Category Archives: Television

Writing “The West” in Westworld

“You’re in my dream. I designed every part of this place. Not a theme park, but an entire world” 

 

So, let’s talk about Westworld. There’s only two episodes left of season one, and a quick Google search will tell you more than you need to know about the number of loose ends and untied threads that are keeping viewers interested. It’s become one of those shows that thrives off of the mystery, and explicitly fuels the collective investigatory powers of the internet with their sights set on decoding the mysteries that it continues to offer, while it seems to be hiding many of its secrets in plain sight—for those quick enough to catch them and post them to Reddit.

What I want to talk about is one thing in particular that Westworld seems to be hiding in plain sight: that the show appears to be exposing the ways in which, until now, “the West” was written under a very specific kind of control, and about and for particular characters.

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“It’s the pursuit that’s guaranteed”: Reflections on The Sopranos

Now, I won’t bore you with yet another theory of what I want to prove happened at the ending of The Sopranos and the infamous Cut To Black. I’m fairly sure at this point I won’t be able to offer anything new. So rather than that I’d like to explain my own reflections on the series and how it finished, which have just made some sort of sense in my head nearly a month after finishing it.

Warning: This post will obviously spoil the ending of The Sopranos, so if you’re yet to finish the series, avert your eyes and go watch it instead. You won’t regret it. 

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It’s Elementary- How Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman helped make the perfect Sherlock

It seems to me like this is a pretty odd time to be looking back on and writing about Sherlock. It’s already one and a bit seasons in, and this isn’t a review of an episode, or a specific season, and the whole of season two hasn’t even aired yet to review the show as a whole. So why then? Quite simply because, for what it’s accomplished already, and what it keeps on giving, it deserves praise.

I remember about a year and a half ago, when I first saw A Study in Pink. At that point I’d had little contact with Martin Freeman; I only really knew his face. I certainly had no experience of Benedict Cumberbatch. It was pretty marvellous then, to be watching a show for which I expected something very ‘Holmesy’, and to come away from it with a very different experience. It was refreshing to see two actors so perfectly suited to their individual roles, and to have such great chemistry. These two made, remade, and remade again characters were transformed into something so fresh, intelligent and even comical.

There’s always been something about Cumberbatch’s Holmes and Freeman’s Watson that made me think there’s no possible way I would have enjoyed the show as much had the duo not been cast. They complement and play off of each other when thrown together, but are still so loveable, clever and charismatic in their own way. In relation to Benedict (who I think will be forever more stapled into my head as Sherlock), Martin provides the quiet companion, who is by no means weak, and certainly not as clueless and dumbstruck by his ‘friend’ as the original Watson was.

But it’s not just their portrayals that make this show; it’s the attention to detail. I’m sure Sherlock would be proud. The smallest tweaks and changes, like Afghanistan being Watson’s war, and the use of mobile phones and the internet for the flow of information, really propel these beloved stories into the modern world, whilst retaining their charm and the details that make them recognisable and faithful to Conan Doyle’s stories, and, most importantly, unmistakably the same treasured characters.

The ‘blogs’ of the characters of the show, like The Science of Deduction and The Blog of Dr. John H. Watson, help to really stamp this show into the modern day- not that it really needed help, but it just gives another reason for the skeptics in our technological world why these stories should and could still be relevant and enjoyed. All they need are skilled writers like Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, a TV giant behind them (score one for BBC Wales!) and an audience willing to accept them.

And acceptance it has found. As if a show rating of 9/10 on IMDB wasn’t awesome enough, viewing figures for the premiere of A Scandal in Belgravia, also starring Laura Pulver, were somewhere between nine and ten million. Okay, so the Daily Mail kicked up a fuss about the pre-watershed ‘nudity’. How surprising. While I’ll admit it did make for slightly uncomfortable family viewing, it was hardly a reason to take the sentiment of the episode title so literally. And anyway, going back to my earlier point, what Irene Adler of today would get significant political power and ‘protection’ from a single cutesy little photo of her relationship with foreign royalty? Not in this day and age. A modern Sherlock needs a more modern woman.

It’s not even just a case of this being enjoyable, modern, and arguably more accessible for today’s audience than an older man with a pipe and deerstalker (though the reference to that in the most recent episode was brilliant, bravo.) It seems odd to write, but the show is very ‘realistic’, and also very believable. The concept has always been interesting, fast paced, and exciting, an update was much needed, and the stories that form the basis so brilliant to begin with, what’s not to love?

This Sunday sees the premiere of The Hounds of Baskerville, based on one of my favourite of the original stories. I’m not sure how it will have been adapted, but I’m anxious to see the results. While I don’t think we’ll see Sherlock camping out in a cave as Conan Doyle envisaged, there’s a good chance this could be the most unsettling, eerie tale yet for our two protagonists.

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