Netflix’s Punisher

With Iron Fist and The Defenders coming out later this year it can be easy to forget about the Netflix series that follows.

After seeing him in The Walking Dead and Fury (2014) I thought Bernthal’s casting as Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher was perfect. He went on to become the best thing about Daredevil’s second season, providing a deadly foil to Matt Murdock. After watching the season and reading The Punisher Max and War Journal, the Punisher quickly became one of my favourite comic book characters.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is (MCU) is sometimes hampered by the desire to remain family-friendly, the Netflix shows capture a more adult world that is also not afraid to embrace the more fantastical elements of the comics. Many people didn’t like the mystical aspects of Daredevil’s second season, probably due to the contrast with the gritty first season. However, I didn’t mind these additions. My biggest gripe was the love story between Matt and Karen, which wasn’t foreshadowed at all with the previous season. This season began and they were suddenly in love.

With that said, The Punisher is a series that might work better (at least for the first season) with more grounded villains. Most of the villains in the aforementioned comics were figures involved in crime syndicates such as the mafia or IRA. While The Punisher obviously lives in the same universe as Thor and The Hulk, and has fought some of these figures in the comics, I hope the solo series starts with his work on the streets. Daredevil ended with Castle donning his costume as he continued his personal war on crime. I want to see that story expanded, as Castle continues to target criminal enterprises.

While Daredevil emphasized Castle’s pursuit by law enforcement, the Max comics frequently imply that the police tolerate his presence. There is a story arc where corrupt policemen frame him for the murder of one of their own, but for the most part the police realize he makes their jobs easier and scares some people off the streets. It would be interesting to see this dynamic in the series as well. I have heard the series will be inspired by the Max run, and I am especially hoping that the “Slavers” arc is adapted.

Set pictures have revealed that Karen Page will appear in the series. She tried to act as Castle’s voice of reason in Daredevil, creating a character dynamic that had far more chemistry than her and Murdock’s. It is likely she will be trying to steer him away from vigilantism, or a less violent alternative. If the character’s written properly he won’t be changing his mind, but their conversations could lead to more interesting insights about how Castle views the world e.g. the rooftop conversation in Daredevil.

One of my main worries is the length of the seasons. Every Marvel Netflix show is thirteen episodes, which feels like too much at times. Luke Cage was a good show, but I feel like it was hampered by the length. Shortening the series by an episode or two could have led to some more concise storytelling. Since the series needed to be padded to 13 episodes I feel like all of the legal wrangling in the last few episodes was added to get the series to the necessary length. Since The Punisher kills his enemies there will be definitely be less police and courtroom proceedings to worry about. However, some other plot twists could be utilized to pad the series unnecessarily. Until the thirteen episode rule changes we’ll have to hope the writers adapt to give us 13 episodes that don’t feel bloated or stretched out.

Besides that concern, this series has a lot to offer. The few comics I’ve read present a swath of interesting supporting characters and villains that will help to support one of my favourite anti-heroes as he makes his solo tv debut. What is your most anticipated Marvel Netflix show of 2017?

 

The Boondocks

After finishing Westworld, I was looking for a new show to get into. I normally like limiting my television to one ongoing series (Taboo) and one finished series. I have decided to make The Boondocks my new finished series.

Based on Aaron McGruder’s comic strip of the same name, The Boondocks originally aired on Adult Swim in 2005. The show revolves around a black family, The Freemans, settling into the fictional white suburb of Woodcrest. The series has received a lot of controversy and a lot of praise for its examination of racism, hip-hop culture and stereotypes.

I originally caught some episodes on tv back in 2005 but never watched the show regularly. While surfing through YouTube ( a habit I want to cut down on) I came across one of my favourite scenes from the few episodes I previously watched.

Seeing this scene motivated me to start viewing the series from the beginning. McGruder was not involved with season 4 and I have been told it represents a significant drop in quality, but there are still 3 seasons I am looking forward to.

Taboo: Episode One Thoughts

Tom Hardy first came to my attention from his performance in Inception, where he nearly stole the show from Leonardo DiCaprio with far fewer lines and less screen time. Inception was followed by Warrior, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Legend and The Revenant. I didn’t like Hardy’s performance in The Revenant as much as the critics did, mainly due to the accent he used in that film, but it hasn’t tainted my perception of Hardy as a whole.

Although I don’t watch television shows on television that much (mostly online through kodi or Netflix) I often get some exposure through my uncle’s religious television watching. Back in December, I caught the tv spots for Taboo and decided that I would watch it as soon as I saw Tom Hardy. Ridley Scott co- producing is only icing on the cake. The tv spots didn’t give away much of the plot, instead only offering cryptic lines and haunting imagery.

Some online chatter speculated that Tom Hardy’s venture into television was a step down in his acting career. These people have obviously missed out on the fact that respected and talented actors such as Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have all starred in television. Aside from starring in Taboo, Hardy is also co-producing, which will give him valuable experience in a different department of film-making.

Taboo follows James Delaney (Tom Hardy), who returns to England after his father’s death. Presumed dead, James is the sole heir listed in his father’s will. Chief among these possessions is a highly coveted island that the East India Trading Company and the American government want for their own profit. Unwilling to acquiesce, Delaney begins his mission to establish his own shipping empire.

I know the show has been described as a slow build, but I did not find the first episode to be as slow as the first episode of  True Detective. My patience was well rewarded with the first season of that show and the first episode of Taboo left me eager for more. The show does a great job with establishing a captivating atmosphere, with dark cinematography and visuals that are sometimes reminiscent of Hannibal.

Delaney initially comes across as a man of few words, but Hardy still manages to exude a powerful presence on screen. He is enigmatic and intimidating. He has was in Africa for years before he returned to England and rumours follow him. Our introduction to the character is especially intriguing because the show has not revealed much about Delaney’s past at this point. The tv spots gave us glimpses of a supernatural element in the show, which could be hallucinations for all we know. The first episode already gave us a scene where Delaney is confronted by his involvement in slavery, personified by a hulking black figure that he has to verbally subdue. Or maybe some of these rumours circulating about witchcraft are true. Especially since Delaney gives us hints that he “knows about the dead”.

Delaney is also confronted by the past, in the form of his half-sister (Oona Chaplin). It is implied that their relationship may extend beyond typical family boundaries, and online articles appear to confirm what I expected. It seems that this show, co-written by Hardy’s dad, is not afraid of approaching its namesake.

Although Delaney is the most captivating character at this point, he is also supported ably by the rest of the cast. Most notable among them is Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company.  Pryce is no longer The High Sparrow, motivated by a desire for moral purity. Strange seeks power and wealth, and views Delaney as another pawn that needs to be eliminated to obtain more of it.

I could delve further into what this first episode offers, but I feel like if you want to know more, you should just watch the show.

 

The Walking Dead- The Return of Filler

It’s Walking Dead season, so I hope you can all bear more The Walking Dead articles. I have previously shared my very strong praise for season 7, and I still stand by my praise for the first four episodes of the season. I did not like the fact that episodes 2 and 3 were entirely devoted to one location and group, but I figured that could be excused if the show cut down on the rest of its filler. One of my biggest issues with other seasons were entire episodes devoted to more minor characters. Episode 5 got us back to familiar territory, with a focus on The Hilltop and Carl and Enid (my most hated couple on the show). Now episode six gives us an episode devoted to Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins). I am happy to see Corey Hawkins on screen again after he killed it as Dr. Dre in in Straight Outta Compton, and Tara has consistently been one of the more level-headed characters on the show. This episode still comes across as filler.

I don’t have a problem with the time given to minor characters, I am bothered by the insistence on developing them in one episode instead of splitting it up among multiple episodes. Rick’s struggle with Negan is a central part of this season and we went two episodes in a row without seeing it because the show runners insisted on avoiding it. Just like the cliffhanger, this seems like a maneuver that is meant to guarantee higher ratings for later episodes.

Some may argue that the singular focus allows us to become more attached to the characters and let them shine. Firstly, if an entire episode is devoted to a character we don’t care about that much (relatively), it can make people care less about the episode and make them impatient for the return of a favoured storyline or character. Even though episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good, I couldn’t help but shake this nagging feeling as well.  Of course, if the episodes were edited differently we would still have the same runtime. However, I feel as if the desire for filler makes writers add more storylines and interactions that help to justify a full episode for a character. At least ten minutes could have been shaved off episode 3 without impacting the main takeaways from the episode. The same goes for episode 2. It’s the equivalent of padding an essay with flowery words and phrases to reach a word limit.

All characters and locations have been reintroduced at this point so let’s hope we get more concise storytelling from this point on. It’s disappointing to see a season start so strong, only to fall back to the same things that prevented the show from truly being great. There were red flags in the first episode as well, namely the dragged out encounter with Negan. However, I ignored it, blindly hoping that the show was getting the filler out of its system. I was wrong, and now we’ll see if this season gets up to the quality of 6,5 and 1, or slides down to 3 and 2.

What are your favourite seasons of The Walking Dead?

 

The Walking Dead: Season 7 Thoughts

I got around to watching episode 7.2 on friday and just uploaded a YouTube video with my thoughts on it. I wanted to use this blog post comment on episode 7.2 but also season 7 and The Walking Dead as a whole. So far, this season has the makings of a great one and has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best.

Seasons 1 and 5 rank atop my list for the moment. I didn’t hate season 2 as much as many others did, mostly due to Jon Bernthal’s performance as Shane. However, there were a lot of other things that left much to be desired. Andrea and Lori were absolute cancer to the show and it generally got better once they were gone. The Governor was a pretty strong villain and the prison showdown is one of the show’s greatest highlights. I wasn’t that big a fan of The Governor’s continued story in season 4. The show returned strong with the group finding Alexandria in season 5, demonstrating the contrast between Rick’s battle-hardened group and the sheltered Alexandrians. This aspect of the show resulted in some of the best conflict since it wasn’t necessarily a single villain. There was Pete of course, the alcoholic, wife-beating surgeon who was suspicious of Rick’s intentions with his wife. However, the entire season did not revolve around this conflict. Rick’s group, and Rick in particular were simply the target of widespread mistrust. The Wolves came across as filler and were very forgettable villians imo.

wolves

Obviously reading the comics prior to watching some of these later seasons impacts my perception of them. I am not one of those people that will bash an adaptation if it is slightly different, but I think it is fair to call the writers out on changes that I believe did not improve the show or serve any functional purpose. Season 5 could have been the same, if not better without The Wolves. Their biggest impact was bringing the herd to Alexandria, since they caused the truck crash that led the walkers to the community. However, this could have happened another way. If I remember correctly, the herd in the comic is only brought to the community by the sound of gunfire, which could have come from the internal conflict that permeated season 5.

Season 6 built on this mistrust but also added a love triangle and teen drama with Pete’s son, who was a weak actor and a whiny brat character we have seen numerous times before. This subplot brought the show down greatly, with the only good result being the loss of Carl’s eye. I always wondered if the show would ever go through with this development, and although I felt bad for Carl, it was great to see it happen. Carl’s appearance plays a big part in his more pessimistic attitude in the comics and his relationship with Lydia in the comic’s Whisperers storyline, which follows Negan’s. We will see if the show ever incorporates this relationship.  The highlight of season 6 was “No Way Out”, where Alexandria must confront a herd. This episode also gives us another allusion to Negan, with an appearance by The Saviours. The season then ended strong, with the first appearance of Negan.

negan-walking-dead-comic-book

All this is to say that the quality of the villains significantly impact the quality of a season. Many of the season 2 supporters I have spoken to say they liked the season mostly due to Shane, even if they found other aspects of the season dull. Season 1 mostly focused on the zombie threat and the characters adjusting to their new world, which is often one of the most interesting aspects of apocalyptic stories. With season 7 we get an introduction to Negan that is dragged out in relation to the comics, but is still very powerful. We do not only see Negan beat people’s brains in with a bat, we also see him break Rick mentally. What I always liked about Negan is that he may seem like a raving lunatic, but he is also very calculated and methodical. In the comic he made sure not to kill Rick because he didn’t want to create a martyr that could inspire the others to fight back. He realized the leader needed to be broken. We see Negan do that with finesse by the end of the episode, showing a guilt-ridden Rick who is at one of the lowest points we’ve ever seen him in.

negan-humor

One thing that continues to bother me about the show is the way they will often focus on one character, set of characters, or location for the entire duration of a show. In “No Way Out” the show switches between Glenn and Enid, to Sasha, Abraham, Daryl, to the rest of Alexandria. With good editing and writing, the show can seamlessly transition between these stories of varying interest and bring them all together at the end. Instead, we get a focus on Negan for the first episode. The dragged out confrontation then comes across as filler that is meant to hold us over to the next episode. The second episode focuses on Carol, Morgan and The Kingdom. Judging from previews, the third will focus on Daryl and The Saviours. When a show has this many characters, it simply does not make sense to spend a whole episode on one or one group. Shows like Game of Thrones may do this at times, but GOT characters weren’t all together at one point. GOT isn’t following a group that got split up, it is following different characters with different goals. With TWD, focusing on one character per episode forces you to pad the season with extra episodes that could easily have been condensed. Of course, more episodes, means more opportunity for ratings and more money. It is the same logic as the season 6 finale. The show runners knew they wanted to condense the action when it came to “No Way Out”, but they seem content to drag out the opening of this season. I am hoping that the desire to maximize profit doesn’t continue to yield filler and nonsensical subplots. If those two things are kept to a minimum this could possibly be the best season of The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere

I have previously shared my thoughts on the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead. I thought that the ending was downright insulting and one of the most despicable rating grabs I have ever seen. Such a move would have been warranted if The Walking Dead was struggling in terms of viewership: It is one of the most watched shows on television.

Negan’s introduction is one of the most notorious in comics and his introduction to the show was highly anticipated mostly for the death that would ensue. To deliberately hide this development until next season insults comic book readers and the general audience. Some people say a cliffhanger was a great idea, but understand that the series still could have had a cliffhanger without a terrible call of duty view ending. A cliffhanger is an ending that leaves something unresolved, and usually refers to a situation where a character is left in peril. In the comic, the issue ends with the group crying over Glenn’s battered body. That would have been a cliffhanger as well; characters are left in a dangerous situation and a plot point is unresolved. In my opinion, that would have been much more powerful.

negan-the-walking-dead

I avoided watching the premiere live on sunday specifically because I didn’t want to reward the show-runners with ratings after the move they pulled. I watched the premiere about thirty minutes ago, and after taking a bit of time to gather my thoughts, I needed to share them.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON

Firstly, the double death was a surprise. It was a very prominent fan theory but one that I never paid much attention to. Two deaths seemed like overkill but after watching the episode I liked the way it was executed. I had Abraham’s death spoiled for me on social media, but he was also one of the ones I expected would die. After the ridiculous dumpster incident I didn’t think Glenn would die, but it seems like the show-runners like to mess with their fans.

Not only did Glenn die, but he died just like he did in the comic. Everything from Negan’s dialogue to him, to Glenn’s last words, to the grotesque result of the first hit.

sorry-this-is-kinda-scarring-even-in-drawing-formi-know-it-s-difficult-to-cope-but-here-are-4-reasons-spoiler-s-death-on-the-walking-de-682873

 

 

 

 

 

IMDB was surprisingly rife with users wondering why Rick let Negan kill someone. Although it is obvious that everyone would die if Rick tried anything, some people truly need to be spoon-fed. Daryl’s actions give us the clearest demonstration of what happens if  anyone doesn’t sit and accept what is happening.

Daryl is shown to be more impulsive at times, so his actions do fit the character. I knew AMC wouldn’t dare to kill him, since he is arguably the face of the franchise more than Rick is. Also, he has more teen fangirls who might stop watching if he dies.

I now wonder what Daryl’s arc will be like this season. I’m thinking we may see him struggle with survivor’s guilt, marking a shift towards a less confident Daryl. Since Daryl and Abraham are now both gone (one dead, one with the saviours) it also brings up the question of which character becomes Rick’s new right hand. Perhaps it could be Sasha, or even Gabriel for all we know.

Speaking of hands… In the comic, The Governor and his men cut off Rick’s right hand. Negan’s emphasis on the importance of a “right-hand man” got me thinking that Rick might suffer more pain by the end of the episode. By this point in the series, I never thought the show would go that route. Then Negan asks Carl to come forward. Once he started wrapping the belt around Carl’s arm, my mind drifted back to the comics again.

rickloseshand

This moment is a fake-out but the show-runners are forgiven. For the first time in a while, someone from the core group of characters died. I would have been livid if a relatively minor character (e.g. Aaron or Rosita) died after months of waiting. Additionally, comic book readers get a great nod the comics. We also see the extent of Negan’s mind games. Since I read the comic first I couldn’t help but feel like the meeting with Negan was dragged out due to all the extra events. However, the purpose of the meeting remained the same. Negan wants to break Rick, and he does it in spectacular fashion. Here we see Negan’s calculating mind at work, just like the comic. He knows Rick is a respected leader, and doesn’t want to make him a martyr by killing him.

the-walking-dead-saison-7-image-comics-comics

Overall, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivered on the hype. We also got to see a small hint of the relationship that might develop between him and Carl, if the show-runners follow the comic down that route. I still feel like the cliffhanger stunted the impact of this episode but I am happy to say that I am excited for another season of The Walking Dead.

 

Updates

Hello everyone,

Likely won’t be posting again until Monday so I thought I would wrap up this week with some updates.

Firstly, analytics are now installed and they reveal that my instagram accounts and other social media have barely helped to increase readership. I got caught in the trap of assuming that vanity metrics (followers, retweets etc.) equaled engagement. If you are a reader or a user who has joined through social media, it is much appreciated.

There are times when I have tweeted a link to an article and assumed that everyone who liked the post must have read it. Checking the amount of “link clicks” then makes it clear that some people just liked the tweet and ignored the link. Maybe a certain word caught their attention. I had one post that criticized girls who “like hockey players“. It seems like a bunch of girls just saw the words “hockey players” and thought “I like hockey players!” before liking the tweet.

Although my dream is to make a living writing full-time my more practical career goal is to become involved in public relations. PR emphasizes the importance of social media for increasing visits to a website and increased engagement. Although there are many successful examples of this, it appears that I need to take my own website as an object lesson of a social media campaign that has yielded poor results. I’m going to have to look into the steps I need to take to convert more twitter followers and Instagram users into readers of the website. It is great to have an audience on other platforms, but my original goal was to create one large audience instead of multiple, splintered ones.

On to less depressing material… I finished reading 100 Bullets and will be writing a short review for comicommand over the weekend.  I am currently reading Preacher and the first five issues already have me hooked. I might check out the tv show afterwards.

For those reading this, have a great weekend.