Sunday, November 24, 2013

Film Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In the interest of full disclosure, I hated the second Hunger Games book. I also wasn't a huge fan of the first film because I thought they tried to stay too true to the book (book purests who, incorrectly,  think the books are always automatically better are hating me right now) instead of focusing on making a good adaptation of the source material. But I didn't hate the first film, and I didn't hate the first book either, so those are the caveats I feel obligated to make before starting this review. I guess logic dictates that my next statement be that I hated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but I really really didn't.

Here's the major mistake that I think Collins makes that the films, by necessity, rectify: The First Person, present tense narration. Even though the films (the first more than the second) pull almost all of their dialogue from the book, they were smart enough to avoid the too easy trap of including some kind of voice-over narration from Katniss. I don't know if this is because the film makers know how horrible voice-over generally is, or because, like me, they found the narration of the books to be the weakest element. Being stuck in Katniss' head while she repeatedly and willfully makes the worst deductions and most illogical leaps about the things in front of her face is one of the most torturous experiences I've ever had. Per usual, the films take place in third person, and the difference it makes to Collins' story is tremendous.

The story of the film shouldn't be surprising to anyone at the this point. Katniss (played by the most glorious human being ever, and someone I totally wish was my best friend, Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home from their defiant triumph in last year's Hunger Games. Now they're in a position to play up their false love (false from Katniss' point at least) for the cameras in an attempt to quell the burgeoning rebellion of the districts that their actions in the games have started. This is complicated by Peeta's (understandable) lack of interest in allowing his very real emotions to be placated by Katniss' farce, Gale (Liam Hiemsworth or, I mean, sorry, maybe this one is better?) starting to make his long standing feelings for Katniss known, and the continued threats from President Snow (Donald Sutherland in a continuously fun and evil performance) that if things in the districts don't get any better, he'll take his frustrations out on Katniss' loved ones. So in an attempt to do his part to eliminate Katniss' status as a symbol of hope, President Snow uses the upcoming Quarter Quell (a special version of the Games that takes place every 25 years) to enact a rule that this year's Hunger Games Reaping will take place from the previous winners of each district. So of course Katniss and Peeta (after he volunteers to take Haymitch's place) find themselves heading back into the games.

(Spoilers follow) As an adaptation, Catching Fire is pretty much everything I look for. The core story elements are there and pretty much unadulterated, some of the things that are a little more implicit in the book are made perfectly explicit in the film (the relationship between Katniss and Gale is one of the things that I feel is being firmly taken out of speculation and the subtext and placed firmly on the screen, and the scene in which Katniss saves Gale from being publicly flogged is one of the more powerful in the film), and the things that are being left out are more or less inconsequential, while the scenes that are added do a lot to add color and context to the story and the characters we don't get to spend as much time with in the books (the scenes between Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee [the constantly amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman] come to mind).

There are a couple moments in the book that don't make the cut which could be argued as being important, but I'm not sure the storytelling experience is truly lessened by their absence. As for Peeta's amputated leg, while I agree that leaving this out was an oversight, I also think it's a flaw to be held against the first film and not this one, which couldn't have fixed this issue without a hugely problematic retcon. As a result, what you get is not only an intelligent and highly entertaining film, but a rare adaptation that truly surpasses the experience created by its source material.

If I have one complaint about the film, it's that the pacing still feels to be a bit off. Where I think Collins had a tendency to allow the pre-games scenes to take their time and build character and suspense, and for the pace to be picked up during the life and death games, I feel like the films have tended towards the opposite with the earlier scenes flying by while the games lack a more pulse pounding tempo. That isn't to say that the scenes in the Arena aren't exciting, tense, and suspenseful, because they often are, but the general feeling of death coming and passing the characters by in a blink is lesser here than I felt it was in the book.

But in the end, I'm left with one simple fact: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was an exceptionally entertaining way to spend two hours and twenty-six minutes. I left the theater very excited for the next two films, which is way way more than I can say for how I felt putting the book down.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 1 Episodes 1-7)

I purposefully wanted to wait until about six episodes in before offering up a review of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.EL.D. because 1) all series need a little time to get their legs under them and 2) the last time Joss Whedon had a TV series (the amazing Dollhouse), it wasn't until the sixth episode that everything took off. Granted, that time, everyone involved with the show repeatedly reminded viewers that the sixth episode would be the best and we just needed to hang in there to reach it. No such assurances were offered for AOS, and after seven episodes I've realized why: It simply isn't going to get any better. Another thing I've realized about the show is that no matter what anyone says and no matter how much ABC wants to promote it as such, AOS isn't a Whedon show in the traditional sense. It lacks Whedon's trademark humor and quick fire dialogue, there's no standout character for the viewers to really latch onto for better or worse (the fan favorite Agent Coulson not withstanding, more on that in a minute), and there's no real season long story arc yet (which after 7 hours is a significant problem). Acknowledging early on that this was not a Whedon show changed my expectations and allowed my enjoyment of the show to increase, but it didn't make the show any "better," and as someone who really wants to like this show, I find this to be problematic.

I think the biggest and most glaring problem facing AOS is how episodic its format has been. Coulson's team tackles a specific threat each episode. Instead of setting the team against an enemy and allowing them to do battle intermittently throughout the course of the season, the creators have decided that it would be better to give them an ever changing threat or problem to solve. This could be a good thing as it would give the writers the opportunity to expand the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe, but for some reason the show doesn't appear to be doing that. The threats are typically contained to the episode in question and they haven't done much to expand our understanding of the world in which the characters operate. Nor have the episodes done anything to enhance our understanding of the characters themselves. At this point in the show's run, we've really only been given two separate serialized stories: What really happened to Agent Coulson, and what's the story behind Skye's parents, and both stories have been done poorly. Skye's story is arguably the most interesting of the two at this point, but that's only because it's new. Its novelty, however, also works against the show as the story's introduction in the fifth episode feels rushed and comes out of nowhere without giving the audience time to really care. The fact that Skye is looking into the S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to discover the truth behind her own origin should have been introduced in the first episode to allow suspense to build around it organically. It also wouldn't hurt to have the story center around someone more interesting than Skye, but that's another issue we'll get to in a bit. The Coulson story was the main thing I took away from the first episode and it was the primary source of interest for me as a viewer. But as the show has dragged on and on with no real headway being made on that front, I've found my interest to be lessening with each passing week. Again, this would be easily rectifiable if either Coulson came off as a significantly different character than he was in the Marvel films, or if the show just showed us some kind of forward momentum towards a resolution instead of just teasing us with hints that he's "different" every week.

The characters are the second problem facing the series. None of them are interesting. Besides our previous ties to Coulson (which as I mentioned already have been growing thinner each week), Malinda May is the only character that seems to be even remotely three-dimensional at this point, and I can't help but think that this has something to do with the fact that she hardly ever speaks. If the writers gave her as much dialogue as they do the others, she'd probably be ruined just as quickly. None of the characters feel like fully developed people yet so much as cardboard cutouts who exist to do the one thing they each do. The show doesn't strive to surprise us with out of left field character beats. This is most obvious in one of the show's better episodes to date: F.Z.Z.T. Simmons is infected with some kind of Alien virus transmitted through static electricity and the team, Fitz in particular, rush to try and find a cure before she basically explodes and kills them all. Even though the scenes that follow are entertaining, nothing in them is surprising. Of course Simmons would throw herself from the plane instead of risking the lives of all of her team, of course Fitz and Simmons combined brain power would come up with a cure that works in time, and of course after complaining the entire episode that he needed something action-y to do, Ward would jump out of the plane before having his parachute fully fastened and save her. Again, this was all very entertaining in the moment, but I don't think it did much to add coloring to the characters we'd been faced with for five hours already. But the worst character ever award certainly goes to Chloe Bennet's Skye. She's boring, she's annoying, and her continued presence on the team is totally unjustified. She's a double agent and then she isn't, she's a computer hacker who has to be fitted with a bracelet to stop her from hacking computers because she can't be trusted, and her sole purpose continues to be to tell the team "no" for some reason or another each week. It's pathetic.

Shows in general, and Whedon shows in particular, work best when each major player's position within the group makes narrative sense. The best example of this from the Whedon-verse is Firefly. Not only do the characters have an immediate purpose (pilot, mechanic, doctor, muscle), they also serve a deeper role of representing elements of Mal's soul that he's lost over the years. There's never a question about one of them being left behind or replaced with someone else capable of doing their jobs because the audience understands why they're there. Or as Mal puts it when asked why he'd come back for Simon and River, "You're on my crew. Why we still talking about this?" The same cannot be said about Skye; surely if her only purpose is to be a computer hacker, the team could find one far more trustworthy and reliable.

All of this boils down to a show that's not in full command of itself yet and is falling into bad storytelling methods. These problems are problems I would expect to have been ironed out after two or three episodes. That they're still so prevalent and that they're all so easily fixable, tells me that the show probably won't get much better than it's been thus far. Or at the very least it'll require an entire overhaul to make it better. I don't want it to seem like I hate the show outright. I actually find all of the episodes watchable if not enjoyable. But I'm not rushing to my TV set each week to make sure I've caught the latest installment. I had high expectations for the series given the stellar work Marvel's been doing with its cinematic universe and the names attached. It's sad how hard those expectations of a great show have come crashing down around the reality that it's little more than middling at best. Do we really want to dedicate 22 hours to something that will never be more than mediocre?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World

I finally got around to seeing Thor: The Dark World for a second time and I must say that I found it a lot more impressive upon rewatch than I did initially. The problems I had with it on a macro level (which I'll get to in due time) are still there, but the problems I had with it on the micro level of the sheer storytelling in the moment have vanished. Where I initially thought that the film had eliminated some of the storytelling flare of the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films in favor of straight action, I now see that the story is a lot stronger than I gave it credit for and the manner in which it is being told is actually rather masterful. I held off on writing my review of the film after my first viewing because I have a lot of faith in Marvel's ability to create good films (at the very least, I have faith in their ability to create good films in this Avengers dominated run. I'm willing to simply gloss over the flaws in some of the X-men and Spider-Man movies and the complete ridiculousness that was Fantastic 4 as anomalies), and so I left the theater acknowledging that if I didn't enjoy the film as much as I should have, then the problem was probably with me as a viewer and not with the film. In the end, I think this proved to be the right move.

The film opens with Odin (played as always by the incomparable Anthony Hopkins) giving a voice over recap of the the beginning of the universe and the war fought between Asgardians and Dark Elves over the elves desire to return the universe to the darkness from whence it came. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is the leader of the Dark Elves and he's looking to use a MacGuffin weapon known as the Aether to basically end the world as we know it. Odin's father stops him, hides the weapon somewhere where it'll never be found (because that always ends well) and tells the world that Malekith, who scampered off when the battle was lost, is dead. Fast forward a few thousand years and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is being locked in the Asgardian dungeon for the rest of his life for the crimes he committed on Earth during The Avengers, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is fighting to restore peace and balance to the nine realms which fell into chaos after Loki's actions in the first Thor. And of course there's Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor's mortal, earthbound love interest who's moping about since Thor left her two years ago, but who's been spending her downtime using her awesome scientist brain to track gravitational anomalies over London. So things are tough all over for our group and, of course, when the Aether is found in the place no one would ever find it, and Malekith and his elves wake up from their thousands of years of slumber, wackiness ensues.

The movie is fun and entertaining. The story is straight forward and easily comprehensible (something I didn't realize when I watched it slightly drunk the first time around). And, somewhat surprisingly, it's really funny; consistently funny throughout much of it's 112 minute run time. It wasn't that I doubted Marvel's ability to bring the humor, but after spending so much time with the ever refreshing and snarky Tony Stark, it seemed odd that one of their films could pack in so much humor without him. But more than all of those reasons, I was surprised by the film's subtlety in its storytelling on the second watch. A lot of the story progresses without words, relying on the visual to convey the intricacies of what's happening. I found this to be especially true during a major action set piece towards the mid point of the film where the characters allowed to act and react to the situations before them without any real exposition about what was happening. (general spoiler) When Heimdall (the always amazing Idris Elba) moves to raise the protective barrier around Asgard, he doesn't talk aloud to himself about what he is doing or needs to do; he simply does it and there's never any confusion as to what is being done. So while this can leave things seeming a bit murky to the slightly inebriated brain, it makes perfect sense when sober, and I'm sorry for initially thinking the film was cumbersome and convoluted before, Marvel, I was wrong.

But that's not to say that I don't have problems with the film, or more specifically with its place within the series as a whole (significant spoilers and specific story elements to follow). Aside from the extreme lack of scenes featuring a scantly clad Chris Hemsworth (only one shirtless scene? really?), I only have two serious complaints. 1) I feel that Thor is the only Avenger with his own franchise thus far who isn't getting very much emotional development. 2) I think the series would have been much better served by allowing Loki to remain dead. I'll admit, that I'm more capable of being swayed on that second one, but in the moment it kind of irks me.

About Thor's emotional development: While it's clear that Thor underwent a great change in character after the first film, I don't feel as though the same can be said about this one. I'll admit that it's possible that the filmmakers intended the moment when he confronts Odin at the end of the film to tell him he can be the protector of the nine realms but he can't and won't take his rightful place on the throne to be the defining character moment, but if that's the case then I have to say it didn't work for me. First off, I was never under the impression that Thor becoming king of Asgard and ruling from the throne was ever going to happen. Given everything they want to do with the Avengers franchise, that just never realistically seemed to be in the offing to me. Secondly, I never really got the impression that Thor was interested in taking the throne to begin with. Early in the film Odin tells Loki that the plan is for Thor to finish bringing peace to the nine realms and then to become king, but we never hear that aspiration from Thor himself. It's set in stone by way of his birthright, sure, but what reason are we given to believe that all of the fighting and struggling to bring the nine realms to heel is being done, on his part, simply so he can get to his throne sooner? Giving up something someone else wants you to have but that you never really wanted in the first place (and something that would stall the story progression were you ever to possess it anyway) doesn't really count as character growth to me. Furthermore, Thor's mother, Frigga (Rene Russo), dies in this film and it's clearly a moment meant to spark a change in everything, but beyond his grief, I'm not sure I feel comfortable saying that Thor emerges from the incident as a different man than he was prior. Compare him to Tony Stark who underwent a serious progression within his most recent film, and Steve Rogers who appears to be being confronted with the same kind of big character moments in his upcoming film (based on the trailer at least), and you've got a character who seems to be being left behind by the Marvel writing staff.

As for Loki's death, allow me to say that I fully understand why the creative team would want to keep Hiddleston around. Even though I'm not one of the many many fans of the series who thinks that Loki is just the greatest thing since sliced bread, I do understand how invaluable Hiddleston has been in the role and how much fun he's constantly been on screen. I also understand the desire to stay true to the comics the films are based on. But seeing as how the films in most of the MCU have been adapted from Marvel worlds and characters more so than direct stories and comic runs themselves, I'm not of the opinion that the films have to remain as staunchly true to the source material as a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games adaptation has to. I would also point out that between Agent Coulson being returned from the dead in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Bucky making his return in The Winter Soldier, I'm starting to wonder if the series (and I do view all of these independent films as one whole series in a lot of ways) has the balls to pull the trigger on something as big and important as a major character death. I love Frigga, but sorry she doesn't count. I felt as though the film had the chance to do something significant with Loki's death and the redemptive elements of it in this film and they squandered it with that ending.

With all of that being said, Thor: The Dark World is a ridiculously entertaining and enjoyable film. The performances always seem to toe the line between headstrong seriousness and self-aware camp (or maybe it's just the Elizabethan language that makes it seem that way), the romance between Jane and Thor is crazy moving and fun to watch, and the film is told with a frankness and confidence that still surprises me when I find it in action films. You'd think after so many Marvel films I'd be used to it. Between this and Iron Man 3, I think Marvel's Phase 2 is shaping up to be every bit as good as Phase 1 was.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Film Review: 12 Years a Slave

I watched Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave last night and I'm still not sure how to go about processing what I saw. I hope it's not hyperbolic for me to say that not since Roots have we seen such an unflinching portrayal of Slavery in America. But even more important than that (or at least more important within the confines of this blog) very rarely have we seen a more confident and capable filmmaker than McQueen. If this man doesn't finally get his (long overdue) Oscar, a great disservice will have been done by the academy.

The Story (possible spoilers to follow): 12 Years a Slave is based on the novel of the same name by Solomon Northup and it details his experiences in slavery. Northup is a free black man living in New York with his loving wife and their two children. As a talented violinist, he is offered a job playing for two magicians in a traveling circus, and he goes with them to Washington DC in faith and friendship only to wake up one morning after a night of hard drinking chained in a slave market. Without easy access to his papers, and working within a system that clearly doesn't want him to have access to his papers, he is quickly given a new name, and a story claiming that he is a run away slave from Georgia. What follows is an amazing story of a kidnapped black man being sold into slavery for 12 years and forced to try and survive.

The story is powerful and amazing to witness, but the film is really a triumph of excellent direction from McQueen. I honestly don't have words to accurately describe how amazing McQueen's work is here, and somehow that's the most fitting reaction since the most powerful things McQueen does within this film have nothing to do with the words. This is a triumph of visual storytelling. I first noticed this signature from McQueen when I watched Shame in theaters. There are so many moments in that film where McQueen was content to just let Fassbender sit and allow the thoughts and emotions of the character to play across his face. Often during the numerous sex scenes of that film, the camera was trained on Fassbender's face instead of on the bodies of the characters, and the affect of this choice was to bring the viewer into Brandon's head and witness the turmoil of a person suffering from a sex addiction. McQueen brings that same sensibility to 12 Years and the affect is twofold: you get a great human story watching Chiwetel Ejiofor allow Solomon's emotions just bubble up to the surface or forcing them down and out of sight, and you get an uncomfortable experience of witnessing the horrors of slavery.

In one of the more remarkable scenes of the film, Solomon is being lynched after he dares to challenge and then repeatedly strike his first Overseer, Tibeats (Paul Dano in a very understated and ultimately thankless performance). One of the other Overseers saves Solomon's life, but leaves him hanging from the tree, his toes barely scraping the muddy ground and supporting enough of his weight to stop him from suffocating, until the plantation owner, Ford (played by the eternally amazing Benedict Cumberbatch) arrives home and cuts him free. McQueen holds the shot of Solomon hanging from the tree for the most amazing interval. It might have been five minutes, it might have been five hours, I'm not sure, but the impact of it is undeniable. As Solomon struggles in the foreground, life goes on around him in the background. Children play, men and women continue their work, the lady of the house looks on briefly before heading back inside, one woman sneaks up to him to give him a drink of water before quickly rushing off again, no one speaks, no one other than that kind slave woman acknowledges him, and the audience is left with the impression that this is just business as usual. It's nothing short of brilliant.

The film always stays in the moment and never really crosses into judgmental territory. I can't say that the slave owners are ever portrayed as sympathetic, but they aren't unduly demonized either. McQueen presents the situations as they happened and leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. There are two moments in the film where it feels, however briefly, like the filmmakers are trying to make a message or tip their hands a bit more than necessary. One exceptionally illuminating conversation with Alfre Woodard and the conversation between Fassbender and Brad Pitt's characters. But both scenes work well and fit within the confines of the story. Oddly enough, the resonant moment in the film, for me, was something Ford said to Solomon. "Whatever the circumstances, Solomon, you are an exceptional nigger, but I fear no good will come of it." If you're looking for a line with implications that echo through time to the present, look no further.

12 Years a Slave is not for the faint of heart. It earns its R rating through unflinching portrayals of abuse and sexuality that were as much a part of Slavery as the hard back-breaking work. But for those with the stomach to take it, 12 years is an amazingly powerful and exceptionally well made film. Great direction, breath taking performances from all of the film's stars, and an emotional experience that will move you and open your eyes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

TV Review: The Tomorrow People (Season 1 Episodes 1-4)

I never had much faith or interest in The CW. Beyond it's pretty young people, the network never really had much going for it. So imagine my surprise when a few friends of mine started drawing my attention to The Vampire Dairies as an actually good and worthwhile show. While I can say that TVD is hardly revolutionarily great television, it is crazy entertaining and well worth watching. And then The CW comes out with Arrow and I find a second show I'm willing to watch on the network. My opinion has honestly started to change. Their shows tend to move quickly and burn through plot at a level that most shows with 22 episode sets don't. They tend to have very consistent characterization and motivation that often makes sense. So while their shows aren't quite on the level of Breaking Bad, they tend to be very fun on a basic, visceral level.

So enter The Tomorrow People. Besides it's blatantly horrible title, I'm still not completely sure how I feel about the show. It's certainly got it's CW quota of pretty people who take as much of their clothing off as network cable will allow as often as possible, it's certainly got an interesting story foundation to work with, but I'm still not sold on it fully for a number of reasons.

The Story: The show starts with Robbie Amell's character (Stephen Jameson) discovering that the sleepwalking and schizophrenia he's been being medicated for are actually symptoms of the powers he's been genetically blessed with. He's got a case of Telekinesis, Telepathy, and Teleportation (the three T's they're called). In fitting with the typical genre requirement that your protagonist be special, he also seems to be able to control time which is something none of the others can do. What follows is an introduction to an underground group of people with the same powers (The Tomorrow People) and a shadowy organization run by an uncle he didn't even know he had and dedicated to finding and stopping them (Ultra).

The Pros: Clearly there's the sheer attractiveness factor of the cast. Amell, Peyton List, Luke Mitchell, and Aaron Yoo are all easy on the eyes. The show has a mythology it's clearly thought a lot about before jumping into action. And I think the show does a good job of asking the question what will set them apart from some of the series' that came before with the same premiss (X-Men, Heroes). By the end of the first episode, Stephen has chosen to work with Ultra instead of throwing in with the Tomorrow People. It's a surprising development that occurs partially because the plot requires it to in order to be unique but mostly because Stephen acknowledges that the resources at Ultra can better help him to find his estranged father. Granted the father who abandoned them in order to try and protect them from his own Tomorrow Person status is the least interesting of the show's stories, but as a motivation for its main character, it can be compelling. And the biggest thing the show has going for it is that the graphics are actually a lot better than you'd assume for a network TV show. The supernatural fight and action sequences (of which there are many) all look significantly impressive.

The Cons: I'm not a huge fan of some of the elements of the show's burgeoning mythology. Another way the show is trying to distinguish itself from previous stories of a similar nature is with the twist that the tomorrow people have developed a gene that prohibits them from killing. This serves the purpose of balancing the scales between the homo superior tomorrow people and their homosapien enemies. While the tomorrow people can read minds, move things with their minds, and teleport around like crazy, the humans can still pull the trigger and do so with increasing regularity. I'll admit I'm not expert in evolutionary biology, but as an intelligent and active audience member, it makes no sense that a species would evolve in a capacity that could lead them to being extinct in a few years. I tend to think of evolution as something that increases a species' survival chances not decreases it (from the wiki article on Evolution: "Thus, when members of a population die they are replaced by the progeny of parents that were better adapted to survive and reproduce in the environment in which natural selection took place"). I think the show could have accomplished the same moralistic standing in a different fashion. Namely by making the tomorrow people so extremely human that they have even more of a conscious than regular people do, and using their powers to kill fills them with even more guilt and perhaps even changes them in some drastic fundamental way that they just chose not to do it. Perhaps the guilt over taking lives (and I certainly think there could be some contrived number of times it could happen before reaping consequences) drives them insane to the point where they lose themselves and become completely different people. This might seem like a small issue to some, and to be fair the show seems to be attempting to do something interesting with this story element as of this most recent episode, but it's a pretty big deal to me in the sense that it tends to pull me out of the narrative every time it's brought up.

While this is the biggest issue with the show, it isn't the only one. The episodes tend to be a bit rote and too formulaic for my liking (in his recent review of the episodes to this point, the TV Club's Rowan Kaiser points to this as a good thing while I find it to be a bit boring and predictable), the show lacks a strong central personality that I can latch onto as someone I want to tune in to every week or a character that I can have an abundance of sympathy for, and the show lacks a believably menacing antagonist. Mark Pellegrino's Jedikiah Price (Stephen's uncle and leader of Ultra) simply doesn't work for me. I find him to be irrationally angry and his only motivation seems to be jealousy that he wasn't born as one of the tomorrow people. He does all of the things a bad guy is supposed to do; he makes pointless speeches that are meant to be menacing while indiscriminately killing and taking the powers away from young and innocent tomorrow people, and he possesses the zeal of a fanatic for his "protecting humanity" cause, but something about the character feels empty to me. Every scene he's in (a lot of which feature him scowling and antagonizing his nephew) leave me wondering why no one has ever punched him in the face and put him in his place. This is a question I've never felt the need to ask about Magneto or the Joker. I think the best antagonists generally either have an abundance of charisma to pull people over to their cause, or just a status as scary mother fucker that you don't want to cross (the best cases have some combination of the two, see Tom Riddle for such and example). Jedikiah has neither and I'm not sure if this is due to Pellegrino's performance or to the character's writing, but I generally just roll my eyes when he's on screen and wait for a more viable threat to present itself.

These flaws stop The Tomorrow People from being all around great or highly recommendable television, and yet to be honest I haven't felt a desire to stop watching yet. Granted I'm never in a rush to watch the episodes immediately after they air, but I tend to be up to date with them prior to the new installment. There's a good foundation under this show and it's very easy to see how it could grow into something great if not exceptional. The problems with it aren't totally unfixable and the show itself isn't made unwatchable by their presence. And if nothing else, there's always the good looking and often shirtless people.