I was well into the 7th season of AMC’s The Walking Dead. But come the tenth episode entitled New Best Friends, I begin to question the road this show is taking which might just be “downhill”. Because the “scavengers” scene was pretty darned ridiculous, almost cartoonishly so. But no, I am not going to write this off yet. But I decided to take a break from it and venture into other TV series that might just won’t make me bash my head in.
While I have heard of this, I had no inkling to see this soonest. But a workmate of mine recommended it, and I didn’t want to let him down. Not after he watched my recent recommendation (La Famille Belier 2014). And most definitely not after he told me he loved it and weeped like a baby during a key singing performance. Yep, I have people pleasing tendencies. So I went and and saw all 13 episodes of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, adapted by Diana Son and Brian Yorkey from Jay Asher’s best-selling YA novel of the same name. It’s a good tv series. It’s not great but I don’t think it’s a waste of time, I can say that much.
First off it is a stylishly shot tv series. Something that is unusual for a teen drama. I particularly love their decision to juxtapose the past and the present in some of the scenes. It’s as if the main character Clay Jensen, traveled back in time to witness the event being recounted on the tapes, with Hannah Baker close enough to touch. And there are some pretty good acting too. Dylan Minette as Clay Jensen does this grief and guilt-stricken, brooding intensity very convincingly. And Katherine Langford is so good as Hannah Baker that I truly wished I could give this girl a hug, And while we all know she took her life in the end, I was hoping it to not be true. That kind of empathy can be tough to draw out of an audience. But the standouts for me were Miles Heizer as Alex, the teen who has issues on social belongingness and self-confidence, and Alisha Boe as Jessica, the beautiful and popular cheerleader whose life seems so magazine-like rosy. “Seem” being the operative word here. I think these two kids has some dramatic range and will pull you into their character’s lives effortlessly.
But this tv series is not without problems. I understand that mental health and suicide is a tricky subject matter and it will almost always attract controversy. The issue whether or not you have a realistic portrayal, or a glamorized one, will always plague a show of this kind. Now what do I think? I think this show was made with the intention of the former, but can easily be construed as the later. And here’s why. First off, as you get to watch/hear about each of the episodes/tapes, the show becomes less and less about Hannah’s depression and mental state, and the gravity of suicide gets fainter and fainter each time. What goes on the forefront is the drama. And by “drama”, I mean the spectacle of knowing the deep, dark secrets of the people on the tapes, and what they have done to Hannah. Like almost to the point of it being highschool “gossipy”. Oooh what has this person done to Hannah that she included him on her tapes? Oooh what is this person hiding from her friends…etc. etc. So yeah, there’s that.
But they had this sort of bonus episode, where you get behind the scenes interviews from the directors, producers and the cast explaining their intent and what drove them to portray this scene this way, and that scene that way, and I admit this added a bit of gravity and sincerity to the entire TV series. But when your teen drama series needs an epilogue as explanation, well that might be a bit problematic. But overall I think this show has been judged too harshly. I applaud the creators for even considering to bring this on-screen. They took on the impossible. And while they might not have succeeded with flying colors, I still hope this could help with the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Where has Noah Hawley been all my life? FX’s Legion is an absolute frame-by-frame work of art. It is stunning! It is gorgeous! And I attach every other conceivable word synonymous to aesthetic pleasure to this series! But this is not just an exercise in visual stylistics to the point that it alienates emotions because the lead character’s (David Haller played by Dan Stevens) journey is very personal and very human. It is a heart wrenching story of a man who just wants to make sense of life and whatever the hell he is. Mr. Magic Man or Mr. Crazy Pants. And I love the unreliability of the POV. Legion keeps the audiences second, third and fourth guessing what they’re seeing on-screen. Is this reality? Or is this David’s manufactured reality? Is this schizophrenia? Or superpowers?
Really, Legion is unlike anything that I’ve seen before. Definitely not in the mold of other comic book series on tv where the good caped-crusaders nail bad guys, and everything is in sitcomy hues. Legion is trippy and weird and Hitchcockian, and is more about the inner struggles of the characters than fighting crime or super villains. But it isn’t too different to the point that you cannot tell that it’s part of the Marvel Universe. Because true to the X-Men, Legion is also about a rag tag of unique individuals trying to make it in the normal world.
“Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?” -Syd Barrett
Aside from the titular character, the rest of the gang are interesting played by a superb cast of actors. I think the groundedness of Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett is a good counter to David’s volatility. Cary and Kerry Loudermilks, their powers I leave for you to discover, played by Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder brings a lot of cool action scenes to the table. And their power is pretty unusual, it’s fantastic. Trust me. And I am excited for the next season to delve more into the complexity of their symbiotic type of relationship. Jean Smart as Melanie Bird is amazing too. She’s like McGonagal and Dumbledore rolled into one power dressing, beige coat wearing lady. But Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny Busker will take your breath away. She will make you cringe. And seeing Jemaine Clement was a very pleasant surprise! He is such a perfect fit for his charcater, Oliver Bird. I feel like he is merely playing himself. He doesn’t get much screen time this season, but I think we’ll see a lot more of him on the second one. And he is great! My enthusiasm is perhaps a little too much. But gosh I miss Flight of the Conchords.
Legion is just an absolute killer. I want to shove this show into people’s throats every chance I get. And while I found it tough to pee in the dark, or to just be in the dark for weeks on end because I kept imagining the jowl-y, creepy fat man of David’s nightmares jumping on me, I say it was well worth it! Also, I am officially in love with Dan Stevens.