Category Archives: Television

Tea & Review: Fargo – The House of Special Purpose

If last week’s Fargo was a symphony and the week before’s an interlude, this week’s can only be classified as a funeral march—although no one actually died. The solemnity was more in form than function, expressed through muted colors, elegiac music selections, and slightly more methodical editing. That is, until the final scene.

As was established in past installments, Season Three’s halfway mark is essentially the point of no return, the moment wherein the true stakes are established and the more farcical capers give way for darker plots. Think of the brutal killing of the hapless personal trainer in Season One, or the ambush of the Kansas City mobsters in Season Two. Both reversals were prime examples of the show’s ability to transitional naturally between tones per the story’s demands.

But this time around, the shift feels a whole lot starker.

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Tea & Review: The Leftovers – It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World

Included in every season of The Leftovers, nestled within the grand, cosmically surreal narrative of the series proper, are more intimate stories dealing with the minutiae of the central characters’ lives. The most consistent and consistently entertaining of these have been focused on everyone’s favorite religious zealot, Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccleston), with each installment adding more depth to the preacher while testing bringing his faith to the brink of oblivion.

Season One’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter” was structured almost as a dark joke, placing Matt in the midst of a series of misfortunes as he battled the Guilty Remnant and tried to raise funds for his Church, ultimately losing almost everything. But still, his faith remained strong.

Season Two’s “No Room at the Inn” was more harrowing than wry, turning Matt into a sort of martyr figure taking on the burdens of the outcasts living outside Jarden, Texas. And though all signs pointed to him having become dangerously delusional, he was vindicated by the end of the season, his faith never wavering.

And now, with “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” his personal arc has finally reached its climax.

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Why You Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching You: The X-Files Revisited – Season 1: Squeeze

Scully and Mulder ponder their caseThe sewer in Maryland has eyes! Yellow eyes peer out from the opening right under the curb. The businessman who passed by enters his empty office building and arrives in his empty office. It’s nighttime, of course. This man winds up dead, of course. We don’t see the murder, but we do see a screw on an air vent turning itself shut.

Scully lunches with academy buddy Agent Tommy Colton where they chat about his fast-track success and her close encounters with Spooky Mulder. Immediately after jibing her, Colton reveals he’s got a case he can’t crack about a murder in a locked room with no point of entry apparent, and it’s not a suicide. This is one in a pattern of cases of victims who have had their livers ripped out with bare hands. When she says it sounds like an X-File, he’s all like, no it’s not! Immediately, he asks for her help so that he can solve it, meaning it actually is an X-File and he wants Mulder’s help. Spooky Mulder. As long as Mulder knows it’s Colton’s case, dammit!

X-file: People are getting killed and losing their livers to someone who can get in and out of rooms without needing a door or window.

Mulder feigns surprise at having a reputation and then asks if everyone thinks he’s spooky. Neither of the previous episodes described him as spooky, and now they’ve said it eight times in two minutes. He then asks Scully if she thinks he’s spooky. No time to respond as Colton arrives on the scene of the office where the businessman was killed the night before.

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Tea & Review: Fargo – The Narrow Escape Problem

Whereas last week’s trip to Los Angeles was something of an experimental detour, “The Narrow Escape Problem” may be the most Fargo episode of Fargo thus far. All the ingredients are there: overly complex problem solving, tactless Midwesterners, oddly friendly police officers interrogating flustered first-time criminals. We even get a quirky framing device.

Speaking of which—the use of a fictional recording of Peter and the Wolf narrated by Billy Bob Thornton as a sort of thematic exoskeleton is definitely the most intriguing element of the episode, by far. It plays with the idea that the characters in Fargo are recurring archetypes, while suggesting a new perspective through which to view the somewhat familiar story being presented.

But as usual with this show, I have to ask: what does it all mean?

That is to say, the narration pairs up several of the major characters with Peter and the Wolf counterparts (as well as the respective instruments that represent them in the composition), but what exactly does that say about each of them?

Gloria (Carrie Coon), for example, is Peter, the central intrepid adventurer who ignores his grandfather’s warnings and defeats the villainous wolf. The analogue here is, of course, rather obvious. Thus far in the season, Gloria has repeatedly ignored the will of her superiors in order to bring down the people responsible for her stepfather’s murder. The thing is, though, she doesn’t actually know who she’s up against. Is she, like Peter, underestimating her opponent?

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Tea & Review: The Leftovers – G’Day Melbourne

Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) have never made a whole lot of sense as a couple, which is why their pairing on The Leftovers made perfect sense. Apart from their shared rejection of any sort of divine explanation for the Sudden Departure, they were never established to have a whole lot in common. They were just two people who were able to find some release in each other with the understanding that they were both too damaged to really come back from whatever losses they had incurred in the past.

So when their relationship seems to fall apart in “G’Day Melbourne,” the dissolution is both heartbreaking and a completely natural result of everything that preceded it. Their paths became intertwined for a while, and now a variety of factors have seen fit to untangle them.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s recall how we got here.

After the events of “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” Kevin and Nora head to Australia so that Nora can expose the people claiming to be able to induce departures for the frauds she believes they are. At least, this is what she has told Kevin. In fact, we don’t know if this is simply a lie she’s telling to hide the fact that she’s willing to risk death to be with her children again.

After an uneventful flight, the couple arrives in Melbourne and, after checking into their hotel, almost immediately go their separate ways. The remainder of the episode sees them embarking on parallel adventures which leave them both feeling more alone than ever.

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Tea & Review: Fargo – The Law of Non-Contradiction

“The Law of Non-Contradiction” is undoubtedly the most atypical episode of Fargo thus far, and that’s saying something for a show basically filled with atypical episodes. In an unexpected move, especially this early on in a season, it takes a break from the Stussy feud that’s shaping up to anchor the season so that Gloria (Carrie Coon) can travel to L.A. and learn a bit of info about her late stepfather that in no way moves the plot forward. Yet despite that seeming pointlessness, or perhaps because of it, it may be one of the most fascinating hours of television I’ve ever watched.

The titular law is a logical theorem which states, more or less, that a thing cannot be both what it is and what it is not. The concept is exemplified in a few ways in the episode: Gloria can’t be both chief and former chief, Ennis couldn’t have “sorta” been her father, and Thaddeus (Thomas Mann) seemingly couldn’t have been two completely different people.

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Tea & Review: Wallander

In this column, I want to provide short descriptions of a particular genre of television series, the foreign detective series available on Netflix. The series I watch are both in English and in English-speaking places, and in foreign languages with subtitles. I watch foreign detective series for the pleasure of seeing a crime solved, the intellectual, emotional, and sometimes, personal toll the process demands of the detective.   But, foreign series offer a glimpse, albeit fictional, into the lives of people in different cultures and geographies, for while the stories are fictional, the locations are, in the main, real.   There are some programs that are set in fictional places, of course, and a few that are set in the past.

Wallander

First of all, there are two Wallander series on Netflix. There is the one called “Wallander” with Kenneth Branagh as a producer, director, and lead character. This is in English and is a BBC production. In the United States, we saw it first on Masterpiece Theatre. The other one is called “Henning Mankell’s Wallander”, and this is in Swedish with subtitles. The two series are based on Henning Manskell’s character Kurt Wallander, a detective in the southern city of Malmö. The portrayals are different, but a great deal is recognizable between the two. The Branagh production tends to portray Sweden as a windswept barren land, but the Swedish production shows a vibrant European country with plenty of the old and new.

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