Picard Season One Finale: A Bad Copy

A few weeks ago I posted about the Star Trek: Picard series streaming on CBS All Access. I addressed the usual super fan complaints that accompany any new Star Trek venture, “Is this Star Trek?” and of course, “this sucks.”  I concluded that yes indeed, this was a Star Trek show, and a good one.  I was really enjoying it!

I was wrong. I apologize.

For me everything was going great until the two part season finale, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 & 2.  So be warned, everything beyond this point is super spoiler territory.

Although I was not on board with every decision along the way to get to the season finale, such as the whitewashing of the murder of Bruce Maddox by Dr Jurati, I assumed that in the finale things would wrap up in a satisfactory way.  Nope.  Instead…

Doctor Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill):  As a cold blooded murderer, I expected either a redemption arc or a justice one.  Instead there was neither.  Jurati killed Maddox, the person that got the crew together to find in the first place, and then after promising to turn herself in, everyone just sort of shrugged and forgot about it.  She goes on to become a full-fledged member of Picard’s Scooby gang with no more mention that she’s a murderer and hey, maybe Maddox, a brilliant scientist, deserved some sort of justice.

Soji (Isa Briones): Soji started out as easily the most sympathetic character, a girl who didn’t understand what was happening to her, and then realizing that all of her memories were false and she wasn’t even human, but a sophisticated android. But then as her memories of her prior robot life return, the Soji that we’ve known through the series became effectively dead.  Soji 2.0 goes from being worried about whether she was human or not, to deciding to initiate galaxy wide Armageddon on biological sentient life by contacting the mysterious synthetic race that wipes out biological species that discriminate against robots.  That was a pretty quick turnaround from, “Am I human?” to “Destroy all humans!” Skynet would be proud.  And now she’s part of Picard’s Scooby gang.  I guess attempted genocide is an easily forgivable crime in the 24th Century.

The Romulans:  Surprisingly the Romulans, in spite of being Romulans, come out looking pretty good.  Having lost their homeworld in the Supernova, the scary Romulan Star Empire is a shadow of its former self.  The “Romulan Free State” is a much weaker version, not even able to enforce the Neutral Zone any more.  For all intents and purposes, there is no longer a Neutral Zone.  And still, they are trying to save the universe from the utter stupidity of Picard and the Federation.  Their super duper secret police, the Zhat Vash, has known about the advanced genocidal synthetics all along, and have worked to suppress advanced AI and robotics anywhere and everywhere to avoid attracting their attention.  This explains the motivation of the Romulan spies Narek, Narissa, and Commodore Oh.  They want to keep the galaxy safe from a far superior race which has exterminated entire biological races before and apparently seem willing to do it again.

And yet they are the “villains.”

The Star Trek Ending:  I’ve complained before about the complete hand waving that seems to go along with closing out the conflicts of a Star Trek storyline by a Starfleet officer giving an impassioned speech, and suddenly the enemy lays down his arms and turns his swords into plowshares.  The power of a self-righteous Starfleet speech is apparently not to be underestimated, as I noted about the Discovery season one finale in which Burnham gives the Klingon Chancellor one and the Chancellor calls off the attack on Earth, even though at this point the Klingons had all but won the war and their fleet was just outside the solar system, ready for orders.  This highlights one of the major flaws of the Star Trek worldview, it loves diversity, but as I noted about the Discovery finale, ultimately doesn’t believe in it.

“…the solution to the war wasn’t found in delivering a decisive military defeat on the enemy, but by adherence to the Federation’s highest principles, and assuming (always correctly) that everyone else in the universe at some deep down level, shares those same principles.”

So Picard gives an impassioned speech to Soji, and she changes her mind about eliminating every biological species in the galaxy, just like that.

I wonder how that would have played out throughout history…

Starfleet vs The American Revolution

Picard:  As an opponent of Brexit, I implore you to lay down your arms and end this senseless conflict.  Think about the lives lost…the waste.

General Washington:  Your words have moved me Admiral.  We started this struggle because we were moved by the writings of enlightenment thinkers, and the very real threat to our right to have representation, but eh, whatever, God Save the King!

Picard:  Actually we’re replacing the monarchy with a Federation Council.

Starfleet vs Hitler

Picard: …and that is why, Herr Hitler, you must lay down your arms, cease this pointless conflict to conquer Europe, and stop killing people based on religion and ethnicity.

Hitler:  You have enlightened me Admiral.  I never realized that Slavs, Jews, and Gypsies shared the same hopes and dreams as Aryans.  I could have saved so many bullets if I had known that!  And yes, my dream of establishing a united Europe, a common market united under a single currency with open borders was a foolish hope.

Picard: Wait, what?  Hold up a second…

Starfleet vs Osama bin Ladin

Picard: …and that’s why, in spite of 9/11, you’ll find that people are pretty forgiving if you pen a sincere apology for your actions and resolve to do better.

Bin Ladin: Admiral you truly bring wisdom surpassing all of our Mullahs.  In fact, you’ve convinced me that not only are you wiser than our best religious thinkers, but that all religion is but primitive superstition and that mankind is ready to evolve into a more enlightened species, ready to achieve utopia on Earth via the mechanisms of advanced AI, automation, and universal basic income.

Picard: #Yanggang2020.

Data (Brent Spiner):  Although the character has been dead since the end of the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, his presence has loomed large on the show as Picard, even years later, still struggled dealing with the grief and guilt of Data sacrificing his “life” to save Picard’s.  So in the finale, Picard meets Data again, or at least a copy of his memories, in a computer simulation.  As a final chat, it’s rather touching, as Data requests that when Picard gets out of the simulation, he deletes the Data memory copy.  As a character who struggled with being human, he wants an ending to his story; “a butterfly that lives forever is really not a butterfly at all.”  It’s a nice speech in which Data makes a point that everything about life has value because it’s temporary, and it really seemed in tune with the entirety of the season, in which Picard is dealing with his own mortality.

Picard (Patrick Stewart):  Getting back to Picard’s impassioned speechmaking, after making his final one to Soji, he collapses and dies, finally succumbing under the stress to his long battle with Irumodic Syndrome.  His companions mourn him, and if the show had just ended there, all the other flaws could have been easily forgiven.  Instead, they copy Picard’s mind, spin it up in a new robot body, and robot Picard lives.  They even made one that looks like an 93 year old man that’s weak and will break down after a decade or two.  How thoughtful.

Not being a series finale like the Lost ending, it’s probably not fair to compare the two. Also the ending of Lost was simply a result of the writers not being half as clever as they thought they were and they simply wrote themselves into a corner.  With Picard, bringing him back to “life” as an android was a deliberate choice, a choice that made Picard’s character arc, as a man coming to terms with his mortality, and Data’s character arc, as a being who wanted to be human so much he was willing to die like one, essentially pointless.  And pointless as it was, Robot Picard had no trouble deleting Data.  Apparently the writers and showrunners saw not a bit of irony in that.

So the show ends with everyone on the bridge of the ship, Soji, the near genocidal monster, Doctor Jurati, a brutal murderer, and robot Picard, all ready to zoom off into the galaxy for more adventures. For a show and season that I had otherwise enjoyed, that was one of the most stunningly bad season finale’s I’d ever seen.  It’s hard to fathom the deliberate choice of making a mockery of Data’s death (or murder at the hands of robot Picard) and the entire premise of the show by having robot Picard plead for more years of existence to his makers.

I wonder if actual human Picard got a funeral, or did they just dump his carcass in the landfill?  With Picard dead, who gets his Chateau?  It’s a cinch that his Romulan housekeepers, Laris and Zhaban, are not going to consider robot Picard as anything but an abomination, a hideous copy of their dear friend. There is no crying in Star Trek but I do have to mourn what started out as great show and turned into merely a synthetic copy of one.

 

 

 

TV Show Pitches: Black History Month Edition

A few years ago, I wrote about a science fictionTV show pitch about Space Pirates, and sure enough, I actually got a show very similar to my description in The Expanse.  Since then, I’ve had several show idea’s that have bubbled around the old noggin.  I’ve not yet started to write them down (until now), but I’ve pitched them to various friends and acquaintances with; shall we say; mixed results.  I don’t care though.  I did get The Expanse on the air.

And also, it is Black History Month, and I’ve been meaning to jot something down about that ever since the last Black History Month. However the idea I’ve been mulling over is real history, so I don’t want to go with that until I’ve double checked my real history.  In the meantime, here’s something that is both Black related and History related, although maybe more history adjacent than actual history.  So here are two TV show pitches that should appeal to The Woke (which seems to be a requirement these days to get on the air):

 

Working Title:  Blacklander (this title needs work)

Genre:  Fantasy, Romance

Hot Take:  Outlander meets Roots

Premise:  I wrote a review for the show Outlander a few years ago.  The premise of that show is that a World War II nurse ends up going back to the 16th century via magical Druid stones.  She meets a dashing Scottish rogue, falls in love, yada yada yada.  My idea is for 21st century Medical resident at a Virginia hospital, while leaving work after a late shift has her car hit by magical lightening (there is a lack of magical Druid stones in Virginia), goes off a bridge into a river, and when she swims to the surface finds herself in pre-Civil war Virginia, where she is promptly arrested by a slave patrol hunting a female runaway slave.

The medical resident, we’ll call her “Claire” for now, is taken back to the plantation that the runaway slave was from.  The overseer recognizes that this isn’t the same person who ran away, but pretends that she is, otherwise the slave patrol will just sell her and the plantation will be out a slave.

Crying hysterical Claire, who thinks she’s going crazy, turns out to be worse than useless at actual slave work, but when one of the slave kids drown at the river, she uses CPR to resuscitate him.  This divides the slaves.  Half think she’s a witch, and half thinks she’s a great healer.  This firestorm winds up at the Master’s house, where the master is angry at the overseer’s deception, and intrigued by the medical possibilities.  The mistress of the plantation is ill with an undiagnosed disease which Claire easily diagnoses putting her at odds with her real doctor.  They argue over medical matters during which the doctor, although disagreeing with her diagnosis, is astonished by her apparent medical knowledge.  He offers the Master of the plantation a deal to take her on as assistant (these kind of transactions with skilled slaves were common at the time), ostensibly to train her to provide medical treatment to the slaves, but really to pick her brain about her medical knowledge.

So an unlikely friendship is formed.

Naturally a proper romance requires multiple suitors for the lady fair.  Chicks dig options.  So we have:

The doctor, with the dead wife.

The noble slave who’s back is scarred by multiple whippings (just like in Outlander).

The landowner’s son, who is the wily evil option.

Set in the 1850’s just before John Brown’s raid and the Civil War, Claire has the foreknowledge to change history.  In Outlander, that Claire found a deterministic universe, in which nothing she did made a difference.  In Blacklander, our Claire will find out she can change things.

Twist:  The runaway slave that the slave patrol was hunting winds up in the 21st Century

Twist:  By the end of season one, Claire’s car is found in the river, confusing the locals.

 

And know for some lighter fare…

Working Title:  Toby’s Heroes

Genre:  Comedy, Steampunk?  Whatever Wild, Wild West was?

Hot Take:  Hogan’s Heroes meet…also Roots

Premise:  A few years ago I wrote about TV producer Kenya Barris (the creator of Black-ish) pitching a new diverse woke version of Bewitched. Although that show is still in development hell the idea of rubbishing through sitcom history and redoing the shows with a mostly black cast seems scrapping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to originality, but with enough diversity, you don’t need originality or creativity, diversity is our one and only value.

So if it’s that easy then let me pull Hogan’s Heroes out from sitcom history, set it during the Civil War, and have the “prisoners” actually be slaves on a plantation who are secretly helping the Union Army during the war, either by running sabotage missions, or helping run freed slaves and Northern spies and sympathizers through their underground railroad.  And why shouldn’t they have an underground tunnel system under the plantation?  Let’s see, a bumbling, vainglorious plantation owner, his wife, who is secretly having an affair with “Toby,” an overseer who “see’s nothing,” and occasional visiting Confederate troops, all seem to add up to woke hilarity.  Yes I know those two don’t usually go together, but that’s’ why I’m suggesting Hogan’s Heroes as the template rather than some of the more bland family sitcoms.

OK there are two good TV show pitches.  As usual, I only very humbly ask for producer credits and a percentage of the gross.  Let the racial healing begin!

 

My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

With 12 Monkeys, Cable tries to Binge

When Netflix started to do original programming and released the entire season at once, I thought, “What an original idea!  But how are you going to keep up the excitement of a show if you release it one shot and you’re done?”  Although it does limit the time frame of “buzz” it turned out to be a successful business model.  People can move at their own pace, which could be anywhere from watching the show on the traditional once a week schedule to all at once, bleary eyes and lost weekend included.

But I was surprised when the Syfy Channel decided to do the same thing for returning show 12 Monkeys. Airing season three over three nights, the network is trying something different.

It’s an odd choice for a cable network.  They have airtime to fill, so why blow an expensive season of an original show over a weekend?  And before you say it, no; this is not like showing successive Twilight Zone episodes over New Years. That’s simply to fill airtime during a period when viewing will be exceptionally low.  But dropping an original show is a streaming service move, which Syfy definitely is not.  So what’s up?

Well after watching Friday night’s initial 4 episode blast, I have to say I agree with both the TV Guide and TV Line reviews: This show was meant to be watched in a binge format.  Having watched Season’s 1 & 2 in the traditional once a week format, you often forget where you left off.  After all, this show is complicated.  Each episode takes place in more than one time period, sometimes with the same characters at different points in their lives. Sometimes, death comes first, as for the character of Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), who’s skeleton was discovered in the very first episode way back in season one.  Sometimes it’s in the middle, like for former asylum patient Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who’s death was shown last season.  Not to worry though Jennifer fans, her younger self is featured pretty prominently this season.

And a good thing too.  The character steals every single scene she’s in, adding humor in otherwise grim situations without detracting from the grimness of the situations because…well she’s crazy.  So far my favorite episode of the season is episode 2, which is a Jennifer-centric episode.  Jennifer trapped in the past tries to figure out ways to catch the attention of the future so she can be rescued.  It’s entertaining and still moves the plot along.  So more Jennifer.

 

One character that I like, but has been degraded somewhat is Deacon (Todd Stashwick), the formerly ruthless leader of a violent gang in the future.  In earlier seasons, Deacon made a great foil as a villain more interested in looting the time travel facility than saving the human race. Unfortunately, the violent, evil, but witty bad guy has been tamed somewhat by his attraction to Dr. Railly. It’s not the first time on TV and movies an alpha male bad guy has been tamed by love, but it isn’t very realistic.  Hopefully Deacon gets his evil mojo back.

So maybe binge watching cable isn’t a bad idea after all.  Particularly if it encourages the production of more complicated dramas that may be digested better in very large bites, rather than doled out bit by bit on a weekly basis.

 

Walking Dead Mid Season Finale

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of this episode, the mid season finale (technically Season 4, Episode 8), so this comes a little later than the usual TV episode review, but I was inspired by another blog I read occasionally that absolutely trashed the episode!  Did we watch the same show?

Anyway, this blogger had issues with the following aspects of the episode (warning, all below is spoilerific so if you’ve not seen the episode yet, bail out now):

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth?       

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Everybody is both starving and chubby

Hershel

And of course; the car seat.

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth? 

I’m sure there are plenty of safe places.  Practically any place that is protected by either a wall or strong fence could be a safe place.  That could be anything from a National Guard Armory to warehouses.  But the Governor had unfinished business with Rick.  He needed a safe place for his new community, but he needed closure by getting rid of Rick’s group more.

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Although a compelling case could be made that the Governor was just crazy and didn’t see the contradiction of firing repeated 105mm shells at the place he hopes to call home, he may have reasoned that the prison was vast enough to sustain the damage and still leave plenty of undamaged living space for his little group.  One thing I’m sure of; the Governor would rather have destroyed the prison than leave it for Rick’s group.

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

As far as the bullet proof corpse goes, eh… it’s possible.  The M-16/M-4/AR-15 variants that the Governor’s group was armed with fires a 5.56mm round.  If my memory serves me from Basic Training, the round is supposed to hit the target and rotate, tearing up the human body along the way.  The purpose isn’t to penetrate and then exit the body.  So although I agree that a walker body might be a bit too squishy to provide the padding needed to protect someone hiding behind it, I could see that it might just be possible that bullets fired at it wouldn’t exit and hit Daryl, who was using it as a shield.  Since there was body armor at the prison, I think I might rather take my chances with that.

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Agreed.  Rick is no father of the year.  I don’t recall a single scene this season where he has spent any one on one time with his daughter.  He’s basically farmed out the job of parent to Beth.  Maybe it’s because he suspects that Shane is Judith’s real father and he’s keeping emotional distance. The Governor’s sudden arrival prevented Rick from trying to keep tabs on Judith even if he wanted to and I suspect that he didn’t think of her once up until he saw the … but more on that later.

Everybody is both starving and chubby

One of this blogger’s oddest complaints is on how fat this starving group of survivors have gotten.  I admit, I didn’t even notice.  This may be strictly a woman thing where everyone’s weight is kept tabs on constantly.  But even if the group has put on some pounds, it’s perfectly reasonable.  They’ve been at the prison for months and that’s provided a safe location with plenty of room for food storage and ample kitchen facilities.  Rick’s vegetable garden, although healthy enough, probably provides only a supplement to the food consumed by the prison group.  The bulk of it would be stores of food that would still be good after almost two years.  That would be canned goods, and boxed goods like rice, and instant potatoes. Considering the haphazard lives they were living before the prison, it’s easy to see how they could put on a few pounds.

Hershel

When a cast member, particularly one as important as Hershel has been to the show, is killed off, you have to show the death.  All of it.  This blogger complained of the rather graphic nature of the beheading, and the clumsy nature of it requiring several tries.  Gruesome?  Yes, but also necessary I think.  What I didn’t like is that I knew Hershel was going to die, and I’d known it for over a month.  One of the annoying habits of the Walking Dead promotions is that a killed off character is sent to do promotion for the show, so when you see a cast member calling into radio shows, you know he or she is not long for this world.  So true to form Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene) called in to the Monsters In The Morning radio show last month, just to promote the show in general, I was sad since I knew we were losing him.  But that spoils the surprise.  Why couldn’t Carl have called in?

  And of course; the car seat

And of course, we get to the most disturbing part of the show, at least to parents.  First, I can understand this bloggers revulsion, and I shared it, but that only made the scene more powerful.  Towards the end of the firefight, during that transition between the human’s battle being decided one way or the other, and the true winners of any battle, the walkers, coming to take their gory prize, Rick and Carl, reunited, finally realize they don’t know where Rick’s daughter, Judith is.  Like I said; parent of the year.  So what Rick and Carl view is Judith’s care seat; her bloody car seat.  In that kind of world, Rick and Carl come to the obvious conclusion that the walkers have gotten Judith.

That was tough to watch.  But that’s why this is such a great show, they “went there.”  So the episode was an emotionally draining success.  The group went from relative comfort and security to being scattered out in a Walker filled world, suffering crushing losses.

I don’t know whether Judith is dead or not.  The ending was certainly open ended, but in the comics, Judith was killed.  Of course, this show has veered away from the comics time and time again so who knows.  But if Judith was killed, at least it was an off screen death.  People would lose their minds if the show actually showed a Walker chowing down on a baby.  The television audience, even a Walking Dead audience, isn’t ready for that.

Anyway, when the show returns in February, I’ll be there, and I hope this blogger has gotten over her disappointment and will ready to bear down on the show again like a Walker bearing down on a femur.

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The Americans on FX

I wasn’t planning on writing about this show, or at least doing a regular review of it. I don’t review everything I watch and you would be horrified if I did.  Or at least as horrified as my wife is at some of the crap I watch.  But this show, The Americans, isn’t crap.  At least of the shows I’ve seen this season, this is the best new drama to come out of TV in a while.   And yes, that is high praise considering how the quality of scripted dramas has improved over the past couple of years, due in part to the rise in original programming on basic and premium cable (sorry networks!).

My wife had wanted to watch this show when it premiered, and I agreed to watch it with her in the hopes that this would be a show that we could both like and watch together.  Because couples have to do things together, right?  However she was asleep before the opening scene.  I decided to stick it out and was glad I did. The basic gist of the show is that it’s about two Soviet KGB agents under deep cover in the US during the early 1980’s.  Living as man and wife, they speak perfect English; they have established cover identities, and to friends and neighbors appear to be a typical, middle class American couple.  A middle class couple that responds to orders from Moscow, kidnaps defectors, and kills if necessary to keep their secrets.  All the while driving their kids to after school activities and playing catch.  What could be more American?

Events in the pilot episode lead the KGB agents into trying to make their fake marriage a real one and the way the parent their children, who of course have no idea of their parents real identities or purpose, makes for some fascinating family drama.  Adding to the mix is an American FBI agent who works in counterintelligence who moves in across the street.  Not exactly the type of new neighbor these spies want.  Did he move there because the FBI is on to them?  Is he suspicious?  It all adds up to make a tense, neighborly relationship.

So why am I writing about this show now if I didn’t intend to review it?  Last night’s episode was fantastic.  It follows the day that Reagan was shot, following both the FBI and the KGB spies, forcing both to take big risks to get information that their respective governments need urgently.  I was blown away by the episode and thought to myself, “Self, shouldn’t others know about this show?”

Unsurprisingly I agreed.

So we’re only 3 episodes in so there is time to catch up with the show either online or on demand.  Frankly, there are plenty of ways to catch up, and I would do it before Moscow finds out.