Tag Archives: Mr. Robot

Summer sci-fi TV series

Seems like nowadays if/when I watch TV I mostly watch sci-fi. This summer was especially rich in shows. I counted 8 new series and 7 series in their second or later seasons. That’s 15. Most ever in one season, in my life. These are all sci-fi shows on way or another, but the way is often quite different.

Let’s look first at the brand new shows:

Dark MatterBetween:
My take: wants to grab too much, goes nowhere, intrigue falls flat.
IMDB summary: Between is the story of a town under siege from a mysterious disease that has wiped out everybody 22 years and older. The series explores the power vacuum that results when a government has quarantined a 10-mile diameter area and left the inhabitants to fend for themselves.

Dark Matter:
My take: Light show, with the right amount of spaceship/high tech fantasy, interpersonal interaction, explosive action. I like how we learn the stories of these “criminals”, who are often falsely accused of wrong doing.
HumansIMDB summary: The six-person crew of a derelict spaceship awakens from stasis in the farthest reaches of space. Their memories wiped clean, they have no recollection of who they are or how they got on board. The only clue to their identities is a cargo bay full of weaponry and a destination: a remote mining colony that is about to become a war zone. With no idea whose side they are on, they face a deadly decision. Will these amnesiacs turn their backs on history, or will their pasts catch up with them?

My take: Fits well int the current societal debate about the future of human identity and existence at the dawn of artificial intelligence. The show is a bit slow, but has some great monologues and writing in it too.
IMDB summary: In a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant that’s so similar to a real human it’s transforming the way we live.

My take: Very light show, with lots of ground and some space action. Pure entertainment that doesn’t want to do more.
IMDB summary: In the Quad, a planetary system on the brink of a bloody interplanetary class war, a fun loving trio of bounty hunters attempt to remain impartial as they chase deadly warrants.

Mr. Robot:
My take: Disturbingly good writing and intriguing agenda. I.e. Read the main character’s partial answer to the question “what is it about society that disappoints you so much?” Oh, I don’t know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children?… Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself’s just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our burning commentary *bullshit* masquerading as insight. Our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it that we voted for this. Not with our rigged elections but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new, we all know we do this, not because “Hunger Games” books make us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend because we’re cowards…
Mr. RobotIMDB summary: Follows a young computer programmer (Malek) who suffers from social anxiety disorder and forms connections through hacking. He’s recruited by a mysterious anarchist, who calls himself Mr. Robot.

The Messengers:
My take: I always enjoy and learn from  TV shows with some explicitly religious content. This show however got rightfully cancelled after one season. Simplistic rehash of the currently trendy apocalypse genre with the four horseman and throwing in some revenging and preventing angels. Too formulaic.
IMDB summary: A mysterious object crashes on earth and a group of unconnected strangers die from an energy pulse it emits, but then re-awaken to find out that they have been deemed responsible for preventing the impending Apocalypse.

My take: Didn’t finish watching it yet. Too slow and too complex in the beginning at the same time. Visually stunning, but has too much sex for my taste. Nevertheless exciting and big budget enough to hold attention.
IMDB summary: A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.

My take: Another very light show with eye-candy and not much more. Numbs the mind comfortably when that’s what’s needed.
IMDB summary: A young woman is recruited into a secret government agency to be “stitched” into the minds of the recently deceased, using their memories to investigate murders.

My take: I enjoy the international/multicultural/multi-perspective approaches the problem to be solved requires. But the premise is so unplausable that I find it hard to suspend my disbelief.
IMDB summary: Violent animal attacks upon humans are occurring all over the world. Jackson Oz, an American zoologist who offers safaris in Africa, begins to notice the animals’ strange behavior and takes it upon himself to solve the reason why before these attacks become more coordinated and ferocious.

And now the returning shows

Defiance (3rd season):
My take: Big enough budget for some decent action and special effects. I also follow carefully the father-daughter struggle. Otherwise it can run smoothly in the background, except the bits when they speak one of the several alien languages and I have to read the subtitles.
IMDB summary: In the year 2046, it’s a new Earth – with new rules. Over thirty years after various alien races arrived on Earth, the landscape is completely altered, terraformed nearly beyond recognition. To the town of Defiance, on what used to be St. Louis, comes the mysterious Nolan  and his charge, Irisa . As they settle into town – overseen by the mayor, Amanda Rosewater and filled with residents like the powerful Rafe McCawley, enterprising lounge owner Kenya  and the ambitious, alien Tarrs – events begin to unfold that threaten the fragile peace this border town has fought for.

DominionDominion (2nd season):
My take: This season is much better than the first one. Easier to follow, more nuanced character developments and more detailed theology/histories. Angels are metaphorical and in this case physical reflections of humans.
IMDB summary: Follows the perilous journey of a rebellious young soldier who discovers he’s the unlikely savior of humanity.

Extant (2nd season):
My take: Halle Berry still kicks ass, even as a crazy, disgraced, but heroic astronaut. Nice minor tech gadgets in the background, i.e. great attention to details.
IMDB summary: An astronaut returns home from a year long solo mission in space. She tries to reconnect with her husband and son in their everyday life. Her experiences in space and home lead to events that ultimately will change the course of human history.

Falling SkiesFalling Skies (5th season):
My take: The fight still goes on and that’s a good thing. Intra, inter and extra fights are equally important
IMDB summary: The chaotic aftermath of an alien attack has left most of the world completely incapacitated. In the six months since the initial invasion, the few survivors have banded together outside major cities to begin the difficult task of fighting back. Each day is a test of survival as citizen soldiers work to protect the people in their care while also engaging in an insurgency campaign against the occupying alien force.

The Last Ship (2nd season):
My take: I don’t know why I keep watching this series of gun-battles, interspersed with patriotic speeches and vistas. Maybe because I am too much of a sucker for post-apocalyptic genre.
IMDB summary: The crew of a naval destroyer is forced to confront the reality of a new existence when a pandemic kills off most of the earth’s population.

The StrainThe Strain (2nd season):
My take: A not-so-lonely Holocaust survivor with his ragtag team (including a few scientists for good measure though) fighting superstrong and creepy demons with some nazi heritage. I certainly hope the god guys will win. I watch not just for the Jewish content, but it is a big part of it.
IMDB summary: A thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.

Under the Dome Under the Dome (3rd season):
My take: Can it get more ridicules? Just wait and see. (Yes)
IMDB summary: An invisible and mysterious force field descends upon a small fictional town in the United States, trapping residents inside, cut off from the rest of civilization. The trapped townsfolk must discover the secrets and purpose of the “dome” and its origins, while coming to learn more than they ever knew about each other.


Ecology vs. profit in Time Salvager, Mr. Robot, Clean Power Plan

Connections is a new category on my blog where I document ideas that occur to me as I read books, watch movies  and TV shows and sometimes even connect them to current events. Here is the first one.

I am halfway through reading the dystopian time-travel sci-fi book Time Salvager by Wesley Chu. I don’t know how it will end, but where I am at in it now it seems that a mega-corporation purposefully destroyed Earth’s ecosystem in chase of profits and dominance. (Spoiler: They did it by travelling 400 years back to the 21st century and destroyed the station where scientists were successfully working on finding the cure for a mutating virus that eventually took over all the living waters of Earth.) This is pretty much I feel is happening often in today’s economy/ecology. Some corporations in the line of maximizing their profit are disregarding the long-term effects of their actions. I consider this criminal: using up natural resources in a non-sustainable ways is like stealing from the future. In the book the effect of stealing from the past (which is what well-regulated time-travellers do) creates an ever-bleakening present and future. We do the same by stealing from future.

vil CorpI also watched the first few episodes of an excellent TV series titled Mr. Robot. So far it has little to do with ecology. The dayjob of the main character, a brilliant computer guy with limited social skills, is providing computer security for  corporation, but by night he is a (somewhat reluctant) hacker working against that very corporation and the “system” in general. The corporation’s name is “E corp” but is referred to in the show as “Evil Corp”. Their logo is similar to the scandalous and now defunct Enron’s. I rarely see such blatant reference in popular culture of a corporation being evil, and even invoking a specific one. It corresponds to the idea mentioned above of maximizing profits over everything else.

The final element of this “connection” is that President Obama yesterday announced the “Clean Power Plan” in order “to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.” My first reaction was how hard the corporations (and the politicians supported by them) will fight this. I understand the mechanism of how this works: they are responsible to their shareholders, who hold their shares in the hope of making money. Hence they have to do what they have to. But I don’t have to like the process. Here is what Forbes has to say about that

Critics claim that the Plan is inherently unfair, punishes taxpayers and will destroy our economy, similar to what was claimed for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a host of other environmental changes that have kept our country reasonable cleaner and safer than most other nations in the world. Fair to say none of that ever happened.

I will be watching how the coal industry, the biggest that would be affected negatively by this plan, will fight the enactment of this act. I have sympathies for the miners, families and individuals who would lose their livelihood due to mine closures. However I also believe that as an industry its days should be over and as a society we should turn to cleaner  sources of energy. That’s in the interest of all of us, not just the miners’.