The Expanse: Season Two Premiere – Space Is Still Dirty (Review)

The Expanse - Season 2

Season two’s premiere of The Expanse takes up after the wholesale slaughter that took place on Eros in the season one finale. Holden and Miller are being treated for their exposure and after a long period are given injections by Naomi. These “patch” injections will need to be taken for the rest of their lives and neither man will be able to procreate, she says.

The Phoebe organism turns out to be in that locked device. Amos and Naomi work together to open the thing and they they hide the stuff in the middle of an abandoned asteroid mine.

Miller and Amos work out their issues with one another. Joe is still angry at Amos killing his friend but after Burton almost strangles the life out of the former cop, aka Star Helix, things settle down.

Back on Earth the U.N.N. quickly proves that space is still dirty, but this time around it is the political double-dealing, war mongering and back stabbing that makes the atmosphere so bad. Avasarala almost dies, hires a spy and struggles to stop the war before it can begin.

Avasarala not only hires a spy, she orders him to put her in contact with Col. Johnson (an act of treason). Johnson actually joins Holden’s crew to invade the space station and learn the secret of the alien virus.

We meet a new character, one Gunny Draper; a tough and nigh on unstoppable Martian bad-arse who looks to be a force to be reckoned with this season.  She does not get to do too much in this two hour premiere but  it is clear that she will be going up against Holden’s team sooner or later.

The big shock, and a move that almost pushes the Earth and Mars into full scale war, was the Martian move to blast Phoebe Space Station into space debris. The missiles, which just missed the U.N.N. vessel, were used to destroy any evidence of the parasitic experiments that took place there.

Once the crew board the vessel, they learn that the parasitic creature, considered to be A) proof of alien existence and B) “the first shot,” was released to help develop a cure.  As the lead scientist pleads his case to continue the work, Johnson looks close to agreeing with the man.

The Expanse - Season 2
Miller and Johnson

Miller cuts the discussion short by shooting the scientist mid argument.

The brilliance of this two episode premiere of The Expanse, was its execution. The first half of the open was pretty much expository in nature. We are brought up to speed on where everyone is at and the discovery of just how close this world is to war.

The second half, aka episode two, built up the suspense of the Roci being used to breech the space station. It allowed the colonel to join forces with Holden and his crew and gave Miller a chance to get a bit of payback and closure.

The former cop also shows that he can lead just fine. Although his followers in the infiltration operation are a bit trigger happy. This was an excellent start to season two of The Expanse.

We are shown the relationship developments between Holden’s group and Kamal’s progress as a pilot. The scenes with the simulation training and then the actual battle between the Roci, the stealth fighter and that cannon, were spot on and resulted in some edge of the seat viewing.

Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham and newcomer Frankie Adams are killing it in space. While back on Earth, Shohreh Aghdashloo rules supreme as Chad L. Coleman wears his rebel hat brilliantly.

The Expanse - Season 2
Chrisjen Avasarala

Season two looks to be as addictive as season one. The Expanse airs Wednesdays on SyFy. Do not miss this outstanding science fiction mystery.

Cast:

Face Off All Stars: The Devil Is in the Details (Review)

Face Off - Season 11

The second episode of Face Off All Stars “The Devil Is in the Detail” saw the first team sent home and a different winner this week. There were some stunning examples of work by two different teams, Niko and Cat were neck and neck with Ben and Evan in this competition while Stella and Jasmine along with Logan and Adam were at the bottom of the spectrum.

Face Off All Stars feels a lot more streamlined this year. We see much less of McKenzie, she no longer accompanies her father during the sculpting phase of the competition, and Michael spends less time with the All Star competitors. (This may well be because they are former contestants.)

Everything seems to move faster, the processes themselves and the judging go much quicker, again it may well be down to the nature of the competitor’s themselves. All have been on the show before in various seasons and all know how things work.

Face Off - Season 11

The show this week focussed on devils and angels. A concept meant to reflect the teams’ foibles and strengths. The twist being that these were to be shown on the same model.

As usual there were issues for some of the team members. Stella and Jasmine could not get their act together enough to develop a cohesive plan. This put them behind and consequently a dodgy mold insured they spent more time rushing than creating.

Ben and Adam got off to a poor start when the cowl ended up looking like a “devil hoodie.” The two, who make an excellent team, wasted no time ripping off the offending bit of work and starting over. (They did so well that they almost won the competition. As it was, their effort took them out of the bottom spot they found themselves in last week.

Logan and Adam just missed the mark with their interpretation of the challenge and narrowly missed being sent home.

The winning team, Niko and Cat, were interesting to watch as they worked through each phase. As they passed sculpting. molding and application, Cat insisted that Niko focus all his attention to the wings. This, and the brilliant paintwork done on the face of their model, sold their creation and it was, as Ve Neill pointed out, beautiful.

Face Off - Season 11
Niko applying those exquisite veins

Emily and Tyler also finished in the top three this week with their creation.     Once again, the entire process in the second episode of Face Off All Stars with the judges seemingly only reacting to the efforts of the worst and best in this challenge.

They did all agree, however, that Emily and her teammate Tyler did a breathtaking job on the filigree corrosion of their character and it is clear that Niko and Cat will face their stiffest competition in the area of paintwork from these two.

Face Off - Season 11
Emily Serpico painting that marvelously detailed corrosion.

By the end of the episode, Cat and Niko won as much for their enormous wings as they did for the beautiful painting done on their model. Stella and Jasmine were the first team to be sent home. The two women were not overly pleased to be the first but as Jasmine pointed out, they were happy to have competed with the group of All Stars on the show.

Going into the next competition, Niko and Cat now have immunity while Logan and Adam have one “fail” to their credit. This series continues to show the creative process behind the magical makeup used to invent characters that fall outside the realms of reality.

Face Off All Stars airs Tuesdays on SyFy. If you love cinema and makeup do not miss this series.

Face Off - Season 11 SyFy (Photo by: Jordin Althaus
(l-r) George Troester III, Cig Neutron, Rachel Wagner, Gage Hubbard, Keaghlan Ashley, Melissa Ebbe, Jasmine Ringo, Stella Sensel,Emily Serpico, Tyler Green, Cat Paschen, Niko Gonzalez, Adam Milicevic, Logan Long, Evan Hedges, Benjamin “Ben” Ploughman

 

 

‘Face Off’ Season 11: Abstract Aliens – All Stars Team Work (Review)

Face Off - Season 11

Season 11 of SyFy’s Face Off changed things about with a spin on their usual formula. “Abstract Alien” spelled out the new rules as former contestants from prior seasons returns to make up teams. These familiar faces now work in teams of two and as McKenzie tells the contestants, each duo will live and die together.

Another change, apart from the team concept this year, is that the judges will see two examples of each team’s work. There will not be a “send off” each week. One team will have immunity and then a team will be sent home the next week.

The first spotlight challenge is also that bit different. As McKenzie explains, each of these contestants are “all stars” who have been on the show before. As such, the competition has been altered to reflect their prior experience on the show. For the first time ever the hopefuls are having green screen technology as part of their makeup challenges.

As usual the teams separate to work on their designs. Throughout the start of the episode, each team explains who they are and what season they competed in.  The  first contest that the group face are aliens influenced by  creature feature films like The Abyss and War of the Worlds.

Surreal is the name of the game and the aliens created in this first episode are to be based upon inhabitants from under the sea. As they enter the lab and begin work on their projects, disaster strikes. Evan’s clay sculpture and the figure it is attached to, falls to the ground.

Michael Westmore comes on set to dispense advice and this season he is alone.  McKenzie is not accompanying her father which is another change this time around.

Day two is taken up with finalizing the sculptures and then moving onto the molding process. The green screen process is a brilliant addition and at least one team test out the new technology.

Cat and Niko have a cowl mold that refuses to open. As usual, other competitors, like Keaghlan Ashley,  step in to help out their compatriots. With help the team finally get the mold broken apart. The cowl has been damaged but it can be repaired.

Face Off - Season 11
Keaghlan Ashley, Melissa Ebbe

This is the part of the show where the designs and all the hard work start to come together. The models arrive to be fitted with the prosthetics and made up. Niko and Cat speed up their process to make up for the broken cowl.

Last Looks start with everyone rushing to put everything together. The teams take their creations out for the judges to inspect.

Face Off - Season 11
Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill, Neville Page

Ben and Evan, Jasmine and Stella, Keaghlan and Marissa,  as well as Rachael and Gage score the best and the worst. At the end of the in-depth breakdown of each creation Keaghlan and Marissa were the winners in the first episode’s spotlight challenge.

This gave them immunity for next week’s spotlight challenge and the rest of the teams were all reminded to up their game for the next test.

Face Off airs Tuesdays on SyFy. This newest season looks impressive and the move to bring back former contestants has upped the stakes. Personal favorite Keaghlan Ashley and her teammate Marissa Ebbe were the clear winners this week.

Tune in next week to see who will win the next challenge.

Face Off - Season 11
McKenzie Westmore

 

Aftermath: Whispers of Immortality – String Theory (Review)

 Aftermath - Season 1

While the final episode of Aftermath ends in a bit of a cliffhanger, the storyline follows a logical conclusion. It is hidden amongst the weird and wonderful characters that the players meet up with, but it is a solid line of reasoning nonetheless.

It is all about string theory.

The season has been full of mythical creatures from other cultures along with scientific anomalies, like wormholes and time differences, that have also affected events and people in this verse.

Initially it seemed that the series was all about the “End of Days” aka the apocalypse.  However, with the skin changers, flying demons and man eating plants the world was not just ending but changing to include “boogeymen” from every ethnicity on earth.

In “Whispers of Immortality” Moondog  gives us a bit of backstory. Like the prophets of old, the man headed out into the desert.(On a sidenote: Kudos to Ferreira for being a hip physicist version of Wolfman Jack. The man rocks it with that voice and his character’s attitude.)

After 12 years in the Mojave, Bob’s wife declares him dead and the DJ/prophet knows a lot about string theories and how they are affecting the world.

In essence, the final answer is that gravity waves are forcing all the dimensions into one path. “The one is many and many are the one” is not just a mantra by a few people  it is the key to what is happening to Earth.

These waves have forced all 11 dimensions to occupy the same timeline. Ergo, it seems, that dimensions are not just variations on one time, one culture, but many. (See what we did there?)

We also learn that the bullet given to Karen by the dead woman in her vision, that later turned into a rock, is a key to the Delphi. (Nice touch with the “Delphi Cafe” being the oracle’s hangout. The crowning glory was the pinball machine being the actual “fortune teller” and not the waitress.)

The keypunch computer cards are finally put to use. When the cards are finally put through the reader, a machine that they imply was last used in 1979 but the keypunch system was still being used in the very early ’80’s, they get their answer.

For those who are not overly religious or not at all, the fragmented message is one of hope. “The End of the World Is Not the End of the World.” It takes the trio a little time to work out this new bit of evidence.

Joshua, the Adept, is the one who makes the connection. He tells Dana and Moondog that in each culture there is a tale of the world ending but, in essence, it does so for a new beginning. In other words, each culture has their version of a “Noah” scenario.

The finale of Aftermath kept up the pressure. Matt is copied by a shape shifter, they are getting smarter it seems, and Dana steps right out of her comfort zone to save her dad and the card reading machine.

When Junkman gets the drop on Moondog and Josh, while a group of bystanders turn the scene into a cacophony amid all this madness, Dana approaches Junkman from behind and shoots him in the arse.

Moondog asks why she shot the man in the nether region and she responds that it is not lethal but is still debilitating. Dana is right, her lack of a deadly response takes the homicidal Junkman out of commission.

Karen learns from the oracle that “she is the price for what she wants.” In essence, the mother must sacrifice herself to save her family and kids.

(One bone of contention here: This feels all too much like the “death is your gift” plot device from Buffy the Vampire Slayer season five. The meaning is exactly the same, in the Joss Whedon season finale that year, Buffy Summers must die to save the world and Dawn. In this episode, Karen must sacrifice herself to save the family and the world.)

On top of  string theory being the answer to all the phenomena that has been hammering the planet and the people on it, those wormholes are also part of the solution.  Using the tesla tower to attract the holes above the station allows those giant moon rocks to be sucked out of the air before destroying the world in that area.

Of course the downside is that Karen, after repairing the tower’s power supply, is also sucked up into the giant wormhole above her. Brianna swears that they will find their mum but…

Sure, the canary lady’s husband was sucked up in Portland and returned to her here, but if this proves to be what Brianna is thinking there is one small, or very large problem.

If Karen is spat out someplace else  those huge earth destroying moon rocks will also be ejected.  Mrs. Copeland’s chances of landing safely and alive are, pretty much, non-existent.

Uh oh.

Still, as finale’s go, Aftermath gave the viewers one that pretty much tied up all the plot threads. It also allowed each player to reach some sort of definitive arc.

Performance wise Anne Heche killed it. Mad props to Ferreira, Stone, Hickson, Meaden and Tupper are also in order.  Each actor gave a performance that was truthful and on point.

Whether or not Aftermath comes back for another season is still up in the air. Their viewing figures are not bad for SyFy and could well allow the network to greenlight a second season where finding Karen could be the main plot point.

Aftermath  started out with a slow measured method to its madness. This did not detract from the show’s all encompassing tale of a family striving to survive the apocalypse.

It gave viewers a strong matriarchal character, in Karen, and allowed the other female members of the family to evolve into strong characters as well.  The men, both Levi and Josh, represented male figures who were not afraid to acknowledge that women should be seen as powerful equals in this new  world.

Aftermath “Whispers of Immortality” was an excellent end to this fascinating look at the end of the world.

Cast:

Guest starring Kaaren de Zilva as the waitress and C. Ernst Harth as Junkman.

Van Helsing: It Begins – Tactical Error (Review)

 Van Helsing - Season 1

To the most casual observer, the season finale of Van Helsing was slow and perhaps a tad too expository. However… Neil LaBute added enough peripheral details to keep the start of the episode from dragging. Things came together nicely as many questions were answered by the show’s creator.

Personal favorite Amanda Tapping kept the pace steady as the sesaon finale’s director and while the episode  was, in many ways, word heavy, the fall and rise of Vanessa was satisfactorily told.  

On a sidenote: For those who do not wish to read to the end of this review; Axel does return…

Dimitri proves yet again that he is not the cleverest vampire in the pack (Question: What does one call a group of vampires? A bevy? Could they be called, like crows, a murder? Answers on a postcard please…) when he makes the tactical error of giving blood to Van Helsing for a snack.  Almost predictably, she becomes uber strong and almost rips the heart out of the vampire leader’s chest.

Somewhat disappointingly Vanessa does not rip Rebecca’s head from her shoulders. Still, that would have circumvented the nasty twist in the tale of Van Helsing’s confrontation with Dimitri’s treacherous sister and Dylan.

Although the shock of seeing her daughter with bloodstained lips may not necessarily overly upset Van Helsing. She can, after all, turn the kid back with one well placed bite. Rebecca playing the Dylan card seems to suggest that, like her brother Dimitri, she too is capable of committing the odd  tactical error.

“It Begins” brings the story of Mohamad and Sheema to a close. The guy was trying to free his sister from the clutches of Dimitri’s sister.  Sadly, she liked living like a bird in a gilded cage and when Mohamad tries to take her away, she bashes him in the head with a candleholder.

Twice.

Sheema then grabs the backpack loaded up by her unconcious (Dead?) brother and runs right into the breaching blast by Taka’s fighters. Apart from a bitter dose of irony, the last movements of Mohamad’s sister are confusing. It does look as though both have paid for their treachery dearly.

In this episode it appears that the only characters who are without sin may well be Vanessa, Dylan and Axel. Taka, the sanctimonious leader of the resistance group turns out to be in cahoots with Rebecca. He then betrays her betrayal (She arranged for Taka and his people to inhabit Fox Island, a place that was supposed to provide a safe haven for the bent resistance leader. Dimitri reveals that the Island is a lie.)

The episode ends with Van Helsing confronting Rebecca, who then shows off vampire Dylan.  Flesh, who was the only member of Taka’s group to go after  Vanessa to save her, is nowhere to be seen.

After the episode’s final reveal, the camera speeds toward the bunker where Axel was locked by Doc earlier. Sure enough, the Marine climbs up the air duct to escape his prison. Axel sounds odd though, and from that brief glimplse of his eyes, he has been turned.

With guttural breathing and a sort of grim determination, the Marine heads toward town.

Van Helsing’s last episode of the season tells us who the woman is and that there is something in her lineage that “mum” was not too keen on. Hence the hiding her daughter in plain sight move.  The ingestion of blood by the savior of humanity was a game changer and the only frustrating thing about “It Begins” was Rebecca coming through with her poisonous head still on her shoulders.

We also learn that vampires do age, albeit very slowly, and that they do die. The creatures also, just like many of their human counterparts, fear death.  “It terrifies them,” says Dr. Sholomenko just before he sets Vanessa up for a futile escape.

Dimitri also shows us his achilles heel; it is an overwhelmng sense of hubris. This is what motivates him to use his own sperm to impregnate Vanessa. “This was not the plan,” cries an angry Rebecca.  It does not matter though as the rejuvinated Van Helsing takes this moment to really reach out and touch the vampire leader.

LaBute has given fans of the show a decent cliffhanger ending. Axel looks to be heading off to find Vanessa (Even in his vampiric state, the Marine would go after the woman he’s so close to. Although, he may be looking for Doc first for a little “pay-back.”) Van Helsing has found Dylan and the two-timing brother and sister may be dead.

Sam is nowhere to be seen but since his focus was on Mohamad, he may not return for a second season. SyFy have already ordered another 13 epiosdes of this dark and unsettling retelling and revamping (See what we did there?) of the Van Helsing mythos.

Vanessa Seward dies in this season finale and Vanessa Van Helsing has risen from the ashes of our heroine’s previous identity to take on the vampires.  This was a splendid series that disregarded genre tropes and created a new sort of blood sucking menace.

Well done.

Cast: