• Yellowjackets season 2: flitting through time

    Yellowjackets season 2: flitting through time

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

    Yellowjackets is a series that focuses on a New Jersey girls’ soccer team who struggle to survive the aftermath of a 1996 plane crash and how those survivors are still processing their trauma twenty-five years later. Season two has a two-month time jump, where in the past, the survivors are dealing with depleting food and a frozen Jackie (Ella Purnell) while Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) is slowly getting crazier by the day. In the present scenes, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is focused on hiding her indiscretion, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is a newly elected state senator while Misty (Christina Ricci) is seemingly isolated from the rest of the group. 

    Picking up in season two, all the adult versions of the survivors are separated. Each woman has their own issues and priorities, though it is only Shauna’s turmoil that does not link to her past. The first episode, titled “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” felt more like a reintroduction of the series than a follow-on, with the addition of introducing another timeline, which is best described as a sort of halfway point. While it is interesting to see glimpses of the survivors shortly after they have been rescued, the constant time jumps into three different times made the episode a bit disorienting. It was clearly supposed to be a Lottie (Courtney Eaton)-centred episode, but it doesn’t quite flow into adult Lottie (going by Charlotte and played by Simone Kessell) and her healing cult. Out of the two given for review, this episode was the most disappointing. Lottie, however, does not disappoint as we are introduced to the adult Lottie. Like her younger counterpart, there is much more to Lottie and more buried under the surface of the healer.

    Simone Kessell as Lottie in YELLOWJACKETS, “Edible Complex\’. Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

    Throughout season one of Yellowjackets, it felt as if the show was tiptoeing around the horror aspect, teasing what will happen and leaving you hungry for more and the second episode of the new season delivers on that with promise of more. It does not discount the wonderful writing and acting of season one, but “Edible Complex” does not hide away from the more definitive horror aspect of the show. In a sickening final scene, viewers will be torn between looking away from the screen and hugely appreciating the brilliant writing and outstanding acting that the younger cast deliver. It is beautifully shot, mixing fantasy and reality in quick cuts that ramp up the horror of what the teens have done and showcasing how wild they have become in order to survive. The build up has helped this. Since the first season, cannibalism has been hinted it but now that the feast has begun, there seems to be much more to fear given that the ritualistic element of it has not yet been established. One thing is clear: Misty and Walter (Elijah Wood) are on course to steal this show. From their brief interactions, their dynamic adds some much-needed levity to the show. There interactions, although brief, make for some of the best moments of the series that add a comedic yet sinister undertone. Despite the two not physically working together yet, their partnership online is already a fan favourite that leaves you eager for more. Ricci and Wood make an excellent duo and will undoubtably be a force to be reckoned with.

    Yellowjackets season two has many good moments, but unfortunately, some things are yet to make sense. Lottie’s cult and just exactly what happens there have yet to be revealed. While Older Lottie offers a new, interesting dynamic, it’s almost ruined by Nat (portrayed by Sophie Thatcher as a teenager and Juliette Lewis as an adult). Thatcher and Lewis have vastly different styles of acting, and while Lewis portrays Nat’s complicated world, Thatcher seems to be focused on acting loopy and untrusting of everyone. Her focus is still Travis, and the only link older and younger Nat have is their entitlement over Travis (portrayed by Kevin Alves as a teenager and Andres Soto as an adult). No one can have any relationship with him, be it romantic or friendship, and it’s one of the more tiresome things to watch on the series. It comes across that both iterations of Nat dislike that Lottie more for how Travis and others turn to her in times of need rather than her. Nat is the hunter and it has already been established she saved them all in some way but it is as if she likes that role and not when someone else is perceived that way.

    (L-R): Sophie Thatcher as Teen Natalie and Kevin Alves as Teen Travis in YELLOWJACKETS, “Edible Complex\’. Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

    Overall, the first two episodes of Yellowjackets, season 2, are promising. It’s a slow build that will undoubtedly have a great payoff come the season finale, but there are still some kinks for the writers to work out. This series seems to have a lot of unreliable narrators, and while that can be enjoyable to watch, having it from multiple characters has the danger of becoming too complicated for the sake of being complicated instead of the sake of the plot. There are high hopes and expectations for the second season, and there is no doubt that the writers and performers can live up to them.

    The MVC goes to teen Shauna for being the catalyst and taking the first bite that will propel the Yellowjackets such in the wilderness into darkness.

  • Succession: Roman and Mencken

    Despite only having a few scenes together in one episode, fans of the hit HBO series Succession noticed the captivating dynamic between Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) and presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). With the fourth and final season premiering soon we thought of how this could play out as many fans have speculated. To celebrate the release, we decided to create a poster for the season featuring Roman and Mencken.

    The ten-episode season debuts SUNDAY, MARCH 26 (9:00-10:00 P.M. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max. The series, created by Jesse Armstrong, explores themes of power and family dynamics through the eyes of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four grown children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Connor (Alan Ruck).

    The sale of media conglomerate Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) moves ever closer. The prospect of this seismic sale provokes existential angst and familial division among the Roys as they anticipate what their lives will look like once the deal is complete. A power struggle ensues as the family weighs up a future where their cultural and political weight is severely curtailed. On top of this, Mencken seems to be a key player in this season as the ATN backed presidential candidate. Given how prominent Mencken featured in the trailer, it is intriguing where this plot goes.

    Created by Jesse Armstrong; executive produced by Jesse Armstrong, Adam McKay, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick, Jane Tranter, Mark Mylod, Tony Roche, Scott Ferguson, Jon Brown, Lucy Prebble, Will Tracy, and Will Ferrell. Jesse Armstrong serves as showrunner.

  • Up Here review: Falling flat

    Up Here review: Falling flat

    Rating: 1 out of 5.

    A musical romantic comedy set in New York City in the waning days of 1999, following the extraordinary story of one ordinary couple, as they fall in love – and discover that the single greatest obstacle to finding happiness together might just be themselves – and the treacherous world of memories, obsessions, fears, and fantasies that lives inside their heads. Up Here is written by Steven Levenson (tick, tick…BOOM!, Dear Evan Hansen) and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (The Carmichael Show) with song writing duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen, WandaVison) writing original songs. Given all the talent and credentials that had come together to make this show, it is incredibly disappointing. 

    Up Here is marketed as a romantic comedy, but none of its eight episodes are funny. Some of the humour with Lindsay (Mae Witman) or Miguel (Carlos Valdes) falls flat. Witman is essentially reprising her role in her 2015 movie, The Duff. Lindsay is a quirky, aspiring writer who moves to New York on the spur of the moment, abandoning her fiancé and the life she had planned. Although Lindsay is eccentric, Miguel lacks personality aside from the fact that he wants to advance in his financial career while crying as he has his first sexual encounter with Lindsay.

    Up Here — “Miguel” – Episode 102 — After an unexpected series of events leaves his plans for the future in tatters, Miguel chases after a new dream in the high stakes world of investment banking. Miguel (Carlos Valdes), Rosie (Andrea Burns), Orson (Scott Porter), and Renee (Emilia Suárez), shown. (Photo by: Sarah Shatz/Hulu)

    A romantic comedy is supposed to make you laugh at least once, but Up Here was unsuccessful with that task. The first four episodes are the same. Miguel and Lindsay meet, they spend time together, and they hate each other. The next encounter has them meet up, spend time together, and then hate each other again. It’s an endless loop for the first four episodes, and even when that cycle comes to a sudden halt, viewers will still be left annoyed.

    As a fan of musical comedies with heavy messages like Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Schmigadoon, Up Here should have checked all the boxes. Unfortunately, the show’s writers appear to be unsure of what they want from it. The idea that each character has three musical voices in their heads is intriguing, but they aren’t used effectively enough for this to work. Celeste (Sophia Hammons) and Renee (Emilia Suárez) are the only characters who can be saved from the voices in their heads, but only because of their vocal abilities. The idea of having different voices in your head, representing the worst parts of yourself, was interesting but fizzled out as the season progressed. 

    Up Here — “Lindsay” – Episode 101 — When a long forgotten dream is reawakened, Lindsay decides to leave her small life in small-town Vermont to find out who she really is and what she really wants. Lindsay (Mae Whitman), Celeste (Sophia Hammons), Joan (Katie Finneran), Tom (John Hodgman), and Ned (George Hampe), shown. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

    Witman and Valdes play the two leads and have the most musical numbers, which is unfortunate. Both of their voices are flat, and the songs are forgettable. Crazy Ex Girlfriend and even Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist demonstrate how to combine a musical comedy with serious issues, which Up Here fails to do. The vocals were some of the series’ biggest let-downs. Valdes isn’t a bad singer, but some of his songs do not suit his vocal range. Witman is clearly not a singer, as she frequently sounds as if she is straining her voice and missing notes. Perhaps the show could have benefited from a little more autotune. 

    The comedic aspect of Up Here also does not meet the basic criteria of being funny. Witman’s comedy is clearly quirky, something that had worked in The Duff, but it does not transition well to her roles that are past the teenage plot line. When Up Here tries to do the odd joke, it’s usually done in song form. It’s hard to tell if the comedic aspect of the show is the majority of actors failing to hit their notes. 

    Up Here — “Signs” – Episode 103 — As she takes the next steps in her creative journey, Lindsay is sent in search of answers to a vexing question, while Miguel grapples with an impossible task of his own. Celeste (Sophia Hammons), Joan (Katie Finneran), Lindsay (Mae Whitman), and Tom (John Hodgman), shown. (Photo by: Sarah Shatz/Hulu)

    Overall, Up Here seems to be having an identity crisis with its own narrative and aim. The show could have been so much more, but instead it went with the cliché of a lost woman going to New York City to find herself but realizing it’s harder than she imagined. There is no truly likeable character, and if the songs were good enough, they could have made up for a lot of issues.

    We normally give an MVC to celebrate a stand-out character but there is not one character or performance that is worthy. The main characters are too and boring to have the title defaulted.

  • Shadow and Bone season 2 review: Saved by Crows

    Rating: 4 out of 5.

    Season two of Shadow and Bone opens with Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and Malyen ‘Mal’ Oretsev (Archie Renaux) on the run. Alina is a beacon of hope to some, a bounty, and a suspected traitor to others, but she is determined to bring down the Shadow Fold and save Ravka from ruin. General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) aka The Darkling has returned to finish what he started, but now that he is backed by a terrifying new army of seemingly indestructible monsters and bloodthirsty new Grisha recruits, Kirigan is more dangerous than ever. To stand a fighting chance against him, Alina and Mal must rally their own powerful new allies in the form of Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) and his seconds-in-command, Tolya Yul-Bataar (Lewis Tan) and Tamar Kir-Bataar (Anna Leong Brophy), as they search for the remaining two mythical amplifiers that will grant Alina the power to tear down the Shadow Fold forever.

    Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and his loyal crows, Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) and Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), face old rivalries and grudges in Ketterdamn that threaten not only their place in the barrel but their very lives. When a deadly heist opportunity presents itself, the Crows find themselves on a collision course with the Sun Summoner, forging new alliances with Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Wylan Hendriks (Jack Wolfe).

    Shadow and Bone. (L to R) Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Jack Wolfe as Wylan in episode 201 of Shadow and Bone. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

    This Shadow and Bone season could be divided into two parts: Crow’s and Sun Summoner’s. While their stories do intersect, it’s clear that the writers intended for the first half of the season to focus heavily on The Crows, with the remaining four episodes focusing primarily on Alina’s story and objectives. Shifting the focus slightly so that another book takes centre stage isn’t a bad idea, but the first few episodes are the strongest in terms of tempo and narrative of the entire series. While Alina’s story can feel a little stagnant at times in the beginning, The Crows’ gritty story will keep you entertained for the first half of the season. When The Crows arc takes a step back, Nikolai becomes more of a focus, and despite the doubts raised in the first episode about Patrick Gibson’s performance, Nikolai becomes one of the series’ best, most enigmatic, and empathetic characters.

    There are two characters who not only fit their roles perfectly, but also give them new life. Nikolai is the charismatic prince with an innovative streak, but he is the only one who never says Alina needs saving; he sees her strength and never expects her to change or mould herself to his desires. The ending of the series with Nikolai and Alina has changed, but it is a change that makes perfect sense and will keep the two together past Alina’s book counterpart and weave together to complete the King of Scars duology.

    Shadow and Bone. Patrick Gibson as Sturhmond in episode 201 of Shadow and Bone. Cr. Netflix © 2022

    Wylan is another fantastic addition. He is charming in a shy way, but despite difficulties, he is firm in his values. Although he can appear meek, he is a force to be reckoned with, and it is no surprise that Kaz saw value in his abilities. Wolfe plays Wylan as if he were plucked from the page and has chemistry with each character in different ways. Nina Zenik and Wylan Hendriks are two new characters in The Crow’s story, and their scenes will make book fans fall even more in love with them. Nina is one of the few characters who calls Kaz out on his unfeeling behaviour, which is refreshing to see. Wylan is a sweet young man who is hesitant to enter Kaz’s world. Both prove their worth in the Barrell’s harsh, unforgiving world. Jesper and Nina are just as brilliant this season as they were in the show’s first season. While they have their serious moments, they also bring levity to the world of Ketterdamn, making fans of both the show and the book smile with their one-liners and comedic timing.

    With new Crows characters and so many personalities, each team has a fascinating dynamic, each offering something new and refreshing to the series. Kaz and Nina have some of the best scenes in the series, and everyone will enjoy them. With new heroes come new villains who highlight each of the crows’ flaws, as orchestrated by Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly). Pekka, as the leader of another gang, is like Kaz’s shadow. He is smarter than Kaz, with more experience and tricks up his sleeve, the most important of which is how to identify and exploit a person’s weakness, as well as how to best force someone into a situation where he has complete control. Scenes between Carter and Kelly are fascinating to watch as the vitriol between them oozes in pure hatred that captivates in a nine-minute scene in episode four, which is the standout of the season.

    Shadow and Bone. (L to R) Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev, Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in episode 202 of Shadow and Bone. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

    A big improvement from Alina’s arc, from both season one and her books, is her agency. Alina does not cower or depend on Mal as she does in the books; instead, she takes the lead. She is a hardened character, burdened by power and the choices others have made. While the first part of this season stagnates, Alina and Nikolai’s chemistry propels everything forward with ease as the two naturally find strength in each other. While the Darkling and Mal insist she needs others to protect her, Nikolai understands Alina as a person and does not belittle or begrudge her talents. Another character shift is Mal, who is no longer driven by his jealousy of The Darkling. It is a refreshing, yet sometimes fleeting, change. When Mal is not focused on his relationship with Alina, Renaux delivers a much-improved performance. There is even a moment when Mal wants to find his own purpose outside of Alina, which is a huge deviation from the books. Some fans of the book may struggle with it, but it makes sense after watching the series.

    This season is not without flaws, some of which appear to be due to poor casting. Tolya is supposed to be an important member of Nikolai’s entourage, but that doesn’t pan out. Aside from the extended (and sometimes dragged out) fight scenes, Tolya spends the majority of his time telling others how much he loves poetry, and it appears that this is all Lewis Tan could bring out in the character. It’s as if the actor is looking directly at the audience and saying, “He likes poetry; do you get it?” with no substance in his performance or delivery. Despite being a book powerhouse, Tolya is forgettable no matter who he is paired with and can never make the most of his opportunities. Tamar, Tolya’s twin sister, is not in the same boat. Tamar is an important part of Alina’s story in the Netflix series and is fascinating to watch as she explores various aspects of Tamar. The twins would have been the series’ biggest let down if Anna Leong Brophy hadn’t transformed them from the fierce Grisha to those with hope for a better future. Tamar, with her charisma and ability to make the role fun and memorable, is enough to carry the twins’ plotline for both of them.

    Despite the pacing issues, season two of Shadow and Bone is an excellent sequel and adaptation. The second series delves deeper into the world beyond Ravka and Ketterdamn, with hints of a very cold place that will pose a major problem for all of our favourite characters. Unfortunately, some characters, such as Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta), are unnecessary in this second series. Zoya is lost in the sprawling plot, and attempts to cram her into different stories don’t help. Another new character is tidemaker Fruzsi (Rachael Redford), but her over-the-top acting and poorly delivered lines leave a lot to be desired. With previous beloved characters such as Ivan (Simon Seas) and Fedyor (Julian Kostov) missing, new additions such as Fruzsi seem out of place and raise the question of why those characters, who were far more interesting, did not return despite their fates being left open at the end of season one.

    The Crows are the series’ strongest team, especially with the villain Pekka Rollins, who steals the show alongside Genya (Daisy Head). Daisy Head gives a layered and devastating performance as Genya heals from her trauma, confronts those who persecuted her and are responsible for her pain. Despite not being the lead character, Genya proves to have a leading role, and she could easily have led the season thanks to a powerful performance and excellent writing for her character. Both have fewer scenes, but their performances will stick with viewers for different but positive reasons.

    Shadow and Bone. Ben Barnes as General Kirigan in episode 203 of Shadow and Bone. Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2022

    The MVC normally goes to one character that has been the most valuable to the series but after careful consideration we give that to the crows. Each member of the gang brings new life to the series and carries it through to new levels. Every performance is memorable and exceptional with great chemistry between every member no matter the circumstance. 

  • The Last of Us episode 9 review:  Everything you have hoped for

    The Last of Us episode 9 review:  Everything you have hoped for

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    The last episode of the season proves to be the best in HBO’s adaptation of the hit PlayStation game – and, despite the runtime, delivers a perfect adaptation while expanding on an already known and beloved story. The episode opens with a flashback of pregnant Anna Williams (Ashley Johnson) in distress, fleeing one of the infected looking for help but unable to find it. Like her daughter, she protects herself, but at a cost.

    Anna (Ashley Johnson) in HBOs The Last of Us

    Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is the protagonist of the story, and her immunity moves the story forward. The scenes dive deeply into her character by exposing how she came into the world. We see the same fierceness in Anna that we have seen in Ellie throughout the previous eight episodes. They share a fighting fierceness faced with choices that shape the people around them and are excellently, heart-breaking performed by Ashley Johnson. The creators of the series found a way to include voice actors from the game, and it seems perfect that Johnson, once again, brings Ellie into the world. With that expansion of Anna, there is a closer look at Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and their relationship to explain why she is over-protective with Ellie and would prefer her in the safety of FEDRA rather than the unpredictable and dangerous fight of the Fireflies. Yet when Marlene first encounters Ellie, she is grief-stricken at the revelation that her closest friend is soon to die. Johnson and Dandridge give weighted emotive performances as their characters, calling on their relationship for Marlene to mercy-kill her oldest friend. Marlene is not the hardened leader we have come to know thus far – as she struggles with Anna’s request but once that request is filled, we get a glimpse at the Firefly leader she comes to be that cuts straight to present day Ellie as she struggles with the weight of recent events.

    Ellie is struggling with the events of the previous episode, but in that struggle, we see Joel (Pedro Pascal) do everything he possibly can to provide some levity to her, some enjoyment. The series was never about the infected, but about Joel and Ellie’s journey. The final episode shows how close the two have become, and how much they care for one another. We sense a universal story about humanity and survival, about a found family, and exploring the lengths we go for the people we care about most when facing immense loss. Performances from Bella Ramsey have been exceptionally nuanced and delivered perfectly at every moment, with the final episode highlighting even more of their range. Ellie is stoic, withdrawn and not the feisty character we have all come to know and love. There is a moment of peace – we join in her serenity and joy – as Ellie sees a giraffe and feeds it with Joel looking on, smiling, at the person he is closest to. The way he cares for her and watches over is a treat to watch as they talk about what happens, and Joel gives Ellie another choice: to forget the cure and just live. Consistently, Joel has given Ellie a choice – an important decision that makes his own choices all the more impactful when the episode climaxes and reaches its end.

    Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in HBOs The Last of Us

    With any adaptation there are changes and cuts. There is no watery action sequence with the two heroes rescued by Fireflies instead making way for a quick confrontation – but before that, Joel opens to Ellie in the most vulnerable way, disclosing a suicide attempt on the second day of the Cordyceps outbreak. There have been some complaints about the TV adaptation “softening” Joel, but what those viewers forget is emotional strength is just as impactful as physical. With Pedro Pascal there has been a deeper Joel shown; he is just as traumatised as his game counterpart and just as strong. Showing his emotional scars makes for a stronger performance; we see Joel’s trauma and how he has lived with it, but we see him heal and seek support from Ellie and opening up to Tommy. When Joel discloses his suicide attempt, it is awkward between him and Ellie, but ultimately proves the depth of their bond and how far the two have come. The two have a connection, and Joel discloses that he tried to kill himself. Although it is unspoken between them, Ellie knows why he is telling her. Showing the emotion before the strength makes for a great payoff when we see Joel become the protector for Ellie.

    We’ve seen glimpses of Joel’s brutality from the onset of the series when he beat up a FEDRA officer, killing one of Kathleen’s men. On top of that, we have seen his strength when he fought to find Ellie in the previous episode against David’s men – several testaments to his strength throughout the season, alongside the trauma. This episode sees Joel unleash all of that anger, all of that trauma, combined with one goal: to protect Ellie. In what is one of the most satisfying scenes of the entire series – Joel charging through the hallway and decimating the Firefly soldiers. Accompanying Pedro Pascal’s cold, determined, and angered Joel is one of the best pieces of music. Nothing stops him, and he does not hesitate to gun down anyone. The score accompanied by Gustavo Santaolall captures the mood and heightens the icy viciousness of Joel in that moment as The Last of Us (Vengeance) plays over the haunting montage until he finds Ellie in the operating room and does what it takes, again, to save her life.

    Joel (Pedro Pascal) in HBOs The Last of Us

    The entire series of The Last of Us is a masterful example of how to treat a beloved source material with respect and adapt it to deepen and expand the story. Despite its short run time, Episode 9 delivers the emotion and violence that hooked people to the first game and will leave game fans thrilled at a marvellous adaptation – and new fans eager to find out what happens in Season 2. 

    The MVC for this episode is Joel for a complex performance by Pedro Pascal. He creates a vulnerable Joel that is unafraid to show emotion and pain but showcasing the violence, he will go to protect the people that he cares for. The MVC for the series is awarded to Ellie. Not only does Bella Ramsey capture the essence of the video game counterpart but they make the role their own, showcasing an immeasurable amount of talent that makes them perfect for Ellie and showing off their journey.

  • Ted Lasso season 3 review: A successful hat trick

    Ted Lasso season 3 review: A successful hat trick

    Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

    AFC Richmond faces ridicule as media predictions peg them as last in the Premier League. With Nate (Nick Mohammed) hailed as the “wonder kid,” and working for Richmond nemesis Rupert (Anthony Head) at West Ham, the two teams could not be more different. Roy (Brett Goldstein) steps up as assistant coach alongside Beard (Brendan Hunt) while Ted (Jason Sudeikis) wrestles with pressure from work and issues at home. Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is more focused than ever with a drive to defeat Rupert in every area and Keeley (Juno Temple) navigates the professional world of being her own boss. Things are chaotic for Richmond but Ted’s infectious positivity remains to be a driving force for the team and the series. 

    Ted is now more familiar with English football but the humour of him not knowing who a world-famous player is falls flat. It may have been a funny anecdote in the first season, but is now a tired joke which begs the question that Ted has raised himself: what is he still doing in London? If not, is he unwilling to learn, or just that clueless? As a football fan, Ted’s desire to win everything instantly makes you think of Jurgen Klopp winning everything at Liverpool. While this isn’t a documentary, it raises some eyebrows that he still does not know and coach Beard does.

    Roy (Brett Goldstein), Beard (Brendan Hund) and Ted (Jason Sudeikis). Image credit Apple.

    The third season opens with Ted at the lowest point in his life. He is dishevelled in his physical appearance with his apartment matching, struggling with his son going back to America and feeling lost in his role within the club- even wondering why he is still in London. Only when his son leaves and he must go back to work does Ted clean himself up and put on a brave face for the team. Season two added some sorrow and complexity to the sitcom that carries over as Ted shares with the press about his panic attacks and uses it as a source of light and humour, adding more to his infectious positivity and leaving hope that he is embracing his anxiety instead of smiling it away or ignoring it. As a football series, it is inaccurate, but you can’t help but forgive that in favour of Ted’s attitude and charm.  

    The humour remains at the start of the third season with Jamie Tarrt (Phil Dunster) carrying a lot as he grapples with his place in the team but is determined to get back to top spot with Roy as his coach. The two share some great comedic moments but also some touching ones as they bond. 

    The worst part of the series so far is the mentions of Roy and Keeley’s relationship. It feels like too much when Ted’s relationship breakdown is so front and centre of his arc, but is a relief when it switches to Roy taking on more of a mentor role with Jamie. 

    Jamie (Phil Dunster). Image credit Apple.

    Speaking of Ted’s relationship drama… given Sudeikis’s role as co-creator and the news about his drama filled breakup with Olivia Wilde, it could be a little telling that Ted’s main focus of the season is not the rivalry with West Ham but focusing on his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, not focusing on the game but obsessing over the new man in her life. It may be a coincidence, but the timing is particularly interesting and a little distracting given how dominant that storyline is instead of football.

    The rivalry with West Ham from Rebecca and Rupert is one of the most interesting aspects of the season. Rebecca truly takes control, is ruthless but fair in her desire to beat Rupert that is matched with a great performance by Waddingham making Rebecca one of the strongest characters of the season. Nat remains one of the most irritating and nasty characters on TV, but a credit to Nick Mohammed for making him so easy to hate and root for his downfall. While West Ham and Nate resort to below-the-belt personal attacks and snubs, Ted and Richmond keep their dignity and prove that sometimes the nice guy can win, just not all the time.

    While the season can take a minute to get going, Sudeikis remains the heart and soul of the series with his awful but smile-inducing dad jokes, rhymes and puns remains a staple in creating his charm and positivity. There is one moment when morale is low in the team where Ted takes them down a sewer that feels like a reach but enjoyable nonetheless but helps set the tone for the series. Draw on each other when in need and Ted starts to do that. Some characters feel lost such as Keeley whose scenes so far have been the most uninteresting and disconnected but with promise to improve with the addition of Jack (Jodi Balfour). For the rest of the season, the hope is that the rivalry with West Ham takes more of a centre position instead of remaining on the bench, but it is a strong start to the season with some fun moments.. 

    Nate (Nick Mohammad), Rupert (Anthony Head) and Ted (Jason Sudeikis). Image credit Apple.

    Ted Lasso is the MVC as his infectious optimism during his internal crisis and growing pressure of the season makes you want a real-life Ted in your life. Ted shows time and time again, his class and perseverance as well his compassion that make him a pleasure to watch, as usual! 

    Four episodes of season 3 were screened for review. 

    Ted Lasso season 3 premiers 15th March 2023 on Apple TV+.

  • You season 4, part 2: A Wasted Potential 

    You season 4, part 2: A Wasted Potential 

    Rating: 2 out of 5.

    In the aftermath of the murders, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) starts the second half of You season four searching for his own stalker, Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers), adapting his past stalking skills for the greater good, or so he believes. As Rhys pursues his grand ambitions, Joe is torn between his dark side and his good intentions while Kate is trying to assert her independence. The second part of You, season four, introduces more characters such as Thomas Lockwood (Greg Kinnear) and Niko Leandros (Ben Starr) into Joe’s twisted world.

    The second part of You Season Four unfortunately pales in comparison to the first part of the season. Instead of using his talents to find the Eat the Rich Killer, Joe now finds himself in a precarious position. Now that Rhys has been unmasked as the Eat the Rich Killer, Joe must decide if he is to do his stalker’s bidding or risk his wrath – at least that is his trajectory until the series loses its direction. Unfortunately, as Rhys’s motives and crimes have been revealed, the season’s main villain and motive – the first part’s arc – are lost. Instead of focusing on the fascination Rhys has with Joe, the writers have tried to shove Kate’s (played by Charlotte Ritchie) and Joe’s romantic relationship to the forefront as the focus, despite Kate despising Joe for most of the season, and this pairing feels quite forced due to their lack of any sort of chemistry and general fondness for each other for the majority of the season. Compared to past love interests (such as Love), they hated each other towards the end, but still had chemistry. Joe and Kate lack that fundamental spark that makes them interesting and compels you to root for them. 

    Ed Speleers as Rhys Montrose and Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg in You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

    One of the few things that You, Season Four, Part Two does right is Nadia (played by Amy-Leigh Hickman). She is one of the very few characters in this season that has any agency and consistent plot line, that evidently has been hinted at and has grown since the season’s inception. Hickman is compelling as the smart, empathetic character that should have been the season’s draw. In every way, Nadia is the type of woman Joe usually goes for. She is smart, compassionate and what he could deem as his equal. Kate is cold and distant – although that could be owed to the repetitive monotone delivery that Ritchie repeatedly delivers – and has spent most of the season despising Joe/Jonathan only for it to suddenly shift to talks of the future and the appearance of her father, Thomas Lockwood. Unfortunately, after rewatching the fourth season in its entirety, it’s still unclear as to why Joe is drawn to Kate in the same way he has been to his past romances.

    As the second part of Season Four concludes, one of the main problems is that there was already a large group of characters. From Lady Phoebe (Tilly Kepper), Roald (Ben Wiggins), Adam (Lukas Gage), Sophie (Niccy Lin) and Blessing (Oziomo Whenu), the only two that have storylines that carry on into the final part of this season are Lady Phoebe and Adam, but most of the new characters this season have their arcs wrapped up in an episode or two. What should have been the big kill of the season, the character that meets their untimely end woefully falls flat in its payoff. A lot of the characters are rushed, or stagnated – sadly, the writers could not find an appropriate and meaningful in-between.

    Rhys Montrose, the favourite candidate for the Mayor of London, is an interesting and complex character, played wonderfully by Speleers, but that does not continue to be the case into the second part of the fourth season. There was a subtlety in Speleers’ portrayal – but whether it be the direction or an acting choice, Rhys becomes a caricature of the interesting character we were introduced to during the first part of the season. He is an exaggerated villain, from the way he over-does his London accent to his general demeanour, reducing the big villain of this season to an almost unwatchable parody. Without heading into spoiler territory, the dynamic pairing of Joe and Rhys fizzles out quickly, and almost becomes a struggle to watch.

    Tilly Kepper as Lady Phoebe . Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

    Overall, the first part of You, Season Four is the stronger of the two parts. After watching the series in its entirety, it is baffling as to why Netflix had chosen to split this season in two, as the second part fails to live up to what I would classify as the best season of the entire series. Season Four had an interesting concept in turning the tables on Joe, but revealing Rhys so early on damaged the potential mystery and intrigue of the season. 

    The writers clearly wanted Joe to develop into a saviour, but by making him a victim of the very crime he perfected, he falls flat overall. Joe lacks any deep connection to any of the new characters introduced in Season Four, bringing into question his motives for helping people he would normally despise. There is nothing final about You Season Four, Part Two, and although the writers have anticipated and left room for one more season, there is only so much of Joe stalking a random woman that the audience can take. 

    Amy-Leigh Hickman as Nadia in You. Cr Courtesy of Netflix. © 2022

    The MVC (Most Valuable Character) for the entire fourth season of You would have to go with Nadia. She is intelligent and resourceful, and unlike most of the new cast of characters, she has more depth than the majority of them put together. Hickman’s potential is not utilized as much as it should have been as her scenes were the most gratifying to watch. 

  • The Last of Us Episode 8 Review: Deliver Your Vengeance

    The Last of Us Episode 8 Review: Deliver Your Vengeance

    Rating: 5 out of 5.

    One of the most anticipated characters in the game makes his debut. We have seen ruthless leaders led by vengeance in the form of Kathleen, and we have seen thriving communities with Maria, but now we have David (Scott Shepherd). He is calm, struggling and preaches to his flock in the harsh winter. Struggling to feed his community, David enlists James (Troy Baker) to track down some venison, but as fate would have it, he crosses paths with Ellie (Bella Ramsey) who needs antibiotics for Joel (Pedro Pascal).

    The entire ski lodge arc is covered in this episode with minimal interaction from Joel but plenty from Ellie and David. They have an interesting dynamic with David being very interested in Ellie and championing for her to remain alive throughout the episode. David is first presented as caring, likable, and very charming. Scott Shepherd does a perfect job of showcasing the many layers David hides and slowly reveals as his true nature comes to the surface. We do not get any infected in this episode; instead, David starts to earn Ellie’s trust by opening up about his past as a teacher and his struggles. The change is subtle, as he reveals to Ellie about a “Crazy Man” that killed one of his men. This moment is the only moment that falls a little flat following on from how quick Joel was injured in episode 6. It doesn’t warrant the manhunt David had authorised for Joel, but that is tweaked to match the series. Instead, it adds to David’s need for control and respect. When that is broken, we see the real David. He remains calm, and composed, but, in a dangerous mix, allows his violent side to the surface.

    David (Scott Shepherd) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in HBOs The Last of Us

    Similar to the rest of the series, the characters and story make this an exceptional episode. Not only is David a layered and fantastic character that is exquisitely performed, but the subtle moments between him and the other characters pack punches. Particularly that of James. Troy Baker is not only a master of his voice, having voiced Joel in The Last of Us games, but he adds more to James by adding a simple look than most actors. James hesitates with David. There is respect there, but mostly fear. It seems that he is one of the few people to see and know what David is truly like, further excelling this episode into one of the best in the series.

    It is no secret The Last of Us has had some pacing issues, but this episode predominantly focusing on David’s community, rectifies that. The entire episode is structured like a mini movie; we see the community and their struggles to the resolution of the episode.

    James (Troy Baker) in HBOs The Last of Us

    The fiery climax of the episode makes for some reveals that were cleverly hinted at and foreshadowed in the build-up. Most being venison and David’s true nature and his obsession with finding Ellie and wanting her at his side. He laments how the two have the same violent heart but the undertone of it is much more sadistic, specially when it comes to fruition. There is one moment in the culmination of the episode that is distributing. It is similar to the game, but with the tweaks made to David, it creates for a more menacing twist.

    In this episode, we have mostly seen David as calm, and reasonable, but the nuanced performance is excelled by Scott Shepherd, who will undoubtedly earn awards for this role. Another stand out performer is, again, Bella Ramsey particularly at the end of the episode when they deliver a heartened and heavy performance and while the focus of the episode is David and his community, Pedro Pascal will leave people in awe in yet another iconic and brutal Joel moment lifted perfectly from the game.

    David (Scott Shepherd) and his folk in HBOs The Last of Us

    This episode’s MVC goes to David. He drives the episode, delivers a superb faultless performance, particularly when we see his true nature, when he laments about the cordyceps and his admiration for them. Scott Shepherd and the direction of the character make for a layered and sinister character that is a perfect balance of charming and dangerous.

  • Evocation of Spirits: School Spirits Review

    Evocation of Spirits: School Spirits Review

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

    School Spirits focuses on Maddie Nears (Peyton List); a teen stuck in the afterlife who decides to investigate her mysterious disappearance alongside a group of other students who are also stuck in limbo at their high school. The rest of the world believes Maddie is missing, but with her spirit stuck in the place she died, her mission is to find out what happened to her.

    The show does have a light feel to it that contrasts nicely with darker moments. It is the spirits who provide levity and the living who experience the darker moments as they are wrapped in grief and the mystery of what happened. Normally, that would not go together well, but the ensemble of characters provides a mix of personality that aids Maddie’s mission, and provides the stark contrast of themes. Like Maddie, it strangely works. It is not comedic, but there is some levity to it that helps the series not take itself too seriously.

    Pictured, L-R: Xavier Baxter (Spencer McPherson), Maddie Nears (Peyton List), Rhonda (Sarah Yarkin), Claire Zolinski (Rainbow Wedell), Wally Clark (Milo Manheim), Charley (Nick Pugliese), Simon Elroy (Kristian Flores) and Nicole Herrera (Kiara Pichardo) in SCHOOL SPIRITS on PARAMOUNT+. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/Paramount+. ©2022 Paramount Global, INC. All Rights Reserved.

    From the first episode, the characters are well established and some suspects in Maddie’s murder subtly make themselves known, while other people’s suspicions add more to the list of potential murders. The performances are good, varying from the lighter side of the Spirits Support Group that help guide Maddie through her afterlife and each personality is given time to establish. Rhonda (Sarah Yarkin) has the most connection to Maddie since she was also murdered in high school but unlike everyone else, Maddie cannot remember her death, which helps progress the mystery and exploration into the characters. Rhonda is bitter and dejected from the world which contrasts to the spirit characters that are calmer or more relaxed like jock Wally (Milo Manheim), teacher Mr. Martin (Josh Zuckerman) and Maddie’s guide Charley (Nick Pugliese).

    Aside from the murder mystery, the spirits are a great addition and adds a variety to the characters and for the plot. You’ll learn how they all died and how they have come to terms with their situation in limbo as they try to move on under the guidance of Mr. Martin, but moving on is harder than you think. They have accepted their situation; some of them do so bitterly, but guide Maddie through her array of feelings. They create a contrast to Maddie’s still alive friends who struggle with her disappearance and believe her to be dead. Particularly when Simon (Kristian Flores) becomes involved and must navigate his own grief, suddenly seeing Maddie’s spirit and trying to identify her killer.

    SCHOOL SPIRITS: “My So-Called Death”- (L-R):Kiara Pichardo as Nicole and Kristian Flores as Simon in season 1, episode 1 of the Paramount+ series SCHOOL SPIRITS. Photo Cr: Ed Araquel/Paramount +

     While repetitive, School Spirits keeps its mystery despite sticking to the same formula after the first episode. Someone is suspected, they’re investigated, they look questionable and then it can be resolved. There are times when the suspects seem very on the nose but it does provide and exploration into the mystery and characters. 

    Despite episodes feeling repetitive and performances that can be one note, there is enough of a story to keep you entertained. Peyton List delivers a varied performance and excels in the leading role. The variety of characters helps move the plot forward, but the tedious formula takes away from that.

    For the MVC, it is a tie between Maddie and Simon. Maddie is the driving force due to her murder and backstory before her life was taken with Peyton List giving an instant likeable performance. Simon has a loyalty that propels everything forward and delivers impassioned moments that add layers to the series as the characters deal with grief and loss. The friendship and bond between the two is a great addition, with the two of them focused on finding out who the killer is while navigating the spirit world and the living.

    L-R Milo Mannheim as Wally, Nick Pugliese as Charley, Peyton List as Maddie and Sarah Yarkin as Rhonda in season 1, episode 2 of the Paramount + series SCHOOL SPIRITS. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/Paramount +

    The first 3 episodes of School Spirits were screened for review. 

    School Spirits will release March 9th on Paramount Plus. 

  • The Last of Us episode 7 review: Left Behind

    The Last of Us episode 7 review: Left Behind

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

    Apart from small moments at the beginning and end of the episode, Left Behind focuses on the night Ellie got bit. It is something game fans have been longing to see with some additional moments to give more context to Ellie’s choices and the impact one night at the mall had.

    Unlike episode 3, which took the time to show Bill and Frank’s story in the world, this episode does not feel like it is building to something and feels like a filler episode meant to service game fans and the iconic DLC. If this episode had been released earlier and not after the cliff-hanger of the previous, it feels like it would have been better. It does not do anything for the story other than add some backstory to Ellie but feels misplaced when looking at the series as a whole. The episode is good and further showcases Bella Ramsey as Ellie in a different light but feels mislaid. Ellie in this episode is still the Ellie we all have come to know and love, hardened and able to hold her own, but here we see Ellie planning for her life. It has been weeks since she last saw Riley (Storm Reid) who reappears, offering Ellie the best night of her life. The two have an instant and easy chemistry, with Reid perfectly capturing Riley and making the character their own.

    Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Riley (Storm Reid) in HBOs The Last of Us

    In Riley and Ellie, we see two different aspirations from the young characters. Riley is a Firefly and proud of it, wanting to do more than be assigned to work the sewers while Ellie wants to be a FEDRA officer, wanting to be in charge of something in her life. The contrasting ideologies and how they appeal to the young characters. The similarities do not go unnoticed. Riley and Ellie both want out of their lives or more from it, and both organisations offer that for them. Throughout the series we have heard of FEDRAs oppression and brutality but it is interesting to see their recruitment is similar to the Fireflies. Recruit people young with the promise of more and for a different life, a better on. While FEDRA is brutal, we start to see the Fireflies actions and arsenal to aid their fight for liberation. 

    With any adaptation there are changes, and this episode makes some tweaks to the source material by reducing the number of infected Ellie encounters that resulted in Ellie’s bite. Bella and Storm deliver exceptional emotional weight when Ellie’s bite is revealed, and if there are still any doubters on Bella as Ellie (and if there still are it is surprising at this point) then their minds should change with this episode. Yet again, does Bella prove they are perfect for Ellie as we see Ellie as a nervous child with her first crush, dealing with the weight of the world around her and trying to plan for her life instead of fighting for it, during every episode. Riley and Ellie explore the different ideologies of the Fireflies and FEDRA giving more context to both groups, but the focus is on their relationship with each other and the bond they share.

    Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Riley (Storm Reid) in HBOs The Last of Us

    Majority of the episode is lifted almost exactly from the games flashbacks of Left Behind, but where it differs is there is no dipping in and out of past and present timelines. It feels like that would have made the episode less of a filler and provided some narrative structure as Ellie is forced to relive her past and deal with the present, but it is just a random flashback episode. This narrative does make it clear why Ellie suddenly thinks about her time with Riley as Joel lays suffering from his injuries. Showing the different time periods would have made a more cohesive ending and, in this reviewer’s opinion, ends too like the game. Ellie and Riley make a choice in the closing moments of the episode and it seems it would have been a good fit to end with Marlene and the Fireflies discovering Ellie I the past or Ellie meeting another highly anticipated character that will feature next episode but it just ends. It just felt like this episode was missing something.

    Being a huge fan of the game and the series, the vantage point of a non-gamer is often looked at for the episodes and as much as non-gamer fans will enjoy the episode, but would not be surprising if they find the placement odd, and would have preferred this backstory earlier in the story to route for Ellie more. It seems that the showrunners wanted to adapt that story and kept it too close to the game narrative by placing it after Joel’s injury but it does not translate well narratively on the screen but will still be enjoyable for all types of fans.

    Riley (Storm Reid) in HBOs The Last of Us

    As for the MCV, there are only two choices, and while Bella Ramsey is remarkable as ever, Storm Reid captures attention and delivers a natural performance and depth to Riley. The two actors work excellently together and have an easy effortless chemistry with deep layers. Riley gets the title of MVC (Most Valuable Character) as she orchestrates the entire episode and makes a fun trip to the mall.