It’s a web series for the ages. Well, at least the period of the Renaissance. Okay, to be more precise, Knights of New Jersey is a web comedy series following actors through their funny exchanges with each other, cosplayers, and visitors at the Renaissance Faire. Sometimes, these moments end in a bruised ego, in more ways than one, and the overall result presents great onscreen chemistry and an entertaining comedy that seems like a seasoned ongoing series.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas throughout the country presented members of their “Victory Club” with the opportunity to see the premiere of SyFy’s hit series, The Expanse: Season 2 on the big screen at 8 p.m./CST on Monday, January 30, 2017, followed by a short Q&A with the cast and crew live streamed from New York. Attendance was free, but to reserve a spot I had to purchase a $5 food/drink voucher that was good for anything on my local Drafthouse’s menu during the showing. The first theater filled within a few hours of the first announcement, so a second one was opened in Austin, which allowed me to snag a spot for myself and a friend.
When I first saw the ads for Riverdale, I thought, "Oh look, Glee meets Archie. I'll 100% pass on that!" Mind you, I'm a huge Archie fan. I loved all of the comics and smaller digests you'd find in line at the grocery store. (A perfect place for a last chance for a "Please! Please! Please, mom!" before checking out.
The finale of Season 2 brings emotion, action, and (some) resolution, effectively culminating the season. Episode 10 begins by creating a somber mood as the camera pans the causalities of the bombing, including a child, with sound muffled to replicate first-hand experience and shock. While the audience has likely flip-flopped loyalties and sympathies toward characters throughout this season, moments like these also create awkward sympathy for the Japanese, who have repeatedly practiced senseless acts of violence. The Nazis, the Japanese, and the Resistance are all prone toward destructive behavior, marking the inhumanity of all three groups as collective wholes. It is typically easier to relate to individual characters, but with many of them wavering in their allegiances and sentiments, there does not seem to be a constant hero figure on the show. Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) may be the most neutral character, as his actions ultimately are attempts to maintain peace rather than ignite more violence. Otherwise, the bulk of the show’s characters are plotters and killers one minute, and saviors and sympathizers the next. While this plays with audience sentiments, it also creates an edginess to the show and allows for the characters to remain unpredictable.
This season continues to take risks with parallel dimensional travel, complicating opportunities for the audience to understand how it works, who has the ability, and how it can affect other worlds. As Tagomi (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa) watches a video of the H-bomb test in alternate America, it is clear that complete devastation is possible in both versions of the world. Is one world actually any safer than the other? It doesn’t seem like global peace is truly achievable anywhere. Tagomi’s dimension hopping is complicated further in this episode, as he is able to bring the film from alternate America back to the show’s main reality. Perhaps, then, the man in the high castle is able to move through different Earths, as well, which could explain how he acquired his stacks of films. Hitler, too, had been collecting films. If Hitler were a dimension hopper, then he would have been able to gain useful information, making it possible to defeat the Allies in this version of reality’s World War II. He also could potentially have seen footage of the future, giving him a huge advantage. With all these possibilities, it seems as though both time and space can be manipulated.
As the series continues to hop from character to character, Episode 8 spends some time with Ed (DJ Qualls) and Childan (Brennan Brown), whose projects seem insignificant compared to the plots that Frank (Rupert Evans) and Juliana (Alexa Davalos) are wrapped up in. Though at times a bit oafish, Ed and Childan serve as reminders of the good, innocent people who could die if the Nazis destroy the city. Childan may be the most likeable character on the show; he certainly has the most personality as a cultured, charming businessman who overextends his attempts at social couth. At the same time, Ed and Childan are pretty useless as fighters, so once the showdown begins, hopefully, they will not be involved.
Episode 7 is a visual masterpiece. Opening with Frank’s (Rupert Evans) nightmare, the episode illustrates the desperation one faces in protecting family. This applies to both Frank, whose nightmare recalls his involvement in the deaths of his sister and her children, and Smith (Rufus Sewell), who has chosen to protect his son over allegiance to his party. The dinner table gassing of Frank’s nightmare uses an overhead perspective as if the audience were the gas, suggesting the audience is complicit in such tragedies. Throughout this season, all alternate versions of reality—the content of the film, Frank’s nightmare, Joe’s (Luke Kleintank) drug trip, and Tagomi’s (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) visits alternate America—serve as powerful stimuli for characters. These scenes are also visually dynamic and emotionally charged.
The sixth episode is titled “Kintsugi,” which is a Japanese artistic practice of repairing broken pottery while keeping the cracks visible, which is meant to create visual historicity in the object. While this is potentially a literal reference to the broken teacup that Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) finds in alternate America, it also serves as a metaphor that spans the entire show. Each group—the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Resistance—actually denies the reparation of the broken nation. While each group continues to disrupt the agenda of another, America seems more and more likely to be beyond repair. The groups end up being more destructive rather than restorative, and the potential annihilation of San Francisco that was foreshadowed in the man in the high castle’s film would effectively eradicate much historical evidence of Japanese influence in America.
For those who enjoyed the unpredictability and edginess of Stranger Things, Netflix’s new series, The OA - co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij - needs to be next up on their binge-list. The OA raises questions about the world, the afterlife, and the space in between. This 8-episode season incites hope and bridges connections in unexpected places. Each episode traces the story of Prairie (Brit Marling), a young blind woman who has been missing for seven years. When she returns home, now calling herself the OA, her sight has mysteriously been restored. The FBI, her parents, and the local news reporters all want to hear her story, but Prairie finds a group of five misfits to share it with in hopes that they can help her save the lives of others. The show is thrilling but offers hope in dire circumstances, creates community among unlikely individuals, and demonstrates what willpower can achieve. And the story is so compelling that the end of each episode demands starting the next.
As it starts to seem like this season is finally getting closer to providing some answers, Episode 5 shakes things up and raises more questions. As a whole, this show is driven by its mysterious plot, while its setting provides a disturbing, but artistic, appeal. The acting supports these other elements but is not the crux of the show’s success. That’s okay, though, because the audience does not need to be emotionally invested in the characters to appreciate the uniqueness of the show’s storyline and the remarkable attention to detail the creators have paid in building both versions of America.