hardly a lethal shot, he'll be recovered from the flesh wound in a week or two. But she invites him to join their secret special group whose name they either didn't mention or I was too distracted writing something else to hear. All I know is that similar to Scandal's B6-13 or the MIB or MacGuyver, this team does some of the heaviest espionage and tactical lifting but the bigger, initialed agencies—CIA, FBI, NSA—take the credit. She says that he is a natural-born protector and he agrees and embarks on this new odyssey.

Episode two involves the not-so-mysterious death of a senator who collapses from a heart attack that is suddenly made mysterious by one of Beals' (yes, I'm just going to call her by her real name for the rest of the review) old CIA contacts. The woman is nervous and scared because she knows the secret, but she has to keep moving because whoever killed the senator is hunting her down, too. Inclined to believe her friend, Beals takes a clandestine meeting with her where Bryan is supposed to run sniper-cover, in case the situation gets out of hand and it is a trick. Things go awry when one of the operatives that had been following the woman shoots her dead and her last word is "fort."

Going off of that and off of the guy that Bryan took out and killed (he has a bad habit of killing dudes), they manage to trick two undercover spies posed as hospital staff into trying to kill Bryan, thinking he's the captured team member that will turn. But Bryan gets them and questions them and whatnot. They also talk to the dead woman's husband and he mentions something about fortunado which he thought was a restaurant. Going off that, they quickly solve the case that another political figure/business leader had the senator killed with some kind of new bio-weapon that they also inject him with and threaten to let him die unless he gives a full confession. Bryan has killed a lot of people and he gets a slap on the wrist for that before truly bonding with the rest of the team.

Episode three takes a current-day plot of terrorism and turns it on its head. A Muslim man on a national watch-list suddenly goes missing while playing soccer with his son one day. Believed to be radicalized, they expect a national threat, possibly in D.C., in no time at all. Bryan and the team hop to finding him, first going to visit the wife and child. The young boy is damaged by all of it as he now says he hates America because of the way they treat his father and how they took him. Meanwhile, the guy is actually strapped down with a bomb vest and is set to go off after a little while. But in luck, his son was recording himself doing his soccer moves and playing (for later study), and caught his father's kidnapping in the background. They not only have a license plate but a blurry picture of the guys that took him.

As it turns out, the guys that took the man are actually white nationalists; one of them was even an FBI hero who was hailed nationally for stopping a serial killer. In order to get him to tell them where they hid the Muslim man, they put him in a locked room with his captured serial killer. It's pretty cool. They get to the location but then have to figure out how they're going to defuse the bomb. So, the Muslim guy and Bryan start running around this building looking for a way to save this man. Bryan finally realizes that if they jump into water, it'll fry the circuits and the bomb will defuse. They get to a drain at the very bottom of the building and jump into the water and the day is saved and the people are saved and everything is OK. When Bryan returns to the man and his son, the son is reluctant to shake Bryan's hand but he does and gives him a child's “I'm sorry, mister” look that Dennis the Menace would occasionally give to Mr. Wilson. The boy's and his father's belief in America is now restored.

Meanwhile, Beals has gone to the doctor to discover that she has a grape-sized mass in her brain that could be cancer. She discovers that, in her empty life, she has no one to write down as the contact person for if she has to go into surgery. She goes to the husband/widower of her friend who got killed in episode two and they start to form a bond. It is unclear how much of a relationship, if any, they had prior to this. For me, something doesn't sit right about this man. Maybe he'll just be an innocuous love interest for her so that she isn't screwing some of the guys (and gals) under her command, or maybe he will end up being a traitor. Either way, it's intriguing.

What's my grade? I give it a B. As with most networks, it is another procedural, case-a-week format which does work here and leans credence to the character continuing to develop the particular set of skills. However, it can get boring and blend into the gamut of other cop/spy shows with similar premises. With Luc Besson there as producer, it does have a Taken-the-film feel to it while still maintaining a certain TV show lingo more common to viewers, but it does have its own style, too.
As far as characters go, you know everyone's motivations and Clive Standen is a worthy predecessor(?) to Liam Neeson's older, more grizzled character, but there is something missing here. Where Neeson had charm, Clive hasn't shown much yet. Yes, his sister's friend, a black woman who totally has the hots for him, does give him the opportunity to show some kind of charming oaf act that Neeson exhibited when around Lenore. However, during those scenes, you are more inclined to think of when or if she'll die to make room for Lenore who you know will some day soon make an appearance on the show.

Should you be watching? Die-hard fans of the Taken series won't be disappointed with this new, younger prequel even if their whole fascination with the film was seeing an older guy kicking butt. Standen displays the chiseled ire and curmudgeonliness of an older man and looks good doing it. However, if you are not a fan of the films or are a casual TV watcher and want more dramatic less-predictable fare, I would say you might find more engaging story elsewhere.

What do you think? Have you heard of Taken? If not, do you think you'll tune in now? If you have seen it, how do you feel? Is it a worthy addition to the Taken franchise, or in desperate need of re-tooling? And what do you think of that guy that Beals' character is talking to? As always, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “Has Jack been kidnapped?”
'No, no, Jack's fine. You, on the other hand... I'm gonna have to stab you.'

P.S. You probably don't know what that comes from and are either racking your brain trying to figure out if it comes from TV, film, or a novel, or if I completely made it up just to mess with you. If you were Bryan Mills you'd already have the skills to figure that. Shame you're neither version of Bryan Mills. I'll think of a better, much more clever sign-off next time... or will I? Chances are good that I won't, but we'll see.

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A Spin-off Loaded With TV Veterans? I'm Down #BlacklistRedemption #3weekroundup #NBC

A Spin-off Loaded With TV Veterans? I'm Down #BlacklistRedemption #3weekroundup #NBC

All pictures courtesy of NBC 

Another new show means another review/recap of either the first full abbreviated season or the first three episodes. Take a wild guess of which category this one fits into. Today, we'll be looking at NBC's The BlackList Redemption. So, does this show live up to its suggested title and redeems the middling but still strong plot of The Black List, or is it already DOA and waiting for a double-tap just to make sure? Let's explore.

The Black List: Redemption is the much-talked-about spin-off of The Blacklist which stars the always in high form James Spader, and Megan Boone. In this new show which was set-up as a potential spin-off a year ago, Boone's Elizabeth Keene's husband Tom Keene is the star as he ventures back into his own world of espionage and danger around every corner. For those not in the know, Tom Keene (played by Ryan Eggold) was himself a spy originally put in Elizabeth's life to watch her. Through a few ups and downs and a few times trying to kill each other, they somehow found love with the real people beneath all of the lies. This espionage never quite bothered Tom as much as one would think, due to his upbringing. Though much of his childhood was shady, he did know that he had a mother and father at one point. Back on The Blacklist, he discovered that not only were his real mother and father still alive but that they were both working for this organization called Halcyon. When he found out all about his father, I don't know. But he did and now he sees that his father may need his help.

His father, played by Terry O'Quinn, is Howard Hargrave. Here, the Lost veteran is playing the conspiracy coot that thinks someone is out to get him. Only problem is that he may actually be right in this case. See, he was reported dead in a plane crash a few weeks ago. He faked his own death in order to make the people he thinks tried to kill him that he actually did die. And who does he think is trying to kill him? Susan Hargrave, his wife.

Susan Hargrave is played by another TV and film veteran Famke Janssen. Still looking hella sexy, she plays the widow-now-made-boss of Halcyon, her husband's company. They specialize in practically anything and everything that the government thinks is either too risky or that people who don't want government involvement to truly know about. In other words, they are mercenary spies for hire by any kind of organization, though they do mostly government black-ops stuff. Howard believes that Susan has wanted to overthrow him at the company for a while now and this was the perfect time for her to do just that. He also believes it goes deeper than just her. He doesn't trust her for many reasons and that drove a wedge in their relationship. Another reason they weren't close in the moments before Howard's faked death is that he, unlike her, had never given up on finding their long-lost son—Tom, but they knew him as a different name. Seldom common (usually its the reverse sexes), the father obsessed over finding their missing son who had run away or was kidnapped. At some point, Howard discovered Tom Keen was, in fact, his son. Again, I can't remember when he figures this out, but it's led to some very strange questions.

You Can't Tell Me She Doesn't Want To Jump Her Son's Bones. Granted, She Doesn't KNOW He's Her Son, But...

Continuing, Howard wants Tom to go undercover within the Halcyon organization (Susan already offered him a job last year and she does again) in order to figure out what Susan is really up to. For whatever reason, Tom agrees to do this. I say that with skepticism because Tom is a spy by trade, yet he seems too trusting of his long-lost father here, but I digress.

Tom agrees and goes on the first mission for Susan. A former CIA agent has recently been kidnapped by some ruthless international cartel guy. Very rich, the man has taken both her and her son and is interrogating her over something about other undercover agents and whatnot. They have to get the woman and her child back before she divulges anything of importance to the government.

Meeting the team, we finally sorta see why this show is called redemption. Along with Tom, who himself was a bad guy for a few seasons on The Blacklist, the team consists of other former baddies. We have Mr. Matias Solomon who, fans of The Blacklist will know, tried to kill both Elizabeth and Tom while Elizabeth was carrying her and Tom's baby, and in a church no less. Supa bad guy! We also have Nez Rowan who was also a woman on the run and committing some pretty serious crimes as the FBI chased her around The Blacklist territory. And finally, we have Dumont, the nerdy tech geek that all of these shows need to have him explain stuff and do all the gadgetry stuff. Rarely leaving to go into the field, there's been no talk about what he's done in his past, and I can't remember him making it on Red's Blacklist. With all of these criminals looking for redemption, they come together to do some of the toughest jobs in exchange for Halcyon keeping their butts out of jail and off the various intelligence agencies' radars. Essentially, think of the A-Team or the Expendables but with less buff guys, and seemingly more smarts.

Back to the cartel/terrorist guy, the group decides that the best way to the man is through his woman, a supermodel who takes a daily swim always at the same time in her indoor pool in her beau-bought apartment building (it's New York so it could be a townhouse, brownstone, full-building or a thousand other real estate terms). They bomb the pool, blow a hole in the floor, drain the pool directly beneath her and catch her in a net beneath. They knock her out, take her to an apartment where they put on a little charade that allows her to escape and call her terrifying boyfriend. In reality, they inserted a camera-contact into her eye, giving them video back to them of where she is going, not to mention tracking her movements.

The gangster brings his terrified girlfriend across the pond to a UK castle where he has the woman and child. The redemption gang go over there (usually, only three of them, though Susan goes sometimes) and sneaks through old tunnels that had been built to stave off and escape an attack by Napoleon. They get to the house right as the woman is blooding from her stomach and in bad need of medical attention. The rescuers of the woman and the rescuers of her little boy get split up during the brouhaha that winds up killing practically all the thugs, including the main guy. Tom takes her to the hospital where the doctors have found something strange about her X-rays. He steps out of the room for a second to hear about if they found her son or not. They have and he's safe, but she doesn't know that. As soon as Tom returns to the room, she is gone, escaped out the window to finish the task given to her by the gang guy.

Still believing the man has her son, she goes to her undercover safe house where her fellow undercover CIA agents are. That strange thing inside her? A bomb. She threatens to blow the place up if only to save her son.

Tom and Solomon
Tom, Solomon, and Nez all show up in the nick of time and prove to her that her son is OK. But the bomb still must be removed and nobody's a bomb expert in the room. Tom gingerly slips it out and snips the wires, saving everyone. The day is saved and the team has successfully completed its first mission. Susan goes to her husband's funeral and talks about how she is still in mourning. Tom goes to his father and listens to the man's paranoid rants about his mother and how he must keep close watch on her because she's up to no good.

Episode two gets even more personal for both Tom and Susan as they are now tasked with rescuing a journalist in some foreign country (I think it was one of the stans). Accused of being a US spy, he was arrested, taking to jail, beaten and forced to record a confession of his guilt, though he swears he is not a spy. Apparently, the ruler of the country is known for doing this kind of thing. It gets personal when Halcyon gets involved. The man's family contacts Susan directly, who takes the case for free as this boy and his family were friends with Susan, Howard, and Tom since the boys were little. In fact, this boy used to be Tom's best friend before he went missing. Though it isn't explored in great detail, Tom feels a certain way about this person from his past coming back into his life in need of rescue. So, they have to get into the country, get into the jail in which they are keeping the journalist and break him out.

Things go awry when they are in the jail and try breaking him out but a guard comes and calls his radio to signal the others. Pinned down in the kitchen, they are almost killed when they can't get the door to the exterior open and their tech guy can't hack the code from halfway around the world in time (what good is he if he can't do that? Seriously). Outside, Nez improvises and hooks a chain from a van to the door. They zoom off with a door rattling on the ground behind them.

To a safe place, the three spies gameplan over what to do next because the entire nation will be looking for them. All they need to do is to get to the embassy which is a few blocks over. They hope to wait until nightfall. But the journalist wants to go and get his research he left back at his apartment building, with a neighbor lady who doesn't know he hid it in her place. It's vital that he gets the story told. The group turns away for just a second and when they turn back he is gone, and you are left to wonder if they're going to do that particular trope every single episode as they were already battin' a thousand, two for two.

Journalist Guy Being Interrogated

The journalist does get his research but the others catch up with him and then the cops start to show and things get hectic. As they make a daring escape through the streets, bullets fly and riddle the cars. The journalist is hit and dies 20 feet inside of embassy lines. A failed mission, they get back to the U.S., and, as it turns out, the journalist was a spy. He was a real journalist being used as a CIA operative who had collected intel on possible war crimes within the country. He died a hero but no one, not even his parents can know about that. Susan does a little hitting on Tom as she has been doing for a while now and things get very creepy (this is how the show Taboo should've felt) as we know that Tom knows it's his mom and she doesn't, but he doesn't spurn her advances nearly hard enough, especially not for a married man. Sometimes, he has this “willing to risk it all” look on his face but it hasn't happened... yet. Strangely, there is actually a name for this, when one family member feels a romantic attraction to another long-lost family member. There have been a few cases in the news in recent years.

Episode three was the most interesting so far to me. The U.S. Government crashed a plane on purpose onto Russian soil (don't worry, the plane was full of pre-dead people dressed up to look like regular passengers. I'm also assuming the plane was either piloted by people who parachuted out or it was a drone). Why did they do this? Because they were trying to get as close as possible to a Russian black site that they haven't been able to map with satellite imaging. They think the Russians are hiding some kind of nuclear bomb threat. But what Keen discovers is that they're really hiding an entire make-believe American town named Independence (funny enough, there is an Independence, Ohio not too far from Cleveland and Akron, though I don't think this was the specific town they were spoofing). This serves as a testing/training ground for Russian sleeper agents to blend into American society more thoroughly. In the town, they must talk in only English, act like, sound like, look like Americans, and they must remain completely faithful to their cover stories given to them by the Russians. Right up Tom's alley, he slides into it easily, along with Nez. While Tom refuses to sex-down his “new wife” in the shower, Nez gets the go-ahead to graduate from the program and become a full-fledged spy on American soil.

But when Nez discovers that the identities given to everyone were of real American citizens and that they are to receive plastic surgery to look more like those citizens, she and Tom must escape and try to stop an imminent attack. One of the other graduates has already gone to America and killed his doppelganger. Now that he looks just like him, he is the new American. They determine that these Russian sleepers have a bomb attack planned to make America think that they've been attacked by their own people. Solomon, who stayed behind on US soil, has all three of the American would-bes shot in the head before they can detonate the bomb. The day is saved once more. But the most intriguing part comes at the end when Tom meets with his father and tells him of this secret mission. See, this case had been started by Howard before he faked his death. It was kept secret even from Susan. Why? Because Howard thinks Susan is from this program. That's right, after the death of their child, he thinks that Susan was somehow replaced with a phony who has been made to look and sound like her but isn't her. Now that is some top-level Mission Impossible type of shiznit. Even more, Susan just got info from a PI that Howard hired before his fake death. She now knows that their long-lost son is alive, and tells that straight to Tom, who still gives no reaction.

What's my grade? I give it a B. While the writing is OK, it doesn't quite have the allure or bite of The Blacklist, season one. Also, it's very limiting in its scope as far as world-building goes. In other words, it relies too heavily on you having to have already been a fan of The Blacklist franchise in order to get it. I've seen all the Blacklist episodes and still got confused on a few things. Worst of all, the characters seem watered down, which is similar to how the latest season of The Blacklist has felt. The hatred between Solomon and Tom should be palpable, but it isn't. Dude, this black guy literally tried ending your entire family multiple times. You should want to kill him every chance you get even if he is on your side now. While Famke is good, Terry O'Quinn is neutered, kept to the confines of a tiny apartment where he must live out his days as a presumed-dead crackpot. So far, we've only seen glimpses of him that haven't amounted to ten full minutes over the course of three episodes. And, as mentioned earlier, you don't know why Tom is so trusting of this man over and above his mother who wants to jump his bones. There has yet to be a good dilemma scene where he assesses both sides to see who is more believable as both have called the other crazy for believing (or not believing) their son's existence. It almost makes you question why Tom is in such demand from Susan in the first place as he doesn't seem to be that great of a spy (Elizabeth was fooled but it didn't take long after Red came into her life and she officially started as a field agent for them to be at each other's spy throats).

Should you be watching? If you're already a fan of the Blacklist, sure. It's a worthy supplementary series to The Blacklist while it is on its winter/spring hiatus. But if you aren't already a fan of The Blacklist, I can't see what this show might have to actually offer you. It's certainly not groundbreaking spycraft, so... I'd say maybe check it out one episode just for Famke and tech nerd Dumont, but otherwise, I probably wouldn't recommend it.

What do you think? Have you heard of NBC's The Blacklist: Redemption? If not, do you think you'll check it out now? If you have heard of it, have you seen it? Was I too rough on it or is it in big trouble like Dembe is on The Blacklist? And who do you think is telling the truth, Susan or Howard? As always, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “Is this where I find redemption?”
'No. But you can get two calzones for the price of one.'
“I'll take that, then.”

P.S. What? Calzones are delicious. Ad with malls across the U.S. Suffering, who knows if I'll ever be able to visit another Sbarro and get me a pepperoni and cheese-stuffed calzone. Mmm... Calzone! I'll think of a better sign-off next time.

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If You're Lost You Can Look And You Will Find Me #TimeAfterTime #ABC #3weekroundup

If You're Lost You Can Look And You Will Find Me #TimeAfterTime #ABC #3weekroundup

All pictures courtesy of ABC

The time has come for yet another review/recap of a new show. This time, we're going after NBC's Timeless ABC's Time After Time (#TimeAfterTime). So how does the newest time show stack up to, uh, the other time shows? Is it a fun romp-hop across the twisted rocks of time's great river? Or is it just another show that'll one day have you saying, “Remember that one time where, like, there was this show and, uh... Dang it! I can't remember what happened,” kinda show (gosh, that sentence was terribly worded)? Read on to find out! NOTE: I was slacking on my posts and while I wrote this weeks ago, I didn't get to post it until the show was already canceled, sorry. I also didn't edit it.

ABC's Time After Time follows the exploits of two time travelers as one chases madly after the other. Why? Because one is a historical serial killer: Jack the Ripper. Now, before I go on (I know, it's only three sentences into the review and I'm already getting off on a tangent? Yikes! This is not a tangent), I must note that much of the advertising for this show is actually misleading but in a somewhat good way because they don't bury the lead. The lead, the draw, the thing that really is supposed to pull you in is the fact that one of the time travelers is the notorious late-19th, early-20th century killer dubbed by newspapers as Jack the Ripper. However, what most of the commercials and promo material did not tell you is that the guy who is supposed to be his best friend on a quest to stop him is none other than... H. G. Wells. That's right, literary legend H.G. Wells, writer of such books as The Time Machine, The Isle of Dr. Morneau and The Invisible Man. A young version of him (pre-publishing fame), in this fun and twisted account, is best friends with a man named Dr. John Stevenson, a surgeon in 19th century London. Played by Revenge's Josh Bowman, John or Jack (you see how clever they are? Honestly, I know it's a little cheap, but I would've made the same joke myself) is charming, dashing and also deadly, not to mention sleek enough to look like a man who is intelligent enough to adjust on the fly. He is also the complete opposite to H.G.

H.G. Wells, played by Freddie Stroma, is somewhat of an awkward-looking baby-faced hero. Honestly, the guy often has a shocked expression on his face that looks closer to a child who has just learned that he got that number one best toy for Christmas but his parents forgot to get the batteries. His child-like dismay speaks nothing of his overall intelligence, and had me asking whether the character is like that on purpose or is Stroma just very... British. I know, that's probably offensive. But, for whatever reason, the man plays younger than he is. But this is all excusable as you get more used to both characters.

We open the series in the yellow-tinged streets of London. A night filled with young women ripe for the picking, John does exactly that. He sneaks a willing woman into an alley and stabs her to death in the most brutal—yet, surgical—of ways. He then sneaks off into the night to H.G.'s home. Wells, playing host to a few men who were happy to entertain his fanciful predictions about the future and his dream for a Utopian society, waits until his friend gets to his home before telling all the men of his latest project outside of his books.

His latest project, as some might guess, is a time machine that looks similar to one of those submarine exploration pods that you saw at the beginning of Titanic. It has a chamber window, some buttons and levers and other stuff. But, Wells points out, the most important part of it is a key and key hole that control it. Now, the way the key works on first thought is very simple, but when you see the machine in practice it becomes a little more complicated because you start to think about it. The machine can work without the key, OK? However, the key, when used, allows for the user of the machine to dictate if the machine stays where the traveler has gone. Without it, the machine will snap back to the time from which the traveler originated. Got it? I'll be explaining it again once we start time traveling.

So, all of the other men save for John/Jack dismiss the time machine as foolish and wishful. But Jack wants to know how it works and all sorts of things. As Wells is explaining it, the men are called back upstairs. The police have come in search of the ripper as he has struck again, and the body is still warm enough for them to know that his latest kill happened moments earlier. They're searching all the homes within walking distance. The other men are quick to leave while John/Jack slips back down into the basement. While the cops start to search Wells' house, they stumble upon the good doctor's medical bag he left at the door when first he entered. It contains a bloody blade used by Jack. They all hear a boom, rush down to the basement and find it empty of both John/Jack and machine. The cops think he escaped out the back door and rush back upstairs to find him while Wells stays, flabbergast that his invention worked. And then boom!

Not explosion boom but abra-cadabra boom. The machine reappears and thrusts Wells back as it lands back in its same place. Without hesitation and thinking nothing of that maid woman, he gets the key, hops in, reads the date to where John/Jack went, and goes there himself. The machine's viewing window freezes over, as I guess traveling through time is cold (I've got to brush up on my theoretical thermal dynamics). In any case, it makes for a rather cool reveal as he wipes at the frost to see that he is in... our times, of course. Where did you think he'd go?

Wells fumbles out of the machine with the key and lands smack in the middle of one of New York's great museums in March of 2017, in his own exhibit of all things. He looks at the guided tour group, sees the banners of an older him hanging from the wall, and eyes the many depictions of things and characters from all the books he had yet to write. All fascinating and awe-inspiring his bedazzled eyes don't last long as he is quickly escorted away by security to the office of the assistant curator. Enter Jane Walker played by the lovely Genesis Rodriguez (probably best known from Identity Thief). Jane is the assistant curator who finds Wells cute and charming because... well, she's an eligible bachelorette in modern New York City, and have you seen some of the guys on the dating scene in NYC? She also finds his 19th century chivalry—after he apologizes for assuming that he needs to talk to a man because she's a woman and she can't possibly be in charge—rather charming. She informs Wells that he is just as bad at this as the other guy that came through before him and that whatever stunt they're pulling is not going to get him any free publicity. She thinks he's part of some period-piece play on H.G. Wells. They throw him out and he gladly goes because he has to find Jack.

Meanwhile, Jack is having himself a ball in the city. He hasn't any money until he finds a pawn shop and pawns his own watch that is an “antique” and in “mint condition,” so much so that the pawnbroker could swear it was just made a year or so ago. They negotiate a few thousand dollars for it. Jack, the sly devil he is, then goes to a nearby hotel where he uses the cash, his charm, and that velvety British accent to persuade the front desk attendant to bypass the credit-card-only policy and work something out for him to get a room. In no time, he even has visited the store for some new duds.

Meanwhile, Wells has tracked Jack through the city to the hotel. He gets there where the woman tells him he can wait for his friend in a nearby bar. Jack returns and the two talk about how crazy the future is. Wells has sat at the bar and watched the destruction happening in the world and can't believe that his prediction concerning humanity and technology evolving so much that they would force us into a Utopian society has not yet come to fruition, and reality couldn't be any further from the truth. In fact, the closest that humanity has gotten to utopia is a New York nightclub named Utopia—a den of sin and dancing (NOT a strip club). Jack makes the argument that not only is he returning back to the 1800s but that the future is precisely where he should be. We appreciate the violence, the viciousness the barbarism that lives within his heart. In his “time I was an amateur. Here, I haven't even begun.”

Things get tense when Jack finally calls for Wells to give him the key to the machine so that he can have the machine and travel to any time he wants just to kill. Wells refuses, they tussle and Jack gets a running start on Wells. The would-be author chases him out of the hotel bar where a taxi promptly runs into him. Jack escapes while Wells goes to the hospital. The only thing found on his person, Jane's business card left in his pocket leads the hospital to contact her. She comes because, again, have you ever tried dating as a single woman in New York? Still injured and woozy, Wells thanks her for her kindness and keeps to the story she assumed of him: that he's a member of a new play. They leave the hospital together where she stretches her compassion-for-stray-puppies syndrome to the max and invites him to her place just to clean up because he looks out of sorts and might still be suffering from the hit.

Back at her place, they talk some more about how she got to New York from Texas to become somebody and have great adventures but still hasn't had any. He gets washed and shaved up and she even gives him something to eat. They talk about her single status and he thanks her for letting him stay the night. She then shows him the gift her Texas dad sent her: a gun. Come on, people! Have you ever been to Texas? After a good night's sleep, the news shows that John/Jack has actually committed a murder at the Utopia nightclub and wrote “The Key” on the wall. Wells finally tells Jane that he is the real Wells and that is his real time machine in the center of that display and that the guy who did the murder was actually Jack the Ripper. She doesn't fully believe him but they have this semi-magical trip to the museum during after-hours where they walk by a space exhibit not scheduled to open for three days. They get into his time machine, go three days into the future and walk back to the exhibit which is all built and put together correctly and she suddenly believes. She totally reminds me of Jasmine from the film Aladdin about ten seconds into that first magic carpet ride. Eyes all aglow and crap!

And then the stuff gets placed in front of the fan. Again, the crap hasn't fully hit the fan, but it's in the best position possible to give that fan a really good smack (wait, that is what that saying was always referring to, right? A pile of sentient crap smacking a fan? And it would have to be a Lakers fan, too, right? Because they're the worst). If you haven't guessed it, some idiot carelessly left a newspaper around that showed the headline of the Ripper now known as The Key killer claiming his third victim who just happens to be Jane. And your mind is blown because you're thinking, “Holy crap! In the future we'll all go back to reading newspapers instead of getting our fake news online?”

Now, they have to get back to three days in the past and stop Jack from killing her three days into the future by using even more newspapers. And then you're thinking, “Where the hell did they get all those newspapers from before they went back in time? Because even though there are still NYC newsstands, they zoomed ahead in time and got to the museum three NIGHTS later. Those stands would've had to still be selling one and two-day old papers late enough into the night for the museum to be closed but still early enough in the day for people to want to know what the hell happened yesterday that they missed out on. Then you realize that those are probably the ransom-date newspapers that movie kidnappers have their victim hold up in a picture to the cops to let authorities know the victim is still alive, or they're the newspapers that that crazy bird man that lives in apartment 4 lines all of his 22 birdcages with because those exotic birds gotta piss on somethin', why not it be the New York Post.”

Anyway, they discover that the second victim has yet to be killed, so if they can just catch him in the act where the body was found they can stop him. They find him on the roof of a club somewhere about to kill another woman when they run out and stop him. He then holds the woman hostage. He and Wells tussled and one sliced the other but it was fine. Jack ended up escaping back into the night once again. And grammarians are losing their shiznit realizing that I just changed tenses in a paragraph.

Jane and Wells return to her place for the night where they are already falling into this weird domesticated routine. She says some stuff about how they'll catch him and how she has to go to the bathroom, leaving him in the kitchen to figure out how to feed himself. But of course John tracked them back home and kidnaps her, writing on the bathroom mirror about the key. He takes her to another apartment. Impatient people will immediately jump to asking, “Where the hell did he get this new apartment from?”

Moving farther into the second hour of the two-hour premiere, we find that Jane has awakened in the strange new apartment which belongs to a woman who Jack seduced into letting him come up to her place, and now has tied up in her own bedroom. He plots to kill the woman if H.G. doesn't deliver the key to him in timely fashion. Jane plays his game of stalling and regales him with stories of Jack the Ripper and how he becomes famous, but technically he isn't famous because he is never caught. And because he is never caught, no one ever knows that it was him who committed the murders.

Now knowing that he receives no credit for his invigorating experience, he sets out to rack numbers by killing as many people as he can through all of time. He also wants the exaltation that is due him. While he's about to explain something sinister, Jane bops him over the head with a coffee table bowl that, for some reason, didn't in the slightest look heavy enough to me to knock him unconscious, but that's exactly what happens. He falls to the ground, she goes to untie the other woman and they try making their escape to the front door.

Slow-moving and hardly cunning enough to escape the killer, Jack catches them, Jane tumbles down the stairs but is OK, but looks back up the stairs only to see the other woman back in the ripper's clutches. Being the good-girl she is, she goes back up and waits. Jack then separates the two women and, for some unexplained reason, pretends to stab the other woman before leaving, scaring the crap out of Jane.

Meanwhile, H.G. Wells is having a night all his lonesome. Before he can get halfway down the street to find Jane, he is confronted by a black woman who knows all about him and his quest. How? He's visited her before when she was a young kid in college—his future, her past. Vanessa Anders, played by Nicole Ari Parker (like fine wine, she is), is not only the owner of the H.G. Wells exhibit at the museum (she owns the time machine and everything in the touring exhibit) but she is supposedly his great great granddaughter, though she's seen no proof of this. She even shows him a letter he wrote to himself and gave to her in order to prove this anomaly. Unfortunately, it's very short and says nothing, but because it's in his handwriting, it must be true.

Still, they have to find and save Jane. So, while Vanessa is busy getting the time machine moved from out of the museum to her house, Wells tries piecing together how they can free Jane, and why he traveled in time multiple times in order to warn Vanessa about his coming in the first place. Clearly, something bigger is happening. But right now he has to worry about Jane. And as it so happens Ripper calls, and tries to set up an exchange meeting: Jane for the key.

They try this meeting twice: first in broad daylight, which goes awry because Vanessa's people, the ones Wells swore he didn't need and didn't want following him, interrupted the exchange, causing Jack to get away. The second meeting was in the museum where the time machine still sat, not yet moved to Vanessa's house. This, too, went wrong and could've gone worse because after a security guard tasers the doctor (Jack had a knife to her throat and there was a scuffle that could have easily gotten someone stabbed or sliced) Jack gets up, takes the guard's gun and shoots him. He escapes the museum. Fortunately, Jane is safe again.

But there's another strand. Let's backtrack to just after the failed park meetup. After Jack fled Vanessa's people and Wells, the latter started walking through the streets of NYC alone. At least Wells thought he was alone, until he bumped into this military-looking big dude. He notices that the man seems to take the same turns he's taking, following him block after block. He stops to ask the man if he is following him, but the guy says no, and the trusting Wells thinks nothing of it. Here, you partially get a sense of why he looks so boyish: he's meant to look more innocent than smart. He's like a Richard Castle (of Castle) but less wit and grown-man confidence/swagger. More on that later, but back to the military guy. At the end of the two-hour premiere episode, we see this military man back at his apartment (or it could be a mission house. Not sure) with a stalker's wall with pictures of both Wells and Jack dating back to the first day of their arrival. And the plot thickens more than a Louisiana gumbo.

Episode three, if you can call it that, starts to settle into the backstabbery (no pun—wait a minute... yes, pun very much intended) of the series. While it has yet to become something close to a procedural, which is good, it does seem to head that way, which is fine so long as they continue their jumbling of the genre. On this episode, while Wells, Vanessa, and Jane (who has fully committed herself to her first true NYC adventure) all fuss with trying to make the time machine Ripper-proof and have it snap back to Vanessa's house no matter if Jack has the key or not, the ripper is busying himself with one of those snazzy ultimatum plans. Jack says that if they don't hand over the key and the machine, then he'll kill someone else in a matter of 24 hours. Here, just like with the key, things on the primary level seem reasonable. OK, he's going to kill someone if he doesn't get the key. They should give him the key, or they'll be responsible for someone's death. But when you think about it, he's going to use the key to kill more people anyway. He's already stated as much. So, why then would he, a bona fide smarty-pants, think that this plan would work? Don't know but we all go with it because it continues to keep the show going, and go it does!

Wells and the gang crack the priceless gem at the center of making the time machine work. Without it, he couldn't bend space-time and travel through it. In luck, Jane used to date a gemologist who deals in the rarest stones on earth. They go to him to repair their cracked gem. While there, they run into the military guy. The military guy had a brief visit with his mother earlier in the episode where he told his ailing me-ma that she was right about Wells and Jack the Ripper coming through time. His job is to kill both of them and he goes to doing just that. He shoots at Jane and Wells as they make a daring escape through the gemologist's building and back to Vanessa's place.

Meanwhile, Vanessa is dealing with some drama all her own. See, Vanessa just happens to be extravagantly rich, we're talking Oprah rich. But it wasn't self-made—she inherited it from her parents—and she seems to be rather uncomfortable with her wealth. As power and wealth only marry equals, she is dating and engaged to a past astronaut, future senator (he's still running) who she hadn't told the full truth until this episode. When the team gets the gem back and puts it into the machine, they display it for him and he sees how it disappears and reappears, and is amazed. But once he has some alone time, he calls into some shadowy organization and says that he now has more access to the time machine. Aw snap! Guy totally knew all along, and sounds sinister.

On the other end, Jack/John looks for his next victim. A man that likes to play with his kill before dinner, he strolls through a street market in his fresh new clothes (a suit he stole from one of his victims) and bumps into a woman who happens to claim the profession of psychiatrist... or psychologist, whichever. I know one actually goes to med school. Anyway, it's not that he seduces her, but that she entices him that leads them on this all-day informal date around the city. They sit and talk about how it is to be in the medical profession in their respective fields. She thinks surgeons are all ego and power-of-god-in-my-hands arrogant, and he doesn't argue against that but makes it a more pinpointed philosophy about how he loves the thrill of the life-or-death scenario of surgery. For a while, you think that he might not kill her and instead keep her around while he kills other women. But at the end of the episode, he takes a knife and is committed to filming himself killing her. Completely sweeping aside the question of, “How the hell did he learn to use a smartphone so fast,” we watch as she comes into the kitchen to kiss on him some more after their coital passions only for her to stick him with a needle before he can stick her with the knife. He falls back, she takes the knife and says something about how she thought he might've been going soft for a minute before he passes out and awakes strapped to a table. Apparently, she and whoever she works for, has also been expecting him and Mr. Wells. And the plot goes completely crazy.

What's my grade? I give it a B, leaning toward B+. OK, a few qualifiers here. First off, again if you are too prissy in your viewing habits and will only watch something extremely highly rated or completely historically accurate, then, first off, TV ain't for you. As someone who loves history, there is no show that is ever completely historically accurate. They always get something wrong. But more importantly, the way in which you view a particular time period that you haven't lived through is based solely on the books you've read that originate from and are about that time period. Be as pissed as you want to be, but anger gets to be unfounded when people haven't read the same history that you have.

Also, remember that NO ONE is the end-all, ultimate authority on time travel. I don't care how many books you've read on it or how many movies you've seen about it, until it is real, and one can experience it for themselves, we have no idea how real time travel would ever actually work. Maybe you have to be going super-fast, or maybe you don't have to be moving at all. Maybe you have to go through a black hole or something. Again, we don't know. Hell, we've never even seen an actual black hole, yet fools will sit around and say, “Oh, well this is how a black hole works.” No, you don't know how it works. You have a theory, not a scientific theory, a theory theory, one that is not proven nor highly accepted and can't be tested. Earth was the center of the universe was highly accepted as fact for a while, too, and not just by religious zealots but by scientific minds. So, again, there is no authority on time travel, save for what you are and aren't willing to believe.

With those two qualifiers out of the way, there are still a few things the show totally miffs on. First, the business with the key makes little sense when you sit and think about it long enough. To review, the machine is, essentially, tethered to the time from which the traveler departs. So if Jack left from 1893, then the machine will take him to 2017, before snapping back in time to 1893 when the key isn't used. The first thing here is that we are unsure on whether the key must stay in the machine or not. Does the key just have to be in the keyhole (it'd be wrong to call it the ignition) when you travel? But even then, it's still flawed. Because while this may account for the time jump and the machine staying put, it doesn't account for the spatial jump, nor for the traveler and non-machine jump. Confused? Well, of course you are because it was confusing language, but let me explain.

So, when both Wells and Jack jump, they end up in the machine but during modern times. No, that doesn't mean that the machine is transported to modern times, but that just they are. This is the traveler-non-machine jump. Just the traveler technically goes through time, transporting from one machine in the 1890s to the machine in 2017. We know this because this machine, while it is technically the same one, is on display in New York City. So this would mean that either the machine jumps or the person jumps, but for the past person to end up in the future machine, makes you wonder where the heck is the past machine? This is less akin to Back to the Future and more akin to the films About Time or The Time Traveler's Wife where the person is traveling back in time and not a full machine. This is actually a big dilemma because of the main thrust of the show and the feature of the key.

If the time machine that is displayed in the future is the one that Wells originally built in his time period (again, this is forgetting the fact that apparently no one in all those years thought to see if it worked), then what would Jack need the key for in the first place. In theory, if he can jump through time and always end up in a different time period inside of that time period's machine, then he wouldn't need to worry about procuring the key, you see? For example, the machine must exist in, say... 1980 because it exists in 2017. Even if it wasn't fully restored then, wouldn't he be able to jump back to 1980 and end up in that time period's time machine just as he did when he ended up in the 2017 version? And if not, then there would be technically two time machines out there both in whatever time he jumped back to and in 2017. That, on its own, is enough to make you wonder. However, with the speed at which this show has been moving with the twists and turns, this issue may very well be addressed later in the season when they are slated to go to other time periods.

Moving on, I find the actor who is playing Wells too boyish. I understand the man is 30 or turns that this year, but he doesn't play like that, and I think that's mostly due to the directing. He plays like a nerd and not a good, new-age nerd. This reminds me of a younger Castle as mentioned above, however he doesn't hit the marks that castle does. There is no charm there and what is there doesn't translate into a connection with the character. It's rather funny, because through the first two-hours (two episodes), I thought he was American playing British, because his accent and many of his mannerisms seemed fake. But then when I found out he was British, I cringed, because I also discovered that Josh Bowman (the Ripper) is also UK-born and pulled off a fantastic WASP American on the show Revenge a few years back. And while both gentlemen have good resumes, Bowman's work on Revenge probably helped him more as he seems much more like a fun villain who will become more charming and unhinged as the series continues. His suaveness is also possibly influenced by the fact that the Ripper is such an open canvas on which to paint. He gets to create the character from scratch while Wells is an established historical figure. Still, Wells, as our hero, seems off. Though, I will argue that maybe he has a little chemistry with Jane (Genesis).

Should you be watching? This is a tough one. For once, I believe that ABC has premiered a new series on its proper night. While this could easily slip into the 10pm time slot on Mondays that Castle held for so many years, it also fits perfectly into the 9pm hour on Sundays where it currently airs. I also like its pace, something which I actually took a mark off of Timeless for as the first episode seemed to throw the whole bowl of spaghetti at the wall (but I adjusted and still enjoyed the show to its end). Also, there are other time adventures to look forward to and you can do a lot with this concept and it looks like they will. However, there's so much mystery revolving around the main thrust of the show that it is difficult for me to recommend this to anyone who is looking for anything more than PG-13 escapism. If you'd rather not have the blood and guts of Walking Dead and want something that's just going to be more fun than heavy, then this might be for you. But with so much of our most esteemed entertainment going dark and heavy with themes of tragedy and whatnot, it is difficult to see where this will fit in the crowded TV marketplace. But this is on ABC, the Disney-owned network. I would say that if you enjoy Marvel movies or Agents of Shield (not the darker, more DC-oriented Netflix shows) then you will probably like Time After Time. Catch the first three episodes at or on ABC on demand on your cable provider.

What do you think? Have you heard of Time After Time? If not, do you think you'll check it out now? If you have seen it, what did you think? Am I being too hard on the show? Or do you hate it? And what do you think is going on with that military guy or that female doctor who is holding Jack captive? I personally think she might also be a serial killer, an admirer of sorts. Anyway, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “I don't have time to learn how to program this damn clock!”

P.S. I was going to go with more Cyndi Lauper lyrics, but I decided to do something original. Well, that flopped. Now I guess I understand why Generation X is so obsessed with making remakes or sequels of everything they saw as a child. Oh, you didn't know? It's OK, because I didn't know either. Yeah, Time After Time is a remake of a 1970s film of the same name. Originality, we hardly knew ye. I'll think of a better sign-off next time... after time.

P.P.S. Now that the show has been canceled, I actuallly feel for it. While it had plenty of flaws, I actually thought ABC might have stumbled onto something that could've been good. Oh well.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Taboo? I Probably Should Feel Ashamed But I Only Feel Sleepy #Taboo #FX #Post-mortem

Taboo? I Probably Should Feel Ashamed But I Only Feel Sleepy #Taboo #FX #Post-mortem 

All Pictures courtesy of BBC and FX

For the love of all that is right, why? Why? Why, Tom Hardy, did you choose this project of all the good projects out there? Sorry, I'm jumping ahead of myself here. It's mid-season and another mid-season show has just ended its limited run. You know what that means: a snarky and snide review/recap of the entire season. Yaaayyy! What of Taboo? Is it a show you need to go online or to your cable box on-demand menu, and binge-watch, or does Taboo not even reach the highest of tawdry, let alone dip a toe into the pool of a salacious scandal? Let's find out together—well, not together. I already know and you're reading it, so... You know what, you get how this works. Let's go!!

FX's Taboo stars Tom Hardy as James Delaney, a prodigal son returned to Britain to roam the filthy streets of London in 1814. He returns under inauspicious circumstances as he has come home to honor the death of his father. Thought dead himself—killed in a sea voyage or made into barbaric animal of sorts—the shock of his return is felt throughout most of the city as it has far-reaching implications. Son to a wealthy man, Father Delaney died still in the ownership of one of London's premiere shipping companies. The company goes everywhere from the recently revolutionized American states to east India to Africa (we all know what they're doing on that continent). At first assumption, the company would go to his half-sister Zilpha Geary played by Oona Chaplin (yes, she is the granddaughter of Charlie). Of course, in those days most inheritances still went to men, so the company would technically go to Zilpha's posh-whipped husband Thorne Geary (I know posh didn't really exist back then, but follow me here). That is until James returns to exact his Monte Cristo-ian revenge upon those he felt wronged both him, his father and his “wildling” mother. Oops, did I say wildling. Sorry, that's Game of Thrones, the show that Taboo tries to be. Let's continue, shall we.

There is also Sir Stuart Strange played by the always committed Johnathon Pryce (funny, he actually played the high priest/prophet guy on Game of Thrones), who heads up the East Indian Company, a rival shipping company (we're talking about THE premier shipping company of Britain at the time; yes, they're real) that had hoped to buy out and/or destroy the Delaney company outright. With Thorne Geary already in their back pocket, this would've been very easy to do, until James returned. And, uh... that's about it.

Look, as far as plot, it is very simple: man returns to get some revenge. After that, there isn't a whole lot of intrigue. Yes, there are plenty of pseudo-side stories that, for me, never got interesting but there's so little plot to me that actually connects that it starts to make you wonder why this was so long. Every episode of the eight episode series is an hour and a half long, which, frankly, drags the story out to excruciating lengths, but if that's what you have to do in order to get it on TV...

So, to the side stories. The first is that his father had a mistress/supposed wife he met up in the far country up north... or south, I can't remember. They got married in secret and she only shows up after a few episodes to try to stake claim to the Delaney home and business, which is actually in debt. But if you're looking for some kind of Avatar/Braveheart fight between the two of them on who owns what, look elsewhere. Upon learning that she wants the property and the business, James sorta shrugs it off and says we'll discuss it when the time is right. Does he try to throw her in a dark, dark wood? Nope. Instead, she says I want the house and he invites her to stay in the house with him. What? Welp, OK. He figures he can protect her from, and might need her as ally against Sir Strange, but even her “helping hand” doesn't materialize to anything substantial until the final two episodes where she is both tortured a little and half-helps clear his name.

Speaking of the last two episodes—three, really—another subplot forms in which this scholarly black gentleman pops up and starts conducting an investigation into the sinking of an East Indian Company ship. The ship was, at the time of its sinking, carrying a cargo of slaves, though it was not supposed to be, and had briefly changed its name in order to take the illegal shipment. He wants to know who ordered the slaves on the ship and why the vessels sank the way it did. What was most interesting, however, is that Delaney was on the ship—one of the reasons why he was presumed dead. But even though they have this mystery/investigation as a plot device, they never quite do anything with it. The black guy asks a few white men some questions, they give him that look of “dude, really? Come on. You black in the 1800s,” and he smirks back like, “but I'm also educated and have never been a slave,” and that's about it there, too.
Americans With Guns

Then we have the side plot about the Americans, which, frankly, I didn't fully understand. So, there's some American spies who want to disrupt Britain's business and its continual spread as an empire, and I guess they're fighting for some land in America before the Brits get it, but even with that, eh! Knowing my history, both the revolutionary war and the war of 1812 or Mr. Madison's war had taken place and America had won both. So why they are trying to mess with Britain in any way is bizarre to me. More over, it was the French that we bought the Louisiana territory from, not the Brits, so... I don't know. I'd have to brush up on my history again, but, to me, it's similar to after WWII when America and Britain shifted to look at Russia, instead of Germany. We had just beat them in two wars, why keep looking at them? Same here, America beat Britain twice. Why look at them again? Even more to the point, the East Indian shipping company was said to be the one with spies in reality, almost like a pre-CIA or MI6. Wouldn't it, then, make more since for them to be spying on the Americans... in America? I don't know.


Finally, the one side-plot that I'm sure many people first thought of when reading the word Taboo, Delaney wants to sleep with his sister again, as they had quite the affair before he left. But even that is tame by comparisons of other shows we've seen as of late. Game of Thrones used the plot device in the most vicious and memorable way. Even Cruel Intentions had its twisted incestual plot device always lurking over the characters actions. Here, however, I could take it or leave. It felt inconsequential and, to me, the show proved exactly that when, on the finale, his sister kills herself after they had screwed like mad dogs on episode six or seven. Even the male-rams-butting-heads that Delaney should've been with her husband Thorne came to a soupy climax, the flavor of violence and hatred muddled as Delaney made another friend of the man. He spared him in a pistol duel after the East Indian Company set Thorne up to fail by giving him a gun with no bullets. It was like watching those new Steven Seagull movies where, instead of kicking ass, he settles things reasonably, and you're like, “What? Dude, Under Siege that son of a gun! At least Under Siege 2 him! Gah!” SMH.

And then, if that's not the worst of it, his sister kills the man so she can go and sleep with her brother with impunity. And the way she is so giddy about having killed her husband and how subdued Delaney is, you think, “Wait, we might be in for some kind of naughty Fifty Shades of Grey here. She looks like she wants to be punished. Finally, I feel ashamed watching a show called Taboo.” Nope! You get it not! In fact, after one and a half episodes (which, was maybe a week in show time) Delaney casts his sister's affections aside in some half-noble belief that she should have a better life than he will give her at the moment, and how he's destined to die and he needs to keep with his pursuit of villainy, and yadda yadda yadda. And because she can't have anymore brother-meat (ooo, that's nasty!), she hurls herself off a bridge while her voice-over waxes poetic about how much she loved him and how she hopes to meet him in the afterlife. Again, she resisted him with a lover's longing in her eyes for at least the first three episodes before hopping on his lap and tempting him with one of those, “This is what you want? Well, you'll never get it,” that all film/TV vixens do to the men right before giving up the drawers. Here, it only turned into an eye-rolling “come on” moment because of the characters' lack of real power or character outside of the two men in her life.

Even considering her death under the microscope of Delaney's revenge plot, it makes little sense. I know that I never got the notion that he wanted anything other than to sleep with his sister and make her his again, so any revenge exacted upon her comes as a hollow twist: there to try to keep your interest but serving no meaningfulness to the plot before or after.

Sad to say but for me, the last episode came in somewhat of a blur, and I hardly remembered it. I do know that, after being captured, imprisoned and questioned about what he knew about something dealing with the Americans, Delaney said virtually nothing. The whole sinking of the slave ship thing got resolved because somehow Father Delaney and Sir Strange had given orders to put the slaves on the ship and did some stuff that inevitably led to its sinking, leading the black guy to go to Delaney's house, up to his study, see a letter and give that all-too-familiar magical negro nod when the main white character has done something good. He even says, “Justice!” And we're all like, “Oh! That's what this whole thing was about: Justice! Of course. I totally get it now.” There's also a huge set-piece shootout with explosions and plenty of deaths down at the harbor, but even that I couldn't quite figure out because, again, it had something to do with the historically confusing American plot. So, some redcoats started shooting at the undercover Americans that tried to undo their business; Delaney, who is on the American's side has ordered this chemist (I'm actually fascinated by him because I think he'd make a great 19th century Walter White) to make bombs and explosive powder which he does; Delaney and his men use it to escape. But along the way a few people die including a male cross-dresser that had been helping Delaney, and some other people. Delaney, along with his father's secret wife (you just knew they were going to sleep with each other and I can't remember them doing such), and a brothel madam all escape on one of his ships with full crew on board.

From there, you have what is common in shows and films like this, a double-ending, in which two poignant moments follow one after the other, either one an acceptable ending on its own. Bare with me for I can't remember which comes first but I think it is the Delaney one. Delaney is seen on the ship talking to what we can only assume will be his first mate who asks about the guns and the explosives and whatnot that was supposed to be for the Americans. Delaney tells him that they have to go somewhere that sounded Spanish to me, so I'm guessing somewhere either in South America, or, um... dang it, where else do they speak Spanish. Wait, it'll come to me... No, I can't think of it. He also tells him that—surprise, surprise—they are the Americans, and we see a grand old flag raised on the mast, replacing the British jack. Here, I guess the show is trying to make some salient point about how Delaney may have been an American the whole time and how he personified America ruining the British world empire, but I'm not quite sure if that point is adequately made. In any case, I don't think it has the impact the show wanted it to have. But we do get this amazing view of the sunset before them as they sail away. All this to set up future possible stories.

Our second ending is the simplicity of one final get-back where Sir Strange sits down in his office and his secretary brings him a letter/package of some sort. Naturally, he sits to read it, opens it up and BOOM! Yes, it was from Delaney and his chemist, and was a bomb. The end. Oddly, I rather enjoyed this quick end to the frail haunt that was Sir Strange, because, while he was good, he wasn't all-time evil or manipulative.

What's my grade? You really have to ask? I give this a C-, and that is only because I know how some people like the slow-build of things and I do think Tom Hardy was captivating every time we saw him on screen. Also, the show is a visual masterpiece in its 19th century grunge-bleakness. So, you definitely have something to look at. However, there were so many things that I didn't enjoy about the series that I couldn't overlook them all.

First, as said, the main plot is simple and should be easy to follow, and it is, however, unlike in some iterations of Count of Monte Cristo, this revenge plot meanders and fizzles rather than pops. Though he says his intent outright a few times, we never get a sense of the evil of the men who betrayed him. Yes, they technically killed his father. Yes, they hated his mother because she was different and was some kind of witch, supposedly, but we don't ever get a flashback scene of what exactly they did to her or what his father did to her. I say that knowing that the show delves (albeit briefly) into this sorcery and poetic imagery because Delaney is seen multiple times doing some kind of craft himself, communing with his deceased mother in the wild. Even his sister is shown at what can only be described as a 19th century exorcism, yet there is no scene where they show the horrors we are supposed to believe these men may or may not have committed, creating a lack of character connective tissue with the audience.

Speaking of, all of the characters were both muted and mooted, in my opinion. This is a show that relies very heavily on its visual pretenses, which is good for a visual medium. However, it does that, in many cases, to the detriment of the viewers if you ask me. There's more dead silence or people wailing than there is snappy, crisp, memorable dialogue. Truthfully, the only time you do remember some dialogue is when it comes just before some sex, like Delaney's demand that his sister take her dress off NOW, or when it comes at the end of a character's arc. Even worse, half of the show is whispered, something which I absolutely hate about period films. I don't understand why people in Victorian-era and down to 1099 AD must always whisper-mumble everything. Is everything a secret? Do people think we only just recently developed loud voices? Gah! It drives me mad.

As for them being mooted, no one makes a point to really stick out here, or do anything worth writing home about for that matter. Again, to compare it to Game of Thrones, everything the entire season inches closer and closer to a penultimate and ultimate episode that leaves you breathless and chatty. Here, most of what happens had me shrugging so often because the characters don't seem to develop in any way. There's no taunting of the pull between doing good and exacting revenge. Most of the scenes are anticlimactic because Delaney isn't even there when a great deal of the people die and he never has an evil laugh about it all or even a good “that was satisfying” smirk, either. Do something, man. Act unreasonable for just a second. For instance, when his sister admits she killed her husband so she could get some of that nasty brother-lovin' his immediate reaction is not to rip her clothes off right then and there like he wants. No, instead he goes to check on the body to make sure the man is dead, then makes plans to have the body removed. What? But... but... Whatever, dude! I would've even settled for him ripping all her clothes off, having her ready for him, and then him whispering something mean in her ear about how she can't have him, then leaving. Bwahahaha! That would have been deliciously sinister, not to mention would have set up that demanding encounter where they do have sex all the more rich. Instead, this fool acts far too reasonable, even politely suggesting that they shouldn't have each other now. Where's the backbone. He even viciously slices a guy to death during the day and can only muster a look of “well, that happened.” It's maddening.

Wearing a Hat, Talking to a Horse. Life Goals!
It's a series that runs too slow where it feels like nothing happens, though there is stuff happening, and where at least five full minutes of each episode is dedicated to watching Tom Hardy walking around 19th century London in a black coat and top hat. In fact, it should have been called Man in a Black Coat and Top Hat.

Should you be watching? If you weren't before, then I'll say you shouldn't now. Look, I am always apologetic for having certain opinions because I know how tough it is to be a creative in this industry, and I also know how so many good shows today don't get good until later seasons, but I can't for the life of me understand how this show is so highly rated on IMDb, nor how it has been renewed for a second season. The only reason I see for its renewal is that BBC also aired it in the UK and it must be a hit over there—maybe it's more tuned to British entertainment sensibilities—because a hit it was not over here. Again, I know that some TV shows take time to adjust and really get their rhythm and catch on, but at a cost of 10 million dollars (or it might have been pounds which is even more expensive) for the first season of eight episodes, I can't fathom making changes that will boost this show to the level of a West World or Thrones or even Mr. Robot. You can catch the full first season of Taboo on FX on Demand on your cable provider or online at FX or

What do you think? Have you heard about Taboo? If not, do you think you'll check it out now or stay away? If you have, what did you think about it? Am I being too tough on the show? Is it one of your new faves or does it deserve to be canceled? And what did you expect from a show with such a name? As always, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “You are a woman in need of a serious spanking. And I just so happen to have a strap for that. ”

P.S. Could they have fit a line like that in? Yes, of course. Did they? I mean, come on! I thought Taboo meant something people didn't discuss, something against regular standards and practices. If the show had focused on one thing, rather than a bunch, maybe it would've been something special. By the way, that line is actually from one of my books, A Negotiation of Sorrows due out winter 2018. I'll think of a better, more PG sign-off next time.
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