Show Review: Outer Banks (2020) & Somewhere Between (2017)

For anyone missing Friday Night Lights (2006) or The OC (2003), allow me to direct you to Outer Banks (2020). It has that older style of camera work, too. That very quiet style. I don’t even know how to describe it. The colours are muted, there’s no CGI, everything looks normal. I really like it. The style is super relaxed. Fitting, as the show starts out in a chill seaside town. IT’S. SO. PRETTY.

The storyline follows ‘the Pogues’, a group of boys and one girl after they learn about a sunken treasure ship and try to find both the gold and the missing father of the main guy, John B. The Pogues are at odds with the rich kids of the island and spend their time on the water or working. The hunt for gold and John B’s father brings everyone together – or pushes them even further apart.

The friendships really make the show for me. JJ was my favourite of the characters. He’s incredibly loyal to John B, Pope and Kie. Sarah, the rich girl who ends up befriending John B and getting closer to all of them, grew on me throughout the series as well. And Pope and Kie were both great. Overall, the friendships are what solidified my love for this show and the ending to season one was awesome! It’s been renewed for a second season and I’m excited to see where it goes.

The other show I want to recommend is Somewhere Between. OH. MY. GOSH. It’s based on a Korean drama I haven’t seen (but now I must!), 신의 선물 – 14일 (2014). And apparently it’s the first American show to adapt a Kdrama?! What?! The first?! This is one where it’s sooooo hard not to look up the ending and spoil yourself. I am so happy I gave this one a chance, though! Devon Sawa has been one of my favourite actors since I was a kid and watched Wild America (1997) twenty-five times a year. (Maybe an exaggeration. Maybe.) He was also in Nikita (2010), which was such an underrated gem!

[You can’t really talk about this show without spoiling some things, so SPOILER ALERT for the first episode, mostly. Minor spoilers for second episode. Trigger warning for mention of character death and character suicide attempt.]

This one is very intricate and intense. The plot centres around Laura, Nico and Tom. Tom is the District Attorney, Nico is a former cop with a brother on death row, and Laura is Tom’s loving wife and mother of their daughter Serena. In the first episode, Serena befriends Ruby, Nico’s niece, while Nico’s mum begs Laura to get her husband to re-examine Danny’s case (the brother on death row). The mum is convinced of his innocence, but it was Nico who testified against him as the victim he’s been accused of killing was Nico’s girlfriend). The talk doesn’t prove successful, but Serena and Ruby become good friends.

Nights later, as Nico’s family falls apart, Serena is kidnapped. Tom and Laura do everything they can to find her, but fail. Nico learns about Serena’s death on the news – the same moment he learns that her death is being used to re-open the death penalty in their area and that his brother is going to be executed shortly. [The first episode is really grim, but if you hang in there, there’s a twist coming.]

The day Danny’s to be executed, Laura attempts suicide at the exact same time, and Nico is jumped by a gang and thrown off a dock – also at the same time. He sees Laura in the water and manages to cut himself free and drag her to shore, but he’s heartbroken to realise that he missed his brother’s execution. Both go home distraught.

Yet when Laura returns home, she finds Serena and Tom waiting for her. WAIT, WHAT?! Yep. It’s three months in the past, Serena is alive, Danny is alive, and everything is playing out exactly the same way as before. The only two people who know what’s going to happen – or rather, who remember what happened the first time – are Laura and Nico. The pair decide to team up to save both Serena and Danny. AND THAT’S ONLY THE START OF EPISODE TWO.

I won’t say any more, but trust me, this one is definitely worth your time! It starts out really grim, but it becomes more action/mystery after episode one.

Show Review: A Discovery of Witches (season two, 2021), Deadwind (2018), Little Fires Everywhere (2020)

It’s been a week of new awesome shows and I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of them.

A Discovery of Witches season two is here at last! I absolutely adored season one and have been waiting impatiently for season two ever since finishing it. (My review of the show; my review of the book.) Season two sees Diana and Matthew time-travelling to 1590 where they find themselves involved with Christopher Marlow, Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh and more! I’m absolutely in love with the costumes – and of course Diana and Matthew have more chemistry than I could have possibly imagined. Watch it!

Deadwind aka Karppi is a Finnish crime drama. I love Nordic noir and this one is another brilliant addition. (Although few compare to Zone Blanche and Øyevitne). This one follows recently widowed detective Sofia Karppi and her new partner Sakari Nurmi after they find a body on a planned building site. The investigation isn’t as gripping for me as Øyevitne and Zone Blanche, but what I love about this one is the focus on the characters and their lives and development. Karppi and Nurmi have such a great progression from hating each other to tolerating each other to becoming friends, and I can’t wait to see how season one wraps up!

Little Fires Everywhere is another one I’ve just started. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, but I will watch pretty much anything with Reese Witherspoon and/or Joshua Jackson! My favs! Unfortunately, I’m really struggling to like the characters in this one. At least the main characters. Their kids are all great, but the adults are just so frustrating! I feel like that’s the point, but it’s definitely a struggle not screaming at my television when they get annoying. That said, the plot is enthralling, so I’m watching on.

What’s everyone else watching?

Review Round Up

New year, new reads, new shows.

I started off the new year by reading a few comic books and finishing Sylvester by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Richard Armitage. I’ve been having a hard time focusing on longer reads at the minute, simply because I have so much to do, so short reads and audibooks are very helpful right now.

I really enjoyed Oddly Normal, which has adorable illustrations and a fairly sad storyline; Die!Die!Die! was intriguing. It’s by the same author as The Walking Dead and has gruesome opener, but looks to be really interesting. I’m curious to see where it goes! Has anyone read any of these?

I also started two new TV series: Young Wallander and The Alienist. I adored them both and cannot recommend The Alienist enough. Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans and Daniel Brühl make a fantastic trio! The mystery is intense and fairly un-guessable, which is something I’ve been waiting for. The costumes are gorgeous as well. Everything about the show is well done, honestly. If you enjoy dark mysteries, this one is enthralling.

Young Wallander is based a Swedish book series and was brilliantly done. I love the whole cast and thought it ended well. It has a second series coming, I believe, so the few things that weren’t wrapped up I’m assuming will be addressed in the coming season.

Honourable Mentions of 2020

I feel like there are so many films, books and shows that I wanted to review this year that I haven’t got around to for some reason or other. (Re: laziness). Oh well! I’m listing some of the ones I can remember below (and I’m sure there’s still others I’ve forgotten).

Shows: Summertime was a great show, for anyone looking for a warm and sunny show with cute romances. Set in Italy, diverse cast/rep. Curon is another good Italian show! I haven’t finished it, but the start is super strong. The Last Kingdom is soooooo amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t written up a review for this epic beauty, but it totally deserves one. Another Life is a great sci-fi adventure, with lots of diversity/rep and a solid plot. Got sci-fi queen Katee Sackhoff in it, too. Score! The Mandalorian is so absolutely brilliant, my Star Wars heart is a flutter. The Mess You Leave Behind is a fantastic Spanish murder mystery show. If you loved Élite, you’ll love this one. And Arón Piper is in it! Mismatched is the Hindi adaptation of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I bought the book a while back and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m definitely moving it up my list! This is a super cute romantic comedy series set in Jaipur and I can’t wait to finish it. The Great was fun as well, and I really liked the cast. I also just started Bridgerton, which I’m enjoying!

Films: The new Little Women was super cute. I didn’t love it quite as much as the Winona Ryder version, but the cast is fantastic, and I liked some of the changes. I think this one would have been great as a miniseries, actually. Spending more time exploring the romance and building up to the end would have been good, I reckon, as that seemed more the focus in this version, whereas the 1990s version was more focused on the growing up aspect, I felt. I caught up on most of the Marvel movies this year and really liked some of the latest ones. The new Spiderman is great, and I’m excited for Natalie Portman’s return to Thor in the next one. I’m also intrigued by the shows coming to Disney+! I really like the idea of WandaVision. I liked Solo, the Han Solo standalone for Star Wars. All the standalones have been pretty good, actually. Happiest Season is a new Christmas film with Kristen Stewart, I have a lot of thoughts on it. Did anyone else see this one? I also can’t even begin to review Hotel Mumbai, which was a truly heart-shattering watch and the actors were amazing in their roles. I think, rather than writing a review, this look at the true story behind the film is worth a read.

Books: I write a lot of mini reviews on Goodreads that I don’t bother linking here. But my page is here, for anyone curious. All of the nonfiction books I’ve picked up this year deserve their own review. Guns, an essay by Stephen King, was very poignant and thoughtful. But having the time, or even figuring out how to describe them is so hard sometimes on top of studying. Some recommendations for anyone looking to delve into more non-fiction: The Korean War at Sixty: New Approaches to the Study of the Korean War; A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific; Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War; Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations; Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of Us Empire; Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World; Name, Rank, and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad.

Show Review: The Poison Tree (2012)

I love finding hidden gems! I’d never even heard of The Poison Tree until last night and I watched both episodes back to back. What a good find! It has Matthew Goode, MyAnna Buring and Ophelia Lovibond and tells the story of a married couple after the husband is released from prison. The husband did time for a double murder, but the wife is convinced he’s a good guy, and we’re slowly told their story through flashbacks.

[spoilers-ish]

The pair, Rex and Karen, met through Biba, Rex’s sister. They’re all something of free spirits, living hedonist lives in the family mansion, living off their father’s money. Biba brings Karen in and the pair fall into a rather obsessive friendship; its obsessiveness is matched by Rex and Biba’s siblinghood, which consumes them both. But it’s torn to shreds when Rex and Karen begin dating. They keep their relationship from Biba for a time, and when she finds out, everything falls apart. To get back at them, Biba starts dating a drug dealer that neither Rex nor Karen approve of and everything quickly unravels.

The story flashes between the past and the present, and at first you don’t know what happened to Biba and who Rex supposedly killed, but in the present, Karen starts getting creepy messages, pictures and break-ins that all seem pointed at uncovering their secrets and ruining the new life they’re making for themselves.

I was honestly not expecting some of the twists in this and was kept in rapt attention. The actors were all great and this is definitely worth a go for mystery/suspense fans.

Film Review: Downton Abbey (2019)

I truly enjoyed the television show, but I never actually finished it. I’m glad I decided to just dive straight into the film, though! It was easy to keep up with everyone despite having not seen the final seasons and the film is decidedly an uplifting one. [semi spoilers from here]

The story picks up at the end of the 1920s, with Downton Abbey greatly changed from what it once was. The Crawley family have endured their share of losses, as have their staff, but there’s a great energy amongst the household’s inhabitants, with no real squabbles going on. I preferred that this one wasn’t about in-house fighting. I liked everyone being on the same team. That was so nice to see.

The drama in this film centres upon the arrival of the queen to the abbey and the tensions between the two staffs. As the household staff confront the overbearing new arrivals from the queen’s household who won’t let them do their jobs, a game ensues, with the Downton staff prevailing in their quest to serve the royal family. At the same time, Tom Branson, who is raising his daughter at Downton after her late mother’s passing, gets embroiled in a plot with a mysterious man; there’s also a side story with Thomas, now head butler and far more mature than he was when he was first introduced, finally getting some happiness! His storyline as a gay man in 1920s England was something I really appreciated them exploring, and his encounters with Richard were especially wonderful. I was afraid it was going to end depressingly and I’m so glad that it didn’t.

Everything wraps up quite nicely at the end of the film. There’s no extra drama or chaos. And I definitely feel like I want to go back and rewatch the show now, because I want to catch up with all the characters and see where some of them came into the storyline. Now that I know how it ends, I’ll feel less stressed!

Show Review: Big Love (2006)

As a Veronica Mars fangirl (the show, the books and the movie, I ain’t about that last spoiler in the miniseries I don’t want to see now, ugh), I feel like I should have got around to Big Love sooner. But alas, it took me some time. Seeing Mac (Tina Majorino) and Lily (Amanda Seyfried) as best friends is great, though. Their friendship alone sold me on the show, but honestly the whole cast are superb and I’m really glad I finally got around to watching it. You also have Ginnifer Goodwin, who is just adorable. It’s also very in the theme of Once Upon a Time alums over here at my blog, seeing as how I just marathoned Manifest with Josh Dallas, her real life husband.

Big Love follows the large – and growing – Henrickson family in Utah. The family lives by ‘The Principle’. They’re polygamists living away from the fundamentalist compound where Bill, the patriarch, was raised as a boy and kicked out of when he was fourteen. He initially married Barb, intending to maintain monogamy, and they had three children together: Sarah, Ben and Tancy. After Barb gets cancer, and thankfully recovers, she can’t have children any more and Bill takes a second wife, Nicki. Nicki and Barb grew close during Barb’s cancer, as Nicki was her caretaker. Nicki and Bill have two children together. A few years later, Bill, Barb and Nicki marry Margene, Nicki’s former babysitter. Subsequently, Margene and Bill have children.

The show begins a few years after everyone’s married. Bill’s running a large business and divides his time between three houses the family share. Overall, things are quiet and normal, until drama and tension begins to chip away at their life when Nicki’s father, Roman Grant, begins pressuring Bill for a stake in his businesses. Soon the whole family and the entire compound are at odds.

What I found so interesting about this show are the characters and their dynamics. Margene is young and flighty and open-minded about everything; Sarah hates polygamy but loves her family; Ben struggles with being a teenager and wanting to follow the rules; Barb loves her husband most yet wants him to be happy; and Nicki … Nicki is fascinating. She drives me absolutely barmy at times, but she’s got her good moments and is loyal and strong. There’s also Heather, Sarah’s best friend, who is deeply religious and believes polygamy is wrong, but adores Sarah and grows close with the family despite their differences of opinion.

I didn’t know much about the history of the religion or how any of it worked before now and I think the show presents everything with an open mind. It’s also interesting to see how the family interact with different sects of Christianity. Overall, I think the series is a character study and one that tries to focus on the relationships, the complications, the humanity, more than taking sides of any argument. It’s very well done and I’m curious to see how it ends!

Show Review: Tin Star (2017)

I’d never heard of Tin Star until yesterday when it popped up on my streaming service, but I really like Tim Roth as an actor (Pulp Fiction is the movie my partner and I watched on our first date, haha) and figured I’d give it a go. I also found out the amazing Christina Hendricks is in the show, so OF COURSE.

FYI: it’s brilliant.

As usual, this has some spoilers.

The series is set in Canada (yay!) and follows an English-Irish family who have just arrived in the small, picturesque town of Little Big Bear. The opening scene is one that really sets the grim, brutal tone of the series: the family are driving fast, afraid, on the way to Calgary. They stop at a petrol station and the young son tells them he has to go to the toilet. When they pause, just for a second, a man in a mask appears and fires into the front window. We only see blood spray on the daughter, so it’s unclear who’s been hurt inside the car.

The show then flashes back a year to the family’s arrival in the town. Jim is the new sheriff, his wife Angela is settling in with the kids, Anna and Peter. The family want a fresh start and things are looking up in the town. Jim’s arrival at work is so quiet that the other officers are playing video games and tell him to go fishing; Angela goes to sell some fudge at a local fair and meets Elizabeth Bradshaw, another new arrival. Elizabeth, we soon find out, is the spokeswoman for North Stream Oil, who want to move in and start working around the town. Jim and many of the other townsfolk oppose this, but the push for more income into the town is strong. Susan, Jim’s friend, says people have been following her since she started speaking out. (I got really strong Zone Blanche vibes, actually.)

The harassment of those opposing the company begins to pick up, but the proof is hard to find. Until Susan is found dead in an apparent suicide on the side of the road. Not everyone believes this, however, and Jim and his officers start looking into other reasons she might have been targeted. Unbeknownst to Jim, Louis Gagnon, the head of security for the company, has bugged his office and is hearing every word that goes on.

Then, one night, Jim and his family are attacked in their home. They gather their things to leave and we arrive back at the intro scene. We find out that Jim ducked upon seeing the shooter and that the victim in the car is young Peter. (It’s really, really heart-wrenching.) Angela, too, is injured and taken to surgery. As Jim and Anna reel from the painful series of events, Jim spirals back into alcoholism and we learn that he has an alter-ego: Jack. Jack is nothing like Jim. One is a cop, one is a criminal. And so Jack begins trying to track down who killed his son by truly brutal means.

And the answer is far from clearcut … (trust me, the twists, guys!)

I was so stunned by how intricate and engrossing this series is. The actors are absolutely amazing, the scenery stunning and the soundtrack is lush. If you like crime drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this one is for you.

Show Review: Manifest (2018)

Awww yuuuus, this show is my absolute jam! It’s like Lost meets Heroes meets Tru Calling and has filled my sci-fi need. The plot follows the Stone family: Michaela Stone, a detective with a troubled past, and Ben Stone, Michaela’s brother and husband to Grace, and father of Cal and Olive. After a trip to Jamaica with their parents, the flight gets overcrowded and passengers are offered alternative routes if they’re willing. Michaela, who’s struggling with going home after the death of her best friend in a drink driving accident, and not sure how she’s going to respond to her boyfriend’s proposal, opts to take a later flight to postpone it. Ben and Cal offer to stay behind with her. Cal is dealing with leukaemia and isn’t responding to treatment and has no desire to go back home, either.

*spoilers*

On the flight, the plane is struck by intense turbulence, but everyone’s okay and the pilot requests permission to land. He’s met with bewilderment from the air traffic controller and the plane is diverted to another airport where the passengers are greeted by police and the FBI. After disembarking, the passengers are told that they’ve been missing for five years. Confused and upset, they’re questioned for days but are finally let go after thirty-six hours. Grace, Ben’s wife, and Olive, his daughter and Cal’s twin sister, meet them at the airport, along with Ben and Michaela’s dad, but they find out that their mother’s passed away in the time they’ve been missing, and Jared Vasquez, Michaela’s boyfriend, is now married to her best friend Lourdes. Grace, too, has a boyfriend. But the personal complications are the least complicated part of their return.

Michaela’s on a bus a couple days later when she starts to hear a voice telling her to ‘stop’. She forces the bus to stop and, amazingly, saves a child’s life. Later, she and Ben both hear the same voice telling them to free a pair of dogs. The deed leads Michaela to saving two kidnapped children. She and Ben dub the voices their ‘callings’ and soon the voices lead them to other passengers, namely Saanvi Bahl, a doctor whose cancer research is curing children with leukaemia – including Cal. (Saanvi is an absolute gem!!!)

Ben, Michaela, Jared and Saanvi begin working together to figure out the mystery of the callings, why the plane jumped through time, and what it means for everyone involved. Initially, each episode follows another member from the plane and how they’re handling their callings and how their stories propel the group towards answers (and total confusion). The storylines eventually bring the passengers to an organisation who have deeply nefarious intentions and the question of whether someone else knows what’s going on.

I love the focus on family and siblings in this show. Michaela and Ben’s relationship is the central force of the show and they’re a great duo! Cal and Olive, twins with now a five year age difference between them, are adorable and protective of each other. The romantic relationships are great and really tug at your heartstrings. I love Ben and Grace together, and while I really liked Michaela and Jared at the start, I’m liking Zeke more and more. Zeke is introduced as a mystery character about midway through season one and I was pleasantly surprised to see the actor was Matt Long from Jack & Bobby! Nostalgia throwback!

The third season is airing in 2021 and I can’t wait to finish season two and find out what happens!

Show Review: A Discovery of Witches (2018)

I absolutely consumed A Discovery of Witches (the book), so it makes sense that I’d fall head over heels in love with the show. It’s so beautifully shot, so intense, so lush, so engrossing. I watched the entirety of season one on Sunday and I am in the mood to watch it all over again!

As with the book, the show follows Diana Bishop, a DPhil from Yale studying for a summer at Oxford while she finishes up her latest article on alchemical symbolism. She’s also a witch, but on the down low and not happy about the magical world in general following her parents’ murder when she was very young. In the course of her research, she finds a magical tome, freaks out, and sends it back to the stacks. Little does Diana know that by opening the book, she’s caught the attention of every vampire, witch and daemon on campus (and abroad).

Matthew Clairmont, a professor of biochemistry at Oxford, introduces himself to Diana, who knows instantly that he’s a vampire. He wants the book she discovered in an effort to learn more about the origins of vampires and why they seemingly can no longer sire humans into vampires. His son Marcus’ failed attempt at turning his best friend is just the latest in the series of confusing occurrences for vampires. Though Matthew unsettles Diana, he seems to be the only one on her side as witches harass her. Unlike the vampires, who want the book to learn about their origins and to survive, the witches want the book to erase vampires from existence.

As Diana and Matthew try and discern the mysteries of the book and why Diana is the one and only person to find it in centuries, other witches, vampires and daemons close in around them, forcing the pair to flee to France, where Matthew’s vampire family reside.

I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SHOW!!! It’s full of romance, magic, mystery, politics, history, architecture, scenery, science and more! I want to draw hearts around it and watch it over and over. Season two is going to be here in 2021 and I cannot wait! I must have more of Diana and Matthew’s epic romance.