Manifest is not the next Lost. Manifest is terrible.

Millions of pixels have been lit theorizing what television show will be the next Lost. Nearly every word on this blog has been devoted to the subject. Some of the early contenders tried hard but didn’t last. Flash Forward and The Event come to mind. There have also been shows since September 21, 2004, that match or even exceed Lost’s brilliance. Breaking Bad, The Man in the High Castle and The Wire come to mind.

This fall season we had a new contender, and its parallels were obvious. Manifest (NBC) is about passengers of a flight that mysteriously went missing. After three episodes that seems to be where the similarities end. But three episodes of Lost barely scratched the island’s surface, so that’s something we’ll have to cover in a different post.

Now nearly a full season in, I’m comfortable declaring Manifest is not the next Lost but it is a pile of wreckage. It’s story—which should be interesting—is told with such little effort and depth that I had to quit watching after the fall finale.

Why the fall finale? Because it decided to make the cliffhanger for the entire fall season be the (not so) shocking reveal of a character introduced in this one episode to be a spy. Seriously? They had how many episodes to build a character whose shocking reveal would actually be shocking, but they chose to do it all in 42 minutes? Get out of here with that. An airplane survival story overflows with ways to sneak in a character who isn’t who we think it is (hello, Ethan Rom). Manifest tried to make it happen in one episode, which is lazy af and a privilege this show had not earned.

It most certainly isn’t something Lost would have done. Neither is the weak arc of Thomas, the stowaway being brought to America by a flight attendant. Instead of introducing him as a stowaway, why not establish the relationship he came here for and then put him in danger of being split from his boyfriend? Because that would have taken up valuable time when Ben was screwing up his marriage or Michaela was having a vision. Gotta have those visions!

This show sucks. It sucks and I’m mad just writing this blog about it.

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Game of Thrones Final Season: Hopes and predictions

Game of Thrones the final season premiers April 14! That is going to be a busy Sunday with the final round of The Masters all day and the GoT season premiere basically right after the ceremony in Butler Cabin. Cannot wait!

I re-watched season seven over the past few weekends, and all I’ve got to say is zzzzzzzzz. The questionable pacing that marred the original experience is less noticeable when binged in isolation from the week-to-week anticipation. But it is apparent in the jarring way the arc jumps between story lines, making it feel like I must have missed something even though I know I haven’t.

Anyway, as the final episodes approach (again that premier date is April 14, for all you Google bots out there) here are my preseason predictions.

Dream of dreams prediction: The Night King wins the iron throne. I’m so disappointed when shows sewn with sadness and despair end their run with a happy ending (witness: Revenge). So I would be thrilled if Game of Thrones ends with Cersei, Jon and Dany all defeated and the Night King reigning over Westeros. If they want to tell a story that serves as a warning for what happens when we let our lusts for power overtake the need to do what’s right for humanity, this is how they will do it.

He’s hiding in plain sight prediction: Gendry is revealed as Robert and Cersei’s true born son and heir to the iron throne. I outlined this prediction before. TL;DR—The baby ripped from Cersei’s arms early in her marriage to Robert is actually Gendry.

Don’t mistake this to mean great things for the steamy blacksmith. I also predict he will die shortly after he learns he was entitled to the throne this whole time.

Think of the tragedy inherent in this prediction. With her son in waiting as prince, Cersei and Robert may never drift apart and the entire saga may never take root. There is no “game of thrones” if Cersei and Robert have an honest heir. And think of Gendry spending his life the hard way inside King’s Landing and getting sold to a witch outside it. What a tragedy for him to learn too late that he could have worn the silly crown this whole time.

Who would have conspired to take him and why? Would Cersei be a different person if never knowing the heartbreak of losing her first child? Sounds to me like exactly the kind of things fans would love to debate for all eternity. I really hope this one comes true.

Of siblings:
One Lannister sibling and one Stark sibling will not make the finale. I predict one will die midseason, the other in the penultimate episode. This is as much about story construction as it is true predictions. There won’t be enough room in the extended finale episode to kill off everyone who’s going to die, and they can’t credibly get to that episode without killing anyone. Removing characters early gives the writers a chance to make the survivors grieve and reinforce that even a happy ending in Westeros comes at a great, great cost.

One of the living dragons will survive. If his life comes at the cost of his brother’s last true measure of devotion then even better. I make this prediction because of how it will hurt Dany to lose a child for the second time. Being down to one dragon will also remind her how tenuous her hold on power truly is, another great unknown to leave with the audience for all eternity.

No One prediction number 1: If Cersei dies it will not be by Arya’s hand. Killing Cersei is the last purpose in Arya’s increasingly vengeful life. She won’t get the satisfaction. The wonderful little girl with an indomitable spirit will not get the one face she wants more than any other. She will have turned ruthless for nothing.

Maternity ward prediction: The only way Cersei’s baby survives is if she dies and Jamie has to raise their child alone. This would be the ultimate tragedy for their incestuous love affair. Jamie, after being forced to love his children in secret, left alone to raise a child without the love of his life. Perhaps again having to play the role of uncle and adopt his own son or daughter, only now with a secret he can share with no one. This would be a fantastically sad way to say goodbye to the Kingslayer.

That other incestuous affair prediction: Jon and Dany make the finale, but one does not survive. My money is on Jon to bite the dust, possibly in a heroic sacrifice. He’s always come into his positions reluctantly, whether as the bastard of Winterfell or the King of the North. Never quite comfortable with being brought back by the Red Priestess, he’ll go contently to his death knowing it’s where he should be already.

No One prediction number 2: Littlefinger is still alive. I admit to ripping this one off but I have to include it because Littlefinger is my favourite character. Wouldn’t it be sweet if we learned Petyr was the one who moved to rip Gendry from Cersei, playing the first card in this game of thrones long before anyone ever realized? And that he’s still alive, outsmarting the Stark sisters as he waits to take ultimate revenge on the pair who—no doubt in his mind—failed to live up to the legacy of their mother whom he loved so devotedly.

Something’s got to go right prediction: Sam survives. He’s the last man standing in House Tarly, with a wife and child he adores. Give us this, won’t you, gloomy writers?

The prediction prediction: We haven’t seen all we need to know to predict who wins. There are two main questions for Game of Thrones to resolve: First, does Westeros defeat the army of the dead? Second, who wins the iron throne if it does? I’m going to limit this prediction to the second question. I think are key details waiting to be told, some epic plot twists or revelations that we have to know before the pieces come together. It would be a pretty crappy show if we get that detail in episode one and resolve the winner five episodes later, so look for this to come at us all at once.

As to the first question, even though I gave the Night King’s victory my dream of dreams prediction, I do believe it will remain a dream. I think we’ll see Ol’ Blue Eyes get vanquished in the second-to-last episode, with the decisive round of the game happening in the series finale.

The WWE wouldn’t even dream of it prediction: The series ends in the throne room. It’s Cersei, finally safe in the seat she’s coveted for so long. Humming softly with her infant at her breast (remember how she insisted on nursing her children even though they wanted her to use the wet nurse?).

But wait, her eyes are closed.

We hear the hideous screech of Viserion roaring over King’s Landing as a smile forms on her lips.

*POP*

Her eyelids jump open, revealing the ice blue eyes of the undead queen reigning over Westeros.

The end.

These 7 Shows Died On My DVR

Criminal Minds

I used to use Criminal Minds as an example of what you should watch if Lost was too complicated for you. Then I stumbled across A&E reruns. I was hooked. But the show seriously lagged the past several seasons. The writers’ original fear that they’d run out of ways to kill people came true, and the storylines became less and less compelling. It rebounded toward the end of last season, but couldn’t continue the momentum this season. I haven’t watched an episode since at least March.

So what happened? Shemar Moore moved on and Thomas Gibson was fired. There went my two favourite characters. Bringing back Paget Brewster helped, but it wasn’t enough. Reid isn’t intense enough to replace what Hotch and Morgan brought to the dynamic, neither is Luke. Aisha Tyler’s character brings nothing; JJ has never been interesting for me. Rossi’s act as sage of the BAU is also tired.

Then there is Garcia. I’m completely tired of making the tech character an eccentric female, which I find degrading. Blindspot gets it right in this regard and gives the part the respect it deserves. Losing Morgan as her opposite left Penelope over-exposed and it’s just too much.

What would get me back? I’d still love to see a storyline that has the team get a case wrong. Shemar isn’t coming back, neither is Gibson. So unless they pull a Christopher Meloni out of their hat Minds and I have come to an end.

S.W.A.T.

Speaking of Shemar Moore, I have to admit this one hurts. I liked SWAT, and of course I love Shemar. The show deserves credit for at least trying to be more than a shoot-em-up cop drama, and I really liked the story with Street’s mom. But as time got tight, I wasn’t keeping up. It’s sat there waiting since February.

Maybe I’ll catch up if I ever have the spare time and buy CBS All Access. I’m sorry Shemar.

The Crossing

I made up my mind on this one long before ABC canceled it. Whenever I wish Lost would have focused more on the mysteries, along comes a show like The Crossing to remind me that characters matter most. The Crossing made virtually no attempt at character-based storytelling.

It’s mystery was interesting. People from the future somehow coming back in time to escape whatever hell the future brings. But the execution wasn’t there. And no offense to Steve Zahn, but I can’t take him seriously. I wasn’t a fan of Mad Dogs, but that might have been the perfect role for him.

The Resident

Honestly never even watched this one. I hope Emily Van Camp does well.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

This is just a factor of time. I have five episodes stored and doubt I’ll get to them. It’s a very enjoyable show that I encourage you to watch.

I did have a plan to blog about it. If you watch closely, the people behind Penn & Teller change from act to act. P&T’s clothes never change, neither do Alyson Hannigan’s. I think what happens here is they tape the entire season in one day, then edit the acts together so one of them fools P&T in each episode. I was going to do a photo essay breaking all this down, but ran out of time. Sorry.

Africa’s Great Civilizations

Africa is fascinating, so I taped this whole series from PBS. It’s interesting. But tbh I only turn it on when I know I’m gonna fall asleep.

Man With A Plan

I saw this show in person. It’s 10 times more funny in person. There are half a dozen or so episodes stacked up and I’ll blow thru one now and then. But it’s not good enough to make a priority.

 

Westworld “The Riddle of the Sphinx” Confession

I totally missed it.

My whole bit is supposed to be about how much I loved Lost but I missed it. The director claims it wasn’t on purpose. Does that really matter? It was almost exactly the same, and I missed it.

I’m talking about the opening of last night’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” the fourth episode of Westworld season two. A record disk spins an upbeat rhythm, we’re in some kind of apartment. There’s a man on a bike. We aren’t sure who this is. Sound familiar? It should! The man doesn’t do any dishes, and no hatch gets blown open but we saw almost the exact same thing at the beginning of “Man of Science, Man of Faith.”

This didn’t even occur to me as I watched it. My excuse is I was too busy looking for signs of what timeline we’re in because that’s one of my biggest beefs with Westworld to-date. I made an effort to follow it better last night, and my reward was missing such an obvious parallel with Lost.

I’m embarrassed. I can barely show my face on this blog. I resolve to do better.

This brings up an interesting column on Wired by Angela Watercutter (no relation), who writes about her obsession with every Westworldian detail:

I’m going to do what I should’ve done with Lost in the first place: Sit back and watch. Don’t worry about clues. Ignore Twitter and message boards. If there’s something I’m supposed to know, Westworld will tell me.

I agree. Like her, I got so deep into the layers of little mysteries that I missed too much of the larger story the show was trying to tell. If it’s important, the show will make a big deal out of it (Jack’s relationship with his father). If it’s not important, it won’t (why Jack’s number is 23).

Damon says as much:
 “Which in the case of our show is, “The numbers are bad luck, they keep popping up in Hurley’s life, they appear on the island.” … But if you’re watching the show for a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean—and I’m not saying you won’t see more of them—then you will be disappointed by the end of season six.”

You could argue that Lost made too much sometimes of little things it had no intention of answering. That would be a fair point.

I take this laid back approach with most shows now, except for maybe Game of Thrones. I do like to make predictions there. But I try to keep it confined to predictions about the story and support them with things we may have seen in the show. Not find nuggets buried in a scene and extrapolate what they might mean, which is what I think happened too much with Lost.

Last night’s episode was my favourite of the entire series so far. It was easier to follow than others and, like Game of Thrones can sometimes do, it set aside Maeve and Dolores aside to give more time to Bernard and William. I think that made for a better story. It might also mean we’re headed for an overdose of Maeve and Dolores next week. Both characters are a bore in season two, so I hope not.

Westworld Season 2: Thoughts About This Mess

Of all the things I can’t handle in my TV shows, inevitability might be on top of the list. I can’t spend every episode of a series waiting for the most obvious thing to happen.

Take Westworld for an example. The moment Dolores killed the fly at the end of episode one made it obvious the hosts were going to realize they are hosts, and the odds were pretty good that we’d meet a host who didn’t know it was a robot. Such inevitability made it hard for me to take any joy in the show’s first season.

Enough people raved about it that I gave the show a quick re-watch, and I can see how people love it. I wouldn’t say I hate watch it the way I did The Leftovers, but I can’t say it’ll ever be a show I adore.

Here are my thoughts after three episodes of season two.

I’m okay with shifting timelines, but I need some kind of cue to tell me where we’re at. Putting a young Robert into the real-world scene in episode two helped, but I’d prefer to get the cue at the beginning so it’s easier to understand. Lost did this perfectly with the sound effect that signaled a transition to the flashbacks. Awake used warm and cold color treatments to tell viewers which reality its main character was experiencing. Westworld should do something similar. The timelines are too tight—weeks or days instead of years—for the characters to age, and the locations are exactly the same. They don’t have to throw a time card up on the screen, but some clear indication would be nice.

What was the main allure of season one? Watching the hosts become aware. Dolores figured it out. Maeve figured it out. Clementine could not handle, went zombie. Even Teddy, who rivals Revenge’s Daniel as one of the dumbest TV characters ever, figured it out. Now what? Aware Dolores is in a way even more of a drone than unaware Dolores. Her character has one focus that eliminates any depth she might have had. Wouldn’t it have been better if seeing what happened to her dad made her long for the simpler days when he was healthy and they were all happy? There’s an “ignorance is bliss” conflict there that could have put her character under a microscope by forcing her to question her new and murderous purpose. They passed and made her a military leader instead. Yawn.

It’s hard to be invested in the hosts’ fight against Delos when we only know three human Delos characters—Sizemore, Charlotte and Stubbs. The show hasn’t given any of them the time we need to have any sort of investment in their fate. We wanted Jon Snow to win the battle of the bastards because we love him and Ramsay was thoroughly detestable. Westworld hasn’t made us love the hosts or hate the humans, so I can’t care for the outcome of the conflict driving the story of its second season.

Where was William last week? More importantly, will that character even work now that we know he and the Gunslinger are the same? Yes, I think it will.

The show really suffers without Robert. They never made him a full-blown evil genius, but he was the central figure for every storyline to revolve around. Season one could ground storylines for the humans and the hosts in Robert. Without him, everything feels like it’s floating in the same space without anything to tie it all together. Maybe that’s the point…the park was under control with Robert and without him it spins out of control. He one-upped the board’s attempt to push him out of his creation in the most epic way possible: Writing a narrative that involved his own death to prove Westworld can’t exist without him.

I’m calling BS on the hosts making any sort of stand against the Delos security team. There’s no way old west shotguns could stand up to the weaponry Delos threw at them.

I like the idea of more parks with different themes. But at some point it’s going to be like okay, there’s no way one company can have enough money to do all this.

Why can’t they just give all the hosts clean hard drives? Wouldn’t that solve everything?