Lexx (1997-2002) series review

So having watched Babylon 5 and Farscape, I’m left wondering what else there is that is considered excellent among the best sci-fi shows ever made (ones that are live-action, have an actual ending, and isn’t Star Trek, because Star Trek is the default sci-fi show to fall back on in every situation).  I heard about this one, so figured I’d check it out.  After watching the first episode of the first season, I immediately purchased the whole series on eBay for roughly $20, a pricetag I thought was worth it just for the first episode alone.

Season 1

The first episode of this series is a masterpiece if I ever saw one.  Mind-bending, confusing, unique, different, dark, unpredictable.  It contains a lot of elements that I hope to find in the sci-fi genre.  You are dropped into the middle of a story with no background or information given; next thing you know the series jumps thousands of years into the future where we’re dropped into yet another setting with no information given.  A dystopia planet where all but the high classes are slaves in a harsh slave-labor-intensive environment where punishment is harsh and common.  Then a whole bunch of shit happens involving love slaves, undead assassins, talking brains, hellraiser-inspired shit, escape, and a ship capable of destroying planets with ease.  I mean, good lord, the first episode set the bar so high for this franchise I wondered if it would be matched or raised in later episodes.

Well, for season 1, which only consists of 4 episodes, each 90 minutes in length (originally a Showtime series with a movie per episode), episodes 2 and 3 are largely filler episodes that do little to progress the story, but to allow viewers to become more familiar with the main cast of anti-hero protagonists, and they are fun in their own way.  But episode 4 is when it starts to reach back to the heights of the first episode, adding up to a decent finale.  The crew of 3 (plus a robot head) on a planet destroying ship going up against the Shadow (or the Divine Shadow).  The fate of the universe is at stake.  A crew of anti-heroes who honestly could be considered villains if you read into it enough, going up against a being who is most likely more evil than them.

Themes related to Brazil (the movie, not the country), rebelling against authoritarian rule, potentially being just as bad/destructive as those you are trying to overthrow (leaving nothing but destruction in your wake, while at least something existed under their rule), becoming independent, and how even the most powerful can become too arrogant and make mistakes leading to their downfall.  Similar traits shared by all.

The first of the 4 seasons is a rock solid entry into the sci-fi genre.  I dare not spoil who the protagonists of the series are for those who haven’t watched it.  Just take my word for it, you have to see the first episode, if nothing else.  The first episode is easily a 4/5 for me, maybe even higher upon repeated viewings.  And if the franchise ended on that first season, and if it didn’t have a bit of a cliffhanger, I would say it’s one of the greatest sci-fi series ever made.

Especially because it has this sequence in it.  No warnings this time, I’m just providing the nudity straight up.

Season 2

But then comes the next season, season 2.  It starts out fine (even though it now resorts to be standard 40-50 minute runtime episodes), though you begin to realize that the captain of the Lexx is as big of a dunce as the first season implied.  He becomes very difficult to root for much of the time.  I’m pretty sure that’s the point, as the series wanted to do something different by having the main protagonists be those whom no one would want as a role model.  They fuck things up, sometimes try to do good, but ultimately cause destruction usually doing more harm than good.  It’s not a bad idea, but it needed a better script to make it work.  That, and a little more budget.  Seasons 2-4 don’t have the same quality as that of the first season when it comes to special effects and set design (though Season 4 does make the Lexx ship look its absolute best).  But that’s the least of their problems.  They opt for a more light-hearted goofy tone as opposed to a very dark and grim tone with some moments of humor thrown in here and there.  It’s tonal whiplash from the first to the second season.

Aside from the first few episodes of season 2 (which does come with a shocking moment I honestly didn’t see coming), the first half of the season is a bit of a drag.  Stand-alone episodes with only vague hints to an over-arching story, and many of them just aren’t that great in my opinion.  But once the latter half of season 2 comes, the episodes become less stand-alone and begin to progress the plot episode to episode.  And, to my amazement, it actually pulls off something that I normally despise, but makes it work.  There’s a stage-play musical episode that delves into the backstory of one of the protagonists.  As much as it sounds like this shouldn’t work and make it one of the worst episodes in the entire series, it’s quite the opposite.  The episode is fantastic, somewhat emotional in its own way, and does its job in getting the viewer pumped for the finale.  And the finale is actually quite good.  So despite the bullshit that is most of the first half of season 2, and the overall decrease in quality, it actually feels worth it in the end.  And it offers a more satisfying conclusion than that of the first season.

Themes of admitting one’s own faults, owning up to them and trying to turn things around, before you’re past the point of no return.  And being courageous in the face of destruction.

If the series ended there, it would still be good, though flawed.  A 3.5 / 5 rating.  But it doesn’t end there.

Season 3

Fuck this season in it’s dull monotonous boring as fuck asshole, with a sandpaper condom with cactus pricks glued onto it.  While the first couple episodes may be interesting, and the season has every episode progressing the plot with no stand-alone episodes, the pacing is motherfucking slow!  The crew gets continually stranded on the same 2 goddamn planets (while in the last couple seasons they usually visited a different planet each episode), where it becomes the same old shit over-and-over again.  I wanted this season to end by the time I got to episode 6.  But noooooooooo.  They just had to drag it on for 13 fucking episodes.  Here’s how each episode goes:

“We need to leave!”
“We can’t!”
“Why not!?”
“Because so-and-so.”
“Let’s go to the planet to deal with so-and-so.”

“We did it, let’s get off the planet.”
“We can’t!”
“Why not!?”
“Because so-and-so.”
“Let’s deal with so-and-so.”

“Ok, we’re back on the ship, let’s go!”
“We can’t!”
“Why not?”
“Because so-and-so.”
“Fuck you and fuck me and fuck everything and fuck this fucking season! GHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

This season should’ve been half as long as it is.  But it isn’t.  So it’s a slog to get through.  I’d honestly recommend just watching the first 3-4 episodes, then skip to the last 2.  You’ll be able to pick up enough information to get a general idea of what’s happened between that time.  You’re not missing much, trust me.

Themes of what one can look forward to in the afterlife, facing punishment for all the harm one has done, or facing reward for all the good one has done.  Yin yang with good and evil, though this aspect isn’t put forth anywhere near well enough.

This season drags the show rating down to a 2 / 5.  But there is one more season.

Season 4

Ok, yeah, it’s better than season 3.  And on-par with season 2.  But seasons 2-4 pale in comparison to season 1.  The main reason to watch this season is to get to a more definitive end for the series, even if it doesn’t tie up every loose end (I think this is intentional for some thematic reason regarding the fate of this other group of people who aren’t the main protagonists).  In this season, the Lexx gets to Earth, in the present day (though it’s sort of an alternate reality version of Earth; at least that’s my theory, otherwise it’s possible to drive rocket ships as easily as you can drive a car, sometimes with a joystick).  There are some tidbits dropped here and there that link back to the lore setup in season 1 (which isn’t really developed at all in seasons 2-3).  But these tidbits, in hindsight, aren’t satisfactory.  This season acts as satire for the U.S. and its stereotypes and capitalism and politics.  Some of the satire is great, some is so-so.  But I can’t say I ever got completely bored with it.  It does have some build-up to the finale, but season 2 had better build-up for its own finale compared to season 4.  On the other hand, season 4 has a greater amount of entertaining episodes compared to season 2.  Pros and cons, but at least neither are season 3.  When it does get to the final episode, it does end by giving the best character in the series the ending he deserves (without this one character, I would’ve stopped watching the show long ago).  So despite other protagonists still being around, who gives a shit?  Once this guy ended, the series ended, and that’s fine by me.

Aside from the ending, there is a stand-out episode I rank up there with the stage play episode from season 2.  The episode where these two guys are playing a chess game on some inter-dimensional plane.  And it shows the full chess game with every move, with nice commentary between the moves.  And the tension is high throughout, making you wonder if the protagonist is confident for a reason, or is being overconfident.

Themes of destruction and rebirth.  A society doomed to fall, but hopefully has accomplished enough to carry on from the ashes.  How love can cause one to do things terrible as well as things that are wonderful.  The things we do for companionship.

At this point, I’d give the series overall a 2.5 / 5, which pains me because there are some great moments to be had here and there.  It’s just that they get spread too far from each other after season 1, and are practically nowhere to be found in season 3.

Other Notes

The first season is the one and only season that takes the premise and the content seriously and doesn’t ever really get tongue-in-cheek with it.  That all changes for the worse with the other seasons, though they each still have some great moments in them (though season 3 only has a few, which isn’t enough to justify its 13 episode length, which is practically half the number of episodes in seasons 2 and 4).  Seasons 2 and onwards gets quite pervy at times.  I’d say the perviness goes a little too far in season 2 where every other episode is perverted in some manner.  They ease up on it with seasons 3 and 4.  Would’ve liked the show a lot more if the captain of the ship was a less annoying and more like-able character (though that might defeat the purpose, as the series wants anti-heroes as protagonists whom the viewers are supposed to get frustrated with at several points in times).

If there is any show that could use a reboot, it would be this one.  And honestly, the timing is just about perfect for it.  SJWs are prime candidates for satire, but the show can also get away with having a lamebrain wimp of a male protagonist who represents everything feminists and PC people despise to even things out.  Hell, I think the series could do with a stronger female protagonist (aside from season 1, she didn’t really do all that much other than be naively innocent in her view of the universe and with her view on getting laid, despite her strengths and what she is capable of, which never really amounted to anything significant).  The show can take shots at everyone, but should also take itself more seriously than the original version does (save for season 1).  There is still potential within this series that has remained untapped due to the lack of good creative writing.

So despite the 2.5 / 5 rating, I can give the first season a rock solid recommendation, season 2 a cautious recommendation, but the rest I would advise watching at your own risk.  The later seasons are good only for having a fitting end for one of the main leads (well, I guess a fitting end for 2 of the leads if you think about it).  And even then, you have to slog through a lot of bullshit to get to the good parts.

Missed opportunity.

 

PS: Oh, in case you were wondering, Babylon 5 and Farscape are leagues beyond this show.  I’d recommend those for anyone who wants to get into live action sci-fi series (and Star Trek TOS and TNG, of course, which should be assumed to be included to any list such as that by default).  From what I’ve researched, nothing else really comes as close as these when it comes to sci-fi shows to recommend, though Stargate SG1 and X-Files aren’t half-bad either.  As for Battlestar Galactica, the old series was never finished.  The Sci-Fi remake/reboot, however, turned into ass by the end, so I can’t in good conscience recommend that.

The show is too ambitious to get away with something so petty.

Babylon 5 (1994-1998) series review

Overall rating: 4.5 / 5

Introduction

There are times when I get sick of watching movies, and seek out great television shows.  Usually I seek out shows that have already been seen through to completion, and dive in at that point.  Because I hate getting into shows that have no ending, that were cancelled before they really got going.  I’m not one to get into ongoing shows, with some exceptions.  So a while back I decided to get into this show, knowing its reputation, knowing that it was wrapped up the way the creators wanted (for the most part), and knowing that it wasn’t episodic in nature so much as each episode progressed the overall story in some way.  A sci-fi show that lasted 5 seasons where each episode of each season progressed the overall story?  And it’s considered one of the best sci-fi television series of all time?  Couldn’t pass on this.

First, what the series is about.  It’s about a space station, in space, orbiting a planet that is well away from Earth.  The station is called Babylon 5.  The number 5 is significant because there were 4 Babylon stations to come before it.  The first 3 were destroyed either during construction, or soon after being built.  The 4th mysteriously disappeared.  So hopefully the fifth time’s the charm.  The space station is meant to be a politically neutral place of existence, where all races from all quarters of the universe can send their people and representatives to for coexistence and having their say with planetary talks.  No race is excluded, so long as they don’t go against the peace on board the station.

From there, Babylon 5 would eventually find itself to be caught up in a conflict that threatens the universe.

 

A Note on How To Watch This Show

So, if you should wind up diving into this show, there’s a certain order you should watch things in.  There’s more than just the 5 seasons, there’s also a few tv movies that may be watched in a certain order.

First there’s the pilot episode, The Gathering.  That is the episode that should definitely be watched before starting Season 1.  It’s a solid introduction, but you also have to pay very close attention to what’s going on.  Nearly every minute there’s information dropped about the species, the significant characters, and how they interact with one another.  And yes, some information is significant and gets brought up later.  Plus there’s a decent assassination plot storyline.

And honestly, the only other film I’ve seen that’s worth watching is Thirdspace, which should be watched in the middle of season 4 (best watched between episode 8 The Illusion of Truth, and episode 9 Atonement.  It’s basically a Lovecraftian tale in the Babylon 5 universe, and some say it’s the best out of all the Babylon 5 movies.  If its not the best, it’s close.

The nuclear wessels brought him here.

There are other films, but I didn’t find them to be all that memorable.  They don’t contain any information that’s necessary to enjoy the rest of the series either.  If you want to know more about where the stand-alone movies fit in, and what order they should be watched in along with the episodes in the show, there’s a couple decent sites out there which will help you out.  Such as: https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/10009/what-order-should-the-babylon-5-movies-and-series-be-watched-in#10015

That being said, I can only recommend The Gathering (must-watch before starting any season) and Thirdspace (optional, but entertaining).  The rest aren’t good enough to warrant a recommendation, especially since they don’t contribute much, if anything, to the main overall story.

 

 

Season 1

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It’s a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last, best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

The first season is when the show it at some of its cheesiest, 90s-est, episodic-est.  It’s the season that will make first-time viewers wonder what the deal is with the show’s popularity?  It’s not going to seem all that special compared to other shows out there like Star Trek: The Next Generation (on that note, there’s a bitter history between Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space 9, where one alleged that the other ripped off story elements from the one).  I mean, it wasn’t weak or anything (at least by mid-90s standards when it came to the special effects).  Just that it didn’t seem like anything all that significant compared to those that came before it like Star Trek.  However, the first season is basically just laying the groundwork for all that is to come for the next 4 seasons.  The stand-alone episodic nature of some conflict arising aboard the space station Babylon 5 (or off-board it) may seem random and just being there just to tell some made-up story to pad out the series, but it’s not random.  At least 90% of the episodes contain some character, faction, race, story arc, that will be further developed or referenced in later seasons.  This is basically a glorified introductory season to the universe of Babylon 5.

We get introduced to the Narn, Centauri, Minbari, and to a lesser extent, the Vorlons (they are expanded upon in later seasons, and left mysterious in Season 1).  As we learn later on, it’s not so simple as to have each alien species listed anymore than it should just list the human species.  There are factions within each species who each have their own agenda, in particular the psychic human faction who alienate themselves from everyone but other psychics (particularly the PsyCorp).  However, just about every race except the Narns (for reasons given later on) also have their own psychics, some with telekinetic capabilities.

Centauri on the left, Narn on the right, Minbari in the lower-middle, the Vorlon in the upper-middle.

And, of course, we get introduced to the central characters in the show.  Those shown in the above picture are the significant standouts for the alien races.  Commander Sinclair, a veteran of the Earth-Minbari war who always wants to be first to enter the action when conflict arises onboard the Babylon station.  Now, normally, stuff like this bugs the shit out of me in tv shows.  You know, how the central character(s) are always involved (or get involved) with every conflict that arises, when it would be more realistic and practical to get others involved first.  Like on that show Fringe, where the main detectives seem to be either the only ones on the scene of an ongoing crisis, or are always the one to put the villain of the episode down.  You know, as opposed to having other detectives go in and get the takedown.  Especially when there’s so much as stake with the central character for one reason or another.  This isn’t a problem with superhero shows because, well let’s face it, the superheros intentionally go looking for trouble to fix, which in-turn results in trouble coming after them.  I’m talking about shows with non-superheros in them.

While this show suffers from that problem (and let’s face it, a lot of shows have this problem to this day), it at least has a decent excuse for it.  Sinclair, the commander of Babylon 5 and the central protagonist of season 1, has a habit of always wanting to get involved in the action.  He views himself as a soldier first, a commander second, which makes him a bit rash and always wanting to take the enemies down himself, even if he risks so much doing so, as it would deal a huge blow to the station operations.  He preferred being a soldier than being a commander, which gives him a reason on a personality level for always being at the center of the conflict in most episodes.

As for the conflicts, while there are some that threaten the entire station, most aren’t too major, at least by the standards that would be set in later seasons.  The main significant conflict comes up during the last couple episodes, when something happens that breaks the mold of having a happy ending for each episode.  Something that causes Sinclair to say, “Everything’s different now.”  He’s right, and that change was only getting started.

 

Season 2

If more of our so-called leaders would walk the same streets as the people who voted them in, live in the same buildings, eat the same food instead of hiding behind glass and steel and bodyguards, maybe we’d get better leadership and a little more concern for the future.

The first half of the season is more or less the same as Season 1, despite some character change-ups.  Some revelations and profound insights to a couple races are revealed early on, but other than that, the show progresses basically the same as in the last season.  However, some extra cheese is added, mainly with the new character Sheridan.  Whenever he’s talking about his wife of the past, and his potential love interest of the present, the show just turns into a full-blown soap opera.  The fucking dialogue and the fucking acting, it pained me just as much as it made me want to laugh.  The good news is, when these bits come up, they don’t take up too much time in the episode they are in (10 minutes or less overall per-episode it’s in).

“Hi, I’m Sheridan, and I’m sad about my wife dying and hopeful for the prospect of having sex with an alien.  I wanna be like Captain Kirk.”
“Hi, I’m Sinclair, and you make me sick.”

And I wasn’t too crazy about the Sheridan character for a while.  He comes off as too much of a goody-to-shoes, a guy who is flawless and too good-natured in-spite of his reputation of being feared by the Minbari because of his combat tactics.  In other words, I feared this show was going to have a Gary Stu character (ie the male equivalent of a Mary Sue).

Oh yeah, he’s in this too.

But then comes the point of Season 2 when the episode titled In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum happens (about 2/3rds through the season).  Not only does this episode actually showcase some depth to Sheridan’s character by showing some faults within him, it brings a sense of dread and high stakes to the entire series.  This is the episode that acts as a pivotal turning point for the entire show.  It’s the episode that let’s viewers know their patience will be rewarded.  The mysterious enemies, the Shadows, and the threat they pose to the universe is known, and how there are several parties within and outside of Babylon 5 that have a stake in all this, and their own motives, and their own knowledge that both the viewer and the central protagonists do not have.  This was the episode that made me go all-in.  This was the episode that made me look forward to the next, and the next, and the next.

So if you think the show is testing your patience too much, that you fear it may not be worthwhile in the end, try sticking though Season 2.  That’s when the show starts to take the gloves off (including having the Babylon 5 station get involved in an actual space battle during the finale).  The next season is when it would start swinging.

 

Season 3

Everyone lies, Michael. The innocent lie because they don’t want to be blamed for something they didn’t do and the guilty lie because they don’t have any other choice.

When we get to this season, we get to see all sorts of shit happen.  Stories regarding time travel, alternate realities, alien races beyond the outer rim, conflicts within each alien race, etc.  This is the episode where everyone is getting revved up for a war against the Shadows.  Think of this season as the equivalent Mass Effect 2 (tv season equivalent to game entry into that trilogy [anything beyond Mass Effect 3 is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned]).  The Babylon 5 station beginning to realize how pivotal its role is with defending the universe from the Shadows by using its neutrality as an advantage.  But it comes at the cost of realizing that they will have to take a side at some point, which will pit them against people they once considered friends.  Plus there’s infiltrators, those who are allied with the Shadows, and characters who begin to go down dark paths they may not be able to recover from.And the season ends with one of the most intense and thought-provoking episodes the entire series is likely to ever have; making everyone eager for the next season, the season many consider to be the best out of all of them.

 

Season 4

If I take a lamp and shine it toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth… for understanding. Too often, we assume that the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search – who does not bring a lantern – sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light… pure and unblemished… not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the center of the universe – God looks astonishingly like we do – or we turn to look at our shadow and assume that all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose, which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and in all its flaws; and in so doing, better understand the world around us.

And this is it, the high point of the show.  Everything was building up to this, and it does not disappoint.  The Shadow war is in full string, and there are other civil strifes going on with each race, threatening to tear alliances apart that are desperately needed to go against the Shadows.  The civil strife is also prevalent with the Vorlons, the one race fully capable of taking on the Shadows, yet it’s revealed they have their own ulterior motives that may go against that of the human race.  And I won’t say anything about how/if any of this is fully resolved, but I will say that things won’t always go the way you think.  There are victories, and there are losses, and there are bittersweet moments to show that even victory comes with a price of its own, just as some losses are complete devastating defeats one can’t recover from in some way.

The most intriguing episode of this entire season, in my opinion, is the one most relevant to today.  Outside of the conflict and war episodes, there is one that showcases propaganda and biased news reporting.  The episode titled The Illusion of Truth (fitting), where a news reporter from Earth is given a walkthrough of the station.  Sheridan hopes for the best with the reporter reporting on things objectively, but during the last 15-20 minutes of the episode, we see how the news can twist facts around in the most extreme ways by only inserting partial truths amidst the whole lies, leaving out footage and dialogue, and altogether painting a picture that is meant to smear the Babylon station and unite Earth and its factions against it.  It’s episodes like this that demonstrate just how intelligent and relevant the show is.

Damn robot-paparazzis.

It should be mentioned, however, that you should skip the last episode of this season (The Deconstruction of Falling Stars).  Save it for either after the last episode of season 5, or viewed just before the last episode of season 5.  Personally, I’m thinking it should be viewed just before the last episode of season 5, for reasons I’ll give later.

 

Season 5

I believe that when we leave a place a part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in these halls, when it is quiet and just listen. After a while you will hear the echoes of all of our conversations, every thought and word we’ve exchanged. Long after we are gone, our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit that the part of me that going will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

The final season, and this one is a mixed bag unfortunately.  Seasons 3 and 4 are the seasons everyone agrees are the best.  Seasons 1 and 2 were warmups for those central seasons.  And then there’s season 5, which starts out rough.  The reason it starts out rough is because the show creators weren’t completely certain they would be renewed for a fifth and final season, so they crammed more into season 4 than they would’ve liked for pacing purposes (though it did result in the most intense season yet).  Because of this, they had to make up a few stories they didn’t have penned down prior to season 5.  The blunt of this is during the first arc, where this group of rogue friendly semi-hippy psychics show up and stick around for a while.  They do too much to make these people seem happy and cheerful and innocent, it made me sick, and made me want to see them all fucking die.  But to the show’s credit, it did partially give me what I asked for in that regard (spoilers by the way, like you’ll give a shit for that subplot).  All that said, the subplot with the psychics did provide some intriguing revelations, and did serve as a turning point for some central characters in the show.  A good kind of turning point.

In regards to the big question, “Does the show wrap up all plot threads in a convenient way?”  The answer is no, but that’s a good thing in this case (probably the only show in existence where it’s a good thing).  It carries on a theme that becomes more and more apparent as the show goes on.  The theme that, “It never ends.”  That every time one foe is (or appears to be) vanquished, another comes to take its place.  For every victory, there is a defeat.  For every moment of happiness, there is a moment of sadness and pain.  When it seems like things will be fine now with all the previous conflicts dealt with and new ways of life that should improve everything, it turns out there are leftovers from previous conflicts that rise up to botch everything up.  When a goal is accomplished, those that united to achieve that goal now threaten to dissolve into separatist factions.

In other words, there will always be conflict.  It’s never-ending.  Even if victory is achieved, that victory usually results in unforeseeable shockwaves that result in the creation of new enemies, despite the best of intentions.  All we can do is make the best of it.  But then again, conflict is a necessary evil.  Conflict is what causes alliances, what keeps people strong (giving them a reason to maintain strength), what drives technological and diplomatic development.  Conflict continues to allow us to grow as a society, as a race, until we are developed enough and wise enough to finally move on to the next dimension, to the outer rim.  One day we may get there, but it will not be today.  So until then, continue fighting the good fight.

In regards to the last episode of this season vs. the last episode of season 4, the last episode of season 4 deals with how history will remember important historical figures who have accomplished much.  And it’s fascinating to see how opinions change and become more radicalized as the years/centuries go on.  How those who were once revered can become tarnished by those who don’t know them yet judge them all the same.  Similar to how many now judge the founding fathers of the United States.  Season 5’s ending is about giving the protagonist a definitive end.  The commander we’ve spent so many seasons with has his last goodbye before moving on.  Revisiting old friends and old places, revisiting nostalgia, looking back on his life, before it all ends.  While the conflicts may be never-ending, one’s story does end at some point.

 

Conclusion

We all believe in something… greater than ourselves, even if it’s just the blind forces of chance.

Don’t let the 90s sets and the outdated computer and green screen effects throw you off, this is a very intelligent sci-fi show that understands humanity (who we are, where we were, and where we are going) in many ways.  It may take a while to get going, because it’s a show that understands the importance of build-up, of laying the groundwork, of not throwing everything at you so fast that it becomes difficult to follow.  The pacing is deliberate.

And it is, without a doubt, the best sci-fi television show I have ever seen in my life.  It blows Star Trek, The Expanse, Farscape, and Lexx out of the water.  That doesn’t mean it’s flawless.  The 90s cheese is still there (especially in the first 2 seasons), the special effects dated (but you can still understand what is going on, and after a while you get adjusted to them), and the acting is of typical 90s tv acting at the time (though many of the actors eventually work wonders with their characters).  But it makes up for it with a truly epic tale that has many twists and turns, many complex characters, complex races, complex factions, and complex morals.

It does have that innocence of “the 90s good guys should win” semi-naivety found in most shows from the 90s and earlier, but it is one of the earliest shows that evolved its characters to become morally grey at times.  It shows that while some characters stay the same through various scenarios, there are situations that can arise which can cause them to change under the circumstances, and they may not be able to go back to who they once were.  Their intentions may start out good, but they are eventually forced to make difficult decisions where there is no right answer.  Again, the 90s innocence is still there, but it does enough to go into the grey and dark areas to satisfy the more wise and mature of us.

But this world is an amazing place.

But that 90s innocence is deceptive, as the show tackles a lot of heavy-handed topics, which are not limited to the affects of propaganda, racism, friends becoming enemies, enemies becoming friends, purpose, mysteries of life and the universe, where we are headed as a race, spying on others, the ethics of being able to read other’s minds (metaphor for government/technological spying), philosophies to live by, the best form of government, what it takes to unite those we have our differences with and the struggles to maintain such unions, the use and misuse of power, our personal ambitions and struggles compared with that of the struggles of all the worlds in the universe, how a religious figure-head can gain an image/reputation that is unwanted, etc.  At some point, there’s an episode that deals with one or more of those, sometimes in a thought-provoking manner.

So, great story, memorable characters (especially G’Kar and his memorable sayings, though each character manages to have their own shining moment in that regard), memorable moments, some thought-provoking episodes.  It all adds up to a show no one should miss.  That being said, they did make a sequel show titled Crusades, but I can’t recommend watching it simply because it was cancelled after season 1, even though it had the potential to be as great as Babylon 5.  But I can recommend something else for those interested in a sequel to the series.  There is a book trilogy called Legions of Fire which takes place after the events of the series (minus the final episode of Seasons 4 and 5).  It doesn’t take into account every dangling plot thread that was in the show (again, the conflict never ends), but it may fill in some plot details people were left wondering about by the time the show ended.

So overall, highly recommended show.  There is nothing else quite like it, nor as epic (though Deep Space Nine tried, but that show ripped off this one and it’s overall not as good, so…).  I kinda wish I could delve more into this series, but the only real way to do that is by reviewing it episode-by-episode, and I just don’t feel like doing that.  Just take my word for it, start with the pilot episode The Gathering, then proceed with the rest of the show until the last episode of season 4; save that for the end of season 5 (just before the very last episode).

Blade Runner 1 and 2049 dual review

Blade Runner rated: 3.5/5
Blade Runner 2049 rated: 3/5

Like the first film, this one ended up bombing at the box office, even though it’s ranked at #1 for the weekend (well thank fuck not that many dumbass kids and fucking bronies are giving My Little Pony that much fucking money). Will it gain as much of a cult following and reach the same level of fame as its predecessor? Or will it just be remembered as a meh movie? Only time will tell. Until then, here’s my opinion.

So I was going to be very disappointed in this film if it didn’t at the very least provide a visual treat that is pure ecstasy for the eyes. Not only because the first film was also that, with intense attention to detail, but also because it provided a way to make both things that are pleasant and/or horrible (death, pollution) beautiful to look at. There is beauty even amidst suffering and a toxic environment. Not only because of that, but also because the first film had a theme that was all about the eyes. That film opened with a visual shot that ended up being a first person perspective of the city of Los Angeles 2 years from now (hey, it could still happen), and showcased this by switching from a view of the city, to a view of the eye that reflects the city. This film opens in a similar way, minus the fire and smoke. It opens with an eye. I’m honestly not sure why, because if it’s supposed to be the main protagonist’s eye, which was my assumption, then it shouldn’t have started with Gosling asleep at the wheel, with his eyes closed. Fuck advertisements against drinking and driving, they need advertisements about not sleeping at the wheel!

“But the flying vehicle is on auto-pi–“
I don’t care!

Anyway, the first film had a lot of instances with regards to “eyes,” which is a central theme/symbol in that film. Not just with the showing and highlighting of the eyes, but also the discussing of them.

 

Blade Runner 2049, on the other hand, only uses “eyes” as a brief callback to the first film, in only 2 scenes. I didn’t catch anything particularly re-ocurring objects throughout the film in that way, at least not on this watch.

That being said, as I had hoped, this film is fantastic from a visual perspective. The special effects, set designs, all fantastic. One of the best-looking sci-fi films since Tron: Legacy. And aside from some scenes in the city, the film largely carries a different color scheme to it, a different atmospheric film, than the first one. That’s not a bad thing, because it looks great in any case. Plus we actually get a look outside Los Angeles in this film. Usually foggy, sometimes an orange color.  Both films use atmosphere and visuals as their primary strength, becoming a mood-piece, leaving the plot and characters secondary, and this works to their advantage since both films have their own share of plot holes (more on that in a moment).  It makes it easier to overlook those flaws in that way.  How scenes drag on and let the music carry you, how the sound effects carry you, how the pleasant visuals allow you to settle into and take in all that there is in each well-crafted sequence.  Letting the colors dominate to create a particular mood, almost making things dream-like.  This is when both films are at their best.  In the case of the previous film, the mood of it is dream-like, but slowly becomes more and more like a nightmare (with less music to lighten the mood I might add), before rising back up to its dream-like quality, and then having the final sequence take place in silence as if the dream is over, we are awake, and on edge, wondering what will happen next.

The 2049 film follows this aspect for the first half of its runtime, but becomes more plot/character driven during its latter half (with a couple scenes here and there that return back to the welcoming atmospheric style), which ends up being to its detriment because then one has to consider the problems with the plot if there’s going to be heavier focus on it.

But make no mistake, the previous film has some plot holes (or at least some leaps in logic) as well.  It may be a masterpiece, but it’s a flawed masterpiece.  For starters, why the fuck would they be designing androids to look exactly like humans? Pleasure models I can understand, but models made for work and labor, why? Not to mention why the fuck they would program them to act real and have emotions? Seems to me like a lot of the problems brought up in these films would be solved if they stopped making robots look and act human, since it brings no logical benefit. I mean seriously, how are they profiting off of these things if they’re going to make this many? Does the robot labor force make so much profit that the Tyrell Corporation have no problem putting the entire workforce at risk by giving them emotions and making them all look and act human, giving all of them unique looks and personalities in the process? Granted, this film mentions the aftermath of all that and how it lead to Tyrell going bankrupt and being bought out by some other company, that would continue to make the exact same fucking mistakes that Tyrell did before going under!

Another problem with both films is the security issue. Not just in the city air, but also inside actual security buildings! In both films, an employee/employer of importance within the company gets blasted/knifed/thumbed into oblivion, while inside the security building, and the perpetrator gets away each fucking time in each fucking movie! That’s just insane! Did Los Angeles turn into Mega City One or something?

As for the flaw unique to this film, it’s more of a storyline and thematic issue. As a sequel, it is mandatory to compare this to the first film, and consider how it’s going to develop the story/world/lore/character(s). In terms of developing the theme, it honestly doesn’t. The theme of the first film is if artificially created beings are capable of being human, of being alive, of feeling/giving love, etc. This film is basically the same thing, except limited to Ford’s and Gosling’s characters. Any other (supposed) replicants don’t count because they’re not given enough screen time to matter, even if it happens in one scene for the sake of sequel-baiting. It doesn’t take the theme in any other meaningful direction that expands from the first film, except that it ignores the religious aspect of fallen angels from heaven, and implies robots will eventually fight back and threaten to take over the world. That’s bullshit, and that only belongs in Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, and Planet of the Apes films.

Also it relies too heavily on the existence of the first film. I’m not talking about building off of established plot/world/characters; I’m talking about the last scene ending not only on a character of the past film, but also not ending on any note that is thought-provoking and/or conversation-starting like the first film did, let alone making you view the film differently on a second viewing knowing what you know after a first view. Speaking of that, if you’re wondering whether or not this film answers the question definitively if Deckard’s a replicant or not, to my surprise, it doesn’t. It actually handles Deckard’s character in such a way it would be the same whether he was a human or replicant. So viewers can look at this movie with either conclusion they arrived at after seeing the first film.

That aside, the pacing was well-done in the 2049 film. It starts at a crawl, but starts to kick into gear about 30-40 minutes in when Gosling’s character arrives at a junkyard.

Back to the visuals for a moment. In this film, there’s a (kind of) sex scene that I’m sure people will talk about afterwards. It’s not explicit or anything (if it was that would be legendary, us guys would get to see 2 smoking hot females in the nude, and the girls and gay guys would get to see Ryan Gosling’s six-pack and incredibly tight muscular ass; fair trade), but it’s an interesting stylistic scene with a digital girl trying to “sync” with a physical human during sexual intercourse. If that scene was cut down to to MPAA censors, then I want to see a goddamn director’s cut! This honestly wouldn’t surprise me, since the sex scene in the original film was also cut down, I shit you not.

Like the first film, this film succeeds as an atmospheric visual film, with everything else taking second priority at best. The scenes in both films are top notch. The 2049 version even manages to succeed the original in terms of visuals for a brief duration when Gosling visits the corporation (and after he leaves it) that took over the Tyrell Corporation. The lighting, the rooms, the sounds. It’s glorious.

Anyway, I’ve discussed the flaws of the film, but there’s one other thing I personally consider a major fault, but only on a personal level. I felt it played it too safe and strayed too close to reliance on the original in a way different than mentioned above. It’s that this took place on Earth. In both films it is mentioned that there are colonies established on other planets, some of which are used for replicant slave labor. I’d like to see a film take place on one or more of those, to see what life is like there. This would expand the world building (a lot), and potentially the lore and themes in this way. Plus there wasn’t any good reason to continue a story arc for Ford’s character. This film didn’t take it in a direction any more interesting than Gosling’s character, and it was wrapped up in a satisfying way in the first film.

And, well, there it is. The first film is better, but this film is worth seeing just for the visuals alone. And the story, despite my gripes, is still worth going through even if just to experience the visuals.

 

Edit 10-9-2017:

Oh, right, and the villains didn’t have as much depth as those in the previous film.  They came off as cookie-cutter villains compared to those from the first film who had a sympathetic plight.  It wasn’t enough to make them out to be good guys, but it made them more relate-able, even if they were machines.  And in my opinion, that’s the whole point/purpose of films that focus on artificial intelligence.  Using robots as a metaphor for some aspect or element to humanity, so that humans can know more about themselves, what it’s like to be alive, what it’s like to be human.