Top Of The Lake is a top show


When a pregnant twelve year old girl seemingly tries to drown herself in a lake and then goes missing, New Zealand police must track her down and work out who the father of the baby is.
Tui Mitchum (Jacqueline Joe) is found standing in a freezing lake one morning whilst a school bus is passing. She’s taken straight to the school nurse, who is shocked to discover that Tui is pregnant. Tui is taken to the local police station where she is interviewed by Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) and then taken home, only to disappear shortly after. Robin knows that time is not on Tui’s side, and nor are the weather conditions. She must fight to find Tui as soon as possible, whilst also confronting some of her own demons from her past.

Top Of The Lake is a show that felt like it took the world by storm when it first aired in 2013. There seemed to be an awful lot of people kicking up a fuss about it when it premiered on BBC2 back then. It would seem that I am quite late in only jumping on the bandwagon with this one now. However, I’ve finally watched the show, and I have to say that whilst I was quite impressed by it, I can’t quite figure out why Top Of The Lake heralded such a dramatic response from people as I thought it was good, but not exactly mind-blowing.

I liked most of the characters in the show, and I thought the performances that went into them were pretty decent. Elisabeth Moss had a fair old crack at a New Zealand accent so at least the show didn’t fall on it’s face there. She played a good part as Robin. I liked the strength she showed, but also the fragility that lay not far beneath the surface of her character. 

David Wenham played Al Parker. He was the top dog at the police station that was the hub for the investigation. There was something dodgy about him from the start, but the way Wenham played Al meant that you kind of kept coming back to the idea that he might actually be an okay guy. It was hard to gage exactly what side he was on throughout the whole series, and then things took a real turn in the final 20 minutes of the last episode that confirmed who he was was. I liked Wenham’s performance all the way through because I never really knew where I stood with his character, and I personally think that’s always a good feeling for an audience to experience.

Alongside the characters, the main story was one of the strongest elements of the show for me. There were a few twists that I think worked really well and didn’t feel as though they had just been thrown in for the sake of being there. One thing that did cause me an issue was the subplot involving the womens’ cult. That didn’t come together as well for me as some of the other subplots did. I didn’t really see where that fit into the rest of the show, and I think it could easily have been discarded. However, it didn’t detract from the rest of the show, so I won’t complain too much.

One last thing I would like to mention is the scenery. It’s something that has a place in a lot of TV and film productions that take place in New Zealand, but it’s always so beautiful. In this show, it kind of became another character as well because so much of the investigation at the heart of the story hinged on the environment. It’s not hard to see why so many films choose to shoot there because it is glorious to look at.

So, Top Of The Lake – would I recommend it? I think so. It was a good TV show – definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen on the BBC lately (let’s face it, the last few years has seen a lot of absolutely garbage come from them) – and it felt really solidly made. I do believe that China Girl, the second season, will be as good as this one. It doesn’t feel like a fluke, if that makes sense. Anyway, if you haven’t seen Top Of The Lake and have a gap in your TV schedule, give it a bash. 

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The Walking Dead got off to a decent start


A sheriff wakes up from a coma to find the world in ruins after an outbreak of some sort of disease.
Whilst on duty one day, Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and left in a coma. After some time, he comes round only to find that the world has changed beyond all recognition. Something that can only be described as a zombie apocalypse has occurred, and it’s not long before he finds himself in another spot of bother. Thankfully, there are other survivors, who Rick teams up with in a bid to survive.

I’m a bit behind on this one, but I’ve just recently started watching The Walking Dead. I’ve got the first season out of the way, and so far I’m liking it. There’s a good bit of action to be had, and it’s also very funny in places. The characters that I’ve been introduced to so far have shown a lot of promise, and I’m now eager to see where things go from here.

There hasn’t really been a stand out character for me yet. Obviously we have our hero in Rick, but I think he’s fairly standard so far. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how his relationships with some of the other characters develop as there’s already some tensions growing. I think that Andrew Lincoln has presented Rick well with his performance. It’s clear that a lot of emotion is bubbling away under the surface, and so I’m definitely very interested to see where things go from here on out. Norman Reedus’ character Daryl has definitely been the most entertaining so far – I do love those loose cannon types! What I like about him is you cannot tell what he’s going to do next, which always makes for a decent amount of unpredictability. One thing for certain, however, is that there is a lot more to come with all of these characters, so I’m watching this space for now.

The story has also been set up nicely. With this being the first season, there’s not a huge amount that it really delved into, but it has created a number of possible plot lines that I’m hoping will be explored further down the line. For example, the mysterious disappearance of Merle Dixon (who I was very surprised to see was played by Michael Rooker) is one I need closure on. I don’t believe for one minute that I’ve seen or heard the last of that. Then there’s also the tensions between Rick, his missus and his old partner Shane. I’m just glad to see there’s plenty of potential for where the show could go now, and so I can’t wait to get my hands on season 2.

A big shoutout goes out to the make-up department on this show. The zombies looked good! I’ve seen a few zombie films and I think these ones have looked the best out of all of them. There was something about them that made them seem a bit more undead than the others, and the noises they made were better too. After reading a little bit about the show’s production, I discovered that there is such thing as a Walker School, which would probably explain why these zombies were a cut above the rest.

All in all, my first experience of The Walking Dead has been a good one. This pilot season has set up the seasons to come very well, and there’s been enough hints given regarding what sort of things might be to come to capture my attention for a while long yet. I’m interested to see how the characters and their relationships develop, and to see who else they gather along the way. All I have to do now is find myself a copy of season 2 on DVD…

Trust Me… it’s worth watching


When a nurse is fired for whistle-blowing, she has to take drastic action to provide for her and her daughter.
Catherine Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) was a good nurse in a crumbling healthcare system. However, whilst trying to carry out her duties with integrity, she rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and this eventually cost her her job. In a bid to prove herself, she steals the identity of an old friend and poses as a doctor in Edinburgh, away from her home town of Sheffield, with the big question being this – how long can she survive in the huge lie she’s spun?

When I saw that the BBC was bringing out yet another medical drama, I rolled my eyes so hard that they nearly fell out of my head. I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, my mum had said the words, ‘Oh, that could be quite good,’ which basically translates to, ‘We’re watching that whether you like it or not,’ so I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. However, as much as it pains me to say it, mum did us a favour with this one. It was actually quite a bit better than I thought it would be, which has been a hard thing to say with new BBC dramas of late.

Doctor Who fans have a lot to look forward to if Jodie Whittaker is half as good as the Time Lord as she was as Cath here. You got a real sense of the desperation her character was experiencing, and this got better as time went by and the whole lie she was living unraveled. I liked the other characters who were placed into her story too. Andy Brenner and Brigette Rayne, played by Emun Elliott and Sharon Small respectively, both piled the pressure onto Cath, and were two figures who I think really enhanced the story. They were well written into it, and that is probably one of the things that made this show as good as it was.

The characters weren’t the only thing that was well written. The actual storyline itself was very good, and ratcheted up the tension nicely. There were so many things that could’ve gone wrong for Cath, and it was because of this that you could never be sure of when things were going to come crashing down for her. The short run of the show (which consisted only of four hour-long episodes) massively helped this side of things. This allowed so much scope for when exactly Cath could be found because it would’ve been very easy to make a story to fit. It was nice for them to not drag the show out until viewers zoned out for once.

On the whole, I enjoyed watching Trust Me. It was a lot better than I had thought it was going to be. This was largely down to the wonderful lead performance, but also the terrific writing that went into creating this show. Not only did it make for great prime time viewing, but with a bit of luck it has marked a turning point for the BBC after a string of productions that have been less than brilliant. If you didn’t catch the show, I’d recommend you rectify that as soon as possible because it was well worth seeing.

I hope Ozark goes onto be Netflix’s next big thing


A financial advisor is forced to move his family to a rural community when the money of one of his firm’s clients goes missing.
For years, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) has led a very uneventful life. As a financial advisor stuck in a marriage on a downward slope, he has had little in the way of excitement of late. However, the life that he has been struggling to hold together is thrown into even greater disrepair when one of Marty’s clients, who just so happens to be part of a huge Mexican drug cartel, discovers some of his money has gone missing. When Marty promises to make the money back, he is forced to relocate his entire family to the Ozarks, where it would seem even more trouble awaits.

Ozark is one of the latest shows to come from Netflix, and, my word, is it a knockout. Billed as a mix of Breaking Bad and Fargo with a little bit of Jason Bateman thrown in for good measure, this certainly seemed to have all the ingredients that would make it a roaring success with Netflix users. All I can say is the ten episodes flew by, and I already very excited to see where season two takes us.

A few things occurred to me whilst I was watching this. One of those things was that Jason Bateman is brilliant. I might be jumping the gun a bit here, but I can definitely see where people were coming from when they were likening this to Breaking Bad. I was getting some serious Walter White vibes from him at times (before he became Heisenberg at least). He was doing what he was having to do for the sake of his family, and I think you always get interesting performances from people when they play a character dealing with those circumstances. Laura Linney’s character, Wendy, grew on me as the show progressed, and I think she really came into her own in the last few episodes when Wendy accepted the situation she was in and decided to take control. One of my other favourite characters was Ruth Langmore, who has a very significant part to play in the whole story. She was played by Julia Garner who really drew you in with her performance, and I’m intrigued to see how her own story plays out from here because she was so good.

I was a big fan of the story told here. I liked the idea of all the upheaval the family faced right from the off, but I also liked how it was never once plain sailing for them even after ‘settling’ in their new home. The Byrdes ruffled so many feathers when they landed, and the ripples were felt all throughout the show. What stood out for me though was the fact it wasn’t like a problem occurred, the main character solved the problem, and then a new, completely unrelated issue arose, but more the idea that new antagonists came along and the story evolved and then carried them with it. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you guys, but for me it does and I’m hoping that if you’ve seen the show, or are going to see it, you’ll find out what I mean. 

The writing that went into the show was just as good as every other aspect of it. It combined so many different things and balanced them perfectly in my opinion. There were some super intense scenes, but there was also a fair amount of dry, witty dialogue which is always a hit with me. This all helped to keep the show moving along nicely, and meant you didn’t get worn out watching it because there was some variance in the overall tempo.

On the whole, I think you should give Ozark a go. This is a show that has the potential to become yet another of Netflix’s huge hits, and I think that’s a good indicator of the kind of quality you’re getting here. If you liked Breaking Bad, which I did until they ballsed up the final season, then this is definitely a show you should pay some attention to. And if you’re just some one who likes a kind of alternative crime thriller type thing, you should also give this a watch. Ozark is going to go onto big things I reckon – jump on the bandwagon now and save yourself the task of having to catch up before everyone else has the chance to ruin for you.

Riviera went a bit belly-up


When a billionaire businessman dies in an explosion on a yacht, it is up to his new wife to figure out exactly what happened to him.
Georgina (Julia Stiles) is the wife of the super rich Constantine Clios. When an explosions engulfs a yacht party that Constantine is attending, he dies and Georgina is widowed. It is in these dark times that she learns her husband’s riches were maintained through violence, deception and murder, and Georgina must do things she never thought she would in order to protect the family she married into little over a year before.

Riviera is the latest big budget show to be brought to us by Sky Atlantic, and it is also the latest show to not really deliver all that was promised. I’ve to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. It started well, but then it dipped, only to pick up again with two episodes remaining. I guess I expected better from the channel because they show so much potential with all their promos.

One of the main things I struggled with was the fact that I didn’t really like any of the characters. To me, none of them were that interesting. One thing I had read about the show was that Georgina, played by Julia Styles, would undergo a Michael Corleone-esque transformation (no points for guessing why I decided to watch the show). There were times when I could see this, but it wasn’t until quite late on, and even then it didn’t seem to be that enduring. It felt more like they tried to make the character of Georgina like that, but it simply didn’t work for her. And because that character wasn’t very engaging, I struggled to connect with the performance from Stiles. Anyone could have played Georgina, and the same could be said for all the other main characters. There was simply no one who I’ll look back on and say, ‘You know what they were great in? Riviera.’ In a sentence, the dull characters made for dull performances.

There also seemed to be some real pacing issues with this show. It started off brilliantly, and I think it was one of the best first episodes I’ve seen in a while. It really set the show up nicely with all the intrigue and the questions it raised. But then it never made use of much of what it set up in the first episode. The plot became very drawn out over the next handful of episodes before picking up again in the last two. This was a huge issue because there were ten episodes in all, so I watched about 7 weeks of nothing, but like an eejit I stuck with it because I thought the first episode was awesome and they would surely make use of the foundations at some point soon. I think one of biggest reasons it seemed to drag on so much was because it started on so many different possible strands and ended up losing itself (and me) along the way. Ultimately, the real problem was it didn’t really know what story to follow, so tried to tell multiple ones all at once.

All in all, Riviera wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. Looking back now, there wasn’t much that I actually liked about it, and I’m not fussed whether it returns for a second season or not. I can’t say that I’d recommend the show because it just wasn’t nearly as good as it’d looked to be. The characters were the biggest downfall because they could’ve been it’s saving grace, however they were all so wooden and as a result gave you nothing to cling on to. The bottom line is, there was potential here, but not for the first time with a film or TV show, it was wasted.

In The Dark is another mediocre offering from the BBC 


In The Dark is a TV show that was brand new this year. It follows Detective Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) as she embarks upon two separate case in two two-part stories. I have to be honest and say that I was not overly impressed by this programme. It was only watchable at best, which was quite disappointing considering the amount of talent boasted by the cast.
Before I get into any real slating of the show, I’ll quickly cover the main performance. The obvious place to start is with MyAnna Buring, who was the main draw for me here. I’m a fan of her work due to Ripper Street and the characters she has always seemed to portray – I’ve never been able to accuse her of playing meek women, and that’s why I like her work so much. In that respect, I should’ve been all over her as Helen here, but something just didn’t click for me. I don’t think that’s down to Buring’s performance though. Much of this show was held down by the script, which was very clunky in multiple places, quite often losing rhythm at key points in the story. And, as is often the case, good actors were brought crashing to the ground by it.

In The Dark was adapted from a series of books which just didn’t seem to translate very well to the screen for how many problems this show was laden with. The biggest issue as I’ve pointed out already was the script – it was very unnatural in places. It just seemed knock the pace of the show for six at some of what were supposed to be the biggest points in the two stories. When it makes audiences sort of recoil a bit, I think that’s a sign that something isn’t up to scratch. You just knew that this wasn’t the way people really talk, and it took a huge amount away from the show.

I’m not even entirely sure how to feel about the story. Both seemed to be quite generic plots that could just as easily have been part of any other show crime show. There just wasn’t anything particularly special at all about either tale, and as for the ending to the second case? How about we just ignore the fact that it tried very hard to give us an edgy finish that absolutely did not float my boat? I just don’t understand why you’d try and do that when the majority of the rest of the show up to that point had been something of a shambles.

Anyway, you might have gathered by now that I wasn’t sold on In The Dark. I don’t think it’ll be making a return, but if it does I shan’t be watching it. It was a huge disappointment considering what could have been done with it, and I think I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that I really hate seeing wasted potential in whatever I watch. So much more could’ve been done with this, but in the end, it failed to deliver.

From Ripper Street, with love (and SPOILERS)


London Metropolitan’s H Division turns to solving crimes in the wake of the Jack The Ripper killings.
When Jack The Ripper took to the streets of Whitechapel in the late 1800s, it was up to the men serving a particular police force to hunt the perpetrator down and put the fears of the public to rest. However, while The Ripper may have disappeared seemingly without a trace one day, his crimes were set to haunt London for a long time to come. The trio dealing with the aftermath are Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and police surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), who all have their own personal struggles on top of the work they do by day.   

So, my favourite show, Ripper Street, came to an end this week. The last ever episode of the programme aired on Monday night, and I have to be honest I don’t think there has ever been a more bittersweet ending to a TV show from my point of view. Even now, almost a week after watching the finale, I’m still not entirely sure how to take it.

Ripper Street first came onto our screens back in 2012. The first season introduced us to the three main characters who would quickly grow on viewers. One by one, each character had his secrets revealed, and then developed upon as the seasons progressed. In the driving seat is Matthew MacFadyen as Edmund Reid, the main protagonist of the show. The writer’s of the show really put Reid through the mill, and MacFadyen had to run with these trials and tribulations whilst maintaining his character’s core values, which I think he did very well. What I really liked about MacFadyen’s performance was that he always showed Reid had immense integrity. No matter what state he was in during the show, Reid was always very true to himself; he always did what he believed was the right thing to do for himself at any given time. His actions may not always have been the good thing to do, or, as the show progressed, the lawful thing to do, but for Reid they were always the right thing, and that sort of conviction he had.

After Reid, you have Jerome Flynn as loyal sidekick Bennet Drake, whose promotion in later seasons causes ructions that never really disappear. This character, along with any character in this show who ends up being of any significance, could be talked about for hours if I was to sit next do a full in-depth study of him. I think of the three leads here, Flynn’s character was the most complex, and I personally think that it is he who best personifies the kind of Whitechapel in which this show is set.

Now we move onto one of my favourite characters, Captain Homer Jackson, or Matthew Judge if we are to use his real name. I absolutely loved Adam Rothenberg’s interpretation of Jackson. He was tremendous throughout the whole show, and I believe I can safely say that he had one standout moment in each and every episode. Rothenberg was gifted some of the greatest lines in the script, and followed this up by delivering them perfectly every time. Without a doubt, it was he who gained most of my affection, with his glorious one-liners and sometimes wise words. That and the fact that he was probably the character with the best heart of all of them.

While these three were largely the staples of the entire series, there were also a number of series regulars. MyAnna Buring played Long Susan Hart, or Caitlyn Swift, and was also a favourite of mine because of the kind of woman she portrayed. She was unconventional for the time, a woman elbowing her way into a man’s world, and watching her in each and every episode was wonderful. She possessed all the qualities that made Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman so fantastic, but for a female character such as this to appear in a period piece was an added bonus.

Before I move onto anything else, I must point out that life for these characters was not a bed of roses. This, of course, was caused by numerous villains who cropped up from season to season. Now, while each season had a stand-out antagonist, the series itself did have an overall winner in the bad guy department. This has to be Jedediah Shine, played by the phenomenal Joseph Mawle. This guy made a prolonged appearance in both seasons two and five, and he just got worse and worse as time went by, and for someone like myself who is rather partial to a good villain, this was great to see. The performance put in by Mawle was on another level entirely, and he definitely deserves more recognition for the part than I think he has received. He actually made my skin crawl, and to watch him made me feel a whole range of emotions, which I think is a good sign.

Now we can finally move onto something other than the characters and the actors who played them. Ripper Street is kind of a hybrid of a formula show and those with a continuous narrative for their entire series run. For the most part, there was a new crime to be solved each week, but there were also a number of threads that ran through and connected each episode.I’m a fan of this approach because there is always something to bring you back to the next episode, but each week also has new life injected into it by the latest case the team are set to solve. What I also loved about the story is the fact that Jack The Ripper always seemed to have a presence. Ultimately, it was his crimes that haunted H Division, and gave Reid his motives, and so while the show was not directly about him, despite what the name suggests, The Ripper did have a very important part to play throughout the whole show.

Besides Ripper himself, there were other continuous threads that spanned the length of the series, and as far as I’m aware, none of them had happy endings, which I’m glad about because for life to have worked out to be a bed of roses for all the characters would not have been fitting for the show. Of course, having spent four or five seasons following thee characters, when their time came it was a rough moment in the show. I think these ends were handled very well, and whilst different for each character, every one of them was brutal. For me, this showed perfectly the capabilities of the writers for the show, who clearly knew that they didn’t need to make every character a martyr for the audience to feel the full impact of their demise.

That being said, one thing I do think was butchered was the show’s finale, but even that comes with a caveat (and the story of how this show came to be so significant to me). Ripper Street came to end long before this fifth and final season was in the pipeline. After ratings dropped during season two, the BBC cancelled the show, and there was a huge outcry from the fans, including myself. Petitions were created, and letters were written (still perhaps the finest bit of writing I’ve ever done if I’m honest), and after realising what a major cock-up they had made, BBC looked to continue the show with another network in a co-production deal. Eventually, Amazon took the show on, and split the budget with the BBC, but the episodes released on Amazon had to be trimmed down before they were shown on TV so as to not disrupt the schedules. Ultimately this meant that that there were scenes cut from the version of the show that I’ve seen, which now brings me back to the series finale. According to Amazon subscribers, the final episode was cut to ribbons before being shown on TV, which is potentially why it felt as flat as it did, so I can’t completely attack it for that. However, I can say that had I have been in charge of the writing and had decided to kill off all the other main characters, or take them out of the game in some way, Edmund Reid would also have been dead by the end of it. I wouldn’t have had him murdered, but he would have succumbed to some sort of illness or death by natural causes because come the series’ end, he had nothing left to live for, you know? His life’s work was more or less complete; the only thing left unfinished was the actual Jack The Ripper case, which I personally would have liked to have seen slowly cause him to lose his sanity, or compromise his health in some way that led to him dying. It just didn’t feel right that it finished the way it did, with him sat back at his desk without any of the people closest to him beside him.

Anyway, I think I should probably stop whittling on now, at 1,500 words I’ve taken up enough of your time and hardly scratched the surface of the show. I think I may do individual reviews of each season at some point in the future because there is so much more I’d like to cover, such as the different characters from season to season and the relationships between them all, the different stories that took hold and the wonderful sets and costumes as well. What I’ll say is if you have seen Ripper Street, get in touch and let me know what you think of it, and if you haven’t, please do give it a go. You might think there have been some spoilers here but I really don’t think they’d ruin the show at all. As you can probably see, I cannot recommend Ripper Street enough – it’s a show that grabbed me right at the start and never let go, and I think it is one of those shows that has shown the power of good TV and also the power of the fans too. This was a fantastic show, and I’m sad to see it go, but I’ll never tire of rewatching the box sets, which is a true sign of the magic Ripper Street possesses.