Longmire Season 4: Back in the Saddle Episodes 1 – 3 (Review)

Walt Longmire riding the range...

Longmire is back in the saddle, long-live-Longmire. Season four is now on Netflix, which opted to drop all 10 episodes at once,  and it picks right up where A&E left the show dangling at the end of season three. . In terms of demographics, which was the former network’s excuse for dropping the uber popular show, there may not be that many in the older fanbase  of the Wyoming lawman’s weekly story who care to binge all 10 episodes but they are there just in case these “old fogies” feel the urge.

Netflix, of course, do not care about age groups and target demographics too much, they just want to make a profit and bring new customers to their world. Shows like Longmire are a welcome addition to the streaming site.

The fourth season has been up on the site for a few days now. Deciding to watch the first three episodes seemed like a good idea, although the excitement of watching more than one segment at a time was almost enough to make watching all 10 a necessity. Those who have not watched  beyond the first episode might want to stop reading now…

*Sidenote* Although it has been mentioned before…How ironic is it that one of the most popular western figures on television is Australian? Robert Taylor was born in the land down under and worked there, a lot, as well as in England (Ballykissangel Father Vincent Sheahan) and is now playing a “cowboy detective” for American audiences. And doing it very well too.

In the first episode all the main characters had to deal with the death of Branch (Bailey Chase) who was shot by dad Barlow (Gerald McRaney) who worked to make it seem like the distraught lawman had shot himself.  Of course the cliffhanger at the end of season three left it up to the imagination as to just who shot whom. The season four open made it clear who was shot.

*Sidenote* Firstly…How horrible that one half of “Simon & Simon” and the guy who was “Major Dad” turns out to be such a huge villain  that he shot his own son! Gerald McRaney was brilliant in the last episode of season three and the first three episodes of season four. Secondly, why was it not obvious from the very start that Branch would not shoot himself with birdshot? If a cop was going to kill himself surely he would use buckshot, or even a slug.

Episode two continues the investigation into Branch’s death and includes a death up at the Japanese interment camp at War Eagle.  This side trip, where Walt and Vic have to investigate the murder of a community CB enthusiast and civic minded citizen, was a welcome step back from all the fraught business of Longmire looking a little like Columbo.

Like the raincoat wearing detective in the big city, we the audience knew already who killed Branch. It was just a matter of time before either McRaney’s Connally slipped up (which he does) or Longmire as Columbo figures it out. The two came nicely together at the conclusion of episode three.

Speaking of the third episode, Cady is offered one of those “too-good-to-be-true” jobs which ends in her quitting, but not before learning something that will help her dad solve who killed Branch and who really (after three seasons of searching) ordered his wife murdered.

Turns out that Walt was barking up the wrong tree for a very long time, although there was/is a Nighthorse connection, just not the one Longmire thought there was. Interspersed throughout the first three episodes is Henry’s decision to become the new “Hector.”

“Hector Lives” becomes his new mantra and tag (while wiping up the message that Henry scrawled on the club’s mirror with permanent marker, he tells best friend Walt that vandals have struck) as he starts answering the notes left in Hector’s jar at the old wall.

Just as Walt Longmire dispenses justice in Wyoming, so too have Netflix dispensed a form of justice for all those outraged, and too old, fans of the show. It was criminal of A&E to cancel a program that starred actors of the caliber of Katee SackhoffLou Diamond PhillipsCassidy Freeman, McRaney and that Aussie cowboy Taylor.

Once again we are treated to the “will they, won’t they” thing between Vic and Walt. The power struggle between Walt and Officer Mathias and, of course,  Jacob Nighthorse (Zahn McClarnon and A Martinez) and Henry’s issues with Graham Greene’s Malachi Strand.

All 10 episodes of Longmire are available to watch via Netflix, as are the first three seasons for those who want to catch back up or get introduced to this modern western cop show. Great television with great storylines and actors. Watch it, whether you fit the “old” demographic or not. This is great telly!

The Last Ship: Season Finale (Review)

The crew of the Nathan James setting out to cure The season finale of The Last Ship felt a bit flat after all the previous action from the week before. With no prolonged shoot-em-ups, or cat and mouse or chessboard moves between ship and sub, the episode had to focus on spreading the cure. There was still one Immune team left locally from Sean Ramsey’s group and they managed to create havoc until the leader was captured at Memphis.

There was still some pretty touching moments. Tex finds his daughter and at the end the crew hold a long toast to fallen comrades. Lt. Green finally proposes and Kevin McDowell, played by Patrick Brennan manages to pull one last dirty trick, or two, before being brought down in Tennessee.

Master Chief Jeter makes a mistake by telling his in-laws that they should avoid Vicksburg on an open line. When the Nathan James shows up at the city, under 200 people show up for the cure. Jeter confesses that he may have been somewhat responsible and the president is not too happy with the man.

This is one part of the show that felt manufactured. Jeter, as the senior enlisted man on ship, has been on-point throughout. This “lapse” may have provided a vital plot point, but overall, it did not feel characteristic of the master chief. Even worse, the decision to have the new president react so badly to Jeter’s confession, also felt false. Michener has been stepping up since Chandler, Slattery and Jeter all worked hard to get the new leader out of his deep depression.

Certainly it is to be expected that the man’s journey would not be totally smooth, but his reaction to the master chief’s admission just felt wrong. Especially after Jeter also relays his attempt to set things right. The one thing that did work out of the entire scenario was Commander Chandler’s reaction to the president’s ire. He, like the audience, conveys his disappointment at the way Michener reacts.

There are a number of other things that took away from the victory over the mercenaries being headed up by Sean and his brother Ned. The contagious cure, which the crew can now spread after getting their booster, will only work for a short time period; 8 to 10 days, after which they will no long be contagious.  The aerosol cure will only treat so many and it will use up all their stockpile.

It is interesting to see that the Immunes try to scupper the Memphis cure by dressing up as Nathan James crew members to spread the virus, once again trying to vilify the crew of the destroyer. Obviously McDowell is no Sean Ramsey and they provide no real challenge for the real crew. After Tex is reunited with his daughter Kathleen, he spies the leader of the Immunes. The away team find  even more dressed in Navy uniforms and they take action.

There is a small riot of sorts when the people amassed at Memphis try to leave but the sailors save the day by controlling the crowd, with a little help from Tex’s daughter. At the same time, McDowell and his most of his little crew are taken in or shot. Wolf Man grabs the leader and Miller gets to clothesline one of the Immunes who is trying to escape.

After their success at Memphis the crew and the ship head to St. Louis. Here the president is finally sworn in, Chandler is promoted and Scott is forgiven (pardoned) for murdering Niels. Rachel goes to see Tom and after a short chemistry laden exchange, she leaves.

A man approaches her asking about the contagious cure. He wants to know how close you have to be. As Scott tells him he is close enough, the man pulls a gun and shouting the John Wilkes Booth quote (Sic Semper Tyrannis – Death to Tyrants) he shoots Rachel and runs on.

This last act, where the crew celebrate, propose, and start to answer that age old question of “will they, won’t they”  ends on a pretty heavy duty  and last minute cliff hanger that feels almost thrown away. The series has been approved for a third season. Rather interesting when one thinks of where things finished in season two.

As the end credits roll, Rachel Scott is possibly dead, Tom Chandler has been made the head of Naval Operations, and the president reveals that things are bad across the US, South America and Europe. The Last Ship has been an interesting ride, or cruise, for two whole seasons.  It does, however,  seem hard to picture the show going on for another season in what sounds like a land-locked scenario.

Scott was heading out to Nebraska, Ohio and points west before being shot down. All that remains now is  to see if Rachel survives being shot point blank in the chest. If not, Dane will have to have another love interest introduced.  Smart money should be on Mitra’s character surviving. Rhona plays pretty tough characters some of that may have rubbed off on Scott.

*Sidenote* It would be interesting to see if Naval recruiting numbers have increased since this show has been on air. This show is nothing if not a walking talking recruiting exercise for all things Navy.  Hell, if I wasn’t so old, I’d think of enlisting.

In terms of performances? Eric Dane rocked as the commander, Adam Baldwin was grimly patriotic as the second in command and Rhona Mitra was excellent despite not being able to really fight anyone. All in all, the actors in this show rocked it. Bren Foster as Wolf Man aka SCPO Wolf Taylor and John Pyper-Ferguson as Tex, brought a lot to the table as did the rest of the cast. 

The Last Ship has finished on a very anti-climatic downer. President Michener has turned out to be a bit anal and Scott may be dead. Sure Danny and Foster are now official but overall the season finale felt a little lost. Seemingly once the Ramsey’s wound up on the sea bed a lot of the excitement wound up down there with them. Shooting Rachel seems like a device thrown in to make sure viewers come back. Not to worry TNT, the viewers should tune in if for no other reason than to see that great cast act their little cotton socks off.

Ray Donovan: Octopus (Review) [UPDATE]

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[UPDATE] The hip-hop song that plays out the show, credited to “Diz and the Fam” is actually “Bunchy” aka Dash Mihok and his band. The song can be picked up at iTunes for the staggering low price of .99 cents and YouTube also has the song available to listen to. Seriously? Is there anything this chap cannot do?

Last week Ray Donovan was all about the Finney family’s little peccadilloes, one of which comes back to  roost this week along with the return of Ed “F**k her harder Eddie” Cochran (Hank Azaria). It seems fitting that after all that sweat and digging from last week, the NFL deal has hit a snag because of a minority shareholder, the late Varick Strauss.

Things have changed for Cochran. From highflying FBI agent to faceless, despised (“He smells like Lubriderm.”) investigator trapped in a petition filled office.  Presumably the FBI was not overly thrilled with Cochran’s viral video, not to mention his wife swapping activities, and cut short Ed’s status as fair-haired boy in the bureau.

Bunchy is getting married, Terry is fitting in at Ray’s place and with his family, Mickey is in over his head and apart from Varick causing problems from beyond the grave, the Finney’s this week are absent from Donovan’s life this week.  Abby proves that she is not adverse to using the “F**king”  ‘C’ word in a public place and Ray lets his little brother go.

Just after Abby lets rip at a  judgmental and bigmouthed old lady in the supermarket, Terry shows that he can lighten up, singing and dancing, with Abs, to KC and the Sunshine Band.  Mickey is initially a no show at the cops sting operation and as a result Bunch is arrested in his father’s place.

By the end of the episode Theresa makes a beautiful bride, Ray makes a pretty good best man speech and Mickey asks Ray for help. This week was almost all about family Donovan, despite the teaser plot thread dealing with Varick Strauss and the re-emergence of Ed Cochran.

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Ray’s best man toast…

*Sidenote*Sad/amusing moment of the show has to be the little scene where Ed pulls out his sealed sandwich, with the note “Affirmation” attached to it, and looking into his small mirror, Cochran chants a little mantra. “Affirmation” is obviously all about self and  reminding the former FBI agent that he is “worthwhile human being” with a “healthy attitude towards sex.”  

It has to be said that this episode was a little lackluster compared to last week’s tour-de-force of Tulip. Still, the focus on Mickey, Terry, and Brendan with his issues was a nice change of pace from the usual murder and mayhem that runs through the Donovan verse. Still, after Mickey reluctantly helps the local police detective Sheila Muncie (Michael Hyatt) he may well wind up in a desert hole, placed there by the Armenian mafia. 

Octopus proves that in Ray Donovan’s world there is no such thing as an easy day. Even little brother Bunchy’s wedding turns into a problem. When Mickey gives Muncie the slip, she arrests Bunchy in place of his father. Daryll is given a break as he was not in the apartment when the cops came knocking. Ray was there and he sorts things out after talking to  the detective and promising to bring Mick in.

On top of Ray being busier than a one-armed piccolo player, Mickey tries to do a runner after getting Ginger (Fairuza Balk) to drop off his money.  After Ray drops by, the Donovan patriarch then goes to  the police. He agrees to see Mrs. Minassian (Grace Zabriskie) who not only offers up the kidnapped girls for sale, but lets Mick take the pictures (with their price tags across the bottom) out of the meeting. 

Bridget finally gets Mr. Donellen to admit he has feelings for her and Abby realizes her daughter is high on Oxy. Terry offers to keep an eye on her. Mickey manages to make it to the “after party” (as Daryll puts it) and he tries to congratulate Brendan.  Later he tries to get Ray’s help.  Mickey leaves, alone and seemingly dejected at the end of the evening..

Ray Donovan is all about dysfunctional family. It is fitting that when Muncie’s men come and arrest Bunchy that he and Ray are in the middle of a shouting match.  The Donovan’s, like the absent Finney’s, are a flawed bunch.

Mickey, who is a lifetime criminal, has managed to mess up his kid’s lives and Ray is the only one who was/is tough enough and skilled enough to keep out of his father’s shadow.  This episode showed us the hard facts about a number of things. Hookers, in the Donovan verse ,do not have a “heart of gold” they have a heart bent on making money.

Terry’s Parkinson’s is getting worse and underneath all that tough guy bluster, he is frightened. Daryll is a romantic and Abby has enough heart for everyone. Abs nabbed the moment of the episode award twice.  One moment hugging Terry and telling him to breathe after his panic attack and shortly after verbally castigating the idiot woman in the supermarket. As followup to her previous actions, at the wedding, she then gets the usually grumpy Terry to dance with her.

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Terry and Abby prepare to dance…

Bunchy looks to have found the perfect mate and Mickey has let himself down badly. His decision to fight Mrs. Minassian’s goons has put him in place to become a pawn for the police. It is oddly fitting that as the wedding ceremony takes place  Mickey’s incriminating footage is being looked at by the police  while Ave Maria airs in the background. Considering that this song is  associated with the video game franchise of Hitman this appears to be a foreshadowing of sorts for Mickey.

After Mick asks Ray for help, he asks Lena to look into Minassian, which may just be a good sign. Just as, to Ed Cochran, Ray being a minority share holder in the Strauss case must be a sign as well. But is it a sign of redemption or something else? “F**k me,” says Ed when he sees Ray’s name and the copy of his drivers license.  The episode is played out with Diz and the Fam’s The Evil That Men Do, which seems to signpost  that things are about to get a lot darker for the Donovan’s.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime and is addictive drama for the discerning viewer.

 

Public Morals: Mad Men with Guns – Binging on 1965

Public Morals TNT

TNT and Edward Burns have a hit with Public Morals. Allowing viewers to binge on the 10 episode season over the long weekend has given them the chance to get intimate with the 1965 Hell’s Kitchen denizens. The series follows a group of cops who walk a fine line between the law, or as Terry Muldoon puts it, keeping a lid on everything as the landlords. There is a ring of authenticity to this “throwback” cop show; the sets, the cars, the music, the clothes and the dialogue all fit in this Mad Men with guns look at the age of change in America.

Burns is the series creator and he wrote, directed, produced and starred in the show and is, as he put it, telling the Irish-American story in the US. Picking a time when the world was going through massive upheaval, he focusses on the streets of New York and the different crime factions who were all elbowing one another for control of bit more money and turf.

The show has an impressive roster of performers. Brian Dennehy as Joe Patton, Michael Rapaport as Charlie Bullman, Neal McDonough as Rusty Patton and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Lt. King. Timothy Hutton is Mr O (O’Bannon), a man whose demise threatens to start an all-out war for control of Hell’s Kitchen.

Elizabeth Masucci plays Terry’s wife Christine, Katrina Bowden is the hooker, and increasing love interest of Charlie Bullman and Michele Hicks is Kay O’Bannon, widow of Mr. O and lover of Rusty Patton.  

Public Morals is about the Irish cops who worked the streets in New York and did what they had to in order to put food on the table and a roof over their families heads. In many ways, this cops and mobsters story feels like a variation of other shows that have gone back to the “good old days’ for a change of pace.

Like NBCs Aquarius, the David Duchovny vehicle based on the search for Charles Manson which is also based in the 1960s, Burns’ series attempts to put the viewer in a time machine, where twist top beer bottles did not exist and ring pulls on tin cans were brand new, cutting edge technology. The main difference is that while the NBC show may be based on reality the TNT offering feels more real.

The NBC show uses the “hippy” music of the era and relies upon a different set of pop culture references   for their background while the TNT series relies on the music  that the “grown ups” were listening to and icons that the older set enjoyed.  Perry Como, Sammy Davis Jr. et al play in the background while the snap brim fedora-wearing plainclothes cops go through their lives.

The series looks taut and tastes a bit like other time period cop shows, for example, the Vegas based show Crime Story, which was about the mob in the desert town.  Public Morals works well enough that everything does look and feel like 1965, the year the show is set in.

This is a good solid hit with a great plot, interesting storylines and characters that feel so real we care about them.  Widower Bullman who lives with his mother and three kids, Muldoon the family man and the rest all have depth and prove to be interesting as dothe other characters who fill this world.

It is nice to see Michael Rapaport play a “good guy” after his character in Justified (Rapaport played Daryl Crowe Jr. a hillbilly criminal who was disturbing to say the least.) Kudos go to Edward Burns  who allows his fellow actors to shine and has picked his  performers well.

TNT will, hopefully, allow Public Morals to come back for another season, if, Edward Burns is not too exhausted from all he has given himself to do. This is a great looking, superb sounding and interesting bit of entertainment.  A tale of Irish-American cops, gangsters and their families. As the Irish say, “It’s a good bit of  crack.”

Do not miss this one, it is special.

Mr Robot: Sam Esmail Presents the New Normal

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Watching the pilot episode of Sam Esmail’s Mr Robot opened a door in the mind of the world’s young, techno savvy demographic. The show is self-admittedly aimed at the younger members of the audience who are not only up on their computer hacking knowledge but who are topically and pop culturally aware. They most likely have a lot more in common with Elliot Alderson than they would like. Esmail presents us with the “new normal” in that Rami Malek’s character suffers from a number of mental maladies. After the season one finale, it seemed to be a good time to think about Esmail’s picture of the new normal and all that Elliot is as the modern “everyman.”

Foremost is his schizophrenia. However, looking at the hacker, and leader of fsociety, it appears that he could also be bi-polar with a few other mental issues buried in that head, which could include a form of autism. (This is not based upon Malek’s “deer in the headlights” gaze but his innate ability to work issues at almost super human speed.) It appears that the only thing that Alderson does not suffer from is ADD, on this side of the big pond, or ADHD over in England.

Alderson also self medicates, something that a huge amount of people do. At a time when a quick trip across the southern border makes it easy for a number of folks to meet their own medicinal needs, it is not too surprising. While Elliot himself may not be the “new normal” the world in which Mr Robot lives, breathes and creates anarchy, is.

Certainly, there are nods and winks to, not only Fight Club, but a number of other Stanley Kubrick films as well. However, leaving aside the internal plot lines, the verse is all about our new and ever increasing addiction to and reliance on the Internet, computers and WiFi.

If nothing else, Elliot shows us how much, or how little, the use of passwords, firewalls and security software protects our everyday life. Alderson is “scary good” at hacking everybody. No one organization, or individual, is safe from him accessing their data. He is also, until recently, untraceable.

*Sidenote* It does look like season two holds the promise of problems for Elliot and his use of server proxies in Estonia since Krista’s ex-love-rat boyfriend Michael/Lenny is on the warpath.

Still, Esmail’s new normal feels right. The world is all about the world wide web and all companies, not just banks, rely on servers, back-up servers and wireless transfers. Things have moved on from those old “key-punch” days, but one thing has not changed. Data, when it is lost, or “given” a virus, is a bucket of writhing worms that may never be sorted out or retrieved.

The showrunner/creator of Mr. Robot is a film fan, he says so in interviews and Esmail has stated specifically that he is a Stanley Kubrick fan. He cites a few films of Mr. Kubrick’s that he has paid homage to. Eyes Wide Shut being one. One cannot help but like a creator who is a self-professed fan of the redoubtable late Stanley Kubrick.

The “new normal” is relative to the age group it is aimed at. In the show, fsociety; Elliot’s team of computer anarchists who want to change the world (Save the World) have done so. Streets are full of happy rioters, if such a thing can be imagined, and the “suits” are all panicking. Elliot muses that the end of the world (as we know it) is not how he imagined. “People in expensive suits rushing around [sic].”

This is the crux of “Mr. Robot world.” Neither Elliot nor his team have thought through the whole “destroy the world’s debt” ideology. Sure, no one owes any money to anyone else, at least not in the sense that it can be tracked electronically, but money does still make the world go round. With the markets crashing world-wide money gets devalued. The divide between the “haves” and “have nots” will widen.

As shown that the season finale’s final moments (Where B.D.Wong shows up in a scene that pays tribute to Kubrick’s last film) the oligarchy are not touched, troubled, or overly concerned about the hack and the loss of debt. Their fish will fry regardless of what oil is used.

It is not unusual that Elliot and his little band of misfits have not thought their attack through. The young, the target demographic, do not, as a rule, think too far in advance. It is not just today’s youth who have this shortcoming, all youth, regardless of era suffer from this. Perhaps what is relevant to this “generation” of young people is their total reliance upon the Internet, computers, smartphones, and tablets.

In keeping with the reflection on today’s younger demographic having much in common with the damaged Elliot, take a moment to look at the number of children, and young adults, who have some form of autism, ADD or ADHD, schizophrenia, bi-polar (which used to have the charming name of Manic Depressive) and other types of mental issues. Elliot’s self medicating, in order to exist “normally” may not be overly common, but his lack of social finesse is.

Living in a world where everyone communicates more often online than in real life it is not surprising. Something that was included early on, was Ollie’s online chats with his “on the side” bit of stuff that Angela found out about. It was also shown, earlier in the season, how much social media eased a hacker’s job in finding out personal details about their target.

This too, has become part of the new normal. Texting has become passé. It is all instant messaging, direct messaging, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, Line, Skype, and the list goes on. Real life Conversations between people happen less and less while reliance upon the Internet as conversational hub grows and grows.

Mr. Robot shows us our world gone mad. Elliot may have issues, but the real issues are not with his ability to hack and therefor change the world, they are with the new reality. The new normal. Credit card theft, Identity theft, and/or any of the things mentioned during the Christian Slater rant on the season finale are our new world, for better or worse.

Our new normal is The Matrix, Esmail proves it by revealing that we do live in a virtual world that is filled with inhabitants who have forgotten, or never learned, what real contact and interaction is all about. A world where the rich view everything through predatory eyes and most likely study The Art of War to learn the art of winning.