TV Binge: Never Have I Ever (Season 2, 2021)

Never Have I Ever (Season 2, 2021)

Creators: Lang Fisher & Mindy Kaling

Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Darren Barnet, John McEnroe, Jaren Lewison, Benjamin Norris, Richa Moorjani, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young, Megan Suri, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Adam Shapiro, Christina Kartchner, Niecy Nash, Dino Petrera, Common, Utkarsh Ambudkar

The complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. – IMDB

Picking up right where Season 1 (review) left off, Season 2 continues on as Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is now faced with her mom deciding to move with her to India as this prompts her to believe that dating both Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison) secretly is a great idea. However when the India idea is cancelled, she now faces the consequences of her actions when both of them now despise her. At the same time, another cooler Indian girl Aneesa transfers to Sherman Oaks which makes her feel uncomfortable. On the side, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) has to deal with her new lab and labmates and her long distance relationship while Devi’s mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) is faced with dealing with another dermatologist Dr. Jackson (Common) who has opposing approaches to their practices as well as still trying to figure out how to deal with Devi’s constant issues.

The second season of Never Have I Ever is pretty fun. Arguably, probably even better than the first season because the foundation has already built for all the characters. The series still focuses on Devi quite a bit as she is still coming to terms with a lot of herself as she constantly made bad decisions which always lead to some bad situation that she needed to resolve. She is a very imperfect teen and that’s what makes her so easy to connect to as she struggles with her culture and blending into the student body with a lot of the high school drama. Before getting into the student body, its really about navigating between her two boys, Paxton and Ben and learning that she can’t really get everything, her temper/rage needs to be in check and she needs to embrace that she doesn’t have to be perfect despite remembering that her father would always call her “perfect girl” but slowly feeling less confident about things as everything seems to fall apart. Amidst all this, its learning about honesty and trust throughout this season (which was cleverly introduced through one of her therapy sessions) as well as not feeling the need to reach unrealistic expectations for herself (which leads to great revelation when she dreams of her father who explains why he calls her “perfect girl”. Devi’s journey is a fascinating one to say the least, even if sometimes she seems to truly go way off in her interpretation but its what makes her charming and comedic to watch.

As for the rest of the characters, the script makes them go through a lot of the issues that teens would encounter whether its from a teen dealing with their single parent like their disapproval of their new love interest. For Kamala, who is in her lab rotation, she has to deal with the realities of workspace in terms of gender and blending in. The high school setting brings on the issues of not fitting into despite coming out for Fabiola and somewhat losing herself in the process while Eleanor deals with a toxic relationship which she soon learns to differentiate. At the same time, Paxton gives a new angle to the jock forced to turn academic due to unforeseen issues. With dances, PDA and boyfriend/girlfriend issues to deal with, there’s a lot of area to cover for the show and probably a lot more issues to explore.

While the first season also had these characters, the second season really gave the smaller supporting characters so much room. They aren’t very deep characters but they had their purpose of being either very over the top or simply weird to mostly give insight to the main characters but a lot of times add in another level of comedy. The one that comes to mind is absolutely the history teacher Mr. Shapiro (Adam Shapiro) who is such an odd teacher especially with his freestyle of teaching history and his reactions to certain things but so funny to watch in all his weirdness. There’s characters who are impactful like Paxton’s sister Rebecca (Lily D. Moore) who is there to be the person to set Paxton straight. The new addition this time is Devi’s English teacher Mr. Kulkarni (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who comes in as a love interest for Kamala but also has the cool teacher vibe.

The culture and the generational gap plays a big part in the show breaking some of the stereotypes. That’s a big element of the show that also makes it rather appealing. Its nice to see Netflix embrace these things especially as its an international streaming service, much like its recent release of the romantic comedy film Wedding Season. Another big part of the show’s appeal which makes it unique is the voice-over by John McEnroe for Devi which adds a ton of charm to the show as someone who judges her on the spot a lot. Last season had Adam Samberg do a voice-over commentating on Ben and this season, there was one episode for Paxton with Gigi Hadid doing her narrative for his point of view which was quite a nice change of pace.

Running at 10 episodes of around 30 minutes ( makes it approx. 5 hours in total), Never Have I Ever is completely bingeable. To be fair, much like most comedies, the humor does depend a lot of a person’s taste. For myself, the first time watching Season 1 didn’t quite work too well but the show did grow on me that I’ve gone on to rewatch it a few times since its release of Season 1 and 2. Its an easy and fun watch overall and one that does share a lot of deeper topics despite navigating a teen’s life as she constantly messes up and learns from those mistakes. Isn’t that what life is, even if we’ve probably not gone through all of it.

TV Binge: Resident Evil (Season 1, 2022)

Resident Evil (Season 1, 2022)

Cast: Ella Balinska, Tamara Smart, Siena Agudong, Adeline Rudolph, Paola Nunez, Lance Reddick, Anthony Oseyemi, Connor Gosatti, Pedro De Tavira

Nearly three decades after the discovery of the T-virus, an outbreak reveals the Umbrella Corporation’s dark secrets. Based on the horror franchise. – IMDB

Its hard to not know what Resident Evil is at this point, whether you are a gamer or not. Of course, if you are a gamer, then you are much more familiar with the source material depending how thorough you were with the entire game franchise. After Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil film franchise (franchise overview) which really went off into its own tangent and basically only retaining the world itself and into his own writing and production (depending on the film), a handful of animated films, the reboot of the game once again with Welcome to Raccoon City (review) and last year’s Netflix animated series (review) (which honestly was more like a film split up in 4 episodes), Netflix’s Resident Evil series finally released and it takes the story into the future, decades after the outbreak at Raccoon City and writing up its own story. While I’m not sure its something that Resident Evil fans have been looking forward to, considering some of my friends would like a legit decent survivors escaping Raccoon City story which we’ve seen too many times in my opinion, regardless of whether its good or bad, for myself, the direction was a good one which if successful, will breathe some needed new life into Resident Evil to at least give it a boost into the alternate future. It all leaves the question of whether it was able to achieve that or at least, is Resident Evil still what it is if it takes out the 1998 outbreak setting.

Resident Evil series delivers a parallel storyline. This first is set in the past and an alternate present in our terms in 2022 when 14 year old fraternal twins Billie (Siena Agudong) and Jade Wesker (Tamara Smart) move to New Raccoon City, an Umbrella planned community as Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) works on finalizing a drug called Joy for Umbrella corporation to hit the markets. Umbrella is now under new leadership under the daughter of Dr. Marcus, Evelyn (Paola Nunez) who reclaimed her father’s company. However, when the twins break into the lab, they learn some dark secrets there which ends up putting their lives in danger. The second plot runs in the series present in 2036 as it follows a grown-up Jade Wesker (Ella Balinska) who is studying the “zero”-filled world to track their evolution and mutation of the T-virus. Zeroes are what “zombies” are called in this world. As Jade tries to evade Umbrella who is hunting her down, she is helping do research for a hidden organization The University who tries to present the old world artifacts.

Looking at the story premise, the series takes a decent step forward. Its pretty ambitious considering its bound to disappoint a lot of franchise fans seeing as it revamps the entire story and only uses the Raccoon City event everyone is familiar with as a backdrop. However, pushing it to the future is a good idea and with what they have, the parallel being there retains both elements of still keeping the T-virus and its existence along with Umbrella still having dark secrets and they things they are trying to hide from their past while adding in a central character which never has been the center with Albert Wesker in the future, even if he still is top bill but more supporting than the twins. At the same time, the 2036 events is proof that whatever Umbrella was trying to do under new management wasn’t contained as the world is in its apocalyptic state with zeroes running rampant and in its own way, introducing this new world’s monsters whether the “zombies” or other mutations. In that sense, the story does try to maintain a balance. The two sides of the story do work well to complement each other and each has their redeeming qualities and tension. Of course, the 2022 events with the teen twins in their school environment adds the teen element as they try to blend in, get bullied and try to make friends. Some of that feels a little mundane in the spectrum of things but luckily, the casting for the young Jade and Billie are decent, even if their teen characters are a little frustrating a times.

Taking a quick glance at the cast, its some rather fresh faces. Adult Jade Wesker is played by Ella Balinska who was previously in the reboot of Charlie’s Angels (review) as one of the Angels. Jade is the focus of the series and she takes the role pretty well. The action sequences involving her are done pretty good and as she does get caught up a few dicey situations. Her younger self portrayed by Tamara Smart is a little more frustrating to watch as mentioned above. Billie on the other hand portrayed by Siena Agudong is done pretty well. Her character goes through a lot more in the younger sequence and puts her in constant inner struggles. The older self is portrayed by Adeline Rudolph (plays Agatha in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) which was a pretty short presence in this season. Lance Reddick’s Albert Wesker is probably not the expected choice however, the character itself is built pretty well to fit in this world. Honestly, I haven’t seen Lance Reddick other than as the hotel manager in John Wick films and his role there is fairly small but so good. Seeing as Wesker’s side of the story is rarely dived into thoroughly, there is a lot of space to build it up. Focusing on his daughters makes it all the more good as he is there but it adds a new generation to the new Raccoon City and the future of Resident Evil’s setting. Its a pretty nice touch (perhaps I’m just overthinking it as usual).

What’s Resident Evil without its villains and here, the villainous character here is Evelyn Marcus which is played relatively well by Paola Nunez. Sometimes, Evelyn is fairly annoying as most villains are but she has a dangerous edge to her that carries well enough, some parts a little overdone but there is some development. Of course, the other villains are the zeroes and the mutated creatures. In that sense, the mutated creature designs here are probably the element that I’ve always loved about the franchise and in this case, this new future brings in some giant versions of animals which are quite fun to see. If only there was more then the 3 or so types shown. This does tie in to the world building which honestly gets showcased much more in the 2036 side of the story as there’s so much more to discover in the wastelands.

In the end, your enjoyment of this series will hang heavily on asking the the initial question as to what makes Resident Evil, well, Resident Evil. While this series pushes it to the future and uses Umbrella and the T-virus as its foundation, it still doesn’t feel too different from being another zombie series, but then that is what Resident Evil is, right? Its another type of zombie franchise, except in this case, its set with a younger cast, has a bit of teen and family drama and a few other tangents. Or perhaps the 1998 events of the outbreak is what makes Resident Evil what it is or perhaps its the main cast of Chris and Claire, Jill and Leon, who obviously is not in this series so this will definitely not fit. If we look at this from solely an action horror series, then its actually not too bad as it does have a lot of action and a good bit of horror.

TV Binge: Stranger Things (Season 4, 2022)

Stranger Things (Season 4, 2022)

Creator: The Duffer Brothers

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Priah Ferguson, Matthew Modine, Maya Hawke, Joseph Quinn

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief and his friends must confront terrifying supernatural forces in order to get him back. – IMDB

Its been a while for Stranger Things and now that the two parts of Season 4 are finally released, its time to give it an overall look. Season 4 of Stranger Things definitely takes things back up to the hype of its first season. Not only do the ending 2 episodes become incredibly long running at 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours respectively but the whole show in general shows off a lot of writing especially when referencing back to almost a circle effect as events from prior seasons all come together from looking at what happened exactly with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) at the Hawkins Lab that lead her to run away to the initial group being separate for various reasons but all coming together in their different places, showing off the extent of the Upside Down and the hive mind of the demogorgons and also what connects them all together. Its an elaborate story and one that truly elevates especially in terms of the script.

Since I never managed to get the TV binges for Season 2 and 3 out, its suitable to talk a little about my feelings towards it. The last 2 seasons were decent but never quite lived up to its first season, even though season 3 did end on quite the big change with a lot at stake in its big finale. Perhaps its how it felt a little been there done that with the same similar plot of the Upside Down and Eleven’s powers and Hawkins Lab and sealing the portals and such. There were some decent new characters as well, even if some didn’t last. The threat doesn’t seem to change even if the dynamic between the friends shifted a little and still had some fun moments.

What makes Season 4 work better even if some of the threats are familiar, is that there is more depth. There’s a lot of change and it justifies that a certain amount of time has moved on since how things ended in Season 3. It brings in topics of bullying and the 80s satanic panic along with new characters coming into play. The 80s theme is still very vibrant with the soundtrack, even surpassing that of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and Metallica’s Master of Puppets. It helps that the crew is all split up in different locations which adds some freshness as the adults are in Russia, the kids are split between Hawkins and California while Eleven needs to reconnect with her powers despite the people involved. There’s a lot to talk about just in terms of the many tangents of the plotline. The most direct would be the whole process of Russia where the adults come together with Joyce (Winona Ryder) working with Murray (Brett Gelman) to follow a message allegedly from Hopper (David Harbour) and they head off to save him. As much as the kids are a part of the story, the adults are also rather important as well. This side of the story as dangerous as it is actually packs a lot of comedic relief whether its the dialogue from Murray or Joyce and their very unplanned way of trying to save Hopper.

The whole dynamic between the friends shifts as they get older with different priorities like wanting to break away from being the Dungeons and Dragons nerds to being the popular jock. While Eleven in her new environment with Will (Noah Schnapp) experiences her powers gone after the last season’s events and has to deal with bullying. Despite all this, everyone tries to pretend everything is okay when it isn’t which is the main reason for some of the conflicts here afterwards. With new alliances, the main one being the new character Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) who is wrongly accused of a fellow classmate’s death in his trailer as well as Steve’s (Joe Keery) work buddy Robin (Maya Hawke). Its nice to see that as Lucas falls out of the group for a bit, his sister Erica (Priah Ferguson) steps up with a bigger role as she is a little body with a big attitude who is incredibly fun to watch. With a lot of the relationships and little other things put into the backdrop as they group together to fight against the new enemy Vecna, it all builds to a rather big thing with some serious aftermath affecting not only the Upside Down but also Hawkins as a whole. What deserves a big mention, other than Eleven’s side of the story as she’s always a big part, is that Max (Sadie Sink) gets a much bigger role in this season as what happened in the previous season haunts her to the point that makes her mentally weaker and giving the chance to be trapped into a deadly situation.

Stranger Things Season 4 is definitely a step up from the previous 2 seasons. While it seems to jump around a lot, the difference in locations and the different groups of characters working together in one scenario to the next gives off parallel storylines that drive the story further. The writing also adds depth as it does pull a lot of the world that they’ve been building all these seasons together giving it a circle effect (which I have to admit is something I particularly love seeing in any sort of film or TV as it makes it feel very clever). The characters, new ones especially did such a great job, no matter if it was the bully or the jock or Eddie Munson who all delivered the necessary effects. It is nice to see Steve’s character have some other purpose than being the babysitter at the end while Eddie and Dustin does build a nice friendship as well. If there was one thing to criticize (and I’m sure there’s more especially some bits of the episodes working towards those 2 final ones) more strongly is its the whole cliffhanger ending, which from memory Stranger Things always did have the tendency to do to build up the anticipation for the next season. With that said, its not so bad since their final season is going to happen so hopefully we will see that released soon and see how the Duffer Brothers wrap up this whole world.

TV Binge: Riverdale (Season 2, 2017)

Riverdale (Season 2, 2017)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Casey Cott, Madchen Amick, Vanessa Morgan, Mark Consuelos, Charles Melton, Marisol Nichols, Skeet Ulrich, Martin Cummins, Luke Perry

While navigating the troubled waters of romance, school and family, Archie and his gang become entangled in dark Riverdale mysteries. – IMDB

Picking up from the events of Season 1, Riverdale which was already a darker version of its original comics takes a step further into the darkness. Everyone finds themselves faced with the aftermaths of the previous season’s events and having to step up to take some dire measures. Archie faces his own inner struggles as he tries to make a stand against the Black Hood and the havoc wreaked, while wrestling with feeling like a coward for how he couldn’t protect his dad. Betty is faced with both family issues as it falls apart while she has to isolate herself due to Black Hood approaching her to pull out her darkness. Veronica gets more involved into Lodge Industries operations while struggling with how much she wants Archie involved. Jughead is dealing with joining the Serpents and standing up for his Southside family but being judged for growing up in the Northside alliances with his friends and Betty. Between the Riverdale mayoral elections in the horizon and Lodge Industries having some mysterious plans as they buy up a lot of the key locations and the Southside High’s merge with Riverdale High, more characters get involved and more issues get caught up in the mix.

Its been a while since I’ve watched Riverdale Season one but the feelings that I initially had with it were decent. The tone and atmosphere being the main thing that stands out especially since it is based on the graphic novels and not the comics, which already explains the dark tone. At the same time, my biggest criticism for the first season was Archie’s character really not quite hitting the mark and in turn, Betty and Jughead seemed to stand out a lot more. With the second season, a lot of that still applies. Riverdale takes a much darker tone this time around as it involves a lot of other elements with politics and isn’t just about the high school crew. Its about gangs, the underworld, the politics, etc. All this actually builds up pretty well for the Riverdale world as it gives the town even more life and draws a clearer picture of the nitty gritty elements of Riverdale and its division between the Northside and Southside as well as some of the deeper secrets of the key families. Having just finished Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, its also pretty nice to see constant nod to Greendale even if its not actively involving any of the characters there, mostly due to the different networks that the series have been released on albeit being created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

When you dial it down, Season 2 is about two big plot points that trigger all these other little bits. The first is the whole Black Hood situation especially as it involves Betty directly since it almost seems like the Black Hood wants to use this to fully bring out her dark side so that she will do his bidding. Of course, its also once of the big twists as to who the Black Hood is. With that said, Lili Reinhart does Betty so much justice and truly captures that role so well that she’s definitely one of my favorite characters in the series.

On the other side, its all about what the Lodge Industries scheme is as they start buying up a lot of the Southside real locations with his shady connections coming into town, the conflicts between Veronica and her family’s choices as well as Archie’s gradual involvement into this which also puts a strain on his side. The upside is that Archie’s character does get a little more development since he is one of the titular characters and while Archie making dumb choices is all part of the character design in the comics and graphic novel, it gets frustrating to see him constantly be manipulated. It does match with the characters as well as Veronica and Archie as an item also seem to live in a rather shallow relationship in comparison to Betty and Jughead that seem to be more intellectual since they team together to solve mysteries, which is one of the very fun parts of the series itself.

Of course, Jughead has his own involvement here as he gets darker and more dangerously proactive as he joins the Southside Serpents and finds his place there. On that front, Season 2 did a good job of building up the characters further with these events and its not only the main characters but also expanding to the parent characters as well.

Season 2 was definitely a step in the right direction. Its a little dark and dramatic overall which is one of the reasons that I had stopped watching it in the first place since it just wasn’t the vibe I was looking for but they do capture the whole thing really well. Riverdale as a fictional town and the society comes to life just as much as the characters in it do as well. Not to mention, Season 2 had a cameo role with Tony Todd. With Season 2 done and dusted, it time to step into Season 3. There’s 6 seasons as this goes live so I have a bit of catching up to do especially with the final Season 7 set to premiere in 2023.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Creator: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Tyler Cotton, Sam Corlett, Jonathan Whitesell, Luke Cook, Skye P. Marshall

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

The final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina picks up from the previous season as Sabrina is holding a huge secret where there are 2 of them. As she resumes her normal life without any threat, it creates an uneasiness making her feel less important and losing touch with her friends who all have their own lives and relationships and building up their own bands. Much like her lack of a love life as Nick has moved on to Prudence who are both finding solace in what happened in the previous season. The Academy of Unseen Arts has now moved on as well to worshipping Hecate, a female goddess for magic and spells. This season’s main focus is the warning that the 2 Sabrinas have created chaos. While not the whole reason, it ends up being the focal point as the Eldritch Terrors invade Greendale one at a time and the group now needs to deal with this one by one as they discover them as they come along in their own bloody and deadly ways.

This final part takes things in a much more focused plotline. For one, its all about the imbalance of having 2 Sabrinas (and the gradual knowledge to the other characters of their existence) and focuses on the Eldritch Terror, making each episode full of something different but all contributing to the question what could we expect next as the characters uncovers it themselves. Its like a little mystery. Each of these terrors are rather unique as well giving each episode something a little different in terms of the nature of the threat. It also takes the show into a little tribute to Sabrina The Teenage Witch in one part with cameo roles from Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick. Each terror does seem more threatening than the next so it starts playing with void, alternate universes, as well as the other realms of course, making it always have something new.

When looking at the characters, Sabrina is obviously still one of the huge focuses especially since there is 2 of her in the two realms, making their own decisions and finding companion in each other, especially for the Sabrina in Greendale as she feels like no one really cares about her anymore and starts making some irrational choices. The characters do all have some tough decisions especially as everyone embraces something a little different about themselves and slowly finds their ultimate character development by the end as the big finale approaches.

Thing is, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina probably could’ve gone on for more seasons (or parts as they call it) if the pandemic hadn’t hit (which seems to be the reason that it was cut short). However, the fourth season while keeping to its very fun scenarios and making each episode full of adventure and something new to discover about the realms and witch world and their own realm-building, the whole relationship elements and the characters starting feeling flat (for lack of a better word). It started feeling like when things were happening, it was a lot of fun but the characters lacked a little bit of the pizzazz they needed to hold up the show for longer, especially since the relationship problems or friendship issues or Academy issues all started feeling a bit rinse and repeat and felt like it dragged on in part. However, despite being cancelled, the show did manage to give itself a more absolute ending rather than some cliffhanger ending which seems to be the usual situation. For that, I personally am quite happy about it and makes the show feel like a complete viewing experience.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Gavin Leatherwood, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Miranda Otto, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Lachlan Watson, Sam Corlett, Richard Coyle, Alessandro Juliani, Luke Cook, Jonathan Whitesell

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Picking from the events from Part 2, Greendale has completely switched around. Sabrina’s boyfriend Nick has sacrificed himself and taken to Hell with Lilith who now rules there. Much like Aunt Zelda who now has taken over the Academy of Unseen Arts to hopefully rebuild it. While Ambrose and Prudence have gone off to travel around the world trying to track down Father Blackwood and get rid of him before he can exact anymore hazardous plans upon his probable return. However, Sabrina soon gets dragged into a much more serious role in exchange for saving Nick as she takes on the role of Queen of Hell and is challenged by Caliban, the Prince of Hell who also wants to win the throne through a series of quests to find the Unholy Regalia.

Part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes an interesting turn of events. The relationships are now pretty much set as much as the alliances. The shift in power as well as the new outline of who is running things starts having a bigger toll especially as a lot of the secrets were revealed by the end of the last season. This season, its about making up for those things with some rather dire consequences, notably the main one being Sabrina given the power of the Queen of Hell and having an inner tug of war between what she needs to do, what she should do and what is more important to her. This all comes crashing together in the big finale when there is a whole time manipulation sequence where things get warped and she has to find a way to fix it.

For Part 1 & 2 reviews, I haven’t really taken a lot of time to look at the other characters other than the character development of Sabrina. Part 3 seems like a good time since most of the main cast is now rather set and developed at this point. For the most part, the show does revolve primarily around Sabrina and her development and it ends up putting the others a little bit more in the background with little scenes that come and go which is mostly revolving around Ambrose and Prudence, the Aunts Zelda and Hilda, her mortal friends Harvey, Roz and Theo and her love interest at the moment. In this case, the season is mostly surrounding Nick and eventually also the possible interest in Caliban. In reality, the characters in Sabrina probably have a lot more space to develop and for the most part, they feel rather one dimensional despite some of their abilities being more fleshed out as the show moves forward, it could be one of the reasons that it feels a little less engaging.

The main engaging and fun element are mostly the events that they pop up that flips the situation. The gives the show a nice course of dilemmas and situations throughout that eventually lead to a big finale. In this case, it goes to a mysterious circus that comes to town and the escaped Father Blackwood messing things up in the background who all come into play as he now aligns with anyone who can exact the revenge he wants. The threat here being pretty much more engaging since this new crew of characters (the Pagans) pose their own threats. If the circus itself didn’t bring its own oddities, the people they bring also have their own influences to different characters and brings in yet another branch of belief and another force that wants to take over the realm. If the Hell issues weren’t enough, this definitely kept the plot points very busy.

Overall, Part 3 was a pretty decent one. It did step up a little from the second part. This time’s threats and dilemmas between the characters helped give it a lot of constant motion, propelling it forward so fast that it was actually rather fascinating. The twist at the end was a huge highlight especially since it gave it something of an adventure like Harrry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but the different realms giving some variation to the plot from its first 2 ways. The power struggle expands and pushes Sabrina to make some tough decisions, constantly developing her character further.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Abigail Cowen, Alessandro Juliani

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

With the Part 1’s well-built foundation, Part 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets off on a more solid plot trajectory. This season’s focus is not so much about Sabrina’s struggle between embracing the witch world and the mortal world but rather learning to embrace the power that comes with her new witch abilities especially in the face of the Academy of the Unseen Arts and the leadership of Father Blackwood who seems to want to take them on a more misogynistic direction to, and a paraphrase, return them to their old ways. With both Father Blackwood’s ambition to drive this new power and change and the Dark Lord trying to lay out his plans for Sabrina to finally lead her down the path to ruling at his side much to Lilith’s displeasure, the story is all about some of the well-known characters finding their own path as they wrestle with their alliances.

Part 2 also takes the audience into a lot of world-building especially for the witch world. One of the more fun elements do go to the different versions of celebrations that exist in the witch realm, especially the backdrop of Lupercalia, their version of St-Valentine’s. The season takes itself on a lot of paths with a variety of smaller threats and wonders like some tarot card readings from a stranger crossing through town to some witch hunters. At the same time, Sabrina has to deal with her friends who have started to not trust her because of her witch abilities and whether magic is good or bad in general. Sabina also has the matter of where her heart lies especially as Nick Scratch becomes a main character at this point as her love interest which also challenges her trust in him as love is an emotion for the witch realm is not quite the same.

What’s nice about the end of Part 2 is that the show works towards shifting the main plot and manipulation to its end so that it can propel into another direction for the next part. Part 2 focuses on the big reveal of Mrs. Wardwell and her true identity as well as the Dark Lord and his purpose and why Sabrina is such a key piece in their ploy especially as the series ends on the note of whether to go through with her role as the Queen of Hell. There’s a lot more at stake this season and while the season itself is a tad shorter than the previous one, there is a lot more to discover since the characters now, especially Sabrina a much more out of the teen angst elements and diving more into the bigger elements. Sure, there are still the high school drama here and there but the whole supernatural thing is much more emphasized as both sides of Sabrina’s world does have to come together to try to fight against the bigger and darker powers.

Overall, Part 2 is a step-up from the first part. Where the first season uses for its foundation building and its more teen-oriented issues giving Sabrina (and her friends) more of the “normal” high school experience, the second season has all that sorted out for the most part other than the little relationships and friends drama that do occur. The focus shifts to other conflicts and bigger issues to deal with especially as all the characters also have changed and developed since the events of the first season. Its a good progression of events and is pretty fun to watch overall especially since Sabrina constantly makes pretty bad decisions or just decisions where she underestimates her own capabilities and everyone has to team up to help her out of it. Its a little frustrating but then there is still a part of it that is reasonable as she is trying to stop certain bigger issues to become reality or the new norm.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Director: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Being yet again wildly behind on most Netflix series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina finally made its start as I work through the Netflix back catalogue. Being fans of Archie comics and originally meant as a spinoff of the show but no longer exactly the case, despite the mention of Riverdale in some occasions of the show in dialogue, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina starts off in its Part 1 setting up the stage from the get-go as Sabrina enters into her 16th birthday and has to decide whether she will be following her witch side or mortal side. Of course, she chooses neither, making her life split in half as she fulfills both sides of her obligations. With threats popping up from various locations and her human emotional side taking over her to protect her friends as some unknown manipulating forces also affect her situation as a whole, the show revolves around various topics in this world set in Greendale which has both the witch/warlock network but also the mortal network coming into play as Sabrina tries to strike a balance and starts to realize that maybe its not quite so easy to do that.

The first part lays out its foundation for everything and usually for these sort of teen shows are aimed to build up the scenario, the world and the characters. For the most part, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a decent job. From start to the finish, all 11 episodes do contribute to crafting this dark world of Sabrina both on the mortal and magical side. Sabrina’s life takes a turn as it gets affected from her family to friends to love, making clear those divisions but also the things that makes her unique as a “half breed”. On a storyline level, it manages to keep it rather good but of course, with its fair share of teenage angst added into the mix as it brings up themes of bullying and gender much like the darker side has its own set of issues from the patriarchy and more older beliefs of the darker world at hand. There are some odd frustrating moments here and there especially since Sabrina’s character, as she shifts between the worlds, becomes rather annoying at parts but its all part of the character building as her character does solidify, much like the other ones, by the end of Part 1.

Perhaps one of the more head-scratching elements of the show is the visuals that the production or perhaps post-production decides to take as the show in almost the entirety has this blurry hue that soaks in the background. Its uncertain whether its meant to give the show the visual uniqueness or to create the separation of the two worlds, however as much as for some scenes, it does it some favors, in others, it is quite a nuisance to be present all the time and maybe even taking away the effectiveness it could have it wasn’t present most (if not all) of the the time. The revamped style of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to this version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (much like Archie versus Riverdale) is already a darker and more graphic version so it almost feels unnecessary to try to push more of it onto its viewers. Sure, it is quite noticeable and gives it that unique feeling but when its the whole show that uses this, it eventually fades into the background and loses its meaning or purpose (if it had any in the first place other than just as a visual aesthetic).

Overall, Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a pretty fun ride. As a teen show, it still keeps a lot of the expected elements of teenage angst in the mortal world but still mirrors itself well into the magical world as she enters into The Academy of Unseen Arts. There are still the little cliques and the contrast of the values from each side, much like the contrast of the two worlds where the mortal emphasized the light/good element and is what the normal person would use in terms of lingo but the other side, the witch/warlock side is all about embodying the darkness which swaps things around turning things around. Its a pretty interesting world to dive into by the end even if there are some rather frustrating parts here and there but the show does keep things pretty constant with its conflicts and dilemma that surrounds Sabrina constantly.

TV Binge: Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining

While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.

  1. Bad Travelling
  2. Swarm
  3. Night of the Mini Dead
  4. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
  5. Jibaro
  6. Mason’s Rats
  7. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
  8. Kill Team Kill
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine

Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.

The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.

Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.

Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.

As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.

Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.

TV Binge: Archive 81 (Season 1, 2022)

Archive 81 (Season 1, 2022)

Creator: Rebecca Sonnenshine

Cast: Mamoudou Athie, Dina Shihabi, Evan Jonigkeit, Julia Chan, Ariana Neal, Matt McGorry, Martin Donovan, Kate Eastman, Charlie Hudson III, Kristin Griffith, Eden Marryshow, Georgina Haig

An archivist hired to restore a collection of tapes finds himself reconstructing the work of a filmmaker and her investigation into a dangerous cult. – IMDB

Based on the podcast of the same name, Archive 81 follows an archivist Dan (Mamoudou Athie) hired to a secluded building to restore a collection of tapes left behind by a college filmmaker Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) who moves into the Visser building hoping to capture the lives of the residents but also look for her biological mother but ends up realizing that that the building’s history is a lot more sinister and starts to investigate leading her to discover a cult.

Due to the nature of the show which dives from the present day with Dan and the past via the tape restoration and his process of watching it, the film story unfolds on a parallel. The writing is what truly shines in this series as it crafts both sides very effectively both in terms of the primary mystery element but also having the ability to craft a tense and sinister vibe throughout as it captures the isolation of Dan as he discovers his own side of the mystery as odd occurrences take place and the help of his friend (Matt McGorry) as an outside resource. Much like Melody Pendras who starts to gradually feel more and more of the cult that surrounds her through the strange residents that live there. The sense of danger and insecurity within the building is constructed incredibly well. The use of the VHS grainy element reminding that it is still an image that is being watched does a good job of pulling in and out of this parallel worlds of the past and present especially when it feels like its just watching two sides of a story and forgetting the time element.

While there aren’t any big name actors in the cast, probably the most familiar being Matt McGorry for his role in Orange is the New Black way back in Season 1 (I think) and he has gone on to do some other roles over the years, the main cast revolves around Mamoudou Athie and Dina Shihabi playing as Dan and Melody respectively. They both do a pretty decent job for what their role needs to deliver. Perhaps the supporting characters and their odd personalities delivers more although some of it does go a little overboard at times. Luckily, the show does only focus on a few main characters of the Visser building while Dan’s side focuses mostly around a few characters as well. The events craft a lot more of the atmosphere than the characters involved since the sounds and eerie and bizarre situations and the fear of being caught is what brings out most of the effective tense atmosphere. The characters’ interactions and encounters do bring up a lot of mystery and questions that slowly get revealed in the final episodes.

Overall, Archive 81 is pretty good. Its gripping and tense and the mystery is done really well. The angle and the twist also works pretty effectively. The tone and sound design and setting all add to the mystery much like the characters themselves. Unfortunately, the show does end on something of a cliffhanger and wasn’t renewed for a second season. A pity really since it would be interesting to see where it would have headed if it had the opportunity.