His Dark Materials
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It's a nicely put together comedy, and objectively, I feel that it's probably worth more than 3 stars "meh." But I never got that excited about it.
Not quite as tight and good as season 1. The Celeste / Mary Louise storyline is excellent, and Madeline and Ed are maybe more interesting than in season 1, but other characters' storylines suffer. Jane was one of the most interesting characters in season 1, but her storyline this season was not executed very well. They really, really tried to make Bonnie a more interesting and in fact central character this season, and I applaud the effort, but I'm not sure that the way her character is written ever quite works as well as some of the others. The central drama of the season doesn't really make sense until the last two episodes, and then it gets tied up in a bow a bit too neatly.
This show started really slowly for me, enough that I was almost ready to stop watching after one episode. I'm really glad I stayed with it. The most interesting thing here is the exploration of characters who aren't really agreeable or sympathetic, to begin with. I remember thinking after about episode 2 that Jane was the only adult character I found remotely likable. By the end of the season, I found most of the main, women characters to have enough redeeming characteristics that it is very interesting to watch them. The male characters are mostly a bit of a backdrop, especially when it comes to major plot developments, except for the obvious villain. I thought that was a pretty interesting storytelling choice in general. However, Bonnie's character was a secondary character who wasn't very well rounded out throughout most of the season in ways that bugged me. A show about mostly rich white people, with one woman of color character, and she's just a boring Ms. Perfect? The final episode introduced possibilities that she *could* be much more interesting going forward.
The slow burn of Jimmy and Kim's relationship and Jimmy's ethics continues. I'm not sure that this works as well as it did with Breaking Bad. In Breaking Bad, we know the character arc at the beginning: Walt is going to go from meek college teacher to drug dealer who does horrible things to make it in that world. Maybe my moral gray area is too wide, but I never found the Saul character as reprehensible; for sure, he helps some nasty people get away with bad shit, but he's also a lawyer for people who get no respect in the legal system. He is pretty good at what he does, and he enjoys it; his character is mainly played for comic relief in BB. So the dark, foreboding tone of BCS sometimes doesn't work for me precisely to the extent that it is a prequel. I wish Jimmy could have hung on to Kim, for his sake, but I don't particularly wish that he had "made it" in a big, corporate law firm, and I don't particularly care if he ever stops cutting corners. It doesn't seem like his best self really cares about those things, though at times he thinks he should. The character in BB doesn't seem to think that his career is tragic; in fact, he kind of loves it.
So I enjoy the atmospheric tension, but there's something kind of jarring about it, too. What works for me more in this season is a few great character moments with Mike and Gus, and the relationship between Mike and Werner is genius, tragic, lends depth to Mike's character, and also is a kind of a relationship between two late middle aged men that you don't often see on TV or in film.
I've read lots of critiques of this as satire that I think are probably right -- in terms of some of the targets, whether this works as satire in a post-satire age, etc. Perhaps 2/3 of it is trying to work as satire and only about half of that is more hit than miss. But to me, 2/3 of it works as entertainment, sometimes uproariously so. Sometimes Cohen is funny when he is being really, really wrong. Disappointed we won't see a season 2.
Much more action-packed than season 1! But not so plot-intricate that I can't follow it. Still loving the exploration of colonialism as the background fact of this universe. In Season 1, I basically couldn't stand Holden, and every time he was central to a scene, I wanted to gag. He has grown on me a little bit, as experience and his relationship with Naomi make things not quite so black and white. Also, the episode with his mom humanized him quite a bit for me. I do miss Miller. I liked the addition of Bobbie this season, and she also had a character arc that was kind of implausibly black-and-white for the first several episodes only to end up in a fairly interesting place. Avasarala is always interesting, but why is she the only convincingly "Machiavellian" character on the show? I find Errinwright just a little too dastardly. All in all the character-building is a B, the universe-building is an A, and the action improved from C+ is this ever going to get started territory in season 1 to a solid B+ for season 2.