Sex Education Season 2 Review

The first season of Sex Education completely caught me off guard. I thought it’d be a light-hearted fun show with some smutty jokes and the odd nice message. It turned out to be one of the most progressive, stylish, funny and emotional seasons of a show I have ever seen. It’s incredibly well written, acted wonderfully and shot beautifully. 

In the days before season 2 I wondered if it was possible for a show to repeat that level of success without the surprise factor the first season had. I suffered that problem with the second season of “You” on Netflix recently, where a degree of the enjoyment was taken away because we’d seen it before and kind of had a feel for where it was going. I can say with certainty Sex Education does not suffer from this.

While this second season does explore some of the same themes as the first, it does so from a different standpoint and once again it continues to explore issues and topics that are just not addressed in schools. Sexuality, Anal cleansing, masturbation, homophobia, and more subjects on top of those are tackled in such a real, no bullshit way that it makes them all feel like something we should all be talking about in a much more open way rather than being the pretty much taboo subjects they tend to be for most people.

I am not saying we should all be sharing details of our sexual exploits, but that when you have a question about the oldest past time in the world, you should be comfortable asking it or bringing up the topic. Sex Education does a great job of shedding light on these topics and that’s one of the reasons I think this is such a progressive show.

I went into the details on the messages and lessons last time I wrote about this show, so I won’t go on about it. What I could go on about for ages though is the frankly stunning style of the show. Its filmed in picturesque parts of Wales, set in an American style high school, with vibrant 80’s fashion and music, with mostly English characters. Those all combine to give Sex Ed a completely unique look and feel, and it’s set in the modern day, with people on mobiles and using laptops so you still buy it as if it’s happening around the corner.

Sex Education takes what made the previous season great and builds on it. There isn’t a lot of new characters this season, but all the ones you bought into in season one is back and each of them has their own story line. The new ones that are there are fit in perfectly with the rest of the cast. Early on in season two I thought there was a few characters who had been relegated to the background, but as the show continues they each have their own stories and their own troubles to overcome, and each time you’re right there with them for the heartbreak or the laughs or the anguish, whatever emotion this particular story is going to evoke.

I went into season two of Sex Education with high expectations and it matched and surpassed them. There are moments in season two that I couldn’t believe were happening, moments that connected with me and made me laugh and threatened to make me cry. I probably would have if I was capable of crying at TV shows or films. Weirdly it just never happens. Except for when I watch Hitch for the first time after a breakup. That shit hit me HARD.

Sex Education is the best television show on TV. I don’t know of anything else that feels as real and evokes as much of a connection to several characters as this show does. It will make you feel everything, the entire gamut of emotions, and it will leave you really wanting to start wearing outrageously striking outfits.

Good: This show.

Bad: You watching anything that isn’t this show.

10/10

 

“You” Season 2 Review

The first season of You caught me off guard. I went in thinking it’d be a by the numbers rom-com style thing with a bit of a twist. What I got was a show that confused the audience by making you invest in a truly horrendous person in a twist on the “everyone is the hero of their own story” cliché. 

Personally, I was happy with it being a one and done season, a brilliant executed series that was hooking from start to finish. The set up for a second season was well done, and we re-join Joe Goldberg in LA, a city that is filled with people who care what people think almost as much as Joe does.

From there, we follow Joe as he tries to fall in love again and predictably runs into all kinds of issues. Once again Penn Badgley is great in the lead role, and there is a lot on his shoulders considering the complicated relationship his character has with the audience. “You” consistently throws up new scenarios for Joe to react to, and the majority of the time he endears himself to the audience.

Then he does something horrific, and as an audience member you find yourself trying to find a way of justifying it. This is compounded with the regular voice over from Joe, telling you exactly how he justifies his actions to himself. It has the effect of giving you a leg up to still rooting for someone who is clearly evil.

This season’s love interest is Love Quinn (a bit on the nose), played by Victoria Pedretti. I really enjoyed her character, as well as her odd family’s dynamics. The main member of that family who we get a lot of time with is Forty Quinn, her brother. At first, he seems like the most generic hipster character ever written but over the course of the ten episodes he turns into something much deeper. Beyond just their sibling relationship, both have their own arcs and although Joe is a key part of their stories, they’re both equally interesting in their own rights.

The issue I have with this season is it is beginning to feel like there is an otherworldly force protecting Joe from being caught out. He has committed several crimes, and somehow, he is still able to do whatever he wants, and nobody has caught him out. The show explains away a lot of this, but at a certain point there needs to be consequences for a character’s actions. It leads me to worry about how long the show can continue to be as entertaining as it has been to date. The ending of the series sets up another season, but I don’t think this show can continue much further beyond that without a changeup of the formula.

The second season of You gives us loads more of what the first season great. It even adds some new elements in the later episodes that keep you guessing what is going to happen right up to the end. I enjoyed this season, but it didn’t have that surprise hit feeling of the first season and going in knowing what to expect and largely being given that makes it good, but not great.

I would still suggest people search the show out on Netflix and give it a try, you’ll know within an episode or two if it you’re going to enjoy it. Right now, the two seasons are excellently made TV that will keep you engrossed and guessing for 20 episodes. Get it while its hot though, I have some concerns about how much longer it will be a success if it sticks to this formula.

Good: Great performances all round, production value is great and the Bad Human as a protagonist thing is executed better than anything else, I have watched.

Bad: Convenience seems to be Joe’s best friend, and the future of the series might be a little shaky.

8/10 – “You” can’t get much better than this.

 

 

Shame Lists & Internet Friends

Yesterday I met up with some friends and we had all prepared lists of the top ten video games of the 21st Century. We are all video game lovers, and it reminded me why they are such a brilliant medium. Everyone had some of the big hitters in their favourites list, but everyone had a different favourite of all time.

I was the only one who was correct and put Skyrim as my favourite, but the fact that there are so many incredible games I have never played made me appreciate the abundance of quality there is in the video game industry. There really is something for everyone. For example, if you’re not a big gamer, but you love challenging puzzles, games like The Witness or Portal will wow you.

Some of us even arrived with 2 lists, a “favourite” list, and a “best” list. The “Best” lists tended to have a lot of the same games on there, but only two of us had God of War down as the best of the 21st Century. It also confirmed to me that I have so many games on my backlog that I really need to play. Finding the time is another question.

I think everyone who plays games has that list of shame, the list of games we had every intention of playing but never did. Bioshock Infinite is one of my favourite games in recent times, although it didn’t make either of my top 10 lists. I have not played any other Bioshock game though and I am told the first one is incredible. I also have a huge gap in my gaming library in the shape of Zelda, as I have never played a Zelda game through to completion. I played Twilight Princess on the Wii when it came out, but I haven’t touched Breath of the Wild or Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask or Links Awakening or any other Zelda game.

With a lot of my list of shame I must just accept it’s never going to happen. I missed the time that Zelda would have been relevant for me, and so I am unlikely to ever play them. Even Super Mario Odyssey isn’t something I have played or something I feel compelled to go back and get through. The Nintendo properties never grabbed me. Games I do have the desire to play like Bioshock or Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice I am unlikely to find the time. With limited time for playing games, I don’t know if I will ever fit it all in between FIFA, Borderlands and all the other games on the horizon.

On a similar but different topic, The Emmys award show was this weekend and showcased a huge list of TV shows I have not watched. Jodie Comer won for Killing Eve, which I started watching season 2 and just completely forgot to carry on. That could be a bit of a condemnation of the show, but in reality, I am just an idiot. Game of Thrones took home best drama, which I assume was awarded based on the entire show and not just the poorly written but well-acted car crash that was Season 8.

A couple of shows I am yet to see are The Marvellous Mrs Maisal and Chernobyl. I know a lot about Chernobyl, just because I have been down the Wikipedia black hole enough to have ended up reading about what happened, but I have no idea about Mrs Maisal beyond the fact Zachary Levi was in the show at some point I believe. That being the case, I will add it to my watch list. Which is probably even longer than my Games list.

What all this is showing me, without even touching on the huge list of movies I need to see, is that I would have to cancel all social arrangements and go part time at work if I was to even get close to clearing the back log. There just isn’t enough time, and I have Podcasts to listen to.

Speaking of Podcasts, the friends I met up with on Sunday all came together because of a love for a certain group of podcasts, those being Kinda Funny and What’s Good Games. I won’t go into the shows themselves, but as a big fan of the two YouTube Channels, I attended a meet up last year to meet a few of the crew and was shocked that the best part of the meet up was meeting all the other fans and getting our own group of like-minded people together. I hadn’t really considered that as a factor, I just assumed I would go, meet the guys and gals, get a picture and have them sign my shirt, then leave and get home.

I ended up spending all day there and since I have drunk plenty of alcohol and discussed a huge range of topic with them like we are a group of friends who have been doing this kind of thing for decades. Long may it continue.

And people say you shouldn’t meet up with people from the internet.

‘Til tomorrow, when I will tell you everything I hate, and love, about FIFA 20.

ChAzJS

 

Carnival Row Review

Amazon wow’d me a little while ago with their series “The Boys”. It is seriously one of my favourites shows of the year, and if they continue on the trajectory, they started with that season it will go on to become one of my favourite shows ever. The latest Amazon original series is Carnival Row. Based in a fantastical Victorian style world with magic and creatures mixing with humans. Starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne alongside a stellar supporting cast, it has all the ingredients of a good show. 

Carnival Row is attempting to bring us a world that has been tried several times in many different mediums. For me the Victorian style mixed with fantasy never quite hits the spot. It makes me think of games like Bloodborne or The Order 1886, both of which did the Victorian fantasy mash up, but I couldn’t get into. I went into Carnival Row expecting it to have the same struggle, but I was surprised that a couple of episodes in I just wanted to watch more.

A big part of that, and my personal favourite element of the show, is the intriguing relationship between Orlando Bloom as Philo and Cara Delevingne as Vignette. As it develops through the show you find out more and more about their past together, and Episode 3 was one of the high points in the show where their relationship is brought into focus.

For a while it seemed to me like Orlando Bloom would always be known for Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. He has been in other films and shows, but I always see him as Legolas or Will Turner. Here is the first role since those ones that I can say I really bought into his character and enjoyed his performance. Philo is an interesting character and one with layers of history that we uncover through the main plot, and the reveal about him is nicely done and plays into the overall narrative of Carnival Row.

As for Cara Delevingne, I consider this her best role to date. My exposure to her as an actress is limited to Suicide Squad, where I thought she was okay, but her character was just a bit odd. In Carnival Row’s Vignette, she’s given a character with a lot of meat and motivations that are justified. She’s a strong woman and is uncomfortable with the role the society expects her kind to fulfil, which plays out in a variety of ways that Cara pulls off well.

One of the biggest issues Carnival Row has for me is that is almost benches these two characters in exchange for a political story for what felt like a long while. Everything is interconnected in a way, but I felt the two halves of the whole were very disjointed until the reveal near the end of the season. It makes sense overall just I managed to guess the reveal before it happened because of the clear change in focus.

That main story is broken up with a very interesting sub plot between the upper classes of the city, where we get some good performances. I enjoyed how this plot is delivered alongside the other one and given its own importance and story. If done poorly, this would have been an annoying distraction from the main story, but I enjoyed the variation. Simon McBurney, Tamzin Merchant and David Gyasi play out this class-based Beauty and the Beast with a twist story brilliantly and in the final episodes I found myself enjoying their plot line as much as the main one.

That main plot line with Philo, Vignette and the politics starts strong, but ends flat. I understood the motivations of all involved, but due to the late introduction of some characters and the short screen time of others, I just didn’t really care about anyone outside of those two main characters.

Carnival Row is a solid start to a new show. It has potential to become a much bigger story, with the intrigue and politics beginning to suggest a power struggle on top of the class war that is dividing the city already. The shows message about everyone being equal is heavy handed at times, but I never found it too offensive. I think the show could go on to a much better second season, but the first season is worth a watch on its own. Carnival Row is streaming now on Amazon Prime, so most of you will have access to it.

Good: Interesting world built that I want to see more stories in, several great performances, Orlando Bloom pulls off a bowler cap well.

Bad: Peaks in the first half of the season and some characters are underdeveloped for the role they play in the overall narrative.

7/10 – Solid Start for a new show.

ChAzJS

 

Archer’s Burgers

I started watching Bob’s Burgers yesterday, an animated show for adults about a man named Bob who runs a burger shop with his family. It’s hilarious and the title character is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. His voice is great to listen to but hearing him as Bob made me really miss the good old days of Archer. 

If you don’t know, Archer is another animated series for grownups that follows a spy agency and its main man Sterling Archer. It’s fantastic, right up until the end of season 7. Since then we have had three seasons of something a little bit different. None of them terrible, but none of them Archer quite how we know it. All the scenarios they’ve used since have been interesting ideas for maybe a two- or three-episode spin, but to commit entire seasons to Dreamland, Danger Island and Archer 1999 I think is a mistake.

In its prime Archer is a show that’s full of “In jokes” and references to previous episodes, with constant call backs and pop culture reference’s mixed in with that week’s situation. I understand a need to change the name of the spy agency, “ISIS” has become an awkward name for it now, but to spend so long away from the basic premise of the show that hooked my is worrying.

The actual happenings of the plot each week are less important, you just want to see what Cyril will say, how Lana will react and what Cheryl’s mood is at any given moment. For me the show needs to get back to that old office with the laundromat in the basement as right now I am struggling to get through season ten. It’s set in another alternate reality with the team in space, which sounds as if it should work fine, because the characters are all there. Something is missing though, and the only big change from the earlier seasons is the setting.

The rumours are it will be heading back to the present day and continuing from the cliff hanger ending to Season 7, and I for one cannot wait for that. Archer was my favourite current show for a long time, a title that now lives with Brooklyn 99. I can’t wait for a day when I can alternate between new episodes of Archer and B99. By then though, Bob’s Burgers may have found its place in my heart. I’m only 5 or 6 episodes in but so far, I have had several laugh out loud moments and I am told it gets better as it goes on.

The wait for a serious new show to hook me goes on, since I watched “The Boys” on Amazon Prime I haven’t been able to get into anything. That being said, The Boys is a pretty high bar. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys superhero films and especially to anyone who likes the Watchmen film and/or comic book. It has a bit of an odd name for a series about if super powered beings were kind of dickheads, but it’s a brilliant show.

Any excuse to watch Karl Urban be a bad ass is good enough for me, and The Boys delivers that in spades. It’s rare that you can decide if an eight episode show if for you within the first 10 minutes, but The Boys is one such show. Give it a go, try 10 minutes. You will either be intrigued and excited to see where things go, or you will turn it off and never need to watch any more. I enjoyed the show and look forward to the next season.

It has left a hole in my schedule for serious TV shows. Carnival Row looks intriguing, and perhaps I will give that a go, but, the next series I am excited for is The Mandalorian on Disney Plus, which doesn’t start until 12th November which feels very far away right now.

It’s far away to wait for a new season of something, but there is a lot of things to enjoy between now and then in the Gaming world so perhaps I should get on with installing Gears 5, before I sink into a Borderlands shaped void and disappear to all my friends and family for a week or two on September 13th.

There we go I managed to post a blog that wasn’t about Star Wars. That post will have to wait for either this weekend of Monday. I haven’t committed to doing weekend blogs yet, but I might start doing it. Doing this every morning has been great for my sleeping pattern, I now fall asleep before midnight some nights! Anyway, I am all out of orange juice, so I am off to the day job.

Have a great weekend!

ChAzJS

 

After Life Review

Ricky Gervais is a somewhat divisive figure in the entertainment industry. His stints hosting the Golden Globes are famous for his harsh put downs and dry humour that often goes past the line of politically correct. After Life is the new show from the mind of the comedian that has been released on Netflix.

The how follows a man whose wife has passed away and taken his main reason for living with her to the grave. Gervais is the writer, director and star of the show, and his sense of humour is stamped all over the show. You get the feeling the character of Tony is not very far from Gervais’ real thoughts. He puts himself in this position and it’s hard to say he is acting well, as it feels a lot like it’s just him and not much of a character.

Surrounding Gervais is a flock of talented actors and actresses who are all solid throughout the show, some comedians you’ll recognise from TV and some character actors who have popped up in a lot of British television. It’s clear immediately though that Gervais is the focus, and Afterlife is a vehicle for him to put his thoughts out into the world.

A lot of this is managed heavy handedly by Gervais, with all the subtlety of a brick through a window. The lack of a deft touch is noticeable, especially early in the six episode series. Some of the jokes fell flat to me, and this is evidence that it really is all about how a joke is delivered. The jokes are similar in topic and at times even similar in structure to his stand up jokes, but for me Gervais’ stand up is a lot funnier than this show is.

That’s not to say its not got it’s moments, it just never peaks above the funny clips I saw before release. Three or four times through the series I found myself laughing out loud at the show which is lower than I expected for this season going in. Those expectations I found myself changing as the show went on and I realised what Afterlife is; Afterlife is Gervais trying to tell a story with his comedic style sprinkled in, and I expected a more comically focused series.

The story we follow is interesting, relatable to people, and has a good message at its core. The heavy-handedness with the comedy is also present with the storytelling here though, and at times the script is blunt and repeats its point. The main character’s arc is satisfying if obvious, and didn’t really hit me how it could have if it was better handled.

After Life is an odd series of TV, it’s a lot of good ideas that just didn’t hit the mark for me. Gervais is a good comedy writer, and his sense of humour works for me as it did brilliantly in his stand up show, but something didn’t quite hit right for me here. It is a series with the potential to be a thoughtful introspective on loss, loneliness and the emotions people deal with in tough times. The heavy-handed execution mean it lands as a decent series with unfulfilled potential.

Good: Gervais delivers some good laughs, themes and story are fantastic.

Bad: Poor execution and lack of a light touch took away from the series for me.

5/10 – High potential but didn’t hit for me.

Sex Education Review

Netflix’s original series’ have been going from strength to strength, and the latest one I sat down to binge through is Sex Education, the Asa Butterfield led series about a 16-year-old boy who has grown up with a sex therapist as his mother. The mysterious cool girl at school convinces him to share the knowledge he has picked up over the years with the rest of his school peers, and make a bit of cash at the same time. 

This odd premise is used as a brilliant framing mechanism for the show which delves into a plethora of topics that teenagers have to deal with in their formative years. Exploring their sexuality and all the uncomfortable moments that brings with it. Handling such important topics in what is first and foremost a comedic show is a very tough task, but one that Sex Educations writers get absolutely perfect.

I don’t recall any show I have ever watched successfully bringing real questions the are directly relatable to the real world in the same way this show does. The show is set in 2019, in the real world and every character we spend any meaningful time with has a story and feels real. Again, the writing for these characters and their arcs through the series is tremendous, and somehow the tone stays consistent throughout the whole show regardless of whether the topic is a picture being spread around the campus or characters losing their virginity.

The great writing goes hand in hand with some great break-out performances, particularly from the main 3 characters. Asa Butterfield as Otis is equal parts socially awkward and quirkily charm. Ncuti Gatwa plays fabulously camp Eric, and I found his characters journey was really interesting as it’s a journey I know nothing of, but I am sure a lot of people my age struggled with the same problems he encounters. For me the star of the show is Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley. Maeve is an odd entity in school, maligned by the cool kids, but too cool for the rest of her peers, the story her character goes on is entertaining, heartbreaking and very real.

That element of the show, how real every situation feels, is what I think Sex Educations special ingredient is. I did not experience all of the shows events in my time as a teenager, but I experienced a few of them, and I think it will be the same for anyone in my generation. For the generation below me, who are currently going through this time in their life, this show brings to light the fact that everyone is in the same boat and dealing with their own problems.

There are not many shows I have watched where I have repeatedly thought “This is brilliant”, but Sex Education is one of them. I have written a lot about the messages and societal issues the show addresses, but it would be remiss of me not to touch on just how funny the show is. It finds the funny side of most situations, and more often than not it times the punchline right, so as not to ruin the moment. Occasionally a few of the jokes fall a little flat, but its got a high success rate compared to jokes in most Netflix shows I have watched.

The one real negative I have on Sex Education is the first episodes placement in the season, the “big issue” (pardon the pun) is a bit too on the nose for the first episode and perhaps could have been swapped out to a later episode, even episode two. The show moves through topics and issues that teens struggle with but are perhaps feel are too taboo to ask the questions that sex educations poses, and it often answers them as well. This is one of the cleverest shows I have seen, and I would recommend it to pretty much everyone over the age of thirteen.

Good: Incredible handling of sensitive topics, brilliant acting, 80s wardrobe, Awesome soundtrack (Old Time Rock and Roll being the highlight for me).

Bad: Some of the first episode is a bit silly.

10/10 – One of the best shows that will come out in 2019.