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Fargo’s Season 3 Premiere is a Show at the Top of its Game

Bo

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The first two seasons of Fargo have arguably been the best of any show in their time span. Inspired by the Coen brothers movie of the same name, Fargo’s mix of humor, crime, snappy dialogue, exaggerated Minnesota accents, and strong plots centered around murders in small towns has been an unqualified success. It’s the show which landed Noah Hawley carte blanche for the weirdness of Legion.

Am I excited for season 3? You bet ya.

Spoilers for 3×01 “The Law of Vacant Places” below

Recap

Season 3 kicks off in East Berlin in 1988. Yeah, what? A man is brought in and accused of murdering his girlfriend. Only he insists he is not the man they are looking for. The man interrogating him counters all his protests by talking about evidence vs. words and such. It’s an interesting scene disconnected from everything following and seems like a bit of fun about the “This is a true story” tag before each episode.

Speaking of, Fargo again lets the audience know “This is a true story” as the episode transitions to Minnesota in 2010. We’re off to the races and I’m giddy.

At the 25th anniversary of his wedding, Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his lawyer meet with a man about paying back a loan. They’re ready to pay it back but can’t reach the lender. Afterwards he gives a speech about meeting his wife while his brother Ray (also played by Ewan McGregor) and his girlfriend Nikki Swango listen. Emmit’s lawyer escorts Ray upstairs for a meeting with his brother.

Ray wants a loan to buy an engagement ring for Nikki, who he met as her parole officer. Turns out Ray traded a valuable stamp collection to Emmit for a car and resents him for it. One of those stamps is on the wall. Emmit declines to give him any money. On the way home Nikki talks strategy about an upcoming card tournament out of state. Ray is reluctant because leaving the state is against her parole, but she talks him into it.

Our first look at Chief Gloria Burgle comes when she picks up her teenage son from the store he works at with his grandfather. Meanwhile Ray oversees various parolees conducting urine drug tests. He visits a man named Maurice at a bar with Maurice’s failed test report. He promises to sweep the failed test under the rug if Maurice steals the stamp from Emmit’s house. Maurice drives out to Emmit’s house (while on a phone session with a therapist) but loses the directions out the window. He half-heartedly looks for them before deciding he remembered enough to go on.

Emmit gets a call from his lawyer claiming a representative of the lender arrived to talk. The lender, named V.M. Varga, tells him the loan wasn’t a loan but an investment. It’s heavily implied his firm, Narwal, is a criminal organization which will use Emmit’s real estate company to conduct business.

On a lighter note, Gloria and her son celebrate his birthday with grandpa. The grandfather gives the son a carved figurine and we find out his father is in a relationship with another man and the grandfather is Gloria’s stepfather. Meanwhile Ray and Nikki participate in the card tournament mentioned before. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious already that Nikki is the dominant figure in their relationship.

Maurice is still on his way to Emmit’s and failing badly to remember the address.  Gloria and her son leave her stepfather’s house after dinner. Maurice stops at a gas station and forcefully takes a phone book. He finds an address for a Stussy. Gloria’s stepfather notices a car pull in while he is alone. Gloria’s son notices that he left the carving back at the house, so they return for it. She finds the house ransacked and her stepfather dead. Turns out his name is Enis Stussy.

She finds a hidden compartment in the floor. A box within holds two books, one of which has a cover very similar to the carving Enis gave his grandson.

Ray and Nikki had a happier night, having come in third place at the tournament, which qualifies them for another.  They celebrate in their bathtub when Maurice comes in to tell them about his “successful” robbery. He pulls a gun when Ray gets upset about his screw-up and demands they give him $5,000 or he’ll tell the cops. Nikki hurries out of the tub and loosens the air conditioner in the window. Ray knocks it out of the window when Maurice leaves the apartment building so it crushes him from above.

Nikki hurries to call 911, knowing she can sell it as an accident since she’s tried for weeks to get the air conditioner replaced. Ray hurries out of the apartment. He takes the crappy stamps Maurice stole with him, and Nikki tells him to burn them.

And finally this wonderful premiere ends with Gloria sending her son with his father so she can investigate Enis’s death. Fargo is back and in style.

Review

This premiere was familiar to anyone who has watched Fargo’s previous two seasons or the movie inspiring them. For all Hawley’s creativity the premise is always familiar. Some down on his luck two-bit criminal needs money. He hatches a plan to get it. Things go wrong and people end up dead. That murder ties everyone else together. There’s always a sheriff, who is usually a woman.

Since each season is its own story, there’s also the need to establish who the characters are and why we should care. Imagine having to do a pilot for every season. Fargo always starts off behind other dramas for that reason. You don’t have immediate buy-in with characters from previous seasons. These premieres also have to give you a story to care about along with those characters. However excellent the previous two seasons were, you can’t help but worry whether Fargo will make you care yet again.

At this point the show has this recurring “pilot” formula down to a science. Every second of season 3’s opener did exactly the job needed to kick off another great season of a great show.

Every element of previous seasons was present; snappy dialogue, impeccable style, the unique setting and accents, and a high-powered cast nailing their roles. Having these elements in place certainly helps audiences engage with the new characters. Fargo’s quality has not come under question since some point in season 2, when everyone realized the show really was this good. Noah Hawley and company have the aesthetics down pat and just have to find the characters and story to fill in.

So how does season 3’s cast and story compare to Fargo’s storied past? So far, so good. In fact, this felt like the most Fargo-y cast and setup yet. Drama balanced with humor. Visceral violence combined with fascinating dialogue. Everyone started off disconnected and eventually tied in through Maurice’s idiocy. What’s best, all the characters popped off the screen right away for their own good reasons.

Much of this has to do with the terrific cast. Ewan McGregor’s accent might show through a little too much, but he embodied the different personalities of the Stussy brothers and Fargo’s unique style. Carrie Coon came off immediately relatable as Gloria. David Thewlis was a scene-chewing delight as V.M. Varga. Scoot McNairy gave off a wonderfully creepy “evil Dude from Big Lebowski” vibe as Maurice.

Gloria handles that shotgun fairly capably, too.

Most of all, Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the star of the episode as Ray’s girlfriend Nikki Swango. Her and McGregor’s chemistry was off the charts, lending the relationship between Ray and Nikki exactly the balance of true love and manipulation it demanded. Nikki popped off the screen much like Kirsten Dunst’s Peggy Blumquist did in season 2. Possibly more so, in fact.

You get the impression right away that Nikki is not only the brains in her relationship with Ray, but the brains which will run things throughout this season. Besides, women characters have never really been a problem for Fargo.

Of course, an actor can only work with the material they have, and Fargo excels here with its usual talent at making its characters and exaggerated Minnesota feel so real. The funny exchanges between the characters don’t just keep you entertained. They sell the personalities of these characters and the relationships between them. You notice right away just how “sympatico” Nikki and Ray are based on their reactions to things around them. You notice Carrie’s caring soul immediately, and Emmit’s shady past.

I know Fargo isn’t special in this regard, but the show has perfected this ability to introduce characters and define their personalities immediately and effectively. Each episode is packed with small moments sucking you into them.

So here we are. Ray’s attempt to steal from his brother has led to two dead bodies, including Gloria’s stepfather. He and Nikki directly murdered one of those dead bodies. Gloria will investigate. Eventually this will lead to Emmit in some capacity, which will lead to problems since he’s unwillingly under the thumb of some criminal organization.

It’s a smaller scope than season 2’s epic gang war, one more in common with Lester Nygaard’s attempts to cover up his wife’s murder in season 1. Different watchers will have different opinions on whether the smaller scope is good or bad. I preferred season 2 to season 1, but not because of scope. Hawley seemed more confident and capable, and that showed on screen.  The same could very well be true of this newest season.  Legion was a display of a showrunner at the top of his game, and there’s no reason not to expect Fargo will benefit from his increasingly deft touch as well.

One thing I’m sure of after this premiere; whatever my opinion after season 3 regarding the best season of Fargo, it will be one of the best seasons of television this year. With Better Call Saul, The Americans, and Fargo airing one after another over three days, I’m in TV viewer heaven.

I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Other Thoughts:

  • Nikki: “There’s a man in my bathroom.” Ray: “Let’s not jump to conclusions!” Nikki: “You saying he’s not a man or he’s not in my bathroom?”
  • Perfect
  • I also loved Ray being too distracted to take advantage of Nikki using her nakedness to distract Maurice. True love, man.
  • One of the lenders being named Rick Ehrmantraut makes me crave a Better Call Saul crossover.
  • The graphic nature of Maurice’s death by air conditioner worked brilliantly with the long build-up to it. I can’t think of a more Fargo death; totally horrible by darkly hilarious.
  • Gloria’s shotgun while she searched her stepfather’s house was massive. It looked bigger than her.
  • There was a darker palette to this episode than Fargo usually goes for. Few scenes took place in daytime or any considerable light.
  • I can tell already I will root for Ray and Nikki to somehow get away with this, knowing all the while there’s no chance they do.

Images Courtesy of FX

Bo

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and continues drifting wearily through the slog of summer TV.

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Culture

The Fandomentals 2018 SAG Awards Primer

Dan

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In the past few months, we’ve seen the opinions of everyone from the Television Academy to the Hollywood Foreign Press to the nation’s biggest critics. But have you ever wondered what actors in Hollywood think of each other? Well the SAG’s, the babiest brother of the major film awards shows, will answer that very question.

The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (you see why we abbreviate) has been putting on their own awards show since the ancient and far-off year of 1995. Despite its youth compared to most other awards shows, the nods it gives (voted on by members of the union) are sometimes the best indicators for success when the Academy Award nominations come up. As such, we at the Fandomentals want to make sure you are kept abreast of the nominations for this year, as well as give our own take on who should, shouldn’t, and will win this year. As with the Golden Globes, the Fandomentals Head Film Critic Jeremiah Sherman will weigh in on the movie end of things, while I will be picking up the slack on the television end. This year will also be the first year that the SAG’s will have a host, the wonderful Kristen Bell.

Film

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Image Courtesy Perfect World Pictures

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name as Elio Perlman

James Franco – The Disaster Artist as Tommy Wiseau

Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out as Chris Washington

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour as Winston Churchill

Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq. as Roman J. Israel

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour. Jeremiah: Oldman all but disappears in his performance of Winston Churchill. It’s not just the makeup it’s the overall fact that when you look at Oldman’s Churchill, you’re hard pressed to find any trace of the Oldman we know. It’s the type of performance actors adore; disappearing into the character.

Dan: He was our preferred pick at the Globes, where he took home the trophy. So far he has swept nearly every award that has this category, and I doubt that this will change for the SAG’s.

Who Should win: Honestly, Oldman should win. Of the actors nominated his performance is actually the best out of all of them. It should be made clear the remarkableness of Oldman’s performance is not just its chameleon-like aspect but in its ability to make us believe it. It’s a stunning piece of craftsmanship that should be rewarded.

Who Got Snubbed: Jeremy Renner for Wind River. I don’t know if I think his Corey Lambert should win, but it is hands down the best performance I’ve ever seen Renner give. The haunted, stoic, and angry character is typical of Renner; but here he fills Lambert with longing, sadness, and confusion. Renner’s Lambert feels like the first real performance he’s ever given. That alone deserves at least a nomination.

Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Lead Role:

Image Courtesy Fox Searchlight

Judi Dench – Victoria & Abdul as Queen Victoria

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water as Elisa Esposito

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as Mildred Hayes

Margot Robbie – I, Tonya as Tonya Harding

Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson

Who Will Win:

Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Jeremiah: McDormand gives a gutwrenchingly honest portrayal of a grief-stricken and hell-bent matriarch in a small, fictional Midwestern town. It’s a potent performance and will most likely be lauded by her fellow actors, especially since they adore her. It helps that she’s won a Golden Globe for this role and has been putting in a strong showing on the awards circuit. Rightfully so, as she’s consistently one of the best yet somehow underappreciated actress working today.

Who Should Win: Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water. One of the more subtly daring performances. With almost no words, outside a lovely musical number, Hawkins conveyed to us a complete and fleshed out character. The relationship between Elisa and the Creature works in large part because of Hawkins’ deft handling of the material.

Who Got Snubbed: I know you’re expecting me to say Kristen Stewart for Personal Shopper and rightfully so. Even though she totally got snubbed, so did Danielle MacDonald for Patti Cake$. Her Patricia Dombrowski was a fierce and optimistic dream chaser. Patti’s obstacles are not end-of-the-world roadblocks, they are, everyday minor setbacks. Through it all, MacDonald gives us a performance that has us clapping our hands and stomping our feet when she takes the stage.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Image Courtesy Fox Searchlight

Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes as Bobby Riggs

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project as Bobby Hicks

Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as Sheriff Bill Willoughby

Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water as Giles

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as Officer Jason Dixon

Who Will Win: Steve Carell for Battle of the Sexes. It’s not based on anything except Carell’s Bobby Riggs was wonderfully layered. A man beset by his lesser angels while also being, shockingly, one most keen cultural observers, and a seemingly inexhaustible daring self-promoter. Battle of the Sexes was never as good as it should have been but it wasn’t awful, and that’s due in large part to Carell’s Bobby Riggs.

Dan: As much as I loved Carrell, I have a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood’s need to reward shitty white dude characters will help continue Sam Rockwell’s dominance in this category. Even though Woody Harrelson puts in a better performance, Rockwell’s “redemption” arc seems to be resonating with the film world.

Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe’s Bobby from The Florida Project pulled off one of the most infamously difficult aspects of acting: he doesn’t appear to be acting. Of course, he’s acting, but his Bobby is free of any theatrical artifice or mannerisms. Even though there’s no noticeable difference between Bobby or Dafoe, the actor himself is nowhere to be seen.

Who Got Snubbed: Patrick Stewart for Charles Xavier in Logan. Logan was far and away the single best departure from the ho-humness that plagues the superhero genre. Stewart as Professor X gives a blistering and honest performance as a man in the final stages of his life. Unusually for a genre that is normally cavalier in its treatment of death, the tragedy of mental deterioration and death is made uncomfortably real by Stewart’s portrayal.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Image Courtesy A24

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound as Florence Jackson

Hong Chau – Downsizing as Ngoc Lan Tran

Holly Hunter – The Big Sick as Beth Gardner

Allison Janney – I, Tonya as LaVona Golden

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird as Marion McPherson

Who Will Win: Laurie Metcalf for Ladybird, if for no other reason than because I think the Guild feels a kinship with Metcalf. She’s a working actress getting a second wind in her career. I think the Guild will want to reward her for what is one of the best performances of the year.

Who Should Win: Mary J. Blige for Mudbound. A film that was all but buried by Netflix. It could have died a quiet death if not for Blige’s scathing turn as Florence Jackson. Blige conveys strength and vulnerability even from behind a pair of dark sunglasses. A wife and mother who sees her family fortunes crumble before her only to see them rise from the ashes is a tour de force for any actor. But for a first-time actor? It is astounding.

Who Got Snubbed: Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip. A comedic force-of-nature, Haddish’s Dina was a vulgar loudmouth who was still more human than caricature. Much has been said about the grapefruit scene, but little is said about the scene after. Dina takes her friends into her room, kneels, and leads them in prayer. An act of simple faith that isn’t part of a larger message. Haddish’s Dina is such an astounding comedic creation because she is a complete creation, with beliefs and ideas, and not just comedic foibles.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Image Courtesy Fox Searchlight

The Big Sick – Adeel Akhtar, Holly Hunter, Zoe Kazan, Anupam Kher, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano and Zenobia Shroff

Get Out – Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Bradley Whitford and Allison Williams

Lady Bird – Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Laurie Metcalf, Jordan Rodrigues, Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Marielle Scott and Lois Smith

Mudbound – Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan and Carey Mulligan

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Željko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Frances McDormand, Clarke Peters, Sam Rockwell and Samara Weaving

Who Will Win: Lord help me I think it may be Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri. Deeply flawed but incredibly acted, it tries in vain to wrestle with the human complexity and the notion of justice. It’s burdened by the whiteness of its cast, and it’s narrative cowardice when dealing with racial issues. It has four women characters, but only one of them is given anything interesting to do or say. The others are merely decorative assets for their male counterparts. Needless to say, I’m betting SAG will just love all the great performances in this movie and overlook the inherent narrative flaws.

Who Should Win: The Big Sick is a movie I didn’t love, but it is a movie I liked a lot. I will say that it has a fantastic cast and it serves the movie well. Michael Showalter has nothing to say visually, but he is smart enough to stack his cast with heavy hitters. Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Zoe Kazan, Anupam Kher, and Zenobia Shroff make The Big Sick as powerful and poignant as it is. The script by Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon gives the whole cast grade A meat to sink their teeth into. Heartwarming and touching The Big Sick works as well as it does because of its cast.

Who Got Snubbed: Before you get your pitchforks and torches ready hear me out, Justice League. Justice League is by no means a masterpiece by any definition of the word, nor is it worthy of any actual awards. BUT the cast made that movie work it’s weird, herky-jerky magic. Collectively they made a series of disjointed scenes and overly produced action sequences work because when they were together the movie was actually kind of fun. Whether it was Aquaman sitting on Diana’s lasso of truth or Batman’s look of gushing love when Superman joins in the fight against whatever the bad guy’s name was, they sold the scene. I’m not saying they deserve the award but they sure as hell deserve a nomination more than Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri.

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Image Courtesy Warner Bros.

Baby Driver, ST-C Robert Nagle

Dunkirk, ST-C Tom Struthers

Logan, ST-C’s Nuo Sun, Gary Hymes, Garret Warren

War for the Planet of the Apes ST-C’s Isaac Hamon, Terry Notary, John Stoneham Jr., Danny Virtue

Wonder Woman ST-C’a Tim Rigby, Marcus Shakesheff, Lee Sheward

Who Will Win: Wonder Woman. While the other films in this category did a great job with their stunts, Wonder Woman not only had a fantastic stunt cast, they also let the stunt actors BE characters. A good chunk of the best stunts in the film were by the Amazons, who were played by an extremely talented and athletic group of women. Rather than let the stunt women stay in the background, Patty Jenkins let them feature in front of the camera and for that, I think the Guild will reward.

Who Should Win: Wonder Woman, again. The beach scene alone is amazing, but it also had some fantastic work during the war scenes as well.

Who Got Snubbed: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s sort of the norm for the SAG’s to snub December release films, but this snub in this category is more surprising. It’s hard to beat Star Wars when it comes to stunts, and Praetorian Guard fight on Snoke’s Ship was as standout a feat of action as any other in 2017.

Television

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie

Image Courtesy HBO

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: The Lying Detective as Sherlock Holmes

Jeff Daniels – Godless as Frank Griffin

Robert De Niro – The Wizard of Lies as Bernard Madoff

Geoffrey Rush – Genius as Albert Einstein

Alexander Skarsgård – Big Little Lies as Perry Wright

Who Will Win: Alexander Skarsgård. Already a success at multiple shows, and considering the tongue bath that the awards shows have been giving Big Little Lies, this seems like a gimme.

Who Should Win: Sadly, this category isn’t nearly as competitive as most of the others. The closest to Skarsgård in critical acclaim is maybe De Niro, but that’s probably just the built-in bias people have for the man.

Who Got Snubbed: Charlie Cox in The Defenders. A snub that can largely be chalked up to genre bias, Cox had perhaps the strongest storyline in a show stuffed to the brim with them. While Cox wouldn’t win, he’s at least as worthy as Blueberry Pumpkinpatch

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie

Image Courtesy HBO

Laura Dern – Big Little Lies as Renata Klein

Nicole Kidman – Big Little Lies as Celeste Wright

Jessica Lange – Feud: Bette and Joan as Joan Crawford

Susan Sarandon – Feud: Bette and Joan as Bette Davis

Reese Witherspoon – Big Little Lies as Madeline MacKenzie

Who Will Win: The real question is which actress in Big Little Lies will win. Considering there’s no supporting vs. main actress delineation, it could be any of the three. The best bet is Nicole Kidman, who can be counted on to give a flowery speech about female empowerment as she accepts her award.

Who Should Win: Susan Sarandon. While she’s gotten very little love, thanks largely to the sheer dominance of Big Little Lies, I still think Sarandon did a great job in making sure her Bette Davis transcends a simple impression.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Image Courtesy NBC

Jason Bateman – Ozark as Martin “Marty” Byrde

Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us as Randall Pearson

Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones as Tyrion Lannister

David Harbour – Stranger Things as Jim Hopper

Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman

Who Will Win: Sterling K. Brown has been killing it at the awards this year, and his performance justifies that success. And in a category largely filled by more ensemble shows, he seems an easy choice for the Guild’s committees.

Who Should Win: David Harbour. It can be hard to stand out in an ensemble cast, especially when that cast is in a genre show. But Harbour has gotten a good deal of well-earned love for his performance. Transitioning from burned out sheriff to surrogate father finding his feet, Harbour helped Hopper maintain his position as the stable rock amidst the chaos around Hawkins.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Image Courtesy Hulu

Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things as Eleven

Claire Foy – The Crown as Elizabeth II

Laura Linney – Ozark as Wendy Byrde

Elisabeth Moss – The Handmaid’s Tale as June Osborne/Offred

Robin Wright – House of Cards as Claire Underwood

Who Will Win: Elizabeth Moss. Another obvious choice, but this is a great place for the Guild to reward The Handmaid’s Tale for its work and topical importance.

Who Should Win: Claire Foy. She’s been great in both seasons of The Crown, and with the show moving past her it’s now or never to reward her acting.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Image Courtesy Netflix

Anthony Anderson – Black-ish as Andre “Dre” Johnson

Aziz Ansari – Master of None as Dev Shah

Larry David – Curb Your Enthusiasm as Himself

Sean Hayes – Will & Grace as Jack McFarland

William H. Macy – Shameless as Frank Gallagher

Marc Maron – GLOW as Sam Sylvia

Who Will Win: Aziz Ansari. Despite his recent controversies, Aziz has gotten nothing but love for his turn in season 2 of Master of None.

Who Should Win: Anthony Anderson. Not only is he fantastic in his comedic moments, but he also does a good job during Black-ish’s frequent serious discussions of race in America.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Image Courtesy HBO

Uzo Aduba – Orange Is the New Black as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren

Alison Brie – GLOW as Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder

Jane Fonda – Grace and Frankie as Grace Hanson

Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep as Selina Meyer

Lily Tomlin – Grace and Frankie as Frankie Bergstein

Who Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Thanks to the scary parallels between Veep and some modern-day politics, the character of Selina Meyer has gotten even more accolades than she did in earlier seasons.

Who Should Win:  For this category, the inevitable choice is probably the correct one.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

Image Courtesy Hulu

The Crown – Claire Foy, Victoria Hamilton, Vanessa Kirby, Anton Lesser and Matt Smith

Game of Thrones – Alfie Allen, Jacob Anderson, Pilou Asbæk, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, John Bradley West, Jim Broadbent, Gwendoline Christie, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Liam Cunningham, Peter Dinklage, Richard Dormer, Nathalie Emmanuel, James Faulkner, Jerome Flynn, Aidan Gillen, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Conleth Hill, Kristofer Hivju, Tom Hopper, Anton Lesser, Rory McCann, Staz Nair, Richard Rycroft, Sophie Turner, Rupert Vansittart and Maisie Williams

The Handmaid’s Tale – Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel, Ann Dowd, O. T. Fagbenle, Joseph Fiennes, Tattiawna Jones, Max Minghella, Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski and Samira Wiley

Stranger Things – Sean Astin, Millie Bobby Brown, Cara Buono, Joe Chrest, Catherine Curtin, Natalia Dyer, David Harbour, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Dacre Montgomery, Paul Reiser, Winona Ryder, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink and Finn Wolfhard

This Is Us – Eris Baker, Alexandra Breckenridge, Sterling K. Brown, Lonnie Chavis, Justin Hartley, Faithe Herman, Ron Cephas Jones, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore, Chris Sullivan, Milo Ventimiglia, Susan Kelechi Watson and Hannah Zeile

Who Will Win: This is the closest thing the SAG’s have to a “Best Series” award, and it’s a tough race. Game of Thrones is always a contender, as are relative newcomers The Crown and This Is Us. But the most likely winner is The Handmaid’s Tale. Picking up the win at the Emmy’s and the Globes is always a good sign, and it’s doubtful that the chord that the series struck with audiences didn’t also reach the acting community.

Who Should Win: Stranger Things. Out of all of the series nominated, Stranger Things is the series that best represents a truly great ensemble. With this past season featuring great work from the adults (Sean Astin, Winona Ryder, and David Harbour) and the kids (Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, et al.), the series deserves a win. Sadly, it’s probably bogged down by the fact that it IS largely a child cast and good old genre snobbery.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Image Via HBO

Black-ish – Anthony Anderson, Miles Brown, Deon Cole, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Peter Mackenzie, Marsai Martin, Jeff Meacham, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marcus Scribner and Yara Shahidi

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Ted Danson, Larry David, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines and J. B. Smoove

GLOW – Britt Baron, Alison Brie, Kimmy Gatewood, Betty Gilpin, Rebekka Johnson, Chris Lowell, Sunita Mani, Marc Maron, Kate Nash, Sydelle Noel, Marianna Palka, Gayle Rankin, Bashir Salahuddin, Rich Sommer, Kia Stevens, Jackie Tohn, Ellen Wong and Britney Young

Orange Is the New Black – Uzo Aduba, Emily Althaus, Danielle Brooks, Rosal Colon, Jackie Cruz, Francesca Curran, Daniella De Jesus, Lea DeLaria, Nick Dillenburg, Asia Kate Dillon, Beth Dover, Kimiko Glenn, Annie Golden, Laura Gómez, Diane Guerrero, Evan Arthur Hall, Michael J. Harney, Brad William Henke, Mike Houston, Vicky Jeudy, Kelly Karbacz, Julie Lake, Selenis Leyva, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Adrienne C. Moore, Miriam Morales, Kate Mulgrew, Emma Myles, John Palladino, Matt Peters, Jessica Pimentel, Dascha Polanco, Laura Prepon, Jolene Purdy, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Nick Sandow, Abigail Savage, Taylor Schilling, Constance Shulman, Dale Soules, Yael Stone, Emily Tarver, Michael Torpey and Lin Tucci

Veep – Dan Bakkedahl, Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Margaret Colin, Kevin Dunn, Clea Duvall, Nelson Franklin, Tony Hale, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sam Richardson, Paul Scheer, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sarah Sutherland and Matt Walsh

Who Will Win: Veep. Most of my reasoning is mentioned in my justification for Julia-Louise Dreyfus’s win prediction, but there’s no doubt her work wouldn’t be nearly as good without the team surrounding her.

Who Should Win: GLOW. A great show that seemed to fly under some people’s radar, it took a much different approach to the 2017’s theme of female empowerment. Mixing funny and emotional as deftly as any Jenji Kohan program, the show had its ensemble pulling double duty as actors and as wrestlers. Sadly, if there’s one thing with less respect than genre, it’s professional wrestling.

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

Image Courtesy HBO

Game of Thrones ST-C Rowley Irlam

GLOW ST-CS Shauna Duggins

Homeland ST-C’s Brian Smyj, Mark Fichera

Stranger Things ST-C Lonnie R. Smith Jr.

The Walking Dead ST-C Monty L. Simons

Who Will Win: Game of Thrones cleans up in technical categories, and have won this six years running. With each season getting bigger and sillier, so have the stunts gotten more impressive to match.

Who Should Win: GLOW. While losing best ensemble would be expected, losing Best Stunt Ensemble will be a bigger disappointment. Unlike other shows, GLOW is almost centered around stunts. It did a great job in having the wrestling look as real as real wrestling, while also capturing some of the painful qualities of it. As well, the cast was trained in professional wrestling, and pro wrestlers like Carlito put in some good work throughout the series.

The 24th Annual Screen Actor’s Guild Awards will be hosted by Kristen Bell, and presented on January 21, 2018, on both TNT and TBS, 8:00 p.m. EST / 5:00 p.m. PST

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You Have Acquired: The First Key

Shailyn

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Content Warning: this review discusses spoilers and themes of suicide as depicted on the show.

First Key of the Seven Keys? Check! Magic? Still a nope.

Recap

The pages might be blank, but Quentin seems to have the Tale of the Seven Keys down pat. He starts going on about this daughter of a knight who gets kidnapped by a witch. The only way to set him free? Find the seven keys, which unlock the castle at the end of the world. The first location the daughter travelled to on this quest? A little place called After Island. As in After Fillory, or somewhere at the ass-end of the Fillorian Ocean. But for Quentin and gang to join Eliot and gang, they’d have to hop on over to Fillory. Might be a tough fix, seeing as magic is still caput. But Mayakovsky had some magic batteries, once upon a time. So maybe if they find them, they can get a jump start. With a little Googling, they find he was last seen at a Hedge Witch bar getting turned into a bear? Yeah, sure.

Eliot’s got his court hard at work scrambling up a ship to sail out to After Island, but the Fairy Queen isn’t too fond of the idea of magic being back. That would make them equals again, no? Eilot gets a tour of his new ship, the Muntjac, which in true Fillory fashion is semi-sentient. In the interest of keeping things under tight control, the Fairy Queen commands Eliot to bring Fen and one of her courtiers along: none other than Frey, Eliot and Fen’s now full-grown child. Time sure does fly when you’ve been kidnapped from birth and forced to grow up in a different dimension.

Meanwhile, Alice is on Lamprey Watch. The vampire from last episode suggested getting a kitten. Apparently they have a sixth sense for the thing. It better work, because the Lamprey’s already gotten hold of a human skinbag to play host for it.

Q and Julia need Kady to get into the Hedge bar, and warily, Kady plays along. A chat with the barkeep reveals that Mayakovsky was with his Brakebills sweetheart, Emily Greenstreet, when the whole bear thing happened. Q pays her a visit, but seeing as she’s been drunk for a week, Emily isn’t exactly forthcoming. All she can confirm is that Mayakovsky was talking with a woman, “someone he owed,” right before he hulked out.

Eliot sets sail for After Island with a tearful goodbye to Margot, who’s staying behind to make sure Fillory doesn’t fall to pieces. Shortly after landing on After Island, Eliot locates the first key. Someone slap a Staples button. But wait, a catch. It’s hanging around the neck of the island’s priest. Said priest and key are the only thing that has been keeping at bay a vicious shadow bat that’s been preying on the villagers. Psych. Turns out it’s just Illusion magic and the priest’s a huge bag of dicks. Once Eliot pieces it together, with some help from maybe-daughter Fen, he turns the dickwad over to the justice of the people. Way to go King Eliot.

Turns out the big magic didn’t stop with Mayakovsky’s shapeshifting bar trick. Weird spells have been popping up all over New York City—a dinosaur at a children’s hospital, sex magic in Central Park—and wherever the whacky crops up, the same woman is always close by. The gang splits up to check it out. At Central Park, Q bumps into Alice and her new cat. Turns out she heard about the magic spikes too, and is searching for the same person. They catch word of the lady in question. Apparently, before she lit out of the park, she talked about finding the nearest tall building to fling herself off of. Yikes. Quentin and gang hightail it to the place in question to find Professor Lipton clinging to the roof. Q tries to talk her down. Turns out she swiped the battery from Mayakovsky. Q pulls her back to safety, but not before she drops the battery.

But hey, turns out there was another battery after all. And Emily had it. Before the gang can get to her, Kady swoops in and steals it for herself. Distrustful of the gang’s motivations, she’s ready to cure Penny first, save magic later. At the hospital the gang checks Lipton into, the Lamprey makes a sudden appearance. Except, the Lamprey is actually invisible, so how do we know this? Because Alice’s cat gets hissy and subsequently explodes of course. Poor cat. You shall be missed. Alice makes a break for it, but that won’t last long. Now it’s Quentin’s turn to get possessed. Hey, it wouldn’t be a season if Q didn’t get possessed at least once, right?

Review

We’re back in step this episode of The Magicians, but honestly, I’m a little conflicted. The show writing has grown into the habit of leaning into cliches, and justifying this by calling them out forthright. As humorous as it is, it does come across as a little lazy. Eliot and Fen’s changeling kid suddenly coming back a full-grown adult? Mayakovsky’s batteries? Being self-aware doesn’t necessarily negate the sin of being overly convenient.

As ever, I have never been married to the source material. But the show has strayed so far from the books’ beaten path that this attempt at getting back to it feels like we’re fighting through thickets with a weedwacker. The problem-solving is quick, it’s messy, and it calls attention to itself.

Still, I’m looking forward to getting to the part where we get the gang back together. I just hope that the majority of the quest takes place on the Muntjac. Quentin’s comment at the very opening of the episode, regarding the fact that the first key is “in Fillory” could possibly hint that the other keys could not be. To be frank, Brakebills and Fillory as locations are what make The Magicians unique. Considering Brakebills is bust with magic, it would seem in due process to focus a little more on Fillory this season.

Like Q and the gang, I’m kind of missing the magic. Half the charm of The Magicians has always been the theme of childlike magic. A return to nostalgia. The power of both the books and the first season lies in the material’s abilities to let us live vicariously through its characters’ sense of wonder. We, the geeks of many fandoms alike, have always dreamt of turning a corner and finding that magic was real. That there’s a place out there were fiction comes to life. This far in, the magic all feels a little jaded.

I’m ready to feel the wonder again. And what better way than by taking us far, far away from the convoluted events of the past season?

Let’s go on an adventure.


Images courtesy of SyFy

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The Flash’s Innocence Is On Trial

Matthew

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To quote Abed Nadir, “And we’re back!”. After that mixed cliffhanger, it’s finally the time to see what happened to Barry Allen in The Flash.

We pick back up with Barry being processed and pleading innocence to the captain of the CCPD. He gets out on bail and explains the issue to Team Flash. Iris makes a Chekhovian remark as she reminds everyone, audience included, that when Barry returned from the speedforce, he was talking about being innocent of a murder and this will most likely play a role later on. Barry states that, if convicted, he will not use his powers to escape and become a fugitive. Meanwhile, Joe recruits Ralph’s P.I. expertise and Clifford, in Dominic’s body, tries to convince Marlise that they are still on a journey together even with the recent “changes”.

The trial begins and the prosecutor starts making his case against Barry, painting him in a bad light and arguing that Barry murdered DeVoe in cold blood. Somewhere else, at a local bank, the B plot begins with a man whose face turns greenish and, seemingly unbeknownst to him, knocks people out as he exits the bank. At the courthouse, the prosecutors present the forensic evidence against Barry, such as the wedding knife/murder weapon and DNA under DeVoe’s nails. Joe and Cisco are called to the bank to investigate and Cisco gets a trace of dark matter from the metahuman.

During Captain Singh’s deposition, Cecille’s question is about why Singh hired Barry in the first place, to which he replies that Barry was eager to help the victims of crimes. The prosecutor then asks Singh about the numerous times Barry was late and about his “sabbatical,” implying that the captain could have covered for Barry’s second life as a criminal mastermind. This apparently leaves everyone considering this as a possibility.

Staking out the DeVoe’s residence, Ralph takes pictures of Marlise kissing DeVoe/Dominic. During a recess, Cecille tells the West-Allens that Barry could either make a deal or claim insanity, which Barry won’t accept because they aren’t true. Plus, Barry won’t testify and defend himself either because he doesn’t want to perjure himself. He doesn’t want to tell the people he is The Flash either, despite this being his best option.

Caitlin comes back to STAR Labs with the news that it was radiation poisoning that caused all the people at the bank to collapse, but since things tend to escalate around Central City, the radiation levels could lead to an atomic-bomb-esque explosion, wiping out the entire city.

Marlise is called to testify and gives a show in melodrama with tears galore, moving the jury members. Ralph arrives with the recently taken pictures, but upon presented with the evidence, Marlise conjures up a story about how she was in a lowkey relationship with Dominic and that Clifford knew and approved of it because he couldn’t provide certain physical pleasures. Even after that, Barry won’t out himself.

Iris decides to talk to Marlise and it doesn’t lead to anything but Mrs. DeVoe baiting Iris into telling the court that Barry is the Flash. As Iris tries to make her move, Barry speeds up to her and creates a sort of a bubble in time in which both of them can talk normally while everything else is stopped. Barry tells her not to do it because it would put everyone that has stood by them in the previous years at risk. In the end, Iris decides not to out The Flash, practically sealing his conviction.

Joe asks Ralph to use his powers to break into the DeVoe’s house, but he refuses when he realizes Joe is planning on planting some fibers from the West-Allen apartment there in order to frame Marlise for the murder — I guess this could be considered a re-framejob? I mean, we know that it was either Marlise or DeVoe who stabbed the corpse. Actually, what Ralph did was less of a “refusal” and more of a “speech on ethics and morality” that managed to convince Joe not to do as he planned.

The metahuman Fallout continues to obliviously make people collapse, but after a while, Barry finally catches on to it. The defense rests her case and proceeds to the closing arguments, but those get interrupted as Barry leaves the courtroom to tend to the metahuman near the point of blowing the city. Cisco and Wells trigger Killer Frost to appear so she can try cooling down Fallout, but she ends up receiving a power blast and passes out. The Flash creates a vacuum around the meta right in time so Cisco can breach the radiation to Earth-15, a place Wells claims to be deserted and abandoned. The plan works, but Barry gets burned, which doesn’t really mean anything since he has healing abilities.

The jury declares its verdict, finding the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree. As Barry goes back to the courthouse, he has a moment alone with Dominic DeVoe who continues on with his smug-ass super calculated plan that he won’t reveal. We have no idea what the fuck is going on which, frankly my dear, it’s far more frustrating that compelling.

Barry declares his innocence once again, but the sentencing is at hand. In a nicely done montage, the creative team juxtaposes the judges calling Barry “inhumane, unmoved, and with such a lack of regard for human life” with Captain Singh awarding the Flash with a medal of valor. The judge, in the end, sentences Barry to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Capping the episode, we see Barry arriving at his prison cell that, due to a phrase written on the wall, we know is the same cell that held Henry Allen at Iron Heights.


Images Courtesy of the CW

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