Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sci Fi TV Quick Hits: The Expanse Has Hit its Stride, Into the Badlands is Kicking Butt, and More

Quick Takes on some of the sci fi / fantasy TV shows currently airing.

The Expanse (Syfy):  I've seen the first four episodes of this show now (which are available for free online viewing), and I am really enjoying it so far.  Having read the first book in the James S.A. Corey Series Leviathan Awakes, I've noticed that the TV adaptation is definitely taking plenty of liberties with the source material which at first bothered me.  But that has become less of a distraction as I feel the series is starting to hit its stride.  I have also noticed comments in online discussions where viewers claim that the series can be confusing.  Not to worry, though, as I felt like the book was as well up to about this point.  A little spoilery warning that the story is about to take some unexpected turns in the upcoming episodes that may change the way people feel about the series.  But it was at that point that I really started to get into the story.  I also have to note that I love the casting on this show.  Thomas Jane gives a great, cynically snarling interpretation of Miller. Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait fit perfectly with the revised versions of their characters Naomi and Holden, and the latter is starting to finally turn into the leader we expected him to be.  Overall this series is delivering some first-rate space opera (and first rate special effects as well) and fans really should be tuning in for this one because I would like to see it stick around for a few more seasons.

Into the Badlands (AMC): After watching the first episode of this post-apocalyptic martial arts drama, I had my doubts.  Stylistically it was impressive and the fight scenes were great fun, but it seemed strung together by copy-and-paste dialog and genre tropes.  I stuck around for the second episode, though, and started to warm up to it and by the fourth (which is as far as I have watched thus far) I count myself as a fan.  The world-building and attention to stylistic detail has been a strength for the show and the characters have developed into more than just cardboard cut-outs.  Not to say that I would put this one in the same class as The Walking Dead or Daredevil, but it is doing enough to distinguish itself  and it is a ton of fun.  And Daniel Wu Sonny has developed beyond the standard grim-faced badass we saw in the first episode to a character conflicted by his loyalties and sense of duty.  AMC needs to go ahead and issue that second season renewal because this show has plenty of potential to explore.

Between (Netflix):  I finally got around to finishing up this Netflix original series about a town cordoned off after it is struck by a virus that kills off everybody over the age of twenty one.  It is definitely an interesting series for those who like virus outbreak stories, and while I wouldn't call it a great show it still managed to exceed expectations.  When I first learned about it, I thought it would deliver teen angst drama in an apocalyptic setting (especially with iCarly alum Jennette McCurdy in the cast)  But instead it went more the route of Lord of the Flies meets government conspiracy.  And it took an unexpectedly grim turn in the final episode of its six part first season.  Netflix has renewed this one for a second, six episode season which will bow at some point in 2016, and I will definitely be checking it out when it returns.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz):  I didn't re-up my subscription to Starz (which lapsed after Torchwood: Miracle Day ended several years ago), so I had not had a chance to check out this show until I saw that the first episode is available for free online viewing.  So I gave that a look and mostly liked what I saw.  It's great to see Bruce Campbell (an all-time favorite actor of mine) back in the role of Ash, and he was definitely chewing the scenery throughout the episode.  The script wasn't quite as witty as I expected, and the episode seemed to plod along at times, but sometimes its takes a while for a show to get up to speed.  And from what I have heard from online reviews and discussions, it has hit its stride as it heads into its season finale this coming weekend.  Since I can subscribe to Starz through Amazon Prime (shameless plug), I will be doing that in the next month or so to binge the first season.

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