Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Twilight Zone -- Season 1 Episode 31 (The Chaser)

Roger has a thing for Leila.  Leila would rather forget that Roger exists.  What’s poor Roger to do?  After being rejected by Leila, a stranger offers Roger a business card so that Roger might leave a payphone for others to use.  Roger is assured that this Prof. A. Daemon has what Roger needs, whatever that might be.

When Roger visits Daemon, he has many books, among which are many potions.  Daemon suggests the glove cleaner, which Roger turns down.  Daemon also suggests getting a cocker spaniel, which Roger doesn’t want.  Roger wants something to make Leila love him.

Daemon has something for that, although he’s certain that Roger will be back.  It would seem that Roger’s story is familiar to Daemon.  Daemon seems tired of people like Roger.  After all, the love potion goes for $1, whereas the glove cleaner goes for much more.

The love potion works as promised.  Six months later, Roger and Leila are married, although Roger isn’t so happy.  It turns out that Leila’s love is total and unwavering.  Nothing that Roger could do would make Leila stop loving him.  He goes back to Professor Daemon, hoping for some way of toning it down a little.  Daemon informs Roger that it’s an all-or-nothing deal.  That’s what the glove cleaner is for.

What is the glove cleaner?  It’s something that will take care of someone without any evidence whatsoever.  It’s the perfect way to get someone off your hands.   Roger reluctantly takes it.  When he gets home, Leila has a little surprise for him.  Roger realizes that he can’t go through with it, after all.

The title of the episode has sort of a double meaning.  Not only is Roger chasing Leila in the beginning, but the glove cleaner is said to be a chaser for the love potion, as everyone eventually comes back for it.  Daemon has no shortage of people to buy the love potion.  He also seems to get as many customers for glove cleaner.

Love potions like this are nothing new.  My one concern with this episode is that Roger is so willing to undermine Leila’s ability to consent.  Not only did Roger use the potion, but it would seem a great many other men did, as well.   I know I’m looking at this episode nearly sixty years later.  (Yes, it’s that old.  The episode aired May 13, 1960.)  Times have changed.  I wonder how the episode went over when it first aired.  I don’t recall reading too much about this aspect of the plot.

The episode seems to focus more on the down side of not being able to moderate what you want.  It might have been nice if Roger could have dialed in Leila’s affection, but he’s all that she can think about.  One might even imagine that the love potion was made only to give people a reason to really want the glove cleaner.  This Daemon guy knows what he’s doing.  Maybe Roger should have gotten that cocker spaniel, after all.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A.I.C.O. Incarnation (Season 1)

While looking at a list of new offerings from Netflix, I found A.I.C.O. Incarnation.  I tend to put off watching series, as it’s difficult for me to binge.  I don’t like leaving too late for work and I can’t always watch a full hour before leaving the house.  When I saw that A.I.C.O. was only 25 minutes per episode, I decided to give it a shot.

The story is about a young girl, Aiko, who is bound to a wheelchair.  We see her going through rehab and eventually learn that she was in an accident.  The story is set in 2035, several years after a scientific project went awry and created The Matter.  People called divers go in, but don’t always come back out.  Aiko is mourning the loss of her parents and her brother, who we learn were killed because of The Matter.

Aiko’s class gets a new transfer student, Yuya Kanzaki, in her class one day.  It’s odd, as there are two days left in class.  It turns out that this transfer student is there for Aiko.  He manages to escape with her and take her into a border zone, where she meets people that try to fill her in on her past.

I don’t really want to go into too much detail, as the revelations are what the show seems to have going for it, mostly.  There are fight scenes and some politics, but it’s mostly about Aiko and what she might really be.  There was very little character development.  In some ways, it almost came across like a soap opera.  The characters seemed to exist just t move the drama along, with Aiko being the ultimate McGuffin.

Each episode might have a few minor details doled out or might have one big bombshell.  Not much time is spent on each detail.  I almost expected some dramatic music to play, as something was revealed and the story just moved on.  For instance, it’s revealed that Aiko’s mother and brother might still be alive.  This serves mostly as motivation for Aiko to continue, but she won’t know if it’s the truth until she gets there.

We don’t really learn a lot about what The Matter is, other than it’s a collection of cells that goes after people.  (We do learn the origin, but not much else.)  Yuya has hired two teams to escort him and Aiko to the lab where it all began.  Their objective is called Primary Point, where Yuya believes he can eliminate The Matter.

The government isn’t so keen on this.  Yes, it kills people and there’s a risk of it spreading, but they feel that it’s worth studying.  Yuya’s motives for wanting to rid the world of The Matter are somewhat downplayed.  He does seem determined to get to Primary Point.

I’m not sure why this was made into a full season.  12 episodes at 25 minutes each is about five hours of material.  It seemed like there was a lot of filler that could have been left out.  It seems like the story would have been better served with a two-hour movie.  (It’s always seemed a little odd when a group has to go through a dangerous passage when going around it seems much easier.)

Speaking of which,  calling it a season (as opposed to a miniseries) implies that there’s going to be a second season.  With other shows, like Stranger Things and Dark, there’s at least one loose thread that would make way for something next year.  This story seems to wrap up nicely.

I would hope that the second season is a little better than the first.  I get the impression, with names like The Matter, the project may have been rushed to development.  If that is true, it would explain certain aspects that were lacking.  It’s possible that this story sets up something else entirely or that the writers might not have had anything specific in mind yet.  I am curious as to what a second season would look like.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

El Ministerio del Tiempo (Season 1)

Way back in 2016, I was excited about a TV series called Timeless.  It was about three people who travel through time, chasing a rogue agent bent on changing history for the better.  I was saddened to find out that the series had been canceled after only one season.  A few days ago, I found ou that I could at least watch El Ministerio del Tiempo on Netflix.

El Ministerio del Tiempo, which translates as the Ministry of Time, is about three agents who travel to different years through doors.  Julián Martínez is a paramedic recruited from the present.   He is a widower who hasn’t gotten over the loss of his wife.  Amelia Folch is a woman from the 19th century.  She’s studying to be a doctor when it wasn’t common for women to do so.  Rounding out the main agents is Alonso de Entrerríos, who was recruited right before his execution.  He was a solder from Seville in the 16th century.

The idea is to keep history as close as possible to what is recorded in books.  Sometimes, this means making sure things go as planned.  In the second episode, a writer named Lope de Vega is found to have enlisted on a ship that is known to have sunk.  If he’s not put on another ship, he’ll die before he becomes famous.  In other cases, it’s a little less certain.  The three agents have to find a receipt that may not actually exist, leading to some thinking outside the box.

The TV show comes from Spain.  In fact, the show is limited largely to that country, as the Ministry’s jurisdiction is limited to Spain’s history.  As such, a few of the historical characters will be familiar.  One of the recurring characters is Diego Velázquez, who is employed by the Ministry to do facial composites.  Pablo Picasso is central to one episode while Salvador Dalí appears in another episode.

There were a few cases where I didn’t recognize a name I felt I was supposed to know.  One was Jordi Hurtado, who is apparently known in Spain.  He doesn’t appear to have done anything outside of Spain, so I don’t feel bad about not recognizing him.  Another episode centered around meeting someone named Lazarillo de Tormes.  I had never heard the name before and I’m not sure how famous the work is outside of Spain.  Apparently, he’s regarded as a fictional character.

Interestingly, there was an American character captured after being able to travel through time.  When asked how the American agency was able to manage time travel, he admits that America has tunnel for traveling through time, a reference to The Time Tunnel.

I found that the cultural barrier didn’t detract from enjoying the show.  I was able to follow the episodes without much difficulty.  I will say that the series does seem to follow the Novikov self-consistency principle.  Whereas Timeless doesn’t seem to have a problem with shifting history, it doesn’t appear that the main characters’ actions have much influence on the present.  No one disappears unexpectedly.  You don’t have authors writing three extra books by the end of the episode.

The series doesn’t really play this up, which is a good thing.  It can get somewhat tedious if not handled well.  I hate to watch a movie go through the motions.  Either it happened the way history recorded or we see how it would at least appear that way.  The series focuses more on the characters and what motivates them.

All three characters have a past of their own.  This comes up to varying degrees.  Julián is having trouble getting over the loss of his wife, for example.  He occasionally goes back to see her.  Also of note, as in timeless, is an implied future between Julián and Amelia.  Apparently, I’m going to have to wait for the second season to see what happens.

There are a few other similarities with Timeless.  Fans of similar shows will probably enjoy it.  Netflix does have English subtitles, which were somewhat difficult to read, mostly because I didn’t have enough time to read them.  If you can’t read quickly, you’re going to have problems following the show.  (In case you’re wondering why I didn’t use English audio, the only two options on Netflix are Spanish and Portuguese.)

I did get some more good news after finding out about this show.  It looks like Timeless was brought back for a second season.  It’s pretty rare to see that happen, but I’m not complaining.