Peaky Blinders Season 1

Peaky Blinders which aired its first season last year was yet another brilliant original British drama from the BBC starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Helen McCrory. It’s based on the violent Peaky Blinders gang that ran out of Birmingham in the 1920’s that were famous for slashing their victims with knives in their caps. Cillian Murphy leads the cast as Thomas ‘Tommy’ Shelby, the head of the Shelby family and the Blinders gang. Murphy just has such an enigmatic face and is just fantastic in this role. As a war veteran, the effects are still very much there, and it comes across with his cold, detached nature. He’s also a man of not so many words, and Murphy lets his face do all the talking for him. Calm and collected, he faces a lot of twists and turns within the betting business the family run and also within the family unit itself.

The overall series arc involves Tommy coming across military guns, choosing to keep them rather than get rid; it brings Inspector Campbell to Birmingham and their door, played by the brilliant Sam Neill. The inspector goes through quite a transformation across the first series, from the bible quoting man who says he’s going to clean up the streets and make everything better, to a man who uses brothel houses (whilst mistreating and having rough sex with the whores there too) and ultimately loathing himself for not being man enough for the woman he loves. That woman is the centre of a tricky love triangle/power play between Campbell and Tommy Shelby. Grace, played by Annabelle Wallis begins work as a barmaid in the Garrison, a pub the family has as its stomping ground, and soon strikes an unlikely friendship with Tommy. That friendship soon turns into romance until Tommy finds out the truth in the final episode: Grace is in fact an undercover cop, feeding information to Campbell. Despite this, she begins to have feels for Tommy, believing him to be a good man, deep down inside. Tommy allows himself to feel; to fall in love with Grace only to find out her betrayal. Campbell’s rejection from Grace in favour of Shelby leads him down a dark path and he is quite the sour loser in the final two episodes.

His ultimate plan to try and kill off Tommy within a turf gang war between the Blinders and Billy Kimber, ultimately backfires and fails. The priceless moment comes from a best copper telling Campbell that ultimately it’s his own fault. The final moments of the series are that of celebration for the family, for surviving within the legal betting industry and of shock for the audience. Grace resolves to leave during the episode, leaving Tommy time to think about whether he can forgive her. As he writes a letter to her telling her he does, Campbell walks into the train station, aims a gun at her and shoots. The series cuts to black and we’re still left unaware of what the outcome was. Did Campbell shoot Grace, or choose to turn the gun on himself, leaving her with the guilt of his death?

The second series of Peaky Blinders is currently airing on BBC2 on Thursday nights and it’s 2 episodes in. I’ve yet to start watching it but I’m excited to see where this series goes, particularly with the brand new addition of Tom Hardy joining the cast. One final note about this series is just how brilliant Helen McCrory is in her role as Aunt Polly, the matriarch and real heart of the Shelby family. The boys all include her in decisions and she rules the roost with a strength within her that’s brilliant, a real strong woman within this TV series.

Peaky Blinders on the surface is a drama about criminals and gangs; these characters are all anti-heroes because you shouldn’t root for them, but you do. In various interviews I’ve read, creator Steven Knight has this series mapped out to the start of the Second World War, and I know I for one would love to see this series continue for a few more runs. Cillian Murphy is fantastic in the lead role, and with strong ensemble cast surrounding him, this is a knockout of a BBC drama.

 

Grace: You think I’m a whore?

Tommy: Everyone’s a whore, Grace. We just sell different parts of ourselves. (Peaky Blinders, Season 1, Episode 3)

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Orphan Black Season 1 and Season 2

BBC America launched this new sci-if drama last year and after finishing airing its second season back in the beginning of the summer, Orphan Black is locked as a firm fan favourite and a show that showcases the talent of a fantastic young actress.

Orphan Black tells the story of Sarah Manning, a street wise young woman who hasn’t quite found her way in the world, moving from place to place and scam to scam. One evening while waiting for a train, a young woman jumps in front of a train and kills herself right in front of her. If that wasn’t crazy enough, the young woman looks just like Sarah -as if she could be her twin. Freaked out and not sure what to do, she steals the identity of the young woman, Beth Childs a police officer who also comes with a charming partner Paul, played by Dylan Bruce (who is extremely attractive).

As Sarah digs further into Beth’s life, she discovers other women like her that have the exact same face. Sarah discovers that the reason all the women have the same face is because they are in fact clones. Sarah gradually meets her “sisters” a family unit created from science; first she meets Alison, a soccer mom who lives in the suburbs with her husband and adopted children; next she meets Cosima, a science geek who helps crack the science behind the clones and thus becomes a interest to Dyad, a group that after some exposition is discovered to be partly behind the experiments. Not all the clones however have the same agenda, and some are more self-aware of their situation than others. Sarah discovers that a killer is on the loose, targeting the clones and that the killer just so happens to also have the same face. Helena is slightly unhinged, and doesn’t have a lot of self love on account of being raised by a religious cult that believes the clones are abominations of God. Finally as the first season comes to a close, we also meet Rachel, a woman quite high up in the Dyad group, and a completely self-aware clone. She wants to experiment on all the clones, crack the secret of their DNA and also replicate the cloning further, and will use any means necessary.

As the season entered its second season, I couldn’t get enough of this show. After two great opening episodes, the series drags a little leading up to the middle, and then really hits its stride in the second half. At points you do have to pinch yourself whilst watching this and realise that all the clone characters are played by the same actress – Tatiana Maslany. The Canadian actress pulls off so many different accents, mannerisms, and material, she is such a huge talent and the fact she has not been properly recognised for her work with an Emmy nomination is a crime.

As well as Maslany steering the show, Orphan Black has a host of brilliant supporting characters that interact with one or more of the clones including Felix, Sarah’s adopted brother, who is with her every step of the way as she discovers more about the clone conspiracy. Jordan Gavaris plays him brilliantly; full of humour and honesty, Dylan Bruce’s Paul, who Sarah forms an unlikely friendship/bond with after she discovers Paul was Beth’s monitor, a person paid to watch their assigned clone and monitor their lives, but without knowledge of why. After Paul discovers the truth, he is put into a compromising position, acting as double agent for Sarah to gain further information. Alison’s husband Donny played by Kristian Bruun also provides many of the shows’ black comedy sketches, and has a great connection with Maslany. Maria Doyle Kennedy also features as Mrs S/Siobhan who raised both Sarah and Felix when they were children and acts as a carer to Kira, Sarah’s biological child.

The second season only built on a strong first season, bringing more characters into play and opening up the conspiracy further. The major reveal at the end of season 2 saw Sarah learning that not only is their female clones, but also male clones, owned by the military. The face the male clones all bear is that of a character we had seen throughout season 2 – Mark, who had worked for the religious cult that had captured Helena and tried to impregnate her in a bizarre cattle like experiment.
It’s fair to say this season of Orphan Black has seen some tense moments, some twists and turns and also some shocks. And it’s also fair to say that the last few minutes of the season was certainly a game-changer, a huge reveal that leaves many possibilities for season 3. That reveal at the end of the finale, regarding the male clones of Project Castor opens up so many questions for next season – how many other clones from Project Castor are out there, are others self aware, because it seems Mark is not. How will Mark and Gracie play into next season? What’s happening to Helena and why do the military want her? What will Rachel’s next move be? And more importantly what will Sarah do now with this new information.

Whatever will happen, I know it’ll be a long wait for season three.
Felix: You are a bloody wrecking ball. You are an exploding cigar. Do you know that? (Orphan Black 2.03 ‘ Mingling Its Own Nature with it’)

Robin Hood (BBC Drama Series 2006-2009)

The BBC adaptation of the legend of the dweller in Sherwood Forrest who robs from the rich to give to the poor aired for three seasons from 2006-2009, and I’ve looked back on this series with not a lot of fondness. When I watched this program, I doggedly kept with it in hope that my gripes would subside, which they sadly never did. However, I decided to go back to this series after finding all three seasons on Netflix to give it another go. Did my feelings change towards the series?

The answer? Yes…and no.

Watching some of it back I don’t think it’s all bad but there are definitely some weak points to it. To give some background, the first episode starts us off with Robin (Jonas Armstrong) returning from the Holy Land with his manservant, turned best friend and confidante Much (Sam Troughton). He finds that the people located around the village of Locksley which are rightfully his lands are being subjected to increased taxes and hardships by the new Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne – his right hand man (Richard Armitage). The series doesn’t take long to fulfil the legend and by the end of the first episode, Robin has made his feelings clear and escapes to live in the forest.

From this point on the drama series develops different strands, establishing its characters and generally trying to bring the legend of Robin Hood to life. It works to an extent; the gang that Robin builds up in the forest grow on you and my favourites still remain Allan A Dale (Joe Armstrong) and Will Scarlett (Harry Lloyd). I often found the other characters annoyed me, particularly Much – he constantly whined and it sounded like he’d always be itching to say ‘I told you so’.

As well as following Robin and his band of men, there’s also the love interest of Maid Marion, played by Lucy Griffiths who played her with compassion and also acted as a good sparring partner for Robin. The creators thankfully didn’t create her to be meek – she stood up for herself, her family and her opinion, but also showed her emotions. Marion was physical as well, introduced in the first season as masquerading as the Nightwatchman, a fellow outlaw but not necessarily working in correlation with Robin. The series also showed us the elaborate schemes of the Sheriff and Gisbourne as they try and trap Robin, each and every week. This is where the show’s secret weapon is well and truly revealed – Keith Allen is witty, exaggerated, and hilarious bringing a much needed energy to the show.

The first series certainly develops the characters, but it isn’t until the second series that the show actually starts to be entertaining. Whilst watching the second series I remembered just how much I enjoyed the show, and I was surprised how much I remembered. The show is fleshed out, has an overall story arc, and not just random adventures every week and Robin and his men aren’t captured every single week (just every two or so).

Richard Armitage becomes an integral part of the show, and a great sparring partner for Allen’s Sheriff. Under the surface there’s something always bubbling, with just a hint of creepy in his performance, particularly with his behaviour towards Marion who he still loves, despite the fact she ditched him at the altar at the end of Season 1. With her help, she unlocks some humanity and goodness; even though he is slightly desperate, he is ferociously loyal to her, covering for her when he finally finds out she was the Nightwatchman.

When I re-watched Season 2, I was surprised by how much I could remember, and could see why I stuck with the show week after week, despite its ludicrous storylines and how Robin and his gang still remained all intact, and Marion not found out. However, as I settled down to watch the season 2 finale I still felt the same emotions as I did the first time – severe disappointment and anger.

The storyline itself was slightly far-fetched in its nature – Gisbourne and the Sheriff hatch a plan to kill the King and travel to the Holy Island to assassinate him, along with a unwilling Marion who they’ve essentially kidnapped after she discovers their plan. Robin and the gang quickly decipher their plan and chase after them. It takes both parties no time at all to get half way across the world and without much hassle, they eventually convince the King of the truth and manage to foil the Sheriff’s plan but not without a casualty along the way. Marion discovers Gisbourne bearing down on the King, ready to kill him and gets in his way trying to talk him down. After professing her love for Robin and revealing her true feelings towards him, it sends him over the edge and he stabs her. Gisbourne is distraught at what he’s done, flees and Robin says a tearful goodbye to Marion as she dies in his arms.

The show killing off Maid Marion, the true love of the shows lead character, which is so rooted in the tale of Robin Hood sent me into a rage when I first saw it, and I must say I still don’t agree with the decision. For me, the show lost its way there and then; it seemed such a senseless character death, particularly because of how much the character was invested in the show.  At the time, I wondered how the show would pick up after such a important death, and even though the show did continue it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Robin returns to England, blood thirsty for revenge on Gisbourne, on a one-track suicide mission to avenge Marion. Gisbourne it seems has also been affected by Marion’s death, even more angry and depressed and his relationship with the Sheriff massively suffering. The once father/son type partnership they had, the Sheriff slowly influencing and corrupting Gisbourne has vanished as Guy blames the Sheriff for the death of the woman he loved.

The show also introduces two new characters Friar Tuck (played by David Harewood pre Homeland) and a new female lead –Kate (Joanne Froggart). She’s plucky, physical and even more go-getting than Marion, determined to ‘do the right thing’ all the time and more than often shouting her opinion.  It’s not long before she’s looking admirably at Robin, her leader and friend and by the time we get to episode 9 the two of them have quite real feelings for one another; considering Robin was so in love with Marion the speed and swiftness of a new love interest is ridiculous and quite frankly rude. To add insult to injury, during the season’s 6th episode he also kisses another woman, who turns out to be Isabella, Gisbourne’s sister (Lara Pulver). Pulver is a great addition to the cast, and is more slick and manipulative than Gisbourne, who takes a back seat in this series and by the end is actually somewhat of a hero.  We also have the introduction of Toby Stephens as Prince John, but only for a few short episodes – a shame really as he brings a delightful energy to the show.

Gisbourne is still relatively tortured regarding Marion’s death even though he is the one that killed her, whereas Robin seems to have all but forgotten about it. The softer side of Gisbourne and the guilt that he continues to feel are unfortunately not explored or developed. In a moment when Robin and Gisbourne are fighting, Guy says “I’ll never ask for your forgiveness, because I can’t forgive myself”. This would have been a brilliant opportunity for exploration but it unfortunately only scratches the surface of Gisbourne’s guilt.  Despite Robin’s character being so destructive in the opening episode of the 3rd season, through the rest of the season he seems very blasé, and back to his typical arrogant self. The writers also tend to produce problems and issues and resolve them just as quickly, not letting it naturally develop and build, as if it’s thrown in as an afterthought.

The final straw for me was the bizarre twist they invented for the last arc of the season – that Gisbourne and Robin are actually intertwined and related by a half-brother, causing them to join forces to go on a hunt for this half-brother, who turns out to be yet another troublemaker with not that many morals. The season 3 finale the second time round was entertaining and quite action packed, with Keith Allen returning once more to try and defeat Robin and his gang. I’d forgotten just how many people they’d killed off in the episode – Allan was the first to bite the dust, a character I was massively sad to see go. He had such a charming quality about him, and a great wit, and Joe Armstrong played him so well. Next to go was Guy, followed by Isabella and the Sheriff and finally they go and poison Robin – the actual main character of the show! Jonas Armstrong had announced just before the season began airing that he was leaving the show after this season, and even though there was a potential plan to carry on the show basing it around Archer (the half-brother), realistically the show couldn’t have carried on.

The goodbye and the ending is quite clichéd, but all in all it was nice to have Lucy Griffiths return one last time as Marion, although quickly frankly I would’ve whacked him for his behaviour during that last season. The gang wander off into the forest, quite lost without its leader, a lasting image and a final one for the show.

This show had the making of a great autumn slot in the absence of Doctor Who, a slot that Merlin progressed in from strength to strength. Instead, the show had several pitfalls that it couldn’t recover from, including some foolish choices from its writers and characters that did not connect. However after I finished, I certainly took away the fact that I did enjoy this show, despite its annoying qualities, and it allowed me to discover little acting gems such as Richard Armitage, Lucy Griffiths (who’s about to appear in the new US show Constantine) and Joe Armstrong. I’ll leave this review with a few standout episodes from the series as a whole – if you wish to try out the show, I suggest you go try one of these episodes first.

 

Stand Out Episodes:

1.1.‘Will you Tolerate This?’

1.12 ‘The Return of the King’

1.13 ‘A Clue: No’

2.8 ‘Get Carter’

2.10 ‘Walkabout’

2.12 ‘A Good Day to Die’

2.13 ‘We Are Robin Hood’

3.6 ‘Do You Love Me?’

3.9 ‘A Dangerous Deal’
Robin: People of Nottingham, these men have committed no crime worth more than a spell in the stocks. Will you tolerate this injustice? I for one, will not! (Robin Hood 1.1 ‘Will You Tolerate This?’)

Criminal Minds 9×14 ‘200’

Criminal Minds reached the brilliant milestone of its 200th episode earlier this month and this under-appreciated series showed exactly why it’s lasted 9 seasons. Focusing on the character of Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau (A.J. Cook), it reveals just what her character got up to during her year out of the BAU during season 6. Throughout the season, her secret has been teased and tantalised and after her kidnapping at the end of the previous episode, fans were promised an explosive 200th episode celebration, which also brought back an old fan favourite.

I can still remember watching the 100th episode of this series and weeping as I did; it was emotionally wrought, not least because of what happened to Hotch, but also it showed just how close the team of characters had become. It was a fantastic showing of the series and so I was hugely excited for what the 200th would bring.

It turns out JJ wasn’t technically at the state department; instead she was mostly in Afghanistan, helping out an information hunt for Osama Bin Laden. She went through a lot out there, foiled missions, interrogations, and an inside man feeding information to the bad guys. Whilst all this was going on we also learned that during this time, JJ found out she was pregnant; this was cruelly taken away from her after an attack on a convoy. It was heartbreaking to learn this, and A.J. Cook puts in an amazing performance, showcasing her talent and also the mechanics of how JJ returned stronger and more resilient than ever, allowing her to become the profiler she is today.

This episode also showed us how well the team interact, work and care for each other; as it becomes apparent that JJ is in even more danger, the battle stations are firmly in place as they work their way around the profile, digging up the clues of JJ’s past. We also see plenty of familiar faces such as Jayne Atkinson’s Chief Strauss which was great to see; Nicholas Brendon’s Kevin and JJ’s fabulous husband Will played by Josh Stewart. The best of all these cameos however was having Paget Brewster reprise her role as Emily Prentiss.  When Brewster joined the show in the middle of series 2 she became a firm fan favourite and her exit from the show at the end of season 7 was a sad loss for the show. Her reappearance for this episode though was very much welcomed and also organic and not forced. It was great seeing her back in the fold profiling and interacting with the characters again.

The episode had a happy ending with the team finding JJ, defeating the bad guy and saving the day and it was a lovely sight having the family all in the bar together celebrating. A perfect ending to a brilliant 200thepisode of Criminal Minds.

Morgan: They just locked us out. Are the state doing anything to find JJ and Cruz?

Hotch: No.

Morgan: So what are we going to do?

Hotch: We call in reinforcements.  (Criminal Minds, 9×14 ‘200’)

The Following Season 1

Starring Kevin Bacon and created by horror screenwriter legend Kevin Williamson I watched the opening episode of The Following’s first season when it aired this time last year and immediately knew I’d found something great. It was intense, suspenseful and episodes had a cinematic feel to them. I reviewed the early part of the series here and continued to watch the series, hoping that its impressive start would continue.

The series builds around Detective Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and his relationship with the serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy); on his original rampage Carroll attacked Hardy but was captured and sent to prison, whilst Ryan tried to piece his life together. It all came crashing down however when Joe Carroll escaped from prison. Even though he was recaptured quickly, his escape prompted a plan to be set in motion, featuring Joe’s ‘followers’ a group of people who band together because of their obsession with Carroll. It’s intriguing stuff, not to mention creepy and it’s interesting that as well as focusing on Ryan, the show focuses on his followers as well. With the use of flashbacks the show pieces together the period of Carroll’s initial killings to the present day. In the short time he is free, Joe manages to set in motion his plan of making a ‘sequel’ to his story, placing Ryan Hardy in the centre. Carroll obsesses over Hardy because of the fact he was the one that caught him and also because after the case was solved he had an affair with Carroll’s wife Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea).

The main cast bounce off each other brilliantly –Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy have excellent chemistry; you can feel the mutual hatred under the surface and their scenes on screen are electric. Hardy feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, blaming himself for so much and Bacon plays the flawed hero so well. I do love Kevin Bacon as an actor so I’m so happy he’s found a role and a television show that displays his acting abilities. James Purefoy clearly relishes the role of Joe Carroll; he oozes charisma, charm, sophistication – everything you’d expect in a crazed psychotic serial killer. The other supporting cast members include Shawn Ashmore as Agent Mike Weston who helps lead the investigation into Carroll, along with Agent Debra Parker played by Annie Parisse are great support to Hardy and due to Williamson’s knack of killing off his cast of characters with a blink of an eye, their roles are never safe.

The other interesting trio of characters are the initial three main followers of Joe Carroll – Paul, Jacob and Emma (played by Adan Canto, Nico Tortorella and Valerie Curry). Even though the three of them are only together for a few episodes, they make for an intriguing grouping, developing into a power play/love triangle as it turns out Paul and Jacob pretending to be gay developed into something more, whilst Jacob and Emma were actually a couple. The dissent and panic that erupts between the three is brilliant to see unfold.

Other aspects help to make this show fly as well the score is brilliant, helping to build the atmosphere, particularly the end of the episode songs. The show also consistently looks visually great, the constant night time scenes help create the atmospheric tension. Williamson and his team of writers come up with some great twists and turns, helping to keep the show fresh and exciting.

The Following’s second season starts later this month, and I’m more than intrigued to how the show will pick up and continue. The ending saw Joe Carroll supposedly dying in an explosion whilst Ryan and Claire celebrate together. That is soon cut short when one of Joe’s crazed followers, planted as Ryan’s neighbour attacks him and Claire, leaving the series on a cliff-hanger. We know that Ryan is alive, but there are still several strands that are left unsolved; what happened to Claire? Is Joe Carroll really dead? The answers will be found in the season 2 premiere of The Following – I can’t wait!

 

Hardy: The second you get within two feet of me, I’m gonna snap your neck and crack your spine.

Paul: And I’ll shoot you dead.

Hardy: And his spine will be cracked.

Paul: And you’ll be dead.

Hardy: And his spine will be cracked.

(The Following, 1.6 ‘The Fall’)

Under The Dome Season 1

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an excellent festive period, whatever you were doing. I so needed a break from work and now it’s almost over and I’m having to face reality again. Unfortunately, my plan to clear up my backlog of posts and catch up on TV and films didn’t fully go to plan but I’ll soon catch up. Anyway, onwards with this new post:

Season 1 of Under the Dome aired over in the US over the summer and aired in the UK a few months later. Based on the novel by Stephen King (something which I’m now intrigued to read) it’s about a normal small town that suddenly has a large solid dome surrounding it, effectively trapping everyone inside.  No one can explain how it got there or how to get rid of it: the towns populous are stuck inside, and soon problems start to arise.

After watching the first season, I’ve come away with a mixture of feelings toward the show, but overall I can see some potential and I’ve mostly enjoyed how the show progressed. There are so many interesting ideas and concepts, and at its core it’s a chance to explore human nature and how people react and change in a time of crisis. However, that’s not to say the show didn’t have its weaknesses

At times there was some bizarre dialogue, as well as strands of the plot that run on far too long or become extremely far-fetched such as when one character remains trapped in a basement for 4 episodes and no one really notices she’s missing. When another character dies, her daughter Norrie goes through the five stages of grief over a 45-minute episode and after that appears mostly fine. Some of the characters get incredibly tedious and annoying rapidly; the four main teenagers discover a mini dome, proclaiming they are its protectors. One of them, Junior (Alexander Koch) is particularly grating – he looks incredibly psychotic and actually is a bit unhinged –he locked Angie in the basement and constantly obsesses about her. His relationship with his father is also a messed up one; he looks to make his dad proud, whereas his dad uses his son when he’s needed and tries to pollute his mind later on.

Speaking of Junior’s father, let’s move on to the positives; in certain episodes the show really is on point, mixing typical dramas with the added pressure and reality that the town is now facing. The law enforcement soon loses control, and is constantly fighting to regain it, with help from civilians which ultimately causes power controls to break out. In one character, this control ultimately develops into a web of lies. Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) is a typical town big shot – everyone knows who he is and he doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong: the typical Mr Nice Guy. However, under the surface he has a huge hidden agenda, putting himself on a pedestal by leading the town in various missions or acts but by force and pressure rather than democracy. He relishes the power and the way he can manipulate people, and by the back 4/5 episodes he unravels significantly towards the end, experiencing more delusions of grandeur, feeding his ego. He becomes the selling point of this series and is brilliantly played by Norris. On –screen the audience are treated to the disintegration of a town big shot into the villain inside.

Also of note is Mike Vogel and Rachel LeFevre who play Barbie and Julia respectively; they develop a friendship and subsequently a relationship, despite the fact that Barbie killed Julia’s husband (although this was before he had met Julia – another strange decision the show makes). Barbie is supposed to be the opposing element of Big Jim, flawed as he is the hired gun but a hero nonetheless. And it helps that Mike Vogel is quite attractive.

Under the Dome is an intriguing drama; the sub-plots of the egg and the dome’s strange activities act as secondary elements to what the drama tries to explore – how people behave during a crisis. As I said at the start, this show does have potential and by the end of the run of episodes I was enjoying it a lot more. I’ll be going back when Season 2 begins in the US this summer, with the opening episode being written by horror author Stephen King. However, whether I’ll stick with this series will depend on whether they can build on the positives and work on the negatives.

“You’re a sick bastard! And one day everyone’s gonna know it. And they’re gonna smile when you die” (Dodi, Under the Dome, 1.12)

Glee 5.3 ‘The Quarterback’

Earlier in this season’s run of Glee the Cory Monteith/Finn tribute episode aired and from the first few bars of ‘Seasons of Love’ a beautiful song choice from the musical Rent, I had goosebumps. The episode features so many cast members who wished to be a part of this episode and it’s a bittersweet moment to see so many come together.

The thing with Glee is that it doesn’t lose its uniqueness even when its mourning the death of one of their own – there’s still a few gags littered in the episode and it does cram a little too much into the episode – a lot of ideas and a lot of plates juggling at once that at times it almost feels not quite right. However, I suppose this episode was never about that: this was about saying goodbye to Finn Hudson – not just on-screen but off as well. You can feel the raw emotion of the cast as they sing and act their way through this and I easily got lost in the moment, until I found myself in floods.

During the scene where Carol, Burt and Kurt are sorting through Finn’s clothing is when I first properly broke down. Romy Rosemont who plays Finn’s Mom Carol broke my heart in this scene with the sheer grief and loss emanating from her character; you couldn’t imagine what it must be like for a parent to lose their child, but she gives such a moving performance, like she’s broken. The three of them really are amazing in this scene, and that final image of the three of them on the floor crying and holding one another is heartbreaking.

Naya Rivera’s Santana goes through many stages of grief in this episode; she’s numb with grief, she becomes extremely angry and honest with Sue, a scene which dazzles with passion and becomes so overcome that she can’t finish her song and runs hysterically from the room – something the audience is certainly not used to.

Matt Morrison’s Will I found one of the most heartbreaking; Emma points out to him early on in the episode that she is yet to see him cry about Finn’s death. Will believes he needs to be strong for the kids even though he admits he’s heartbroken. There’s a strand through the episode regarding Finn’s letterman jacket – it disappears and most people believe Puck to have stolen it. When it reaches the end of the episode, we learn that it was in fact Mr Schue who stole it. He completely breaks down clutching the jacket and being held by a crying Emma – this completely shatters my heart and is the final image we’re left with. To end on that note left me with tears streaming – it was a fitting and emotional tribute to the character and to the person – Cory Monteith.

Understandably, Lea Michele didn’t appear until about 10 minutes before the end of the episode, but it’s fair to say when she did appear, I truly started crying more then. The actress has lost far more than her cast member and friend, she also lost her boyfriend and she shows great courage here; her rendition of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ is beautiful, sombre and so wonderful. The raw emotion from it is easy to hear.

Off the back of this tribute episode, it was announced that after season 6 which Fox had already commissioned before Cory’s death, it would be the last season of Glee. While I can’t say I’m not surprised it’s bittersweet. It was also sad to hear that Murphy had a plan for the end of Glee and it included a reunion for Finn and Rachel. We’ll obviously never see that, but the talent and the generosity of Cory which he gave to his character Finn in the show can live on. I think this tribute episode was a beautiful way to celebrate his legacy.

RIP Cory Monteith

 

Carol:  I always thought…how do parents go on when they lost a child? When I saw that stuff on the news, I shut it off because it was just too horrible but I would always think how do they wake up every day?…How do they breathe honey? (voice cracks) But you do wake up…and for just a second, you forget. And then…oh you remember…and it’s like getting that call again and again every time. You don’t get to stop waking up. You have to keep on being a parent even though you don’t get to have a child anymore (cries) (Glee, 5.3 ‘The Quarterback’)

Agents of SHIELD 1.6 ‘F.Z.Z.T.’

I’ve been keeping up to date with Agents of SHIELD and have been willing the series to be amazing; in truth, the first few episodes were up and down – there were some flashes of brilliance, some great character development, particularly with Coulson’s story and just why he’s still alive. But there was also something missing, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something just wasn’t clicking. However when I watched episode 6, I felt the series really came into its own.

Revolving around Agent Simmons, the team are investigating the after effects of when a group of people come into contact with a Chitauri helmet. Unfortunately during their investigation, Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) becomes infected with the same virus and it’s a race against time to find a cure for her. Now the show is finding its stride, its focusing on developing all of its characters (not just Skye); before this episode, I really enjoyed the double act of Fitz and Simmons, the science geeks that Coulson recruited. The moment where Coulson realises Simmons is infected is a bittersweet moment; Clark Gregg does a great job at showing the disappointment and hurt in his facial expressions and the way he delivers the ‘I’m so sorry Jemma’.

What this episode does so well is finally bringing the team together, and making the audience care for the characters. When watching this episode it finally clicked that that was what I was missing; apart from Coulson these characters, as a group, were lacking chemistry but now we saw them coming together to try and help one of their own with each character getting a moment to shine. The dynamic between Fitz and Simmons is lovely to see –they have a sibling bond, bickering constantly but knowing what the other is thinking, willing to do anything for each other. Skye is integrating into the group and forming a real bond with Simmons, and even Ward is developing and becoming less grumpy.

We also get some really interesting character development for Coulson, helped along by Melinda May. He refers a few times to some medical tests his doctor’s have ordered for him, and he particularly connects to a fire-fighter in his last moments before his death due to the virus from the Chitauri helmet. We find out at the end of the episode that in fact Coulson ordered the tests himself; he feels something is wrong and he confesses that he feels different. The show has brought a different kind of Coulson than we’re used to in the Marvel cinematic universe, and it’s great to see Gregg be able to flesh out the character. It’s interesting that Coulson can feel he is different and in upcoming episodes, I’m sure that angle will be even further established.

With the show now firmly hitting its stride after a few bum notes, and a full 22 episode series on the horizon, I hope that the show continues to develop even more.

 

Melinda May: Whether it was 8 seconds or 40, you died. There’s no way you can go through a trauma like that and not come out of it changed. You know how long it’s taken me to…

Phil Coulson: I know.

Melinda May: The point of these things is to remind us that… There is no going back, there’s only moving forward. You feel different because you *are* different. (Agents of SHIELD, F.Z.Z.T)

Glee Top 50 -Part 2

Before I carry on with Part 2 of my Glee Top 50 post, I’d just like to announce that this is One Blonde and One Brunette’s 150th post! Myself and Kat have achieved this in just under a year and a half and to end our first full year of blogging on a great milestone is lovely. Thanks to everyone who comments, likes and also follows our blog, we hope you continue to like the stuff we write about.

So, carrying on with the top 50 starting with Number 26 (Please note I decided not to include any songs from Season 5)

26. I feel pretty/unpretty

Lea Michele and Dianna Agron hardly ever sing lead vocals together, but this duet is a gorgeous mash-up of these two voices. This episode is filled with some great covers and is also responsible for No. 27…

27. Born This Way

Lady Gaga’s huge hit quickly became a huge anthem for the New Directions as well – the performance is complete with the kids wearing white t-shirts with what their most insecure about – everything from ‘Trouty Mouth’ to ‘Lucy Caboose’.

28. Go Your Own Way

From the tribute episode for Fleetwood Mac, this classic song is sung passionately by Rachel, aimed squarely at Finn, still hurt by Finn and Quinn’s new found relationship. The song really suits Michele’s voice and it’s great to hear her belt out this classic.

29. Rolling in the Deep

Quite possible one of my all time favourite Glee songs. I loved the original version by Adele and when I heard Glee were covering this I was a little sceptical at first – but then I heard it…and then I watched the episode and I fell in love with this cover. Sang as a duet by Lea Michele and guest star Jonathan Groff, it’s gorgeous and packs a punch.

30. Jar of Hearts

Rachel sings this at the Prom, whilst watching Finn and Quinn dance in the distance – she again directs this across to Finn, and you can sense the furtive glances he’s given her when Quinn isn’t watching. It’s heartbreaking and another brilliant solo number from Lea Michele.

31. I’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you

Another solo performance from Darren Criss – also sang at the Prom; this is a preppy number, a style of song that Criss does extremely well and it works brilliantly with him on lead, along with some help from a few New Directioners.

32, I Love New York, New York

From the Season finale, the New Directions head to New York to try their luck at Nationals glory – beforehand though they have a chance to explore New York, and whilst in the performance they have some great location shoots, it’s also a great cast number that showcases quite a few of their singing talents.

Season 3

33. Rumour has it/Somebody like you

New season, and a slightly new format for the first half as New Directions split when Mercedes, quickly followed by Santana start to feel left out. Newly formed Trouble Tones quickly become a force to be reckoned with, particularly with this mash-up, easily my favourite mash-up. Again two Adele songs feature centre stage and again it’s brilliantly covered.

34. I’m a survivor/Survivor

Another Trouble Tones mash up, this time of the Gloria Gaynor cheesy club classic and Destiny’s Child’s huge number. Even though this didn’t manage to win them Sectionals, I thought it was a fantastic number.

35. We Are Young

At the end of Sectionals, Quinn extends a olive branch to Santana, Mercedes and Brittany to re-join the New Directions and this song plays out at the end where they take the offer and the group is unified once again. The song by Fun is made its own by the group and it does bring a tear to my eye when I watch the performance.

36. Bad

The first song from the Michael Jackson tribute episode – lead vocals by Blaine and the boys of New Directions as they battle the Warblers. It’s full of punch and a great cover of  a classic.

37. Smooth Criminal

This is probably my favourite song from the Michael Jackson tribute episode – how they re-imagined this song as a duet with the violins added is just brilliant. It’s a real battle and Naya Rivera and Grant Gustin sing it wonderfully.

38. Stereo Hearts

Poppy and catchy, this song from the Valentine’s episode of Glee is brilliant – with lead vocals from Glee Project winner Samuel Larsen –it’s a winner.

39. Love Shack

The end of the episode features this song, brilliantly sung by Darren Criss’ Blaine who was mostly absent from the show in order for the actor to appear in a short Broadway run of How to Succeed in Business without really Trying. He returns to end the episode with this classic pop song and its brilliantly done.

40. Cough Syrup

In an emotionally charged Regional’s episode, this song sung by Blaine is played as the backdrop for a shocking moment in Glee. A strand had been developing with Dave Karofsky and his hidden homosexuality and it blew up at the beginning of the episode as kids at his school found out. He tries to commit suicide as this is sung; it’s a beautiful song and haunting with what’s played out.

41. Hungry like the wolf/ Rio

The first of two duets from Blaine and his brother Cooper aka Darren Criss and guest star Matt Bomer. This Duran Duran mash up is brilliant, Bomer and Criss have an excellent chemistry and the singing is fantastic.

42. Somebody that I used to Know

The second duet between the Anderson brothers and this is also one of my favourite songs from the Glee Cast. Singing the years massive hit by Gotye, they manage to take the song and adapt it to fit their brotherly discord. Again wonderfully sung, and by the end of it I wished that Matt Bomer was staying for every single episode.

43. How will I Know

With the sudden death of legendary singer Whitney Houston, Glee scrambled to make a tribute episode and this song opened that episode. Rachel, Mercedes, Kurt and Santana all take equal vocals in this and it’s a brilliant way to open the tribute.

44. Mean

This was originally sung by Taylor Swift but I love this version sung by Puck and Coach Beiste – each battling their own demons, but bonding by trying to get through them together.

45. Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Meatloaf’s rock ballad is the crowning glory of the New Directions Nationals victory – it’s a group effort and its sung wonderfully.

Season 4

46. Americano/Dance Again

We enter Season 4, and in the first episode we’re introduced to a brand new fantastic guest star – Kate Hudson. She plays Rachel Berry’s dance teacher at NYADA and she’s a bit of a bitch. But this mash-up as an introduction is sizzling and leaves you wanting more of Cassandra July.

47. The Scientist

I love this rendition of Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ – combining 4 different coupling’s of Glee who each had a tough time during the episode entitled ‘The Break-Up’ it’s easily one of my favourite songs from the show.

48. 3

From the second Britney tribute episode, this probably is not top of most people’s minds when thinking of the best Glee songs, but I like the stripped back version the cast did for this and the vocals really blend together nicely.

49. Anything Could Happen

A brilliant group number as the New Directions take on this Ellie Goulding song.

50. We Will Rock You

My final pick is a great one – it’s a group effort with this number and the beat that is made by the bins and other drum based stuff is brilliant and completely makes the song.

 

Sue: William, I have in my spanks at all times a list of THE worst songs ever performed by the Glee club. And I would appreciate it if you would no reprise any of the following numbers: Number 1 – ‘Run Joey Run’ – you should literally apologise to America for that one. Number 2 the ingenious mash-up of ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Hair’. Now I know you must have been pretty tired when you put that baby together.” (Glee 2.20, Prom Queen)

Glee Top 50 part 1

After Glee began airing in 2009, it has covered well over 500 songs, bringing to light some great new music for me. Albeit, some of their songs are not so great, and some may argue that they ruin a lot of classic songs. I’d like to argue that some of the covers are even better than the original (one springs to mind straight away – Glee’s cover of Rebecca Black’s song ‘Friday.’) For me, I like to take the covers as what they are and appreciate the work, effort and the voices behind them, because Glee has some brilliant voices within its cast. So without further ado please see my personal top 50 Glee songs: (as I’m terrible at favourites I’ll be organising this list in season order)

Season 1

  1. Don’t Stop Believing

The song that made Glee famous is first on this list; at the end of the Pilot episode when Mr Schue was walking away from his teaching career, he heard faint voices in the distance, and as the cast’s version of this Journey song gets louder, the love for this show and its cast does too.

2. Somebody to Love

The cast’s group performance version of this Queen classic is a winner also, bringing the group together at a pivotal time.

3. Hate on Me

This is the first song from the episode Throwdown that I’ve picked and I love this song; it has got such a beat and Amber Riley singing the main vocals for this is fantastic.

4. Keep Holding On

The end song for this episode is Avril Lavinge’s ‘Keep Holding On’, and it’s one of the first songs that brought me to tears. Coming at the end of an episode where Sue and coincidentally the entire school finds out about Quinn’s pregnancy, you feel the emotion that’s coming out of the Glee club as they support their member

5. Thong Song

My first guilty pleasure song of the list is this as Mr Schue desperately tries to hide his feelings for Emma by helping her with her wedding songs. It’s a amusing performance of a classic 90’s song.

6. True Colours

Another end of the episode song now and a chance for Jenna Ushkowitz to properly shine for the first time.

 

7. Don’t Rain on My Parade

Lea Michele’s first solo song on this list and it’s a corker – singing this as their first song to launch their bid for Sectional glory, it’s sung with determination and finesse.

8. You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Their other song sung at Sectionals, this classic rock song is fab and showcases the vocals of Cory Monteith and Lea Michele particularly.

9. Like a Prayer

The Madonna tribute episode ends with this beaut of a track and it’s a group effort, with a little help from a full gospel choir that just helps to make the atmosphere electric.

10. Total Eclipse of the Heart

Following Rachel’s faux par at trying to juggle 3 boys’ feelings for her, it all ends in tears with her losing Jesse and her shot at Finn. Queue this guilty pleasure classic, complete with ballet dancing scenes.

11. One

This U2 classic rock song is a fantastic end to an episode that is a bit underwhelming. However, his song is further proof that the cast know how to belt out a rock song.

12. Dream On

Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison duet this Aerosmith song – do I need to save more?

13. Poker face

After the truth about Rachel’s birth mum is revealed (in the form of Idina Menzel), the two come together at the end to sing this Lady Gaga hit, but much slower than Gaga’s version. However it’s gorgeous to hear these two voices together.

14. Faithfully

The season finale and the New Directions are at Regionals and their set list is filled with Journey songs. This duet between Finn and Rachel is their opening number and just before it, Finn tells Rachel he loves her. It makes their duet to each other even lovelier.

Season 2

15. Empire state of mind

We enter Season 2 and the Glee cast belt out this in the season 2 opener, trying to drum up their rep. It’s a great way to open the season and recent enough that new viewers to the show will feel at ease with the format.

16. One of Us

At the end of an emotional episode in which Kurt thought he had lost his Dad, the Glee group come together for this sweeping song that emits love and hope.

17. Teenage Dream

It’s the introduction of the Warblers and another iconic moment for Glee – the introduction of Darren Criss as Blaine Anderson. As he takes lead vocals on this Katy Perry number, you know you’re witnessing a special moment and thankfully he’s stuck around to create more magic.

18. Singing in the Rain/Umbrella

This episode introduces us to Holly Holliday and Gwyneth Paltrow’s first guest appearance on the show. The mash-up of the musical classic and Rihanna’s first big hit sang by Paltrow and Matt Morrison in the lead vocals is a hit.

19. Dog Days are over

Mercedes and Tina take the lead on my favourite Florence and the Machine song; another end of episode number it’s a positive ending, despite the fact that the end of this episode saw the break-up of Finn and Rachel.

20. Thriller/Heads will Roll

This fantastic mash-up completely works and the performance itself is brilliant with a Halloween-esque style and a pop/rock feel.

21. When I get you alone

The Valentine’s Day episode had a particular angle that had many fans rejoicing – Blaine and Kurt admitted that there could be something for them in the future. But before that, Blaine had a crush on an older department store worker and he enlisted the help of the Warblers to serenade him with this song – it’s only short, but it’s brilliant.

22. Sing

This cover of the My Chemical Romance song is punchy and made even more awesome with the fact that Sue joins in for a one-off performance with the kids.

23. Animal

Another Warbler tune and this one has joint lead vocals for Blaine and Kurt, and the performance is made comedic when in a bid to be sexy, Kurt only manages to look pained and uncomfortable. Blaine and the rest of the Warblers however look cute, especially in their Dalton uniforms.

24. Kiss

Gwyneth Paltrow’s back and she that initial chemistry between her and Matt Morrison’s Mr Schue is built upon in the episode, culminating in their duet of Kiss, with them performing a sizzling tango and a gorgeous tone to the song.

25. Candles

This beautiful duet at Sectionals comes after the first kiss of Blaine and Kurt; its soft nature and the passion behind it means that this song is a perfect fit for Chris Colfer and Darren Criss.

I’ll be posting part 2 of this countdown in a couple of days – comment below if you agree/disagree on what should be on this list