Monday, May 29, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 1.3.-4: Coffee and Cole

The second installment of Twin Peaks: The Return - aka episodes 3 and 4 - continued tonight in the unmitigated gonzo, steampunk, B-movie style to which we became accustomed last week.

Let me also say that one of the high points - perhaps the highest points - of David Lynch's work have been the singers on stage at one point or another in the narrative.  The Dean Stockwell character lip synching Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet, with Dennis Hopper's self-tortured character trying to sing along but taking the needle off the record, and Kyle MacLachlan's character in shock in the small, standing audience in the room, was so powerful that I've wanted to write a book about that scene as a transcendent moment in popular culture for years.  As it is, it's easily one of the best scenes in any movie.

Performances of original songs by unknown (to me) musicians and singers have ended every episode of Twin Peaks: The Return so far, and they've all been excellent.  But that Everly Brothers-like performance at the end of 1.3 was superb and to my ears and eyes already a classic.

Back to Kyle MacLachlan, the central story in episodes 1.3-4 was Agent Cooper's return to this planet.  It's unsurprisingly no easy return.  Part of the difficulty makes sense.  Cooper can't talk or think normally because he's been in that insane, other-dimensional room for 25 years.  Part of it, like all Lynch works, doesn't - or doesn't quite make sense.  Apparently, Cooper was "tricked," and his doppelgänger is still out and about on Earth, though soon locked up.  But the real Cooper seems to be making at least a little bit of progress, responding well to a cup of coffee in the morning, put on his breakfast table by his doppelgänger's wife (played by Naomi Watts, who starred in Mulholland Drive, generally recognized as David Lynch's second-best work - high praise - and I agree).

And speaking of Lynch, it was good to see him return as FBI Deputy Director Cole these two episodes (he was actually an FBI Regional Bureau Chief in the original), which got me thinking: how about Cole as Comey's replacement, now that Lieberman has bowed out?

Hey, if that actually happened, it would be a lot less strange than some of the developments in Twin Peaks: The Return, which I'll be back to offer a few more paragraphs about next week.

See also Twin Peaks: The Return 1.1-2: Superluminal Sans Cherry Pie

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sense8 Season 2: Sense8tional



I realized a while ago that binge-watching, like all human activities, isn't the perfect strategy for all television watching.  It's almost never preferable to wait a week before the next episode of a compelling series is available, but sometimes watching a complete season in one or two seasons is not the best way to go, either.  Sometimes you want to savor each episode a little longer, let it slosh around in your mind a little, until it settles into some place or maybe keeps quietly percolating.
I'd intended to watch all of Sense8 season 2 in one swoop - that is, all the episodes after the Christmas special which aired late last year - but decided, after the first two new episodes (2.2-3), that I wanted it to last a little longer.
We saw and learned lots of things in these two episodes.  Among the most profound is that when one of the cluster is nearly hung -- that is, nearly choked to death at the end of the rope - the other members of the cluster start to lose consciousness, too.  This raises a crucial question: if Sun had indeed died in that noose -- if her cellmate hadn't rescued her (in a great scene) -- would the rest of the cluster had died, too?  I can't recall exactly what happens when one of the cluster falls asleep, but my impression is the others, though aware that one member is sleeping, stay awake.  If that's the case, why would the near-killing on Sun so viscerally affect the rest of the cluster?
The question is whether the effect is just mental, or physical as well.  Of course, mental and physical are always intertwined -- what we think and feel in our heads inevitably affects our bodies -- but in the case of the sense8s, is this so much in play that the violent death of one will kill the others?  I'd think not, but if this possibility remains open, our sense8s are even more vulnerable than we realized.
But they're making good progress in these two episodes -- Sun is free, Whispers is set back, and the sense8s continue to bring their talents to bear when one or two of them needs help, even in a difficult conversation with reporters.   And we're beginning to learn more about homo sensorium, and the deeper evolutionary significance of the sense8s.
***
One of the most significant secondary themes of Sense8 is the personal relationships our sense8s have to sapiens, as we humans are now increasingly known and referred to in the series. These range from significant other partnerships, as in Lito and Hernando, Nomi and Amanita, and Kala and her devoted but lackluster husband, to lifelong friends such as Wolfgang and Felix, to mortal enemies as in Sun and her monster-in-sheep's-clothing brother. 

These couplings in effect represent the hope and perils for sense8/sapiens on the planet-wide, species level. So far, we've seen only the perils for sense8s, and the general unawareness that our species has about the very existence of sense8s. But, as of the end of episode 2.5, that appears set to dramatically change. 

In some ways even more crucial to the story are the relationships members of our cluster have to other sense8s. The decision to go public as a way of vanquishing their mortal enemies stems from Will's realization that there must be, if not a myriad of sense8s, a number large enough to attract such powerful enemies. 

My favorite new sense8 in season 2 is Lila, and not only because she appears totally nude in an attempt to seduce Wolfgang. She earlier tempts Wolfgang when he's telepathically communicating with Kala, providing a fine example of a simmering, tempestuous triangle, totally sense8-style. Love flows in all kinds of ways in this story.

***

Every action movie, every police drama, every thriller needs a shootout. Since Sense8 is all three and much more, it gets a one-of-a-kind, multi-valent shoutout in 2.6, and it's a thing of violent beauty to behold.
The cinematography, always a splendid eyeful in Sense8, is especially good in that bar, where it all begins with Wolfgang and Lila across the table. Her new seduction attempt erupts into a gunfight, between Wolfgang and Lila in physical space, and their clusters whirling like dervishes and firing away in mental space at every opponent they can see.   The shots of the two clusters, menacingly walking behind their live anchors, drawing closer together, almost into a single line, then spreading apart and shooting, makes for a veritable gunfight at the OK coral, Sense8-style.
Just to be clear -- though that's never really completely possible, given the speed of thought and the inherent multiplicity of the story -- there are players in the bar who are on Lila's team (though whether sense8 or sapien not completely clear).  So Wolfgang is physically outnumbered, and he and his/our cluster have to fight not only Lila but other physical people in the room bent on killing him.
The upshot: both Wolfgang and Lila survive, and we learn that locating other clusters can just as easily be death as salvation for our sense8s. Not only are some sapiens out to kill sense8s, but some sense8s are out to kill our sense8s, too.
At some point, not in the bar, another sense8 not in our cluster remarks that sapiens invented Google in the 1990s, but sense8s were instantly communicating worldwide (what Marshall McLuhan and I would call a global village) back in prehistoric times.  Earlier this season, someone explained that just as homo sapiens exterminated Neanderthals, so our kind sought to eradicate homo sensoriums aka sense8s.
Which got me thinking -- what if in our reality, some Neanderthals had survived?  Hmm ... there's an idea for a novel.
***
Sense8 season 2 came to a cliff-hanging, mid-scene conclusion, with a smart turning-of-the-tables on the sense8 strategy in their battles against sapiens and sense8s.
That strategy, deployed throughout the series, and one of the key and especially enjoyable mechanisms of the story, entails one sense8, under physical attack or in some kind of social crisis, deploying the talents and powers of the other seven sense8s to succeed or at least get an upper hand.  In the final few episodes, we see this done to excellent effect in one of the best scenes of the series -- a car chase -- as Sun tries to put away her evil brother.  And we see what happens when one of the sense8s -- Will -- is not able to pour his talents into the action, as Capheus almost loses his life in a campaign-rally riot in Kenya.
So it was particularly smooth to find that Will's declaration of war on BPO and Whispers is a physical declaration, with Will and the other six sense8s and their allies literally on the way to mounting an in-person attack in their efforts to free Wolfgang.   It begins with Will surprising and getting the better of Whispers by being actually physically in the room with him, and ends with ... well, we'll need to wait for Season 3.
One question is why doesn't Will just kill Whispers and be done with it, but part of the answer to that is that people - that is, sense8s - don't seem to completely die in Sense8.   In fact, not only do they not die, but they seem to change sides -- reverse loyalties -- in a way that harkens back to one of the mainsprings of the Dune saga.
I've seen it said that Sense8 is enjoyable if you don't pay too much attention, but I'd say it's just the opposite: the complex, multi-dimensional and multi-layered narrative works best when you give its elements careful consideration. Indeed, one of the joys of the second season, which I thought was better than the first (high praise, since I liked that one, too), is that it is beginning to uncover some of what Noam Chomsky might call the deep structure of sense8 grammar.
And I'll be back here some time in the future with reviews of season 3.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 3 of X: Dear Beatles

In the next chapter of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles - I just realized that the chapters are not numbered, which means that each chapter is a piece of a hologram, a snapshot of the whole, like a verse in many a song - we get a deconstruction of "Dear Prudence," which Sheffield holds to be one of The Beatles' best, and I agree (though they have so many bests the term hasn't the usual meaning for me).

The gist is that the song, contrary to what we think we know about it, isn't about the real Prudence Farrow (Mia's sister, in India with the Beatles) at all.  It's really about the Beatles themselves (note: I'm on Cape Cod, and lazier than usual, so I'm not going with the capital T).   When the Beatles sing can you come out to play, they're really beseeching themselves, not Mia's sister.  And, in a particularly effective acoustic point by Sheffield, when the Beatles sing look around, they're looking for Ringo, who had just quit the group (I heard that questing harmony in my head when I read Sheffield's words).

Now, every song that anyone has ever written is really more about the writer than the subject of the song, and Sheffield has to know that.  So what he's saying here is not a truism, but a penetrating piece of Beatles biography: the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up when Lennon wrote and John, Paul, and George recorded the song (with Paul not Ringo on drums, as Sheffield explains). And the three very much didn't want to lose Ringo, because they saw that on some level as losing themselves. The result: well, Ringo came back (because of a letter from the Beatles not the song), but his leaving was prelude to the real break-ups ahead.

Which raises a question that Sheffield has not (yet) addressed, but which always occurred to me. Why did the Beatles so value Ringo?  In their letter, they tell him he's the greatest rock 'n' roll drummer, but that's probably not true.   But John, Paul, and George saw him as essential to their band and I've always wondered why.

Not that I would have rather seen any other drummer with the Beatles.   The band including Ringo was every bit as remarkable and unique and towering in importance as Sheffield says.  But - Ringo didn't write many or any of their songs, didn't sing much if any harmony, sang leads that were enjoyable enough but not extraordinary (though I've always considered his "Back Off Boogaloo" - which he not only sang but wrote - one of the best post-Beatle songs).  So what magic, then, did Ringo somehow contribute?   If the Beatles, as Sheffield correctly says, got the world to fall in love with them, how did Ringo get John, Paul, and George to fall in love with him?

The song - I'm still on "Back Off Boogaloo" - was supposed to be a shot at Paul, which Ringo denied, but I've always agreed with I. A. Richards' thesis that the author is the last person you should ask about the meaning of a work.   Which is another reason that Sheffield's analyses of the real meaning of "Dear Prudence" and other Beatles songs is so appealing.

And I'm off for Cape dinner, and will be back with more soon.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Americans 5.12: Back in the USSR

Well, I couldn't resist, and I'm sure I'm the zillionth person to have this song in my head as I watched The Americans - not to mention that I've been hearing it a lot on the new Beatles Channel on Sirius/XM Radio - but this season in general, and episode 5.12 especially, has been veering towards the Soviet Union.

The scene with Oleg and his father was wonderful.   The father wants to help his son, destroy his enemies, but Oleg knows the forces that he's dealing with.   In many ways, Oleg in Moscow is a parallel to Philip in Washington - both men are struggling to do the right thing, against the same ruthless forces.   And Stan, with a different boss in Washington, has a lot in common with these anti-heroes becoming heroes, too.

Also in Moscow, Philip's son at the dinner table with Philip's brother was good to see, too.   You get a real sense, from yet another angle, of what life was like in the Soviet Union - and how different it was from life in America.

That difference is becoming increasingly crucial, as all of this is playing out with whether Philip and Elizabeth will go back to the USSR.   Unlike McCartney's song, which was cool and funny, there's nothing even remotely like that in what Philip and Elizabeth are trying to decide.

It's clear, after all these years in America, convincingly passing as Americans, that they'll never be at home anywhere - and that would be the case even if their children were not a crucial, decisive part of the picture.

Looking forward to season finale next week.





Thursday, May 25, 2017

Peter Asher's From Me to You Show on The Beatles Channel: A Hit

I already knew Peter Asher had talent as a singer (Peter and Gordon) and record producer (Linda Ronstadt and many others), but I found out a few hours ago that he has lots of talent as a disc jockey!

I was driving up to Cape Cod, loving the new Beatles Channel on Sirius/XM Radio (Channel 18), when up pops Peter Asher with an hour show called From Me To You.   I've always loved a good dj - I had a fine time years ago when I put together sets of songs for Murray the K and Wolfman Jack in their brief stints on WNBC-AM Radio in the 1970s - but they've been few and far between in recent years.   Dennis Elas and the late Pete Fornatale put on excellent shows on WFUV-FM - I know/knew them both, because I'm a professor at Fordham - and Bob Shannon does a good job on WCBS FM in New York.

Well, Peter Asher is right up there with the best of them.  His "threads" (his name for what Murray the K called segues) were a grab bag of fun.   He played Manfred Mann - their "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" (written by Ellie Greenwich - who produced my group The Other Voices with Mike Rashkow in the late 1960s) - because Peter wanted to play a record he produced with Manfred Mann's lead singer, Paul Jones, which was the first record that Asher ever produced.   On this record was Paul McCartney on drums, which lead to Asher playing "Back in the USSR", which also segued from Linda Ronstadt's "Back in the USA" (a Chuck Berry song) which Asher produced and also played on his show.

The interconnections of records and artists are a vibrant labyrinth begging for explication and demonstration on radio.   Every record and artist has a life story that draws upon and pollinates others.  Manfred Mann, for example, is a band that recorded not only an Ellie Greenwich song, but Dylan and Springsteen songs as well.   Peter Asher has lived through and helped construct some fascinating parts of this - his show is another reason to listen to the Beatles Channel, which may be the best thing on radio since the Swinging Soiree.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces

Among Rob Sheffield's many talents as a Beatles journalist - not historian, because, as Sheffield convincingly demonstrates, the Beatles are far more important today then when they were writing and recording as a band, which back then was extraordinarily important indeed - but among the delightful ways Sheffield makes his case is by fashioning his arguments from the Beatles' lyrics, so deftly that you don't even want a quote.  Talking about John Lennon's unquenchable need to make a girl care, to make her "feel something," Sheffield concludes "Because if he doesn't reach her, the song is worthless and so is he.  It's a love that lasts forever, it's a love that has no past".

And what that does, of course, is bring in the music and Lennon's voice in "Don't Let Me Down" as irresistible and utterly convincing accompaniment to Sheffield's point.

And that's just one example of many.  And I've only just finished the first chapter (or perhaps the second, if you count a Prelude as a proper chapter).

But what Sheffield's literally lyrical mode of discourse also does is support the very thesis he's making in this remarkable book as a whole: that the Beatles, like the love Lennon is singing about, will indeed last forever.   Evidence of this ticket to eternity is that the words of the Beatles are now so fully in our psyches that they don't require quotes.

But they do have a past.   As Sheffield explains, the Beatles invented all kinds of things - the totally self-contained band,  or one that not only plays its own instruments and sings, but writes its own songs, and the band that constantly re-invented itself, using its success as a platform to create new kinds of music which all but replaced rather than built upon their earlier successes.

We (I was born in 1947) knew this at the time - we were well aware of what rock music was like before the Beatles, when groups stayed with the genre that propelled them to fame, and most singers did not write their own songs.  (Roy Orbison did, but his music, though sublime, barely evolved. Buddy Holly sometimes did, but tragically didn't live long enough to evolve.)

The other theme in this first chapter is the preeminence of girls in the Beatles' story - not just as the essence of whom the Beatles most wanted to impress (or, Paul and John, anyway), but in the sheer variety of girls/women who appear in Beatles' songs.  "Does the 'Martha My Dear' girl fall in love with the boy?  Or does she leave him like the 'For No One' girl does?  Does the 'Ticket to Ride' boy ever get her back?" (Or maybe they're all the same girl, a heroine with a thousand faces - it amounts to the same.)  (To matters even more interesting, Paul at some point famously said Martha was a canine, but when people first heard the song, no one knew that.)

Well, you get the picture - and not only that.  Sheffield also sees part of the very persona of The Beatles as feminine - after all, look at their long hair.

Hey, I gotta end this now.  We'll be off to the Cape tomorrow.  But I'll be driving with The Beatles channel on.   And the next part of this review will be written just a few feet from the shoreline. Which should work out well, seeing as I heard the Beachboy-Chuck Berry-inspired "Back in the USSR" for the first time in years today.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair

I've always loved The Beatles.  First as a fan, always as a fan.  How much as a fan? Well, I was delighted to find a subscription to Sirius/XM  Radio in my new car, early this month, and I promptly tuned it to MSNBC. Until The Beatles channel checked in on May 18, and that's what I listen to when I'm driving now.  Even when I'm not driving - I just came in from my driveway, because I wanted to hear the end of "Baby You Can Drive My Car".  I'd probably still be there, if the urge to write this review had not been so strong.

Yeah, writing soon blended into my love of The Beatles.  First as a singer and songwriter, in the early 1960s through the early 1970s, and then as a writer of nonfiction and about two decades later of science fiction.  My first published article - "A Vote for McCartney" in The Village Voice in 1971 - took on the Voice's dyspeptic, tone-deaf critic Robert Christgau. who had savaged Paul's debut solo album, McCartney.  (Christgau had a habit of missing the forest - at some point, he also lashed out at Phil Ochs, a lyricist second only to Dylan, for his guitar playing).   My Loose Ends Saga - arguably my best-known science fiction (arguable in the sense that many people deny it) - has a time traveler faced with the choice of either saving John Lennon or stopping September 11.

So, I was primed to read Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World since 1963, but my son Simon, who edited at Rolling Stone and knows Sheffield, pushed me over the top this weekend when I was raving about The Beatles station.   My wife had already purchased the hardcover and the audiobook, and I knew I would love it - a perfect accompaniment to my own continuing love story with The Beatles.

Sheffield is a masterful writer on all kinds of levels.  He has a knack for spot-on record reviews in less than a sentence - noting "the brash aggression of 'And Your Bird Can Sing'" and "the hair-curling harmonies of 'I Don't Wanna Spoil the Party'".  He has an assumption that The Beatles were and are in a class by themselves, which, though it may seem obvious to true-believers, Sheffield turns into a galvanizing and even surprising organizing principle.  He has a photographic, watercolor eye, describing how Ringo's wife Maureen was  "freezing her ass off" on the roof in the Get Back concert in a way that makes you want to grab your coat and get your hat on a hot Spring day.

There's so much in this book, in fact, that I decided after reading just the first 11 pages, that it warranted more than a single review.  After all, The Beatles were and are about songs, which is a short form, but even if not, who says a book has to be reviewed all at once, in one big review?   So consider what you've been reading here as an introductory review, of just the Prelude and part of the next chapter of the book, and I'll be back with more, soon.   I'll likely have the whole book reviewed in the next weeks, maybe the next months.  It probably won't take years, but you never know.  (See my series of reviews of The Perversity of Things as an example of another series of reviews in progress.)

And that's it for now.  Get the book. (I'm sure I'll disagree with some of Sheffield's views but I disagree with some of everyone's except mine, and even I change my mind.)  I'm going to watch a little of MSNBC, and then get back in the car.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 1.1-2: Superluminal Sans Cherry Pie

Twin Peaks was back - therefore also known as Twin Peaks: The Return - last night with the two first episodes of some new seasons on Showtime.   I enjoyed it. But - well, it's a strange and tough narrative to enjoy.

Here's my story about the story so far - that is, the return, and how it relates, after the first two episodes, to the original two seasons (and, for that matter, to the subsequent movie, which was actually a prequel):

Twin Peaks started out as an idiosyncratic, remarkably good, just slightly absurdist whodunnit, as FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who loves a good cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie, investigates the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, who turned out to have been leading a double life.  There were lots of suspects and bizarre characters and intricate plots, which are resolved - if you can call it that - by a shift into a supernatural, science fictional, insano world of lodges in other dimensions, time rollbacks, doppelgängers (a literal double life) and all kinds of spirits with no real interest in coffee or cherry pie.

Twin Peaks: The Return starts out in and on this superluminal plane (I take faster than light to be the beginning of impossible dark fantasy), and sprinkles in a murder or two just to keep the story's feet on the whodunnit ground.  But this return has little of the detective mystery that drove so much of the original.   Good Agent Cooper is almost completely within the Black Lodge.  He's kissed and whispered to by Laura Palmer, who realizes she's dead, even though she like Cooper look and are 25 years older.  The doppelgänger bad Cooper is mixed up in some kind of criminal business, but the essential point, as told to good Cooper in the Black Lodge, is that he can't get out until the bad Cooper returns, which he has no intention of doing.

My favorite thread was actually a science fiction sub-story right out of the 1950s, which features a young couple about to make love, with the guy taking his eyes off an extra-dimensional device he's supposed to watch (he doesn't know it's extra-dimensional) with dire results for the amorous couple. I especially liked this not only because I was brought up on clunky 1950s science fiction on the screen, but because I'm pretty sure I was actually in a room much like this one myself, when Bill McClane was interviewing me for his 2002 documentary, "The Evolution of Science Fiction" (though it may have been his 2014-2015 "How to Survive the End of the World" series).  I'm not kidding, see the IMDb listings for Evolution and End).

So you get the idea.  If you like Lynch at his Dadaist best - which gave flavor and edge to his Blue Velvet (whose "In Dreams" sequence is one of my all-time favorite scenes in any movie, period), Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive - you'll find it in spades, as almost the complete mind-bending story, in Twin Peaks: The Return.  At least, insofar as the first two episodes.

And I'll be back with more next week.


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12 Monkeys 3.8-10: "Up at the Ritz"

The concluding three episodes of the penultimate season 3 of 12 Monkeys on the SyFy channel tonight - soon to be rebranded in all caps - was as good as the first seven, which is to say, superb indeed, and you can put that in all caps any time.

Jennifer's best line, among many: "fate's a real bitch, rarely puts you up at the Ritz". I've never been to the Ritz, so I can't exactly confirm that, but as for 12 Monkeys, it left us mesmerized, at loose ends, at loggerheads of impossible logic - or, exactly where we want to be for the next and final season in 2018.

This was mostly the story of Ethan Cole, aka the Witness, except, in a nice twist at the end, it turns out he's not the Witness after all.  He witnessed a lot, as he says, but the evil Witness with a capital W is Olivia. Locked up like Irina Derevko in Alias for a lot of this season, Olivia turns out to be even more powerful and sinister than Irina - or Ethan.  And Jennifer called it, or almost, or slightly, did.

Ethan's story was well played and told, and another version of Anakin becoming Darth, because he lost his beloved Padme.  Except, since this is time travel, Ethan tries hundreds of times to save her, in a heart-rending rendition of you can't change fate (which is one kind of fine, classic time travel story).

And the kicker is, although he says he's going to destroy the world as a result of his loss, his parents and/or his innate goodness means he won't, and he instead sacrifices himself to be killed by Olivia.

Except - this is time travel, so who is really dead?  Well, apparently the woman Ethan loved, but does this apply to Ethan to?  (Hey, I'm not even sure it applies to Ranmse.)  Ethan has a lot on his side for the final season, including now Jones back on the same side as Cassie and James, and of course the peerless, timeless Jennifer.

12 Monkeys started out in its first two season as often excellent, but sometimes meandering and too complex for its own good.  In its third season, it has really found itself, and is well on its way to being a masterpiece of a television series.

And I'll see you back here with more reviews of 12 Monkeys, next year.

See also 12 Monkey's 3.1-4: "The Smart Ones Do" ... 12 Monkeys 3.5-7: "A Thing for Asimov"

And see also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time ... 12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story ... 12 Monkeys 2.6: "'Tis Death Is Dead" ... 12 Monkeys 2.7: Ultimate Universes ... 12 Monkeys 2.8: Time Itself Wants Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 2.9: Hands On ... 12 Monkeys 2.10: The Drugging ... 12 Monkeys 2.11: Teleportation ... 12 Monkeys 2.12: The Best and the Worst of Time(s) ... 12 Monkeys 2.13: Psychedelic -> Whole City Time Travel

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

12 Monkeys 3.5-7: "A Thing for Asimov"

A superb, punching, philosophic triad of episodes 3.5-7 of 12 Monkeys tonight, with Jennifer's most memorable line being (back in 1953) "a thing for Asimov".  This has almost nothing to do with the story, but it's meta-beautiful, since Asimov's The End of Eternity - from around three  years in the future, in 1956 - has always been, to my mind, at least, since the day I first read it back in 1959, the best single time travel novel ever written.

But there were other great lines in tonight's three episodes - epitomized by Cole's musing "sometimes I think we're just stuck in a loop, creating the problems we're trying to solve," and Cassie's "we don't get to change the past and keep the future".

Cole thinks the only way out of this is to kill the Witness, their son.  Cassie wants to find a way to break out of the loop by somehow saving their son and the human species from the fate they all can see.  She wants it all - the planet saved as well as their family.   And in a great blow for optimism, she convinces Cole, who's better than Ramse.  Cole's convinced when he looks into his son's eyes - Ethan's.   And though Ethan's off somewhere in time with his protector, it was good to see Cole and Cassie on the same page at the end  - as they were last night.

Unfortunately, they have a new set of enemies - Jones and Deacon.  So we now have three forces in mortal conflict with each other - the insane religious zealots, Jones and what's left of her forces, and Cole and Cassie.  Jennifer's on their side, but I'd bet on them anyway.

Two nice, relatively minor but significant additional touches in the story.  Agent Gale back on the case in 1953, and Cassie (and Cole) warning him of his death in 1960s Berlin.  It's a great move, and an example of Cassie trying to change history.  And the scene between Cassie and her mother was pure gold, too.

This season is very different and very much better in some crucial ways than the first two.  Many more nose bleeds, as our main characters get their pasts changed, and the ability to time travel without that big, glubby, Frankenstein-monster lab in Jones's facility.

And I'll be back with more tomorrow.

See also 12 Monkey's 3.1-4: "The Smart Ones Do"

And see also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time ... 12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story ... 12 Monkeys 2.6: "'Tis Death Is Dead" ... 12 Monkeys 2.7: Ultimate Universes ... 12 Monkeys 2.8: Time Itself Wants Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 2.9: Hands On ... 12 Monkeys 2.10: The Drugging ... 12 Monkeys 2.11: Teleportation ... 12 Monkeys 2.12: The Best and the Worst of Time(s) ... 12 Monkeys 2.13: Psychedelic -> Whole City Time Travel

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

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12 Monkeys 3.1-4: "The Smart Ones Do"

12 Monkeys returned tonight with the first four episodes of its third season, and they were superb indeed - in fact the best episodes in the series so far.

As usual, Jennifer has the best lines.  In response to the impresario in 1920s Paris who advises Jennifer that "no one understands time travel," an explanation for the small audience for her time-travel performance on stage, Jennifer replies that "the smart ones do".

And although this is self-serving - for me, you, Jennifer, everyone who understands and enjoys time travel (not to mention writes it) - her statement is true indeed, and applies abundantly to 12 Monkeys.   Jennifer is the very embodiment of that old truth that in crazy times, the crazy person might be the most sane - which Robert De Niro's character in The Deer Hunter also exemplified - and Jennifer's one step ahead in just about all the crucial junctures in 12 Monkeys.

Which is why she senses that Olivia is up to something no good  - or deadly, for the people Jennifer cares about - when Olivia spits out a plan to kill the Witness, after being locked up in a room with rats as per Ramse's instruction.

Jennifer, of course, can't literally see into the future - her correct sense of foreboding of what Olivia and Ramse are planning is just that, foreboding, and based on her unerring instinct and often razor-sharp logic.  So Jennifer can't literally see what Ramse is putting into motion.

And I gotta say, about Ramse, that although his motives were understandable, I didn't like what he had become, anyway.   I know he's tortured about having to kill his son - but he shouldn't have killed him. And he kills an innocent doctor in his attempt to kill Cassie, and would have killed her, too.  Cole had no choice but to kill him.  It was a sad scene, but Ramse for the most part deserved it.

And it was good to see Cole and Cassie together at the end.  I'm with Jones and the way she was smiling when she saw that.   Four fine episodes, and I'll be back with a review of what's up on the screen later tomorrow.

See also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time ... 12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story ... 12 Monkeys 2.6: "'Tis Death Is Dead" ... 12 Monkeys 2.7: Ultimate Universes ... 12 Monkeys 2.8: Time Itself Wants Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 2.9: Hands On ... 12 Monkeys 2.10: The Drugging ... 12 Monkeys 2.11: Teleportation ... 12 Monkeys 2.12: The Best and the Worst of Time(s) ... 12 Monkeys 2.13: Psychedelic -> Whole City Time Travel

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

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