The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

I saw this the other day, and rather than write my review right away, I decided to sit on it and see how I felt about it later. I liked it when I walked out, and I still like it today. I thought it was a big step up from the deeply flawed "The Desolation of Smaug". But was it perfect? Well, no. But that's what a review is for.

This movie still felt very bloated, because it was. But that bloat felt more justified than the last one. While there was still way too much, it didn't annoy me this time. It felt that the story itself was much tighter than the previous installment.

I don't like the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Kili, and I never will. I have no problem with Tauriel in and of herself. I think Evangeline Lilly does a great job playing her, so much so that when Kili died and Tauriel grieved over him, admitted that she loved him... I felt for her. And this was over a subplot that I hated, and I still felt for her. I'd still have much happier without the love triangle, but damn... well done, Ms. Lilly. That's the mark of a great actor. Well done.

The return of nuclear Galadriel kind of annoyed me, but I never liked that sequence in "Fellowship of the Ring". It was glaring, and it came out of no where. But, when I look at this and I think that future generations will be watching this in chronological order, suddenly that initial scene has more of a foundation, which benefits it. I'd still rather have not had either, but aside from Galadriel turning blue again, I liked the scene.

Finally, I thought the opening scene where Bard slayed Smaug was a great ending for "The Desolation of Smaug", but a poor opening for "The Battle of Five Armies". I think that scene should have been at the end of the previous installment. Hell, I'll go as far as to say that if Smaug perished at the end of the last movie, more people would have walked out of that movie satisfied. But I'm glad we got the scene, I used to joke that we'd have to wait til the Extended Edition of "Battle", to which I was told to shut up and not joke about that. But yes, moving that sequence to the beginning of this movie is a choice that I don't understand.

What did I like? Just about everything else.

The sequence at Dol Guldur where the White Council rescued Gandalf and faced Sauron and the Nine was something I've wanted to see when I read "The Quest For Erebor" in the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings" oh so many years ago. These beings on a higher plain dueling. I loved Sauron's design, and how powerful he was despite being unable to take on physical form. One more reason why I loved it? Because finally, finally, there's a response to the question "why not take the eagles to Mordor with the Ring?" Sauron would have spotted them and easily, EASILY, taken it back. The quest or Mount Doom had to be stealth. Also, Galadriel addressed Sauron as "Servant of Morgoth". That made me happy.

Thorin's descent was a little bit over the top, but melodrama has always been a part of these movies, and Richard Armitage sold it. His Thorin was perfect. This was the character I've known since I was five. His death scene and final words with Bilbo were perfect, as was his rage when he learned that Bilbo gave Bard the Arkenstone. This is a classic story of a fall and redemption. I also enjoyed his final battle with Azog the Defiler.

Martin Freeman's Bilbo shined more, this was as much his story as Thorin's. I was excited when I heard Freeman was cast, and my excitement was rewarded. Especially at the end when asked who Thorin Oakenshield was to him, and all he had to say was "he was my friend." Yeah. Powerful words, a powerful performance.

There was so much in here that I enjoyed. Yes, the battle itself went on for maybe too long, but I enjoyed watching it. I enjoyed the politics of it all, I... well, I suppose I should go on about my overall feelings for these movies even though they are mostly over (not until the Extended Edition comes out!). Are these as good as "The Lord of the Rings" movies? Not even close. Are they comparable to the "Star Wars" prequels, again, not even close! They are much, much, much better than the prequels. These are good, fun movies whose biggest crimes are being no where near as good as their predecessors, and being way too bloated. But, you know what, "The Hobbit" as a book is also no where near as good as "The Lord of the Rings" as a book. Hell, when Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit", it wasn't even linked to the mythology he was creating. He didn't know until he had written the sequel. Would things have been different if "The Hobbit" was made first? Probably. Should it have been three movies? Probably not. But, in spite of all I wrote above about it being bloated, I still can't wait for the Extended Edition, because Middle Earth, both in the books and on screen is a place I love to spend my time in. The more time the better.

Thank you, Peter Jackson. Thank you for one more trip into Middle Earth. I suppose I'll have to come visit New Zealand for more.

A Legendary Finale!

That was beautiful! I laughed, I cried... it was an incredible run for an incredible TV show. We'll never see the likes of this again. Sure, there will be imitators, but it will never be duplicated. You can make an argument that it was the best show of its kind. Will those involved be moving on to greener pastures? Time will tell, but how do you ever top that? And....

Oh crap. I used a screenshot for the wrong show.

Let's try this again, shall we?

That was beautiful! I laughed, I cried... it was an incredible run for an incredible TV show. We'll never see the likes of this again. Sure, there will be imitators, but it will never be duplicated. You can make an argument that it was the best show of its kind. Will those involved be moving on to greener pastures? Time will tell, but how do you ever top that? Because I find it hard to believe the wasteland that is Network Television will ever allow him to push the envelope that far, push as many buttons as it did, or... but who knows? Maybe he'll re-invent the entire format and really make it his own.

I remember the premiere of "The Colbert Report" like it was yesterday. I had just moved to Winter Park, Florida, to attend school at Full Sail University. I was already a die hard fanatic of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" with Stephen Colbert being my favorite of the correspondents. I also remember wondering if this spin-off would work. Spoiler Alert, the spin-off did pretty well. I tuned into the "Report" every night for nine years, and I never missed an episode. And if I did miss an episode, I always made sure to catch what I missed at "The Colbert Nation", where the entire run of the TV show is archived. Hopefully permanently.

I met Stephen Colbert for the first and only time at New York Comic Con, in 2007 where he was doing a signing promoting the Tek Jansen comic book. We chatted for a minute and then I shook his hand. Behind me on line was legendary comic book author, Peter David, who wanted to show Stephen his cameo in an issue of "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" that he had written. This was well before Stephen ran for president in the Marvel Universe. But I've seen him twice since then, again when I attended a taping of his show, where his guest was Elliot Spitzer making his first guest appearance since his resignation as governor of New York. The evening ended with Stephen tossing a few Wrist Strong bracelets into the audience; my friend, Nick, caught one and was kind enough to give it to me. I wore it all day yesterday. The last time I saw him was when my entire family attended a taping of "The Daily Show" and we were lucky enough to be present for this magical moment. The entire chase scene can be seen here.

Stephen's entire farewell tour was bittersweet to me. Sweet because he was on his A-game, and it was hilarious. Bitter because I knew the end was near. When he not only made peace with the bears, but admitted that he had been wrong about them all these years, I knew it was truly over. But we had awesome moments, especially over the past two weeks. First was President Obama removing Stephen from his desk and delivering The Word himself; and when I wondered how that could possibly be topped, boom, in comes Smaug! And that's just the tip of the iceberg of nine years of magic.

Last night's show, I won't lie, I teared up a little. But it didn't go where I thought it would. His final guest was ominously announced as being Grimmy, who had already made not one, but two hilariously creepy cameos that felt like they were setting up the death of Stephen Colbert, at least as we know him. But no, Stephen Colbert is immortal because, while little has changed since he went on the air, the work he did will always be remembered. Raising millions of dollars for charity, his work to not only entertain but educate... he did more to show the American people what a SuperPAC actually was and why they are not a good thing than any of the major news networks. And then there was that time he got directly into the face of power and spoke truth. Okay, he did that way more than once, but we all know which one put him on the map. Despite his character being a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot", the real Stephen Colbert often shined through, with his charity work, everything he did for our veterans, and his desire to inspire us to all be better toward our fellow man. He is a deeply religious man who teaches Sunday School, and his Sunday School students, well, I hope they know how lucky they are. When the real man shines through, we see a man who is being Christ-like and not just Christian.

Oh yes, he often did have harsh words for those who purposely set out to harm others, as seen above and below.

I think, at the end of it all, the real lesson is exactly what Alex Trebek said: 

“All of life’s important answers must be in the form of a question.”

That's the lesson. That's what Stephen has been trying to do for all of us these last nine years. The world is a complicated place, nothing is black and white. There isn't one singular right. There are no easy answers, and don't accept them: not from the media, not from the government, not from big mega-corporations. Don't just follow your gut instinct, educate yourself, make an informed choice, and know that your informed choice might not be someone else's.

I'm going to miss "The Colbert Report" desperately. I want to say the television landscape will not be as bright a place without it, but it wouldn't be as bright a place if it never were. Good night, Stephen. I hope when you got home last night, the first thing you said to your wife was "well, I'm back."

That was fun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On writing villains

"As for villains, I look for connections to the heroes, something that in essence makes the villain a dark mirror of the hero. If Batman is order than Joker is chaos. If Superman is strength, Lex Luthor is intellect. So I’m always looking for what it is that connects the villain and the hero; it doesn’t have to be a history, although obviously a backstory that connects them like Demona and Goliath is fantastic. It doesn’t have to be history but it has to be some, even metaphorical connection that makes the villain a good opponent.

Then the thing about characters, particularly Xanatos or Vandal Savage, Queen Bee definitely, and Demona; one of the things that I got tired of was stupid villains.I’m tired of villains who literally think “I’m the villain”, no one thinks that. Hitler didn’t think he was the villain, he never thought that for a second. He really was, but he never thought that so I don’t like that.

But I also don’t like, I’m tired of, it’s not like there aren’t dumb bad guys out there, there are plenty of them in real life. But I was tired of, from a fictional standpoint, of villains who in essence defeated themselves. Or when villains teamed up, one of the things that Brandon and I talked about at the very beginning of “Young Justice” is, we didn’t want bad guys to be defeated because they were infighting. We didn’t want a secret society of supervillains who, in essence, sabotaged themselves so all the heroes had to do was survive for twenty minutes because in the last three minutes you knew those villains were going to betray each other or get pissed off at each other and blow it. So one of the things we decided about the Light right off the bat was that Vandal, Ra’s al Ghul, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Ocean Master, Klarion, and Brain, that they got along. They each had their own individual goals but they had a common interest that was important enough to them that they would make allowances for their different points of view on certain issues but they would pull together as a coherent and cohesive unit to further their larger goals.

And the other thing that sort of bugs me about villains is I’m tired of petty villains. I don’t mind it so much if it’s a minor villain, like someone who’s working for the big bad guy, but the big bad guy who’s got his eye on the big picture, that notion of that guy who, when a flunky screws up he pushes him off a cliff, I’m so tired of that because what a waste of the resource. So one of the things we did, definitely with Vandal Savage, but this goes back to Xanatos more than Demona because Demona really did want to kill everybody, but one of the things about Xanatos was that he wasn’t wasteful. I was tired of wasteful villains so from Xanatos’s point of view, he didn’t set out to kill the gargoyles unless they were literally in his way for some specific goal of his, but in general he had no interest in revenge, he’s got a line where he says “revenge is a sucker’s game.” He had no interest in any of that because the gargoyles might prove useful later. And that was the same attitude that we had Vandal Savage take towards the team. People kept asking me “well if Vandal Savage knows Superman and Batman’s secret identities, why isn’t he just killing them?” Why would he want to? Look what he’s accomplished with them around. Look how he’s used them. He doesn’t need to kill the team, he doesn’t need to do that. He needs to thwart them in one manner or another, but killing them is a waste of a resource because from Vandal’s point of view, from David Xanatos’s point of view, everything is a resource. If you’re that smart, and your goals are that large, everything is a resource and you don’t waste it unless you absolutely need to."
- Greg Weisman

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gone Girl

I would like to begin this post by saying that I struggled trying to figure out how to review this movie. I struggled with this for almost a week. It's fantastic. It's almost as if David Fincher asked what kind of movie Alfred Hitchcock would have made were he alive today, because that's exactly what's on screen. But, to properly review this movie without spoiling anything is all but impossible. So, I'll skip over the plot.

First off, Rosamund Pike is unbelievably amazing in the role of Amy Dunne, the wife of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). Her character is complicated in a film full of complicated people. But she was mesmerizing. You can see why Affleck's character fell in love with this "cool girl". And you will wonder why anybody would ever want to hurt her, let alone kill her.

Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne is amazing, but I've always been a fan of Affleck. So, rather than spoil the movie, I will talk about how we are in the midst of an Affleck resurgence. I'll even go farther and say this: he's perfect for Batman. Come on guys, "Daredevil" was eleven years ago, and even that wasn't his fault. He's a brilliant man. "The Town" was terrific, "Argo" was terrific, "Gone Girl" was amazing, and he'll be a great Batman (whether the movie will be good or not, the jury's still definitely out, but even if it's not, it won't be Affleck's fault). I've never seen Affleck play a role like this, detached, middle-aged husband in a marriage that's going through problems. It's so much more down to Earth than what we're used to seeing and yet, more fantastical at the same time. I've been a fan of Affleck since "Chasing Amy", "Good Will Hunting", and "Dogma". He is a splendid actor. Stop giving him crap because of "Daredevil" and his short relationship with Jennifer Lopez.

Even Tyler Perry was a revelation. When I first heard he was cast in this, when I was told he was GOOD in this, I was surprised. But his character is magnetic, and features some of the best lines in the movie. Likewise, Neil Patrick Harris is a lot of creepy fun in this movie. But if there is a true villain of this movie, it's the media. The Nancy Grace expy was so on point, it was terrifying... doing what Nancy Grace does, and what the media always does, sensationalize and terrify (take a look at the current ebola scare to see it playing out in real life once again).

"Who did it" movies are nothing new, but "Gone Girl" is a fresh, Hitchcockian approach to a very old concept. It's worth seeing, it was the best movie I've seen all year, and I recommend it. You will be surprised, your sympathies will transfer more than once, and you will fine yourself transfixed by a movie that depict marriage itself as scarier than any monster, serial killer, or supervillain you'll come across in the movie being played one theater over.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Animated Shudderings

Now it's time for a Hall of Shame. I'm disqualifying schlock like "Family Guy" because it's for an entirely different audience... and, quite frankly, it means nothing to me at all. My picks might not be technically the worst like "Gilligan's Planet", or  "The Punky Brewster" cartoon. But these are the five that personally make my skin crawl.

5. The Legend of Korra

What happened? This show had everything going for it. An astronomical budget, beautiful animation, and more good will than any series before it. But the most beautiful animation in the world, and well choreographed fight scenes don't mean a thing if I don't care about the people involved or why they're fighting.

The four leads are Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami. The latter three fail the Red Letter Media Character test that I mentioned in a previous post. I want to defend Asami and I find myself unable to, even though I kind of like her in spite of that. Bolin's only character trait is that he's stupid; but he's so stupid that I find myself having to suspend an ungodly amount of disbelief anytime he is shown to be capable of walking erect, feeding himself, and human speech. And as for Mako, I have never seen such a creator's pet be such a contemptible character outside of Chloe Bennet's character in "Special Snowflake and The Shit Squad". Take any villain from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" from Azula to Zhao to Fire Lord Ozai to Hama to the captain who murdered Katara's mother and all of them are still better human beings than Mako... and yet the narrative keeps rewarding him.

Okay, I enjoyed most of the first season, although I hated anything having to do with Mako, Bolin, and pro-bending. I enjoyed Amon, Tarlokk and the Equalist story. But I hated how the season ended, and I do not find it the slightest bit believable that the Equalists would disband just because Amon was revealed to be a waterbender... this was an organization that could not have come to exist if non-benders weren't being oppressed (because they were). But hey, their leader is a bender, a non-bender is elected president of the Republic and prejudice is over... just like how racism ended when Barack Obama was elected president. Yay?

The second season murdered the show for me. Flat out murdered it. Even the material I talked myself into liking just did not stand up under scrutiny. The original Iroh is brought back in an awful case of fan service, because the new cast is awful. It was desperate. And Unalaq was one of the worst villains I have ever seen in anything. He was so obviously evil even before the reveal, that this music could have been playing when he was around and it wouldn't have been less subtle. And when he said the words "Dark Avatar", I burst out laughing... it was an angry laugh because I could not believe this thing got past the idea stages, let alone the editing stages. It was like an awful fanfic.

Even the fan favorite "Beginnings", while beautiful to look at had... issues. I hated the reveal of Vaatu and Raava's existence. Hated it. What is the Avatar about? Balance. Not order. Balance. Both of these spirits should have been a part of the Avatar. And with that, I'm going to present what my idea would have been were I on the production team as a Story Editor.

1. Season one can run as is, but Korra doesn't regain her bending via the deus ex machina at the end.

2. Season two hits, Korra is on a spiritual journey to restore her bending when she is offered a shortcut. Maybe Unalaq is behind it, maybe not. But Korra jumps at this short cut, but her own spiritual balance is thrown off. We learn the origin of Wan, the first Avatar. We learn that both Raava and Vaatu exist within the Avatar, and the consequences of Korra making this bad choice cause Vaatu to drown out Raava within Korra, and Korra in essence becomes the Big Bad of the season herself, maybe Vaatu takes full control... the world is suffering from the destruction she is wreaking on civilization. And, it's a very spiritual and very internal battle, but Korra needs to really learn how to be spiritual so she can restore the balance within herself and save the world from herself. Which leads to...

3. Season three, the Red Lotus' plans to destroy the Avatar are a direct consequence of what happened in season two.

You see? The story builds on itself. The things that came before matter. It wouldn't solve all the problems. The biggest problems are still with the characters themselves. Develop their relationships. Make Bolin naive, not a complete asshole moron... I mean, Broadway on "Gargoyles" was illiterate, but he was never this stupid. Sokka was comic relief, and he had a lot of growing up to do, but he wasn't a moron. Develop Asami beyond her relationships with other people. And Mako, I don't know, but just about anything would be better.

It could have been so much better, it should have been so much better. But it was one gigantic pile of waste. I despise wasted potential. Especially when it was the sequel to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

4. Captain Planet and the Planeteers

I almost feel bad for tossing this one on here, because it's such an obvious choice and while its heart was in the right place, it was handled in such a manipulative, heavy-handed, cretinous way that it deserves every bit of bile it has ever received. What can I say about this show that hasn't been said already?

3. The Goliath Chronicles

You all know about this one, I'll just link to this, because I can't think of anything else I can say that I haven't already.

2. Ultimate Spider-Man

This TV series is a mockery. It's made by untalented individuals under their overlord, Jeph Loeb (sound familiar) who have openly admitted that they are talking down to their audience. Don't believe me?

Man of Action lied. "Spectacular Spider-Man" did very well with the target demographic. The six to eleven crowd latched onto it, and that show was on a weaker network without the corporate support "Ultimate" is currently enjoying.

The Spider-Man they present is one who never learns. With great power comes great responsibility? Fuck that shit, I'll do what I want! It is so offensively stupid, and it has no right to be. But what offends me the most is the dumbing down to spoon feed it to an audience that is more sophisticated than they give it credit for. By not trying to challenge the target audience at all, by willfully spoon-feeding them this schlock, they are committing an atrocity, a crime against humanity...

Thank you, Man of Action. If I believed in Hell, I would be comfortable knowing that there is a special circle in Hell just for people like you. Congratulations on assisting in the downfall of human civilization.

1. King Arthur and the Knights of Justice

This is one of those shows that popped up in the very early 90's, around the time the 80's was fading, but before the great material really arrived. "King Arthur and the Knights of Justice" was about a college football team called the Knights who are brought back in time by Merlin to pose as the the Knights of the Round Table with their quarterback, Arthur King, posing as His Majesty. The real Arthur and his real knights were imprisoned by Morgana and her army of stone warlords led by Lord Viper were running amok in Camelot.

Okay, I know that sounds like standard stupidity, so what was so offensive about it? What places it in the #1 spot? The heroic Arthur King was raping Queen Guinevere. Yes, in the pilot, the queen is abducted by Morgana's minions, and Merlin tempts Arthur and his friends into staying by pretty much offering Guinevere to him on a platter. Guinevere believes this man is her husband, and I will never believe he's not playing the part in the bedroom... at no point does she ever get a clue that this isn't her husband and these aren't the knights. So, I'm going to assume Arthur's best friend, Lance, was playing his part as well. In fact, the pilot ends with Merlin bringing a large group of court ladies into the Round Table chamber and offering them to the knights like sheep are tossed to lions.

Now, if you read the Arthurian Legends, you'd realize this is not at all out of character for Merlin to do. It's basically how King Arthur was conceived in the first place. But to portray it on a TV show without a hint of self-awareness is pretty disgusting. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Deep Space Nine

So, for the past few weeks I've been watching "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" on Netflix. A show I swore off almost twenty years ago due to a little controversy with another science fiction TV show set on a space station that aired at the same time. I apologize for starting my review off with this, but I can't properly review and discuss my experience with DS9 and what I took away from this watch without discussing this... it's part of my experience.

J. Michael Straczynski spent five years developing a TV show called "Babylon 5", he pitched it all over town. Paramount nearly bought it before deciding that a series set on a space-station couldn't work. After JMS successfully pitched DS9 to Warner Bros and they announced it in Variety, a few weeks later, Paramount announced DS9, and there were a ton of dirty tactics and games played with the independent networks of the time to keep B5 off... but that's the nature of the business. JMS himself was always convinced the Paramount executives were shady, while always defending Rick Berman and Michael Piller as honorable men and genius writers. But after meeting JMS and conversing with him privately, he urged me not to boycott "Deep Space Nine" on his account. Yeah, studio executives suck, we've all known this for years. Did anything shady happen? Who the hell knows. Yes, the two shows sometimes had some very eerie similarities (and this went both ways), but both did things very differently. So, after nearly two decades, I decided that whatever happened or didn't happen, both shows were out there, both told their stories. It was time to judge "Deep Space Nine" on its own merits, because at the end of the day, that's how a work should be judged.

So why did I decide to watch it? Well, I was bored one day. I'm currently between gigs, and I decided I was in the mood for grumpy Picard and began watching some TNG episodes on Netflix. Then I got to "The Chain of Command" two-parter where Picard is tortured by the Cardassians... then I watched the TNG episodes that featured the politics between Cardassia and Bajor and decided I wanted more. Well, there was this entire spin-off being built off of that, so I figured, oh what the hell, and began the pilot.

Shortly before I began this entry, I finished the final episode of "Deep Space Nine" and.... *drum roll* I liked it. I actually liked it a lot. In the eyes of many, this is the best "Star Trek" series ever made. While I'm not sure if I'm in that camp, I think I still prefer the cast of "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine" definitely wins story wise. It hits a lot of the same notes "Babylon 5" does, but it does it in it's own way. And, well, both shows were following Campbell's "Hero's Journey" anyway... as sagas like "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" did long before them. "Deep Space Nine" is the Trek franchise doing an epic myth in a long established universe. It's a story that's been told over and over again throughout the history of human civilization, and I think the producers and writers of "Deep Space Nine" did a magnificent job.

Just because I prefer the TNG cast, don't take that as a slight against the DS9 cast. Without a splendid cast, no show can endure no matter how sophisticated and epic the story being told is. Avery Brooks plays Benjamin Sisko, a Starfleet captain that is thrust into a situation where he has to make the hardest calls since "Mr. Worf, fire." After an encounter with the Prophets during the pilot, he becomes a messianic figure to the Bajorans... a people who have only recently cast off the chains of occupation, whom Sisko is trying to bring into the United Federation of Planets.

Nana Visitor plays Kira Nerys, a former resistance fighter (though many of the Cardassians still call her a terrorist), whom much of the drama revolves around. It's her gods... her prophets that touch Sisko. It's her whom the former Cardassian prefect of Bajor, Gul Dukat wants to make his personal conquest. It's her who needs to learn how to trust the Federation, it's her who's the focal point of this broken people trying to rebuild. The story of the Bajorans is one we need only to turn on the news to see play out over and over again.

Rounding out the trifecta is Rene Auberjonis as Odo. A Changeling chief of security on board Deep Space Nine who seeks to learn about himself, and his origins. This mystery isn't dragged out for too long, as come the beginning of the third season, he finds his people... and the Alpha Quadrant quickly comes to regret it. His people are the Founders of the Dominion, a dark mirror of the Federation which represents fascistic order in stark contrast to the Federation's freedom and democracy.

The rest of the cast is terrific and were I to devote a paragraph to each of them, this entry would go on longer than I wish. I'd only be heaping praise on them. Quark is great. Bashir is great. Dax is great. Jake is great. Rom is great. Nog is great. O'Brien is great. Garak is REALLY GREAT. The recurring characters are great. They're all great.

I've been told prior to watching this that Mark Alaimo's Gul Dukat was the greatest villain in the "Star Trek" franchise and, after finishing it, I don't know... I think I still lean towards Khan, but if anyone says it's Dukat, I can't blame them. He's definitely up there. I definitely believe the Dominion is the greatest foil to the Federation that has appeared in the franchise. They're more three dimensional than the Klingons were in their villainous days, more exciting than the Romulans, and they haven't been ruined like the Borg were in every appearance following "The Best of Both Worlds".

Even the show's stand alone episodes were pretty strong. If I ever re-watch it, there isn't one episode I will say "Ugh, do I have to sit through that one?" and I can't think of another multi-season science fiction series I can say that about. But the arc episodes were where the show shined. Especially during the war, and the development of the characters. War is hell, and this series shows that in ways no previous "Star Trek" series did. This show was easily the ballsiest of the Trek shows, and the last time the franchise was any good. "Star Trek: Voyager" was the worst of the Trek shows, "Enterprise" was mediocre, "Insurrection," "Nemesis," "Star Trek (2009)" and "Into Darkness" are all awful movies. I'm perfectly fine with considering "What You Leave Behind" to be the ending of the franchise as a whole. It's a good one.

The best episode of the series, and probably the best single episode in the franchise is "In the Pale Moonlight". And, well, anyone who's seen this episode would know why. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who's not seen it. But, for a franchise who's history often involved the commanding officer always finding another way or a better way, well, what happens when there is no other way? When do you cross the line into doing the necessary thing, even if it's not the right thing. "In the Pale Moonlight" did this, without walking it back, without apologizing, without watering it down. I had to watch the episode a second time because, well, this is "Star Trek", did they just do that? The answer was yes. Yes, they did that.

If there is one flaw, the final arc with the Pah-wraiths could have been better. Don't get me wrong, it made sense. With the entire premise behind Sisko being the emissary of the Prophets, it needed to be there. But it felt a bit rushed, and it was definitely overshadowed by the Dominion War. I liked the idea of Dukat seeking out the Pah-wraiths, in order to become the Bajoran version of the Antichrist. It just needed more time, but I can't think of what I would have cut to devote more time to it.

What is this show's legacy? Within the Trek franchise, the answer seems to sadly be "non-existent." But I think it, alongside "Babylon 5" helped usher in serialized, long form storytelling on television. A format that began with "Hill Street Blues" back in the 80's, but didn't catch on with the network dramas until much later. I still prefer "Babylon 5" as a series, but that isn't a slight. Both shows exist, both are good television... but I'll give DS9 an edge in that it has no bad episodes, even B5 has several stinkers in the first season. The first two seasons of TNG are borderline unwatchable. So what's the lesson? For me? You can enjoy both Coke and Pepsi. Granted it's a lesson I've learned long ago, but it's a lesson that's worth revisiting.

I'm not too proud to admit I was wrong. In this case, I'm more than happy to admit I was wrong. It's a great show, even if it took me twenty years to find out. But like all great TV, it's timeless. I did not need to cast myself back to an earlier era and say "it's the times." Great show.

Thursday, September 25, 2014