What You Should Be Watching

I have been watching a lot of “meh” television lately. Even some of the shows which I used to look forward to have lost their luster. Fortunately, there are two new television programs which I have recently gotten hooked on which have given me a reason to actually go downstairs and turn on the bloody boob tube.1/2

What may surprise some readers is that neither of these shows is strictly horror.

Slight Spoilerage Ahead.

The first show I think you need to start watching is
Orphan Black. Unfortunately, this may prove a bit difficult for some of you as it is currently airing on BBC-A. The show stars Tatiana Maslany as Sarah. She is a fringe dwelling punkish type Brit living in the US. She is an orphan who has a daughter she has not seen in almost a year, an abusive boyfriend, and a bank account full of cobwebs. In the pilot episode she watches a woman who looks exactly like her commit suicide by jumping in front of a moving train. Grifter Sarah knows an opportunity when she sees one and does her best to step into the recently deceased’s life.

This is more difficult than it would appear as Beth, said deceased, is er, I mean was, a homicide detective on leave after a questionable shooting in which an innocent civilian died. Sarah gets dragged into Beth’s complicated life. She has to convince her boyfriend and her police partner that she is who she says she is, picking up clues about Beth’s life here and there.

As if that was not difficult enough, she soon discovers the reason that she and Beth looked so much alike. They are two of no one knows how many clones. This sets up one twist after another. These turns and curveballs, handled less deftly, would snap the viewer out of their enjoyment, shattering the suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, exactly the opposite is the case.

Maslany is amazing as every one of the clones. Each has a distinct speech pattern, way of moving, and set of mannerisms. The scenes where she is essentially arguing with herself would be laughable if they were not done so well. In a recent episode, Maslany portrayed uptight soccer mom Alison trying to impersonate Sarah. It was absolutely genius.

Special kudos go to two other cast members. Kevin Hanchard who plays Art, Beth’s partner does a great job of leaving the audience guessing about his Art’s true motives. Is he trying to help Beth after the shooting or does he have another agenda? Is he becoming suspicious of Sarah’s attempts at living as Beth? The other is Jordan Gavaris who could play Felix, Sarah’s foster brother, strictly for laughs but instead imbues the character with genuine emotion. He is an artist and a con-man and the closest thing Sarah has to real family.

Confession time. Anyone who has read or listened to my rants about the unoriginality of Hollywood will understand why I didn’t even bother to record
Hannibal when it first came on.5 However, curiosity got the better of me and I started watching the episodes on my iPad.

I am glad I did.

Hannibal is one of those rare prequels that gets it right. We all know that something horrible happens between FBI Agent Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. This television show brings us back before that encounter, before Lecter became known as Hannibal the Canibal.6 I am usually dead against prequels, re-imangings, and such but as I said, this one works. While some of the credit goes to the writers,7 a lot of it goes to the actors who portray the characters.

Hugh Darcy does an excellent job of stepping into the role of Will Graham. He plays the damaged detective as someone who is afraid of his extreme empathy, someone who needs an emotional anchor to keep him from being dragged into the darkness every time he looks at it. The slight touch of Aspergers he gives Graham is perfect.

I had serious doubts about the rest of the cast. Laurence Fishburne is an amazing actor, but I didn’t think he would be able to play SSA Dr. Jack Crawford to my liking. I was wrong. He absolutely nails it. His Crawford is just the right mix of self-centered (in terms of being goal oriented no matter what the cost) and downright bastardishness.

The biggest question I had was about the good doctor himself. Could anyone else step into the shoes, straight-jacket, and mouth guard of Dr. Lecter? It has to take a huge brass pair to even consider taking over the role that Sir Anthony Hopkins made his own in
Silence of the Lambs. Mads Mikkelsen delivers. His portrayal is often so subtle that the audience is left wondering, did I really see that? Was there a hint of a smile as he profiled himself? The cautious but curious expression that Mikkelsen wears when Lecter is watch Graham is seriously creepy. Quite frankly, if the story of young Anakin Skywalker had been done half this well those movies would have sucked a lot less.

Both shows are extremely well done. They have changed my complaint from “there is nothing worth watching” to “when is the next episode on?”

1 I mean other than my workout with Wii Fit.

2 I deliberately stated it thus as both programs tend to be quite sanguine.

3 I’m sure you know which definition of the word I mean.

4 Actually, it shouldn’t be that much of a shock. How much straight up horror programming is on the tele these days?

5 All right, that’s a lie. I just forgot to program it.

6 For the record, I did not like
Hannibal Rising as a book or a movie.

7 Of course.

8 Another confession, I absolutely loved William Petersen as Graham in the first cinematic adaptation of Harris’
Red Dragon. I still prefer Manhunter to the later Red Dragon movie. I think Darcy does just as well if not better in the role.