The Returned Season Two

 

The Returned is actually Les Revenants, a French series that airs on SundanceTV in the US. It’s the zombie series you didn’t know you wanted. Since it’s French, it’s existential instead of violent. That’s an endorsement.

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I Can’t Fix You: You’re the Worst Season Two

The most interesting moment in season one of The Affair is when Alison asks Noah what he sees when he looks at her. It was interesting because I knew the answer: Noah sees someone he thinks he can fix. The idea that men always want to fix problems is often expressed in their romantic interests, and that moment was one of the few so far in The Affair that was meaningful and real.

That has been on my mind while watching You’re the Worst since Gretchen told Jimmy that she suffers from depression. Right away Gretchen asked Jimmy not to try to fix her. “You can’t fix me.” Of course Jimmy doesn’t believe her. In the next episode, Jimmy develops a plan for an entire day doing things that Gretchen likes so that she will snap out of her depression. The only thing that Jimmy accomplishes is forcing Gretchen to lie to him and tell him that his plan worked.

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I Can’t Stand Here Feeling Bad That I Don’t Feel Worse

The headline to this piece was originally intended to be used on a piece about The New Republic last year. After Franklin Foer resigned (was forced out) and a number of senior editors also resigned in protest there were a number of sites which ran posts about the end of The New Republic. Of course it wasn’t the end. The New Republic is still going and the people there are churning out great stuff (as are the writers who left).

I thought of the headline (which comes from Broadcast News) because there seemed to be too much premature eulogizing. Publications and websites come and go, was what I thought, and the most talented people end up finding new places to work. It was easy for me to feel that way because I never worked at TNR, didn’t know anyone who worked at TNR, and rarely read TNR. I wasn’t losing anything.

Today ESPN announced that they are shutting down Grantland. Today I am losing something.

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Indistinguishable From the Miraculous: The Leftovers Season Two

I’m not religious, or at least I don’t admit to being religious. I believe in The Big Bang, in evolution, in everything happening for a reason except that the reason is probably trivial. I believe that the Earth orbits the sun and our solar system is part of the Milky Way which is part of something bigger and so on and so on. I believe there is life on other planets and I’m pretty certain that this will not be proven in my lifetime. There is plenty of wonder in the world, and most of it can be explained by science or a belief in chaos or a conviction that the answer has yet to show itself but is either science or chaos. I can believe this because I have never had to live in a world like the one in The Leftovers.

The Leftovers was created by Damon Lindelof (previously of Lost) and Tom Perrotta (based on his novel of the same name). The series and the novel both start two years after two percent of the world’s population disappeared without a trace or explanation (the “Departure”). The reactions are as you’d expect; some try to use science to find an answer, some try to move on as if it never happened, and some start to believe that it is not possible to understand the world only through reason. Just as our ancestors came up with explanations for the moon and seasons and the meaning of life, some in the world of The Leftovers take the opportunity to polish up the old religions or to start up some new ones. The post-Departure world is as fertile for belief systems as the Holy Land of five or two or one and a half millennia ago.

The most interesting choice in The Leftovers (and I believe also in The Leftovers) is that no attempt is made by the series to explain the Departure. This allows us to watch the series and imagine ourselves in it. What would it mean to me? Who would I be in that world? Nora Durst, who lost her husband and two children, needs to believe that the Departure was a one-time event and will not happen again. Kevin Garvey, Nora’s boyfriend, wants to keep his new family together and move on even as he is haunted by someone who killed herself in front of him. Nora’s brother Matt Jamison is a pastor who thinks he can shoehorn the Departure into his faith. John Murphy, new in season two, does not allow that anything supernatural exists in his world, all evidence to the contrary.

The only thing that all the characters share in The Leftovers is grief. They grieve for the ones who Departed. They grieve for parts of their lives that were destroyed by the Departure. They grieve for the world that no longer exists. What do you hold on to when the world has proven to be so unreliable?

We will never know who is right, just as our ancestors never knew if they were right. One of Arthur C Clarke’s “three laws” is that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Leftovers shows that any sufficiently unexplainable occurrence is indistinguishable from the miraculous. What would you do in response to the miraculous?

Manhattan Season One

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Good series can come from anywhere these day. Manhattan comes from WGN America, a channel you many not be aware that you have. If you aren’t sure if you have WGN, don’t worry. The full season is available on Hulu. Check it out.

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The Knick Season Two

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I was late on season one of The Knick, partly because there were so many other things to watch. Eventually, critics like Matt Zoller Seitz wore me down and I dove in. It was well worth it. The Knick is probably the best directed series on television — all by Steven Soderbergh — and features excellent performances, particularly from Clive Owen and André Holland.

Will season two be as good? Soderbergh, Owen and Holland are all back. Sounds promising.

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Manhattan Season Two

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Alright, so you didn’t watch the first season when it aired. Me neither. But I caught up by bingeing season one on Hulu. I hope you did also. The season may have dragged a little in the middle (didn’t someone swallow plutonium) but it finished strong and left me wanting more. Well John Benjamin Hickey, Olivia Williams and Ashley Zukerman are back. Watch it!

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Fargo Season Two

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Admit it. You didn’t think there was any way that season one of Fargo would be any good. You thought it was a terrible idea that wouldn’t work, but it did work. Now the question is, can they do it again or will this series go the way that True Detective did in its second season? (I’m required to compare the two series as they are both anthologies.)

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The Walking Dead Season Six

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I’m not sure there’s anything new to say about The Walking Dead. We all watch it and we all think it’s not that great except for the times when it is really great. (“Rick. Do it.”)

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Well I was young and I didn’t know what to do

For October 10, 2015

So yesterday I wrote about my father and maybe it was a bit of a downer. About eight or so years after Springsteen wrote yesterday’s song he wrote today’s, which means he was closer to my current age when he wrote it. It seem like Springsteen had started to mellow just as I had.

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