The Affair (Showtime): Every critic has commented about this particular drama’s play on the Rashomon effect — the same story told via different, even contradictory vantages/narrators, which serves to reinforce the concept of the “unreliable” narrator. We’re given a basic storyline: two wildly different married people, Noah and Alison, meet and have a torrid, lasting affair that has drastic effects upon everyone involved. It’s the kind of storyline where everyone has secrets, and we can’t seem to gauge the truth — the accurate vantage — from anyone whatsoever, which is what I find riveting about the series. During the first season, we were treated to only Noah and Alison’s perspectives. The second season, however, includes the viewpoints of the (now-ex) spouses, Cole and Helen, as well, granting us further subtle secrets and lies. It’s damned fine drama, and the acting from the primary four — Ruth Wilson (Alison), Dominic West (Cole), Maura Tierney (Helen), and Joshua Jackson (Cole) — superb.
The Leftovers (HBO): I was on the fence about the first season of HBO’s version of the Tom Perrotta novel. The apocalyptic premise is intriguing — 2% of the worldwide population just mysteriously disappeared, leaving their loved ones in a perpetual state of despair and anguish, some of them even resorting to madness. We’re introduced to the small town of Mapleton, New York, where the local police chief, Kevin Garvey (played by the multi-talented Justin Theroux) and his family have been dealing with the aftermath of the “Sudden Departure” and its effects upon their community. I wasn’t particularly keen on the characters until the last few episodes during the town’s (and Kevin’s personal) dealings with the ever-silent, cigarette-puffing, white-clad cult of the nihilistic Guilty Remnants. The darker the show got, the more involving it became.
The second season’s first couple of episodes have since sucked me right in. It helps that we’ve moved along with Kevin and his (revamped) family to a different place entirely where they may start over — the Texas town of Jarden, where, supposedly, none of its residents had “departed.” The (quite literally) rumbling, shaky town has us meet a handful of new people, including the neighboring family-with-strange-secrets — fireman John Murphy (played by Kevin Carroll), who seems to be quite a dangerous force within the town itself; Dr. Erika Murphy (played by the fantastic Regina King), who’s perfectly aware that Jarden holds inexplicable phenomena; teenaged son Michael (Jovan Adepo), who sells “blessed” lake water to the tourists and mails the (truly) odd letter or two to the local mystic who perches like a greying Jesus up high on a platform overlooking the town centre; and teenaged daughter Evangeline (Jasmin Savoy Brown), “Evie,” a character who is just outright fascinating to me. Evie, supposedly epileptic as we’re told, has odd, brief blackouts and spends quite a bit of her free time swimming with her close friends in the local lake, a place that seems awfully… otherworldly…so much so that even scientists are interested in its contents. There’s an even stranger moment, a brief scene straight out of The Wicker Man, where we get a fleeting glimpse of Evie and her friends running naked through the woods. It’s totally random and more than a bit unnerving. Anyway, if the second season keeps up with those darkly surreal undertones, I’ll be sticking with it all the way.
Gotham (FOX): I’d say it was a guilty pleasure, but why should I feel guilty about watching a television show now entirely dedicated to the rise of Batman’s nemeses? All of the cast is magical together, everyone from the iron-jawed Ben McKenzie as Police Chief James Gordon to Sean Pertwee as the beloved and (apparently) badass butler, Alfred Pennyworth. However, since season one, I’ve never been more impressed with the kids here. Whoever found the adorably catty Camren Bicondova to play Selina Kyle, channeling a young Michelle Pfeiffer…and the likes of Cameron Monaghan as the blatantly Joker-esque Jerome Veleska…deserves some serious casting awardage.
Limitless (CBS): Wasn’t a big fan of the Bradley Cooper film the show’s based upon because it didn’t seem to go anywhere with its fun gimmick — a drug that opens up some crazy cerebral potential in its user. As a television show though, the gimmick seems to work. It doesn’t help that Limitless premiered around the same time as Fox’s Minority Report, and both shows involve “special” people helping out the law and order. However, while Minority Report has a wonderfully diverse cast, none of them were as quick to hold my attention as Jake McDorman as superdrug addict Brian Finch. It helps that Finch’s character is so charismatic, such a likable smartass, one can’t help but join in his addiction to garnering some serious super-smarts.
The Walking Dead (AMC): Of course, TWD has been more than a little touch-and-go. As with many successful television shows, there are bound be episodes one loathes (for me it was the entirety of season 2 minus the Carol and Daryl moments), and other episodes one loves. Still, TWD’s character developments have been quite something to witness (CAROL, anyone?). While I’m not a big fan of the overt Ricktatorship happening, I still find myself engrossed in their post-apocalyptic deep South — scary humanity, scary undead humanity, Michonne’s swordplay, and all the rest.
Fargo (FX): The first season was darkly hilarious with traces of Coen all over. Martin Freeman as henpecked-turned-psychopath insurance salesman Lester Nygaard and Billy Bob Thornton as the satanic chaos-maker of a hitman, Lorne Malvo, were absolutely pitch-perfect in their roles. However, the standout was relative newcomer Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson, a sweet-natured, sharp as a tack police deputy struggling to solve crimes alongside the imbeciles she’s forced to work with after the murder of their sheriff.
Season two seems to be in line with season one, covering the plotline of the case that Allison’s father, Lou Solverson (played in season one by Keith Carradine and in season two by Patrick Wilson), played a hand in solving. The tenor feels the same — darkly hilarious with characters that are just weird and wacky. Hopefully, the second season plays out as well as the first. So far though, so good.
NOTE: Any other recommendations for the fall season at all would be most welcome, of course, and thank you very much for assisting in destroying any semblance of a social live I may (or may not) have.