TV Show Review: Star Trek Discovery, Season 3

Details: More information can be found at https://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery/ and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5171438/?ref_=ttep_ep_tt

Score: 7.2/10

This third season of Star Trek has felt the most like the Star Trek series that have come before. I mean that in a good way and a bad way.

Some spoilers ahead.

This third season picks up right where the last season left off. The crew of Discovery was sent hundreds of years into the future and must now survive in this unfamiliar time. What they discover is a ravaged galaxy where a galaxy spanning disaster known as the “burn” has destroyed most of the space ships in the galaxy. Starfleet is a shell of what it once was. It’s up to Discovery and the remnants of Starfleet to rekindle hope in the galaxy again.

This season is very standard Star Trek, which means that there was no genre defying twist or anything like that. It followed the tried and true plot structure of past seasons of Star Trek where there are a lot of standalone episodes with a looming threat in the background and the final few episodes deal primarily with that threat. I like the often used themes of morality, optimism and rising above cruelty, themes common to old Star Trek. I enjoyed all of that.

But there was nothing new in this season. No real twist or revelation. The final reveal of what the “burn” really was anticlimactic, but in line with a more optimistic Star Trek.

Overall, I am a long time Star Trek fan so of course I enjoyed this season. I would’ve liked some progression in the overall genre and for the franchise, but this is nice too. When there are so many shows that insist on dark, edgy stories, it’s nice to have a story that stays somewhat optimistic, even if that equates to a predictable plot.

TV Show Review: The Mandalorian, Season 2, Episodes 6 through 8 (the Finale)

Details: There are only eight episodes this season so this review includes the finale. More information can be found at https://www.starwars.com/series/the-mandalorian and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8111088/

Score: 8.2/10

This season and especially this finale episode of The Mandalorian is a master class in fan service. If you are a Star Wars fan, this will hit you right in the nostalgiac feels.

Spoilers ahead.

Wowowow. These last few episode were pretty good, but that final episode… wow. That final episode is what fans have been wanting to see for a long time.

Obviously the most gratifying thing in the final episode was the appearance of Luke. Not just Luke, but Luke at the height of his power. The most important aspect of putting Luke Skywalker in this episode is that it must be played by Mark Hamill. He doesn’t need to physically be there, but it needs to be his voice. Thankfully, it is Mark Hamill. He’s in the credits and I looked it up on imdb.com. I’m so glad it’s actually Hamill because the special effects they used for his face looked terrible. However, none of that matters. What matters is that Hamill was actually there and that is enough to give it that feeling of authenticity and nostalgia all long time Star Wars fans needed.

With that said, there was quite a bit of emotion between our protagonist and baby Yoda. It was surprisingly emotional given that Luke Skywalker actually made an appearance.

A interesting side note to this series is just how many powerful female characters there are. In this final episode, pretty much every powerful character other than the protagonist is a strong, ass kicking woman. An interesting creative choice on Filoni and Favreau’s part. I had no idea he was so supportive of women’s empowerment, or maybe this was pushed by Disney and Kathleen Kennedy. Either way, I like it.

Overall, this series gave Star Wars fans exactly what they wanted, which is amazing considering how the movies mostly failed to do so. The Mandalorian is amazing. It is peak Star Wars. It is no exaggeration to say that Filoni and Favreau are carrying the entire Star Wars franchise on their shoulders.

TV Show Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Details: More information can be found at https://www.netflix.com/title/80234304 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10048342/

Score: 7.4/10

There’s a lot I like about The Queen’s Gambit and I finally figured out why. Much of what appeals to me in this show are the same exact things that appealed to me in the show Mad Men.

The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story that takes mostly takes place around 1960’s America. The story centers on a young chess prodigy and her ascent in the world of professional chess.

An interesting facet of this story is that this is a purely fictional story, but it is well researched and takes heavy inspiration from the real world of professional chess. Many of the fictional characters are based off real people and many of the matches based off real matches. The story is based of a book of the same name and the author of that book spoke to many real chess players to get a feel of the culture of professional chess in the 1960’s. Despite being a fictional story, you get a feel of that authenticity here.

You also get a bit of that history tourism you get from shows like Mad Men and movies like Forrest Gump. The Queen’s Gambit does not go into big historical events, but it does lean heavily into the atmosphere at the time. As we go through each time period, the music from that period plays in the scenes. Little nuances like the use of animal tranquilizers for children and the heavy dose of Christianity in most people’s lives is there. The biggest indication of the time periods is simply the style. The clothing, the cars and interior decorating are all very 1960’s.

In terms of story structure, again I am heavily reminded of Mad Men. The story centers on an attractive protagonist, a prodigy at what she does who has a dark past. The protagonist in Queen’s Gambit is basically a female Don Draper. While the story is about chess, the chess is really just a vehicle to deliver the interpersonal drama between characters, much like how Mad Men used the advertising industry of the 1960’s as a vehicle for drama. It’s all a bit redundant and done-before, but I loved Mad Men so I can’t help but enjoy this story as well.

Also like Mad Men, the pacing and cinematography are very similar. There a slowness to it all where the camera often seems to just linger on characters. Mad Men did the same thing. I think it’s just something about dramas that take place in the 1960’s that spurs directors to adopt this sort of style. Then again, maybe the makers of this show deliberately tried to emulate the style of a success like Mad Men.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable drama. While this show is undoubtedly about chess, it is more so about the coming of age and growth of its protagonist, as well as the relationships she has with other characters. I would’ve liked to have seen more about the technicalities of chess, but I understand how difficult it can be to convey the mechanics of such a complex game to audiences who just want to be entertained. You don’t need to know anything about chess to enjoy this story. If you knew nothing about chess before you watched this show, you will still know mostly nothing about chess by the end of it.

TV Show Review: The Mandalorian, Season 2, Episodes 1-5 (or Chapters 9-13)

Details: More information can be found at https://disneyplusoriginals.disney.com/show/the-mandalorian and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8111088/

Score: 7.7/10

It’s official. Season 2 of The Mandalorian is a direct sequel the Dave Filoni’s past two Star Wars shows, The Clone Wars and Rebels. Where the first season sought to tell it’s own story, this second season goes full on fan service and constantly interjects characters and plot points established by Filoni in his past shows.

Some spoilers ahead.

Season 2 picks up right where season 1 left off. Din, our protagonist, has been tasked to bring baby Yoda to the Jedi. So begins a second season of Din traveling around the Star Wars universe and meeting the colorful characters that live in this world.

Most episodes follow the same structure. Din goes somewhere, gets asked to do something, then he does it. The show is structured like a role playing game or a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The main character goes somewhere, talks to some in game characters, then goes of to accomplish his quest. It’s predictable and redundant, but gets the job done for the true goal of this show which is to explore the Star Wars universe.

Dave Filoni, one of the show runners, has made a career of fleshing out the Star Wars universe in all the ways the movie has failed. What his Clone Wars show did was flesh out and give substantial context and motivation to the poorly portrayed characters in the Star Wars prequel movies. Filoni is doing something similar here by giving context to the events in J.J. Abrams’ most recent trilogy.

This is a subsidiary goal however, because the main goal is just to let Filoni spread his wings and tell his own story. Disney’s foray into Star Wars has mostly been met with disdain. The only things to receive positive reviews are the things Filoni has done. In fact, everything Filoni has done since Disney acquired Star Wars has been met positively. It makes sense then to just let this guy take some chances and explore his vision.

This second season is the culmination of that idea. Where the first season sought to tell a somewhat original story, this second season has been visited by all the characters Filoni created in his Clone Wars series. We also get to revisit plot points started in the Clone Wars series which continue in this show. For all intents and purposes, season 2 of the Mandalorian is a continuation of not only the Clone Wars show, but the Rebels show as well.

As a huge fan of both those shows, this was fantastic for me. I was floored when the Dark Saber showed up at the end of last season. I was floored when Bo Katan showed up. I was floored Ahsoka Tano was name dropped. And this last episode where we really got to see Ahsoka go nuts with her light sabers, *chef’s kiss.*

So far, season two of The Mandalorian has been pure fan service for long time fans of Filoni’s work and I’ve loved every second of it. The Mandalorian is the second best Star Wars anything to come out since Disney’s acquisition (the best Star Wars thing since the Disney acquisition are the last four episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars). If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, you need to be watching The Mandalorian.

TV Show Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Details: More information can be found at https://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-lower-decks/ and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9184820/

Score: 7/10

Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated sitcom that takes place in the Star Trek universe. It’s mostly a show for Star Trek fans and revisits a lot of source material longtime fans will be familiar with.

Lower Decks is about the underlings on a Star Trek spaceship. On most Star Trek shows, you only get familiar with the core cast of characters, who are usually the officers on the ship. Lower Decks explores the lives of the lower ranked members of Starfleet and what happens to them when the ship gets into trouble.

Lower Decks is primarily a comedy that seeks to provide constant fan service to longtime Star Trek fans. We tread over a lot of Star Trek history here, mostly in passing. There’s also a lot of guest appearance by old Star Trek actors. This was kind of nice.

What surprised me was that at the shows core, there was still a fairly entertaining sitcom that focused on the relationships between the core cast. It’s a surprisingly funny show.

Overall, I enjoyed Lower Decks. I wonder if I would find it as enjoyable if I didn’t like Star Trek. Most likely, I wouldn’t like the show. But since I have enjoyed Star Trek in the past and I do get some of the references, I enjoyed this show greatly. If you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you probably will not enjoy it as much as I did. You maybe shouldn’t even watch it.