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Black Mirror reminds us that sometimes unhappy people sing happy songs Black Mirror reminds us that sometimes unhappy people sing happy songs

If “Smithereens” shows how a substantial running time can improve a slight story, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” shows how it can completely fail an overstuffed one. What starts off as an episode about an awkward teenage girl using a pop idol to find confidence turns into a story about a pop idol struggling under the…

Black Mirror steers into a skid, with mixed results Black Mirror steers into a skid, with mixed results

Possibly the most famous joke ever told about Black Mirror comes from Daniel Mallory Ortberg: “what if phones but too much.” It’s part of a larger piece skewering the show, but that one phrase in particular caught on. It summed up so much of what people had come to dislike about the series—that at heart, for all its…

In its 5th season premiere, Black Mirror presents a new kind of fighting game In its 5th season premiere, Black Mirror presents a new kind of fighting game

For the first ten minutes of “Striking Vipers,’ I assumed I knew where this was headed. It all seemed so obvious, didn’t it? Part of the fun of watching a new episode of Black Mirror (or any twisty anthology series) is trying to guess the premise before it arrives. Sometimes it’s clear from the start, but “Vipers”…

Star Trek: Discovery looks to the future in an explosive finale Star Trek: Discovery looks to the future in an explosive finale

Star Trek: Discovery’s second season has been stronger than its first. The storytelling has been more cohesive; it’s arguably less surprising than the first season’s whiplash transitions between the Klingon War and the Mirror Universe, but it’s easier to go back and trace the through-line that connects all of this.…

Star Trek: Discovery prepares for a finale as Michael makes a choice Star Trek: Discovery prepares for a finale as Michael makes a choice

“Such Sweet Sorrow” goes for the heart. Repeatedly. Over the course of its forty-five (or so) minutes, multiple characters express their regrets, hopes, and affections to each other. Goodbyes are said, and then reiterated. Speeches are made. In terms of plot, we get a major decision which could potentially alter the…

Control closes in on an exciting Star Trek: Discovery Control closes in on an exciting Star Trek: Discovery

I don’t think there’s anything good about Discovery’s take on Klingons. They have no sense of humor, monologue interminably, are tiresomely self-righteous, and they look awful. I don’t know if I realized it before “Through the Valley of Shadow,” but the Klingon make-up redesign is just absolutely abysmal. It’s rubbery…

An unexpected reunion highlights a thrilling Star Trek: Discovery An unexpected reunion highlights a thrilling Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery typically works best when it manages to marry its whiz-bang ideas to something approaching emotional truth. This isn’t new for the franchise (or for the genre as a whole), but the dichotomy here has always seemed particularly stark. Where classic Treks would devote significant time to…

Michael risks it all with little reason on Star Trek: Discovery  Michael risks it all with little reason on Star Trek: Discovery 

Last week, I praised Star Trek: Discovery for how it handled a crew member’s death. While not making up for the show’s frustrating reluctance to develop its secondary characters, “If Memory Serves” at least offered us a chance to care about Airiam before shooting her out of an airlock. Not everyone agreed with me, and…

Game Of Thrones is doing what its source material couldn’t: Coming to an end Game Of Thrones is doing what its source material couldn’t: Coming to an end

Eight years after the release of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire remains its last. Martin has been promising the follow-up, The Winds Of Winter, to readers almost since he finished Dance, but in the time since, the questions and answers have taken on a certain rote…

Star Trek: Discovery learns a lesson in control in a standout episode Star Trek: Discovery learns a lesson in control in a standout episode

I went into “Project Deadalus” determined to keep an open mind. My reaction to last week’s episode was a legitimate one—I didn’t decide to get frustrated with the unnecessary call-backs and weird pacing just so I could yell about something for several paragraphs—but it can be easy to lean into a particular view of a…

Spock returns on a frustratingly familiar Star Trek: Discovery Spock returns on a frustratingly familiar Star Trek: Discovery

“If Memory Serves” opens with something of a tease. In a handful of clips (introduced by the Netflix logo, which briefly made me wonder if I’d loaded the wrong screener), the episode attempts to recap the plot of “The Cage,” the unaired Star Trek pilot that featured the original version of the Enterprise crew,…

Burnham heads home for an awkward family reunion on Star Trek: Discovery Burnham heads home for an awkward family reunion on Star Trek: Discovery

There’s a moment midway through “Light And Shadows” that typifies much of my problems with the show. Chief Engineer Stamets beams on board a shuttle in the middle of a time anomaly. He’s there to try and rescue Captain Pike and Ash Tyler with his advanced navigation skills—spore drives and tardigrades and what not.…

Saru goes home on a shallow Star Trek: Discovery Saru goes home on a shallow Star Trek: Discovery

Be careful what you wish for, I guess. “The Sound Of Thunder” spends nearly all of its running time focused on a single story, and it’s one of the most frustrating episodes of the season this far, full of big crowd-pleasing moments that make little to no sense and rash decisions which always manage to work out for the…

Realities collide on a fast-paced Star Trek: Discovery Realities collide on a fast-paced Star Trek: Discovery

Five episodes into its second season, and Star Trek: Discovery is still working on getting the balance of serialization and standalone right. I appreciate that—it’s a tricky model to work with, and the show’s continued interest in offering smaller stories inside of its larger one is a point in its favor. Yet the…

Space blobs and a death sentence on an emotional Star Trek: Discovery Space blobs and a death sentence on an emotional Star Trek: Discovery

So the first good news is that even though a couple of characters speak Klingon in “An Obol For Charon,” no actual Klingons appear in the episode. After last week (thanks, Alasdair!) that’s a relief. The other good news is that Jet Reno is back! God bless her. And she’s immediately at odds with Stamets, which is a fun…

Star Trek: Discovery continues to go boldly, not wisely Star Trek: Discovery continues to go boldly, not wisely

“New Eden” finds Star Trek: Discovery offering its own take on a classic Trek archetype: the theme planet. When Tilly (with an assist from Burnham) comes up with a way to track the the red bursts, Pike orders the spore drive back online for a jump that takes the ship halfway across the galaxy, or near abouts. There,…

Star Trek: Discovery is back and ready for action Star Trek: Discovery is back and ready for action

Star Trek: Discovery’s second season premiere doesn’t waste much time. Within ten minutes, we’ve got our portentous opening narration; a flashback establishing Michael Burnham’s difficult relationship with her brother; and, in the present day, Christopher Pike beaming over to the Discovery from a severely damaged …

A Series of Unfortunate Events comes to an unexpectedly satisfying conclusion A Series of Unfortunate Events comes to an unexpectedly satisfying conclusion

“The End” is good. I’d go so far as to say that it’s very good. So good, in fact, that it makes me that much more annoyed at the failings of the episodes that preceded it. Unlike previous entries, this isn’t a two-parter, and it’s also not especially long—at just under an hour, it’s roughly average for the series as a…

A Series of Unfortunate Events reveals answers and blindfolds A Series of Unfortunate Events reveals answers and blindfolds

There’s a lot of good in the second part of “The Penultimate Peril.” We finally find out what happened that night at the opera, the horrible event that caused the schism which would ultimately bring down V.F.D. The Baudelaires decide to once and for all reject any hope of a safe home life, and Olaf is almost, but not…

The Baudelaires get into the hotel business in a convoluted Series of Unfortunate Events The Baudelaires get into the hotel business in a convoluted Series of Unfortunate Events

And here we find ourselves at the end—not “The End,” that’s still a couple episodes away, but the climax, the acme of the Baudelaires’ journey. Although, as usual, it’s not that simple. As Lemony Snicket has repeatedly told us, he has no idea where the Baudelaires actually are, so a happy ending with them living with…

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