Altered Carbon, Season 2

Altered Carbon, Season 2

In our tradition of keeping reviews spoiler-free, you won’t find anything about the plot of Altered Carbon‘s Season 2 here. But to summarize: the Netflix series, based on the book of the same title by Richard K. Morgan, is set in a cyberpunk future where those of means can literally live forever. They store their consciousness on “stacks” and jump from one body — real or synthetic — to the next, indefinitely, never experiencing real death.

The story centers on, Takashi Kovacs, “the last envoy”, what that means, and his place in a society he doesn’t quite fit into.

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Hunters

Hunters

Reviews of Hunters, which is streaming on Amazon Prime, are all over the place. Some praise it as a “bold experiment” that is “visually ostentatious.” Others lament its “cartoonish tone and historical fabrications.”

Much of the criticism centers on the series making up stories about the Holocaust and showing Jews murdering war criminals in cold blood. The director of the USC Shoah Foundation, Stephen D. Smith, has gone so far as to ask Amazon not to renew the show for a second season.

In fairness, Hunters does grapple with the revenge-or-justice question. Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal even makes an appearance (played by Judd Hirsch) to argue with Al Pacino’s character, Meyer Offerman, about the morality of killing (former) Nazis. The story arc of Offerman’s protégé, Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), is all about deciding when, if ever, it is right to kill.

As for the show’s “cartoonish tone”, what the critics miss is that Hunters is pulp. Which is why I’m categorizing this review as dieselpunk, despite the series taking place in the 1970s.

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The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle, Season 1

We’re written about Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle here at Never Was, but we never reviewed the series. Now that it’s in its fourth and final season, it’s worth taking a look back on this dieselpunk drama.

Season 1 follows Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, on which the TV show is based, pretty closely. The Axis have won have the war and North America is divided in two. The Germans control the Western Hemisphere, including Africa and the bulk of the former United States. The Japanese hold the East, including Alaska and the former states of Washington, Oregon and California. An unruly Neutral Zone in the Rocky Mountains separates the two empires.

The main character is Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a resident of the Japanese Pacific States who is gradually immersed in an American Resistance movement led by Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), the eponymous “man in the high castle”. In the book, he is the author of an alternate-history novel in which the Allies won the Second World War. In the series, he produces films.

Their nemeses are American SS chief John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his counterpart in the Pacific States, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel de la Fuente). Both want to get their hands on the films and the man in the high castle himself.

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Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri, or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, is a beautifully done anime, set in a post-apocalyptic Japan.

At the time of industrialization, a mysterious plague broke out, turning corpses into kabane, a kind of blood-drinking zombie that is extremely hard to kill. Get bitten and you turn into one. Die and you turn into a kabane. Or, if you’re lucky, a kabaneri, a halfbreed of man and kabane. Survivors live in stations along the route of heavily armored trains, known as iron fortresses.

It is in these stations and on these trains that we find the characters of this story.

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Carnival Row, Season 1

Carnival Row

Carnival Row, Amazon Prime’s neo-noir Victorian SteamGoth fantasy series, has come to the many fortunate enough to be able to watch it. Combining the worlds of the fae and humanity has never been so well done.

A lot of it is hitting a little close to home: immigrants trying to build a new life after fleeing their wartorn homelands, intolerance, discrimination, ghettos. It’s clear the creators took a good look at human history — Victorian, World War II-era and contemporary.

It shows, not just in the storyline, but in the cinematography. The wardrobes, the uniforms, everything. This is the best fantasy with horror elements since Penny Dreadful (our review here) and it is a shame it isn’t more easily available, because it has a strong story with a talented cast.

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Chernobyl scene

Ostalgie in Cinema

From Deutschland 83 to HBO’s Chernobyl, “Ostalgie” — which is what the Germans call nostalgia for the communist era — has become a trend in period and alternate-history fiction.

There are many variations of this. There is “Yugo-nostalgia” in the former Yugoslavia, Soviet nostalgia in Russia, and “Communist chic” in the West.

Here is an overview of the best productions.

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The Frankenstein Chronicles, Season 2

The Frankenstein Chronicles, Season 2

A dastardly and murderous plot, the Church is up to something, murder in Victorian London, (mad) science, automata and resurrection. That’s pretty much the theme of season 2 of The Frankenstein Chronicles. An excellent example of the darker side of Victorian storytelling.

It has finally landed on Netflix with its second and (as far as I know) final season.

Season 2 takes off where season 1 ended, with the resurrected man John Marlotte (Sean Benn) trying to solve the mystery that led to his untimely demise, aided and thwarted by a mix of recurring and new characters.

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High Seas

Alta mar

From the moment the Villenueva sisters Eva (Ivana Baquero) and Carolina (Alejandra Onieva) decide to smuggle a woman who claims to be in mortal danger (Manuela Vellés) aboard their transatlantic journey to Brazil, Alta mar (High Seas) does not relent on surprises. Every one of its eight episodes, currently streaming on Netflix, brings a new twist or turn, usually toward the end in a bid to make you binge on the Spanish series.

It works. The show is great fun. Set in the aftermath of World War II, both the style and the story will appeal to dieselpunks. The costumes and art deco decor are beautifully done. The dark-family-secret theme starts off well enough.

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The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy

Originally a comic by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame, the books have been turned into the first season of a TV series, mostly covering the story arc known as The Apocalypse Suite.

Years ago, in 1989, all around the world, 43 women gave birth on the same day. This might not sound strange, were it not for the fact that none of them had been pregnant at the start of the day. Seven of these children are adopted by Reginald Hargreeves, only to be treated to a cold life where nothing matters but becoming superheroes destined to ward off the apocalypse. Needless to say, this has left a mark on the children, now adults, and each has their own personal issues to overcome.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Do you remember the 1990s TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch? If so, forget everything you’ve seen. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is nothing like its predecessor

And no matter how much Riverdale wants to be a supernatural drama in its third season, it has nothing to do with that either, even though it is a spinoff and the town is mentioned a few times.

CAOS, as the show is known for in short, is a retrolicious homage to classic horror and simpler times, and that’s what we’re here for.

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