Posts tagged Jane Espenson

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Torchwood: Miracle Day 4×10 The Blood Line – Review

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Warning: Contains mild spoilers

Torchwood: Miracle Day‘s series finale, “The Blood Line,” contains moments sublime, absurd and WTF-worthy. What it lacks, is the sense that this is a closed and complete series. This may be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it.

I’ll say this: throughout all ten episodes, the performances from John Barrowman and Eve Myles have been taken to the next level. In prior series of TW, Barrowman was often the bearer of the glib and facile quips, while Myles was saddled with far more angst than anybody should be. Gwen Cooper has grown up to be a pragmatic badass, complete with a sense of her own failings. Jack Harkness has grown up as well, and mortality has given him shading and depth.

TBL is the endgame writ large, with explosives. Lots of them. There is also one incredibly spoilery surprise that may represent a game-changing canon discontinuity with Doctor Who, and there are a lot of dangling threads. Since we’ve yet to see whether we’ll get a fifth series, let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

For all that, this is a great episode to watch. The cast, working from a script by Jane Espenson and Russell T. Davies, are given a lot of really fantastic moments that make TBL a joy. Esther Drummond and Rex Matheson stop being annoying and finally make sense in context. Frances Fisher and Lauren Ambrose are delightfully evil, and Bill Pullman gets to make a meal out of ham and cheese. We also get some beautifully underplayed moments from Kai Owen and Tom Price. It all comes down to Gwen and Jack, though. From Jack revealing to Oswald Danes that he’s from the future, and that the future is,”being written right now,” to Gwen’s gut-wrenching decision to shoot Jack, these characters remain the heart of Torchwood.

There’s a lot of palaver about antipodal lines and the frankly disturbing visual of The Blessing, (the center of the world resembles a mashup between Georgia O’Keefe and Edvard Munch, IMO,) but that’s not really what TBL is about. It’s about choices and conscience. The Blessing reflects who you really are back at you. For Gwen, there is, “Enough guilt to last me a lifetime. But that’s okay, I’m a working mother; I don’t need The Blessing to tell me that.” For Jack, “I’ve lived so many lives and now I can see them all. Hey: not so bad.” There are choices about sacrifice, choices about embracing the self, and choices about the needs of the few versus the needs of the many.

There’s a chilling moment when Danes asks Jack who he is, saying, “I know the smile of a man who’s done terrible things,” getting under Jack’s skin by saying, “Your friends. . . sometimes they like you, sometimes they love you, and sometimes, glittering away in those tiny gaps: they fear you.” It provides a much deeper and subtler contrast between Jack’s moral ambiguity and accountability, and the monstrosity that is Oswald Danes as Jack tells him, “You’ve made your life so small.”

For all that Russell T. Davies swore that he didn’t owe Torchwood fans answers about why, answers have been woven throughout the entirety of TW: MD. I came into this series with trepidation, and I’m leaving it wanting more. At the top of its game, the series has had interesting things to say about the manipulation of desperate populations, the way bureaucrats and politicians participate in fomenting a mob mentality, and the corporate puppetmasters pulling the strings. These are things that are familiar to most of us these days. In centering the machinations in the three families, and specifically in Frances Fisher as The Mother Colasanto (a dangling thread if I ever saw one,) Davies has left a web in place that could become a major arc with standalone episodes in future series.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins taken off the leash, in a manner of speaking: Rex Matheson is suddenly less of a jerk and more of a confident operative, while Esther Drummond is no longer a river of tears but competent and sure in her actions. If these characters had existed as complete and complex from the beginning instead of serving as proxies for Owen Harper and Toshiko Sato, the entire series would have been stronger. Havins proves that she’s capable of carrying no-nonsense material while Phifer’s talent isn’t restricted to being a smartass.

There is heroism and nihilism and betrayal, and there’s a lot of asskicking awesome to be had.

Thinking back over this series which has been both incredibly flawed and yet incredibly vital television, it seems that for as much as Davies wants to embrace the miniseries format, he’s also attempting to set up the future of Torchwood as something that belongs to no country, no government, no power except itself. With this tenth episode, the villains are vanquished (for now) and the status quo has been returned to the human race (mostly) but the questions remain: Who pulls the strings and why? Will we go like sheep to the slaughter or deliver our neighbors to the wolves at the door? Are we worth saving if we won’t save each other?

Perhaps, with a fifth series, we might get a little closer to the answers.

I look forward to it.

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Los Angeles Nerds! This week at NerdMelt, Sept 7-13

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Wednesday, September 7th at 8:30pm – The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail
Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani host Hannibal Buress, Baron Vaughn, Rob Delaney and more!
Tickets can be purchased online or at the event – $8

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Thursday, September 8th at 8pm – Baron Vaughn’s CD Release Party!
Come celebrate the release of Baron Vaughn’s comedy album “Raised by Cable” on AST Records! Baron hosts Myq Kaplan, Margaret Cho and more!
$8 in , $10 day of show

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Saturday, September 10th at 3pm – Underground Gaming Tournament League
This all day event will be an art show/party/video game tournament featuring Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edtion.
Tickets can be purchased online or in person – $10

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Sunday, September 11th at 8pm – Nerdist Writers Panel Presents: The Premiere of Husbands
Come one, come all to an exclusive Nerdist Writers Panel event! We’ll be hosting a FREE premiere of the webseries “Husbands” by Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica) and Jeff Greenstein (Desperate Housewives, Will and Grace). The show is about two gay men who are public figures that drunkenly, impulsively decide to get married one night. It’s a mistake, but because they don’t want to hurt the cause, they decide to give the marriage a shot. After the screening there’ll be a talk with Espenson and Greenstein, hosted by The Nerdist Writers Panel’s own Ben Blacker!
The show stars Cheeks, Sean Hemeon, and Caprica’s Alessandra Torresani!

Husbands: They’re doing it wrong. That’s their right. A marriage equality comedy.

FREE

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Monday, September 12th at 8pm – Jackie Kashian’s Dork Forest LIVE
Jackie Kashian invites Chris Hardwick to explore the forest and dork out on the Harry Potter world.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the show – $10

Image Courtesy of NerdMeltLA.com

Tuesday, September 13th at 8pm – Justin Willman’s Magic Meltdown
Magician Justin Willman and friends present a cataclysmic evening of magic and make believe.
$8 in , $10 day of show

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Torchwood: Miracle Day Recap/Review: 4×3- 4×5

Warning: Contains mild spoilers.

Torchwood: Miracle Day‘s episodes, “Dead of Night,” “Escape To L.A.,” and “The Categories of Life,”are episodes that bridge the gap between a narrative that spoon-feeds new viewers and gets down to business at last.

“Dead of Night,” penned by BTvS/Caprica alum Jane Espenson, relies a little too heavily on contrasts. A chilling confrontation between Wayne Knight’s duplicitous Friedkin and Mekhi Phifer’s Matheson segues into a car chase distinguished only by Murray Gold’s score. The masked, silent, “Soulless,” (who seem to exist only to provide the creepy visual,) breaks to a British/Americanism lesson. Crisps/Chips, Fizzy/non-fizzy lemonade. . . it’s meant to be a bonding moment, but the literal explaining of differences between the team members feels a little too precious.

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As I’ve stated previously, Alexa Havins has not been selling me on Esther Drummond. I’m beginning to think this is less the actress’s performance, and simply the way she’s written. A CIA analyst doesn’t just, “Read blogs for a living,” and I’m fairly certain that a working knowledge of basic security protocols and tradecraft wouldn’t be over an analyst’s head. Unfortunately, the writers can’t seem to decide if Esther is naive and incompetent, or a tech wiz who can hack anything. This is a huge flaw that consistently snaps me out of the drama.

Lauren Ambrose, Arlene Tur, and Bill Pullman dominate ep 3, in the best ways. As Dr. Juarez grapples with the practical realities of the new world order, Jilly Kitzinger is very obviously trying to profit from it. Oswald Danes is the wild card: he’s a monster and opportunist who doesn’t claim to be anything else except in front of the cameras, and it’s clear he’s just trying to survive. For now.

DoN can’t seem to decide if it’s about a team coming together or falling apart before that can happen. Rex is in rage mode, Jack just wants to get laid, and Gwen seems to want to smack them both. (NB: No analysis of the sex scenes. They make sense in context, they’re not hardcore and if it offends your delicate sensibilities to see either a man and a woman or a man and another man having sex: you might want to stop watching Torchwood.)

The key scenes in DoN are a phone call between Jack and Gwen that gives a very clear sense of the before and after of Torchwood, and a confrontation between Jack and Oswald Danes that is beyond chilling (and makes fantastic use of this study in contrasts.)

This episode finally puts the expected name to the Big Bad: PhiCorp. Enlisting a monster to do their PR, stockpiling drugs in preparation for the Miracle, wielding influence over elected officials, bureaucracy, and the population at large to make a profit. Typical Big Pharma.

The pieces are in place, now it’s time for Torchwood: Miracle Day to show the audience what’s really going on.

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