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.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are two of the most popular choices for comedians in my house. I have seen Paulso many times at this point that I can quote it backwards and forwards. (And yes, you should watch it!) So imagine my partner’s and my delight when Truth Seekers was announced. And it’s every bit as awesome as I’d hoped!
The eight episode first season follows Gus, an internet repair man and amateur ghost hunter, and Elton John, the newest hire at the company, as the pair wind up falling headfirst into the paranormal on their first call. Simon Pegg plays their boss Dave; there’s also Helen, Elton’s sister who suffers from agoraphobia, and Astrid, the girl with all the ghosts. Richard, Gus’ father, is played by Malcolm McDowell, and I loooooove his character. Oh my gosh, he’s a scene stealer and I’m so here for his character!
What I love about this show is that it’s simple, sweet and good fun. It’s classic Frost & Pegg, and I watched half of it before conceding that a break might be warranted so that I didn’t watch the entire series in one sitting. If you like ghosts, comedies and some wholesome spookiness, definitely check this one out!
Oh my gosh, The Innocent Man has me hooooooooked. If you like intense dramatic romances, this one is fantastic. I’m only about six episodes in, but I can’t stop! (It’s on Netflix as Nice Guy, if you’re looking!)
[I keep writing reviews for these shows before I’ve finished them but I just have a lot of EMOTIONS and OPINIONS so bear with me (and also there are some spoilers for the first six episodes herein, so if you don’t like spoilers, avoid until you’ve seen the show!).]
The main characters are Kang Ma-ru, Seo Eun-gi, Han Jae-hee, Kang Choco and Park Jae-gil. At the start, Kang Ma-ru’s madly in love with Han Jae-hee. They grew up together without money and have been together for years. There’s nothing Kang Ma-ru wouldn’t do for her. One night, after proving himself in medical school, he comes home to find his sister unconscious on the floor. Choco suffers from a long term illness and is constantly fainting and needing medical care. He’s in the process of bringing her to hospital when Jae-hee calls him, frantic. Torn between his sister and his girlfriend, he promises his sister that he’ll be right back, she only has to count to 500, and he runs to Jae-hee.
At a hotel, he finds Jae-hee sitting beside a dead body. They panic about what’s going to happen and in a spur of the moment decision, Ma-ru takes the fall. He’s kicked out of medical school and goes to prison, Choco’s health worsens, and Jae-hee ends up marrying a rich older man.
Five years later, Ma-ru’s jaded and furious. He’s on a flight when he encounters Seo Eun-gi, an heiress and step-daughter to Jae-hee. When Eun-gi faints onboard the plane, he uses his medical knowledge to save her life. In the process, he encounters Jae-hee once more.
Later, Jae-hee comes to his house and offers him compensation for taking the fall. Disgusted, Ma-ru returns the money but he gets caught in the crossfire between Jae-hee and Eun-gi, and is accused of blackmailing the family for money. So, that’s twice now that Jae-hee’s got him into trouble with the law.
I don’t know what to think about Jae-hee, honestly. She’s a really interesting and well developed character. Like, I cannot stand her in most of her scenes, but I do feel deep empathy for what her character experiences before the start of the show. She’s truly broken and terrified of going back to where she came from, so even though she’s manipulative and awful at times, she’s an interesting character and I hope she finds peace by the end. Also, her chemistry with Ma-ru is unreal and their scenes can be really heartbreaking.
Both of the women have great side relationships outside of Ma-ru and the love triangle, too. Eun-gi is close with Park Joon-ha, who’s been her friend all her life and fights for her within the company she runs, and always has her back. Jae-hee is close to Ahn Min-young, her husband’s secretary who’s secretly in love with her and helps her fight back against Eun-gi, who’s hated Jae-hee since her father kicked out her mother to make room for Jae-hee. There’s also Choco’s relationship with Park Jae-gil, Ma-ru’s best friend, who lives with them and supports Ma-ru through thick and thin. It’s a really splendid cast overall!
I really adore Ma-ru the most, though. He’s an amazing character. He’s such a good brother to Choco and he loves fiercely even though he’s been deeply hurt by Jae-hee’s actions. I love how his relationship with Eun-gi develops even as he’s battling Jae-hee and their tangled history. There’s so much intrigue and tension and looks. Seriously, this is a show that thrives on glares and side-long glances and I am here for it.
I can’t wait to see how it ends! Has anyone else seen it? If not, you totally should!
Marriage Contract deals with two very tough situations: a son dealing with his mother’s illness and his desperation to find her a new liver; and a young mother, hiding from loan sharks after her deceased husband left her a massive amount of debt, who finds out that she has a brain tumour. The pair cross paths when Kang Hye-soo, the young mother, begins working at Han Ji-hoon’s restaurant. She overhears his plans to marry someone and pay for a liver, she offers herself and requests that he gives her enough money so that her daughter Eun-Seong will want for nothing. Not knowing the reasons why, Ji-hoon pays off the loan sharks, marries Hye-soo, and the pair begin to sort out plans for her giving her liver to his mother.
The more time they spend together, the closer they become, but that only makes things more difficult as Hye-soo doesn’t want to share what’s happening to her with anyone or ask for help. Her scenes are absolutely shattering. Ji-hoon’s mother’s storyline is also devastating; his father’s the absolute worst, though.
One of the best parts of this show, other than Hye-soo and Ji-hoon’s relationship, is their relationship with Eun-Seong. She doesn’t warm up to Ji-hoon at first, and is deeply protective of her mother, but soon the pair begin to bond and it’s clear they come to see each other as family. I loved how fatherly he was and how much he cared about both Hye-soo and Eun-Seong.
I’m not gonna lie, this show will make you cry. Constantly. Hye-soo’s pain is so real and all I wanted to do was reach into the screen and hug her. Ji-hoon is such a good son and caretaker and partner. He really grows over the course of the show and I loved his character progression. His dedication to his mother and now-wife are amazing. LOVE IT.
This show is truly wonderful and touches on some really rough topics. I definitely recommend giving it a chance!
I’m a big fan of international television. Which is to say, I watch a lot of shows in a lot of different languages. As a teenager this meant watching videos in clips on YouTube, but with streaming being what it is, finding programmes from other countries is easier than ever. And that makes me so happy! Thank you, Netflix. King of Streaming. So, I’m randomly compiling a list for anyone looking for non-English language shows.
**This is by no means a full list, just what I’ve written up reviews for. **
Okay, so 질투의 화신 aka Don’t Dare to Dream aka Jealousy Incarnate is so not what I expected. The summary just did not give away many details. A love triangle? Cool? What else? So I didn’t go into it with much context and I’m glad I was willing to give it a try! A much better summary would be: A weather forecaster, Na-ri, works at a news network and is struggling to make it big in the business. She’s thrown for a loop when the reporter she had a crush on three years ago, Hwa-shin, returns to South Korea from Thailand. At the same time, his best (and possibly only) friend, Jung-won, begins to crush on Na-ri. So, yes, love triangle.
However, the biggest focus of the series coming in are the struggles of the characters individually: Na-ri lives with her brother in a house with a few other tenants. The young girl, Ppal-gang, is the niece of Hwa-shin, who left for Thailand after destroying his brother’s/her father’s reputation. Her mother also works at the news station, but doesn’t take care of her. When Ppal-gang’s father ends up in hospital after a drunken accident, she blames Hwa-shin and her mother entirely. Na-ri’s younger brother and another boy in the house make it their goal to look after her. Then there’s Hwa-shin himself, who, thanks to Na-ri’s accidental discovery while giving him first aid, learns he has breast cancer. It’s something I’ve not seen much, if any, representation for in English or Korean shows (or any other that I can think of?).
Hwa-shin spends a good bit of time in denial and has a negative reaction to what he considers a mark on his masculinity. It’s really heartbreaking to see. It takes a lot of women – Na-ri, the doctors and nurses at the hospital – to convince him to get treatment. In fact, the show spends a lot of time focusing on Hwa-shin’s journey after receiving his diagnosis. I’m really glad the show highlighted a topic as important as this and it’s not used merely as a dramatic and discarded plot point, it’s a big focus. You see Hwa-shin’s struggles and eventful acceptance of his cancer that leads him to getting the help he needs. He also doesn’t go through it alone. Na-ri’s mother and grandmother both had cancer, so she gets screenings every six months. It brings them into each other’s orbit and they slowly grow close.
Na-ri is also dealing with work complications, as no one takes her seriously and the sexist regulations from one of the directors is making it a wretched place to be. Hwa-shin, despite his irritation with her appearances in his life, starts to fight her corner at work, like highlighting how she’s a ratings success to the other anchors. Jung-won, a rich businessman who supplies the network with clothes, also begins to take an interest in Na-ri’s success.
The friendship between Hwa-shin and Jung-won is bromance material to the max, guys. Check out this set on Tumblr, I MEAN THE CUTENESS! And then there’s this one. I STAN A SHOW WHERE THE GUYS ARE TRUE AND UNAPOLOGETIC BESTIES.
I’m only five episodes in, but I’m really liking 질투의 화신! It covers important topics with care and comedy, and the characters are super likeable. Definitely recommend!
It’s been a little bit since I’ve watched a K-drama, so of course I started two in one week. Abyss(어비스) and Beautiful Gong Shim (미녀 공심이). I haven’t finished either yet, and I’m only about five episodes into each, but so far I’m loving both of them.
Abyss follows two best friends: a man who doesn’t find himself attractive and is often ridiculed, and a woman who believes herself stunning and gets quite a lot of compliments. Both die on the same day. Cha Min decides to kill himself after his fiancée dumps him over text and insults his appearance. However he changes his mind at the last second and calls his best friend, Go Se-yeon. She doesn’t take him seriously at first and halfway through the call, Cha Min is knocked off the building, only to be revived by two other worldly beings. He’s reborn as his ‘soul’s true form’: younger, taller, more confident. The beings gift him with an Abyss, a glowing orb that brought him back to life, and tell him to read the instructions. He heads towards his best friend’s flat, ready to tell her what happened, only she doesn’t come to the door and he goes to his apartment. At the same time, Go Se-yeon, is being murdered.
The next day, Cha Min learns what happened to Go Se-yeon and goes to mourn her, horrified that he could have stopped what was happening if he’d only gone inside the building. The Abyss lights up and Go Se-yeon is brought back to life in her soul’s true form: a little older and what she considers less attractive. (I will at this point note that some of the comments about beauty standards did bother me and I don’t like the body shaming a few of the characters do.)
Cha Min explains to Go Se-yeon what happened to them and proves he’s who he says is. They pair up to solve her murder and find his fiancée, who went missing just after dumping him via text. The investigation is quite interesting so far and I’m really enjoying Cha Min and Go Se-yeon’s dynamic, so I’m excited to see how it ends!
Beautiful Gong Shim, on the other hand, is a contemporary romance with a mystery twist. Gong Shim is the youngest, overlooked daughter of a family who relies financially upon her older, more successful sister Gong Mi. Gong Mi is quite shallow and puts Gong Shim down constantly, as if lowering her sister’s self-esteem is her evil art form. Honestly, she’s the worst.
Ahn Dan-tae is a pro-bono human rights lawyer and all around cheerful bloke. He encounters Gong Shim when she almost drops a potted plant on his head while trying to take a selfie on her roof. Despite this encounter, he ends up wrangling his way into renting her flat and moves in quickly. There are a lot of misunderstandings (largely on Gong Shim’s behalf), but when Gong Shim is beaten up by a rich woman at the petrol station she works out, she ends up going to Ahn Dan-tae for help.
Unfortunately, the woman who assaulted Gong Shim is the wife of the head lawyer at her sister’s law firm, and when Gong Mi learns of this, she bullies Gong Shim into dropping the law suit. Ahn Dan-tae isn’t remotely convinced and continues to help Gong Shim. He also makes fast friends with Seok Joon-soo, a rich businessman who ends up getting Gong Shim a job. Seok Joon-soo, for his part, is still reeling from the disappearance of his cousin years before, with his grandmother trying desperately to locate her missing grandson and his parents wanting to forget it happened (you get the impression they don’t care about their missing nephew).
The four lives get entwined over the episodes as Gong Mi falls for Seok Joon-soo, who likes Gong Shim, who’s liked by Ahn Dan-tae, who can’t seem to admit it to himself. CUE THE DRAMAAAA.
I put off watching The Man in the High Castle for ages. It’s based on the classic novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and it stars Rufus Sewell, whom I love soooooooo much (if you haven’t seen The Pillars of the Earth or Cold Comfort Farm, hop to it!), but, being Jewish, it’s nightmare fuel to see a world where the Nazis won. (Side note: if you want a great movie with central Jewish characters, I wholeheartedly recommend Defiance.) I found out though that The Man in the High Castle isn’t just alternative history, it’s science fiction, and the focus is heavily on the Resistance and fighting against all the horrors of racism and eugenics, so I decided to give it a go. The science fiction angle just sounded interesting. It’s slow to come, but it’s there, so keep an eye out for it. (The show is slow to bring in the sci-fi like Game of Thrones was slow to bring in the fantasy. It’s very political and character based.) And, seriously, epic casting all around: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and, of course, Rufus. (And more awesome actors come in as the episodes go along. Lots of great guest stars! Lots of rep!)
The show starts off in the 1960s, so it’s a costume drama-dystopian-alternative history-science fiction show. The backstory is that, during WWII, the Axis powers won their separate theatres of war, and so the United States is divided up under German and Japanese control. The Nazis control the east, which is known as the ‘Greater Nazi Reich’, while the Japanese control the west, known as the ‘Japanese Pacific States’. There is also a small sliver of land between the two known as the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is basically keeping the Cold War between the Axis powers from turning hot.
The show begins in San Francisco, which looks totally different, and follows Juliana Crain and Frank Frink. They’ve been together for years, but they worry about having children as Frank has Jewish ancestry and Jews are still in danger in the Pacific States. They try and live under the radar until one day Juliana’s sister Trudy appears, frantic. She tells Juliana that she has a way out. Before Juliana finds out what she means, Trudy’s killed by the police. Juliana then finds a film Trudy had in her possession that’s meant to be delivered to the Resistance. On the film is something seemingly impossible: a world where the Nazis lost and the Allied Powers won. (It’s not quite ourworld, but it’s close.)
Frank begs Juliana to go to the police, knowing how dangerous being involved with the Resistance is, but Juliana decides to go instead to meet with the person Trudy was trying to give the tape to. When she leaves, it triggers life changing events for everyone: Frank is promptly arrested, as are his family, and their Jewish heritage is used against them; an undercover man named Joe encounters Juliana on the road and, though he has his own agenda, quickly falls in love with her. At the same time, the high officials on both sides are keeping secrets and plotting against each other. We’re introduced to Obergruppenführer John Smith, a high ranking figure in New York who is trying to bring down the Resistance and find ‘the Man in the High Castle’, who knows something.
My favourite character, bar none, is Frank. He’s deeply loyal, loving, kind, and his character progression is intense. His devotion to Juliana and Ed, his best friend, make him so endearing, but he’s also just such an innately good person. I don’t want to spoil too much of his character arc, just know he’s amazing. I like Juliana, but I definitely struggle with some of her choices. Ed is a hero. While I never liked any of the bad guy characters, the actors who play the bad guys are brilliant in their roles, and Rufus Sewell’s character has a very well written storyline. There was one storyline that I really feared would happen, but it didn’t. Huge relief! Without spoilers, if a romance had gone one way, I would’ve peaced out so fast there would be cartoon dust clouds behind me.
Heads up, though: this whole show is tough to watch. There are some truly gruesome, twisted scenes that broke my heart. There’s a storyline where they follow a character with a medical condition and you get to hear all the Nazi eugenics bullshit and it made my skin crawl. The antisemitism is appalling, disgusting, wrong and hard to watch. There’s horrific racism aimed at Blacks by both sides that will make you furious and leave you crying. The scenes with all the propaganda, insignia and symbols are also very painful to watch. But, again, it’s showing how wrong all this is. How we should be free, how everyone should be equal, so if you can handle the grim storyline to watch good characters kick ass against awful racists, it has great payoff.
What I found especially interesting is how the historical events that really happened in history are basically switched for alternative events in the story’s history. It blends the events a little, but it’s pretty much Opposite World. And as the science fiction comes in and you learn the ‘secret’ of the Man in the High Castle, the show spins you on your head while leaving on the edge of your seat.
The dystopian genre is where most of my interest lies (that, and anything with good lgbt+ rep), so allow me to recommend to you my newest gem: Snowpiercer. The series is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and the 2013 Korean-Czech film. I really, really liked the film, too. If anyone hasn’t seen it, make sure you do! Chris Evans is great, and Bong Joon-ho is a wonderful director. (He also directed Okja, which will turn you vegetarian so fast your head will spin, whilst you cry the entire time.) The series is definitely different from the film and stands on its own, although there are some scenes that echo each other. Where the main aim of the film is to get to the engine, where the power rests, the show delves into the politics, relationships and machinations of the characters.
The premise is basically: the world went crazy with fighting and global warming, someone tried to cool down the global and ended up causing a mass ice age that’s killed everyone and everything. The only survivors are the people and the few plants and animals they managed to bring aboard. The leads in the show are played by Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, as Andre Layton and Melanie Cavill. Andre lives in the tail of the train, Melanie runs the engine. The train is divided by class, with the billionaires in the front of the train, then second class, third class, and then the tail, which is filled with a few hundred people who leapt onto the train just before the world froze over. Everyone at the back of the train is abused by the rich, hated and forgotten about.
At the start, there’s been a murder in the front of the train, so Melanie brings Andre out of the tail to solve the mystery, as he’s the only homicide detective aboard. Andre takes care of young Miles, an orphan aboard the tail, who he raises with Josie. Andre seizes upon the opportunity to try and help his people in the tail. He’s paired with ‘Brakeman’ (like a cop) Till, who’s from Third and is dating Jinju, a woman in Second. Till grows slowly sympathetic to Andre’s situation and the pair become friends while solving the murder. Class politics are a huge plot point, as those in First don’t like to be investigated by a man from the tail and believe themselves above the law.
My favourite characters are definitely Andre and Till, but I’m fascinated by Melanie and everything she’s not saying. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her and she’s a much different character than the movie parallel, who was played by Tilda Swinton. Where Minister Mason (Swinton) relished pain and brutal order, Melanie is more pragmatic, although I can’t say that I like her. A lot of what she does is unforgivable. Jennifer Connelly does an amazing job in her role, though. Josie, Zarah and Knox are also really good characters. The Folger family, who seem to have most of the power in First, are horrifying. Just you wait. Y I K E S.
This is definitely a tough and frustrating show to watch, but in a good way, if that makes sense? Very diverse, great class commentary and a central l/l pairing! Can’t wait to see how season one ends. And it’s been renewed for a second season, so there’s more to come!
If you want a show with an amazing soundtrack, fantastic costumes, an intricate storyline, a diverse cast, lgbt+ rep, and superheroes, look no further than The Umbrella Academy. I finally picked it up now that season two is out and watched all of season one yesterday. I’m actually glad I waited because now I have a whole other season to dive into!
The show is based on Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book and follows seven siblings with special powers. The story begins when a bunch of seemingly random women around the world give birth all at the same time – only they weren’t pregnant the day before. A billionaire goes out of his way to adopt the children and manages to collect seven. (I say collect because there’s absolutely nothing paternal or fatherly about him, at least from what I’ve seen, and he uses all of them for his own ends.) The children are trained to be superheroes, at the cost of their childhoods, and it badly impacts them.
Years later, the siblings come home when their father dies, only everything’s changed and no one gets along. One of the siblings vanished into time (Five); one of the siblings died (Ben); one was experimented upon (Luther); one was ostracised (Vanya); one is on drugs (Klaus); one is fighting for custody of her child after her marriage crumbled (Allison); and one has a lot of anger management problems (Diego). (Actually, most of them have anger management problems.) They are also reunited with Pogo, the chic, talking ape, and their Mom, who’s a robot.
In the midst of saying goodbye to their father, the sibling that went missing in time falls out of the sky, the same age he was when he vanished. And there are assassins following him. Oh, and the world is going to end in eight days. Should have led with that.
My favourite characters were Klaus, who can talk to the dead and uses drugs to avoid talking to the dead, and Vanya, a violinist who was told by their father that she would never be special, and whose siblings belittled her as a result. The two are so endlessly supportive of their siblings and have so many layers and I just felt for them at every turn. I adored Ben, Five and Diego, but I did struggle with Allison and Luther. Allison did win me over by the end, but Luther really lost the plot. Every choice he made frustrated me and I feel like everyone should have questioned him a lot more than they did.
The music was sooooo good in this show. You get Sinnerman, Istanbul (Not Constantinople), Exit Music (For a Film), Dancing in the Moonlight, and so many others. It’s seriously so good! I loved the costumes, too. ALTHOUGH WHY THIS IS SET IN 2019 AND THERE ARE NO MOBILE PHONES WAS A HUGE EYE TWITCH FOR ME. Like, if it had been explained, okay. But half the time the characters were using rotary phones and landlines, and I’m like, we are still in 2019, yes? I looked it up and it’s definitely intentional, so that’s cool, but it was a bit confusing at first. The vibe reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events, actually.
This is a show for anyone who loves family dramas or superheroes, but wants more diversity and character development than is often shown in movies. Definitely recommend!