Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Saw This!! What I Watched Pt. i

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Miss a Next Big Thing bad.

The last series of TV posts was mega. It started in August, and ended in December. It referenced a similar (series of) post(s) that started in January and ended in February. I watch a lot of TV, and since I don't have enough I download even more. And since I don't have enough, I go looking for more. At the very least, I can say that 2016 was very very good for TV.

As previously mentioned, we had Stranger Things, one of the best things on TV at the time. We also had West World, also the best thing on TV at the (later) time, and arguably the best of the year. While not Best Thing, Outcast and Daredevil S2 were also very good. So, what else did the season give us?

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency S1, 2016, BBC America -- Netflix

I said this to David (another David, no not Legion David, and not another of his/my personalities) that while I thought Stranger Things was the best thing on TV at the time, I did think that Dirk Gently was the bestly done thing, or something to that effect, probably with better grammar. Or not; we were at Thirsty & Miserable. The remake/relaunch/entirely new thing based on the Douglas Adams book(s) was so skillfully written, so wonderfully shot, so lovingly paced and plotted, it sometimes took my breath away. Even the music had me Googling (did you know that Willow [from Buffy] was the first popular user of Google as a verb?) who-does-that.

First thing up, is that I have to admit, I am not Douglas Adams biggest fan. I liked Hitchikers alright enough, but not in the way Marmy (J or Jacq is Marmy, but not for a long time, but since this blog connects me to that headspace, she retains the moniker here only) does. I did not like the Dirk Gently books. So, she watched the first episode or two without me. Then I wandered into the room, got enthralled, like instantly totally entirely enthralled with silly weird annoying Dirk and charming ever young damaged Todd (Elijah Wood), and the weird time bending otherworldly adventure they get wrapped up in.

I would say he was dragged into it because of Dirk, but that is not how the world works for Dirk, as things happen holistically for him. They happen because they are supposed to happen that way, because that was the way they were going to happen all along. He's a detective who detects by letting events just drag him along. For Todd the events are strange, bizarre and incredibly (like, mega) coincidental and he already has enough shit going on in his messed up life without Dirk and his colourful leather jackets and sports cars. And time travel and mind swapped thugs and murder and (so!!! much!!!) mayhem.

What makes this series so wonderful is that there are so many bits. So many interconnected, wonderful bit all cross connected by seemingly unconnected plot devices, but really they are. Some of the bits are very integral to the plot, some are just small sticky bits. Like life. FBI agents and missing persons cops and a growling van full of rowdies and a corgi and a time traveller and a rock star and a sister with a mysterious disease and a holistic assassin and a sensitive body guard and a girl who barks like a dog and ... and ...  and.

While establishing the basis for a full series, the show also did a wonderful job of just being an entire entity unto itself. If they never got renewed, then this could be just as satisfactory on its own, like Stranger Things was.

Luke Cage, 2016, Netflix -- Netflix

First there was Daredevil, the wonderful Netflix series that set the tone for another iteration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was followed by Jessica Jones which led almost directly into this one. They all take place in New York City after the alien invasion from The Avengers, in a world where powered beings are emerging, in all walks of life, in all neighbourhoods. We travel from Hell's Kitchen to The Bronx to reconnect with Luke Cage, after his bar was blown up in Jessica Jones, as part of the antagonist's mind fuckery. And in a few days, we will have the final series Iron Fist.

Already the Netflix shows have their own tone and intent, and I will not say gritty, but they are more down on the ground, more about real, approachable people. But Luke Cage decided to do something I in my inestimable knowledge as a Generic White Guy am completely qualified to comment on -- it chose to focus on a superhero from the Black American perspective; entirely. But seriously, you cannot deny that our privilege provides us with the majority of the superheroes on the screen. But Luke is not supporting cast; this is his story, him front and centre, in Harlem, that boogeyman of a neighbourhood from pop culture. The show does not just make the political statement, it gives us a fascinating world of current events (gentrification of Harlem), musical history (the show focuses on a revived nightclub, an analog for famous Smalls Paradise) and exactly how much the disenfranchised (the people of Harlem not benefiting from the gentrification) need a hero to call their own.

The show starts with Luke holed up in a neighbourhood barber shop, wisely using his super strength to sweep up hair. He is still recovering from the loss of the bar, and the knowledge that Jessica was used to kill his wife, and almost getting his brains blown out, but not really. He is hiding and suppressing all that super strength and invulnerability.

Enter Mahershala Ali, as "Cottonmouth", a gangster from the streets made good, who is doing the admirable thing of resurrecting the famed Harlem club Paradise. Luke washes dishes at the club when he is not sweeping hair. Misty Knight, an undercover cop wants to take Cottonmouth down. A kid who also works at the barbershop gets mixed up in Cottonmouth's business and brings it back to the shop. Thus the escalation begins, which draws Luke out of his hidey hole. Stand back and let bad things happen, or step up and choose to be a hero. That is Luke's dilemma.

His choice is obvious, to us.

If Daredevil was all about a relatively normal strength man (albeit with super powered "vision") fighting and getting the shit beat out of him, Luke Cage is the nigh invulnerable superhero action we want. Draped only in a hoodie, he wanders directly into the path of harm, to have bullets bounce off him in every direction. If Daredevil wanted to recreate the hallway scene from the original Old Boy, then this one takes it and twists it, bends it and throws it through the wall. There is so much good, old fashioned superpowered beat em up in this show.

The problem with writing from memory, from last Fall, from a show that we basically binge watched over a week, is that episode to episode it has faded. I remember the tone and intent, but I don't remember the particulars. So, let's not recap.

Luke Cage does an admirable job of combining social commentary, reworked superhero canon, origin story and an entirely new story telling tone (of any of the MCU pieces) all into one superhero package.