So, new seasons from three binge-able shows that I think are very good, and in some cases, exceptional. How’d they do this time ’round…well…it’s a mixed bag…and not in ways you might have predicted…
“Berlin Station” Season 2 (Epix)
Created by Olen Steinauer
The first season of “Berlin Station” was pretty good. Maybe better then that. The caper was intriguing, the production values were of a high calibre, it featured a terrific cast and the dialogue, while not great, was mostly able to suspend our disbelief. Oh, and Bowie owns the theme. The only major problem (and granted it’s a cosmetic one) was the use of not one, but TWO British actors (with no attempt to hide their British accents) acting as American operatives in Germany. Given the fireworks during the season finale…what would they do to enhance their sophomore season?
Add Ashley Judd, naturally.
Oh…and make the plot a whole lot thicker, juicier and exciting. That last bit is important, because where it felt like the first season relied WAY too heavily on the cell phone to move the plot, this season actually had higher personal stakes for our leads. Borrowing a lot from “The Night Manager” (a lot), this season offers more direct action and attitude, while putting Agent Miller (Richard Armitage) and former Agent, Hector DeJean (Rhys Ifans) more directly in harm’s way. That it ultimately feels the teensiest bit underwhelming storywise, comes down to Steinauer’s need to wrap EVERYTHING up as compactly as possible, which, given how many players are involved, comes at the expense of the breathless ending it deserves. Then again, “MI5” was notorious for adding emotional codas at the end of each episode…so…
As for the performances, this season spreads the wealth a little bit more, but truly this is Ifans’ show…even if it isn’t. He’s simply impossible to take your eyes off of. Armitage is better this season than last, mostly because he carries more plot heft than emotional heft (which guarantees I’ll be attacked by the Richard Armitage Fan Club as I was last year, but I’ll stick to my previous observation that this just isn’t his best work – especially compared to his work on “MI5”). Leland Orser, who in season one was given all the hilarious lines that seemed to be written by Armando Ianucci, is, alas, asked to be a more emotional player in season two, more three-dimensional. And while he’s not bad, one misses a more caustic presence. Not sure what Richard Jenkins is doing in this season…he seems to be an afterthought, which is, of course, a misstep. It’s Richard Freakin’ Jenkins. As for Ms. Judd…it takes a few episodes to accept her…but I imagine that is very much on purpose given her place in this world.
Overall, I found this to be much more enjoyable than season one and, while this season won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the first, it’s worth it to watch both, if for no other reasons to watch Rhys Ifans simmer.
“Berlin Station” Season 2 trailer here.
“Bosch” Season 4 (Amazon Prime)
Created by Michael Connelly and Eric Ellis Overmeyer
Thank god. Season three stretched our ability to suspend disbelief to it’s snapping point, and I was terrified that they would feel the need to push it even further in the fourth season. I’m overjoyed to report that Connelly and Overmeyer went the other way. Titus Welliver’s Detective Bosch keeps his feelings practically sewn IN to the vest, and the further they asked him to go, the more imbalanced the show became. But this year it’s a simple murder investigation. Important, political, mysterious, & heinous, yes…but still…at its heart, a murder investigation. It’s the high stakes for everything and everybody (including the mayor, the chief of police and, even Black Lives Matter) that make you want to watch it straight through, not the action (I confess, I started it at 11pm and finished at 8am the next morning…I know…I know). Most of the side plots are terrific as well, especially the Bosch family travails. Brilliantly woven in, they never get in the way. Alas, we still have a leftover plot from last year that went nowhere then and goes even nowhere-er this season, but it’s quick and painless and takes up about ten total minutes of screen time this season.
One of the main forces behind the show’s ability to retain eyeballs from season to season is its use of terrific character actors…the always great Amy Aquino, and the “Crate and Barrel” duo Gregory Scott Cummins and Troy Evans. Unfortunately they aren’t nearly as well placed in this season’s stories, so we get less of them <frowny face>. Luckily, to make up for it, Jamie Hector’s Det. J. Edgar is back in his rightful place in the forefront with Bosch. Lance Reddick returns as, well, Lance Reddick. He’s great, of course. I mean, has any other actor cornered the market on civil service authority figures the way he has? Some of the best casting choices by vets Laura Schiff and Carrie Audino were contracting Sarah Clarke and Madison Lintz as Bosch’s ex-wife and daughter, respectively. The show lights up when they are on screen and your empathy for them is true. Finally, a quick shout out to my old friend Anne Dudek in a small but pivotal role that she nails.
One of the very few drawbacks regards the show’s look. While the first three seasons make such great use of the underbelly of Los Angeles in it’s location photography, this season seems a bit more flat – less tactile in its seediness. But I’ll happily give that up for a better story, and that it has!
This is the Bosch you remember from the first two seasons, and, in my estimation, watching this season is an absolute no-brainer.
“Bosch” Season 4 trailer here.
“Jessica Jones” Season 2 (Netflix)
Created by Melissa Rosenberg
Ugh. So, I’ll get straight to the point. Season one crackled with energy because of three attributes:
1) A brilliant performance by Krysten Ritter.
2) A Marvel production about people, not powers.
3) A BRILLIANTLY evil bad guy played to perfection by David Tennant.
So, the first two are back for the show’s sophomore season. But, uh…how could you forget number three?! I understand the themes of this season are facing and overcoming inner struggles stemming from one’s past and one’s ghosts. But sheesh, it’s practically a psycho-analytic documentary. All three of our heroes are engaged in this need to find one’s place in the world…a safe place. It makes for a pretty talky thirteen episodes. Jessica is still as bad-ass, interesting and sardonically funny as she was in season one…but without a true opposing force, it might as well be a one-woman show. Seriously.
Okay, I’m probably being more harsh than I should be. Just know that the first season was breathless television, and, as I did with this season’s “Bosch”, I watched it straight through in one night. This season? Took me a week.
I will say that Carrie-Anne Moss’ story-line is ultimately the reason to watch. Slightly absurd, it is nonetheless much more compelling than the others. And Moss goes for it. Her sense of place and emotion are always spot on and electric…especially here.
The rest of the performances are all fine…some even achieving greatness. Ritter traverses alcoholic indifference with a nagging need to be ‘of service’ better than most. Rachel Taylor and Eka Darville return, and while both are excellent, there is only so much addiction counseling jargon I can take (granted, I’m a therapist, so…). And, sorry, she’s a great actress, but Janet McTeer cannot be expected to play a character this absurd with the same conviction as we’ve come to expect from this show. It’s just not possible.
So, sad to say, while it certainly is better than most of the drek out there, the second season of “Jessica Jones” just doesn’t match the extremely high bar it set for itself. I WILL say, that it did make me completely forget that Ritter was ever in that disaster of a show, “The Defenders“. And that’s saying something!
Written on 4/23/18