Here’s my COVID lifestyle: I wake at 9am, then stumble out of bed for coffee and breakfast. With any luck, this involves some sort of sandwich. I’m a big fan of sandwiches.
Then it’s chores and writing. I’m currently revising The Iron Gate, and if I hit my daily goal, I reward myself with a little writing on something else, like bluebooking for a tabletop rpg or brainstorming The Flood Circle which is the next Twenty Palaces novel. Then, a little reading.
After dinner, my wife and I settle in and watch a few shows. My wife hates binge-watching anything. Occasionally, she will watch two episodes of a show on one night, but I only rarely. Too much of one show bores the shit out of her.
At 9:30, she goes to bed at 9:30 and I get my alone time. Which I need. At the end of the day, when I’m alone in my darkened living room, I binge-watch shows.
And I feel an inexplicable urge to talk about them. So, for a couple of blog posts, I’m going to write about them, starting with the most recent and working backwards.
Person of Interest:
I was talking about the characters on Person of Interest with someone on Twitter, and I was admiring the way the show used exaggeration in building its characters. Reese isn’t just hired muscle, he was once the CIA’s most deadly assassin, an American James Bond (on a TV-crime-thriller budget). Finch isn’t just a computer guy, he’s the reclusive genius who spent his whole adult life living under false identities and who created an artificial intelligence capable of monitoring everyone on Earth.
Reese knows very little about computers. Finch suffers from an unhealed injury he won’t discuss, which leaves him unable to fight or sprint. So it’s not just that each is an expert in their respective roles. They’re also incapable of filling each others’ roles. They compliment each other perfectly.
It’s the same for the two cops on the show: Fusco is a corrupt homicide detective under the thumb of other corrupt cops, and Carter is the honest, empathetic one. One is being blackmailed into helping Reese. The other wants to arrest him. Both are extremes and opposites, and that naturally creates drama.
The person I was talking to called the characters archetypes, which I don’t think is a good description. To me, calling a character an archetype is an insult. It means they’re a copy of another thing, not an individual in their own right. If these were archetypes, I wouldn’t like the show as much as I do.
In its first season, PoI plays out as a well-made CBS procedural with an unusual and intriguing premise: A surveillance AI called, simply, “The Machine” sends Finch the social security number of a person who will be involved in a murder, either as victim or perpetrator. The team has to work out what’s happening and save a life, possibly several. There’s no season-long subplot, but the seeds of upcoming subplots are planted here and there.
In the second season, the extended story arcs begin, and by the third season, the show becomes positively addicting. The procedural elements are slowly, season by season, eclipsed by the underlying story of The Machine itself, the dangerous bureaucracy around it, and the battle with a rival AI. It’s tremendous fun.
Normally, I’d suggest skipping ahead so you could jump to the fun stuff, but I already tried that myself. As the show was airing, people in my timeline were praising the second season so I tried to jump in at the third. It didn’t work. PoI trades on the relationships between the characters formed over the previous two seasons, and without that background, it’s hard to care. If you’re tempted to watch this, don’t skip ahead.
I know that sounds like weak praise. “It gets good after [X] episodes” is the death song of many a Netflix show. But the early episodes are very good. The later seasons are fantastic.
I just wrote way more about this show than I intended.
On Netflix until 9/22. If you’ve never seen it, it’ll take a mighty binge to finish it before then. Me, I have the last four episodes set aside for tonight.
Before that: The Legend of Korra
I originally let this show pass by because I heard good and bad things about it. Fans liked/hated the main character. They hated that Aang, as a grownup, made mistakes and was not the greatest father in the world/or they were comfortable with that level of fallibility. They loved/hated the pseudo-steampunk setting. They loved/hated the way the show expanded the magic and world-building. So I wasn’t in any rush to watch this.
Honestly, I don’t understand what people are complaining about. I thought it was genius, and I’m currently re-watching it with my wife (one episode a day, as I mentioned above).
It’s gorgeous. It’s funny. The fight scenes are inventive, which is no small feat over so many episodes. Korra herself is flawed in the best way, making the show inherently more complicated and interesting than the original (even if it isn’t as charming). I loved it.
Of course, the ending of the series is famous now. I knew the final scene where Korra and Asami head off to start their lives together as a couple was coming, but I didn’t know what to expect. When I saw it, all I could think was, “That was it?” Considering the attention that ending got, overwhelmingly but not exclusively positive, I thought for sure there’d be a kiss or something. Maybe just the two characters leaning toward each other, fade to black before their lips touch.
Nope. This is the level of representation that LGBQ fans had to be satisfied with back in 2014. Just six years ago, it was considered brave and groundbreaking.
I probably should have watched this before I watched She-Ra.
Coming up next time: Burn Notice and Veronica Mars
Also, One Man is currently the Kindle Monthly Deal. If you read ebooks and think you’d enjoy a high fantasy crime thriller, check it out.