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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Solar Opposites (Hulu)

This is a show from Justin Roiland, famous for Rick and Morty. In some ways it's just another way for Roiland to voice his frustration with the dumb things he sees in the world. Rick, the grandfather in Rick and Morty, and Korvo, the father-figure in Solar Opposites, are both science minded characters who rail against the stupidity around them. Neither is very good at empathy, and both have trouble with social conventions.

This story is much more sitcom-esque than Rick and Morty, and feels less radical. There's a basic story line of aliens trying to fit in on Earth with different levels how much they care about fitting in and different priorities. This story doesn't have much in the way to continuity between episodes. But there is a subplot involving Yumyulack's collection of shrunken people he keeps in his ant-farm-like terrarium bedroom wall; called "The Wall" by the people inside it.

(I say "he" for Yumyulack because that's the gender the character choose to emulate on Earth. The aliens, although clearly written to have human genders, are apparently supposed to biologically genderless.)

The Wall makes direct references to Escape from New York, and has a very 1970s or early 1980s future dystopia quality to it. There is a very definite story arc to these segments, and unlike the rest of the episode, seeing them out of order would be confusing.

To me, The Wall is the best part of Solar Opposites and I was very pleased with episode seven being almost entirely Wall story, with the titular story ("Terry and Korvo Steal a Bear") told wordlessly through what can be seen out of the windows of the terrarium prison. The rest of the show for the season is rather hit-or-miss.

Five of eight levels in The Wall.

Solar Opposites at IMDB
Rick and Morty at IMDB
Escape from New York at IMDB

Succession (HBO)

This is the story of a Rupert Murdoch-type media owner and the family of his that wants to take over the business. I've watched Season One of this show, there are two seasons released so far.

Second born son, although first from second marriage, Kendall Roy starts the season in a good place in the company, but is quickly sidelined by his father, Logan Roy, who has reconsiderd the C-level appointment for Ken. Only daughter Siobhan gets engaged, with a marrige ending the season; cousin (nephew to Logan) Greg gets fired from a terrible job at the company and then uses family connections to try to get a better job. First and third born sons Connor and Roman try to find themselves, one from outside the company and one inside. Third wife to Logan, Marcia, tries to establish herself and her son (from a previous marriage) to the discomfort of Logan's children.

The general premise is that Logan is a very shrewd and hardball media businessman who has never had time for his kids yet has high expectations of them. Now, at 80, he is finding that they are neither shrewd nor good at hardball business. Except that the show follows the kids' stories more than the old man's, helping to reenforce the notion that Logan is evil. (Okay, Logan is evil, but if told from his point of view, the kids are just incompetent evil to his masterful evil.)

The kids meanwhile, want to break out and do things on their own, but question their dad's continued competance in his old age. Except Greg. He is largely an outsider to the family drama and oscillates between oblivious and shrewd, with his eye set on the much more reasonable goal of staying in a cushy job.

Logan Roy and Roman Roy are the only two actors in this series I recognize from other roles. Logan is played by Brian Cox, who I most vividly remember as ex-spy Big John from L.I.E. I can almost see Logan and Big John as the same character: forceful characters used to getting their own way and good at reading other people. Roman is played by Kieran Culkin, who I remember (although not well) from Igby Goes Down, about a rich kid dissatisfied with family. The family here is also rich, but the dissatisfaction is much different.

Eight voting board members out of full twelve.

Succession at IMDB

Altered Carbon

I wrote this first part in 2018 after watching season one. I've just finished season two and I'll add my thoughts at the end.

Altered Carbon is a ten episode sci-fi series on Netflix, based on a book by the same name. About all I know of the book is that it is the first of a trilogy.

Altered Carbon at imdb

Overall I liked this, but I had some issues with the puppet-master bad guy in the last two episodes. The motivations were trite and the dialog and actions seemed a bit poorly considered for someone who is supposed to be that powerful.

I felt the series did a great job with the central conceit: a small piece of technology that allows your mind to be moved (and for the rich, backed up). Bodies are called "sleeves" in a bit of language evolution that feels pretty natural. People can easily survive having their body die, even without backups, so long as their "stacks" (a little more awkward) are intact. The backups exist for the case of the stack being destroyed.

People swap bodies with some regularity in this series and yet I never once felt I didn't know who was who unless the story meant for it to be ambiguous. In one episode a guy with very distintive tattoos plays three people: a guy just arrested with a personality to match the ink; a woman's grandmother brought back from the dead for a Day of the Dead party; and an assassin whose regular body had just been destoryed "resleeved" for an interrogation. It was not hard to tell these people apart, and I think even the faceblind could realize it was the same The main character is a terrorist who has been in "jail" for 250 years, pulled out because of his special people reading skills to be a private detective on a case of a very rich man's attempted murder. The guy's stack and head were blown off a couple of minutes before the backup.

Weak point: Jail loses a lot of it's sting if it just means your stack sits on a shelf somewhere for that whole time.

Questionable point: there seem to be a lot of very random bodies about for people to be "resleeved" and a distinct lack of cheap generic clones to use. Only the very rich are shown to have clones.

Weak point: One character has a very powerful cloaking ability / technology. This is severely underused and never clearly explained.

Notable point: it is explicitly set in San Francisco, apparently about five hundred years from now. (Except for the flashbacks to the "before 250 years turned off on a shelf in prison" for the main character.) None of it looks like San Francisco.

If they make a second season out of the book series, I'll watch it. Five clones killed in one fight scene out of eight.

Season two was good, kinda different, probably a little weaker. It's still very violent, but there's hardly any nudity now. That goes along with very little of the body swapping, and almost no use of clones.

This season takes place off-Earth, on the main character's childhood home planet. Someone has a very effective way to kill people, simultaneously destroying the backups, and the "Last Envoy" main character from the first season has a reason to investigate this. He's got a new "sleeve" now, so our hero wears a different face. A couple of characters from season one show up in their same faces, and even the main characters's old face shows up for a while.

The story was entertaining, but not challenging. All the major plot points were well telegraphed and not much new is revealed about the technology of this future. How the backups are destroyed by the mystery "weapon" (as it is called) is never really explained.

Let's call it five out of eigth "meths" fried on screen.

Six Feet Under

I started watching Six Feet Under, a TV show from HBO, last week. The first episode was engaging, but five episodes in I'm losing interest.

The story concerns a family that owns a Los Angeles area funeral home. The father dies in the first episode and the previously stable family dynamics are thrown into chaos. I was hoping for something like the macabre humor of Dead Like Me, which I watched several years ago and enjoyed. Instead it is beginning to feel like formula TV.

Every episode begins with someone dying, and then that person becomes a lens for studying the characters or a fulcrum for episode plot. Several of the deaths so far have had some of the macabre crazy-way-to-go humor that filled Dead Like Me, but not all of them.

One episode begins with a washed-up porn star talking to her cat about a date she's about to go on, then the cat kills the woman by pushing a plugged in appliance into the bathtub. Good start, but then the episode goes downhill. A deep pocketed fan of the porn star foots the bill for the funeral. The more serious of the two brothers that now own and run the business has a "Yay profitable month" attitude. The other of the two talks about the the films the woman had been in with an employee until Mr Serious intervenes. The dead woman comes back and talks to Mr Serious, at least in his imagination. And "humor" is mined from the people who come to the viewing and share their memories of the star.

Haha, what a riot, religious people and newly grieving folk get to listen to stories of porn shoots and talk of the dead woman's tits. Maybe there are jokes to be mined there, but the ones in this just seem as lazy as the very episodic story structure.

Three mysterious barter arrangements in lieu of cash funerals out of six.

Six Feet Under at IMDB

Dead Like Me at IMDB