Sherlock goes off the rails

SPOILERS

After a series opener in which Sherlock traded its mystery status for soap, the second episode of series four, “The Lying Detective”, doubles down on the new soap operatic direction of the show and delivers even more antics and heavy-handed emotional beats. It’s not the worst decision to explore other facets of a character, such as Sherlock’s drug addiction, which actually matters in this episode, but for Sherlock, the show, the tonal shift has been so sudden and so hard it’s jarring. And it doesn’t quite sit right on a show about a man whose emotions are famously repressed and take a back seat to his analytical skills. That leads the show to feel excessive and even sloppy, as everything careens around an essentially unstable axis.

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A World On Fire: The Recurrence of Red in Marvel’s Daredevil

Marvel’s Daredevil features a beautiful red opening title sequence. Red is Daredevil’s signature color, so you think the entire show would be drenched in it, but excepting the opening titles, it’s not. The color palette of the show is a base of blue and black, with highlights of sodium yellow and bilious green. Shadows are deep and stark, often creating frames like comic book cells, with what little is revealed by the stark lighting cast in sickly, sallow tones. Hell’s Kitchen is not a welcoming place—this is not Tony Stark’s sun-drenched Malibu or the gleaming, bright world of the Avengers. The streets Daredevil patrols are murky and darkness looms around the edges of the frame, obliterating what little light trickles down to the street.

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Of The People: Daredevil, the Devil, and street-level heroes

Now that we’ve talked about Daredevil as a television show, let’s talk about Daredevil as a person. Or rather, let’s talk about Matt Murdock, because over the course of the show we see that Matt and his vigilante alter ego are one and the same. Matt Murdock is inspired to don a mask and become a vigilante because he sees injustice and fear oppressing the good people in Hell’s Kitchen, but when he is “in character” as Daredevil, he’s no less Matt Murdock than he is when he’s arguing for justice in a court of law. Throughout the show we see Matt struggle with his conviction not to kill, and ultimately he upholds his morals, turning Wilson Fisk over to the police. Matt’s morality, and his Catholic faith, are important parts of his identity which he does not subsume in order to fight crime.

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The TV Superhero We Need AND Deserve: Marvel’s Daredevil

SPOILERS

Last Friday was the long-awaited premiere of Daredevil, the first of Marvel’s Netflix series which will ultimately culminate in a Defenders miniseries along about 2017. The first of the “street-level” superheroes, Daredevil is charged with essentially being the Iron Man of the Defenders, responsible for setting the tone and style for the whole team. And man, did Daredevil ever deliver. Taking advantage of Netflix’s native binge-watching environment, series creator Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) and showrunner Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus) offer a tightly plotted, highly serialized season meant to be consumed in large chunks. With all 13 episodes available at once I wondered how best to review Daredevil, and ultimately decided to tackle it in three parts, with this first review concentrating on the overall tone of the show itself. If you’d like episodic recaps, here’s a good set.

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TV Recap: Agent Carter 1.8

Marvel’s Agent Carter ended last night, without confirmation of a second series, so for now this is it for Peggy Carter and the SSR. In many respects, it was a satisfactory ending. Peggy comes to terms with the loss of Steve Rogers, Howard Stark deals with his own destructive nature and legacy, and the SSR accepts Peggy as one of their own—though the accolades for the resolution of the Howard Stark situation goes to Agent Thompson, not Peggy. But as Peggy says, she doesn’t need public recognition—she knows her value. All she’s wanted is to be allowed to do the work, and that is what she gained during her first year with the post-war SSR: The ability to be an effective member of a team.

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TV Recap: Agent Carter 1.7

SPOILERS

It’s the penultimate episode and things are starting to play out to their final conclusion, which means we’re getting into some spoilery territory. Consider yourself warned.

With Peggy’s semi-betrayal of the SSR out in the open, this episode finally lets Peggy air her frustrations with her male co-workers that is very satisfying. It’s something we’ve wanted to see from the very beginning, Peggy delivering a comeuppance to her chauvinistic fellow agents, but what really makes it kick is that Peggy does it while she, herself, has been brought low. She’s finally getting somewhere in her furtive investigation, having connected the pieces of the Red Room, Dottie Underwood, and Leviathan, but she’s also lost the trust and, at least temporarily, the respect of the other agents. It actually makes her indictment of the SSR—“Unless I have your lunch, your coffee, or your reports, I’m invisible to you”—all the more damning because it doesn’t come while she’s on a high horse.

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TV Recap: Agent Carter 1.6

First, some housecleaning from last week. Seeing the Soviet Red Room—the origin of modern-day Natasha Romanov—raised some questions, particularly about whether or not the little killer girl may have been a young Natasha. In the comics, Natasha is very old, aided and enhanced by a Red Room supersoldier serum knock-off, but to date, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Natasha is just a regular person, albeit, a highly skilled and trained one. So I checked around and I have it on good authority that no, that was not young Natasha. In the MCU, she is not enhanced. Some people may be disappointed, but honestly, I think that makes the Red Room that much more chilling. It means they found a way to create soldiers like Dottie and Natasha from just plain old-fashioned human cruelty. Of all the various brainwashing methods we’ve seen Hydra employ, Bucky Barnes’s mind-melting electroshock therapy may be the most brutal, but the Red Room’s childhood indoctrination is the most sickening.

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