Television is no longer a spectator sport. It is a marathon. With hundreds of shows and thousands of hours, it is difficult to tell what to watch and what to skip. This is where we come in. UnBinged is here to help you navigate the choppy waters of the small screen to keep you from sinking into the abyss.
HBO’s Watchmen returns to the world of Alan Moore’s Hugo-winning graphic novel with a new series that perfectly captures the mood of the groundbreaking comic from 1986 — and then transcends it. Filled with elements of extreme violence in a world colored with intolerance, the message of director Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen is sadly needed more than ever.
As the series successfully taps into the nostalgia of the original source material, it also creates a new, unexpected chapter that fits perfectly within the brutal landscape it depicts like a missing puzzle piece. Fans of Moore’s book will not be disappointed, while a new generation not familiar with its characters or the story should be inspired too.
Caution: Spoilers from the original comic In 3…2…1…
Set in Tulsa in an alternative timeline, it has been 20 years since the developments of the comic/movie when Ozymandias killed millions to save billions. Humanity hasn’t gotten much better, either. Regina King stars as Angela Abar, aka Sister Night, a masked vigilante who works with the government to keep terrorists at bay. She, along with every other avenger in a homemade outfit, attempts to keep the peace in a society that has become malevolent.
This is America, but turned up a notch. The savagery of the culture is amplified, as are the people. Humanity has hit new extremes in terms of indifference and cruelty. Everything is similar, yet different. Police serve in secret and shield their identities, it occasionally rains cephalopods, and Nixon is revered as a hero. Needless to say, it’s a godless time.
A cult of personality has developed around Rorschach (the comic’s main protagonist who was vaporized at the climax of the series) developing into a legion of masked zealots who follow some of Walter Kovacs’ more abhorrent traits rather than his (rather limited) heroic qualities. Known as the 7th Cavalry, the white supremacist terrorist group believes in government conspiracies and holds a general contempt toward women and minorities. Imagine if portions of Reddit subforums were able to get permission from their parents to use the car and mobilize.
Rorschach is not the only member of The Minutemen to make a callback cameo. The former Silk Spectre II/Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) and Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) each have their parts to play in the new series, while Dr. Manhattan and his unsheathed blue junk are glimpsed from his habitat on Mars.
As the story of the Watchmen lurches forward, it is clear that the series holds the original comic sacred, with plenty of Easter eggs and a reliance on the fan base. Yet the source material and the callbacks take a backseat to the central focus of this tale: race relations. The series feeds into the very real fears that tinge our local news and social media feeds. As new horrors unfold in the media, we inch closer and closer to a world where Nixon is regarded as a new messiah and squid fall from the sky. An exaggeration? Perhaps. But, Jesus, not by much. Unfortunately, the time is right for Watchmen.
Unbelievable | Netflix
Netflix’s Unbelievable raises the bar on small screen fare by rewriting the book on procedural police shows and bucking every boilerplate set by Lennie Briscoe. Starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever, the show takes on the standard classic cop drama cliches with much success.
As an audience, we are trained to expect certain beats: discovery of a crime, a twist in the storytelling, epic showdown — that sort of thing. But in Unbelievable, the audience is thrown a curveball with two distinct plotlines: Det. Grace Rasmussen and Det. Karen Duvall attempt to catch a predatory serial rapist in one, while a completely separate story examines the mistreatment of rape victim Marie by local authorities. In addition to the two story arcs, the characters themselves break the mold set by previous hourlongs.
There’s no Christine Cagney or Mary Beth Lacey here. No Olivia Benson. No women on the brink of self-destruction as we have seen with past depictions of female detectives. Merrick Weaver offers a head-turning performance as Duvall, a good cop with a rich family life and a sympathetic side towards victims. Collette is no slouch either. The actress, who should have been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Hereditary, puts in another award-worthy turn as Rasmussen. Together, the duo buck everything the audience has come to expect from portrayals of female cops by being great both at their jobs and at their home life.
In turn, Dever’s Marie is a heartbreaking portrayal of a broken woman who struggles with everyday functions, both due to her attack and her treatment in the aftermath. Performed to perfection by Dever, Marie is like a porcelain ballerina placed in a kindergartener’s backpack — on the verge of shattering at any given moment with the sudden jostles of life. It’s distressing to watch as she bounces from one deplorable situation to the next, but Unbelievable’s unique take on cop dramas and amazing performances makes it worth it.
Untouchable | Hulu
Hollywood can be a karma-less town. It’s a city that celebrates terrible people who abuse many, die, then have a street named in their honor. At its worse, Hollywood can be soul-destroying. It is for this reason that watching the Harvey Weinstein documentary Untouchable is almost restorative. The study of a predator, and a destroyer of worlds, it doesn’t hold back any punches as it takes its time to listen to a handful of the entertainment bigwig’s victims, which consist of a long line of women ranging from assistants to actresses, all bullied, attacked or assaulted by the power player.
Weinstein was a dictator who created a castle called Miramax and made every citizen in his kingdom either a fool or a slave. The people who served him were playthings for his amusement. The doc follows the former studio chief from his beginnings in Queens to his rise in the industry, slowly exposing a pattern of predatory behavior that made him both a success in Tinseltown and a threat to any woman unfortunate enough to be caught alone with him. He made a lot of money for a lot of people, which goes a long way in a town that puts dollars before deity. And because of this, his behavior went unchecked for decades as he shattered one life after another.
Untouchable is a sharp look at a monster who had access to the most beautiful women in the world and took advantage of his position time and again to control them. It is a study of a bully who placed peers in headlocks over misbegotten quotes and unflattering profiles. But it is also a story about complicity and the wall of silence within the industry, that only came down after he was finally exposed and the #MeToo movement picked up steam.
Providing a chance to watch the wicked Weinstein fall to his knees in disgrace, Untouchable offers reparation of sorts as we get to watch karmic justice finally kick a villain directly in the testicles, thus restoring balance to the universe. Even if just for one small moment.